The Hopeful Unknown

by Allen Arnold, @TheStoryofWith

See if this imaginary conversation sounds familiar.

God: Do you want to ride with me? I’ll take you somewhere new.

Us: It depends. Where are we going?

God: You’ll see.

Us: Can you at least guarantee that I’ll be more successful going with you than staying here and doing it my way?

God: The only guarantee is we’ll experience it together. Do you want to ride?

Us: Silence. Feet shuffle. Eyes down.

Does it sound a little too close for comfort? We often want to know an outcome before we commit, but God rarely gives upfront guarantees. He seems to prefer inviting us into journeys that require us to leave our “now” for an unknown “not-yet”.

Years ago, my wife and I faced one of the biggest decisions of our lives. A cross-country opportunity was before us. Accepting it would take us from a career, church, and community we loved. And lead us into a situation where, other than the job, much was unknown. We sensed God was in it, but before committing, we drew a line in the sand. “God, give us a clear ‘yes’ if you want us to go. Or provide a solid ‘no’ and we’ll forget about it.”

Instead, God offered something far greater. Rather than an answer, he asked a simple question. I heard his voice clearly in my heart as I was praying. “Allen, do you want to ride?” His gentle tone conveyed the promise of intimacy and initiation. Had he opened the heavens and shouted “Yes, do it!” or “No, don’t go!” it would have been more clear…and less satisfying.

Instead of a quick solution, he offered himself. The offer was never to ride alone, but with him. We did. And it’s been good…and hard.

But easy and best are rarely on the same path.

God longs for those who will come alongside him and experience the active, unpredictable, intimate joy of riding together. Doing so requires us to stay close. Sometimes he’ll ride by our side. Other times, he leads the charge. He keeps us focused on what’s ahead because he knows we’ll never reach our destiny when focused on what’s behind us. Occasionally he even falls back a bit just to see if we notice. It’s how a good Father trains his Sons and Daughters to ride.

This is God’s offer to you now – both in the story you’re writing and the Story you’re living. Do you want to ride on your journey alone or with God?

One path looks easy. Take it and you’ll feel like you’re in control. You’ll let God know if you need him, but for now you’ll navigate it in your own strength. Just follow the map and it will take you to a known but common destination.

The other path has no such guarantee. It looks untamed yet holds the hint of something fantastical. This option stirs something in your heart…perhaps a long forgotten dream. Yet it’s clear that there’s no traveling this uncharted path alone.

Which will you choose – the highly probable or the seemingly impossible? Ask God and see which he’s inviting you into. Though never predictable, he often ushers us into dreams so big that we can only achieve them with him.In fact, if you can achieve your dreams without God, they are way too small.

If you’re standing between two choices now, perhaps you’re not sure which way to go. A good place to start is to ask which path will draw you closer to God. Doing so is essential.Because our art won’t transcend us until we allow God to transform us. The art always follows the heart of the artist.

Your stories will become more expansive – and less predictable – as you choose to ride with him into the hopeful unknown.

TWEETABLES

The Hopeful Unknown @TheStoryofWith on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2hPYJy9

Easy and best are rarely on the same path.~ @TheStoryofWith on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2hPYJy9

If you can achieve your dreams without God, they are way too small.~ @TheStoryofWith on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2hPYJy9

____________________

The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love, & Create

“Unique and powerful, The Story of With will take readers deep into the discovery of their own identity. “Bravo! This fascinating blend of storytelling and teaching will shift the thinking of all who take this journey.” New York Times Bestselling Author, TED DEKKER

“Through allegory and invitation, Allen Arnold ushers us into a journey of imagination, insight, wonder, and wisdom…Read The Story of With!” New York Times Bestselling Co-Author of Captivating, STASI ELDREDGE

“This is your invitation into deeper identity, intimacy, and imagination with God. Like finding the place you’ve always longed to be. The moment you finish this book, you’ll race to grab one for a friend. Highest Recommendation!” Bestselling Author of The Long Journey to Jake Palmer, JAMES L. RUBART

“Allen has written a roadmap for dreaming with God. The Story of With is a beautiful, revelatory parable, filled with wonder, mystery, and adventure.” Author of Prone to Love & Untamed, JASON CLARK

– From the Foreword –

“You are not alone. Whether you’re a free spirit, an office exec, a writer, musician, college student, or tired parent—your soul, like mine, knows life is meant to go beyond rat races and rare applause. This book speaks to that belief. And if you’re not careful, you may find tears warming your eyes as you read because finally someone is naming your weariness, your striving, your questions of why you just can’t quite make it, or the emptiness that hit because maybe you did. It is into those places The Story of With reaches—fusing allegory with application—to offer fresh perspective, restored hope, and a rebirth of creativity.”

—From the Foreword by Mary Weber, Christy & Carol Award-Winning, Scholastic Pick Author of the Storm Siren Trilogy.

Allen Arnold is the author of The Story of With, an allegory that reveals a better way to live and create through the doorway of identity, imagination, and intimacy. His mission is to help people actively pursue and transform their talent by discovering how to pursue it with God. As the founding Fiction Publisher for one of the world’s largest Christian publishing houses, Allen oversaw the development of more than five hundred novels. He knows first-hand how common it is for creators to become disheartened, overwhelmed or burnt-out–as well as what it takes to help the dreams of writers become reality. In his current role at Ransomed Heart, he oversees content from the mountains of Colorado for the ministry. Before becoming a Board Member for ACFW, he was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his substantial contributions to the world of Christian Fiction.

Complicating Success

by Allen Arnold, @TheStoryofWith

How do you define success as an author?

Perhaps you base it on whether you regularly hit your daily word count. Or maybe success is when the publisher you’ve longed to partner with finally signs your new series. If you’re already published, then success might be hitting a bestseller list or exponentially growing your readership.

All of the above seem like logical ways to measure success. They offer tangible metrics by which we can count progress, compare results, and control our calling.

And that’s the problem.

God never meant for us to validate our calling by the number of words we churn out or the marketplace performance of our stories. These measurements aren’t necessarily bad, they just aren’t enough. They try to define the internal, holy calling God has given us in external man-made ways. And those measurements can quickly turn toxic when they distract us from the deeper definition of true success.

To get to that definition, we have to go way back. Long before we were born, God knit the love of story into our DNA. Think of it as a sort of homing device. As we grow and pursue our gifting, we are drawn to the Giver of those gifts. Our dreams and desires find their fulfillment in God.

His motive in giving each of us our specific talents isn’t primarily so we’ll be productive or famous. Here’s your gift. Now get busy making things happen. It is so our desires can find their fulfillment in Him. Productivity and efficiency aren’t what He’s most interested in. They measure the external performance but never the internal rhythm of our hearts. God doesn’t need our help as much as He wants our hearts. Whenever we focus more on our gifts than God, we miss the main invitation. Which is to pursue what we most love doing together with Him.

Don’t give the publishing industry, reviews, sales numbers, or even readers the power to validate or invalidate the calling God has given you. When you allow yourself to be defined or validated by outside metrics, you add a measurement to your calling that God neither promises nor is obligated to fulfill.

Don’t complicate it.

If you are actively and intimately creating with God, you are successful.

Yes, there may be more.

Should you grow in your craft? You should.

Could your story take the world by storm and become a bestseller? It could.

Might your story help others see God in a new light and grow closer to Him? It might.

But God isn’t all that concerned about how many readers we have or how many books we sell. If you spend 100,000 words with Him writing a story and no one else ever reads it, is that enough? If not, be careful about the other validation metrics. All external measurements for success cause us to take our cues from someone or something other than God.

Yet God is far more interested in being central to the Story you’re living and the story you’re writing than any reaction to your writing from the world, the industry, or readers.

What is created solely out of your own strength will be limited by your blind spots and weaknesses. But what you co-create with God will have the spark of eternity. Those stories, born through intimacy and co-creation, will transcend you and transform you in ways that are impossible to measure.

That is success. Plain and simple.

TWEETABLES
Complicating Success by @TheStoryofWith on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2gsDWjq
How do you define success as an author? @TheStoryofWith on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2gsDWjq

What you co-create with God will have the spark of eternity. @TheStoryofWith on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2gsDWjq

____________________

The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love, & Create

“Unique and powerful, The Story of With will take readers deep into the discovery of their own identity. “Bravo! This fascinating blend of storytelling and teaching will shift the thinking of all who take this journey.” New York Times Bestselling Author, TED DEKKER

“Through allegory and invitation, Allen Arnold ushers us into a journey of imagination, insight, wonder, and wisdom…Read The Story of With!” New York Times Bestselling Co-Author of Captivating, STASI ELDREDGE

“This is your invitation into deeper identity, intimacy, and imagination with God. Like finding the place you’ve always longed to be. The moment you finish this book, you’ll race to grab one for a friend. Highest Recommendation!” Bestselling Author of The Long Journey to Jake Palmer, JAMES L. RUBART

“Allen has written a roadmap for dreaming with God. The Story of With is a beautiful, revelatory parable, filled with wonder, mystery, and adventure.” Author of Prone to Love & Untamed, JASON CLARK

– From the Foreword –

“You are not alone. Whether you’re a free spirit, an office exec, a writer, musician, college student, or tired parent—your soul, like mine, knows life is meant to go beyond rat races and rare applause. This book speaks to that belief. And if you’re not careful, you may find tears warming your eyes as you read because finally someone is naming your weariness, your striving, your questions of why you just can’t quite make it, or the emptiness that hit because maybe you did. It is into those places The Story of With reaches—fusing allegory with application—to offer fresh perspective, restored hope, and a rebirth of creativity.”

—From the Foreword by Mary Weber, Christy & Carol Award-Winning, Scholastic Pick Author of the Storm Siren Trilogy.

Allen Arnold is the author of The Story of With, an allegory that reveals a better way to live and create through the doorway of identity, imagination, and intimacy. His mission is to help people actively pursue and transform their talent by discovering how to pursue it with God. As the founding Fiction Publisher for one of the world’s largest Christian publishing houses, Allen oversaw the development of more than five hundred novels. He knows first-hand how common it is for creators to become disheartened, overwhelmed or burnt-out–as well as what it takes to help the dreams of writers become reality. In his current role at Ransomed Heart, he oversees content from the mountains of Colorado for the ministry. Before becoming a Board Member for ACFW, he was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his substantial contributions to the world of Christian Fiction.

Kintsugi Creativity

by Allen Arnold, @TheStoryofWith

We all have scars. Most are unseen. But visible or not, every scar cuts deep. Betrayal from those we trusted. Silence when we needed support. Conditional love based on our performance. It’s amazing how many ways a heart can be shattered.

And for the most part, these wounds weren’t accidental. We have an enemy whose aim is to steal, kill, and destroy – both the Story you’re living and the ones you’re writing. And his strikes are strategic, attacking you at your points of purpose. Which is why the areas of your life that have been the most opposed often hold clues to your unique calling.

The scars that brought shame or harm weren’t from God nor were they meant for good. But God can bring healing to those wounds. The world tells us to hide our scars. Perhaps they represent a past you’d rather forget. Yet God offers a far better option – to redeem our broken places.

Which brings us to kintsugi. This Japanese art form dates back to the late 15th century and takes a very different approach than our modern culture to all things broken. We quickly trash and replace items with cracks or flaws. But these ancient artisans discovered a way to make the broken beautiful again by infusing golden lacquer into their fractured pottery.

But wouldn’t that just highlight the brokenness of the item?

Exactly. Rather than hide the imperfections, they illuminated them by filling the cracks with shimmering gold. They actually viewed the repaired item as more valuable than it had been, because now it was a one-of-a-kind original with its unique lines of gold. They honored the history of the piece by not just making it useable but by making it better.

Jesus understands. When asked the focus of his mission, he quoted a passage from Isaiah 61, saying the reason he came was to heal our shattered hearts and set us free. In the very places the enemy has tried to derail or destroy our story, Jesus steps in and heals our fractured lives. He doesn’t just set us in a brace; he sets us free.

The Creator can put the fragments of your life and heart back together again with His healing light. And when the Creator heals you, then you are infused with his healing power. During my two decades in Christian publishing, I worked with hundreds of novelists. Whether new voices or well established authors, the most powerful storytellers were always the ones whose scars had been transformed into weapons of light that illuminated their stories with a glow all their own. Their voice was unique and the themes they infused their novels with shimmered with an eternal glow.

That’s the power of Kintsugi Creativity.

If you are intrigued by the concept, I invite you to read my book The Story of With. It’s an allegory that goes further into this theme, revealing a better way to live and create. Kintsugi plays a major role in the journey of the protagonist Mia. The book’s cover even features a glass vial glistening with the glow of kintsugi.

The scars of your story can become the source of your strength. God’s kintsugi doesn’t make things almost as good as new. Through his touch, they become better than new.

May your scars – and your stories – glow with his healing light of kintsugi.

TWEETABLES

Kintsugi Creativity by Allen Arnold (Click to Tweet)

Areas of your life that have been the most opposed often hold clues to your unique calling.~ Allen Arnold (Click to Tweet)

The scars of your story can become the source of your strength.~ Allen Arnold (Click to Tweet)

__________

The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love, & Create

“Unique and powerful, The Story of With will take readers deep into the discovery of their own identity. “Bravo! This fascinating blend of storytelling and teaching will shift the thinking of all who take this journey.” New York Times Bestselling Author, TED DEKKER

“Through allegory and invitation, Allen Arnold ushers us into a journey of imagination, insight, wonder, and wisdom…Read The Story of With!” New York Times Bestselling Co-Author of Captivating, STASI ELDREDGE

“This is your invitation into deeper identity, intimacy, and imagination with God. Like finding the place you’ve always longed to be. The moment you finish this book, you’ll race to grab one for a friend. Highest Recommendation!” Bestselling Author of The Long Journey to Jake Palmer, JAMES L. RUBART

“Allen has written a roadmap for dreaming with God. The Story of With is a beautiful, revelatory parable, filled with wonder, mystery, and adventure.” Author of Prone to Love & Untamed, JASON CLARK

– From the Foreword –

“You are not alone. Whether you’re a free spirit, an office exec, a writer, musician, college student, or tired parent—your soul, like mine, knows life is meant to go beyond rat races and rare applause. This book speaks to that belief. And if you’re not careful, you may find tears warming your eyes as you read because finally someone is naming your weariness, your striving, your questions of why you just can’t quite make it, or the emptiness that hit because maybe you did. It is into those places The Story of With reaches—fusing allegory with application—to offer fresh perspective, restored hope, and a rebirth of creativity.”

—From the Foreword by Mary Weber, Christy & Carol Award-Winning, Scholastic Pick Author of the Storm Siren Trilogy.

Allen Arnold is the author of The Story of With, an allegory that reveals a better way to live and create through the doorway of identity, imagination, and intimacy. His mission is to help people actively pursue and transform their talent by discovering how to pursue it with God. As the founding Fiction Publisher for one of the world’s largest Christian publishing houses, Allen oversaw the development of more than five hundred novels. He knows first-hand how common it is for creators to become disheartened, overwhelmed or burnt-out–as well as what it takes to help the dreams of writers become reality. In his current role at Ransomed Heart, he oversees content from the mountains of Colorado for the ministry. Before becoming a Board Member for ACFW, he was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his substantial contributions to the world of Christian Fiction.

Your Protag’s Biggest Problem

by Allen Arnold, @TheStoryofWith

Your protagonist’s biggest problem isn’t the antagonist. It’s you.

As we breathe life into worlds and characters, they can’t help but possess our DNA. It’s unavoidable. What’s created in our own strength will include our weaknesses.

In a mythic sense, where we haven’t gone, our creations will stumble. Your protagonist’s vision will be clouded by your blind spots. If you strive for external validation, so will they. Their faith can’t transcend your experiences with God. Their courage will be diluted by your fears. And that tendency to be easily overwhelmed or controlling? Yep, your protagonist inherited that from you as well.

Sure, we can try to untether them from our issues. As novelists, we make things up all the time. But there’s a difference between making things up and faking it. Within our made-up world, we need to take readers on an authentic journey that mirrors the one we’re going through. The themes of our novels should be themes we are navigating in real life with God. In fact, I believe the most unforgettable stories hold within them the scars, struggles, and discoveries of an author’s own Story.

Otherwise, we’re asking our characters to live more powerful lives than we have. And were expecting our readers to dive into oceans while we remain safely on shore. But it doesn’t work that way. We end up passing our limitations forward like a baton to our waiting protagonists and readers, expecting them to run with a freedom we’ve yet to experience.

No matter how powerful your imagination, you really can’t tell a better story than you’re living. And your characters can’t know deeper faith, love, or adventure than you’ve risked and tasted in your own life. They can’t know God deeper than you do. And their definition of victory can’t exceed the definition you’re living by.

We don’t need stories that teach readers a lesson from us. We need stories that invite readers on a journey of discovery with us. What our protagonists and readers crave are stories with the spark of eternity in them. That happens as we co-create with God from a deep place of identity, intimacy, and imagination. Only then will our stories transcend us and the moment in time they were created.

We long for our art to take us to new and uncharted places but the blank page looks back at us and says, “No, you must go there first.”

TWEETABLES


Allen Arnold is the author of The Story of With, an allegory that reveals a better way to live and create through the doorway of identity, imagination, and intimacy. His mission is to help people actively pursue and transform their talent by discovering how to pursue it with God. As the founding Fiction Publisher for one of the world’s largest Christian publishing houses, Allen oversaw the development of more than five hundred novels. He knows first-hand how common it is for creators to become disheartened, overwhelmed or burnt-out–as well as what it takes to help the dreams of writers become reality. In his current role at Ransomed Heart, he oversees content from the mountains of Colorado for the ministry. Before becoming a Board Member for ACFW, he was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his substantial contributions to the world of Christian Fiction.