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Do You Really Know Who God Is? Part 3

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Do You Really Know Who God Is? Part 3 Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungIf ever there was someone we should get to know intimately, it’s God. How can we write about him and his truth if we don’t have a deep understanding of who he—the source of all truth—is? Join us as we explore God’s attributes and gain a clearer picture of the One we follow, love, and trust!

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

Erin: Welcome, listeners. Welcome into the deep with us. We’re glad you’re joining us.

Here’s my question. Can any of us really say we know God? We really KNOW him? Everything there is to know about him? I’m thinking not, because he’s very big and our brains are tiny in comparison. But that shouldn’t stop us from doing everything we can, doing our very best, to get to know him.

How can we follow him? How can we trust him? How can we properly worship him if we don’t know him?

Karen: So, we’re going to continue our series on God’s qualities and attributes. This is part three. If you haven’t heard part 1 and part 2, we’ll have a link in the show notes. I’ve got to tell you that in the course of doing these podcasts and trying to think of what the characteristics or traits are of God that I’ve noticed and that I want to explore more, it’s drawn me so much closer to the whole of who God is. Yet I know that I haven’t even begun.

I encourage you to do the same. What traits about God have you noticed? Dig in, explore them, and see where God leads you. Until then we’re going to share these traits today.

God is the Creator

Erin: The first trait we’re going to talk about is that God is the Creator. It’s amusing that we didn’t get to this until part three. Like, we’re creators. As writers, we’re creators. I love to think of this in terms of how God made us in his image, right? So we’re creators, too. It’s our delight as writers to use the creative gifts.

But also I’m thinking about how he’s the ultimate Creator. He’s the prototype. He’s the first. He’s the best. He’s unlimited. He’s got all ability in creativity. Not only can he be an endless supply of creativity. He is a supply for himself and for us as we write.

Then I started thinking about how he acts in the world. God can creatively solve problems in ways that we will never see coming. I think of how many times our life seems so complicated or hopeless or confusing. We can’t see any solution to whatever the situation is.

We have a God who is perfectly creative, and he’s already figured out how to solve everything the way he wants to solve it. We are not always, and probably rarely, going to see it coming. But he’s so much bigger and smarter and wiser and creative.

Guys, I wish we would stop doubting his creativity and stop doubting it in ourselves. He’s given you that gift. Use it and know that he’s going to keep supplying that in you guys.

God is Infinite

Karen: God is also infinite. Now this is the one that just, you know, kind of makes my brain hurt as I try to wrap it around the concept of infinite. No beginning. No end.

Colossians 1:17 tells us, “He is before all things and in him, all things hold together.” Everything holds together in him, but he was before all things. I want to give you a moment to take that in. God was before all things.

When Moses asked God in Exodus, “Who shall I say has sent me?”

God said, “I am that I am.”

Now that’s as definitive as it gets. I am that I am. What he used in there was Yahweh, Jehovah. It’s the most intensely sacred name to Jewish scribes. Many of them will not even pronounce the name. When possible they use another name because it embraces the totality of, “I am that I am.” Beginning, middle, end, beyond, beyond the beginning.

It’s the hardest for our finite brains to grasp the infinite qualities of God. And the fact that he has, as Erin said, infinite resources to work out his will in our lives, to answer the prayers that we bring to him as he sees best. And in the timing that he sees best.

It’s not like God is trying to figure out how to use these limited resources and who gets them. He has an infinite number of resources, not just in the physical, but in the spiritual: his grace, his goodness, his kindness, all of those things. No end to them. No. End.

Erin: One thing you could do with this word is think about the other things we’ve talked about as God being. Loving: infinitely loving. God being creative: infinitely creative. Just put infinite in front of everything. Infinitely big. Like, spend all day putting that word before every attribute and maybe we’ll get some teeny tiny understanding of the infinite incomprehensibility that is God so that we’ll love him and trust him and try to know him better.

God is Righteously Wrathful

The next one, well, here’s one that’s uncomfortable. At least it was for me when I started thinking about it, but I want to talk about it. God is righteously wrathful.

I know that we want to think of God as loving, and he is infinitely loving. We don’t want to think about the fact that he’s wrathful, but every day our God, the Creator of the universe, the God who sustains all life, who was before all things, who holds all things together, who gives us our very breath, every day he’s maligned. He’s minimized. He’s grossly undervalued. He’s taken for granted by Christians and non-Christians alike.

We make ourselves into God when we choose our will over his, and this has been happening, you know, since Adam and Eve. There are consequences for this. God told Adam in Genesis 3:17: “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”

So yes, God is loving, but he’s also just, and there is a just wrath for sin. Thanks be to God that there is a perfect atonement for this wrath in Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.

But why am I talking to you about all this? It’s because I don’t want us to minimize our sin. I don’t want us to minimize our poor choices or our moral failures. If we minimize that, it’s like we’re saying Christ’s death on the cross was simple, a task that was easy. No big deal.

But it wasn’t. It was costly.

I want us to be mortified by sin. I’m not saying that, you know, we’re supposed to be paralyzed and beat ourselves up forever because again, our sins are atoned for through Christ. But I am saying that our attitude needs to be like Joseph’s attitude. I think of him in Potiphar’s house when Potiphar’s wife kept trying to seduce him. Joseph, in this terribly unfair situation basically says in Genesis 39:9, ” How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

Sin is a moral outrage against God. If we don’t keep that in mind, we will lose what it means to be God and what it means to be people. We can’t be properly humble, and we can’t be grateful for what he’s done for us. God help our world and our country in the wrath that we deserve for this moral outrage. I just want us to keep it in mind.

God is Incomprehensible

Karen: That makes me think of one of the other attributes I’ve been researching, and that’s the fact that God is incomprehensible. We are told in scripture to fear God. We are told in scripture that God’s grace and love are infinite. We are told in scripture that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God.

And we are also told to fear not. All of this, it may seem contradictory, but it’s not. It’s everything that God is. Yet to our minds, it’s incomprehensible. How often have you prayed and asked God for an answer? It seems like the answer doesn’t come, and you just, you can’t figure out what he’s doing. We can go through our whole lives and feel as though God never brought that answer to bear, even though we prayed.

We say to ourselves, “When I get to eternity, I’ll ask God about this and I’ll get an answer.”

I’ve come to the place where I’ve decided that there are things that we will not need to understand. When we are standing before God Almighty, I’m not going to say to him, “By the way, about that prayer that I prayed back in 1996 that you never seemed to answer, what was going up with that?”

We will never say that to God, because as Psalms 145:3 tells us, “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” We can’t comprehend all of who God is and how great he is.

Romans 11:33-34 tells us, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been in his counselor?'”

None of us can counsel him. None of us will really know the mind of the Lord until we are there standing face to face with him, because sin has come into our world. Sin is in our hearts. It’s a part of humanity, and it blocks our ability to fully grasp God in all his power and glory. To fully comprehend the totality of God.

Scripture tells us that we see through a glass darkly. It’s that veil of sin that’s blocking our eyes and blocking our understanding. But someday, someday we will know as we are known. We will see him and it will all be there in front of us. We will be able to say yes and holy, holy, holy Lord, God Almighty.

For now, as we dwell behind the veil, we know as much of God as he chooses to reveal. I am so grateful that he reveals himself to us in the ways that he does. Even as I understand, as Erin has said, we’re just getting a teeny tiny piece of the totality of who God is.

God is Omnipresent

Erin: The next trait we want to talk about is that God is omnipresent. What I like about this is that it reassures us that God is always with us. Always. No matter if we feel his presence or not.

I was talking to somebody recently and it just broke my heart. This person was telling me how they used to feel God’s presence so often, and it was so comforting. Lately, they hadn’t been feeling God’s presence and that was traumatic. I don’t know what’s happening there or why, but I do think that there are times when we don’t feel his presence. Those are times when we have to reach out and step out in faith and trust the truth that we know. That he is still present, even if we don’t feel him.

I think sometimes, too, we’re tempted. Especially if maybe we’ve done something we shouldn’t have and maybe we stumbled, we think he’s going to give up on us. We think he’s going to turn his back on us. He does not. He does not. He is always with us no matter what.

I love Deuteronomy 31:8. It’s one of my memory verses. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged.”

If ever there was a verse for writers, it’s that one. It’s a hard journey. The writing life is hard. We have to do things that are scary and that make us afraid. We have expectations, we sometimes get discouraged because of them. We sometimes feel alone. But, guys, he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged because the infinite Lord goes before you and is always, always with you.

Karen: I really love that. I like that verse in Deuteronomy so much. It’s a very good reminder. Emotions do not equal scriptural truth. We’ve got to rest on the truth and not on what we’re feeling.

God is Impartial

Another attribute is that God is impartial. Now this one I kind of had trouble with. It talks about it all throughout scripture. In Acts 10:34 Peter says, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality.”

Erin and I were actually just discussing it this morning. What is partiality? We looked in Webster’s and it’s “unfair bias in favor of one thing or person compared with another; favoritism.”

That makes a lot of sense: unfair bias. God does not show bias that is unfair. God doesn’t show bias as we know it.

There’s a section in Isaiah 43 that talks about God giving other peoples in ransom for Israel. Letting other people be killed or destroyed in order to save Israel. My human mind wants to look at that and say, “Teacher’s pet, teacher’s pet. God loves them better than the others.”

But God shows no partiality. Not of one individual over another, not of one race over another. He does not show an unfair bias toward anyone. In God’s eyes, we are all the same, and we have one purpose. We’ll get to that in a second. Colossians 3:25 says, “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong, which he has done, and that without partiality.”

Just as Erin talked about him being righteously wrathful, he judges according to truth. He doesn’t judge according to emotion. He judges according to truth and according to Christ’s blood. If you’ve been covered by Christ’s blood, if you’ve accepted the gift of salvation, then you will receive grace. But God still has that side of him where he’s going to come in and be wrathful, and he’s going to judge based on truth.

When we tend to question God’s actions because they seem to show partiality, we’re operating from our finite minds and our emotions. We’ve seen so often how people are swayed, or how they’re bribed, or how what seems a good thing actually wasn’t because they were doing something to gain something.

God will never do that. He is God Almighty. He chooses whom to draw, and whom to use to change lives, whose hearts to harden. He doesn’t do it based on his emotions or because he likes one person better than another. He does it based on his knowledge and his wisdom. He’s the creator using creation to display his glory.

God is impartial. He is infinitely impartial. He doesn’t do things because he likes one person better than another. He does it because it’s right. And because he knows it’s the best way to bring his glory and his salvation to the world.

Erin: As you’re talking about these things, it makes me think of that verse in Revelation. I just pulled it up. It’s Revelation 7:9, and it’s about a great multitude from the great tribulation. “After these things, I looked, and behold a great multitude, which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues standing before the throne and before the lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.'”

It’s no partiality. All different nations, tribes, peoples. What a multitude there is going to be one day. It’s going to be like this kaleidoscope of cultures and tongues and people. I just think that’s cool.

Karen: They’ll all be praising God. It’ll all be for God’s glory.

God is Perfect

Erin: The next attribute we want to talk about is that God is perfect. That means that everything he does is always already perfect. How many of these attributes go hand in hand, right? God is perfect. He’s infinite. His love for us is perfect. It doesn’t come and go. It isn’t biased. It isn’t based on you.

His faithfulness is perfect. No matter what we think about that. His judgment is perfect. No matter what we think about that.

Karen: Noticing a pattern here.

Erin: Exactly. His justice is perfect, no matter what. His revelation of himself to us is perfect. No matter how much we might wish for a billboard. His plans for us are perfect. And, guys, his plans for the world, no matter what we may think about things that are going on, his plans are still perfect.

Karen: We can hold onto the truth of who God is in the face of what evidence—worldly evidence and the evidence of our minds and our hearts—seem to be telling us. These are distractions and things that the enemy, the prince of this world, is using to try and draw us away from that faith in God.

God is Immutable

But here’s one that I absolutely love, and this characteristic gives me the greatest hope. God is immutable. He never changes. He never changes. God is God. I Am that I Am. That’s who God is.

He’s infinitely dependable. If he doesn’t change, if his promises and his purposes, his work in, and his plans for us never change, we don’t have to worry about somebody changing his mind or swaying him to another path or convincing him that we’re really not worth anything and shouldn’t be saved.

We never have to worry about God doing what he says he won’t do. We never have to be afraid. He has told us to fear not. Yes, we need to fear his grandeur and fear his glory and fear his wrath and his judgment. We need to walk in a way that remembers we are the created, and he is the Creator.

Yet God tells us himself in Malachi 3:6 that he doesn’t change. Not ever. In Psalm 33:11, it says, “The counsel of the Lord stands for forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”

And his plan has always been to draw us to him, to restore us to a state of grace, and to save all those who will come to him and accept that gift of salvation.

Our God is an awesome God. It’s not a cliche. It’s not just a worship song. It’s a truth of who he is. He’s immutable. He’s perfect. He’s infinite. He’s all of these things that we’ve been talking about, and so much more that we will never understand until the veil is lifted and we see him face to face. God Almighty, the God who created us, will deign to come down and let us see him without the veil that we may understand all of who he is.

We’ll spend eternity rejoicing in that and glorying in him. He’s amazing. So, dig in. Find out the attributes of God that draw you and dig in and learn more about him. You can spend your whole life doing it, and I can’t think of a better way to spend your life.

Erin: Amen.

Karen: Amen.

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What characteristics of God are you most familiar with? What about the least familiar with?

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164 – Be a Pen Warrior! with Guest Cathy Gohlke

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Be a Pen Warrior with Guest Cathy Gohlke Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

As writers, our goal is to encourage and challenge our readers, to point them to God and His truth. In fact, guest Cathy Gohlke takes that a step farther and encourages us to be “pen warriors and light bearers.” She shares how God showed her this was her job as a writer, and how you, too, can become a warrior for God in your writing.

About Cathy Gohlke

Bestselling, Christy Hall of Fame, and Carol and INSPY Award-winning author, Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons, speaking of world and life events through the lens of history. She champions the battle against oppression, celebrating the freedom found only in Christ. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she and her husband of 39 years, Dan, divide their time between Northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren. Visit her website at cathygohlke.com.

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

Erin: Welcome, listeners. We are delighted that you have joined us here in the deep, and we’re excited because we have a guest! We’ll let Karen introduce her.

Karen: Cathy Gohlke is our guest today, and we’re so excited. She’s a bestselling Christy Hall of Famer and a Carol and INSPY award-winning author of ten critically claimed novels. The most recent of which is A Hundred Crickets Singing. She signed her first novel contract on her 50th birthday, folks. That book resulted in her first Christy Award, all confirmation that it’s never too late to step into the dreams God plants in our hearts.

She and her husband of 39 years, Dan, divide their time between north Virginia and the Jersey shore, where they share time with their children and three precious grandchildren. All that’s so great. You can find out more about her at authorcathygohlke.com.

Welcome, Cathy. We’re so glad you’re here.

Cathy: Thank you, Karen. Thank you, Erin. I’m thrilled to be here with you, and I so appreciate the invitation.

Erin: We’re glad to have you, and we look forward to asking all of our guests, what does the deep mean to you?

Cathy: To me, the deep means going deep into the heart of God, seeking his perspective about our broken world and asking what grieves my Father in heaven? And what, conversely, gives him unbounded joy? And what makes me, his child, weep with him? And where do I find his joy in my life?

I find those answers, that sorrow and that joy, in Scripture. In Psalms and Proverbs and the countless stories from the Old and the New Testament. And honestly, the sorrows I find on the world stage in today’s headlines and current events. And in history.

Erin: Yeah, it’s so cool that we have a God who reveals his heart to us in Scripture. That’s a place where it’s there for all time for us to look at and also by his Spirit, his Spirit living in us to help us see those things, too. I love that definition of going deep into the heart of God. That’s great.

Cathy: Well, I think what you just said is true, too, about Scripture. It is always relevant. It is timeless. I mean, it was relevant 2,000, 4,000 years ago, but it’s relevant to today. For me as a writer, and I know writers are listening today, it’s always that God presses some need, some concern, on my heart and on my mind. Some current event that I believe grieves his heart and won’t let me go.

It’s those things that I see emerging in the headlines, some division in society or some injustice I observe. It’s that thing that if I was given the gift of oratory, I’d stand on my soap box and declare, but because I’m a warrior with a pen, that’s what I do with it.

Erin: I love that.

Karen: A warrior with a pen. That’s exactly what we’re talking about today: being warriors with a pen. I’m in an online group with Cathy and other published authors, and she had posted her speech that she gave when she won the Christy Hall of Fame Award. I want to share with you just a few paragraphs from that, because it just struck me. The truth of it and the power of it struck me so hard. This is from Cathy’s speech for that award:

“Through Christian fiction, we battle a confusing and broken world. Our weapons are our minds and pens gifted by the Lord, forged through life experiences, and sharpened by the iron we find in one another. Through story, we enter dark rooms where gradually we lift the shutters of lanterns offering God’s love and redeeming grace. Only then can we rise and walk with our characters and readers into hope, joy, and privilege. Conversely, many writers I see tonight look younger than I, and that does my heart good, reminding me that God is on the move, and that Christian fiction—stories that change lives, bringing hearts closer to the heart of God—is in strong hands. So know that I’m cheering for you and praying for the stories you write and will write. May God bless you, pen warriors and light bearers for the kingdom of heaven.”

That’s you guys, all of you listening. That’s you—pen warriors and light bearers for the kingdom of heaven.

Then she ends with, “May God give your words wings into the hearts of readers for years to come.”

Amen! That whole imagery, Cathy, of being pen warriors, light bearers, for the kingdom of God, I love that. I absolutely love that. When did you realize that that’s what you were?

Cathy: I think that was a gradual thing. Although, I think maybe it came with my very first book. I always knew that I wanted to write an underground railroad story for my first book.

I actually thought that was the only book I’d ever write in my life. I was the most surprised person when anybody wanted more. But really, I started that book not as Christian fiction. I started writing because I wanted to become a writer. I wanted to write stories, and I wanted to write YA fiction.

I was working as a children’s librarian at the time in the school, and I wanted to write books that would set my young readers in the library on fire and get my son reading. But as I wrote that first chapter, it kept coming back to questions. Like, I mean, I remember a question about searching, you know, how our Lord went, searching for a lost lamb. My character felt lost in his confusion about the times and what was going on.

As I wrote this story, people kept telling me, “You should take out all that Christian stuff because it’s really not going to sell.”

Honestly, I tried, but it didn’t work. It just kept coming back because that’s who I am and that’s who God is. He is relentless in our hearts, praise his holy name.

Karen: Amen.

Cathy: So, I wrote it as he gave it to me. I realized as I went through that story that we’re in a battle ground for our minds and our hearts as writers. The enemy will do anything and everything to kill, steal, and destroy. As well meaning as the people I knew at the time were about telling me to take all of that out, that was a subtle infiltration of the enemy for me.

I think it was at that time that I knew that I had to be honest with the Lord. I had to be honest with myself. I had to be faithful to what he gave me. I knew that that was a battle ground, and I think that was the beginning.

Karen: The enemy is so determined to slither his way in and to whisper those things to our hearts and into our dreams that make us think that if we don’t do this, if we don’t do that, then our dreams will never come to fruition.

Then we kind of paint it with this seemingly holy response. Or we say, “Well, if my books don’t get published then readers won’t read what God has given me to tell them. So I have to make sure that the book gets published so that I can serve God that way.”

Those are all lies and justifications that we tell ourselves and that the enemy whispers to us. You know, “If you don’t gain a platform, you’ll never be able to speak out for God.” We forget that every single moment of this journey, every single step we take, has already been prepared by God. He’s there in every moment and every decision.

We don’t have to listen to those voices that are coming at us, whether it’s our friends, or other writing people, or it’s the enemy, we don’t have to listen to those because we can go to the core. We can go to the truth and that’s God’s Word. We can pray to him and prepare ourselves.

I was looking for Scripture about being a warrior and I love Psalm 144:1-2. Listen to this guys and think about it for you as you’re writing. “Blessed, be the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war.”

He trains your hands on the keyboard. Your hands on the pen.

“Who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.”

Oh my gosh. Warrior with a pen.

“Blessed be the Lord. My Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” Psalm 144:1-2 (ESV)

Cathy: Amen. I love that.

Erin: Cathy, I like what you said, too, about these people giving you advice. They were well-meaning, and you had to be very discerning about that. You had to keep that soaked in prayer. And for you, you knew where God was calling you to.

“For you,” I like how you said it that way as well, because for some people, they’re going to write different kinds of stories than you write. That’s what God is leading them to. But the real key is for us to have that discernment about these subtle, well-meaning pieces of advice that can come from both friend and foe. It’s so hard.

How would you say that you were able to discern it? What were the things that really helped you to discern God’s specific leading for you?

Cathy: I think I came to a point, and I don’t know when this realization really hit, but it’s been a few years. I came to realize that the experiences in our lives, the very unique experiences that we have been given, sometimes we fail through those. Sometimes we rise victorious. But those experiences are uniquely ours from the Lord, and we learn unique things.

Now it’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun in one way, but we are uniquely and wonderfully made. The way we perceive what’s happened, the way we engage with what’s happened, those unique experiences are ours, and they’re given for a purpose. We can’t ignore that.

Karen: Right.

Cathy: But I think as writers we can use either of those experiences, the things we’ve learned from those experiences, the emotions we’ve experienced, we can use those things to transform our writing from entertainment to parable. I think that is the place and the time.

You know, our demons come for us in many forms. Some are overt and some are subtle, as we’ve talked about. But they creep in like thieves in the night. You know, things like shame and addiction and discouragement and despair and feelings of hopelessness or being overlooked. And for writers, we all battle insecurity. No matter how many books publish, no matter how many awards we’ve won, we battle insecurity, discouragement, sometimes jealousy, or envy, or feelings of effectiveness. Or maybe we feel like, “Oh, what’s my purpose?”

Sometimes we have ridicule even from our families or health challenges. Sometimes it’s the challenge of the blank page. It’s a war. It’s a battle every day. I think that realizing how we are uniquely gifted by the Lord with those experiences can really transform our writing.

Karen: I agree. I think it’s the difference between sharing the reality of those battles, the reality of what we went through: being vulnerable and transparent about our failures, as well as our successes, putting that on the page, letting our characters go through those same things and fail and succeed and showing through it all God’s presence and how he works in those things. That’s what transforms our stories such that God can reach and speak to the readers.

I’ve known authors who have written stories and they kind of try to cover up for God, because they feel like if they failed or something bad has happened to them, God blew it. So they have to make everything look good, and they themselves have to seem like everything is great all the time or else people will be saying, “Well, what’s the point of serving God if you have to go through all these difficult things?”

We have to let people know that serving God will bring difficult things. That’s what it is to be in the fellowship of suffering with the Christ who suffered for us, and who suffers with us whenever we struggle. Being a believer and being a Christian writer doesn’t mean everything’s going to go great. It means that when it doesn’t go great, when in fact it goes horribly, horribly wrong, we have a Savior who understands. A Savior who walks with us, and like you said, uses those experiences to refine us and to prepare us, and to use those things to prepare others for the battle.

Cathy: I think that’s so true and so exciting because just like we talk about story, we are the heroes of our own story, and we have that outward journey, just like our characters. And we have that inward journey that the Lord walks us through. If we didn’t have that inward journey, if we didn’t face that conflict and do that battle in our lives or through our characters, there’d be no story.

Karen: Conflict, conflict, conflict.

Cathy: That’s right. Stories should never be short of conflict because if they are, they’re short of victory.

Karen: Yeah.

Erin: That’s really the key. The more our characters struggle, the more heroic they appear when they triumph. The same is true in our life, only we don’t want to do that.

Karen: The interesting thing, though, for believers is that yes, there’s triumph, but before the triumph, there has to be surrender. You know, you look at the world today and their message is that you need to be strong and you need to face all this and never surrender, never give up. Yet as believers, we have to surrender everything, but to God.

My husband and I, when we sold the last home that we sold in Illinois, and this is twenty some years ago, it took two years for that house to sell. Now we knew God was leading us to move to Oregon to help my folks. But we couldn’t go anywhere until we sold the house. We were constantly checking again with God and guessing and saying, “What is this all supposed to mean?”

Then after awhile, we just stopped asking those questions. After a while, Don and I created a kind of mantra. We said, “God is in control. I may not understand it. I may not even like it, but he’s in control, and I trust him.” You go into every day saying that several times a day. “I trust you. I don’t get it, but I trust you.”

Cathy: Right. And he is faithful. He is trustworthy. We can see that through history, through the Bible, and throughout our lives.

I love what you said about surrender because until we surrender to him, we don’t have a captain. We don’t have anybody to lead this army. Until we surrender to him, we bow our knee to him, we’re not even able to put on the armor. That armor that’s listed in Ephesians six, that helmet of salvation, that sword of the Spirit, that girdle of truth, that shield of faith that is going to repel the fiery darts of the enemy that aim straight for our hearts.

We have to through faith put on that armor every single day. As writers, if we don’t have that armor on, we have a thin skin, and you can’t be a writer and have a thin skin. You won’t survive.

Karen: No, you really won’t. It seems like there are whole armies of reviewers out there just determined to tell you how you should have written this way and how your story doesn’t work here and how “Good heavens didn’t anybody tell you what a bad idea this was for a book?”

Cathy: No shortage of “help.”

Erin: Cathy, I love that you started your whole writing career or at least your publishing career at age fifty. Talk just a little bit about how that dream came about and happened there at age fifty.

Cathy: Well, it started at age five without the zero at the other end, when I was sitting on a sofa with my younger brother, Danny, and our grandmother was sandwiched between us reading us Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.

That book was magic to me. I thought in my five-year old brain, I couldn’t read, and I believed that those black block symbols on the page were created by magic that enabled Grandma to read that story again and again. She’s like, “Cathy books aren’t created by magic. Real people write books.”

Well, I didn’t believe that could be true, so I challenged her and I said, “If that’s so, can I write books?”

She said, “Well, usually men write books.” My grandmother was, you know, from the Edwardian age. She said, “But I don’t see why not. You have to learn to read.”

I knew always that I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t have the opportunity for that kind of education. Nobody in my family had done it. Nobody believed it could be done, but the dream never died. After my children were old enough, I took classes at night and online for writing, and I started writing for two local newspapers, just picking up light news and features.

Then I started working in the children’s library, and I wrote plays for a group of mothers. We called ourselves The Mom Street Players. We performed in libraries, and the school, and restaurants sometimes. I wrote poetry, and I guess my first publications in Christian literature were with Marlene Bagnall and her book, My Turn to Care: Essays about Caring for Aging Parents.

I did all kinds of writing, whatever I could do. I wrote skits for church. But I always wanted to write a novel. Finally, I started taking a course through Writing for Children and Teenagers. That was a wonderful correspondence course because it was very much like working with an editor. That’s when I started my first novel.

It took me many years to really learn how to write that novel, but that was the beginning. When I sold that novel, I signed that contract on my 50th birthday. It felt like a new beginning, like the Lord had given me this second opportunity at life. I have loved it.

Karen: I know you guys are just hearing our voices, but I hope in Cathy’s voice, you can hear the amazing, beautiful smile on her face right now. We have video. She’s got a great smile as she talks about God letting her step into that dream and making it a reality! That’s what we all want. We all want to step into the dream God has for us and serve him.

Cathy, believe it or not, our time is coming to an end. Do you have any final words of encouragement or wisdom for our listeners today?

Cathy: Just keep writing. Keep reading. Keep believing. Stay deep in the Word of God. Spend time with him every single day in prayer and in the Bible and in meditation. Just be with him and enjoy him and let him enjoy you. Then go forward with the unique experiences he’s given you to write. To live. He will lead you where he means for you to go.

Karen: Amen. Let me conclude today with the Scripture that you mentioned in Ephesians six, starting with verse ten:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV

And for us, keep alert with all perseverance making supplication for all the writers and for each and every one of us who are warriors with pens, that words may be given to us, in writing boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel for which we are ambassadors in chains that we may declare it boldly, put it on the page and write as God calls us to write.

Erin: Amen.

Cathy: Amen.

Be a pen warrior and light bearer in your writing! Guest @GohlkeCathy tells how! #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
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Have you ever felt like a pen warrior? Why or why not?

Book by Cathy Gohlke mentioned in the podcast

A Hundred Crickets Singing by Cathy Gohlke

A Hundred Crickets Singing by Cathy Gohlke

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163 – Follow Your Dreams with Guest Debbie Macomber

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Follow Your Dreams with Guest Debbie Macomber Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

Guest Debbie Macomber is a firm believer in following your God-given dreams. Why? Because everyone told her, from an early age, the dream God gave her—to be a writer—couldn’t happen! But she kept going until the dream God gave her was a reality far beyond her imaginings!

About Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope. Macomber’s novels have spent over 1,000 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Fifteen of these novels hit the number one spot.

Debbie serves on the Guideposts National Advisory Cabinet, is a YFC National Ambassador, and is World Vision’s international spokesperson for their Knit for Kids charity initiative. A devoted grandmother, Debbie and Wayne live in Port Orchard, Washington, the town which inspired the Cedar Cove series.

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

Erin: Welcome listeners. We are so excited to have you here with us in the deep. We have a guest and Karen gets to reveal our surprise mystery guest and introduce her!

Karen: Our mystery guest is the amazing Debbie Macomber. You know, the first time I became aware of Debbie, it was on a family vacation. I was with my parents, and we were driving somewhere that was a long trip. I had picked up a book that looked so fun. Debbie, I think the title may have been My Funny Valentine. It was one of her Valentine books.

I was sitting in the backseat reading it, and I was laughing out loud. My mother finally reached back and plucked the book out of my hands. She started reading it and then she was laughing out loud. Then the two of us, we just had a grand time on this trip trading the book back and forth and talking about the characters. I thought my dad was going to pull over and put us out of the car with the book.

Sometime after that, I was at a writer’s conference and Debbie was there signing books, and I was signing books. I screwed up my courage, and I went over and thanked her because my mom had passed before we met. I told Debbie how much that memory meant to me, that memory of shared laughter and just being able to play and have fun, and it came through her book. Debbie was so gracious and so kind, and so we became friends.

I absolutely love this woman, not just for her amazing talent at writing. I mean, if you think about it, she’s phenomenal as a writer. She’s a number one New York Times bestselling author. One of today’s most popular writers with more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In 2022, she has all new hardcover publications coming out. One called The Best is Yet to Come in July and The Christmas Spirit in October. And of course, a new Christmas book.

Debbie’s Christmas books are legendary and several of them have been crafted into Hallmark Channel movies.
She’s also the author of the best-selling Cedar Cove series, which the Hallmark Channel chose the basis for its first dramatic scripted television series. We are so delighted to have Debbie here. She is a legend to anyone who is a reader, and she is a servant to anyone who knows her and her heart and her love for God. Debbie, welcome!

Debbie: Oh, thank you, Karen. See, I’m just downright friendly.

Erin: Well, we are delighted that you’re here with us. We want to ask you first, what does the deep mean to you?

Debbie: Well, that was such an interesting question. And I gave it a lot of thought. I’m thinking about the writing process itself. The deep means to me to connect with my Savior with every story I write. I mean, long before I ever get an idea, I ask God for the idea. Then as I write the synopsis, I ask him to help me to make this book special in different ways.

Now, I don’t know if I’ve shared this with you before, but I have a way of deciding which books I write, because I’m a storyteller. That’s the gift God gave me. It has to be relevant to my reader. It has to be provocative. It has to be entertaining because I’m not here to teach anybody anything. It has to be realistic. And it has to be believable. If the story idea aligns with those words then I know I’ve got a good idea.

So when I dig to the deep it’s when I start the writing process, first with the synopsis and then every day with every chapter in every scene, and that’s digging in, connecting with my Savior to guide my writing.

Karen: I love that. I don’t think anybody’s ever made that definition before. That’s great. But it doesn’t surprise me. I saw that you were talking on something called the Anchor Gathering. Can you tell us a little about the Anchor Gathering?

Debbie: The Anchor Gathering was started by my friend, Katie Robertson, who lost her daughter. As a result of the death of this child, she wanted to reach out to as many women for Christ as possible. So she started this gathering. It was first all together in person. But with COVID, this is one of the benefits of COVID, it’s broke out into Zoom meetings and it spread all over the country.

Karen: That’s outstanding. What’s the primary goal?

Debbie: The primary goal is to introduce women in a friendly and fun atmosphere and to share anchor moments. That means the moments that you really felt you needed something in your life, and that something was Jesus Christ.

Karen: Amen. That’s cool. Did you already do that talk? When I saw the announcement about it, it was upcoming. Have you done it already?

Debbie: Yes, I did. It actually aired in February.

Erin: We’ll have a link to that in the show notes for people who want to listen.

Karen: I would really like to do that. You were going to talk about writers and faith and how God gives us dreams and then uses those dreams in our life and in our writing. How about if you unpack that a little for us?

Debbie: I can tell you that I always wanted to be a writer, even from the time I can remember. But I have such an unusual background because I’m dyslexic. I didn’t learn to read until the fifth grade. I can remember the third grade teacher telling my mother, “Debbie’s a nice little girl, but she’s never going to do well.”

I lived to fulfill that in school. I mean, I really didn’t do well in school. I struggled. I was always nearly at the bottom of my class. I feel fortunate to have graduated from high school. The only time I ever told anyone I wanted to write books was the principal of our high school.

Right before I graduated, she did an interview with each one of us girls. It was a Catholic girls school. She asked me what I wanted to do for my future. I told her, “I want to write books.”

She had this kind of pitying look in her eyes. She didn’t say the words, but the message I got was, “You need to think about something in line with your intelligence level.” And in fact, she sent me home for the rest of the day for me to think about this.

Erin: Wow.

Debbie: But that dream would not go away. When I talk about this at writers conferences, I talk about how, if you hurt yourself or burn yourself, that pain will throb. But when I thought about writing books, I throbbed with joy. That happy anticipation would come over me and story ideas would pop into my head.

I just couldn’t let go of that dream. But I was afraid. I was very afraid, because I’d had nothing but failure in my life. I mean, I married as a teenager. Wayne and I had the four babies and, you know, here was this dream. It was only after I met Jesus Christ that I had the courage to do it.

Karen: Do you know what? It’s amazing to me. I mean, I sit here and I’m thinking about all the lives you’ve touched through your stories. You say you’re not here to teach anybody, but God teaches through the words that you put on the page. God takes those stories—which you tell so well, that draw us in and immerse us in those characters—and he uses those stories to show us ourselves and to show us our need for him.

That’s the beauty of writing, like you said, with Christ at every angle. And you know that those people were placed in your path, those naysayers, were placed in your path by Satan because he knew what was coming. He knew what God wanted to do with you. Satan made every effort to kill that dream before it could ever come to fruition. How good of God not to let that die. That is just so amazing.

Debbie: You know, that’s so true that God did prepare the way for me. As I look back on my life, I can see it in every step. I could tell you, I shared this story at writer’s conferences, that one of the propelling reasons that I started writing was that there was a death in our family. A cousin that I had grown up with, whom I was very close to, died of cancer.

When I visited him at the hospital, I got lost and I asked a doctor, “How do I get from here to there?”

He said, “Go down the hallway all the way to the end, take the first right, and walk through the door marked: Absolutely No Admittance.”

That’s what we have to do when we’re following our dreams. We have to be willing to walk through that door.

Erin: And not just that, but I cannot believe that you were so brave to tell that principal what your dream was and what you wanted to do, and she stomped on you!

Debbie: She lived long enough to see my published books, which is great.

Erin: But I’m just, I’m so impressed. That’s just a testimony, I think, to God and the dream that he gave you. But just that kind of overcoming the discouragement. I know that there are untold amount of listeners out there who are going to hear that and say, “You know what? Somebody did that to me, too! My husband, my kid, my neighbor, my whoever, made me feel like I couldn’t do this. I was brave, and they squashed me.”

And look at you. You’re the encouragement for them to stand up and move forward.

Debbie: Oh, I wish I could say I’m just so incredibly talented that I sold right away, but it was five years. I joke around and I say the rejections came so fast that they hit me in the head on the way home from the post office.

Erin: But what kept you going? Was that the dream? Like how did you really know? Some of our listeners might be feeling like, “Well, I don’t know if it’s just me or if it’s God telling me. What if it’s what I want, but not what God wants?” What do you think about that?

Debbie: Well, I don’t know, because I’ve met so many writers who say, “God wants me to write,” and who am I to say? You know, you have to have that passion and that dream that just won’t let go. You have to be willing to continue besides rejection besides discouragement. If God really told somebody to be a writer and to write, he will show you the way.

I read a book, a Norman Vincent Peale classic. I would force myself to sit down and read a chapter after every rejection. There was a saying in that book that I said every single morning. It was my prayer. “I believe I am divinely guided. I believe I will always take the right turn in the road. I believe God will make a way where there is no way.”

Then I would start to write.

Erin: You know what I love? That you’re absolutely right. You were divinely guided. What I want our listeners to catch on this is that you were divinely guided through five years of rejection. Sometimes that’s the path. It’s five years or ten years or twenty years of rejection. But that doesn’t mean that he’s not guiding you. It’s just the path.

Debbie: Oh, there were a couple of times that were really dark moments before I published, too. One was when we were a single income family, and Wayne had been laid off. He came to me and he said, “I can’t make the car payment this month. I need you to get a job.”

Well, I knew I couldn’t do it all. I couldn’t be a writer and, you know, the kids were in sports and scouts and church and music and dancing, you know, all their different activities. I knew I was going to have to give up that dream, and I couldn’t even sleep that night. Wayne woke up and he said, “Are you awake?”

I said, “You know, I believe I really could have made it as a writer, honey. I do.

And he said, “Do it. Go for it.” I mean, you know, it was another two and a half years before I sold, but I had that wonderful support and the belief.

Erin: Wow. So how did you pay for the car?

Debbie: I started selling articles. I had to at least, because I was taking a hundred dollars a month out of our family income. And then right before I sold, this was the darkest moment. I had made enough money writing—I sold dozens of articles—I made enough money writing to attend my first writing conference. At this point I had never met another author in the world.

Two of the editors that I had been submitting to we’re going to be at this conference. One of them had agreed to read my manuscript. When I attended the workshop, she said that of the five manuscripts she had read, one showed promise. I was sure it was me, because I loved this story. I really, really loved this story.

It wasn’t. She had the whole room laughing at what she called the “infeasibility” of my plot.

Erin: Oh dear!

Debbie: Yeah. I’m a storyteller. I knew I had to learn to be a writer, but if my story wasn’t any good, then there was no hope. When I went up to her afterwards, I said, “If I rewrote this, would you be willing to look at it again?”

Even now, all these years later, I can remember that look that came over, and she said, “Throw it away. Throw it away.”

Erin: Wow.

Debbie: I went home and sat up all night. I was praying, and I was reading my devotion. The devotion for the day was John 14. Talk about divinely guided! Do you know what the first verse is? “Let not your heart be troubled.”

Okay, Lord. Funny, funny, funny. And then the last verse: “Arise. Let us go from here.”

I went back to the writer’s conference to collect a refund and they wouldn’t give it to me. So I attended a kids workshop because everything I’d sold at this point had to do with the kids. Everybody got up and said that this is a terrible time in publishing. Nobody’s buying, nobody’s taking new clients, don’t bother to send.

But an author got up and she said one thing I remember: Don’t leave a rejected manuscript on your desk.

With that itty bit of hope, that one itty bit, I wrote up a query letter to another publisher and waited and waited and waited.

Now if I’ve ever seen God’s hand in my life, and I have so many times, this is probably the most profound moment. I kept waiting for the answer to that query letter and every day, all of those negative voices I heard growing up, you know, those ugly voices. I couldn’t stand it. I thought, “I don’t care if you request this manuscript or not, I’m mailing it off.”

Well, again, Wayne was out of work. He was up in Alaska waiting to go out on the pipeline. The kids and I were living on his unemployment check. I went to the post office and I had mailed off that manuscript thinking, “Oh, I hope I’m doing the right thing.”

I get home, and there was a letter in the mailbox. The answer to my query letter. In a Sharpie pen right across my letter the editor wrote: Do not mail us your manuscript. We are not buying at this time.

And I had just spent ten precious dollars. Three weeks later, New York called and bought the book! If I had waited a half hour, I would never have mailed off that manuscript.

Karen: Oh, my gosh.

Erin: Well, there’s a very good witness for how God works in our lives. That’s just stunning. We’re going to have to sit here for like thirty seconds to take that in.

Ten dollars. That’s a lot of money. Like, that could buy a lot of macaroni and cheese. What kind of sacrifice was that for your family?

Debbie: That was a huge sacrifice because we were living on $150 a week, which was Wayne’s unemployment check. And, you know, he had to have money to live up in Alaska, too. So it was a huge sacrifice. I mean, I couldn’t afford the shoes for kids for school that year. And here I was spending ten dollars.

In fact, when I went home, I just said to the Lord, “I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t do this.” It was such a dark moment. And yet, you know, God was the one that said, “Hold on, hold on.”

Karen: Sunday’s comin’!

Debbie: Yeah. And the advance I got for that book got us through the winter. All winter.

Karen: Did they buy just that one book?

Debbie: They did, but they then asked me, “Do you have anything else?”

Well, I just so happened to have three other manuscripts that had all been rejected. They looked at them and they said, “We’ll buy them.” And they did one at a time, but I had to rewrite every single one of them because it was a learning process.

It was a four book apprenticeship.

Erin: I’m thinking that they also just really loved the story, you know? They were willing to hang with you through that. And again, there’s God. There’s God making a way when there is no way.

Debbie: This is the same manuscript one editor told me to throw away. Another editor saw the story ability. She saw that and had the trust and the faith that I could produce and good book.

Karen: That’s a good reminder to us that publishing, it’s not about formulas. It’s about the right gathering of the right people. I purchased manuscripts that other editors turned down because I loved them and I saw the potential in them.

Okay, true confession time. As an editor, I turned down the Mitford series from Jan Karon. But that’s because I knew that her series had a character in it that the publishing house I was working for at the time would not have been willing to have in the published book. So I let it go. And then it went on to become the big thing.

People always ask me, “Well, don’t you regret turning it down?”

I say, “No, because number one, it wasn’t right for our publishing house. Number two, our publishing house would never have done with it what that other publishing house did.”

God knows exactly where it needs to be. God knew when that person told you to throw it away. God was just standing there and smiling and saying, “Debbie, I’m glad your eyes are on me and not on that editor. And not on circumstances. You stay focused on me and you’re going to be okay.”

Debbie: Well, it was hard to hear that at the time.

Erin: Well, you’re plucky. I’m a little bit curious now that you’ve gone on, you’ve written all of these books and it sounds like you’re doing a magazine now too: Welcome Home. What led you to do that? Tell us a little bit about that.

Debbie: First of all, I love magazines. I have many subscriptions. The turn phrase that identifies Welcome Home is: Wherever you are, Debbie takes you home.

As I ease into retirement now, this is a way for me to introduce my readers to other writers. So we have lots of interviews with other writers, and articles. My daughter says that I was social media before there was social media, because I had learned valuable lessons about being a business woman from my father, who had his own business.

I knew I had to keep in touch with my readers. From the very first, from back in the 1980s, I was mailing out newsletters to my readers. This is just the growth of the newsletter that has been expanded to include recipes. I’m a frequent eater, so I love recipes. So I share recipes with my readers. I share do-it-yourself projects, and I have a whole team of excellent, excellent, editors that craft this together. It’s been a really wonderful experience.

Karen: It sounds wonderful. In fact, I’ll be subscribing!

Well, Debbie, we’re coming to the end of our time together. Do you have any final words of wisdom or thoughts that you want to share with our listeners?

Debbie: Well, I do want to say, remember, you are divinely guided. You will take the right turn in the road, and God will make a way where there is no way.

Karen: Amen.

Erin: Amen is right!

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Do you have a God-given writing dream? How do you keep up your courage to follow it in the face of disappointment?

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