We often talk about the questions we have for God, but do you realize God has questions for you? Questions that will rock your faith and world. Questions that will draw you into a more intimate relationship with the God of the universe. Join us and Guest Eva Marie Everson, who discovered this amazing journey of questions as she researched prayer labyrinths. God is inviting you to walk the path of questioning with him, and you’ll never be the same…
About Eva Marie Everson
Eva Marie Everson is the CEO of Word Weavers International, a CBA bestselling author of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books, and multiple award-winning author and speaker. She is the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference and a frequent speaker at writers conferences and women’s events. Eva Marie and her husband make their home in Central Florida where they are owned by a cat named Vanessa.
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Karen: Hey, guys, welcome to the deep today. We’re just delighted to have you here because we have a guest: Eva Marie Anderson. We’re so happy to have you here, Eva!
Erin: I get to introduce her! Eva Marie Everson is a CBA bestselling and multiple award-winning author and speaker, and she’s got stuff like being a Christie Award finalist, a Silver Medallion winner, a Carol, several Maggies, Golden Scroll Awards. The list goes on and on. Inspirational retailer’s choice, on and on, you guys.
She also is one of the original five Word Weavers members, which began way back in 1997. Now she’s the CEO of Word Weavers International, and that serves writers primarily as a national and international group of critique and educational chapters.
Eva Marie also serves as director of the Florida Christian Writers Conference, which I know you’ve heard us talking about before. In 2022, Eva Marie was awarded the Yvonne Layman Legacy Award and the AWSA Lifetime Achievement Award. She is a graduate of Andersonville Theological Seminary and the Tzemach Institute, and we are just delighted to have her with us today. Welcome, welcome, Eva!
Eva: Thank you, thank you!
Erin: Of course we’re going to start with our favorite question. What does the deep mean to you, Eva?
Eva: Hmm. I’m so glad you asked me that. One of my favorite Scriptures, and I think this answers the question, one of my favorite Scriptures comes from Philippians when Paul said, “I want to know Christ.” Then he goes on into this explanation. He says, “Yes, to know the power of his resurrection. And to participate in his sufferings…” And then he says, “Becoming like him in his death.”
For me, that is so multilayered, but that is about going deeper and deeper and deeper into your relationship and in love with Christ. When you want to know everything about him, not just the good stuff, you know, the power of his resurrection. That’s good, we like the power. But then also to participate in the sufferings and to be like him in his death. That’s getting down to the nitty gritty, and for me, that’s going deep.
Erin: What you said made me think of Philippians 1:29, “So it’s been granted to you, Philippians, to not only suffer for him…” You know, it’s like, this is a privilege. You get to suffer. Not only do you get to know him, but you get to suffer with him. And what was your verse reference?
Eva: Philippians 3:10.
Erin: I love it. Very cool. All right, so here’s the thing, you guys. I have been reading this book called The Third Path: Finding intimacy with God on the Path of Questioning, and it just so happens to be written by our favorite award-winning author here that we’re talking to.
I have really been enjoying this book because it talks about finding intimacy with God. Here we are in December, thinking about Emmanuel, thinking about God with us. That’s all about intimacy and all about relationship.
I think this is just such an interesting book, and we’re going to talk talk more about it, but let’s just start here at the very beginning. This book is talking about prayer labyrinths. Explain to our listeners what in the world a prayer labyrinth is and why are you interested in them?
Eva: Why am I so interested? Well, one of the things that I read some time ago was that a labyrinth is a path with a purpose, and I thought that was really cool. You know, it’s different than a maze. A maze is designed to confound and confuse you. You take a path in and then all of a sudden there’s a wall and you’ve got to turn around and go back and figure out which way to go to get to the center. But not with a labyrinth. It’s a clear path.
It is a curved path, but it is a straight path, if that makes any sense. It’s leading you straight into the center and then right back out again. I say straight, not really literally straight, but there are no barriers. You don’t have to concentrate on, “Uh oh, did I just make a wrong turn there?”
There are no wrong turns. There are just curves. It keeps curving into the center and then curving back out. But how I got interested in prayer labyrinths, it happened I think maybe in 2016 or 2017. Somewhere in there I was at the Blue Lake Christian Writers Retreat in Andalusia, Alabama. It’s held in a Methodist camp that is rustic, to say the least. They have indoor plumbing, but…
Erin: That’s good!
Eva: Of course my idea of roughing it is sleeping on the sofa at The Ritz. But it’s just, you know, very plain, ordinary. You walk in, here’s your room. It’s got a bed, it’s got a desk. It’s got, I don’t think any dresser or anything. It has an open closet and a tiny little bathroom with a shower stall and that’s it.
It’s cement block. It’s just very plain and ordinary, so there wasn’t anything about it that stood out to me. And I noticed while I was there at this conference, spending very little time in my room, I noticed that there was a folded eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper on the desk. Didn’t pay any attention to what it was, not at all.
At the end of the conference, I’d packed my bags and was rolling them out of the door, and I looked behind me to make sure I hadn’t left anything.
Erin: Good plan.
Eva: I see that piece of paper and the Holy Spirit said, “Pick it up.”
I mean, I heard it as clearly as I hear myself speaking right now. “Pick it up. Take it home.”
I didn’t know what it was, but okay, I picked it up and brought it home. About three days later, I was emptying out my purse and I found that piece of paper. Apparently, it was about a prayer labyrinth that was at the conference center. One that I didn’t know anything about simply because I hadn’t taken the time to look at the piece of paper.
But this particular prayer labyrinth had four paths. My first thought was, “Well, I’ve heard of prayer labyrinths but I don’t really know what they are.”
When I don’t know what something is, I’m a research hound. I love to research. So I began to look them up. I grabbed my journal and a pen and started writing what prayer labyrinths are and really how far back they go.
In fact, I’ve had several people say to me, “Aren’t they very new age?”
No, actually they’re very old age. They go way, way back to the earliest mothers and fathers of our faith. They were designed to not just center you, but to recenter you. To give you that moment of just concentrating on walking the path and being specific about what you’re thinking about and meditating on as you’re heading toward the center.
So this particular labyrinth had four paths. The first was the path of silence, which is very important and not something that is easily grasped in our day and time. The second path, as we’re circling around toward the center, was the path of memory. The third path in this particular labyrinth was the path of prayer, followed by the path of questioning.
Again, as I kept researching this and journaling what I was researching, I did enormous research into silence. Then, you know, kind of figured out what the path of memory is, just kind of when you’re talking about, like, “This is what’s going on in my world, God…” And then for the path of prayer, “These are the things that I need to chat with you about.”
I felt that, I hate to say this, but I felt they did it wrong.
Erin: All those ancient people, they messed up…
Eva: The prayer should always be the last thing. I felt that the questioning should come third. So I did a little flip flop on that. I just assumed, and I wrote in my journal, well, I’m assuming this is questions that I have for God.
Now I had at that time three questions for God that I don’t believe will ever be answered this side of glory. My number one question, just to give you an example of what I’m talking about, is, “Why me?”
Eva: “Why did you love me so much that you pursued me?” I was a mess. I didn’t deserve to have him die for me. Which leads me to the second question, “Why did it have to be so violent? Why did it have to be so horrific? Why couldn’t you just have eaten a bad apple or something? Why did it have to be under this Roman persecution and be a Roman crucifixion?”
It was just so brutal. I’m just in awe that God would do that for us. That he would pursue that. First of all, that he would send his Son to die in that brutal way. But then secondly, that having done that, as if that’s not enough, he pursues us relentlessly. That he pursued me, as big a mess as I was, just will always be a question. It’s gonna be hard for me to understand my own value in his eyes.
There was one other question that’s just really maybe too intimate for me to go into. But I wanted a prayer labyrinth after all that research. I wanted my own labyrinth. But, I live in Florida and I live in a part of Florida where we have zero property line, so there is nowhere to build a labyrinth.
Now, I actually live up against a conservation area, so technically I’m thinking that, well, my husband could probably go out there and design a prayer labyrinth in the backyard. But we also have alligators, snakes, and so on.
Erin: You do not want to meet an alligator along the path of questioning!
Karen: Well, those are things to contemplate as you’re walking. “Why, Lord, did you create alligators?”
Eva: Right? It’s like, don’t let your small animals out the back door, kind of thing. You’ve got fox and bear and other animals. So I’m thinking, “No. No on this.” Because the last thing I want is to be walking and meditating with the Lord and have a black racer slither across my my path. That would not be good.
Then I thought, “Hmm, we live in a cul-de-sac and there’s a tree in the middle of the cul-de-sac, and I could just walk around the tree a couple of times per path.”
But then I pictured my neighbors calling the authorities.
Karen: “She’s lost her mind…”
Eva: “She’s just walking in a circle and every so often her mouth moves…”
Karen: “I think it’s witchcraft…”
Eva: “Send the men with the white jacket…”
Then I just continued writing and I thought, “While I’m writing this, why can’t I journal the labyrinth? Why can’t I sit down every day, and have my time of silence, grab a Scripture and meditate on that. And then my path of memory is kind of like, ‘This is what’s going on inside me today. This is what’s happening, this is how I feel about it, God.'”
Then I can go into the path of questioning, and I’ll write my three questions down for the Lord, and then move on to prayer.
Well, we got to day two of this, and I was very excited until I got to the path of questioning. I thought, “This is going to be very monotonous because these are not going to be answered this side of glory. I’m not going to sit here and write the questions every day. I’m just going to end up going, “Ditto.” You know, like, “You know what they are…” and just leave it at that.
But as I was writing all of this, I heard the Holy Spirit again speak to my heart and say, “Not your questions. My questions.”
I wrote, “What questions do you have? You’re omniscient. You’re all knowing. What questions could you possibly ask?”
Then I heard the answers. “Where are you? What is this thing you have done? Where did you come from and where are you going? What you want? What do you want me to do for you? Where is your faith? Why were you afraid?”
The questions go on and on and on.
I grabbed my Bible and a ruler, and I began to go down the columns, looking for the question marks. I spent a year, maybe a year and a half, just poring over questions and writing my answers back to God and growing deeper and deeper in love with him. And my relationship became more and more intimate.
As it was getting about to a year and a half of doing this and not mentioning it to anyone, just doing it, it was about time for me to teach at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference. This is up in North Carolina. I was talking to Edie Melson, the director, and I said, “This has changed my life as a writer and I would love to be able to take this and teach this.”
She said, “Let’s do it.”
So we did a continuing class, and I only allowed twelve people in. I thought I would be lucky if I had five. I ended up with a wait list. Every year, I have a wait list. I’ve taught this all over now. One of my greatest joys was teaching it at Mount Hermon, teaching it at Blue Lake, where the whole thing started, of course. Teaching it at women’s retreats and things like that.
I was having lunch with Rachel Hauck one day, a New York Times bestseller, and one of my dearest friends, and she said, “Where’s the book?”
I said, “Where’s the book?”
She said, “You’ve gotta be kidding! You’ve gotta share this!”
And I said, “Okay.” But that meant I was going to have to pick out the questions I thought would lead to a new path and that was a path that people could walk and then start their own journey. So I pulled twenty-six questions out of the Bible, out of the hundreds of questions that God asked, and I wrote The Third Path.
Erin: You said that this specifically changed your life as a writer. Can you give us some examples? What has that done for you as a writer?
Eva: Well, it changed me as a writer because it forced me to go deeper and to think differently. To see myself differently. To understand in ways that I had never understood before that God gave me this talent for a reason and that he didn’t give it to everyone.
You know, we can all sing, but we can’t sing well. We can all draw, but we’re not artists, right? We can draw a stick figure, but we’re not necessarily going to draw a Monet or a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh. And we can all write words, but we’re not all writers. We’re not all publishable.
For whatever reason, my whole life, looking back on it, I realized I always saw in word pictures. I realized I always thought in word pictures, and I thought in story, and that that was a gift and that it was not to be taken lightly, nor was it to be abused. But in order for me to fully understand that, I had to go to some really deep places and sometimes some dark places, because some of the questions are hard. They’re not easy.
Even some of the easier questions hit hard. For example, the question “What do you want?” or “What do you want me to do for you?” which are two separate questions that Jesus asked. I’m like, “Mmm, you want me to be honest?”
Eva: I got to that question and I’m writing it down as if it’s coming from God to me: “What do you want me to do for you?”
My first response is, “Do you want me to be honest? I mean, you know, that? Can I tell you that?”
Karen: As if God didn’t already know! “I’m God!”
Eva: Even like we see each other, and we say, “How are you doing?”
“I’m good. How are you?” And actually the answer is, “It’s horrible. My life is horrible. Thank you for asking.” But we don’t say that, right? We don’t answer truthfully.
Eva: We just put on these fronts, these airs. We have these pat answers. But when God says, “How are you?” like he asks Hagar, in his second meeting with Hagar that we know of, I think it’s in Genesis 18—first one’s in Genesis 16, but in Genesis 18, Ishmael is dying under a bush, and he comes to Hagar and he says, “What’s the matter Hagar?”
“Oh, nothing.” You know…
Karen: She was a Christian in church. “Oh, nothing. Do you need help with food today or…?”
Eva: “Doing fine, doing fine. My son’s over there dying under a tree, but other than that, everything’s great…”
But what I love about that question is not only did he care, but he called her by name. So when I wrote that, I wrote, “What’s the matter, Eva Marie? What’s the matter?”
Because every day of our lives, something is the matter. There’s something that’s weighing heavy on our hearts every single day. And God’s like, “Well, tell me.”
Erin: What do you think is the barrier? Obviously we struggle with this. Why do we struggle? Why do people struggle to know what they really want or to admit it? Especially writers.
Eva: Yeah, well, you know, we certainly don’t wanna reach for the stars for heaven sakes. But isn’t that what happened with blind Bartimaeus when Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Blind Bartimaeus could have said, “I want enough money to get through the week. I want people to quit picking on me. I want enough money to get through the month, the year.”
But he went for broke. “I want to see.”
Because if he could see, everything else could be given to him. So he went absolutely for the stars. “What’s the best you got for me, Jesus? That’s what I want. I want to be able to see.”
Jesus healed him and he could see.
Karen: We’re so conditioned to not tell people what we really want.
Eva: That’s right.
Karen: We’re afraid that we’ll seem prideful. We’re afraid that we’ll seem ungrateful. There are fears, and I think those fears come from the enemy. He plants them inside of us because he doesn’t want us to recognize that when the God of the universe is coming to us and saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” it’s not a trick question. It’s not like he’s waiting for us to give the wrong answer and then he’s gonna pull the rug out from under us.
God doesn’t work that way. He knows what we want before he even asks the question. But what he wants from us is our honesty. Our gut level, transparent honesty.
Eva: And maybe a little conversation, you know?
The interesting thing is, I have my “What do you want me to do for you?” answer. I was teaching this in Northern Arizona at a writer’s group and I said, you know, this is what I want. And this man sitting way in the back called out, “Why?”
Well, I hadn’t explored that yet. So I had to go back and kind of re-journal, and say this is what I want and this is why I want it. Now let me be honest about that.
Eva: And not just, “Well, it’d be kinda cool.”
But more like: “What do you want me to do for you? I wanna be able to see.”
“Because I’m blind. Because if I could see, I wouldn’t have to beg on the side of the road every day of my life. If I could see…”
I mean, do you remember that when Bartimaeus first was calling out, “Son of David…”? He was literally saying, “You’re the Messiah. Messiah, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
What were the disciples and all the people around him saying? “Hush! You’re bothering the Rabbi. You’re bothering the Master.”
Karen: “You’re bothering the rabbi. Stop it. Don’t do this!”
Eva: “What are you thinking?”
Erin: What’s so interesting is that they were trying to shame him, really. “You don’t deserve to talk to him.”
Erin: I think that still sneaks in. Like we still have that shame that came way back in the Garden of Eden. Like, why do we still think God’s gonna pull the rug out from under us? Because somewhere, way back when, even Eve thought that. You know, “Oh, God’s holding out on me. I can’t eat that fruit because then I’ll be like God…”
How can we get rid of that shame? I think one of the great things about asking these questions, going through this and being honest, is that it really helps us take a look at that. “Why do I feel ashamed? Why do I think God’s going to think this or that about me? Why am I so afraid?”
Eva: Like he doesn’t already know.
Erin: And he does. But the key is we don’t.
Eva: That’s it. That’s it. I mean, until somebody said to me, “Why?” I had never explored the reason why I want this.
When I did explore the reason, it opened up a whole new room of other questions and future answers and more conversation with God on this. You know, it’s like, “Okay, yeah, we got the surface down here. But now let’s go a little bit deeper. Let’s go on. We’re gonna go a little bit deeper and a little bit deeper.”
Karen: Wow, guys, I don’t know about you, but this conversation has been amazing and inspirational. The good news is we’re going to continue it in our next episode, so make sure that you tune in. You don’t want to miss what else Eva has to share with us.
Erin: That’s right!Guest @EversonAuthor helps us explore the questions God has for us––questions designed to draw us into a deeper relationship with the God of the universe. #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
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BOOK BY Eva Marie Everson
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