Sunday, February 22, 2015

So What religion are you?

“So what religion are you?”

If you are asking if I am a Christian, the answer is yes.

If you are asking me what I am religious about, well that is a completely different topic. 

And tonight, it is one that is close to my heart, especially when one of my cubs is feeling attacked from those on the outside. About “religion.”

I’m not a good one to answer the question…”what religion are you?”

I grew up near a baptist church. Raised my hand and asked Jesus in my heart there. Was baptized, took communion, and went to my first youth group class there. 

And spent every other weekend at an evangelical free church with my dad and step-mom.

After a few years, my mom and step-dad felt like the little baptist church in stockton lacked a certain appeal for high school youth when it was obvious that WE were the high school youth. So every other Sunday, they packed us in to the Chrysler Labaron and we drove 30 minutes to my Aunt Bitsy’s church. Can’t remember what it was called. But it was a Pentecostal church and had a pretty good reputation for their youth program. 

At 15 years of age,  I missed my Stockton Baptist (Boring). It was home. At least every other weekend it was.

So as a young adult, if you asked me what religion I was, I would say “draw a card.” I was a baptist, an e-free, a pentecostal, and I married in to a catholic family. If you asked me where my church home was, it was at Calvary, a church that has baptist roots, but I would compare them more with non-denominational.

But religion is more than just church.  I know people who are very religious and have never set foot in a church building. You can be just as or even more religious about your job or your favorite sport than you ever are about Christ. Can I get an amen? You know what I mean.

And if I were to actually follow the example of Jesus himself, He didn’t really even hang out with the “religious” types.  He associated with tax collectors, lepers, thieves, those of ill-repute, and, well…you get it. I don’t know how else to say this, but he didn't preach to the choir. Plus, he was Jewish. So, bam. 

I’d like to say this about “religion”: I’m pretty sure when the day of our judgement comes and we are standing at the gates of heaven, God isn’t going to say, “What was the name on the outside of the building that you went to church to.”

In other words, He isn’t going to say, “What religion are you?” 

Obviously I don’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing that at the gates of heaven, God is going to be a little more concerned with this: “Who is my Son, Jesus, to you?” 

He is going to look on the inside of every minute of our hearts, not the outside of the buildings we spent one hour a week in. 

I am 41 years old. I have been a christian for much of my life. But if you ask me what religion I am, if you are looking for a denominational answer, I am not sure I can answer that. 

And I don’t even know if Jesus would want me to. 

(and I am almost 42. I feel I should say that should lighting strike)

So to my dear, sweet child who is feeling attacked about religion: I can see your heart. But more importantly, God can see your heart. And that matters more than the name of the church you went to today. 

Matthew 22:36-40New International Version (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Saturday, February 14, 2015

And that's how we role: the wedding edition

It’s been a fun weekend so far.

Last night we took Claire and Tookie to see the movie “Old Fashioned” and out for supper.

Today had a list of things that needed to get done: pick up some groceries, go to the bank, get some cat food, stop by Radio Shack, bake brownies for the church thing, gas up the car for our trip to see Nathan in Des Moines, elope, go around and tell everybody about it, give the dog a bath, feed the kids, eat, drink and be merry.

So you know, a completely normal day. Except I have a new name. 

In case you missed it, that was a wedding announcement. 

We got the piece of paper.

We have been planning a wedding for a long time. The problem is that I am a horrible planner. And I am kind of cheap. And we have been trying and trying (3 times in the last two years to be exact) to get everyone together and throw a small, surprise wedding. Plans just didn’t work. Life just didn’t cooperate. The excitement of planning a wedding started to be not so exciting. 

I didn’t wanted my wedding day to not be exciting. As it turns out, I didn’t really need all of the hoopla to make it great for me. 

Brian and I have been together for a long time. We didn’t necessarily need to go out and get the piece of paper to make it official. But we wanted to. We wanted to make a statement about our relationship that honors God. We wanted to show our friends and family that even though we have done a few things backwards, this was still important to us. 

That it is never too late to take the opportunity to do what is right in your heart.

And we couldn’t wait for the perfect time. With 7 kids between the two of us, we have learned over and over again that the perfect time to get everyone in the same place at the same time and on the same page doesn’t actually exist. There is no perfect time. But there is the right thing.

So today is the day that our commitment became official. We visited with our pastor and we got married. Tucked in between all of the other things. Because that is us. That’s just how we roll.

Tucking our marriage vows in between a couple of days of work with nothing too special leading up to it or after it may not make for an exciting, storybook wedding day. But it is our story. 

I love our story. I love our day. 

On the outside, tomorrow may look absolutely no different than yesterday. But because of today, we are different. We are Mr. and Mrs. Brian Grunder. 

So if we had invited everyone to the wedding, what you would have witnessed:

On the day of the big event, the bride was adorned in what she will now refer to as her “wedding jeans.” Slightly faded and in a boot-cut style, they complimented the bride’s made-for-comfort sweater perfectly. Both can be viewed at the next choir or band concert. Or ballgame. 

The groom was looking dapper in his very own “wedding jeans,” formerly known to the couple as the “best deal at Farm and Fleet.” His chosen shirt was a black thermal which did not clash at all with the sweater worn by the bride. 

While this official statement about their wedding may appear to be somewhat unorthodox, rest assured that their wedding vows toed the line of unconventional as well. 

In their vows, the couple recognized each other’s proven commitment to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, and the bride read a statement kind of like this:

Dear Brian,

You have been there for me when all is well:  the good days of parenting, the exciting times, days when I am feeling on top of my game and on top of the world.

You have been there for me on days of nothing special:  the days of going through the motions, we eat, work, sleep and wake up and do it all again the next day. 

You have been there for me in times of trial:  when good health wasn’t a guarantee, when kids veer from what we think is best, when money in the bank doesn’t exist, when motives have been attacked by those on the outside.

You have been there for me even when you weren’t sure you understood me:  you listen to my off-the-wall way of making sense of things, you show me grace when my mouth doesn’t take the time to filter through things that should have stayed in my head.

The last few years have been full of life and everything that it means.  Fun, games, humor. Happy tears, sad tears, trials of many varieties.  Kids…mine and yours. 

The writer in me knows that every good story worth immersing yourself in takes the reader through ups and downs, with love, action, mystery and even conflict. A good story is one in which the reader feels connected with the words on the page.  Our story has not been the perfect fairy tale.  But it is a story that I am connected to on a soul-level, and one that is still being written.  I love our story. My only regret is that it has taken us a while to get this part right. Today is way more than just getting that piece of paper. That piece of paper is a statement about honoring God in our relationship. That piece of paper is the first page of a new chapter in our story.

As your wife, I will proudly walk with you through each chapter of the rest of our lives.

The couple regrets not being able to have everyone they love share in this special day, but do hope to celebrate their wedding sometime this summer when all of their family can be present. 

I’m guessing it won’t be a formal event.