Category Archives: Behind The Scenes

Direction From God

by Deb Raney
I’m sure it wasn’t really all about us, but when Ken and I look back on the Gideon it seems like God must have orchestrated it to become a part of our lives just when we needed it most! Ken had just been laid off from his job of 25 years, and we were in deep disagreement about what to do next. Ken felt strongly that the Lord was asking him to step out in faith and use his gifts of illustration and graphic design to start his own business. I wanted the security of a “real” job.


What I discovered at the Gideon changed my mind and changed my heart. There, I got to know a whole bunch of people just like Ken. Fellow creatives brave enough to step out in faith, to walk in obedience to a calling, and dedicated to using the gifts and talents God gave them to tell the world about Jesus. And to tell it in a quality way.


It’s hard to adequately describe how God used the Gideon to direct our paths, but today, four years later, we look back at the journey God took us on (still has us on!) and we see that at each critical juncture, God allowed us time at the conference. And every year it was a time of encouragement, spiritual growth, growth in our marriage, and of evaluating where we were headed––and whether it was the direction God wanted us headed.

We heard so many wonderful testimonies of how God had provided for others in our shoes. We heard such inspirational and motivational talks that helped us make important decisions. We watched films that encouraged us. We made friends who will always have a precious place in our hearts. And we formed prayer partnerships (thank you, Rusty and Rebecca!) that I have no doubt made all the difference.


It was clear to us from the minute we stepped onto the grounds of Ridgecrest that God had paved the way for us to be there, and we will always look back on the Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival as a gift from His hand.


God…did I hear you right?

by Rodney Marett

In our spiritual walks with God, we have constant conversations with Him. We pray. We worship. We sing. It’s something that He wants and asks us to do…communicate with Him. In this communication, we know what WE are saying but are we always 100% sure what the Almighty is saying to US?

Let me share with you a situation last year where I desperately needed to hear God’s voice clearly. Last August was the fifth year of Gideon, but because of my job as a contractor in Iraq, I was unable to get home to help Lori with the conference. For those not too familiar with the conference, Lori is my wife and co-director. So, Lori ran the conference by herself with lots of help from friends and faculty and she did a great job. After the conference, Lori told me, without hesitation, she said she would never do another Gideon without me. Which at the time gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling, thinking that the conference can’t run without me? So, I promised that I would not leave her again.

Then, in the fall, LifeWay decided that they were backing out as our primary sponsor. Because LifeWay had been our major sponsor for five years, this was a big deal.

So, when LifeWay said no more, Lori was relieved. I think she actually danced a jig, it was quite amusing. She was happy. I’m not sure if you realize how much work goes into putting on a conference like Gideon. Yes, it’s only 5 days but the preparation is the other 360 days. It’s a constant motion kind of thing. Always looking for free advertising… Looking for cheap this and low cost that… Trying to find the right faculty member…Getting the best quality films. And we do this with a very limited budget, especially, since LifeWay is no longer involved. Oh, did I mention that we work on Gideon year around and we don’t get paid. Over the past five years, I think the most that we have ever received was a couple hundred dollars. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, when Lori and I started Gideon, we didn’t start it to make money. We started it to honor God and bring this type of conference to the east coast. So, you get the point that Gideon is a lot of hard work. And it becomes frustrating trying to direct the conference, many different things play into this frustration. I think Lori or I QUIT Gideon about 100 times a year.

With me in Iraq Lori is a single parent for 2/3 of the year. I’m only home 4 months which adds to the stress level of directing Gideon. As for me, I’m split in half, Gideon is like another child. Lots of love and hard work go into it but seeing the seeds that were planted starting to grow is amazing and you sit back with your mouth wide open and just stare at what God is doing in Christian media. So, I did what any good Christian man would do when he is at a crossroads. I got down on my knees and prayed asking God for a sign to either continue with Gideon or move on to something else. At the time, I believed I heard God wanting me to continue running Gideon and I told Lori this. And as she always has, she supported my decision since God told me.

Fast forward to today…I’m really questioning whether I heard God right. We have little to no sponsors. The sponsors that we have talked to seem very interested but in the end, fall short of making the commitment. We’ve signed a contract that we can’t cancel and if we did, we would be out of tens of thousands of dollars. The reason I started working overseas was to help get us out of debt. Unless we bring in 200 students, we’ll be back in debt.

What about the signs from God that led me into this decision? People were calling and emailing saying they wanted to be involved. I felt like God opened the door wide open after our visit to the hotel in Orlando. So, you can see why I’m questioning whether I heard God correctly. Maybe, I’m just inpatient. I know it’s all in God’s timing but He is really cutting it close this time.

The point of this blog is not for your pity or your money. The point is do we really hear what God is saying or are we using what we want in lieu of what God is saying? In this case, I’m not sure.

“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

Men of God

by Francine Locke

“He was the Heartbeat of our family..We enjoyed choir practice and prayer meeting together on this earth for the last time last night..but today He is enjoying Heavens Jubilee…He was the greatest husband. dad. friend my world has ever known.”        Jackie Carpenter

What a legacy for a father to leave behind, having touched his daughter so deeply. My friend, Jackie Carpenter, lost her father last night, and when I learned that, I cried. I cried not so much for her loss, but for the realization that I, and so many others, would never experience the wonderful memories, closeness and feelings she shared with her father.  Men, this one’s for you!

I grew up with out my dad being around much, he had a territory he traveled, and frankly, we were not unhappy when he was away. Life was much more peaceful in his absence, no late nights, no drinking, no arguments. I eventually married a man so similar to my own father, that when I look back I’m amazed. I learned from what I was surrounded by in my childhood, and many of those lessons were far from positive.

I became fiercely independent after my divorce when my son was 1 year old. I knew I could raise him better alone than with the influence his father would provide. After all, I also had the past experiences of my own father. For 12 years I was a single parent, but the friends I naturally gravitated towards were those who had healthy, secure marriages. Even in my singleness I knew I wanted better for my son. And eventually, I realized God wanted better for both of us.

A father’s impact has been so downplayed by our society, dads and men in general, are regularly dumbed down on tv and in film or made into pretty undesirable characters. Is it any wonder men who may not have had the gift themselves of a loving, supportive male role model, have no idea how to be the father they should be?

How does this tie in to the Gideon? At the Gideon I have found relationships; true, authentic relationships with all sorts of real people. Not the cookie cutter perfect Christians who may be portrayed in the media, or even hyped in church. But people with  joy, pain, difficulties, divorce, abuse. People like you and me, who have lived through life & survived to tell about it.

There are some people here that will remind me of Jackies father, Jack. Strong, gentle, laughing, loving family men of God. There are also men here who may not realize the impact they can have on the lives of others. There are men to mentor, and men who need mentoring.  I’m guessing you are one or the other, or maybe one who can just benefit from the exposure to right relationships. I’m thinking of Denny, Rodney, Torry, Kyle, and so many others who will share their experiences with you. Not all positive, but all with the potential to help you see another perspective, to learn how to be more the man God created you to be. And yes, more the woman too!

Any way you look at it, going to the Gideon is a win win situation. I treasure the relationships I have made here with both men and women. It’s a safe environment, you will be brought in to the fold & held as close as you need to be. I truly hope to see you there, amazing long term relationships can happen in a week! And how incredible that it’s all tied in to a visual, dramatic, artistic, musical arts conference! See you there!

Small Town Girl Going To New York City

by Donna Lynn Davis

That was how I felt when I booked my first Gideon Media Arts Conference. After all, what do I know about making movies? Sure, I’ve written a few church dramas, directed them, and have written some stories—both short and long. But, movies? Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

                I read the Gideon website information front to back, and realized I’d missed the contests deadlines. Whew! I had nothing to submit anyway; no screenplays, no comic artwork, and I didn’t think they’d need my singing on any stage. But, researching the site began to open my eyes to possibilities; possibilities of how God could use this small town girl—well, old girl, to His glory.

I packed my bags and headed to the conference—prayers in heart, proverbial hat in hand—asking God to open the doors He wanted me to walk through.  I thought I might have to knock a lot before any door would actually crack open a sliver, however, I was truly amazed when I got there to see there were no doors! Let me clarify: Every door was wide open, as the people at Gideon are different than any other venue for creative outlet. They are listening, willing, friendly, excited, accepting, helpful, encouraging people—a shock in today’s world.

The first person I met was Dr. Jayce O’Neal. I didn’t know who he was then, but he most graciously sat with me in the lobby and I was amazed when he asked what I was working on. He cared? Wow!  He explained a few things and helped settle the butterflies. I was ready to move forward.

I chose my classes; a tough job, as there was so many great offerings.  I can’t begin to tell how much I learned and grew in that few days. The lectures I attended, the movies I saw, the people I met were a rich experience. I’d like to share a few of my take-away moments with you:  I saw Torry Martin tear up while teaching, sharing how grateful he was to God for blessing him in so many ways. I was encouraged by Todd Starnes in my private battle with weight; a subject he speaks to in one of his books. I viewed Not Today, a movie on sex trafficking in India; it made me weep. I was moved by Carol and Jim Anderson’s stage portrayal of Cory Ten Boom and the German soldier who had abused her, I witnessed conferees being encouraged and schooled as actors read their work and professionals critiqued them, and I saw a teen run to her dad, wrap her arms around his neck, and say, “Thanks for bringing me here Dad, I love you.”

I connected with first-timers just like me, and seasoned veterans, all answering the call of the Savior to their lives. As I sat in solitude one evening, I asked God what He wanted to do with my talent. I didn’t know before I came, but I was sure after I left that an old girl from a small town had something God could use. And with my life-long yearning for learning, I could step out and sing, well, maybe just shout my new song:

 Start spreadin’ the news.  Believin’ today.

I want to be a part of it, His Work, His Work…

I’m returning to Gideon this year. I’d like to be the encourager now; Come to Gideon. Whether you’ve got it all together, or it’s your first visit to the ‘big city’, thank God, you’ll never ever leave the same.

Why God Led Me To The Gideon

by Dave Trouten

I was a Gideon pioneer; God led me to the very first conference.

A web-search took me to the web-site of Ridgecrest.  Curiosity took me to their upcoming events page.  Gideon resonated with me and I felt God wanted me there.  Why?  Initially I had no idea, but the directive remained clear.

I teach literature of Film at Kingswood University.  I do not create film.  I critique it and explain it when it falls in the category of the basic literary elements.  Nor am I in the media arts field, but I use it all the time and teach a generation emerged in it.

Why Gideon?

1) Knowledge base: I mention substance I learned from Gideon all the time in my classes.

2) Networking: I have met key people who have helped me in my profession of teaching, my secondary profession of writing, and, as an added bonus, are my spiritual mentors.

Much to my surprise I had networking value as well.  I have been a connection person to Gideon talent by promoting films and authors from the Gideon group.  My Gideon time has led directly to the promotion of Christian media to a generation who has been slowly abandoning it.  My Gideon networking also led to a Maritime tour for humorist Torry Martin.  Upcoming projects are in the works.

3) Family: Gideon is a family.  The Gideon conference is a family reunion.  I have not been able to attend for the last few years and I have missed it greatly.  It is a rare occurrence a day will go by without me being in contact (via Facebook, phone, e-mail, etc.) with my Gideon family.

Whether you need to learn, be encouraged, or be adopted into a great family; Gideon is a life-changer.

How Do You Cross The Room?

by Peggy Sue Wells

“Cheshire Puss,” asked Alice, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to go,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

What do you want to be sure you do before the end of your life? What is it you don’t want to regret not doing?

People interviewed in the sunset of their lives commonly express two regrets; that they did not take more risks, and they didn’t do more for Christ.

I thought I was bold and brave, at least capable and responsible, until I was in a room full of people and we were challenged to cross the room from one side to the other. Simple enough, except each of us had to cross in a different manner. For instance, if one person walked, no one else could use walking as a method to cross the room. As walking, skipping, running, hopping, walking backwards, and the other obvious ideas were quickly employed, I pushed my way to the front of the line so I could get across before all the methods of room-crossing were used up and I was stranded. Left behind. Another example of others being successful while I missed out.

“Who scrambled to the front of the line because you were afraid of running out of mechanisms to cross the room?”

I raised my hand.

“That’s a scarcity mentality,” the facilitator explained. “Fear that there is not enough.”

Fear that I was not enough.

That hour, 200 people crossed the room using 200 different methods. I’ve done this exercise many more times and now I run to the back of the line. Even as the last person, I always find a fresh way to travel to the other side of the room because I’ve learned that there is no limit. No scarcity. Several times I have been challenged to cross the room without using my hands or feet. What would you do? I can immediately think of a dozen ways to accomplish that goal.

As long as I thought there was not enough—not enough money, love, opportunities, careers, happiness, hope, fun, friends, ideas —I did not live full out. I limited myself even though God promised abundance.

Gathering with other artists at Gideon Media Arts Conference affirms that there is no scarcity of creativity. And there are unlimited ways to cross the room and bring ideas to reality.

Life is a team sport.

The arts are a team sport.

One plus one equals ten when Gideon participants come together and share their individual strengths, creating stories that touch hearts. The conference environment naturally lends itself to networking. An exchange of talents and counsel.

Shedding the scarcity mentality is like infusing my veins with jet fuel. “There is not enough (money, time, talent – you fill in the blank)” transforms to “How can I make this happen?” Opportunities like Gideon, to connect and belong, broadens our possibilities and inspires us to be abundant.

We are most like Christ when we forgive and when we create.

“In the beginning God created …” (Gen. 1:1).


Gideon Media Arts Conference alum, PeggySue Wells is the author of more than a dozen books. She writes screenplays, edits, and ghostwrites.

A New Bell To Ring…

by Dave Moody

One of my earliest memories growing up as the son of a Methodist preacher was ringing the church bell on Sunday morning.

Mr. Turner, a elderly member of my Dad’s congregation, would swing by the parsonage where we lived and take me with him as we walked across the fresh cut grass from our house to the church.  He’d open up the front doors of Cumberland Mills United Methodist Church with those large, heavy skeleton keys that had just been jingling in rhythm by his side on our early morning walk to the church.

Up a small flight of stairs which were almost out of reach for my small legs, especially in a suit and clip-on tie, to where the rope for the bell was secured from last week, right where “we” left it. Mr. Turner would carefully untie it, wrap it a few times around his elbow for leverage, and with all his might start the pull and release motion that caused the bell to ring.  I remember the first time I heard the sound of that tremendous bell up close.  To a four year old, it was the loudest thing I had ever heard.

As our routine became more and more familiar, I often joined in to help Mr. Turner pull the rope and ring the bell.  It was Sunday morning, after all, and all God’s children were welcome in His house.

I often think back to those earlier times and this faded childhood memory.  It was in the middle of the ‘60’s when hippies sang protest songs against the war, and black and white meant more than just the color of your TV set.

But in those days, for the most part, people at least stopped to acknowledge God.  To hear the bell ring out across the town every Sunday morning.  It was a chance to pause for a moment, even if just for an instant, to know there was a God.

Today, Sunday is just another shopping day.  Or race day.  A time to watch football or golf or some other program on television.  Everything is open, unlike those days of old when every store was closed on Sunday.  Today, Sunday is just another work day for so many.

And from all indications, fewer folks attend church regularly on Sunday morning in America than ever before.  So, think of how many millions of people are not in a pew on Sunday.

I still believe we have a church bell to ring. But it might look a lot different than the one that Mr. Turner and his scrawny little sidekick use to ring in the ‘60s.  We have a culture today that needs and wants to hear the message of hope. They are truly seeking God.  But we have to reach them in different ways.

As Paul did in Athens (Acts 17:22-31), where he met the city’s leaders and scholars, and using their culture, pointed to the statue of the unknown god, and said this is the one I came to tell you about.

We still have a bell to ring… a film to produce… a sports ministry to organize… a music and arts school to build.  All in an effort to grab the attention of someone long enough to share the truth that God loves them and cares for them.  That’s the bell we need to ring today.