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]Love

I want to write about something, but I really don’t quite know how to go about it… so I suppose I shall just start.

Love.

I’ve learned a lot about it lately. I’m still not very good at it.

Last night Dr. Parker said that the way you know you’re in love with someone is that you just can’t stop thinking about what you can do for them.

Now I was very happy, because someone finally answered that question, and they got it right!! 😀

And I have known that love. Both given and received.

The circumstances have changed, and the way it manifests itself is completely different.

And yet, it’s still there and I still want to do all I can.

But right now “all” I can do is pray… but prayer is something, and it it something big. And even if I never see the person in this life, I will still love them. Oh it will change even more, and it will get covered up… but it is God’s love, and it doesn’t go away.

The thing I’m learning about love is that it hurts. There is no escaping this.

God loves, and His heart breaks over us. But He goes on loving.

Pain is not an excuse to stop loving.

Another thing I’m learning is that giving your heart away is not a one time deal. It isn’t as if you can only give your heart to one person (of the opposite gender) and then done and it’s all up with you.

No. We are called to give our hearts to everyone. This kind of love–where you can’t stop thinking about what you can do for the other person–this is the kind of love we as Christians are called to. And it isn’t limited to just one person and it isn’t limited to marriage.

Yes, I know, there is a different sort of exclusive love that is for marriage, but I’m talking about the other part. The part where your focus is not on you, it’s on the other person and what you can do do make their life better.

The part where you are so invested in them that their pain hurts you. The part where it hurts you to see them sin. The part where you willing give of yourself–your time, your money, your talents–to bless them. The part where you become vulnerable to hurt by them, because you opened yourself to them.

Yeah. The kind that hurts. The kind that makes you cry.

Once I was talking to God and I half joked to Him that it’s a good thing He knew about this “love stuff” cause I was confused… and He just overwhelmed my heart with just how much He knew about “this love stuff”.

I started crying. (this was back when I didn’t cry very easily at all…)

I don’t know if you ever seen it like that–if you ever been impressed deeply with HOW much He loves us, and how much it hurts Him to be rejected time and time again…how much it hurts Him to see His beloved children making choices that wound and destroy them… how He longs to give them everything, and yet they just won’t come to Him…

It’s a horrible, wonderful thing.

Love.

It’s the total absence of selfishness. Which is why I’m so bad at it…

The opposite of love is not hate… it’s selfishness. Once you figure that out it all makes much more sense…

It’s putting the other person’s needs and wants above your own, focusing totally on them. Making sacrifices.

It’s Jesus dying on the cross.

 

Things…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately.

I don’t know why I always feel like I need to announce that, since: a. It’s obvious that if I am writing, I was thinking. b. I always think a lot…

Anyway. (Isn’t anyway a nice clear your mind and get on with it word?)

So I’ve been thinking about writing.

Which would probably explain the fact that I am posting on my writing blog, or at least attempting to. My brain is rather fried, due to lack of sleep, painting for a few hours, and being slightly ill. Otherwise, it’s just a good excuse to not make sense. 😀

I’ve been thinking about me writing, specifically. I haven’t been doing much of it, at least not in public. Mostly, because I’ve been busy. But… I’ve also been sort of avoiding it. Why, I’m not quite sure.

But a thought occurred to me recently: I can write.

And if you can do something, shouldn’t you be doing it for God’s glory?

And if you have something to say that would glorify God, shouldn’t you say it?

And if people are encouraged and blessed and changed by the things God’s teaching you, shouldn’t you write them down for more people to read?

So… I’m back. ish. I’m working “full time” (forty hours ish) at my dad’s tile store, and I still have those seven awesome younger siblings and I still have a Bright Lights group and.. yeah. My life is full.

Not too full, however, to make use of a gift God’s given me. So I hereby and henceforth (That’s fun to say, isn’t it?) give permission to whoever reads this and actually cares a bit to poke me if I don’t write.

Other than writing, I’ve been thinking about flowers.

Yep, flowers. I like flowers. A lot.

They are beautiful… but more than that, they teach me about God.

A God who cares about tiny details.

A God who loves beauty… who is beautiful Himself.

A God who is incredibly creative…

A God who blesses us…

A God who loves us and rejoices over us.

A God who brings life from death.

sunflower, gator, garden 015

A God who is the light we can always turn to in our darkness…

This God, I love.

{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.

{RD}Counted Worthy

Recently I was attempting to do something nice for my father, and it was accidentally construed by a sibling of mine to seem like something quite different and not nice at all. I was quietly very frustrated and hurt… here I was doing something good, and I could tell it was being viewed as something wrong.

And then I realized something: This happened to Jesus all the time. And I was amazed and so thankful to Him, and grateful for a chance to understand even such a small bit of what He experienced. Seriously… He never did anything wrong (while I regularly do wrong), and over and over was accused (And even killed!) for things He did not do. o.0 (shortly thereafter, we got it all straightened out and no harm came of it.)

This is something I’ve been learning more and more, and it is so helpful… I think I started doing it when I read in the Hiding Place where they are standing in line, unclothed… and they realize that Jesus was humiliated in the same way. And Betsy says, “oh, and I never thought to thank Him!” (or something like, I don’t have the book with me. :()

Somehow… it helps, knowing that He went through all these troublesome emotions and situations. And it helps when you take your pain and you realize how much worse His was… and that He did it for you, out of love. He didn’t have to experience that pain. He didn’t have to subject Himself to that torture and humiliation and false accusation. And yet… He did. For you. For me. For His father’s glory.

Sometimes you’re lonely, in the middle of a crowd… no one really understands you. You have a quiet ache that no one sees… no one cares about. Just think of Him: He had such a horrible weight on Him, knowing all that would come… and no one understood. No one could understand it. Even surrounded by so many followers, He was alone.

Perhaps you’ve loved someone and you love was not returned… just think how His heart breaks over the millions who totally reject His love.

And on and on it goes…

When you are suffering, think about your Savior and what He went through for you. Several good things are accomplished through this… one, your suffering will be put into perspective. 😛 Two, you will be so much more grateful to Him. Three, you will have an example to follow of how to deal with your hurt. Four, you will be distracted from your own little problem and your eyes will be on Him… which is always a good thing. 🙂