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Guest Paul Hastings brings his podcast listeners tales of people compelled to live for God, no matter the opposition. From facing assassins, to refusing to renounce faith in God to save a career-building opportunity, to everyday moments of standing strong for God, these stories inspire and challenge us to step up in our lives—and in our writing.
About Paul Hastings
Paul Hastings is a podcaster and entrepreneur. He has consulted extensively in the film, marketing, and political arenas. He is the host of Compelled, a podcast telling unique stories about God working through people’s lives. He has also produced several award-winning short films and industrial pieces. His work has been featured by Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, World Magazine, The Gospel Coalition, American Family Association, TheBlaze, CBN News, WND, and more. Paul, his wife, and their three children live near Austin, Texas.
Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast!
Erin: Paul Hastings is the host and producer of Compelled Podcast, which is a podcast with unique stories from the kingdom of God, told by people compelled to live for him. Paul is an entrepreneur and has consulted extensively in the film, marketing, and political arenas. He, his wife, Sarah and their three children live near Austin, Texas, which right now is very cold.
His work has been featured by Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, World Magazine, American Family Association, the Gospel Coalition and the Blaze. Paul, we are so delighted to have you here with us. Welcome!
Paul: Well, thank you. I’m glad to be here from chilly Texas, never thought I’d say those words at the same time.
Karen: Not unless it’s about food.
Erin: It’s very cold. Paul, thanks for being here in the cold, but talk to us about the deep and maybe not the deep freeze. Or maybe! What does the deep mean to you?
Paul: I’ve thought about it a little bit, and it’s an intriguing thought because I think obviously it means something different for each person.
When we’re trying to put together a podcast episode we spend a lot of time assembling our edits. We’ll think about things like, what are the things that are going to connect with our audience? Frequently it means me taking a walk outside. Sometimes I’ll take a long walk, maybe an hour at a time, just to really get my brain away from the storyline and back to what is the actual emphasis that we’re trying to leave with listeners.
So for me to get into the deep, it means a place of peacefulness and quiet. They’re not quite related to podcasting, but from other moments that I’ve had—I guess I would call it communion with God—have been moments when I’ve been outdoors. So like, hiking in the Grand Canyon. I went there when I was I think 14, 15, or 16. I went for a three-day hike through the Grand Canyon. That was just a profound moment. I was walking with my family and we were hiking up and down through the canyon, with backpacks on board. When I would step away from them and look at the grandeur around me, it was profound. In a convoluted way, that’s what I think of the deep. That’s what comes to my mind immediately.
Karen: That’s really great.
Erin: I love that. Talk a little bit about your podcast. Talk about Compelled and what you guys do there so you can enlighten our listeners who might be very interested. I suggest they listened to your podcast because it’s a good one!
Paul: Well, good. I appreciate that. Our show, we are looking for unique stories from the kingdom of God, from people that are everyday ordinary people like us, or maybe the people are famous. But they have unique stories of what God has done in their life.
For an example, we started our podcast, and I just happened to know this lady. She’s probably about 70 years old, and she used to be an abortion clinic owner. She was responsible for 30,000 abortions back in the seventies, profited off of that, and she believed she was a Christian. She faithfully went to church. She tithed 10% of her abortion profits to the church, faithfully. She kept a Bible in her drawer at work, and every morning would praise God, asking God, “Please don’t let any women die in my clinics.”
This was her lifestyle. Right in the middle of that, one day, this guy shows up. He was an arbitrator because she was having a financial dispute with one of her partners. This arbitrator had agreed to arbitrate with them, but he was actually a pastor. So be began witnessing with her and telling her, “Do you know who Jesus Christ is?”
She was like, “Of course I do. I’m a Christian.” You know, go through her little spiel. He began to share the gospel with her, and she had never really heard the gospel her entire life. That was the first time. Again, this is back in the seventies, right, and so anyway, she gave her life to Christ and renounced that old lifestyle.
Today, she’s a staunch pro-life advocate. But this is a lady that like, you know, no one’s ever heard of her. I mean, lots of people had heard of her back in the day, I guess. But she was just this person that I knew personally as a friend of mine. We went and told her story.
We’re looking for stories like that all the time. Incredible stories of what God has done, because God is not someone who’s constrained by explanations or circumstances. He can do anything he feels like, and that’s what we’re looking for.
Erin: Wow. In essence, what I love about your show is that you’re a storyteller, Paul.
You’re not writing novels. You’re not writing non-fiction books, but you’re telling your story via podcasting. That’s one of the things that I think listeners could really benefit from if they listened to your show. It’s just a different take on how you do story. Lots of insights.
But what do you think as far as how writers might be able to benefit from listening to your show?
Paul: There are two things, well, three things actually. For the regular person, who’s just a believer, I encourage them to listen to our show. I think it’s really encouraging to hear what God is doing. But specifically for writers, there’s two ways that I can think of immediately that writers might find really interesting for our show.
The first one is the actual stories themselves. People that we interview, they do have books they’ve written about themselves or other people have written books about them. But a lot of the folks that we have, nothing has been written about them. They’re just literally normal folks with these crazy stories, and they’re waiting to be told.
One comes to mind right now. It’s a story that we have not released yet, but we’ll be releasing it probably three or four weeks from now. It’s this young man, he’s about 30 years old, about my age, and he has lived his entire life with cystic fibrosis.
Cystic fibrosis is a disease that slowly destroys your lungs. When he was born back in the 1980s, they told his family that he would be dead by somewhere in his early childhood. He didn’t die in his childhood. He made it to his teen years. In his teen years, the doctor said he will die as a teenager. He still survived. Medicine was kind of slowly keeping up pace with him.
But now that he’s hit the early twenties, they’re like, yeah, you’re going to die. No one’s ever made it past, you know, whatever it is, age 35 or something.
He continued living his life faithfully for the Lord, believing that his life was in God’s hands. He knew that his days were numbered, but he wanted to live as normal a Christian life as possible.
He got married. He and his wife had a child, but then last year, the cystic fibrosis had finally reached the limit. He only had 17% lung capacity. He was on oxygen tanks 24/7, still having to go to the ER constantly. They thought he was going to die multiple times. He’s basically drowning in his own lungs.
Then he gets on the lung transplant list. It’s a tough choice to make when you’re on that list. Because you can live if you get the transplant, but it’s a very dangerous procedure, especially as a cystic fibrosis patient. Even if the lungs successfully transplant into your body, they’re only going to last you two or three years as a cystic fibrosis patient. And then that’s it.
You can try to get another set of lungs, and that’ll last you maybe two or three years, but at this point, I think the most lungs someone’s ever gone through, that’s probably three sets of lungs and then you die. That’s it.
They had a young daughter, she was two years old. So, here he is, he’s in a hospital room dying, basically drowning. In his few moments of consciousness, he and his wife are trying to decide, “Am I going to try to get another set of lungs and live? Or should I allow God to take me home?” And again, this is a decision you would never want to make, right?
He’s like 30 years old. He’s got this young wife, a two year old daughter at home. So he says, “Okay, I want to live to at least see my daughter a little bit more. That’s worth it to me to live in this form of torture, basically.”
They put them on the lung transplant list, and he manages to hobble along for a few more months, and they’re waiting for a donor to die.
What happens, though, is he gets the phone call. The call comes in. When a donor dies, you have to get that set of lungs put in you right away. So when that call comes, it’s just the people through the donor registry. They’re calling, and whoever picks up, if you’re first on the list, you pick up and if you say you want the lungs, you get them. If you don’t pick up, they just call the very next person on the list. You’ve got your phone on 24/7 all the time. And you’re prepared to say yes.
So they get the call. The call says, “Do you want the set of lungs? You’ve got to choose right now. Yes or no?” And they say, “Yes, we want the lungs.”
They hop in their car. They drive to San Antonio, Texas. They’ve got two hours before they get these lungs put in them.
His wife, the whole time, she believes firmly that Josh is going to die. Like she has a check in her spirit that he’s not going to wake up. And she knows this is their only option. If they don’t do this Josh will die. If they do this, he might die or he might live. But this is it.
So she’s saying goodbye to him at the hospital. They get to the hospital, they put him on a gurney, they shave his chest. They start injecting him with drugs.
His wife is just repeatedly saying, “I love you. I love you. I just want you to know that I love you.” Then the doctors walk in moments before they’re about to put him under. They said, “Hey man, we just did a third test on the lungs and they ruptured.”
If the doctors had only done the first two tests of the lungs, then they would have put him under. They would have put the lungs in him. They would have brought him back to life, and he’d be dead that very moment.
So it’s this massive disappointment, right?
Can you imagine his wife, it’s just like this roller coaster ride. So they go back home and again, they’re on the list, and you can just imagine all the emotional terminal.
They’re waiting for the next set of lungs. While they are waiting—and this just happened less than a year ago—while they are waiting, they get a surprise phone call out of nowhere from their doctor. He says, “Hey, Josh, this is kind of crazy, but there’s this new drug that just came out of medical experimentation”—I forget the exact term for it—”but the FDA has approved it to go to a certain early access list. And if you can get on the early access list, it might help you. It might not, we don’t know. But to get on the early access list, you have to already be on the lung transplant list. You have to be on that list in order to get the early access drug. Do you want it?”
Josh is like, “Sure I’ll take it.”
The next week, he gets a phone call saying, “We have another set of lungs. Do you want this set of lungs?” This is before he’s had the chance to start taking the experimental drug.
Paul: So this time he says, “No, I don’t want the lungs. I’m gonna try this drug out and just see what happens.”
He gets on the drug and it has transformed his life. It was so successful for him and for all the other early access patients with cystic fibrosis that actually the early access program was just canceled, and they’ve extended this drug to all cystic fibrosis patients across America. It’s like 95% effective for cystic fibrosis patients.
He, for the first time, can actually think about living to become an old person. And none of this, none of this would ever have happened if first off, if he had not been on the lung transplant list. But also this would not have happened if the lungs they had been trying to get—
Karen: Had not ruptured.
Paul: Yeah, if they’d not ruptured. Even if they had worked, he would have woken up. He would have had lungs for three years and then he would still be on a ticking time bomb to die anyway, because you can’t live long after that.
Erin: My goodness.
Paul: That was a lot. You may have to edit some out.
Paul: That’s a story I just recorded. In fact, I’m holding their family Christmas newsletter. These are friends of mine. No one’s ever recorded their story. No one’s ever put this on film. No one’s ever done a podcast. I’m the first person to do a podcast interview with them. This is a way that your listeners might be able to find really cool stories of unfound people. We’re already doing the due diligence to find these awesome stories.
Karen: The other thing is, what incredible inspiration for us. The obstacles that we face, that writers face on their writing journey, they can be so discouraging and seem so devastating. But when you look at those obstacles that you’re hitting and you compare it to some of the stories that are on your podcast—the one that I listened to was a woman who had to face down an assassin who’d been sent to kill her—it was just like, I’m listening to this and I’m thinking I will never complain about the deep places or the obstacles that I face in my life today, because I’ve never had somebody look at me and say, “I’m here to kill you.”
Now, my husband may have periodically thought that, but he’s never actually said that to me. So, how amazing the inspiration there. These people who are in these situations, ordinary people in extraordinary situations, who hold fast to their faith. People who won’t renounce their faith, even though it could cost them a career building opportunity.
People who say, “I’m sorry, you are not more important to me than my faith in Christ, and I will not renounce Jesus in order to get that reality TV show. What matters to me is being obedient to him and standing for my faith.”
We need to be inspired in that, to do the same thing. Because how many authors have wanted a contract so much, and then they’re asked to do something that goes against their principles, goes against even their faith? Suddenly they’re facing this decision that in our mind of the temporal world, we think it’s going to end our careers as writers. But in reality, God is saying, “Who do you love more? Do you love me? Or do you love being published?” It’s an amazing inspiration.
Erin: Yeah, very much. So obviously then, you interview people for your show. What do you think is one thing you should do, and one thing you should not do when you’re interviewing people about their stories? Our writers, our listeners, may be doing interviews. What have you learned from your experience of interviewing people?
Paul: That’s a good question. Okay, I’m gonna give away one of my trade secrets. One of my favorite questions to ask people is, let’s say I was interviewing you, Karen, I say, “Karen, what would the Karen today say to the Karen 20 years ago?”
I’ve found this to be really effective. I’ve interviewed people who’ve had tons of media interviews, and frequently they will just stop and just think for a second. And then they’ll say, “Wow, I’ve never been asked that before.”
It causes them to really think because frequently, when you’re asking the same set of questions that they’ve been asked before, it’s rote. Maybe even subconscious. They’re just saying the same thoughts that their brain has developed, the same answer. But when you ask them a totally brand new question, like asking, what would the you today say to the you 20 years ago, that really causes a lot of introspection.
You’re trying to break new turf in their brain. Sometimes, there are these gems that are hidden. It’s like, “Whoa, that surprises me.” It surprises them when they say something that comes out.
Karen: Okay. So Paul, you’re 30, right? what would the Paul today say to the Paul 10 years ago?
Paul: Oh my goodness. I’ve never been asked that question. Can you believe that? You know, that is a tough question. I think right now in my season, I would probably say, “Hey, Paul, it’s good to hustle. But I think you need to take some more time to be more contemplative about some things. There’ll be rushing from one project to the next, but take some intentional time to really think strategically and just be at peace. Find your spot in the deep, you know?”
Karen: Yes, yes. Can you imagine if we really had our future selves coming and saying those things to us, the impact that it would have? Don’t you wonder how it would change how we view our lives today? I think about where I was 20 years ago and how different it is from where I am today.
My husband and I have been through some very difficult things to the point where I almost tried to run him down with my vehicle, with my car. If he hadn’t had really good physical reactions, I’d be talking to you through plexiglass.
It’s those kinds of things and you look back on them now and you think, but I wouldn’t change a moment because I am who I am in my faith. I am who I am in my life and my career because of what I learned through those very dark, very difficult days. And I learned who God was.
My whole childhood was golden. My dad was a pastor. He pastored the same little church for 45 years, and my dad was unusual in that he made us, his three kids, me and my brothers, his first ministry. My parents never pushed us off for work with the church. So, I had this golden childhood and then this marriage that was just a nightmare.
But now I see how God used that to create in me a sense of compassion. To stop me from looking at things in black and white and judging who people are based on what comes out of their mouths and understanding that some people are so broken, it’s a lifelong process to find peace and contentment with him.
So I absolutely love that concept, Paul. That is awesome.
Erin: Yeah. I think, too, that’s a good question for writers to ask themselves because there are writers out there who are still looking for their message, who are still looking for who they are as a writer. That’s a really good question to ask yourself to delve into what’s important to you now, and how have you grown. That’s your journey, and that might be what you’re writing about.
What would you say, Paul, might be a mistake that someone would make when they were interviewing people? You probably never made any, but…
Paul: Well, okay. I’ve got to be a little more practical here. This is one of my practical answers I’ll tell you. One time I had a guest and he had an incredible story. He was a Lieutenant Colonel at the Pentagon during 9/11. He was at his job doing his regular routine when the plane crashed into the Pentagon just yards away from him.
He was blasted across a room, instantly set on fire. His flesh was melting off, and he sits there in the dark. It’s pitch black. It’s like the smoke is so intense. There’s fire everywhere, but it’s also pitch black. So he sits there. His body is just destroyed, and he’s on fire, and he screams out, he says, “Lord Jesus, I’m coming to see you.”
He lays down and does the one thing in the military they teach you never to do. He lays down and gives up and he just waits. And waits. And waits. And he doesn’t die.
It’s a crazy story. You’ll have to listen to it. It’s the Brian Birdwell episode. But, what’s wild is I’m interviewing him, and as he’s telling me these incredibly emotional moments, my batteries on my recorder die. Only happened to me once in my entire podcasting career, but it’s during this moment.
He is weeping. Tears are coming out of his eyes, and I suddenly realize, “Oh my goodness, I have to interrupt him and stop the tears so I can put new batteries in my recorder.” It was terrible. So I have to interrupt him, and then I try to get him back to the same emotional place, and of course it doesn’t happen. But the interview is still good.
So let me encourage you. As an author, make sure you have prepared. Whether it’s batteries because you recording or whether you need extra paper, or whether it’s like your dog or your phone’s gonna go off, or whatever, just make sure you have thoroughly prepared ahead of time, and you’re not going to miss out on some really important moment or spoil the moment.
Karen: Oh man. “Yeah, that was really moving. Could you just, you know, do that again please?”
Well, Paul, this has been just delightful. Thank you so much for coming to be with us today. We’re about at the point where we’ve got to wrap up. Do you have any final thoughts that you want to share with our listeners? With these writers who are facing ups and downs, dark places, hilltops of joy and rejoicing. What are your final thoughts of wisdom for them?
Paul: I think I would just say that whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. It could be really tempting to myself when I’m making these episodes and people say, “Oh, this is incredible.”
It can be really tempting for myself to feel inflated or an ego, or like, “Wow, I am amazing.” And really, I just need to remember, “Hey, I’m actually just telling stories of the crazy things that God has done. I didn’t give Brian Birdwell the strength to survive 9/11. I didn’t give this lady that strength to like talk to the assassin, and I didn’t do any of these things. God is the one who did those things and I am simply a tool in God’s hands.”
So I’d encourage any of your authors to say the same thing there as well.
Karen: Oh, that’s wonderful. Thank you so much. Friends, I hope that you’ve benefited from this as much as we have. It’s just been a delightful time, and I pray that in your moments of darkness and in your moments of joy, you will remember you’re a tool in God’s hands to accomplish his purposes. And there’s no better thing than that.
Karen: Amen.Guest Paul Hastings, the founder of the podcast @compelledshow shares why we, as Christians and writers, MUST live compelled by God––no matter the opposition. #amwriting @karenball1 Click To Tweet
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Last week we talked about commandment number one: Love thy reader as you love thy book. Commandment number two is similar: Thou shalt write for the reader, not for myself.
You probably heard this before, but one way to ensure that you do that is to kill your darlings. That means you only include in your book those things that will impact the reader. So if you have a sentence or a phrase or a paragraph that you absolutely love, but it’s not going to serve the reader. It goes. As editors, we’re telling you it needs to go. Just do it guys. Kill your darlings.
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