Sunday, July 17, 2011

Crazy Love Story

What if we looked at the love of Jesus like a crazy love story? What if we looked at what He has done for us with the same passion and emotion we feel when we love another or watch the latest chic flick? I mean seriously...
Once upon a time, there was a man named Jesus.  He loved another with all that He was.  At first she didn't even know Him, but slowly she gave Him a chance.  She found out that He was the perfect guy; He was gracious, understanding, honest, and kind.  He loved unconditionally and never judged.  She fell in love.
Yet, she still had some issues to work through, some unfinished business.  He understood, though.  He loved her in spite of those things.  She would run away, and He would wait for her with open arms.  No matter what she did, He would always welcome her back; always accept her.  She never could quite stay out of trouble. She made a habit of making poor decisions, and one day He stood up for her.  He stood up for her in front of her accusers and took the blame for her.  They wondered why, but they just wanted someone to punish.  So she sat by and watched as they took her love and punished Him for all that she had done.  She watched as they killed Him so she could live.

If this was a movie, we would all be wondering:  Why did He keep loving her?  What did He see in her?  Why was she worth dying for?  And why did she keep screwing up?  Didn't she see what she had right in front of her?  Didn't she see that He loved her no matter what?

Now put it into perspective.
You and me - we are the ones who keep messing up; the ones who don't seem to see what we have in front of us.
Jesus - He is the one who loves us unconditionally and stands up for us.  He takes the fall.  He gets punished.

Why me?  Why does He choose me?
Why can't I seem to grasp that there is Someone who loves me unconditionally?  Someone always waiting for me with open arms?

We know that the story did not end with Jesus' death.  In fact, He overcame death and is now alive so that we can be together; so that this crazy love story can have an eternal happy ending.

So why is it so easy to forget about this Crazy Love Story?  Do we honestly think there will ever be another to love us as much as Jesus loves us?  Do we really think our lives are that important that we should focus on our issues and our daily drama rather than His eternal love and promise?
"Why does God love us, in spite of us?"  [Francis Chan]

I am humbled that Jesus chooses to love me. Daily.  ME. A sinner who has a habit of making the wrong decisions.

Now THAT's a crazy love...

Monday, July 4, 2011

My Positive Relationship with Change

In the past, I have never really been one for change. It scares me and doesn't always motivate me in a good way.       Slowly, however, it seems my past unhealthy relationship with change is turning into a pretty good friendship!  I have thought long and hard about this (I have a lot of free thinking time on my hands.  This job in the corn fields really only requires my hands, not my brain.), and I have come to the conclusion that it all started with the tattoo. I got a tattoo on my foot (It hurt alot! But it is super adorable and says Grace/Psalm 63) the day after my 21st birthday.  From that day on, it seems my life has been different.  It may sound crazy, but I really think it all started then.  I got my tattoo because I wanted to, not as an act of rebellion (which it very easily could have been  a year or so earlier).  It is not something the "old" Anna would have ever done.  I still get the "I can't believe YOU actually got a tattoo" look regularly.  I think it was my first step out of my little box.  Then, I left home and moved far, far away to North Carolina.  At first, I decided to leave to prove myself to others...then it was because I wanted to prove something to myself.  Looking back, I think it was a bit of both.  I think deep down I knew I needed to do something that would challenge me and make me think.  Voluntarily Change.
God is so good, because He brought me here to the great state of NC.  I am 100% sure of this.  I don't even know all of the reasons yet, but I know that deciding to move was the best decision I have made in a long time.  I have learned so much about myself in the last month.  When I went to my best friend's wedding, my parents and boyfriend were insanely surprised at how different I was.  I didn't think I had changed that much in a month, but the more I think about it, the more I see what they were seeing.  I am more confident, more sure of myself, more outspoken (mostly in a good way!), more joyful, more enthusiastic about living and loving life.  I love my life.  I love being me.  I love where I am.  I love my God who has blessed me so richly.  I can honestly say that I have never been this ... content in my life.  I know who I am, and my identity is finally grounded in Christ.  I am learning about Jesus and the characteristics of my great Creator.  Everyday I am at work in the field, I see His handiwork.  I look in the mirror and actually like what I see.  I know what I want and I go after it.  I think that I am finally becoming the person I have always wanted to be.  And though I know I am far from perfect, I am pretty content to walk this path.  Striving to become the woman He wants me to be, the woman He created me to be.
I have learned that God has a bigger plan than what I can see.  This has been proven to me over and over the last month or so.  I am in awe of His sovereignty.   
I am so blessed to live with such godly, wonderful, funny people.  Kathleen and Keith teach me daily about real love and life and how to deal with different situations.  I am so thankful that they have welcomed me into their home.
I am still learning and I have a long way to go.  But I am now so excited about where God is leading me and where my life is headed.  I am excited to live each day.  Each moment teaches me something new.  I look forward to seeing His plan unfold! :)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Psalm 62

I have been really bad with doing  my Bible study lately. I have started letting other things become more important.  which is really quite silly.  You would think after the many, many times of falling behind, become anxious, realizing I just need some God time, and getting back on track that I would do better. False. Woot for human nature.  It's a grand thing that Jesus loves us.  And is gracious. And forgiving. And extends His love unconditionally.

So, I cracked my Bible today. (I really miss being in the Word...silly me)  Whenever I do this, I always tend to start with Psalm 63... because it is my favorite ever.  So I read it... and then Psalm 62 caught my eye:

My soul finds rest in God alone
      My salvation comes from Him
He alone is my rock and my salvation
He is my fortress
     I will never be shaken
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone
    My hope comes from Him
He alone is my rock and my salvation
He is my fortress
    I will not be shaken
My salvation and my honor depend on God
He is my mighty rock, my refuge

Trust in Him at all times
Pour out your hearts to Him
     For God is our refuge

It is so interesting to me how many times it is stated in this Psalm that GOD ALONE provides rest, salvation, protection, refuge, honor.... How often do we think we can handle things on our own?  How often do we get caught up in daily living and forget about our Savior?  How often do we try to satisfy these needs on our own?  It seems silly as we think about it, but we all are guilty.
After he lists all of these things that God is and does, he makes a simple statement:
Trust in God. Pour out your heart to Him.
I mean, look at all He has done.  Look at who He is.  Why would we withhold any part of our lives or our selves from him?  He already accepts us.  He already saves us.  All we have to do is Trust Him.  Let Him love us.  Share with him our fears, failures, joys...

He is my fortress... I will not be shaken

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Grand Adventure

I left my sleepy town on Wednesday afternoon, stayed with Magen in Indiana that night, and drove with Kathleen all the way to Garner, NC on Thursday.  I got all unpacked and settled in, and was surprisingly at ease. I was half expecting myself to freak out! I practiced my driving-in-the-big-city skills on Friday in a monsoon and didn't even get lost.  I got to visit a 4th grade classroom, which was so fun! It amazes me how much I can learn just by observing awesome teachers at work.  I also met my boss and some other people that I will be slaving away with.  I can't start for about 2 weeks after I finish all the paperwork on Tuesday, so that is a bummer money-wise.  However, it does mean I get a break! Which is rather awesome.  I am hoping to get some things accomplished, explore the area, and HOPEFULLY get to the beach! 
Kathleen and Keith are graciously letting me stay with them this summer, and are spoiling me so far! :) I plan on cleaning a lot for them to help out.  They are so sweet. As is Kathleen's baby bump... so cute! 
All in all...so far, so good! I am very glad I decided to come down here. I know that God had a hand in it, and I know that I will learn and grow! So excited for this adventure!!!

Church today was fabulous.  Colonial is a really awesome church, and the pastor is really interesting.  I learned a lot today... He has been preaching on James for the past year, and I am catching the tail end.  Today was chapter 5, verse 12 - about honesty.  "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no." Let your character speak for itself ... avoid adding empty oaths and promises you know you can't keep. 

.... and soon it will be lunch time... and maybe a nap. ;)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

{yet another homework assignment}

(from Old Testament... We watched a sermon from Mark Driscoll on Song of Songs and were asked to respond about our experience with frank talk about sex in the church.  We were also asked if we thought talk about sex in church was a yes a no or a maybe.)

Sermon link:  http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/the-peasant-princess/let-him-kiss-me


My personal experience with frank talk about sex in the church is…absolutely none.  It was always treated as taboo and “hush hush.”  I think part of it had to do with my age, but I know that sex is treated as extremely private in my church.  I am not sure I have ever heard anyone in my church say “sex”, let alone talk about it.  When I was about 12, my parents led a Sunday School class about “preparing for adolescence.” That was basically my only experience with talking about sex that is related to the church.  Because it was so private, sex seemed almost like a negative thing.  I have always believed that I shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage, but when I started dating in high school, there were a lot of question marks and blanks left because the topic had never been addressed.  I feel like some of those blanks could have been filled in a little if my church family had been more willing to address the topic.  Also, I would have felt much less confusion, fear, and later, guilt if I had felt free to discuss sex and physical relationships. 
I definitely think there should be frank talk about sex in the church.  Sex is a healthy part of any marriage relationship, and I fully believe God created us to become one with our spouse in this way. It is important, especially for young people/couples, that sex is not treated as something that is bad or wrong.  Obviously, there is a time and a place to discuss sex within the church body.  Watching Mark Driscoll’s sermon on Song of Songs really got me thinking.  His sermon was not graphic or inappropriate.  It simply brought to light the fact that sex is a gift – not a god and not gross.  So often the church, whether on purpose or not, makes sex out to be gross or bad.  So many young people feel as though they cannot discuss sex or anything about their physical relationships with anyone.  I know so many young girls who are like I was – so na├»ve and so scared to mess up.  I also know women who are married that still struggle with feeling guilty and feeling like sex is a negative thing.  This is so tragic because as Christians we are supposed to reflect Christ.  Jesus would not brush this subject under the rug, so as the body of Christ, I think that we have a responsibility to young people to provide a safe haven – a place where talk about difficult topics is welcomed.  Young people and adults alike need to see that sex isn’t something to feel dirty or wrong about, but something that God created for us to enjoy within the context of marriage.
I think that addressing the entire church body, like Mark Driscoll does in his sermon series, is appropriate at times.  Other times, it is better to just create that safe atmosphere and foster trusting relationships.  Simply providing an environment that is free of judgment is so important.  Youth groups, smaller Sunday school classes, one on ones, and accountability partners are all ways that this topic can be approached.  Obviously you don’t want to start talking about sex in detail with every 10 year old in the church body.  However, it is important to be aware that our culture is extremely sex-saturated and that most people have a misled view of sex.  Most of our culture is so bent on immediate gratification and the desire for physical pleasure that they miss the fact that sex is a gift and that it is meant for marriage. There are others who are so turned off to sex because of the church, a negative experience, or the culture we live in that they also miss the fact that sex is a gift.  Neither of these situations is positive.  Perhaps the body of Christ should get away from inadvertently giving young people negative concepts about sex, and focus more on encouraging a Godly view on physical relationships.  

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Changes

Recently, I've been thinking about how nothing ever works out you thought it would.  Everyone always says that God has a plan and that things will work out even better than you thought.  This is all true, but it's really not easy to believe when you are in the middle of it all.  Just when you think that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, just when you think you have things figured out... Something happens.  Something changes.  And then you are back to struggling to stay above water.  It is exhausting to constantly be changing plans.  I, for one, am not the most adaptable person in the world.  I don't generally see change as a good thing.  I don't like it when my life shifts and things get confusing and complicated.  I like knowing that I have a plan.  Now, I'm not saying that I have everything figured out all the time.  I'm just saying that when I do finally have things figured out (and feel like God has me where He wants me) and things change - I get discouraged.  I get frustrated.  I start second guessing.
Like right now, for instance.  I am going through a ridiculous amount of change.  Most days I can handle each little wave as it comes.  But this week feels like I keep getting smacked by a giant tidal wave. In addition to some issues back home, normal school annoyances, and sickness, I really don't feel like GC is what it used to be anymore.  I chose this school because I felt like God wanted me here.  I felt at home; comfortable.  I love my program and my classes, but lately things have been changing in how the college is run.  I chose GC because they claimed to be different.  And they have been different. Up til now.  I used to know that I was more than a number - that the school really wanted what was best for me and was committed to what was best for me as a student.  It was one of the main reasons why I chose GC over other state universities.  Now I feel like all I am is a dollar sign.  There is no Christian character shown anymore in my opinion.  I know that everyone needs money - and the college does too.  However, I feel like there are more ways to accomplish this than to flat out tell students that they can't live anywhere but on their campus, not eat anything except their food, buy any books but theirs, etc. simply because they need money.  My personal financial hardship means nothing to this school anymore.  The fact that there are no more GPA standards means nothing to this school anymore.  The fact that they are ruining their Christian influence/witness seems to mean nothing to this school. I love this campus, and my program, and what GC claims to stand for.  I just don't feel proud to be graduating from a school whose main purpose seems to be sucking money from it's students no matter the situation.
So, this leaves me timidly looking for other schools to finish my Senior year at... Hopefully things work out and I can stay here at GC.  I really do want to finish here...but things are getting crazy!
Sorry for the rant, but I would appreciate your prayers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Joy

"Joy means the perfect fulfillment of that for which I was created and regenerated, not the successful doing of a thing." (Oswald Chambers)

I was reading My Utmost for His Highest, and Chambers brings to light a really interesting point.  He says, "We are more than conquerors through Him in all these things, not in spite of them, but in the midst of them.  the saint never knows the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but BECAUSE of it."
You can't be a conqueror unless you go through the trial.  You can't win the war if you don't fight the battle. You don't learn the lesson if you don't go through that experience.  But once we conquer through Christ and come to realize His goal and purpose for us, we are able to take part in His JOY.

"In all things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."

Our Lord loves us, and nothing can come in between that love and us.  Nothing we do can separate us; he will love us no matter what.  He loves us with an unending, unconditional love.   And because of that love we can know true joy through the fulfillment of His purpose for us.  As I think about the fact that my Savior loves me with a gracious, never ending love... and as I consider that He created me for a purpose so that I can share in His joy... I am in awe.

What a wonderful Savior!