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063 – Is Joy in All Circumstances Really Possible?

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Write from the Deep Podcast Is Joy in All Circumstances Really possible

Too many people, even those who follow Christ, spend their lives without a true sense of joy. Life seems to overflow with struggle and challenges, with negative events and interactions that overwhelm and depress. But friends, you can not only have a sense of joy, you can be filled with it to the point of overflowing.

People long to be happy, but true, soul-deep happiness comes from joy, not the other way around. Happiness is fleeting, based on the circumstances or people around us. What we who follow Christ need to do is let Him fill us with the awareness and the experience of rejoicing, or rejoicefulness. That is there whether you’re in happy circumstances or not. This is why the Bible tells us to rejoice in the Lord always and to count it all joy when people persecute you. Because it’s not about skipping with happiness, it’s about focusing on finding joy in God.

Think about Acts 5, where the Apostles are performing miraculous signs and people are getting healed. The Apostles are preaching that Jesus has been raised from the dead, that he’s the Messiah, and the religious establishment doesn’t like that. After all, they put Him to death. It doesn’t exactly look good if they admit they killed the King who everyone’s been waiting for for hundreds of years! What’s worse, people are flocking to listen to the Apostles, whom the leaders already warned not to preach in Jesus’s name! So what do the religious leaders do? They make the apostles appear before the Sanhedrin—the religious rulers. Of course, the Apostles say they’re not going to stop preaching, that they must obey God. The Sanhedrin are furious and threaten to stone the Apostles, but end up just warning them again, having them flogged, and letting them go.

Which is when it gets really exciting. Because in Acts 5:4, the Apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus.

These guys got flogged. The whips used to flog someone were leather thongs with balls of iron or sharp pieces of sheep’s bone tied to them. The victim is stripped naked and beaten in the most painful way possible, to cause extensive damage not just to the skin, but to the muscles and tendons below. It was an horrific punishment.

And yet they rejoiced.

As Christians who have the Holy Spirit living in us, we can do something powerful with joy—we can experience joy and pain simultaneously. Or joy and sorrow. Or joy and any other type of suffering. Because joy isn’t an emotion, it’s a foundational part of who we are that stems from our knowledge of and trust in God. That’s why we can be joyful in all circumstances, because true joy is about trusting God, not our emotions or circumstances.

I (Karen) experienced that blend of suffering or sorrow and joy. Profound sorrow at losing my dad, at not having him with me and being able to talk with him, to hear his laughter. And yet…the morning after he died, I felt such a deep sense of his utter delight in being with God, and with my mom again. I was sad for me, but rejoicing for him and for what eternity holds for all of us. 

But just because you’re not struggling through some sort of trial right now doesn’t mean your life is automatically filled with joy. Remember, this sense of joy isn’t based on circumstances, good or bad, it’s a foundational trust in God.

So what are the guaranteed steps to be filled with godly joy? You’ll find them in God’s word, in Colossians 1:9-12:

  1. Constant prayer. “So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you.” Live in an attitude of prayer.
  2. Seek to know God’s will in whatever you experience. “We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will…” Seek to know and understand what God wants from you and for you.
  3. Ask God for spiritual wisdom and understanding. “…and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.” If you ask, He will answer.
  4. Ask that you will be strengthened “with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need.”

What happens when you follow these steps? Something amazing! Read on in Colossians:

  1. “Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord…” A life that honors and pleases God. All the time. Now that’s something to rejoice about!
  2. “…your lives will produce every kind of good fruit” What fruit is that? Read Galatians 5:22-23: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” How would your life, and the lives of those around you, be different if you produce this kind of fruit?

You may be wondering what the Bible means when it says joy is a “fruit of the spirit.” It means this joy is a supernatural thing. You develop this joy through the spirit—through asking God to help you, to breathe that fruit into you. When that happens, others can see it. Godly joy points to God and brings Him glory.

Christians aren’t meant to live lives beaten down and crushed. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re not to experience hard times and suffering. We’ve been told those things will come. But we’re not meant to be crushed by them. We’re meant to live with rejoicefulness, focused on and rejoicing in God no matter what. Sometimes that rejoicing comes through clenched teeth or is seasoned with tears, but that’s okay. God knows this isn’t easy. But He’s promised us we don’t have to go through it alone.

1 Peter 1:6-8 tells us: “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love Him even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”

As you think about these words, what does this glorious, inexpressible joy look like for you?

For Karen, living in a spirit of joyfulness means making the decision to be present in the moment. To be open to the blessings that God has in every moment, to acknowledge them, appreciate them, and thank God for them. It’s choosing in the difficult times to focus not on the difficulty or the struggle or whatever negative emotions are nibbling away at the edges of my spirit, but to look instead for the God-sent blessing contained in that struggle. And these blessings aren’t emotions, they’re acknowledging that God is present, that God is at work, and that this is a path God has set me on and I can trust Him in it.

For Erin, it’s entirely different. For me, it leads to a feeling. This deep joy. It’s a profound peace, and profound satisfaction, and profound…delight in my relationship with God, in who He is, in the spiritual water that flows through my veins. Some of you know that I struggle with chronic insomnia. Last night I slept from 10:45 to 1:45, and then I was up, too exhausted to pray, but too awake to sleep. By the time 7:00 am rolled around, and I had to get up for my day, I was more tired and in pain from fibro than when I went to bed. But even after a night like that, which happens far too often, I choose to get up every morning because there’s a deep peace there, a deep joy in knowing that my day will be spent with God, with doing this task He gave me. That fills me with a desire to keep going, to keep drinking from God’s living water.

Conclusion:

Remember, though, that this foundational joy doesn’t just happen. It’s a process. You will grow in it as you learn to know God better and better. When we determine to know Him, we become a clearer reflection of Him in every aspect of our lives. Our relationships, our work, our self-esteem…everything we say and do…will come from a place of peace, grace, love, and justice. And we bring His love and goodness to a dark and hurting world. So let’s choose to, as that Colossians passage says, be “filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.” And what an amazing, joyful inheritance that is of peace and joy, of an eternity secured with Him.

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062 – Don’t Be Derailed by Doubt

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young on the Write from the Deep Podcast Discuss DoubtWriters, do you struggle with doubt?

Let us show you how to stop doubt in its tracks so it never derails you again!

We did a podcast several weeks ago called “Did God Really Ask You to Write?” That was episode #58, and I encourage you to go back a listen to it. We focused on knowing who God really is and how that helps us to hear and trust Him and not doubt Him.

But doubt comes at us in a lot of different ways, and all of them can affect our writing lives. The kinds of doubt we’re talking about today are circumstances that make us doubt and doubt that makes us struggle with decision. In a future podcast we’ll talk about another damaging type of doubt: self doubt. Self-doubt is so debilitating, we’re going to give it it’s own podcast. So watch for that soon. But in this podcast, which you can think of as “Doubt, part 2,” we’ll address the first two kinds of doubt.

Here’s the thing. We’re human and we’re called to step out into something supernatural. This writing task with God isn’t accomplished through our human efforts. It requires God’s power, not ours. Yes, we write words, but it’s God who infuses them with true impact and power.

Anything supernatural is by definition uncontrollable by us. It’s unfamiliar territory. It’s scary. We’re not alone in this struggle with doubt. Look at what Peter experienced in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 14:

Jesus has just done a miracle—he’s fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Then he tells his disciples to get in the boat and go to the other side of the lake while he dismisses the crowd. So they head off. Then Jesus goes up on a mountain to pray.

It’s not till the 4th watch of the night (between 3 and 6 am) that Jesus is ready to join the disciples. They’re still in the middle of the lake when he comes to them, walking on the water. When the disciples see Him, they’re terrified. They think it’s a ghost because normal people don’t walk on water.

Jesus says, “Take courage, don’t be afraid, it’s me.”

Peter says, “Lord, if it’s really you, command me to come to you.” The translations can be a little misleading here. Most of the commentaries* I read said the meaning of “If it’s you” has more of the essence of “Since it’s you,” so this isn’t really the doubting part.

Jesus says, “Come,” and Peter does. He steps out of the boat and smack dab into something supernatural. Let’s give Peter some credit for taking that step. He’s walking on the water.

It’s all fine until Peter sees the wind kicking up the waves, and he gets scared. That’s when the doubt comes. He looks at the circumstances around him and he doubts. And starts to sink.

The story has a happy ending because Peter calls out to Jesus to save him and Jesus does. But He rebukes Peter for doubting.

As writers, we do this kind of doubting too. That’s the first kind of doubt we want to talk about today.

TYPES OF DOUBT
Doubting God’s provision because of circumstances

 It’s never a good idea to base your trust in God on circumstances, or allow yourself to doubt based on circumstances. “The word ‘doubt’ [in the gospel story, from Greek distazō] suggests the idea of trying to go in two different directions at once or of serving two different masters simultaneously.”* When we doubt based on circumstances we’re allowing circumstances to be our master, not God.

Here’s another example. What if something wonderful happens—a huge prayer request is answered? You celebrate and say how wonderful God is. Then, the next day, or even later that same day, something else happens that seems like it’s going to override your wonderful answer to prayer. Was God good one moment, and then not the next? If you believe what Scripture tells us about Him, you know that’s impossible.

James 1:3-8 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

If you find yourself looking at circumstances, stop.

S.T.O.P.

  • Stay focused on God.
  • Trust in His character and promises.
  • Obey His commands.
  • Pray. Battle this kind of doubt by praying for the faith to trust, regardless of circumstances.
Doubting if you’re hearing God, Or doubting which way He’s leading in a decision

Another type of doubt that comes into play for writers happens at decision-making time. Let’s face it, the writing journey is filled with decisions.

Maybe you’re trying to decide between 2 publishers, or whether to go indie, or whether to hire Editor A or B? There are a lot of questions. And they matter.

Principles to Help You Discern God’s Leading

  1. Don’t make decisions based on fear, or motivated by fear. If you’re making a decision to do or not do something because you’re afraid, that’s not a decision based on God’s leading. We’re to fear the Lord only. And by fearing the Lord, we gain wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And the knowledge of the Holy one is understanding.” You’ve got to get the perspective right—fear God—in order to make good decisions.
  2. Seek truth speakers or an advisory board. There is wisdom in good counselors!
  3. Consider character first, logistics second. We often want to look at logistics first, and we’re concerned about whether something is hard or complicated to do. God is concerned about building our character. About whether we’re willing to trust. Not whether something will be logistically easy.
  4. If what you’re hearing is condemning, it’s a lie. It’s not God’s leading. But if it’s convicting, it will lead to restoration through truth, and you don’t have to doubt.
  5. If it goes against Scripture, it’s not God’s leading. Don’t do it.
  6. Don’t make decisions based on comfort. We’re to be living sacrifices. That doesn’t mean we’re ALWAYS supposed to do what’s hard, but it means that you can’t let what’s comfortable or uncomfortable cause you to doubt which way God is leading.
  7. Are your doubts really a lack of trust that you’re hearing God, or is it lack of trust because you can’t see how it’ll happen, or you can’t see how it makes sense? Maybe you’re not sensing God’s leading because all He wants from you first is a willingness to obey even if you can’t see the next step yet. Maybe it’s not about whether God’s leading you. Maybe it’s about where your heart is right now, and whether you’re ready to be compliant, no matter what.
  8. Just because it’s something you want, doesn’t mean God doesn’t want it for you. We sometimes feel like if it’s something we really want, we’re simply hearing what we want to hear. Remember, God is FOR US. But like we talked about in episode 58, you have to know God so you know HIS voice, and can distinguish it from your own.

There are so many ways doubt can undermine us in our desire and work to follow God. So many ways the enemy can use doubt to chip away at our foundation of trust in a God who has every aspect of our lives and work in His hands. So our hope is that, the next time doubt sneaks in, you can use these tips and tools to stop it in its tracks. That you can use the truth of who God is and who you are in Him to tell doubt to shut up and leave you alone.

Yes, doubt is an effective weapon against us, especially against writers. But our God, and His truths, are far more effective if we’ll just embrace them and rest in them. May you find peace in His presence, and may doubt never again gain admittance into your heart and spirit. But when it does, because as we said before, we’re human, use God’s truths to give it what-for and send it running back into the darkness!

*Resources:
Blomberg, C. (1992). The New American Commentary: Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 235). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Hagner, D. A. (1998). Word Biblical Commentary: Matthew 14–28 (Vol. 33B, p. 424). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

 

We Want to hear from you!

What principles help you discern God’s leading?
What circumstances have made you doubt? How did you overcome those doubts?

Tweetable

Why is doubt so hard to ignore? #amwriting
Learn how to stop doubt in its tracks so it never derails you again! #amwriting

 

Links to conferences we mentioned

Write to Impact Lives, February 9-10, 2018
Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 23-27, 2018

 

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061 – Do You Want Your Writing to Matter?

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Do You Want Your Writing to Matter? Write from the Deep PodcastWriting that matters isn’t about what you study. It’s not about your craft or your skill. It’s not about theme or characters or organization or any of that. Powerful writing is about what lies deep inside of you.

One of the Bible passages we often mention when we talk about writing from the deep comes from the book of Ezekiel. The first 3 chapters are all about Ezekiel’s vision of God and how God commissions him. Then in 3:10-11 God says, “Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. Then go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Do this whether they listen to you or not.”

Look at that last part again: Do this whether they listen to you or not.

As writers, we’re in the same boat. We’re writing without knowing whether anyone will read our words, or how many will read them, or whether anyone will take them to heart. But that’s not the important point here. What we want to talk about is the prerequisite God gives Ezekiel: “Let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself…”

Why? Because we need to be in this writing thing to change ourselves first. To understand God’s message for us personally. To avoid superficiality.

Whether anyone reads your book or not.

Ultimately, writing isn’t about your readers. Not first. It’s about you. About what lies deep within you.

So what does it mean to let God’s word sink deep into our hearts? What does it look like? How do we do it? Here are some practical steps.

Signs that you’re letting God’s Word Sink Deep into Your Heart

You work to know it inside and out.

  • You’re intimately acquainted with it, like a best friend or spouse
  • You know it thoroughly and deeply from many sides and angles

How do we get there? You study it, you take time to think about it, and you pray for insight. We talk about this a lot because it’s crucial for us as Christians and writers to know God through His word.

  • Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
  • Psalm 119:34 “Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.”

 

You love it.

Think of how you feel when a friend (or spouse or child) is tucked deep in your heart. You don’t stop loving them no matter what. They’re ensconced. It’s a deep love that knows no bounds. That’s the kind of love we want to have for God’s word.

How do we get there? Make knowing and loving God’s word a priority. Give time to it. Choose it over other things. Love is a choice.

  • Jeremiah 15:16 “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”
  • Psalm 119:72 “The law from Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.”

 

It changes you.

  • When God word has sunk deep in your heart, you act differently. You are different through its influence. It rubs off on you. It affects you. Think of how it is with friends, when someone’s influence changes you for the better. The influence of God’s word makes you a different person because it’s the influence of Christ and His character. It’s Christ in you.
  • You see things differently. God’s word, like a friend, makes you see yourself differently and see other things differently because of their insight, their experience. It changes your view of things. God’s word is living and active. It is one of the few things that can penetrate to judge us. It convicts us and shapes us.

How do we get there? You let it challenge you. You listen for conviction. You open yourself to new paradigms. You pray for help in changing.

  • Ask yourself, if I truly believed what God says about this, how would this day, or this problem look different to me?
  • Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
  • Remember, you can’t be transformed if you’re not willing to be transformed.

 

You look to it for your nourishment.

  • Another mark of letting God’s word sink deep into your heart is that you hunger for it’s nourishment.
  • It produces fruit—sending out new sprouts of understanding and study. And that glorifies God. And as you study, the word goes ever deeper.

How do we get there? Think about what you feed on. Often it’s things that don’t satisfy. Go to God’s word when you’re tired, when you’re discouraged, when you need strength. Too often we look to other things to nourish or refresh us.

  • John 6:30-33 “So they [the crowd Jesus was preaching to] asked him, ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”‘ Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’”
  • John 15:7-8 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” It’s not just about you. When we get our nourishment from God, we bring Him glory. Yes, the fruit is for our good, but it’s also for God’s glory.
  • Think of God and His word as your rest rather than TV or entertainment. Often we choose entertainment for rest and nourishment rather than God’s word.

 

You look to God’s word FIRST for guidance, for wisdom.

  • When you’re letting God’s word sink deep into your heart, it becomes your go-to place for direction, as opposed to the wisdom of the world.
  • Listening carefully to God’s word implies that you’re listening with discernment, and with the intention of being obedient.

How do we get there? Listen thoughtfully. Not hurriedly, not distractedly, not superficially. Our world is all of those things.

  • Wisdom and guidance don’t come on our timetable, they come on God’s timetable, and with God’s priorities. He may be answering the question you should be asking whether than the one you are asking now. Be open.
  • Go where you can have some peace and quiet to think.
  • When you’re making a decision—any decision—know what God’s word has to say about it.

 

The fruit of Letting God’s word sink deep into your heart

When God’s word has sunk deep into your heart, you find yourself speaking words of truth to others, words filled with God’s wisdom, because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).

What that looks like is trusting God’s truth and wisdom rather than your own. Not scrambling to come up with answers, or trying to cover God’s backside when He doesn’t seem to make sense. Instead, you’re resting in the truth of His words and promises. And, often, speaking only when He gives you truths to speak. Sometimes, as hard as it is for us, what people need when they are struggling is our silence.

Whenever it is time to speak (and write), we want to let our hearts speak. To create writing that matters in people’s lives and hearts, we have to be changed ourselves. We have to take God’s truths deep into our own hearts and spirits and lives, and open ourselves to what He wants to do to change us first.

THEN, as it says in Ezekiel, “go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Do this whether they listen to you or not…For then they will know they have had a prophet in their midst.” It’s not about gaining glory as a prophet, but about people trusting you to speak and write truth, and to trust God, and His word planted deep within you, as the source of your writing and life.

 

We want to hear from you

What other signs show we’re letting God’s word sink into our hearts? What other ways can we do that?

 

Tweetable

Do you want your writing to matter? That’s not about skill or craft. It’s about what’s inside of you.

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060 – Are You a Success? A Conversation with Steve Laube

Are You a Success? Steve Laube Literary Agent joins us on the Write from the Deep podcastSuccess means so many things in our world today, but how can we, who write because God has asked us to, know if we’re a success? Come join in the conversation with literary agent Steve Laube to understand true success and how to measure it.

Steve Laube, president and founder of The Steve Laube Agency, is a 36 year veteran of the bookselling industry. He began his career in the bookselling arena, and his store in Phoenix was named the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) store of the year in 1989. He then spent 11 years with Bethany House Publishers rising to the position of an editorial director. In 2002 he was named the AWSA Golden Scroll Editor of the Year. The next year he became a literary agent and soon formed The Steve Laube Agency. Later he was named the ACFW Agent of the Year. Recently he was inducted into the Grand Canyon University Hall-of-Fame by their College of Theology. He is the President of The Christian Writers Institute and has published the latest edition of The Christian Writers Market Guide (also available online). In addition he serves as the Publisher for the Enclave Publishing imprint of Gilead Publishing. He is married with three grown children and one grandchild.

Key points on defining success

Success is very difficult to accurately define because each person tends to measure it their own way. The world often defines success as money, fame, or fortune. But how do we as writers define what is the worst and best that could happen for our writing project? Or our career? We can’t ask someone else to quantify success for us. We need to sit down—with our spouse, our family, before God—we need to sit down now and specifically define what success is.

The difficulty is that if it’s based on numbers, say we want to sell 50,000 copies of our book, and we sell 48,000, does that mean it’s a failure? Did God fail us?

It’s also problematic to go too far in the opposite direction, to make our definition based too much on sentimentality. If we say, “Well, I just want to do what God wants me to do,” that may be true but it also feels like a cop out because we can blame God if we just got too busy, or we got sick, etc.

There are all sorts of things that interfere with measuring anything, and it becomes a spiritual problem. So many authors get dissatisfied. What if you get a taste of success and you made some good money on your first book? It’s easy to make your career all about yourself, to get into a “me, myself, and I” mentality. And that’s where it becomes a problem. If you feel like that sales number will be easy to do again, you are now setting expectations and defining success in the form of human criteria.

If it is all about “me, myself, and I,” we can never be happy.

Too many authors are unhappy because either their next book isn’t as successful as the last, or it is successful, but it’s still not enough. Wanting, needing, “more” attacks the writer at the very core of their relationship with God, at the core of what is peace and contentment.

We have to find peace in the midst of rejections, failures, poor reviews, problems with our editor, low book sales, or whatever. Our perspective is easily skewed. We forget that everything we do in this industry is an amazing involvement to begin with no matter how many people we reach.

Steve knew a woman who spent a thousands of dollars to self publish her book. It hardly sold any copies, and she was disappointed. Yet later she said her niece read it and came to the Lord because of it. When asked if she’d have spent that money simply to ensure her niece came to the Lord, she said, “Oh my goodness, yes.” There is no price tag on that. There is no human measure.

God works on the offbeat, but we get so focused on the beat. On our ideas and expectations: “This is when and where I should be published, and this is how many copies it should sell…” And God says, “Yes, but. One person was brought into eternity through that book. How much does that measure as success?”

What’s humbling about this task as writers is how people see things in our writing, and how they’re changed by it in ways we never thought or anticipated. Each reader brings his or her own experience to the book, and it becomes a new creation just for them. God works His will through the words we put on the page in order to speak to someone’s heart.

We’re constantly trying to measure in human terms and we can’t. We can’t comprehend God’s economy. He’s the one who’ll leave the ninety-nine to go and find the one. Are we willing to be the writer who writes to that one rather than the ninety-nine? Or the ninety-nine thousand?

This writing journey isn’t about how you feel about success, or how does success make you feel. It’s: What does God mean to happen for you and for your readers? What is God’s intent in this and how is He using you to accomplish that intent? It’s not about feeling good about hitting the bestseller list or feeling bad because you didn’t win some award. None of that matters. What matters is if you’ve been obedient, and if you’ve put on the page what God asked you to put on the page.

Jesus says in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…” We can’t measure that fruit with quantifiable human standards. All we can do is walk in that, be obedient, and trust that that fruit is going to happen in us and others however God wants it to happen. In man’s world, fruit rots, but in God’s world, fruit can last forever.

When you focus on yourself, it goes back to “me, myself, and I,” and you get wrapped up in yourself—in self doubt, self criticism—and you begin to worry, and worry eats away at your soul. There’s an anonymous quote that says, “Worry is wasting today’s time, cluttering up tomorrow’s opportunities, with yesterday’s problems.” Where is our faith when we do that? What are we trusting in?

Ignatius Loyola said, “Work as if everything depends on you, and pray as if everything depends on God.” We need to focus on working hard, doing our absolute best for God’s glory, and at the same time praying and trusting that God’s glory will be magnified in the work that we do no matter what that looks like. Because if we try to put a label on it, and try to paint a picture of it, we WILL be disappointed.

 

Our New Year’s exhortation to you

Stop, take a good look, pray—and not just for a day or a week, but for some serious time—asking God what success really means for you. Ask your spouse, your kids, get them all involved so you have a solid understanding of what true success is for what you’re doing. So that when the time comes—and you know it will—that you’re discouraged, or you feel that you’re a failure, or that voice comes at the back of your head saying, “Whatever made you think you’re a writer?” you can answer with certainty that God came to you asking you to do this. And you can say “I am a success because…” and you can list out what He tells you is the measure of success and what you know within your heart is a true measure of success.

 

We want to hear from you!

Have you wrestled with the definition of success? What have you learned through that?

 

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059 – 7 Hidden Gifts of Writing

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young 7 Hidden Gifts of Writing on Write from the DeepWe all know there’s no more wonderful task than being a writer in God’s kingdom. It’s something we love and delight in. But it goes so much deeper than we often realize. It’s a task overflowing with hidden gifts…gifts that, when we recognize and embrace them, can enrich our real-world lives and relationships.

The Hidden Gifts of Writing
  1. We live with a heightened awareness of what’s around us.
  • Writers are observers. We see and hear things many others don’t. We see the nuances in people’s expressions and body language. We see the beauty around us in deeper and more impactful ways than others do. We are PRESENT in our study of human nature and nature itself. We can use that to also be present in our surroundings and our relationships, to gain a powerful sense of what this world and this life is really about.
  •  “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:17.  Use this gift to really SEE.

 

  1. We have a strong awareness of God’s involvement in what we do, say, and write.
  • Did you ever go back and look at something you wrote and wonder how in the world you wrote that? And you KNOW it was God. Don’t miss the blessing there. Seeing God at work is priceless.
  • How often did the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Jesus’ time ask Him to give them a sign? But the signs were there. The lame walked, the blind could see, the deaf received their hearing, dead people came back to life. There were plenty of signs. The Pharisees just missed them. There was no appreciation, no gratitude. Gratitude changes us. It makes us glorify God and see Him for who He is, for how great He is. It give us proper humility, and that enriches us.
  • Do you want a sign that God is in this writing thing with you? God gives that to you in the miracle of your words. Or maybe in that one person who tells you what you wrote made a difference. God takes your words and does something supernatural with them.

 

  1. We have the best training camp possible.
  • Writing makes you develop muscles and automatic responses for walking in submission, trust, and obedience, and for enduring when things get hard.
  • Submission: We’re trained, over and over, to lay our goals and desires on the altar and seek HIS goals.
  • Obedience: We do what He asks us to, knowing the results are up to Him.
  • Endurance: We don’t quit when things get difficult. We turn to Him to sustain and support us.
  • Trust: We learn to take one step at a time without having to know what’s down the road.

 

  1. We get to be imitators of God in the act of creation.
  • Genesis 1:1-3 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” This is God’s first recorded act. The first words of God’s story to us. He created. And we’re part of His creation. He made us in His image.
  • God says, “Let there be light,” and through His work in us, we create stories that shine light too.
  • God brought order out of chaos. Our first drafts make feel formless and empty, but we as co-creators can bring order to that chaos in our imitation of God
  • We are God’s image bearers when we act as creators.

 

  1. We have highly developed listening skills. 
  • We learn how to be still and listen for Him. For His leading, for His encouragement. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know…”
  • We can take these skills and apply them to those around us as well. Our friends and family, even our readers. We can study real people like we do our characters. We can understand their motivations and wounds and personalities, which helps us be more loving and compassionate.

 

  1. NOTHING in a writer’s life is ever wasted!
  • Every experience, every joy and pain, every tear and giggle, every delight and tragedy, every broken bone, every sleepless night…they all become part of the life experiences that inform our books and, as a result, minister to our readers.
  • Every word you write becomes part of your craft journey. Even if they’re terrible words, they’re practice. Every word is practice, which contributes to your growth as a writer.

 

  1. You get to do something you’re passionate about.
  • Many people in this world have no goals, no passion, no inspiration. Your passion for this task is a gift because it give you purpose.
  • Maybe writing is your day job, or maybe it’s just a little piece of your day or week or month. But whatever it is, it’s something you care deeply about. That’s a gift. You care about the message God has given you be it something you wrote in your journal, in a novel, devotional, memoir, or a note to a friend. You care about the characters you create. You care for your readers.

 

We encourage you today to open your mind and heart to the gifts God has hidden for you in this task of writing. To cherish them and let them help you see God, and His creation, more clearly, and to reflect Him more passionately in your writing, but even more in your life and relationships.

 

We want to hear from you!

What hidden gift have you discovered in writing?

 

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058 – Did God Really Ask You to Write?

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Write from the Deep Podcast Did God Really Ask You to WriteHave you ever sat back and wondered if you heard wrong about being a writer? If God really did give you the task to write, then why is it all so…difficult? Frustrating? Disappointing? And why isn’t He confirming that He gave you this task?

Most of us are doing this task of writing because we believe God has given it to us. So why do so many writers struggle with doubt? Why do we wonder if we really did hear God correctly? Or struggle to know what He’s leading us to do right now?

The good news is that you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon for writers to wonder if maybe they heard God wrong. Or to want, down the road, some sense of confirmation that God really said what they thought He did.

There are many reasons people take on the task of writing, and not all Christians who write do so because they believe God has called them to it. It’s fine if you’re writing because you love it, and you’ve decided to serve God by doing so. It’s okay if you serve God in other ways and write just because you enjoy it.

For many of us, though, we write because we believe God asked us to do so, that this is how He wants us to honor and serve Him. We believe He’s given us the task to write for Him. That gives us our purpose and determination. It keeps us going when things get hard or even ugly.

And yet we still doubt we heard God correctly!

Why We Doubt

Our passion ebbs

  • When things don’t happen the way we expect
  • When someone criticizes us
  • When we don’t take time to maintain our relationship with God
  • When we get too preoccupied with DOING and forget to simply listen
  • When we ask but don’t wait for God’s answer

We hear God’s directions once but we want more continual confirmation

  • We doubt when we’ve been at our task for weeks, months, or years and haven’t heard anything more from God
  • Consider Joseph’s situation in Matthew 2:13. “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’” All that time in Egypt couldn’t have been easy—starting over in a foreign land. Did Joseph doubt? Did he feel forgotten? Did he wonder if he heard right? We don’t know. But we do know that they stayed in Egypt until he got new directions to return.

We don’t ask the right questions, so we don’t get answers, and it makes us doubt

  • Think about Job and his friends. They’re trying to figure out what’s going on, what Job did wrong to deserve such horrible things. Then God speaks up and basically tells Job he’s asking the wrong question. It’s not about why, it’s about understanding who God is and what it means to follow His leading.
  • Notice in the Gospels how often Jesus is asked a question and he doesn’t answer it, or he answers a different question that they should have asked. We get so focused on our situation, our goals, and our plans that we forget this writing journey is part of our discipleship, part of our walk with God. He’s concerned about our character and about us valuing Him.
The Hard News

This issue really isn’t about hearing God at all. It’s about knowing Him. As well as—or even better than—you know your closest friends and family. Think about it, when your best friend calls you on the phone, do you recognize his or her voice? Of course, because you know that person so well. You know the inflections in his words, the sound of her laughter and weeping. You know her as well as you know yourself. That’s how well you need to know God.

You have within you the very spirit of the living, Almighty God. If you don’t know Him, or His spirit, as well as you do your friends and family, you need to focus on getting to the point where you, the sheep, are so well acquainted with the Shepherd’s voice that your response to it is immediate. That the sense you have when He speaks is one of trust and obedience. And you don’t doubt that you heard it, because you know it too well to do so.

The way to hear God, to know it’s His voice speaking to you, is simply to take the time to build relationship with Him.

Doubt isn’t an issue of not hearing, it’s an issue of not knowing and, as a result, not trusting.

If you don’t really KNOW Him, then of course you’ll start to doubt that He put you on this path when it doesn’t go the way you think it should. The key is knowing, deep in the fabric of your soul, that how the journey goes isn’t a validation—or invalidation—of God’s call.

We’re called to follow a suffering Savior, so you can be sure there will be difficulties and suffering. But we endure because He’s there with us. And we don’t take a detour unless it’s clear, deep in our soul, that He is the one telling us to do so.

Solutions to doubt

Focus on humility and learning God’s way (not OUR way) and trust that He IS leading you

  • We did a podcast about humility that you can listen to.
  • “He leads the humble in what is right, teaching them His way. The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all those who keep His covenant and obey His decrees.” Psalm 25:9-10
  • Learning God’s way helps you maintain passion. He will astound you as you encounter Him.
  • “It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of His robe filled the Temple. Attending Him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty! The whole earth is filled with His glory!’ Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke…Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’” Isaiah 6:1-4; 8

Do a study on what happened when people in the Bible heard God and obeyed

  • Was the path He set them on easy?
  • Did they stay the course without constant confirmation?

Focus on distinguishing God’s voice from others

  • “The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave…'” 1 Kings 19:11-13
  • Learn to listen rather than talk

Find a mentor or a group of believers with whom you can discuss your faith journey

  • We often get to know God better by sharing our faith journeys with each other.

Follow the orders you’ve been given until you get new orders

  • Did you ever think about what a big, long, difficult task it was for Noah to build the ark? Scholars say around 100-120 years. That’s much longer than writing a book, or even a whole writing career.
Assurance through doubt

The beauty of all of this is that once you really get to know God, to recognize how He speaks to His sheep and leads them, you can move forward in freedom, knowing that if He doesn’t want you on a particular path, He’ll let you know. If He hasn’t done so, then all you need to do is stay the course. Take it a step at a time, and trust that Almighty God, who loves you better than you can ever know, is with you, guiding you, using you, and bringing His will about in you.

We want to hear from you

What gives you confidence that you’re hearing God correctly?

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Doubt isn’t an issue of not hearing God, it’s an issue of not knowing Him and, as a result, not trusting.

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057 – The Rhythm of Prayer with Bob Hostetler

Bob Hostetler on the Write from the Deep podcast The Rhythm of PrayerDo you understand that prayer is the most powerful tool you have in your arsenal as a person, let alone as a writer? So why, in today’s world, does prayer seem to be the most undervalued gift we can give each other—and ourselves? Writer, agent, speaker, disk jockey, and pastor Bob Hostetler joins us to discuss the importance of prayer to our writing, and how we can dwell in prayer and communion with God.

About Bob…

Bob Hostetler is an award-winning writer, editor, pastor, and speaker from southwestern Ohio. He’s written forty-seven books, including eleven written with Josh McDowell. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award, among others. Bob is also a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats.

Bob was ordained to the ministry in 1980 by The Salvation Army. He and his wife, the lovely Robin, served in The Salvation Army from 1980-1992.

He has been a disc jockey, pastor, magazine editor, freelance book editor, and (with his wife Robin) a foster parent to ten boys (though not all at once).

Key takeaways

What the deep means to Bob…

I can’t help but think of the verse of Scripture “deep calls to deep”…Of course scholars debate what in the world that means. For me it reflects the depth of personal experience. I think when God calls us through deep waters, through deep experiences, life-changing sometimes crippling experiences, that happens at a place in us that then becomes a place of witness as well. People who’ve experienced great grief and hurt and trouble in their lives often have a ministry to others who were going through something like that. For me the deep is that place of unutterable experience, that often God allows us to go to so that we meet Him there.

“O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life.” Psalm 42:6-8

Bob’s transformative prayer journey…

The dirty little secret of my pastoring life was that I hadn’t always been the man of prayer that I wanted to be. I tried, but it wasn’t until about 25 years ago, when I made my first visit to the Abbey of Gethsemane, that I discovered the deep, to echo your theme. That experience took me to a place in prayer that I’ve never been before. I’d decided I would bite the bullet and enter into the rhythm of prayer hours at the monastery for the first 24 hours without making any promises of doing anything beyond that. After 24 hours of silence and doing the prayer routine with the monks, I got my food for lunch, sat down, and when I went to fold my hands over my lunch to say grace, it brought me up short because I realized I was already praying. Just 24 hours into the rhythm of that community, I was no longer entering and exiting times of prayer. I was just in a constant slow dance with God, a constant conversation. So that’s what changed my prayer life, my ministry, and eventually what changed my writing as well. Because I wanted more of that. I wanted to stay in or repeat that deep place that I’d gone to.

Prayer infected the rest of life for me. My life, instead of becoming a life that I tried to inject prayer into, it became a prayer that I tried to inject life into.

On why we struggle to pray…

For me, as a victim of 21st century life, at least in Western culture, I think we’ve accepted a pace and a routine, and a way of doing life that somewhere along the line we didn’t have to except. While I love modern conveniences, we’ve allowed ourselves to accept routines and paces that we don’t have to. That’s why my time at the monastery was so transformative. It was the silence and the solitude and the, by design, the lack of hurry at the monastery that changed everything.

We’re constantly go, go, go. One day, one week, one month leads to another and we don’t have the silence or solitude or pace that allows God to be heard through it all.

The entire ebb and flow of our lives, at least in Western culture, is not something that lends itself to communion with God.

The value of prayer…

In church on Sunday my pastor Ron King said, “Prayer is the most underrated gift in today’s world.”

The danger of hurry…

Eugene Peterson wrote that hurry is the pastor’s enemy. I extrapolate that to say it’s also true of the writing life. Hurry is poison to the writers soul. Not just hurry as I’m writing, but hurry to get into writing, hurry to get out of writing. Hurry and the busyness—that’s what prevents me from praying. If I just plop into my writing chair and expect to bang out a few thousand words—that looks way different than when I begin with prayer, and proceed with prayer, and end with prayer.

How to turn to prayer in the midst of deadline panic…

Distraction is poison to the writer’s soul. Panic is also poison to the writer’s soul. The more I sweat a piece, the more I’m focused on the deadline or whatever has got me in a lather rather than focused on God and His provision and His presence and what He may possibly want to accomplish through this thing that I’m writing. Then the less I’m able to focus and the less creative I can become. My tendency is to do it in my own strength. To go in the strength of Bob. God has to remind me how unwise that is.

The myth of being “prayed up”

My routine is morning and evening prayer, and sometimes when I’m hungriest in the middle of the day. But that doesn’t mean everything I’m writing has been prayed over. I may still come to my desk and try to pound it out in my own strength. But God reminds me that I need Him and His creativity and His inspiration. The whole concept of manna is an object lesson in our daily and moment by moment need for God. I’m constantly learning and relearning that.

Finding your prayer rhythm…

We don’t all have the same prayer rhythm, we don’t have the same routine in our lives. Each of us has a unique personality. The challenge is not in doing what Bob does, or Karen, or Erin. It’s not imitation, its it’s figuring out what is my rhythm. How can I best bring not prayer into my life but life into prayer. How can I achieve a rhythm so that my writing becomes a prayer itself. So that prayer is not a part of my writing, but my writing is a part of my prayer life. I think that looks different for everybody. Give some thought to the patterns and pace of your own life. If you think of prayer as a dance with God when can you join the dance? Whatever your patterns lend themselves to, find a way so that your writing and your prayer become a part of the dance together until one becomes indistinguishable from the other.

Books and websites referenced…

Bob’s blog post: Your First Writing Assignment

Oneprayeraday.com

Books by Eugene Peterson

The Contemplative Pastor

The Message

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

Have you found your prayer rhythm? What helps you stay in that rhythm?

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Hurry is poison to the writer’s soul!

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056 – Is Your Humility True or False?

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Write from the Deep Podcast Is Your Humility True or False

“Thank GOD I’m so humble.” Do you know anyone who seems to think this about himself?  Ever catch yourself thinking that? Well, then it’s time to take a hard look at what is true—and false—humility. Especially when it comes to promoting your books…

As Christians, we’re told to be humble. As writers, we’re told we need a platform. We’re told we need to promote ourselves and our books. How do we reconcile those two things? What about awards? Is it right to want to win a writing award? Gain bestselling status? What about when we’re writing a proposal or talking to a prospective editor or agent? Or other writers? Or readers? We don’t want to be tooting our own horn, but we don’t want to give the impression we have nothing to offer.

What exactly IS humility and how does that work for writers?

First, let’s give you a new perspective. Promotion isn’t about you. It’s about God. We’ll talk more about that as we go.

What is humility?

A Psychology Today article had this to say about humility: “The humble person keeps her accomplishments, gifts, and talents in a proper perspective…”

That last bit is the key. “In a proper perspective.” It’s not saying accomplishments, gifts, and talents are bad. But you have to understand where they come from. Who gave them to you? Who gets the glory for those things?

  • Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 4:7 “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”
  • Humility is understanding that our talents, our achievements, come from God, and they’re meant to bring glory to Him, not us. This is part of what we mean when we say promotion isn’t about you. It’s about God.

The Psychology Today article goes on to say: “…humble individuals are also oriented towards others, they value the welfare of other people…”

  • Philippians 2:3 echoes that idea of valuing others: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
  • 1 Peter 4:10 “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

We need to ask ourselves what our purpose is in this writing task. Is it about us?

Are we doing this to serve or are we doing this because we’ve always wanted to be an author and sell lots of books?

Jesus is our model for serving with humility.

  • Matthew 20:25-28 “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
  • Why did He do this? Because He loved us. He valued us. Let this be our motivation too.
  • Whether you write greeting cards, devotionals, or sci-fi thrillers, serve your readers with humility because you care about them, you respect them, you value them, and yes, you love them.

God gets the glory for that, because we’re reflecting God’s glory and grace when we love others and imitate God by walking in love.

 

What is False Humility?

This is a heart issue. It’s when you put on the cloak of humility, but in reality, your ego is at work making sure people know how humble you are.

  • Matthew 6:1-5 in The Message says, “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good (or humble) so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace.”

Signs that you’re giving in to false humility when you’re doing promotion

  • When you make a performance out of “being humble”
  • When it’s done for any audience other than God
  • When you’re pretending like you’re stepping out of the spotlight, but in reality, you make sure the spotlight follows you
  • One example is constantly slipping in references to your accomplishments: “Even though I’ve written 80 books, I struggle with that sense of not being good enough…” What would show true humility? Something like, “Those feelings that you’re not good enough are always there…” Then turn the conversation to how God deals with that struggle. The focus is on God, not on you and your accomplishments.

Low self-esteem is NOT humility

  • Pastor Marty Brown’s definition: It’s not thinking more highly, OR more lowly of yourself than you ought. It’s accepting what God says about you without argument.
  • Some of us may struggle with low self esteem. That’s not humility. God says you’re fearfully and wonderfully made and that you’re valuable to Him. Christ was willing to die for you because He loved you. He valued you.
  • C.S. Lewis says, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” That goes back to valuing others and being outwardly focused.

 

Why is humility a desirable trait?

The same Psychology Today article mentioned these benefits of humility: “Interestingly, the empirical research on humility shows that this trait has great value. Humility has been linked with better academic performance, job performance, and excellence in leadership. Humble people have better social relationships, avoid deception in their social interactions, and they tend to be forgiving, grateful, and cooperative. A recent set of studies also shows that humility is a consistent predictor of generosity.”

What does God say about humility, and why it’s desirable?

  • Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
  • Proverbs 22:4 “True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life.”
  • 1 Peter 5:5 “…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

 

How writers can practice humility

Listen to others

  • Don’t listen so you can talk. Listen so you can get to know that person.
  • Ask questions. Understand them. Hear what’s underneath what they’re saying and think about how you can meet their needs.

Don’t use being “humble” as an excuse for not doing your job, which is promotion

  • Don’t worry about being a bestselling author. Focus interviews and promotion on talking about God and why you felt led to write this book. Talk about your own struggle. Be transparent and authentic.
  • Focus on marketing with excellence, but leave the results in God’s hands.
  • Promotion doesn’t equate with pride or thinking more of yourself than you should. For writers, promotion is serving the readers who need your book. Remember, it’s really not about you or “your” book, it’s about letting people know about a message God breathed into you for your readers’ benefit.

How do you communicate your ability with humility when speaking with prospective agents, editors, or readers?

  • Let your writing speak for itself. Don’t tell someone you’re an excellent writer, even if you have 5 star reviews on Amazon. Let people judge your writing for themselves.
  • What you want to do instead is communicate your passion. Why are you writing what you’re writing? What excites you about it? Talk about the reasons why you can’t NOT write this.

How do you build your platform with humility?

  • Don’t focus on building your platform. That’s about you. Focus instead on connecting with those you can help. That focus is on the readers.
  • Engage people with your passion, with your message. Doing that with all your heart is what matters. It’s up to God to determine the level or size of your platform.

Should you try to win awards?

First, you should write the best book you can. Always. That’s the focus.

  • Don’t enter a contest to stroke your ego, or because you need someone to tell you your writing is good, or because you need validation, or to boast.
  • But awards can sometimes be useful for promotion – to help people find out about the book and/or to help build your reputation for writing your message. This may be useful to you as an indie or hybrid author. Also, many publishers enter their authors’ books in contests.
  • However, Karen doesn’t think entering contests on your own is a wise thing to do for your heart. She’s seen writers struggle with hurt, rejection, even resentment and envy when they don’t win. Don’t put yourself in the position to be tempted.
  • Bottom line: contests are a danger area. Search your heart. Don’t enter if it’s going to bring a challenge to you in terms of comparison, or begrudging someone else. Make sure you can do this to honor your publisher and honor God first.

If you do win an award, should you post on social media?

  • Yes you should post, because it’s an award to your publisher too
  • But focus on thanking those who gave you the award, on the readers, and on those who helped bring the book to publication
Final thoughts on humility

Exercise trust and patience in this whole process: 1 Peter 5:6 “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor.” Do your work in humility. Trust Him to do what He wants to do with you and your career.

Finally, be prayerful. True humility is a gift from God. Being able to be truly humble comes from Him. It doesn’t come out of the motivations of the human heart. It’s too conflicted and too full of the need to be acknowledged. We need to submit that heart to God, submit all those places where we feel inadequate, submit all the things that could be translated into false humility. Surrender all those things on His altar. Your desire to be recognized, your desire to be a bestseller. Put all of that on the altar and tell Him, “Do with me, do with my career, what You will.” Whatever comes your way, you will know it comes from Him. And you will know that you’ve found and embraced humility because your response will be gratitude. And your response will be to put the spotlight on Him.

 

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055 – Stop Settling for Superficial Writing

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Write from the Deep Podcast, Stop Settling for Superficial WritingAre you just skimming the surface of the story God’s given you to write? If so, you’re doing your readers a disservice. Unless your writing comes from the depths of who you are, of your own journey, it’ll lack power and resonance. Dig deep when you write, and your words will not just entertain, but change lives.

Last week we talked about how we need to stop settling for a superficial life. If you haven’t heard that episode, we encourage you to go listen. We live in a superficial world, and our brains are even getting re-wired for superficiality rather than depth of thought, and we’re drawn more and more into superficial online relationships. This is a perfect setup for superficial writing, because there’s no way to write well when you don’t even know who you are.

What is writing from the deep? 

It’s about our character steeped in God:

  • as we navigate the trials and joys of the publishing industry
  • as we follow God in obedience
  • as we create with God, not FOR God. (Because He doesn’t need us to accomplish His purposes.) Acts 17:24-25 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”
  • as we serve our readers whoever they may be and no matter how many

Through all that, our character matters. We need to honor God and reflect Him in everything we do. That takes constantly, intentionally going deep with God and laying our foundation on His truth.

It’s also about how we dig deep into the topics and themes that we choose to write about.

How do we dig deep in our writing?

It starts with not being superficial ourselves. If we’re not avoiding superficiality in life, how can we avoid it in our writing?

Mine the depths of who you are:

Bob Hostetler quoted NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Rachel Hauck in a blog post, “Write who you are. You can never stop mining the depths of your heart, what you love and believe, your values and passions. I discover something new about myself with each book when I write who I am.”

Mining the depths of who you are happens by asking the hard questions, wrestling with God for the answers, and writing about what you discover through it.

  • Deep questions expose universal truths that touch readers because those truths apply to them as well.
  • In nonfiction, this kind of wrestling over questions is vital. People are asking hard questions, and we can’t give them pat answers.

Mine the depths of emotions on the page:

  • Writing with depth doesn’t shy away from the emotions.
  • Write authentically from your experiences. Don’t hold back!
  • Readers of both fiction and nonfiction want to feel, to experience. Not just the grief, or despair, but the triumph as well.

Practical tips for putting emotions into writing:

  • You are the first measuring stick as you’re writing. If you’re not feeling it, your reader won’t either.
  • If you’re writing nonfiction, don’t let yourself write from a “teacher” perspective, where you hold yourself back from the emotions. It’s not just your words readers need, but your heart.
  • In fiction, this is one area where it’s important to show, rather than tell. Don’t tell us your character is angry. That’s superficial. Paint a picture. SHOW the emotion and how it impacts those around them. Be an observer in your own life and in the lives of those around you. Draw on that to flesh out the emotions and relationships on the page. One specific example of this is with romance novels. You know how it just doesn’t ring true when you have the hero think the heroine is beautiful, and she thinks he’s gorgeous, and then suddenly they’re and love? There has to be more to it than just the physical attributes. What is it in a person that will draw your character? Is it their behavior, their laugh, the way they are with children or animals or the elderly? Dig deep so that it comes out as multi-faceted as love is in real life.
  • With nonfiction, if you realize you’re skimming the surface of how the topic or issue affects you, then dig deeper. Make a list of interactions or events, the things that not only made you aware of the topic but spurred you to write about it. Let your readers know your own struggle and your heart.

In fiction, let your characters either be or become deep, not superficial:

  • This means taking what we should be doing in real life—fostering deep relationships—and putting it into practice in our writing. You need to know your characters deeply.
  • Avoid stereotypes by knowing more than just the basics about your characters. Think of your characters as jewels with a lot of different facets to explore.
  • Let your characters do or think or feel the unexpected. So your villain is a serial killer, but what if he’s also a guy who loves kittens? And the way he chooses his victims is that he sees them being cruel to animals.
  • Nonfiction writers, you need to make sure you know your target readers. You need to know and understand them as well as we in fiction need to know and understand our characters.

In fiction, just as emotion and truths and characters in your books need to be deep, so does the conflict:

  • The driving force of conflict can’t be some misunderstanding that can be cleared up over a cup of coffee.
  • You must be willing to torture your characters. The harder, deeper, and more painful the journey for your characters, the more heroic they are when they conquer.
  • Donald Maas tells writers to make things bad, then make them worse, then make them even worse. Build on the conflict, deepen it as the story advances. Reveal it with the story, being strategic in how you unpack it so the reader will understand it and connect with the character.
  • Require sacrifice. The conflict has to cost something for your character. What hits them where they live? Put your characters in the position of having to make hard choices where they don’t have a good option. Make them have to give up things or people they care about.
  • Nonfiction writers, you can use all of this as well. Use strategic examples/illustrations that will draw emotion from your readers. Stories of you or those you know (or those who’ve shared their stories with you) written with fiction tools, so that you show emotion and impact.

The bottom line:

This is all just scratching the surface of deeper writing, not because we’re being superficial, but because this podcast would be hours long if we explored all the elements of it! What we wanted to do was just get you pointed in the right direction. Dig deep. Be vulnerable. Write from who you are and the real-life joys, delights, struggles, and trials. Remember the old saying, “Nothing is wasted in a writer’s life.” It’s all fodder for going deep in your writing. All you have to do is be willing to open up.

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054 – Stop Settling for a Superficial Life

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Write from the Deep Podcast - Stop Settling for a Superficial LifeuperficialHave you noticed the trend toward superficiality in our world today? We’re easily bored, our attention spans keep shrinking, and we have a steady stream of superficial input from media. It’s a mile wide and an inch deep. We’re more apt to react to what we see on social media and type off a quick response, or click a thumbs up button and move on to the next video flashing at us. Before we know it, an hour, or two, or more, has passed, and all we’ve been doing is wading in the shallows.

Why is superficiality a problem? For one thing, it creates isolation (we talked about that in episode #50, The Danger of Isolation). We’ve been made in the image of God. He gave us a brain with the ability to think, to enjoy beauty, to appreciate the wonder of God. He created us for relationship, for fellowship. We’re selling ourselves short of what God intends us to be and what He intends for His body.

Why is superficiality so common?

1. It takes time to go deep – time we don’t feel we have

  • We live busy lives with many expectations. We’re constantly in a rush
  • We live in an increasingly instant society where there is no patience for delay
  • We’re constantly forced to multitask, which weakens our ability to process deeply
  • We increasingly engage and depend on online relationships, which promotes weak ties rather than strong ties that better foster support and emotional development

2. Our digital world is changing our brains

  • The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to our Brains by Nicholas Carr says, “A search engine often draws our attention to a particular snippet of text, a few words or sentences that have strong relevance to whatever we are searching for at the moment, while providing little incentive for taking in the work as a whole. We don’t see the forest when we search the web. We don’t even see the trees. We see twigs and leaves.”
  • Reading a book uses visual processing, memory, and language. Internet surfing uses those, but adds decision-making and problem-solving areas. You’re always faced with hyperlinks that make it easy to flit from one topic to the next. It forces you to multitask, and Carr says that impedes comprehension and retention. Bottom line: You have to work really hard to read and retain something on the Internet. When we don’t have time to process what we’re reading, it doesn’t stick.
  • Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on our Brains by Susan Greenfield says about the effects of digital technology, “…our attention spans shrink, deeper thinking declines and interpersonal bonds wither.” She also says, “The digital revolution exploits our biological propensity for mindlessness.”

3. We don’t go deep because there is a cost

  • Dropping masks is counter cultural in our world where appearances count, where you’re supposed to act like you have all the answers. But we’re not meant to hide our true selves in the dark. God’s Word tells us in 1 John 1:5-8 “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
  • Going deep requires vulnerability. It makes us uncomfortable and opens us up to rejection.
  • Going deep can be extremely painful, not just because of rejection but because we may need to go deep into our own pain in order to heal from wounds we’ve concealed rather than healed from.

4. Going deep forces us to ask some hard questions of ourselves

    • What if I don’t like who I am deep down? What if I’m really a lousy person?
    • What if I discover I don’t truly care about things I SHOULD care about?
    • What if, deep down, I start to wonder if I really even believe in God? Or don’t trust Him, or don’t know Him?
    • These things ARE true in our flesh, but God is in the business of transforming us through His Spirit, not in our own power. It’s a transformation from the inside out.
    • Jesus had some harsh words for those who ignore the deep down issues, or pretend they’re something they’re not when He was addressing the Pharisees. Matthew 23:27 “…Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” But God wants us to explore what’s deep inside us so He can clean us from the inside out.

Practical Solutions

  1. Pray for a willingness and ability to get out of the shallows, to escape the trivial. Pray that we can set our minds on deeper things, on things that please God, on how He sees us and the people around us.
  2. Schedule distraction-free time to go deep, both with God and with people. Commit to that time. Make it intentional.
    • Evaluate your friendships. Which ones can you cultivate to be deep? Which ones lead you into superficiality?
    • Evaluate your activities. Which ones cultivate deeper thinking, deeper relationships?
  3. Schedule time with yourself. Time for reflection. Time to evaluate your day, your life. Time to reflect on the sermon at church, or your Bible study, or the Scripture you’re memorizing. Don’t skim the surface.
  4. Be the one to take the risk. To drop the mask. To be vulnerable. It’s so freeing. Don’t miss out on that freedom!
  5. Brave the pain of going deeper yourself. We want to avoid that pain, but often true healing is found at the other end.
  6. Brave the pain of others’. Be with them. You don’t have to have all the answers. You have to be willing to listen. To give them a safe place to be real and vulnerable.
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053 – Can I Trust God? Part 2

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Can I Trust God, part 2, Write from the Deep podcast Trust is hard. Even with God. Sometimes it’s especially hard with God. It’s not that we don’t believe He’s trustworthy, it’s just that we can’t surrender ourselves to that trust. But there’s a wonderful reward when you do so, and that’s immeasurable peace. So let us help you discover what’s holding you back, and how to start trusting today!

In our last episode we talked about how trust has two parts, there’s the action on our part—believing, relying, depending, hoping. And a qualifier about who or what we trust in. The reliability, truthfulness, ability, or strength of what we’re hoping in, what we’re placing confidence in. And we tackled the latter side of the issue first: Is God trustworthy?

Our answer? A definitive YES.

Today we’ll talk about our side of the bargain. If God IS trustworthy, are WE able to act on that? Are we able to do the trusting? How do we know?

Signs that you’re not trusting God

  • Anxiety
  • Worry
  • Lack of peace
  • Taking back something you’ve “surrendered”
  • Not obeying God

What builds the obstacles inside of us that hold us back from truly trusting God? The simple answer is fear.

We’re afraid we won’t like how God will handle something. That those who deserve to be punished won’t be, or that those who deserve great rewards won’t get them, or that those who are hurt and sick won’t be healed physically.

We put our expectations of timeline, of how things should happen, on God. But remember who sees all, from beginning to end? That’s not us, folks. That’s God and God alone.

When you trust God, really trust Him, you surrender the situation and yourself and walk away. Trust means giving something to God and then not thinking about it again until you see His answer. No matter how it comes, and no matter how long it takes. (Another resource to help you with this aspect of trusting is episode 47: Is God Really Good?)

So why is true trust in God so important?

Trust changes everything.

The Fruit of Trust

Blessing

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.  Jeremiah 17:7-8

Freedom

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  Romans 8:1-2

Joy

If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.  John 15:10-11

Guidance

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.  Proverbs3:5-6 (the Message)

Confidence

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength…”  Isaiah 30:15

Future reward

For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for His children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.  1 Peter 1:4-5

How do we develop trust?

We learn to trust by trusting. There is no magic formula.

  • Be in communication with God about both how we’re trusting and what we’re struggling to trust Him with
  • Purpose to dwell on God’s proven dependability and not on our fears
  • Set up Ebenezers – Stones of Help – to remind us of what God has done in our life and writing journey

Scriptural examples of Ebenezers or markers:

He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”  Joshua 4:21-24

The Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  1 Samuel 7:10

Final words

The moment you start to dwell on obstacles or fear, remember and praise God instead for what He has done in the past. Remember your Ebenezers, your markers. Then praise Him for what He’s doing now, tell Him what you’re trusting Him with now. And tell Him where you’re struggling and ask for help. And when you surrender it to Him, HANDS OFF!

Then move into the day in faith!

 

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052 – Can I Trust God? Part 1

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young, Can I Trust God, part 1     It’s easy to say we trust God, but do we really? True trust means no worry, no taking back what you surrendered. True trust means peace. No matter what.

In our last episode, Ginny Yttrup joined us to talk about surrendering to God, and in the comments on the post we talked about how hard surrender can be and one of the things Ginny posted was: “Surrender is a walk of trust.” She nailed it. One short little sentence, very big idea. Because what she was saying was trusting is a prerequisite of surrendering. How can you surrender anything to God if you don’t deep in your gut trust Him?

We all THINK we trust God, but if we do, why do we worry, fret, take back what we’ve surrendered? Why do we struggle to find peace?

What is trust?
  • New Oxford American Dictionary: “To believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of”
  • New Oxford American Dictionary: “Have faith or confidence”
  • Webster “To rely on the truthfulness or accuracy of”
  • Webster “To place confidence, depend, hope”

If we’re talking about trusting God, we have to ask: Is God trustworthy?

Can we hope in Him?

Rely on Him?

Is He strong enough to do what He says He’ll do?

Sure it’s easy to say He is…on the surface, but what about the deep places? We talk on this podcast about the deep having different meanings, and often we talk about the place of struggle, but the deep is also a place of deep relationship with God. Deep abiding. Deep knowing. Deep communing. Deep…trust. If we want that kind of relationship with God, then we better settle the question in the deepest part of our being. Is God trustworthy? Because that’s going to affect everything going forward.

Is He trustworthy/truthful?

How do you decide? You look at what He says and does. What’s His track record?

Moses, at the end of his life, before the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the promised land, reviews for them everything God had done. He gives them their history so that they can remember God’s track record.

  • The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”   Deuteronomy 7:7-9

Joshua does the same thing at the end of his life:

  •  “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”  Joshua 23:14

And God is still keeping His promises, like the promise of sending us a savior in Jesus:

  • “From [David’s] descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as He promised.”  Acts 13:23

So the evidence in Scripture proves that God is trustworthy, but what about strength?

Is He strong enough to do what He says?

Daniel chapter 3 talks about Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego in the furnace in Babylon:

  • Nebuchadnezzar makes a big statue and forces everyone to worship it, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse, and they’re brought before Nebuchadnezzar who’s furious at this rebellion.
  • He gives them a final chance and the consequences: “…if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Nebuchadnezzar challenges God.
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego believed God was strong enough. They stood up to an angry king and said, “…the God we serve is able to deliver us …”
  • They’re thrown into the hot fire, but they don’t die. Instead they’re walking around in the furnace. Nebuchadnezzar says, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
  • Nebuchadnezzar, a polytheistic pagan who believes in many gods, claims this God is the highest among them all. He concedes God’s dominance. ”I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

 

Can we hope in God?

In 2 Chronicles 20:1-30, King Jehoshaphat and all of Judah face an attack from a vast army:

  • “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.”
  • Jehoshaphat stands up in the assembly amidst everyone and prays to God. “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you…”
  • He goes on about how God said if His people cry out to Him, He will hear and save them.
  • He finishes the prayer by saying, “Oh God, will you not judge them…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you…”
  • They don’t run around preparing for battle. They stand before the Lord…and wait.
  • God answers them through one of the prophets and says, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s…You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…”
  • They worship God and obey Him. They go out the next morning praising God, and Jehoshaphat reminds them again to have faith. And they see God’s deliverance.
  • God causes the different armies to slay each other and they all die. Israel doesn’t have to fight at all. They go down into the desert and collect the plunder, so much that it takes 3 days. And they have another celebration praising God.

God’s track record is impeccable. The point of these things being written in Scripture was exactly so we could have the hope and trust we need now.

  • Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

 

When we believe God is trustworthy, it glorifies Him.

For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.”  Romans 15:8-9

 

How do we build trust?

Take Jehoshaphat’s example:

1) Look to God first: focus on Him first, not the problem, not your weakness. Focus on God and who He is.

  • Acknowledge who God is – His sovereignty, strength, might. He’s capable.
  • Acknowledge what He’s done in the past – He’s proven His trustworthiness. Confess the ways He’s shown that to you.
  • Acknowledge the promises He’s made to you

2) Pray:

  • Confess your situation, your problem
  • Confess your dependence on Him and your willingness to trust in Him
  • Watch. Listen. Keep focusing on God.

3) Respond:

  • When you listen and He tells you to do something, do it
  • Praise Him while you do what He’s commanded

 

Benefits of trust

  • Peace. “You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both inclination and character], Because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation].”  Isaiah 26:3, Amplified version.
  • Steadfastness.  “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.” Psalm 125:1
  • Joy. Psalm 33:21 “In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.”
  • Blessing. Psalm 52:8 “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.”

 

We want to hear from you!

What promises has God fulfilled in your life?

 

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Surrender in the Deep with Author Ginny Yttrup

Surrender in the Deep with Ginny Yttrup

51 – Surrender in the Deep with Author Ginny Yttrup

We’ve heard it over and over: “Don’t give up!” “Never surrender!” But the truth for writers is that surrender isn’t necessarily a bad move. In fact, as author Ginny Yttrup shows us, it’s the absolute best move when your journey takes you into the deep.

SHOW NOTES

Ginny L. Yttrup is an award-winning author of five novels including her latest, Home, which released earlier this month. She writes contemporary women’s fiction and enjoys exploring the issues everyday women face. Publishers Weekly dubbed Ginny’s work “as inspiring as it is entertaining.” When not writing, Ginny coaches writers, critiques manuscripts, and designs websites for authors. To learn more about Ginny and her work, visit ginnyyttrup.com or wordsforwriters.net.

 

What the Deep means to Ginny…

My immediate response, the first word that comes to mind is suffering. But then I thought it’s so much more than that. There’s a negative connotation to that, and for me the deep isn’t always a negative place. It’s a place of growth. It’s the place where I may not want to be, but where the best things happen. It’s the place that God has used the most in my life. When I’m not in a deep place – a place that I consider that place of growth – life is shallow. I don’t live well in the shallow end. I get really bored there. I feel stagnant there. The deep is where I most want to live, but it’s a little bit of a paradox. I want to be there, but I don’t.

 

The journey as a writer…

I was an avid reader growing up. As a child, books were my safe place. They became my protection, in a sense, from a traumatic childhood. I just loved books. And most of what I know about writing, I learned through reading as a child and through my adult years. When I was in my late twenties or early thirties, small children at home, I got the bug to try to write something myself. But I had absolutely no idea how to do that. I was a horrible student in school, barely graduated from high school, took a couple of college classes and realized that was not going to work for me either. So the idea of trying to learn to write was pretty intimidating. But someone told me about the Mount Hermon Writers conference. That was in California, so it was an easy drive for me. I took a leap of faith, signed up, and attended my first writers conference 25 years ago. That week on that campus I found people who were like me. And I didn’t talk to any of them. But I watched them. I observed, and I just knew this was where God was leading me.

I continued attending for many years and met Karen five years into my journey…Before I met Karen, I attended a workshop she taught on passion, and that particular week I ended up very, very sick with a sinus infection. I didn’t sleep much during the conference, and in the middle of the night, reading God’s Word, I felt like the Spirit whispered to me, “Someday you’ll work with Karen Ball.”

I continued to pursue nonfiction for ten more years. And when I finally started writing fiction, I emailed Karen my page, the only page I had written. And she said, “Keep going.”

Several years later, when that manuscript finally sold, it sold to B & H publishing, and Karen Ball was the acquisition’s editor.

 

On surrendering…

Surrender is the idea of giving the situation, the circumstance, the desire, the dream, whatever it is that you’re holding, giving that over to someone else. Letting someone else have control of that dream of publication and pursuing a career as a writer. And that’s hard to do when we’ve let ourselves dream of something and we’ve pursued it with passion. To let go of it can be a very painful experience. Because I do believe surrender is letting go. It’s letting go of the end result. Letting go of not necessarily our pursuit, but our management.

It was a breaking point for me. Often times I think God allows us to reach that point of brokenness so that we will surrender to Him. Surrendering was an act of turning over the end result and allowing God to take control. He was the one leading me down this path, and wherever that took me, I would trust Him.

That point of brokenness came in my writing journey more than once. For example, at about the ten year mark, after pursuing publication, learning the craft, honing my craft, continuing to learn about publishing, and being rejected one more time. That particular rejection, that breaking point, was a very painful process. It wasn’t done tenderly. It was during the Writer’s conference, and I just fell apart, saying to God, “I can’t do this any longer.” At that point, I did give up. It was ugly tears, it was anger, all that stuff that comes with rejection. But by the next morning, I had made the shift. Rather than giving up, I gave it over. Handed the dream to God and said, “I recognize that You’re in control and that You’re sovereign, and I will continue to trust You in this journey.”

 

About pain…

I read nowhere in Scripture where we’re told God will protect us from pain. I pray for that, I beg God for that daily, I ask Him to protect my children, those that I love, my health. God never promised to protect us from pain, but He provides for us in the midst of our pain. In fact He does promise that we will encounter trials, suffering, and pain, but in the midst of that we experience His provision of peace, of hope, of strength when we’ve come to the end of our own strength. In our weakness, He is our strength.

 

Final words of wisdom…

Surround yourself and stay in community with other writers. Build a strong community. Stay connected because we are all in this together. This isn’t a competition. We, especially as Christian writers, are unified as a body and that needs to be true in our writing communities…We need to be encouraging each other and celebrating each other. Stick together.

 

Books mentioned on the show

Home, Ginny’s latest release…

What happens when a novelist, struggling with the unfulfilled desires met at midlife, escapes into the fiction she writes?

Home by Ginny Yttrup

 

Words, Ginny’s award-winning debut novel…

A child whose silence holds the truth captive… An artist whose work speaks the agony of her past… Will they let the truth set them free?

Words by Ginny Yttrup

 

You can find Ginny Yttrup’s guest blog post – Five Lessons from the Road to Publication – on the Steve Laube Agency Blog.

 

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What has God taught you through surrender?

 

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The Danger of Isolation

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young The Danger of Isolation

50 – The Danger of Isolation

Have you ever felt alone? Have you been lonely? Do you ever struggle with the sense that there’s no one around that you can go to when you need prayer or just a pal to listen? If so, you’re not the only one! You’re “not alone.” In fact, in the last 10 years or so, studies have shown that our sense of aloneness and loneliness has grown more profound than ever before. So why should we care? Because one of the enemy’s most powerful tools to use against believers, especially those of us who are writers, is isolation.

 

What are the dangers of isolation?

Studies done in the last 5 years show that isolation isn’t just unhealthy, it’s deadly.

  • Elderly people who don’t have enough social interaction or a strong social connection are twice as likely to die prematurely
  • Social isolation is deadlier for people than obesity
  • When one is socially isolated, the increased mortality rate is equivalent to that of smoking
  • Social media is false interaction. Recent surveys have shown the more time a person spends on social media, the less happy that person tends to be. True social interaction must be done face-to-face.

When you’re isolated the enemy has you one-on-one.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 tells us “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

 

When you’re isolated:

  • It’s harder to see truth, easier to be swayed, You don’t have an objective viewpoint to help you see better
  • You don’t have anyone in the fight with you
  • You have no one to give you ideas, help/instruction, or support/encouragement
  • You have no one to challenge your ideas
  • You don’t grow as a result of mixing with people who see things differently (even other religions, etc.)
  • You can become exclusive in your thinking, believing you’re the only one with the right answer
  • You’re more prone to arrogance – not being teachable, as writers this is problematic
  • You may become unwilling to reach out to writers who are “the competition” when in reality you can help each other

 

Isolation can cause you to form a habit of self-reliance and selfishness, which leads to not depending on God either.

But we were created for community. We’re the BODY of Christ.

 

Is there anything good about being isolated?

Intentional healthy isolation—let’s call that solitude—can be helpful for…

  • Unplugging for spiritual refreshment, connection to God, prayer, listening, reflecting
  • Focusing on individual skill building or emotional growth
  • Reading and reflecting on what you’ve read
  • Turtle Time: Recharging if you’re an introvert

 

How can we know if we’ve isolated or if we’re seeking solitude?

Consider this distinction between the two from Psychology Today:

“Loneliness is marked by a sense of isolation. Solitude, on the other hand, is a state of being alone without being lonely and can lead to self-awareness”

Psychology Today goes on to say, “Solitude is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company. It’s a time for reflection, inner searching or growth or enjoyment of some kind. Thinking and creativity usually require solitude…Loneliness is harsh, punishment, a deficiency state, a state of discontent marked by a sense of estrangement. Solitude restores body and mind. Isolation depletes them.”

 

Look at the way it feels:

Are you feeling recharged? Refreshed? Ready to take on each day? Do you have a sense of peace? Of savoring the richness of your alone time? Then that’s solitude, an intentional coming away for a limited time.

Are you feeling lonely? Overwhelmed? Depressed? Abandoned? Unloved? Struggling with whatever comes your way during the day? Do you feel like this time of being alone was imposed on you? Or that it’s happened because nobody cares or understands you? Or the result of feeling shamed and unworthy? That’s isolation.

 

Solitude is something to be cultivated and savored.

Isolation is damaging and a seeming confirmation of our most negative self-talk.

 

So what if you’ve realized you’re caught up in isolation? Well, there are some practical things you can do to escape it.

  1. Make time with others a priority. Philippians 2: 2-4 says: Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too
  2. See number one. Yes, it’s hard, especially for introverts. This is something you’re going to have to make yourself do. But the hardest part is the first step. The momentum. Tell yourself it doesn’t have to be a long interaction. Phone or video call a friend. Go out for coffee or tea. Ask God to help you take the first step. Then be brave and ask Him if there are groups or activities He wants you involved in.
  3. Recognize there are other people whose life and faith journeys are different from your own. Be willing to listen, to hear their hearts. Let them challenge and refine you, always adhering, though, to what God shows you is truth. As Proverbs 12:15 says: Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.
  4. Stop wearing masks. Live authentically and honestly, letting people see you for who you are.
  5. Find allies (we’ll be doing a whole online course on this in the future!). Join a writers group. Start a mastermind or brainstorming group. Or reading group. Or prayer or accountability or whatever. Be the one to reach out.

 

Conclusion:

It’s okay to have time alone. In fact, it’s often a necessary part of our work as writers and our faith journey. But the enemy loves to slip in and move us beyond that helpful kind of alone time into the dangerous territory of isolation. We need to open ourselves to God’s leading and discernment. To ask Him if we’re caught in isolation. And if He shows us we are, then it’s time to act. To get outside of ourselves and embrace the wisdom and call of Hebrews 10:24-25: Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

 

We want to hear from you!

What helps you steer clear of the danger of isolation?

 

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Sometimes it’s good to be alone. Sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes it’s downright deadly!

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Mesu Andrews Shares How to Deal with Chronic Pain

Mesu Andrews shares how to deal with chronic pain on Write from the Deep

49 – Mesu Andrews Shares How to Deal with Chronic Pain

Few things can derail our lives like chronic pain. It invades every aspect of who we are and what we do, especially as writers. If you’ve found yourself wrestling with chronic pain, or any chronic struggle, come join the discussion with biblical novelist Mesu Andrews as she shares her writing journey with pain as a constant companion. The truths and wisdom she shares will lift your heart.

 

Show Notes

Mesu Andrews’ deep understanding of and love for God’s Word brings the biblical world alive for her readers. She and her husband, Roy, live in a log cabin snuggled into the beautiful Appalachian Mountains with their dog, Zeke. The Andrews’ have two married daughters and a small tribe of grandkids. Mesu loves movies, football, waterfalls, and travel. Biblical fiction is her favorite genre to read and write. Her first novel, Love Amid the Ashes (Revell, 2011), tells the story of Job and won the 2012 ECPA Book of the Year for a Debut Author. Love’s Sacred Song (Revell, 2012) relates the poetic Song of Solomon in story form, and Love in a Broken Vessel (Revell, 2013) sets the story of Hosea and Gomer in biblical Israel. In the Shadow of Jezebel (Revell, 2014) displays God’s sovereignty over Jezebel’s daughter, Queen Athaliah. The Pharaoh’s Daughter (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2015), the first in The Treasures of the Nile series, unveils Moses’ early years through the eyes of his Egyptian mother, and Miriam (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2016), the second book in the series, introduces Yahweh’s prophetess during the ten plagues and the Exodus as she struggles to trust this God she doesn’t understand.

 

What the deep means to Mesu…

The deep has so many meanings. I love the water, I love the ocean. It’s so powerful to me. I was in my twenties before I ever saw the ocean. And I remember being just so afraid when I saw it. It was so powerful, so awesome. So, the deep is not just a dark place, it’s also a powerful place. It’s where I find God… and His power to work through me, sometimes at my weakest. The deep is a very intriguing place to me. It can be scary, but it also is a very powerful place that we can write from.

 

Walking through the fire…

Back in 1996, I got a simple virus. I had a 102 temperature for about six days and when that temperature broke, my symptoms didn’t really go away. Three weeks later I was still having those same symptoms and had been to the doctor repeatedly. He didn’t really know what was going on. Back in 1996, that was way before fibromyalgia became the fad disease of the 90’s. It took me a year of many, many doctors, some of them who said, “It’s all in your head.” Others told me, “Yeah, you probably have sin in your life.” I finally got to one guy who poked on those eighteen little touch points that give you the diagnosis.

By 2002, busy pastor’s wife, two teenage girls, my husband was a full-time student… I was doing a speaking ministry. I was traveling quite frequently, at least twice a month. Life had gotten busy again. In July of 2002, I woke up on a July morning and I couldn’t move my arms and legs, had a hard time breathing. All I could do was say, “Help.” They got me to the doctor. He had no idea what was going on. Tests again, doctors shaking their heads, scratching their heads don’t know what’s going on. Spent six months in bed…they confirmed fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome. I started having migraines five times a week. By 2005, it was every day. They gave me some medication that has helped with that. I’m not in bed every day, so that’s awesome. We still deal with the migraines daily, but I’m on two preventatives a day. I do a rescue med twice a week and I do one dose of pain meds a day. I usually have till mid-afternoon until the pain gets to where I need to have a little break. But at least I’m not in a fetal position in my bedroom like I was for the first year. But here’s the thing: I no longer have an active speaking ministry. But I never wrote until I was six months in bed. That’s when I started writing. God knows. He has a plan. Was it His plan for me to get sick? I don’t think that was His perfect plan. I don’t think God makes us sick. He can certainly take the worst things that happen in our lives and He can turn them for our good.

 

Learning to rest in God…

It think it’s a daily and gradual thing. I can wake up today and lose it. I could let myself become discouraged. And I can end up right back in bed. Or I can wake up today and I can decide, “Nope. I’m gonna read my Bible before I pick up my edits.” And take that twenty minutes to read God’s word, to let it soak in, “Okay, what did that mean to David, when God did that in his life? Now, what does that mean for me today?” I have to know what it meant for David before I can know what it means for me. And then, taking that example, and saying, “I serve the exact same God who loves me just as much. And who wants my good.” But here’s the deal: Life is not about the here and now. Life is eternal. It’s about my eternity. It’s not about today. So, what is it today that’s going to make a difference in eternity? The biggest shift in my thinking was: God is good. Period. The end. No discussion.

 

Journey to writing…

I started out just wanting to have one book in the back of the speaking room so that I could sell that one book for folks to take home after I did my Song of Solomon conference or retreat. So, I go to my first writer’s conference thinking, “I’m gonna get this thing published.” And I was gonna do it in Bible study form, but I was gonna use elements of fiction in it, but it was gonna be a Bible study. And I had three people critique my proposal. The first one looked at me and said, “Wow, you need to stick with speaking because you can’t write.” The next one, she was livid. She yelled at me and said that I was committing heresy. And the third guy said, “Seriously, I would not publish a Bible study by Billy Graham on the Song of Solomon. I am certainly not gonna publish something by a little pastor’s wife in Indiana.” So, that was really a bust. Then I tried to get devotionals published. And I loved the deep stuff. My devotionals were gonna be called DeepOceanals. None of that worked. So, after three years of knocking on doors and having nothing open I went, “Let’s give this fiction thing a try.” Smartest thing I’ve ever done.

 

Advice for those that have chronic pain…

I think the one thing I did, finally, that made all the difference in the world was that I stopped trying to get published. And I think that’s what it came down to for me. I began writing for an audience of one. I wrote because I couldn’t not write. And I began writing, learning to write, writing better, and writing every day. Not because someone else would see it, but because I needed to write. And I wanted to write because it was what God wanted me to do. And it’s something I needed to do in order to have purpose, in order to fulfill a calling. I really believed it was something God wanted me to do, whether anybody saw it or not. So many times new writers will be so excited to show it to someone right away and it’s just not ready yet. And I think when you can write something and soberly look at it and say, “It’s not ready yet to be seen.” I think at that point, you’re getting closer to the point at which God’s preparing you to publish.

 

Final words of wisdom…

Put the Lord first. It’s so easy to get distracted. It’s so easy to look at marketing, blogging, and 112 other different things. Before you pick up your computer, pick up your Bible. Spend time, quietly in a corner, before you spend time with other people in a coffee shop. It’s just so important to maintain that one-on-one relationship with your God. Because the other stuff will become hollow if that relationship isn’t solid. If you’re not firmly, firmly planted in that solid foundation, everything else is gonna come tumbling down.

 

Books we mentioned in this episode…

Love Amid the Ashes by Mesu Andrews

Love Amid the Ashes by Mesu Andrews

Readers often think of Job sitting on the ash heap, his life in shambles. But how did he get there? What was Job’s life like before tragedy struck? What did he think as his world came crashing down around him? And what was life like after God restored his wealth, health, and family? Through painstaking research and a writer’s creative mind, Mesu Andrews weaves an emotional and stirring account of this well-known story told through the eyes of the women who loved him. Drawing together the account of Job with those of Esau’s tribe and Jacob’s daughter Dinah, Love Amid the Ashes breathes life, romance, and passion into the classic biblical story of suffering and steadfast faith.

 

We Want to hear from you!

Do you struggle with chronic pain? What helps you cope?

 

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Novelist Mesu Andrews shares the secret to dealing with chronic pain.

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