Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Do you ever wonder if your words matter?

Do you ever get discouraged about writing your memoir?

You know how hard it is to find time to write, to pin down each vignette’s inner message, search for just the right words, revise, rewrite, organize….

Do you wonder whether all your effort is worth it?

Well, I have an important message for you.

Listen carefully: Your words matter! Your stories make a difference!

Here’s what I mean:

Let me tell you about James H. Pence. He dreamed of being a writer—“wildly successful” and “insanely rich.”

“People were going to mention me in hushed, awestruck tones….”

In 2003 Pence’s dream came true. He published a novel, Blind Sight, which earned him both excellent reviews and fame.

“I had dreams of a bestseller,” Pence says, “but … when my second royalty statement showed massive returns—and a large deficit—I was crushed.

“.… Finally I prayed, ‘Lord, I wrote this book for you and I’m giving it back to you. If you’ll use it in even one life, I’ll be happy.’”

By 2005, his book went out of print and his writing career screeched to a halt.

But God was not finished with Pence or his book.

Three years later, March 1, 2008, two men broke into Terry and Penny Caffey’s home, shot Terry five times at point blank range, killed Penny and their sons, and set the house on fire.

Terry was devastated. And confused: Why did God take his family? And why did He let Terry go on living?

In his blog post, You Never Know, Pence continues:

“About six weeks after the murders, Terry went back to his property to ‘have it out with God.’ He stood on the ashes of his house and cried out, ‘God why did you take my family? I need an answer and I need it today.’

“At that moment he saw a brown, scorched piece of paper leaning against a tree. Terry picked it up.

“It was a single page from my novel. But it wasn’t just any page. It was the page where my protagonist—a man who has lost a wife and two children—comes to grips with God’s sovereignty in his loss.

“The first words on the page were, ‘I couldn’t understand why You would take my family and leave me to struggle along without them … but I do believe You’re sovereign. You’re in control.’

“God used those words to turn Terry Caffey’s life around, and now he travels all over the country sharing an incredible story of grace and forgiveness.…

“My novel wasn’t a bestseller, but God took one page from it and changed a life. And now that man is touching thousands.

“Don’t be discouraged. Keep writing.

“You never know what God might do with your words.”

Pence wrote fiction—you and I write memoir (nonfiction)—but words are words, and messages are messages, and they hold transforming power within. God uses words—God uses your words!

So while you write your memoir, and when you hand it to your family, I hope you’ll pray James Pence’s prayer: “Lord, I wrote this book for you and I’m giving it back to you. If you’ll use it in even one life, I’ll be happy.”

P.S. This is not the end of the story!

Now, in 2012, God is still using Pence’s words—in ways he could never have dreamed.

“God not only used that page to change Terry’s life; He also used it to change the entire direction of my writing,” says Pence in his recent blog post, The Accidental Collaborator. Take two minutes to read it. You’ll love it.

I'm taking a week off for some special family time. While I'm away, I hope you'll follow the blogs in the sidebar to the right. They are full of interesting instruction and inspiration!

Related links and references:

You Never Know,

The Accidental Collaborator,

Jeff Goins, Writer,


  1. Thank You! This story is so inspiring. I'm going to print a copy to re-read whenever I'm having "one of those days" when I wonder if what I'm doing is worthwhile.

    1. Cathy, we all need each other's stories, don't you think? :) Your writing IS worthwhile! Where would we be if people in the Bible hadn't told stories and put them into writing?!

      Have a blessed day.

  2. What a wonderfully inspiring story. Thank you for using your words to cheer me on as a writer, too. Enjoy your week off.

    1. Hi, Jamie Jo, your words are always inspiring and entertaining! Bless you for bringing humor and smiles to situations that otherwise might be causes for grumpiness or tears. Your blogs are real treasures. YOU are a real treasure.


  3. What an amazing story. Simply amazing.

    1. And both of those men are just ordinary people. Everyone has stories that can be helpful and inspirational to others. That's why I'm thrilled you are writing your stories!