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.

Writing Tip

nypl-digitalcollections-ba309cea-94f2-4288-e040-e00a18066c61-001-wDigging Deeper into Personal History

Even though I get a lot of inspiration from reading about important people in history, I still find intriguing stories within my own family.  Both sides of my family come from West Virginia, meaning I know a lot of stories about my extended family going back generations and I come from a long line of storytellers.

My dad has enough hilarious tales about what he did as a kid in the 1940’s and ’50’s to make at least a trilogy.  My maternal grandfather told all kinds of stories about growing up on a farm with seven brothers and sisters in the 1910’s and 1920’s.  I had a great-great-grandfather die in the infamous Civil War prison camp at Andersonville.  If I wrote historical fiction, this would be a story worth researching.  I have a great-grandfather who worked as a carpenter  in Moundsville, West Virginia, beginning in the 1880’s.  He helped support his widowed mother and a sister and her children because the sister’s husband had abandoned them.  He finally married, or I wouldn’t be here, when he was 47 years old.  His bride was 19, and they had two children together.

Their marriage was always stirred my curiosity.  How did they meet?  Had my great-grandfather always wanted to get married but didn’t feel he could because he was already supporting his relatives?  Did finding a wife come as a surprise?  Why did my great-grandmother want to marry someone so much older than she was?  Why did my great-grandfather want to marry someone so much younger?  What did their families think?  Their friends and neighbors?

Even though their story took a place a hundred years ago, their storyline is so good it can be translated to any time.  Placing it in a modern context would give the characters different reasons for getting married.  Such a May-December marriage would also be viewed differently by family and friends.  There is so much to work with here.  But I wouldn’t want to use my great-grandparents’s names and exact situation and fictionalize it.  Since I didn’t know them, I wouldn’t like to put words in their mouths and misrepresent them.

So ask grandparent, parents, any relatives for family stories.  Not only will you get great writing ideas, but you will gain a connection to your family’s past that makes your family unique.

Scripture Saturday

nypl-digitalcollections-510d47da-e485-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99-001-wGod’s Blog

This is a speech I wrote to accompany the presentation of Bibles to the third-graders at my church and I wanted to share it because I enjoyed writing it.

How many of you know who your principal is?  Sure, you know his or her name and where that person works, but do you know his favorite food?  Or favorite subject?  What college she went to?  So you know enough about your principal to identify him or her and to say hello but not much else.

Sometimes, that’s all the more we know about God.  We know He’s there and He makes stuff like nature and miracles, but we really don’t know much else.

God wants us to know him as well as you do your mom and dad and best friends. Nothing is more important than getting to know God.  So God set up a blog, e-mail, and Facebook pages so we can do that.

The Bible is God’s blog. In it, God tells us about what he likes, like creating things, and what he hates, like sin.  He tells us about people He’s helped because they got to know him.  God posts all kinds of information about Himself on His blog in histories, poems, and essays.

He also receives e-mails, but when we e-mail God, we called it prayer.  We can e-mail God about anything, even just ordinary, everyday things, and He always responds.

God also has Facebook pages.  Interestingly, God uses real faces for his Facebook pages.  Everybody who believes Jesus saves us from our sins is a Facebook page for God.  Checking out all the Facebooks pages here in our church is a wonderful way to get to know God.

So remember to use all through of God’s electronic formats – blog, e-mail, and Facebook — and you will be working on the most important thing you can do with your life.

Writing Tip

Placeholder Image
Digging up History

I have never been inspired to write historical fiction, primarily, I think,  because I am intimidated by the idea of trying to write about a time in which I never lived.  I worry about getting it wrong and not doing justice to the people who lived then.  But that doesn’t mean history doesn’t inspire my contemporary stories.

I like reading history because it gives me real world examples of how people act and I can use those actions to build characters and their motivations.

As I wrote in a previous post, I have read a lot about the Victorian and Edwardian periods in England.  The relationships within Queen Victoria’s family could inspire dozens of plots.  For example, Queen Victoria was crazy about her husband Prince Albert.  They were both crazy about the oldest of their nine children, Vicky.  They devoted a lot of time and energy to groom and educate her into being the ideal queen consort.  Their second child, a boy nicknamed Bertie, was not nearly as well trained, even though he was in line for his mother’s throne.  Victoria and Albert were very critical of Bertie.  Their third child, Alice, was probably the most original thinker in the family but was overshadowed by Vicky.  She and Bertie were close.

This family dynamic can easily translate into modern times.  Mom is a celebrity CEO of a successful family business.  Dad is her right-hand man.  First daughter, whose personality matches Mom’s, is groomed to take over the family business.  Son and second daughter feel left out and become each other’s best friend in the family.

My historical inspiration doesn’t have to trap me.  I can change it.  I can make second daughter deeply jealous of first daughter.  I can make son a rebel.  By the time I’m through, my story may look like nothing like the historical inspiration, but the history was need to get my imagination working.

If you are interested in reading about the Victorian and Edwardian periods, these books are ones I have read and enjoyed: Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney, Victoria’s Daughters by Jerrold M. Brown, and Queen Victoria’s Family: A Century of Photographs by Charlotte Zeepvat.

Writing Tip

Placeholder ImageOld Photos

I double-majored in history and English.  Some people thought that was an old combination, but I always explained it this way, “One is about real stories.  The other is about made-up ones.”  The disciplines seemed related to me.

I have never seriously considered writing historical fiction, but my friend Sandra Merville Hart does and she has an article on how to use old photos for research. Click here to see it.

I have been interested in the late Victorian/ Edwardian ages since I discovered Sherlock Holmes at seventeen.  One reason, as another writer pointed out, is because the Victorian age is as far back in history as you can go and still find every day life somewhat similar to our modern era.  I’m also interested in it because it was the last hurrah of a way of life that disappeared during World War I.  One of the best books I have read on this period was actually a photo album.  Queen Victoria’s Grandchildren by Lance Salway shows photos with short histories of all 40 of her grandchildren.  The book would be confusing without the photos because it covers so many people.  But the photos also let these people become real to me.  Seeing their faces helps me make a connection to them.  Which is one of the goals of historical fiction.

I won’t be posting again until after Thanksgiving.  I’ll talk more about how history has directly affected my writing.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑