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Resurrection Sunday

Isn’t Resurrection Sunday supposed to be filled with frilly Easter dresses, the serenity of an empty tomb, and joyful anticipation of our own ascension?….not dirty finger-nailed children, $700 car repair bills and little white shoes full of scuff marks (because you don’t know how to say no to three young girls dying to play dress-up and gallop around the back yard waiting to be rescued by their prince in shining armor).

The power of the resurrection is much more moving in a dramatic rendition of the synthesized moment, not in the actual reality of watching someone you know die or someone else close to you cry.  It’s more fun to imagine what it must have been like when Mary stood close to the tomb mourning her friend’s loss only to hear his voice behind her.  Not so fun to lose someone you love and know without a shadow of a doubt, you will never hear their voice again.

I feel God in the song.  I feel the power of his resurrection in the words I sing.  But when the music stops and we all go home, and I’m sitting with my family alone, I feel the pressure of life, the overwhelming tendency toward strife and I wonder what resurrection really means.

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Why I Don’t Like American Idol

‘American idol’ is Googled approximately FIVE MILLION times per month globally.

I have this really pitiful love/hate relationship with talent shows.  For American Idol in particular, it just happens to be that I’ve more than slightly passed the age limit to audition.  Was I ever really seriously considering auditioning?  If you consider it serious that I spent one to three nights out of a lifetime trying to decide which song would be best for me to showcase my lackluster talent so that the judges could overlook my limited vocal range, lack of vocal agility and inability to put out a sexy vibe.

My plan was to make it to the next level on mere lack of personality alone.

No, as usual, I was expecting them to recognize something in me that I could not even see in myself–a spark, a seed of talent that they would harvest, so that I could finally become a star, an unassuming artist in the long awaited, yet well deserved spotlight.

The sad truth is that I’ve never been able to take my love for music beyond a personal hobby or part time job.  I dream of teaming up with other musicians who can help me to make my dream a reality.  I fantasize about singing my songs for an audience who seems to get what I’m singing.  I long for the day I’ll believe other people when they say I’m “really good,” even though I know I’ll never be the best.

I’m Anna, and I’m NOT an American Idol.

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The Branded Me

‘branding strategies’ is Googled approximately 25 million times per month globally.
In finally creating a blog, I realized that in order to “stand out,” I needed to brand myself.  It seems like for ANYTHING to be successful now-a-days, it needs an angle, a unique approach, a special identity, a catchy tagline, a very specific flavor and smell that cannot be mistaken for another brand.  I’ve often described myself as “Schizo.”  Can you imagine how hard it would be for a schizo to choose just one personality to market to the whole world?  At some point, I thought I could use that to my advantage, by branding myself as the “Schizophrenic Christian” since I’m constantly teetering back and forth between the Fundamentalist, Marginalist and Socialist who just happened to grow up in a very Christian home but went out into a very diverse world where Christianity is only a sideline.

I’ve seen these really very pretty blogs where the woman has this life sized photo of herself somehow photo shopped onto that page in feminine perfection and she has branded herself as the “Sweet Christian Mom.”  Or at least that’s how I perceive it.

I’ve seen the granola blogs, where the writers pride themselves in all things natural and their hair is blowing in the wind with a few happily vegetarian fed children in tow.

I’ve envied the spiritual writers who never consider the opinion of others, because they are so absolutely sure of their own.  Those who clearly stand on either side of gay marriage, social welfare or abortion.  (Feel free to comment and nominate a winner.)

Then there are those who pride themselves by having the motto that “anything goes.”  They claim to be open to anything and everything, but it always just seems like it’s not real and that they mostly fall on the side of liberal, waiting for anyone to challenge their “openness.”  (Feel free to comment and nominate a loser winner.)

So, here I am.  I’d like to be considered a sweet mom, but I’m most often referred to as “uptight” and “irritable” except in those isolated moments where God rains down little nuggets of grace that lengthen my fuse.  I have an appreciation for healthy things and think it would be really cool to say that I’m vegetarian, but I’m not.  Sometimes I feel very strongly about certain controversial issues, but there is always that shadow of doubt in my mind that keeps me from condemning others, for fear that I’m wrong in my stance.  And I’m definitely not an “anything goes” kind of a girl.  I’ve tried that life and it was more uncomfortable than any pair of shoes I’d ever worn.

Is there any possible way to be all of the above?  How can I brand myself as the anything and everything I want to be and that others want me to be at any given time?  Why must I be restricted to one staged photo of myself that only catches me on a manufactured good day?  Why does my bio have to make clear sense, in a categorical, search engine indexed kind of a way?  Why can’t I just be subscribed to, for who I am and also who I’m not?

On a final note, I really love those clearly spiritual or unmistakably chic blogs.  I aspire to be more like those tiny parts of my branded DNA that were snuffed by the more prominent genes of “schizophrenia.”

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I’m not Fun

‘how to be fun’ is Googled approximately 45 million times per month globally.  Hmmm….maybe I’m not the only one who’s NOT FUN! 
There are fun people and then there are people who are not so fun.  I would really love to be classified as a fun, fun lovin’ person, but I’m pretty sure I don’t make it into that category.  Most of the time, I am serious.  Even my jokes have a deeper meaning to me at least and most people don’t know whether to laugh or to take offense.  Others frequently tell me to “lighten up.”  I feel like I’m already lightened up, and really just want to get things done without too much small talk.  Even though I’m not really fun, I consider myself to be very laid back.  I usually concede to what everyone else thinks is fun and I try to feign excitement, all the while a little miserable when I don’t feel a “connection” to what is taking place.  Often, when I’m trapped in these uncomfortable moments, I smile on the outside while listening to all the sarcastic voices in my head that explain to me what is REALLY going on with all those other people who seem to be faking their way through too.

As a music director at church, I have a very specific idea of how I would like to see things unfold.  I am very critical of myself, and inwardly, of other people.  On the outside, I am very forgiving and know that in order to not scare people away, I have to cushion my comments with grace.  I have a strong desire to be frank, but feel that I’m not afforded that luxury.  At other times I see that there are two sided expectations of me.  I am supposed to be a fun lovin’, sociable, accepting leader who is all inclusive and willing to bring anyone with a willing heart on board.  At others times, I feel like this leadership approach is frowned upon when something that is of subpar quality slips through the cracks, the really huge cracks that open-mindedness creates.

If I were a fun-lovin’ person, I wouldn’t feel the need to strike a balance between fun and frank.  I wouldn’t care.  I would be oblivious to others’ judgment of my leadership style and I’d be sure I was having fun regardless of what others thought.  People would be attracted to ME, not to my strategy.  But as I said, I’m not fun and I’m definitely not fun-lovin’.  On the inside, I don’t want to extend grace to myself or anyone else as they foible their way through.  I want to ask them why they are unprepared?  Why they are not taking their role seriously?  Why they are uninterested in the details that would help them to do a better job. Why they only need a leader who they can conveniently blame for their own lack of interest in excellence.

No, I’m not fun.  I think.  I over-think.  And I re-think.  I analyze.  I doubt.  I am easily put off.  I like intense.  Not intense fun.  I like to laugh, but not at slapstick humor.  I want to have fun, but to me, fun is more possible with only two people or less.  Once, the group becomes larger than four, there are too many personalities to corral, too many fancies to feed, too many feelings to consider.  I would simply fade into the hodge podge of group think, and to me, THAT is extremely boring.

I’m Anna, and I’m not fun.

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Schizophrenic Christian

What stops me from sharing is that I’m unsure.

Today, I’m very comfortable sharing my fundamental beliefs about Christianity. Today my faith feels very real.

Tomorrow, I need to put my hands through Jesus’ sides to believe. And if I’m to believe, I need Jesus to visit my house like he visited Mary & Martha.

Today, my message is very clean and very clear.

Tomorrow, my mind is tainted from what I hear on TV or see in the street on the way home.

Today, I’m a confident Christian who would fit nicely on the pages of your right winged magazine.

Tomorrow, I’m a left winged nut who absolutely cannot tolerate discrimination, even if it’s “Bible based.”

Today, I’m a Spirit filled worship leader, feeling led into the presence of the Almighty, hoping you might follow.

Tomorrow, I’m questioning the lyrics, the method, the institution, The Church, afraid that you might actually follow.

Today, I’m sure of who I want to be and give in to the strong pull in that direction.

Tomorrow, I’m sure of who you want me to be, and try to conform and transform and fit in, so I won’t be thrown out.

I’m Anna, and I’m a Schizophrenic Christian.

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Planning the Adventure

‘adventure’ is Googled 24,900,000 times per month.

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

          Have you ever been planning a trip and in the middle of all the stress about what to take and where to go, you just throw up your hands and decide that it’s not worth it after all?  That it’s probably just best to snuggle up on your couch at home and watch a re-run about the exciting adventures of someone else’s life?  I’d like to say planning the adventure is half the work.  But it’s not.  Planning is very difficult, but it is only a glimpse into the future obstacles you will face along the way.  It doesn’t matter how much you plan, there will be glitches in the outcome.  You will have to work extra hard to make up for those things you just simply missed.  There will be others who oppose your destination, mocking you while you prepare to take your trip.  Some will even question your motives and scare you by insinuating everything that will go wrong, should you continue on your current course.   It will be hard to keep a clear mind and to plan wisely.  It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how well connected you are or how committed you are to making something happen—the Lord is the one that brings success.  So you should commit every single step in your plan to Him.

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Biblically Obligated

‘real religion’ is Googled 33,100 times per month.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…..”

Someone recently asked me if I was doing what I was doing out of guilt or out of a good heart. I responded by asking if it mattered? The Bible says that the heart is desperately wicked above all things and that God weighs our motives. Even if I dig down really deep to the roots to calculate my motives, would I really be capable of honestly discerning whether my intentions — at any given moment, are good or bad? Religion that God looks at as pure and faultless is to look after orphans and widows in their distress. Nowhere in this passage, does it talk about doing good because you feel good about doing it or because you feel motivated to make a difference. Most of the time I do what is right because I feel obligated to do so. Because there are so many things that get in the way on the journey toward our destination. There are so many obstacles to keep us off course. There are so many mind games and heart problems that make our palms sweat with resistance against just doing what is right. Emotions that we can’t quite pin-point, logic that seems to spin out of control, people and circumstances that make us want to stop putting one foot in front of the other, just in the name of doing good.

So we do not need to be convinced that our sacrifice is going to be a good thing. We do not need to reason with ourselves until what we are about to give up finally makes sense. In fact, the Bible says that “To obey, is better than to sacrifice.” God says He accepts our religion as authentic when we look after widows and orphans in their distress. When I first heard this passage, I thought, “Hey, cool…an easy ticket into the glory of the cross.” I’ll just hand pick my orphans and thank my lucky stars I don’t know any widows. Then I’m good to go with God.