204 – Advent Anchors for Troubled Waters

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Advent Anchors for Troubled Waters Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

The Advent season is about celebration and expectation. Though we’re almost finished with Advent, the four themes of the season can be anchors for you all year long! Come explore these Advent Anchors to keep you safe and steady in troubled waters.

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

I love Advent. I love the sense of anticipation, the way it teaches us to watch and wait, to celebrate and prepare for not just Christ’s birth, but for the day He will return to this broken, weary world. It’s celebration of what has happened and expectation of what will happen. Though the Advent season this year is almost over, the four themes of Advent—hope, peace, joy, and love—can carry us all year long. In fact, we need to carry a spirit of Advent through the whole year. To help us do that, we’re going to discuss four Advent anchors that can hold us firm and fast, no matter what troubled waters come our way.

Advent anchor 1 – Put your hope in God’s word

Let’s start with the Advent theme of hope. Writers are well acquainted with hope. When we embark on the task God gives us to write, we are full of hope and expectation for what God will do in us and through us. As time passes, though, and we experience the good and bad of the writing life, it can become harder to hold on to hope. And when we get bogged down in the state of the world and the church and publishing, it can become almost impossible.

How do we hold on to hope? We take a firm grasp on Advent Anchor 1 from Psalm 119:14: “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

Advent Anchor 1 is to put your hope in God’s Word! What does that mean? It means trust. Trust what his word says rather than what you see around you, i.e., the world and all its problems.

If you trust what the world is saying, there’s no way to avoid becoming discouraged. Hopeless. But when you put your hope in God’s word, you understand this world is the enemy’s playground. He’s doing all he can to derail God’s work and His redemption of the lost. Compelling truth.org says it this way: 

“When humanity chose to listen to Satan rather than God, Satan became ‘ruler of this world’ (John 12:31). This means that Satan has a degree of authority on earth, and Satan’s objective is to cause suffering, death, and separation from God. …Never forget that ‘the devil prowls like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is the king of deception and desires us to believe the lie that God does not care about our suffering (John 8:44).”

The key to being hopeful in a seemingly hopeless world is to keep our focus on God and the undeniable truths in his word. 

John 3:16 begins with, “For God so loved the world…” That means he cares about every one of us, believer and nonbeliever alike. He sent his Son to die for us and restore us to Him and His love. 

Psalm 34:18 tells us that God comforts the brokenhearted. If He didn’t care, why would He do that? And Psalm 89:14 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne; love and faithfulness go before Him.”

These are only a few of the many Scriptures that put the lie to all Satan is and does. Hope in God’s word, friends. Trust what God says. Then, no matter how turbulent the waters around us, we can know we’re held fast by Almighty God. We can echo the psalmist in Psalm 42:11, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Advent Anchor 2 – Let Christ’s Peace Rule in Your Heart

Many of our books have carried a theme of peace to readers. We’ve crafted stories that take readers on a journey through struggles into the arms of God’s peace. Yet, how often do we ourselves wrestle with anxiety, fear, and a sense of inadequacy? How often do we wonder if God really gave us this task to write his stories and books, especially when we consider things like sales and contracts and the many human measuring sticks of “success”?

Which leads us to Colossians 3:15: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” That leads us right to Advent Anchor 2: Let Christ’s peace rule in your heart.

Colossians 3:15 ends with a fascinating fact: “…since as members of one body you were called to peace.” Called to peace. I looked in Webster’s for a definition of call, and found a boatload, many of which didn’t seem to fit in this context.

Then I looked for the Jewish word used in this verse, and found that it’s kaleó, which means “I summon, invite” and “I name.” That last meaning really hit me. In fact, kaleó is also used in Matthew 1:21: “…and they shall call his name Immanuel.”

God summons and invites us to peace. But more than that, as his followers he names us peace. In other words, that’s who we are in him. His peace is a part of our spiritual DNA. Even as a father imparts traits to a child, so God, when we accept Christ, weaves his peace into the very fabric of who we are. All we need to do is embrace it, as his beloved children. To choose it over those powerful worldly emotions that seek to drown us. 

If you’re struggling with negative emotions, with wondering why God asked you to write when you can’t seem to gain any ground, with family or personal crises…it’s time. Choose God’s peace. Place it, not emotions, on the throne of your heart. Usher God’s peace in with an open heart. Because his peace is more powerful than any turbulence. His peace pours oil over troubled waters. 

Okay, story time. I’ve always wondered where that phrase, pouring oil over troubled waters, came from. Turns out it’s an Irish priest named Utta and the Irish missionary, St. Aidan. Before a sea voyage, brother Utta went to St. Aidan and asked him to pray for them as they traveled on the sea. He did so, but also gave them some holy oil, saying, “you will meet with a storm and contrary wind; but be mindful to cast this oil I give you into the sea, and the wind will cease immediately; you will have pleasant calm weather to attend you and send you home by the way that you desire.” 

Sure enough, Utta and his companions were caught in a terrible storm, and were sure they would die. But Utta remembered St. Aidan’s words, grabbed the vial of oil and threw it on the raging waters. Immediately, the waters calmed and the sun came out, and the rest of their voyage was safe. 

What we see in that story, and in Scripture, is that embracing God’s peace requires action on our part. Yes, it’s a part of us, but we must turn to it and choose it when everything seems to be saying the last thing we should be is peace-filled.

How do we do that? Philippians 4:6-9 gives us the perfect guide: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” 

Step One: Prayer and petition with thanksgiving in every situation

To be clear, this is telling us to be THANKFUL for the difficulties that have made us anxious. Why would that be? I think it’s to give us opportunity to do exactly what our guest Rachel Hauck was talking about in our last podcast episode: Watch and wait and see what amazing thing the Almighty God is going to do.

Step Two: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

It’s an old principle: Garbage in, garbage out. What you put into your mind will produce a result. Put in what is true, noble, and so on, and you get God’s peace. Put in Satan’s lies or the world’s ideologies, you get anxiety, worry, and worse. 

Step three: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice…” Philippians 4:9

There’s so much wisdom in the Bible, and Paul shares a wealth of guidance for godly living. But we need to do more than just read it. We need to put it into practice. Follow the wisdom in the word of God. Do the things we’re instructed to do as his followers.

The result of following these three steps? “…The God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9

Advent Anchor 3 – Tap Into God’s Joy 

I’m sure you’ve all heard people speak many times about the difference between happiness and joy, so we’ll just start here with this: Joy is based on internal factors. Happiness is based on external factors. 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with happiness. It’s fun and positive. But it can be gone as fast as it comes. Poor book sales, canceled contracts, massive rewrites, unfair reviews…so many things in the writing life can kill happiness.

But joy that’s based in God has staying power. It’s an attitude of the heart and spirit. Because it’s from God, it can co-exist with other emotions, even negative ones. We can be joyful in the face of anger, fear, even unhappiness. Joy is grander and deeper than happiness, and God’s joy carries us through whatever storms we encounter. 

Advent Anchor 3, then, is tap into God’s joy. How do we do that? How do we immerse ourselves in that divine, sustaining joy?

David gives us some tips. Consider Psalm 16:11: “…in your presence there is fullness of joy.”

Step One: Spend time with God

Just as you can’t build a healthy relationship with other people without spending time with them, you can’t find joy in your relationship with God unless you spend time in his presence, talking with him, getting to know him and learning what he thinks of you. Trust me, it’s good news!

The great thing is that wherever you are, God is there, too. All you need to do is turn your heart and thoughts to him. Seek his presence. Revel in his accessibility to you. He’s never too busy, never distracted, never dismissive. Think about that. There is no other person in the whole wide world you can say that about. God’s attention is always on you, and he’s waiting for you to seek him out. So do so. 

David’s next tip is from Psalm 33:21: “In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.”

Step Two: Trust God

My hubby and I have been through a lot of difficult things over the nearly forty-four years of our marriage. Some of them were devastating. After a number of years and crazy things happening, we developed a sort of mantra for our lives: “God is in control. I may not understand it, I may not even like it, but I trust him.”

Do you trust God? Really trust him? To the point that you can echo with Job, “Yea, though he slay me, I will trust in him” (Job 13:15)?

If you’re not sure, then let me encourage you to dig in and explore whether or not God is trustworthy. Even if you do trust him, dig in and be reminded of God’s character. If you seek him, he’ll show you who he is. I guarantee it. 

The next step to tapping into God’s supernatural joy comes in the first half of Psalm 9:1: “I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart”   

Step Three: Praise him

When we praise God, we focus on who he is, what he’s done. Praise ushers us into his presence, and centers our hearts and minds on him. Praise reminds us of God’s intervention in our lives and of the blessings he has given us. Praise breaks the chains Satan tries to put on us by enlisting God’s protection and action. Praise restores our souls and infuses us with joy. 

Finally, consider the second half of Psalm 9:2: “I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.”

Step Four: Testify

If you’re a parent, remember the first time your child took a step? What did you do? Told everyone about this amazing feat! Or the last time you saw a great movie, what did you do? Told your friends and family about it. Or the first time you got a writing contract? You sang it from the rooftops!

When God works in your life, when he blesses you or upholds you, when he brings you relief or an answer to prayer, when he opens your imagination and gives you a story solution you never would have thought of, when he speaks to or through you at a writers’ conference…whatever he’s done through and for you, tell others! Let people know the wonder of following this loving, all-powerful, unbelievably kind God. Don’t keep it to yourself, friends. Sing it out!

Follow these tips from David, and you’ll be able to say with him: “I will be filled with joy because of you…O Most High.” Psalm 9:2

Advent Anchor 4 – Dwell in God’s Love

Love is my favorite Advent theme. My favorite theme for the whole year! Love. Not just any love, but God’s love. There is no comparison to God’s love. No love so amazing, eternal, or far-reaching. His love is what draws us to him. It’s what motivates us to do whatever task he’s given us, even when it’s something as hard at times as writing. 

Advent Anchor 4 is the simplest, and yet the most profound: Dwell in God’s Love.

There are so many verses in the Bible about God’s love. In fact, He tells us about his love 310 times in 280 verses! But here’s the deal: even if you read those verses over and over and over, you’d never fully understand God’s love for you.

In Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:18-19 he says, “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” 

Yet there is nothing more deserving of study and exploration. God’s love is the beginning and end of all that exists. It is what brought us all into existence, and it is what will usher us into eternity with him. So what are some resources to help you better understand God’s love? 

  • Scripture is your number one resource. Meditate on it, read it, study it. God’s word is a love story.
  • Fellowship with other believers is another resource: church, Bible studies, fellowship groups. The more we share our experiences with God’s love the better we all understand it.
  • Books about God, both fiction and nonfiction
  • Podcasts about God
  • Spending time with God, listening to him
  • Singing or studying hymns

As someone who grew up in the church, I’ve long cherished hymns. I’ve often told writers that if they want to see powerful, concise writing, read the classic hymns. Their powerful truths reveal the wonder of God’s love.…

O Love that Will Not Let Me Go

“O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.”

The Love of God

“The love of God is greater far
  Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
  And reaches to the lowest hell.

“The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
  God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
  And pardoned from his sin. 

“O love of God, how rich and pure!
  How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
    The saints’ and angels’ song.”

And Can it Be?

“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood? Died he for me, who caused his pain, for me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

Can it be? You’d better believe it! Because God’s love for us has no end. When we accept that love and dwell in it, every moment of every day, nothing can shake us. No storm, no trial, no disappointment, no upheaval…nothing can dislodge the anchor we have in his love. Not just for the coming year, but for our whole lives. 

As Romans 8:38-39 tells us:

“Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Benedictions

As we close this podcast, we want to offer the following benedictions for each of these themes. May they encourage and bless you today and in the coming year. 

A benediction of hope from Romans 15:13:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

A benediction of peace from Philippians 4:7:

“[May] you …experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

A benediction of joy from 1 Peter 1:8-9:

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and … you believe in him… [May you be] filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

A benediction of love from 1 John 3:1:

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

The writing life is almost never smooth sailing, but as Christian writers, we have rock solid hope. Here are 4 advent anchors to keep you safe and steady in troubled waters. #christianwriter #amwriting Click To Tweet
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What is your favorite thing about the Advent season?

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

Thanks so much to our December sponsor of the month, Priscilla Sharrow! She’s working on her memoir called Bonked! Life, Love, and Laughter with Traumatic Brain Injury, which will release with Redemption Press. Learn more about Priscilla at her website priscillasharrow.com and follow her blog for the TBI/PTSD community.

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