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JPC Allen Writes

Inspiration for Beginning Writers

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Lent

Writing Tip — Writing in Time

spring-awakening-w3132112_1280I will be blunt–March is my least favorite month. Occurring in both winter and spring, it comes out as a poor imitation of both, ending up as month with no real identity. February is irritating, but at least it has the decency to confine itself to 28 days in most years. March has no mercy, stretching out the misery to a full 31 days.

The events and holidays during March have never greatly appealed to me as a writer, but maybe I can provide you with some literary inspiration. Or maybe writing this post will spark something in my own writing.

Lent — Part of Lent is always in March. I find the introspection during this time depressing, but I try to make it an uplifting experience by giving up worry. I could write a story about a character doing the same thing. Because of Lent’s emphasis on sin, I think it’s a perfect time for a mystery, one about laying bare old crimes the most suitable.

Daylight Saving Time Check out my post last year on this day. It has great potential for speculative fiction.

March Madness — I am not a sports fan. But for those of you who are, the basketball tournament, with all its drama, could mirror the character arc of a player, a coach, or even a parent of a player.

St. Patrick’s Day — Teachers and librarians are always on the hunt for new children’s books associated with this holiday. I like the setting of ancient Ireland, and a friend of mine, Cindy Thomson, had written two novels during this time period, Brigid of Irelanand Pages of Ireland, and is working on a third.

Holy Week — This occurs in the last week of the month. It is such an important time in the Christian calendar and contains so much meaning, that it deserves its own post, which I will write during that week.

Do you like March? How would you use it as a setting?

Scripture Saturdays

hope-2046018_1280Still Hoping

I wanted to tell you how I was doing with giving up worrying and taking up hope for Lent.  Not very well is the answer.  I have been worrying a lot.  Not the stomach-sickening, paralyzing kind of worry, but the sneaky, persistent sort that makes me feel miserable before I can figure out why.

It is so alien to my nature to hope.  It feels false, like I am wearing an outfit I don’t like.  And our culture in general, in the arts specifically, equates hope with rose-colored glasses and chasing rainbows.  I can’t even estimate the number of times I have read that a TV series has “improved” because this season the storyline is darker, or an actor is excited her character has taken a dark turn.

I understand why artists turn to dark themes.  They believe that can get more dramatic mileage out of the destruction of a marriage than the restoration of one, out of a best friend’s betrayal than her faithfulness.

But it’s extremely difficult to live with such depressing expectations.  Since my feelings in this area often trick me, I will go with what I know, and what I know about hope I have found in the following verses:

Psalm 31:24: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”sun-622740_1280

Psalm 42:5: “Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Hebrews 6:19: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”anchor-57748_1280

This is one I love Jeremiah 29:11: ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Yesterday I actively hoped instead of worried about a problem.  I felt my heart grow lighter.  I came to the conclusion that since neither hoping or worrying changes the outcome of a situation in reality, I might as well hope.  Like any other skill, I have to practice it.

Scripture Saturdays

fire-2116361_1280Why Should Christians Hope?

I said last week when I gave up worrying last Lent that I didn’t think to put something in it’s place.  I know now I need to hope.

In The Case For Hope, author Lee Strobel states the Bible mentions hope 97 times in the Old Testament and “83 in the New Testament”.  It’s clear God expects his people to be hopeful.  Why?  Because He is the ultimate hope.  Hoping in Him give us perfect love, complete forgiveness of our sins, and the joy of living with Him forever.  And in Jesus we have the example of what a person can be in a relationship with God.  We can’t be perfect like Jesus, but we have the hope God will change us to be more and more like His son.

So why do I have such a hard time hoping?

I think it’s a combination of physical wiring and and mental habit.  In the next week, I will try to rein in my my wild worries with a few strategies.  My focus will be Hebrews 13:6 “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”  I will also do try the following:

Imagine a positive outcome for a negative one.  I need to break my automatic response of imagining the worse.  That’s helpful when plotting fiction, but it’s a lousy way to live my life.

Become objective.  When I consider my worries, I will judge how likely they are to become reality, based on my past experiences.

I am reminded of a quote attributed to Mark Twain, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

 

 

Scripture Saturdays

in-640517_1280Why Shouldn’t We Worry

Two weeks ago I related how I gave up worry for Lent last year and am doing it again this year.  But why should Christians give up worry?  I use Matthew 6:25-34 as my reason.

“Therefore, I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more imprant than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”     Matthew 6:25-27 NIV

AND

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough troubles of its own”.           Matthew 6:34 NIV

So we have it from the lips of Jesus:  DO NOT WORRY.

But worrying is such a huge part of my life – I am so accustomed to it – when I don’t do it, I feel like something is wrong.  I didn’t realize until this past week I needed to replace worrying with something positive.  Nature abhors a vaccuum, and I believe our minds and souls do too.

In Matthew 12:43-45, Jesus describes a demon being driven from a man.  When he comes back to the man, the demon finds him empty and invites seven more demons into the man.  Verse 45 states, “And the final condition of the man is worse than the first.” 

I think we can substitute “bad habit” for “demon”.  When we get rid of a bad habit, we need to put something positive in its place or we will got back to the bad habit or develop worse ones.

I recently read that the opposite of worry is hope.  I’ll talk about hope next week.

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.

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