I Feel At Home…

She sat across the table from me, eyes slightly misty. Looking around from face to face, she softly says words that sink in deep.

“I feel at home. It’s the first time I’ve felt like this for a very… very long time.”

She’s a young mom; a neighbor of ours for a few months. Two darling children, a husband with a job that moves them around a lot. A rough growing up.

She knows and loves God.

Our house is rather a mess–children running around and the remains of crafts on the table. Dishes in the sink, shoes strewn about.

But it doesn’t matter. She feels at home.

That is what hospitality is really about. It isn’t about fancy dishes or perfectly food or a gorgeous, spotless house. It’s about love. About sitting around the table, talking and laughing and crying. About… being at home.

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Death and Life

We started out alive. Very much alive. We were in direct, perfect communion with God. We had no division or misunderstanding or selfishness in our relationships with each other. We were physically healthy. We were mentally sound. We were emotionally fulfilled and whole.

And then

we

died.

God told us we would, if we did That; but we paid Him no heed.

Thought we knew best.

We tried so hard, we did. We tried to pretend we were still alive.

We hid. Hid from the One with the Answer, from the One who sees all.

And we’re still dead and we still pretend.

Outside we look alive.

Inside we are naught but a corpse.

Rotting, shriveled, dry.

We plaster on a smile and we laugh and we talk loud and we DO. Frantically, we try to convince ourselves–or at least everyone else–that we aren’t really dead inside.

But we are.

And we all know it, no matter how hard we try to make it look otherwise, no matter how many people tell us we are beautiful and good, no matter how loud we laugh, no matter how much doing we pile on top of our deadness in an attempt to look alive.

Ugly, small, not-right.

This is us.

Correction: this is us without and before Christ…Before the Christ-life comes in and fills that hollow, dried up, dead spirit of ours. Before He comes and breaths His life into our breathless spirit. Before His Life-Blood begins flowing in our spiritual veins.

But oh, when it happens–what a glorious thing!

We who were once

dead,

who were once

far off–

are alive in Christ,

brought

very near

by His precious life-blood.

Why, then, do we–who are alive in Christ–sometimes still feel dead? Why do we sometimes still see ourselves as ugly, shriveled, hopeless?

In a word:

lies.

You see, Before, the lie was:

You aren’t really dead;

somehow, someway, you can beat it.

You can

cover it up.

Hide, run

and hide.

Don’t let Him see.

Just put on some more makeup,

maybe buy some more expensive clothes.

Make sure you do everything

right.

Keep doing all those good things; maybe

that

will make you feel better.

Once we see through that lie and accept the Christ-life, however, the lie takes another twist. He whispers the other side of his deceitful tale into your delicate new ears:

You aren’t

really

alive.

You’re still just as dead as you ever were.

Look at you!

Insignificant, putrid, hollow old you.

Who do you think

you are,

claiming to be new, holy, cleansed, alive?

You’re wrong.

He doesn’t

really

care for you.

Maybe the other people–look how beautiful they are.

Not you.

Look at what you’ve done, who you are.

No…you’re still

dead.

BUT IT IS A LIE.

Just as plain and simple as that.

It’s a lie.

Lies are nothing, nothing but the twisted fragments of nightmarish thoughts from the Enemy of your soul.

The one who tricked us into believing The Lie that brought death to our souls in the first place. The one who desperately tried to keep your soul dead. And the one who, now that your spirit lives because of Christ in you, wants nothing more than to keep you believing that you are still dead.

Don’t listen.

Trust.

I know you don’t see,

yet.

You don’t see what God saw when He had the idea for you. What He knows you’ll become at the end of the story. You don’t see, quite, the glow He had–has–in His eyes when He looked at you. You didn’t see His joy when your long-dead spirit finally accepted His life and became new.

But you have to trust.

Trust that He knows what He’s doing. Trust that He who has promised is faithful, and that He also will do it. Trust that He makes everything beautiful in its time.

Trust that His life is in you, and that

you

aren’t

dead inside

any more.

No. You are alive, very alive.

Because The One who is

The Life

is in

you.

Death and Life

We started out alive. Very much alive. We were in direct, perfect communion with God. We had no division or misunderstanding or selfishness in our relationships with each other. We were physically healthy. We were mentally sound. We were emotionally fulfilled and whole.

And then

we

died.

God told us we would, if we did That; but we paid Him no heed. Thought we knew best.

We tried so hard, we did.

We tried to pretend were still alive.

We hid. Hid from the One with the Answer, from the One who sees all.

And we’re still dead and we still pretend.

Outside we look alive.

Inside we are naught but a corpse.

Rotting, shriveled, dry.

We slap on a smile and we laugh and we talk loud and we DO. Frantically, we try to convince ourselves–or at least everyone else–that we aren’t really dead inside.

But we are.

And we all know it, no matter how hard we try to say otherwise, no matter how many people tell us we are beautiful and good, no matter how loud we laugh. No matter how much doing we pile on top of our deadness in an attempt to look alive.

Ugly, small, not-right.

This is us.

Correction: this is us without and before Christ…Before the Christ-life comes in and fills that hollow, dried up, dead spirit of ours. Before He comes and breaths His life into our shell of a spirit. Before His Life-Blood begins flowing in our spiritual veins.

But oh, when it happens–what a glorious thing!

We who were once

dead,

who were once

far off–

are alive in Christ, brought

very near

by His precious life-blood.

Why, then, do we, who are alive in Christ, sometimes still feel dead? Why do we sometimes still see ourselves as ugly, shriveled, hopeless?

In a word:

lies.

You see, Before, the lie was:

You aren’t really dead; somehow, someway, you can beat it.

You can

cover it up.

Hide, run

and hide.

Don’t let Him see.

Just put on some more makeup, maybe buy some more expensive clothes.

Make sure you do everything

right.

Keep doing all those good things; maybe

that

will make you feel better.

Once we see through that lie and accept the Christ-life, however, the lie twists. He whispers his deceitful tale into your delicate new ears:

You aren’t

really

alive.

You’re still just as dead as you ever were.

Look at you!

Insignificant, putrid, hollow old you.

Who do you think

you are,

claiming to be new, holy, cleansed, alive?

You’re wrong.

He doesn’t

really

care for you.

Maybe the other people–look how beautiful they are.

Not you.

Look at what you’ve done, who you are.

No…you’re still

dead.

BUT IT IS A LIE.

Just as plain and simple as that.

It’s a lie.

Lies are nothing, nothing but the twisted fragments of nightmarish thoughts from the Enemy of your soul.

The one who tricked us into believing The Lie that brought death to our souls in the first place. The one who desperately tried to keep your soul dead. And the one who, now that your spirit lives because of Christ in you, wants nothing more than to keep you believing that you are still dead.

Don’t listen.

Trust.

I know you don’t see,

yet.

You don’t see what God saw when He had the idea for you. What He knows you’ll become at the end of the story. You don’t see, quite, the glow He had–has–in His eyes when He looked at you. You didn’t see His joy when your long-dead spirit finally accepted His life and became new.

But you have to trust.

Trust that He knows what He’s doing. Trust that He who has promised is faithful, and that He also will do it. Trust that He makes everything beautiful in its time.

Trust that His life is in you, and that

you

aren’t

dead inside

any more.

No. You are alive, very alive.

Because The One who is

The Life

is in

you.

[RD]Character

I’ve wondered about character for a long time. Growing up in a Christian homeschool family, you hear the word plenty. There are books that build character and songs that build character and friends that build character…  all kinds of things.

“Build character”? What does that mean? What does “character” even mean??

I finally figured it out, and then I promptly wondered why no one had ever told me before… and why it took me so long to figure it out. 😛

Very simply, character is your habitual response. For instance, when you are provoked, the way you regularly respond indicates what kind of character you have. If you usually respond kindly, you are a kind person. If you mostly respond with anger, you are an angry person.

It’s just… habit. The way you normally respond to life. Do you make the lazy choice or the diligent choice? Do you work hard or do you just do “enough”? Do you put others first or do you put yourself first?

Well, then. So how do books and so forth build character??

If the attitudes and actions portrayed as good in the majority of books you read are Christlike ones, you will grow to appreciate and accept those attitudes–and, slowly, they will become part of your response. What we are surrounded with is what we become. This is also true in reverse, of course. And I’m sure you can see the results of the kind of media most people choose… it’s quite evident in our culture.

The next question that occurs in this thought process is the most crucial: “Why is having good character important?”

Now I’m sure most of us would agree that it’s a least a little bit important to have good character. Or at least that everyone else doesn’t have it and they should!! 😀 (Have you ever noticed how ironic it is that we tend to complain about people complaining? Or gossip about someone else gossiping? Or point out everyone else’s need for good character while neglecting your own? :P) We’ve heard about character plenty, or at least I have.

But why?? (I must have been an annoying child… I always want to know why.)

Finally, finally, I’m getting it. It’s so much broader and more important and glorious than people make it out to be. It’s not just us looking good or making our parents look good. It’s not just being a good person. It’s not just about other people. (gasp) Oh, no.

It’s about Christ. It’s about the reason we exist.

Why do we exist? “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

And, I ask you, how can we possibly glorify God if we are not building and striving for Christlike character? If we are not in the habit of responding kindly, how can they see Christ’s kindness in us? If we are not in the habit of responding meekly and humbly, how can they see Christ’s humility? If we are not responding in love and forgiveness, how can they understand Christ’s love and forgiveness?

If we are not purposefully seeking to make God look great by our actions, why are we here?? And how dare we call ourselves followers of Christ?? Followers, you see, FOLLOW the person they are following…

Yes, it is His power that works in us. Without Him, it is impossible for us to become like Him. Only Christ can be Christ.

But if we are so full of US–how can He come in and take over? If we are so busy listening to worldly influences, how can we hear that still small voice of the Holy Spirit? If we are so busy gratifying our flesh, how can we walk in the Spirit? If we are so caught up in the things of this world, how can we love God? If we are so sure of our own strength, how can He show Himself strong in us?

We are called to fight. We are called to endure. We are called to press on. We are called to lay aside the weights. We are called to put off our old nature and put on Christ.

We must take action. We cannot sit still and expect God to magically poof us into being like Him.

We must make those little choices, every day.

Humility over pride. Patience over impatience. Joy over complaining. Peace over worry. Diligence over laziness.

Little choices. Big results.

Why? Why choose to help your little sister instead of reading that novel? Why give up the last seat to that old lady? Why clean up the kitchen when it isn’t your job? Why keep working until your story is the best you can make it? Why choose to tell the truth even though it may cost you dearly? Why keep loving someone even when they hurt you over and over?

Because of Christ. Because He loves you. Because His way is the best way. Because… that is how you bring God glory, how you show Him to be like He really is.

It may not seem to make any difference. Probably people won’t notice that you took the extra ten minutes to dust the fan when you were only asked to dust the blinds. Probably no one will see that you gave up the last bagel so your little sister could have one. Probably no one will cheer when you choose to do your school instead of goofing off. Probably getting up an hour earlier so you can pray won’t make the headlines. Probably no one will notice that you rewrote your blog post five times instead of throwing it together. Probably no one will know how hard you had to bite your tongue to keep from making that mean comment. Probably no one will know how hard it was to forgive that one person.

Oh, but God knows. And He takes great pleasure in it. And it does glorify Him.

And, moreover, there will come a day when there are big choices to be made. When the stakes are high and the world is watching and Christ’s name is in the balance.

What will you do then? If you have consistently made the good little choices, you will just do what you always do. Of course you will tell the truth even though you’ll go to jail–isn’t that what you’ve been doing all along? Of course you will forgive the ones who killed your brother–isn’t that what you’ve been doing all along?

These days will come. Mark my words.

Will you be ready?

{RD}Would You Have Done it?

Earlier this evening, I went outside for a bit… the stars were out, and there was one (a planet, probably) that was especially bright. It brought to my mind the star that shown when Jesus was born… and I remembered the movie “The Nativity”, particularly the part where Mary agrees to carry Christ.

And I wondered… would I have done it? Would I have said yes? Would I have agreed to be laughed at, to be shunned, to be thought impure and foolish? Would I have agreed to lay down my reputation? Would I have agreed to give up my friends? My family, in a way? Would I have agreed to risk being killed for a perceived action? Would I have agreed to look completely foolish for something I really had no idea about how it would end?

Or would I have been too concerned with myself, with my image? Would I have been too concerned about appearing pure and blameless? Would I have been too scared to face the shame?

I don’t know, honestly. I might very well have said I can’t do it, it’s too hard, that’s not a good idea, what will everyone think?

(Though of course, I’ve never talked to an angel. That might put a bit of a different light on the matter.)

Listen to Mary’s response after her initial questioning…

38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Simple. So simple. But so full of trust and surrender. She knew who she was and who God was. And she let God do what He willed with her. She was willing to be considered impure and insane for God’s sake and at His word.

And think… think what a blessing she gained. We gained! It didn’t make a bit of sense, at first. But now, looking back on it all… it makes so much sense we rarely see how crazy it was. Of course Mary had Jesus. We’ve heard it over and over.

But… there really was a girl. A girl. Named Mary. Scared, clueless. She couldn’t see what would happen. And yet she opened herself up to God. She… let Him… make her look foolish in the world’s eyes.

And… she is now most blessed among women. (among women, that’s all…)

Humbled, and then glorified. Sounds an awful lot like… her Son.

How could she do it? We really don’t know a whole lot about her. But then… we don’t need to know a whole lot. What she did, on its own, says volumes. The fact that God chose her says tons. And then… we have her song. Listen to her heart…

46And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

50And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

51He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

54He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

What do you notice?

I see… a heart totally enthralled with God. And very much not focused on herself. I don’t know about you, but if God chose me to do that… I don’t think I would be saying things about my “low estate”… I would be thinking more along the lines of, wow, I must be pretty good to have been chosen. 😛

All her focus is on God and the great things He has done for her. And at this point she still probably didn’t really know what exactly what was going on!

Wow…

Seriously, think about it, my fellow Good Christian Girls. Don’t we want to be known for our purity and our wonderfulness? I do.

But… it isn’t about us. It’s about God. And you know… the thing about God is… He loves doing things completely backwards from the world’s thinking.

Think about the way He came to earth. The King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Creator Himself… coming as a baby?? And then not just a baby to a good home, but He came appearing as an illegitimate child?? And think how He conquered death and sin and satan!! By… dying, naked, on a cross??

Guess who hated Jesus the most? The religious leaders. The good church people.

Guess who most hates sold out for Christ, Spirit-filled Christians who don’t care a particle what the world thinks? … Yeah. You know already.

Can’t they like… tone it down? Do they have to be SO different?? Can’t they… blend in a little? Must they really be so radical? Do they have to do such strange things?

Face, folks. Following Christ whole-heartedly gets our sanity questioned. It might even lose us the respect of the Good Christian People we know.

Do we really suppose that following a Man who upset the the religious institution in just about every way possible, the Man who ate with sinners, the Man who was perfect and yet died a criminal’s death, the Man who…. basically did everything differently from others… will be easy and normal and well accepted?

What does it actually mean to follow this Man? We sing “I have decided to follow Jesus”… but what does it mean?

Are we really willing to accept the ridicule and the shame and the hardship and the suffering and the being misunderstood?

Are we willing to follow Him… all the way? He died, you know. It says take up your cross. The cross isn’t a pretty little symbol. It isn’t just a charm on a necklace.

It’s an instrument of death.

Death.

Really? Are you sure this is the One you want to follow? Am I?

Are we willing to be humbled as He was? To make ourselves of no reputation? To… die? To count all this as loss, that we might gain Christ?

Is it worth it? Is it worth giving up everything to follow Him?

Oh… I hope and pray my answer is yes. Not my answer here. Not my words. My life. The Answer.

For what good would it be, if I gained the whole world and kept my reputation… and yet… lost my soul? What good would it be to be known by men, but… not to know God or be known by Him? What good would it be to have man’s favor, and… not God’s? What good would it be… to get to heaven and say, well everyone said I was such a sweet, quiet girl… And yet… have missed out on the fullness of God wanted to do through me?

Am I worth holding on to? Is my reputation that important? Are my desires and ideas that much better than His?

No. No, not at all.

He… gave up everything. Everything. For God’s glory. For me.

How… HOW can I do less? I must not, I will not, I cannot.

Help me, God.

{RD}The Permanent Marker

I had a magazine open in front of me; just a normal magazine–a business one, perhaps. Looking through it, I couldn’t help myself… I grabbed a black permanent marker and started helping these girls out a bit with their clothes, all the while ranting in my head. There were far too many clothes that needed help. And this was just a business magazine!!

No, I didn’t need to do that. Sure, maybe it’s extreme. But… I have to do something. And I don’t want my little brothers to happen on a magazine like that and then struggle with the images.

It frustrates me badly, the way immodesty is so rampant in our society… And not only that, but the attitude towards modesty. If I tell people outright that they need to start dressing more modestly, and that immodesty is a sin, most likely I’m going to get in trouble. There are plenty of excuses for immodesty, plenty of comebacks.

“The guys just need to learn to control themselves. It’s not our problem.”

Yes, the guys need to control themselves.

But… Imagine with me that you were addicted to chocolate–very very addicted. It was a major part of your diet, something you craved intensely. And you were trying to stop eating it, because you were told it was bad for you. But everywhere you turned, there was chocolate. Opened up, ready to eat. Everywhere. Surrounding you. Yummy, smooth, sweet smelling. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate with nuts in it… you try and try to resist, but it’s there, always there. Taunting you, calling you. So good. Just a little wouldn’t hurt, would it?

How long do you suppose you’d be able to resist that?? Don’t you think it would be helpful if you could get away from the chocolate? If it wasn’t right there in front of you constantly?

The girls also have a responsibility… And that is to keep the secrets of their beauty for marriage.

Seriously, which do you think is harder: picking out clothes (searching high and low. :P) that are modest–or fighting a constant battle in your mind against something that seems so good and is so available?

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have the first battle than the latter, and I very much want to help my brothers who have to fight that fierce battle in their minds.

“It’s just fashion.”

So… fashion trumps God’s word?

“I just want to look cute for my girl friends.”

Um…. unless you are going to a place where there are ONLY girls… I don’t really get the logic here. 😛 Just because you’re dressing to impress female friends does not mean that the males suddenly go blind.

“Everyone else dresses like this!”

So? Not only is that not true, but even if it were… even if everyone else in the entire world was doing the wrong thing… it would still be the wrong thing. Right and wrong is not something we take a poll on, contrary to popular belief. It’s based on God’s word. If we are followers of Christ, it’s our job to do just that–follow Christ. Not the world. Not every one else.

“I’m not as bad as the other girls.”

Again, so? Would you take that answer from a guy? “Well at least I’m just into porn, I’m not raping anyone!”  Just because our sins are less… dramatic than theirs doesn’t mean they are any less sin.

“It’s just too hard!”

Worthwhile things are hard. Get over it. Do hard things! 😀 And again, I think it’s much easier to pick out clothes–something tangible and much easier to control–than fight wrong thoughts. So be grateful.

“Now you are getting all legalistic on me!”

*sigh* That’s always the thing Christians love to bring up. May I direct your attention to… This Post on legalism. Much better than if I tried to explain it. 😀

{RD}A New World…

Just about three years ago, I entered a new world. At least, that’s what I remember thinking of it as… I started my first blog, then called “Lily of the Valley”. (Now it’s called “Adventures of the Mann Family”)

I remember wondering what would happen… what kind of impact I’d have, what sort of people I’d meet, what it would do to me.

Three years in, and… wow. What a lot has happened; things I never would’ve imagined.

I ended up finally deciding to join the Rebelution forums, after much thought and prayer. I’m not sure why it was such a huge decision for me… perhaps because I’d never joined a forum before, or perhaps because the sign up form is rather daunting if you take it seriously. At any rate, I joined. I remember looking around at the different groups–particularly the Attic moderators– and wondering if I’d ever be in one of those or if it was even possible to join.

Lo and behold, several months later, I found myself helping lead a cafe study on the book Don’t Waste Your Life. Through that I made quite a few new friends… and had the novel experience of being able to talk to young people who also *gasp* had a vision for their lives and a love for God.

And not too long after that, I was promoted to Editor, and from there, Attic Moderator. To my surprise, I was just about the only active Attic mod… which meant there was plenty to do. o.0 And, homeschooler style, I figured it out and did it, asking questions and making mistakes as I went. That was a big aspect of my online life for the first while…

There was also Holy Worlds: a forum just starting up. I was the only other team member at the time I joined… The Editor. I watched and helped, on and off, as HW grew up into an amazing, God-glorifying community of writers. At first, I wasn’t terribly excited about the forum… but now, when I tell people about it and about all the things God has done through it, I get so excited I become slightly short of breath. 😀

I decided to start another blog, this one on blogger… (Rejoice Always) and then have started numerous other blogs here and there.

I’ve been blessed to be a part of many different projects and such things… had plenty of chances to edit (yay!) for various people… so many things.

I’ve learned tons, grown tons, been blessed tons.

As to the people… ahem. 😀 The people have been wonderful, weird, inspiring, funny, helpful, convicting, supportive… crazy. 😀

A few people that I’ve known the longest and best would be:

Allison Whisler
Rebeka Fry
Andrea Powell
Hannah Lenover
Jay Lauser
Katie Daniels
Brendan Hanley
Sian Jones
Holly Hutcheson
Daniel Osborne

And there have been and are many others…

It’s been a very unique experience; having genuine friends–especially ones I’ve never met. It’s odd… a lot of people would suppose that online friendships would be among the more superficial and less helpful… but, at least in the circles I’ve been in, that hasn’t been the case. I am used to people in real life only being “sometimes friends”… not really sticking to me. (which, though it isn’t really an excuse, is part of the reason that I have on occasion seemed to abandon y’all… I’m just not used to people actually wanting to talk to me and be my friend. :P) But some of the people I’ve met on here… they stick. 😛 😀 God has really blessed me in this way… and I’m very thankful. Even when I don’t talk to you much… I’m so very grateful you’re there and think and pray for you often. 🙂

How has it changed me… oh, I don’t even know all how. 😛 There have been both positive and negative changes…

I’ve definitely improved my writing and typing skills… I’ve become more adept at explaining and expressing myself, both on and off the computer… I’ve become more open, in some ways… I’ve gained much useful experience in dealing with people and doing various computer things… I’ve come to know God more, through conversations I’ve had… I’ve learned a great deal more words… I’ve become more aware of the hurts of others… I’ve learned more about how to lead… I’ve become a better editor… many things about me have grown and changed for the good.

Some things, though… have not been so good. My family has seen less of me, which has caused hurts and other troubles. I’ve been distracted from my other projects and things I needed to do. I’ve wasted time on here…

I don’t know what I would’ve done differently, honestly… what’s past is past, and I will take the good and learn from the bad.