Month: February 2022

160 – Guest Chase Replogle Helps Writers Move Forward After a Hard Hit

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Guest Chase Replogle Helps Writers Move Forward After a Hard Hit Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungWe all rejoice when that amazing call comes telling us someone is offering a contract for our work. What a wonder! And it’s easy to think we’ve made it. That it’s all downhill from here. And yet, there are times when that wonder—and the contract—are canceled. Whether you know the why or not, that is a HARD hit. Guest Chase Replogle knows exactly how that feels, and he’s here to help you prepare not just for the hit, but for getting up and moving forward afterward!

About Chase Replogle

Chase Replogle is the pastor of Bent Oak Church in Springfield, Missouri. He has a degree in Biblical Studies, an M.A. in New Testament, and he’s currently a D.Min. student in The Sacred Art of Writing at Western Theological Seminary. He’s written for Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, Ekstatis, Bible Engagement Project, and Influence Magazine. He also hosts the Pastor Writer Podcast, interviewing Christian authors on the calling and craft of writing.

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

Karen: Welcome friends. It’s time to go into the deep again. We are so looking forward to our conversation today with our guest, Chase Replogle. Chase, did I say that right?

Chase: Close enough. That qualifies. 

Erin: I stumble over that, too.

Chase: A great author name, right? 

Karen: We’re delighted to have you here, Chase. 

Erin: Yeah, and I get to introduce him. Yay! Now that we all know how to pronounce his last name, we’re good. Chase Replogle is the founding pastor of Bent Oak Church. He holds a degree in Biblical Studies and an M.A. in New Testament. He hosts the weekly Pastor Writer Podcast, which you can find pastorwriter.com. On the podcast, he interviews pastors and authors on writing, reading, and the Christian life. 

I’ve got to tell you, I’m a fan of the podcast. I learn about new books to add to my ever growing reading list. But that’s just the way it is, right? The podcast and the website, they also chronicle Chase’s ongoing writing projects and that’s one of the things we’re going to be talking to him about today. His first book, The 5 Masculine Instincts, comes out in March of this year, and we’re super excited for him.

That’s actually just in a couple of weeks if you’re hearing this when this first airs. Chase is a native of the Ozark woods. He enjoys being outdoors with his wife and two kids. They sail, and Chase says he likes playing the mandolin—he says badly—and quail hunting with his bird dog, Millie. Chase, it is great to have you here with us today. Welcome. 

Chase: Thank you so much. I love listening to your guys’ show as well. It’s good to be amongst friends. 

Erin: It is indeed. Well, Chase, we definitely want to ask you first and foremost, what does the deep mean to you? 

Chase: I love this as your guys’ tradition. I knew it was coming, so I thought a little bit about it as well.

For me, so about writing is bogged down into strategy. What do you do if this happens? How do you approach this? How do you write that query letter? How do you write that proposal? How do you get that agent? What do you do in this situation? You know, you’re probably even thinking, what would I do if my contract got canceled? 

I think this deep work that we’re doing means you have to do that stuff. You have to learn that stuff, but there should be something motivating you at a deeper level that sustains you through all of that. Don’t ever allow yourself to turn it into just strategy, just tactics. 

Really fight to keep hold of that thing in you that is for me the faithfulness to what I believe God has called me to. Hold on to that. Even when you have to do the tactic conversations, the strategy conversations, remember the reason why you’re doing it. I think if you hold on to that, that’s the kind of deep work, the deep writing that I really want to do, that I want to be true.

Erin: Cool. Love it. Chase, I want people to hear about your experience getting a contract and what happened to that contract. Let’s just start there.

Chase: It’s funny, there’s all these sort of steps, as you know, in the publishing process. You have to be able to put together a proposal and find an agent and then usually they help with that proposal and then start pitching. 

For me, that process started pretty quickly. I was lucky enough to find a great agent pretty quickly and cross that off the list and moved on to the next step. Like so many writers, we had some waiting and lots of hard conversations about platform and trying to continue to grow that. With time we sort of made it over that hurdle, and I was thrilled.

I signed a contract with Zondervan with the acquisitions editor Mick Silva, who I had gotten to know through my writing and the podcast. It was just kind of a dream. I loved working with Mick, and so it was just the best that I could imagine. 

We signed the contract, and in talking with Zondervan, we had updated the proposal and they kind of pitched another concept. So I reworked the idea. It was going to mean going back and writing the manuscript again and changing some sections. But I was actually really excited about that. I felt like the collaboration with them was really good. 

I set out to work on a new manuscript. I got about two thirds of the way into that process. I had about eight to ten months to finish that manuscript and got about two thirds of the way into it. 

I remember very clearly that it was middle of summer and the middle of the pandemic, the first year. We were home during that season, and I got a phone call from my agent, which was kind of unusual. Normally we corresponded by email. She said, “I’ve got some bad news for you.” 

She’d just received a very short email from the legal department at Zondervan that basically said due to COVID and a reprioritizing of their projects, they were terminating the contract that we had signed and that I was well underway writing. So it was unexpected. 

Erin: Tell us about your reaction. That’s the worst news for any writer to get. I’m interested in your first reaction, because how I learned that that happened to you was that I heard you announce it on your podcast when it happened. I specifically remember I was painting windows. I remember what I was doing and I remember thinking, “That is just the best explanation. The most kind, humble explanation.” 

But I want to know if that was your first reaction. I’m thinking maybe not? But maybe. 

Chase: Let’s see if I match up to what I said then. I had two very distinct feelings. I remember very early the number one feeling sounds a little immature, but it was like, “This figures! This seems to be how it goes!” 

Like anybody who’s tried to go down the publishing road knows, it is so confusing, and at times, so overwhelming. Things never go how you expect. It just felt like, “Well, okay, here we are. This is it.”

But I also had a very distinct feeling that I had to keep writing. I knew intuitively, “I’m two thirds of the way through this manuscript. If I stop now, like, I don’t know what that would mean. I don’t know if I have it in me to stir that all back up again.”

I remember even telling my agent on the phone, “We’re going to work on what comes next, but I’m kind of also going to pretend this didn’t happen, and I’m just going to keep working on what I’ve been working on.” 

Erin: Wow. I think that’s super interesting. You actually then completed that book even though the contract went away?

Chase: Yeah, I did. I was two thirds of the way into it. I kind of knew where it was going. I had a plan on how I was going to get there. And it just felt like to lose the contract was a blow, but to lose the contract and stop writing felt like, I don’t know how I would’ve put it back together. 

This is a little bit of a lesson with the whole process of publishing. One of the things I just continually keep learning is there’s so little of the process you actually can control. At the end of the day, the writing is one of the only things. I just held on to that as the thing that I could do. How do I keep making this manuscript better? How do I just keep the actual work in front of me? 

Karen: We talk on our podcast quite often about the fact that writing isn’t about getting published. Writing is about obedience. God has really given you this task to perform. The important thing is being obedient to that task and then leaving the details up to him.

I love that you are connected with the agent that you have. She’s a great agent. And I love that it happened fairly early and easily for you. It was a good start, and it gave you a confirmation that this is where God wanted you.

But then to follow up on that and be obedient and continue the writing, that’s exactly what we need to do when things seem to just implode. 

Chase: Yeah. It’s also important to remember that we were in the middle of the first year of the pandemic. As a pastor, it was already a very complicated time trying to lead a congregation and seeing people with very different views. 

In some ways that season also, I felt very strongly, there was a lot changing for a lot of people in the world. And this is not as big as what it could be. It felt very big because it had been something I had spent so many years working toward. But it was a season where so many of us were having plans changed, and expectations dashed, and learning to do things in new ways. So it just felt like, okay, this is a part of that. 

Erin: I love that, too, because that whole first time, the whole first few months and year of the pandemic, was such a season of loss for everybody. And you dealt with that loss by not really losing. I respect that. That you just went and kept writing that book almost like therapy, even. You know that this is who you are. You’re going to be a writer, and you’re going to finish and not throw it across the room in frustration. I love that. Tell us what happened next.

Chase: As I continued to write, my agent and I had a conversation. It was not a good time to pitch. We later found out that there was more going on at the publisher. They were changing some acquisition strategies and changing some parts of the leadership team. My contract was one of actually several that got caught up in that. 

A lot of publishers were still uncertain about what sales would look like and how they should approach acquisition during the pandemic, and so it was just not a good time.

I think in the podcast episode you alluded to, I’d put out on the podcast just saying where I was because I’d been updating people along the way. We actually had a couple of publishers reach out to us through that process who’d had heard the episode. Publishers I’d connected with earlier on the podcast.

It started a couple of conversations. Those took a little bit of time, but we ended up signing a contract with Moody Publishers. Luckily they felt good about the concept and where the direction was. It got me back into it and set the trajectory for the book being released March 1st.

Erin: Did you end up having to make a lot more changes for Moody? Or was it just, you know, kind of the basic editing stuff? 

Chase: I did some. Originally there were a couple of chapters at the beginning of the book that, to be honest, I probably would have ended up cutting even in the previous contract. In the writing process, the idea sort of condenses and tightens. Sometimes you write just to figure out what you think about something, and then it can get cut. There were some chapters that got removed, but for the most part, Moody seemed really on board with the concept and they’ve been great to work with.

Erin: That’s cool. In case our listeners are interested in reading the book, tell us a little bit about what the first book was and then what it turned into. 

Chase: The first book was based on the story of Samson. I saw a lot of parallels in the life of Samson and myself as young man, and also in a lot of the young men I was pastoring in that there can be a kind of restlessness for adventure. The cultural narrative right now is often to know who you are. To find your identity, you need to leave home and traditions and go find yourself in this sort of adventurous quest. 

I saw the way that was really weakening commitment in a lot of the men’s lives that I knew. So I worked on a whole book just based on Samson. When Zondervan and I first began talking, they, from a publishing perspective, wanted to see if we could expand the readership beyond just millennial men to men in general.

They had said, “Is there a way to cover multiple biblical characters? Sort of like which man type are you?” At first I didn’t quite resonate with that. I spent some time thinking and praying about that. Then I stumbled across Shakespeare’s stages of a man. That’s from the monologue, “All the world’s a stage, each of us players, and a man in his day plays several parts.” 

Shakespeare goes through these stages and I immediately recognized, “Oh, Samson is like this particular stage Shakespeare is describing.” That gave me a framework for then recognizing stages. You can see these other stages at work in biblical men as well. That turned into the five masculine instincts that look at five biblical men across these stages that Shakespeare identified.

Karen: That’s very cool. 

Erin: What I love is that transformative process. How we as writers need to hold those ideas, yes, but we have to hold them loosely and be open to suggestions and changes. Things that could push the book maybe not where we first thought, but push it into something that can be better. Or can match better with where the audience is for that publisher. They know their audience. It’s not like you’re selling out, it’s that you’re pushing to see where this book can go to better meet the needs of more people. So I like it.

Chase: I had a lot of people recommend I self publish after the contract fell apart. I thought about that for a little bit, too. We actually talked, my agent and I, about whether this was the season, whether that was the right next step. 

But for me, the reason I’ve always wanted to go down the traditional route was I wanted to work with the best team that I possibly could. And to your point, I really value that. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some core conviction you’re trying to hold on to through the process. I mean, even as I sort of alluded to how part of that idea was not exactly resonating with me. But I also respect them enough to know they bring a certain expertise that I should be listening to.

So is there a way to sort of take all of that expertise and to sort of see if I can work that conviction, that thing I’m trying to do in the context of what they’re bringing to the table? For me, that’s the real benefit of working with a publisher. You can do that with self publishing, but for me, traditional publishing answered how I could build the best team around this book that I could.

Karen: As I listen to the whole process that you went through, it reminds me of Psalm 62:1-2: “I’m at rest in God alone. My salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, I will never be shaken.”

Quite a few translations say, “I will never be disappointed.” When you have your focus on God, and when you’ve submitted what you’re writing to God, and you trust that whatever is coming your way is coming through his hands and by his will, you can never be shaken. You can never be disappointed.

I mean, we’ll have emotions. There’s no way of stopping those emotions. We’re made in God’s image, and he has emotions. But we can put our trust in God. Not in a publisher. Not even in an agent. Not in other people. But put your trust in God and you will never be disappointed because you can know solid gold is the foundation. That he is doing what is best, not just for your writing, but for you. 

Chase: Yeah, I think that’s well put.

Erin: I’m wondering, Chase, if given where you are now, the eve of your book releasing, is there anything that maybe you would have done differently if you could have? Or like what you would tell yourself if “future you” could go back to “old you” and tell you something, is there something you wish you knew or did differently or anything like that?

Chase: I alluded earlier to how I was thinking of the process as sort of boxes you checked, and then you move on to the next one. I think I had in my mind, like, “Okay, I’m going to do this next step the best possible way I can, and then I’m done. I’ll move on.”

I saw it very linearly, and I now recognize it’s more complicated than that. And to your point also, maybe you’re not supposed to rush through some of those steps just as quickly as you can to get to the next. Maybe there is something of the messiness, or the complexity, or just the passing of time itself, that can actually make the work richer than it would if you just rushed through the process.

It’s easy to say retrospectively, but I would’ve told myself, “Just keep focusing on the right work. Because there’s so much work that can be done, but what is the actual work in front of me right now that I’m supposed to be doing? The thing I actually can do? Stay focused on that.” 

Erin: I love that. One of the things I also wanted to ask you about was your podcast. I’m thinking that you started it in general because, as we all know, writers need platforms. So I’m thinking that was kind of the reasoning behind starting it. But I was going to ask you, how does it now help your career?

You’ve already given an excellent point: Hey, those editors heard about my situation and they got back in touch with me. But I’m sure there are other things involved in why you chose to podcast and how that’s influenced your career. 

Chase: It’s a really interesting question because initially, you’re exactly right, I wanted to find a way to build platform. I’m a small church pastor. You know, I’m a Midwest guy. There’s nothing, there’s no celebrity. So how do I build a platform that doesn’t feel like it’s me just promoting myself?

Well, I love this sort of thing. Just having conversations felt very natural to me. The other part was just sort of trying to hack my way into professional relationships. When I started, I didn’t know a single published author. I didn’t know a single literary agent. I didn’t know a single editor working at a publishing house. I mean, literally no one. My dad’s a cop, that sort of thing. Like, I didn’t grow up in that circle. So it was, “How do I just hack my way into these relationships?” 

But looking back, if I was going to say the biggest thing the podcast has done—because it’s kind of evolved now, I don’t just talk about writing, we talk about books in general—I’ve come to realize how valuable relationships are. And to your point, editors heard about the opportunity through my podcast, but really it was because I had tried to build lots of relationships with editors even before I was pitching. I’d have them on. Talk to them. Figure out what their publisher is looking for and what they’re doing. 

Many of them are writers themselves, so just talking about writing. How do I just build relationships? And over and over and over everything that has happened for good has been because of relationships. Not because I lucked into it or happened to really impress someone. It’s usually existed because I’ve taken the time to try to get to know people. 

Erin: Yeah, that’s wonderful. I love how we think we’re networking, but then we realize the real gold is the actual relationships that we build. It’s some of the best, best experiences to get to know writers and editors and publishers. It’s one of my favorite things.

Karen: It’s amazing to me because some of my best friends are the people that I have met, and I’ve known for years now, in publishing. Yeah, it started out just as a work relationship, but it goes so far beyond that. Not just because we share a love of writing and publishing, but we share a love of the Lord and we’re able to come together in that and to support each other and pray with each other.

Erin and I are a prime example. We met at a writer’s conference, and I signed her as a client when I was an agent. But it’s gone so far beyond that. One of the first people I want to contact if something happens in my life is Erin. Not because I was her agent and she’s an author, but because we share that love of the Lord and he’s built in us a love for each other. Those are the gifts that are tucked away in the hard work of writing. I think God is just so kind to do that for us.

Chase: I feel that even in conversations like this one, we write in very different genres and I don’t know, maybe our lives wouldn’t have crossed paths outside of this writing, but the truth is writing is really hard and publishing is really hard. So when you find other people like this conversation shows that are struggling their way through it, there is a camaraderie in the midst of that suffering that I think forms pretty quickly, and you need it. 

Erin: Exactly. 

Karen: So from all of this conversation and all of the experiences that you have, do you have any final words of encouragement for our listeners?

Chase: Yeah. For me, it would just be, and I know this sounds like such a cliche and glib answer, but I think you have to enjoy the process. I know that it is so frustrating and so painful, but celebrate when you have even little wins. Like just know going into it, you should be thinking in terms of decade, not months, and just give yourself patience and time to see where it goes.

Enjoy that you’re doing it. Trust me, I know that it’s easy for me to lose that, but that’s the thing when I know I’m doing it at my best, it’s just, God’s doing something here. I get to be a participant in it and see where it goes. And I’m just going to enjoy every step of it. 

Karen: Yeah. Enjoy the journey, and the detours are the journey.

Erin: Exactly. 

Karen: Thanks again, Chase, for being with us. We really appreciate it and appreciate you sharing from your experiences, and here’s hoping God blesses the launch of that book with just massive amounts of sales!

Erin: Indeed.

Chase: Thank you very much. You guys are the best. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for the opportunity.

Erin: Thanks, Chase!

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Have you taken any hard hits in your writing career? How did you move forward after that?

Books Mentioned in the podcast

The 5 Masculine Instincts by Chase Replogle

The 5 Masculine Instincts by Chase Replogle

Guest Chase Replogle shares how God helped him get up––and move on––after a hard career hit. @thepastorwriter #amwriting #christianwriter Share on X
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Today we’re covering commandment #10: Thou shalt not be false to thine own brand.

What Thomas means by this is, and this is a quote, “Be true to who you are as an author. Your brand is not a photo, logo, genre, or collection of fonts. It is the story you tell about yourself. More importantly, it is the story others tell about you.”

Your brand is what readers expect of you. It’s your promise to them. Readers who read your first book and love it want to buy your next book, because they expect it will be like the first book. And they already know they like it. Now they want the same experience from you over and over. Commandment #10 ensures you give it to them.

So, think carefully about the type of book you want to publish before you ever publish anything, and make sure you’re willing to stay true to that brand. For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com.

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159 – Do You Really Know Who God Is? Part 1

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Do You Really Know Who God Is? Part 1 Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungWe’ve heard it before: “God is my everything.” It’s true, but do you really know what that means? He’s so much more than we can imagine. So come go deeper into just a few of the attributes of God and learn what those particular attributes mean to your writing career and your life.

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

Erin: Welcome listeners. We’re glad that you’re here with us in the deep. It’s still pretty early in the year, and we want to encourage you to make this year one where you deliberately seek a better and more accurate picture of who God is.

I’ve been reading, very slowly, a book called Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer. I just love what he has to say. I think it’s so wise. He says that he thinks that the church has a problem. It’s the “loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping people.”

Ouch, right? He goes on to say, “This, she has not done deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge, and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.” 

Karen: We can’t be still and know that God is God if we have a wrong concept of who God is. We wanted to share some attributes of God and why they matter to us as individuals and as writers.

Erin: Right. So Karen and I were having fun with this. We’ve been just thinking of different attributes and pondering over the course of the last couple of weeks, so we’re just gonna go for it. 

God is Transcendent

The first one I thought of is that God is transcendent. I realize that’s a fancy word. I’ve always kind of wondered what it meant. But for me, the idea of God being transcendent, I like to define it as “totally other.” It’s like with our human thought, we can’t truly comprehend or imagine who God is. Or what. 

He’s not us. He’s so totally different from us in his substance. We can’t minimize him. We can’t make him like us. I think we have a tendency to try to anthropomorphize God too much, make him too human. But he’s not. He’s beyond.

Then I start thinking about how crossing the gulf of who God is to who we are is completely unattainable, except that God crossed that gulf for us. He reached out to us. It’s because of who he is that we can even relate to him. 

Then I start thinking about what does that mean for a writer? For me, it brings up awe. It brings up reverence. It brings a sense of humility that this God would reach to us. And it brings a sense of gratitude. I don’t want to forget how dependent I am. That he reaches out to us. That he draws us to him. I want to keep acknowledging my need for him to keep doing it. I can’t claw my way to him. It’s him who reaches out to me and to us. 

God is the Alpha and the Omega

Karen: God is also the Alpha and the Omega. I love this for a number of reasons. Revelation 1:8, I’m sure you all have heard it before: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, and the end’ says the Lord, God. ‘I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come. The Almighty One.'”

The reason that I like this so much is that when we consider God being the Alpha and the Omega, not just of the world, but bring it down in a macro sense and think about it in our own lives. He is the God of our beginning, the God of our end, and the God of everything in between. 

We never have to feel as though God was with us when we were born and growing up and suddenly he’s not there anymore. Or in the beginning of our career, and things went one way, and then suddenly it changes, and we’re wondering where God is. If we have those feelings, they’re false. They’re from the enemy.

God is there for the beginning, the end, and everything in between. He is our Alpha and Omega for us as individuals and as writers. 

Erin: I love those words. There’s another verse that I like. It’s Isaiah 44:6, and it says, “This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.”

What do I like about that? First and last. It’s just constantly giving us a sense of who God is. He’s the only first and last. There is no other first and last.

God is Preexistent

When Karen and I were thinking about the attributes, it was fun to think about how similar some of our attributes were. I’d thought of that God is preexistent, which reminds me of the Alpha and the Omega. He has no beginning and he has no end. My little brain struggles with that. He has no beginning. He just always was. That’s what it means to be God: to be always. Who was, who is, and who always will be. That’s who God is.

People, we’re the ones with the beginning. We’re the created things. God’s timeless. He’s outside of time. He made time. He’s been there, done that. He purposed us into existence. One of my favorite verses Hebrews 1:3, where we learn that Jesus is sustaining all things by his powerful word. He’s holding everything up. He started it all. It starts with him. It ends with him.

For writers, I think about God’s integrity. It’s his moral code that matters because he started it all. He started us. He created us, and so he has that right. He can set the rules, and it’s our job to submit to that, because he’s the beginning.

Jesus is the Rose of Sharon

Karen: I also like the idea, the attribute of God, that he’s the Rose of Sharon. That’s from one verse in Song of Songs when the bride is telling her husband that she’s the rose of Sharon and a lily of the valley. It sounds like she’s boasting, but she’s really not. She simply telling him this is who I am. This is the beauty of who I am with you, and the beauty of our love.

I have two rose of Sharon bushes in my yard. I absolutely love them. When the buds come on, they’re really kind of nondescript, but then the flowers start to open. First, you see this little bit of deep burgundy coming up out of the green. Then it starts to open up. It opens in stages, and with each stage there’s something more intricate and more beautiful to see from the coloring of the flowers, to the statement, it’s just, it’s amazing.

There are so many of them, they’re abundant. It reminds me that with God, he is beauty, and he wants to reveal himself to us, but he does it in stages so that we can take it in.

If it was all at once, it would blow our minds and we’d just be sitting there babbling. He lets us see him and meet him and see the beauty in who he is and all the different facets. He does that in his timing in the way that’s best for us so that we can absorb it. 

That’s the way that we communicate with our readers in our books. We unfold the truths that God has given us in the words that we get on the page. We don’t try to beat them over the head with it because that’s preaching. That’s not good writing. But if we share with them the reality and the beauty of who God is and the many facets of who he is, we do that with an understanding that they can only take in so much, and God will take those words that we put on the page and show himself to our readers.

Erin: What I was thinking about, too, Karen, when you were talking about the buds being nondescript, that’s how our writing looks at the beginning. What a perfect metaphor for writing a book or anything. Whatever you write, it just starts in this sort of nondescript way and slowly through the process of creation, it becomes a thing of beauty. 

One of my favorite things about the rose of Sharon is that I see little hummingbirds. These birds feed on this beauty. I just, I love that. 

God Is Omniscient

The next attribute is that God is omniscient. Sometimes I think we can be flippant about that. “Well, okay, he knows everything.” But it’s not just that. It’s that his focused attention is on every single thing all the time. Every second. Every single second. 

My son is studying physics, and I think about the little things at the quantum level. It’s like this tiny little system. God is still focused on tiny atoms and electrons as well as 2 trillion galaxies of planets out there. God is doing that. 

For writers, I think it’s easy sometimes for us to think that God is not paying attention. But he has to. That’s who he is. He is always paying attention. Not just “you’re there.” But focused attention. Probably the kind of focus we all strive for.

I was telling Karen that it’s hard for me to focus sometimes. God doesn’t have a problem with focus, and his focused attention is on you, and your situation as a writer, and on every word you put on the paper, and on every issue that you deal with. Nothing is too big or too small for God to be paying attention to because his attention is just there all the time. 

I wish I could always remember that. I wish my attention was as focused on him 24/7 as his is on me. That’s something that I want to work on this year. For the new year, I think that’s my word: Focus.

God is Our Advocate

Karen: That’s great. What I love about that is with God being omniscient, he’s also our advocate.

I watch a lot of legal procedurals, police procedurals. One of my favorite shows of all time, and I watch it over and over and over, is the original Law and Order. I just love that show, and I love how smart the attorneys are, the advocates, and how they have to know every little facet of what’s going on in order to do the things that they do. 

God is all-knowing, like you said. He’s omniscient. He knows not just how to speak on our behalf, but he knows what’s going on inside of us. He acts on our behalf, not just for us, but in us. He works inside of us, giving us the desire and the power to do what pleases him. But remember, because he’s all-knowing, he knows everything about us, and he does the work of refining us because of that core deep knowledge. 

He supports us. He defends us. He intercedes for us. He does all of this because he knows us, and nothing in what he knows about us is discouraging or disappointing or frustrating for him. He understands, because he created us, and he knows how to lead us into what he wants us to be. 

In anything that we do, whether it’s writing, or as a parent, or as an individual, his knowledge of us is complete. We never have to be afraid to go to him and say, “I’m struggling with this,” because our God who knows us will intercede for us, and he will speak for us. He will do the refining work inside of us.

Erin: I love the notion of advocate because, I mean, we have an accuser. We constantly are buffeted by what Satan wants to do to us. But who shall bring any charge against God’s elect, right? Why is Paul saying that in Romans 8? He’s saying that because God is the one who justifies us.

God is the judge. God is our advocate. God is God. There’s no one else that can step in and do, or take away, or take us out of his hand. That is my favorite thing. Listen to this, guys.

“Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Can anything ever separate us from the love of Christ? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity? Or are persecuted? Or hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? Even the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we face death all day long. We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For, I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Romans 8

Our advocate. 

Karen: Amen. 

God is Omnipotent

Erin: And that brings us to another attribute. God is all powerful. He’s omnipotent. I don’t know how often we spend just dwelling on that. All the power there could be in existence, he has. That’s who he is. 

I don’t know what the most powerful thing is that you have ever seen, but we used to live in Oklahoma. There’s tornadoes down there quite a bit. You can see the storm chasers, they’ll go out there, and you can see tornadoes on TV forming. I once saw a small tornado turn into a mile-wide F -5 tornado that just gouged a hole in the ground for miles.

It was maybe one of the most frightening things I’ve ever seen. Just that power. But God is more powerful. God can do anything. 

When I think about that as a writer, God can do anything. You guys, what is your impossible situation right now? That situation you think is impossible that you’re facing? God did the virgin birth. He opened the eyes of a man born blind. He can get you a contract or cancel your contract. He can sell books or not sell books.

What is your impossible situation? He knows it, and he’s already he got it covered. He’s taking care of it. His best work in us, the all-powerful God, in my opinion, is always the transition of making us more like Christ, and that’s what’s happening in your lives, too.

That’s why he’s more powerful. That’s what he does. One of my favorite verses is Jesus saying, “My Father is always at his work, to this very day, and I, too, am working.” John 5:17

I think that work is him, not only holding the universe and sustaining all things by his powerful word, but continuing to conform you and me to Christ every day, every moment. 

Karen: In conforming us to Christ, we start to see him more clearly and with a better understanding of who he is.

Jesus is the lion and the lamb

I love it that he’s called both the Lion of Judah and the Lamb. Think about that. That’s again that Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

Lions. I love the big cats. Whenever I go to the zoo, I go to see the big cats. Lions are just so powerful and strong and fierce and regal. Whenever I see them, they put me in mind of God because they’re just so majestic.

One day I went to a zoo and they had this huge viewing area with really thick glass. The lions could come right up to the glass. There was a little girl who was kneeling on the sill of that viewing area. 

All of a sudden, the male lion who had just been, you know, sitting there and looking stunning, he turned his head and he fixed his gaze on that child. He just kind of flowed up onto his feet and BAM! He came at that window. He had his paws on there. This girl was like teeny tiny on the other side of the glass with this enormous, powerful beast that had just burst forward. Everybody in that viewing area was like, whoa! And they backed up really fast.

We have this inbuilt sense of awe and fear at that kind of power and that kind of energy. It was clear, this is the king of the jungle right here. Of course, the little two-year-old was not even aware of what was going on, but her parents grabbed her up and ran her out of there. 

So I think of God with that kind of power, that fierceness, that majesty, and yet at the same time, he’s the Lamb. That puts us in mind of innocence and sacrifice and purity. God is everything to us. He is everything. He is the power and the protector and all of those things. 

Yet at the same time, through Jesus, he’s the epitome of innocence, of sacrifice, of purity, of sacrificial love. It’s just amazing to me. What seems to be contrasts in Christ and in God, they’re not contrasts at all. They’re just the many facets of who he is. 

Erin: I love that because had he not been the Lamb, he would not have gone to the cross. Can you imagine what it took to stay there on the cross when he could have just blinked it all out of existence? And yet he didn’t. Then the lion comes back with the resurrection. 

Karen: Something else happened at a different visit. I visit zoos a lot when I travel. I was on the opposite side of the zoo from where the lion enclosure was. All of a sudden this roar echoed all around. This time instead of people backing off, everybody, myself included, ran to get to the lion enclosure to see what was going on. 

The closer we got, the louder it was. I felt that roar in my chest. They were at feeding time, and the lions were like, “Get that food in here. I’m hungry.” 

But the roar! We have this instinctive fear of that kind of unhindered power. And fascination. We’re drawn to it, and we’re repelled by it. So when the Bible tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, he’s not a God, he’s not a lion, who’s going to come up and just kind of rub his little head against us and we get to pet him. God is powerful, the kind of power we can’t even understand.

Erin: Yeah. 

God is the Amen

Karen: Another thing that God is: God is the amen. If you know what amen means, it’s like, may it be so, or let it be so. He’s the ultimate let it be so. The final word. Amen is used fifty-four times in the Bible to show agreement, to acknowledge God’s word and truth, to align with God and Jesus. 

I did a little bit of research and amen, the word itself, is what’s called a transliteration because the word is pronounced pretty much the same way it was in the original language. It’s just given one or two letters that make it make sense in a new language. So the word amen is one of the few words in existence that’s pronounced almost exactly the same way in every language.

When we say amen, we are saying the same exact word that has been uttered as a confirmation of belief for thousands of years. We’re speaking the same word spoken by the priests and the prophets and Jesus himself. 

God is the amen to everything. God is the let it be so, amen, it is finished. In Revelation 22:20-21 we read this: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

So I encourage you this year: Amen. Amen, that we align ourselves with God. Amen to aligning ourselves with Christ. And amen to digging in and knowing who God is and all the facets.

Erin: Amen!

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Today we’re talking about commandment #9: Thou shalt not publish thy first book first.

This is the most controversial commandment, but think about an athlete. Your first race is never in the Olympics for a gold medal. You have a lot to learn before you can get to that level. So it is with writing. Your first book isn’t gold medal quality. It’s the training ground.

Writers too often feel that any word they write is wasted if it’s not published. But you can’t get better at writing without writing. That means that lots of words are going to be practice, and that’s okay!

We’re not saying that your first book can never be published, but do it later, after you’re better. Too many writers get overly focused on their first book and become discouraged when it doesn’t get published. Or they publish it themselves because they think it’s ready, and it’s not.

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