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086 – Lessons for Your Writing Journey – from Alpacas!

Lessons for Your Writing Journey from AlpacasThere are wonderful lessons to be learned about God, about ourselves and our writing journey, from the world around us. Nature is a powerful teacher about God. And so are alpacas! Come discover what wisdom these wooly, wonderful creatures have for you to help you keep your writing career on track in the new year!

There was an interesting episode on the Ask Pastor John podcast the other day where they discussed including other types of reading and studying aside from the Bible to help you learn about God and grow in your relationship and service to Him. John Piper, a man who’s devoted his life to studying and preaching God’s Word said that yes, by all means, you should have these outside learning experiences. He pointed out that God’s Word even directs us to do so, and he referenced the verses like Proverbs 6:6 that says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” (NIV)

Jesus says in Luke 12:27, “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (NIV)

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (NASB)

So we’re going to follow that vein today because Karen and Erin were recently in Seattle where we got to observe first hand some lessons from some of God’s very cool creatures: Alpacas.

Lesson 1)  Stick together!

Alpacas instinctively know there’s safety in numbers. They spent their time in close proximity to each other, hanging out together in a pack with the adults watching over the youngsters.

Writers aren’t like other people. We’re a different breed, and that’s okay. We need fellowship with our own kind. We need writing buddies, writing relationships. You can find writing buddies at church or online. Or you can check for local chapters of national organizations, connect at conferences, look on Facebook, or even start a group of your own.

Older writers need to take care of the younger writers for as long as they need it. Don’t get impatient with them for being young. Nurture them, help them. They have a lot to learn, but so did you when you started. Now, you have a lot to share.

Also realize mentoring relationships can happen in little chunks. It doesn’t have to be a big formal thing between two writers. You can give in small doses to many writers, and receive from many as well.

Lesson 2)  Don’t put off your own needs

When you need something, take care of yourself. No hesitation, no embarrassment, no apologies. Remember, we’re commanded to love others as we love ourselves. But if we treated people the way most of us treat ourselves, it wouldn’t be pretty. We need to be more like the alpacas. When they needed to relieve themselves, they did. When they wanted to brush themselves on a big brush they had in the shelter, they did––both by themselves and together. It was adorable to see them rubbing their long necks against it! With no worries, they just took care of business no matter who was standing there.

For us as writers, we have to take care of our health. To get rest, get sleep, and eat right. It’s the new year, so it’s a good time to develop new habits. Preserve unscheduled time in your life so on those days when you can’t get something done, you don’t end up creating a domino effect of missing deadlines. Consider what you can cut from your schedule to plan time for rest.

Most of us know what we need to do to take care of ourselves, but let us give you another reason why all of this is so important. Did you know that depression most often has a physical basis rather than an emotional one? A side effect of not taking care of yourself, not getting sleep, not having the right balance of nutrients and vitamins, not balancing our hormones, not getting exercise is depression!

Lesson 3)  Imitate the alpacas’ friendliness and curiosity

Every time we’d go outside, the alpacas would stop what they were doing and look at us with these cute smiling faces. Seriously, they really did smile. It cracked us up. Every time Erin went out there she’d say, “Hi, friendly alpacas!” It was a joy to be with them.

How does that apply to us? The writing business is about relationships––with readers, with editors, with agents, with other writers. Be warm. Be welcoming. Smile. People like to work with friendly, inviting people!

It was more than just the alpacas’ smiles though. They had this fun curiosity. It wasn’t like they hadn’t seen us many times on any given day, but they acted like it was some grand new experience each time.

As writers we have to have that same curiosity. We have something new to learn all the time from other writers, teachers, editors, and agents. We’ve seen multi-published, award-winning writers taking notes and learning from other people. Even if you think you’ve heard something before, there’s always another nuance you can pick up.

The alpacas’ curiosity didn’t seem to have fear. There are many things in the writing career that can cause fear if we let it. Karen has had too many appointments with terrified writers. If only they’d relax! Don’t go in with fear. Be friendly. Be curious. But not fearful. Nobody holds your writing career in their hands but God.

Lesson 4)  Maintain Wariness

Yes, the alpacas were friendly looking and friendly seeming. But they were also wary. They were cautious. They didn’t run right up to us and let us pet them. They watched, they weighed our actions. They didn’t blindly trust us.

This is true in writing as well. Maintain a sense of caution. Seeming experts may not be experts. Weigh their actions. Look at their fruit. Weigh carefully the advice you receive. Even from wonderful, experienced teachers. They all have different views and different methods. Use what works for you.

Lesson 5)  Alpacas don’t worry about their daily bread

The alpacas trusted that their food and water would be there when they needed it. Karen’s brother and sister-in-law had it all worked out so the alpacas were taken care of each day. We didn’t realize how much work was even required, but different people came on different days to do the various tasks. They raked straw, gave fresh food in buckets, gave fresh hay, and fresh water. On days when it was below freezing, Karen and Erin went out and broke up the ice in their water buckets so they could drink. The alpacas never worried, never stressed.

You also are being taken care of, and you can know it. As writers, as people, we’re prone to worry. But God takes care of our needs. He provides. Everything. He’s the source of our creativity. He creates divine appointments. He’s the One who’s gone before you. All you need to do is seek His guidance and be obedient, and you can move forward without worry.

Lesson 6)  God equipped them with a beautiful gift for others

As Karen was showing Erin around the house the first day, she pointed out the “wool room.” There was even a loom in there! It was like Little House on the Prairie, because yes, they shear the alpacas, and Karen’s sister-in-law spins the wool, and makes stuff from it. There’s bags and bags of wool in there. They could clothe themselves for a decade.

The alpacas don’t have to stress about their gift, about making stuff, about being used by God. He’s got that covered. In fact, if they don’t stress their coats grow better.

As writers, God’s gifted you with a story, with a gift to share with others. He’s supplied you with everything you need to follow this task He’s given you, and to do it with excellence. He’s given you the story, the heart, the desire. God is the One who supplies. You don’t have to worry about whether you’re good enough. That’s all God’s purview. He will equip you and guide you to the people and places to help you improve your craft. You just rest. Trust in Him as the provider of everything you need to provide your gift to the world around you.

Final thoughts

There’s so much we can see when we look at the world around us with a heart that’s open, and a heart that’s seeking to see God in everything around us! Let yourself realize God is present, God is at work. God is your source. You can rest in Him. And you can delight in the world that He’s created around you!

We want to hear from you!

What have you learned from observing the world around you?


Come learn valuable lessons for your writing journey from…alpacas!


Thanks so much to all our patrons who support this podcast on Patreon! We’re grateful to you!

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

Please share!

085 – Serving Your Reader

Serving Your Reader on the Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

Writers, what if your journey in the deep isn’t about you, but about your readers? What if it’s to teach you how to know and respond to their needs? Come join the conversation for insights and wisdom on serving your most important partner in the writing journey: your readers.

When we’re teaching writers about the publishing industry, and we start talking about marketing, there’s often this lightbulb moment writers have when they realize they need to think about what they’re writing from the reader’s point of view. They need to start asking what’s in this for the reader? Why would someone want to read this, let alone buy it?

And that’s when they start understanding that their writing isn’t about them. Well, let’s rephrase that. As writers, our writing is about us, it’s about changing us first. And sometimes it’s ONLY for us. We don’t need other readers to make our writing valid. But if we’re talking about writing for publication, or writing to share with others, then we have to make our writing for the reader. About their needs and desires. It’s about serving the readers.

We teach, we inspire, we entertain, we give hope.

This is our job as Christians, too. Ephesians 4:11-12 says:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”  (NIV)

We’re His people, created for works of service, to build up the body.

Challenges We Face

Our society has shifted away from fostering long-term multidimensional relationships, where you grew up together, played baseball together, went to school together, went to the same church, saw each other at the hardware store or the town meeting. You knew everyone’s cousins, their brothers, and their uncle Bob who lived with them.

There were multiple levels of connection, and everyone looked out for each other. You didn’t keep score. It was just the right thing to do. It was a covenant: You took care of your neighbors, and they took care of you. And your neighbors were pretty much the whole town. Perhaps there are some small towns out there where this still exists, but they’re a dying breed.

Now we’ve largely shifted to short term, one-dimensional relationships. We don’t see people in multiple settings. Our work friends don’t necessarily know our church friends, and certainly don’t know our sisters, brothers, and cousins. We’re much less likely to know our next-door neighbors, let alone the whole block.

People are far more transient. You could help out your neighbors but then when you need something, they’re long gone. So we’ve lost that sense of long term benefit for our service. This doesn’t mean we’re bad people, it’s just that our norms have shifted, and our culture has shifted to a “what’s in it for me” culture.

The Amish can do a barn raising, and everyone shows up, because sooner or later, you or someone else in your family is going to need a barn. That time invested in your neighbor’s barn pays off. And it’s the cultural norm to help each other. We don’t do that anymore, or at least not on the same level. Culturally speaking, if we’ve grown up being servant minded, it’s mostly a residual left over from the old days.

But as Christians, we’re called to servanthood, to being Christlike. But we need to understand we’re going against culture here.

When we’re talking about how to serve your reader, we could give a bunch of things to do here, but that might tempt us to simply create a checklist. That’s not really what serving is about. Nor is it about investing as little effort as possible to enjoy the most benefits we can.

Let’s look deeper––at the heart. What does a servant’s heart look like?

A servant’s heart is motivated by love

Jesus tells us what God’s two greatest commandments are in Matthew 22:37-39.

“‘Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (NIV)

We need to serve others because we love them. What does that look like?

We need to respect our readers, to be for them. To want God’s best for them. To delight them, and to delight in them. To be kind in our interactions––even when responding to criticism. And to be patient, and like it says in 1 Corinthians 13: 5, to not be easily angered (and we know how hard that can be in this political climate) or rude.

We can’t view readers as a means to bestselling status, or a market we’re trying to peddle our products to. That’s not sincere service. Romans 12:9-11 says:

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Our readers are people created in God’s image. Respect what they need in what you write. What can you do for them? You’re not writing to get something off your chest. That’s writing for therapy, which is fine, but it’s not writing for publication.

Check your heart on this issue
  • Ask God how you’re doing in this area of love and respect. Do you have a sincere love for your readers?
  • Do you respect them?
  • Ask Him to give you a heart for them. To grow your love for them.
  • Ask God to open your eyes to their needs. How does He want you to love them?
  • Pray for them, because this helps you connect with them.
A Servant’s Heart is Humble

We did a whole podcast on humility (EPISODE #56 – Is Your Humility True or False) so you can go back and listen to that for more in-depth discussion. But one of the things we quoted was from C.S. Lewis who said that “humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

So what is a humble heart in the context of serving? Philippians 2:3 says:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (ESV) 

Selfish ambition is a problem. We don’t serve to get something.

Humility is about not feeling “entitled” to anything. Entitlement is a struggle in the American culture these days. We feel like we “deserve” to be happy, “deserve” a good life, “deserve” to make a reasonable amount of money…and it goes on and on.

But a servant’s heart doesn’t concern itself with what we deserve. It’s not focused on tit for tat, on being repaid.

Proverbs 11:24-25 says:

“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (NIV)

When we’re focused on serving in humility without expecting repayment, that repayment still comes. But it’s God who pours into us. It’s God who refreshes us. When we understand that, we can serve freely, because God is the resource from which we serve. He provides to us, and we share with others.

Jesus is our model for serving with humility. He’s God, the maker of the universe, and yet He came to serve. In Matthew 20:26-28 He says:

“…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.”

Serving with humility means we have the endgame in mind. God’s endgame. We all grow in the knowledge and grace of God. Remember what we said earlier, we’re created for works of service, to build up the body. And through that we all become better reflections of His glory.

Check You Heart on this issue
  • Ask God how you’re doing in this area of humility.
  • Are you serving to get something such as, say, validation from your readers?
  • Are you serving without a sense of entitlement, of “deserving” sales or accolades?
  • Ask God to grow your ability to serve without expectations.
A Servant’s Heart is Thankful

When we truly understand what God has done for us, how Christ purchased us with His blood, that makes a grateful heart well up in us. And that gratitude, that thankfulness, is what overflows into our acts of service.

Listen to the apostle Paul’s gratitude in 1 Timothy 1:12-14:

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them all.” (NLT)

Paul lived this gratitude every day. Acts 16 shows a great example of this. Paul and Silas are in Philippi, preaching the gospel, and day after day there’s a slave girl who tells the future through a demon, following them shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.” (Acts 16:17)

Paul finds this so disruptive that he finally commands the demon to leave. When the slave girl’s owners realize they can’t make money from her telling fortunes anymore, they stir up a crowd and have Paul and Silas arrested. They’re stripped, severely beaten with rods, and tossed into jail, with their feet clamped in stocks.

What is their response? Anger? Resentment? No. Acts 16:25 says:

“Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.” (NLT)

Did you catch that? The other prisoners are paying attention to their attitude. What are these servants of God going to do now that they’re bloody and beaten?

They’re going to praise God.

Then a massive earthquake shakes the whole jail, the chains fall off, and all the doors open. When the jailer sees that, he’s going to kill himself because he assumes all the prisoners escaped, which would mean he’d be put to death. But nobody escaped. Paul tells the jailor not to hurt himself and ends up getting taken to the jailer’s house where he and Silas preach the gospel, and the whole household gets saved.

That was a terrible ordeal for Paul and Silas. Let’s not gloss that over. But they know they’re only servants of Jesus, who suffered no less. Their thankful hearts made a difference in how that all went down.

Check your heart on this issue
  • Do you have a grateful heart for the good God has done in your life?
  • Does your service flow out of that thankfulness?
  • Or do you find yourself struggling with frustration or resentment when things don’t go your way? Or when you get a harsh review? Or when the sales don’t come?
  • Ask God to remind you of who you once were before Christ. Or think about what you would be without Christ and who you are now, with Christ, with His righteousness, with His purchase. You’re a forgiven, treasured, beloved child of the King.
A Servant’s Heart is Faithful

This is a long journey. We get tired. We get discouraged. Sometimes we’re tempted to give up. But God calls us to faithful service. Service that doesn’t give up, but that presses on. 1 Peter 4:10  says:

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV)

As writers and servants, God has gifted us to administer His grace. Isn’t that wonderful? Our job is to be faithful to that task of administering that particular grace.

But that doesn’t mean you take giant leaps everyday. That doesn’t mean you never rest. This is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. It’s a journey of obedience we take one step at a time.

And It’s a commitment. When you sign a contract, you meet the deadline. When you tell your readers your book, or your blog post, or your contest giveaway, or whatever, will happen on a certain date, you follow through. You don’t disappear because you got interested in something else.

If God has given you this task of writing, you do it until He tells you to stop. So many writers seem to struggle with whether they heard God right: are they really supposed to be a writer? We did a whole podcast on that as well (EPISODE #58 – Did God Really Ask You to Write?).

There may be a long time between road signs, but that doesn’t mean you’ve gotten off the path. Faithfulness is doing your task until God gives you a different task, even if you don’t constantly hear Him say, “Keep going forward.”

Check Your Heart on This Issue
  • Ask God how you’re doing on being faithful.
  • Has He asked something specific of you that you haven’t done? That you’re dragging your feet on? Be obedient to His command.
  • Have you made a commitment to your readers that you haven’t followed through on? Follow through.
  • Have you been tempted to give up because this journey is longer, harder, or whatever, than you anticipated? Press on.
  • Ask God to show you how you have already been faithful, and be encouraged!
  • Ask God to spur you on to further faithful obedience.
One caveat about serving

We’re not saying that serving means you say YES to everything anyone ever asks you to do. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. You can’t let others set your agenda. Only God can do that!

Final Thoughts

We don’t write to “get” something. It’s to serve. God has given you a task to minister and serve others. When you keep your readers and their needs in mind, when you come into this writing task with the feeling of being humble and grateful, and serving your readers and serving God, friends, things will happen that will uplift you and encourage you far beyond anything you could want for yourself.

We want to hear from you!

How would you describe a servant’s heart? What do you find most challenging?


Writing isn’t about the writer, but the reader! Learn how to serve your readers well.

Thank you!

Thanks so much to all our patrons who support this podcast on Patreon! We’re grateful to you!

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

Please share!

084 – Christmas Wonder in the Deep

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Christmas Wonder in the Deep on the Write from the Deep PodcastAlmost everyone loves to hear and sing Christmas carols and songs. They stir up such wonderful images and memories. But did you know that many were written in the deep? But God was working—often in miraculous ways—to use them for His glory!

We used one of Karen’s treasured books, Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins, for the information in this podcast.

Angels from the Realms of Glory

One of the best-loved Christmas hymns was written by Irish revolutionary James Montgomery. His missionary parents were killed on the field when he was only 7. He pursued his love of writing, even after constant rejection for his poems.

One editor on the Sheffield Register, a newspaper that focused on Ireland’s independence from English rule, took to Montgomery’s poems and made Montgomery’s dream of being paid to write a reality! In a few years, Montgomery took over the paper when the British ran the owner out of town. Montgomery ended up in prison twice for his editorials against England’s rule, but still he kept on with his fiery written war for Irish independence.

Then, one December, something changed in Montgomery. For years he’d been searching the Bible to understand why his parents would go to die on the mission field. Apparently, he found part of his answer. He wrote a poem in December of 1816 called, “Nativity.” Rather than the divisive tone of his previous writing, this poem focused on Angels proclaiming the birth of a Savior who was for all people, regardless of nationality, position, wealth, or any of the things that divided so many.

There are two bits of irony here. Both show how God works his wonders in our dark places. The first irony comes in the form an Englishman, Henry Smart.

Smart, whose father was a music publisher, was as passionate as Montgomery, but his battle was with the Church of England. He fought to bring joyous music to worship in place of the traditional chants. He’d put together new songbooks with harmonies in them, and when the people heard these beautiful harmonies, they insisted the church use the songbooks. Amazingly, the church did so.

Though Henry Smart was going blind, he heard Montgomery’s poem, “Nativity,” some 20 years after it was first published. He was so inspired that he put it to music and gave it a new title: Angels from the Realms of Glory. So an Englishman took an Irish revolutionary’s poem, put it to music, and that joyous hymn proclaiming the birth of a Savior for ALL peoples became a favorite in hundreds of English churches!

The second irony is that Montgomery himself had undergone a transformation. In trying to understand why his parents were willing to put their lives at risk for people they didn’t know, all to bring them God’s truth, he found his anger dissipating, and ended up letting go of being an active revolutionary. Instead, he returned to the Moravian church and, like his parents, became a missionary! He continued to write poems, which Smart continued to put to music, and between the two of them they led a more gentle rebellion, bringing joyous music into the worship life of the English church.

Below are the words to “Angels from the Realms of Glory.” You can listen on YouTube here.

Angels from the realms of glory

Wing your flight o’er all the earth;

Ye who sang creation’s story

Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.



Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the newborn King.


Shepherds, in the field abiding,

Watching o’er your flocks by night,

God with us is now residing;

Yonder shines the infant light:


Sages, leave your contemplations,

Brighter visions beam afar;

Seek the great Desire of nations;

Ye have seen His natal star.


Saints, before the altar bending,

Watching long in hope and fear;

Suddenly the Lord, descending,

In His temple shall appear.


Though an Infant now we view Him,

He shall fill His Father’s throne,

Gather all the nations to Him;

Every knee shall then bow down:


All creation, join in praising

God, the Father, Spirit, Son,

Evermore your voices raising

To th’eternal Three in One.


The Twelve Days of Christmas

You’re probably wondering how this “secular” song fits in with what we’re talking about. Well, this song isn’t about a guy’s gifts to a girl. It was actually written as a secret way for Catholics, who were forbidden to practice their religion in England, to teach their children about the tenants of their faith and to mark the time between Christ’s birth and the Epiphany. (The Epiphany was when the wise men came to honor the baby Jesus.) Here’s the breakdown:

A partridge in a pear tree. The partridge represents Christ, because a mother partridge will give her life to protect her chicks, as Christ gave His to save us. The tree represents the cross. So the first gift represents God’s gift of salvation to us through Christ.

Two turtle doves. These stand for the Old and New Testaments. Also, doves were symbols of peace.

Three French hens. In the 16th century, French hens were a luxury. So these three hens represent the lavish gifts brought to baby Jesus by the three kings. When Catholic children sang this verse they didn’t picture hens, but gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Four calling birds. These represent the authors of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Five golden rings. A symbol of the five Old Testament books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, known as the law of Moses. Some people call it the Pentateuch. They were to remind the singer of man’s fall due to sin and the truth that a Savior would come to restore us to our Father.

Six geese a’laying. Think about it. God made the world in six days! An added bonus? Eggs are a symbol of new life.

Seven swans a’swimming. These represent the seven gifts of the Spirit: prophesy, service, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy! Catholic children were taught that when you walked with God, the gifts of the Spirit moved in your life as easily and gracefully as swans on water.

Eight maids a’milking. When the song was written, no job in society was lower than that of working with cattle or in a barn. So these maids represented the common man who Christ came to serve and save. His salvation isn’t reserved only for the wealthy, but is offered as a free gift to all. Also, the eight refers to the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Nine ladies dancing. These are the nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Ten lords a’leaping. The 10 Commandments, of course! Back then, lords were supposed to be just and honorable and the law of their land.

Eleven pipers piping. These are the 11 disciples. Yes, there were 12, but because Catholics taught that Judas didn’t embrace Christ and His true message, they only counted 11.

Twelve drummers drumming. This represents the Apostles’ Creed, the confession of the Catholic church which contains a dozen different elements. Here’s what the Apostles’ Creed says:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

You can hear a version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” here.

Good Christian Men, Rejoice

This uplifting Christmas hymn came from the sufferings of two men. They were persecuted for their convictions, endured personal hardships, suffered lingering illnesses, and died in relative obscurity, never accepted by the church they so loved. Now that’s a deep place.

Heinrich Suso lived in the Dark Age, the son of a nobleman. He never needed to know the suffering of the lower classes, but he left his life of wealth and comfort to serve as a Dominican priest. He wrote a book––yes, another suffering writer!––called The Little Book of Truth, in which he justified making the gospel, and its hope and encouragement, accessible to common people. He was tried for heresy. But that didn’t stop him.

A year later he wrote A Little Book of Eternal Wisdom. It differed from other religious books of the time in that it, too, was written for the common man. Afraid Suso’s radical thinking might bring about a revolution, the pope sentenced Heinrich to death. He escaped to Switzerland, making his humiliation complete as he chose the worse punishment possible for a man of noble birth: exile.

Even in this new country, though, he suffered persecution and slander. None of which stopped him from preaching about the happiness he found in following God. One night Suso had a dream in which he saw angels singing and dancing. He joined in with them, and when he woke he penned the lyrics of “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.”

It was a song as revolutionary as all his other writing, because it exhorted Christians to a joyous expression of God’s love. Most other religions music of the day was somber and written in formal language. But the German people loved the song and took it to heart.

It would take more than 150 years for the song to make its way into print. Even so, it inspired many, including Martin Luther, to compose more hymns and songs in the language of the common man. Even the Catholic church would eventually realize Suso was right in wanting to reach the common man with the gospel, and in 1831, the pope canonized him.

The second man, James Mason Neele, was a Church of England priest, a hymn writer, and a scholar who counted “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” among his works. He was inspired by Suso’s writings and song. In a world where there was so much sadness and despair, Neele wanted everyone to know the exuberant joy of salvation through Christ.

But he, too, was considered a radical by the church of the mid-1800s. Like Suso, he was exiled, and he was stoned, beaten, and ridiculed by the leadership of his own denomination. Also like Suso, none of that stopped him. He began an order of women, the Sisterhood of St. Margaret, to feed the poor, take care of orphans, and minister to prostitutes. He and the sisters in the order all received death threats for their ministry, which reached and helped thousands.

In 1853 Neele translated Suso’s Christmas hymn into English, and it was actually published! It took the Church of England, and the common man, by storm. By 1900, it had become one of England’s and America’s most popular hymns.

Below are the words to the hymn. You can listen to a lively version of the hymn here.

1. Good Christian men, rejoice

With heart, and soul, and voice;

Give ye heed to what we say:

News! News!

Jesus Christ was born to-day:

Ox and ass before Him bow,

And He is in the manger now.

Christ is born today! Christ is born today.


2. Good Christian men, rejoice,

With heart, and soul, and voice;

Now ye hear of endless bliss:

Joy! Joy!

Jesus Christ was born for this!

He hath ope’d the heav’nly door,

And man is blessed evermore.

Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!


3. Good Christian men, rejoice

With heart, and soul, and voice;

Now ye need not fear the grave:

Peace! Peace!

Jesus Christ was born to save!

Calls you one, and calls you all,

To gain His everlasting hall:

Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!


Merry Christmas to you all, and may God bless you today with His peace and love!

We want to hear from you!

What is your favorite Christmas hymn or song?


See your favorite Christmas hymns and songs in a whole new light!


Thanks so much to all our patrons who support this podcast on Patreon! We’re grateful to you!

And special thanks to our December sponsor of the month, Tammy Partlow! Her debut novel Blood Beneath the Pines, a suspense set in the deep South, is now available! Congratulations, Tammy!

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

Please share!

083 – Pastor Writer in the Deep with Guest Chase Replogle

Pastor Writer in the Deep with Guest Chase ReplogleWhen pastor Chase Replogle became a writer, he had no idea how hard it would be! Before long, he started the podcast Pastor Writer to interview pastors, authors, and writing experts––such as Eugene Petersen, Os Guinness, and Janet Grant––all to gain a better understanding of the writing journey. And now he’s sharing that wisdom and insight with us!

About Chase Replogle

Chase Replogle is the pastor of Bent Oak Church in Springfield, Missouri. He has a degree in Biblical Studies and an M.A. in New Testament. He hosts the Pastor Writer Podcast, interviewing Christian authors on the calling and craft of writing. Guests have included: Tim Challies, Barnabas Piper, Dick Foth, Os Guinness, Pete Scazzero, and Scott Sauls. The podcast was recently featured by The Gospel Coalition. The site chronicles Chase’s ongoing writing projects, attracting many new listeners each month.

A native of the Ozark woods, he enjoys being outdoors with his wife and two kids: fly-fishing, playing the mandolin (badly), and quail hunting with his bird dog Millie.


Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re now able to offer transcripts of our interviews!

Karen: Hey guys, we’re in the deep today, and we welcome you here with us. We have a new guest, Chase Replogle. Erin, you’re on.

Erin: You know, guys, I am excited to have Chase here with us. I discovered him through his podcast, and then I discovered that Karen and I have a lot of friends in common with Chase. So that was really fun to just meet people across the internet. So, Chase does this podcast called Pastor Writer, and it’s all about a deeper look at the calling and craft of writing. Naturally, Karen and I are interested right away. Chase is also a pastor at Bent Oak church. He’s a freelance web designer and a writer. And the podcast Pastor Writer is his journey to better understand this very unique vocation of being a pastor and a writer. And so, we’re going to talk about that—the challenges and the struggles—so we’re going to have all kinds of fun with that today. Chase, welcome.

Chase: Thank you very much. It’s an honor to be on the show.

Erin: So, you know we always put our guests through the wringer here. We always want to talk about the deep, and we love to ask what is your concept of the deep? What does the deep mean to you?

Chase: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think everybody answers the question differently. I know I’ve heard and listened to a little bit of your show before too. And I think for me the question is, “What am I trying to reach when I write?” And everyone comes at that differently—well, there’s that famous Flannery O’Connor line, “I don’t know what I actually think until I write it.” I think that’s one of the quotes.

Erin: That’s me.

Chase: Yeah, “I write because it helps me clarify.” Or I think there’s George Orwell—I don’t remember the quote—but he talks about that he writes because there’s a lie that he has to expose. He knows there’s something that he needs people to understand. So everyone comes…their motivation for writing I think can be different, and trying to get to that spot where you do feel like—the phrase you use in the deep—you’re sort of in that place, that vocation, that calling for writing.

For me, as I was reflecting on it, and this has been a process of learning, you know. Early on I felt this conviction to write and this calling to write. But really quickly what happens is it fills in with other people’s explanations for why you should write or how you should write. And you start picking up advice, and you’re trying to write out of what other people have told you or what worked for them. It’s a long road to start figuring out, “Okay what is it that actually motivates me and compels me to sit down and actually do the writing more than wanting to do it?”

I’m starting to realize that I think I write to remind myself of what I believe, is the way I’ve been thinking about it. And the reason I put it that way is, there are certain truths about my faith, or my life, or things that are deep convictions that just in the busyness of life, in sort of the consumption of life, the advice of life, slowly gets pushed to the margins. And I can find myself sometimes reacting to something or having an opinion about something that, if I stopped for more than 30 seconds and thought about, might not actually be what I think or feel about that subject. I’m dragged into what everyone else is thinking or feeling. Or I’m clicking like on a social media post before I’ve really considered about if that’s actually what I think about this thing.

So, writing for me is an opportunity to withdraw from that noise; to sort of quiet myself from it and to put myself through a discipline of really trying to stop and consider what is true. What do I actually believe about this? Outside of everything culture is telling me, what do I find in Scripture? Where is the Spirit leading me? What is that thing that I want to hold on to that’s so easily forced out from me?

Sometimes I write without sensing that. Sometimes I write into it and find it as I’m writing. Sometimes I’m brought to the page because I very much am feeling that thing I want to hold on to. But there’s always that moment in writing when it goes well. Where I feel myself sinking into it and recognizing this is what’s true, this is what I actually believe, and finding a way to say it to myself first, even before I say it to an audience or someone else.

Karen: Finding that sense of purpose, and that sense of motivation without the chaos and without the cacophony around you, like you were saying of what everyone else says: “You’re so good at this, and you’re so good at that.” I’ve been working with writers for a lot of years and I find, especially when writers contact me about possibly editing their manuscripts, they’re like, “Well whatever you say, I’ll do.”

And I’m like, no, you don’t understand. My job is to come alongside you and bring your story out. It’s not to re-write your story. You’ve got to know—like you said Chase—what’s true for you and what you are writing and the message that you have, and you need to hold fast to that. Because that is what God is breathing into you to write and you can’t let go of that just because people come in and say, “Oh no, you need to be doing this, and you need to be doing that.”

Chase: Yeah, I think that’s the pressure—that you start writing to what you know the audience is wanting to hear. And the unfortunate thing that happens is—and it’s a combination and I can get to that—but the thing that happens is you end up losing your voice in the process because you end up writing what everyone else is writing. Because everyone else recognizes that is what’s getting shared or getting clicked or what’s controversial.

And so, it becomes this big tension of coming to terms with what is important and significant to you, what you want to hold on to, and at the same time, trying to figure out, “Okay how do I say that to an audience of people? How do I bring them into that place?” Which oftentimes means expanding what you originally had in your mind or the way you were getting into the subject, but not losing that thing that brought you to the page in the first place. That to me is one of the real challenges of writing.

Erin: So how are you balancing this challenge with writing? You know, you’re doing that, but you’re also a pastor, and you’re also a freelance web designer, you have all these vocations going on at the same time. How are you managing that?

Chase: Yeah, like everyone else, that’s one of the hardest parts. I wish I woke up every morning and brewed my cup of coffee and sat down in my leather chair in the corner and read for a couple hours. But that’s not the reality. Also, I have two kids, a four-year-old and a one-year-old.

My first calling was to pastor. I would give up everything else to be faithful to the congregation that I pastor. It’s a small congregation – about fifty people. And that’s my heart. I know everyone by name, they’ve been in my home. That’s what I’m most committed to. Freelance came out of that, doing web design and development and marketing because it allowed me to have the flexibility of schedule to pastor and sort of control my own schedule when pastoral needs dictated it. And I really feel like the Lord sort of helped guide me into that to find a proper balance.

Writing has always been one of the things that sort of—it’s been in my heart and I’ve just sort of kicked the can and kicked the can. I’ve done little things, you know, I write all of my sermons. I intentionally made the choice to do full transcriptions because I wanted the discipline of practicing. That’s usually around thirty-five hundred to four thousand words a week I’m writing, and I take that discipline seriously. So I’ve been doing it but kind of in quiet.

Then a couple of years ago I had a pastoral friend that was just saying, “You’ve really got a set up here between pastoring and doing your own freelance work, where you can work hard and carve out a few hours here and there and control your own schedule to take the writing more seriously.”

Initially, you know, you hear the advice, “Set a daily writing goal every day; stick to it no matter what.” I know that works for some people. Hopefully someday I’ll live in that world, but that’s just not the world I’m in right now. So I tend to think about seasons of writing. Coming up in December I’ve got some guest speakers at church, usually client work will kind of slow down at the end of the year. And so, I try to be really strategic about it—there are going to be three or four weeks where I’m doing more writing than normal in that period of time.

Then the other side of that equation, besides sort of handling it in seasons is: I’m always writing even when I’m not in front of the computer. I tend to do that with sermon preparation, also with writing. My notes app on my phone is just full of half sentences and phrases and ideas and thoughts. I tend to write off of an outline, so those outlines are just…I’m always working on them and rearranging and adding. So when the writing comes time to sit down and do it, I usually have a pretty good sense of what I’m wanting to accomplish in that time. But that’s just proved out of trying to find a way to make it work in life and in this schedule. I think that’s different for everyone.

Karen: We’ve come to call that fodder. Erin and I when we are preparing podcasts or when we’re just having our meetings or when we read our devotional—every time we’re together to work we have a time reading Streams in the Desert and then we have a time of prayer together—and we’ll be reading Streams in the Desert, and we’ll just stop and be like, “That would be such a good podcast.” So, we have this whole file that’s full of fodder for the podcasts that we want to do, and we jump in there whether we’re together or whether we’re not, so that’s where we save all that.

I love that idea that you’re constantly writing in your head. I think everyone is like that. That’s why when we go to writers’ conferences—as you had mentioned we met enough to have a handshake at Mount Hermon in 2018—the writers’ conferences are so much fun because you’re with a bunch of other people who are writing in their heads and talking with their characters, and no one thinks they’re crazy. So it’s a good environment.

Erin: Chase, tell me what—as we’re talking about this you had mentioned that Janet Grant is your agent now, and you had met her at a writing conference. So you’re really walking this writing journey. What has surprised you most? You know, nobody comes in and has it all figured out. What do you feel was the biggest surprise about how this whole writing/publishing thing goes?

Chase: That’s an easy one for me: how slow the process is. I had no idea. I’m a pastor and I’m self-employed, so if I want to start something then I buy the domain name, and we’re off and running a couple days later. And it’s not a complaint because I’m learning more and more why it’s slow. It does matter and giving yourself the time, the writing space, the editing space.

Right now, I have a completed manuscript and proposal, and we’re just beginning to pitch it to publishers. But trying to pick up the right endorsements, which takes an incredible amount of time, it’s an incredibly slow process. But more and more I’m learning that that’s okay. I can settle into that. Right? It’s more of your own desperation to know how that’s going to end and that makes you so impatient. But picking up a second project and getting started on something else instead of putting all your hopes and dreams into one project. That’s been helpful. But yeah, it is a long patient process, especially that traditional publishing route.

Karen: You mention a really good point, and that’s not just putting all your eggs in one basket and sitting back and just waiting for a response to a proposal you sent out. Janet is an excellent agent, and you’re really fortunate to have her. She’s a very smart lady. Plus, she’s a lot of fun. But the whole idea that once you send something out, the next step is to start working on the next thing. Because you can never tell. You can get all kinds of rejections, and you set it aside, and you go to the next thing. Then down the road is the right timing for that thing that everyone rejected, and suddenly they’re rabid to get it.

Chase: Yeah one of my other big surprises from the process was—maybe this is a blunt way to put it—but nobody reads the manuscript. So I actually write the whole book, because I wanted to prove to myself that I can. And it’s like, nobody along the way has actually read the thing but me. It feels very bizarre to have proposals and editor conversations.

But to make the point, I underestimated how significant the concept is and getting that concept right. That has to be there. The writing has to be there, too, but before you’re even going to get to that conversation, to really know what it is and how it’s positioned. Janet has been a huge help for me on that. And figuring out the right way to be able to pitch the book and the audience, I just underestimated how significant that was.

Karen: So, I’m curious with all these things that you’re doing—you’re doing the pastoring, you’re a dad, you’re doing the writing. What made you do a podcast?

Chase: Most of your listeners are writers or doing their own writing. Everyone knows the platform question is one of the big questions when it comes to traditional publishing, and so I was getting that from lots of directions. Did I mention that my church has fifty people? I do not have a large pastoral platform. I’m not getting a lot of invitations to major conferences.

I knew I needed to take the platform piece more seriously, but I also knew I wanted to do it in such a way that felt like it was true to who I am. And one of the things I love is the personal aspect of a podcast. The conversations, the ability to build relationships, and for those relationships to be more than just a tweet or an article share, but actually getting to have deep conversations about things.

So for me the podcast, it felt like strategically a good decision to help build the platform. It was also a strategic decision that it let me be able to have great conversations with editors like you guys, and people in the industry that I wouldn’t have access to without a show. It was strategic because I have a lot of pastors on, which I know a lot of my writing is geared towards, you know, really important relationships for book spreading in churches.

So, there were some good strategy pieces to it, but again it felt more natural for who I am as a person—these kinds conversations—than just sort of, you know, articles or Facebook Lives. Those can be great tools for other people, but the audio conversation just fit me personally really well. It’s been a blast. It’s one of the best decisions that I’ve made. I just love it every week.

Erin: And I’ve enjoyed—like I said I discovered you through that—and I have enjoyed listening to the episodes I’ve had time to listen to so far. I’ve had to work my way through your back episodes.

Chase: Yeah, I know how hard that is, too. We all have big lists of them pilling up.

Erin: So what are some of, maybe, some of the incites you’ve discovered or gotten from your guests that have impacted you personally?

Chase: I alluded to this earlier. I used to think that writing was a very sort of monolithic thing, like the process was: you had to do it a certain way, and people approach it a certain way. I’m surprised by how differently people approach writing and how important it is to figure out why you do it.

But the other big thing that I’ve learned from my guests is, besides them just having a different approach to writing or a different tactic for getting the actual writing done, all of them seem to have audiences that are in totally different parts of the internet. And topics that are very different to them. And some of the guests I’ll have on, no one has ever heard of, but I’ve stumbled across a book or met them online.

But when you get talking to them, they’re phenomenal writers and they have really engaged audiences. I look at my bookshelves, especially within Christian publishing, and there’s like these big names that everyone would recognize, and you go into a Christian bookstore and their books are always there. But there’s a massive amount of faithful, really excellent writers out there who are writing on these important topics to important audiences, and so many of them are doing really good, faithful work, but they’re not household names. More and more I’m coming to respect the people who do that. You know I think about Drew Dyck, one of the guys I’ve had on here recently. We were talking about Eugene Peterson. I think of him as a kind of grinder when it comes to writing. He’s had three or four books out now. None of them have been New York Times best-selling books, but really, really good books. And books that have had a really good impact on certain segments of the audience. He may never be a household name, but the work he is doing is really, really important work.

I had a relatively new author on the other day, Ben Vrbicek, who is writing a book about how pastors make transitions in churches. I was joking with him about how no one is going to be able to sell this book because you can’t get caught reading it, right? So, nobody writes it, you know in a very practical sense, like no one is going to publish it, and he self-published the book because it’s just not a book that’s going to be able to be marketable.

Karen: And it’s packaged in brown paper bags, right?

Chase: Yeah, that’s actually a great idea. But it’s a super important topic and one that a lot of pastors need and so I just, I have more and more respect for those kinds of authors who are just putting in the work, and publishing work, and finding the right audience. We may not know their names but God’s using them. And they’re fulfilling that calling. And they’re a really important part of the reading and the writing that’s happening that most of us may never know about.

Karen: We stress to writers, both in our work as editors and coaches, and we stress in our podcast that the task that God has given you isn’t to get published. The task that He has given you is to write, and you never know what the audience is that God wants you to reach with your message. But you need to be obedient to that task that He has given you because nobody can deliver the message that He has given you the way that you can. And even if you only change one person’s life, you’ve changed a person’s life. You’ve impacted them through God and that’s a powerful, powerful thing.

Erin: Yeah, yeah. I love that because I think the majority of writers are out there working in obscurity or for those few people that will read it. We tend to think of the household names as: these are the real writers. That’s not true at all, exactly as you were saying, Chase. There’s an army of writers out there doing excellent work that most of us can’t ever know who they all are, but they’re there, you know. What do you do, Chase, when you’re discouraged? Have you ever been discouraged, tempted to give up?

Karen: He’s a pastor. Of course he has!

Chase: Yes, yes, do you mean today or yesterday?

Karen: You mean this morning?

Chase: Again, seasons have become really important to me. So you know having the discipline to walk away for a time. My wife is really helpful at that. She recognizes when I’m like, you know—it’s not fun anymore. That’s a little too simplistic, but when it’s getting desperate, is the way I’ll normally describe it on the podcast. You feel it inside of you, it’s this tendency to overwork and to start working on the things that you really can’t control but you’re trying to. That desperation, “How can I get more shares on this thing? How can I get more numbers on this?”

I’m starting to know myself well enough to recognize that earlier on and being able to walk away from it. In fact, that’s one of the things that being bi-vocational has been a real gift for is when I start to sense that with writing, I know it is just time to stop. Leo Tolstoy has a great quote about Sabbath, and he says, “For God’s sake just stop.” That’s the way he describes Sabbath.

We do a really awkward thing with the Sabbath. We turn the Sabbath into, like, I’ll take one of seven days off, so it will rejuvenate me, and I can get more done on the other six days. We turn the Sabbath into a productivity hack so we’ll get more done. I really think the point of Sabbath is to put an intentional check on yourself. “I could go further with this work but I’m going to stop short intentionally to remind myself that this is not in my hands, and it’s not about me figuring out the best way to get this done.” So, trying to put intentional checks on that desperation says, “When I start to feel that I’m just going to stop. I’m going to walk away from the Facebook analytics. I’m going to close Google analytics. I’m going to walk away from the blog, and I’m going to go have coffee with the people I pastor. I’m going to work on some client work, and I’m going to come back to it down the road.”

I’m trying to learn to do the work I can do and stop doing the work that’s been done out of desperation. And that takes…you’ve got to know yourself, and you’ve got to be willing to push back against yourself and check yourself in some really determined ways.

Karen: I think that’s an awesome idea. I think we all need to put a little note on our computers that says: Step away from the statistics. Find the Sabbath.

Chase: Yep, because no matter how you dissect them and pull them apart—and this is helpful information—but you’re not going to change the numbers, right?

Karen: You have no control, folks. Control is an illusion, especially where publishing is concerned.

Erin: That is very true. So we’re getting close to the end of our time here, Chase. If you could leave our listeners with one most important thought or final words of wisdom or encouragement, what would you want to say to them?

Chase: I think the best thing you can do as a writer—and again I’m an unpublished writer who’s trying to find my way through this, so take it for what it’s worth—but I think you have to figure out for yourself what you enjoy in the process and do it.

There’s always going to be hard work. There’s always going to be things you don’t want to do in the process, things that are difficult to get through. But if you know what part of the process you actually enjoy for the sake of the work—not just what you imagine it’s going to pay off and be, or where it’s going to take you, but the actual—I mean, for me it’s revision. Writing is hard, but I love the process of revisions. Knowing that that’s the thing, whether it gets published or it gets deleted off my hard drive. I have backups so hopefully that won’t happen. But if everything was lost there was still something beneficial to my spiritual development, my enjoyment, and just a part of the process that I love. If you can figure that out then lean into that and just know that’s the work, that enjoyment. That’s what you’re being called to do, and you’ll find the motivation to do the other stuff that you have to that may not be as enjoyable if you can find that place.

Karen: Chase, you have been an absolute delight. Thank you so much for sharing your journey, for sharing your wisdom and experiences with us. I know that our readers are going to be blessed by it and find new truths that maybe they’ve never considered.

I’m going to be spending a lot of time thinking about the idea of Sabbath and what that really needs to be for me, not just as a writer but in everything that I do. And so, thank you for being with us. We hope that our listeners will all flood to listen to Pastor Writer and hear the amazing interviews that you do with these folks, and we’re looking forward to what God is going to do in you in the future.

Chase: Well, thank you so much. It’s a real honor. I take that very seriously. And I love the work that you guys do. I know first-hand how much work goes into it that no one really sees or realizes. So thank you for all the work that you do, too. Sometimes podcasting is like speaking into a black hole. You look at this microphone, people are downloading it, I have no idea who these people are. I know how that can feel. So I appreciate so much the work that you do. We need more of it. So thank you as well.

Erin: Well thank you!

We want to hear from you!

Chase has many roles to juggle in his life. What about you? What helps you prioritize?


Come experience the deep with pastor, writer, and podcaster Chase Replogle!

Special thanks

Thanks so much to our December sponsor of the month, Tammy Partlow! Her debut novel Blood Beneath the Pines, a suspense set in the deep South, is now available! Congratulations, Tammy!

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

Please share!

082 – Gratitude in the Deep with Guest Robin Patchen

Gratitude in the Deep with Guest Robin Patchen on Write from the Deep PodcastIt’s so hard to cope when those we love are in crisis. When their lives are in danger? It seems impossible. But guest Robin Patchen has faced such deep times, and come out of them with something she never expected: gratitude. Listen in as she shares how the deepest times of her life brought her a deeply grateful heart.

About Robin Patchen

Aside from her family and her Savior, Robin Patchen has two loves—writing and traveling. If she could combine them, she’d spend a lot of time sitting in front of her laptop at sidewalk cafes and ski lodges and beachside burger joints. She’d visit every place in the entire world—twice, if possible—and craft stories and tell people about her Savior. Alas, time is too short and money is too scarce for Robin to traipse all over the globe, even if her husband and kids wanted to go with her. So she stays in Oklahoma, shares the Good News when she can, and writes to illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story. Connect with Robin at robinpatchen.com.


Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re now able to offer transcripts of our interviews!

Karen: Hey, it’s time for being in the deep again with Erin Taylor Young and Karen Ball, and we’re just so glad that you’re joining us here. We have an amazing show planned for you. One that’s going to dig into something that seems almost impossible – and that’s a heart of gratitude when you’re in deep places. Wow, that’s tough to even contemplate, but our guest today, Robin Patchen, has been in some very deep places and came out of it with an unexpected gift, and that’s a heart of gratitude for God’s presence and what He does for us in the deep. So, Erin introduce our wonderful guest.

Erin: You hear that guys, right? I get to do the introduction. And that’s because I’ve known Robin for a long time. I’ve known Robin for over a decade now, and she is the award winning author of eight novels. By the way, they’re great books, you guys. Just last night I was teaching a class—a publishing class—and I was using an example from one of Robin’s books, so there you go. She’s also a wife, a mom, a freelance editor, and again by the way, she’s a great editor. I know because she’s worked for me, and she’s worked for Serenade Books, and many others. But most of all Robin loves to share stories that reflect the unending grace of God. And she lives them too, as you’re going to find out more about in our podcast. I’ve come to know Robin as a woman of insight and wisdom and deep faith. And we are delighted to have her with us today. Welcome Robin!

Robin: Thank you for having me. I’m glad to be here.

Karen: Don’t you sound good in our introduction? We always make our guests sounds so amazing. That’s because they are! But we really do make them sound good.

Robin: I was sitting here wondering who are they talking about?

Karen: I saw how your eyes kept getting—friends we can see Robin on a video—and I could see how her eyes were getting wider and wider.

Erin: But you know what, you guys? This is the thing. We don’t always have an accurate picture of ourselves and the way others see us. That’s one of the beautiful things about friendship and about being able to see yourself through someone else’s eyes. It’s a really cool thing to have that happen. Okay, Robin, we’re going to put you on the spot because we love to do that. This is the show about deep. What does the deep mean to you, Robin?

Robin: It’s so interesting because I’ve been in a lot of hard places, a lot of trials, over the last years of my life. But to me the deep isn’t really about that. It’s about being in a place of intimacy with God, whether you’re in times of trials or not. I think my goal is to live in the deep with God regardless of what’s going on in my life, whether it’s good things or bad things.

Karen: That’s very good.

Erin:  I think that’s great. That’s so hard too. I mean so many of us are like, okay, we’re hurting where’s God? Okay, we’re in trouble, where’s God? And it’s like, okay, things are great, I don’t know who God is right now. It’s like we just go somewhere else when that happens.

Robin: For me it’s easier to forget God and climb out of the deep on my own when things are going well. Maybe that’s why He keeps me in those trials so much. I need to learn to be in the deep with Him even when my life is not out of control. Maybe that would help. I don’t know.

Karen: So why don’t you talk to us about some of the most recent struggles. You’ve been through something really tough, and you did this amazing blog about it all. When we read that and when we talked with you recently in Oklahoma City where we were speaking at a writers gathering, share with us the things that you’ve been through recently.

Robin: Well, it was an interesting summer.

Karen: She’s like the queen of understatement.

Robin: On July 13, this past summer, my 19-year-old daughter was at a friend’s house, and she fell down a flight of stairs. It was an outdoor apartment staircase. It was concrete. She landed on concrete. And she landed on her hands, which was a good thing because she didn’t land on her head or on her back. But bad because she crushed both her wrists. And she broke her sternum, which was the least of our problems although it did become quite painful. So she came home from hospital, I picked her up, and she had a cast on one arm—her left arm—from fingertips to bicep, and on her other arm from fingertips to elbow. So she could bend her right but couldn’t even bend her left. They were both so painful at first that she literally couldn’t dress herself. She couldn’t pour herself a glass of water. She could do nothing for herself. That was awful and very, very difficult to deal with.

Three days later, on July 16, it was Monday, and we got a call at 9:20 at night. My 16-year-old son, who’d been visiting my sister in Utah—we live in Oklahoma—so my sister called me at 9:20, and she said the boys had been in a terrible accident, they were being life-flighted to Salt Lake City, and she said, “They’re alive and they’re both talking and that’s all I know.” And she said, “We’re on our way to the hospital. We’ll call you when we get there.”

It was the most awful—really at the time it felt like the most awful phone call a person can get. Of course it’s not, because they were alive. But it was terrifying. It was the most interesting experience because I was standing in the kitchen. I had been texting with a friend about getting together for lunch and watching some stupid TV show. I was standing in the kitchen taking this phone call and I literally—I didn’t fall—but I went to my knees, and then I went to my hands and knees, and then I went straight down—I’m not going to cry talking about it—I went straight down to my face. I was lying on my not terribly clean kitchen floor. You know how that writer’s brain, you know like 95% of you is engaged in the moment, and 5% of you is like, this is really weird. I should remember this.

Karen: And that 5% is taking notes: “…so I need to say the kitchen floor wasn’t clean…”

Robin: Yeah for that 5% it’s like you’re really strange, or maybe…I don’t know. So anyway, I’m on the floor and I see my husband and my daughter. I don’t know what I said that drew them in from the other room but clearly I said something because they were both standing there, my daughter with her casts and my husband, like, “What’s happened?”

I managed to say what my sister had told me, which was not anywhere near enough information. We knew nothing. It was bad enough that they were being taken by helicopter. That’s what we knew. And we knew nothing else. I mean, I could talk about this for hours, but I won’t. I will tell you what we found out about the accident, my son had just drifted a little off to the right and overcorrected. So he spun the car. He jerked the wheel to the left and spun the car out. They hit the lip on the other side, and it flipped three times side over side, and then somehow shifted and flipped—the investigator said—at least three more times end over end. And it landed on his arm. So the windows all broke, of course, and the whole car was crushed. And it landed I think on the side, and his arm was pinned out the window so… the amazing and miraculous thing is that the people who had been following them for 10 miles, of course, stopped. And the guy driving was a former army medic, and his wife was a nurse.

Karen: Holy cow!

Robin: And I always think about that because I feel like I was sitting there watching TV and texting with my friend saying, “Should we have lunch next week?” I had no idea that that was happening. But the Lord was ahead of us. He was right there. If people hadn’t been there and pulled him out, it’s very likely that he would not have survived. Because both of his lungs had collapsed. He couldn’t breathe. He was spitting up blood. They kept turning him over so that he could spit that blood out and not breathe it in. It’s a miracle that he survived.

And so many things… I mean all these people stopped in the middle of the desert in Utah. Jacob says the first memory he had was that he woke up and there were people everywhere. There were enough people there that they lifted this crushed Land Rover off of him. They pulled him out of the car. All these people from who knows where. My sister got a call from one of the witnesses who said that he had left his house that night furious with his family. Just left in a total huff and got on the highway and came on that accident and was out there helping them, and then immediately went right home. So it’s like the Lord just orchestrated all these things to protect our boys. I’m getting choked up talking about it.

Karen: We’re getting choked up listening so it’s only fair! The thing that amazes me is what you said. There you are living your life not thinking about anything beyond a television show and texting a friend, and Almighty God who sees beginning to end is there protecting your son and protecting your nephew. And supplying all these people. The thing my writer’s brain went to as I’m listening is I wonder how many people were actually guardian angels that God had sent out?

I love the way that He moved in that guy’s life—that he left his family furious, saw this, realized what was really important, and went back to his family. And probably grabbed his wife and his kids and held onto them. We look at these dark places, and we look at these frightening events, and we think this is so terrible. Yet in the midst of it, look at all the stuff that God did. All of the the impact, and the people who were there, and the care by the medical folks. How can we ever doubt that He is with us in the deep places? And that He has gone before and behind. How can we ever doubt that?

Robin: That’s right. It’s so interesting because it all depends on your perspective. Because my sister lives in Utah and we live here. Our boys are best friends. But I haven’t lived near her in 10 years. So it’s just very unusual to walk through this really difficult time with her and her husband and my husband. And her little girls were there too. And to see how everybody reacted to it. My sister and I are both sort of the same. We just kept looking at each other while the boys were in hospital like, “Can you believe this?” And from our perspective it was like, wow.

Doctors and nurses would come in and they would introduce themselves—the boys were at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, which was the absolute best place they could possibly have been, which was also not an accident, it was exactly where they needed to be—the doctors would come in and the first thing they would say was always, “I’m so sorry we have to meet under these circumstances.” And I was always like, “Why? I’m thrilled that you’re here, and I’m freaking thrilled that I am here because that could have gone much differently.”

So my sister and I were just constantly marveling at all the things that the Lord had done. And yet others in our party didn’t see it that way. They weren’t looking for the Lord’s hand in it and therefore they didn’t see the Lord’s hand in it. Does that make sense?

Karen: It does. So much of what we talk about here is about the condition of your heart, and how necessary it is to prepare your heart for taking this writing journey with God. Because you never know what you’re going to encounter. And if your heart isn’t focused on, and based in Him, then when things happen, you’re going to look at the events and that’s what you’re going to measure reality by, rather than being able to see and recognize God’s hand and His movement and His protection in the midst of it all. So yeah, it makes a lot of sense. When we’re not focused and based in God, we don’t see Him. It’s like the Scripture always says, let those who have eyes to see, see, and ears to hear, hear. And that’s that we cultivate before, after, and in the midst of being those deep places.

Erin: The interesting thing, Robin, is that you had even more challenges to that because, as you said, three days prior your daughter had gotten two casts on her arms, and she can’t do anything for herself. I mean seriously, I would have been like, “Really God? Really?” Because it’s challenging enough to be dealing with that teenage daughter at home and then all of a sudden you’ve got to go to your other son who’s states away, and you had to leave her behind. How did that go?

Robin: That was absolutely awful. She was so good about the whole thing. She really was. My blessed mother, I love her to pieces, she turns her phone off when she goes to bed. That’s because she doesn’t have little kids she has to worry about. So she has no idea. The first flight out of Oklahoma City, we were on. We left at like 6 AM, and we got a direct flight, so we’re calling her on the way to the airport. Maybe it was eight. And she answers the phone like, “Hey, honey, how are you?”

Everybody else in the family knows because they have seen all our text messages. That’s another thing that you do when you know that you have a God. You tell everybody you know to please pray right now.

Karen: Exactly!

Robin: We’re texting and calling and emailing like crazy. Everybody I knew who would pray, knew about it that night. So I was like, “We’re going to the airport, and we’re going to Salt Lake City, and you have to take care of my daughter. I hope you’re okay with that.”  And my mother was like, “I’m on it.”

We had friends who brought food and took care of them. But yeah, the part of that that was so hard was that my daughter had to have surgery. So we had been in the hospital, this was like maybe day eight of Jacob in the hospital, and they had to go to pre-opp, we hadn’t done any of that because it was on a Friday. My mother went to the pre-opp with the surgeon, and she managed it all. She scheduled it, and she took Lexi in to have the surgery. And after the surgery my daughter says to me—I knew we were exactly where we needed to be—says to me, “I want to talk to my mom.” My mother called me, and she was crying, Lexi was crying, I was crying. My poor husband is like patting me on the back, “It’s going to be okay, honey.” And he was probably thinking, “Oh heavens, here we go, crazy women…” That was really hard.  She had to get over this surgery ,she had all the medications, and my mother who’s, you know, older, she managed it. It all worked out. But that is not how I would have written it up if it had been my choice.

Erin: This is the epitome of making it worse for your character and then worse yet! What I love about what you said, Robin, is that your first task was to go write to everybody and ask them for prayer. I have to believe that that was a big piece of your attitude, and everything that happened with your mom being able to take care of your daughter, and all of those things going on. We don’t think about how important prayer is sometimes. We undervalue it. But that is the best thing we can do. And it’s clear that that affected your ability to be thankful and your gratitude. Talk a little bit about how something like this affects you now as a writer.

Robin: It’s interesting. It’s not just the past trials. The last five years my family has gone through trial after trial after trial. If I said them all out loud you guys would think I was…it’s not the kind of thing you can put your character through because no one would believe it.

Karen: Right!

Robin: Of course, that’s why I was able to have that thankfulness and to immediately go to prayer now this summer because I’ve had five years of practice, of saying, “Okay, there is a God. And He’s been training me for five years to look at trials as an opportunity to grow closer to Him.”

All of it has helped me as a writer because, for one thing, I have learned that I am doing this for a reason, and He has called me to do it. So regardless of what I’m going through, I keep writing. That’s what I do. Like, that’s what I’m supposed to do, so that’s what I do. There’s no excuse to quit. Obviously this summer I took a long break. I wasn’t writing at that point, but yeah, it’s what I do. So that’s one thing. But also I think that it just helps me to dig deeper into what my characters go through. When I put them through trials, I have a lot more experience of what it feels like, the other side of that.

Karen: I think going through it ourselves, if we’re willing then to be honest about the struggle and honest about our emotions, we can bring an authenticity to the page that we couldn’t otherwise do.

I remember when my husband and I were separated, and it was just a terrible, terrible time. I had been through some pretty extensive emotional abuse. Nothing that he intended, but things that he had been trained through a lifetime of abuse to do. A gal came up behind me, one of the other employees at the publishing house where I was working, and she said, “Of course you realize you can never get married again. If you and your husband divorce, you can never get married again because God won’t bless that.” And I remember—other than wanting to belt her—I remember thinking to myself, “You poor woman, you have never suffered in your life. You don’t understand what it is to walk these dark roads with Jesus and with God, and to be on your face before Him.”

I just looked at her, then turned and walked away. I didn’t even say anything. It was just a revelation to me of how vitally important it is for us to go through these times and have an honest understanding of what it is to hold on to God in the midst of the the times when the foundation of what we thought we knew, and who we thought we were, gets shaken.

Erin: what helped to hold on, Robin? You said you’d been in training for so long, but what helped you? I’m sure you’ve had times of discouragement, how did God train you? What worked? What did it?

Robin: I think that the most important things for me have been having a consistent time with the Lord regardless of what’s going on in my life, because sometimes it’s just easy to say today’s not a good day. My son was in the hospital for 10 days. He was in ICU for seven. I don’t know if you’ve ever had somebody in ICU, but they don’t care—day or night, it’s irrelevant. If you’re sleeping in the hospital, you’re not sleeping in the hospital. And yet every single day he was there, I opened my Bible at least once and read at least one chapter of something, because that’s where the truth is. Even though most days it was a psalm, and frankly most days it was the same psalm. My favorite, you know? So that’s a really big part of it for me, just spending time with the Lord. And memorizing Scripture. And having those things to hang on to.

But I also think that if you don’t believe what the Bible says and trust that God’s going to come through and He’s really there, I sort of liken it to if you’re walking through the woods. Like you guys both love animals, right?

Karen: Right.

Robin: If you guys are walking through the woods, you’re looking for animals because that’s the way you are. You’ve got your eyes open for a deer or an elk or a squirrel. Or you’re looking for rabbit holes, or whatever. You have your eyes open for that. And a bird lover is walking through the woods with his eyes up and his ears open listening for a bird’s song and trying to find that bird. If you believe, you don’t walk through Walmart looking for wildlife—

Karen: Well that depends on what kind of wildlife you’re talking about. This is Oregon, so…

Robin: That’s a good point, okay…but anyway, because you don’t believe you’re going to find wildlife in Walmart. If you’re walking through a trial looking for God, it’s because you believe you’re going to find God in the trial. If you don’t go into it with the faith that He’s going to be there, you’re going to miss it. You’re going to miss Him in those places. So I think the training in the last five years for me has come from learning that God is in every single trial and looking for Him. And when I look, I always find Him.

Karen: Robin, that’s a good word—to be focused on and looking for God even when things are hard and frightening. And to be doing it like we talked about earlier, when things are going well. Robin, thank you so much for coming and spending time with us. For sharing your experiences. I for one am grateful that God has given you a grateful heart in the midst of the deep. And that you can share your experiences with us, and with our listeners, and with so many others to bring about the reality of understanding God’s presence with us no matter what we’re going through, and our need to be grounded in Him and established in our faith. And to be looking for Him. So, for those of you looking, keep your eyes open. Keep your ears and your heart open. Listen for Him. Watch for Him, because I guarantee you, as Robin has told us, He’s there before we even know we need Him.

Erin: Amen.

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Does gratitude come easy for you? What helps you have a thankful heart?


Are you in a deep place? Let Guest Robin Patchen guide you to a grateful heart!

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