Month: October 2020

128 – God’s Purposes in Our Writing with Guest Nick Harrison

Spread the love

Nick Harrison Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungGuest Nick Harrison has done it all: librarian, bookstore owner, editor, writer, and agent. And through it all, he’s learned so much about what it takes to succeed, not just in publishing, but in being obedient to the God who asked him to write. Listen in as he shares keys to understanding God’s purposes in your writing.

About Nick Harrison

Nick Harrison is a literary agent with WordServe Literary and the author of more than a dozen  books. Nick graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in English and a minor in journalism. For fifteen years Nick served as a senior editor at Harvest House Publishers, acquiring both fiction and non-fiction. You can find out more about Nick at his website is nickharrisonbooks.com.

Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast!

Erin: Welcome everybody. Welcome to the deep. I’m glad you’re here with us today. We have a guest and we’ll let Karen introduce him. 

Karen: Nick Harris! I’ve known him for lo these many years. He’s worked in the book industry for more than 30 years. He’s an old man, like we’re old ladies. 

Erin: Wait a minute, wait a minute. Are you calling me old? 

Karen: He’s owned or managed both Christian and children’s bookstores. He’s written articles for several prominent publications, and he’s authored 10 books, including Magnificent Prayer, which I love, and Power in the Promises: Praying God’s Word to Change Your Life. For 15 years, he served as senior editor at Harvest House Publishers, where he worked with several well-known fiction and nonfiction authors. Now he’s a literary agent with Wordserve Literary.

He’s a popular speaker and teacher at writer’s conferences where I love to meet him when we’re together at the conferences. He loves to discover promising new writers. He and his wife, Beverly, and avid quilter live in Oregon. Yay, Oregon! And they’re the parents of three adult daughters and grandparents of two boys and two girls.

Nick, welcome. Welcome to the deep. 

Nick: Oh, thanks. It’s great to be here. 

Erin: Yes, and let me just say, if you guys have never met Nick personally, he’s just one of my favorite people. He’s just the sweetest man ever. If you’re ever at a conference and you just need a father figure who’s going to be sweet and kind, find Nick. 

Karen: Yes.

Erin: All right. So, Nick, our first question for you: What does the deep mean to you? 

Nick: Well, I love that word. Especially because the way I interpret it is deep writers from the past, like even a hundred years ago, have had such an effect on my own spiritual life. One of my goals as a writer is to take some of the deep truths, just to go deeper than what most people are doing, and try to translate Andrew Murray, Hannah Whitall Smith, etc., Take what they said for their generation and make it fresh and new for our present generation.

Because if you just tell somebody, “I’m writing a book that’s really deep,” it scares them off. That’s not something you want to do. But if you present the deep truths in a way that people can understand how that will change their life, then you’re on to something. 

So that’s my goal when I think about writing from the deep. Writing from the deep that I’ve received from some of the people I mentioned and many others. You should see my library of some of the deep writers of the past, many of whom I honestly wonder if they could be published today. So that what it means to me. 

Erin: Wow. I love it. Karen and I were just talking about Charles Spurgeon because in our reading from Streams in the Desert he was in there, and we were talking about that. Deep thinkers and deep writers.

Nick: Yeah, he’s great. One reason I don’t use him when I say he might not be able to be published today is that he had the P-word: he had the platform. 

Erin: Yeah. 

Nick: Even back then platform was an issue. So much of what he accomplished was because of his tremendous popularity in his church and in England. So he had the platform.

Nowadays, some of the writers that don’t have the platform, I wonder, you know, how they’ll make it. When I do go to conferences, one of my most popular workshops is what to do when you don’t have a platform and that’s getting increasingly hard to teach, but there are still ways.

God makes a way when he’s in it. When he’s compelling writers to write what he’s put on their heart, there’ll be a way. 

God makes a way when he's in it. When he's compelling writers to write what he's put on their heart, there'll be a way. #amwriting @karenball1 Share on X

Karen: I have a good friend I saw on Facebook who was dealing with discouragement. “Sometimes this publishing gig is hard,” she’d said. I thought, the thing we always need to keep our focus on is the fact that if God has given us this task to write, he’ll prepare the way and he’ll accomplish what he wants to accomplish, whether that means getting published or not. 

He’ll accomplish his purposes in what we do in obedience to what he’s given us to do. It is hard, and it’s crushing, and it can take you out with your ego, but if you keep your focus on the master, then it means that what you need to be careful about and focused on is being obedient, and that’s pretty much the extent of your responsibility there. 

Nick: Yes. And you know, when you mentioned the word focus, it reminded me that some writers are all over the map with what they want to write. To be focused as a writer is a big help. A lot of people cringe at the idea of having a mission statement for their writing, but, you know, a while back, I just thought, “Well now, who do I write to? Who’s my audience?”

At first I thought, “Well, okay, I know it’s hurting Christians. I write for hurting Christians.” Then God reminded me: Wait a minute. He edited me. He said, “No, you write for hurting people.” So that’s my focus. I think being a writer with focus helps you stay on the track. At least you know where you’re going. 

Karen: Right. 

Erin: Let’s dig a little deeper into that, Nick. You personally, because here you are, you’re an editor, you’ve worked at bookstores and that kind of thing, but you’re also a writer. What has driven you personally? What has called you personally to write.

Nick:  Well, like so many writers, I can go back to my childhood. I remember at age eight, I wrote my first short story. Very unpublishable. 

Then in fifth grade, a bunch of friends and I got together, and we all decided that we were going to write a book. So we each wrote a chapter. Of course now they’d have to flow together…it was awful. 

In high school, I continued to prefer English classes to some of the other classes I took. Especially math and science classes. 

Karen: Amen. 

Nick: In college, one of my first jobs was in the county library. I worked for the library as I worked my way through college. I stayed with that for quite a while after I graduated and into married life. Then I started working for Zondervan Family Bookstores. That was one more than forty years ago. So it’s just been a chain of events. 

I feel like in retrospect, when I look at what God has done, it’s sort of amazing to me how open doors happened when I would not have expected them. Many times when I prayed for a specific thing to happen, it didn’t happen. I would be discouraged. “Where are you, God? Why aren’t you answering a prayer?”

Then six months later, unexpectedly, an opportunity would arise that just blew me away. It’s sort of been that way for most of my life. Even my wonderful years at Harvest House came about not because I applied for a job there, but because there was an opening and Terry Glaspey, good old Terry, asked me if I’d be interested in applying. It was just out of the blue.

Karen:  Right.

Nick: God opens doors. We just have to believe that if we’re going to pursue writing. We have to believe that God sees the future. He uses the past. And don’t be discouraged if the present doesn’t look as glowing as you wish it did. 

Karen: I was just telling Erin that I was working on something and a quote that Francine Rivers said, that I’m sure she got from another source because that quote itself has been around for a long time, the quote is: don’t doubt in the darkness, what God has done in the light.

We’re like my dogs. My husband was just talking to my dogs. He had just fed them. They had had their breakfast, and they’re right over trying to convince him that he didn’t feed them, that they are starving to death.  

Our other little dog brought the ball to him to play with them while I’d been here in the office. He said, “I played with you for a half hour. Are you kidding me?”

I looked at him and said, “Yeah, but what have you done for me now?”

Too many of us are like that with God. “Okay. Yes. You’ve opened all these doors, but what are you going to do for me now, God?” 

Erin: I love though the idea of the patience for the six months. I think it’s really easy to give up if you don’t see what you want to see in the next day or the next week. I think about, even in the Bible, there was a point in time where Jeremiah the prophet was praying to God and saying, “Here’s all these exiles, after the governor gets executed, and they want to go to Egypt. But they asked me to ask you, should we be going to Egypt? Should we be fleeing basically from the Babylonians coming for repercussion?”

It takes 10 days for that answer. And you have to be like, well, God knew the answer right away, but why didn’t he tell him? 

Well, because he’s God. And because that answer was supposed to come in 10 days, for whatever reason.

I think it’s easy to question God’s timing and God’s purposes in that. And really, he just wants us to be faithful and to wait expectantly. 

Nick: Exactly.

Karen: You know, Erin, you went through that yourself in looking for your home there in Kansas City. 

Erin: Yes. Looking and looking and waiting and waiting and feeling like, “Why is this taking so long?” Feeling like, “Why doesn’t this seem like the right house? What is going on?” And wondering if there was a right house. Wondering if we’re being too picky. And yet there was something in my spirit that just…we just couldn’t bid on certain houses and on other ones that we were close on, there was already three other bids. So it’s like, “Well, that went away.”

And now, this particular house that we ended up with has had its challenges, but oh my goodness. It’s right here in nature. I tell Alan, my husband, I keep telling him, “I can’t believe I get to live here.”  So it was months. 

And by the way, we were supposed to move months earlier. We were supposed to…we had a different house and it all fell through when our home sale in Oklahoma fell through.

So you wonder, you know, that was quite the hardship. And you think God isn’t leading you. But he is. Even through difficult, difficult circumstances. 

I’m much happier in this house than I would have been in the house that we thought we needed to buy because we thought our house was sold. But unbeknownst to us, God knew that it was going to fall through. We didn’t. So there you go. Wait and wait, and be patient. 

Nick: Yep. That’s true. My next book is coming out in 2022. It’s a book that I’ve been praying about and knew was from the Lord two years ago. But it’s taken at least a year and a half to find an interested publisher and be offered a contract for it. So all that time, of course, like any writer, I was thinking, “God, did I hear you right?” So yeah. Now it’s finally coming to pass. So just be patient. 

Erin: Those are the times when we question our marching orders. We get these marching orders, and then if we don’t hear this constant reinforcement, we question it. When really God’s like, “I told you.” 

Karen: Don and I, for a long time, our mantra was: God’s in control. I don’t get it. I may not like the way that things are going, but God’s in control. 

That came out of so many things pulling the rug out right from under us. So many things we thought we could rely on. It’s like, all these things that we knew were leading us where God wanted us, but then they wouldn’t work out the way that we wanted them to.

I’ve come to the place now, when things don’t work out, Erin would call me and say, “You’re not going to believe this. The house sale fell through and we can’t get this house.”

I just kept saying, “God knows. God has the right place for you, and you just need to lean into him in the midst of it.”

Nick: Yep. Amen.

Erin: Nick, what do you think, I mean, as a former editor for the publishing company for so long and as an agent now, we’ve already kind of talked about some advice, but what other specific advice might you have for writers? I would want to know both spiritually and professionally, so you can start with one or the other. This is obviously a difficult publishing climate. So, what would you want to say to writers right now? 

Nick: To be successful as a writer, it seems like there are three things you have to do. You have to have good ideas for books that will meet the needs of people. You have to be able to promote that book. And you have to have writing ability. Oftentimes writers may have one or two of these things going for them, but they lack the third, whatever it is.

For me, and looking at manuscripts, the hardest one of the three, I think, is actually being a really good writer. That takes practice. For me, it took classes, even though in college, I majored in English. I minored in journalism. I learned how to write economically through my journalism classes.

In my twenties and thirties, I would take just single classes from adult ed or at the community college. Just learning over and over again. Every month, reading The Writer or Writer’s Digest, just immersing myself in trying to become a better writer.

I think of the three that I mentioned, if a person can concentrate on their writing, always…you know, I’m in my seventies. I know that I will be trying to perfect my writing until my dying day. It’s something that you never have arrived at. You just keep going at it.

If marketing is your weak point, and that is my weak point, you just do what you know to do. There’s always a next step, and I believe God reveals the next step. The next thing you’re supposed to do.

If you’re really called to be a writer, I think getting great ideas for books is something that will almost come naturally. One of the quotes I use in my workshops at conferences is the Wayne Gretzky quote. He was a great hockey player. Somebody asked him why he was so successful. He said, “Well, other hockey players go where the puck is. I go where the puck is going next.” 

I think if writers can visualize a year or two ahead, what’s happening that will be impacting people a year or two from now, that’s ideal. If a writer two years ago could say, “Hmm, I wonder what would happen if there were a pandemic to come along” or, you know, just whatever.

The ideas are out there. If you’re going to be a writer, be a catcher of ideas.

The ideas are out there. If you're going to be a writer, be a catcher of ideas. #amwriting @karenball1 Share on X

Not every idea will be one that has your name on it, but a lot of them will. Those are the ones you need to follow up on and say, “Can I write this? Is there a market for this?” And then go for it. 

Don’t be discouraged if you get some nos along the way. Be willing to pull the plug on the idea if you come to the place where you say, “I’m losing my interest in this.” Or, “I can see that the public is not going to be looking for this in the next year or two.” Don’t be discouraged when you have to cut loose some ideas and go to the next one.

I have a list on my computer of fifty-four book ideas. If I get to do five of them before I leave the planet, I’ll be happy. Those ideas, almost every month I shift. Idea number five, I think, “Oh gosh, that’s really timely. I’m going to move that up to number two.” All the time I’m working on the proposals for the ones that are, say, on my top five or 10.

Sometimes something will happen and then I’ll say, “Oh man, that’s a lousy idea after all.” And it’ll go from number five to number 54 really quick. But just trying to be proactive as a writer.

A lot of people who don’t succeed as writers do it as a hobby. Maybe that’ll work for you, but I think it lessens your chances. You really need to think of your writing as your calling. As an assignment from God. As your mission from God and be serious about it. Plow ahead and do what’s necessary. Improve your writing craft, learn marketing skills, and go to conferences when they start up again.

Nowadays, there are conferences that are online mostly, but there are still good Christian writers’ conferences to be had. Listen to podcasts, like Write from the Deep. And I encourage writers to check out the blogs of agents and other successful writers and editors. Immerse yourself in the industry. Know what’s out there. Those are all the things that I think are ingredients for success as a writer.

Karen: Professionally.

Erin: Yeah. 

Karen: So how about spiritually? 

Nick: Spiritually, that’s sort of the key. I think you’ve gotta be called. You’ve got to know and be sensitive. Let me give you an example. The book I’m working on now is a devotional for Christians in recovery from substance abuse or whatever. It’s like my One-Minute Prayers for Those with Cancer. It’s a book that I wish there was no market for, but unfortunately there’s a huge market for it. Let me tell you briefly how that began. 

I had been at OCW––Oregon Christian Writers Conference. It’s in Portland. On my way home, I stopped to see my daughter who lives in Portland. We went to Starbucks. It was a walkup Starbucks. And the fellow in front of me was a young man in his early twenties. He was obviously on some drug. He made his order and then he turned around to me, and he handed me his Starbucks gift card.

He said, “Here, do you want this? It’s got a couple of dollars left on it?” I thanked him and said, “No, you go ahead. Use it next time you’re here.”

He said, “No, if you don’t take it, I’m going to throw it away.” So I took it and thanked him. It was at that moment that I just felt such a well of compassion for this young man.

Within the next 48 hours, there were two or three other instances where I came across somebody who obviously was under the influence of some sort of substance. There was some substance abuse in their life. 

Putting two and two together, and combining it with this compassion that I felt for that young man, I thought, “How can these people be helped? How can God help these people? God, would you let me try to write a book on that?” Out of that has come the proposal and now the offer from Tyndale house, so I’m doing it. It’s like a year and a half later, two years later, and I’m excited about it. 

As far as the spiritual aspect of it, I pray now for those future readers of that book. I still pray for the readers of the One-Minute Prayers for Those with Cancer every day. I try to pray for my readers, wherever they are, that God would bless them.

I just posted on Facebook yesterday: One-Minute Prayers When You Need a Miracle. A lady had sent into my publisher Harvest House that a nurse had given her that book when her husband was in the hospital for a heart condition. Unfortunately he passed away just last Sunday, but she was so blessed by the book that she ordered twelve more copies.

They forwarded that message to me and it’s like, “Thank you, Lord.” It’s validation. It’s confirmation. It’s motivation to write more and just to believe God for greater impact. I’m not a household name, and I never will be, but God seems to be able to cover that. To make sure that the right people get my books.

That’s my prayer daily, too, is that my books would get into the hands of people that really need them, and their lives would be changed because of them. 

Erin: I love that.

Karen:  That’s having the right motivation. That’s having the motivation of writing to serve and to help and to bless, rather than writing with the motivation of “I’m going to make lots of money at this.”

Erin: Right. 

Karen: Because that doesn’t happen that often in publishing. But yeah, that’s powerful.

Erin: It’s nice because this is something that writers can do every day, even if they’re not published yet. You can pray for future readers. You can pray for people you want to reach. You can pray for, maybe you have seven books out there, you can pray for people who are getting those books. I think it keeps you connected with your passion for people. It keeps you connected to the whole point. 

I want to circle back just for a minute and say I like what you said, Nick, that it’s okay to also give up ideas. Maybe we had a passion for a particular idea, and that doesn’t mean that that’s the book that has to be your path to publication or even published at all.

You can be like, “You know what? I’ve kind of lost my passion for that particular topic.” But some people may feel a little bit trapped like that. Like, “Oh no, I have to keep doing this book because that’s what God called me to.” Well, maybe that was just how you got into writing. Maybe that was just the idea that sparked you. So it’s okay. If you’ve prayed about it, it’s okay to let go of some of those ideas and move on to something else that might be a new passion. I love that freedom that you give to writers to do that. 

Nick: Well, I do. But you know, honestly, when I cut loose of an idea, I don’t totally cut loose. What I do is I move it to the bottom of the list. It becomes number fifty-four, because I’ve discovered that two or three years later something might happen either within me or circumstantially in the world. Then I think, “Wait a minute, maybe it’s time to give that another go.”

So I never really fully kill off an idea, but I just say this is on the back burner for now. Maybe forever it’ll be on the back burner, but be willing to just put it aside for now. There have been a few times where God has told me, “No. You’re not going to write that book. It’s not going to happen.” So I have to be obedient to that. No matter how much I may want to, I just know that that’s not for me.

Karen: Well, Nick, it’s been such a delight to have you here with us, and clearly you’ve got more to say, so clearly we need to have you come visit us again some time. Do you have any final words of wisdom or encouragement for our listeners today?

Nick: I guess I would just say, be persistent in prayer and persistent in your writing. Be willing to say, “God, if you do not want me to be a writer, make that plain,” just as if you were praying, “God, if you want me to be a writer, make that plain.”

I think there are people who would like to write, but honestly, God may have something else for them to do. Just be very confident of your assignment from God.

If it is writing, praise the Lord and just do the things that you know to do. Go to online conferences or in person conferences, when they happen. Read the blogs. Improve your craft the best way you can, either by taking local classes, reading books, etc. I hope aspiring writers or even successful writers have––you probably both do––at least a bookshelf full of your favorite writing books.

Karen: Yeah. 

Nick: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, or Stephen King’s On Writing. They’re just some excellent resources out there. Fall in love with your assignment from God if you’re called to be a writer, because it’s a great, great calling. 

Erin: Right. 

Karen: Amen. That’s wonderful. Thank you so much. 

Erin: Thanks, Nick. 

Nick: Happy to do it. I enjoyed it very much.

Books by Nick Harrison mentioned on the podcast

(All book links on this website are affiliate links. Using our links if you’re interested in buying one of these books is another way you can help support the podcast.)

One-Minute Prayers for Those with Cancer by Nick Harrison

One Minute Prayers for Those with Cancer by Nick Harrison

One-Minute Prayers When You Need a Miracle by Nick Harrison

One Minute Prayers When You Need a Miracle by Nick Harrison

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

What do you think of the idea of having a writing assignment from God?

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our October sponsor of the month, Bobbi Updegraff! You can find out more about another important cause she sponsors at friendsofrenacer.com.

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous sound editing!

STAY CONNECTED

Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.

127 – The Cure for Devastation

Spread the love

Cure for Devastation Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungDevastation: Wildfires. Rioting. Looting. Floods. One terrible thing after another seems to be happening nowadays. Some just unpleasant, but some have leveled people’s lives. They’ve lost everything but the clothes on their backs. How does anyone, writers included, move forward after losing everything? Come join us to find out.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

In a community just seven miles from where Karen lives, it looks like a nuclear bomb went off—that’s the scope of devastation on the town. There’s nothing left. People have their lives, and that’s a lot, but everything else is gone. In the wake of all the destruction from wildfires in the Northwest, where many folks have lost everything, how do they even begin to start over?

As terrible as that is, this isn’t the first time people have had their lives turned upside down. It’s happened all throughout history.

In 1900 a tropical cyclone hit Galveston, leaving between 8,000 and 12,000 dead. Galveston rebuilt and its beaches are considered one of the most desirable vacation spots in the US today.

In 1931 floods devastated China, leaving 4 million dead. Those left behind rebuilt and recovered. In 1951, a flood in Manchuria left 4,800 dead and thousands more displaced.

And you all remember September 11, 2001, when the most deadly terrorist attack in history left 2,977 people dead, including hundreds of firefighters and policemen and emergency personnel. But New York rebuilt. 

In November of 2019, the Corona virus hit, devastating much of our world. In our own county, over 200,000 are dead, damaging our economy and so much more.

Then came the tragic death of George Floyd, and the ensuing rioting, looting, and murders.

The hits just keep coming, like the wildfires we just had in Oregon. Leaving us reeling and wondering so many things…

“Why did my house survive when so many others’ homes are nothing but ashes.”

“How can I go forward when I don’t have anything left?” 

“What has happened to my country?”

“What do we do now?”

Karen went to God’s Word and found the greatest solace in Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.

Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path…I remain confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

The word wait doesn’t mean just sit on your hands and wait for God to deal with it all. The sense is more “to expect,” “to await,” “to hope in or hope for.” There’s even an eagerness implied: God is our hope and He will be working on our behalf.

As Karen was thinking about what to share with you all in this podcast, that verse sent her looking for something else: stories of people who have come back from devastation. So here are a few of the stories she found. Our prayer is that they will encourage and bless you in whatever you face today. 

Frederick Douglass was born in Maryland, where it was the custom to take children born in slavery away from their mothers. Frederick was separated from his mother at a very early age. When he was twelve, though, his master’s wife started teaching him. That is, until the master made it clear this was not to continue. Undaunted, Frederick learned to read and write in secret.

When Frederick was bought by yet another master, he started teaching slaves from his and other plantations. When his activities were discovered, he was severely beaten. Finally, he was able to escape the plantation, and started attending abolitionist meetings. Before long, he was giving speeches that moved and changed the hearts of the listeners. His powerful speeches drew huge crowds and helped end the practice of slavery.

In one of his writings, Frederick Douglass had this to say about facing devastation: “It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor of the acclaimed French “Elle” magazine. He was known for being charming and flamboyant. Then, in December 1995, a massive stroke left him deep in a coma. When he awoke twenty days later, he was fully aware, fully himself, but the only thing he could move was his left eyelid. He had “locked-in syndrome.” His brain was fine, but his body was completely incapacitated. Except for that eyebrow. 

Bauby refused to give up. He communicated by blinking his eye for the number of a letter in the alphabet: one blink, a, two, b, and so on. Eventually, he not only was able to communicate with his family, but he dictated an entire book about his life and the experience of being trapped in his own body. His book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, was made into an award winning movie. Karen watched it one day by chance, and wept and cheered as she watched.  

Proverbs 3:21-26 gives us this wisdom about despair in disaster:

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.

This isn’t saying we won’t see devastation or disaster, but it’s promising that we won’t face it on our own. God is at our side and will keep us safe. He will keep us from getting snared in anger and despair, in a spirit of bitterness and futility. His promises in the light will stand solid in the darkness. All we have to do is hold fast to Him and His truth. 

Wilma Rudolph had a lot to overcome before she turned four years old: double pneumonia, scarlet fever, and then, at 4 years old, polio left her with infantile paralysis. The small girl had to wear a brace on her left leg. But even at that tender age, she refused to be defeated and learned to walk normally again. 

While in high school, she competed in the 1956 Summer Olympic Games and brought home a bronze medal in the 400-meter relay. Four years later, at the 1960 Olympics, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympics.

When asked how it felt to win like that, Wilma replied, “Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”

“Colonel Sanders,” of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, lost his father at the age of six. Because his mother had to work to support the family, Harland cooked and looked after his siblings. His life seemed to follow a normal path: he got jobs, lost jobs, got married, and they had children.

Then his son died of infected tonsils, followed quickly by losing his job. Again. Followed not long after by his wife leaving him. When Sanders was forty, he was running a service station in Kentucky and selling fried chicken. Despite its popularity, when he was sixty-five Sanders had to sell his business. All he had left was his savings and $105 per month from Social Security.

Lots of people would have given up. After all, what’s the point when you’ve lost everything? Why even try to come back. But Harlan Sanders tried. He borrowed money and sold his chicken door to door.

Eventually, in 1959, he opened a new restaurant: K.F.C. The company took off, and in 1962 Colonel Sanders sold it for 2 million dollars. When asked about his success after so many obstacles, Sanders replied, “I only had two rules: Do all you can and do it the best you can. It’s the only way you get that feeling of accomplishing something.” 

The prophet Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones:

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37:1-14

God is the one who breathes life into us in the face of devastation. He creates miraculous new beginnings when there seems to be no hope. We don’t have to rely on ourselves or our own strength.

Francine Rivers and her book Redeeming Love

When Francine became a believer, she had fourteen romance books published in the general market. Those books had some pretty risque material. After becoming a believer, she didn’t want to write those type of books anymore. Everything she put down on the page after that, she says, “was total garbage.” Her agent even said she couldn’t sell any of what Francine was writing.

For three years, Francine tried to write, but couldn’t. First she was angry about it. Then she moved into acceptance, and finally, surrender. God took her to the point of giving up her career for him.

After that, she was involved in a Bible study on Hosea. It struck her that this was the love she wanted to write about. She wrote a book called Redeeming Love. Bantam, her publisher, didn’t know what to do with it because it had so much about God in it. They did go ahead and publish it, but it didn’t do very well.

Afterwards, Francine decided to come over to the Christian market. She brought a book to Tyndale, where Karen was working at the time. That book ultimately became a series: Mark of the Lion. Karen and Francine worked together on all Francine’s books through Leota’s Garden. They tried to bring Redeeming Love to Tyndale, but Dr. Taylor wasn’t comfortable with the main focus of the story. Francine had rewritten the story of Hosea to be set in California during the gold rush, and to be about a prostitute and the man God sends to redeem her.

When Karen went to be an editor at Multnomah, they acquired, with Tyndale’s approval, Redeeming Love. Francine, after finally being able to take out all the parts Bantam had wanted her to add, felt she “redeemed it.” Published in May 1997, Redeeming Love has been on the either the top 10 fiction or top 25 bestseller fiction list since it came out. It sold over 3 million copies, has been translated to 30 languages, and has been made into a major movie which will release in 2021. 

We love what Francine says in this quote: “Love the Lord your God, and love one another. Love one another as He loves. Love with strength and purpose and passion and no matter what comes against you. Don’t weaken. Stand against the darkness, and love. That’s the way back into Eden. That’s the way back to life.” 

There are so many ways we as writers face devastation. Times like Francine experienced, where she finally had to give up the idea of ever writing again. Times like our friend, novelist Bonnie Leon, is facing right now, with the fires destroying so much of her property.

Bonnie Leon has put pictures on Facebook of their outbuildings, their truck and Jeep, their chicken coop (yes, they lost all their laying hens), the forest around them, reduced to ashes. Yet, there in the middle of it all, their home is left standing. Untouched. She wrote a beautiful blog about all the conflicting emotions: despair, hope, gratitude, guilt.

Many of us who share God’s truth in writing face the unexpected devastations of health, finances, family, even faith. Times when we can’t see God, can’t even feel Him. When we wonder where He went and how He could have allowed this terrible thing into our lives.

There are so many things to discourage us and leave us in despair, hopeless and unable to create. If you’re in a place like that, know that you’re not alone. Many of us have been there. Are there even now.

But God is there at your side. Walking with you every step of the way. Meeting you in your deep darkness, and uplifting you. You are never alone. And you can embrace His promise in Isaiah 41 to those He loves and has called:

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

…For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst.

But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.

I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it. Isaiah 41:10-13, 17-20

When disaster levels our lives, or the lives of those we love, how do we, as writers, move forward? #amwriting @karenball1 #christianwriter Share on X
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

What helps you realize God’s presence and hope in the midst of difficulties and devastating events in your life?

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our October sponsor of the month, Bobbi Updegraff! You can find out more about another important cause she sponsors at friendsofrenacer.com.

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous sound editing!

STAY CONNECTED

Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.