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098 – The Joy of Writers’ Conferences with Guest Marilyn Rhoads

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The Joy of Writers Conferences with Guest Marilyn Rhoads on the Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

Writer—and president of Oregon Christian Writers—Marilyn Rhoads shares what makes the OCW conference such a joyous event. And how God uses writers’ groups and conferences to build lifelong friendships and support systems for writers. Come listen in and share the fun!

About Marilyn Rhoads

Marilyn Rhoads serves as president and Cascade Writing Contest Co-Chair for Oregon Christian Writers. She has taught in the Salem and Eugene public school districts and owned her own bookstore, Books and Things. As executive director of Orchard Inn, a non-profit agency, Marilyn wrote an extensive number of well-funded grants. She also fund-raised and marketed for the organization. Marilyn free-lanced for Harvest House Publishers as a proofer and end-reader for several years. She is involved in two critique groups and writes historical romance novels. The mother of two grown daughters, Marilyn and her husband, Jim, reside in the countryside near Eugene, Oregon, and are University of Oregon graduates. Marilyn holds a B.A. and an M.A.

Thanks to our patrons on Patreon, we can now provide an edited transcript of our interview!

Erin: Welcome, writers. We’re so excited to have you here with us in the deep. We have a guest! Yes we do!

Karen: Yay!

Erin: Her name is Marilyn Rhoads, and I’m going to let Karen tell you guys all about her.

Karen: I met Marilyn years, and years, and years ago at one of the Oregon Christian Writers Conferences. We’d been writers for a lot of years and have both participated in this conference, which is a great conference, and we’ll talk some about that. She’s a writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest, the best place in the world to live.

She’s the president of the fifty-six-year-old Oregon Christian Writers. They’re the group that holds that conference. And, just so you know, Oregon Christian Writers is a 501c3 organization. You know what that means? That means you can make donations that go to tuition assistance for the annual OCW conference or to one of their three one-day conferences. They really believe in giving back to conferences.

Marilyn has been a secondary teacher and a reading specialist, an independent bookstore owner, and she’s a prolific grant writer. She’s also a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers. Marilyn, welcome! We are so happy to have you here with us.

Marilyn: Well thanks! It’s wonderful to be with the two of you.

Erin: So, Marilyn, right off the bat let’s put you on the spot. We always ask people what does the deep mean to them. It’s different for everyone, and we love hearing the answers. So what does the deep mean to you?

Marilyn: The deep means laying down your life for Jesus. Doing whatever it takes to obey. To love others.

Karen: I love that.

Erin: That’s a great answer. As you’re in the deep, doing whatever it takes to obey, that makes me think about your service to Oregon Christian Writers. How did you even get started going to Oregon Christian Writers? What led you to them and led you to now become the president?

Marilyn: I was interested in doing fiction writing and I love historical romance. I spent a number of years doing various things. I had a bookstore, I was a teacher before that. I ran a nonprofit, a 501c3 here in the city of Eugene for homeless young women under the age of 21.

Erin: Wow.

Marilyn: I did extensive grant writing, and I’d sit there working with budgets which had to comply with the IRS. And I’d say, “Lord, someday please could I write something I enjoy?”

He gave me that desire. He fulfilled it. And I had started working for a missionary. She had a worldwide ministry. I had helped her write a book and then I wrote a book for her. We were going great guns and the Lord said to me, “No, you’re done.”

I said, “What?”

He said, “No. Write.”

I said, “I am writing. Write what?”

He never did tell me. I said, “Fine. I’ll write what I like.” So I did. I started writing, and I thought, “I need some help. I really do need some help, even though I’m an English major. There must be other writers somewhere.”

My husband saw a tiny little 2 x 2″ notice in the local paper and said, “There’s a Christian writing conference being held in Eugene. I think you ought to go.”

So I did and I thought, “Oh, what a sweet little organization with a little Mennonite president in her cap, and a treasurer who’s in her eighties, aww, how nice they are.” And then I heard their budget and I went. “Whoa. These people are professionals and they mean business!”

I have been a teacher and a union rep years ago so I understood what it took to run an organization like that. So I was very impressed.

Karen: That is very cool.

Erin: So what benefit do you think you’ve gotten from being involved in that organization?

Marilyn: Well, you make a lot of lifetime friendships. I’m very close to people in my critique group. I’m close to people I volunteer with because we’ve been through a lot together. As you go through challenges together and you have to rely and lean on one another, you value one another more. You learn together.

Erin: Yeah.

Karen: So talk to us about your volunteering—you volunteer as the president. That’s a rarity these days, for someone to volunteer and do such a big job. So what draws you into being a volunteer?

Marilyn: Well, the answer I always give people is that I just made the mistake of volunteering one time too often! The real answer is that the selection committee came to me and said, “You have a choice.”

I said, “Really?”

They said, “Our president is retiring and her position will be open, so you can have one of two positions.”

I said, “I thought I was done here. I’m thinking I’m in my twilight years, can I just have some rest?” No.

So they said, “You can have either the summer conference director position or you can be president.” Lindy was already doing the summer conference director position, and she was one of the selection committee.

So I said, “Okay then. I guess I’ll be president.”

So they put my name up, and you know, we got in. I do have an interesting story of how I got my first job at OCW if you’re interested.

Karen: Yes, please.

Marilyn: Well, I had only been around for year. I had been to all their conferences, and one of the nominating committee was in my critique group, and she nominated me. They didn’t want me because I had only been in the organization for a year and some of these people had been in there since Moses was alive.

So they didn’t want me, and I thought, “Great, I don’t want you either. I mean, you’re wonderful, but I don’t want to volunteer. I’d been a professional volunteer for years. I don’t want to work that hard.”

The person they had in mind decided not to do it, so they asked me again. They just asked if I’d allow my name to run. So I asked my husband and I asked my Bible study leader, whom I respect greatly.

They said, “Did you pray about it?”

I said, “No, I don’t want to do it, so I didn’t pray about it.”

Karen: Because I know what God’s gonna say…

Marilyn: Yeah I knew what he was going to say. So I did pray, and I said, “All right here’s my bio. You can run my name on your election.”

One of my other critique partners said to me, “Marilyn, congratulations on being the new program officer!”

I said, “No, no. I just allowed my name to run.”

She said, “Sweetie, they only run one name.”

Being naïve is not exactly safe. You need to do your homework.

Karen: I love that. Well, you do a terrific job. You had me come in to be keynote speaker for one of your one-day conferences. In addition to doing the annual conference, which is a big deal, you guys have three one-day conferences throughout the year. That was so much fun. I only live about three and a half hours south of where the conference was being held and came in.

The thing that has always impressed me about OCW is just how warm and friendly everyone is there. And how open they are to hearing what you have to say. When I got up on the stage to speak, everybody was just on the edge of their seats. They were there, and they were excited, and they were involved and ready to hear what God had for them. I really enjoy the conference a lot.

Marilyn: Well, we liked having you. I have a story about you. You were there, and there was a glitch at the summer conference. You know, big conferences, there’s always a glitch when you get that many people together. I said to you as we were passing in the hall, “I need a favor. We have a new conferee who’s heartbroken because she submitted her manuscript but it didn’t get reviewed. I’ve heard you say before you spend five minutes per manuscript. Would you spend five minutes on this lady so she won’t cry?”

You said, “Of course.” And you did it. So I thought that was wonderful!

Karen: That’s neat!

Marilyn: I remember at another conference, one of the editors was ill, and he had nineteen manuscripts to review. He was deathly ill with the flu, and you came up and said, “I’ll do it.” So I think when it comes to laying down your life, Karen, you have really done some wonderful things for OCW.

Karen: Oh, thank you. Well, I love you guys. I really do. It was interesting, for a lot of years the summer conference used to be over my birthday. When I was working at the publishing houses, you guys invited me every year. I told my husband, “I love this conference, but I’m only going to do it every other year so at least I have a couple of years of birthday at home.”

Marilyn: Aw, that’s wonderful.

Erin: The cool thing about those conferences, you mentioned Karen as a faculty member, I mean, being on both sides—I’ve been on both sides as well, as a faculty member and attendee—I love how the faculty are always pulling for the conferees.

For those writers out there who maybe feel a bit intimidated by going to a writers conference, the faculty there are pulling for you. The volunteers are pulling for you. The people who put those conferences together are pulling for you and rooting for you. We’re always there to help, to do good, wherever and however we can, because we’re all on the same team. We all want to see God glorified. We want to see words on paper that change lives through God’s grace.

Marilyn: That’s right. We are all on the same team headed for the same direction with the same ultimate destination in mind.

Karen: Right. That’s one of the blessings of writing for God. You’re not in it for yourself. You’re in it to accomplish His purposes, and only He knows what those purposes are—whether it’s publication or whether it’s something else. The beauty of it is when you meet people at a writers conference and when you establish, like you said, those life long friendships, you can support each other in the midst of the journey. When things get difficult you have friends there to lift you up. When things are great you have people to rejoice with you. You can’t replace that sense of community.

Marilyn: No, you can’t.

Erin: Having been, as you have said, to many OCW conferences, tell us a little bit about what one day at one of the conferences would look like. Maybe the summer conference? It’s coming up right? That’s in August?

Karen: It is.

Erin: We’ll have a link to that conference, guys, in the show notes. So, Marilyn, if you can, describe what one day at the summer conference would look like.

Marilyn: Well we do breakfast however you want it, which is relaxing. You don’t have to be downstairs at 8 AM. You can choose when you appear. We have devotions. Which aren’t likely because I’m a night owl.

Karen: Yeah, me too.

Marilyn: I’m with friends for a long time in the evening. Our theme is Cheetos and chocolate in my room. We actually had someone show up and think that we had chocolate-covered Cheetos. No, we don’t. We have Cheetos and chocolate, and we always bring extra food. My roommate is Julie Zander. We do the Cascade Contest together, so we’re war veterans. We have to work very closely together on that one.

So we get up and do breakfast however you want it. You can go sit in the restaurant and look at the river, which is fabulous. The location is incredible. Or you can have room service. Or we usually just bring a muffin and coffee or tea or whatever. And then we go downstairs and we have devotions and morning worship. And that’s fabulous. It’s a wonderful way to start the day. This year Bob Hostetler is going to give our little devotional messages every morning.

Karen: Aw, he’s great.

Marilyn: He’s funny! I know, he’s wonderful. Then we go to our coaching class. I’m going to go to Stephen James this year. By the way he’s doing the early bird the first day of the conference. So we go to a coaching class, whatever you choose, I think there’s thirteen different ones, seven hours total.

Erin: Nice!

Marilyn: Then we get out for lunch. OCW still does the name tags on the table so you can sit with an agent or editor or whomever you choose to sit with. We also do something wonderful for new people. I’m kind of in charge of the newbies, and we have special tables for them. If they want to get together, network and pass around cards and be there together, they can do that.

I always have special people situated at those tables to give them great advice. Sometimes it’s a shortcut. They wanted to see a Karen Ball or an Erin Taylor Young, but they’re trying to publish a cookbook, that might not be in their best interest. So we’ll try to put them with the right person and shortcut what’s happening with their conference objectives.

In the afternoon, there are two workshops. People choose from about twenty-four. Then we usually have a panel at about 5 o’clock. An agents panel, magazine editors, book editors panel, something current that’s going on. And then we break for dinner.

The bookstore is always going on, the prayer room is always going on. On day two, the writing center appointments go on, where you can actually meet with an editor or an agent for fifteen minutes each.

Erin: Nice.

Marilyn: Or we have something different, which are mentor appointments, and those are half an hour. For example, I hope to get a mentor appointment with Brian Bird, the screenwriter.

Karen: Ah, right.

Marilyn: Yeah. So there are all sorts of things to do. After dinner, we start night owls. Those usually go until ten o’clock at night. When you’re through, you can socialize, do your homework, or read the note book and find out what’s going on the next day.

The wise person doesn’t do everything. I usually do everything. There are poetry readings. We had Frank Paretti come, and he brought his guitar and they did a jam session downstairs. So there’s all sorts of breakout points. I think Thomas Umstattd is doing podcasting.

Erin: Nice.

Marilyn: There’ll be a critique group one night. All sorts of things. And then we have the big Cascade Contest awards. That’s done by James Rubart and Susan May Warren. They’re awesome, and it’s very, very funny. Susan May Warren wrote the script last year, and my name is Marilyn, so they did the James Bond thing and they called me M and my partner Q. So they’re very funny. They’re hysterical when they get wound up together. That’s a very fun night with dessert afterwards.

We close the conference on Thursday morning with the half a day. We go to our coaching classes, then we come in and take communion together, which is a very sweet, touching, moving time. We’re bonding together. Some of us won’t see each other for a whole year because I believe we have people coming from twenty-four states and two countries.

Erin: Wow.

Karen: That’s great.

Erin: I love the way you describe this, Marilyn, because it’s so clear that it’s a joy and it’s a passion of your heart. That’s one of the reasons Karen and I have been wanting to talk about writing conferences—to help people know what a beautiful thing these are and how beneficial they are. I love the way you’ve described it. It’s like a big party where you get to learn stuff and praise God.

Karen: That’s right.

Marilyn: That’s exactly what it is. We try not to tell our husbands that, but that’s what it is! And we get more and more men, by the way, every year, which is great. For many years that wasn’t the case, but now we’re getting more and more men interested, and lots of pastors are in that audience.

And we have Aaron Doerr from Rolling Hills Church, who is their music director, and he comes and directs our Music for the evening sessions. It is over the moon, I’m telling you. It is fantastic. The spiritual depth and quality is something that many people don’t have at home. We always get people remarking on that and the evaluations.

Erin: Right, and I think for people who don’t have the support at home, necessarily, this is also a good shot in the arm. Not everybody feels like they’re getting support and understanding from their friends and neighbors and all that.

I want to go back to the Cascade Writing Contest that you mentioned. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Marilyn: That’s something that happens every year. It opens on Valentine’s Day and closes on March 31. People can enter in whatever category they choose. I think we have 22 or 23 categories. If the category is thin, sometimes we’ll put middle grade books in with young adult or something else suitable.

I do published and my partner, Julie Zander, does unpublished. So we have something for everyone. Then we ask our members to put their hand to the plow and do some heavy sacrificing to judge all these things. We have preliminary rounds. I go to a midsized church, and they’re getting to the point where they call it Marilyn’s book club. Because if you’re there and you’re breathing and you’re a competent human being, you are automatically judging. We get some wonderful reactions.

In the final round, we have professionals do the judging. They judge three finalists. Jane Kirkpatrick was a judge this year, and Jim Hill. We have a number of notable people judging.

Karen: That’s terrific.

Marilyn: Then we do two trophies beyond that. Generally two. We do a Writer of Promise, where we’re looking around to find somebody who we think has a wonderful future ahead of them. Karen Barnett was one, and Camille Eide, and April McGowan. Then we do the Trailblazer Award for people who have been there and who’ve given and given from their heart to help empower other writers. One of them has been Leslie Gould. Melody Dobson. Judy Gann. So we have people who are powerhouses. Sally Stewart who did the Christian Writers Market Guide for twenty-seven years.

Karen: Sally is wonderful.

Marilyn: OCW has birthed some powerful people in the past. I’ve heard Lorraine Snelling say that more than one time. She came out of OCW.

Erin: Wonderful.

Karen: Well, Marilyn, thank you so much for sharing your excitement and enthusiasm. It’s so clear that Oregon Christian Writers and their conferences are all focused on serving God and helping writers do that same thing. I’m just so grateful for the conference and for all that you’ve done for them and for sharing about them with our listeners today.

For those of you who are listening, you can learn more about both the organization and the conference at oregonchristianwriters.org. You can find out more about Marilyn on her website at marilynrhoads.com. So, Marilyn, again, thank you so much for coming. Here’s to another great conference this year.

Marilyn: Thanks, ladies!

Erin: Yes, thank you!

Oregon Christian Writers Conference

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Guest @MarilynRhoads shares what makes the OCW conference such a joyous event!

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Special thank you to Wendy L. Macdonald, our July sponsor of the month! You can learn more about her at her website wendylmacdonald.com. Aside from being a writer, she produces a short, weekly, inspirational podcast called Walking with Hope for HopeStreamRadio.com.

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097 – Words of Life

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Words of Life to Battle Busyness Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungWe all want to write them: words of life. Yet all too often we get so caught up in the constant busyness of life that we reach the end of the day exhausted and even discouraged. But there’s a cure for that: God’s Words of life! This podcast is your chance to stop and listen. To let the comfort, encouragement, and power of God’s Words fill you to overflowing.

As Christian writers, we want to write words to refresh this weary world. Words to bring hope, joy, and peace in the face of struggle, sorrow, and temptations. But we can get so caught up in doing that task—and everything else that goes with it in the midst of our busy lives with all our responsibilities—that we can end up living our life in one big rush. We forget to get our fill of God’s Words of life. To drink from God’s refreshment waiting for us everyday as we meet with Him.

We want to dedicate this podcast to doing just that: being refreshed by God. If you do nothing else today, stop. Listen. Absorb. Soak in God’s Word.

“Slowly, steadily, surely the time is approaching when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems long in coming, be patient! It will not be overdue a single day.” Habakkuk 2:3  

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:5-8

“When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, ‘What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?’ So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

“When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: “Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”’ And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.’

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.'” Exodus 14:5-16

“Never dread any consequence resulting from absolute obedience to His command. Never fear the rough waters ahead, which through their proud contempt impede your progress. God is greater than the roar of raging water and the mighty waves of the sea. ‘The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever’ (Psalm 29:10). A storm is simply the hem of His robe, the sign of His coming, and the evidence of His presence.” F.B. Meyer from Streams in the Dessert

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth….Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John 1:12-18

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?'” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.  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. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 11:33-12:13

“‘Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'” Isaiah 41:10-13

“…Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” 1 Chronicles 28:20

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“The Lord Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.’…This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations. For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” Isaiah 14:24, 27

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:3-14

“I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.” 1Timothy 4:1-5

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1:19-25

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17:24-25

Take that minute and stop and breathe and know that every breath is from God. He gives it to you, and He’s in control.

We hope that this time in God’s Word has been a refreshment and a blessing to you. It’s so important to take a moment and be immersed in what God has to say to us in His Word. So much truth. So much power. Let these words infuse you, and fill you, and remind you that you’re not in this alone. You’re not in this in your own power or doing it with your own ability. Everything you need to complete the task that God has given you, He supplies you. It’s not on your shoulders, it’s on His, because He’s the one who has given you this task.

“May the Lord give strength to [you]! May the Lord bless [you] with peace!” Psalm 29:11

We want to hear from you!

Do you have a life verse? Or what Scripture is especially meaningful to you right now?

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THANK YOU!

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

Special thank you to our July sponsor of the month, Wendy L. Macdonald! You can learn more about her at her website wendylmacdonald.com. Aside from being a writer, she produces a short, weekly, inspirational podcast called Walking with Hope for HopeStreamRadio.com.

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

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096 – Why Writers Need Faith

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Why Writers Need Faith Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungBelievers talk about faith all the time, but what is it REALLY? What does it look like in the writing life? And why is it crucial for a writer’s heart? You may be surprised at the answers!

When we start our work calls, we like to read from Streams in the Desert, and then pray. One day we read this:

“Faith does not say, ‘I see this is good for me; therefore God must have sent it.’ Instead, faith declares, ‘God sent it; therefore it must be good for me.’” (Phillips Brooks, from Streams in the Desert, May 1)

Is that faith?

Yes. It’s about perspective. In the first example we judge whether something is good, and then decide God must have sent it. That’s too easy. And problematic, because not everything that happens to us outwardly looks like a good thing. In the second phrase, “God sent it, therefore it must be good for me,” the perspective acknowledges God’s sovereign hand, and then we trust that He knows what He’s doing, and that He’ll use it for our good.

definitions of faith

From Merriam Webster:

“Allegiance or duty to a person: loyalty”

“Belief and trust in and loyalty to God”

So yes, in our reading, that was faith, because it’s trust in God.

A few more definitions from Webster’s:

“A firm belief in something for which there is no proof”

“Complete trust”

“Something that is believed especially with strong conviction”

FIXING OUR EYES ON THE UNSEEN

The Bible gives us a definition of faith as well. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Paul echoes that in 2 Corinthians 5:7 when he says, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”

What does that mean in our writing life? It means we can’t rely on our limited human sight and perspective as we navigate the writing life.

One of our big questions on our writing journey always seems to be: Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing? And the way we typically try to answer that is by determining: Is this worth it? Am I seeing the benefit? Am I seeing a return on my investment of time and money? A return on what I’m doing that’s worth the cost of all the other things I could be doing that I’m not because I don’t have time now?

But that isn’t faith.

We can’t do that kind of cost analysis because that’s all about what we can see.  Remember, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

That’s why Paul also says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18. In the context, he’s talking about hardships and difficulties, the “light and momentary troubles,” that are “achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” We as writers can totally relate to hardships and struggles. We can see those.

But walking by faith in the writing life means we can’t quantify the outcome of our efforts. We can’t say, “If I write a great book it will sell 50,000 copies.” It doesn’t work that way.

For some writers, we’ll have our writing read by others. Maybe hundreds, or thousands, or millions of others. But we can’t know that when we’re first learning the craft. We put huge amounts of time and energy into studying the craft— years— writing word after word, page after page, to become better writers over time. We don’t see the immediate results of that. It’s not like by page two we turn into Francine Rivers.

Then there’s years of pursuing knowledge about the industry, or learning about marketing. Years of building a platform bit by bit, never knowing if it will take off or if we’ll remain in relative obscurity.

Doing anything without seeing immediate results takes faith. And that glorifies God.

Think about the bigger picture here. You bring glory to God by walking in the path He told you to walk. The outcome is a better you. Even if no one ever reads your writing, you become a person, more conformed to the image of Christ by following Him in obedience. That’s a hope we can be sure of, like it said in Hebrews. That’s fixing our eyes on the unseen: on a vision of what we can be, but aren’t now.

One more practical thought about walking by faith not sight: If God gave us this task of writing, then we can’t be discouraged by what we can or can’t see. Don’t let your earthly vision dishearten you. God can do anything anytime, and most of the time we’re never going to see it coming.

But neither can we be distracted by what we can see.

Sometimes what you can see, and what you want to head for, isn’t where you should be going. We miss God’s direction because we think we know where we’re going. Walking by sight can get you where you’re not supposed to be.

LOYALTY

We’ve talked about the definition of faith that’s found in Hebrews, but let’s go back to one of the dictionary definitions of faith: loyalty. How do we show loyalty to God?

It’s when we don’t give up on what He’s asked us to do, no matter what things look like, as we’ve said. It’s obedience, adherence.

But it’s also standing up for God. Speaking truth in the face of lies about Him, writing truth in a world full of darkness— worse, a world where people do what Isaiah warns about in 5:20:

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

We live in that world, and it’s our job to show loyalty to what God calls good, and the light of God’s truth, and the sweetness of what’s good for us in God’s eyes.

Loyalty means we conform to His image, and not the image of the world. And we assign Him the value and glory He’s due, no matter what the world says. And no matter what the world tempts us to do.

Faith in the writing life means we’re loyal to Him and what He wants in our life instead of betraying Him with unethical behavior, for example.

Remember when Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt, and he’s in Potiphar’s house, and Potiphar’s wife wants to sleep with him? How does he respond? He talks about how Potiphar made him responsible for everything and trusts him completely, but then in Genesis chapter 39, verse 9, he gets to the heart of his reason to resist: “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

That’s all about loyalty to God. And that didn’t come easy. It cost Joseph a great deal.

What about us? Are we willing to pay the cost? To do whatever it takes to be loyal? It’s easy to say yes, but harder to back it up with our actions.

Karen knew a best-selling author who’s had numerous companies option one of her most popular books for a movie. This book, made into a movie, will change lives. With each offer she prayed and sought God’s will.

Every option fell through. Some because the companies wanted to make changes to make the story more “palatable” to viewers. Some because they wanted to go a direction that would sensationalize the wrong things. Others because funding fell through. And on and on.

With each instance, she stayed focused on God, trusting that He was the one who made the deals not work. She’s now in negotiations with yet another company, and it may happen. But her stance is, “It’s in God’s hands. If He wants it to happen, it will.” She says her job is just to focus on Him and to be true to the story and message He gave her for the book.

two key components of faith

Action (doing)

Part of what faith means in the writer’s life is doing, acting, moving forward. It’s taking steps to go to that writers’ conference. To build relationships with readers and other writers. To get that book on craft and read it. To make time in your schedule to put your rear end in a chair and write. Then to write more. And to keep writing. To work for excellence. To keep submitting, keep publishing, no matter what the sales, no matter the rejections.

Keep doing until God says to stop, because all those things are your faith in action. Faith isn’t passive.

Look at the long list the writer of Hebrews gives us as examples of people acting in faith in chapter 11. Noah builds an ark, Abraham gets up and leaves his country, Rahab hides the spies who come to Jericho. They do all this because of their firm belief, trust, conviction, and loyalty, no matter what things look like.

Waiting (patience)

But there’s a flip side to all this doing, this action. It’s called waiting. That’s the second key component of faith. And we’re not talking about antsy, crabby, whiny waiting. We’re talking about waiting well. We call that patience. Patience is all about submitting to God’s timing.

Hebrews 11 covers that too. There’s a list of people who wait in hope, like Abraham and Sarah waiting for their promised child. And Abraham knowing he’d inherit the land one day, but never seeing it. Isaac and Jacob waiting for the same thing.

Waiting is good, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Waiting means we’re acknowledging our need for God to act on our behalf. And He does:

Isaiah 64:4 says “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”

So how does waiting look in the writing life?

Let’s face it, nothing moves quickly in this industry. Sometimes it’s patience as you’re waiting for responses from your submissions, or for your cover designer, or your critique group.

Sometimes it’s waiting months, years, as your craft improves.

Sometimes it’s waiting for the right timing for something you’ve written to go to market. Maybe God has told you to put that manuscript in a drawer and wait, and you don’t even know why. Maybe it’s a story that needs a more seasoned hand and you’re not there yet. Maybe the right audience isn’t ready for it. Whatever.

That happened to a friend of Erin’s. She wrote a novel that was good enough to get her signed with an agent, but unfortunately the industry wasn’t at a place where that manuscript could succeed. Ultimately no publisher wanted to take it on.

But all this time, she’s been honing her craft, writing other books, selling them pretty well, and building an audience. Finally, recently, she felt it was time to pick that manuscript up again.

That’s when she saw it could be so much more than it was. She hired a macro editor, got a long revision letter, and now she’s steadily rewriting it. And when she’s done, it’s going to be a much better book. A book it couldn’t have been a few years ago.

But will it be time to take it to the market? She doesn’t have that answer yet. All she knows is that now is the time to make it better. Then she’ll see what God says next.

That’s waiting well, and it’s also doing well. And at the end of the day, that pleases God.

The Fruit of Faith

Pleasing God
Faith is crucial for us not just as writers, but as followers of Christ, because Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “…without faith, it is impossible to please [God]…”

Why did He set things up this way? One reason is to help us could get the roles right: He’s God, we’re not. He gets the glory. But we get a reward for our faith.

Hebrews 11:6 goes on to say, “…for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” He knows what’s best for us, and what He has in store for us is perfect.

Peace
Another fruit of faith is peace. When we have unswerving belief, complete trust, unshakable loyalty to our God, what do we have to worry about? He’s taking care of us. He’s in control.

Our job is to rest in that. To stop striving. To stop trying to make things happen in our own strength. That doesn’t mean we don’t keep working toward excellence in craft, marketing, and everything else. But it means we do these things with peace deep in our heart. And that trickles right back out: “…Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” (Matthew 12:34 ESV). You want the words you share with the world to be filled with deep, inner, soul-healing peace.

What is faith in the writer’s life?

Ultimately it’s a mindset and a lifestyle. It’s living with deep down conviction of who God is. It’s an unwavering choice to trust. To lay down our ability—or, more to the point, our inability—to predict and control, to measure with our insufficient human standards.

But you don’t do this on your own. Faith is a gift from God. Ask Him to build your faith, and He will. Why is faith crucial? It glorifies God. It brings peace, rest, hope, and joy to us, and through us to the world.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 can help us focus our hearts and minds when we need to act in faith: “May the LORD direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” Dwelling on God‘s love for us helps us know and trust Him. So let’s focus on Him, on who He is, on how very much He loves us, and leave everything else to God.

we want to hear from you!

What do you think faith is? How does it play out for you in your writing life?

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What is faith? And why does it matter in your writing life?

Thank you!

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

Special thank you to our June sponsor of the month, Stacy McLain. Watch for her first book, Make Known His Path, a Christian speculative novel, to be released sometime this summer!

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

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095 – The Spiritual Side of Agenting with Guest Cynthia Ruchti

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The Spiritual Side of Agenting with Guest Cynthia Ruchti Write from the Deep Podcast

 

We’ve all heard about agents, and how they guide us in our careers and fight for us with publishers. But did you realize that many agents cover everything they do in prayer? From reading proposals to deciding on clients to determining which publishers are a good fit to every aspect of their clients’ lives. Our guest, literary agent Cynthia Ruchti, joins us to share about an agent’s spiritual walk.

About Cynthia Ruchti

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in Hope through award-winning novels, nonfiction, devotions, and through speaking events for women and writers. As a literary agent with Books & Such Literary Management, she helps other authors fulfill their publishing goals. She and her grade school sweetheart husband live in the heart of Wisconsin.

Thanks to our patrons on Patreon, we can now provide an edited transcript of our interview!

Karen: Hey everyone, welcome to the deep today. We’re so glad that you’re here and that you get to share time not just with us but with our amazing guest Cynthia Ruchti!

Erin: Yes, and I get to introduce her, everybody. I just want you all to know that! I met Cynthia Ruchti at a writers’ conference somewhere along the way. What impacted me the most was her heart for God. She was doing a short devotional, I think, and then she was leading a worship song. Let me tell you something. You can tell a lot about a person when they’re singing to God. And I knew she was a woman I wanted to get to know better.

Cynthia Ruchti draws on 33 years writing and producing an on air radio broadcast to tell stories hemmed in hope through her more then 25 award-winning books and her speaking. She’s the professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers and, get this, since 2017, she’s also served as a literary agent with Books and Such Literary Management. Cynthia and her plot-tweaking husband—I love that—live in the heart of Wisconsin not far from their three children and five grandchildren. Cynthia, welcome!

Cynthia: Thank you so much. I’m going to have to change that bio a little, pretty soon, because we have a sixth grandchild. We don’t know if it’s a grandson or granddaughter, who will be born in August.

Karen: Congratulations!

Cynthia: We like changing our bios to have more books listed. We also like changing our bios to have more grandchildren listed.

Karen: The only thing I can list is when I get more dogs, so there you go.

Cynthia: More dogs also works!

Karen: Cynthia, as you know, we talk about the deep here on our podcast. Erin has her definition of the deep and I have mine. But we like to ask our guests when they’re here what that term, the deep, means to them. So, Cynthia, what does the deep mean to you?

Cynthia: For me, a lot of it has to do with getting beneath the surface. Whether that means going beneath the façade that we sometimes, not even intentionally, present to others, or going beneath the surface of the activity we are involved in, to get to the heart of why we’re doing what we’re doing.

But getting beyond the surface in our relationships, too. Primarily our relationship with God. We can do a lot of surface activity with God. But the deep, deep work with God often can have its painful moments. It has a depth of joy that can’t be shaken with what’s happening on the surface.

I ran into a passage of Scripture this morning. About the beginning of the year I’d asked God, as many others do, what’s my word for the year? Or my verse for the year? What is that? Am I going to have one this year or not? One year it was brave, and it turned out I needed bravery that whole year. One year it was rest, and I spent the whole year avoiding it.

And this past year I didn’t think I had a word that was going to carry through the year until I heard the word pilgrimage. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I really sensed that’s what He intended. You may have had experiences like that, too, where you weren’t even sure why He was saying that. Psalm 84 has a verse in the Bible that contains that word. I looked first to the Word because that’s the best place to go to figure out what God has in mind, and it was that verse about “happy are those whose hearts are always set on pilgrimage.”

I still didn’t know what that meant. And I still don’t. Here we are this far into the year, and I’m still not 100% sure about that. But I read that verse in another version, and that other version led me around to deep, which is kind of a skewed way of getting there. That verse in the Passion version said, “How enriched are those who find their strength in the Lord, within their hearts are the highways of holiness—or, that heart set on pilgrimage. Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain.”

That spoke to me as if to say, pilgrimage, yeah, that was just a means of getting you to that verse. It was the driving force to get you to that verse, which I’m still pondering on. But that is what we do. That is how God wants us to live. “Even when their paths wind through a dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain.”

Karen: That’s amazing.

Erin: The hard thing is we’re digging through that pain. We’re digging into that pain. It’s not like when we dig, it hurts less. I think it hurts more until we find that pool. And that is very counterintuitive. You have to trust that that pool of joy and of deep with God is going to be there.

Karen: Right.

Erin: one of the reasons why I was so interested to have you on the podcast, Cynthia, is because of a conversation you and I were having when we were at Mount Hermon. We were talking about you being an agent now for these past couple years. Tell us a little bit about that transition, when you went from author—and I know you’re still writing—and now you’re being an agent. How is that going for you?

Cynthia: I love every minute of it, even the hard parts, so you know that God’s presence is in the middle of it. And He’s teaching me things even in the difficulties that come with agenting. And there are always difficulties, because helping people get their books published is a winding, twisting path that sometimes has grave disappointments in it. And it’s always hard, it’s always difficult. It’s never easy or there wouldn’t be a need for an agent.

Erin: Wait, wait. You’re saying the agents actually feel disappointed, right? It’s not just the writers. There’s a revelation!

Cynthia: Can you imagine? Yes. There is often that! In fact, because we take on these clients as coming alongside them in their journey, we really are feeling what they feel. We have volunteered to feel what they feel when they’re going through all of this.

The transition part of it was, of course, a deep learning experience for me. Because as much as I thought I knew by being in the industry for a while, as much as I thought I knew from being on the author side of things, there was so much from the agent side of things.

One of the things that was a great joy to me was that I knew that Books and Such Literary Management—where I’m an agent—I knew it was a place of integrity. And there are several of those strong places of integrity and agencies within Christian publishing. And there are others where it’s not as visible or not as sure.

Erin: Right.

Cynthia: When I got behind the scenes with Books and Such and saw that that integrity ran deeper than I ever knew, that it wasn’t just a façade, that there was a depth to that level of integrity that ran way deep, even behind the scenes, that made me more sure than ever that the decision was a good one to become part of that team. And to root for other people’s projects with more ferocity even than my own.

Karen: I think that one of my greatest revelations while I was an agent was the fact that I, too, had been in the industry—I had led fiction programs for four of the major Christian publishers, I’d negotiated contracts from the publishers side—but it’s so different when you’re going not just as a negotiator but as an advocate. You’re trying to make sure that the marriage that you’re creating between publisher and client is one that will benefit both sides. And yet at times you have to be the tiger and fight for your client against people that you really love and trust. It’s learning how to be a champion, an advocate, and a warrior all in one fell swoop.

Cynthia: Karen, that is such a good description of it. And it really is true that we’re not an “us against them.”

Karen: No.

Cynthia: Really, who benefits is the reader. If we do our work well, and we make that good marriage, and we pair people’s projects with the best possible publisher for them, who benefits the most is the reader, who gets the opportunity to read that novel or to read that nonfiction and be moved and changed by it.

So it really is that we’re out for that win-win, for making sure we’re doing the best and the highest level of excellence both for our author and for the publishing house, knowing that the end result is the reader is matched with words from God’s heart.

Karen: So let’s talk some about how the spiritual side of things impacts all of that. I know that sometimes it’s a little hard for authors to see that agents are really just plain old people. You know the image that’s out there of a literary agent is a blood sucking person going to get everything they can out of the author.

That’s completely fallacious, especially where the Christian agents are concerned, the agencies like you talk about that have the integrity, like Books and Such, and the Steve Laube Agency, all of that. So talk about the spiritual side of things, because I think our listeners need to understand that agents steep things in prayer, and I’m not sure that they realize that.

Cynthia: I think that’s a good point. In fact Erin and I were talking about this also at one of the conferences that we attended. It’s probably not known, because it’s not necessarily visible, the depth and the level of prayer labor that we spend even in deciding if we’re going to represent a client or not.

We can have someone with a great story, great personality, a wonderful platform, and we still make it a matter of prayer. It’s not an automatic. Partly because it is that marriage, that care of a relationship. And we’re looking for an author who’ll have a career, that we can accompany them through that career through thick and thin. We’re looking into character. We’re looking to make sure, are we on the same page?

But we’re also needing and depending so heavily on the discerning of the Holy Spirit. If we are walking by the Spirit, that covers everything we do in the business and the relationship side of agenting as well. We are praying over things as we’re looking at a manuscript and looking at a potential client. We’re looking to strengthen the manuscript and to strengthen that client’s hand in God at the same time.

There are often times I’ll be looking at a project that looks good on the surface, and I’ll have just this hesitation. And I’m not sure even where the hesitation is coming from. As I pray about it and refuse to just react instantaneously from what looks like it might be a good business decision, or what looks like I might be able to offer something to that client, or what looks like it might be a good partnership, oftentimes I wait until I have the green light from the Lord. Clearly a green light from the Lord.

We can try to manipulate answers. We can try to manipulate relationships. That rarely works. We can try to massage something out of a message that isn’t there. That rarely works either. We want to make sure that we’re on the same page, so to speak, in all ways. That our hearts are pointed in the same direction.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that every client I represent is a duplicate of the kind of things I would write.

Karen: Right.

Cynthia: I’m often representing things that are very different from what I would want to write. Sometimes it’s even different from what I want to read. But I know as I pray about it that it’s something the readers need to see or hear or consider.

Karen: That will speak to somebody. That will speak to their hearts and their spirits in their own journey in Christ.

Cynthia: So true. I had a doctor when I was battling lyme disease back too many years ago to mention. It sounds like a completely different century. Oh yeah, it was a different century! It was a year and a half before my doctor figured out that it was lyme disease that I had. And it was eight doctors that I had been through in this search, of all different kinds. They told me at one time that if you have a disease with fourteen symptoms, they send you to the psych department automatically because no disease has fourteen symptoms. And I had thirteen, and one I didn’t want to tell them about.

Through all of that process we got to the end of it, and it was my doctor, my godly internal medicine doctor, who was the person who discovered the answer, and we could begin the treatment that lasted again forever because it had had such a hold in my life by that time, in my body by that time.

But I found out later in the game, his medical assistant took me aside and told me every time I came in to see the doctor—and it was sometimes once a month with a new symptom, yet another symptom, another round of tests—he would go back to his office after I left, put his head in his hands, and say, “God I know it’s something, I just don’t know what it is yet. Will you please reveal what it is?”

Even though it took that long, I’m so grateful that it was that man through whom God wanted to bring that answer. Probably because he may have been one of the only ones of all those physicians who was seeking his answer from God not just from the medical tests.

So I apply that in agenting and think that’s part of my role, too. I sit with my head in my hands, or figuratively on my knees to say God how can this best be used. How can this be tweaked. How can this be edited, or changed, or a new title or subtitle or something that will bring this to the place where it needs to be so that it can reach who it needs to reach. In addition to that, I know I’m talking a lot here…

Karen: No, that’s good!

Cynthia: In addition to that is the aspect that we pray and care about our clients. If our clients are going through something personally, we want to know about it, because we are a prayer advocate as well. It’s not just because they might not make their deadline. It’s because we really do care about our clients and spend a lot of time praying that their lives will be transformed through their writing as much as their writing will help transform others.

Erin: Right. It’s so interesting, Cynthia, I don’t know how many writers out there really understand the degree to which this partnership happens. There is so much that you’re doing in the background that might not be noticed. What do you think, though, is one of the biggest challenges spiritually to being an agent?

Cynthia: I think I’m new enough at this that I’m not battling pride like I might if I were further down the road. I had a big major spiritual breakthrough not long ago, though, when I negotiated for one of my clients a contract I would’ve loved to have had for myself. And then the next week there was another one, where I was able to secure for a different client a contract I would’ve loved to have had for myself with the publisher I would have loved to have worked for or with.

The interesting part of that was my heart was full of joy. It’s almost as if the Lord had to remind me, “You know, that’s one you would’ve loved to have had.” The reason he had to remind me was because he had been working so hard at getting me where I needed to be so that I would rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn, where we as a body would celebrate each others’ victories with no thought to receiving anything in return. No thought as to what that might mean to us.

Those were some really sweet moments. I say them now, and say them out loud, publicly here, because that’s what I want to remain. I don’t want to ever get to a place where it’s all business. Or where I’m making decisions according to what it will mean for a paycheck. As most people know, an agent often works for years and years and years and makes nothing. This is what we signed up for. This is what we decided we would do. But I know and have observed other agents who seem like they’re—I don’t want this to be offensive to any person, or for any person to see themselves in this unless God intends them to…

Karen: You know who you are out there…

Cynthia: That they would just want to build clientele. Just build clientele. That they would want to reach certain sales goals for the sake of the money, as opposed to for the sake of the Kingdom or for the sake even of making sure that we’re doing everything with excellence, and pushing ourselves to raise the bar of excellence constantly in what we do.

So that was a real stark reminder to me. Thank you, Lord, that it was in a gentle way that You did it, to remind me that’s where I want my heart to be. That if I’m able to get contracts for my clients that caused my heart to sing, that’s the real beauty in at all.

Spiritually, the hard part of being an agent is oftentimes balancing time. For those of us like Karen, who’s been in a place where you’ve been agenting and authoring at the same time, we understand that balancing time or where or which is the biggest bonfire that we have to put out at the moment, or the needs never cease, and the workload isn’t logical. It’s not the kind where—I visited Denmark just a little bit ago and their intention is that the workday ends at four or 4:30 so that everyone can go be with their families for supper, and they locked their computers away in the workplace so that you’re not tempted to work in the evening, when your husband is say watching another baseball game.

Karen: Yeah.

Cynthia: Something like that. So that part of it is an issue that I’m wrestling with the Lord all the time about: “What do you want me to do at this moment? Not just what’s on my to-do list for the day, but at this moment, which is the thing I need to attend to, according to your will Lord, not my agenda?”

Erin: You mentioned something earlier about the deep. You talked a little bit about knowing your why, in a sense. Going deep enough to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. I’m curious, why did you decide to become an agent?

Cynthia: Like everything else in my life, God decided for me and left me no option. So I wrote and produced this radio broadcast for 33 years and prior to that I worked in a chemistry lab. I thought that was what I was going to do with my life. I retired from that to care for my toddler children when they were young. I took a correspondence course in creative writing just to keep my mind active with something other than caring for children, and dirty diapers, and the latest updates on which diaper is the best.

The last assignment for that particular course that I took, which happened to have been the Christian Writers Institute at the time, was to write a script for a 15-minute radio broadcast, which I thought was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard of. I knew there were half hour hour and hour broadcasts. There were two minutes broadcasts, and I had no interest at all. At all.

So I procrastinated on that assignment for eight or nine months maybe. I finally did the assignment just so I could get my certificate to say I completed the course. Two weeks after I got my certificate a woman came to speak to the Christian women’s clubs in our area, the Stonecroft clubs, and they needed somebody to help her with her luggage and to sing in between her speaking points. I volunteered because they had already found a babysitter for my two-year old, so how could I say no. During that time the woman said she had just been given 15 minutes of free air time on a radio station that was about to go on the air. I said, “That’s very nice.”

Still had no interest. But at the end of our four days together, instead of her responding to my offer to search for some Scriptures that would go with her theme for the day, or perhaps look up some poems that would fit with what she was talking about, she handed me the address of the station and said, “Send the first program here.”

Erin: Wow.

Cynthia: And I had just told the Lord, “I’ll go wherever you want me to go. I’ll do whatever you want me to do.” He said, “Did you mean it?”

So with no experience, and no training, and no equipment, and no anything, nine months later that radio station went on the air and our first broadcast went on the air, and it was on continuously for 33 years. At the end it was five days a week, Monday through Friday, of these scripted broadcasts. The first half was fiction, musical interlude. The second half was devotional thoughts about that slice of life scene from everyday life.

So when Janet Grant from Books and Such called me one day a couple years ago and said, “Have you ever considered being an agent?” I said, “Nope. Uh-uh. Nope. Nope. Oh dear, I think I’m going to have to pray about it.”

When I told my husband, I was sure his answer was going to be, “You’re not going to do one more thing.” Instead he said, “Don’t you think God has been grooming you for this?”

The end result of our praying together about it and talking about it was that I said yes to God because I know no other answer to give Him.

Karen: There’s no other answer that makes any sense because if you say no it’s a big mistake.

Cynthia: Big, big mistake. I’m smart enough to know that. So anyway that was it. And the adventure of it has been so wonderful. As I’ve said, I’ve not only loved it, but I love the people that I work with. I love the people in the industry.

I’ve had some opportunities over the past years to grow in deeply caring about retailers and publishers and editors and marketing people as well as the authors. I think God has used that all because He’s giving me an empathy for all sides in this mishmash called publishing.

Erin: Yeah.

Karen: Well, Cynthia, thank you so much for taking the time to spend with us and to share your experience and give us some insights into the spiritual walk that agents have. And also just into the ways that God deals with us no matter what career path we’re on. The ways that He leads us and guides us. I love how specific He is to speak into our lives His truth in the ways that we can hear, whether what we need is a gentle reprimand like you got, or if it’s something just a little bit harder for those of us who are maybe a little bit too strong-willed. I really appreciate the time that you spent with us and we look forward to maybe having you on again.

Erin: Yeah!

Cynthia: I would love that. Thank you so much.

Erin: Thanks, Cynthia.

Cynthia’s not just an agent, but an author as well! Here’s her latest release:

Miles from Where we Started by Cynthia Ruchti

Miles from Where we Started by Cynthia Ruchti

We want to hear from you!

Did you know many agents wrestle in prayer as they make decisions about your manuscript? What do you think about that?

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Did you know agents pray for you and your writing career? Join guest @CynthiaRuchti to hear about it.

THANK YOU!

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

Special thank you to our June sponsor of the month, Stacy McLain. Watch for her first book, Make Known His Path, a Christian speculative novel, to be released sometime this summer!

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

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094 – Spiritual Footholds: The Danger of Discontent

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Danger of Discontent Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

When God has given us a task, like writing, it’s imperative we keep our focus on Him and His purposes. Because the second we don’t, we may very well be creating a foothold for the enemy of our souls to gain access to our hearts and spirits. Come discover how to protect yourself from the spiritual foothold of discontent.

In Ephesians 4:27, we’re warned: “…do not give the devil a foothold” (NIV). The NASB says it this way: “…do not give the devil an opportunity.” But what does that mean?

What kind of opportunities, or footholds might we, as writers, give the enemy? And if we discover we’ve done that, how do we get rid of these footholds?

What is a spiritual foothold?

A place where a person’s foot can be lodged to support them securely, especially while climbing.

There’s also this definition: a position providing a base for further efforts to advance (as in a military invasion).

A spiritual foothold is a place in your heart and spirit where you give the enemy an in, where he can be lodged and supported, where he can be secure in his work to bring you down. The longer you allow it, the more it becomes the “base,” so to speak, where the enemy makes progress in his effort to undermine God’s work in your life, impacting your emotional, spiritual, and even physical well-being.

Once you give in to the temptation to go against God’s guidance, it becomes that much easier to tempt you to do so again and again. And for you to give in.

When we allow destructive tendencies into our hearts and minds, they work very much like water does on sand or dirt. They erode the stability of your foundation of faith. Think about building a sandcastle on the beach. The tide comes in and your castle collapses.

Once that happens, you’ve opened the door to more footholds being created within you. It’s a vicious cycle.

We’re going to address some of the most common footholds for writers. Those places where we too often are weak and vulnerable, and give in just long enough to give the devil an opportunity.

Foothold #1: Discontent

We’re starting with this foothold because it’s sneaky. It’s the kind of thing that creeps inside us in little, seemingly harmless ways, but once it gains a foothold, it’s pervasive. It can color everything we do and think.

What is discontent?

Discontent is lack of contentment; dissatisfaction with your circumstances. For writers in particular, it’s being discontent with our career. Thinking we “deserve” more or that things “should be different.”

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Am I discontent? How do I know?” Here are some things to watch for:

Signs of Discontent

1.  Grumbling

This can be grumbling against God, or publishers, or marketers, or sales teams, or readers: anyone or anything that is, in your mind, hindering your “success as a writer.” You’re grumbling about the things people do, the things they say, how hard it is to write, how your back hurts, how your computer is too slow, how Amazon’s algorithm is messing with your sales, or whatever.

Ultimately, if God gave you this task, these are grumblings against God, because He’s not making sure things happen the way you want Him to.

2.  Jealousy

“I’m a better writer than ______ so why don’t I have the sales he does?”

“Why did she win that award? My book is way better!”

“Why did that agent pick him up when I’ve got a much better platform?”

3.  Exaggeration

Exaggeration is trying to make more of yourself, your work, your success than is true. Let’s call this what it is: lying. It may start small. I mean, who is it going to hurt if I say I sold more books than I really sold? But one small lie doesn’t stay small. Lies have a way of growing and spreading, until one day you find yourself having to tell lie after lie to keep the illusion going. Bottom line: God won’t honor lies.

4.  Demeaning Others

“That writer is a hack, but I guess that’s what readers want because they don’t know any better.”

“Publishers won’t take a chance on me because my books tell the truth, I don’t sugarcoat it.”

If we allow ourselves to put others down in an effort to build ourselves up, we’re not just walking, but we’re running into sin.

We’re ignoring Scripture like Philippians 2:1-4. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

We’re all on the same team. We want God to be glorified, and people’s lives to be changed. Let yourself demean someone else, and you’re providing one heck of a foothold for the enemy.

5.  Despair

”I’ll never be as good as __________”

“Why do I even try?”

“What made me think I could do this?”

Four sources of Discontent

1. Unrealized or Unadmitted Expectations

When we start our journey as writers, we often don’t even realize the expectations that dwell within us. But as things don’t go our way, as awards go to other writers, as contracts don’t materialize, as sales fail, rejections pile up, or whatever, deep inside the grumbling starts.

“If I’d known it would be like this, I never would have tried.”

“What’s wrong with me or my writing?”

“Why don’t I have a book contract yet?” Notice how that statement reveals my expectation that I would get a contract? On my timeline? But when God gives us a task, He rarely tells us the outcome, we’re just supposed to be faithful.

“Why does this have to be so hard? If God wanted me to write, it wouldn’t be so hard!” Well, guess what? Under that statement is a giveaway of my expectation: that doing what God wants me to do is somehow easy. HA!

When you’re feeling discontent, you’ve got to dig deeper to figure out what’s going on. Do a check on your expectations and if they’re not in line with God’s Word, then realign them.

2. Thinking You’re Not Living up to Others’ Expectations

We’ve all heard it from someone—family, friends, even strangers who find out we’re writers: “Are you a best-seller?” “Would I know any of your books?” or that soul-crushing “When are you going to get a real job?”

3. Comparison to Other Writers’ Work or Careers

One of the most damaging things you can do to yourself on your writing journey is take your eyes off of God and plant them squarely on other writers. Looking at their success and making that a measurement of your own success.

4. Entitlement

Entitlement is thinking you “deserve” more. After all, we’re spending all this time and money and effort, we’re spilling our guts in our books, we’re doing everything God has asked, so where’s the return?

This can motivate us to go to extreme measures to achieve what we think we deserve. Folks, that’s striking it out on your own. That’s your own plan, not God’s.

Sometimes our extreme measures are even at the expense of others. You end up seeing other writers as a threat to your deserved success. Again, we’re all on the same team.

Scriptural Warnings Regarding the Foothold of Discontent

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

Our “race” is already marked out by God. What we do, how well we do, what becomes of our writing, that’s in His hands. Yes, we need to work toward excellence, but with the purpose of  bringing glory to Him, not to ourselves.

”Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6

Think about why this verse starts with: “Keep your lives free from the love of money…” Money is a nice thing to have, but we’re supposed to love God first, God most. God is our treasure. Money comes and goes. God stays with us always and forever. Nothing can separate us from Him or His great love for us. That’s our treasure.

We’re not just warned against discontent with God, but against discontent that focuses on or is aimed at others:

“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” James 5:9

Then there’s Psalm 78. The entire psalm is about God’s people, right on the heels of His provision and protection, grumbling against Him. Not because He didn’t care for them, but because He didn’t care for them in the way they thought He should. Because they didn’t get their way. Or they didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it.

Rather than focusing on God’s goodness and miraculous provision, they grew discontent, and allowed that to move them to slandering God.

If we’re honest, we have to admit that most of us have, at some time on our writing journey, been dogged by the demon of discontent.

“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11b-13

We’ve read those words many times. I’d venture to say we’ve read them so often we gloss over them. “Yeah, yeah, Paul was content no matter what.” In fact, it’s far more likely that we are saying, deep in our hearts, “We have learned, in whatever state we are, therewith to be discontent.” Because what we’re going through is so much harder or more or whatever than anything Paul faced.

But folks, think for a moment what, exactly, Paul endured. His path, if you will, to contentment involved being:

  • Whipped five times, each time receiving forty lashes
  • Beaten at least 3 times with rods
  • Stoned in Lystra and left for dead
  • Shipwrecked 3 times
  • Being beaten in Philippi and thrown in to prison
  • In, as he says in 2 Corinthians 11, “in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”

And us? What exactly are we discontent about? That our sales are low? That our manuscript got rejected?

Then there’s the fact that, right after Paul’s amazing conversion, the Jews plotted to kill him when he spoke in Jerusalem against the Hellenists. The Jews in Antioch persecuted Paul and banned him from their region.

So with all that in mind, let’s read Philippians again:

“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11b-13

Five Cures for Discontent

Trust

Trust that God has a plan for you and your writing. That He knows what’s best. That He has HIS purpose and timeline for you and your work, and whatever that is, it will be far more wonderful that what you want.

Focus

Keep your focus on God, not on what is or isn’t happening in your career. Remind yourself WHY you’re doing what you’re doing: obedience, to help others, to share your experience of God.

Acknowledgement

Acknowledge that God is God, that He is sovereign, that His wisdom is far beyond any wisdom you may have. That He will do what He will do. That we need to not just trust Him, but have a holy fear of Him, understanding that there are consequences when we allow ourselves to grumble against Him or rebel against His truths. Acknowledge with our mouth and with our behavior, that God has the right to do whatever He wants.

Surrender

Let go of your expectations. Lay them on His altar and leave them with Him. God will reward our obedience in His ways, in His timing, and because He loves us, not because we “deserve” anything.

Gratitude

Be grateful for what you have. Now. More than that, savor what God gives you, whatever it is. Keep your eyes and heart open every day to see the blessings He has for you. Know that everything that comes to you is by His hand, and thank Him for it. Be grateful that He’s asked you to write, whatever His purposes.

And, always, always, remember the unimaginable grace He’s given you. When we’re having trouble with feeling entitled, especially, it’s a sure sign we’ve forgotten the meaning of God’s grace to us.

Christ Gives us Strength to fight discontent

Remember, these five cures we’ve given you aren’t done in your own power. Go back to what Paul says in Philippians 4:13. Where does his strength come from? It’s Christ who gives us strength. Lean on Him to help you do these five things.

Bottom line, as you embrace these cures for discontent, understand one important truth: If you’re not content in your circumstances now, whatever they may be, you won’t be content in any circumstances. Thinking sales or success or accolades or money will give you a spirit of contentment just isn’t true. Because when you think these things, you are believing your source of contentment is in circumstance.

There’s only one source of true contentment—contentment that will withstand any of the trials and struggles and the enemy’s attempts to gain a foothold—and you know, in your heart of hearts, that that source is God.

So today, let’s embrace the wondrous truth of Proverbs 19:23:

“The fear of the LORD leads to life, So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”

We want to hear from you

Have you struggled with discontent? What helped you?

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Are you giving the enemy a foothold in your heart or spirit?

THANK YOU!

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

Special thank you to our Patreon sponsor of the month, Deanna Storfie, who says she’s been acting up as long as she can remember. In 2006 she started a ministry that dramatizes the stories of Christian heroes of our past to a whole new generation. Learn more at her website actingupdrama.ca.

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

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