Home >> Write from the Deep Podcast

192 – Why Story Matters with Guest Becca Wierwille

Spread the love

Why Stories Matter with Guest Becca Wierwille Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungGuest Becca Wierwille joins us in an exploration of the importance of story, not just for our readers, but for ourselves as writers. We all connect with stories in wonderfully different ways, but one special power they have is the ability to challenge us to delve into our world, and the people in it, unearthing empathy and new understandings of relationships and faith.

About Becca Wierwille

Becca Wierwille writes stories to show kids they are wonderfully created for the unique adventures in their lives. Born with only half of her right arm, she aims to help others find beauty in what makes them extraordinary. Her debut middle grade novel, Road Trip Rescue, is set to release this fall, with a prelaunch campaign on Kickstarter running from June 20 to July 6. Becca lives in Pennsylvania with her family, where she spends her days as a mom, novelist, and editor. You can visit her online at beccawierwille.com or follow her on social media @beccawierwille.

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

Karen: Hey, friends. Welcome to the deep today. And boy, have we got a show for you. Erin is going to introduce our guest.  

Erin: Yay, a guest! Our guest is Becca Wierwille, and we got to know her, ironically, through this very podcast. It’s been fun! Becca Wierwille writes stories to show kids they are wonderfully created for the unique adventures in their lives. Born with only half of her right arm, Becca aims to help others find beauty in what makes them extraordinary.

Dozens of her short stories for children and her devotions have been featured in magazines, anthologies, and other publications, including Primary Treasure, Guide, Cadet Quest, and Keys for Kids. She has previously worked as a kindergarten teacher and man, I gotta give her props for that! A newspaper reporter and a writing tutor, editor by day, and novelist by not-too-late at night she wishes she could eat peach pie as often as most writers drink coffee. Despite her dreams of sandy beaches and mountain peaks, she loves living in Pennsylvania with her family. 

I’m excited for her because she has a Kickstarter campaign starting on June 20 for her very first book, and you guys can check it out!

Welcome, Becca. 

Becca: Thank you. I’m so glad to be here. 

Erin: We are excited to have you, and you know we’re going to put you on the spot like we do everybody and ask you, what does the deep mean to you? 

Becca: I’ve been excited to answer this question. I’ve heard so many guests answer it in so many fantastic ways.

To me, I think the deep means looking deep inside of ourselves and being honest about our emotions, about our experiences, about who God has created us to be. Instead of taking the easy way out of life, the easy way just doing things without putting much intentionality into them and without being truthful about what God has intended our days to be like.

I think of writing from the deep as the same thing: writing with honesty, writing with vulnerability, looking deep into our hearts as we craft our stories instead of just focusing on shallow topics that just kind of scratch the surface. They might be easier to write about, they might take less emotion, but they don’t really go anywhere.

I think a lot about my first college English professor. She really challenged me. I had my first college essay, and I felt pretty confident because I’d always, in high school, been fine with essays. I felt like I was a pretty good writer. She pulled me aside after class one day and said, “Becca, you’re a great writer, but you wrote nothing here.”

Erin: Ouch!

Becca: It was great. It really, at first, it hurt a little…

Karen: Yeah. This is totally useless, but it’s brilliantly written. Totally useless. 

Becca: Yep. Pretty language, but nothing was there.

After that, I really did start pushing myself more to be like, “Okay. I need to make sure something’s actually coming out of this writing.”

I really am thankful to her for pushing me like that. 

Karen: I love teachers like that. 

Erin: Yeah, they’re the kind of teachers you need. My in-laws are visiting, well, my husband’s sisters, and one has been a teacher forever. She actually had a parent come, after she had to say some harsh truths to a student, she had a parent come and say, “Thank you for helping my child know that lying is not okay, that honesty is important.” 

I love what you said, Becca, about honesty because I think you’re right. We don’t want to always take an honest look at ourselves. There are things we want to maybe push aside, or we want to pretend aren’t there. And those are the very things that God wants us to dig into because he wants to do something with them. To me that’s a great thought about going deep, doing that honestly, and not sweeping things under the rug. 

Becca: Yeah, because it can be so much easier to just take the easy way out. Not talk about the hard things. Not write about the hard things. Not think about the hard things.

I have a writer friend who I so appreciate. Recently, she sent me an email and she said, “I love your story,” because she had read my story ahead of time for me. Then she said, “The only thing I noticed is you have one arm, your character has one arm, well, half an arm, and I look on your social media account and I can’t even tell. I had to look for a long time before I saw a picture of you with one arm.”

I realized I’d never been trying to hide that, I hadn’t done it intentionally, but somewhere along the way I think I’d gotten used to hiding my arm in photos. You know, if there’s someone else with me, I’d put my right arm around them. And so I said, “I thank you so much! I need to change that right away.”

I think I put a post up that day on Instagram. I was like, “I need to be honest about who I am and this is part of me and I don’t want to hide my arm in photos anymore. I need to be intentional about that.” 

Karen: We’re so good in the church, and women especially, we’re so good at managing our image. It’s like managing our profile.

We only let people see what we want them to see, the happy faces and the happy families. We don’t want to let anybody know that we’re depressed, or that our family is falling apart, or that we’re missing half an arm, or that we’re missing half of our faith. 

We want everybody to think that we are who we present to the world, and I don’t know who we think we’re kidding. It’s not like God is fooled. It’s not like God didn’t create us exactly the way we are with exactly our faults and our weaknesses so that he could refine us and strengthen us. 

Erin: Yeah. Well, I love the topic that we were going to talk about today, why the stories we write and their messages matter to readers and to the hearts of writers.

Let’s maybe talk about readers first. Why, Becca, do you think that the stories we write and their messages matter to the readers?

Becca: Goodness, this is such a big question because there are so many reasons. Stories can provide healing, they can provide points of connection and hope. They can give readers a chance to grow an empathy, and so many more things than that.

I always think of Jesus’ parables when I talk or think about stories and why they matter so much. I mean, Jesus was an amazing preacher. The sermon on the Mount is a great example of that. He could have used whatever strategies he wanted while he was preaching, and he often turned to stories.

I think of the story of the good Samaritan. How easy it is for us to recite that or repeat it a lot of times, or how often we might see it in a children’s book because it’s a story that you can grab on to. It sticks with you. Whereas if you’re looking at a whole passage from Leviticus, for example, it might be a little harder to memorize.

Karen: Oh no, no. Leviticus is so easy!

Becca: The easiest one of all! But I do think stories, they stick with us and then they provide whatever it is, that healing, the connection, the empathy, and in a way that lasts a bit longer than it might if you just heard some words somewhere. Or scrolled past a meme on social media or something like that.

Karen: It’s interesting. I remember when some of the books came out in the general market where they were from the point of view of the villains in the story. Wicked came out and it was from the point of view of the wicked witch of the West, or whichever the green-faced witch was. And I think about a story like the good Samaritan, and how we so often see ourselves in the role of the good Samaritan.

But I think that we should see ourselves in the role of the people who passed him by, and in the role of the man who was attacked and left for dead. We need to explore who we are in all of the context of Jesus’ parables, because we are not the good guys. We’re the broken humans. We have failings, and we will pass by people without even thinking about it if we’re uncomfortable.

It’s an excellent way, in story, to explore those other sides of these stories that we recite so easily and so carelessly, but that have hidden meaning for us if we’ll just dig in and look. 

Becca: Yeah, that’s such a great point. Developing that empathy from different perspectives, I think that’s particularly powerful when you do read a story, like you’re talking about, and you think you have nothing in common with a certain character, certain type of person. Maybe it’s a person from another culture that you’re not familiar with or someone who has a particular struggle that you wouldn’t consider yourself to have.

But when you start to read from their perspective, you think, “Oh, they’re really not so different from me after all.” 

Erin: I think it’s a good way to learn to listen, also. It’s a way to get a picture into what that looks like. We’re not very patient people, we’re not very good listeners at all. But as we read from someone else’s perspective, we can’t help but listen to them. 

Karen: Right. 

Erin: That gives us that ability to empathize, I think is what you were saying, and just go deeper with that person and understand them. If this world needs anything, it’s people who are willing to be curious about someone else and listen and not talk. There’s a proverb, I think it’s 18:2, that says that fools delight in airing their own opinions. They don’t want to listen. It feels like we should just stamp that on today’s culture. 

Karen: That could be the world’s proverb.  

Becca: Yeah. 

Erin: What other thoughts do you have on that, Becca? As far as why our stories matter for readers? 

Becca: Well, along those lines, I think being able to experience from a different perspective is also giving you an experience that you’d never have otherwise. Because even if you’re very open to talking with people who are different from you, and even if you’re a good listener, which like you said, probably not many of us really are, we’re being able to actually see things from a totally other perspective. Put ourself in someone else’s shoes. We’re getting to meet different people and also to visit different settings. To go on adventures that we’d never be able to otherwise.

There’s this aspect of joy that I think is part of storytelling, too. I mean, every story’s going to bring something different, but I think that’s a really big component. We’re getting beyond what we’d experience in our daily lives and being able to see into people’s hearts in new ways and being able to see different struggles, being able to experience new parts of the world. All these things that might not always be accessible to us. 

Erin: Yeah. 

Karen: You know, it’s fascinating. I think exactly what you’re talking about is why it’s so important to not try to clean up our history. We need to remember who we are as a nation, and who we are as a people, and where we came from. I know it seems like I keep going to the dark side, but I’ve been thinking about the dark side a lot lately.

I’ve been working on a manuscript with a serial killer, so I’m in the dark side. But in every villain there is something we can empathize with. No matter how terrible a person is, there is an aspect of them that echoes to an aspect in us. We may not want to think about that, but when we clean up history, when we clean up the race difficulties, when we clean up all of the mistakes that we have made as a world and as a nation, that creates a false perspective for those who are the new generations. 

They lose, like you said, the ability to empathize. But also the ability to recognize within themselves that they…well, there but for the grace of God, go I. I could be guilty of murder. I could be guilty of having slaves. I could be guilty of doing all of these things. Even though I don’t want to admit that I have that capacity within myself.

Erin: It’s so interesting, Karen, because you’re looking at this from your recent experiences as an editor, and I’ve just been looking at this in an opposite way. When Becca said joy I hit on that, because I’ve been working on someone’s manuscript that was talking about how important joy is in terms of our brain health, our body health. It’s like one of the hugest things that help our mind and body bounce back from stress. 

Our brains can be rewired if we will focus on joy. It literally is, as Philippians talks about, you know, thinking on all these good things, that’s really true. Our brains are literally wired that way. So I think that’s a part of going into stories as well, just for the sheer joy. 

I mean, I’m probably never going to skydive, because that’s just not me. But it’s interesting to read about it. I’m never going to be a pilot, but it’s interesting to read about it. I’m never going to do a lot of things, but it’s joyful to read about things where good stuff happens, eventually. You know, where good triumphs. These things do bring us joy and it truly is good for us and our mental health. 

Becca: It’s amazing how with stories we’re talking about two totally different things. Joy on one end, and then also seeing the darkness. And that’s a good thing because we tend to think, “Oh, I’m better than that,” or “I’d never do that…” Like you were saying, Karen. It’s so good to be able to see we’re broken, too. We have our struggles, too, and we’re not that far removed from that darkness.

It’s this joy and darkness all at once. It’s great at providing points of connection. We can connect with stories in all different kinds of ways that we might not anticipate at first. We might not anticipate being able to, well, I hesitate to say connect with a serial killer, but really to connect with in any way to think we would be able to see where they’re coming from. 

Karen: Right.

Becca: So to be able to experience points of connection that we’d never even expect is really important. I think part of the reason I write middle grade, stories, for ages eight to twelve, is that those are the stories I really connected with at that age. They stuck out to me and were a big part of my childhood. One of my favorite stories was Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo. 

Karen: Oh, yes!

Becca: I connected with Opal so well. She was lonely and she felt connected with her dog, and I connected with that feeling. The book helped me feel understood. There were also characters in that book that I’d never come across in real life.

One of the characters is an ex-convict, and there’s a lady who lives alone at her house, and there’s these twins that are really irritating to Opal, and all of these characters that I didn’t have in my life. But I loved being able to read about them in this story because then I was able to connect with types of people that I just hadn’t come across in my life. 

Erin: I love that because connection is in part, I mean that’s what God is all about. Relationship. We humans are created for relationship, and that happens through connection. It’s just cool to me that stories give us that ability.

So we did talk a little bit about how this matters as a reader, but what do you think in terms of writers? How do the stories and the messages matter to the hearts of writers? 

Becca: Whether we’re writing a fantasy novel with a completely made up world, or whether we’re writing a memoir or blog post with stories and experiences from our own lives, we’re giving ourselves a voice when we write stories and we share stories.

I think that process of creation can be really healing for our hearts, especially talking about the brokenness and the darkness we keep seeing around us in the world. We were created by God, who is the ultimate Storyteller, the ultimate Creator, and we live in such a world of consumption. We’re always watching the news and reading about what’s going on in the world and taking things in, movies and media and social media and everything.

I think in that culture of consumption, being able to create and to put things out is really healing. It teaches us about ourselves, too. We start to see ways that God has been working in our lives, even when we might not have noticed it before. 

Whether that’s by actually writing a real experience, or for me as I was writing my character Kimmy and realizing some of her character development reflected things that I’ve gone through in my past that I might not have ever considered before or put into words. I think that’s a really powerful process. 

Erin: I think that’s true. I think in the process, we need to understand first the message to ourselves. What is the message that God is telling us through our own experience? I think you’re absolutely right. Sometimes it’s just in the process of writing that that we realize, “Oh, hello. That’s why this, and that’s why that…” 

Without that writing and without struggling through that, wrestling through that, we might not ever get those lessons. 

Karen: Sometimes for writers, when they’re writing, it’s more of a catharsis. It’s that they are sorting through what’s going on inside them and their own life experiences. Oftentimes the first thing that they put down on paper and their first draft of a manuscript, if they set it aside and then come back to it, they can see, number one, what God has brought them to. But number two, that maybe they need to take a step back from the emotions of it. 

I’ve read a number of manuscripts that you could tell that the writers were still angry about the things that had happened to them. That they were still bitter about what people had done to them. They were writing the story more to stick it to those who had mistreated them than to give any insights or understanding to readers or even to themselves. 

I encourage them to go back, and I say, “This is something you’ve got to work through before you can write about it because you need to understand what God is doing in this rather than just putting your anger on the page.”

The writing process is just that. It’s a process. We come from our own places where we’re dealing with these things, and there has to be conflict, there has to be tension in a book. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, there has to be something that keeps people turning the page. But you also need to understand how to bring that ultimately to resolution. Or to a creative resolution that may not have all the questions answered, but may point to understanding better. 

Erin: Becca, what do you think in terms of this book—we mentioned that you have a Kickstarter coming out for this first book that you’re writing—how would you say the message in that book came out of your experience? Or how did that matter to your heart, the message you’re putting in this book? 

Becca: This book, called Road Trip Rescue, is written for kids ages eight to twelve-ish, and it’s about this girl named Kimmy. She’s twelve years old, and she was born like me, missing half of her right arm. 

The story opens where she’s flipping through a magazine and sees this photo of a dog that is her dog she lost two years ago. So she’s just determined to find this dog. Of course, she’s a couple years out from being able to have her own driver’s license, and her parents are oddly unsupportive, but she recruits her unpredictable aunt to take her on a road trip, and adventure ensues.

But I think the story for me started with this road trip, which was interesting. I’ve never been on a road trip to find a long lost dog, and I don’t have a pink-haired aunt like she does. But as I continued to write, I saw the themes in the story were really connected with my own story. 

Kimmy is lonely, and the reason this dog matters to her so much isn’t what you think. Well, she loves her dog, of course, but it’s this deeper loneliness and feeling like her dog was her only friend at some times. That her dog was more trustworthy than some of the people in her life. 

Karen: Which is probably true. 

Becca: Yeah, probably. Dogs are wonderful. 

Karen: Yes they are. 

Becca: Kimmy has these kids making these unkind comments, and I think that’s something I connected a lot with. I know what it’s like to have kids make maybe thoughtless comments that aren’t meant to be malicious or maybe ones that are meant to be malicious.

I know what it’s like to walk into a room and feel like everyone’s staring. You might have kids kind of looking over and their parents kind of nudging ’em away real quick, so you don’t think that they’re staring. But you already know they’re staring. Kimmy and I relate to those things.

It’s still funny for me that she’s not a real person. I talk about her like she is. So even though I don’t share this experience of going on a road trip after a long lost dog, I can connect with a loss that she experiences. I can connect with her feelings of loneliness. 

As I was writing her story, and as her character arc came to completion, God really worked in my heart. I pray that he would touch the hearts of readers in that same way, those who experience those feelings of loss and loneliness. 

But for me in particular, I came to see how he worked in my life. It’s interesting because since Kimmy is twelve and I’m past that now, I think back to my story then, and it’s almost healing from my past. Things that I never really knew bothered me, or things that I really didn’t think had stuck with me, had stuck with me more than I realized.

In that way I think it was healing. It was insightful. It taught me about myself, and it taught me about things that God did in my life that at the time I might not have even recognized. That was pretty cool to see. 

Erin: Yeah. 

Karen: Well, this has been a delightful time together talking about story. We’re always happy to talk about story again, whatever context it’s in, because as you said, I think you’re absolutely right, Becca, that Jesus was an amazing storyteller, and he knew how to share universal emotions in a story and draw people to their best conclusion for themselves in their relationship with God. 

I pray that that’s what we do as we write the books. I’ll be praying over you and the book that you’re writing and over your Kickstarter campaign. Guys, be sure to check out that Kickstarter campaign and support her.

We’re just so grateful that you’ve been here with us and that we can take time out of our days, good, bad, or indifferent, and say, “Yes. God has brought us to this place for a reason. He wants to work in us. He wants to work in those who read our stories, and we are blessed because of it.” 

Erin: We are! Thank you, Becca.

Becca: Thank you so much. 

Your stories matter in more ways than you know! Guest @beccawierwille shares why. #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

What has God taught you about yourself through the writing of your stories?

THANK YOU!

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

Thanks so much to our June sponsor of the month, Wendy L. Macdonald. She’s a writer, poet, podcaster, photographer, and nature lover, and she’s offering a free gift we can all use: 10 Good Habits to Help You Become a Great Listener!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!

STAY CONNECTED

Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.

191 – Christian Writers As Hope Bringers

Spread the love

Christian Writers As Hope Bringers Write from the Deep Podcast Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungVoice. Clarity. Dialogue. Character development. Hook. All of these, and so much more, are important for a strong book. But they’re not the most important. Not for a book written from a Christian worldview. So what is the most important element? Hope! Listen in to find out why your job as a writer is critical in this world.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

As writers, you’ve probably learned that there are many important elements in a good manuscript. Things like plot, character, conflict, a great hook, voice, authenticity, anecdotes, dialogue, arc, and so much more. But for a manuscript written from a Christian worldview, which element is the most important one? Is there one most important element?

Yes. There is, but it’s none of those mentioned. If you’re writing from a Christian perspective, the most important thing you have to bring to the world is hope. Why? Hope is the foundation of everything we believe as Christians, and everything we have to offer to the world.

What is hope?

What even is hope? How do we define it?

  • Poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.”

That feels good. It evokes a positive sensation. When readers finish a manuscript written from a Christian worldview, there should be a positive sensation. Even in the midst of something sorrowful.

But this definition is non-specific. We can’t try to foster something non-specific in a manuscript, right? Other than a positive sensation. 

  • Psychiatrist Neel Burton in an article in Psychology today defines hope like this: “…Hope is a desire for something combined with an anticipation of it happening. It is, in other words, the anticipation of something desired.”

If someone desires something, that implies that they don’t have everything they want right now, or that everything isn’t exactly perfect. That’s the world we live in.

  • Counseling Psychologist Kim Bailey said in an interview with Erin that hope, on a more personal-improvement level, is the belief that, “I can gain ground this side of heaven.”

And we need to gain ground, don’t we? We don’t want to live our lives stuck in the same place.

But perhaps one of simplest ways for us as writers to think about hope is how a sociologist put it—a sociologist who happens to be Erin’s husband.

  • Hope is: “How the future can be better than today.”  Sociologist Alan Young

That evokes that positive sensation, but it’s a bit more specific in how. This is the kind of hope We’re talking about—how the future can be better than today.

Hope portrayed in fiction

How many of you listeners write fiction? What kind of fiction are readers interested in? The kind where the characters all have a great life with no pain, trials, or struggles?

No. Happy people in Happy Land is not interesting. Or real. Readers want to see characters struggle. And toil. And fight against all odds…and overcome!

Why? Readers experience that with the characters, the struggle the danger, the disasters, and then the victory. Readers live it vicariously.

What does it become inside that reader?

Hope. The future can be better than today.

Hope portrayed in nonfiction

How many of you listeners write nonfiction? You’re not writing memoirs that end in a place of despair and discouragement. That’s a therapeutic journal, and that’s good to do, but it’s not something you want to publish.

You write the book for readers when you find the key to overcoming the discouragement, when you’ve gained wisdom to share.

And you’re not writing prescriptive books that are like, “Yeah, I know the place you find yourself in stinks. Sorry, I don’t know how to fix that.”

That’s not prescriptive. Those are not the type of books hurting people are looking for.

You’re not writing how-to articles to keep people in ignorance. You’re not writing poetry to make people feel awful inside and never point the way out of that? No, even if we start by saying hard things, we want people to think and grow and change, and move toward some positive outcome. 

We want readers to expand their minds and look at possibilities and be inspired that the future can be better than today.

As Christians, hope infuses us. In Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, he wrote this in the introduction to 1 & 2 Thessalonians:

“The Christian faith has always been characterized by a strong and focused sense of future, with belief in the second coming of Jesus as the most distinctive feature…The practical effect of this belief is to charge each moment of the present with hope.” 

This is who we are and what we do. We’re Christian writers and we have an unswerving belief that the future will be better than today.

We portray this message over and over and over again in our novels, our memoirs, our how-to articles, our devotionals. We want people to grow and learn and move forward.

The big picture of hope

If a book is going to reflect a Christian worldview, it has to reflect the hope of God’s overall plan of redemption for humanity and all creation. Look at the big picture to see how hope is the underlying foundation. In the beginning, God created the universe and everything in it according to his perfectly ordered design. Everyone was in a right relationship with God and each other.

Then we sinned and broke everything. God told Adam, “…Cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” Genesis 3:17

In God’s perfect time, Christ comes and changes everything. His life on this earth, his death on the cross, and his resurrection create reconciliation for us. This is where we live, reconciled, yet not having obtained the future perfection waiting for us in heaven.

For now, we’re still here dealing with the consequences of the fall. But we know God’s redemption plan is moving toward its ultimate fulfillment of the new heavens and new earth, where original perfection is restored.

That’s the hope. But we’re not there yet. We’re dealing with painful toil.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Why? We persevere because of our hope. It’s not because we’re amazing and mighty people, but because we’re weak and dependent on the God who is Lord of all.

We persevere because God’s commitment to US is unwavering. He’s lifting us. He’s sustaining us. He’s giving us the life and breath to carry on.

He sees the grand design, the big picture. And he sees each individual component—every person, every tear, every heart break, every crushing wound.

And God does not waver in his commitment to us. He will not fail to sustain us. That is our hope.

And this is the message he gives us for the world: “The future can be better than today.”

Because we have a God who will make it so, who IS making it so.

With every word we write, we forge hope, because hope is at the core of everything we believe.

A world without hope

Do you know what happens when someone has no hope? Pastor and author Ray Johnston puts it like this. He writes:

“When people lose hope, they lose their ability to dream for the future. Despair replaces joy. Fear replaces faith. Anxiety replaces prayer. Insecurity replaces confidence. Tomorrow’s dreams are replaced by nightmares. It’s a lousy way to live.”

How many people are living like that right now?

Psychiatrist Neel Burton writes “…hopelessness is both a cause and a symptom of depression, and, within the context of depression, a strong predictor of suicide.”

Do you see what an important role you have? You’re hope-bringers. You’re truth-tellers.

Why is this truth, this hope that we as Christians have important? Because false hope is rampant in this world.

Scientology, Buddhism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Islam, just to name a few. The Bible tells us these are false hopes that lead to hell.

Then just watch TV for ten minutes. You’ll find “hope” for sale. Beer. Toothpaste. Perfume. Pretty cars. Deodorant. Dating apps. Diamonds. They all promise a lifestyle of satisfied desires. Remember that hope can be the anticipation of something desired? But that’s ultimately false hope. It’s empty.

Why? Because none of those things can deliver what God has designed for him and him alone to be, to deliver, and to satisfy. Psalm 65:5 tells us that God is “the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.”

God. Not shiny trinkets.

We’re not saying toothpaste and deodorant is bad, by the way. Please continue to use it. But that’s not going to take away the pain of a lost child, or heal the deep wound of rape or betrayal or abuse.

It won’t help anyone break the spiral of addiction or debt. It’s not going to inspire anyone to take a stand against human trafficking, oppression, or injustice, or any of the other great evils in this world. Take your pick, there are plenty to choose from.

False hope is rampant, so we as Christian writers cannot keep silent.

You guys, through your authentic words on the page, through your stories, Bible studies, articles, biographies, essays, poems, songs, and moreall those things that God puts in you are part of God’s master plan for you, for the body of Christ, AND for the whole world.

You have a purpose and a job. You’re heralds of hope. True hope.

You don’t have to have some character in your novel spelling out the four spiritual laws. You don’t have to have them preach. You don’t have to somehow turn your homeschooling article into a Bible study.

But you do have to understand what your bottom-line perspective is. Think of it as the overarching theme of your collective body of work. I love how author and editor Susan Bell defines theme. She says, “It’s an idea written in invisible ink on the back of your text.”

Hope is what’s written on our lives as Christians. Hope is what’s written across the pages of our manuscripts.

Hope is what you’re getting up at 5AM to write, or staying up late after the kids are in bed, or what you’re dictating during your coffee break, or on your exercise bike, or what you’re wrestling with on your commute.

And we do mean wrestling. We all know—or will find out soon enough—that this is not an easy job. It’s hard.

Learning the craft is hard. Facing rejection is hard. Being vulnerable on the page is hard. Dealing with disappointments and detours on your writing journey is hard.

Sometimes it’s so hard we’re in danger of losing hope ourselves. That’s when we go back to God and his unwavering commitment to us. To equip us for his purposes. To sustain us and carry us.

Remember the parallel storylines of redemption amidst the fall. We have hope. But we’ve got to preach the message to ourselves first and foremost. Then do not fear to walk through deep valleys with God. Don’t run when things get hard. Don’t try to hide, because your struggles refine you.

They prepare you. They give you purpose and understanding. God does all that through your trials.

You can acknowledge struggles and give them voice. You write about pain. You expose lies and write truth. Your insights help you both HAVE hope and SHOW hope through the characters in your novels overcoming. Through your how-to articles. Through your personal experience stories. Whatever you write.

But also through whatever you sayWhatever you doWhoever you are.

Please understand that it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing for thousands or just for you and God. In your work, God works in you, and it is good. Your labor is never in vain.

Your writing turns you into a person who radiates hope. True hope for a world bombarded with false hope. A world that needs you doing what you’ve been gifted to do, being what you’ve been gifted to be.

Hope bringers. Truth tellers. Heralds.

We’ve probably all seen, heard, or read this verse before, but look at it again in the light of knowing that you are a hope bringer. God says to you:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Share that hope with your readers. Live that hope with everyone you know.

The future can—and will—be better than today.

The most important element in your writing isn’t what you think it is. #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Does being a hope bringer inspire hope in you?

THANK YOU!

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

Thanks so much to our June sponsor of the month, Wendy L. Macdonald. She’s a writer, poet, podcaster, photographer, and nature lover, and she’s offering a free gift we can all use: 10 Good Habits to Help You Become a Great Listener!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!

STAY CONNECTED

Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.

190 – The Writer’s Psalm, Part 2

Spread the love

The Writer's Psalm Part 2 Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

As we discussed in part one of the Writer’s Psalm, emotions are a natural, God-given part of life. But they also can lead us astray if we’re not careful. Especially when things on our writing journey don’t go the way we’d hoped or planned. So what do you do when you feel God has abandoned you? Come explore the rest of Psalm 42 to find out.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

In episode 189, part one on Psalm 42, which we’ve dubbed the writer’s psalm, we ended with the truth that emotions have a way of ebbing and flowing. How often have you felt down one day, thinking it’s time to hang up your keyboard, and the next you wonder why on earth you were so despondent?

No, it doesn’t mean you’re bipolar. It simply means you’re experiencing the normal emotional ebb and flow of being a writer. And just when we think we’ve dealt with those emotions, something else happens. As it did with David.  

“My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration!” Psalm 42:4

There’s another of Satan’s tactics: encouraging us to focus on the rearview mirror. If you’ve been in publishing for a while, and especially if you experienced some success—success that seems far too long ago—the enemy loves to come whisper in your ear about how it used to be: 

“Remember how things were when you first started? How exciting it all was. How the newness of writing and being published had you waking to each day with anticipation? Even joy? How you felt so fulfilled? Well…all that’s gone now. So what was the point? You’ve wasted time and money that should have been used better…” 

This tactic is so very effective, isn’t it? Especially with the changes happening in publishing over the last several years. It often seems so much harder now. And many of us have lost contracts, or can’t seem to find someone who wants to give us a new contract. Or maybe we decide to go indie, but that, we discover, has its own big pile of difficulties. Why can’t it be like it was?

Oh, friends, remember how we’ve warned you against comparing yourself to others? Well, comparing where you are now to where you used to be, letting that comparison stir up a sense of defeat and discouragement, longing for what was doesn’t help with what is. Not. Ever. 

If you’re tempted to do that, go instead with the next several verses of Psalm 42 and say with David: 

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:5 

Acknowledging who God is in the here and now is a powerful weapon against Satan’s lies. So please, every day, every time you feel the enemy tickling your ears and spirit, ask yourself one question. Because the answer will send the enemy and his forces scrambling away: 

Who is God to me?

Is he Elohim, the One and only true God? The Master Creator? No one is more trustworthy. No one else is Sovereign. There is no other God but him. 

Is he Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord my Shepherd? The One who watches over me, guarding me from all enemies? The one who fights to save me from predators like Satan? Whose staff will always guide and protect me?

Is he Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord my provider? The One who meets all my needs, no matter what they are? The One who has never let his own go hungry or be lost? The One who provided us with a way to escape sin and death?

Is he Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord my healer? God told Moses right out, “I am the Lord who heals you.” He will heal you on every front in his time, in his way. He will heal you of being downcast. Just keep your eyes and heart on him. 

Is he Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord my Banner? He is the Visible God who is seen in our lives. He is the sign to all, especially Satan, that we belong to him. As our banner, God lets everyone know HE is with us, our protection and shield, and they will try to do us harm at their own spiritual and eternal peril. Remember Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon formed against you shall succeed.”

Is he Jehovah-M’Kaddesh, the Lord my sanctifier? He makes me holy. I don’t do that. I can’t do that. But Jehovah-M’Kaddesh has already done it! He has given us his Holy Spirit for that very reason. How do you disperse being downcast? Come before him and ask for more holiness. Ask for the strength to see past what seems to be until your vision matches his for what is, and what will be in him!

Is he Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord my peace? Strong’s Concordance tells us that shalom means completeness, soundness, welfare. When the Lord is our peace, we are complete. We are sound in him, not to be shaken. Our welfare is in HIS hands. What better place could it be?

Is he Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord Who Is Righteous? It’s frightening for many to even think of being attacked by Satan and his followers. But friends, there is no reason for fear! Not when we’re covered in the Lord’s holy righteousness. Not when Jehovah-Tsidkenu holds us in his righteous hands and his holiness is an impenetrable barrier between us and the ruler of this world. A ruler who is already defeated by God’s righteousness. 

Is he Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord who is there? Oh, how I love this one! My Lord is here. With me. Whether I feel it or not, whether my emotions recognize it or not, The God of the Universe is with me! He is near to you even now. He is ever present. You are never alone, friends. Never. 

Let’s pick up with Psalm 42 again, finishing verse 6:

“Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.” Psalm 42:6

Here is such good news! Being downcast is temporary! When David says, “Now I am deeply discouraged,” he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say, “but I will remember you!”

Being downcast is a feeling, an emotion. And feelings or emotions change. They may last for a few hours or days, or even for a season. It’s only a matter of time until it passes. 

Keep in mind that emotions, even unwanted ones like being downcast, have significance and purpose. Otherwise why would God have given them to us? Having an underlying sense of sadness, of being downcast, can be a trigger for you to realize that something’s not quite right. It helps to explore the root of those emotions. When we understand what we’re feeling and why, we can take steps to feel better. 

For example, a few weeks ago I was moping around the house. Don, my hubby, asked me what was wrong. I looked at him and said, “I’m depressed.”

Now, I wasn’t talking about true depression. What I meant was I was feeling down. Like something just wasn’t quite right. We talked about it and I realized we’ve had far too many gray, rainy days lately.

Don and I have always turned off the lights if we’re not in a room. Why pay for electricity that isn’t needed? But I realized I was missing sunshine and light! So we agreed that when the days are gray, we’ll keep more lights on and pull the window blinds up to let in as much light as possible. Within a few days, I was back to being cheerful, laughing at the antics of the birds and squirrels in my yard, and savoring God’s goodness. 

Not all causes of being downcast are easy to discern. But ask God to open your eyes to why you’re feeling as you are. Sometimes, you can make changes to lift the gloom. Other times, you need to wait on God to release you from these emotions. Whatever the case, it is temporary! Sometimes it lasts for days. Sometimes it lasts for a season. But, it will pass. 

Don and I recently visited Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. On the ferry ride to the island, I was struck by the varying currents, swirls, and white caps on the surface of the waters of the Puget Sound. I couldn’t help but wonder what was beneath the waters that caused these different actions, some within feet of each other. Was there some obstacle down there? Or was it caused by some fish or whales or orcas? Or could it just be a difference in water temperature?

But here’s what I loved: Whatever the underlying cause, the ferry just kept gliding along the surface, not the least bit bothered by the various whirlpools, white caps, or whatever. That vessel was built to ride the surface and keep moving forward. 

Just remember times of being downcast are often based on how things seem to be. Or even worse, wondering what’s happening until you grow afraid that maybe…just maybe…God has left you on your own. But the reality is that while we may not know where God is leading us, or why, what we do know, without a doubt, is that he IS leading us. And these downcast feelings will pass in the light of his truth. 

David starts to understand that with the next verses…

“I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.” Psalm 42:7-8

In this moment, David’s soul isn’t downcast! It’s focused on God, on praising and worshiping Him. When you struggle, take hold of two of the most powerful tools in your arsenal: praise and worship. 

We’ve talked about praise and worship in other podcasts, but let’s review a few things here:

God is the only One worthy of true praise. And the praise we give God isn’t like praising someone for doing a good job. It’s not based on what we think of God. It’s based on WHO God is. 

Webster’s defines praise as a number of things—commending excellence, expressing approval, honoring others—but the praise due to God is different. In fact, that praise gets this definition from Webster’s: “The act of glorifying …God.” 

Here are a few of the definitions of glorify:

to make glorious : surround with glory : secure honor, praise, or admiration for 

to exalt to a state of glory  

to throw a resplendent light upon : make splendid with light. 

Resplendent. I love that word. It means lustrous. Shining with brilliant light. Imagine entering a darkened room, then someone turns on a number of large, sparkling chandeliers. I’ve seen that, and the glorious beauty of it is almost a shock. It takes your breath away, and then fills you with delight. 

Now think: How much more resplendent is God? How much more glorious? How much more worthy than any thing or any one of our praise and worship?

When you find yourself slipping into being downcast, jump instead into praise and worship just like these verses say:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians1:3-4

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15 NIV

Then there’s this blockbuster in Isaiah 25: 

“LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago… You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert. You silence the uproar of foreigners (and critical readers and reviewers and naysayers!) as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled.” Isaiah 25:1,4-5

Do you hear that? “The song of the ruthless.” We like to think the enemy’s voice will be easily recognized because it’s full of evil, but remember, Satan is the deceiver. He will seem to sing to you, to woo you with a refrain of all you deserve but aren’t getting. The ruthless one will sing condemnation with the voice of an angel and the words of trickery. Don’t be fooled!

Isaiah 25 goes on:

“On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’” Isaiah 25:6-9

Remember that old saying, “God said and I believe it!” God has said you are precious to him. Believe it! God has said he will never leave you or forsake you. Believe it! God has said he loves us so much he sent his beloved Son to die for us, to restore us to himself. Believe it.

Friends, if God has said you are a writer, then God has spoken. Believe it!!

But David’s downcast state isn’t over yet, because right on the heels of Psalm 42:7-8 comes verses 9-10:

“’O God my rock,’ I cry, ‘why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?’ Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, ‘Where is this God of yours?’”

See? Same old tactics. Mockery. Unrealized expectations. Taunting.

How often have you heard people say things like:

“If God is real, why is the world in such a mess?”

“Why are so many people starving and suffering?”

“Where is this God of yours when nations attack nations, slaughtering innocents.”

“If God is so great and so loving, why did the person I love die an agonizing death?” 

“If God cares about me, why do I have cancer?”

Let’s face it, there are a lot of reasons to doubt God exists. Lots of reasons for people to mock us and our faith. Lots of reasons to doubt God and us. 

The enemy takes advantage of the most punishing reasons to derail us from doing whatever task God has given us. Good night! Satan doesn’t want us doing God’s work! He doesn’t want us ignoring him and just trusting God. 

Satan is so determined to get us downcast that he uses those around us, even those who know us best, to mock and taunt and undermine us in doing the work God has given us. Because when we fall prey to all that, when we become downcast, we can’t see what God’s doing. 

Or maybe it’s more that we aren’t looking for what God is doing. All the hard, negative things are so much more obvious. But God? So often he works in the background. Even in silence. Which seems so counter-intuitive to us. With all his power, all his glory, why isn’t everyone aware of what he’s doing?

Remember when Moses went up on the mountain to meet with God? How did God speak to him? In a still small voice. You see, that’s the thing with true power. It doesn’t have to blare its existence. It just is. God’s power is there, and it’s working for the good of all his children. For you. 

As we come to the end of Psalm 42, it seems David has learned that as soon as he heads back into being downcast, here comes the solution: truth!

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! My Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11 

Say those words out loud! My Savior and my God.

Our hope is in him. Our joy and fulfillment and peace and wonder…everything we need and could ever want is all in HIM. 

Psalm 146 is the the perfect response, to that truth: 

“Praise the Lord! Let all that I am praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath. Don’t put your confidence in powerful people (publishers, editors, reviewers, sales teams, marketers, producers…none of them deserve your confidence. ONLY God does); there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly…The Lord will reign forever. He will be your God…throughout the generations. Praise the Lord!”

Feeling down? Let the Writer’s Psalm lift your spirits! #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

In what ways does David’s psalm inspire you as a writer?

THANK YOU!

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

A huge thank you to our May sponsor of the month, Priscilla Sharrow! She’s working on her memoir called Bonked! Life, Love, and Laughter with Traumatic Brain Injury, which will release with Redemption Press. Learn more about Priscilla at her website priscillasharrow.com and follow her blog for the TBI/PTSD community.

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!

STAY CONNECTED

Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.