#GetOutoftheField: Sexual Immorality

I acknowledge the complexity of the issue that I am about to address, as well as the emotional investment many of my readers have in it. I intend to tackle it just as I have in the past – with compassion and conviction.

Sexual Immorality. What is it? I define sexual immorality as any sexual activity outside of a covenant relationship. I derive that from the NT Greek word for fornication, porneo (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). I do believe that such covenants are designed by God to be between a man, a woman, and God for the purpose of helpful companionship and fruitful multiplication (Genesis 2:18-22; 1:27-28).

We live in a sexually broken society.

Of the 53% of marriages that end in divorce in the United States, 41% failed because of infidelity (Infidelity Facts). I wasn’t able to find data on the heterosexual marriages that are ending because a spouse leaves to pursue same sex relationships, but I’ve heard many testimonies, and I know this scenario is all-too-common.

There are the people not getting married at all, quite possibly because of those scary statistics above, but that’s not stopping them from living together. According to NBC, “By the time they’re 20, 1 in 4 women ages 15 to 44 in the U.S. have lived with a man, and by the time they’re 30, that ratio climbs to 3 in 4.”

And just because they’re not living together doesn’t mean they’re not fooling around. The average age of lost virginity in the United States is 17 (The Atlantic). I don’t know if rape is included in that statistic or not. 

Add to these the most emotionally-charged topic of them all: homosexuality. A 2002 Gallup poll estimates 1 in 5 Americans identify themselves as gay or lesbian. While I believe there is a fundamental difference between identity and actions, I think what we identify with we will eventually act upon.

If two people love each other, why can’t they do what they want? Here’s the thing: in the eyes of our government they absolutely can. I’m not interested in having a political discussion, though. This #GetOutoftheField series is about lifestyles that lead to death, physical (decay) and spiritual (distance from God).

Let’s talk about the decay of our bodies: “Recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Infection show that there are 19.7 million new STIs every year in the U.S.” (ASHA). It sounds like we’re creating new diseases every year, but it may just be new cases. Either way, the words “rampant” and “unchecked” come to mind. 

Let’s talk about the decay of future generations.”In 1991 a study was done of children from which the parents were divorced six years earlier. The study found that even after all that time, these children tended to be lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure” (Children and Divorce). They also tend to have more health issues and perform lower in school. I have heard numerous testimonies of children who grew up in homes with gay parents – many dealing with difficulties with growing up without a mother or a father; some of them more difficult to swallow, dealing with molestation. They are shut down too often, because their stories interfere with our placid views of sexuality.

Don’t get me started on abortion. Oh, wait…

Sexual immorality leaves broken people in its wake who go on to break other people.

Remember when I said that sexual immorality was any sexual activity outside of a God-designed covenant relationship ( a man, woman, God)? When God and His design are left out of it, He is not in it. God is not in the extramarital indiscretion and affair. He is not in the covenant-less cohabitation or premature loss of virginity. He is not in the homosexual union.

Now, please understand: I am not saying that God is not with the people doing these things. I am not saying He doesn’t love them.

I am saying that when any of us chooses to disregard God, we create distance between Him and us. We may follow Him in every other way, but the minute we choose to disregard Him and do a thing our way, we block Him in that area of our lives. That’s true of any sin.

Here’s the problem: we don’t want to acknowledge that we’re sinners, and we sin. Sin has a negative connotation. So instead of addressing it for what it is, we attempt to normalize it. If it’s normal, we don’t have to correct it, and it’s nobody’s business, because everybody’s doing it. If someone does address it, shame on them.

As with my #GetOutoftheField: Abortion post, I am inviting criticism when I say sexual activity outside of God’s design is sin. That even though it’s common, it’s not okay. That it hurts us, it hurts others, and it hurts God. That it is leaving far-reaching consequences in our families, churches, and society. That it’s not just one thing, but all the things. That sex is not ultimate.

Hopefully my critics will catch that God’s plan for our well-being is beyond our spoiled rotten attitude of sex when we want it, and with whom. That our ultimate satisfaction is in knowing and following Him with everything we have, including our sexuality. That He wants to adopt us into His family, so we can root our identity in being His children, not in our sexuality.

Some don’t want to believe there is a God; they don’t want to believe they are accountable to Him, and so they will continue to do what they want. They may come up empty again and again, but they will keep going. God loves them, and so do I, but much as I may want to, I can’t make those people see.

But maybe today you’re coming up empty for the umpteenth time, maybe from an affair, or from a lack of commitment, or from another partner (same gender or not), and you know it’s not working. Did you know God loves you for who you are wants to make you His child, and wrap you up in Jesus? Did you know that He calls you to live life a certain way because anything else shortchanges you? Did you know that the more you embrace your identity as His child, the less you’ll identify yourself by what you do or who you’re with? Did you know that He wants you to be more you than ever before – what He saw before sin entered the picture? Did you know that He knows how you struggle and when you fall, and He wants to fight for you, and pick you up?

He’s a good God, and He doesn’t hate you. He is crazy about you!

Run to Him.

If you would like prayer or you want to talk more, you are welcome to email me at lydia . evelyn . thomas @ gmail . com (minus the spaces).

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#GetOutoftheField: Substance Abuse

The Google Dictionary (the very best dictionary, haha) defines substance abuse as “the overindulgence in or dependence on an addictive substance, especially alcohol and drugs.” (Emphasis mine so we understand exactly what we’re talking about – this is NOT about the self- and Spirit-controlled person taking part in legal substances as his or her conscience allows. This IS about being controlled by something that ultimately brings harm. You’ve got to know which one you are and act accordingly. Okay? Okay.)

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports,”According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009 (9.3 percent of persons aged 12 or older).” They go on to say that “there were 1.8 million admissions in 2008 for treatment of alcohol and drug abuse to facilities that report to State administrative data systems.” Substance abuse costs the United States $700 billion a year, and in 2009, a study found, “1 in 3 drivers killed in car accidents tested positive for drugs. Of those tested).” 

In the majority of cases, over-indulgence leads to dependence. That holds true for pretty much everything.

I understand substance abuse and addiction.

I’ve already briefly discussed my own history with over-the-counter drug abuse, as it pertains to my journey from self-destruction to worth. Here’s what I said about that dark season: “[I] started taking medicine to get to sleep and away.” Later, as a young adult I began to use alcohol as a means to numb myself as well, but at that time I was part of a community that spoke into it, and helped me out of it. For me, drugs have always been a means of escape, but others use them to heighten their senses.

It doesn’t really matter what the appeal of drugs are for any given person: in any case, we expect to feel better. And, in any case, we are gravely deceived.

There is a reason why at a certain limit we are considered “under the influence.” It’s because we cease to be who we are, and something else takes over. (Which is not to say we are absolved of the consequences of letting it get to that point). For example, I’m a reserved person by nature, but when I’ve been drinking I get really talkative. I have a loved one who doesn’t often express feelings, but becomes uncharacteristically affectionate when drinking. Another loved one shuts down completely.

The overindulgence and dependence impairs our judgment, and leads to death, be it the gradual decay of our own or a life that crosses our path at the wrong time. We will do anything to get our fix, again and again, even when it means abandoning and deceiving our loved ones. Given enough time, we will have given everything we have to make sure this substance stays in our lives.

Because we want something other than our reality, sometimes for good reason. Life is excruciating sometimes, and we turn to a substance to take that away.

But we are looking for healing in a place that can only destroy us.

My favorite of God’s names is Jehovah Rapha. It literally means, “I AM Healer.” Jesus proclaims Himself the Great Physician. He doesn’t deny our history, our pain – He simply says, “Come. I will give you rest.”

It’s not easy, because when Jesus heals, He’s not interested in slapping a bandaid on our ailments. He wants to cleanse them from the inside out. He wants to get to those wounds that we’ve been avoiding through substance abuse, and if we truly want to be healed, we have to walk with Him into some profoundly painful places. We will have to confront past abuse, or rejection, or abandonment, or broken relationships. We won’t be able to escape.

But He’ll be so patient and so gentle. He’ll hold our hands every step of the way. Because He loves us, and His thoughts toward us are a future and a hope. His thoughts toward us are abundant life.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Jesus doesn’t want us to live lives where we’re slowly losing ourselves and everything of value in our lives to a substance. He has life – where we feel what we feel and are still fully satisfied – for us.

We don’t have to stay in the Field.

If you struggle with substance abuse and addiction, please don’t struggle alone. Please seek the help of a substance abuse counselor and treatment center and a Jesus-following community who can speak into your life, build you up, and just love on you. Rest assured, you are loved – by God, by me, and by your loved ones.

For more #getoutofthefield posts, click here.

Cinderella Gone Wrong

Everyone is singing the new Cinderella movie’s praises, and rightly so: both Cinderella and her Prince were role models of courageous and kind character.  It was the kind of story that inspires hope.

Still, because I’m a storyteller by nature, I wonder … is that really how things would have gone down?

What if Cinderella hadn’t known her mother long enough to be strengthened by her memory?

What if working as a servant in the house that she had every claim on as a daughter stirred up resentment, not only against those she was serving, but against her father, who brought these people into her life and then abandoned her?

What if, instead of staying, she had run away to get out from under her family’s collective thumb?

What if she’d needed a fairy godmother to transform her character after everything she’d been through, not just her physical appearance?

What if there was absolutely nothing in her or about her to attract a prince?

I know, I know.  Cinderella is a fairytale, it’s not supposed to be realistic.  And if Cinderella was anything at all like what I just described, she wouldn’t be the character we know and love.  In fact, what I just described was what would have happened if it had been me in Cinderella’s shoes, because reality is, I’m flawed.  We all are.

Now, of course, the story can’t end there, but I think in order to create relatable characters (and not just optimistic characters, however inspiring), it has to start there.  I love a story where the protagonist’s character goes from rags-to-riches.  Some great examples of this are Sparrow and Leah Hilarey Johnson’s Sovereign Ground and Heart of Petra, Bella in Sarah E. Boucher’s Becoming Beauty, and even Chad in R. J. Conte’s Angel Lover.

I try to include flawed characters in my own writing as well.  Lilly tends to have a defeatist mentality when things aren’t going her way.  Delilah – well, Delilah takes care of herself, and is pretty convinced she’s doing a good job.  Hava is simultaneously self-righteous and hiding out in shame about her past.

I won’t spoil any of their endings for you, but I will say that if any character of mine changes for the better, it’s a hard-won victory.

And in spite of protagonists like Cinderella or Claire Trevelyan who display noble character no matter what their circumstances (and are loved for it!), I’d rather read flawed characters who change and grow within their stories any day.

Pinterest THE FIELD

It’s a Christmas Special!

Hello, lovelies.  🙂

Just wanted to let you know that today through December 25th, the paperback version of The Field is on sale for $6.50.  If you’re wanting to order and read it (and I’m not saying you are), this is the absolute BEST deal you’re going to get for it.

Here’s the synopsis:

Once upon a time there was a village. Along the south border of the village was a gravel road, and beyond the road, a field. This was no ordinary field, for it was strewn with waste from and trespass into it was expressly forbidden by the King.

Although they have been warned about the consequences of trespassing by village elders and even the King himself, Delilah, Lilly and Hava cross over at the counsel of a philosopher who promises liberation. In doing his bidding, they quickly realize they do not know what they had always felt sure of.

Through their respective encounters with the Field, Delilah, Lilly and Hava each take up their own roles in the age-old battle between the King and those who oppose him.

Yes, it’s an allegory; no, I don’t apologize for that.  There aren’t many guarantees in this life, but if you don’t appreciate allegory, you’re definitely not going to like my book.  (Fair warning).

However, if you like allegory, or you’re in late elementary or middle school, you’ll probably like it.

If you’re still not sure, check these posts out.

So, you know, click on over to Lulu and buy it if you’re interested.

Labor Day Weekend Reading

Looking for a Labor Day weekend read? Here are a few titles I’d recommend.

The Field (paperback version) is 50% off today through Monday! That’s right, it’s only $6.50, today through September 1st. If you’ve been wanting to read it, but haven’t had the funds or an e-reader (e-versions are $1.99), now is the time, folks.

Synopsis:

Once upon a time there was a village. Along the south border of the village was a gravel road, and beyond the road, a field. This was no ordinary field, for it was strewn with waste from and trespass into it was expressly forbidden by the King.

Although they have been warned about the consequences of trespassing by village elders and even the King himself, Delilah, Lilly and Hava cross over at the counsel of a philosopher who promises liberation. In doing his bidding, they quickly realize they do not know what they had always felt sure of.

Through their respective encounters with the Field, Delilah, Lilly and Hava each take up their own roles in the age-old battle between the King and those who oppose him.

Mortis by Hannah Cobb.

Synopsis (from Amazon):

A young assassin must betray all she knows. In an underground school rife with duels and deadly classes, Jane hides in the shadows to stay alive. She is the invisible assassin. But as she prepares to graduate from Mortis and take her place in the world as a fully-trained killer, Jane stumbles over shadowy secrets revealing dark truths that affect more than her world. Will she embrace the darkness, or betray the school that raised her-and the boy she loves? Once Jane sets herself against her school, there is no turning back because in Mortis, failure always means death.

The Word Changers by Ashlee Willis.

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Her parents argue and fight almost every day. Not only is their marriage falling apart, but teenager Posy feels her life is falling apart with it. Amidst anger and tears, she retreats to the old library down the street. Posy selects one mysterious book in an undiscovered corner of the library and is magically drawn into another world.

Posy finds herself in a kingdom ruled by a cruel and manipulative king and queen who have attempted to usurp the role that belongs only to the Author of their story. The princess flees, an uprising is breaking out in the kingdom, and the prince and other characters fight against their slavery to the Plot.

Posy and the prince search for the fled princess, encountering hideous monsters, fierce battles, incredible danger, and strange creatures that Posy only ever dreamed. They must travel to mysterious places that expose the darkest part of the heart, their own raw fear, and past wounds that haunt them. Will they find truth and forgiveness as they plunge into the book? Will Posy and the prince save the story? Will Posy heal the heartache she knew in her own world?

Public Displays of Convention by Sarahbeth Caplin.

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Being single. To some it’s a blessing; for others, a curse. Newly-dumped Anna-Kate can’t imagine a life without Jared being anything but empty and hopeless. Following her passion for classic literature, she accepts a job at a local bookstore, where she can spend her days reading about independent heroines like Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennet: women who broke the conventions of their day, and inspire Anna-Kate to do the same.

With a colorful cast of co-workers who offer plenty of unsolicited advice and can’t take hints, the journey to self-sufficiency turns out to be wilder than Anna-Kate ever expected.

Me?  I’ll be hunkered down with an ARC of A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes (to be released September 23, 2014).*
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?

Parvin Blackwater has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside.

In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the crooked justice system. But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence.

What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her Clock is running out.

I was also give a Kindle version of Of the Persecuted by Angie Brashear that I’m looking forward to reading this weekend.*
Synopsis (from Amazon):
Laila Pennedy awaits death by hanging. For the Rendow Clan rules the Woodlands Region, aiming to slaughter the Faithful. And she deserves to die. But Lars Landre, the man destined to lead the Faithful out of persecution, has other plans hidden behind his rare and mysterious blue eyes. Rescue.

Following the daring escape, Laila seeks the path of a warrior and vows revenge against the Rendow Clan. She embarks on a dangerous journey with Lars, one in which they endeavor to reach the promised safety of a magical village, to train for battle, and to ultimately assure freedom for those with faith in the Maker.

Clashes of weapons and souls. Brutal loss of lives. Unrequited love. How in all the Woodlands will Laila survive?

And of course, writing-wise, I’ll be plugging away at A Year with the Baptists.
It’s going to be a fun weekend, and I’m looking forward to it.
What are YOU reading this Labor Day weekend?
*reviews to come

 

I <3 Allegory

Believe it or not, The Field is not the only allegory I’ve ever written.  I love allegory.  Sometimes when I’m having difficulty expressing something, I take it back to an allegory or metaphor to better illustrate my point.  It helps me clarify my own thoughts about things.  (Sarcasm also does this for me, but I’ve come to find that allegory is just more pleasant for everyone involved).

Without further ado, my three most recent allegories (besides The Field).

Feast, Perfectly Adequate Meal, Snack Crackers: (More) Thoughts On Waiting:

Let’s say you’re about to make yourself a sandwich with a side of apple slices and a tall glass of water.

“Wait,” says your mom, “I’m making your very favorite meal in just a little bit.”

So you put all of the stuff for your sandwich away, because it’s your mom and you believe her, and you’d rather wait for your favorite meal anyway.

Several hours pass, and you’re getting hungry again.  Well, to be honest, you never stopped being hungry to begin with, you were just distracted by the prospect of something better.  Your mom is nowhere to be found, even though she said she was going to make your favorite meal in the world.  You’re starting to doubt whether she’ll make a meal at all, let alone your favorite.

Finally, you get tired of waiting, and you decide to make that sandwich anyway, except you open the refrigerator and discover that your little sister has used up all of the sandwich fixings on her own sandwich.  You’re a little bit angry at her, even though you reason with yourself that you shouldn’t be: after all, you’re the one who didn’t capitalize on that sandwich opportunity.  After all, what’s wrong with a sandwich? Your little sister certainly couldn’t tell you…(Read More)

What’s Inside Comes Out:

I once heard an illustration from the great Hudson Taylor.  Well, not from him, exactly, but from a preacher who attributed it to him.  Regardless, this illustration is now stuck in my mind.

Let’s say we have a glass of water, and it gets knocked over.  What happens?

“Well,” you might say, “you have a big mess to clean up.”

You’re missing my point, I think, so I try to rephrase my question.  What if it’s a glass of orange juice?

“Duh,” you say, “the orange juice goes everywhere.”

You are correct, of course, but still not understanding my point.

Whether we have a glass of water, or orange juice, or pop, or milk, or nothing at all, one thing is sure:  when that glass is knocked over, what is inside comes out(Read More)

The Master’s House:

Dear Cook,

How long has it been since you and the gardener and I came to work in the master’s house?  You have been given specific instructions regarding food and meals, he has been given specific instructions regarding horticulture, and I have been given specific instructions regarding the children. In spite of our different functions, we work in the same house, for the same family and there is a certain code of conduct required of us all: how we treat the family we work for, how we treat each other, and how we present the family when we leave the house. We each do our own parts and adhere to what is expected of us: you cook, he gardens, and I care for the children.

Of course there is the small problem of the butler.  He oversees the smooth running of the household, and while that may occasionally mean getting onto one of the staff if we are lagging behind, he has taken it upon himself more and more to micromanage us.  He insists on us doing every thing his way, even though many of the things he insists on us doing have not been specified by the master.  It seems our butler has forgotten that this is not his house, and he is not the master… (Read More)

Honestly, I believe allegory is the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.  Some people think allegory deadens a point, but to a mind like mine, it really brings it alive.

Literary Influences

A few weeks ago, a writing friend asked who my author influences are, and more specifically which authors most influenced writing The Field.  It made me realize I have been influenced by a lot of authors in my lifetime, not just as a reader, but as a writer as well.

My dad introduced me to authors like J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, George McDonald, Brian Jacques, and David and Karen Mains.  My mom introduced me to authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Charles Dickens.  My oldest sister introduced me to John Bunyan, Michael Bond (Paddington Bear), and Beverly Cleary (Ramona).  Somewhere in there J. K. Rowling and Phillip Pullman were also introduced, and I independently discovered Margaret and H. A. Rey, Peggy Parish, Sarah Dessen, Stephen King, (and I’m going to make a BIG jump here) Ayn Rand, Mary Shelley, Rainer Maria Rilke, Joyce Carol Oates and Doris Lessing.

Not to brag or anything, but I’m pretty well-read and broadly-influenced.  Whether I like it or not, who I read influences what and how I write.

I have always aspired to be like the authors my mom introduced me to.  In the tradition of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, and Jane Austen, I’ve been writing stories about sisters from the get-go.  I love exploring the dynamic of sisterhood, and it’s something the aforementioned authors do really well.  I also love (love, love, love) Charles Dickens’ take on humanity and his stellar character development, and I’ve always desired to emulate that in my own work.

Much as I enjoy the authors my dad brought into my life, it has never been my goal to create new worlds in my writing.  And I certainly never intended to be a writer who used another world for the purpose of allegory or parallels to our own world.  And yet, The Field is an allegory that takes place in a different world.  Being honest, my writing going forward will be taking a similar vein.

Now, I still don’t have the subtlety of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia or the comprehensive nature of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, and I wouldn’t want you to think that I do.  That’s the beauty of where I am as a writer, though, right?  I’m just starting out; I have a lifetime (however long that may be) to develop my craft through many different stories and books.

If I had to choose an author that most closely and clearly influenced The Field, it would be David and Karen Mains in their Tales of the Kingdom and Tales of the Resistance.  I hadn’t read these books in years until this week, hadn’t even thought of them until this question came up, but I correctly remembered them being deeply allegorical.  They are more marketed to children, where The Field is intended for a more mature audience, and the two have different characters and storylines, but I think the overall purpose and message are very similar.

Thing is, allegory is not everyone’s cup of tea, just as not everyone likes Dickens or poetry or science fiction.  I think that’s okay, but that’s also why I don’t intend to market The Field too terribly specifically, but rather to minds that can see parallels in the characters and conversations to real-life philosophies and occurrences.  For that reason, The Field will never be wildly popular, like Harry Potter, Narnia, or The Lord of the Rings.  Even if only a handful of people like it, it will have been well worth my while to write it.

I look at Tales of the Kingdom and Tales of the Resistance.  I’m betting most people who regularly read my blog have never even heard of them or if they have, they might only vaguely remember them.  Me, I remember them vividly from having read them many years ago.  They got under my skin and impacted me.  Along with a colorful edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress, these stories are what got me interested in allegory.  Ultimately, that interest is what prompted me to write The Field.  And this is about what I expect for The Field – niche interest.

Now don’t get me wrong, someday I hope to be an author who writes an allegory so compelling even people who hate allegory won’t be able to put it down, but as Aragorn says (in the movie), “This is not that day.”  I’m just starting to flex my fiction writing muscle: I expect it to strengthen, book by book.  I know that a few years down the road I’m going to have written bigger and better things than The Field, but I will always be glad I wrote it and had the courage to put it “out there” at all.

That’s how the authors I’ve read have influenced me!