A Few of My Favorite Blogs

So, obviously, I write a blog. (And if that’s not obvious, I don’t know what to tell you).  I also read blogs, and so today I thought I would list some of my favorite blogs pertaining (of course) to reading, writing, and matters of faith.

Reading.

I love, love, love reading Charlotte Cuevas’ poetry and flash fiction blog.  Charlotte just has this perspective, this voice, this style that resonates.  Her work doesn’t give off a “heavy” vibe, but it’s an observant sort of writing that hits you in the face anyway.  She also has an anthology of poetry, Candy Pizza, and word on the street is that she’ll be releasing TWO more books this year.  If you don’t read Charlotte Cuevas (even if you think you hate poetry), you are missing out.

Reading/Writing.

Another writer I enjoy reading is Drew Chial. Drew talks gives advice about writing through stories and illustrations and he just has this way of getting his point across.

Writing.

The Editing Hart. Shen Hart and Michael Keenan (two editors) dole out great, honest advice on a wide variety of writing issues.  In fact, I often view their articles as swift kicks to the rear, and often refer back to them as I make personal edits to my own manuscripts.

Writing/Matters of Faith.

I came across Hilary’s blog a number of years ago, and I don’t even remember how or why, except that I was wrestling with the concept of abundant life after my faith crisis.  Anyway, Hilary writes with this graceful honesty, and it never comes across that she has everything worked out, but rather that she is learning as she goes.  Her blog is always a pleasant and peaceful read, even when it’s a difficult topic.

Matters of Faith.

Like Hilary’s blog, I’m not sure how I stumbled across Mel Wild’s In My Father’s House , although I’m glad I did, as Mel’s words have challenged me to look at God differently, to see His Father heart.

Check them out.

(P.S.  I do not know Charlotte Cuevas, Drew Chial, Shen Hart, Michael Keenan, Hilary, or Mel Wild personally, nor have any of them asked for my endorsement.  I just genuinely appreciate what they have to say, and think you, my readers, will as well).

Baptist Snippets: Best Friends Are The Best

Hey, lovelies.  I’m surfacing from a weekend of writing to bring you a snippet from the original draft A Year with the Baptists, my work in progress.  This particular excerpt will not be appearing in the final draft, because its a part of the (70K word) back story, which I’ve decided to completely cut.  (I’ll talk more about that later).

Still, it really showcases Ruth, my protagonist Emma’s best friend (loosely based on my closest friends), and it’s kind of a fun part of the story (in between the heavier parts), so I thought I’d share it with you.

I hereby dedicate this Baptist Snippet to my own dear friends, Hope and Whitney and Beth, my biggest cheerleaders, supporters, and buttkickers.

Jake smiled at Emma as they entered the foyer.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey.” Emma grinned back.

“Ready to go?” he asked.

“I think so,” she replied.

Jake extended his hand and she took it, walking with him through the double doors into the cool night air.

“Get a room!” someone called in the parking lot.

Emma squinted into the darkness.

“Ruth?” she exclaimed.

Emma released Jake’s hand just in time. Ruth barreled at her, wrapping her in a tight hug.

“Hi,” Emma said, voice muffled in Ruth’s shoulder.

Ruth stepped away, beaming.

“What are you doing here?” Emma asked.

“You wanted me to come for a visit, remember?” Ruth retorted.

“Yeah, but I didn’t mean you had to come right away,” Emma replied. “I mean, I’m glad you did, but you didn’t have to, you know?”

Ruth bounced around.

“What about work?” Emma demanded.

Ruth shrugged.

“Paid time off,” she said.

Jake cleared his throat.

“Oh, grief,” Emma said, remembering where she was. “Ruth, you haven’t met Jake.”

Ruth turned to Jake.

“Jake,” Emma continued, “this is my friend, Ruth.”

“Very nice to meet you, Jake,” Ruth said, waving.

Jake smiled.

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” he said.

Pastor Springer had also joined them.

“And this is my pastor,” Emma said, “Pastor Springer. Pastor Springer, Ruth.”

Pastor Springer shook Ruth’s hand and they exchanged pleasantries.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to be taking up a lot of Emma’s time this weekend,” Ruth informed them.

“You’re here for the weekend?” Emma squeaked.

“Thought you could use some extended girl time,” Ruth said.

Emma smiled.

“For sure,” she replied.

“And I want to get to know you a little better, too, Jake,” Ruth said, looking at Jake again. “Maybe the three of us can get lunch or dinner sometime while I’m here.” She paused. “Or breakfast,” she added. “Breakfast is good too.”

“I’d like that,” Jake responded. “I assume you want to drive Emma home tonight, too?”

Pastor Springer chuckled.

“Sorry,” Ruth answered, “but yes.”

“Not a problem,” Jake said, drawing Emma in and planting a kiss on her forehead. “You two have fun.”

Emma wound her arms around him tightly.

“Thank you,” she mumbled. “You’re the best.”

“Break it up, you two,” Ruth teased, snapping her fingers.

Pastor Springer raised his eyebrows.

Emma freed Jake, and stepped away, giving a small wave. Then she skipped and giggled with Ruth through the parking lot.

Once they were in Ruth’s car, Emma turned to look at her friend.

“Thanks for coming, Ruth,” she said soberly. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“I am, too,” Ruth said, turning her key in the ignition.

Emma relaxed into the seat with the odd feeling she could breathe again.

***

Ruth came to work with Emma the following day. Emma wasn’t really sure how the powers-that-were would feel about it, but Ruth had begged to at least see Emma’s cubicle.

“I promise I’ll find something to occupy myself the rest of the day,” she had promised, “but you’ve got to let me see this joint.”

Now, Ruth surveyed Emma’s space, frowning.

“Kind of a letdown, huh?” Emma said.

“You haven’t even decorated,” Ruth said incredulously. “No personality. No pictures. You should at least have pictures. Maybe of your niece, or even of me.”

Emma laughed.

“You think so?” she said.

“Something, Emma,” Ruth said, aghast. “You should have something.”

“I meant to personalize it when I started,” Emma said. “I just never got around to it.”

“Pitiful,” Ruth declared, glancing around. “I know what I’m doing today.”

“What’s that?” Emma asked.

“Getting you some décor for your desk,” Ruth said.

“Okay,” Emma said. “Don’t go overboard, though, okay?”

“Me, overboard?” Ruth retorted sarcastically. “You’ve got the wrong girl, pal.”

“Mm-hm,” Emma replied.

“Good morning!” Sophie greeted, breezing towards them.

“’Morning!” Emma said brightly. “Sophie, this is my friend, Ruth. She’s in town visiting me this weekend.”

“Oh, how nice,” Sophie gushed, reaching out her hand to shake Ruth’s.

“Sophie, can I ask you a somewhat personal question?” Ruth inquired.

Emma rolled her eyes, powering up her computer.

Sophie looked taken aback.

“I guess,” she said, unsure.

“How could you let Emma work here all of these months and not decorate her desk?” Ruth asked.

“Um,” Sophie started. “I guess I just figured she was a minimalist.”

“She’s messing with you,” Emma informed her.

“Oh,” Sophie said. “I suppose I should have intervened, then.”

“It’s a blooming shame,” Ruth said, still deadpan. “No worries, though, I’m off to rectify the situation.”

“Oh?” Sophie asked.

“She’s going to get some stuff to spruce the place up,” Emma explained.

“Ah,” Sophie said. “Well, it was nice meeting you, Ruth.”

“Right back at you,” Ruth replied.

Sophie went to her office.

“Mind if I make a list before I leave?” Ruth asked.

Emma tore a piece of yellow paper from her legal pad and handed it to her along with a pen.

“Just do it quietly.” Emma feigned sternness. “This is a place of business.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Ruth said, sitting in Sophie’s old chair.

“Hey, hey, hey.” Emma heard Jake from behind her.

She spun around.

He was striding toward her, two coffee cups in hand.

“Chai latte,” Jake announced, setting one of the cups on her desk.

His eyes fell on Ruth, poring over her list.

“Hi, Ruth,” he said.

Ruth looked up at him.

“Well, hello there, Jake,” she said pleasantly.

“I didn’t know you would be here or I would have picked something up for you, too,” he told her apologetically.

Ruth wrinkled her nose.

“Oh, no worries,” she replied. “I don’t drink that stuff. I’m a Diet Coke girl.”

It was Jake’s turn to look disgusted.

“Can I ask you something, Jake?” Ruth inquired, returning to her list.

“Oh, boy,” Emma said.

“Sure,” Jake replied, taking a sip off his coffee.

“How has Emma been here for five months without really making this desk her own?” Ruth questioned.

“You know,” Jake said, “I wonder that myself sometimes.”

“You do?” Emma asked.

“Yeah,” Jake answered. “Seems like you’re not planning on staying or something.”

“Exactly,” Ruth said triumphantly.

“I’m definitely planning on staying,” Emma said, more for Jake’s benefit than Ruth’s.

“Glad to hear it,” Jake replied, smiling at her.

“And I am off to get the décor to prove it,” Ruth announced, standing up.

She folded the piece of paper and stuffed it into her pocket, handing the pen back to Emma.

“The two of you behave yourselves,” she admonished. “Both feet on the floor, at all times.”

Emma wanted to disappear.

“Goodbye, Ruth,” she said pointedly.

“See you at five,” Ruth replied, shuffling out of the office.

“She is something else,” Jake said, watching her leave.

Emma looked up at him.

“You have no idea,” she replied, grinning.

 ***

Ruth returned with a few paper bags a few minutes before five.

“No judgment until you see it all in place, please,” she said, unloading an assortment of picture frames and small motivational posters onto Emma’s desk.

To Emma’s horror, Ruth also procured a potted cactus, before slapping down a photo envelope and two calendars. She folded the bags neatly and propping them against Emma’s desk, looking pleased with her purchases.

“One for two-thousand-eleven, and one for two-thousand-twelve,” Ruth said, indicating the calendars.

She examined them quickly, thumbing through one to October and fixing it to the cubicle wall in front of Emma with a thumb tack. Emma was greeted by black and white landscape photo. She jammed the other calendar in Emma’s cabinet drawer.

Emma’s eyes were drawn back to the plant.

“Ruth, you got me a cactus,” Emma stated.

“I did,” Ruth said proudly.

“I don’t know anything about taking care of a cactus,” Emma protested.

“That’s what Google is for,” Ruth informed her, pulling the other desk chair over to sit beside Emma.

Ruth pulled pictures out of the envelope. There was one of Ruth and her making faces at the camera from a late night cramming session in college, one of her with Charlotte at her graduation, and a family photo from Thanksgiving.

“How did you”- Emma started.

“Social media,” Ruth replied.

Emma smiled at her friend’s resourcefulness.

Ruth lined up the frames, and Emma observed they were labeled in curly script in the bottom corners.

“Love?” she read aloud, picking one up.

“I thought it would be nice for a picture of you and Jake,” Ruth explained, “but then I couldn’t find one.”

“Yeah, well, that’s because there isn’t one,” Emma replied, as Ruth loaded their picture into a frame labeled friends.

“What?” Ruth demanded. “How is there not”- she shook her head –“Oh, never mind. To-do number two: get a picture of Jake and Emma together.”

Ruth finished putting the pictures in the frames and arranged them on Emma’s desk. She pinned up the motivational posters, and Emma was relieved that they were either Bible verses or writing quotes.

“Okay,” Ruth said, stepping back and eyeing her handiwork.

Emma rolled back in her chair and examined what her friend had done. She wasn’t certain it was one hundred percent her, but she was grateful for Ruth’s efforts.

“Thanks, Ruth,” she said, grinning up at her friend.

“You like it?” Ruth said.

“I do,” Emma replied.

Jake’s head appeared over the cubicle wall.

“Oh, wow,” he said.

“The place has transformed, hasn’t it?” Ruth said.

“It has,” Jake said, glancing around. “Cactus is a nice touch.”

“I thought so,” Ruth said.

“I hope it makes it,” Emma offered. “I’ve never had a plant before, much less a cactus.”

“Don’t worry,” Jake replied. “I think cacti are pretty hearty plants. They’re not terribly needy.”

“Probably a good thing,” Emma said.

“This your family?” he inquired, picking up the frame labeled family.

“No, those are the next door neighbors,” Emma returned sarcastically.

Jake chuckled and set it back down again. His eyes wandered to the empty love frame.

Emma wished she had put that in the drawer with the twenty-twelve calendar.

“We’ll have to fill that soon,” Jake remarked.

“Amazing,” Ruth said, shaking her head in disbelief. “I was just saying the same thing.”

Emma shifted uncomfortably.

“So,” Jake began, “I was thinking maybe we could all get breakfast at The Perc tomorrow morning.”

“All right,” Emma agreed. “Eleven okay?”

“Sounds good,” Jake said.

“Come prepared,” Ruth told him. “I’ve been sent to vet you.”

Emma groaned.

“Well, I certainly hope you find me worthy,” Jake said.

“I will if you are,” Ruth retorted agreeably.

“He is,” Emma put in swiftly. “You are,” she informed Jake.

Jake smiled and bent down to kiss her on the forehead.

“’Bye,” he said, and walked away.

Emma watched him go, grinning. He was a catch.

Ruth peered at Emma critically.

“What?” Emma said, raising her eyebrows.

“Have you two not, like, kissed on the mouth yet?” Ruth asked in hushed tones.

Emma slapped a palm to her forehead and scooted forward to turn off her computer.

“Let’s go, Ruth,” she said.

“Oh my word,” Ruth breathed. “You totally haven’t.”

Emma stood up, wordless. This was definitely not something she wanted to discuss with Ruth.

“Is this one of those weird dating rules you grew up with?” Ruth pressed.

Of course that was where Ruth’s mind would go.

“No,” Emma retorted. “It just hasn’t … happened yet.”

“Because it’s not wrong, you know,” Ruth assured her, “kissing.” She smirked at Emma. “Neither is having your picture taken together.”

“Oh, grief,” Emma said, leading Ruth out of the office. “You’re crazy, you know that?”

“You’re the one who has no pictures with her boyfriend,” Ruth replied, “and I’m the crazy one?”

“Okay,” Emma conceded. “We’re both crazy.”

“That’s more like it,” Ruth said.

Emma smiled, glad Ruth was here, if only for the weekend.

***

“So, Jake,” Ruth said, once they were seated and had begun nibbling on their various pastries, “what’s drew you to Emma?”

Jake looked at Emma.

“Her smile,” he said. “We went into the reception area to get her for her interview, and she smiled the biggest, brightest, dimpliest smile I’d ever seen. Then she just had this spirit about her during the interview and whenever I saw people ask her questions afterwards. She would give such thoughtful responses. She really hears people, you know?”

Emma thought she might be turning to mush.

“Oh, I get it,” Ruth agreed.

“She’s pretty incredible,” Jake said.

“Stop,” Emma said. “I’m right here.”

“So, do I pass the test?” Jake asked.

Emma held her breath and hoped Ruth didn’t have any questions about Jake’s intentions, or anything ridiculous like that.

“With flying colors,” Ruth replied.

Emma exhaled.

***

“You really like him, don’t you?”

They were lying on their backs in Emma’s living room, just talking like they used to when they were roommates.

Emma rolled her head to the side to look at Ruth.

“I really do,” she said.

“Where do you see it going?” Ruth inquired.

“What do you mean?” Emma asked.

“Well, do you see yourself marrying him?” Ruth replied.

“I haven’t thought much about it,” Emma said, considering Ruth’s question. “It’s a possibility.”

“We make a really good team,” Emma continued after several minutes of silence. “He gets how I think. He likes how I think. He draws me out.”

“Is that a yes?” Ruth said. “I couldn’t tell.”

Emma smiled.

“I think so, yeah,” she responded.

“For what it’s worth, I think you two make a great couple,” Ruth told her. “I can totally see the two of you growing old together.”

“Thanks, Ruth,” Emma said. “Means a lot.”

***

Jake put an arm around Emma’s shoulder and pulled her close as Ruth drove away out of the FHL parking lot after church Sunday.  Ruth had just finished challenging Pastor Springer on some of the points of his sermon, which of course, Emma hadn’t heard.

Emma waved after her friend, savoring the bittersweet nature of the moment. She was sad to see Ruth go, but glad she had approved of Emma’s new life and Jake. Especially Jake.

“She’s not a Baptist, is she?” Pastor Springer observed, walking up to stand beside them.

“No, she’s not,” Emma said, smiling proudly.

It didn’t matter that Ruth wasn’t a Baptist.  She was her friend.

Copyright, 2015, Lydia Thomas.

 

 

Bethel, the Presence of God, and Restoration

I’ve talked recently about how God has been speaking to my heart about Bethel and Restoration.  As only He can do, God has built on these concepts (line upon line and precept upon precept), taking them from being mere words in my vocabulary to life realities, so I wanted to talk a little bit more about them.

On Sunday at church, we were wrapping up a series on prayer, and my pastor began by saying (and I’m paraphrasing here) that successful prayer begins and ends with honestly seeking God.  Not seeking God for what I can get from Him, but seeking God Himself.  On Monday, I was going through my email, and I stumbled on an email from Enliven entitled Unstoppable Momentum and the Glory of God.  Although I’m subscribed to the blog, I don’t always read these emails, but this one caught my attention.  In it, Helen Calder talks about encountering God’s presence, not just manifestations of God’s presence (and I confess, guys, I hadn’t really thought about the distinction before reading that); in short, encountering God Himself.  And I thought, God must be trying to tell me something.  As I prayed about it, I really felt God calling me to know Him more; not so much on an intellectual level, but with my whole heart (Jeremiah 29:13).  Later, either on Monday or Tuesday, I was reading Tom Short’s post on fearing God (because I’m studying Proverbs this year and fearing God is a big topic in Proverbs), where he talks about fearing God being the key to intimacy with Him, to knowing God Himself.

I began to suspect that this idea of seeking and encountering and knowing God Himself was somehow tied to what God has been teaching me about Bethel and Restoration, so I started praying about that, too, and revisited Jacob’s story at Bethel in Genesis 28.

When he [Jacob] reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set.  Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.  He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  There above it stood the LORD.

Now, in the notes for the phrase there above it, my Bible says that some translations say, “There beside him.” I’m not a scholar of the Hebrew language, and I haven’t investigated enough to say which phrase is the most accurate, but I can’t help but think how profound it would have been if when God promised to be with Jacob, He was actually right there beside him.

Then I was thinking more about Bethel, and how it means house of God; essentially, God’s dwelling place.  It signals God’s presence.  And whenever I think of God’s presence, I think of Emmanuel, God with Us: God’s fellowship with Adam and Eve before sin (Genesis 2); Jesus taking on human form and dwelling among us (John 1:14); God declaring that His dwelling place was with the people (Revelation 21:3).

In my personal devotions, I’ve been reading through 2 Samuel.  I’ll be honest, I haven’t really been connecting with it. (I rarely connect with the Bible’s history books, which is why I’ve challenged myself to finish reading them this year).  I was in the middle of the story of David and Absalom, where David’s heart longs for the banished Absalom, so Joab sends this woman to talk to David, almost through a parable.  Anyway, this woman says to David, “Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, He devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from Him” (2 Samuel 14:14 NIV).

And you guys, that’s when it hit me full in the face: God wants to be with us.

I’m a writer, so I ponder things like character and plot development in my own writing and when I’m reading or watching or hearing a story.  I even think in terms of character and story when it comes to various life circumstances.

One of the things you’ll often hear storytellers talk about is a character’s motivation, or goals; in short, what the character wants. When I start planning a story,  I set up my characters by saying, “More than anything, so-and-so wants…” There are many different characters and they all have various goals, but the over-arching goals that come out in the plot are those of the protagonist and antagonist.  The protagonist is driven by achieving some goal and everything he or she does is related to that; the antagonist has an oppositional goal and therefore creates obstacles for the protagonist. Therein lies the story.

Often in the human story, we cast God as the Author and ourselves as the protagonists and anyone who opposes us (and therefore God, as we often think in moments of pride) as the antagonist.  I don’t think that’s entirely inaccurate, but I’ve been considering something a little bit different this week: that this human story is actually God’s story, and He is the protagonist in it.  If I was setting up God as a character in His own story,  I would say,  “More than anything, God wants to be with people.”

Think about it (and start in Genesis if you don’t believe me): everything God has done throughout history is to draw people to Himself.  He wants to be sought, encountered, and known by us, and He is all about making a way for that to happen!

“God, in His dealings with us, always keeps us up to the original terms.” ~ The Miscellaneous Writings of C. H. M., Vol. VI, ‘Arise, Go Up to Bethel’

I think of how He created the perfect spiritual, physical, and emotional environment for us – in close relationship with Him, and how ever since we messed that up,  He’s been trying to get us back to that.

I think of Jacob’s dream, that stairway from earth to heaven, when God met with Jacob, and then never left.

I think of Jesus, fully God, and taking on our humanity.  Becoming one of us to mediate the difference our sin had created between God and us, as the Only One who could.

I think of Peter, who betrayed Jesus, and wept.  Maybe he thought God was through with him.  Jesus left him with the same call he started with, “Follow Me.”

I think of my own story, being a “late bloomer” for having grown up in a Christian home.  I think of my journey from knowing the gospel to understanding God’s love for me and my need for Jesus.  I think of the decision I made four years ago to lay down my own plans and to pursue God’s will for my life, how easily distracted I’ve been from that every time my will rears its ugly head, how many detours I’ve consequently taken, and how every time, God calls me back.

And what does He call me back to?

Is it to Seattle, and the missional vision and passion He’s planted in me? Maybe a little.  Is it to writing? Maybe a little. Is it to children’s ministry? Maybe a little.  Is it to being a team-builder? Maybe a little.  An intercessor? Maybe a little.

But more than anything, God calls me back to Himself.  To seek Him, to encounter Him, to know Him.

And you know something? I think that’s one thing that holds true for all of us.

“‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14a, emphasis mine).

Top Ten Favorite Writing Quotes

“We write to taste life twice.” ~Anais Nin

“You only learn to be a better writer by actually writing.” ~Doris Lessing

“Don’t be ‘a writer.’ Be writing.” ~William Faulkner

“Write what should not be forgotten.” ~Isabel Allende

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” ~Ernest Hemingway

“Easy reading is damned hard writing.” ~Nathanael Hawthorne

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” ~John Steinbeck

“Accept now, before you even start, that some people will hate it.  Then again, some people will love it.  Write for the lovers.” ~Rachel Thompson

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality.  It’s a way of understanding it.” ~Lloyd Alexander

“All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know.” ~Ernest Hemingway

For more writing quotes and inspiration, check out my Pinterest board, ‘On Writing.’

writing

Dear Christian Friend(s) in the Closet

Note: I don’t know how to put this nicely, so I’ll just be direct – if you are not a Christian friend in the closet, this post has not been written for you.  It is not a challenge, an introduction for discourse or debate, or an opportunity to express an opinion on this matter; it is an encouragement to my gay brothers and sisters in Christ who are still in the closet about their sexuality.  That is all.  Any comments that do not fall under the category of encouragement, or do not meet my standards of encouragement (which, for this post, are SKY HIGH!), will be promptly, liberally, and unapologetically deleted.

I have personally clarified my position on sexuality in a series of posts on this blog that I am open to discussing: Broken Sexuality I, Broken Sexuality II, Broken Sexuality III, Broken Sexuality IV, and Nobody Goes to Hell for Being Gay.  Although the comments to these posts have long been closed, you are welcome to contact me with questions, comments, or concerns via email (lydia[dot]evelyn[dot]thomas[at]gmail[dot]com), by private messaging me on my public Facebook profile, or by direct messaging me on Twitter.

Dear Christian Friend(s) in the Closet,

Please come out.

I know, I know, some of our brothers and sisters in Christ are downright nasty to those who identify as gay or lesbian or transgender or queer, automatically condemning you to hell on the basis of your sexuality.  Some of them say you can’t be a follower of Jesus AND identify yourself that way.  Some say that if you just pray enough, or have enough faith, it will go away. Some say it’s okay to struggle with your sexuality, as long as you don’t act on it.

Without knowing and sometimes without caring, some have left you struggling with your faith. It’s so much easier to stay hidden, rather than to expose yourself to that more direct judgment, rejection, and pressure.

I understand.

Can I just say something, though?

You are being defrauded of at least part of the freedom and fullness and light and life that comes with following Christ while you’re still in that closet.

And can I say something else?

A half-life, a life in the shadows is not God’s will for you.

So, please. Come out of the closet.

I’m not even saying you should come out to everyone on Facebook or your blog or anything like that.  There are people (even non-Christians) who are simply not worthy.

I am saying you should find trusted brothers and sisters in Christ to whom you can relate your struggles, who will receive you graciously and lovingly even if there is a sin issue present, and who will fill you with the truth about who you are and who God has called you to be.  I am saying you should let yourself be known and loved by your brothers and sisters in Christ, just as you are known and loved by Christ.  I am one of many waiting for you with open arms and hearts. (That contact info at the top of this post? It’s for you, too).

Come to us.

I’m a sinner too, and every bit as broken as you or anyone else.  I’ll give you the same love, the same grace, the same truth I’ve been given and give everyone else. I’ll let you into those things I keep hidden, and let you extend love and grace and truth to me.

Because of Jesus, we can have fellowship, okay? That’s what I’m saying.

Come.

I am pretty sure I am one of the biggest proponents of victorious Christian living; that is, I don’t believe any Christian is ever in any situation where he or she has to sin.  I believe that having the mind of Christ and Him alive in us and the indwelling Holy Spirit (the Helper) empowers us to be victorious over temptation, and ultimately, sin.

That being said, even with this supernatural ability, all Christians still sin. The fact is that we all fail to lean on God in moments of temptation every day of our lives.

There is grace to cover all of it.

Mine.  And yours.

“If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous” (1 John 2:1).

Please.

Come out of the closet.

We need you. You are a vital part of the Church, and we can’t function the way God intended without you.  All of you, not just the parts you think we’ll accept.

And we love you. You’re family. You’re one of us.  You’re wanted.

So, please, come.

In Christ,

Lydia

Jesus, He loves me! He is for me!

True Confessions of a Reader-Writer-Faither

I might lose some people over this post.

Okay, maybe not.

(Unless I have some very extreme readers, in which case, I might.  Goodbye, by the way).

Are you ready for this?

***

I consider myself reasonably well-read.  I have read Plato, Herodotus, Homer, Dickens, Austen, Poe, the Bronte sisters (Emily and Charlotte), Oates, Rand, and Lessing to name a few, but I have never read Shakespeare.  I feel immensely guilty about this.

I have read A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and Bleak House by Charles Dickens, but though I wrote a play adaptation of it many years ago, I’ve never actually read A Christmas Carol.  I feel like a fraud about this.

Emma is my favorite Austen novel (and heroine), and I like Pride and Prejudice, but otherwise, I’m not much of an Austen fan.  I don’t feel bad about this at all.

I don’t like the Bronte sisters at all.  I feel like this is because I read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights when I was young (like nine or ten), and I should probably give them another shot, but I’m feeling unmotivated.

Outside of required reading, I didn’t touch fiction during my last two years of college.  In fact, I didn’t pick up a fiction book until about two years after I graduated:  Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, if you were curious. I feel bad about this because TV was what took fiction’s place.

I love my Kindle.  There’s more, but I’ll leave it, because some would consider it blasphemous.

***

I didn’t write anything during November.

I didn’t write anything during December either.

I wrote about 500 words last week, and haven’t written anything since.

I should be working on A Year with the Baptists, but I’m writing a light-hearted blog post instead.

Much like reading, I didn’t do much non-required writing during college, either.

I didn’t want to write The Field, but the story wouldn’t let go of me.

Short stories are a strong point for me as a writer.  Novels? Not so much.

I’m not looking to make a living in writing.  I have two other jobs (one of them in retail) at which I make a living, and I love them both (even the one in retail).

I love the autonomy and flexibility I have being a self-published writer.  I can’t imagine giving that up, even for the prestige of traditional publishing.  (Though I might just maybe consider some sort of hybrid).

When I die, I don’t care if anyone outside of my closest circle knows about Lydia Thomas, Author. I’d rather be known just as Lydia any day of the week.

I don’t love writing.  I don’t hate it, either.  I do it because I’m good at it, and it helps me process life. (A coping mechanism, of sorts).  Sometimes, it helps someone else along the way.

***

I am a recovering church hopper. I don’t love this about myself, but…it is what it is.

I love talking theology, especially with my younger brother, because we can (and do!) disagree on a lot of things, but we still have great discussions.

I don’t like talking to people who already have everything figured out at all. There’s no room for growth or questions, and if you don’t think like these people, why, there’s something wrong with you. (And I’m not just talking conservative Christians here, but the more progressive ones as well).

I have boundaries that don’t make sense to many others.  If I’ve withdrawn or put up some kind of wall, it’s because I feel a boundary has been violated, and due to my personal history, I feel the need to protect myself.  I do this most often with churches, but it’s been known to happen in friendships as well. 

I have wrestled with my faith. I don’t mean that I’ve wrestled believing there is a God; however, I have wrestled with believing He is good and wants good things for me, or that He even cares at all.

I have been angry with God, to the point of extreme irreverence. It’s been forgiven, but I’d like not to go there again.

God is doing great and exciting things in my life, but I’ve had trouble trusting that this, too, won’t end with me crumpled at the foot of a door that’s been slammed in my face.  And I do feel bad about that, because I’m clearly missing His Father heart.

I don’t have all the answers, or even most of the answers, but I still fight.

***

Still with me, folks, or did you jump ship after the Kindle confession, or the fact that I don’t love writing, or any number of the off-putting realities of my faith walk?  I hope you’re still here and that you’ve got a new understanding of who I really am, instead of a nicely-packaged online persona.

Because if I’m not being real, well… there’s no point to any of this.

When My Heart Is Overwhelmed

I think it was last May I was sitting at my parents’ kitchen table talking to an insurance agent at Liberty Mutual, trying to get a quote for insuring my car.  He told me I wouldn’t be able to insure my own (okay, technically CO-owned, even though I’m paying for it) vehicle until it was paid off, and the title had been transferred to me (another costly venture).  This didn’t end up being accurate information (this particular company just didn’t want to deal with me, they wanted to deal with my dad, who co-owns my car, and who also owns a fleet of other vehicles. Bundle rates and such), but I didn’t know that at the time and  all I could think was, “I’m not going to Seattle until September 2015.”

It seemed like a really long time a way, especially with how long I’d been waiting, and so I just gave up on going.

Now, with slightly less than eight months to go (and a complete change of heart), I don’t know what I was thinking.  This past week, I’ve been hit with the realization that I have more to do than I have time to do it all in.  Frankly, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed since the New Year .

When I’m overwhelmed, I always think of the Psalm, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 62:1).  And as I was pondering this God whispered to my heart: “Bethel.”  Bethel means House of God, and it’s first mentioned in Genesis 28, when God reveals Himself to Jacob.  He says, “I am with you, and will watch over you wherever you go…I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15).

I am with you.

I will watch over you wherever you go.

I will not leave you.

God is with me, He’s watching over me in this relocation (even in the pre-relocation), and He’s not going to leave me to figure things out on my own.

Because let’s be honest, figuring things out is what I’ve been trying to do.

Wait, how can I pay down this AND save for that?  How can I work two jobs AND finish, edit, and launch my new book?  How can I work AND spend quality time with family and friends before I leave?  How can I really, possibly do life BIG?

I. can’t.

I need God, and thankfully, I have Him.

Whew.

UPDATE 01/09/2015.

Just something I shared on Facebook earlier today as God continues to speak to my heart on this subject:

“God, in His dealings with us, always keeps us up to the original terms.” ~ The Miscellaneous Writings of C. H. M., Vol. VI, ‘Arise, Go Up to Bethel’

I was taking apart my book tree today and found this little essay on Bethel and restoration in one of my parents’ old books. Since these are the two things God has been really speaking to me about recently, I don’t think this was random at all. (Not that I ever think anything is random, but…)

Anyway, the essay talked about how when we get off track from what God has called us to (original terms), He always calls us back. (It took Jacob twenty years and a rough season in Shechem before he got back to Bethel). I can’t fully express what how God encouraged me through this essay, except for to say that He did!

Isn’t God awesome?

(P.S. I have no idea who C. H. M. is, but my parents have six volumes of his Miscellaneous Writings. Does anybody know?)