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079 – Integrity: Your Life Preserver in Turbulent Waters

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Integrity: Your Life Preserver in Turbulent Waters Write from the Deep Podcast

The world is in turmoil. So many people saying and doing so many things that are harmful, mean-spirited, or just plain deceitful. Even believers have given in and taken on the world’s moral drift. So what will help us rise above all that? One word: Integrity.

If you’re paying any attention to current events right now, you’ve seen that issues of moral integrity are in the spotlight. If we think we’ll never have to face such issues, we’re kidding ourselves. We are all human, and all prone to temptation. And those who think they aren’t? They’re usually the ones who fall farthest and hardest.

Integrity (New Oxford American Dictionary)

  1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
  2. The state of being whole and undivided.
  3. The condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction.

What is the difference between reputation and integrity?

  • People can besmirch your reputation; only you can ruin your integrity.
  • Reputation is your public persona; integrity is personal.
  • Reputation is what people see; integrity is who you are when no one’s looking.
  • If your reputation is destroyed, it can be rebuilt. If your integrity is destroyed, the only way back is through God’s grace and restoration.

What does Scripture have to say about integrity?

“People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed.” Proverbs 10:9 (NLT)

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones.” Proverbs 2:6-8 (NASB)

“Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” Proverbs 4:25-27 (NLT)

We need to be so grounded in God’s truth that the moment we start to take a misstep the alarm is sounded by the Holy Spirit.

Temptations we Face as Writers

Temptation to treat people better based on what they can do for you.

Editors, agents, speakers—they are business people who know what they’re doing, but they’re just ordinary folks. Don’t see them as more than they are. Have respect for them, sure, but when it comes to putting someone up on a pedestal, there’s only one worthy.

Think about Isaiah 2:22:

“Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?”

Again, we’re not saying don’t respect them. But only God is worthy of our adoration and esteem. The rest of us are just fellow sojourners. So let’s treat each other as such:

  • With kindness and encouragement
  • With the truth that we’re all here to glorify God, not ourselves or even each other
  • Without pre-judgement of what someone can or can’t do for us, because everyone has value. For example, the newest writer can say something that gives new insight to a veteran. It’s just as important to not treat people worse because of a perception that they can’t do anything for us.

Temptation to fudge the facts in our books.

Embrace Ephesians 4:21-25 (NLT): “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.”

When Karen wrote The Breaking Point, there was a temptation to make herself look better. To clean up her negative actions and emotions. But honesty gave that book power. Erin had the same situation. In Surviving Henry, she had to write things about herself that weren’t pretty. But they were honest. And that’s what people connect to.

Embrace integrity by:

  • Submitting your story to God and asking Him what to include and not include
  • Speaking the truth about yourself and your weaknesses and about God’s work of refining you through it all
  • Speaking the truth about others, and about God’s work of refining in YOU (because, again it’s you, not that other guy with the problem)

Temptation to fudge the facts of our success.

This comes in the form of things like taking on the title of “bestseller” when you’re not. Or embellishing your sales figures… “Oh, my books have sold in the neighborhood of 40K.” But that’s not really your neighborhood. That’s not even your neighboring city. In fact, that neighborhood is halfway across the country.

Embrace Integrity by:

  • Being honest about your numbers. It’s God who has given you everything, from the message to the numbers, and it’s His choice what happens with your books.
  • Being grateful for whatever God does with your writing

Temptation to make strategic “friendships.”

Friendship is not based on what people can do for you, but on loving and serving others. For example, don’t be like the person who goes to a writers’ conference or group with the intent of targeting the important people. You’re doing yourself and others a disservice when you target people for strategic friendships. And you’re missing out on the friendships God has for you.

Embrace integrity in friendships by:

  • Seeking to serve, rather than be served
  • Being open to God’s leading
  • Seeing through God’s eyes

Temptation to play as the world does in our encounters or work with others.

When we’re surrounded by people who think the way we do, who understand what it is to be a writer, that’s a heady thing. Maybe we’re working with a collaborator, mentor, or critique partner, or maybe we’re at a writers group or conference. It’s so easy to connect with someone who “gets us.” Or who admires us. Or to connect with someone whom we admire. And it’s easy to have that connection slip, just a tad, into waters where we have no business wading, as the world saw from the PW article about sexual misconduct, and even sexual abuse, at Christian writers conferences.

You MUST treat everyone you meet with integrity. Ladies, treat every man you meet as your brother or your son or your father. Men, treat the women you encounter as sisters or daughters or mothers. Put a safeguard on your emotions and tongue.

You have the right to tell others if anything makes you uncomfortable. Anything. Ask the Spirit to give you discernment, to let you know when you need to draw a line.

Embrace integrity in encounters by:

  • Following Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
  • Following 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 (selected verses, NLT): “3 We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. 4 In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. …6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. …10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”
  • Creating a covenant with your spouse, or if not married, a trusted friend, parent, or pastor to guide your behavior in encounters. Agree on boundaries for physical contact with others, conditions on time alone, topics that are okay to address, caution words, behaviors, or feelings. Make sure you have a response pre-planned for when/if any triggers appear. When something happens that takes us by surprise, when we get a sense that something’s off, that’s not the time to try and figure out what to do. Have a “script,” so to speak, for how you’ll handle things.
  • Find someone at the conference who will keep you accountable, and share your boundaries with that person. Tell them to call you on ANYTHING that seems to cross those boundaries.
  • Ask God to give you a clear warning when you start to cross any boundaries.
  • If something feels off or wrong, pray about it. If it’s clear the behavior/speech is inappropriate, take it to someone on faculty or leadership of the conference or a leader in the group.
We want to hear from you!

What strategies have you found for maintaining integrity?

Tweetable

With the world in turmoil, hold fast to an anchor that won’t fail: Integrity.

Special thanks

We’re grateful to our Patreon sponsor of the month, Wendy L. MacDonald! Find out more about Wendy at wendylmacdonald.com.

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

Please share!
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078 – Prayer: Your Most Powerful Weapon with Guest Brandilyn Collins

Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re now able to offer transcripts of our interviews! If you want to become a patron, too, click here to check it out!

Brandilyn Collins learned long ago about the real power of prayer. She’s seen it change—and save—lives. And she’s experienced this power for herself, over and over. Come hear what she has to share. You’ll never look at prayer the same way again.

Erin: Welcome listeners, welcome to The Deep. And you can probably hear I’m smiling as I’m welcoming you because I’m so delighted. Today we have a guest with us, and her name is the wonderful, fabulous Brandilyn Collins, and I’m going to let Karen introduce her.

Karen: Brandilyn likes to say I had no life before I met her, which in some ways is true. I met her so long ago that we can’t even remember exactly when it was. The best we could figure out just now is that it’s been almost twenty years that we have been friends, so of course I met her when I was around fifteen. Anyway, Brandilyn has over thirty books published in the Christian market, she’s known for her Seatbelt Suspense novels, her energetic and insightful speaking about God and His power to change lives, and her deep level of teaching of the craft of fiction. Many of her unique teaching techniques are based on the concepts presented in her book Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors. And that’s a great book guys, if you are a novelist and you haven’t picked it up go and buy it now.

Erin: I have a copy, you guys, it is good.

Karen: Yep. Her first book, called A Question of Innocence was actually a true crime, published by Avon in 1995, so she’s been publishing since she was fifteen. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio shows including, do you remember these, The Phil Donahue Show, the Leeza talk show. Her awards for her novels include the ACFW Carol Award three times y’all. The inspirational reader’s choice, the INSPY, Christian Retailer’s Best award twice and the Romantic Times reviewer’s choice. So, she is highly awarded, highly talented, but I gotta tell you, what those close to her think of when they think of Brandilyn is her prayer ministry. I have learned so much from Brandilyn about the power of prayer and about how we need to surrender ourselves to prayer. So Brandilyn welcome, we are so delighted to have you here.

Brandilyn: Oh my gosh thank you so much. After that introduction I’m trying to figure out how I can live up to this.

Erin: The beauty is you already have. So Brandilyn, you know, because we warned you, we always, always ask our guests, what does The Deep mean to you?

Brandilyn: The Deep to me means living and abiding so close to Jesus that my life is — He’s just with me every minute of the day. And I’m not saying I always manage that. But I’m learning it more and more, what it means to really, really live deeply with Jesus running your day and going with you. And I remind myself, you know, if I’m out I’m living deeply with Jesus, I’m His ambassador out there, whether I’m at a store or driving, whatever it is I’m doing.

Erin: I love that. Somebody said recently that we are either obscuring the vision of people that they have of Jesus in us or we’re clearing the way for the vision that people can see Jesus in us, if that makes sense. And that’s exactly what you’re saying, that you are His representative and you want people to see Jesus in you. I love that.

Karen: So Brandilyn, like I said, many of us have experienced prayer with you in the ministry you have in praying for people. So, when did you first experience the power of prayer in your own life?

Brandilyn: Well if you’re referring to the start of my prayer ministry?

Karen: Yes.

Brandilyn: Okay well that’s actually kind of an interesting story. You know I had Lyme when I was — in 2002 I had Lyme very badly, and I went — Lyme disease—and I went from running five miles a day to being crippled and not being able to read and not being able to write and not being able to speak very well and all of that. And in 2003, I had a miraculous healing.

So that happened to me, a miraculous healing. I mean literally, go into a prayer meeting and an hour later I’m running up and down stairs, you know the cane was gone, and it was literally like that. So after about three months, three months later, that was in May, in September of that year I went to the ACFW conference, which I’ve have emceed every year since it started, and I’m also on that board. And that year after our speaker we asked people to come down front and there would be a few of us down front to pray with them and just dedicate their writing to God. So, I was one of those people down front, ready to pray for whoever came to me and just pray about their writing, for God. So, this young gal comes down, comes to me and here’s what happened. Before I knew what had happened my hand shot out. Now look, I don’t know this person, okay, I don’t know her, I’ve never seen her in my life. My hand shot out, landed on her chest, I raised my other hand in the air and said, “Oh Lord, heal her heart.” Just like that, and then we looked at each other both of us like deer in the headlights, like, “What just happened?” “I don’t know. What just happened?”

I honestly don’t know who was more shocked. And the next day at that conference I passed her in the hall, and she stopped, and she said, “I could not believe when you prayed that for me.” She said, “I realized — I realize now I had come to this conference about writing and wanting to talk to God about my writing and wanting to start writing and sell my writing and all of that. But I realized God bought me here to heal me.”

Erin: Wow.

Brandilyn: And then she started — the whole story just started spilling out about her sexual abuse as a child. And so, she’s carried that in her heart all these years and has not been healed from it. And see here’s the amazing thing is that she came to me to pray for her writing, but God had a better idea. And this is what happens. God has a better idea about prayer than we do. And so, I realized — when she told me that I realized God was very merciful for me when He had me do that because honestly if He had given me a half a second to think about it, I never would have done it because it was too weird, right? But He just put my hand out there, He just made me do it. And then He brought it back around and gave me the encouragement of, “See, see this is what happened, this is how you listened to my voice.”

At that same conference, I was in the prayer room praying with somebody, she wanted — I don’t even know what she was praying for. There was this deep thing that was happening in my gut again, and it was like this woman’s stomach, her stomach, her stomach, and finally I said, “I know this is going to sound weird, and I don’t know what I’m doing, but God wants me to pray for your stomach.” And she looks at me and she screws up her face and she goes, “Stomach? Like, there’s nothing wrong with my stomach.” Now I would have backed off if God hadn’t had that other thing happen to me just the day before.

Erin: Right, right.

Brandilyn: But now I know, okay, something’s happening here. It makes me look really stupid, okay, but I have to do this. So, I said, “I don’t know what’s happening, just let me pray for your stomach. If you don’t mind I feel like I need to put my hand on your stomach and pray for you.” So it was a really awkward little prayer like, “Lord I have no idea what this is but bless her stomach, help her stomach, keep her stomach well.” Because God knows, right?

Karen: Right.

Brandilyn: So, it turned out that that woman in the coming years had terrible stomach problems. Went through two or three surgeries. Finally came out healed but could have died during that time. And what that did — interestingly, God didn’t keep the stomach issues from coming to her, but what that did for her is when they came it was a reminder to her that God knew this was coming before any of us knew, and God had us pray and she was going to get through it. She was going to be okay because that was God’s prayer that she had a strong stomach, not ours. It wasn’t our idea, it was His idea.

Karen: Amazing.

Brandilyn: Isn’t it amazing? I mean just amazing.

Karen: So, you’ve always been so good about sharing what God has done in your life, about sharing the healing and all of that. And I remember when you had to talk about the fact that, even though you had been healed, all of a sudden, the Lyme returned, tell us about that.

Brandilyn: Yes, oh my goodness. Well first of all, I was healed, and the world saw it. Okay, literally, it was filmed on, what is that show, that show that came out here and filmed, that big Christian show, The 700 Club. Okay, and they loved that segment, they played it over and over and over again and had it on their website and I had it on my website.

So, people knew all over the world that I was miraculously healed. Okay, I was totally well, six years, totally well. Didn’t think a thing about Lyme disease, then all of a sudden it came back, six years later. And I was just — I couldn’t believe it, and I went to God and said, “Have you thought this through? I mean, people know you healed me and now Your reputation is going to be ruined because they’re going to see I have this disease again. They’re going to think I was never healed in the first place. Seriously?” It was like all of a sudden God’s entire reputation was on my shoulders.

Then I happened to be teaching at Mount Hermon, and I was trying to keep it really quiet that I was sick again, but the leader of Mount Hermon outed me in front of the entire staff. And then I had to say, “Yeah, I’m sick again.” Honestly, I didn’t know what it was all about. All I knew is that I had to pray through it again, and that time I had no miraculous healing it was just meds, meds, meds.

Four years up and down, up and down until finally, four years later I got over it. But I do know now one thing that came through and maybe this is what that was all about. That second time around with Lyme I wrote my book, Over The Edge, about Lyme disease, I would not have written it had I not gone through it again. And that book sheds a light on the disease and the problems with diagnosis and all of that, and many people have picked up that book just to be entertained by a novel and have come to understand, “Oh my goodness, this is what I have that’s been undiagnosed for years.” Or, “This is what my friend has.”

I’ve had letters from people all over, “Thank you for helping to save my life. You know I’ve spent forty thousand dollars on doctors and I pick up your book and here’s the answer.” And so, maybe, maybe that sickness had nothing to do with me — was only for others.

On the other hand, I mean God is very efficient. He used it in my life, too, to just remind me that okay I had to go through this again, all right I had to pray my way through this again. And it certainly deepened my walk with Him. It certainly did. But it didn’t stop my own prayer ministry, my own prayer ministry that I told you about. It started in 2003, and it has gone on ever since, and ever since I have been able to pray with people, and God just kind of gives me this nudge, you know, “Put your hand there.” I mean if they’re willing, or pray for this, or pray for that.

I meet with people often at ACFW, at the prayer meeting. They come in for an appointment with me to pray. They usually have an idea, “I have this, this, and that.” But again, I always ask, “Lord, how do you want me to pray?” And He has other ideas and He leads me to areas and they say, “Oh yeah, I didn’t tell you about that.”

You know it’s just amazing, it’s just amazing what God does. And I think for all of us, whether you have a similar kind of prayer ministry or not, I think it’s a really good idea, before we start to pray with someone about an issue, is just to stop and say, “Lord, how do you want me to pray? Show me how to pray right now for this.” And then just be silent and let Him lead. So often we just blurt out the words.

Erin: Yeah, we blurt them out because we think we know the answer, we think we know how it should be. Wow, what a great word: stop, first.

Karen: I’ll tell you something, going through the Lyme disease with you and seeing you at Mount Hermon in a wheelchair which just, you know, knocked me solid because you’ve always been so healthy and running those five miles. I’ve always envied you that you have the fortitude to do that, and then to see you like that it was such a shock. And then the healing and that was amazing and I remember, when the Lyme came back. And I struggled with it, you know, from being a friend who cared about you and who’d been so amazed by God’s healing. And God spoke to me and taught me through that that we need to recognize that we don’t know — exactly what you were talking about where you said maybe this is why that happened—we don’t know for sure why that happened but God does.

And when we’re dealing with God in prayer, it’s a process, and He doesn’t always—the answer isn’t always one and done. Often times there is so much more involved in what He is doing. And the way that He answered you with that healing that started you in your prayer ministry, and then going back into Lyme symptoms deepened your walk and your relationship with Him. I think it even deepened your prayer ministry. I have been on the receiving end where you have prayed for me and what happens when you place your hand on me. And when you pray and ask for God’s intervention in things, it’s a powerful thing. And I think that comes because of the journey that you’ve walked with Him.

Brandilyn: Yes, yes, I’m sure, I’m sure. As I say, God is very efficient. He can use one thing for the good of many in many different ways.

Karen: Yes, indeed.

Erin: But what I heard, Brandilyn, is that you struggled that second time for four years with this disease. Surely there were times that you had some discouragement. What did you do to keep writing and to keep coping with that everyday challenge of these physical issues?

Brandilyn: Boy, I don’t want to sound like a cliché but honestly, I just kept in prayer. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

Lyme disease is so insidious because it comes and goes, and then you’re better, and you think you’re okay, and then bam, it hits you. I could go from being good to being down in an hour. And stuttering because I couldn’t talk well, and my mind won’t process and meanwhile I’ve got deadlines and I’m teaching at writers conferences and stuff. I just really had to be constantly in prayer that “Lord, you’re going to get me through this in your timing.”

The first time around when He miraculously healed me, He really taught me through that time because that time I started praying the Psalms when I could still read. I started praying the Psalms aloud, and He taught me how to praise Him. Even when I did not feel like it. And sometimes tears were running down my face because I was in so much pain, but He taught me to praise, because regardless of how I feel or whether I want to praise right now, He is worthy, and it is my will to praise whether it’s my feeling to praise at the moment. That was a huge teaching the first time around, and I’ve never lost that. And so, I kept that up the second bout.

Karen: That makes perfect sense.

Erin: That makes sense. So, what do you think is one thing our listeners could do today that would help them to go deeper into their life of prayer, in their writing journeys and in their lives.

Brandilyn: It’s a scary thing to do this because God tends to answer. But what I’m learning to do is to say, “Lord, whatever is between me and You, keeping me as close to You as I can be, deal with it. Take it away. Show me what it is. Help me either to fix it, with Your help of course. Or if I can’t fix it, if I can’t work my way through this, then take it out of my life. Remove what is in my way.”

Honestly God is such a God of gifts, He loves to give us gifts. He loves to give us many, many wonderful things. But so many times I think He’s kept from doing it because they’re not good for our spiritual life because we can’t handle them. And so, if God has given us something that we can’t handle, we either need to learn to handle that in a Godly manner, I’m talking about good things now, not bad things. Or maybe God needs to take that. And maybe there’s a deeper lesson learned in learning to deal with things that you thought you need, but you don’t need, and seeing what God has in place of those things that we set our eyes on. That is scary, because it does happen, and God gets to choose. It’s kind of like writing Him a blank check, you know, and signing your name.

Karen: I’ve talked with friends before about the fact that sometimes we get our hands so tight on what we think are God’s gifts for us or God’s purposes for us and we hold onto them so tight and do everything we can to make sure they don’t get away. But what we’re doing in that process is we’re keeping our hands fisted around what we think is God’s gifts for us, rather than keeping our hands open so that if He wants to remove that thing that we think is so wonderful, He can do that, but then to give us something even better.

Brandilyn: To give us something more.

Karen: Something more powerful. To give us more of Himself. And so we have to hold things loosely. We have to be willing to just loosen our grip and put our hands out to Him and say, “You give me what You want, and show me what You want me to be doing.”

Brandilyn: That’s right. It’s like the monkey that sticks his hand in the jar for a peanut but then he’s got a fist and he can’t pull it back out, but he won’t let go of the peanut.

Karen: So he walks around for the rest of his life with a bottle on his hand.

Erin: You know, you guys, I think that’s so much all about trust, right? It’s like if we could only trust. And that comes from seeing who God really is. If we could really see who God really is, how could we not trust Him? If we could even fathom one smidge of how wonderful and good He is, truly fathom that, then we wouldn’t be struggling with what we want to grip, you know?

Karen: So Brandilyn, if there’s one last bit of encouragement or wisdom, a Scripture that you want to share with our listeners, have at it.

Brandilyn: Let’s see…oh, of all the wonderful things I could say. You know, all you writers out there, God loves your writing and what you’re trying to do for Him. He loves you more. Your writing will expand and expound better, the closer you are to Him. And we writers can just spend—I know and listen, this is from experience – I spent so many years worrying about numbers and sales and oh my goodness I’m not selling enough and this and that. And that’s so easy for us to get hooked up in that we take our eyes off what God wants us to be focusing on.

We so often just need to refocus and say, “Lord thank You for whatever sales You gave me this month.” And not want for more. “Lord what can You show me in my life that will make me closer to You and make me a better writer for You.” Look at it that way. In the last couple of years, I’ve had major changes in my life where I started to be looking at God in that way, and I have just grown so much in the last couple of years. Man, I would not give away what I’ve learned in that last couple of years for all the sales in the world, honestly. I’m leading such a richer life, such a richer life.

Karen: That’s amazing. It reminds me of Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” Not in sales, not in our wisdom, but in believing, “so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.”

Erin: Amen.

Brandilyn: Amen.

We want to hear from you!

How has prayer affected your life?
What do you think about the idea of praying the prayer Brandilyn did: “Lord, whatever is between me and You, keeping me as close to You as I can be, deal with it. Take it away”?

Tweetable

Best-selling author Brandilyn Collins shares powerful truths about why prayer is our most needed weapon.

Special thanks

We’re grateful to our Patreon sponsor of the month, Wendy L. MacDonald! Find out more about Wendy at wendylmacdonald.com.

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

Please share!
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077 – God Never Shows Up

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young God Never Shows Up Write from the Deep

Today we want to talk about how we use words. In particular, a phrase that needs to die. Because it has implications that lead us away from God’s truth. We’re writers, so let’s make very sure our words are filled with truth.

Here’s something I’ve heard many times that can skew our perspective on God. Someone says…

“We were singing and praying for this person’s healing and then God showed up…”

Singing? Great. Praying? Great. God showed up? Not great at all.

Now, we get that what they mean is that they saw or felt the Spirit move, and that’s wonderful. But when we use a phrase like “God showed up” to express that event, we’re implying that God wasn’t seeing, hearing, or acting until they sang and prayed. But He was there all the time. No matter what we do, He’s there. Whether we feel Him move or not, He’s there. Seeing, hearing, and acting as He’s promised to do.

The simple fact is that God doesn’t “show up.” He’s already there. He’s omnipresent.

“’Am I only a God nearby,’” declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.”  Jeremiah 23:23-24 (NIV)

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there;  if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:7-10 (NIV)

Clearly, God is working. He doesn’t step in or show up, He’s already there, walking alongside you. More often than not, He’s weaving His power and majesty into the everyday things we do to survive in the midst of the deep.

Consider the example of Paul and the shipwreck from Acts 27. Paul’s been arrested and he had to appeal to Caesar in order to keep from being handed over to the Jews who would take him back to Jerusalem to try him. The way to Rome from Caesarea (in Israel) is a long journey west from port to port across the Mediterranean Sea before they can go north to Italy and Rome. Landing, putting out to sea, landing, putting out to sea. And they’re hindered all the way by unfavorable winds.

Eventually it becomes too late in the season to sail safely, but they’re caught in a harbor unsuitable to winter in so they press on, only to get caught in a terrible storm. They’re driven and tossed, they have to pass ropes under the ship to hold it together, they don’t see the sun or stars for many days, they throw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. They throw the tackle overboard. They take such a violent beating that no one even eats for 14 days, and they lose all hope of surviving.

But then Paul tells them to take courage because an angel of God told him everyone would be safe, but that they had to run aground somewhere. And that’s exactly what happens. They finally see land, they try to run the ship aground on the beach, but instead it gets stuck on a sandbar. “The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.”

The soldiers want to kill all the prisoners so they don’t somehow escape, but the Roman centurion doesn’t let them because he wants to spare Paul’s life. The centurion orders those who can swim to jump off first, and here’s what Acts 27:44 says:

“The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.”

This is not flashy. It doesn’t appear miraculous. No one was levitated or instantly transported. If you wanted to, you could believe you just got lucky. You could believe that your own hand saved you.

But God tells Paul about it beforehand so they would all know it’s God.

Just another thought about that. Karen is a strong swimmer. She grew up in Oregon and spent a lot of time at the coast. She can tell you this: Good swimmers drown all the time in powerful waves. Rip tides, under current, etc. Regardless of how strong these men were, for everyone to survive, it had to be God fulfilling His promise.

Likewise, God is there, intimately involved in your life, keeping you afloat in the midst of the deep.

Whether He’s doing anything that looks flashy or not.

Whether you FEEL Him or not.

Maybe you’re writing your book everyday and it isn’t coming easily and you feel God isn’t with you, isn’t in it, but if God gave you this task, He is helping. He’s there.

We’re so primed to have “experiences” of God. Instead of to quietly trust.

Another problem with the phrase “God showed up” is that it gives us a skewed perspective on how God responds when we pray.

If God has to show up, then we have to wonder: Does He even hear? Does He see?

That’s the problem with idols. Psalm 135:15-18 says:

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”

God, on the other hand, sees everything. And hears everything. We don’t want to say or do anything that could imply otherwise.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:13 (NIV)

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12 (NIV)

“As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice.” Psalm 55:16-17(NIV)

Thank God that He does hear us, not only what we pray, but let’s go one better: He hears what we don’t even know how to pray.

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 (ESV)

The danger is in us not thinking He hears because we don’t see, feel, or hear an obvious or immediate answer.

Keys to How God Answers our Prayers

  • He chooses what the answer will be: yes or no or not now. Or not in your way, but in My way.
  • He chooses when to answer: in His timeline, not ours.

We can see this working in the book of Habakkuk.

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! Violence is everywhere! I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.” Habakkuk 1:1-4

Like Habakkuk, we think God isn’t listening if He doesn’t answer us NOW! But what Habakkuk learned was that God not only listens, He’s already at work. He had His plans and purpose for Judah and Judah’s enemies.

God’s answer to Habakkuk:

“Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” Habakkuk 1:5

God was already at work, and He was bringing the terrible nation of the Chaldeans to judge Judah. That was NOT exactly the answer Habakkuk was looking for! But it was God’s answer to accomplish HIS purposes in and through His own sinning people.

And yet, even in the face of the coming punishment, God did give Habakkuk some encouragement that those He was using to refine Judah would pay for their own evil as well.

So even in the hard truths from God that may come in answer to our prayers, He gives hope.

God doesn’t answer our prayers because we want Him to. He answers them to accomplish HIS purposes in our lives and the lives of others. And to bring glory to Himself. This is WHO He is – faithful, trustworthy, glorious. Answering prayer is one way He shows who He is.

We have a God who always sees, always hears, always knows our hearts, our thoughts. Before a word is on our tongue, God already knows it. He doesn’t need to show up. But He does use certain moments to let us see His grace, His presence, His work in a more experiential way.

Why is how we express that important? Because we are people of words, craftsmen of words, and we need to be purposeful in how we express things, especially when we express things about God. We need to be sure that what we say resonates with Scripture. He is always at work, and we can trust Him.

We want to hear from you!

Have you ever wondered if God hears your prayers? If He sees your situation? If He truly knows how you feel? What helped you in that situation?

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Warning! You may not be saying what you think you are about God!

Special thanks

We’re grateful to our Patreon sponsor of the month, Tammy Partlow! Watch for her debut novel Blood Beneath the Pines, a suspense set in the deep South, releasing October, 2018!

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

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076 – God’s Perfect Timing with Guest Martha Rogers

God's Perfect Timing with Guest Martha Rogers on the Write from the Deep podcast

Does it feel as though your journey to publication is taking too long? Guest Martha Rogers understands that feeling. Her lifelong dream of being a published writer came true—on her 73rd birthday! Come listen as she shares what God taught her about patience, trusting His timing, where to put her focus, and why His timing is far better than ours!

Thanks to our supporters on Patreon, we can now provide transcripts of interviews!

Special thanks to our Patreon sponsor of the month, Tammy Partlow! Watch for her debut novel Blood Beneath the Pines, a suspense set in the deep South, releasing October, 2018!

Erin: Well, hello and welcome listeners, welcome to The Deep. We are glad that you’re here with us, and we’re again delighted to have another interview, another guest author to share their wisdom. Karen and I have so enjoyed these interviews to hear experiences throughout the body of Christ. It’s delightful. And so, we have Martha Rogers here with us today, and I’m going to let Karen introduce her.

Karen: Martha is just a wonderful person, let alone an amazing writer. And she and I, we were just talking about it, and we first met in the nineties at a now-defunct conference. It used to be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was called the Professionalism in Writing Conference, and it was run by the inimitable Norma Jean Lutz who was as Oklahoma as it got, so it was a great conference, and we have really enjoyed—Martha and I have enjoyed our interactions in the times that we meet at different conferences. So, she is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction and she is a speaker. Her stories and articles have appeared in a number of compilations and magazines, and her first novella released in 2007. It’s nice because her experiences as a public-school teacher, as a Sunday school teacher, a youth leader, a first-place leader, a mom, and a grandmother, all give Martha a unique field of ministry. She speaks at women’s retreats and events and at writers’ conferences and you can find out lots more about her at Martha W. Rogers that’s Rogers without a D so R-O-G-E-R-S, Martha W Rogers dot com. But you know the thing that I have always found the most fascinating about Martha and about her writing journey, is that her first novel Becoming Lucy was published when she was, get ready for it, seventy-three years young. And that was a realization of a lifelong dream for Martha, and we’ll talk more about that in just a minute.

Erin: So welcome Martha we’re so glad that you’re here with us. Say hello!

Martha: Hello everyone, I’m so glad to be here because I’ve always admired Karen, and she’s helped me so much with my writing.

Karen: Okay guys, in case you’re wondering Martha’s not choked up because I’ve had such a profound impact on her, she’s been dealing with a respiratory infection and yet she’s still here to share her wisdom with us today, so we really appreciate you taking the time Martha.

Martha: Well, I appreciate you having me.

Erin: So, we’re going to of course going to put you on the spot right away. Karen and I have some different ideas about what the deep or being in the deep or going through the deep means to us but, we love to ask our guests: when you think about the deep, what does the deep mean to you?

Martha:  Well it sort of means going deep down in me, really in my heart, in my soul, and knowing what God really means to me, and how I can get that across to my readers, and how much He can mean to them, in the same way.

Karen: Well that’s great. So, Martha tell us, when did you actually start writing?

Martha: As soon as I could hold a pencil, and tell my mother stories. She used to laugh at me and say, “Now Martha’s told you her version, let me tell you what really happened.”

Karen: So you were a novelist from the very beginning.

Martha: Oh, I was a storyteller from the word go. I made up stories for my paper dolls. But it became an escape for me, because my parents were having a lot of problems and when they divorced, my paper dolls became my perfect family, and I didn’t have any problems as long as I was playing with them.

Karen: Yeah, fiction has that power to transport us and sometimes you know people used to talk down fiction because they called it escapist reading, but you know sometimes you need an escape from tough things in life. So, tell us a little bit about your writing journey then. When did you first start going to writers’ conferences? When did you first think that this was something that was going to go beyond the stories with paper dolls?

Martha: I wrote my first novel in Alexandra Hall at Baylor University when I was seventeen years old, and I was taking English classes and I was taking creative writing. And my teacher in high-school had already told me that I had a flair for words. She said, “You have a gift with words, making people feel like they can just see what you’re talking about.”

And my college teacher said the same thing. She said, “I love the way you describe things, I love this and that.” I had a problem with grammar, the writing part was always an A, A plus, but I’d always make these little grammar mistakes. But I wrote my novel then and had my teachers read it and they would give me some pointers but they said no you’ve got to learn all this and do all this yourself, and so that’s what I was doing.

Karen: I remember once early on in my editing career I had a writer contact me and sent me a sample of her writing, and I wrote her back and I said, “You’re really not at a point where you’re ready to be edited yet. You need to do some more work on learning things like grammar and sentence structure.” And she sent an e-mail back saying, “Isn’t that your job as the editor?”

It’s not my job to write the book for you!

Martha: That’s right, that’s right. That book will probably never see the light of day, but it was fun to write, and I was looking back over it and the biggest problem I have now is keeping it in the language of the fifties. I keep wanting to change it. I thought that sounds so awkward, but that’s the way we talked. I wrote just like I was talking as a seventeen-year-old, so you know.

But anyway, it was fun. But I put it aside when I got married and had three boys. And when I went back to school, probably in the eighties and got my master’s degree, I was taking creative writing, and that’s when I really got back into it and started looking for an agent, started looking, you know, where can I get published? How can I get these things out there?

Karen: Well that’s a pretty substantial learning curve there, starting out when you’re that young and then going into the nineties to look for an agent, so how did that go for you?

Martha: Well I had an agent and he was okay, but he was not really…we weren’t really that compatible and I began to realize that, and we parted ways probably about 1994. And then I started going to the ACW conferences and I met Steve Laube and Steve gave me great advice. I went to a number of different conferences with him, then I went to PIW and met you and Francine Rivers and Cecil Murphy. Cecil Murphy, for some reason, took me under his wing and started giving me all kinds of wonderful advice and would read stuff for me and tell me where I needed to go, the direction that I needed to take and things like that. He was absolutely wonderful.

And Francine was a great encourager too. I would write to her and ask her questions, and she never hesitated to answer. It just amazed me how open and friendly she was. Now you scared me Karen. I was in awe of you. And then I finally got to know you and it was much better.

Karen: Oh, I’m glad! It would be a little unsettling if you were still scared!

Martha: No. I remember at Mount Hermon and you did those early morning devotional times, those were so precious to me. I just loved that.

Karen: Yeah, one of the few things that will get me out of bed early in the morning—besides fishing—is the early morning prayer and praise time at Mount Hermon.

Erin: Martha, I love the way that God has had His fingers on you. You know from way back into your childhood and how you have, you know, you were making up these stories and you were writing something way back when. Then that goes on hold for a while, but is not forgotten. And then you go back and you get this master’s degree and then God puts people in your life like Cecil Murphy and Francine Rivers and they speak into your life.

It’s like you have this long journey of people planting into you and God bringing this fruit. It’s like this tree that just takes a long time to grow and then one day there’s this fruit in how you get published. Tell us a little bit about how that first book got to be published.

Martha: Well it’s really funny I sent it to—well first I got Tamela as my agent back in early two thousands. Back when we were in Kansas City, I met her and then she became my agent the next year, and she was sending this novel out to several places and it went to, I’m trying to remember…Tyndale. And the editor there read it and she said, “I like this but we already have an author who writes so much like this that I can’t really get it past our board, but you need to send it out again.” And so she did. And when Charisma which is now Realms, the Realms division, accepted it and sent me the offer letter, I was just amazed and it was on my seventy-third birthday that I got the offer letter.

Karen: That’s one heck of a birthday gift!

Martha: Oh gosh, I was flat out amazed and then on July the fourth we were in Kerrville with my son on sort of a vacation trip and she called, and I was in the car. We were driving from Kerrville back to Fredericksburg, and she told me about it and I just nearly came unglued. My son almost had a stroke. “Mama, what’s wrong?” We were on the highway and he got panicked. He was so excited.

Karen: So you had this long journey from childhood until you’re seventy-three when that lifelong dream finally happens, so in the course of that journey—I mean every time I’ve met you, you’re always upbeat and you’re always happy, and you’re just this amazing influence on people around you—but did you deal with times of discouragement, times when you just felt like this was never going to happen?

Martha: Oh yeah, I would look around and I’d say, “God do you know what time it is? Do you know how old I am?” And I would be just like a little girl stomping my foot and saying, “Mama!’ And I thought well yes, God knows exactly how old I am and where I am, and He’s just being ornery and making me wait. But I knew that if it was going to happen it would, but it would have to be when He wanted it to, and when He thought I was ready. But it was hard being patient because that’s not my virtue, at all.

Erin: Well, it is now.

Karen: You’ve learned patience from this. What did you do to deal with those moments of discouragement?

Martha: Oh, I had so much other stuff going on. I had so many friends and my Sunday school department and the choir and Christmas programs and Bible studies and such. I was so busy, and of course teaching school, that I just didn’t let it get to me. I would mope for about a day or two when I would get a rejection letter and then just think, oh okay, and go on to the next thing and try something else. I just don’t stay down about things like that.

Karen: I think there’s a great deal of wisdom in that. You know, give yourself time, like you said, to mope and to maybe spit and stop your foot, but a limited amount of time. And then you move on to the next thing. It’s really hard for us, even though you know if you’ve been a Christian for a long time or a short time it’s really hard to trust that God’s timing is best. It’s hard because we want this thing to happen and especially since we feel as though in writing for Him we have truths to speak to people who need them. And yet it’s not happening and it’s not happening and it’s not happening. And that can take us into those deep and difficult places.

Martha: Oh yes and what’s weird is that right now is that I’m working on a novella that will be my fifty or fifty-first publication—

Karen: Holy cow!

Martha: —in that length of time. I’ve been writing a lot of novellas and we’ve found those sell. My friends love them because they say they can read them in a hurry, they don’t have to sit and worry about taking four or five hours or all day or something. They can sit down and read them and have fun and enjoy them and not have to spend all that time.

Karen: So, it’s like you found your niche.

Martha: Yeah. All my friends, they come over to my house and say, “Where are your books?” Because when I get them I have them lined up in a room and they come in like they’re browsing in a store.

Erin: But I love how through this your focus has not been solely get published get published get published. That hasn’t been your focus. You have had other things going on, and you have been open to God using you in all of those other facets. And I love that that’s how your story went. You know, so many times, I think we get too focused on just our own picture of how this is supposed to be and we lose sight of the things God wants us to be doing right now, while we wait.

Martha: That’s right. I mean having the choir and my Sunday school class and all these other things to do, my time was filled. I wasn’t concentrated on just this one little thing. I think that’s where we make a really big mistake is getting too focused on one thing and not keeping our eyes open to what else God has for us.

Erin: Right

Karen: That’s a really good point. I do think that because we have so much focus on learning the craft and going to writers conferences, we get tunnel vision on what we think this one thing is in our lives, and if this can just happen then everything will work out great and I’ll know I’m doing what God has asked me to do. But there’s such wisdom in saying you know that’s just one facet of what God has given us as a task and we need to keep our eyes and our heart open to the other places where He’s called us.

Erin: So, Martha what advice would you give to other writers who are maybe your age and they think that it’s too late.

Martha: Well, all I can say is just persevere, because if this is what God’s plan is for you, you can’t do anything to really stop His plan.

Karen: Amen!

Martha: Except, not to do it. If you’re working for Him, if you’re writing, if you are getting it out there, then you are in the process. And He will make something happen if that’s what He wants. But if His plan is for you to get published but you’re not doing anything but just sitting back and writing and saying, “Well this is okay I guess but nobody is going to want to read it,” then you’re never going to get it out there. So write, submit it, get it out there, and when God is ready, and if it’s His plan, it will happen.

Erin: Do you feel that there are some challenges that you face physically as just being an older writer? A senior writer we’ll call it. Do you feel there are some physical challenges and how do you deal with those?

Martha: I am very fortunate to have fairly good health. I have this lung disease that’s incurable and that I have to fight with, but it doesn’t hinder my actual physical being able to do things and go places and such. The only trouble I have now is I don’t move as fast, I can’t get places as fast.

Karen: Yeah, well Martha I just turned sixty-one this week and I don’t move as fast, so there you go.

Martha: I know, I used to walk three miles every morning in no time at all. And now I can barely make it around the block in that time. But I still have to try. I still have to do that. But I think one of the things that we have to understand is that God doesn’t put things in our lives without a purpose. And when those things come into our lives and we make it through and we see how His hand is on everything, we can always delve into that and go deeper into that and help our readers to see how He works.

One of those things was forgiving my brother. The turmoil and such I went through in learning to forgive him in what he had done and what he was involved in. Cecil Murphy helped me with that and said, ‘You’ve got to write this story. There are too many people out there who need this.” I did and Home Life Magazine picked it up and they published it. It was hard to write. It was very difficult to write because I had to go in deep into my feelings and show people how prejudice I was, and how I turned against him, and how I ignored the fact that I had a brother. And that was hard.

But I had people come to me and say, “I’ve been in the same situation and it’s helped me understand what I have to do.” And when this woman came up to me and told me that at a library in a church in Arkansas where I was visiting, and I had no idea who she was, and she just happened to hear my name from my sister-in-law and knew that I was a writer, and she said, “You wrote that article.” And I said, “Yes.” And then she told me, and if just that one person, if her life was affected, it was worth every minute I spent.

Karen: Wow, that’s wonderful.

Martha: But when you go deep into yourself like that and can pull out some of those hard, hard times that you had, and transfer them to the paper and your characters and let people see how things can be better, how God can take care of things.

Karen: And I think that’s one of the most important facets of being a writer is that we have be willing to look at our own lives and our own struggles our own faith journey first. And to let God work in those areas where we need to be refined and we need to learn forgiveness and we need to come out of the things that are holding us back spiritually and emotionally, and then we can share that process and those discoveries with our readers. And that’s when it impacts people. Your story was real and authentic and you shared your struggle. And that story, that truth about what God had taught you impacted other people.

Martha: That’s right. My grandson will be twenty-five years old this fall and for twenty-five years we have gone through day by day with him with cystic fibrosis. And up until a couple years ago we weren’t sure that there was going to come another day. We just lived each day with him as he progressed. But now he’s a young adult. It’s taken him twice as long to get through college, but he’s persevered, he’s going to graduate from LSU next year.

Watching what he has been through and knowing what God is doing in his life makes such a difference. You get such a different outlook. And when people say how can you smile? How can you when you know he’s this and you know this is happening, you know this is happening, how can you just keep smiling? Because Gods in control. He’s got it. I can’t do anything about it. If I stew and worry, I’m taking away time that I could be spending doing something else.

Karen: Oh exactly, how can we not smile? Because we have an almighty God who knows every single aspect just as He knew when to give you the storytelling ability, when to bring you to a place where you took it on as more of a profession. When to let your first book come out. He had all of that in control, anything that we look at in our lives, whether it’s a health issue, whether it’s something in our family like with your grandson, no matter what it is God has control of it.

Martha you’ve been so wonderful thank you so much for being with us, we have really loved hearing more about your story and about the ways God has sustained you and led you in the midst of it. I just pray that we can all open our hearts, to be submissive to Him and to smile, and remember that our God is a loving God who is taking care of us in ways we can’t even imagine.

Martha: You know when I survived my second cancer surgery in five years, I thought, Lord you must have something really coming up good because you let me go through this twice, and it carried me though.

Karen: I think we’re going to have to have you come on again! Your second cancer surgery? We’re out of time for today but holy cow we’re going to have to have you come back in and talk to us about all these things that God has brought you through, and until then thank you again for being with us.

Martha: Oh, I’ve enjoyed it, thank you.

We want to hear from you!

Do you wonder if it’s too late for your writing dream to come true?
How do you handle waiting in your writing journey?

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Is it ever too late for your writing dream to come true? Guest Martha Rogers says NO!

Special thanks to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!

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075 – The Unexpected Power of Words

Unexpected Power of Words Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungEvery writer has a reason for what they write, a message they want to share through their stories and books. When we sit down to write, we have a solid idea of why we’re writing. But the amazing thing is that’s just the beginning! When you’re writing with God, He infuses your words with His power and truth. And He draws the readers who need HIS message to your work. Which means your words will have more reach and more power than you will ever know!

Thanks to the authors who shared their stories of the unexpected reach of their words!

Links to authors and books mentioned:

Linda Goodnight, New York Times bestselling author of The Memory House, book one in the Honey Ridge Novels.

Christy Johnson, author of Love Junkies: 7 Steps for Breaking the Toxic Relationship Cycle.

Karen Ball, author of The Breaking Point.

Vickie McDonough, author of A Wealth Beyond Riches.

Sharon Srock, author of Pam, book 3 in the Women of Valley View.

Erin Taylor Young, author of Surviving Henry: Adventures in Loving a Canine Catastrophe.

The bottom line? God has His purposes. He knows you in ways nobody else does. He knows your story. He knows how that story can reach out and touch someone and help them when they don’t even know that they need it. Be faithful in the task that He’s given you to write. Never ask yourself, “Who will read this?” Never worry about whether or not your work will have an impact. When you enter into a task that God has given you, when you follow in obedience what He’s called you to do, when you open your heart and your craft and your story to Him, and let Him come in and infuse it with His truth, His peace, and His love, it will impact lives in ways you never expect.

We want to hear from you!

Do you have a story about the unexpected reach of your words? Share it with us!

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Do you ever wonder if the words you write matter? They do. And in ways you never thought!

Join Team Deep! Visit our Patreon page to learn how you take part in the vision!

A very special thank you to our Patreon sponsor of the month Bobbi Updegraff!

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