Grace & Manure

Photo by Lynn Cummings from FreeImages

I need a break. Does anyone else feel like you are going insane in this COVID-19 situation? Actually, I feel like the world is going insane around me. We are confronted with overwhelming crisis, mountainous challenges, desperate fear, which ignites fierce anger, piercing hurt, and creeping suspicion of everyone and everything.

We are on thin ice. We are caught in the rapids. We are stuck in the quicksand. Our economy, our health, our sanity all needs to be rescued. And here we sit arguing about it. Does fighting make us feel better? Is attacking people we used to love and who used to love us really making a difference? Is our growing bitterness and resentment moving us one inch closer to peace (AKA Jesus)?

Stop the madness!

Take a pause. Take a breath.

Out of the Fray

I invite you to leave the fray for a minute and enter the safety of God’s grace. Because God is extending grace, to you, to me, and to this broken world. Feel your pulse even out and your jaw relax as I hopefully share some truth and hope for a moment. Hold on to the life raft of God’s word and know that you will be safe here for as long as you choose to remain.

“When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.”

ISaiah 43:2

I would say this qualifies as a river of difficulty! And it seems we are all pretty worried about drowning. Do our actions and words show our faith or our fear?

Endurance

Photo by Andy Steel from FreeImages

“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

James 1:3-4

Last time I checked, endurance doesn’t come easily. I have done cardio kickboxing the last few years, and the trainers love to torture us with this evil thing called “endurance sets” during the workouts. They last forever! And we build up. This time it’s 1.5 minutes. Next time it’s 2 minutes. You try doing 6 minutes of roundhouse kicks and burpees and then tell me fully developed endurance isn’t hard work to come by! But you push through. And then eventually you get those heavenly endorphins and sweet glutes as your reward.

In our lives we are challenged with situations that God can use to build our endurance. COVID-19 is for sure one of them! But if we look above the fear, worry, and anger all around us, we can see that God intends to use this to develop an enduring faith within us so that we will be “perfect and complete”.

Let me be clear. God has not caused this to happen to our world. This fallen world spins trouble and grief at every turn all on its own. But one amazing aspect of God’s grace is that He can use what the enemy intends for evil to create enduring beauty in us.

Humility

What I am about to share is not the feel-good vibes that you may have thought we were headed towards with my talk of grace and beauty. But it is the safety of God’s word. I invite you to let it change you. Stick with me for a little “endurance set” of hard truth for a few minutes. I want to look at the entire chapter 4 of the Book of James. James is the “practice what you preach” book of the new testament. He implores us to live out our faith in actions. Chapter 4 has some strong and powerful words about Who is really in charge and how we should be acting in response to that knowledge. James doesn’t mince words, so get ready.

Drawing Close to God

1 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5 Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. 6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

Warning against Judging Others

11 Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

Warning about Self-Confidence

13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.

17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

James 4

I don’t know about you, but this passage brings me down a few notches.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble…”

This verse is sandwiched on both sides with James addressing Christians who are fighting with one another.

I have a secret to share with you. Pride is my biggest issue. You might be surprised to hear that. Oh, I put on a good front. I’m good at appearing humble and helpful. But there is a spiritual pride that I am constantly fighting. Especially that hidden pride. That pride that walks around like righteousness. That pride that leaves no room for grace.

But when I see authentic humility, it is like Jesus has stretched out his hand and spoke peace to the storm. And that’s what this world needs right now. Humility. Humility that looks for the log in our own eye before pointing out the speck in our neighbor’s. Humility that cares for the person and not just winning an argument. Humility that puts others above ourselves. Humility that loves our enemies.

We have not loved our enemies. Our anger and fear often overcome us in hurtful and spiteful words. And for the sake of our self-declared righteousness we become what we despise. I’m not singling anyone out here. I’ve seen ridiculousness from every side of every argument. I’ve been ridiculous, even if it was just in my own brain. But what does it cost us? God resists the proud.

I have a friend who is an example of true humility. Terrible, ugly words were exchanged, and then this friend extended a heart-felt, all cards on the table, “I am ashamed for what I have done” apology. That is a very hard thing to do – it fights against every ounce of pride inside us. But God promises to give grace to the humble, and so this person is now in the perfect position for a download of it. And I suspect that through the act of humbling themselves and truly owning the hurt that they caused, their relationship with Jesus just took a deep dive of authenticity.

Grace = Power

In our culture it is seen as weakness to admit you are wrong. But that’s one of the keys of humility.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

There’s God’s grace again. And this time we see that it is not the fluffy, gushy, “oh, it’s ok” kind of sentiment we sometimes attribute to it. Grace is God’s power. We need it now more than ever. And it doesn’t come from demanding or fighting. It comes by being humble.

My humble, broken friend has more power right now than politicians, doctors, the media, and YouTube combined. God’s power is made perfect in their weakness, and God’s kingdom has taken some ground. I’m not sure my friend sees it that way at the moment, but I do. They knew what they needed to do, and they did it. Feel that? It’s life emerging from death.

I pray for more of these moments to pop up around the globe from God’s people everywhere.

Manure

Photo by Gerla Brakkee from FreeImages

Nothing is wasted when it comes to God. We seem to be in a pretty sh***y situation in this world at the moment. But this is fertile ground for some beautiful things to grow.

We recently moved into a lovely neighborhood with lots of cute houses and families and kids, which happens to also be surrounded by farm fields. A week or so ago, I came out my door to the strongest smell of manure I have ever experienced! The farmers had spread it on the fields, and it was ripe! The farmers endure the smell and disgust of the manure because they know it is the best way to help their crops grow.

Hmmmm. Maybe this crap we are going through is just getting the fields ready for something beautiful – God’s grace overflowing to a hurting world. And we get to be a part of it.

“And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”

James 3:18

We get to choose which part of the equation we are on. I prefer not to be the pooping cow. The world doesn’t really need more manure right now. Let’s be the humble farmer, planting seeds of peace, so that we can watch righteousness grow. Those seeds of peace are an extension of God’s grace. He gives us the grace we need – He extends grace to the humble.

“As God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.”

2 Corinthians 4:15

Let that sink in for a minute before you return to the fray. In fact, don’t return to the fray. Let’s sit a while in God’s grace and let Him do His work in us. Then let us go out and sow seeds of peace so that God will receive the glory.

Amen.

Widows Walk

Widow. It’s a word no woman wants to describe her. But there are many. Over the last several years, I have had the privilege of coming to know the deep well that is a widow’s heart through friendships with some amazing women who are walking that road. Walking together.

There is a group of women who gather once per month for lunch. Simple fare. Nothing fancy. No hotdishes and bacon wrapped whatever. They dine on cheese and crackers, and they meld their hearts together. Widows Walk is what they call themselves. And their walk amazes me.

Continue reading

Uncle Roger

I’ve been fighting a virus all week. The worst I’ve experienced in a long time. And the virus made its way into my lungs with the start of pneumonia. The pneumonia triggered asthma, which I have not dealt with since I was a child. Needless to say, I’ve been down for the count. So sitting at home trying to breathe, I was scrolling through Facebook and came across the news. My great uncle Roger passed away. He had fought a respiratory disease for several years. After just a few days with respiratory issues, I realize the struggle this must have been. On Thursday, Roger breathed his last and Jesus called him home.

I have many memories, from my childhood to the present, of Roger and Ellen Fredlund at every important family event. Ellen is my grandpa McDougall’s sister. Before my time, my mother told me, Ellen used to organize family reunions and gather the extended family together. But each branch of the family tree grew, sprouted new branches, and eventually those branches sprouted new, and the tree was simply too big to gather in one location anymore. So the gatherings were limited to mostly weddings, funerals, and graduation parties in my lifetime. But I always had the feeling when I saw Roger and Ellen that they were so happy to see me. They were interested in my life. And in every single memory I have of uncle Roger, he was smiling. Every. Single. One. Continue reading

Words as Sweet as Honey

Words and Relationships

God created us to be relational beings. He said, “It is not good for man to be alone…” (Genesis 2:18) – relationship from the very beginning. Language is the main way we interact in relationships. If you don’t believe me, just spend some time with me and my mother-in-law. She speaks Romanian and I speak English and we understand very little of what the other person says. There are still smiles and hugs. But we really cannot go very much deeper than that. Words are very important in relationship.

Words have power. God spoke, and the world came into existence! So how do we use our words to build up, bring life, and develop those blessings called relationships?

What should our words look like?

speech

“Gracious speech is like clover honey – good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body.” Proverbs 19:14 MSG

Continue reading

Lessons from the Lake: Just Breathe

My posts so far for The Faithful Village have been stories about the faithfulness I see in the people around me. This post is about something that can help faithfulness blossom more fully in your life and my life. It is the first in a possible series I’m calling “Lessons from the Lake”.

A Summer Swim

My parents live on a beautiful lake in Northern Minnesota. I was swimming at the lake this week. Surrounded by beauty. My favorite place in the world. The cool water flowed around me as I did the backstroke a short distance from shore. I am no Olympic swimmer, but my parents didn’t call me a “fish” when I was young for nothing. I love the water, and I love to swim. But fish or no fish, swimming is hard work. My breathing became more labored. But as I continued, I focused on breathing regularly.

In with one stroke.

Out with the next.

In.

Out.

I matched my breathing to my strokes. Deep breaths. And as I regulated my breathing, the rest of my movements became easier. It became sustainable.

As I left the water, dried off, and sat in the sunshine on the shore, I saw a connection between my swimming workout and my life. Sometimes this life feels like hard work. I find myself gasping for breath. So how can I regulate my breathing in this workout of life? What breathes life into me when I am empty and exhausted? Continue reading

The Media Missionary

The Friend Request

It was a dark and windy Halloween. But the church was bright and bustling with activity. It was our annual Harvest Festival, and I was in charge, which is not uncommon. I was going to and fro making sure all the details were being executed efficiently. Kids carnival on one side of the sanctuary. Buffet and pie baking contest on the other side. Cake walk in the middle. And in a little while we would clear the center and have some Irish folk dancing lessons. It was an international theme, so everyone was encouraged to wear costumes that reflect an international flair.

I was at the buffet, and suddenly there was this man next to me with flaming red hair and a bright smile.

“Hello!” he bellowed with a chuckle. “Just in case you are wondering who that crazy man with the red hair is who sent you a friend request on Facebook earlier today, that’s me!”

My thought – CREEPY!

But what I said was something like, “Oh…really. That’s nice.”

“I’m Carl,” the redhead said, “It’s our first time here and I thought I would introduce myself. I came in my Scottish scarf for the international theme. It matches my hair.” I made some polite response. Then I slowly… backed… away. Through the rest of the evening I am pretty sure that Carl proceeded to introduce himself to every person in the room. You see, Carl Anderson is what one might call an extreme extrovert.

When I got home that night, sure enough, I had a friend request from Carl with a message saying he knows a few people from the church and he is looking forward to getting to know more. I toiled over my response. I didn’t want to offend him. But I have a few rules about Facebook. So I finally answered to the effect of, “It was nice to meet you at the festival. However, it takes me a little longer to get to know someone before I am friends with them on Facebook. I hope you understand.” Carl’s response was, “I guess I am a little different. I am friends with everyone!” And that’s the truth!

Fast forward to the present. Carl and his wife Sarah and three wonderful kids have been a part of my church for over 7 years. I consider them dear friends. After church recently, I said to Carl, “I would like to interview you for an article.” Carl got a big smile on his face, “For Time Magazine?” he said jokingly. “No, for my blog. Maybe like 50 people read it. But if I tag you on Facebook than maybe your 900 friends will see it!” “Actually, it’s closer to 4300 friends now,” he replied. That was no joke. One of those friends, of course, is me!

carl family

Brother Carl

I admire Brother Carl, as we affectionately call him. Rev. Carl Wesley Anderson has a big personality, a big vision, a big heart . . . and I say this with true respect…a big mouth. He is not afraid to speak words that are challenging and bring you to another level of understanding and experiencing God. Always humorous, always dramatic, always passionate. He is the Braveheart of evangelists.

ireland preaching

Preaching in Ireland

Our pastor recognizes Carl’s gifts as an evangelist and asks him to speak and teach on a variety of occasions at the church. The last time Brother Carl spoke at church, at the end he had the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders come to the front and pray for people who needed healing. The children had been learning about praying for people and practicing in their Sunday school class. Now they put it into full action. After church my 10-year-old said, “I really liked that.” He liked Carl’s presentation, especially an anecdote he shared about praying for someone’s butt. A 10-year-old boy can totally relate to that! But he also liked praying for people. He is my sensitive, caring child. He would not have been willing to pray for people on his own, but Carl inspired him to step out that day. I can see that my son has a gift in this area. He has a sensitive spirit. And it is so exciting to see him learn this at the age of 10!

That is Carl’s calling and his great passion – equipping people to work for God. Everyday people, all people, have gifts that God has placed in them to be used to help one another, encourage one another, love one another.

Carl is using his powerful gifts to impact people around the world through his ministry Born to Blaze. He has been invited to teach and equip Christians in over 20 different countries over the last 20+ years.

But all that came to a screaming stop about two years ago.  Our extreme extrovert got an extreme blow – cancer. A rare cancer in the upper leg. The treatment involved painful shots every other week, resulting in flu-like symptoms for 5 days following. This aggressive treatment laid Carl out on his back, stopped the world travels, made the most social person I have ever met retreat to the safety of his home. Illness is miserable. Illness steals your joy and your strength. Joy and strength are two of the qualities about Carl that have always stood out to me. Joy and strength pretty much defined Carl for me before the cancer.

But Brother Carl has risen to the challenge. He has fought like a champ. I am sure that I am not privy to the low moments. I am sure there were discouraging moments. Jesus helps us in our low moments. And if there was an opportunity for Carl to practice what he preaches, it has been this fight against cancer. Brother Carl is an open book. He is open to letting God use whatever is in his life to help and inspire others.

Cinematography that Inspires

Carl has always loved the cinema. The drama. The message. The beauty. At the age of 15 his entrepreneurial spirit and creative mind combined to start a business of wedding videography. As a young adult he and his bride created Princess Bride Cinematographic Videography. It is wedding video on steroids. The videos they produce are cinema quality. I love to go to their website and watch the videos they have there. After watching a 5 minute video I feel like I know these couples! The videos are so well produced. Carl and Sarah have a gift. I wish I knew them when I was planning my wedding! Seriously, people, you need to watch! It is so much better than TLC.

Here is a little sample for you to enjoy. It is a 5 minute Short Film “Life is Beautiful”:

ashley + tony // life is beautiful from Carl Anderson on Vimeo.

Recently, Princess Bride has begun to shift their focus in another area – Life Stories. These beautiful films combine interviews, photographs, music, and great story-telling to capture the life moments of people most dear to us. Parents, grandparents, couples, the possibilities are endless.

Here is a look at the Life Story of my sweet friend Ruby. It is just precious. You may have read my article called “The Fisherman” about Ruby’s husband Ted.

life story documentary // ruby kjeseth from Carl Anderson on Vimeo.

For a special treat, watch this Special Feature from Ruby called “What Color Hair Does Jesus Have?”

Special Feature // What Color Hair Does Jesus Have? from Carl Anderson on Vimeo.

 

Filming at Nendrum Monastery, 5th Century

Filming at Nendrum Monastery, 5th Century

Media Missionary

About 10 years ago, this lover of cinema was watching a documentary and “something clicked” he told me. “This is what God wants me to do.” Carl loves history, he loves story-telling. And through telling these historical stories of faith, he hopes to inspire people of this time to see that God could use them in the same way for their generation. The same anointing with a different expression.

In a recent trip to Ireland for evangelism, Carl began his first video project to this end. A documentary about the ways God has spoken to us through history and is still speaking. I cannot wait to be able to view it. Using his gifts, his passion, God is leading Carl in this new direction, in the midst of continuing cancer treatment. Cancer can’t keep this extreme extrovert, this passionate man of God, this gifted communicator and creative genius, from completing his heavenly assignment.

received_10154014748084000 [91216]

Zoe Life

I asked Brother Carl if he has a life verse, a scripture that inspires and gives him vision for what he does. John 10:10 was the verse he quoted me where Jesus says, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” Then Carl gave me a little lesson in Greek. The Greek word for “life” is “zoe”. They actually named their little girl Zoe from this verse. This “zoe” life is not just the everyday, hum-drum life. It actually means “life as God knows it”, a “heaven-born life”. This zoe life is why Carl does what he does. His desire is that Jesus would use him to help others receive the zoe life that God offers. Whether preaching at his home church, or ministering across the world, whether creating a cinema of a life story, or filming historical and spiritual documentaries, Carl’s vision is to inspire others towards the life that Christ offers.

I am so thankful that Brother Carl and Sarah are part of my faithful village. I am sure I will share some thoughts on Sarah sometime as well! She is fabulous and inspiring all on her own! They are such a beautiful part of my life. And it all started with a cold Halloween night and a Facebook friend request.


Visit Brother Carl’s website and sign up for his monthly devotional email and receive Carl’s eBook “Encountering God in His Living Word” for free!

Sign up for my email list and receive a link to each new article and my eternal gratitude.


Since I am in a video-sharing mood, here is one more. Please excuse this shameless advertisement. The Hope Open Golf Tournament will be held September 17, 2016, to benefit Carl & Sarah Anderson and Born to Blaze Ministries. Calling all golfers! It’s a great event. Find registration and more information at http://www.myhopecommunity.org/golf/

Hope Open Golf Tourney Preview from Carl Anderson on Vimeo.

 

Gigi

Love for Gigi

Ma, Grandma, Gigi. Words of affection in our family. The following is a tribute to a strong and amazing woman. I knew I wanted to write an article for my Grandma, but I also knew I needed help, so with Facebook as my tool, I asked the rest of the family if there is anything they would like to share. Below you will find a collage of thoughts and pictures, pieced together not unlike the beautiful quilts our Gigi makes. This is our gift to her. Much love and thankfulness to our Gigi.

Smells and Feelings

Gigi with my mom and uncle. Isn't she stunning?

Gigi with my mom and uncle. Isn’t she stunning?

When I was just learning to speak, my mother tried to get me to say “grandma.” Not as easy as one might think. It always came out “grrr-mama!” and likewise, “grandpa” was “grrr-papa!” I had lots of opportunity to learn to say “Grandma” because my brother and I spent a lot of time with her. My parents, being in the restaurant business, worked long and hard hours, but they were able to leave us in Grandma’s capable hands. She had raised 6 kids already. And I think she enjoyed being a grandma.

I have memories of my grandparents’ little house near Lake Nokomis. I would see Grandma cooking or baking in the kitchen, and I would run and find my special green stool and drag it in next to her so that I could stand up to the counter and “help”. If she was baking pies she would let me bake a small one for my dad. I must have been pretty young because the memories are faint, the kind made up of smells and feelings rather than words and specifics.

Continue reading

The Contagious Christian

That was Tuesday

“What?” I said in a cloud of confusion. The words I had just heard not registering with my brain.

“Gary is not breathing! The paramedics are here. Please send out a prayer request!” The frantic voice on the other end of the line was barely understandable.

Still sitting in the car with the engine running, I had just pulled in the driveway after picking my kids up from school when I received the call.

“Alec, go get Daddy to help Beni out of the car. I have to take care of something.”

I then turned my attention to my phone. I posted a shaky prayer request on our church Facebook page. I didn’t know what more I could do. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, help him.”

About a half hour later I received a second call, “We lost him, Kelly.”

That was Tuesday. Today I am sitting in a daze. Gary is gone. His smile. His laugh. His shorts and untucked shirt he always wore to church. And I am left to ponder what is really important in this life. I am pretty sure Gary knew the answer.

Continue reading

The Mother-in-Law

dimaI have never actually spoken to my mother-in-law. You see, she does not speak English and I do not speak Romanian. So we have only conversed through translators, my husband or his siblings. And that is not quite the same. But when I am with her I know I am loved. Her smile beams. Her hugs are almost suffocating. Her kisses on my cheek are warm and comforting. This is Mama.

For all the gush that she bestows on me, you might almost miss the rock-solid, powerful strength that lingers underneath. This is a woman who has seen and experienced much. This is a woman of great faith. This is a woman to be admired. This is Venera Dima. Continue reading

The Boyfriend

125HIn general one might think that it is a bad idea to write a blog post about an ex-boyfriend, and I would usually agree with that. However, in this case I will make an exception, because of the person that he is and the things I have learned along the way.

I preface this by saying that my husband has read this and has given me permission to post it. And the man in question has also agreed that I could share this with you. So you are safe to read on. Even though the majority of people who will first read this post will know exactly who I am talking about (my list of boyfriends is pretty short), for the purpose of this story, I shall call him “Steve.”

P.S. The picture above is not him. It just seemed like a good boyfriend picture. Ha!

It Was the 90’s

I grew up in the 90’s. The age of Beverly Hills 90210. And what was more important to a teenage girl than to have a boyfriend? At age 15 I set my sights on an unsuspecting chap from my youth group. He was funny and kind to everyone. He noticed me, which is important for a shy wallflower. We built a friendship, and then our dating relationship started – get this – with a note passed in youth group. That’s right. We were so mature!

Continue reading

« Older posts