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}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. πŸ˜›

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. πŸ˜› 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!”Β  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! πŸ˜€ 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. πŸ˜€

Cute Christianity

Now after that post about how I won’t be around much, I find myself with time to write a little blog post. Or, rather, a rant.

The above is a representation of some of the stickers you can find out there… others say things like “Smile! Jesus loves you!” and “Jesus loves you, but I’m His favorite” and some other, more disturbing things.

What have I got against stickers? Nothing. I love them. What do I have against Jesus loving us? Nothing at all, it’s what keeps me going.

Then what IS this post about??

Good question. See… the more I’ve learned about who God is… the more I’ve come to realize (and the more I realize the more I learn how much more there is to realize) how very awesome He is, and how absolutely crazy it is that HE loves Us… the more repugnant this sort of “Cute” Christianity has become.

God is not cute. He is awesome, Holy, terrible, just–and yes, loving. His love for us is not cute: it’s insane. Why He would chose to love us–at such a terrible cost to Himself (He died. God. He died. Yes… God died.) is beyond my–perhaps even beyond human–comprehension. Why doesn’t it doesn’t shock us more?? Why doesn’t it bring us to our knees in tears of wonder and repentance and humility? For one thing, I suppose, we are sinful humans. That accounts for a lot.

The other problem is we’ve allowed it to be come common place, expected, cute.

Of course God loves me! All the stickers say it! All the cute Sunday school songs say it! That’s what some smiling Sunday school teacher lady said when I was five!

And we think it’s nice. Yep, up in heaven somewheres, there’s a God, and He loves me. Isn’t that sweet? Fuzzy feelings every where… here’s a sticker for you, too!

This sort of “oh, God loves me, everything will be just dandy” thinking is rather like… spraying perfume on gangrene to try and make it smell better. (wow, I came up with that all by myself!) (okay, actually I didn’t… the one problem with being a Christian is you never get full credit for anything. *doesn’t actually mind this*) It’s cute, and it may help for a few seconds… but your foot is still rotting and threatening to kill you.

God loves you. alright.

But not the gushy, sweet-talking, here-is-a-chocolate-to-make-you-feel-better kind of love.

We’re talking the kind of love that would cut off that rotting foot in order to save your life. The kind of love that screams in your face that you’re going the wrong way and death is imminent. The kind of love.. that allows pain and heartache into your life to bring about a greater good: knowing Him more.

The kind of love that dies for you.

So yes, Jesus loves you. But please, please don’t take it for granted. Don’t just put it on a cute little sticker.

Let it sink in deep. Ponder the incredibleness of the fact that our Awesome Creator God died for you–out of love. Let it move you and change you. No more of this saying “God loves you!” in a syrupy, fake-happy voice.

No… whisper it in your heart.

He… loves… me.

{RD} Oh, the Thinks You Can Think…

That might be a quote, I’m not exactly sure. Anyways, here I sit, with some harp musicΒ  playing (fireflies by Owl city, if you must know) in the background, my feet crossed and the spiny chair going slightly back and forth… the fan is on, and the plastic bag to my left is fluttering distractedly. And I need to get my writing time in. As usual, I have many thoughts that I could expand into an article, but my poor sleep deprived brain (we had company last night, and they ended up staying till one, and we had Rebeka over and stayed up till 3:30 am talking, and we’ve had a few other late nights/early mornings lately.) does not feel up for any of them. Hence, I have decided to try free writing again. Which is what I am doing, in case you hadn’t noticed. Hopefully you did. Ahem.

Anyways… this morning we watched a really awesome video about the way the church is currently, especially the youth culture. We’ve never been fans of youth groups and Sunday school and such,Β  so it wasn’t as if it was new information, but it was very well presented and thoroughly enjoyed. And also it was fun watching everyone get all excited and start on various rants. πŸ˜€ Yes, including myself, though I couldn’t watch my rants.

It’s all so obvious–at least when you’ve been raised the way we have been…unfortunately, most people just accept it as the way things are and don’t bother to search it out for themselves. I’m really grateful for the time all these men took to make this video to help open more and more eyes.

At one point several years ago, we got sucked into Sunday school (though, heh, I was in “fifth grade” for several years, ’cause I wasn’t allowed to move up to youth group. :D) and we noticed something dreadful: we were no longer having the same sort of family discussions we used to have. We were each learning our own separate thing, and had our own experiences and people we “hung out” with. They weren’t shared things… it was bringing division into our family. Of course, there are many other consequences, but that was our experience. Hannah and I were talking about it, and we were saying how if the church is doing the same thing everyone else in the world is doing (the music, games, entertainment, etc.) in order to get young people in, then of course they will leave: the world is much better at that stuff, so why would they stay with what the church scrapes together? Not that Christians shouldn’t get involved in the entertainment industry: not at all. I firmly believe that we NEED to be involved there. But that’s not the church. Sure, the church can get involved in that. But it is NOT the church.

Last night, two of our Bright Lights girls and their family were over… I was talking to Heidi, and she mentioned that some of the girls that used to come to Bright Lights said it was “too boring” or “not fun enough” or things to that effect… (Heidi, of course, thought that ridiculous. She loves coming, and we love having her.) Contrary to what you might think, I actually took that as a high compliment–we’re doing something right! We still have a fair sized group of young ladies coming–but they are the kind that will sit through an extra long message– and enjoy it. They are the kind that actually stand around afterwards and talk about God and other worthwhile things. They are the kind of girls that are purposefully seeking to be Bright Lights. They are the kind of girls who are ready to do whatever odd thing Hannah and I come up with. They are the kind of girls who make Satan and this world shudder: they are counter-cultural–and loving it.

And honestly, if girls have the “it’s too boring”Β  attitude about learning the things of God, I am glad they don’t come. It sounds harsh… but it’s true. Bright Lights is not about having fun: it’s about learning about God. It’s about learning how to be a godly young woman and later wife and mother. It’s about ministering to other people. Can we have fun doing it? Oh, yes. You better believe it. πŸ˜‰ We are a talented group: we’ve had splendid fun times cleaning the church bathrooms, having small group discussions, preparing to do a program at a nursing home… we don’t need to be doing things that the world labels as “fun” in order to have a good time.

Wow, apparently I am in a rather serious mood… and oh, here comes another serious topic.

Manhood. (Ha, I accidentally typed two “n’s”…. oh, the things that happen when your last name is Mann. *grins*) It’s under attack. Bet you didn’t notice that. *sarcastic* It has always bothered me greatly, but the older I get, the more it disturbs me. I have so many things to say on this topic that they quite overwhelm me… I’m not sure where to start. πŸ˜›

First off, I really really really appreciate the young men who are brave enough to actually be masculine in this culture. It ain’t easy, I know. But it is so worthwhile, and you give me and girls like me hope.

Secondly, I really really really dislike it when I see guys who are effeminate. It’s disgusting, to speak plainly. Sorry, guys, but you just don’t make good girls. And I’m not going to call you “men”–guys will have to suffice.

And, while we’re at it, girls make miserable guys.

How about this: guys be men, and girls be women. Wow! What a revelation! πŸ˜€ Seriously, folks, it isn’t that complicated. It’s just hard. Especially in this culture…

Oh dear, now we’ve got a whole rant coming about the difference between males and females and all that… help.

But! I digress, so that’ll have to wait. Doesn’t “digress” sound so professional and everything?

Anyways. I’m going to have to write a proper article on this sometime… my brain is too tired to make this make sense, and I really want it to make sense, because I am passionate about it. So! This’ll have to do for now. Consider it a teaser. πŸ˜‰

Okay, That is IT.

We Manns are thoroughly DONE with this mess. We’ve had it. We’re taking over.

Carissa: Health (vaccines, etc.), The Family, Grammar.

Hannah: Abortion, Food and health and beauty (GMOs, bad chemicals, etc.)

Josiah: The national budget

Emily and Cheryl: The entertainment industry

William and Matthew: The School system

Esther: Abortion (she’s helping Hannah.)

(We were just having a little “discussion” regarding the USA national debt (AAAAAAAAAACCKKK!!! Don’t even get us started.) and vaccinations. And GMOs. So we just decided to take over and fix everything. They can have it back when we’re done. Nevermind, they can’t. We’re giving it to Rebs and homeschoolers.)