Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Celebrate His Guidance: Launching the Aspiring Writers' Forum

By Linda Grupp Boutin

Recently our small group leader at church asked me to send him the goals for the Aspiring Writers' Forum for the 2014/2015 season. At first, I began to formulate a new set for our sixth year. But then I remembered that we had written all this out when we proposed the group before our first year. So I started searching for the documentation for that time that now feels so long ago. A sense of time can be such a tricky thing to keep track of, time can float by so quickly while I am caught up in the dramas of the day.

After a not too lengthy search, I found the original proposal formed the summer before our very first meeting. The more I read of this document, the more astonished I became about how clear we were from the very beginning in our purpose and plan. I had attended many writers groups while living in San Diego County in my earlier life. Some had been larger, some smaller, some a collection of students, others with published members working on their second books. The weakness of them all came from the fact that everyone was consumed by their own projects and the competition between the writers scared some from ever considering writing (or sharing) anything again.

I always felt that setting up this group was inspired by the Holy Spirit. First came a desire on my part to reconnect with the writing community after a 10-year hiatus. A fruitless search in January led to frustration for me and writing in solitude with no feedback or fellowship. About that time I was invited to join several others at a weekly study called The Truth Project. At the end, we were each challenged to take what we had just learned and apply it somehow in our lives. Immediately upon hearing this, I felt compelled to start a Christian writers group. Now mind you, this is 100% out of my comfort area, I never initiated the beginning of a group of anything!

The first people I dared to share this tiny flame of a dream with were my small prayer group sisters and there I found my first encouragement. Everyone loved the idea and we all prayed for the success of the endeavor. But not only support, even better my fellow writer and friend Coleene VanTilburg agreed to partner with me in leading the group. Next I brought the idea to our ministry leader at the church and to my amazement, she liked the idea as well. Each discussion brought the inevitable question, what is a Christian writers group? None of those I spoke with had heard of such a group before.

At that time I didn't know of anything like this, only an online group called that Coleene had told me about. Since that time 6 years ago, I have learned of other Christian writers groups, but none that met on a weekly basis as we planned. We wanted to build some writing habits in our members and meeting weekly became pivotal to exercising those writing muscles.

Most importantly to me however was the creation of a safe harbor, where we could together as writers build upon our shared Christian values, express those deep and protected spiritual beliefs, and receive feedback to enhance both our creative and faith-built voices. But how could such an idyllic plan become a reality? Would anyone even want to come to such a meeting? Coleene and I discussed our fears and dreams and hopes coming to absolutely no conclusions. She traveled that summer to the Faithwriter's conference for writers and came home even more excited about our shared desire to build this little group.

With mounting trepidation I gathered decorations for the sign-up table assigned to us for four August Sundays we would man before, in between and after our regular church services. We prayed together, we consoled ourselves that it would be great if only one or two signed up to join us, we sweated through the final July days with only the heat that a Southern California sunny day can produce.

We rendezvoused together that first August Sunday before first service, just enough time to set up our combined decorations, join hands and pray one last time. The sun pored down as it is wont to do on hot mornings and beads of sweat gathered on our foreheads as our congregation began to arrive and see the commotion of Small Group Leaders sitting behind tables, sign-up materials close at hand. I felt so completely out of my league surrounded by others who understood so much more and better than me.
Linda Boutin and Coleene VanTilburg at AWF sign-ups

Time went into warp that morning and before either of us could get any more nervous, we both found ourselves answering questions to people we had never met before. Each answer clarified even more clearly just what we were attempting to do. And before the clock had turned from 9 a.m. to noon we found ourselves counting our sign-ups and astounded that so many had signed up the very first day! By the end of the four weeks a dozen people planned on joining us every Wednesday night for an hour and a half to share our love of writing enveloped in our love of the Lord. And not any one day since has ever been the same in my life because of this little dream that ignited a bonfire in my life.

So I encourage each and every one of you reading this, to listen carefully to those quiet whispers from the Holy Spirit. Allow some space and silence in every day for His Voice to speak directly to you. And when it prompts you to speak to someone you see who is shy, or buy a coffee for the car behind you at Starbucks, or asks you to do some other outlandish act you have never considered before in your life--run, do not walk, to do His Will. There is a plan so perfect and incomprehensible to you at that moment, so do not shrink back, but Celebrate His Guidance.


  1. I give God praise for you, your vision, our partnership, our devoted friendship, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together." -- Psalm 34:1-3

    1. And you have been a pillar of strength and perseverance for me!