Sunday, June 29, 2008


I know a post is due - I'm working through a few different things in my mind right now; hopefully a post by Wednesday. Until then: this is my current favorite song and I just want to share it. It's not spiritual or a Christian Praise song or anything, but anyone reading my blog lately will understand why I enjoy it. :)

If you got a good one, put your hands up
Come on girl, and stand up
Go ahead lift your man up

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"Living in the Community of Love"

The title of my post is taken from the message that I heard today at the church that I have been visiting.

The pastor there has been teaching on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, and today the text from the Sermon was Matthew 7:1-12. To be completely honest, I don't remember if I've ever before heard a message - much less a whole series of messages - completely focused on the Sermon on the Mount. My thoughts on why that is....well, that's a whole 'nother blog post. I'll get back to my main point.

Just as I was incredibly encouraged the last time I was able to visit this church two weeks ago, the message today really spoke to my heart and encouraged me and pointed me toward the Lord. I've noticed at this church that there is a very real and tangible focus on showing people - no matter who they are or what they believe - the love of God.

This focus was very much translated in the message today, which revolved around Matthew 7:12 "Do to others as you would have them do to you." One point really hit me while the pastor was giving the introduction to this passage. Jesus here, unlike so many philosophers before and after Him, isn't saying NOT to do things we don't want people to do to us. He takes it a step further than that - He is calling us to actively go out and LOVE people. I'd never understood vs. 12 of Matthew 7 that way before.

For a long time God has been teaching me about this very thing, about the importance of simply loving people, so it is always amazing and wonderful for me when I realize over and over again "oh wait, there's ANOTHER verse that is teaching that!" I feel like I'm reading the Word with new eyes, with blinders removed, as God has finally "gotten through" to me, and I KNOW that He loves me and desires a relationship with me. I have so much further to go in my walk with Him, He is unfathomable! It's incredible to think that there can never cease being more to learn about Him. It's a little daunting at times, but I know there is absolutely nothing I can do that will ever make me "unreachable" by Him.

That reminds me of another point that the pastor made in his message today. When we judge other people, we are making a personal conclusion regarding where they are at before God. If we ever "give up" on someone, we are essentially saying "God, this person is never going to change. You could never get through to them, you're not strong enough."

First of all, how could we know whether or not a person is "unchangeable"? Secondly, God is obviously strong enough - and LOVING enough - to get through to anyone, no matter who they are, what they believe, or how hard their heart is.

The contrast between the sawdust and the plank was also touched on in the message, and the difference between going after someone's eye with a chainsaw, or with "correction in the spirit of eye surgery."

What would it be like if people didn't feel like they had to protect themselves from Christians? What would the world be like if Christians just loved people?"

Ultimately, the entirety of the message was wrapped in the end by pointing back to God, how living this way - living the spirit of His Kingdom - can never be done in our strength. I can't at this moment figure out a better way to put the following, so here's what I wrote in my notes this morning at the end of the message:

We don't have the strength to do any of this on our own. The desire to love the Kingdom of God keeps us on our knees. The best way we can demonstrate "eye surgery" is through prayer.

So - both generally speaking and in this "Community of Love" - how do I want to be treated?

I don't want to be put in a box; I desire grace and mercy; I know that in my own weakness I need prayer. I am a child of God, that is my identity in Christ, He loves me unconditionally and I want to be treated that way. With this as the case, through my Father's power, I need to treat others the same way. Praying for others, giving my requests to Him, petitioning for His strength and mercy and love. Trusting Him to give me the strength and power to love people as the humanity that He loves and the individuals that He desperately desires relationship with.

How do you desire to be treated? How does this influence your understanding of what God desires in how you relate to and treat others?

Another thing I realized today - Jesus completely understands how selfish we all are. We already think about ourselves already, that's why He put it in the terms that He did. The focus always ultimately revolves around Him though, despite our selfishness. The only way we can live the way outlined in the entire Sermon on the Mount, not just in this passage, is through losing ourselves in Him, which will begin to happen practically without us realizing it when we are looking to and focused on Him; on what He did for us; on the Father's amazing and unconditional love for us. As I said before, He is unfathomable! How can our self, our flesh, NOT be swallowed up in who He is, in what He desires for us?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Introducing: Jane Swensen

I started another blog today. The Chronicles of Jane.

I started the story of Jane several months ago, in an attempt to kinda tell my own story of life, but changing all the details a little bit. Jane is more exaggerated than I am in many ways, in some ways she's a better person, and in other ways she's...well...let's just say I've been through more than Jane could ever imagine. Life is a journey though, and I'm sure Jane will have plenty of adventures and "growing experiences" as I continue to write her story.

Do I know how her story is going to end? Heck no. I'm not even sure where to go with it next. I have a general idea of where I want to start her off, but beyond that....let's just say it's going to be a growing experience for me too.

Well, anyway, here she is. Within the Discord readers, please allow me to introduce you to Jane Swensen.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Oh, and don't worry, I'll still continue to write here at Within the Discord. And maybe I'll actually try to put some poetry at my poetry blog.)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

What?!?! Another post!??!!

I was checking out the blog of a dear brother tonight, Captain's Blog by Chad "Captain" Estes. One particular paragraph in his most recent blog post really cracked me up and I had to share it.

He is describing a camping trip he recently took with his youngest son, and relating a conversation they had over a confusing sign on a campsite garbage can.

The other conveyance [at the campsite] was the trash cans. There was no need to pack it all out, as someone from the BLM was being paid to do so. The interesting thing was the note the BLM left on the canisters, “No fish in garbage can.” Renton and I discussed this confusing message. Was it a statement that no fish were currently in the cans but there might be at some later date? Was it a request not to relocate the fish from the lake into the can? Or could it perhaps be a warning to un-schooled tourists that fishing in cans, at least in this campground, would not produce the desired affect?

LOL. So funny.

Chad's blog is also very spiritually encouraging to me as well, as he doesn't shy from asking the hard questions or making difficult observations. In another blog post, this quotation also struck me, but in a different way from the last one.

There is much to learn in this story of a sleepless night- communication contingencies, premonition protocols and aftershock awareness, but personally it is the chaos I create when not being in control that challenges me to the core.

He's right, it is so often our own fears that make situations worse than they actually are. Like Peter, when he took his eyes off of Christ and began to sink into the waves, it is so easy for me to get caught up in the details of the trial instead of keeping my eyes on the Savior who is in complete control and knows exactly what it is that will happen. Not only that, I can trust that whatever it is that does happen will be for my own benefit, even if it does happen to be painful. It is not happiness that is (necessarily) beneficial for me, but anything that brings me closer to my Heavenly Father. The closer I grow in Him, the better I know Him, the more I trust Him, the greater the joy He can fill me with, and then the better He can sustain me through any trial or tribulation. The more I am filled with Him, the more I am sustained by Him, the more He can use me. I pray that is my focus. His glory, His praise, His honor, His strength. Less, less, less of me Lord, more of You. Increase in me and use me, help me to show Your love to others as You would have me to do.

Thank you Chad for sharing what the Lord put on your heart. I hope you don't mind my "mooching" off it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Trials, God's Provision, and Love?

The last few weeks in my life have been rather hectic, and at times more than a little discouraging. I'm getting a great preparation for the rest of my life though I think, I'm truly learning what it's like to go rapidly from valley to peak to valley to peak to valley and then back to peak....and oh wait it's another valley again. Are the valleys painful? Very. But I'm learning how much of a hidden blessing they are. Only the darkness of the valleys can truly illuminate the brilliance of the light and joy of the peaks. And I have another "hidden" blessing. I have the Holy Spirit inside of me, my Heavenly Father's love to sustain me, and the knowledge of what my Savior did for me to keep me focused on Him. All this supplies within me a fathomless well of joy that will bubble up slowly, gently, subtly in the times of the valley - reminding me of how I am a precious child of God, and He knows exactly where I am and exactly what I need and exactly what it will be that will rush me to the heights of the peaks of His blessings.

And now.....there's another blessing that I've been really excited to write about, but I've been having a hard time doing so because it's so important....if that makes sense. I've begun posts trying to write about it before, but I just couldn't get the words right. I know I was probably just being picky and overly self-critical, but this blessing has made me so happy that I knew I needed to find the perfect words and the perfect way to describe it. Strangely - or maybe not so strangely - gaining an understanding of the peaks and valleys I've been experiencing was what also gave me the words to describe this next blessing. (Which I guess is also "hidden" in a way...but I'll explain all that in a minute.)

On May 20th, 2008, I entered into a committed relationship with a wonderful man - Christopher. Christopher and I met in October, through eHarmony. (Anyone who has read my About Me section is probably chuckling right now.) I joined eHarmony in mid September of last year, shortly after my last relationship before Christopher ended.

My last boyfriend - Alan - I also met online, though I met him through a different dating site called Christian Mingle. I had met Alan during the summer, and we began a long distance relationship that...well....was short lived. Alan came to visit the first week of September and a few days after he arrived we had a VERY mutual breakup. The night before we ended our relationship, God just gave me peace about the whole situation, despite the fact that I still really cared about him and was willing to try to make it work if Alan was. Problem? Alan wasn't. I don't fault him for that, we just weren't what the other person was needing. The strange thing for me was that I was able to give Alan up so easily. I don't doubt that my feelings for him were sincere, he just didn't turn out to be who I thought he was, as I'm sure I didn't turn out to be who he thought I was. Even stranger for me though was that after he left and went back home to Texas, (yah, I know, it was very long distance,) was that even though my feelings for him specifically were no longer focused on him, I was still feeling very much ready for a relationship. I believed that God had been preparing me for something through Alan for a reason, even though Alan didn't end up being the one God was preparing me for. I know it may sound a little hasty and rash, but within a week of Alan leaving I had taken the eHarmony survey, filled out a profile, and began receiving matches. Looking back through my eHarmony emails, (I'm a pack rat and save everything I possible can - who knows when I might need a little bit of information here and there?) I received my first 7 matches on September 13th. On September 14th, I received 7 more matches, Christopher being one of them.

Now, in case you're confused, yes I did say earlier that Christopher and I met in October. Despite the fact that we were first matched on September 14th, that is actually true. See, taking the test, filling out a profile and receiving matches is all free on eHarmony. The communication however is what costs the green stuff, and it wasn't until a few weeks into October that I was able to afford an eHarmony subscription.

(I just realized that I'm giving an AWFUL lot of seemingly useless information regarding how Christopher and I met. And yah, it might be useless, but I'm a girl and girls care about these kind of things. You never know, it could be important in the future.)

Anyway, from October through April, Christopher and I spent a significant amount of time getting to know each other through Instant Messaging, Email, Facebook and the like. During that time God had impressed upon me the need to stop "looking" for a relationship, as He wanted me to stay focused on Him. Christopher understood when I explained to him that I was unable to offer anything more than friendship to anyone, and I think that had a lot to do with why our friendship continued to grow. Christopher showed me that he valued our friendship simply because he wanted to get to know me, and because he especially valued the fellowship we so easily were able to share around our Savior. He never ever once made me feel like he was "fishing" for something more than what I had told him I could offer, or that he was "waiting in the wings" as it were until I was ready for something more. (Yes yes yes, that did end up happening, but not because Christopher was just sitting there waiting for it to. It was all God's doing, when He kind of just dumped us in each others laps as it were, and we were both like...."oh...wait a minute.") But that's another part of the story, I'm getting ahead of myself.

During this time of growing in friendship and grace and fellowship, Christopher asked me a few times if I wanted to talk on the phone, but since I've never really been a phone person it took me a while to be completely comfortable with that. He understood of course, especially in light of how fast my last relationship had gone; he knew I was taking things one step at a time with my Father and needing things to be slow and simple until God let me know that I was ready for more. By the time April rolled around, when I felt myself opening up a little bit more and told Christopher I was ready to talk on the phone, we had formed a really comfortable friendship and I think we both were just really looking forward to exploring our friendship; nothing else was really on our minds. Our mindset stayed the same after the first phone conversation, which went really really well and was very comfortable and fun. We got to know each other a lot better of course, and I found myself looking forward to when I could talk to him again. The second phone conversation kinda changed we ended up talking straight for 8 hours. The next day? We talked straight for 8 1/2 hours. After this point I was a little confused and not really ready to explore the feelings that I could feel building up, but we both knew by then that we had least found friends for life.

It took a while after that - during which time Christopher and I continued to talk a lot and get to know each other better - before we admitted to ourselves and each other that there were feelings involved. Once we finally did get past our shyness and did admit them to each other, we were excited but at the same time knew we couldn't commit to anything before meeting each other. Planning and trip ideas ensued, and I was able to make it down to Iowa finally for a visit from May 19th until May 25th. (He and his family live in Des Moines.) I was so nervous, but extremely excited as I sat on the bus watching the miles roll by that took me closer and closer to Iowa. The one thing that scared me was that it would turn out to be another situation like the one I found with Alan. Christopher and I had grown so close in the months preceding my visit, but I knew it was a possibility that who we knew each other to be over the phone wouldn't be the reality once we met in person.

Thankfully, that did not turn out to be the case. Of course, there are things you can never really know about a person until you meet them. The way they look when they talk, the way their eyes light up when they smile. Their body language and facial expressions as their moods change. The way you relate to each other when you're spending almost every hour of every day together as opposed to just talking to each other on the phone. In Christopher, all these things just endeared him to me even more, and it didn't take long for us to realize that we definitely wanted the other person in our lives for as long as possible. The trip was amazing, and I had a wonderful time getting to know Christopher's family as well. They were so gracious, welcoming and loving to me, and Christopher sacrificed and let me sleep in his bed during the week while he slept downstairs on the couch. When Christopher drove me home to Duluth on Sunday the 25th, and then left to go back home the morning of the 26th, it was very very hard. I couldn't stop crying, and I felt like my heart was breaking as we finally tore ourselves away and his car disappeared around the curve of the road. I miss him so much right now, and the fact that we're not sure when we'll be able to see each other next makes it even harder. Finances have a lot to do with it, neither of us have the most stable of job conditions, but we're confident that God has a plan for us seeing as He brought us together in the first place.

Bringing this post full circle, Christopher has been amazing and wonderful through the peaks and valleys that have been the fluctuating theme of my life the last few weeks. The joy of the peaks is magnified because I can share it with him; the sorrows and fears of the valleys are tempered by his caring and unconditional acceptance. Things are still hard sometimes...ok, a lot of the times, no one said trials were easy. But God has given me such a wonderful blessing in Christopher, as he is a man who truly desires God's will for his life and my life and our lives together. Having Christopher in my life has strengthened my faith and drawn me closer to my Heavenly Father, and he is such an encouragement to me as I know he accepts me unconditionally. I'm definitely falling for Christopher, and it's scary (but wonderful) to think that it might actually be love.....but we're not going there yet. One step at a time.

Christopher, my darling, I know it took me a while to write this, but you know how much I care about you and about us. I'm so happy to be yours, and I thank God everyday that you're mine. I know that God brought you into my life for a reason, and I just wanted to be able to express as best as I could through my limited words the wonderful way you encourage me and point me to Christ as not only my brother, but as the man that I know is by my side in spirit even if we can't be together physically right now. This time apart is so hard - my heart hurts everyday - but I know God has a purpose, and He's preparing us for something very special I know. Soon, I'll be going to school in Iowa (finally) and we'll be able to explore that stage of our relationship once I get there. For now, I hope we can look to the Lord and accept His strength as He helps us to cherish this time and stage we are in right now, to use us through it for each other, and for the furtherance of His will. Thank you sweetheart for being "the perfect thing to say......In this crazy life, and through these crazy times it's you, it's you, you make me sing. You're every line, you're every word, you're everything."