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JPC Allen Writes

Inspiration for Beginning Writers

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Scripture Saturday

in-640517_1280Giving Up for Lent

If you are thinking of giving up something for Lent, I recommend giving up worry.

Last year, before Lent, I was worrying about what to give up.  No surprise there.  I worry about everything.  And I do mean everything.  If I’m depressed I can always find a dark cloud in the biggest silver lining.  That’s when it occurred to me that if I gave up worry for Lent, I wouldn’t be worried about what what I was giving up.  It was the most rewarding Lent I have ever had, spiritually, mentally, even physically.

If you are like me, and worrying is so much a part of your life that you think it is normal, here are some actions I took to help me give it up.

Pray every day.  I couldn’t give up worrying without God.  I pray when I walk, so every day, I would review my vow, thank God for the worries I gave up the day before, look at what I was currently worrying about, and rededicate my efforts to give them up.  I needed to check in with the Coach before plunging into the day’s “game”.

Become objective.  I worry so naturally I had to step out of myself mentally so I could observe my symptoms of worrying.  If I had racing, repetitive thoughts, or a sick stomach, or shortness of breath, I knew those were signs of worry.  I would look at my thoughts, sort out the worries, and kick them out.  As I became more aware of my symptoms, I could catch the worries sooner.

Take it day by day.  If you tell God on Ash Wednesday that you will not worry again until Easter, you will fail.  Don’t look further ahead than one day.  Pray and then work through the day to run the worries out of your head.  Even if you have to do it fifty or a hundred, or five hundred times a day at first, you have not failed.  Every day you work at it, you are fulfilling your vow.

I wasn’t cured of worry last Lent, but I did feel more positive emotionally and mentally and actually felt lighter physically.  The experience made me eager to try it again this year.

If you pray and feel moved to give up worry for Lent, let me know how you are doing.

Scripture Saturdays

bible-998150_1280Role Models II

Last week, I talked about how I had looked in the Bible for a person who had the same problems with anxiety and timidity that I do.  While praying one day, I thought of Gideon.

When God first calls Gideon, he calls him a mighty warrior.  But his actions don’t fit our idea of a mighty warrior.  When we meet Gideon, he is hiding in a wine press to thresh wheat so the invading Midianites can’t take it.  And Gideon carries out God’s first order, destroying his father’s altar to Baal, at night because he is afraid of his family and neighbors.

When God inspires Gideon to assemble the Israelites to drive out the Midianites. Gideon asks for two signs just to make doubly sure he is doing what God wants.  As the Israelites travel to confront the Midianites, God tells Gideon he wants him to use fewer men so the Israelites will recognize that it is God who has beaten the Midianites.  God tells him to only take three hundred.  Gideon must be worried because right before the Israelites attack, God tells Gideon to sneak into the enemy camp and eavesdrop.  A conversation between enemy soldiers gives Gideon all the encouragement he needs.

It’s interesting to note that when Gideon has doubts, God is right there to support him.  In other stories of the Bible, when a person doubts God, he or she often gets a harsh response from Him.  But I think the difference is Gideon doesn’t doubt God and His powers.  He doubts himself.  I believe God doesn’t mind genuine doubt, if we really have questions that we need answered before we can have confidence in following God’s will.

It’s very comforting to know that God can use me, like Gideon, even when I am scared.  I often feel I should have more confidence if I am doing God’s work.  But Gideon was scared when he destroyed his father’s altar and still got the job done.

God does such a thorough job of building up Gideon’s confidence throughout the story in Judges that eventually he is ready to lead three hundred men against thousands.  He really is the mighty warrior God said he was when He first spoke to Gideon.  God knew it all along.  Gideon just had to realize it.

Several years ago, I prayed that if God needed to change me into a more Christ-like person to please do it gently and slowly so as not to scared me with His awesome powers.  He must have agreed with me because I feel His guidance in gentle nudges rather thunderous blasts.  God knows what I need and what I am capable of doing.  I just need to realize it and realize God can use a scaredy-cat just as easily as He can a lion.

 

 

Scripture Saturdays

book-1936547_1280Role Models

A few years ago, I was thinking about role models and wondering who in the Bible I most closely identified with.  I know Jesus is the example we Christians strive to be like, but I was looking for a person like myself, with my weaknesses.

Unfortunately, the only person I could come up with was Saul.  Not fiery, driven Saul who is transformed into dedicated Paul.  No, crazy, murderous King Saul.

I have always felt enormously sorry for Saul. He had it all and blew it about as badly as a person can, killing himself as his sons and Israel’s soldier died around him. I pity him because I understand how he blew it and know I could make the same kind of stupid mistakes.

Saul seems to have been an insecure person.  When Samuel proclaims him king in front of the people of Israel, Saul hides (I Samuel 10:17-26).  In I Samuel 13:1-15, Saul panics when he thinks Samuel isn’t coming to offer offerings to God.  His army is scared of the amassing Philistine army, and men are deserting.  So Saul takes it upon himself to do the priest’s job.  When Samuel arrives, on time, he tells Saul that his family line won’t be established as kings because he hasn’t obeyed God’s commands.  From that time on, Saul makes worse and worse decisions, often out of fear.

I have struggled with anxiety all my life.  I know what it’s like to panic, make a dumb decision, realize it, panic again, and make an even worse one.  I haven’t tried to pin an enemy to a wall with a spear, like Saul attempted to do to David, but I regret actions I took out of fear.

The only good think about anxiety is that it drives me to rely on God.  I wanted to find someone in the Bible who had also struggled with anxiety, and with God’s help, became a strong servant for Him.  So many people in the Bible seemfearless, and the lesson they needed to learn is humility.  Samson, David, and Peter all had to have the arrogance knocked out of them at least once, so God could use them.  All those stories are instructive, but they weren’t ones I had personally experienced.  Wasn’t there anyone in the Bible who had to overcome anxiety instead of arrogance?

On a walk one day while praying, I got the answer: Gideon.

Scripture Saturdays

bible-1846174_1280One Last Resolution

I like this article from Almost an Author.  It reminds me why Christian writers write.  I have tried to be diligent about letting God lead me as I started this blog, and this article underlines the importance of that diligence.

Writing Tip

Placeholder ImageIdiom’s Delight

One of the joys I get from writing is using figurative language, whether it’s idioms, smilies, metaphors, alliteration, and personification.  Here is a very good article on how to use idioms.  Coming from West Virginia, I am used to people inventing idioms to suit different occasions.

One time when I was feeling sorry for myself, my sister remarked that I was “dancing around the ol’ bitter barn.”  I have no idea how she came up with it, but ever since, it’s been a joke in my family when anyone sounds bitter or self-pitying.  Another sister invented different ways to say “whatever floats your boat,” such as “whatever cranks your case” and “whatever skins your skunk.  I would love to use “whatever skins your skunk” in a story.  I haven’t found an appropriate place yet.  To describe someone who isn’t smart, my dad would say that he or she “couldn’t lead a two-car funeral”, meaning a funeral procession.

If a writer uses an unusual or original figure of speech, it draws me into their writing.  I will have some examples for my post on Tuesday.

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