Monthly Archives: November 2013

I will say nothing of greed, or commercialism, or how my stomach got all tied up in knots just thinking about dealing with these people on this day.

I will just say thanks for the friend who texted to let me know she was thinking and praying for my Black Friday in retail, not knowing I was hauling an overnight shift. (I didn’t tell many people because I didn’t want to complain, and I don’t know how to talk about something like that without complaining).  Her text came right as I was leaving my house to go to work.

I will just say thanks for a part-time job.  A much-needed job while I continue looking for a full-time job.

I will just say thanks that people were mostly nice, mostly not argumentative about things I have no control over.

I will just say thanks that it went by quickly.

And I will say thanks that I have the next few days off to spend with my family because I still have training I need to complete before I’m a full-fledged employee.

Now, I’m going to try and get a few hours of sleep. 🙂

 

I Learned to Stand

I’m doing my Thanksgiving post today, since I don’t think I will have time to write anything significant tomorrow. (Or I won’t take the time to write anything significant tomorrow since I’ll be with family).

This past year has been my first year of consistent times with God, and by consistent, I mean every day.  I’d never been able to do it before, and I didn’t resolve to do it, I just kind of fell into it, day by day.  But with these times, I’ve also been journaling every day.  I don’t think I’ve had a more chronicled year of my life.  I can literally go through every single day and find something to be grateful for, and originally, that’s what I was going to do.  Reading through my three-and-a-half journals from the past year though, I realized more of a general pattern: this year, I learned to stand.

And for that I am thankful.

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What’s Broken

I’ve asserted for the past several days that broken sexuality came into our world as a result of the fall.  While I certainly don’t intend to backpedal on that point, I think there is more to why sexuality is so broken in our culture than the fall itself.  It’s a perpetuation of the prevailing attitudes that resulted in the fall;  attitudes we are all prone to, whether we admit it or not.

We see something, we begin to desire it, and we think we’re entitled to have it.

Eve saw the “tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise” and she just had to eat its fruit.  After all, why would God withhold something good from her?

This rationalization is ever-present when I’m being tempted, and it is exactly where we get ourselves into trouble when we talk about sexuality and sexual expression.  In our culture (and even in the Church), committed relationships, marriage, and sex are not just good, they are often thought to be the be-all-and-end-all.  It is suddenly necessary for good health to express yourself sexually.

Now, committed relationships, marriage and sex are all good and I believe they are gifts from God, but they are not gifts He gives to everyone.  They’re not even gifts He gives everyone who desires them.  He certainly hasn’t given them to me yet.

God must be withholding from me.  Right?  And since He’s withholding something good, I have the right to go outside of His design in order to satisfy my desires.  Right?

First of all, God does not withhold good things “from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).  Secondly, although I do not think I’m wrong to desire any of these things, my desires never trump God’s clearly declared will for me.  First John 2:16 says, “All that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life – is not of the Father, but is of the world.” When what I desire becomes paramount to God’s will, it becomes lust, and lust and the things lust brings about are not of God, and are not good.

We don’t like to be dependent.

One thing that struck me about Matthew Vines’ testimony was that at the end, he expressed that gay people were not broken, and how hurtful it is to refer to them as such.  On one hand, if he’s referring to Christians, he’s right: redeemed gay people should identify with Christ and the healing and restoration He brings, and other believers should encourage them in that identity.

On the other hand, we are all broken people living in a broken world.  We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, and it is only because of Christ that we can have fellowship with Him at all.  We are none of us perfect; none of us has arrived.  While we can have tremendous victory in Christ, we still need, we still lack on this earth.  We can’t deal with our own imperfections, let alone the imperfections of others. And I think that deep in our hearts, we all know this, even if we never say it out loud.

I think we need to start saying it out loud more: “Look, I struggle with ______________.” Humbly admit our imperfections, graciously accept the imperfections of others when they are confessed to us.  If we don’t cultivate an atmosphere of openness and brokenness about sin (even “little” sins), we cultivate atmospheres of pride and no accountability for sin.  That is how we start accepting sin as somehow less offensive to God, in our own lives, and in the lives of others.

Of course, some people in the Church do not want accountability – we’ve hardened ourselves to it.  Being held accountable is now thought of as spiritual abuse, or an authoritarian church culture. (“Who are YOU to be all up in my business?”)   We can’t make them accountable.  I can’t make you accountable.

I can make myself accountable.  I can seek out accountability.  I can be honest about my struggles, allow people to lovingly correct me, pray over me, and encourage me.

This has been a challenging topic to think about and write, and I’m sure it’s a challenging topic to read.  I wanted to say these things, want to be clear about where I stand.  I want to be balanced: loving and truthful.  If you’ve read all of it, I want to thank you for sticking with me on a controversial and emotional subject.  I don’t normally write about things like this, because I’d rather let people think what they think what they want and I think what I want and we all just leave each other alone.  Unfortunately, I can’t do that anymore.  Gotta’ get real.

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Victory and Redemption

Today is where the subject of broken sexuality gets sticky.  Like, really sticky.  I know what I believe about this topic, but I also know what others (on both sides of the debate) believe. Like everything else I write about, I want to handle this with grace and compassion AND truth and authority.

I believe broken sexuality was introduced to the world because of the fall, like every other form of brokenness.  (Examples of broken sexuality can include, but are not limited to sexual abuse of children, rape, adultery, sexual immorality, homosexuality, feminism, manosphere, viewing pornography, and masturbation in that they fall outside of God’s original design for sexual relationships being shared between one man and one woman).  We know that sin produces a distance from God, and I think rampant broken sexuality in our culture is the direct result of our collective distance from God as human beings.

After the fall, God introduced the law to His people, the Israelites.  The law can be viewed as God’s code of expected behavior for His people, and it contains MANY laws concerning sexual conduct. I believe the purpose of the law was to keep His people close to Him.  The problem was that nobody could obey the entire law, and they were stuck in a cycle of punishment and animal sacrifice.  Keeping the law was impossible for broken people. So God sent His Son, Jesus to bear the punishment for the sin of the human race.  He was perfect in that He did not sin and was able to keep God’s law perfectly.  His death and resurrection opened the door to a relationship with God for broken people who accept His work on their behalf: it was a redemptive act, an act of buying back, or restoring something to its intended position. Not only that, but  Jesus took away the power and the penalty of sin for those who believe in Him (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

How does this good news about Jesus apply to the broken sexuality we see all around us?

Let me be clear: as a believer in Jesus Christ as my Savior from sin, I am not sinless.  Not even close.  However, I am no longer obligated, or enslaved to sin (see Romans 6, I truly cannot pick one verse from that chapter).  Since I am a believer, I have the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 16:7-11), I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and His indwelling presence (Galatians 2:20), and I have at my disposal everything needed for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

This means as a believing single woman, I do not have to seek to satisfy my sexual needs outside of a covenant relationship, although I may be tempted to.  It means that a Christian lesbian does not have to enter a relationship (committed or otherwise) with another woman, although she may struggle with same sex attraction. It means that a Christian man married to a woman who for whatever reason is not meeting his sexual needs does not have to take his needs to another woman, although he may be tempted to.

You see, temptation is not a sin.  It is when we act on our temptation that we sin.  Acting on temptation is usually a result of either dwelling too much on the temptation or trying to deal with it ourselves.  We need to go to God with our temptation!  I think there are places and situations that make us more vulnerable to temptation, and we should know our own triggers and avoid them, but temptation is going to come whether we make ourselves vulnerable or not. The good news is we can have victory over temptation because of the resources we have in Christ.

Knowing Jesus has changed A LOT in my life over the course of MANY years, but nothing has changed about the fact that I am a sexual being and that I desire sexual intimacy. (Too much information?)  I pray (pretty much every day, haha) for God to bring me a husband or to minimize this desire.  Two years in, He hasn’t answered either prayer in the affirmative, and He’s certainly not obligated to any time in the future.  I talk to God in great detail about this desire, and even if He never satisfies it the way I want it satisfied, it still will have drawn me closer to and made me far more dependent on Him.  In no way am I to take this matter into my own hands.

And so I have to come back to homosexuality for a minute.  I don’t think homosexuality is any more broken or sinful than any other expression of fallen sexuality.  I really don’t.  (If I did think of one on my list as most broken, it would undoubtedly be sexual abuse of children, but I can’t say authoritatively that God sees that the way I do).

I hear many stories in evangelical Christianity of homosexuals coming to Christ, and how He transforms their sexuality, and I love hearing those stories.  I think, however, as evangelical Christians, we need to acknowledge that this is not every gay person’s testimony. Some gay people come to Christ, and still deal day in and day out with same sex attraction, and because of this, they may fall into sin. Some people were Christians before they realized/acknowledged they struggled with same sex attraction and/or homosexual expression.

These people have my sympathy and compassion, but I cannot condone homosexual marriages or relationships, just as I cannot condone a pornography or masturbation habit, sexual immorality, or adultery. All of these things fall outside of God’s original design for sexuality, regardless of where our feelings, desires, or temptations lie.  It goes back to my earlier point: no matter how much we surrender to God, sometimes He does not take our desires away.  It’s not because He is okay with us acting on our desires, but because not acting on our desires draws us closer to Him, makes us depend on Him in times of great weakness.

I want to tell you and I want to tell myself that hey, it’s okay:  God doesn’t really expect us to live according to His standards for sexuality.  He doesn’t really think we can, because we’re all just broken people anyway.  But that wouldn’t be truthful, because He is clear that in Him we have everything we need. We cannot sacrifice His standards for our feelings, desires, or temptations.

I acknowledge it is not easy; in fact, most days, it’s very hard.  I acknowledge that these are legitimate struggles, not to be squashed down and ignored.  I get it, and I’m with you (all of you) on this journey.  I want us all to have safe people with whom to talk and pray about our sexual brokenness, people who won’t make us feel bad about ourselves, but I also acknowledge that in God’s presence is the safest place to be in this struggle.

If you’re a believer in Jesus as Savior from sin, your identity is not founded in brokenness anymore, it’s founded in redemption and victory.  God wants to use your brokenness for His glory, and don’t ever let anyone trick you into thinking He can’t or He won’t.  And God gives you everything you need for victory over sin; just haul those feelings, desires and temptations before Him every single time, and great things will happen.

 

 

 

 

 

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We’re All Broken

Yesterday I posed a question: What are some examples of broken or fallen sexuality you see in our culture today? (Read: how is sexuality misused or has fallen away from God’s design since the fall?)

This is a question I’ve been pondering lately because of two things: a news article about a child sex offender and the testimony of a gay Christian man.

I read this article two days ago: “John Burbine, 50, was arrested in September 2012, and faces 100 criminal counts related to sexual assault of children, ranging in age from 8 days to 3-1/2 years, to whom he gained access through his wife’s unlicensed day-care business” (MSN).  To be sure, this is disturbing by itself, but I was most unsettled by this comment from his lawyer: “His inability to conform his desires, or his behavior, is all oriented towards sex, and so what we said is: ‘What about treatment?’ We would put forth a bilateral orchiectomy.”  That’s right, this man cannot change his desires, which in turn affect his behavior, and so his lawyer has proposed castration in order to lessen his prison time.  I was disgusted by this man’s excuse that he simply can’t rewire his desires, his refusal to take responsibility for his own actions.  What kind of pervert desires children sexually?

But what I think produced the most turmoil within me was the fact that I use this argument frequently when speaking on behalf of gay people, particularly those gay people within the church: they cannot help what they are attracted to.  And I use this argument because I know I cannot help what I am attracted to (speaking on a purely physical level here).  I don’t remember a time when I sat down and had a conversation with myself where I said, “Okay, Lydia, you are attracted to men, and not just any men, but men who exhibit these physical qualities.”  Some girls look at what physically attracts me, and they raise their eyebrows, because it’s not the same as what attracts them.

For a separate research project, later that evening I began to do some research on testimonies of Christians who struggle or have struggled with same sex attraction, and I came across Matthew Vines’ testimony and exegesis on Bible passages concerning homosexuality.  Although I disagree greatly with his interpretation of the New Testament passages, I greatly sympathize with his struggle as a gay man in the Church.  Well, I say I sympathize, but I’m reasonably certain I can’t even begin to imagine, although I’m trying to – I really am.

In his argument, he brings up the term “broken sexuality,” and by it I believe he refers to what evangelical Christians see as anything outside of God’s design before sin entered the world; that is, anything outside of the one-man-one-woman sexual design.  Even the most sympathetic evangelical Christian sees homosexuality as broken or fallen sexuality – sexuality directly related to the entrance of sin into the world, a fact that causes Mr. Vines and other gay brothers and sisters in Christ a great deal of pain.  Understandably so: none of us like to acknowledge the brokenness and fallenness in ourselves.

I would agree with the prevailing evangelical Christian view that homosexuality is one example of broken or fallen sexuality, but it is not the only example of broken or fallen sexuality, nor would I say it is the most broken or most fallen example.  I think that to some degree or another, all of us have something broken in our sexuality, and none of us are 100% living out God’s intended design.

So what are some other examples of broken or fallen sexuality?  And you know what, yesterday I asked about our culture, but I’m going to narrow it down to the Church.

  • Sexual abuse of children.  Something is broken or fallen in a person who sexually abuses a child.
  • Rape.  Something is broken or fallen in a person who sexually forces themselves on another.
  • Adultery.  Something is broken or fallen in people who fulfill their sexual desires outside of their covenant relationship with their spouses and God.
  • Feminism and the Manosphere.  Something is broken or fallen in people who think it is their role to dominate in a relationship.

It’s not exclusive to gay people: brokenness and fallenness exist in all of us.

So what is the answer?  Stick with me and you’ll find out!

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I Want To Have a Conversation

I want to have a conversation.

It’s about something I feel we either oversimplify or mischaracterize or ignore altogether in Evangelical Christendom. It’s making evangelical Christians (with whom I mostly identify) woefully unprepared not just to engage the lost, but to address the issue with brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with it.  I think as believers in general and evangelical Christians we ought to be informed about the issue especially as it relates to the Church, and compassionate towards those who struggle with it, especially other believers AND we need to balance our information and compassion with the truth and authority of God’s Word.

I don’t want to be the one to facilitate this conversation.  I am afraid it will end up into little more than a debate, with each side painting the other with some pretty broad strokes.  It’s a passion-fueled topic no matter where you find yourself along its spectrum.  And I feel unqualified.

And yet, I want to have this conversation.  I can’t write a post like I did yesterday and announce that I’m sick of the arguments over things that don’t matter, while completely ignoring the things that do.

Y’all, I want to talk about sexuality as it relates to the fall; broken, or fallen sexuality. I primarily want to talk about it with evangelical Christians, but anyone is welcome to weigh in with their thoughts.  This conversation will be heavily moderated. I won’t hesitate to remove broad generalizations and less than gracious comments/responses.  I want to have a productive conversation here.

So here is my question for today: What are some examples of broken or fallen sexuality you see in our culture today? (read: how is sexuality misused or has fallen away from God’s design since the fall?) Feel free to comment on whatever comes to mind! (But, you know, do it in a way that complies with my guidelines above).

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Why’d You Have to Go And Make Things So Complicated?

“But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another” (Galatians 5:15 NLT).

I am so sick of all the biting and devouring, of all the damage we inflict on one another.

I suppose we just don’t get it: we’re only hurting ourselves, weakening our own body and curbing our own effectiveness as partners in Christ.  I suppose we think it’s okay, defending individual egos, individual agendas, without realizing something much bigger is at stake.  I suppose we all think we know best and are looking out for ourselves or looking after the ones who have the most to offer us.  I suppose we forget we’re all part of each other, no matter how little we like each other.

What are we doing, screaming at each other?  Tearing each other down?  Not  speaking to each other?  Don’t we realize these things are counterproductive to spreading the gospel?  Why can’t we just get together around Christ? Why do we have so much extra stuff we need to agree on before we coexist and cooperate?

We really think it’s all about us as individuals. We think it’s about our agendas, our reputations, our feelings.  And we will fight to the skin of our teeth to make sure we are protected.  We’re sold out for ourselves.

It’s like we’re Corporate America or something.

And this is why I’m struggling: I don’t want to be a part of the biting, devouring, and destroying anymore. (For the record, I never wanted to be a part of that).  I just want to worship God, to worship simply, yet with everything I have. I just want to make friends with people and tell them about Jesus and how He loves them, and gave His life so they could have a relationship with Him.  I just want to be a part of a Christ-centered community where we all grow together, even if we have different opinions on stuff, even if we sometimes struggle.

I don’t think it should matter if I’m non-denominational or a Baptist and you’re a Pentecostal or a Methodist.  I don’t think it should matter if I take communion every Sunday morning or you take it once a month or during small group.  I don’t think it should matter if my worship service is traditional and yours is contemporary.  I don’t think it should matter if I start conversations with people so I can get to know them before sharing the gospel with them and if you just go up to them and ask, “Do you love Jesus?”  I don’t think it should matter if I was homeschooled and you were public schooled.  I don’t think it should matter if I’m “all natural” and you eat whatever you want.  I don’t think it should matter if I voted Libertarian and you voted Republican or (gasp, haha) Democrat.  I don’t think it should matter that I support a complementarian view of marriage and you support an egalitarian marriage.

No, it’s not that I don’t think it should matter.  It. Does. Not. Matter.  And there are countless other little, non-essential things we squabble over that do not matter.

A while back, someone made a really big deal to me out of something that was not a big deal.  For some reason, the issue at hand was of extreme importance to the person dealing with it; I would never have thought twice about it or thought anyone else would have either.  It just didn’t matter.  And it wasn’t that it didn’t matter to me, but the fact that it mattered to anybody … Ugh.  It’s just petty.  (By the way, I did explain the situation to the person).

These are the conversations, the situations I don’t want to be in anymore.  They just don’t matter.

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How Writing is Like Acting

I was doing some personality research on characters for my next novel (which is really my first novel) yesterday.  I want to be able to write these characters and do them justice, so I do this research to get out of myself and into them.  I can’t be writing and say, “How would I respond to this?” Rather, I have to ask, “How would Character X respond to this?”  It’s much like the acting process.

In order to better understand the reactions of the four main characters (the characters through whom the story is expressed) in my novel, I did something I’ve never done before.  I took the Myers-Briggs Personality Test for each of them. For all sixty-some odd questions, I had to abandon who I am and what I would do or prefer, and ask who these characters are.  It was a great exercise, and the results were accurate.

Now, if I ever lose their voices, I have great reference points to regain them.

1870a26522120ad041816eb72a0a3ac3ISFJ: The Nurturer

945acadd9549cb18ab13c769132dea56ESTJ: The Guardian

2e12275dfdf2e66cf8b24b50326edef2ENFP: The Inspirer

510b105154e8bc3fc8bbea04ca6434fbINFP: The Idealist

I am definitely a character-based writer.  I think I love writing characters more than I love writing actual stories.  I am always looking for better ways to make my characters more real, more relatable.

And isn’t that what actors do too?

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Idolatry

“Therefore I repeat that the chief explanation of this point is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart entirely trusts… Thus it is with all idolatry; for it consists not merely in erecting an image and worshiping it, but rather in the heart, which stands gaping at something else, and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils, and neither cares for God, nor looks to Him for so much good as to believe that He is willing to help, neither believes that whatever good it experiences comes from God. Ask and examine your heart diligently, and you will find whether it cleaves to God alone or not. If you have a heart that can expect of Him nothing but what is good, especially in want and distress, and that, moreover, renounces and forsakes everything that is not God, then you have the only true God. If, on the contrary, it cleaves to anything else, of which it expects more good and help than of God, and does not take refuge in Him, but in adversity flees from Him, then you have an idol, another god.” ~Martin Luther

God has been speaking to me about idolatry recently through friends, blogs, and sermons: you know, magnifying other things instead of Him.  (And by magnifying, I mean the act of making other things bigger, more important than Him and what He wants).  And the question has been posed several times: what are my idols? What am I trusting other than God? What do I believe is better than God or that will take better care of me than God will?

My biggest idols today are related to my job search.  My job search is an idol in and of itself.  I spend more time applying to jobs than I do on any other activity, and even when I’m doing other things, looking for jobs is constantly on my mind.  A job is a good thing, and since I’m only able to work part-time right now, looking for a job is a good thing, but neither the job nor the search for it are everything.  So I have to dig deeper: why is looking for a job so important? Well, I’m twenty-four, have been graduated from college for two years, and I struggle even paying my bills.  I feel like a failure, and I know there are people besides me who think I’m a failure as well.  I don’t want to be a failure, or dependent on anyone else for what I need.  I want to be independent. (Whomp, there it is).  After all, people who can take care of themselves are way more respected in our culture.

Relocating to Seattle is an idol.  I mean, I really love the idea of Seattle.  I spend a lot of time thinking about where I’ll go to church, where I’ll live, what activities I’ll do when I get there.  Provided God opens the doors first, of course.  A few months ago someone asked me why I couldn’t do the things I want to do in Seattle here.  It’s true: I can pursue an M.F.A.  in creative writing here, I can reach artists here, I can minister here, I can do outreach here.  Anything I can do there, I can do here.  I do believe I’ve been given a vision for Seattle, but that vision has grown clouded since August with my timing and my assumptions about how things should go.  Plus, there’s this part of me that knows if I move to Seattle, I’ll finally be independent: making my own decisions, not having to worry too much about what people think.  (There it is again).

In both of these things, my desire to control, to make things happen is telling of my mistrust of God.  I’m worried He might not have a full-time job for me, and that I’m in this job search thing alone.  Also, I worry about how humbling my circumstances are going to get before He provides.  I’m worried that I might miss out on something great if I don’t move to Seattle.

As if God is in the business of withholding good things from His children.

*Sigh*

I have a lot to learn.  A lot needs to change, especially in my independent spirit and my struggle with believing God has the very best for me.  I am a work in progress.

Give Me a Revelation

I’m not a huge fan of Third Day, but every couple of years, one of their songs will punch me in the gut. (Hope For the Hopeless, for example).

Tonight is the first time I’ve really listened to this song, and it caught me with the lyrics, “Tell me, should I stay here? Or do I need to move?” Let me tell you, this is my dilemma tonight, and it’s been my dilemma for months.  I don’t even know how to pray about it anymore: I go between praying for God to open the door wherever He wants me and praying for Seattle opportunities.  Most days, I don’t care anymore, I just need God to open a door somewhere, anywhere.  This is me: “I’m tired of losing hope and taking chances/On roads that never seem/To be the ones that bring me home.”

“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.  I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference” (Revelation 3:17-19).

Heavenly Father, I am not making it, not at all.  I don’t know where You want me to go, but I know I don’t want to go anywhere without You. I can’t go anywhere without you.  The roads I’ve taken without you have left me wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.  I want Your wealth, Your provision.  I need Your wealth, Your provision.  I come to You and admit, God, I don’t have a clue! Please show me, God – show me where You want me, open the doors for me to be there (really BE there, God), provide for all of my needs there.  There is no one else who can take care of me like You do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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