Thursday, August 16, 2012

Random Announcement of the Day!

I'm leaving! Forever! Okay, that's an exaggeration... but I am leaving. In less than one month. To New York. For two months.

Surprised? Not much more surprised than I am... :P

And why am I going to New York for two months? Well... you see... *starts story mode*

Once upon a time at a homeschool convention not too far away, a girl (named Courtney) came up to me (in spite of the fact that I was reading and being rather unsociable at the moment) at the Generations of Virtue booth. She was nice, and she said something about a "new program" and "J127" and "traveling" and "intensive discipleship" and "are you interested?"

Well, to be honest, I wasn't particularly interested. But since I'm nice and stuff, I gave her my email address so she could email me with details. And, to add to the fun, I had a vague feeling that God might want me to do it. So.

I waited... and waited... wondering if she'd actually email. Rather pessimistic of me, but I've just had too many experiences where people don't actually do what they say they will do.

But! She did! So I was pleasantly surprised and rather interested to see where this would go. I thought and prayed about it some, and I had a sense that God might be calling me to do it. However, I thought it rather impractical. (Which... God is impractical. Just for the record. And that's a good thing, because in Narnia it was the White Witch who was Terribly Practical, not Aslan. Um... sorry. I'm reading The Magician's Nephew to my little brothers.)

And then I went to Pennsylvania (oh! I didn't even say anything about that ever on here... sorreee...) and I was busy with that trip (and yes it was FUN!! I guess I will write about it, um, later.) and while I was still thinking and praying about the J127 program, I just... didn't get the application sent in. The deadline to apply, July 25th, passed. And I thought... um, well, I guess... I guess I'm not going? But it didn't seem properly final. And so I wondered what was going on, because if the deadline was passed then didn't that mean I couldn't go?

No, of course not! Another email from Courtney! The deadline was extended! To August 8th!

Oh! "I guess that means I should do something about this, then, God?" Yep.

So I talked to my parents about it and they were supportive and they said to talk to Pastor Mark. I emailed him, along with my "mentors" Arlene and Pristine and my longest running friend, Beka Wimer. (They have you include three references... one from a Pastor, one from a Mentor/teacher, and one from an over 18 friend.)

Pristine emailed and said "I've scanned through the website and it sounds very exciting! If you feel the Lord leading you that way and have the opportunity to apply, I would. Continue to pray about it and ask the Lord to confirm to you His desire. I will be excited to see how it turns out!"

Sunday (the 5th) Arlene talked to me about it and asked me all the sorts of questions one would expect from a Mentor, and she, too, thought it was exciting and would be a good experience for me. 

Beka emailed me on the sixth and said that she would do my friend application...

But I still hadn't heard from Pastor Mark. And it was the seventh now. I didn't know what to do, because I didn't want to apply without the go ahead from him (not to mention that I needed him to fill out the reference form)... so I was praying about it and practicing my prodigious waiting skills. ;)  

And he called! Finally! And he thought it sounded exciting too and said that if I felt this was something God wanted me to try for, I should. He also said that it was a short time to raise that much money... but we both agreed that if God wanted me to go, He could certainly make that happen. 

I hurriedly filled out my application form (except it took a few hours) and emailed it off and rushed to meet with Arlene at Panera.

When I got home, I had an email that said the application form was blank. :P So I had to resend it. Thankfully the data was saved, so it wasn't too bad. 

On the eighth I got an email confirming that my application had been received. 

On the ninth I had a missed call from them and a voicemail telling me to call back, please. Oh dear, what did I do now... so I called back, and a nice happy girl named Katherine told me that--- My application had been accepted!!... ?!!? "Wow! That was fast!" (I'm very original like that. But really, I thought I had to wait till the 15th.) 

So then I blinked for a while and was like.... um, I guess... I'm going! Cool! This is interesting...

Sunday I told about it some--of course forgetting to say obvious things like "in NEW YORK" and stuff like that. I also didn't say anything about *whispers* money.  *sigh* Anyway. I think I managed to confuse mostly everyone, but that's good for them. I think. 

*end story mode*

By now you are probably wondering what on earth I'm going to be doing for TWO MONTHS. Well, to be perfectly honest, I'm wondering that myself. 

But I do have some idea... it includes things like helping at "purity events", helping to renovate "The Mission" (a really cool sounding, HUGE (110,000 square feet) old building), listening to authors and speakers, praying, traveling (I think to Colorado and I'm not sure where else), and probably a great many other things. You can read more about it here and here.

So what am I hoping to come away with from this? To borrow from what I said on the application...

I am hoping to come away with more skill in teaching and leading in Bright Lights, my family, and church--and future ministry opportunities God brings along. I am hoping to form Christ-centered relationships with young people who are dedicated to seeking and loving God, people who can challenge me in my walk with God and inspire me to higher heights and deeper depths. I am hoping to use what God has already given me to bless others on the team and the people we minister to. I am hoping to become more disciplined and self-sacrificing. I am hoping, above all, to use this to the glory of God, and to know Him more intimately, to love Him more dearly, and to be more in awe of Him than ever.

It starts on September 12th and ends on November 17th. 
The biggest thing I need in this is prayer. I know you've read many "prayer letters" that aren't really quite... prayer letters. But really, honestly, I need your prayers more than I need money. I could get all the money but not have God's blessing and help and it--really wouldn't work. I'd be better off at home with no money. So... I would greatly appreciate prayer. For wisdom, for grace, for love... that I would be a blessing and that I would let God work in me through this, and through me in other's lives. 

Also, if you did happen to wonder about the money part of it... I need $2500--$3000.
"As J127 (through Generations of Virtue) is a registered 501C3 non profit, your church, friends and family may send checks directly to us and receive a tax deductible letter at the end of the year! Have checks payable to: 
Generations of Virtue

And mailed directly to:

Generations of Virtue
Attn: Carissa Mann J127 Support
5604 Mission Road
Conesus, NY 14435"
So there! Now you know. :)

I'm not sure how busy my schedule will be... I may or may not be able to blog while I'm gone. Ve shall see. :)  

Friday, August 10, 2012


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. :P

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!! :D (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?