by Michele Morin
As a true fan of certainty, I am filled with longing whenever I read Old Testament stories in which God shows up in unmistakable clarity. He speaks from a bush on fire, gives audible instructions for travel, and issues a rebuke from between the squared-off teeth of a donkey. Even when Samuel, young and inexperienced, failed to recognize God’s voice by its tone and timbre, Eli was snoozing nearby to set him straight.
In the Old Testament, a person’s calling was crystal clear. Elderly prophets showed up, oil was spilled, and momentous words were spoken over the head of the called one. By comparison, 21st-century followers of God seem to have been left to our own devices. Stumbling into a writing and speaking ministry in midlife, my own experience has been to recognize my vocation in the rear view mirror, as it began to dawn on me that almost every job I’ve ever held has morphed eventually into a writing gig.
There’s a certain audacity in saying, “God has called me to write”—particularly in seasons in which it is not readily apparent that God has called a corresponding population to be readers of the words I’m writing! I’m not alone in thinking this: Author and editor, Andrew LePeau wrote books and articles for 25 years before ever thinking much about any calling or vocation that might be driving his successful career. In fact, until his daughter quizzed him one day about his thoughts on God’s calling, he realized he had never before put words around his decades of faithfully following the abilities and interests God had given him.
Write Better, published by InterVarsity Press in 2019, is one expression of LePeau’s vocation to “glorify God with words, whether written or spoken,” along with his personal invitation to examine the writing life as a craft, as an art, and as a spiritual practice. With a balance of humor and sagacity, he takes on topics from the importance of thorough and careful attribution to writer’s block and the role of the outline outside Miss Whitebread’s fifth grade classroom. However, for my money, his greatest gift to readers and writers is his examination of what he has called “the spirituality of writing.” (169)
That Might Be a Call
It was a great relief to me to be reminded that there is no secret sauce to finding out if writing is my calling. If you wonder, says LePeau, then “Write. Then write some more. Then write a lot more. Try fiction. Try nonfiction. Experiment with different styles. Get suggestions for improvement from qualified people. Revise. See how you like it. See how others like it. And if those things check out, keep going. That might be a call. And if not, no problem. Just keep listening, and maybe keep writing anyway.” (178)
Since we’re all in agreement that burning bushes and talking equines are in rare supply, it was a great gift to discover the five rubrics that have guided Andrew LePeau’s sense of God’s leading and direction:
- Keep your eyes open to what God is already doing. (172)
The guiding question is, “What themes, people, events, ideas keep coming up in your life?” (173) If God is going to use your writing gift, it is likely to be within the context of an existing passion.
- Pay attention to what gives you joy and energy. (173)
LePeau was hand-stitching book bindings in elementary school and self-published a joke book in high school, so his career in publishing certainly makes sense. He poses the question to his readers: What gives you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment? When you have answered this question, you may be well on your way to identifying your calling.
- Listen to others. (174)
If knowledgeable friends affirm you in a particular area, if they encourage you to continue, this is a sign that God may be at work, leading you to invest your life here.
- Don’t ignore dreams. (175)
This piece of advice comes as a surprise, and yet without assigning to them the weight of revelation, LePeau urges believers to be open to the creative input that comes to us as we are asleep
- Follow Jesus. (176)
If we are not faithfully fulfilling what we already know of God’s revealed will from His Word, it is unlikely that we will recognize his voice when it does come to us.
Whether or not you are called to be a writer, if you are a follower of Christ, you are called to pay attention. Be alert to all that God is doing around you, and write what you see. Then, if God entrusts to you a message and a following, you will be ready to step into the calling God has envisioned for you.
“Writing is hard work,” LePeau cautions. “Writing well is even harder.” If, however, you find that you cannot not write, if you find satisfaction in the process of prying up commas and nailing them down in other places, and if you are willing to refine your craft and to steward the message God has given you with humility, grace, and gratitude (whether anyone else ever reads it or not), you just might be called to be a writer.
Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who does life with her family on a country hill in Maine. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, and three adorable grandchildren. Michele is active in educational ministries with her local church and delights in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. Connect by following her blog at Living Our Days, or via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
For absolute sure, you’re a gifted writer, Michele.
Let there never be a shade of doubt that drifts across your mind …
You are such a sweet encouragement!
Calling has always been a sticky thing for me…
I really profited from reading Le Peau’s insights.
Very interesting book and review. As I read it I was thinking of my own journey. Years ago when our children were small I wrote for a newspaper as “stringer,” writing news items for my part of the county and being assigned a variety of features. I loved it as I had always done well with any writing assignments in school and various positions.
Going to a Writer’s Boot Camp by Margaret Feinberg 6 months after retirement in 2015 was something I thought would be fun. My shock came when I received an assignment to start a website and do several blog posts prior to attending. Yikes! A techie friend helped get the website up and running and I swallowed long and started.
Increasingly I have found “my voice” as a writer. What tells me I am called is what I sense from the Lord about doing it and his direction in what topics I choose. I don’t spend hours and hours thinking about what I will write. He has either given me a direction or I wait. My goal is to provide encouragement, hope, and grace and to let my words speak life to others. Only He can determine if I am on target and I rest in his grace and goodness to me. I try not to be like any other writer, but sense keenly those who write because they choose to do so and those who write because He chose them. Their words, stories, posts, articles, etc. are different.
Wow, that’s an important distinction, Pam.
And I know many have been blessed by your foray into authoring a book in conjunction with your friend and to put her ministry “out there.”
It’s so good of God to put us to work for Him.
This woman inspires me. I am a writer. “My heart overflows with a good theme…my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” Psalm 45.1
What a great verse, Susan! I want to be ready, too!
I thought that I was called to write;
in prose and poem you’d hear God’s song,
but in the bleak midwinter light,
I realize that I was wrong.
There are no insights on my pages,
but thoughts of others, patched within
my highbrow pretense-writing cages,
their imprisonment my mortal sin.
It may be time to call a halt
to this bootless exercise
before accumulated fault
makes me one whom God denies.
Let thoughts and words now fade away
to rise again no other day.
Well, Andrew, those rhymes tell a different story.
And I know your story is and has been a blessing to so many.
Michelle, your humor in this piece is so good. Love the “squared-off teeth of a donkey” part. That got me laughing. Although when we were young my dad had the bible translation that called the donkey an ass. Which always had us children laughing, albeit , quietly. Especially as we were not supposed to say words like that. Unless we were reading the bible aloud! oh I digress. This sounds like a lovely book and one I would enjoy. I know I am a writer because I think in stories, edit and rewrite dreams, it brings me great joy, and because I just can’t stop writing (even when I am not writing). Although I would have appreciated a burning bush telling me so, instead of having to slowly come to that idea. Maybe the most obvious reason is because I enjoy “prying up commas and nailing them down in other places.”
Let’s say it, Theresa! Loud and proud!
And this was a truly lovely book–one that I was sort of intimidated to review, but when I saw the theme this month here at TPG, I knew I had to stick my neck out and try to capture the book’s essence so I could share it with others.
I can so empathize with your love and desire for certainty! I’ve often wished God communicated specifics via skywriting. My Daily Light reading for the 1st was all about God’s guidance. One of my favorite passages concerning guidance comes from Abraham’s servant searching for Isaac’s bride: “I being in the way, the Lord led me.”
I’ve always written because I love to, because that’s how I process things, because that’s how I best express myself (in spoken conversations, I think of things I should have said three days later.) But then when I’ve wondered if that’s a calling, it seems so complicated. But it shouldn’t be- it should be evident that’s the way God made me. But having writing as a calling may or may not mean being published: for years it was just writing letters to my grandmother, then my mother-in-law. I’m still seeking Him for the how and when of it all now.
Yes, sky writing! That’s what I want too!
And I was just talking to a bunch of 4th graders yesterday about identifying the thing you can’t NOT do. For me (and it sounds like for you, too) that thing is writing.
God has spoken to me often, which initially came out as poetry. Then the poetry manifested itself in singing songs out of the blue, words just spilling forth in a beautiful melody of love to my Lord, which I began writing such as David did with Psalm. I cherish these times tremendously.
Now, in the past year, it seems He has lead me to a different form of expression, and as such, I have begun putting brush to canvas, although I have drawn since I was a teenager. This has thrilled my soul to no end, and had since given me a deeper, more intimate experience in my ‘Secret Place’ with Him.
I said all of that to ask this, how does one write such as you do, I guess through blogging🤷♀️ Without over punctuating their work or making the mistake of not breaking up their thoughts/paragraphs appropriately…?
The creative process is breath to the bones, Gena!
I love hearing about your expressions of love.
And as for your question, I would say to just keep writing.
Make mistakes and then correct them.
Go back and read your old work and identify areas for improvement. As Le Peau said, “It’s hard work.”
But I believe it is worth it.
I’m glad you’ve answered the call to write, Michele. Your words are a blessing! I read this book a few months ago and found it really helpful too.
That’s great, Lesley! I think it’s especially encouraging for those of us who write in the small spaces between other things that take up most of our time.
You are such a talented writer, Michele. There can be no doubt about your calling. I do wish for sounding trumpets and clanging cymbals when trying to discern exactly what God wants me to do. Listening for God’s voice is hard and I am never sure if I am hearing only what I want to hear. This book sounds like one I should read!
I hear you!
I often wonder if what I’m hearing is my own selfish desires when it seems as if God is telling me to do something that I really WANT to do–Our generation’s theology is pretty messed up in that regard, anyway, but even so, I know I need to do more listening.
And, yes, this book has clarified a few things for me, not in the Strunk and White manner, but in area of vocation and the purpose for our writing.
This book is definitely going on my need-to-read list, Michele. Whether you consider yourself called to write or not, your words never fail to bless, encourage and challenge me. 🙂
I’m so happy to be sharing this great resource with my writing friends!
I love this! I have written a few posts for this very platform and I have often wondered if the fact that I sometimes have something to say means God has placed a calling on my life to write. I have come to the conclusion that God has placed a calling on my life to be fulfilled and to not allow painful experiences in my life to be in vain. One way I have found to do that is to share them in writing. God’s ways are not our ways. Your wonderful post reminds me that maybe I should just write. Thank you!!
Yes, do write! And since our economical God wastes nothing, it’s certainly reasonable to expect that God will redeem the loss and use your pain for his glory and the growth of your readers.