Sunday, September 30, 2012


TRULY, MY WRITING did begin with a dream. I had no idea what it meant at first, this dream that I’d written a novel, and only years down the road did it finally make complete sense to me. I knew I was drawing near to retirement from teaching, and I prayed, rather, pled with God to give me a new direction for my life, something that would not only fulfill me, but would hopefully impact others. I didn’t know what that would look like, but I knew I wanted to complete my final years on earth making a difference in others’ lives.

Well, one night in the summer of 2000, I dreamt I’d written a novel. At first, I tossed it aside as perhaps one of the silliest dreams I’d ever had. But when it recurred three or four more times over the course of the next several nights I began to wonder if the dream had credibility. I don’t normally take much stock in dreams. They’re usually disjointed and nonsensical, but this one kept repeating itself, and when I recalled having asked God to give me a plan and a purpose and to lead me into something fulfilling for the second chapter of my life, I started taking the dream seriously.

GOD NEVER DIRECTS us to do something without first equipping us. Listen to what 2 Chronicles 20:12 says. “Oh, our God . . . we are powerless . . . nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” Keep your eyes on Christ. If you’re feeling a call to write, then act upon that calling, start! Don’t just sit on it. Do something. Yes, there are times you and I feel utterly inept, worthless, incapable, even inferior, but we can do all things through Christ who not only gives us the strength, but provides inspiration, clarity of thought, guidance, encouragement, and support—everything we need to fulfill the task He has set before us. Pray about your plot line, your characters, your theme, the scriptures you can weave into your story, and what you want your readers to walk away with after having read your story. Don’t necessarily write to publish, because what you’re writing might not be the book that goes before an editor’s eyes, but write for God’s eyes—always God’s eyes. He will see to it your book reaches the right publisher at the PRECISE right time—when HE sees fit.

EVEN IF IT’S just a little corner of the house, let it be known to your family that this is your spot for writing then warn them what will happen if they cross over into your territory! For instance, I’m fortunate enough to have my own office – with a door! And on the outside of my door is this sign: WARNING! NOVELIST AT WORK. BYSTANDERS MAY BE WRITTEN INTO THE STORY.

Of course, everyone knows it’s a joke, but it’s my subtle way of saying, “Hey, I’m a real live author, and I have a job to do, so please take me seriously and realize that I need time and space so that I can accomplish the goals set before me.” In time, your family and friends will begin to catch on that this ‘writing thing’ is more than just a hobby. I remember the day very well when shortly after starting to write I said to my husband, “This is not one of those things that I’m going to delight in for a while but then grow tired of doing. Nope. This is here to stay, and if I live to be 90, and God sees fit to bless me with a sound mind all the way up to the end, I will sit my little old wrinkled behind on a chair and write — crippled fingers and all!”

When creating your space, whether it’s an office or just a little corner somewhere remote, make sure it’s big enough to house a desk then try to surround yourself with things that inspire, a vase of flowers, a candle, familiar photos, your favorite mug, and all the supplies you will need so that you don’t have to keep getting up and running through the house in search of it. Then put a “Hands Off” sign on your desk—with a smiley face so people won’t start thinking of you as the grump of the household.

***Please check back on Tuesday, October 2, for Part 3!***

Saturday, September 29, 2012


On September 25 I had the wonderful privilege of teaching a couple of workshops on the writing craft at the 35th annual Maranatha Christian Writers' Conference on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. I'd like to share the information I taught and will break it up into segments. The first class is titled "From Seed to Sprout" and takes us on the writer's journey from the very beginning stages when God first plants that tiny seed of desire in your heart for writing to the final stages where one feels ready to publish. Ready to go on the journey with me? This class was broken down into 12 main points, so I'll teach this class in four stages, sharing three points per session.

And away we go!

Sharlene MacLaren

MY LOVE FOR writing began with a seed of passion. I don’t know exactly why God chose to plant that seed deep within the pit of my soul, but He did. In fact, He planted it at a very early age, but it didn’t truly begin to grow until I began to nurture, feed, and care for it. God did the planting, but I had to see to its care. It’s that way with any sort of gift God gives. It begins as a tiny seed, and we can either choose to ignore it, allowing it to waste away, or recognize it for what it is—a gift.

I recognized my gift in high school around 11th grade and began writing silly teenage romances, but after filling three or four spiral notebooks with stories, the school year came to a close, and my love for writing waned as fun-filled summer activities took its place. I then entered my senior year of high school, then college life, followed by a teaching job, and shortly thereafter, marriage, family, and church activities. On top of that, I had a great love for vocal music, another seed of passion God had planted in my soul from birth. Thus, God, family, teaching, music, and a myriad of other things completely washed away all time for sitting down to pen a story of any kind, although I loved reading it!

I ALWAYS KNEW I had a gift for writing. While in college if the professor announced at the beginning of the 10-week class period that we would be required to write a term paper I sighed with relief. This I could do. Or, given a choice of finishing out any given class with a multiple choice test of, say, 100 questions or writing a fifteen-page research paper, guess what I chose. I knew I could write my way to an “A” or “B” overall grade. Why was that? Because God had given me something others lacked, and that was a deep passion for words.

Yes, I had been given a passion, but I wasn’t much into feeding it yet. Far too many other things took precedence over cultivating my passion. So, I let it simmer on a back burner, mostly ignoring it and delving into other interests that also captured my heart, like falling in love, getting married, buying our first home, raising children, involving myself in church activities like choir and worship team, weekly Bible studies, teaching Sunday school, working in public education, planning family vacations, carting our children to and from school activities, and the endless list goes on. I had a passion for writing, don’t get me wrong, but like anything, if you fail to feed it, care for it, nurture it, it will just sit there and tarnish like an old piece of silver.

I DIDN’T TRULY recognize my writing passion as a gift from God and something that needed nurturing till I drew near to retirement from teaching. Yes, I had already lived out 50+ years of life before I began to see that God didn’t want me thinking that retirement from one career meant putting my feet up on a stool and lounging away the rest of my days. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Simply put, God ALWAYS has a job for us to do. He didn’t put us on this earth without a map so that we could wander aimlessly, never knowing our purpose. I love what The Message says about this in Proverbs 16: 1-3 “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good. Put God in charge of your work, then what you've planned will take place.”

So, embrace your passion! Watch what God does with it when you fully surrender that passion to Him.

***Stay tuned for the next installment on Monday, October 1!***

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


It's a mystery why God heals some and not others, but the fact of the matter is 100% of us WILL die, so it goes without saying that He doesn't always choose to heal us...BUT...sometimes He does.

My Experience...

I was in my early twenties and still living at home when I became violently ill in the middle of the night. Extreme nausea and a raging fever awakened me and I quickly leaped out of bed and made for the bathroom. Halfway there, I fell into a dead faint. My dad heard me hit the floor and came running. Helping me up, he and my mom both guided me toward the bathroom, but before reaching the door, I fainted again with no warning. In the bathroom I spilled my stomach contents (no nice way of putting it, sorry), and then because my bedroom seemed a million miles away, my folks told me to lie in their bed and Dad would go to my room. In their room, though, I collapsed into another dead heap before making it to the bed, this time ramming my body against a cabinet and scraping up my elbow when I hit the hard tile. Awaking on the floor, I recall mumbling, "What's wrong with me?" I was so sick, and I've never experienced anything like it since.

I lay in the bed next to my mother trembling and shaken, my body so hot with fever I could hardly think straight, my temples reeling with pounding pain, and my stomach roiling with sickness. I couldn't get comfortable, as I tossed and turned. After a few minutes, I attempted to settle my whirling stomach by lying on my back and staring at the ceiling. That's when it happened. A sensation came over me difficult to explain, but it began at the top of my head and moved slowly down my body - like a warm, comforting wave on the seashore - ending at the soles of my feet. Beads of perspiration popped out on my skin, my fever breaking that very instant, and I immediately noted how my head had ceased hurting and my stomach had calmed. Hardly knowing what to think, I threw the covers off my sweaty body and turned to look at my Godly mother. "Did you - by some chance - just pray for me?" I whispered.

She looked at me as well, her countenance but a shadow in the moonlight. "Yes, I asked God to heal you of this mysterious illness."

I'm now 64, and while I've sensed God's wonderfully sweet presence on many occasions since, that particular experience stands out above the rest. In times of doubt and worry I've been able to look back, reflect, and say, "God is REAL, God is RELIABLE, God is RELATIONAL, God is REDEEMING, and I REJOICE because He REIGNS in me!"

Sometimes, all we need is a reminder of His past faithfulness to know He will see us through whatever lies ahead. Do you have a "standing stone" or memory of a time in which God proved faithful? If so, share it here. I'd love to hear your story!