Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Called or an Offering?

Photo courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I’ve always found the topic of “one’s calling” fascinating. We all wonder at times in our lives what our specific calling is and it’s a topic that has consumed many pages of books, blog posts, conference notes and so on. It’s often used in discussions around vocations and careers.

When I started to meet writers I was at times surprised and, often intimidated, by the fact that so many mentioned they were called to write. Because I didn’t and, still don’t, consider myself called to write. So thoughts of wondering I was less of an author quickly came to mind.

I’m one of those conservative types that when people mention their calling I immediately think of Abraham, Moses, David and the apostles. People who’ve had a very specific instruction from God to do something that He wants done and that will bring Him glory. Because if God wants you to specifically do something He’ll sure make sure you know. Won’t He?

Similarly, I’ve met and read stories of missionaries and pastors who’ve received a specific confirmation that the Lord wanted them to serve Him in those vocations.

What an honour and, what a responsibility, a calling brings with it. Do I want that?

Well, of course I do.

But over the years I’ve come to realise there are plenty of pastors and missionaries who, in the absence of the divine interaction, have chosen to serve God using the gifts He has blessed them with.

And the same applies to writing. God has blessed us with gifts of storytelling, a passion for sharing those stories and even the craft of writing. (I think I might have been away when this one was handed out. Oh, how I love editors!)

Writing in Obedience

I recently read an ebook (it's also in paperback) by two authors, Terry Burns and Linda Yezak: Writing in Obedience – A Primer for Christian Fiction Writers as in its promotion I saw it made mention of this topic of calling. I was intrigued to see what they had to say. By the way, it covers a lot of other ground for new authors, hence its tagline.

Terry is now also an agent and he was called to write.

In Terry’s view, a calling is specific and God will confirm it in some way. Sure, you may not have a burning bush moment or some other miraculous happening but God won’t leave it to chance. He’ll make sure you know. Terry at times felt intimidated that God has called Him to write: “He’s asking us to write His book.” (page 5)

Terry presented the alternative of using our writing as an offering to God. He stressed that God is no less interested in we “offerers.” “The only difference is that we are writing our book and offering it to Him rather than writing one He has given us.”(page 5)

Linda, now also an editor, on the other hand, experienced similar concerns that I did in not being called to write. But she came to realise that God blessed her with a gift of storytelling and for sharing her stories with an audience.

Terry has discovered that there may be specific projects that God calls us to write; for example, a specific novel. People are called to do certain things during particular seasons in life. When I reflect on the various God moments I experienced when writing Angelguard I can see God’s hand in it. The fact a few readers still write to me long after they’ve read it making mention of how it continues to help them in their spiritual walks reinforces that thought.

But what I do know is that we as believers are all called to love Jesus and others. And by using our gifts we’ve been given we are serving Him and the body. In continuing to offer our writing to the Lord, who knows we may one day discover that indeed we were … called? Maybe?

Linda sums it up nicely:

“It doesn’t matter whether God called you to write or you write as an offering to God. Both glorify Him.”(page 17)

I’d love to read what the rest of you think. Do others grapple with this notion?

Notes: Writing in Obedience – A Primer for Christian Fiction Writers by Terry Burns and Linda W.Yezak; Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas




Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is now available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

18 comments:

  1. I love the quote, "It doesn't matter whether God called you to write or you write as an offering to God. Both glorify Him." I think as Christians we can spend a lot of time trying to work out what we are 'really' called to do, to the point of being immobilised. Rather, we can live every day for God and do all we know to glorify Him in every aspect of our lives. I think then the choices of what to do and what not to do become clear.

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    1. Wonderfully said, Carol.

      Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Hi Ian,
    I have the book by Burns and Yezak on my kindle but haven't read it yet. Thanks for reminding me that it's there.
    I agree with you and Carol, your thought about callings and offerings both glorifying God is an excellent one to take away. I've grappled with the semantics and differences between the two myself. Perhaps if we insist on thinking of our work as a calling no matter what, we may get stuck in ruts and refuse to follow new leads, out of fear of abandoning a 'calling' which God never intended to be as binding as we make it.

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    1. And one I will have to also get, Paula.

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    2. Paula, hi. Semantics, yes, is one of the issues that we can get caught up on. I think if God really wants us to write a particular book He'll make sure we know. In the meantime, we'll just keep turning up each day and partner with Him as we work on our next piece.

      Thanks for sharing with us.

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  3. A great post, Ian, and I so agree with what you have shared. I've never really thought of my writing as a "call". Because I want to encourage other Christians to be very serious about seeking God's will in every aspect of their life, I share my story when speaking too. However, I also mention that God makes His will known to individuals in the way HE knows is right for them. What happened to me may be completely different from others. After my husband read my diaries and told me, "You have a talent for writing, what are you going to do about it?" I knew I dare not try and bury it. So began this marvellous, blessed journey with my Lord in seeking His will for all this. And yes, this seeking is still needed for every venture, every book. Thank you so much for sharing this, Ian. A very important topic.

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    1. The seeking, yes, Mary, we do need to keep doing that irrespective of whether we believe we're called or not.

      Thanks for encouraging us with your feedback.

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  4. Hi Ian,

    Fabulous, thought provoking post. Thank you.

    I've heard Terry Burns share his calling/offering thoughts in a lecture. Most helpful and encouraging, whichever way you believe God is drawing you to write.

    Even before I heard Terry share that lecture, I would put a handle on my journey by saying if a door opened, I'd go through it. I still give myself the same pep talk.

    I believe I am called to write. It's terrifying to say that in some ways, and freeing in others. Like Mary, those who know me see what I often miss and there's many occasions I'm reminded God calls me, gentle and father-like, to continue through the doors He's opened. Sometimes I'm the last one to see the door. (Face palm)

    More than anything, I believe God has called me to write to become the woman He desires me to be. Anything beyond that, is entirely His to do with as He chooses. :)


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    1. Dotti, hi. Thanks for sharing with us. One day I'm going to ask you how you "know" you're called. I'm intrigued. As Mary says God will make know His will for each of us differently.

      I love the point that you've connected your call with Him holding you into the person He desires. Adds another level of excitement when you turn up to your computer each day.

      One of the challenges I struggle with when discerning a door to walk through is clearing my mind of my thoughts. It's hard, don't you think, because we're the most influential person we deal with each day as it's our voice we hear the most.

      Thanks again and hope your writing is powering along.

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    2. You're so right, Ian. It is VERY HARD not to listen to our own misguided, self condemning thoughts. Prayer and good counsel play a big part in sifting through that.
      Rel Mollet and I walked the beach this weekend, discussing this very subject. And, yes, I'd love to tell you one day how I know. And what I hold onto as evidence of my calling.
      Blessings, Dotti :)

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  5. Hi Ian,

    Thanks for an interesting post.

    A long time ago I felt God calling me to "feed his sheep" - that has taken different guises as I've followed His lead. Over the last few years, I've followed his lead and He has given me opportunities and opened doors. Sometimes, I doubt, especially when I experience the inevitable criticisms and troughs that go with the writing journey. In fact, I had a moment like that last night and this morning - and I offered my writing up to him once again a little like Abraham offering Isaac. Through your post, he reminds me to follow His until such time He tells me otherwise. A calling can be for a time or a season or can take different forms. I think the important thing is that we are obedient to His direction and that we listen to His voice. So I too love Linda's quote:

    “It doesn't matter whether God called you to write or you write as an offering to God. Both glorify Him.”

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    1. Hi Jeanette. The season-thing is very pertinent I think for many (or all of us). The older I get the more I realise the significance of seasons in life and how the Lord will use us differently through various seasons.

      Thanks for sharing with us all.

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  6. Was I called to write? For me I have to say "not really." If I was it came by circumstances rather than voice, conviction of the power of print rather than a spiritual impact on my heart. My English lecturer in Bible College, when I gave her my first devotional talk to peruse, her red pen must have run out of ink as she corrected it. (I still have it.) Is my writing an offering? Depends, I think, on whether you see it as an expression of devotion or duty. They both come into play in my efforts. I guess my underlying principle in writing a blog or a devotional or the editorial of the church paper is 'Whatever you do, do to the glory of God' (and to bless or confront the reader). The Lord called me to Himself. From that relationship has sprung many interesting and unexpected experiences and opportunities as I've committed my way to the Him. I'm grateful that He placed me in situations and with people who encouraged me to write and made it possible to see those words in print. Thanks Ian for raising the question.

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    1. Love your perspective, Ray. Devotion or duty? Hmmm …it's hard sometimes (more often than I'd probably care to admit) that writing to His glory is first and foremost in my mind. But acknowledging His presence as I write always challenges me to shift my focus.

      Thanks for joining in the discussion, Ray.

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  7. I read this book a while back, and found the idea of writing as a calling vs an offering a fascinating idea. I'd say that some of our writing might be an offering while other writing is a calling--and some might be just for fun.

    The other part of this book which I found fascinating was their distinction between four different kind of Christian fiction: writing for believers, unbelievers, seekers, and backsliders. I think it's a must-read book for Christian authors.

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    1. I'd seen your review on Amazon, Iola, so knew you had appreciated Terry & Linda's book.

      Yes, writing for fun, however, do we forget that and perhaps overstate the significance of what we're doing.

      I also appreciated that section on the 4 different audiences. My writing at present is very focused on believers (seekers & backsliders may get something too) as I've always found it strange how the significance of spiritual warfare is often understated and in some circles almost ignored.

      Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Ian, thanks for your insightful post :) I remember reading a blog post a number of years ago on this topic that Terry shared on the ACFW email loop. The blog post formed the foundation of his book with Linda. At the time I was confused about the whole concept of being called to write. Learning that our writing could be an offering for God's glory was liberating and really resonated with me at that stage in my writing journey. I agree with what others have said and I believe we can write in obedience to Him without needing to define all the whys and hows.

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    1. Narelle, hi. Liberating is a good way of describing it. There's often too much pressure applied to knowing one's calling and often we discover it by using the skills God has blessed us with.

      Thanks for sharing.

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