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As promised, I want to share with you what I learned at the Re:Write Conference in San Diego last weekend. But let’s get real — you’re not all writers. Creators? Yes. Innovators? Yes. But not necessarily writers. So I won’t bore you with all the writing- and publishing-related stuff I learned (which was a lot).

I’ll just skip all that and tell you about Jack.

Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves, folks. Jack is not the name of the sexy, Russian hotel maintenance worker who had a knack for hanging large banners with nothing but sticky tape. Nor is he the perky young lad behind the counter at Sunshine Deli, solely responsible for my caffeine kick each morning, afternoon, evening, late evening (lather, rinse, repeat). Nor is he the dashing Southwest pilot who safely carried me home to the tune of his soothing announcements about local weather patterns.

So if Jack isn’t my future husband, then who is he?

Let’s start at the beginning.

When I arrived at the resort, I was immediately lost. It was a huge campus with many different buildings, restaurants and little pathways. I felt like I had to drop breadcrumbs everywhere to find my way back to my room. I suddenly felt nervous for all the attendees that would be arriving. I called our wonderful resort host, Niki, and asked her to put up extra signage (which still didn’t prove to be enough! Sorry, everyone!).

I pride myself on having a good sense of direction. But this resort, well, it got the better of me. Then, just in the nick of time, I found a shortcut, a secret passageway, a reprieve from the circles I’d been wandering in. It was nothing more than an alleyway, but it proved to be a gift from above. Just as you’d expect from its name, it was dark, smelly and full of dumpsters. But it directly connected my hotel room and the conference area, and saved my poor feet about four miles a day. So I packed my pepper spray and a flashlight and hit the pavement. Back and forth. Forth and back. And right there, in that creepy alley, is where I met Jack.

He had a Mohawk thing going on with his hair. He was mysterious, like an indie rocker, just hanging out on his own. But his confidence was apparent.

Oh… did I mention Jack is a skunk?

Yep.

A skunk.

Just chillin’ in that alley, every day, every night.

Why wasn’t the resort staff doing anything about this? A trap? A big net? A quick call to Animal Control?

It wasn’t until a couple days in that I realized why Jack was hanging out in the alley. The resort workers had apparently taken in a stray cat and were leaving fresh cat food outside to feed said cat every single day, right there by the dumpsters.

And so my light bulb moment was triggered.

As writers, as creators, as innovators, as humans — we all prepare the messages we want to share with others. For me, I’ve been blogging about my faith journey and my crazy adventures in dating. For others I met this weekend, they toted messages about spiritual growth, leadership, business management, parenting, love, etc. And each of you has your own message as well — the words and actions you’re sharing with those around you.

But no matter who you think you’re reaching, who you think you’re speaking to — you might just be reaching someone else, someone who really needs to hear what you have to say.

At Re:Write, the speakers ranged from Paul Young, author of international bestseller The Shack, to Ken Blanchard, leadership guru and author of mega bestseller The One Minute Manager, to John Kilcullen, creator of the enormously popular “Dummies…” book brand, to Peter Strople, “the most connected man in America,” among others.

Each of them came with a message. Each of them came with a purpose. But at this unique conference, things definitely got turned around. Messages started to move way beyond their original intention. Attendees and speakers switched places, speaking into each other, learning from one another. Mark Batterson‘s message about “innovative ways to reach your audience” turned into an encouraging reminder of God’s calling for each of us in that room to write. Pastor Kurt Bubna‘s presence as a top ten finalist in the Tyndale Momentum Writing Contest turned into a resounding message of grace when he won the contest and a $15,000 publishing deal, only after volunteering the day before to help pack gift bags and haul books. And the powerful experience of speakers George Barna, Mary DeMuth, Joel Clark and others was compounded into a message of humility when they stuck around to sit through the sessions of every other speaker, a true encouragement for both speakers and attendees.

Create.

Develop.

Produce.

But don’t be surprised when God uses that message to reach someone you never thought you’d reach. Don’t be caught off guard when you’re suddenly following that message somewhere you never thought it could ever take you.

Prepare your message for the stray cat, yes. But be ready for the skunks that sneak in to hear what you’ve got to say.

~Ruth