Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Pleasures of Sex

I highly, highly, highly, highly, highly, highly, highly recommend you go to this link and listen to the message "The Pleasures of Sex" by R. W. Glenn. (Sorry, I can't figure out how to hyperlink the message itself directly into this post. So you have to do one extra click. And it's totally worth it.).

It is one of the best messages I have heard in a long time in regards to:
1) The difference between trying to please God to earn his favor vs. pleasing him because you want to delight the one who already loves you,
2) The difference between changing your behavior based on an attempt to strengthen your own resolve vs. behavior change that occurs out of an overflow of your own experience of the transforming power of the gospel (moralistic reformation vs. spiritual transformation),
3) Our pornographic culture and the degree to which it affects even those who think they are not affected (which, he points out, is just one more evidence of how pervasively pornographic our culture really is - that we have become so desensitized to it that we don't even notice it),
4) Practical suggestions on how to guard yourself against the self-indulgence of your passions (he expands this to include other pleasure-seeking desires like eating, spending money, etc.),
5) The difference between "reluctant abstinence" (i.e. "I wish I could do this, but I'm a Christian so I can't") and "gospel abstinence" which abstains out of delight in pleasing God,
6) The hope that we have in the cross, and
7) A proper view of sexual sin which protects us from excessive shame that leads to feelings of unworthiness to be used for Christ's mission and spiritual powerlessness (i.e. not a sign of spiritual bankruptcy but, rather, it is sin that Christ has empowered us to fight in the same way that we fight all kinds of other "respectable" sins that we don't feel disqualify us from ministry)

I don't care how much you think you do or do not struggle with sexual immorality, I am telling you that you will profit from listening to this message.

I haven't listened to any of the other messages from the conference (because I listened to this one twice in a row instead), but I feel like I can blindly commend them to you as well.

Enjoy and be blessed!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Don't Be A Hater

I hated baseball.

But that was then. This is now. And now, I find it totally tolerable.

Let me explain.

I went to my first game at Target Field last night. And just to give you a small idea of how much I thought I hated baseball, I took two magazines to the game with me just in case I got bored. I actually intended to take three magazines, but when I was transferring them from my backpack to my purse right before the game, I realized I had already read one of them. And I was disappointed that it meant I only had two to take. (In my defense, I am a fast reader AND two of the three were SI's, so that's gotta count for something....).

Also, when asked throughout the day what I was going to be doing in the cities, my reply was, "I am going to see Target Field," which most accurately reflected my mindset - I had an opportunity to go see the stadium for free and if it meant I had to sit through a baseball game to see it, then so be it.

But then, my world was rocked.

My sudden change of heart (most of which took place in the bottom of the fourth) was multifactorial.

First of all, I had great company. I went with my friend Emily who has seats for a 20-game package. Not only is she fun to chat with, but she also taught me some stuff about the game. After we got past the whole "a swing and a miss is a strike, three strikes and you're out, 3 outs per team per inning" deal (I assured her I had, indeed, taken 2nd grade phys.ed.), I actually learned a few things about strategy, rules, and league play. My enjoyment of a sport is directly proportional to my understanding of the strategy involved, and I found that the more she shared, the more I was interested in what was going on. The thought of even touching my magazines never crossed my mind. Here we are looking all cute at the game:

Secondly, LOOK AT THE VIEW. Holy crap. This picture was taken from my seat. Even if I didn't enjoy the game, it would be worth it to go just to sit outside on a beautiful summer night and watch planes fly over the city. I kind of have a "thing" for planes. And for the Minneapolis skyline. So sitting there watching planes fly over and through the skyline filled me with feelings of pure and utter happiness.

Thirdly, the game itself was actually fun. It probably helped that we won and that the score was 9-3 (probably the highest scoring game I have ever been to), but still....even when there wasn't much happening, I was still relatively engaged (compared to previous experiences). I don't remember much of the 8th inning, but if I was at a football game and we were up by 6 scores, I probably wouldn't remember much of the 4th quarter, either. I wouldn't leave, I just wouldn't remember much. Also, I was texting my sister and I was being quizzed by Emily on all of the player's names, so I was a little distracted. But other than that inning, I actually watched most of the game!!

Emily and I, in the golden glove.

Booyah! Mayo Re-pre-SENT! Whaaat?!?!?

T10 Things I Learned and/or Remembered While at the Game:
1) I enjoy spending time with my friends, no matter what we are doing.
2) Baseball really is better outdoors.
3) I love summer nights outside. And planes. And the Minneapolis skyline.
4) I really just enjoy being at any live sporting event (or any kind of "performance," for that matter). The atmosphere is just. plain. fun.
5)Punto is white. I don't know why this surprised me so much. I guess I just wasn't expecting him to be white.
6) The names of 15 players.
7) Everything is better with HD eyeballs. Even baseball.
8) If you stop paying attention in the 8th inning because Tolbert is up to bat and you aren't expecting anything of importance to happen, so you look away and start talking to Emily, you might be really confused when the rockets start going off and everyone starts cheering because he just hit a home run and you didn't see it.
9) The American League uses a designated hitter in place of their pitcher in the line-up while the National League has their pitcher bat. This gives American League teams a disadvantage when playing at National League parks because their pitcher has to bat. Huh. And, when thinking about the National League system, just in case you wonder, "Why wouldn't the losing team's pitcher just hit the other team's pitcher when he is up to bat to injure him?" the answer is, "Well....that would be unethical. You just wouldn't do that. It's an ethical game." Except for all the steroids. That part is unethical.
10) Baseball can be kind of't be a hater.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Paper-Chain Excited

It's official....I am going to Nigeria!

Well, I guess it's not official-official since I still need to get a visa, but we have our plane tickets and my "please approve me for a visa" documents should be in the mail by the end of the week! Yay!

Just how excited am I, you ask?

I am paper-chain excited!!!!!

For those of you who may not know, paper-chain excitement is one of the highest forms of compliment an event can be given. It is the kind of excitement that erupts from so deep within you that it actually creates something tangible in the physical world. Also, it's just plain fun.

We (meaning my roommate and I) leave on September 8th which leaves the current countdown at 91 days. The chain is green and white in honor of the Nigerian flag.

T7 Reasons I am Excited to go to Nigieria:
1) I get to meet my roommie's parents for the first time.
2) I get to see where she grew up and hear stories from her childhood.
3) It is an opportunity to see my roommie interact in a different environment and hopefully know her better because of it.
4) It is a chance to visit Warren, see his place of ministry, meet his fellow workers and hopefully be an encouragement to him.
5) It will be interesting to experience an English-speaking area of Africa after spending a couple of weeks in French-speaking Cote d'Ivoire. I am looking forward to actually being able to talk to people and hear their stories.
6) I should have ample opportunity to continue working on improving my tolerance (and maybe even enjoyment?) of spicy foods.
7) Plain and simple: I. love. to. travel.

Holy cow, I can't wait!!!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Meet Maybelle

This is Maybelle.

Isn't she pretty?

She is a ginger plant that I took home from Grandma Lois' funeral in early April. And she is still alive! So far I am batting .500 as far as the plants go. Aden is thriving. Maybelle is just sort of hanging out (although when I stopped and looked at her for a long time this morning, I realized that her leaves really have gotten a lot bigger since I brought her home. And she may or may not be growing a whole new plant-shoot* out of her base which I just noticed for the first time). Fin may be nearing the end of his life and Lea is down for the count. I know you haven't met those last two yet. Lea is (was?) a beautiful plant that I received as a gift from my thoughtful aunt on my birthday and Fin was one of Maybelle's friends from Grandma's funeral. I wish I had taken pictures of Fin and Lea back when they were in the prime of their lives. As it is right now, you may never meet them. Unless Fin rallies.

Please, Fin. Please rally.

But this post isn't about them. This post is about Maybelle.

Maybelle is named after my Grandma Lois. It was her middle name. Lois Maybelle (Swenson) Larson. In the same way that seeing Aden reminds me of spring's physical representation of spiritual promises as well as the beauty of our spiritual adoption, Maybelle reminds me of my grandma and causes me to reflect on the blessing of my family and the legacy that has been set by my grandparents. Some may think this is over-sentimentalizing a simple house plant, but I enjoy ascribing meaning to even the simplest parts of life and, as a result, watering my plants serves as a sort of spiritual discipline that fosters gratefulness and hope within me.

I also love that she is red.

As I said, Aden is thriving. Here is the last picture that will be taken with Aden in his pot by himself...
Look at how big he is getting!!!!

...because later this week, he will be joined by his friend Phil! Julie, one of my besties, allowed me to procure a few offspring from her plant Phil and after the little guys grow some roots of their own, they will be joining Aden in his pot. Yay for plant friends AND for real friends!

*Not an official botanical term

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Tale of Two Eyes

It was the best of weekends, it was the worst of weekends.

Or something like that.

The worst part was limited to Thursday night at midnight through 1:00 on Friday afternoon.

It all started when I left work at midnight after having worked a 12 hour shift and began my 3.5 hour drive home to Long Prairie. Probably one of the worst decisions I have made in a long time. The first time I thought "Oh boy, I am so tired I am falling asleep," I was about 10 miles south of Cannon Falls. For those of you not familiar with the geography of Southeastern Minnesota, that was about, oh, 20 minutes into my trip. I am fairly familiar with the "fight through it, I only have 15 miles left to go" feeling. I am (thankfully) unfamiliar with the desperate "I already can't stand this and I have three hours left" feeling. Factor in a severe thunderstorm from Rogers to Freeport (the majority of which I was intermittently falling asleep during - you know, the kind of sleep where your eyes are open but your mind has checked out and your blank-staring eyes are crossing ever-so-slightly so that the road just blurs ever on before you - only to be startled to awareness by my hydroplaning car or the blinding spray of a semi I didn't realize I was passing) and you are left with a miserable ride home that has won itself a place on my "Top 5 Most Unsafe Decisions I Have Ever Made. Ever." list.

But, praise the Lord, I made it home safe. And tired.

I grabbed a quick three hour "nap" before heading up to Crosby for my LASIK eye surgery. At this point, I was a little nervous.* Thankfully, my dear father was with me to take my mind off of things on the ride up and to laugh with me about the "Helen Keller Sight Award" plaque hanging on the wall in the lobby. We were trying to decide if it was a good sign (because certainly my sight wasn't that bad) or a bad sign (because it meant they had the ability to make me both blind and deaf). Sitting in the lobby and feeling my tension ease as I watched my dad do his squinty-eyed-shoulder-shaking-laugh-of-delight will be a sweet memory of mine for long time.

Finally, I was called back to a small room where a man stood waiting with a bowl of dirt. He spit in it, made some mud, rubbed it on my eyes and before I knew it, I was shooting laser beams out of my eyes.

Well, that's not exactly how it all went down. But sort of.**

My eyes were examined one last time, I was given some Versed (which from here on out will be referred to as "The Amazing Miracle Drug Of Relaxed Shoulders And Slower Heartrates," or "TAMDORSASH" for short) and I was taken back for my big moment under the laser. At this point, my heart may have literally beat out of my chest had it not been for the TAMDORSASH. Instead, I sauntered back and calmly laid down on the chair as if I hadn't a care in the world.

The procedure itself was amazingly short. I was probably in the room for a grand total of 15 minutes (or less) and half of that time was spent on safety checks with the laser. As soon as they rolled me under, the doctor started working. It took about 90 seconds per eye with about a 15 second pause in between. When he was done, he gave my nose a grandfather-ly squeeze, sat me up and told me to read the clock on the other side of the room. And I could.


Well, amazing, that is, until about 4 minutes later when I walked outside and discovered that my tired, laser-assaulted eyes were so extremely light sensitive that I could not open them for the entire 90 minute ride home. I was feeling a good deal more miserable than I had expected. Needless to say, I declined my dad's offer to stop at Max and Don's Cafe for lunch. The thought of sitting in a public space with shields taped to my forehead to protect the eyes I could not open just didn't sound appealing to me.

Speaking of taping shields to my sister brought up a good point that she was surprised that the tape would stick to my forehead (we Brandes' were blessed with faces that leak slightly less oil than BP on a daily basis). Much to my surprise, the adhesive from the tape actually combined with the oil from my forehead to create an uber-powerful paste that could possibly be marketed successfully if Super Glue ever goes under. Even scrubbing your face with with a baby-shampoo-soaked washcloth doesn't remove the oil-based miracle adhesive. It just spreads it around so that now your whole face is sticky, not just the area around your eyes. Powerful stuff.

Immediately upon arriving home, I laid down and took a 5 hour nap (is that still considered a nap? or is it a full night of sleep in the middle of the day?) and when I woke up, I felt much more in accordance with how I was expecting to feel after the surgery. My right eye has felt almost no bad sensation since I woke up from that nap and my left eyes feels just a little scratchy on the lateral aspect. This may or may not be due to the fact that I flinched just a little when he started cutting the flap for that eye.*** (Life lesson #482: When somebody is cutting into your eyeball, try your hardest to lie really, really still.).

So, that was the worst of it. Now for the fun part.

I can SEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I actually feel like I can see better than I ever did with contacts. The surgery corrected my astigmatism, so not only can I see things in the distance (because it corrected my nearsightedness), but I see it with a crisp clarity that I have not known before. It's like I upgraded to HD eyeballs.**** And I couldn't love them more.

In other news, it's amazing how fast you can adjust to a new "look." I wore contacts for 12 years and glasses for 4 weeks, and yet somehow, when I look in the mirror, I feel like my face looks naked. Huh.

The best part of the weekend was feeling overwhelming grateful for my family to the point where I almost cried. I say almost because I started to feel like I was going to cry, but I was afraid to cry with my newly LASIKed eyes, so I quickly diverted my thoughts to something much less sentimental. Between my dad graciously serving me by taking time out of his limited time in LP to drive me to Crosby and back, my mom leaving me an on-the-verge-of-tears-because-I-love-you-so-much voicemail saying she was praying for me, and the two calls I received post-surgery being from my two dear sisters just checking in to see how I was doing (including a voicemail that said "I hope the reason you are not answering your phone is not because you are blind and can't find it,"), I felt deeply, deeply blessed by my family.

So, dear readers, that is the tale of these two eyes. These two clearly seeing, family loving, amazed and grateful eyes.

*This is a gross understatement.
**Not really at all.
***I honestly don't know if the scratchy feeling is due to something that happened as a result of my flinching or if it just happens to be the one small area where my eye is irritated.
****Shout-out to my sister, Hannah, for providing the "assist" for this joke.