Thunder, Thunder, Thunder

I ran across a poem I wrote about a year and a half ago when I was scrolling through my writing board on Pinterest. Well, it’s not really a poem so much as a nursery rhyme of sorts.

Anyway, I had completely forgotten about it, but I’m glad I found it. It reminds me of how I found my courage. It also fits one of the songs we’re learning in choir at church, Kirk Franklin’s I Told the Storm.

“Even though your winds blow I want you to know/You cause me no alarm cause I’m safe in His arms.”

Here’s what I told the storm…

Thunder, thunder, thunder,

I’m not afraid of you.

If you growl loud enough,

I’ll make some thunder too.

~

Thunder, thunder, thunder,

I’ve heard you all my life.

Rumble, rumble, rumble.

You know, I will survive.

~

Thunder, thunder, thunder

You’re only just a noise.

I know you are frightened,

I’ll let you have your voice.

~

Oh, but thunder, thunder, thunder,

I have been speaking too.

It may just be in time

I’ll overpower you.

~

So thunder, thunder, thunder,

Don’t try to silence me;

This time I’m not little,

I’ll fight back valiantly.

Copyright 2014 Lydia Thomas

Originally published on the Wilderness Adventure blog.

I’m not going to teach your kids that Mary and Joseph were bad parents…

(And other thoughts from the war zone.)

I am neck deep in reformatting the Small, But Wise curriculum for its formal release next Wednesday. It would have been up and ready two days ago, but … hard drive failure. I’ve been plugging away, making things pretty and writing the Bible stories I’ve chosen to illustrate various Proverbs principles in a digestible narrative format for Kindergarten through 5th grade students all over again.

In the past two weeks, I’ve done little else, and you know what they say, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” What I’m writing for the curriculum hasn’t really changed, but every time I study these stories, I consider different things. It’s how I keep familiarity from producing contempt. Because these thoughts don’t generally fit within the scope of the lessons of the stories I find them in, sometimes – sometimes I share them on social media. Most of them are more fleshed out than others, but sometimes – sometimes I’m just coming up for a breath before going back under.

That’s rare. So rare. I try not to post anything without fully explaining my position, without acknowledging other points of view. I am known for my thoughtful perspectives, for my ability to understand where other people are coming from. So even when I post something that seems overly-simplistic, most people know it’s not my intention to limit or misrepresent anything. Most people.

Yesterday, I wrote one of those uncharacteristically mindless posts. As I said earlier, I was in the middle of formatting Small, But Wise, in the story of Jesus in His Father’s House, asking questions and listening to the teachers there. Incidentally, this is also the story where Mary and Joseph accidentally leave Jesus in Jerusalem and travel a day before they realized it. For a moment, I had a thought: How did they go a WHOLE DAY not realizing JESUS was with them? My very next thought was, Nobody’s perfect. And I began to think of all of the imperfect people God uses, including myself.

And because I didn’t think these thoughts required more fleshing out, I shared them in brief (Small, But Wise getting an honorable mention, of course), along with this graphic.

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“Let’s not forget, Joseph and Mary left Jesus in Jerusalem and didn’t realize he wasn’t with them for a WHOLE DAY.”

I didn’t talk about the manifold issues I have with the liberties this graphic takes, especially the number of times it takes things a person did one time and proclaims it as their identity. Yesterday, however, I was posting in the spirit of the graphic, not the letter: Do you seriously think God can’t use you?

More than that, I was just sharing my life. Not in a bragging way: Hey, look at me.  More like, Hey, I’ve been working on this and had this thought while working on it. I shared it across my social media streams with my readers and friends, and I shared it in a private message group with my siblings (though not in exactly the same words). I wouldn’t normally share something like that with my siblings, but others were sharing about their day, so I thought I would, too.

Wow. Okay, guys. Did you know that in Jesus’ time twelve was practically manhood and that they travelled in large groups? So it’s totally not the BIG DEAL I had made out of it. Yuh. Serves me right for having thoughts and saying them out loud. So glad someone took time out of her busy schedule to school me on these matters, because Lord knows you wouldn’t want someone who thinks Mary and Joseph were only human producing a curriculum you can use in Sunday school or a Bible club.

It’s true to say that I don’t need this. I am dealing with all of the emotions that have come with my mom’s diagnosis; I am stepping up even more in various ministry this year; and I am always working on a writing project in some shape, form, or fashion. I don’t have the headspace to worry about whether something I say is going to bring out the correction of someone who doesn’t just not know me, but actively chooses not to know me.

I probably have a dozen friends in my circles of acquaintance who could have critically commented on what I posted yesterday. Instead, they chose to see the spirit behind it. They knew there was nothing harmful in it, even if it wasn’t as carefully thought out as some of my other posts. They knew there was nothing in it to lead anyone astray, even if it didn’t acknowledge the fact that Jesus was practically a man and they travelled in groups back then or even that Mary had other kids to look after. They knew I was just talking about my day. Because they know me.

And so yes, it’s true to say I don’t need this, but it’s truer to say I don’t deserve this. I was talking about my day; I wasn’t trying to crumble any towering delusions, or to explode onto the scene with an epiphany. It wasn’t anything that warranted any kind of correction. Standing up for myself in this matter isn’t anything that warrants the mockery or the silent treatment I’ve received in the past twenty hours, either.

I try to be thoughtful. I try to come at issues from as many angles as possible. I try to relate, to understand. I don’t always do it well, but that’s who I am.

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Dear Church

Dear Church,

I can’t give you money.

Since we’re at that time of year where it feels like everyone is asking, I just want to be up front about it: I can’t give you money. And the reason is, I have no money to give.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve received gifts from me at one point or another, so you don’t need me to tell you I would if I could; you already know I give when I can, to whomever I can.

Right now, I can’t.

But, as I hope we all know, there are other things besides money that can be given, and these I give happily, whether to my local church or to past churches or to the universal community that I’ve found online.

I can give you my presence. For when you don’t have anything to say and don’t need anyone to say anything. For when you just need to know someone is there. I am a great presence.

I can give you my ears. For when you need to be understood. I am a great listener.

I can give you my heart. For when you need to know someone cares about you. I am a great expresser.

I can give you my smile. I have dimples. I am a great smiler.

I can give you my talents. I am thrilled to spend time with your kids, teaching them the Bible, playing games with them, and of course, coloring and other creative projects. I am thrilled to offer Small, But Wise, a Proverbs-based curriculum that I designed to you free of charge, and am generally able to take on other similar writing projects without being paid as well. I am a great teacher, and a great writer.

I also love washing dishes, so you know…

And there are probably dozens of other things I offer in this moment – none of them money. But what I have is available to you.

You can rest assured, that when money is available to be given, I will give it. That is my track record.

Until then…

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(Just. Kidding.)

 

 

 

This Is My Ugly Foot

“Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (Proverbs 24:16b NIV).

There is nothing quite so disheartening as pouring yourself into a creative work and then losing it. Maybe it’s not quite as dramatic as your third hard drive failure in a year and 130,000 words; maybe somebody accidently trashed your plot notes and outline or maybe you just hit the wrong button. It doesn’t matter: all you can think is that you’re never going to get it back, at least, not the way it was.

I’ve been through it a thousand times if I’ve been through it once, and every single time, it makes me want to take myself out of the game. In the past, I have taken myself out of the game to my own detriment.

When I find myself back in that place, as I did Sunday, I talk about it: I say how I’m feeling and where I’m at, even if it’s not particularly optimistic. I was supposed to be releasing Small, But Wise, my Proverbs-based curriculum for Kindergarten through 5th grade students, a week from today. I am long overdue for another book release, and am closer than I ever have been to finishing Rachael’s Unfolding since I started writing it eleven-and-a-half years ago. I think it may be simultaneously the darkest and most important thing I’ve ever written, and I’ve been excited about getting it to a place where its ready for feedback. And then, without any warning, the entire formatted Small, But Wise curriculum and all of the progress I’ve made on Rachael’s Unfolding since Christmas are gone.

And even though I’m a completely rational person perfectly capable of accepting that these things happen, that I am neither the exception nor am I immune, after it happened for the third time in a year in a major way and countless times in minor ways, it felt calculated. It felt like if I got back up, I’d get smacked back down again just as quickly. Frankly, it’s just easier to stay down.

Of course, talking about it brought floods of perspective from family and friends.

Many people suggested measures for restoring the hard drive, which I appreciate, but believe me, I’m aware there are ways. Food and shelter are bigger priorities than restored files. Having just come out from under a crap load of debt, I am trying to embrace a more responsible, “if I can’t afford it, I don’t need it” lifestyle. I promise I’m not stupid about technology; I’m really just trying to make better financial decisions.

Regardless, the overwhelming response from nearly everyone was, “Don’t give up,” regardless of any other suggestions.

And I was sitting there thinking, “What if I’m supposed to give up?” After all, if writing is what I’m supposed to be doing, should it really be this hard?

That’s when I remembered a picture I saw on Pinterest and posted to Facebook last week.

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This is my ugly foot.

This isn’t about conditions being ideal.

This isn’t things going to hell in a hand basket.

This is about my level of commitment to what I’m supposed to be doing, what I love doing.

Sunday evening, a scene from The Field came to mind. Lilly has just been assaulted by D, and she’s lying flat on her back in a valley. It’s not that she can’t move, she’s just decided she’s not going to move. Anyway, Raphael comes along and asks her what she’s doing there, and she explains it to him: she’s given up everything only to have to give up more. Now, she’s got nothing left to give. She feels destroyed.

“He can’t destroy you, Lilly,” Raphael said. “He doesn’t have the power. When he strikes at you, it’s because you threaten him. He’s afraid of you.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Lilly said.

“Is it?” Raphael asked. “Where were you the other night when he came to you?”

“The enemy camp.”

“Exactly,” Raphael said. “You were in his camp, his territory … [You’re] no threat to him, lying on your blanket by yourself, which is why he’s not here right now.”

After that, Raphael helps her to her feet and gives her an assignment.

On Sunday, one of my friends wisely said, “I always know when I’m close to a breakthrough because everything goes wrong and all signs point to quitting.”

As I mentioned earlier, it would be easier to quit; after all, if you don’t try, you can’t fail. Thing is, it’s not much of a life, and it’s certainly not the kind of life I’m interested in living.

Since my computer troubles began last April, I’ve had several friends tell me they believe God is going to provide some sort of computer miracle, some sort of restoration of what I’ve lost, and while I’d love that, the miracle for me is being able to get back up again. And again. And again. As many times as it takes. Until it’s done.

And so Sunday night, I made a plan.

Instead of January 26, Small, But Wise will be available one week later, February 2. That should give me plenty of time to rewrite the Bible stories and reformat the lessons. It will be a challenge, and I don’t anticipate getting much of anything else done the next two weeks, but I think I can get it done.

Instead of writing Rachael’s Unfolding and A Year with the Baptists on the computer, I’ll plug away by hand. It will be slow going because of the issues I have with my hand and my perfectionist tendencies, but I think I can get it done. As for typing them up, which I will have to do eventually, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

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Some of my readers may doubt that there’s anything spiritual going on here at all, but I know what I’m writing, and I know why I’m writing it. I know the hearts in which it will resonate. I know the hearts it will harrow and the hearts it will rattle. I know it’s important.

That’s why I’ve gotten back up.

For my ugly foot.

Every artist has got one.

“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise” (Micah 7:8a NIV).

I’m Done Writing

Oh, you guys…

Did you know that for the past six months I’ve been without a personal computer?

It’s true.

My laptop went last April, and because I had nothing backed up, I lost a combined total of about 130,000 words from various WIPs, short stories, and poems, not to mention my pictures and music.

I filed it in the crap happens folder, and moved on.

Thankfully, I had an old PC that I was able to use to get blog posts written. I was a little depressed at the prospect of having to start anything I’d been working on and lost, so I didn’t do much fiction writing. At the end of May, a fantasy series I’d been thinking about started to solidify and I started typing up plot notes. I was getting back into my groove and enjoying writing again.

Then, one day, a blue screen came up notifying me of imminent hard drive failure. My plot notes were saved on a thumb drive this time, because believe it or not, I do learn from my mishaps.

Crap happens. Moving on.

I hustled, tapping out blog posts on my Kindle. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I have a will of iron. (Seriously. Y’all don’t even know.) As with when I lost my laptop, I couldn’t bring myself to work on any of my fiction WIPs.

Something about Christmas brings out my inner writer, though, and I pulled out a notebook and did it up the old-fashioned way on something I’ve been working on for twelve years. (My baby, the one you all have heard so much about lately, Rachael’s Unfolding).

When I went to my parents’ for Christmas, my awesome little brother offered to let me borrow his old PC, since he wasn’t using it. I was so grateful because writing with my cold, stiff, carpal tunnel-y right hand is slow going.

Since then, I’ve made significant progress with Rachael’s Unfolding, and have gotten the Small, But Wise curriculum whipped into shape for a January 26 release. Yesterday, I felt confident enough in the status of the curriculum to announce the release, and I wrote an insanely important scene in Rachael’s Unfolding. Even though I have the flu, my body feels like it’s been beaten up, and I can’t keep anything down, I felt like a champ yesterday.

Before I went to bed, I shut down the computer and unplugged the surge protector as I always do.

This morning. This morning, I turned on the computer that my brother so generously let me borrow and I got a fuzzy screen and beeping noise. Smells like another hard drive failure. With it, I’ve lost 11,000 words in Rachael’s Unfolding and the entire Small, But Wise curriculum, because there were zero signs that this was going to happen, and I didn’t think I’d need to back it up. (My mistake. I should definitely know better.)

I could put this in the crap happens folder and hustle again, but something about this happening every time I find my groove again makes me not even want to try. Besides, at this point, it feels a little deliberate, and I’m not sure if that means I should fight through or give up. My iron will? Molten. Still iron, but it needs to cool.

So I think I’m done writing, and if you don’t hear from me for a while, that’s why. I can’t write if I’m constantly waiting for the hammer to drop, and after three times, I’m pretty sure if I keep going, I’m going to keep losing.

I don’t want to keep losing, y’all.

 

When We Make Heaven the Point

Welcome to this week’s edition of Why They Call Me a Heretic.

“Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one gets into heaven but through me'” (John 14:6, NITBV).

This message is so widely preached and embraced, I imagine it’s getting a few solemn head bobs from the evangelical crowd. I imagine if I plastered the quote above onto a graphic and posted it across my social media platforms, it would spread like gospel truth, because well, to some, it is gospel truth.

And I wonder.

I wonder if anyone would catch it.

You know, the fact that Jesus didn’t say that at all. Or the fact that NITBV stands for Nowhere in the Bible Version. (Not that I actually expected anyone to pick up on that last bit.)

Here’s what Jesus really said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6 NASB, emphasis mine). And this is where I imagine my head-bobbing evangelical friends saying, “Well, you can’t get to heaven without going through Jesus to the Father, so really it’s the same thing.”

It’s not, friends. It’s not.

In fact, I would submit that whenever we make heaven (or avoiding hell) the point, we miss the point.

Recently, I’ve been reading The Curate of Glaston by George MacDonald (companion to There and Back). Two characters are discussing the purpose of the Church: one feels it is up to the Church to prove there is a God, the other that it is the Church’s duty to proclaim Christianity. Thomas asks, “What is Christianity, then?” His companion replies, “God in Christ, and Christ in man” (The Curate of Glaston, George MacDonald, Location 919). The Church just celebrated Christmas – the Incarnation of Emmanuel, God with Us. As Mel Wild of In My Father’s House says, “Christmas is about presence.” I have been arguing for some time now that the entire gospel is about presence – God’s presence.

When Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me,” it’s part of a larger discussion with His disciples about where He is going (John 13:36; 14:5). He mentions going to prepare a place for his disciples in His Father’s house, and it seems Thomas misses the point, just like many of us, and wants to know how to get to this prepared place (John 14:5). Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t point the way to the house, but to the Father. Even later in his discourse, He says, “I am going to the Father” (John 16:28).

News of heaven, or even news of avoiding hell, is simply not good enough. And I know, because that was the gospel I believed growing up. I had some kind of hope (I suppose) in my name being in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:15) an eventuality of God wiping away every tear (Revelation 21:4), but I did not perceive a God at work in my day-to-day life, and had very little use for Him. From the time I was eight or nine years old, I began contemplating suicide, because death seemed to be the only way out, and along with those thoughts, I lost whatever hope of heaven I had, as well. Christians did not commit suicide, or so I was told.

I tried being a “good Christian girl” for years. I knew Biblical doctrine inside and out (even opposing viewpoints), and I taught it in Sunday school. But I felt bad teaching, thinking if parents knew a depressed and suicidal person was teaching their children, they’d boot me to the curb, and eventually, I stopped teaching on my own. I think I avoided God for much the same reason: I imagined He was disgusted by my mental illness, and didn’t really want anything to do with me.

I was nineteen years old before I understood that God knew and loved me personally, mental illness and all; it was like a dam between my head and my heart was breached. And from there, not all at once, but little by little, my intellect and my heart have been coming together, and I begin to understand restoration, not as the means by which to make me better, but as God’s means to draw me closer and closer to Himself. And as I grow closer and closer to Him, more and more, I become who I would be if it weren’t for sin. Of course, that process won’t be complete until Heaven, but I have Him now. And He wants to be with me now.

Yes, I believe I’m going to heaven, but the only reason heaven offers any hope for this girl is because it’s eternity in the presence of God without sin getting in the way, but even then, the hope is not heaven, but God’s uninterrupted presence.

The real good news, the real hope for right now is that through Jesus, I have access to the Father. Through Jesus, I can say, “You have made known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness evermore; in Your right hand are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11 NASB). Through Jesus, I can attest that abundant life is not your best life now, but the presence of the Father, who walks with me no matter what I’m facing or what my attitude is. Through Jesus, I can say, “I am going to the Father,” anytime I want.

What are your thoughts?

That Awkward Moment When…

There are a lot of awkward moments for writers.

Unlike most other professions, people have no problem asking you how much you make. Of course, they don’t ask so directly – no, they’ll ask how many copies you’ve sold and what percentage of royalties you’ve earned.

They treat it like a hobby, something you can shelve any time.

Even when they acknowledge it’s what you do (or at least, a big part of what you do), somehow they think it’s easy: I wish I could sit around writing books all day. Uh-huh.

By far, though, the most awkward encounter I’ve had as a writer about my writing is someone approaching me about writing – well, his story idea.

Today I’m on Sarah Elizabeth Boucher’s blog talking about this encounter and how it inspired me. Sarah is one of my favorite authors and writers … I reviewed her novel, Becoming Beauty, last November, which I adored, but I also just love her blog, which always has timely advice. Make sure you follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Without further ado, here is my awkward author encounter in all it’s glory:

I truly thought they were being dramatic, those writers who complain about people who say, “You know what you should write…” or, “I have this story idea…” I guess I was just jealous because it had never happened to me… [READ MORE]