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071 – The Lie of Perfectionism

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young The Lie of PerfectionismPerfectionism is one of those things that seems like a good thing, but in reality it’s far from good. In fact, perfectionism destroys those who strive to achieve it. None of us is remotely capable of being perfect. And when we try to be so, it too often stems from pride and/or fear. Come learn why perfectionism is so dangerous not just to your writing, but to your spirit and peace.

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Perfectionism

When we talked about self-doubt, we touched on the idea of perfectionism. But it’s such a common and damaging problem that we wanted to give it its own episode. As Christians and as writers, we want to pursue excellence in what we do. But where do we draw the line? What’s the difference between a healthy pursuit of excellence and an unhealthy striving for perfection?

Let’s start with a definition of perfection: Merriam-Webster says it’s “the quality or state of being perfect” such as the “freedom from fault or defect” or “the quality or state of being saintly.”

When we think of it that way, most of us are self-aware enough to realize we aren’t flawless, nor are we saintly. In fact, we’re often pretty darned far from it.

Yet, when I read in an article in Psychology Today called “9 Signs That You Might Be a Perfectionist” I was surprised by them. I mean, for sure I recognized some of those signs in me, because I already know that I struggle with perfectionism, but somehow I hadn’t necessarily connected those signs to perfectionism.

What does perfectionism look like in our lives?

  1. You have trouble delegating because you don’t trust others to do the job correctly.
  2. You often fixate on the things you messed up.
  3. You avoid or procrastinate doing tasks where you may not excel. For example, those of you who haven’t finished that manuscript some editor or agent has expressed interest in because you’re afraid the ending won’t be as good as the beginning, I’m talking to you.
  4. Or you don’t ever complete your manuscript because there’s always something “more” you can do to make it better.
  5. Your self-confidence depends on what others think about you and/or your book. It’s about your accomplishments, not your true worth in God.

Why is perfectionism a bad thing?

Perfectionism, and the things we do to attain it, can hold us back from being the kind of person and the kind of writer God designed us to be.

Another Psychology Today article talked about perfectionism being toxic because “those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, so theirs is a negative orientation.” We live in fear of failure, of doing something wrong. Instead of in freedom. We covered this more in depth in the episode on self-doubt so go back and listen to that if you struggle in that area.

And yet another article defined perfection as…

  1. “The relentless striving for extremely high standards (for yourself and/or others)” that typically, to an outsider, seem unreasonable
  2. “Judging your self-worth based largely on your ability to strive for and achieve such unrelenting standards.”

It’s good to have standards, it’s good to have goals, because it helps you achieve things. But the article goes on to say, “…when these goals are either unachievable or only achievable at great cost, it makes it very difficult to feel good about yourself. This is when perfectionism can be problematic.”

An article from Western Seminary had this to say about the dangers of perfectionism: “When we strive for worldly perfection what we’re often actually striving for is to be better than those around us. Our pride and sinful flesh make us want to come out on top when we compare ourselves to others. Our insecurities cause us to feel shame and embarrassment when our comparisons reveal our inadequacies.”

What about “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect?”

The same article goes on to say, “It’s true that the Bible calls us to be ‘perfect as [our] heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48). The Greek word for ‘perfect’ here is telios. It means ‘brought to its end, completed, or perfect.’ So, to be ‘perfect’ in this sense is not how perfectionists so often imagine it. Rather, it is to be completed in Christ. Philippians 1:6 says that completion is the work of God. He created us, saved us, and is faithful to perfect us.”

What is the healthy pursuit of excellence, as compared to the unhealthy striving for perfection?

1. Recognize that pursuing excellence is about God—about serving Him well, about submitting ourselves to His work and refinement, about relying on Him to equip us for the work He’s asking us to do. Perfection, on the other hand, is about me—how I measure up compared to everyone else, how I never make mistakes, how I’m able and capable because I’ve worked so darned hard, and so on.

2. An article on DesiringGod.org has this to say about the healthy pursuit of excellence: “When we pursue excellence, we’re determined to do something as well as possible within a given set of talent, resource, and time limits.” Recognize that God has equipped you in certain ways. If you need to study to refine your skills, such as your writing, go for it. It’s biblical to work to refine ourselves. But the moment you start obsessing or comparing yourself to others, stop. You’ve crossed the line into perfectionism. When that happens, submit yourself to God, asking Him to let you see yourself through His eyes. And consider setting time limits and allow yourself to do the best you can in that amount of time—and then let it go and move on.

3. A healthy pursuit of excellence is understanding that perfectionism isn’t possible. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Give yourself permission to not be perfect. You have to be willing to think about yourself differently.

4. Let go of control. That belongs to God. You can pursue excellence in a way that leaves results up to God. You aren’t the center of the universe, God is. It’s not about whether you do everything right, or do enough. It’s about your relationship with God and embracing His truth and grace. Trusting His grace. Knowing that He’s not surprised when we fail. He made us. He knows we’re not perfect. And He still loves us. In other words, make your focus about loving and getting to know God better. Not about being perfect.

5. A healthy pursuit of excellence means we work hard for the Lord, but we work out of passion rather than perfectionism. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Passion produces a good feeling, you view your work as challenging and rewarding. Perfectionism always leaves you feeling less-than. Inadequate. A failure.

6. Do your best, but make sure that’s marked by grace. Cultivate self-compassion, self-love. Matthew 22:39 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and put your name in there. For example, Karen’s love for herself is patient, kind…and so on. And then make sure you live all that out. You can’t show others patience when you’re not patient with yourself.

7. We need to find our value, worth, and identity in God, in being His child, in being created in His image, and in the perfect righteousness He gives us in Christ. Everything else is worthless. God wants us to delight in Him FIRST, and that overflows into delighting in the work He equips us to do. But if we’re not first His child, if we’re not first resting in His love for us, in the value He places on us, we’ll always be looking to others or the world or our achievements for our validation, and that will NEVER satisfy us, because we weren’t designed to work that way.

What is the only kind of perfectionism that matters?

God has called each of us to do the work and tasks He’s given us with excellence, but He’s also there to equip us, encourage us, and refine us as we go through the journey of becoming His child. But when we mistake perfectionism with excellence, we give the enemy a foothold to distract us, to discourage us, and to derail us from serving God. Excellence puts the focus on God. Perfectionism puts the focus on me. It’s pretty clear which one is going to lead me into a life of faithful service and peace. So lay your perfectionism on the altar of obedience and walk away. Leave it in God’s hands. Leave yourself in God’s hands. And rest in His provision, direction, and refinement. Let Him make you perfect in His sight. That’s the only kind of perfectionism that matters, and He’s the only one who can achieve it.

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Do you ever struggle with perfectionism? What helps you overcome it?

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Perfectionism isn’t just dangerous, it’s a lie.

 

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070 – How to Deal with Haters with Thomas Umstattd Jr.

Thomas Umstattd Jr How to Deal with Haters Write from the Deep podcast

Haters. They’re out there, lurking. Waiting to attack. All it takes is for you to write something that they dislike, and they strike with vicious words designed to tear you, your work, your reputation—even God—apart. Guest Thomas Umstattd Jr. knows haters all too well. Hard not to when tens of thousands of them come after you for one blog post. But he also knows how to deal with them, and he’s bringing all that hard-earned wisdom to help you!

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Thomas Umstattd Jr. is a speaker, writer, entrepreneur, WordPress guru, political troublemaker, homeschool graduate, and Christ follower. Thomas built his first website at the age of 13 and taught his first web design class at only 16 years of age. He has been helping authors and small businesses use the web ever since. In 2009 he started AuthorTechTips.com, a website to help authors use the web to promote their books. The site was twice featured in Writers Digest as one of the 101 most helpful websites for authors. AuthorTechTips.com is now AuthorMedia.com, a resource for authors timid about technology. Thomas is the CEO of Castle Media Group LLC, a company that builds websites for world-changers, and he sits on the board of directors for several nonprofits. As an award-winning speaker, Thomas teaches all over the world. He’s also the co-host of the popular Novel Marketing Podcast with James L Rubart, and he hosts the Creative Funding Show. He’s also the author of Courtship in Crisis, a book which came about through a viral blog post Thomas wrote.

Key quotes:

What the deep means to Thomas…

I think of roots on a tree. A palm tree, as high as it is above the sand, actually goes equally deep below the sand. When a hurricane comes, a palm tree can be blown horizontal with the earth in hundred mile-an-hour winds. When the hurricane goes by, the palm tree just pops right back up because of how deep its roots go. And so when we’re deeply rooted in Christ, our identity is deeply rooted in who he is. It doesn’t matter what the wind of the world is blowing at us, we’re able to pop right back up.

Why Thomas wrote the blog post Why Courtship Is Fundamentally Flawed… and ultimately the book Courtship in Crisis

Going way back, I grew up in the home school community and I was a big advocate of courtship. And all my friends were big advocates of courtship, which was how conservative Christians dated in the 90s and early 2000s… I even started a website called practicalcourtship.com. I even went through a courtship… There was this idea in the community kind of similar to the prosperity gospel where if you do relationships in this way you’re guaranteed to have a happy relationship…You’re guaranteed to have a good marriage. The reality, that I learned the hard way, is that it is not actually a promise in Scripture. Jesus does not promise easy times, in fact he promises hard times. Trials, temptations, and persecutions are what we’re promised. I really loved this girl, but before I could get to know her I had to commit to being in relationship with her for the purpose of getting married… Eventually I sat down with her dad to ask his permission to marry her,  and this was after I’d been on many dates one-on-one with her father, before I ever went out with her… For two hours he told me everything he didn’t like about me. This man who I’d opened up my life to and shared my financial statements with…criticized every single thing that I had done in my life…Needless to say, his daughter rejected me…But I was still a believer in courtship. But then I started noticing that most of my friends were still single. This thing that was supposed to get us married wasn’t working. And then I started noticing that some of the couples that had gotten married through courtship we’re getting divorced…Finally I humbled myself and took my grandmother out to dinner and asked her, “What did you see you back in the 90s that we didn’t see?” And she explained to me how they did dating and relationships back in the 50s and the 40s… I was like, I want to put this into practice…but there was a problem. I was Mister Courtship… If I asked a girl out for coffee, she would hear that I was asking her out for coffee for the purpose of marriage. So my goal was to write a blog post on my personal blog, and if I could get 10,000 people to read this blog post, everyone in my community will know Thomas no longer does courtship. If I ask a girl out for coffee it just means coffee. So I wrote and wrote and wrote…had discussions with lots of people…got feedback… I did a lot of research over a long period of time that culminated in this blog post and I posted it mid-afternoon. By that evening it had 5000 views. By the end of the day it had 10,000 views. And I was like, oh, I met my goal… The next day there’s another 20,000 views, and then 50,000 views. After that it had 100,000 views in one day and after that 200,000 views. And it was blowing up on Twitter… People who were seeing it were sharing it… Remember, the goal was just to reach my community and rebrand myself as “not the courtship guy” anymore. Now I was getting feedback from all over the Internet…Heartbreaking stories [of people who were hurt through courtship]… But the other thing I started getting was really angry, mean, hateful comments. And not just from strangers. These were from people we were friends with. To this day I have friends…who won’t have anything to do with me since that blog post…They hated me for writing it… They thought I was undermining the community… One friend of my mom’s said I should have a millstone tied around my neck and be cast into the sea.

Dealing with haters…

It was really hard navigating the hate. Because they weren’t all wrong. That was really challenging.  Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they’re wrong. One of the temptations when you’re getting a lot of hate and negative feedback is to just screen them all out. The reality is that courtship does work for some people. It’s not a disaster for everyone… It was tricky figuring out the people who were hating on me for their own personal reasons and the people who have a legitimate criticism.

Coping with a sudden onslaught…

At first I was just overwhelmed just reading comments. 1400 comments came in just in the first week. At first I was just absorbing it. The one thing I realized was that I couldn’t respond to any of these people. Which was hard. Even harder on my mom…. She wanted to go after these women on Facebook who were attacking her son. The reality is that dealing with trolls is a lot like that old story about Brair Rabbit and the tar baby. Brair Rabbit is ultimately completely consumed trying to interact with the tar baby, and that’s how dealing with trolls can be… I feel so often the enemy puts humans in our paths that are tar babies, but ultimately they’re not tar babies, they’re children of God. And when we punch at them, we’re not punching a tar baby, we’re punching a child of God. God loves that hater just as much as God loves me. That perspective is really hard—really hard—when they’re attacking you.

The value of support…

It’s really helpful to have a safe home. My family fully supported me. They were not at all surprised by the blog post, some of them even helped edit it. They had my back. My church was also really supportive. And that was helpful, because the Church—with a capital C—was all over the board…Even my own mentor called me a fool.

The story of David…

I took a lot of comfort in the story of David.  However bad I had haters, he had it worse. And the guy who hated him the most, King Saul, was anointed by God…David had fealty to him… Yet when David was in the same room with Saul, Saul was throwing spears at David. While people maybe wishing for my death they weren’t throwing spears at me… How did David handle haters? The temptation is to have a tough skin. The problem with a tough skin is that it doesn’t just keep out the haters, it keeps out the love, because you’re building this wall around your heart… David kept his heart soft to the Lord, as much as he could. When he would get attacked, he would take that attack and put it at the feet of God… So we don’t just take our successes, our crowns, and lay them at God’s feet…The wonderful thing about our Creator is that he also takes our failures. He takes our hurts and our wounds and our sins. We get to throw those things at his feet as well. That is just such a wonderful thing…Hey this person said this terrible thing about me, and I’m giving it to you God. If there’s anything of it that’s true, you give it back. I’m not going to take it from this person, I’ll take it from you.

Other Scriptures that helped…

The Psalms, especially the angry ones. While I really tried not to lash back at my critics, I can’t say that I did that 100%… But you don’t have to pull your punches while you’re complaining about them to God. Like David would say… “Oh, God, crush their bones…” And I’m like, I know how you feel! The judge of all the earth will do right. And people will be rewarded and punished based off their deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil. I can trust him with that. Vengeance is mine says the Lord, I will repay. I have to remind myself that this is in God’s hands.

The value of feedback…

For authors, you get a negative review on your book and some of that’s going to be envy. Envy motivates a lot of one-star stuff on the Internet… But sometimes it’s legitimate feedback, and if you allow it, feedback can help make your work better. My book is better because of the feedback I got on the blog and on Facebook while I was writing it. Some of the people disagreed with me…One who was nice about it, I had on my research team, as a beta reader, and he was challenging me on theological stuff all along the way. It was really helpful.

Here’s a link to Thomas’s book Courtship in Crisis if you’re interested:

Courtship in Crisis on the Write from the Deep podcast, how to deal with haters with Thomas Umstattd Jr.

As a reminder, links on this website are affiliate links. That means if you choose to do your shopping through our links, we get a small percentage of the sale. We appreciate your support!

We want to hear from you!

Have you had to deal with haters? What helped you cope with them?

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Got haters? Let guest Thomas Umstattd Jr. teach you how to handle them!

 

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069 – The Consequence of Consequences

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Consequence of Consequences

We talked a few episodes back about the slippery slope and how to avoid it, but what happens if you didn’t avoid it? If you’re smack dab in the middle of consequences?

Bad decisions, our own or others’, have consequences that aren’t just for the future, but that hit us hard in the here and now. Consequences that affect our relationships, our witness, our ability to obey God.

Consider Galatians 6:7-10: “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.”

Good counsel. But being human, there are times we don’t follow it. So what do you do when you’re experiencing the consequences of:

1.     Being in a bad place of your own making

2.     Being in a bad place of someone else’s making

What Are the Consequences of Bad Choices, Either Our Own or Others’?

●      Damage to reputation

●      Damage to relationships

●      Damage to our usefulness to God

●      Damage to our plans

How do Writers’ Own Choices Put Them in a Bad Place?
  • Taking on writing projects that aren’t what you’re passionate about, and finding yourself caught writing something you don’t enjoy – and being tempted to break the contract (or even breaking it)
  • Agreeing to a contract with a delivery date you know is unrealistic then not being able to fulfill it
  • Not being faithful in writing so that you miss your due date
  • Not being honest about the due date being a problem until too late in the process
  • Plagiarism
  • Hedging the truth in interviews, then having the truth come out
  • Gossiping about others in the industry
  • Spending money you don’t have and can’t afford to “achieve” success and ending up in financial trouble
  • Putting so much focus on your career and your writing that you neglect your family
  • Compromising on the types of material you put in your books so now you feel bad about them
  • Getting so busy doing this writing thing FOR God that you forget about your relationship WITH God
  • Not taking care of your health
  • Saying yes to too many things (even good things) which make you not have time for the BEST things.
How Do Others’ Choices Put Writers in a Bad Place?
  • Your editor leaves and you’re orphaned at publishing house
  • Publisher cancels your line/contract
  • Someone posts false/negative reviews that hurt your sales
  • Someone in the industry has a beef with you and talks negatively about you
  • Someone plagiarizes you
  • Your spouse decides to leave, or your babysitter quits and that changes the amount of time you can write
  • Family members make poor choices that you now have to deal with
How to deal with a bad place of your own making

1.  Admit your wrongdoing to God, repent, and seek His forgiveness.

  • 1 John 1:9: “But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
  • This restores your relationship with God

2.  Admit your wrong to those you hurt.

  • Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar of whole burnt-offerings and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave there your gift before the altar of the whole burnt-offerings and be going away. First be reconciled to your brother, and then, having come, be offering your gift.”
  • This puts you on track to rebuild your relationships with others

3.  Accept the consequences of your wrongdoing.

  • Hebrews 12:5-6; 10-13: “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when He corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child. As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children…For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in His holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”
  • This is remaking you, shaping you, and restoring your usefulness to God

How do you restore your reputation after your bad choices?

You have to evidence your repentance (your change) over time. You have to grow a new reputation over repeated demonstrations of your ability to make the right choice and be responsible.

What about your plans?

They’re probably going to need to change. Or be delayed. Re-submit them to God. Were those plans His plans or yours? Does there need to be a re-direction to something different?

How to deal with a bad place of another’s making

If the one who wronged you is a believer:

1. Follow the biblical directions for reconciliation when you’ve been wronged.

  • Matthew 18:15-17: “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.”

2. If the person admits the wrong, then ask God to help you forgive them, then move forward with wisdom and forgiveness.

3. If the person denies the wrong, then verse 16 kicks in: “But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.”

4. If the person admits the wrong then, as with step two, you seek to forgive and move forward. But if the person still denies wrongdoing, then it’s on to verse 17a: “If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church.”

5. 17b: “Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”

This process is the start of restoring your relationship. But let’s face it, when someone wrongs you, it hurts.

  • We need time to grieve and deal with our emotions, and then we need to forgive. The temptation in our flesh is to punish the person, to make them suffer our anger, our sullenness, our withholding of affection, or whatever. But that’s not what God’s word says to do.
  • Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
  • God sees and cares when someone wrongs us, but He cares just as much about our response to it. If we’re not forgiving, not only are we missing the opportunity to restore our relationship, but we’re hurting our usefulness to God because we’re living in disobedience. We can’t expect God to honor that.

If the one who wronged you isn’t a believer:

1.  Follow Christ’s example.

2.  Seek your ultimate justice from God, not man.

  • Romans 12:17-21: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the LORD. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
  • But let’s talk about this in regard to something like plagiarism. If someone steals your book and puts it up on Amazon as their book, does this verse mean you’re supposed to say, sure take it with my blessing? I don’t think so. They’ve broken the laws of our country. So you report them. You don’t malign them, or attack them, or hold a grudge forever—that’s one of the ways we’re overcome by evil. How? We’re not meant to carry those kinds of burdens, those grudges, around. Not only are they ultimately too heavy, they’re toxic. They poison our heart. So, Can you get a plagiarist to take down the book they stole? Probably eventually with several tries. But know that they may well do it again. Yes really. That’s why ultimate justice needs to come from God.

3.  Make peace your aim, not justification or vengeance.

  • Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
  • 1 Peter 4:12-19: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world. If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by His name! For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? And also, ‘If the righteous are barely saved, what will happen to godless sinners?’ So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.”
  •  And again, we have to forgive them and drop those burdens. We have to give ourselves time to be angry, and hurt, but then give that to God and with His help, move toward peace and forgiveness.
  • One of the things that can help us forgive is to reflect on the ways we’ve failed. Not to revisit guilt, but simply to recognize our own sinfulness. There are people out there who’ve had to forgive us for thoughtless or hurtful things we’ve done. Those same people who have forgiven us have very likely needed forgiveness themselves for thoughtless, hurtful things they’ve done to others. It goes around and around, this pattern of hurting and forgiving, and will continue until Jesus comes back because we’re fallen, broken people in need of grace.

When someone else has wronged us, how do we restore the damage to our usefulness to God or to our plans?

  • Others’ choices don’t hinder our usefulness to God, because “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). But it can still be terribly frustrating for us. Especially when we thought our usefulness to God was wrapped up in our plans.
  • We have to go back to God and refocus and re-submit our plans to Him. Yes, God will somehow work this situation for our good, but the ultimate purpose is for God’s glory.

How do we restore the damage to our reputation?

  • Seek to speak the truth but not gossip. Make the circumstances known that will clear your name, but don’t vindictively damage someone else’s reputation, especially if they’ve simply made a mistake.
  • You should absolutely clear your name, because Proverbs 22:1 says, “a good name is to be more desired than great wealth…” But pay attention to the spirit in which you share the facts. It’s easy to let anger, condescension, and judgment drip from our words. When we keep in mind what Romans 12:18 says and work for peace, we’re less likely to be vengeful.
Final thoughts about consequences

Are we saying that if you deal with anger and a sense of vengeance and you want to see justice come on people who hurt you that you’re a bad person? It’s really not about you being a bad person. It’s about the fact that God created us and what He tells us in His word is the best way for us to live, because it’s what draws us closer to Him. It’s what completes us as a reflection of His image to this world.

It’s easy to give into the world’s responses and be hateful and resentful. But when we stop, when we rest in God, when we let Him bring about whatever justice needs to happen, we shine a light in the darkness.

So how do we deal with consequences? Don’t make the wrong choices. But when you do, you can come back. You can restore relationships, reputation, and your usefulness to God if you come with a humble heart—a heart submitted to God, willing to bear whatever consequences you need to through His grace. Consequences aren’t easy. They’re a part of life. But God’s grace is so much bigger than any of them.

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068 – When You Trust God No Matter What with Guest Terri Blackstock

Terri Blackstock When You Trust God No Matter What

It’s easy to look at best-selling authors and think their lives must be golden, that they have it all and are just enjoying the fruits of their labors. But guest Terri Blackstock is here to tell us that life is often just as much of a struggle, or even more so, even when you’re hitting the best-seller lists. Which is why it’s so important to be grounded in God and His truth so you can trust Him no matter what.

Terri Blackstock is a New York Times and USA Today best-seller, who has written over 80 books and which have sold over seven million books worldwide. She is the winner of two Carol Awards, a Christian Retailers Choice Award, and a Romantic Times Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, among others. She has had over thirty years of success as a novelist. Terri spent the first twelve years of her life traveling in an Air Force family. She lived in nine states and attended the first four years of school in The Netherlands. Because she was a perpetual “new kid,” her imagination became her closest friend. That, she believes, was the biggest factor in her becoming a novelist. She sold her first novel at the age of twenty-five, and has had a successful career ever since.

Terri has appeared on national television programs such as “The 700 Club” and “Home Life,” and has been a guest on numerous radio programs across the country. The story of her personal journey appears in books such as Touched By the Savior by Mike Yorkey, True Stories of Answered Prayer by Mike Nappa, Faces of Faith by John Hanna, and I Saw Him In Your Eyes by Ace Collins.

Learn more about Terri at her website terriblackstock.com.

Key Quotes

What the deep means to Terri…

I think the deep means that place you get where you trust God no matter what. When you pray for someone who isn’t healed, when you pray for something to happen and it doesn’t happen, when you pray for someone’s life, and they die. I think the place you go where you say I will trust Him anyway, no matter what, that’s the deep for me.

Life’s unexpected turns…

Around the year 2000 I had two very drastic things happen to me. One was that I got an injury that hurt my back, and it made it real painful to sit, of all things, because I sit a lot as a writer. I’ve continued to have that pain ever since. It’s worse all the time. I’ve had surgeries and all kinds of interventions and some of them have made me worse. I’ve had to deal with that. You might be surprised that I’ve written a lot of books, I don’t even know the number, lying on my side… most of my writing now is done in my car. I have a beautiful office that I designed my house around and I don’t even use it because it’s not comfortable to me to sit in the office. But my seat in my car is more comfortable if I’m seated just right.

Around that time is also when my older daughter went off to college and soon after that, she started using drugs. She’s never done it before she left home.  That started us on a long long journey that has continued. She’s had a lot of struggles. Ups and downs. There are a lot of emergencies. As a mom I’m kind of always off-balance…I’ve been raising her five-year-old son. We’ve had him since he was two.

What I thought was going to be my golden years… I’ve moved back to starting someone in school again…but all this time I’m still writing.

How Terri copes with the challenges she faces while writing…

My favorite scripture during this time is Romans 8:28 – that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

I even did this in my most recent book. I had my character saying, “All things? Really? All things?” But yeah, ALL things. Even the bad things. That helps me because I can put it in perspective and realize that God has a purpose for what I’m going through…That helps me realize that whatever I’m going through, whatever God is building into my character, it’s something that I need. It’s something that He’s going to use. And it may not be until heaven.

How Terri writes in the face of challenges…

The underlying thing is that I have always had a passion for writing. It’s something that I’m drawn to. I get a lot of peace from it. I guess when you see it like that, you find a way to do it. That’s what’s happened to me. I have obstacles that for whatever reason are directly contradictory to a writing career, but somehow I just find a way because I want to so badly. That’s it…It helps me process things I’m going through. My reader may not realize that I have a lot of myself in that book but I do.

Doubt…

I have to say there are times when I doubt, but what I doubt it is not God’s goodness. What I doubt is my understanding of how He works. If I’m really upset because I’ve prayed for years, and nothing has happened, and I see no progress in one of these areas then I start thinking, okay why did I think that I would get this [answer] and what is it that I misunderstanding about what His word says? And when I go there I can usually find the flaw in my understanding. The false assumptions I’ve made.

The danger of “I’ve always been taught that…”

To me that’s a big red flag if you’ve “always been taught” something. It’s probably, it could be, wrong. I try not to lean too much on what I’ve “always been taught,” and I try to go find it for myself and see if it’s actually correct.

One of those is that if you raise up your children and the way they should go they will not depart from it. I have grappled with that one. I finally realized that it’s a principle more than a promise. There are differences in the Bible between promises and principles…God is very clear about the things that are promises. But the things that are said that are overriding principles, they’re just true in most cases… I see these shows on TV with these couples who don’t date and don’t court until they’re ready to get married and they have 25 kids and they’re all perfect. If that’s the standard of how to raise your child up then I failed because I didn’t raise my kids up that way. So what is that definition? And “when they’re old they won’t depart from it,” what does that mean? When you get down to that, you start understanding that it’s an overriding principle. While it applies to me, it’s not something that I should be mad at God about if He doesn’t bring it exactly like I think He should.

Unanswered prayer…

When He doesn’t answer our prayers, very often it’s because He has a greater plan for us. And I’ve written about those in several books. Having my grandson come live with us, I was not equipped to raise a preschooler. I didn’t have the energy. I still had back problems, and I was pretty miserable a lot of time. But I’ve realized that a lot of that was to get me moving again. I had noticed that I was trying to protect myself and not move.

All the studies of happiness that you read…they all say that if you take time to find things in this situation that you’re grateful for and spend time dwelling on that, it changes your thinking, and it changes your perspective, and it makes you happier. When I’m really upset with the fact of my age, and that I’m raising a preschooler, and I’m not really in the mood right then, I start trying to think of the things about him that I’m grateful for. He’s a fantastic kid. He has brought so much joy to our lives…It changes your thinking and changes your heart.

Bad days…

I do get frustrated. I get very disappointed that I’m still this way. That I still have pain and things are not resolving on that. And I just have bad days. I have days when I just about don’t speak to God. I’m admitting that out of honesty because it doesn’t do any good to act like I don’t have those days. There are times when I do struggle, but for the most part I try to keep my eyes on what I know about God and not on my circumstances.

Getting out of the slump…

I have to work at it. It doesn’t come naturally. I can stay in that slump for as long as I want to. But I have to really decide, okay time to look at my blessings. Time to look at what I’m grateful for. Time to see the joys. I keep a little list of things my grandson says that are really funny. Sometimes just pulling out that list starts me laughing. That helps. It pulls me out of my slump.

Being nice to yourself…

But taking time for myself is also important. There are days when you really have to be easier on yourself and rest…On those days I don’t get much writing done, and I don’t expect to.

A lot of younger writers—and I was there, I remember what it was like—they’re on this treadmill where they’re trying to write 3-4 books a year and they’ve got these impossible deadlines, and they’re having some of the health issues that are kind of occupational hazards. They’re forcing themselves to do it. To make those word counts and reach those deadlines, and I just want to say, “You guys slow down. It’s not worth it to make yourself get to the point where I am. Literally. I don’t want this to happen to you.” Before my injury I was like that. I was writing a lot… I had years where I wrote forward to six books a year. When I came to the Christian market I wrote two a year. Now I’m down to one a year, really 15 months. And I just have to do it that way in order to keep writing. I understand why younger writers do it because they’re building their careers and they need to make a living. But at the same time I think sometimes, the trade off…they’re not going to like what the trade-off is for that.

Parting words of wisdom…

Recognize what you’re trading off if you’re letting yourself be driven. Take another look and see what God is really asking of you…and be nice to yourself!

 

We want to hear from you!

What challenges do you have in trusting God no matter what?

 

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Do you trust God, no matter what? With Guest Terri Blackstock

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067 – Compromise: The True Slippery Slope

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Discuss Compromise The True Slippery Slope

There are so many ways the enemy seeks to undermine God’s work in us, and our ability to rely on and trust in God’s desire to use us. One of the most subtle—and effective—tools Satan uses against us is compromise. He whispers into our heart and spirit that “giving in” on little things isn’t so bad.

But here’s the problem. Those little things become bigger things, often without us even being aware of it. And soon we’re doing, saying, and writing things we never imagined we would. Things we know in our heart of hearts are not just dangerous, but flat-out wrong.

The end results of which are pretty ugly:

Shame.

Guilt.

Speaking lies in the place of truth.

Defensiveness.

The need to repent.

But over all of this, is the ugliest thing of all. Idolatry.

Idolatry is about letting something else take God’s place in your heart. It’s about valuing your will, your desire, your ideas, your plans over God’s will, God’s instructions, God’s plan.

This has been happening since the Garden of Eden. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious: Don’t eat from that tree. And they eat from the tree

Sometimes—and this is what we want to focus on here—compromise starts with one small step.

There are consequences to this that come in the here and now, and even more so in the future. We wake up and find out we’re far away from where we wanted/hoped to be, and we can’t figure out how we got here.

There’s so many places we could go when we talk about compromise, but we’ll limit ourselves to a few examples of compromise that are relevant to us as writers—as people whose commodity is words.

Two Examples of Compromise Applicable to Writers

Compromise on the things we see and hear (compromise on what we take in)

Have you noticed how foul language and graphic or careless sexuality has infested so much of what we see on TV, streaming services, movies, and books?

For example, The Magicians could have been a terrific fantasy series, but it descended into a morass of depravity and of devaluing God. The story world’s gods were capricious and cruel, such that the characters had to kill them to save the pathetic world. And the world they killed these gods to save wasn’t worth saving.

So much of what I (Karen) watch in the evenings works its way into my dreams. I imagine it’s the same for many writers. And I wake up troubled. Like I’ve been fighting evil all night. Because I have been fighting evil all night.

Having all of that in our minds and hearts clutters them, so that we lose the ability to hear God. And we lose the ability to have our minds transformed by the Spirit like it says in Romans 12:1-2:

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

In other words, that junk in our minds numbs us. And that has consequences.

We need to be aware of the slippery slope of letting these things numb us. We need to retain our outrage.

I (Erin) once saw a movie—I don’t even remember the title—but it was about a quaker from a few centuries ago who somehow jumps through time and ends up in our century. The movie portrayed his outrage, his shock, his horror at the culture around him, and in particular, when someone spoke God’s name in vain.

Oh, that we had the same outrage.

Instead, how often do we hear the Lord’s name used carelessly, or even as a curse, and we barely notice? Daily? Hourly even? By kids and adults alike.

Yet the third commandment says, “You shall not misuses the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” Exodus 20:3

The constant misuse of God’s name devalues it, and numbs us. That primes us for the next phase: sinful actions.

Here’s what Romans 1:28-32 tells us happens when we don’t want God in our knowledge any longer, and when we lose the ability to hear Him and have our minds transformed by God:

“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

What’s in our minds translates into what we say and do. And that brings us to the second example of compromise we want to talk about.

Compromise with the Words We Speak and Write (Compromise on what comes out of us)

Our responsibility on earth is to be truth-tellers. We have been given a gift—a talent in using words, and we can use that to build up or to tear down.

But all the things we’ve been letting in our minds—the books we read, the TV we watch, all the unnecessary violence, gratuitous sex, foul language—undermine the idea that we can create solid stories without the use of such things.

This idea has seeped into the hearts and minds of Christian writers, who’ve come to believe that using them is simply being “realistic.” That to steer clear of such things in their work makes them somehow less authentic. And yet, story does not benefit from them. In fact, what I’ve seen is that they become more of the focus of the story than any theme or true story world. Which actually damages the power of the story rather than enhancing it in any way.

So what can we do?

Action steps to avoid compromise

1.  Stop giving debased things entry into our mind and spirit.

The moment we realize something we’re watching, reading, or hearing has that focus, we need to turn it off or put it down and walk away. Yes, this is hard. We love story, and we want to see how it turns out. But that has a cost we shouldn’t be willing to pay.

2.  Consider a media fast.

Take time off from television, movies, and even Facebook. Make your fast a significant time, like 3 months, to help give you perspective. I (Erin) did this and when I went back to TV, it was appalling. I had fresh eyes to see the depravity. And you will too.

Honestly, now I barely watch TV. It’s become unimportant. Because when you do a fast, you need to fill that time with something else, and when you fill it with God, with spending time with Him, reading His Word, praying, it’s far more fulfilling.

One other thing we want to mention: we’re all sinners who struggle with our own sin regardless of what we’re writing. A podcast by John Piper talked about how the problem with watching TV or movies with unsavory things also awakens a desire in us to sin and strengthens the bondage of something we may personally be fighting against (in the case of that particular podcast, sensuality). And the fight against that bondage can all be undone as we watch something on TV.  He said, “Find the streams that are feeding the river of sensual desire and cut them off.”

3.  Focus on speaking truth, on what builds up the body.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

4. Focus on speaking with gratitude.

Ephesians 5:1-7 says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.”

We partner with them when we watch, read, or take them into our minds and hearts. Instead, let’s work to be a fragrant offering and a sacrifice for God.

Thanksgiving gets our position in relation to God right: He’s sovereign, and we’re dependent on Him. He is in the position of the highest value in the universe He created. When we have that right, we’re not idolaters.

5. Value God over our own plans, ideas, rules, and even over story.

Let’s go back to the basis of why we compromise: idolatry. Idolatry is valuing our own plans, ideas, desires, rules, etc., over God. Over trusting Him, and valuing Him.

Adam and Eve sinned because they thought God was holding out on them. They didn’t trust Him to be good, wise, righteous, and a steward of their best interest. They didn’t value Him as God.

And sometimes, as Karen was saying when she talked about how hard it is to turn away from a movie or book or TV show, we value story over God. That hits us where we live. We’re writers, we love story. But here’s what 1 John 5:21 says, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” Even story.

Final thoughts on Compromise

The world has it’s own idea of a slippery slope, which often is that if you give God access to places like schools and courtrooms and media, you’re surrendering your “freedom” to religious constraints. But in reality, the true slippery slope is making choices and allowing yourself to do, watch, say, or write things that don’t honor God. Because when we devalue or dishonor God, we put ourselves in a place where He won’t honor us. And here’s the thing: all it takes is one little step in the wrong direction for the slide down the slope to begin. This isn’t about living by rules, friends, it’s about honoring God. Every day. In every decision we make. It’s about being so familiar with the voice of God’s Spirit within us that we stop at the first indication that something isn’t right, and turn to God. Sure, we all love the excitement and fun of going down slides. But don’t let that initial thrill fool you. It’s not from God. In fact, it’s desensitizing you to the voice of God and His Holy Spirit. The slippery slope only leads one way: down. Instead, keep your focus up: on God. On His ways. And on the joy of living as He instructs. Because He made us. He knows us. And He knows how we work best.

We want to hear from you!

What do you think about the abundance of immorality, foul language, depravity, etc., in our culture and media?
How do you think we can guard ourselves from being affected by it?

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Writers, are you on the true slippery slope? Come find out!

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