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.

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[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.

 

(Begun April 9th)

I haven’t been writing on this blog, but never fear… I have been writing. Mainly in ink, though… I’m always surprised at how fast I run my pens out of ink. I don’t think that I write that much, but when your pens keep dying you figure out that you must have been writing more than you thought…

Anyway. I have been learning so much lately… there’s really no way to get it into words. Odd thing about being a writer, though–you try anyway. 😀 Why, I don’t know. But you do… I’ve been praying lots, writing poems, emails and letters. But not blog posts. So… I thought I’d come over here to my random blog and see what came out. 🙂

It’s strange… life is, I mean. Or maybe it’s just me that’s strange.

Things have changed drastically for me. And I have changed with them. And I have learned so much… things I could never have learned another way. And I’m doing very poorly at talking about it at the moment. 😛

__

I think one of the major focuses lately for me has been praising God. Always, and no matter what. My thoughts go all criss-cross and tangled– and then I tell myself no very firmly and I look to Christ. And He is beautiful. And my thoughts settle down and smooth out and even though things don’t make sense, life does. Because He is life.

And there’s so much to praise Him for… start at Creation, go to the cross… His character, His works…

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.

Would You Have Done It?

Recently, I went outside for a bit at night… the stars were out, and there was one (a planet, probably) that was especially bright. It brought to 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 in her womb.

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? My way of life? 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 way of knowing the end of?

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 and mockery?

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…

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.

Simple. So simple. And so full of trust and surrender. She knew who she was– and, more importantly, who God was. And she let God do what He wanted 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. What a blessing we gained! It didn’t make a bit of sense, at the time. 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.

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…

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As 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.

Mary was humbled, and then glorified. Sounds an awful lot like… her Son. And it doesn’t make any sense, really….

Think about the way He came to earth. The King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Creator Himself… coming as a baby?? Surely, at least, He would come as baby to some good home–but no! He came appearing as an illegitimate child!? And think how He conquered death and sin and satan!! By… dying, naked, on a cross?? It doesn’t make sense, humanly speaking.

Guess who hated Jesus the most? The religious leaders. The Good Church People.

Guess who most hates sold-out-for-Christ, Spirit-filled Christians– the ones 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? What is the cost?

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 deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him.

The cross isn’t some cute little symbol. It isn’t just a charm on a necklace.

It’s an instrument of humiliation… and death.

Death.

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

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

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.

[E] Would You Have Done It?

Recently, I went outside for a bit at night… the stars were out, and there was one (a planet, probably) that was especially bright. It brought to 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 in her womb.

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? My way of life? 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. And so full of trust and surrender. She knew who she was and who God was. And she let God do what He wanted 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. And what a blessing 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.

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?? Surely, at least, He would come as baby to some good home–but no! He came appearing as an illegitimate child!? And think how He conquered death and sin and satan!! By… dying, naked, on a cross?? It doesn’t make sense, humanly speaking.

Guess who hated Jesus the most? The religious leaders. The Good Church People.

Guess who most hates sold-out-for-Christ, Spirit-filled Christians– the ones 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? What is the cost?

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 some cute 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? Are you sure you want to carry a cross? Am I?

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

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.