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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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066 – Preparing for the Unexpected

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Preparing for the Unexpected

If there’s one thing we know for certain about the publishing industry—it’s constantly changing. Just when you think you have a contract, the publishing company closes. Just when you think you have a writing schedule, you break your arm. Just when you’ve built your huge audience on Facebook, they change the rules and no one is seeing your posts. Just when you decide to go indie, an agent expresses interest in shopping your manuscript to a publisher. Just when you finish your YA dystopian, someone tells you the market dried up.

The problem is that we love comfort and predictability. We keep trying to dig in and settle down, but we’re living in an unpredictable environment. Especially in the writing world.

The Israelites experienced this kind of unpredictability. In the book of Numbers, chapter 9:15-22, we get a summary of how the Israelites lived:

On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at His command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at His command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out.

They didn’t know where they were going tomorrow, they didn’t know how long they’d be there, they didn’t know how far the next watering hole would be. Did they need to ration water? They didn’t know if they’d find enemies, or what have you. Think about how LONG they lived this way for.

But what DID they have? The presence of the Lord.

What did they do? That’s in the next verse, Numbers 9:23:

At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with His command through Moses.

God already had the route planned. But none of it was easy. The thing is, He knew what was important on the journey. And what wasn’t. Their job? To be obedient.

When we try to keep a death grip on our preconceptions, or our plans, or our goals, or that manuscript we’ve been clinging to year after year, we miss blessings God has for us on a different path, or blessings God wants to give to others through us.

The story of Peter and Cornelius and the church at Antioch in the book of Acts gives us another example of a changing, unpredictable environment. Peter’s whole understanding of clean and unclean was shattered. Talk about an unexpected change. He thought he could count on that as truth. But now, God made it clear that the Gospel message was for Jews AND Gentiles.

And think about the change for the Gentiles! They hadn’t been hearing the Gospel preached because the understanding was that it wasn’t for them. But now? They know it is and the Chosen know it is. In fact, when the church in Jerusalem hears what’s happening, how so many Gentiles are coming to faith in Christ, they send Barnabas to see all that’s happening.

Acts 11:23-24:  When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

But the coolest unexpected fact about this story comes in verses 19-22:

Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.

God spoke to their hearts even as He spoke to Peter, and the horror of persecution and Stephen’s death, as unexpected as that had to be, was turned into the advent of God’s Gospel to the Gentiles.

God wasn’t surprised by any of this. Just as He isn’t surprised by whatever comes to you. NOTHING is unexpected to God. While we may not understand, may not even like what’s happening, we can know and trust that all of what comes to us is in His hands. And when we hold things loosely, ready to surrender them to His will, we won’t fear the unexpected.

What We Can learn from a nomadic lifestyle

1.    Understand that this whole idea of change applies to both good times and bad. Sometimes you’re in a good spot and you like it…and the cloud moves! You have to move on just when you’ve gotten comfortable. Or sometimes you’re really, really, REALLY ready to move, and the cloud stays. And stays. And stays. Change is still coming. Be ready for that. It doesn’t mean you should bury your head until change comes. It means you should do the best you can right where you are to be faithful in the situation you’re in today.

2.     Focus on seeing God’s provision for today. Take the time to write down what He IS doing right now where you are. Write each thing. Write how you see Him working.

3.     Focus on going in the right direction rather than clinging to every detail of your plan. We can’t predict our exact path anywhere. Only God knows the route, and He knows what we need along the way. The detours, the trials, the joys, the wonders. We can’t know the purpose or blessings we’ll find through those. We can only trust God’s purposes to be accomplished through them. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:12

4.     Don’t be weighed down by external possessions. Nomads never built permanent structures, and didn’t have unnecessary possessions because everything they owned they had to carry. Focus instead on gaining inner “possessions” such as contentment and trust. Those treasures go with us everywhere.

5.    Don’t expect an explanation from God. If what’s happening makes no sense, be okay with that. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

Our God is the God of the unexpected. We can make plans and set goals, but we need to hold all of that lightly, and continually surrender it to Him. And we need to remember that HE never changes. When we hold onto this truth, then when unexpected changes hit, which we all know they will, we will not be shaken. Sure, we may be taken aback, and it may take us a little time to adjust. After all, we’re human. But ultimately we can rest in the fact that God is present in all our circumstances, that He is in control, and that we can trust Him.

Like it says in 2 Pet 1:6-8:

Learn to know God better and discover what He wants you to do. Next, learn to put aside your own desires so that you will become patient and godly, gladly letting God have His way with you. This will make possible the next step, which is for you to enjoy other people and to like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply. The more you go on in this way, the more you will grow strong spiritually and become fruitful and useful to our Lord Jesus Christ.

We want to hear from you!

Have you experienced a recent unexpected change?
What helps you cope with it?

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065 – The Sin of Self-Doubt

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young The Sin of Self-Doubt on the Write from the Deep podcast

 

We’ve talked about doubt on a couple of past episodes, but we’ve saved one of the worst kinds of doubt: self-doubt—for its own episode.

Self-doubt is a sin.

Not sure you buy that? Well, stay with us…

Self-doubt can stem from different sources

1. Low Self-Esteem or an Underestimation of Your Abilities

  • You don’t believe you’re good enough, that you have the skills, the abilities. You don’t trust what you know.

The problem with this is that it often stems from Fear of being wrong, which puts this positive task God has given us into a negative light. That makes what we’re doing each day a task of fear rather than joy. We’re thinking, “Don’t screw up” instead of delighting in the work God has equipped us to do.

It points to a lack of trust that God can equip and enable you to do what He’s asked you to do. You doubt Him. That’s not just a bad idea. It’s a sin.

  • Also, when we focus on some task that we don’t believe we have the skills to do, it can make that task much bigger than it is.

For example, I’ve (Erin) been working on an automation sequence for our newsletter, and I’m struggling learning how to use a new mailing program, and I’m doubting I’ll do it right. Pretty soon this whole process takes on an exaggerated proportion. Like it’ll be some HUGE failure if I mess this up. Well, no. The world will not end if my automation sequence has a glitch, or a mistake, or I have to redo it down the line. This is NOT a problem of epic proportions, but my self-doubt was making it into that. But look at what 1 Chronicles 28:20 (TLB) says:

Then he continued, ‘Be strong and courageous and get to work. Don’t be frightened by the size of the task, for the Lord my God is with you; He will not forsake you. He will see to it that everything is finished correctly.'”

2. Thinking You’re Not Doing Enough

  • The word enough is the problem. We fail to see what we ARE doing when we’re constantly focused on what we aren’t doing…We’re not writing enough, or we’re not writing fast enough, or we’re not working hard enough, being grateful enough, being productive enough…

This type of self doubt is so dangerous because it doesn’t have any manners. It doesn’t just stay in one area of our lives. When we battle self-doubt as writers, it tends to spill over into every other aspect of who we are. So we struggle with feeling like we’re being a good enough spouse or parent or friend or Christian or whatever. And what better way to derail us from what God has asked us to do, whether in our writing or in other areas of our lives, than to whisper to us that we’re just not enough. And what we do isn’t enough.

Instead of resting in God and His leading, we start striving. We take on more than we should, we get frustrated and impatient, and we end up fulfilling the idea that we’re not good enough or doing enough because we become focused on self rather than on God. And that often leads into the next type of self-doubt, which is…

3. Self-Doubt Rooted in Self-Sufficiency

  • Whether this is conscious or unconscious, self-doubt is a warning sign of self-sufficiency

This one is a tricky one. It can be hard to identify because we don’t rationally think, “Hey, my problem is that I’m being self-sufficient.” But that’s what it comes down to.

When you doubt that you’re enough, you’re not really doubting yourself. If, indeed, God is the one who has asked you to write, or if He has led you to your spouse, if He is the one equipping you to parent or write or whatever, then when you doubt that you’re enough, you’re really doubting the supplier of your needs. You’re doubting God. And, like we said, that’s not just a bad idea, it’s sin.

Solutions for Defeating Self-Doubt
  1. When we’re doubting our ability to do a task, we need to go back and ask: Who gave us this task?
  • If God gave us this task, then our job is to trust God. Period. He has promised to give us the abilities we need, to go before and behind us, to prepare us.
  • Deuteronomy 31:8 says: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Either we believe He will fulfill His promises, or we don’t.
  • It might help to think about Noah. The guy probably never built an ark before. But when God tells him to do this, does Noah spend the next 100 years worrying that he’s going to do a lousy job? God wants that ark built, He has a plan. He’s not going to let Noah ruin it. When we think of it that way, it seems ridiculous for Noah to worry. It’s the same with the task God gives to us. He will make us able.
  • That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, and that we won’t have to learn a lot along the way.
  1. Allow yourself to make mistakes.
  • Making mistakes isn’t failure! It’s a normal part of a learning process. Sometimes we learn best from our mistakes.
  • Look at all the mistakes God’s “heroes” made. Shoot, just look at David, the man “after God’s own heart.” He lusted, committed adultery, and committed murder, to name just a few mistakes. But God still loved him. Still used him. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.
  • Some of us have a really hard time with this. We’re perfectionists, which is a problem in and of itself that we’ll also address in a future podcast. But you might need to repeat this to yourself: The world will not end if I make a mistake.
  • And if you start worrying about it, remember Psalm 37:23-24: “The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take. If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with His hand.”

3. Focus on what you’re doing right first, and rejoice.

  • When we struggle with self-doubt, we never take the time to celebrate what we do right, to celebrate our victories. They’re always overshadowed by what we did wrong.
  • But here’s the thing: realize when you do things right, that’s from God, not because you’re so great or perfect. So when you rejoice, rejoice in HIM, in His provision and presence. Remember Proverbs 21:31: “Go ahead and prepare for the conflict, but the victory comes from God.”
  1. Focus on what you’ve learned from your mistakes, and rejoice again!
  • Anyone who has worked at something important will tell you, mistakes WILL happen. Making them isn’t the problem, it’s how you react to them and whether or not you learn from them. Rejoice in what you’ve learned through the normal human event of making mistakes.
  1. Focus on the big picture, the overall task. Am I moving in the right direction?
  • This writing journey isn’t about hitting some bullseye somewhere. It’s about walking in obedience in the DIRECTION God has pointed us.
  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff
  • Don’t sweat things like messing up an email. They’re SMALL. The big stuff—the important stuff—is what’s going on in your heart.
  • How is your relationship with God? Are you submitting to Him? To His provision for you, whether it turns out the way you wanted to or not? Do you understand His amazing love for you?
  • Ephesians 3:17-19 says, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” When we focus on that, we don’t have room in our thoughts for self-sufficiency.
  1. Focus on this writing thing as a task WITH God, not FOR God.
  • God doesn’t leave us as orphans. He wants to be intimately involved. We have to embrace that. We have to repeat that truth over and over to ourselves in order to replace the lie of self-sufficiency.
  • Remember Gideon in the Bible? The Midianites were oppressing the Israelites terribly, and when God was ready to intervene, here’s what He tells Gideon in Judges 6:14-16: “The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?’ ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’ The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.’”
  • This wasn’t a task Gideon had to do alone. Neither is this task God has given you. The whole point is to do this WITH God. Then He gets the glory, not us. And we get joy rather than self-doubt.

Final Thoughts

Few things can derail us as quickly and effectively as doubt. And the most debilitating form of doubt is often self-doubt. But when we recognize that what we’re really doubting isn’t ourselves, but the One who gave us this task, who promised to equip us and prepare us for this task, who promises that He’s with us every step of the way, then we have to admit the hard truth that self-doubt isn’t just a bad idea, it’s sin. It’s doubting that God is who He says He is and doubting that He’ll fulfill His promises. The next time those doubts try to get to you, stop them in their tracks. Turn to God and submit them to Him. Let HIM take them down as He’s promised He will. And then move forward in the peace and freedom that God is in control. All you need to be is obedient.

We want to hear from you!

What have you found to be your most effective cure for bouts of self-doubt?

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064 – Don’t Let Waiting Wear You Down with Guest Cara Grandle

Writer Cara Grandle

Waiting can be SO hard, especially if all you do is…well, wait. But you don’t have to let waiting wear you down. Guest Cara Grandle shares great ways to use your waiting time well.

Cara Grandle is a historical romance novelist who writes about the early settlers of the Pacific Northwest. Think trappers and loggers and scroungy-backed woodsmen. She is represented by Bob Hostetler and The Steve Laube Agency. Cara is the host of a podcast called Life Caraphrased and she leads the author4TheAuthor writers group on Facebook, home to 190 writers. Together they’re pressing back on busy and making a space for their dreams.

Key Quotes

What the deep means to Cara…

For me right now, the deep as a writer pretty much has to do with this great waiting, and finding my balance inside of it. And finding my hope inside of it…And it’s not easy. It’s not for the faint of heart, this thing that we signed up for. It’s actually very hard.

I’m still not published. I’m still waiting, and it’s been just shy of five years.

About waiting…

For me the waiting is not just waiting. It’s the learning and the waiting well. It’s the figuring out who I am before the Lord as a writer, even when the industry hasn’t caught up to the fact that God has a plan for me.

About hope…

Hope is a feeling. Hope is required in order to believe that you’re doing the thing the Lord has called you to do. What’s necessary for hope as a writer is to be able to picture your own success…That’s why Scripture says when hope is deferred the heart is sick, but when dreams come true at last it’s the tree of life.

Even if it doesn’t seem like…opportunities are lying out before you, don’t despise the season of building hope. It’s okay to dream. It’s okay to paint the future. It’s not ego. The Lord is good at balancing the inside of the human heart.

About validation…

My validation comes from Him…and His plan for my life. Contracts and all those opportunities that I’m dreaming about are seasoning to the meal of my validation with Him. He is on time and ahead of time and fully preparing me for the best future for me.

What to do while waiting…

It’s important for me to remember that I don’t have to wait for these grand schemes to come together before I can move into the plan He has for me. It’s right now. It’s every day.

[It’s in] little acts of obedience. The Lord gives you little tiny assignments, and those will lead to a greater success in the long run than any kind of effort I scheme on my own.

It’s making sure you don’t lose your family in the name of your career. It’s making sure you don’t sabotage your sleep or your health in the name of your career. And it’s figuring out what your routine looks like and what you can sustain and maintain when the contracts do come in. It’s all of that kind of stuff. Those learning experiences take time.

Scripture for the long wait…

“Don’t give up. Don’t be impatient. Be intertwined as one with the Lord. Be brave, courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep waiting, for He will never disappoint you.” Psalm 27:14 The Passion Translation

About expectations…

My dreams and my expectations for what I think the Lord plans have been for me all through the years pale in comparison to what actually turns out. His provision for me, His supply for me, His plan and path for me as a writer will be more than my best imagination…He knows my best future.

Final words of wisdom about being in the waiting room…

Do not do it alone. Find your company…You’ve got to be around people who understand that you’re trying to do this whole writing thing on top of an already full and busy life. And it’s intense. What happens is that when you do go through hard times, the deep waters, someone else won’t be in the deep waters and they’ll be able to say things to you that bump you out so that your times that are struggles will be shorter.

Good company. That’s my advice.

We want to hear from you!

Have you been, or are you now in a waiting time?
What tips can you share to use waiting time well?

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Writers, are you in waiting mode? Don’t let that wear you down!

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063 – Is Joy in All Circumstances Really Possible?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet they rejoiced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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062 – Don’t Be Derailed by Doubt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TYPES OF DOUBT
Doubting God’s provision because of circumstances

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

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

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

If you find yourself looking at circumstances, stop.

S.T.O.P.

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

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

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

Principles to Help You Discern God’s Leading

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

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

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

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

 

We Want to hear from you!

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

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

 

Links to conferences we mentioned

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

 

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061 – Do You Want Your Writing to Matter?

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

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

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

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

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

Whether anyone reads your book or not.

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

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

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

You work to know it inside and out.

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

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

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

 

You love it.

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

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

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

 

It changes you.

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

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

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

 

You look to it for your nourishment.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

We want to hear from you

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

 

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

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

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

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

Key points on defining success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Our New Year’s exhortation to you

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

 

We want to hear from you!

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

 

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059 – 7 Hidden Gifts of Writing

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

We want to hear from you!

What hidden gift have you discovered in writing?

 

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058 – Did God Really Ask You to Write?

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

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

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

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

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

And yet we still doubt we heard God correctly!

Why We Doubt

Our passion ebbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions to doubt

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

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

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

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

Focus on distinguishing God’s voice from others

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

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

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

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

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

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

We want to hear from you

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

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

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057 – The Rhythm of Prayer with Bob Hostetler

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

About Bob…

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

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

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

Key takeaways

What the deep means to Bob…

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

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

Bob’s transformative prayer journey…

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

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

On why we struggle to pray…

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

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

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

The value of prayer…

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

The danger of hurry…

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

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

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

The myth of being “prayed up”

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

Finding your prayer rhythm…

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

Books and websites referenced…

Bob’s blog post: Your First Writing Assignment

Oneprayeraday.com

Books by Eugene Peterson

The Contemplative Pastor

The Message

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

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Hurry is poison to the writer’s soul!

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056 – Is Your Humility True or False?

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

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

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

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

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

What is humility?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is our model for serving with humility.

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

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

 

What is False Humility?

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

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

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

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

Low self-esteem is NOT humility

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

 

Why is humility a desirable trait?

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

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

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

 

How writers can practice humility

Listen to others

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

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

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

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

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

How do you build your platform with humility?

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

Should you try to win awards?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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055 – Stop Settling for Superficial Writing

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

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

What is writing from the deep? 

It’s about our character steeped in God:

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

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

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

How do we dig deep in our writing?

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

Mine the depths of who you are:

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

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

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

Mine the depths of emotions on the page:

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

Practical tips for putting emotions into writing:

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

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

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

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

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

The bottom line:

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

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054 – Stop Settling for a Superficial Life

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

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

Why is superficiality so common?

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

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

2. Our digital world is changing our brains

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

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

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

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

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

Practical Solutions

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

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

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

Our answer? A definitive YES.

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

Signs that you’re not trusting God

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

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

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

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

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

So why is true trust in God so important?

Trust changes everything.

The Fruit of Trust

Blessing

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

Freedom

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

Joy

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

Guidance

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

Confidence

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

Future reward

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

How do we develop trust?

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

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

Scriptural examples of Ebenezers or markers:

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

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

Final words

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

Then move into the day in faith!

 

We want to hear from you!

What Ebenezers do you have from your own writing journey?

 

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