Grace, Getting Married, and Gearing Up :)

Two weeks. HEY EVERYONE, I’M GETTING MARRIED IN TWO WEEKS! Less than that now. 🙂 I am doing physical therapy (last one will be the Wednesday before), I will get my new AFO brace the Tuesday before, and I just have a lot of feels right now. I went to my cousin Trish’s wedding on Saturday, and I started losing it at her reception. Totally not the place to start crying. I don’t even notice stress anymore, and I push it to the side. But it’s messing with me, and I don’t like it. Oh, no. I’m not stressed about the wedding or anything. I’m actually quite excited for that. Everything is falling into place, and it will be the best day I can’t even imagine. It’s other things. You know, leaving everyone and everything here. Saying good-bye to my roommates last week, when I have no idea when I’ll see them again. Packing when I don’t really have any idea what I’ll be needing for work. Starting a new adventure of many unknowns. Being able to see Dr. Wile E. Coyote more than once a month because of a nine-hour difference, but every DAY because we’ll be married! The inevitable culture shock that moving to Kentucky from the northern Midwest of the South Dakota-Minnesota-Wisconsin region.

I’m also kind of worried that at first, the pre-doc and I will drive each other nuts. In our premarital counseling, we spoke of examples of this: Say I put the spatulas in one drawer, but Doug thinks they should go in a different drawer and we fight about it. We’re not really fighting about where the spatulas go, but grieving the loss of our childhoods. Now, this is only a hypothetical example. This has been bothering me quite a bit lately, as I see some of Dr. WEC’s quirks and view them in a negative light. I even see some of my quirks and worry about how D will perceive them. But there is this ridiculous word that God has been leading me to, and I can’t really give Dr. Wile E. Coyote any grief. This word is GRACE.

This morning at church, we talked about the parable where the landowner goes into the village to get workers for his vineyard more than once in a day. Some workers were hired at noon, 3pm, and 5pm, even, when the rest of the workday started at 6am and finished at 6pm. The end of the day comes, and the landowner pays those who came last to work first, and those who got there in the morning last. And he gave them the exact same pay. There are other parables in the Bible that make us feel good and rejoice. Like the prodigal son, who returns home after some bad choices but is welcomed home and his return celebrated. Woo! The Good Samaritan who helps the injured man on the side of the road. Woo! But the employer who pays all of his workers the exact same thing, whether they worked 12 hours or 1? That goes against a lot of things. But that is the crazy, ridiculous grace that we so often hear about. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been running the race—someone could have found the race path yesterday and reach the finish line tomorrow. God wants to welcome us all into his kingdom. In the parable, the owner speaks to the grumbling 12 hour workers: “I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” (Matthew 20:14b-15a).  Yep, God wants to give us all the same gift of eternal life.  Are you okay with that?

Talking with Dig-Doug this afternoon, he spoke about how on top of things we are. We totally have a plan, and God has been helping us throughout. He added, “We have each other through it all. And even bigger than that, we have the Lord.”

So, in answer to questions I have been hearing: Yes, I am excited to get married. Even though we have a few little things left to do, I am totally ready. Dr. Wile E. Coyote and I will be starting the adventure that will start in this chapter of our lives. The words “I do” will mark a beginning, and I am so excited.

Love to you all!

Anna

Grace and Rural Minnesota

The sermon today talked about Jesus teaching about community in Luke 10 when he sent the 70 out with no possessions or anything.  Ingrid Rasmussen, who grew up in our church and just finished seminary, gave a great sermon.  Towards the end she talked about grace: “To be given a gift that you’ve done nothing to earn and for which no payment is required.”  Cottonwood, our hometown, has been growing, but has had around 1100 people in it for the last decade or so.  If you’ve ever read the book How to Talk Minnesotan by Howard Mohr, it was based on here.  Seriously.  He is my neighbor, and I could bike to his house if I wanted.  But “here” is the small-town Minnesota, with the whole “Minnesota-nice” that I love so much.  Ingrid gave examples of grace:

“It’s like showing up to a potluck without a dish.  It’s being picked up on the side of the road when your car breaks down.  It’s the offer of a room when you lose your home.  It’s the dollar from the next person in line when you’re twenty cents short.  It’s the donut hole on Sunday morning….It’s the sweet smile of the baby in the pew ahead of you when the sermon goes on just a tad too long.”

These examples have been experienced, and every single person listening from the congregation could relate with what she was saying.  This summer, I’ve been experiencing the small town that I grew up in like never before.  I appreciate it for its community and its love.  I appreciate it for its history and the fact that you must be careful with gossip, because everyone is either related or best friends.  There are so many connections here! In this part of the country, there are two degrees of separation.  From southern Minnesota and eastern South Dakota, I know people that are connected there.

In 2008, there was a bus accident near Cottonwood and four children were killed from my school.  Well, I had a pretty good connection with each of them, even though I was only related to one.  The national media approached Cottonwood and Wood Lake (which make up Lakeview School), but the people were so protective of the families that were grieving, that no media could get in to talk with any of them.  It was then when I began to realize the community I lived in.  A lot of hugs, hotdishes made for hurting families, and just being there for one another.  True, it isn’t real great to live in a community as small as ours when there is nothing to do, and you don’t really want to be caught gossiping (because it WILL spread quickly), but it’s a wonderful example of the grace of Jesus when people each do something small, and others are touched by it in a way the givers don’t even realize.  I’ve said before that I don’t really like the city, and that a rural town seems like a great place to be.  Well, I totally boldface that statement.

I have no idea what’s in store for me next or where I’ll be, but I know that I come from an incredible town, and people will chat with me when I come home.  They’ll catch up with me and see what I’m up to; they’ll offer encouraging words or a hug if needed.  I am proud to be from Cottonwood, Minnesota, and proud to call it home.  It’s so true what they say: there is no place like home.

–Anna

Spiritual Analogies: Beauty and the Beast

"Beastly"So, this afternoon, I watched the movie “Beastly,” because, Alex Pettyfer.  Every time I think about the story of “Beauty and the Beast,” spiritual analogies scream out at me.  In this adaption of the story, the character Kendra (who is the witch and whose name means “magical”) gives Kyle (who will turn into the beast and whose name means “narrow”) a second chance, but he throws it away.  Eventually, the ugly on the inside is seen on the outside, as Kyle is transformed into an ugly (but not that ugly—come on, Alex Pettyfer) creature.  In the book, he’s actually turned more into a beast-like thing and is closer with the Disney tale.  That’s beside the point.  There comes a point in the Christian life when we realize how ugly the sin inside us is.  As Christians, we are not like the world.  Anyway, continuing the story: Kyle is told that he must find somebody to love him in a year.  When he looks in the mirror and sees how ugly he is, it is deemed impossible.  He was a real jerk at the beginning, too—who could love him?  But then he begins to undergo a change.  Cue Lindy (Belle’s character, whose name means “pretty one”).  Kyle changes his name to Hunter (whose name means…one who hunts—I’m surprised, too!) so Lindy won’t know who he is.  Lindy liked Kyle when he was a jerk, because she saw something on the inside that no one else could see.  It was being with her that changed him.  It was her words “I love you” that transformed Kyle out of hell and into a new and beautiful person, the ugly wiped away with the blink of an eye.

Kyle represents us.  We are all ugly, with sin and other “stuff of the world” inside us.  We are arrogant and think that because we appear fine and good, we are actually fine and good.  But we’re not.  Not by ourselves. Lindy represents the Lord.  He sees inside us what even we can’t.  His love is unconditional, and when you notice it, it changes you and you just want to be with him.  His love saves.  I think it’s interesting that he changes his name for Lindy as he is searching for her heart and searching (hunting?) for the spell to be broken.  When our sinful selves collide with God’s grace, we are transformed!  [Note: His grace is not the prize, but only a means to get to the prize.  The prize is Christ!]

I’m sure there are tons more analogies in this story, as I believe I’ve come up with others in the past, but can’t remember them.  My friend Tiffany has found a lot in this story, too.  Do you see any more spiritual analogies in the story of Beauty and the Beast?  Please share them!

 

Anna

Legalism (Thoughts)

Growing up, I went to church every Sunday and on Wednesdays for confirmation or Lent.  I was involved in everything, it was all for God.  I was “church girl,” but I was proud.  I was trying to live a good life FOR my Lord.  It wasn’t until later when I realized just how exhausting that was becoming.

Legalism.  Rules, rules, rules.  Yes, the Old Testament is full of them.  There are even some in the New Testament, although I think Jesus’ two greatest commands kind of take care of the rest.  “37 Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’”(Matthew 22:37-39).  I wrote this post about rules before, but I felt another nudge to write this one.  Steve McVey says in Grace Walk, “…attending church, reading the Bible, praying, witnessing to others about Christ, etc…should be the result of intimacy with Christ, not a means for achieving intimacy” (82).  Christ desires intimacy with you.  He longs to fill you up and pour into you so much that you overflow and hunger to attend church, read the Bible, pray, witness to others about him, and so much more!  That’s right—“God’s concern with you isn’t about rules but relationship” (McVey, 80).  And where is there a law saying that you have to do all those things to get close to God?  Going to church should be about longing to worship and learning from a sermon and surrounding yourself in a community of other believers; reading the Bible should be about letting God speak to you through it or learning more about God; praying should be about speaking with God and expressing what’s on your heart, even though he already knows it (you have to tell him!); you should witness to others about Christ because you want them to experience the same overwhelming peace and love that comes with knowing the Savior on a personal level!  “The law says, ‘You must, you ought,’ while grace causes a person to say, ‘I want to!’” (McVey, 81).

“God can do anything he wants to have done.  He doesn’t want what you can do…instead, he wants you” (McVey, 77).  Do want him as badly?

Smiling in the Sunshine of His Grace, Anna =)^2

Rulebreakers Without Christ

Do you know what one of the hardest things to do is?  Follow rules.  If you’re told to walk, not run, you want to run.  If you’re told to start working on an assignment now, you wait until the last minute.  If you’re told to sit still in church, you usually squirm, and even stifle laughter that disrupts the pews behind and in front of you—you know, all three pews looking at you wondering what on earth could be that funny when all that’s going on is a children’s sermon about being happy that God loves you (ahem).

When God saved his people by bringing them out of Egypt, he gave them some basic rules.  No texting at the table; no hitting your sister; get to bed early on a school night; don’t blame your dad for putting the dishes away in the wrong spot and confusing everyone when it was really you…you know, the for-your-own-good type.  God said, “Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.  Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you” (Jeremiah 7:23).  But you know what happened next.  All of the real 10 Commandments were broken.  James 2:10 says “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”  So, God’s covenant with his people DIDN’T WORK.  Luckily, God KNEW this and just wanted to prove a point.  You know, that time when you don’t appreciate something you never knew you needed?  It’s like the kids of this generation never experiencing slow or no internet, or my generation never having to drive on a long trip without a cell phone in hand to call Mom when we get lost…. But all those who lived without internet or cell phones appreciate them that much more.  So God had to make this covenant with man so that when he made his new covenant, the one where he sent his only Son TO DIE, it would be appreciated and we would have the chance to understand and not take it for granted.  NOW, once a person has prayed to receive Christ, Christ lives INSIDE THEM.  And, if we let Christ live THROUGH us, the rules will be followed AUTOMATICALLY.  (Loophole?)

Steve McVey says in Grace Walk, “Jesus gave His life FOR us so that He could give His life TO us and live His life THROUGH us” (70).  Whoa!  McVey tells of a new Christian’s reaction when he explained this to her: “The Christian life is easy, if you just let Him do it” (71).

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3-4 (emphasis mine)

God has provided the easier way to follow the rules.  The loopholes?  Here are some examples of some loopholes that have come about in the last decade or two: Now, you don’t have to wait for day or weeks when you send a letter to get one back (email, Facebook, Skype, etc.); you don’t have to try and get a book published for people to read your writings (like this blog!).  You don’t have to wait until you get home to call a friend or pull over and ask a stranger for directions (or spend hours trying to figure it out yourself…).

God has given you the means to follow his rules.  He wants to be your God and he wants you to be his child.  Have you taken the shortcut?  You can’t follow the rules on your own.  God still wants you to obey his rules, but he also wants you to let Christ live through you and take this gift he has given us called grace.

[Disclaimer: Though many of us have Christ inside us does not mean we won’t break the rules anymore.  We live in a worldly society that keeps throwing temptations and other evil in our faces.  Letting Christ live fully through you is a constant thing and you must be conscious of it.  However, Christ is there and we GET to be conscious of him!  For more about this grace, you can peruse some of my previous blog posts on the topic or check out the book, “Grace Walk” by Steve McVey.]

Smiling, Anna =)^2