Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Writing & the Lenten Journey

By Debby Giusti

Today marks the beginning of Lent, a special time for Christians to draw closer to God. When we deny ourselves through fasting, when we turn our hearts more fully to the Lord through prayer, and when we put the needs of our brothers and sisters before our own wants through almsgiving, we are able to more fully enter into the Paschal Mystery. As many of us can attest, a well-lived Lent leads to a joyous Easter.

Incorporating fasting, prayer and almsgiving into our daily lives unites us more intimately with Christ who spent forty days in the desert to prepare for his public ministry. Giving up a favorite food or beverage is a sacrifice that reminds us of our human nature and the creature comforts that sometimes steer us off track. By denying ourselves, we turn our focus from the earthly realm to the spiritual.

Fasts can take many forms. Some folks fast from a favorite television show, from online games, or even from Facebook, Twitter or other social media. Filling that freed up time with prayer, scripture, or other spiritual readings, helps us deepen our personal relationship with Christ. As we come to know him better, we can love him more.

The church has always talked about a preferential option for the poor that is so clearly defined in the Gospels. Christ reached out to the poor and needy, and we are called to do the same. Giving to charities, stocking food pantries, feeding and clothing the homeless and aiding neighbors in need are some of the many ways we can help the poor and marginalized. Habits we start in Lent often continue as life-long ministries that spread God’s love and allow us be the hands and feet of Christ.

Since this is a Christian blog, I’m sure many of us embrace some type of Lenten practice, so you might be asking, what does this have to do with writing?

Writing takes determination and perseverance. Creating stories is exciting, but the day-to-day battle to get words on the page can be a challenge. If you’re having trouble completing a project, I suggest setting a Lenten goal. Perhaps increase your daily word count and offer that to the Lord. If we believe he has called us to write, then our writing can be offered up as a gift to him.

The COVID outbreak has isolated so many folks, especially the infirmed and the elderly. Think about sending a cheery note to a shut-in or a card of encouragement to a homebound mom who’s struggling to help her children with their virtual learning. Words of comfort mailed to grieving families who, because of the pandemic, weren’t able to be with loved ones when they passed is another way of spreading Christ’s light and can be a meaningful Lenten practice.

Have you heard a little voice encouraging you to write something outside the box? Something different from your usual genre? Could that voice be God prompting you in a new direction? What better time than Lent to offer a new endeavor to the Lord. When we invite him into our world and into our writing, we often find new blessings as we follow his inspiration.

So much has changed over the last year. Early in 2020, we realized a strange and virulent virus was making its way around the world. We hunkered down in our homes, we donned masks, we feared contact with other people and we waited to see how devastating the pandemic would be. We’ve learned a lot in the last twelve months and, thankfully, have a clearer understanding of the pathogenicity of the virus and better protocols for treatment of the sick.

Yet, negative side effects from the pandemic occurred as we sheltered at home and relied on others to make decisions for our wellbeing. Perhaps you’re questioning some of the decisions that have altered our way of life. Are you a parent wondering when your children will go back to school? Are you a small business owner trying to keep your company afloat or a restaurateur who had to shut down because of dining restrictions? Are you seeing those who make the rules break the rules? Does that disparity upset you? If so, are you being called to voice your concerns? The Lord may be asking you to use your writing ability to call out some of the hypocrisy that continues to prevail.

I’m concerned about the attack on our Freedom of Speech. Big Tech has turned into a truth regulator that silences ideas that do not align with what they believe. With a background in clinical science, I try to stay current on the virus, treatment, vaccines and the truth about mask wearing. Too often, voices—even well-established medical professionals—are removed from public forums if their message differs from those tasked to guide our nation. Why are those scientific videos and reports taken offline?

Does anyone remember the McCarthy witch hunt in the 1950s? Have you read George Orwell’s 1984? Remember Big Brother in that story?  As a writer who deals in words, I am concerned by censorship that limits free speech, whether I espouse the ideas removed from the public domain or not. If medical information is censored today, what will be censored tomorrow? Our Freedom of Religion is also under attack. Will those attacks increase in the days ahead, and if so, will Christian fiction be targeted in the future?

This Lent, I’m prayerfully reflecting on ways I can stand up for Freedom of Speech. I’m only one person, but if everyone spoke up when they saw something that was wrong, the world would be a better place.

Is the Lord calling you to write for him this Lent? To write something that will spread his message of love and mercy? Is he asking you to reach out to someone in need or to speak truth to power or to take a stand against some form of evil?

Grab a cup of coffee and let’s discuss Lent and the ways we can serve the Lord during our Lenten journey.

Wishing you a blessed Ash Wednesday!

Debby Giusti

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  1. Good morning Debby. I try to practice helping others at all times , but need to spend more time in the Word during Lent as I find juggling caring for my mom and everything else I fall short. Your words of wisdom always capture my attention. God bless you as you are a light.

    1. Lucy, you're putting the love of Christ into action each day as you care for your mother and your family. Bless you! The scripture always brings peace and order to the chaos of this world. I pray you find a few moments for yourself each day when you can read the Word of God and reflect on his message of affirmation and love. He is so pleased with how you're caring for those you love. :)

  2. Your words hit home, like they always do, Debby. I fear for what sort of track our country is on and what we are ushering in for our children. I'm starting to get the sense that maybe I'm not called to write novels, but possibly to use my words in other ways. I'm going to spend some time praying and thinking about what that means. As far as Lent, I've never been a particulary strict observer of fasting, but this year feels different for me. I haven't decided what that fast will look like, but I want to be more intentional about everything, including fasting and giving. Thanks for sharing this today. It was perfect!

    1. Glynis, thank you for sharing how you feel the Lord is leading you! I'll be praying you uncover what you are being called to write. Perhaps it's something for NOW. Then you'll get back to writing novels. Only the Lord knows. When you seek His will, He'll direct your steps for sure.

      Yes, this year is different. A lot of folks are being called to fast as never before. Like the people of Nineveh, so many have turned their backs on God. The present culture thinks of self instead of putting the Lord first. We need to ask for his forgiveness and his mercy.

  3. Debby, thank you for sharing. This is deep. Sometimes with what we went through in 2020 it's tempting to think we "gave" enough. But we didn't. And we never will.
    I have no specific plans for Lent this year, it just kind of sneaked up on me. Will continue to grow closer to the Lord through prayer and Bible study. Where writing is concerned, I need to focus on Him more than ever, as the industry continues to do backflips. To not envy other writers, or try to "hustle" an opportunity that's not for me. And to write the best books I can.
    Home today, it's hovering around zero and windy, but the sun it out, nice to watch. I'm waiting for several phone calls for my newspaper job, so I'm stuck here anyway. Will try to get my 1000 words in, I missed it yesterday.
    May be back later.

    1. Hi KB, I'm in two Bible studies via Zoom, which will continue throughout Lent. Both provide opportunities to dig deeply into the Word. Scripture reading and prayer are two practices that always draw us closer to the good for you, KB!

      Sorry it's so cold in Boston. We've been in the 20s, and for Georgia, that's cold! Today the sun is out, as you mentioned, and that always brightens my day.

      Wishing you a prayerful Ash Wednesday!

  4. Hi Debby I always try to help others when I can Blessings to you!

    1. Sarah, I know you touch so many with your loving spirit. Bless you!

  5. Your posts are always so inspiring. With covid and health issues, about all I can do for others is many needs out there. When I can, I share books with my small county library...the ladies seem to especially love LI/LIS books. My copy of your book arrived yesterday...YAY...reading it soon.

  6. Jackie, sharing books and friendship is a lovely ministry. Thank you! Thank you, too, for your support, which means so much to me!

    Prayer is the best thing we can do for others! God uses our prayers for good and nothing is wasted. Bless you!

  7. Such a thought-provoking post Debbie. Thank you for sharing.

  8. I agree with Lee-Ann... this is thought-provoking but also soul-stirring. I find things that ask the hard questions are most appealing to me because I want to explore the answers. Not just the obvious ones, or those I agree with, but the behind the scenes effects of all of this.

    Debby, my sister-in-law was talking with me a week ago because she sees what we do but her concern was that her children... the 30 and 40's age groups... don't see the shift... and the twenties are protected from it because what they've learned and what they know/experience has been different.

    You raise great points. Valid. And yeah... thought-provoking.

    And in the end, whose voices and choices will be heard. And what will they know?

    Will they know the full gamut of information? Or like Fahrenheit 451, will it be only what's allowed... because our news sources seem to be edging more and more toward that reality.

    That's a major concern.

    1. Our youth are being indoctrinated into believing what the media says. I fear they won't dig deeper to uncover what's truth and what's fiction. When California changes the names of forty schools, I have to wonder why. And they changed schools named for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. That's unsettling. But it's not only our youth. Many adults accept what they hear, no matter who is spouting the info and without fact checking to ensure the validity of the so-called news reports. We all need to be aware of the shift in reporting and be alert to viewpoints that are never allowed expression. I want all the facts so I can make my own decisions.

  9. Lots of good stuff here, Debby. Thank you.

    1. Mindy, praying for you and your family and for your wonderful state of Texas! I hope you can dig out of the snow and ice soon. I pray power will be restored and clean water will be available again. God bless the good people of Texas!

  10. What a wonderful post, Debby. Thank you for this. God bless you. God bless us all!

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