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CWG – The Rest of the Story

There is misleading information circulating online about the recent demise of Christian Writers Guild. Some of what has been written is blatantly false and a reckless use of the power of communication. Words like “rumor” and “threat” pique human interest and appeal to our basest selves. They may be good for clicks, but they do not dwell on what is lovely, noble, pure, or of good report. They do not lift one another up. They do not encourage.

As many of you know, I sold my 9-year-old for-profit company, Glass Road Media, to Dave Sheets in June 2014. Dave was one of the partners in the Christian Writers Guild. The only other partner was Jerry B. Jenkins. CWG was failing and I was asked to join in on the discussions to try and determine its best future. Those discussions allowed me to be privy to information that I am about to share because – and ONLY because – the best way to combat rumor is with truth.

Let me be clear. I am only sharing this level of information because of the misinformation that is circulating in the industry about why and how the Guild was shut down.

Jerry B. Jenkins and Dave Sheets became business partners in September 2013 after working together on a few consulting projects. They’d known each other since Dave’s days at Tyndale House Publishers, during the Left Behind heyday. Dave had always admired Jerry’s work and the work of Christian Writers Guild.

Their vision for the new partnership was to help authors who were coming through CWG with additional resources that would help them independently publish their books if that was their preferred route.

In their legal partnership, Dave was asked to be the managing partner (making the day to day operating decisions) while Jerry remained the majority partner. As has been said in other places, he felt, “that he was ready to return to his primary occupation and calling, that of full-time writing.” He wanted all the benefits of being the expert-in-residence without any of the responsibility of running the company. Understandable.

During this same time, Dave bought an independent publishing company to provide services to CWG authors. At his expense, he moved his family to Colorado to take on the CWG work as well.

Dave saw CWG as an underperforming organization, with a long track record of helping students and yet a very poor track record of financial performance. It had never posted a profit in the 13 years Jerry owned it prior to their partnership. This was due to very aggressive marketing expenses, sponsorships of events in the trade, and a highly expensive (and unprofitable) writers conference.

As has been said in many places, Jerry is generous with his resources in supporting author causes. He believes in the power of writers and the importance of educating them and ran the Guild according to that passion, without a need to experience profit. Essentially, his support carried the organization.

Dave shares that same passion for serving writers, but is a businessman who was brought into a for-profit company as a partner. A for-profit company that had not posted a profit for 13 years. (I have no knowledge of its financial state prior to that.) He felt that this could be turned around with a lot of effort, some new thinking, and other resources that he was bringing to the equation.

CWG moved to less expensive office space, trimmed staff, recalibrated the services and began the rebuilding process. In late 2013, Dave had a conversation with Jerry about the Writing for the Soul conference which Jerry had organized and operated for the previous dozen years. WFTS had always been a destination for authors looking for some of the best speakers and teaching in the industry, and it came with a commensurate price tag. Dave worried it was not a sustainable conference and knew it had proven to be a financial loss in previous years. Even with this knowledge, he was encouraged to commit to the 2014 conference, and it lost money again.

As these losses kept mounting, and anticipated course restructuring didn’t produce the revenue needed quickly enough to sustain the organization, Dave began taking financial resources from his publishing company to prop up the Guild. After a short time, he had to accept reality: The Guild model as a for-profit company was irreparably broken, and either needed to be reorganized under a nonprofit model, or shut down completely.

Dave and I had discussions with Jerry in July 2014 and provided a plan in August that outlined how the organization could transition with minimal changes, but needed some additional resources to make the transition. The bottom line was simple: a for-profit company needs to make a profit. While generosity and passion had kept it afloat for 13 years, this was not a sound business model. Dave had reached the end of his ability to financially prop up CWG, Jerry (understandably) had reached the end of his will to prop it up, and its history would not instill confidence for potential investors to keep it going.

After a number of weeks, however, Dave still hadn’t received final approval from Jerry on a plan. CWG costs mounted weekly. Dave was tapping out his company’s financial resources. A decision to shut down, move to a new structure, or continue with a single donor financing CWG was needed.

Finally, in September, Jerry and Dave agreed on a plan – to shut down CWG with the understanding that a nonprofit would be created to take care of the existing students, mentors, and CWG commitments going forward. Both men held true to one main concern: that the writers and mentors would be taken care of. I agreed to use my nonprofit experience and resources to help with this. Jerry agreed to help fund that transition through the nonprofit, to assist CWG in finishing well by the end of 2014. Together, the three of us began making phone calls to the mentors and other key people and informing them.

In October, Jerry asked for all of the shares of CWG back and withdrew his financial commitment to the nonprofit. I don’t know why. Dave effectively resigned from CWG as President and Jerry took it back 100%. Dave and I continued what had already begun under the agreed-upon plan – the formation of TheBelieversGroup which included both a nonprofit and a for-profit model.

That’s it, folks. That’s what I know to have happened. Now, to just combat some of the false information out there:

  • To my knowledge, Jerry and Dave are still friends.
  • Dave was the sole business partner with Jerry. There isn’t anyone else who had any stake in the Guild.
  • Jerry and Dave co-owned the organization since 2013 until he asked for his membership shares and control back.
  • Dave was not a rogue agent…Jerry and he made decisions about CWG together.
  • The students were getting served with all the services they paid for until the end of October when Jerry shut the Guild down. As far as I know Jerry has committed to continue those services.
  • We had a plan to serve these students under a nonprofit model which would have expanded their services and the value the Guild carried. This was not implemented. We have created BelieversTrust, a nonprofit which educates and equips writers, but we have not done so with the use of CWG resources.
  • The Guild never made a profit (it was single investor supported), and even with good effort, it never recovered enough to be profitable. The organization was in the red by hundreds of thousands each year before Dave ever entered the picture.
  • Both men invested significant dollars and time in the Guild’s success, at serious personal and professional cost. They did so because they truly believe in serving writers well.

If you know me, you know I tend to just say things out loud. I’m not good with the white elephant standing all lonely in the middle of the room with no one to acknowledge it. Especially when everybody is tripping on its trunk and bumping into its backside.

So, I’ve spoken the relevant truths that I know. I’m sure there is plenty of truth I don’t know, and that’s okay in this situation. Had there not been blatant misinformation out there that could harm Dave and all of the employees, writers, and mentors who depend on him and his organization, I’d have not spoken these truths. What I do know isn’t what was being gossiped, so I’ve spoken.

I hope – I pray – really, really hard that speaking all of this serves the purpose of focusing on good, noble, right things. I don’t intend to speak of any of this again and instead will focus on continuing the good work that began this year in the formation of TheBelieversGroup and its service to content creators. Their words create better culture for Christ.

 

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A love story

Read this story and – at its end – you’ll have an opportunity to give something truly unique this Christmas.

A few months ago, from our driveway here in south Florida, I loaded both kiddos and the husband into my mother and father-in-law’s van and set off for Tennessee. Exhaustion clung to me like the wet heat on our hot mornings. If one more person asked one more thing – even a little thing, like pass the salt shaker – I’d lose it. The preceding weeks had been doozies.

I’d sold my company, working through the minutiae necessary for such, and begun flying back and forth to the parent company’s home base in Colorado to transition people and practices. I was brought in for discussions about another company of theirs that had been seriously underperforming for 13 years and needed a solution. And the non-profit I lead in Florida had just acquired new office space, necessitating my move into it and an update of all of our business documents (letterhead, business cards, website, etc.). I’d attended several conferences in multiple states, met with clients in other states to ease them into the acquisition transition, and taken on a writing project that required writing an autobiography in a matter of weeks to coincide with a film launch.

In the middle of all that, we’d also moved into a new home and headed into the hectic Summer routine of a different kid camp (and hours) every week.

And you want me to pass the salt shaker?!

I fell into the van’s passenger seat, praying I’d somehow managed to remember to pack Miss Bear or my daughter wouldn’t be able to sleep and that my son’s cell phone charger was floating around somewhere or he’d be without a connection to his friends.

We’d been driving for several hours when my cell rang. It was my mother-in-law, who had my car since we’d taken her van for the trip.

“Honey, your car is trashed,” she began.

I felt my shoulders start to inch even higher. Another thing I already knew I needed to do, but had no time to address. I’m a nut about keeping my car picked up and clean…but everything else felt more important, so I’d let it go. The clients, the staff, the husband, the kids – none of them really cared about the state of my car and I could just swallow my stress over it every morning when I got in it to go to work. I took a breath to respond, but she continued before I could speak.

“I know you just haven’t had time. I’m going to clean it out and have it washed so it’s all ready for you when you get home, okay? I just wanted to make sure that was okay.”

I couldn’t help it. Hot tears started streaming. One thing off my plate. One thing important to me and necessary…now off my To Do list and handled. I thanked her profusely. We ended the call. I told my husband again how much I love his mother.

That's her - my amazing mother-in-law - in the red jacket.

That’s her – my amazing mother-in-law – in the red jacket.

When we returned home several days later, I learned that she’d held very true to her word by spending hours cleaning even the crevices of my car’s interior. It looked brand new again. Every morning thereafter, I sat down in the driver’s seat and – instead of stressing about one more thing to do and no time to do it – I looked around at the clean state of things and smiled before heading off to the new office.

Little things make big differences to the people who receive them. Hearing about these things makes a difference, too. It reminds us to be that source of kindness for someone. It helps us remember when we received a little help and how it didn’t feel little.

So when Paul Parkinson came to me with an idea for collecting stories like this in a book – for highlighting the unselfishness that makes us the humans we were created to be – I jumped on board faster than a TV-buyer at a Best Buy Black Friday sale.

Which is where you come in. Would you like to give a really unique Christmas gift this year? Do you have a story like mine? A time when someone did something for you? I want to hear it. I’d like to consider including it in this book. Here’s the deal:

Email your story to me at info@believerstrust.org or call me at 239-403-0203 and tell me some details of it. If we can work it into the book, then you will have memorialized that person’s kindness – and we’ll send you a certificate attesting to such that you can give them at Christmas. When the book releases next year, we’ll send you a free copy that you can then give to your kindness giver as another thank you for their generous spirit.

If you want to participate, I need your story by December 20 to meet the publisher’s deadline.

Thanks for reading this far. I’m excited to hear your stories and grateful to you for being a witness to mine.

You can visit the community we’ve created for these stories on Facebook by clicking the icon below.

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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Stories…Lies?

Some of my fellow Christians keep telling me there is no eternal value in story – book, film, whatever. They ask, upon learning about Glass Road or SON, “But how is it a ministry to make stories?”

Let’s set aside the soul care offered to story creators through GR and SON for a second, and just focus on the creation of story itself.

Understanding lives in story, comprehension in character exploration. This is probably why Jesus almost always used story to teach Truth.

Our church bookstores don’t seem to follow that example consistently. Over the course of my career in stories, I have been advised numerous times by bookstore owners and publishers that there is no ministerial value in fiction. I can’t tell you how many church bookstores I’ve walked into whose shelves are lined with Maxwell, Moore, Stanley, Blackaby, and the like – and not one novel in sight.

I leave those stores feeling bereft. What of the people who need story?

What of those like Madeleine L’Engle…

“But I was frightened, and I tried to heal my fear with stories, stories which gave me courage, stories which affirmed that ultimately love is stronger than hate…And so story helped me learn to live. Story was in no way an evasion of life, but a way of living life creatively instead of fearfully.” (from WALKING ON WATER)

The wise and talented L’Engle continues… “It was a shock when one day in school one of the teachers accused me of ‘telling a story.’ She was not complimenting me on my fertile imagination. She was making the deadly accusation that I was telling a lie. If I learned anything from that teacher, it was that lie and story are incompatible. If it holds no truth, then it cannot truly be story. And so I knew that it was in story that I found flashes of that truth which makes us free.” Story holds Truth. It illustrates Truth. So, can we please stop comparing the ministerial value of callings, please? If we who are called do not build up the body of stories, what ideas will minister to those who do not respond to sermon? Ponder for just a moment whose stories will be told if we do not tell those given to us. Now to those of us who are called to the world of story creation and wondering if our work matters – please know:

When we abdicate our role as story creators in favor of a “higher” calling as defined by humans, we can only disappoint the Creator of Story who entrusted us with that element of His own being.

 

 
 

Homosexuality and Hymns

This is not an easy post to write. I love people. (Well, most people. I should love all people, but a couple are just the other side of impossible, you know?) I have this awesome privilege of hearing people’s stories all day long – of bringing those stories to the attention of a large audience. I’m going to do that here.

And some people might feel hurt by this story.

That’s not easy to think about.

But this story matters. Not just because it’s true, but also because hearing it opens a door of freedom and relief for people.

People who are wrestling hard with the urge to love someone of the same sex.

SingOverMe_Wrap_Wyn/AmericDVDWrapYep, this is a hard post to write.

I love people, regardless of whom they’re drawn to love. I especially love artists. Humans who create are a mysterious community, full of emotion and passion and ability that I can get lost in exploring. When I’m with creators, I know the Creator more.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a friend. He is married to his best friend, who is also my friend. I love them both. I think they’re intelligent, cool, fun, clever people who love Jesus. We were discussing their involvement with a major project I lead.

He asked me, “So, we need to talk about the obvious elephant in the room. Before we get too far into this, is us being gay going to be a problem?

I really hate that the question needed to be asked, even while I appreciated him for bringing it up. “Look,” I answered, “if you’re asking me about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, I have to tell you that my read of the scripture doesn’t leave me believing it’s allowed. I just can’t find that anywhere. I find the opposite. But I also know I don’t know everything and we disagree on this and I respect you. I also read scripture to say gluttony is wrong, but that doesn’t preclude me from being in relationship and doing ministry alongside fat people.”

“I appreciate that,” he said. “But I don’t think you’re going to run into that attitude with some of the supporters of this project. Our involvement could cost you.”

I sighed. “Walking out our faith is hard. At least, it is for me. I appreciate a lot of grace from people who give me wisdom when I ask and then give me room to find the wisdom when necessary. I want to give that here and I want to get that here. With everyone involved. Okay?”

“Okay.”

We talked for a while longer. I hung up. My heart hurt.

Fast forward to the present. To an email from a colleague asking if I’d be interested in helping with a new film called Sing Over Me. “I would,” I said. “Send me a link to watch it.”

I watched the film.

(You can, too – DOWNLOAD HERE. Or get the DVD HERE.) 

I bawled.

Dennis Jernigan has written hundreds of songs that we sing often in church. “We Will Worship the Lamb of Glory”, “Thank You”, Great is the Lord Almighty”, and “You Are My All in All” are just a few. He is married. A father of 9.

But he also tried to end his life early on because of an inability to deal with same-sex attraction.

I cried watching Dennis’s story because it is real. It is raw. It highlights how we Christians have so mis-directed and polarized the conversation that we actually damage and demonize people who have same-sex desires. We hurt when we should offer hope.

It is the right way to talk about this kind of story.

Not from meanness. Not from ostracizing people. Not from identifying someone based on one behavior. Not from any place other than, “This is my story. This is my walk of faith.”

This is the story of a creator, loving his Creator.

 

 

An Open Letter to Glenn Beck

Dear Glenn Beck,

BeckTVShotI’m writing because your words today caused great alarm. I doubt you remember me, so here’s a refresher:

When I wrote a blog post last Fall that went viral (oh my gosh, are you as sick of that phrase as I am?) about a commercial ABC aired during the morning news, your producer called and asked me for an interview.
In my first interview with you – for your radio show – you asked me to lead a boycott of Disney (ABC’s parent company). You asked me to organize moms to march on Disney in protest.

You said to hit ‘em where it hurts – their bank account – and they’d stop airing this stuff.

I declined. I told you I wanted to be a part of the solution by creating entertainment worthy of our time and talent. 

You told me to consider the boycott idea. Held it up as the only way to effect change in our TV content. “It’s all about the money, Rebeca.” Told me to consider a boycott before we talked again. Said you’d put your resources behind me if I’d just take on the idea.

That was a heady moment, Mr. Beck. You’ve got a lot of resources and your fans are very loyal. The tiny woman in me who is mesmerized by the shiny ball of resources started screaming. “Shut up, Rebeca! You do not tell Glenn Beck no! What are you thinking?!”

(I was thinking boycotts don’t solve anything. I was thinking a few million folks not watching a multi-billion dollar network’s channel for a bit wouldn’t make a hill of beans’ worth of difference. I was thinking I needed to focus on causing actual change, not just screaming about causing actual change. I was thinking I can’t – with integrity – tell people that they are making a difference in TV content by holding a sign and marching or by not watching a channel for a little while. I thought a lot of things and wrote them here.)

I stuffed tiny woman’s voice back in her closet. She returned with every call and blog comment telling me to take you up on your offer. A couple hours later, you interviewed me again for your TV show, Mr. Beck.

You opened this second interview by asking me if I’d reconsidered – was I now ready to organize this march on Disney? You offered your resources again. You’d back the effort, I just needed to lead it. I told you it wasn’t about money, it was about the ideology of those in charge.

You laughed.

You told me it was about the money.

Like I just didn’t get it.

And now, it sounds like you get it.

Today, the Blaze reported this quote from your show, “The arrogance on all fronts is just astounding,” he said. “And that’s why when you call your cable company, they don’t care about you. … Honestly? They don’t even care about the American market anymore. All they care about is expanding overseas, because those are growth markets.”

That’s right, Mr. Beck. It doesn’t matter if we call a cable company. If we march on Disney. If we yell or scream.

The article went on to say, “Beck said whether we like it or not, the world is about to change, and that’s why those in power are sending a ‘very clear’ message that ‘you won’t work; you won’t eat; you won’t be accepted anywhere in society’ if you have a different opinion.”

We disagree again, Mr. Beck. And the dangerous impact of your words demanded that I write.

Those words devastate and destroy and depress the people we work with. The people who are the solution.

So I’m writing you to say this:

You are accepted in entertainment if you are someone who wants to create and distribute worthy content. Uplifting. Thought-provoking. Genuinely entertaining. Clever. Intelligent. Soaked in talent and skill. Mainstream. You do have a community to consider. A community that is connected. That is productive. That is committed to principle. That is young but is growing and getting it done.

PrintWe call it SON: Spirit Of Naples.

We’d be happy to have you.

With all sincerity,
Rebeca Seitz

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

God + Suffering = ?

c3olormanprayingIf God is God of all, why is there pain? Why suffering?

Our pastor—going through a sermon series in which he addresses questions of the congregation—had the difficult task of tackling those questions yesterday. He made me think harder, pray more, and consider the Word again…which is the best kind of pastor!

He shared a story of being called to another city to baptize a newborn. The baby had been born with severe brain defects and would only live for two days. The situation begs the question, “Why, God? Why create this?”

I have had three miscarriages. Each time, I cried out to God. Aren’t children a blessing? Did I not love Him enough? Was I not “good” enough to be blessed with another child this side of Heaven? I wrestled. My husband wrestled.

There have been other difficulties in life, of course. I am an abuse survivor, as is 1 in 4 women in this country. If you’ve read other writings of mine, you know other tough situations that came and went. I’ve also had the privilege of praying with and walking with some of you through stormy circumstances.

Why does God create that?

I think it’s the wrong question.

God created a perfect world, including humans. Perfect. Without any blemish. Everything in working order. Harmony. Peace.

We broke that.

We chose to use a perfect gift He’d given us, free will, and turn away from Him.

We broke perfection.

We’ve been breaking it for generations.

When I lose a child within my womb, when a friend of mine suffers through vision abnormalities, when I witness the breakdown of my dear father-in-law’s body to Parkinson’s, or when a child is born and dies within two days from defects, I no longer ask, “Why, God?” Instead, I look in a mirror.

I did that.

You did that.

Millions of us did that.

God did not create imperfection. He set out to create perfection and, each time we see otherwise, we see the repercussions of generations and generations of breaking and breaking and breaking and breaking. How dare we lay that at His throne?

This groaning that erupts when we encounter the fallout of our choices and the choices of those who came before us – death, sickness, destruction, war – is a direct response to the groaning of the Holy Spirit within us believers. Just as it pains me to see my child hurt for his choices, it pains God to see us hurt when we use His gift of free will poorly. How much more it must pain Him to see us walking around amidst fires, famine, disease, and carnage – heaps of unholiness wrought for thousands of years by humans He created. Humans today being burned by choices made generations ago.

God desires the perfection He created.

We cry to God, “Fix this! Save us from our own consequences!” We sound like the Israelites in Judges 10, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think is best, but please rescue us now!”

And, sometimes, He does. That very next verse in Judges says, “Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.” The rest of the chapter talks about how He led the Israelites to defeat the people that had been hurting them for 18 years.

Other times, the story He is weaving for all of mankind won’t allow for the miraculous removal of brokenness in the present. In those times, we read and re-read Romans 8:28. We stand on it. We cling to it. We find rest in it. “All things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to His purpose.”

We like to focus on how much God loves us. He does. More than we can comprehend. But when we encounter sickness and death, I believe it is important that we not fall for the twisting trap of satan and ask how a “loving God” creates sickness and death.

I think we must look upon and walk through that experience with the full knowledge that we created it.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Life Lessons

 

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Say, “Yes!”

“So, what do we choose instead?” Hundreds of emails, thousands of comments, lots and lots of texts and FB posts and Tweets – all asking me to point toward what we do about the problem of destructive material in our media.

I have a lot of answers now, and a couple of the bigger ones will be announced shortly.

ImageIn the meantime, I wanted to respond specifically to all of you who said you’d disengaged with media. I want to ask you to engage with one specific product. Earlier this year, DreamWorks purchased Classic Media, which is the parent company of VeggieTales. We are enormous Veggie fans in our house (okay, not so much at the table, but definitely at the TV!). When DreamWorks acquired VT, I got a little nervous. The same company that gave us “Free Birds” (which Eric Metaxas so beautifully discussed for Breakpoint) is going to be the parent of Bob and Larry? The French Peas? Madame Blueberry?

Yep. And that is INCREDIBLE. Those are good values, being acquired by an enormous company, and disseminated to an even more massive audience.

Which is why I’m asking every one of you to download the new VeggieTales app (first one since the DreamWorks acquisition, it was created by Cupcake Digital). Let’s be sure DreamWorks is reminded that there is a loyal audience for Veggie, and what it represents.

Go to your app store and search for “It’s a Very Merry Larry Christmas”. If you wanna go all out, get the DVD, too, “Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas”. It even features Si Robertson from Duck Commander.

[Full disclosure: Glass Road was hired to help get the word out about the app. Even fuller disclosure: I’d have been talking about this and buying it anyway.]

We can’t just be a people of “no” – we have to say, “YES!” as loudly as possible when good media is created. And this is good, folks! Uber-high quality app that my two kiddos have pronounced, “The coolest ever!” Any of us who have watched VeggieTales DVDs can speak to their high production value. This is a brand that sets the bar.

I love it when we have excellently produced, thought-provoking, high-quality, entertaining media to choose. If you know of other NEW media (we all love the classics, but I’m asking for NEW), let me know in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
 
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