Tag Archives: Grace

Dear Newborn (Christian) Lydia

Dear Newborn Christian Lydia,

Well, this is it: your eighth anniversary of following Jesus, probably almost to the exact day. Eight years ago, someone who cared about asked you about your relationship with God, and you told the truth. Because eight years ago, you were tired of the ruthless cycle of sin, guilt, and shame, and trying to make it all better on your own; tired of pretending to be someone you were not, of trying to feel things you didn’t feel, and believe things you didn’t believe. Eight years ago, you were simultaneously set free and wrecked with these simple words, by this simple concept: “Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1) – by a God who knows you, loves you, and calls you by your name in spite of the tremendous mess that you are. And eight years ago, you were undeniably and irrevocably changed.

In honor of eight years following Jesus, I want to share eight things you will learn in the coming weeks, months, and years. I know, I know: if you could be here in all of your nineteen-year-old glory, you would scoff. After all, writing letters to your younger self really doesn’t do any good – it’s not going to change anything. And you’re partly right: it’s not going to change anything … for us. But maybe – just maybe – it will change something for someone else. Even if it doesn’t, it’s good to remind myself.

So without further ado, here are the eight things I wish somebody would have told you about following Jesus.

You will be depressed – even suicidal – again. I know it’s hard to imagine, in the sheer elation of freedom you’re feeling right now – in the newness, that you will ever feel that bad again, but … you will. It’s going to take a wrecking ball to your philosophy that depression is spiritual or even something emotional that can be overcome if you only put your mind to it, and you’re eventually going accept that your depression is physiological, a special inherited brand, and that you have to treat it like any other sickness. You’ll realize that even times when you feel really good are a part of your disease, and you’ll get to a place where you distrust those times as much as the low points. And that’s a good thing, because you’ll learn to depend more on God to lead you in what to do than how you’re feeling on any given day. It’s still isolating, this disease, and though you’ll cry out for it to go away many times, you’ll learn to carry it with a clumsy sort of grace.

You will date non-Christian guys again. Look, I know you’re still devastated about that boy you were seeing behind Dad and Mom’s back. I know you think you would have avoided heartbreak if you had just followed their rules for boys. I know that in the next several years, this devastation will lead you to make a number of lists, and that must follow Jesus will top each one. So I know you’re not going to be happy with me about this. Here’s the thing: even now, there’s a guy entering your life quietly, and he’s following Jesus. You won’t notice him for a few months, because you’re still healing, but when you do finally notice him, you’re not going to have eyes for any other guy for years. But even now – for the past year, really – a situation has been entering your life quietly, and it’s going to make this guy impossible to have. After a series of sizeable mistakes on your part, you’re going to read Captivating and you’re going to make it right, but Lydia, this situation is too big for him, and absolutely nothing you do is going to change that. Once you realize that, you’ll get over him, and you’ll be okay for a while. For a while. Then, you’re going to get seriously pissed off, because you made effort upon effort, you made so much room for him, and he couldn’t be bothered to match that. You get jaded about Christian guys, always expecting you to make way for them, to serve them, to be less so they can be more, and you find non-Christian guys generally respect and support your womanhood and independence. Non-Christian guys, of course, would like you to be less Christian, and you learn you can’t be less of that, either, so I think it’s safe to say you’ll quite likely be single for the rest of your life, and you’ll generally be okay with that because more than anything, you just want to be who you were created to be. Still, you’ll be more comfortable cultivating friendships with guys outside of the Church than those within it. (Sorry, kid.)

You’re going to learn that forgiveness is not forgetting, nor is it the absence of pain. Leading up to this life-changing moment, you’ve … had some bad things done to you. And because of something a Bible camp counselor said to you after you shared some things with her when you were thirteen, you’re going to think remembrance and pain are equal to bitterness, and you’re going to do your level best to forget and not feel a damn thing. You’ll hear in counseling in a few years that forgiving is neither forgetting nor the absence of pain, because remembrance and feelings are not choices. After a series of scandals within the homeschool community, you’ll work through a shit ton of anger, and you’ll learn that forgiveness is merely to release the person who hurt you and not let them dictate how you operate going forward. And even though you’ll know all of this in your head, it’s still working its way to your heart.

You’ve got an idea of how things should be, and that’s not how they’re going to be. You may not realize this yet, Lydia, because the people who’ve known you the longest say you’re negative, but … you’re an optimist. You still believe that by going to college and getting your degree, you’ll have a glamorous and high-powered career as a film executive. You still believe you’ll work for a few years, meet the man of your dreams (who is a movie director you met on the set of a film you produced), and be married at twenty-five, after which you’ll adopt a brood of children who will be extremely well-adjusted because you’ll be their mother, and you’re going to be a brilliant mother. The man of your dreams will change first, as you enter your most golden era with the Church (which you won’t think is golden while you’re in it, because you are focused on all of the wrong things, but trust me,…), and he looks like – well, you’ll know soon enough who he looks like. In your coursework in college, you’ll discover you’re better suited to live television production than to anything in film, and upon graduation, you’ll discover you can’t live off part-time production assistant gigs (you know, to get your foot in the door, because you didn’t really expect to start off at the top … or maybe you did). So you’ll do what you did all the way through college: you work hard, two – sometimes, three – jobs. As for marriage, you discover you have other goals – moving to Seattle and writing, for instance. Again and again, what relationships you have will unravel, because people and situations are not who and what you would like them to be. It will be several years before it sinks in that you are the one who needs to operate differently – not in losing your natural optimism or vision, but in saving unrealistic expectations for your fiction writing, and remembering that neither the world nor the Church fit a neat narrative structure. And eventually, you will understand that you were not cut out for some of the things you want for yourself now, and you’ll be grateful many of them didn’t happen.

You are being grown to last and produce things of lasting value, and that takes time. This is why you can’t give up your optimism and vision: you are being grown into something great. And, Lydia, that takes time. It will take time for you to understand that it takes time, and that’s when it really begins, you know? You are still hearing Dad say you take the easy way out and you still don’t understand because he still hasn’t explained that given two options, you choose the easier one. You still don’t see what you’re missing when you choose the easier. And you won’t fully for a long time – I don’t know if I fully understand yet – but sometimes, you will get glimpses. You will learn the patience and faith to wait, to see things through, because you will not know what all of this will grow into, but for the first time in your life, you will want to know what it can be if you just let it.

Don’t try and force significance. There are no small things. As you turn twenty-five, you will go through a period of mourning that you haven’t done anything significant with your life – because of those unrealistic expectations and impatience. And you will try to force it many times by having something to offer, usually by way of your writing and doctrinal prowess. You will learn you are significant, not because of what you do, but by reason of having been created in the image of God. You will learn it is less about what you do, and more about how you do it. There are things that you will do that will feel so mundane and meaningless because you don’t even have to think about them, but they will mean the world to someone else. People will not care that you are a writer, or what you know about T.U.L.I.P.; they will care that you relate to them in ways that mean something to them.

It’s okay to pray for what you want. This thing that’s been coming into your life? This thing that will come to rest and overshadow much of the next several years? You will pray what you think you should pray, not what you want to pray. For three years, you will pray that way before you give up because you will no longer have any personal investment in the matter. Finally, one December, you’ll be reading in John, and you’ll hear Jesus say, “Whatever you ask the Father in My Name, I will do,” and you’ll throw your hands up and cry, “I have asked. For three years, I have asked.” God will ask you, “When?” and you’ll think about it and realize … you have not, actually, ever asked for what you really want in this situation. And you will, and what you want will transform. You will learn to trust God so much more simply by being totally honest with Him; You will learn that He wants to give you good things, and just how gentle He is in transforming you when you ask for things that aren’t right for you.

Grace. You will learn that God is good, and He will give you everything you need for everything you are supposed to be. You will learn that grasping and clawing in your spirit is a sign you are trying to be something you are not supposed to be, trying to get something you are not supposed to have, trying not to be something you are supposed to be, trying to block something you are supposed to have – a lack of grace, if you will. You will learn that when God wants you to be someone, He will get you there, and Lydia, He does not need your help. When He wants anyone to be someone! And you will realize that you have missed so much grace in your grasping and clawing and pushing and shoving – the grace to let Him be God and to just be His child, to grow in His time and even yours (because, Lydia, He knows what is going to take you time before you do), to let things and people be, to know He’s got your back so you don’t have to have your own back, to be yourself confidently. You will always be learning this.

You probably think I’m a serious buzzkill, even sounding like Dad and Mom in places, but in these early days, you’re so much like a marsh reed, you know? Blown every which way, by every which thing. If I could go back and have a conversation with you – eight years ago, on this day – I’d want to tell you how to stand stronger. Then again, you probably wouldn’t listen: you have a tendency to want to figure these things out on your own. (Oh, well. I tried.)

As to the future, all I know is you will be following Jesus the rest of your life. And it’s going to be great.

 

 

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Nobody Goes to Hell Because They’re Gay

Nobody goes to hell because they’re gay.

This is going to ruffle some feathers, but that’s okay.  More and more, I seem to be in the business of ruffling feathers.

I just want to be incredibly clear.

Nobody goes to hell because they’re gay.

Just as nobody goes to hell because they’ve committed adultery, or murdered, or committed suicide, or molested a child, or violated an adult, or lied, or been arrogant, or whatever sin you deem as heinous or innocent.

If that were the case, we are all going to hell, because we have all sinned – we are all sinners. I don’t care how good or moral we think we are, sin is a part of our DNA from the time we are conceived, and we have all violated God’s perfect standards at one time or another.

There is one thing that separates those who are going to hell from those who are not, and that is Jesus Christ.  He is the only One who met God’s perfect standards, the only One who did not sin.  And He is the only Way anybody can access God, the only Way anybody can have victory over sin, the only way to eternal life.

In order to understand why we even need Jesus, we have to acknowledge the existence of a God who is not us.  He is completely perfect, and therefore, He is completely other from us.  He does not operate the way we do, or the way we think he should.  He cannot tolerate sin and requires a payment for it.

In order to understand why we need Jesus, we have to acknowledge that we are all sinners, no matter how good or moral we deem ourselves to be.  As sinners, none of us can hope to live perfect lives, and therefore, we are disqualified from ever being able to pay for our own sin.

That’s why we need Jesus, because God is perfect and we are not and cannot hope to be.  We need Jesus because He is God’s perfect Son and the only One qualified to pay for our sin, the only One able to bring about a new way of life – which He did, by being crucified and rising from the dead!

It’s so simple, and yet, the way I’ve come to see it is that two things stand as roadblocks to accepting Jesus in our human thinking:

1.  We have a construct of God that makes Him like us when He is not.  We have this idea that He thinks and acts the way we do when He does not.

2.  We don’t like to think of ourselves as sinners, unworthy to approach a God who is entirely other from us.  We are all about ourselves, our strengths, our worth, our independence, and we can’t stand being told that however good and moral we may be, we are not good enough for God.  We can’t stand being told that our lifestyle choices condemn us in God’s eyes, but they do.

While the sins of homosexuality, or adultery, or murder, or suicide, or molestation, or rape, or deception, or pride, or any other sin you can name absolutely keeps you from God, only one sin dooms you to hell: rejecting Jesus and your need for Him.

Without Him and His payment for sin, we are all hell-bound sinners.

In Him and with Him and only because of Him, we have the power to change lifestyles that violate God’s perfect standards. I’m not saying we don’t still struggle with sin or stumble in sin, but we do have power in and with and because of Christ to overcome!

These aren’t my rules.  These aren’t Phil Robertson’s rules, little as I care for his approach.  And as a sinner myself, I’m not judging you for how you choose to live your life, or what you believe about God, or what you believe about yourself.  I just want you to be aware that there is a Judge, He is perfect, and at some point we will all answer to Him, and we will all be evaluated by His standards, not the standards we’ve created for ourselves.

When I come to the point where God holds me accountable for my life and the sinful choices I’ve made, I’m not going to be able to say, “But look, God, I did this, this, and this right,” not because I haven’t done good things, but because those good things simply don’t make up for my sin.  Only Jesus does.  He is my only plea in God’s court.

Jesus is the ONLY plea in God’s court, and if you think you’re not going to hell because you’re good enough on your own or because the god you’ve formed in your mind wouldn’t send you there, I don’t care how you’ve lived, you’ve got another thing coming.

 

 

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I Struggle Promoting Myself

I struggle promoting myself.  A little over a month ago, I self-published my very first book: The Field.  Initially I talked about it quite a bit (for me, at least), but I’ve sort of stopped promoting it.  Like it’s not worth promoting or something.

Here’s the thing: we all know it’s not the best thing I’m ever going to write.  I have overstated that.

What I have not stated enough is that I believe in what I’ve written.  I believe in the themes of restoration, grace and spiritual warfare my book promotes.  I believe I have tackled these themes from a distinctly feminine point of view and have created strong female characters.  I believe that there is a need for this book that I have written, both for its themes and characters.  I believe that this book will speak to many people who read it.

Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a copy of The Field here through June 30th, 2014 or purchase your copy today.

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Jesus Is God!

“I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ” (Mahatma Gandhi).

Gandhi started a thing.  (Actually, he started many things).  He started a very popular trend among non-Christians of pointing out how un-Christ-like professing Christians can be.  I’m not actually going to disagree with that point, because I think there is validity to it.  I disagree with the sentiment fueling this trend:  that in his humanity, Jesus was this chill, hippie-like figure who was all compassion and basically a judgment-free zone.  I also strongly dislike the fact that Christians have begun to allow the world’s view of Jesus to dictate Christ-likeness.  Since Jesus was compassionate and non-judgmental, we must also be as well.

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here:  Jesus was compassionate.  Throughout his earthly life and ministry,  Jesus spent his time among the lowest of the low in His society, looking after them.  It seems he protected them from the religious leaders of His day who were all judgment and basically a compassion-free zone.  He gave up His rights as the Son of God in order to die an excruciatingly humiliating death for all sin, to make a way for people to know Him and His Father.  BUT I don’t want you to think His compassion and sacrifice were a matter of weakness or softness; on the contrary, He was the Only One strong enough to live life and die the way He did.

Because Jesus is God.  He possesses ALL of God’s authority and power and He always has.  Whether you identify with Christ or not, you cannot tell me that I must live a life filled with compassion and void of absolutes because that’s what your version of Jesus did.  Your version of Jesus might have lived that way; the Jesus of the Bible did not.

Consider Jesus’ authority and power during His earthly ministry with me:

  • “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and money changers doing business.  When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned their tables.  And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take those things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!'” (John 2:13-16 NKJV).
  • “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said … ‘Whoever receives one little child like this in my name receives Me.  But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea'” (Matthew 18:2,5-6 NKJV).
  • “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18 NKJV).
  • “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'” (Matthew 27:18 NKJV).

Dear people,  He is coming back again to earth, and if your version of Jesus is soft, I am afraid you will be caught off-balance by this: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns.  He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies in heaven followed Him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.  He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-16 NKJV).

I am not here to give you a watered-down version of Jesus, a Jesus who makes you comfortable and complacent.  I am here to show you the Jesus of the Bible, and to represent HIM, not your version of Him.  I will point you to His compassion and love and grace, but I will also point you to His truth and authority.  You cannot have the Jesus of the Bible and only take one or the other.  Take all of Him, and endeavor to be like all of Him!!!

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Grace

It’s the processing period after the trial.  My trial was a crisis of faith – by the end, nearly everything I believed was knocked down, and what wasn’t knocked down completely, I was barely hanging on to. I  didn’t understand – still have trouble understanding why God would want my view of Him so utterly devastated.  Yet, over the past few months, I’ve regained something of hope and desire for things I had stopped hoping for and desiring many years ago. Before my crisis, my heart was on some spiritual level shutting down, failing. So I begin to understand some of why God chose to step in the way He did.

This week I have been challenged and am wrestling with God’s grace in my trial. My youth group is learning five memory verses about grace this week, and for some reason, they are not sinking in.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

“And of His fullness have all we received, and grace upon grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17).

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sin, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having sufficiency in all things, might have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Do you notice a theme (besides grace) in these verses? Eternal life. Fullness. Grace upon grace. Riches. All grace. Sufficiency. Abundance.

Abundance.

This is what I wrestled with most in my faith crisis. Jesus says in John 10:10, “The Thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” I wrote in my journal last fall that I felt “spiritually raped, pillaged, and plundered.” I was dead inside, except for bouts of rage, directed at God for letting this happen to me. Because He kept asking me to call what I had an abundant life. To claim His goodness and grace in less than desirable situations far outside of my control.

I couldn’t do it.

These verses (which I picked, ironically) tell me that even then, especially then, God’s grace (His unmerited favor and strength to get through) was not only there, but there in abundance.  Now, I cannot and do not deny God’s Sovereignty, His orchestration in my situation. But His favor? His strength? I was being chastised. Stripped of everything, including my beliefs about God. Greatly weakened, wounded. An abundance? Of what?

Here’s the thing: either God’s grace was available to me equal to my trial, or God is a liar. And I do not believe God can lie. So God’s grace was available to me equal to my trial.

This week, as I memorize verses about God’s grace in abundance, I wrestle again. Since God’s grace was there for abundant living, why was my life so diminished?

Perhaps because I was striving for what I wanted. For what I thought my life should look like. Perhaps I was trying to earn what I wanted, rather than let God give me what He wants. Perhaps God is trying to teach me about His grace for abundant life, and the best way is to get me to wrestle with it.

I don’t know.

Today, I am in a very different situation than I was four months ago. It is easy for me to look at this phase of my life and testify to God’s grace as He has restored my relationships with others, and has given me new freedom to hope and desire. I have something that I am waiting on God for, something I carry to Him daily in prayer. It gets difficult sometimes, but I find the conviction to persevere in prayer and be patient. The grace to go on, when I no longer feel like it.

Maybe I have stopped striving or am striving less. Maybe I have stopped trying to earn God’s favor along with everyone else’s. Maybe I am in a good place to learn what God has been trying to teach me about grace.

I don’t know.

I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

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