Dan Walsh here, writing from Daytona Beach, FL.
I know some of you were able to attend ACFW’s annual conference a few weeks ago in Indianapolis. Many who could not, have probably read some of the great articles written about the wonderful time we had (just remembered that old postcard line: “Good time was had by all”).
I had a particularly good time, a great time, in fact. The only downside was that my wife, Cindi, was unable to join me, because she’d just started a new job. My first novel, The Unfinished Gift, was up for 2 Carol Awards, giving me an added sense of anticipation. Of course, I had completely convinced myself I had no chance of winning and felt silly rehearsing my 30-second acceptance speech in my hotel room (something they asked all the finalists to do, so we wouldn’t ramble on).
To my great shock and surprise, I won both awards in both categories. I was stunned. I had no compartments to place my feelings. Just one month ago I retired from being a pastor after 25 years. One of the main reasons was to devote more time to writing. To receive such an honor the very next month, for the very thing we believe God has called me to do now was a humbling and amazing experience.
After a few days, I got over the: “I’m so not worthy” phase. Aided by all the people who kept telling me, “Oh yes, you are” (my agent, editor, author friends, fans, etc.). Where I’m at now, a few weeks later, is just being profoundly grateful to God for His amazing love (once again). And that’s what I want to write about today.
Because God doesn’t just love me, the two-time Carol Award winner. He loves all my co-finalists who didn’t win that night. And he loves all those published authors who submitted books that didn’t become finalists. He loves all the Genesis Award winners, who aren’t published yet, but hope to be. And all the Genesis finalists who hoped to hear their name called that night but didn’t get to.
And He loves―with just as much intensity and devotion as the love He has for His Son―all those writers, with a drawerful of rejection letters, who wonder if they will ever get an agent, ever get a publisher, ever see their book on the shelf. How do I know this? In John 17, just before His arrest, here’s one of the things Jesus prayed for us: “…That the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
A few days ago, as I marveled once again at the honor of winning these 2 awards, I thought of a story in the Gospels, where some of the disciples were marveling at a big and unexpected thing God did for them. It’s in Luke Chapter 10. Jesus had appointed 70 Disciples to go and preach the gospel in His name. They did, but during their mission they discovered an added benefit they did not expect. In Vs 17, it says: The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”
The Lord rejoiced with them but then sought to adjust their perspective a few verses later in Vs 20: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Jesus isn’t trying to downplay the thing they were excited about. He just knows what happens to us when we major on a minor thing a little too long. We make it the major thing. And the real major thing―the thing that matters most―falls off to the side.
The major thing for me, and for you, no matter where you’re at in your writing career―no matter if your book has been named the “Book of the Year,” or you’ve just received yet another rejection for your latest book proposal―the major thing is this: “Your name is written in Heaven.”
Paul tells us where in heaven our names are written. It’s called the Book of Life (Phil 4:3). This Book of Life is mentioned over and over again in Revelations, which adds the phrase: “the Lamb’s Book of Life.” This is where God wants us to focus our attention, on what matters most. That is, if we are in Christ our names are written down in Heaven, in a Book God has written Himself. No earthly hand is worthy to write in this book. It has been written by the Divine Hand, by the Lamb of God, by Jesus Himself.
Your name is in that Book!
Thank you, Lord, for my 2 Carol Awards. Yes and Amen. But thank You most of all for what matters so much more. That my name (and your name) is written in His Book (and one day I will see it there with my own two eyes).