(I originally wrote this article on the plane in 2016 as I few back to Vermont from the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. I was so blessed by the conference, by Marlene Bagnull and the excellent staff she seems to assemble year after year that I felt compelled to put my feelings into print. Since that conference, with much encouragement by not only Marlen, but several other writers, editors, and publishers, I have published three books and am now working on a fourth. If your heart is to write, this is the place you need to be.)
Written at 35,000 feet somewhere over the heartland of America:
“The pen is mightier than the sword,” or so goes the old axiom; unless of course the pen is wielded by a coward who cares more about book sales than in preserving ancient and precious truths. Michael Gantt, Colorado Christian Writers Conference, May 14, 2016
I had the distinct privilege of keynoting at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference at the YMCA of the Rockies in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado. Besides the stunning vistas one awakens to every morning and being charmed by the elk who lazily wander through the campus, the YMCA of the Rockies is a very relaxing and comfortable place to spend a few days. (Once one adjusts to the thin air you find at 7,200 feet above sea level.)
Marlene Bagnull is the director of Write His Answer Ministries and the host of the Conference. Marlene also hosts a similar conference each August in Philadelphia. Over the years I’ve known her, Marlene has attached herself in a very special place in my heart. Her rambling and self-deprecating manner of conducting conference sessions is both amusing and embracing as you can easily forget that you are sitting in an auditorium filled with expectant and hopeful writers. It feels more like you’ve been invited into Marlene’s living room as she flits nervously about, making sure everyone is properly taken care of and all the tea glasses are full. She flows easily and seamlessly from giving announcements about upcoming sessions into an earnest prayer about a matter that pops into her head and just as easily back into her announcements, all without drawing a breath.
Marlene’s worst enemy appears to be her laptop which, whether old or new, simply refuses to cooperate with her. As she was engaged in mortal combat with the infernal machine on Friday I was reminded of an old line I once had posted on my desk above my computer: “I hate my computer, I wish they’d sell it. It won’t do what I want it to – it only does what I tell it.”
Despite her somewhat eccentric demeanor, Marlene is a brilliant writer and more importantly a key influence on up and coming writers for more than a quarter century. She is an encourager, a coach, a mom, and a friend to countless aspiring wordsmiths. The conferences in Colorado and Philadelphia provide an oasis of hope, encouragement, and resources for writers of all ages. The legacy Marlene will leave will be incalculable.
I find myself in a mix of privilege and puzzlement as to why Marlene and I seem to have formed this unspoken partnership. Other than a number of magazine articles and my blog, I am an unpublished writer who regularly is given the opportunity to stand before published authors, expectant authors, publishers and literary agents, many of whom have writing skills light years ahead of mine. From time to time I have felt out of place and under qualified. It was really only this week that I began to understand why the Lord has put me in this place.
I cannot speak to the how of writing. I cannot instruct writers on their mechanics or style, nor can I give them advice on dealing with publishers and editors. What I can do, is speak to the why of their writing.
We live in a time when truth is considered to be fluid and truth tellers – the enemy. We live in a culture that seeks to establish its own subjective rules for ethics and morality. We are are governed by men who are in large part morally bankrupt, emotionally and intellectually corrupt, and whose aim is “fundamental change” away from the Judeo-Christian boundaries that have guided our nation for over 250 years, toward a secularist society that rejects the idea the rule of God, despises moral absolutes, and is bent on creating a chaotic state of anarchy in order to justify assuming complete control over the mind and will of the population; establishing the state as the ultimate and final authority.
Writers have always been among the most feared by despots and dictators. Truth tellers have been imprisoned and executed, their writings banned and burned, their character brought into question by allegation and accusation. The written word is among the most powerful weapons of history. It has been controlled and regulated by totalitarian governments to imprison and control the minds of the masses; feared, banned, and burned to prevent it from exposing the evil intentions of men, both present and planned, and to keep it from exciting the imaginations of men who would desire to be free of their bonds.
Paul urged young Timothy to guard the good deposit that had been entrusted to him.” (2 Timothy 1:14) and to ensure by his own faithfulness to the truth and in responsibility to pass the treasure along to a new generation, that “the Word of God is not bound.” ( 2 Timothy 2:9) I realized this weekend that my part in standing before these conferences of writers and publishers is to represent the Word of God that it might not be bound; to communicate with a deep sense of urgency that we are not writers who are coincidentally Christians, but we are Christ followers who have been given a gift to write and that we bear a grave and dangerous responsibility to guard the deposit of truth that has been entrusted to us and to ensure above everything that the Word of God is not bound.
In recent years, the Holy Spirit has enflamed my heart with a passion for guarding that which was deposited in me and a determination to make that “treasure” the legacy that I leave for another generation; and now, God has given me an audience among gifted communicators upon whom has been bestowed a precious gift from God – the ability to craft words and to use those words to build ideas, shape thoughts, impact minds, and to preserve for another generation ancient and precious truth.
As I walked away from my Keynote presentation on Saturday morning I thought: “For this I was born; to guide those who have the power to shape others.”
I suspect that many who sat before me this weekend have little idea what their decision to “guard the treasure” might cost, for they will tell the truth to a generation that hates truth. With their words they will stab the wicked hearts of evil men who will strike back with a vengeance, they will incur the wrath of tyrants and the hatred of small minded, self-consumed men who seek only to fulfill the desires of their own unbridled passions. Yes, it will be a bruised and bloody path, but in the end – the Word of God will not be bound – and somewhere; out there somewhere, their words will discover hearts that are tender and hungry for truth. Like sperm seeking an egg, their words will find fertile nesting places, they will impregnate the hearts and minds of men with the Life of God. None of us can know; we cannot even imagine what that will birth.
So my good friend Marlene – keep right on doing what you are doing. May the Lord bless you with strength, with added courage, and long life as you become and continue to be not only a deep well of resource and instruction, but also a fountain of hope and encouragement to those who, by their words can shape lives and maybe, just maybe, change the world.