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171 – In the Valley of the Shadow of Death with Guest Sharon Hinck, Part 1

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In the Valley of the Shadow of Death with Guest Sharon Hinck Part 1 Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

Are you in a deep valley? Do you feel alone? Rejoice! God is there! Our guest Sharon Hinck can prove it from her valley experiences. Join us as she shares what she experienced, and the wonder of what God did in her life and writing.

About Sharon Hinck

Award-winning author Sharon Hinck writes “stories for the hero in all of us,” about ordinary people on extraordinary faith journeys. She has been honored with three Carol awards, and the 2020 and 2021 Christy Award in the Speculative Fiction category. She has experience as a church youth worker, a choreographer and ballet teacher, a church organist, and an adjunct professor for Creative Writing MFA students. One day she’ll figure out what to be when she grows up, but meanwhile she’s pouring her imagination into writing. When she isn’t wrestling with words, Sharon enjoys speaking for conferences, retreats, and church groups.

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

Erin: Welcome, listeners. We’re so excited that you’re here with us because we like you. And because we have a guest!

Karen: Our guest is Sharon Hinck, and I’m sure many of you know her. She writes what she calls stories for the hero in all of us, and she does a phenomenal job with that. She writes about ordinary people on extraordinary faith journeys. I love that.

Her books are known for their authenticity, their emotional range, and spiritual depth. I mean, you talk about a trifecta in fiction? That’s outstanding. She’s written humorous contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, the ground breaking Sword of Lyric fantasy series, and her new Dancing Realms series.

She’s been honored with a Christy finalist medal, three Carol awards and a 2020 Christian award in the visionary category for her fantasy novel Hidden Current. That’s about as impressive as it gets.

Erin: Indeed.

Karen: She says when she isn’t wrestling with words, she enjoys serving as an adjunct professor for the Creative Writing MFA program at Concordia University.

Again, impressive. She also shares with conferences, retreats, and church groups. Sharon and her family make their home in Minnesota.

Sharon: Ya, sure, you betcha!

Karen: I’m married to a Norski, so I know all about that.

Sharon: Ah, you know.

Karen: Uff da!

Erin: Oh my goodness. Sharon, we are glad to have you all the way from Minnesota.

Sharon: It’s great to be here. Thank you.

Erin: Let’s just jump right in, like one of those Minnesota lakes, right? The Land of 10,000 Lakes? What does the deep mean to you?

Sharon: Well, I’ve been thinking about this question. I’ve listened to the podcast, which I love and love this thought of what the deep means.

I was thinking one of the deepest places that I have gone with God and seen him at work is in the valley—which is deep, valleys are deep—the valley of the shadow of death. That is the place I found myself, and many people found themselves, in these past few years as loved ones have gone ahead to heaven.

And not just the loss of death. I think there’s also death of careers, death of health, death of visions, death of all kinds of things people have dealt with these past few years. But for me, I call Dream of Kings my pandemic book because I started writing it in the pandemic.

I was really looking to play with the notion of biblical inspiration. I do that with a lot of my fantasy novels. I take a character or a story, or even a very obscure Bible verse, and then I look at it from a different angle and put it in the fantasy universe that I create to gain some new insights. To ask story questions and to learn more about God’s nature.

Karen: Mm-hmm.

Sharon: So I was playing with this idea of someone who was a dream teller, and I made it a woman: Jolan the Dream Teller of Norgard. I think I was probably inspired by a Minnesota winter when I started the book. Jolan is betrayed by her own people, her guild, and she’s sold to an enemy country. So you can see kind of where the inspiration came from.

Because of that, I assumed my theme would be about forgiveness, seeing how what they meant for evil God meant for good, and how God works out good.

What I didn’t realize was the way God would shape that theme much more into the avenue of how he is with us even in loss. It played out in my life in that I had written about 80,000 words and life was difficult. I have chronic health challenges, which keep me mostly home bound and I struggle quite a bit.

My mom was battling Alzheimer’s, and I was trying to care for her. But I was still plugging away at this book because that’s what God’s called me to do: write. I can still do that even when I’m stuck in bed, I can write.

Then Mom fell and broke her hip.

Erin: Oh no.

Sharon: She had surgery, hip replacement, and went to transitional care. We couldn’t visit for quite a while because they were trying to protect patients, so you had to wait several weeks. On the day I would be able to go and be with her again, transitional care called and said, “She was unresponsive this morning when we went into her room. We think she had a stroke. We’ve sent her to the hospital.”

I’m, like, shaking. I get to the hospital. They only allow one family member in, because this was in the midst of everything.

Erin: At least they let you in.

Sharon: Yes, at that point, I was able to go in. But I felt so alone. So scared. I had her medical directive. We had talked about it when she was lucid. I knew her wishes. But there they are asking me, “Well, you know, her brain, there’s this blockage. If you don’t make a decision soon, she’s gonna lose all function. What would she want?”

I’m looking through all of the directive and it was really hard to discern. I said, “She spunky. Yes, she has Alzheimer’s but she still laughs. She still loves life.”

They said, “We can put a catheter in and try to pull out this blockage in the brain, and she might recover. But you know, she has broken hip. She’s probably in a lot of pain, so maybe just let her go?”

Oh, that was an agonizing choice.

But I said, “No, I think at this point we should try.”

So then they did the surgery. She came through it, but it didn’t make a difference. She was paralyzed, unable to speak very much. And she was paralyzed on the side opposite of the broken hip. It was pretty rough.

I was there with her in intensive care. Then we worked with hospice to get her back to her apartment that she shared with my stepdad. I was able to be there and care for her. And here’s where it was interesting, because you know what it’s like as a dedicated writer, you think, ” I’ll just keep working somehow.”

Karen: Right.

Sharon: I brought my laptop and thought, “While she’s dozing in between me giving her her medication and caring for her and wiping her forehead and doing whatever else she needs, I’ll keep working on this novel.”
Within five minutes, I realize that’s not what God’s calling me to right now.

Karen: Right.

Sharon: I thought, “This is a sacred time. She is on the threshold of heaven and I need to just be here with her.”

So I set it aside and thankfully I had plenty of time. I wasn’t on a tight deadline. I wasn’t being irresponsible. But I could set that aside and just be with mom. After several weeks she went to heaven. We had precious time together. I played her favorite music. I read her favorite Psalms. We watched episodes of Colombo, her favorite TV show.

Karen: (Imitating Colombo) “Eh, eh, just one more question…”

Sharon: I kept joking I was gonna buy her a raincoat like his.

Karen: There you go!

Sharon: It was a precious time, but also heartbreaking. Then came cleaning out the apartment and sorting through her things and planning a funeral and helping my stepdad move.

I was so beaten down by grief that I really thought, “Maybe I’m done. Maybe I won’t be able to pick up the threads of the book again.”

As I said, I was about 80,000 words in to what was planned to be 120,000, because it’s an epic fantasy. And I thought, “I just don’t have that in me.”

The grief counselor I talked to had said, “Don’t make any decisions the whole first year after a significant loss.”

Why I talk about this valley of the shadow of death? We had six significant losses in six months. The same day Mom had a stroke, my uncle passed away. We had friends, we had other relatives, Ted’s brother. I mean, those months… And I know it wasn’t just me, which somehow didn’t comfort me that the whole world was dealing with grief.

Karen: It doesn’t. When you go through grief, nothing comforts you for a while. But then God gets through. I hear you.

Sharon: Yeah. It almost augmented the grief, knowing that so many in the world were also going through that kind of heart-wrenching loss.

Erin: Yeah.

Sharon: I went to a writer’s conference a few months later and was teaching. God often makes me teach the things I need to hear because apparently I only listen to myself. I don’t know.

I came home and said, “It’s time to look back. I’ll just open the manuscript and see what God wants to do.”

And he just empowered and inspired and I wrote and wrote and wrote. But what was weird is that the themes weren’t what I thought they were going to be.

Karen: Right.

Sharon: I didn’t even see it till my critique buddies were reading it. They said, “You’re talking about loss of identity, loss of role, loss of loved ones, loss of freedom. That’s the theme here.”

That just always amazes me how God’s able to do that. How he’s able to use these things. I love Corrie Ten Boom’s quote, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

So my character is in a very deep pit, literally. Imprisoned, treated unjustly, suffering loss. One of my favorite things, and it’s just a God thing, is that she was describing her losses as if it was a shelf of books, and she would pull out each volume and page through it and feel sad and feel that loss.

But by the end of the story, she’s able to mentally open each of those, and the pages are gilded with the grace of God as she sees his mercy in it all. If that makes sense.

Karen: It does. It’s a beautiful image.

Erin: What’s so interesting to me is that obviously there’s a difficult, difficult experience—this valley of the shadow of death. Very difficult. But I truly think that the book became a different book. You stopped at 80,000 words. If in some way you would’ve just tried to push through it, it wouldn’t have been the book that God wanted to happen.

After those trials, after that groaning, and after that time of grief and learning, then you were able to write with so much more depth of feeling. It just made the book a different book. I love how God does that.

Sharon: I do, too.

Karen: It made the book a better book. It made it a deeper book, and probably a far more profound book.

Erin: Yeah.

Sharon: I love what God shows us about himself in those deep places, because he was so tender in so many ways. I just saw his hand shaping situations when I felt so broken and beaten down. He was there. But not only is he with us in those dark places, he transforms the dark places. He creates beautiful things, and he fulfills purposes.

In Dream of Kings, which parallels biblical dream tellers, God’s also able to show that what you went through had a purpose that’s much bigger than you knew.

Karen: Yeah, I’ve always said that in God’s economy nothing is wasted. Everything that happens to us in God’s economy is an element of our refinement, or teaching us, or blessing us. The losses can actually bless us once we get through the pain.

It’s just a testimony to his goodness, and like you said, his tenderness.

Sharon: Yeah, and I think when we’re in the deep place… Before you called, I was reciting Psalm 121, which was one of my mom’s favorites. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” RSV

I think when we’re in the deep we look up. We look for God instead of our own power and our own wisdom. I tend to be a little self-reliant, so when things are going well I rely on me. But when I’m in the deep places, I have to look up. I have to look for him.

Erin: Yeah. I also like the idea here that you had a ministry of presence with your mom. I think we can get so focused on our writing, and our doing, and our this and our that. Sometimes we forget the most important thing: a ministry of presence.

Let’s be present when we’re making dinner with our family. Or, let’s be present when we’re watching our kid play soccer, or whatever we’re doing. Or, let’s be present with someone who’s hurting. You know, whatever it is, those things are important, too.

Writing is important, but what we learn, or what we can give or offer through our ministry of presence, it’s priceless.

Karen: Amen!

Hey guys, we hope you’re enjoying this amazing podcast with Sharon Hinck, because the second part is coming up in two weeks, and you will just learn so much about what God does for us in deep valleys.

Guest @sharonhinck shares how even in the deepest valley, even the valley of the shadow of death, God is with you! #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Have you felt like you’ve traveled through the valley of the shadow of death? What helps you cope with it?

Book by Sharon Hinck Mentioned in the podcast

Dream of Kings by Sharon Hinck

Dream of Kings by Sharon Hinck

THANK YOU!

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

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

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170 – Do You Really Know Who God Is? Part 5

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Do You Really Know Who God Is? Part 5 Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungAre we hearing—and worshiping—God as he truly is, or only as we imagine him to be? Why does this matter? It’s so easy—and dangerous!—to let our own ideas of who God is take center stage over who he’s actually revealed himself to be in his Word. When we do that, we’ve made up our own god to serve, love, and pray to. There’s a word for that: Idolatry.

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

Erin: Welcome, listeners, into the deep with us. We are so glad you’re here. If you’ve been with us for a while, you know that we just finished a great interview with Shadia Hrichi. She writes Bible studies. Her joy and her excitement over studying God and his Word was such a delight for us.

We want to keep that spark going in this next podcast with a continuation of our series on God’s attributes. I cannot stress this enough. We need to know God. The real God. To paraphrase what Eugene Peterson wrote in The Message, we need to be faced with God as he is, not as we imagine him to be.

This is a danger, guys. We cannot just imagine the kind of god that we want. And it’s so easy to do that, but it becomes a god we’ve made up and not the God that he revealed truly to us of himself. We can’t just imagine a god or make it up, because that’s an idol. So I want to encourage us again to know God as he revealed himself. As he truly is.

Karen: Let’s go ahead and consider the first attribute, which is one that I have been so thankful for over the last several months.

God is never overwhelmed by emotions

Karen: As many of you know, my husband and I are in the process of moving to Washington from Oregon. Selling our home, buying a home.

Erin: That’s not easy.

Karen: Oh my gosh! It’s been a turbulent time, I can tell you. And here’s what I love about God, this characteristic of God: God is never overwhelmed by emotions. Never.

Everything in God is perfect, and that includes emotions. For us, though, for humans, our experience of emotions is imperfect. Meaning we can be overwhelmed and influenced by them. And boy howdy have Don and I been influenced by them lately.

The emotions we humans experience have been given to us by God, because they’re a part of who he is and help reveal himself to us. But just as our understanding of God is incomplete and imperfect, our understanding of emotions is the same.

Yes, God has emotions, but with him, they are perfect. They are never overwhelming, and he is not controlled by them.

With Don and me trying to communicate, I say something, and the way he hears it is so warped by his perceptions and his emotions that it comes out the total opposite of what I was saying. So he gets frustrated, and he comes back, then I hear through my own filters and warp things, and then it just gets really ugly.

That never happens with God. Because we know that he understands us, even in the midst of these messy, confused, turbulent emotions. But we never ever have to worry about him being arbitrary or moody for no reason or any of a host of other things that we humans not only experience, but allow to influence us.

This is why it’s so important to realize that emotions are seldom, if ever, a good measuring stick for us for reality. Our emotions cloud our judgment, cloud the things that we say and the things that we do. But emotions will never cloud God’s judgment.

His emotions are as stable and unchangeable as he is, which means he will never, ever stop loving us. We can trust him without reservation. He doesn’t communicate in hidden messages. He doesn’t base his love for us on how many books we’ve published, how many books we’ve sold, or what our marketing programs are.

His love for us is simply based on who he is and that we are his creation and his children through Christ. His emotions are stable. We can trust him in every facet of what we’re doing.

God is our Rock

Erin: Following right up on when we’re talking about God being stable with his emotions, God is also our rock. That’s stable, right?

I love the imagery in Psalm 18:2. It says, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Isaiah 26:4 says, “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

I love the imagery of rock. It makes me think of strength and refuge, solid and unfailing. There is just nothing in this world that’s certain or solid. Look at the stock market lately. It’s up, it’s down, and down some more.

Look at what’s happening in other countries around the world. The awful situation with what Russia is doing invading Ukraine, and just the constant battles over pieces of land since the dawn of civilization.

Look at our health. One minute we’re fine. The next we’re facing cancer or who knows what. Look at our houses, one minute it’s there and the next minute there’s a fire, and it’s all gone.

Look at technology. One time, I couldn’t get into our website because a plugin had gone haywire, and that was blocking me from getting into our website. That’s a surprise. Nothing is stable. People aren’t stable. They’re wonderful. We love them, but they make mistakes. They don’t live forever.

Readers are wonderful, but they can be fickle. They can give you good reviews, bad reviews, who knows. Contracts come and go. The writing industry changes, there’s upheaval. It goes on and on.

But God is steady, secure, solid, eternal. You can hope in him. You can cling to him. You can trust in him. He is not going anywhere ever.

God is our rock.

God is the strong one who sees

Karen: Not only is God our rock, but he is El Roi. That is one of his names, and it means “the strong one who sees.” We see that first in Genesis 16:13. But in Psalm 3:3 it tells us, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the one who lifts my head high, you are my refuge and my shield: I have put my hope in your word.”

This God, who is our rock, and he is the strong one, he sees. He sees everything that we experience. Every joy, every disappointment, every difficult thing that we face, every triumph that we experience. God is there and he sees, and he’s the strong one. He’s almighty. Nothing is stronger than God.

No publisher is stronger than God. No readers, no reviews, no nothing. We are not stronger than God. When we start to question what we’re doing and if we’re doing it right, turn to God. He’s the strong one who sees you. He sees your disappointment. He sees your insecurity. He sees all of it and he will respond.

You never have to deal with anything on this writing journey alone, because God is there. He’s the strong one who’s almighty. He’s able, he’s capable, he’s willing. And he sees you. Never doubt that.

Erin: I love that because what would it matter if he was the weak one who sees you? Not helpful.

Karen: Yeah.

Erin: But the fact that he sees and is strong, now he can do something about what he sees. I love it.

God is our rewarder

Our next attribute is that God is our rewarder. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, do you work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

It’s easy to see measures of earthly success, right? How many copies got sold? How many contracts we got or awards or reader reviews or whatever, whatever, whatever. But earthly success cannot be the measuring stick of our writing because how much weight are we going to put on giving somebody hope?

What is that worth in dollars? It’s just not. Dollars or sales or acclaim or whatever, that’s not the right measuring stick. Our job is to please God, to be obedient to him, and to work for the reward that only God can give.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to make money as a writer, because that might be your earthly job. But it’s God who provides that money because he knows your needs. And ultimately, God is the one who provides the reward we were all made for: heaven.

1 Peter 1:4 says, “We have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled beyond the reach of change and decay.”

That’s our reward, and guess what? No one can take it away because our Father gives it to us, and he keeps it safe.

God is a great king

The next thing that we want to talk about is that God is a great king. We talked previously in this series about God being sovereign, that he rules over all, and he works all things according to his plan.

But in thinking about God as king, what I want to highlight is respect. The reverence and honor that’s due to God as a great king. The greatest king.

In our culture, singers, TV stars, movie stars, professional athletes, billionaires, self-help gurus, gamers, even, yes, household-name authors, they are all given incredible status. At the same time, the King of the entire universe, the Maker of all reality, has his name tossed around in profanity. How many people don’t even believe their maker exists? That’s appalling.

I want us to take some time to think about how we treat God. His name, his reputation. How do we go about speaking to him or talking about him?

There’s still a queen in England. If she were coming to your house, how would you treat her? How would you pay attention to her or speak to her?

I mean, we’d probably figure we should stop what we’re doing and give her the time of day. It’s a whole different ballgame because she’s the queen. That’s the kind of reverence and awe that is sometimes missing in our interactions with God. We’re in danger of becoming too focused on God as our friend, which he is, but we forget to fear and revere him.

I love this verse in Malachi 1:14. It says, “But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male, and takes a vow, but sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished.” In other words, not giving our best, right? “‘For, I am a great King,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and my name is to be feared among the nations.'”

Meditate on the respect and awe and honor that God deserves. How he deserves our best effort in everything. As a writer, as a person, this is what’s going to keep you humble and meek and service-oriented and focused on what truly matters in this life: on honoring our great King.

Karen: Amen.

God is the Lord of Hosts

Karen: There’s no better thing for us to do than to honor him because another name of God in Scripture is Yahweh Sabbaoth and that means “the Lord of Hosts.”

The hosts are considered the heavenly beings that God created. He is the Lord, the commander of heaven’s armies, heaven’s hosts.

According to Scottish preacher and expositor Alexander MacLaren, “By that title, ‘the Lord of hosts,’ the prophet and psalmist meant to express the universal dominion of God over the whole universe in all its battalions and sections, which they conceived of as one ranked army, obedient to the voice of the great General and Ruler of them all.”

So, how much is a host? How many people or how many heavenly hosts are there? Well, it talks about at the birth of Jesus, a multitude of the heavenly host. Scripture doesn’t specify how many, but if you look at Daniel 7:10 and Revelation 5:11, and if you take them literally, they both talk about 10,000 times 10,000, which equals a hundred million heavenly hosts serve the eternal.

It’s countless. It’s multitudeness. There’s no way to know how many, but I tell you what, it’s a whole lot more than any of the armies here on the earth.

Psalm 46:11 tells us, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Erin talked about the struggles in the world. There is a war on truth and righteousness and godliness taking place. There has been since the beginning of time, but in our time right now it seems to be intensifying, and it feels like righteousness and godliness and good and truth are losing.

The state of the world is clear evidence that there is a spiritual battle being waged and intensifying. But the wonder is that we don’t need to fear this battle or its outcome. Indeed, we are commanded to take part by appealing to God, the leader of heaven’s armies, the Yahweh Sabbaoth, and ask him to mobilize those heavenly armies to bring down evil.

Erin: Cool.

Karen: In our writing, we must stay faithful to God’s truth in what we put on paper. We cannot let the world force us to water down God’s truth. Will it be easy to stand like this? Of course not. When has war ever been easy?

But remember 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says, “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”

We do that by calling on the Lord of hosts and asking him to mobilize his armies to attack and defeat evil. If we authors stand under pressure from publishers, if we feel like Davids facing Goliaths, then we can echo David’s words in 1 Samuel 17:45. Remember, David is just a kid when he’s looking at this giant. He’s facing this enormous Goliath, and what does he say to him? “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin,” or parenthetically, sensitivity readers and canceling contracts and demands in marketing, “but I come against you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies…”

Friends, you don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to fear anything. You are a follower of Yahweh Sabbaoth and you can implore him and beseech him and ask him to mobilize those heavenly host, that army, in order to help us fight evil.

Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith

Erin: The next thing we want to talk about is that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I love this translation because we’re authors and we can relate to what it means to author something. To Jesus being the author of our faith. Other translations say things like the pioneer, the founder, the leader, the source, originator, champion, initiator, maker of faith.

But Jesus did more than just make it. Word Biblical Commentary translates it like this: “The champion in the exercise of faith and the one who brought faith to complete expression.” That’s Jesus, the one who brought faith to complete expression.

Why is this important? Because it’s imperative that we keep our eyes on Jesus, who first designed this whole concept of faith, but then who also came to earth to demonstrate what perfect faith looked like.

Now, are we ever going to be perfect? No. But we have that picture to aim for in every step of our lives, through adversity and joy. And of course it’s not our own, right? But as the author, Jesus has this unlimited supply to share with us. He gives us faith. He builds our faith. He helps support our faith. That’s who he is as the author and perfecter of our faith.

God is one

Karen: Last but not least on our list today, God is one. He’s the only true God. There are no other gods who exist. They are false gods. There are no other gods beside him. He’s unique. Even these other gods that the world has created, that people have created, there is no other faith based on love and grace and sacrifice and redemption.

God is unique. There’s nobody else like him. In Isaiah 43:10 we see, “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and my servant, whom I have chosen that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me know God was formed, nor shall there be any after me.'”

In Isaiah 44:8 it says, “Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no rock. I know not any.”

Then Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who is overall and through all and in all.”

One God. And you know what’s amazing? This unique, omnipresent, almighty, transcendent, utterly amazing, one unique God loves you. Loves you, and loves me, and has given everything to restore us to himself.

As we think about these attributes of God, I want us to end with Psalm 113. Listen and praise with me.

“Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, you his servants; praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised. The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the one who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people. He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.”

Erin: Amen.

Karen: Amen.

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In what areas do you think your image of God has been off target from what he’s revealed in his Word?

THANK YOU!

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

Thanks so much to our July sponsor of the month, Tammy Partlow! She’s a speaker at women’s retreats, and her debut novel Blood Beneath the Pines, a suspense set in the deep South, is now available. She’s hard at work on the next book in the series!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!

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169 – Sharing the Depths of God with Guest Shadia Hrichi, Part 2

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Sharing the Depths of God with Guest Shadia Hrichi Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

There’s one critical thing you must do before you can share the depths of God with readers: go to the depths yourself. Guest Shadia Hrichi shares how God took her deep into one of the worst memories of her life—and redeemed it. Now she can serve her readers with a depth of wisdom found only in God. It’s no wonder her Bible studies have such a powerful impact, and your books can too! Listen in as she tells her inspiring story.

About Shadia Hrichi

Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. She holds a master’s in biblical and theological studies and a master’s in criminal justice. Her Bible studies include TAMAR, HAGAR, LEGION, and WORTHY OF LOVE, endorsed by Francine Rivers, Liz Curtis-Higgs, Chris Tiegreen, Bible Study Magazine, and others. Shadia enjoys speaking at retreats and events, and loves to visit the ocean each week for “a date with Jesus.” Find out more about Shadia Hrichi and check out her free resources at her website.

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

Erin: Welcome, listeners. We are super excited for part two of our interview with Shadia Hrichi, and it has just been a great conversation. You’re not going to want to miss the rest of this.

Shadia, how do you think the fact that you write Bible studies impacts you in your spiritual journey as a writer?

Shadia: It’s been an interesting journey. The first study I wrote was, as I shared earlier, about the abortion and God’s beautiful healing. I had first written a story about it, and then I turned that into a Bible study. Virtually every one of my Bible studies centers, kinda like what you were saying, Karen, on the character of God. Who he is, meditating on certain aspects, because that’s the most important thing.

But when I finished that study, I thought, you know, that was a deep wound. I wrote it years after, and I kind of thought, “Okay, now we’re gonna go to the teaching part.”

Karen: Right, right.

Shadia: So the next study that God puts on my heart to write is Hagar, the servant of Sarah. Talk about a messy story. But I love that story. She was actually the inspiration for the whole series. Like you said, Karen, you liked the series title Behind the Seen and that play of words. Hagar was the inspiration for that.

In the process of writing that study, well, this study includes a invitation for readers to walk through some difficult experiences from their past. Then through this study, they come out with a recognition that God was there. There’s sort of three things going on in that study where I’m talking about Hagar’s story and how God was there. I share some of my story, how God was there in these difficult times, and then the readers are invited to do the same.

About halfway through, God decides to dig up, I would probably say, one of the most painful memories of my life. Of those memories where you’ve buried it so deep you actually did forget about it. That kind. You know, not that you put it in the back of your mind. It truly is out of your mind. Like you don’t even remember it. I mean, you’ve just buried it.

And God starts digging that up.

I’m like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. This wasn’t on my to do list today.”

Karen: Don’t you understand? I have a set word count, God?

Shadia: Exactly right. Oh my gosh. Yeah. It was just unexpected, you know? So we walked through that, and I share a lot more details in the study and in the videos and stuff. But it was a very painful memory.

I’ll just give you a summary so you have some context. I was married before I got saved, well, up until I got saved, then he left. He was an abusive husband, and at one point he tried to take my life. I might as well just tell it real quick now that I mentioned it.

Erin: Yeah, that’s painful.

Karen: I mean, how do you respond to that? “Oh, really?”

Shadia: So God brings up this very difficult memory. Now it’s just me and God, we’re out walking. I mean, I’m not at my computer. We’re out walking. I’m taking some time alone. I went away for a few days. This was something very traumatic I had to deal with God, nothing to do with the writing until later. Do you want me to tell the quick story?

Erin: Sure.

Shadia: Okay. My husband was attempting to choke me to death. When God brings up this memory, you know, I’m not very happy about it. And God says, “Do you believe I was there?”

I’m like, “Well, um, I know you’re everywhere, and you’re in all time, and so even though I didn’t know you…yeah, I guess you were there.”

It was sort of like a mental acknowledgement.

Karen: Yes.

Shadia: But, you know, God’s after more, as always. So God says, “Why did he stop?”

Obviously he didn’t succeed, right? It was at the very last moment that he stopped. Well, I’ve always believed that he stopped because he got scared. As if he thought, “She’s blacking out. Now I’m gonna get arrested. What do I do with the body?”

I mean, I don’t know what was in his mind, but I said, “Lord, I guess he got scared.”

God said to me, “And who do you think scared him?”

It floored me. I mean, it floored me. I was like, “You were there. You were there.”

I never saw any of that coming. And then walking through that, and then coming back down the mountain, so to speak, and getting back to the writing, I was able to share that story and really give a tangible picture. God sees. Which is what the whole Bible study is about. He sees.

As far as spiritual journey, I start writing the next study, which was Legion, and God brings up something else. I won’t go into it, but you know, I’m like, “Again? Oh my word!”

Then the next study, which just came out—Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law—once again, something else. God doesn’t need my Bible studies.

Karen: Right.

Shadia: He doesn’t need anything from any of us to accomplish what he wants to accomplish in the world. By his grace, he invites us to participate in his work, and I love that. But ultimately he’s after us individually. One at a time, he wants our hearts. He wants everything.

Every study I write, now I’m getting to notice a pattern. God’s gonna come after something and it’s gonna be hard, but it’s gonna be good. In the end, it’s gonna be good. Because he’s gonna show me who he is again.

Karen: That’s what he does. He shows us who we are. As a fiction writer, I have characters or scenes come up that I’m not expecting. There are some of them that have come up and I’m like, “I don’t wanna write about that.”

Then I have to go into this wrestling match until I finally say, “Oh yeah, that’s right. You’re God, and I’m not, so if you gave me this task to write and I need to go down this path, then I will go down this path.”

When I’ve been willing to do that, when I’ve been willing to be vulnerable, and I think all writers are like that, when we’re willing to share of our own life and heart and journey in whatever we write, that’s what will impact people. That’s what we’ll draw them deeper into that understanding of who God is and who they are in him.

Shadia: Amen.

Erin: I love your quote here, too. You said it’s gonna be hard. This is something that writers need to know. I’m not even talking about trying to get published or trying to deal with readers or any of that stuff. Forget that.

It’s gonna be hard. You’ve got to go into those deep places with God and if it’s easy, something isn’t right.

It’s game changing when we do that, when we face that hard place and come out on the other side with some sort of “elixir.” In The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler talks about bringing back the elixir as one of the stages of the “hero’s journey.” You go on this journey and you come back with this thing that can help somebody. It’s this elixir that is from God that you’ve done this journey to get.

That picture is us facing that hard place. We always want the characters to go into the hard place and not us. But we have to do that. I love that you’re willing to do that, Shadia, and how it comes out in those Bible studies as you’re writing.

Shadia: Yeah. It is the hardest part, but if we’re gonna write for God, that’s a whole different category of writing.

Karen: Right.

Shadia: If we’re inviting him in then guess what? He gets to set the agenda.

Karen: I think it was David in 2 Samuel 24, who said, ” I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord, my God, that cost me nothing.” We need to remember that.

Shadia: What a beautiful parallel.

Karen: We cannot as writers, try to offer something to God, through our writing and through the message that he’s given us, that doesn’t cost anything. You have to know going into it: this is gonna cost you everything, but it’s worth it.

Shadia: Yeah, that’s a beautiful parallel, Karen. Wow.

Erin: So it does seem like you’re attracted to these messy stories. Why do you think that is and how do you pick the next thing you’re going to do?

Shadia: Well, I would say I pick these stories because they give me hope. You know, I was a mess. I am a mess. A redeemed mess and being transformed as God does his work, like each of us. But, until we get to the other side there’s always gonna be work to do.

I have a lot of pain and mistakes and bad choices in my past. I broke every commandment, not just in my mind but in life, before I was fifteen years old. So the stories in the Bible of people who felt unworthy or unseen or unknown—

Karen: Or irredeemable—

Shadia: Exactly. I mean, redemption is like, that’s who God is. I love that. But yeah, those stories give me hope because I can relate to them. I can relate to the broken people. I can relate to those who were just kind of cast aside or felt cast aside. They give me hope because when God steps into their story, something amazing always happens.

Karen: Right.

Shadia: Just as he steps into ours, you know? So that’s one of the reasons. The other reason I think I like the messy stories is kind of what I was sharing earlier. I feel like an archeologist. I don’t hear sermons often on Legion or Tamar or Hagar. So I wanna know, like, what am I missing? What do I not know? What am I going to learn about God?

I feel like it’s fresh. Like it’s fresh ground that no one’s come to. I mean, there’s commentaries and stuff, and of course I do all that study, but initially my time is just me and the Word. It’s fun. In short, the second reason is that I think it’s fun, because they’re not often explored.

Erin: What I love is that writing is gonna be hard and it’s gonna be fun. It’s a great adventure. While it’s going to be difficult, we can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s also fun and an adventure.

Karen and I were talking about how one of God’s qualities is a sense of humor. It’s going to still be fun in places and hard in places like every good story.

Shadia: Yes, exactly. And I do get to tell some funny stories in the studies as well that God brings up. I’m like, “Oh, this is gonna be good. This will be fun!”

Erin: Which is great. Well, we’re coming to the end of our time. Do you have some final words of wisdom or encouragement that you want to leave our listeners with?

Shadia: Don’t be afraid of the deep. Be brave.

God’s on your side. If he is calling you to spend more time with him, even if it’s five minutes, wherever you’re at, whatever he’s calling you to, he’s already for you. He’s already with you. Yield to that. Give him that space. You won’t regret it. Have you ever been in God’s Word and regretted it?

Now, of course, if you jumped into Leviticus without maybe some commentaries, you might have regretted it, but…

Karen: Even into Song of Solomon, I mean, I’m sorry…

Shadia: Oh yeah. Actually, though, there is a passage in chapter two of Song of Solomon. It’s something I love, kind of a picture of Christ coming back for us. But yes, there are other parts where it’s very clearly also referring to marriage and sexual love and all that, but it’s there for a reason as well, right? All Scripture is breathed out by God for teaching and reproof and so forth.

So I would say don’t be afraid of the deep. And guess what? Just like the ocean, you don’t go diving into the middle of the ocean. You start on the shore. Put your toes in, take a walk. Enjoy the little ripples, watch the seals. But just go. And each day, let him take you a little deeper.

You will not be disappointed in the beauty and the creativity and the beautiful way the Word displays who God is. If you need a guide, that’s what studies are for. That’s what commentaries are for. That’s what podcasts are for. That’s what we need community for. That’s what churches are for. We’re not in it alone.

But give God time alone also. Just you and him in his Word. I just can’t emphasize that enough. You will not be disappointed.

Karen: That’s excellent counsel. We hear that all of our lives as believers, whenever that adventure starts for us. And I think it’s one of the easiest things to forget and one of the easiest things to not do. It shouldn’t be. We should be as excited about immersing ourselves in his Word as we are about developing characters, or writing our nonfiction books, or winning awards, or getting a good review.

Friends, be grounded in the Word so that whatever happens, you won’t have to be afraid of the deep. You will find that joy and that happiness and that guidance that Shadia has been talking about.

Thank you, Shadia! You’ve been a blessing.

Shadia: This has been wonderful. It’s such a joy chatting with you. Thank you for having me.

Need some help getting started with Bible study? Check out Shadia’s FREE resources!

@ShadiaHrichi shares how God took her deep into the worst memory of her life—and redeemed it!—so she can serve her readers with wisdom and insight found only in God. #ChristianWriter Click To Tweet
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What “deep” is God inviting you to explore with him?

Book by Shadia Hrichi mentioned in the podcast

Hagar: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me by Shadia Hrichi

Hagar: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me by Shadia Hrichi (Affiliate link)

THANK YOU!

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

Thanks so much to our July sponsor of the month, Tammy Partlow! She’s a speaker at women’s retreats, and her debut novel Blood Beneath the Pines, a suspense set in the deep South, is now available. She’s hard at work on the next book in the series!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!

STAY CONNECTED

Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.