The Ripple Effect

By Judy Dunagan

“Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.” Isaiah 30:8

We had just started the meeting when our Publisher posed this question to our team of acquiring editors and marketers of books: “If suddenly we were no longer allowed to publish Christian books freely in the United States, will the books we’re publishing today still be impacting lives 100 years from now?”

His question took me back to my first job in Christian publishing in the early eighties, when I was just out of college. I worked for a ministry based in Vienna, which was publishing seminary-level curriculum for pastors in Eastern European countries that were at the time under Communism. Part of my job was traveling to both Poland and Romania to smuggle in floppy discs that contained the curriculum to equip pastors in the underground church—men who were not allowed to attend seminary in their Communist countries. 

I will never forget meeting those brave men and their families who served Jesus no matter the cost—often under threats of beatings and imprisonment, even death. That experience forever impacted my walk with Christ and deepened my appreciation for the freedoms we have in America to publish Christian books and openly read and study God’s Word—freedoms we often take for granted.

A highlight of that time was meeting author Linda Dillow, whose husband headed up our ministry in Vienna, Biblical Education by Extension (BEE). Linda had just written Creative Counterpart, her first women’s book on marriage. The manuscript of the book was smuggled into Romania and translated; then just a few copies were printed and secretly passed from one woman to another to read. Can you imagine going through all that just to read a Christian book on marriage?

What I saw in Linda Dillow back then, and even more so today, is a heart surrendered to God’s calling on her life as a Christian author. She never set out to be a bestselling writer with a large platform, but she saw the gifts God had given her as part of His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20) on her life to go and make disciples through her writing and speaking. I hope Linda’s story inspires you to continue to pursue your dream to write and speak for His glory and fame!

What a privilege today for us to freely use the gifts God has given us—as writers and speakers—to share the hope of Jesus with the world. In the midst of trying to build bigger platforms and write stand-out proposals, we can lose sight that our love of writing and speaking is part of God’s Great Commission calling on our lives to make disciples.

My prayer is to encourage you to continue to seek equipping and training for your writing and speaking, even if God doesn’t seem to be opening doors to the opportunities you had hoped for. Perhaps you will never get a publishing contract, but you will write a Bible study for your community group that will draw your neighbor to Christ. Perhaps you will never be a keynote speaker at a women’s conference, but the testimony you share in your daughter’s youth group will rescue a middle school girl from despair and give her hope. 

You may never know this side of heaven the full ripple effect of your writing and speaking ministry, but God knows. And as He promised His apostles when leaving them with His Great Commission to make disciples, He will also “be with you always, to the very end of the age” as you faithfully serve Him with your gifting.

What about you? Please comment on how God has confirmed His calling on your life as a writer or speaker, even when it gets discouraging or it’s not what you envisioned.

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5 Comments

  1. Crickett Keeth on 2021-01-29 at 1:40 PM

    I love this, Judy! Thank you for your words of encouragement!

  2. Kim Ball on 2021-01-27 at 9:23 AM

    Judy thank you for your encouraging message and your continually needed reminder that this is all for God’s glory and for His purposes! “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For APART FROM ME, you can do NOTHING.” John 15:5 Thank you for sharing!!

  3. Bonnie Emmorey on 2021-01-26 at 2:18 PM

    Judy, thank you for this – it is powerful.

  4. Barbara Ann Holmes on 2021-01-25 at 9:18 PM

    A year ago I wrote the following (below) detailing what God taught me through rejection. After that, He tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of a project He instilled in my heart and said write about this. So I did. Immediately doors opened. Beginning with the “SpeakUp” Conference. I know he has plans for what He’s instilled in my heart. Below outlines my journey, mishaps, and His beautiful auto-corrects. (Kinda long) For anyone dealing with rejection who has an ear:

    I have a permanently disfigured finger from writing. When I was a kid, my tight clench could barely keep up with the ideas in my brain, and so I have this custom notch in my finger that hugs any pen or pencil perfectly. I’d often agree to forfeit my recess time in school, so I could go over my drafts with teachers. One of my teachers even submitted one of my stories in the second grade for a magazine; however, my work was rejected because it was too long. (Imagine that?!) While most other classmate’s stories covered the bare minimum, mine were pages upon pages. As I grew, the people around me, kept encouraging me to write. I never really stopped. One of my former bosses had an *in* at a magazine for me to write for. So, I excitedly submitted a sample of my work and was politely rejected. Later a friend thought of me, as they passed on an opening for a writing adventure online-which also ended in the bitterness of rejection.

    I’ve been working on a couple of writing projects for an embarrassingly long time now, and I told myself that I would self-publish in 2020. This would be something just simply because I enjoy writing and sharing with people around me. Then, came this darn flashy contest in my inbox. Not only did it distract and take away from me writing the book, but it started to give my imagination space to dream in a true worldly, self-centered fashion. You know the kind of dreams…If I win this, then my life will look like (fill in the blank). For me, the blank space was “validation”. Only validation never simply screams “Hey, Barbara, you’re placing your heart in the wrong place, don’t waste your time.” Nope. At first, its alluring, seductive, and secretive. For me, the conviction didn’t come till after I hit the “submit” button. I told myself with this entry, I wouldn’t wrap my heart around the results…and yet, it was no sooner than when I hit submit that I recalled all the details of my writing history that I spelled out in the above paragraph. I’m no stranger to, rejection when it comes to writing. Why do I keep doing this?

    Needless to say, I started to get emotional, followed by lots of praying and lots of conversations with God about Faith.

    Faith is one of those interesting topics. I’d be fibbing if I said I had it all figured out. However, we know from scripture that “faith comes from hearing the Word.” We also know that you have to have an ear to hear it. You have to be willing, and yet, somehow chosen as we know too that it is a Gift from God…one so that man cannot boast. Some people have more Faith than others because it is listed as one of the spiritual gifts. We also know that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” In Hebrews, we get this kick-butt, crash-course, section of what I call,”The Faith Legacies”. We learn that it starts with understanding, and recognizing the universe was created by God. Then, it goes through a historical line of people who pleased God by Faith. There’s a lot to learn about Faith.

    Growing up, when I read the faith verses surrounding Jesus saying, “Oh you of little Faith…” I always thought it meant it was something I needed to find and use. It was something like a tool I’d pull out of my pocket in a time of need like a screwdriver. Okay, assess the situation, this calls for a Phillips-head-sized faith. Through this writing journey, God is showing me just how not one-size-fits-all this Faith stuff is. I’m also understanding it to be more of a process. I think we are all deficient and have some areas of weakness in our life when it comes to Faith.

    See, there’s the American faith and there’s the Faith of the Bible, and I think we have made a mess out of the two. (Myself included.). This week, as I mentioned, I was faced with a writing contest desire. I walked through it, and prayed about it…but it was on a Christian platform…which meant that lots of other Christians that have the same desire were all likely praying to the same God asking Him for the same thing. This got me thinking (and praying BIG TIME)…so if we all have Faith…how does this work, God? I mean there are only a few spots. If we all have strong faith, we can’t all get this desire…now what?!

    So, I had a lot of conversations with God this past week. Lots of humbling prayers. Lots of tearful, fearful conversations both with God and my husband…just desperately seeking affirmation. How do I have Faith big enough that I will be chosen…but not have my heart so wrapped around a worldly desire that I’m crushed if I don’t get it…something just wasn’t jiving. What will I learn in all this?

    Then, God started to shine a light. As part of our walk and relationship with God, there’s this Trust…and Faith is a big part of that. Our American faith tells us to put faith in the mountain and in yourself or your abilities that you can move the mountain from here to there-you got this girl, yay. Which is almost right. The Bible Faith tells us to put our Faith, Hope, and Trust in God and what He can do. Not ourselves. It’s not so much that I have faith that I will win…but I’m to have faith and trust in my creator’s results.

    When I read the Jesus walking on water account…I’m always intrigued. I just picture this rubbing-eyes, am I seeing clearly moment. I feel like I would have done the exact same thing as Peter. If I had been hanging with Jesus, the man in the flesh, and He’s walking on water, I would totally be like “I wanna do that too!”…but notice what Jesus says to him, He says “Come”. This is a Faith story…there’s SO much to learn from it but one of my recent takeaways is Faith draws us closer to God, NOT closer to our desire. So, to test if your Faith is placed in the right place, you will be ‘coming’ leaning/talking/walking closer with the Lord…you won’t be leaning on the outcome or results of the desire.

    Immediately, after that water-walking-phenomenon account, we are told that when they arrive on land, the people who recognize Jesus brought him their sick, begged Him, and touched just the edge of his cloak, and they were healed. It seems these two stories are side-by-side for a reason. Here, people desperately “come”. It’s like an example of the mountain/mustard seed (just touching the edge of the cloak, just a tiny mustard seed and their troubles are moved far away!) They aren’t asking if that’s really you, God…or maybe some of us today might ask the question differently, “God, if you can only do such and such for me?” (of course, He can, He can do anything!) He wants us to desperately seek Him and need/trust Him. So, when we trust Him with it all, we don’t put our faith in the outcome as much as we do trusting the One who’s omnipotent outcomes are for the best. Knowing who He is, is like the ignition starter to Faith. Then, seeking/coming to Him is the active part, and trusting His direction/leading through it all is the finish line.

    The purity of the heart is so hard but so important. It’s difficult to be honest with ourselves why we do what we do and choosing to always do it with the right intentions. When I read “Seek first His kingdom and all these things shall be added.” Or “Ask, seek knock…and it will be given to you”. It’s so easy to think of it as a formula, but really it’s a reminder because when you get it right, it all falls into place and you don’t have to think about it. Even that opening line in Hebrews I mentioned earlier…don’t you think that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for…” really means hitting the target of “who we hope for” rather than what we want Him to do for us?

    Other verses that echoed in my heart this week were “…how much greater are the gifts the father gives.” I’m trying to live in that space of freedom to ask because He already knows what’s on our hearts. He sees and weighs it. Just like when I step back and evaluate projects at work; I want God to reveal the necessary things that need tweaking in me for growth.

    I consumed a good bit of girl-scout cookies yesterday. I cried a great deal. Today, I found music like a prescription for my soul to help me turn it around in worshipful praise.

    God has wired me as a designer, which is part of the communication arts. This means I get to play with a pretty big toolbox that involves pens, ink, paint, my voice, spaces, movement—so many ways to communicate. I just want to steward them well. It certainly hurts to be rejected, but I know the One who was rejected in the worst way and didn’t deserve it. Is it possible rejection makes us more Chirst-like? It toughens us somehow not to care so much and pries our fingers from the worldly. So, by Faith, I will still write, sing, dance, paint, design and create in any way shape or form He leads me to. Trusting Him through to the end, with a grateful heart that I get to do any of it…because creative stuff is pretty darn cool and fun! I need to do so and stop seeking the approval of man.

    Ps, this is 89K characters…the contest required me to be under 4K…I can barely send a text message under 4k…that should have been my first red flag! (Snort!) Here’s to staying true to the 2nd-grade, long-winded, crooked-fingered, God-given, image He made me in.

  5. Carol Kent on 2021-01-25 at 8:45 PM

    Judy, this blog is so encouraging! Sometimes we forget how far the impact of our ministry can reach when we continue to obediently follow his call. Thank you for this reminder.

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