You Never Know Who Is Watching at a Writers’ Conference

by Sally Matheny

You Never Know Who Is Watching
Even though writers' conferences can be physically exhausting, I still feel revived after participating in this year’s Write2ignite Conference. Not only through the reinforcing of my writing skills, but also through the refreshing of my spirit.

If you didn’t attend the 2015 Write2Ignite Conference, allow me to share with you a glimpse of some blessings I witnessed. I’m sure there were additional blessings, because you never know who is watching at a writers’ conference.

Here’s my short list:

I witnessed an outstanding director, Jean Hall, who has the amazing gift of staying calm under all circumstances, and keeps things running smoothly. Her faith in God to bring it all together is always apparent. And she also carries a handy-dandy, tiny pair of scissors on her key chain. I’m looking for a miniature roll of duct tape so she’ll have the perfect combo set.

A super, helpful young man named Dylan came to help the team set up for the conference. Dylan maintained a quiet presence during the entire conference and was always there to help whenever called upon. He also had excellent skills for noticing items people misplaced.

I had the pleasure of transporting author, Tim Shoemaker, back and forth to the conference each day. I appreciated his helpful words as I shared with him about my pre-speaking jitters. In addition, he was kind and understanding when I missed our turn-off and when I kept juggling and dropping things once we arrived!

I knew, without a doubt, my family was praying for me back at home. Several friends mentioned they were praying for me. But what a blessing it was to have Kim Peterson and Jenny Cote individually pull me aside and whisper a prayer over me before I spoke. God heard all our prayers and his amazing grace calmed me just before I stepped behind the podium. Thank you, Lord.

I noticed smiling teens enthusiastic about writing. One teen in particular I heard go up to Tim Shoemaker and thank him for speaking. She said she didn’t write for boys but his talk about the topic helped her have a better understanding of her brother!

Tim Shoemaker talks with a teen.

I observed numerous authors and editors taking time to chat with teens and adults outside of the classrooms. Award-winning author of six books, Jenny Cote paused to offer a word of praise to those selling their first published book. Those encouraging words go a long way.

Watching members of the leadership team do their jobs with enthusiasm is always a blessing. It’s like a joyful family reunion whenever we get together and we all love the mission of Write2Ignite. 

During Praise and Worship time, I loved watching Donna Earnhardt take heed of the Holy Spirit prompting her to call on someone to give a testimony. What a tremendous blessing to hear a young teen girl, without prior notice, volunteer. She eagerly shared a vivid description of when the woman with the alabaster box poured perfume on Jesus’ feet. If that wasn't enough, Donna, who had been wiping her tears as she listened to the girl speak, then stepped up to show the audience the song lyrics that were already cued up for the next song, “The Alabaster Box.” How awesome was that?

Later, another woman shared her testimony of how God spared her life in a horrific accident, providing her a second chance to accept His love and eternal salvation. She reminded us of the importance of seizing those opportunities today, not to wait. Even though this woman still experiences tremendous physical pain every day, she is using her written and spoken words to point others in the direction of her Savior.

I watched people volunteer to help others all weekend—with an umbrella, a ride to lunch, and a seat in the auditorium. Smiles, prayers, and encouraging words weaved throughout the crowd.

Even the homeschool mom, who volunteered to help with the snacks in the Green Room, continually checked to make sure everyone had what they needed. She kept asking if the coffee was fresh enough. She cared about those she served and gave full attention to every detail. What a blessing.

There were numerous others who volunteered their time and talents to the conference, some of whose names I do not know. But one was Helen Weigt who designed our resource book and then served at the front desk during the conference. Her talent and friendly smile blessed us all.

I saw God’s blessings overflow this weekend. I can’t help but wonder what others perceived. Surely, in the crowd on campus, there was someone who was struggling with a life issue, someone who was lonely, or someone who is not in a close relationship with Jesus Christ. I hope they saw a glimpse of what I saw.

If you did attend the Write2Ignite Conference this year, what blessings did you see?


Review of Christian Movie: The Good Book & a Giveaway

by Sally Matheny

Christian Film:
The Good Book

Usually, I only write book reviews. But when I was contacted about reviewing a silent, one-hour long, evangelistic movie, I was intrigued enough to say yes.

Fred and Sharon Wilharm applied the top rule of writing: show, don't tell, when producing the film, The Good Book. 

This award-winning movie has received the Dove Foundation’s highest award of five doves.” I’m one of those people who greatly considers the dove seals when selecting movies.

But I was curious if images alone could bolster enough story to present a strong message.

The Good Book begins with a young boy’s tragic experience of a house fire. He eventually ends up at a homeless camp and that’s where the “main character,” a small, New Testament Bible, is introduced.

The boy’s story ends but the journey of the little, red Bible continues. Fourteen people come in contact with the Bible. Some reject it; others allow God to speak to them through it. As their lives transform, some write their names inside the cover of the Bible, before passing it along to others.

Believers and non-believers will find someone to identify with in the movie. But like the real world, everything isn’t all neat and tidy. There are plenty of surprises in the film. The characters you think will cling to God’s Word don’t always do so. When you’re thinking here comes trouble, they’re actually blessings.

The story moves at an attention-grabbing pace and just as you’re wondering whose life will be changed next, BAM, you’re hit with a powerful, gut-wrenching ending. But just as God always does, he takes what we view as an ending, and begins anew. The movie ends with a vision of hope.

This is a film that leaves a lasting impression…something you’re pondering over for days. Hopefully, it points you to the only truly good book, God’s Holy Word, 
and changes your life forever.   

The Good Book  

It amazes me how the Wilharms, actors, and cast projected such a powerful message without saying a word. And they did it with excellence.

I highly recommend this movie for ages 12 and up. You can find it at Lifeway, Family Christian, ChristianBookDistributors.com and other locations. Check out the GoodBookMovie website to watch movie trailers and read more about it.

Here's your chance to win a free copy of the DVD! For each person who leaves a comment on the blog, we will write their names down and put them in the honest hat. (Trust me, it’s an honest hat.) We’ll shake them up and randomly draw a name and announce the winner Saturday, March 21. 

Inside the cover of the DVD, I've placed a note card. I'm hoping people will write their first name on it before passing the movie along to others. Just like the little Bible in the film, let's see where God takes this movie.

*Congratulations to the winner: Madonna!


Sweet Sandpaper Dreams: Dealing with Chronic Pain

by Sally Matheny

Small, green squares of sandpaper were taped in various places around our house. Three days passed before my husband finally said, “Okay, what's up with all the sandpaper squares?”

Reluctantly, I shared how the squares were little reminders for me of a dream I had a few nights earlier. 
Due to chronic neck pain, I ususally don’t sleep well enough to dream at all. However, one night I dreamed I was riding an old, school activity bus. Laughter and chatter ping-ponged through the bus. We were an excited bunch.
Eventually, the bus bumped onto an unpaved route through an open field. The rough terrain jostled us about and I remember mentioning several times about it causing pain to my neck.
After bounding down through the field awhile, we finally arrived at a vast, old barn. The bus pulled alongside it and parked. Festive music swirled through the open windows.

Through the barn's large open door, I could see a lively party taking place. Smiles, laughter, and music filled the room. Excitement bubbled from the bus passengers as they prepared to exit.

The bus driver asked if I would please stay seated until everyone disembarked. I wondered why he would ask such a thing but I obliged, thinking perhaps he had a question or something.
After everyone left, the bus driver handed me a piece of brown sandpaper. Fingering its roughness, I said, “I don’t understand. What’s this for?”
He kindly explained that I would have to stay on the bus and watch from the window.

“Because every time you say something about your pain, it is slightly abrasive, like this sandpaper.”

I did not ask for further explanation. I knew exactly what he meant. 
In reality, I diligently try not to whine about my chronic neck pain. When I update, I try to simply state the facts. However, no matter how one says it, if one says it too often, it becomes irritatingly abrasive.
Point taken.
In my dream, I held the sandpaper in my lap. I remember feeling sad and left out. There was no anger, just remorse, as I watched the people inside having fun. 

Then I woke up.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, I pondered it all for a moment. Immediately, I began a search for sandpaper. All I could find was the green kind. 

That was okay; perhaps it would hark a little louder. I wanted reminders everywhere!


The pain is more noticeable at night, so one square went beside my bed and another near the bathroom sink. Now, As I brush my teeth, I rub my finger across its scratchy surface.
My family knows nights are worse. I don’t have to tell them that. They see me retrieve ice packs, Tylenol, and such. They are kind and understanding. Continual updates are not necessary.

The refrigerator was next. After a long day, the neck may be sore but a meal needs to be prepared. 

I give a stroke or two over the green sandpaper while I cook. Soon, I have the food ready and we’re giving God thanks.

Another sandpaper square is inside my purse. Often, when I reach for my cell phone or keys, my knuckle scrapes across it. Mentally, I say, “ouch.” Exactly, I think and smile.
After telling my sweet husband about my dream, he tried to assure me that I was being too hard on myself. He said I did not complain too much—that it was all my own subconscious worries about complaining.
Nonetheless, the sandpaper dream made an impact and my life has changed.
Don’t get me wrong. Our days aren't floating by on cotton candy clouds. Some days are great. Others are not-so-much. Life is real at our house. Problems and pain come and go.
However, I have witnessed the effects of ceasing my repetitive pain updates. 

I feel better!
Life is a little sweeter. 

And next time...I'm getting off the bus!