Tag Archives: Prayer

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.   In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’  For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,   yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.   And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?   I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8 NRSV)

Two days ago, I asked God, “What if I ask for this, and nothing happens? What if nobody cares?” He reminded me of the story above. So I asked. Now I wait.

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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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Bloom

Last night I met with a friend to pray over the phone.

My heart is always heavy these days, with my mom and niece and just all of the heartache in our world. My mind is occupied with so many different things. When I’m awake, I’m living it, and when I’m asleep, it seeps into my dreams.

My friend knows what’s going on in my life, but I didn’t say a word about the dreams. Most of them have taken place in the farmhouse where I spent a good portion of my childhood and highlight old anxieties and tensions that took place there. On Monday night, I had an absolutely heartbreaking dream about my niece. (Which, oddly oddly enough, also took place in the farmhouse.) There has been no relief. And even my body feels heavier and heavier and heavier.

So last night, during our prayer time, without me saying a word, my friend starts praying for my sleep and for my dreams. As I told her this morning, that was a total God thing.

So last night, I had a dream. It was similar to the wilderness dreams I had a little over three years ago, but not quite the same. This time we (a large group of people – some of whom I know, some of whom are unfamiliar but I knew them in the dream) were in this kind of rustic-looking kitchen instead of in a mountain park, and I kept saying how the kitchen had potential for ministry purposes. Then we went outside and hung out around a campfire. It was peaceful and beautiful. Again, total God thing.

I woke up knowing it’s not time for that dream yet, but … the time will come. Right now, I’m still being cultivated and grown into it. The cultivation, the growing – it’s dark, and it’s heavy, but … it’s not so dark and it’s not so heavy that I won’t get through it.

So deeply thankful…

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Happy 23rd Birthday, Whit!

Dedicated to the fearless truth-speakers in my life:

my dad, Mark Thomas, and my dear friend Whitney Gross.

Thank you for not accepting the things I accept too easily.

~ the dedication of The Field

962965_10201716767741147_1471129219_n(Photo Credit: Melody Ellison, 2013)

Dear Whit,

Happy, happy, happy 23rd birthday, friend!

I know your birthday is not technically until tomorrow, but I was thinking of and praying for you on my drive home today.  You’ve been a fearless truth-speaker to me during some of the roughest seasons of my life, and I am so thankful for the times you have given me the eyes to see beyond what is right in front of me.  You are such an incredible person, and I sense that you need those eyes back tonight, so let me see if I can be a fearless truth-speaker to you.

God still has something big in store for you, but don’t despise the day of small things. I know this season has not turned out the way you had hoped and planned, and I know how disappointed and frustrated you must be, but God is not done with you.  Although unexpected circumstances have come, God is not reduced or lessened in your life.  He has something He is doing for you, in you, and through you.  As in, right now.  And maybe He’s doing it in the thing you’ve overlooked as not a big deal or insignificant.  Our God is both a big-picture God and a God of intimate detail, so keep seeking Him in the small stuff, and the big things will become clear.

Don’t be afraid to pray specific prayers and remain open.  After a door slams in our face, a door we deeply desire, it can be tempting to stop praying specific prayers and say, “Whatever, God.” You had gone through your door, you were living your prayers, and I know being snatched away from that is disheartening.  God has given you your heart for this world and for the people in it, so keep asking and seeking and knocking for the deepest desires of your heart.  No, God’s call doesn’t always look the way we think it should, but He’s given it to you for a reason, and He intends to bring it about in your life.  Keep trusting Him and remain sensitive to His leading, even if it could lead to more frustration, disappointment or discouragement.

These things will change, so find joy in where you are at and what you have now.  Our lives consist of seasons.  Some good, some bad, some long, some short.  I think God does this so we remember the impermanence of our lives here on this earth.  You are not going to be where you are at forever, or even for the rest of your life, although it may feel that way now.  And this season? It’s giving you what you will need at some point in the future.

I love you, dear friend, and am praying for God’s very best for you in the coming year.  I pray that He shakes up your life in ways that grow you closer to Him.  I pray that He gives you continued direction and purpose.  I also pray for the people you love in the country you had to leave.

Mostly, though, I’m just thankful.  Thankful to have had you in my life as a fearless truth-speaker, as a fellow-adventurer on this life journey, and someone to just laugh and cry with when life gets to be too much.

I’ll leave you with this verse: “Forget the former things and do not dwell on things of old.  See, I am doing a new thing, even now it springs forth.  Can’t you see it? I will make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Again, happy birthday, dear Whit!

Love,

Lyd

Untitled(It’s a lid! You see what I did there?)

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Keep Making Me

This is the song I’m currently learning and praying into my life.  Timidly, oh so timidly praying it.  The song asks God to break me, empty me, and make me lonely.   The end result is God is my everything.  See you on the other side.

Keep Making Me

Sidewalk Prophets

Make me broken
So I can be healed
‘Cause I’m so calloused
And now I can’t feel
I want to run to You
With heart wide open
Make me broken

Make empty
So I can be filled
‘Cause I’m still holding
Onto my will
And I’m completed
When you are with me
Make me empty

‘Til You are my one desire
‘Til You are my one true love
‘Til You are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me

Make me lonely
So I can be Yours
‘Til I want no one
More than You, Lord
‘Cause in the darkness
I know You will hold me
Make me lonely

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Prayer That Is Hard

“Faith fights for the lives it loves.” ~from a teaching on Abraham and Lot (I wish I knew who said this, but it’s just a notation in my Bible, and I can’t find it in any old sermon/teaching notes.  I only know I did not come up with it!)

Confession:  For nearly two years now, I have neglected part of my calling from God.  You see, five years ago in April, God called me to be a prayer warrior.  He called me to do battle on my knees.  And I did, for about three years.  Three years ago it began to dawn on me that the people I was battling for were not even doing battle for themselves, and that brought with it tremendous discouragement, but I ploughed on anyway.  Two years ago I became tired and succumbed to feelings of hopelessness, and I stopped.

I didn’t stop praying,  I just stopped doing battle.  I stopped putting my blood, sweat, and tears into praying for other people.

God has been prompting me to go back into battle for a long time now, and I am ashamed to say, I’ve kept telling Him no.  I have resented the target that’s been on my own back as I do battle for others.  I have resented the emotional exhaustion of pouring out my heart to God on behalf of others and nothing ever changes.  I have resented the people I’m battling for as they don’t know or care about the intercession going on for them and they don’t change.

In the past year, I have begun to do battle for myself once more, to pray more boldly about what God will do with me, but I’ve held off fighting for others.  In my heart of hearts, I have been guilty of thinking that it is easier for God to change me than for Him to change others.

Last week, I was doing some thinking, and I heard God say to me,  “This is not what you prayed three years for.” And I just said back, “Are You even going to do what I prayed three years for?” (Oh, me of little faith).  And I breathed a little prayer right then, and almost promptly forgot about it.

Until what I prayed about happened.

I was then forced to reckon with the fact that the three years I spent doing battle had not gone to waste.  My prayers had been seen, heard, and known by the Sovereign of the universe, and He has always intended to do what I’ve done battle for.  And again, He asked me to do battle.

And so I did.  And I will continue to do so, hard as it will be.

Spending that kind of time and energy in prayer is never fruitless!

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Finishing

Let me begin this by saying that my finishing any of my fiction works is a long-standing joke among my younger siblings and I.  Nobody who is familiar with my work in this area expects me to finish.  And I have stopped expecting myself to finish.  In fact, the last time I finished a fiction work (outside of play and movie scripts) was a short story I finished around ten years ago called The Little Glass Slippers.  In the meantime, I have started half a dozen novels, all of which are awaiting completion, except for one, which I finished early this morning.

The Field.

I think I am actually more proud of myself for finishing than I am of what I wrote, because finishing has always been such a colossal issue for me, even when I was very young.

Some writers are intimidated by beginnings, but I would say exposition (the bringing forth of characters and narrative) is my greatest strength as a writer.  I even work out resolution (the ending) reasonably well. I wrestle with development (the middle).  I struggle determining the events through which my characters will grow and have changed by the end.  When I was very young, I would set up my characters and the story, and I’d be so completely pooped by the end of that (it took lots of time/chapters), I would jump straight to the finish, by saying something like, “Ten years later so-and-so and so-and-so came together and all of their problems were solved,” without telling how the conflict was resolved.  If you think about it when you’re reading, that’s the part of the story we all love, not the beginning, not the end, but the middle, yet it’s my least favorite to write.  (Also, as an aside, my least favorite to live sometimes too).

To make matters worse, I revise while I write.  I’ll be fifty or sixty pages in and think, “This should really be a different way,” and then I start over.  From the beginning.  (By the way, this is why my beginnings are so strong: by the time anyone else reads them, I’ve probably revised them a dozen times).  Sometimes, I’ll hit a creative block, and instead of pushing through, I will, you guessed it, go back to the beginning and start over.  I push a little bit further ahead every time I re-write, but my perfectionism has been counter-productive to actually finishing anything.

And I’m terrified.  I put my heart and soul into my fiction writing.  And once a project is finished, the time comes to show it to people.  And people can be brutal.  I’m not talking about constructive criticism about narrative flow or grammatical issues, I’m talking about people who are willing to tell a thirteen-year-old girl there is no point to what she has written.  (Yes, that really happened).  What if people don’t get it, and because they don’t get it, throw me as a writer to the curb?  What if I make the mistake of believing them, and give up on myself as a writer? You may think that’s ridiculous, but I promise you, it has happened before.

I cried a little bit when I discovered my exposition for The Field was forty-five pages, because that meant I still had to write at least ninety pages, all things being equal. (And they were not).  For the most part, when I was writing a particular chapter, it was like a movie in my head: I could see all of the different things that were happening.  (I swear I’m not crazy).  So when I sat down and focused myself on writing, it kind of just poured out of me.  I was worried that I was never going to get to the end, because things just kept happening (in the story).  Eventually, the middle built to the point where I knew I was coming up on the climax, and Sunday evening, I was able to sit down and lay out what I wanted to happen and when.  I was pretty discouraged again when information I had hoped to convey in two chapters was stretched to eight chapters.  Then, like I wasn’t expecting it, the climactic scene was there last night, and I was able to write the dénouement to not just end the story (I had known how I wanted it to end since the beginning) but to fully complete it.

There were times during the writing process that I became creatively blocked, and at the beginning of this particular version, I started over, again and again.  In mid-August, I decided this wasn’t acceptable anymore, and promised myself I would push through any creative awkwardness to the end.  My resolve in this has been tested over and over, but I pushed through, even when I had to stare at a blinking cursor for thirty minutes to do it.  It helped to journal a little bit before hand, to get any other mind-hoggers out before writing.  And the MOST helpful thing, were the dear people with whom I could share the bumps and struggles, and they prayed me through. (I strongly suspect there were also dear people that I didn’t share with and they also prayed me through).

Being honest, I’m still scared.  I have a final edit, which could take me upwards of two weeks to complete, but then it’s time to hand my baby over to real-life editors.  After that, I’m considering publishing, which would bring it to an even larger audience. I am certain there are people who will hate the message of The Field, and will develop a strong dislike for me by extension.  I expect that.  I also know I have people in my life who will make it all about them, when really, it’s just a story, and if they’re bothered by it, they maybe need to pray about why.  These are the people I am most afraid of.

But I’m going to do it, even though I’m scared, even though I know it will never be perfect, even though it’s longer and more in depth than I ever intended for it to be.  Why? Because The Field, although not my favorite work, is by far more important than anything I have ever written.

Because I finished 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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Grateful

Tuesday was a discouraging day for me as a writer. I just felt like I was not getting done what needed to be done, like I was failing in what God has called me to do. So I blogged about that yesterday.

And people started praying. You may ask how I know that people were praying, because no, nobody said, “Praying for you, Lydia.” I know people were praying because when I sat down to write last night I was able to get through this three-chapter funk I’d been in. I wrote for several hours, successfully got over the hump, and then continued on. Even when I stopped writing yesterday evening, I knew where I would be going when I sat down today.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I know I would not have gotten through without your prayer support yesterday, those of you who prayed for me, for my writing. Your prayers were heard and answered and affirmed!

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