Posted in May 2018, podcast

Healing Happens at Church: A Lesson on the Importance of Corporate Worship

It had been years since I’d stepped into a church. If not literally, then certainly in my heart. I’d been apart from God for a long time, rejecting Him and His word at every turn. Living life on my terms was way more fun.

Until it wasn’t.

When my lies finally caught up with me, I could see my surroundings more clearly. I hadn’t been living large, I wasn’t in control and all my feelings of grandiosity and self-assurance were just a facade for the absolute fear I felt. Fear of being found out, fear of my own depravity, fear of who I’d become and fear of the dark and lonely pit I found myself in.

But there I was. At the threshold of a new start. Beyond those double doors was a world that I’d known and grown up in but somehow seemed foreign and frightening.

Church.

It was a new church. A big church. One where I could get lost in the crowd. I didn’t want to be seen, even by strangers. I was certain that my sin was palpable; that by merely looking at me, people would know immediately that I was among the worst of the worst. In Old Testament times, I’d be stoned to death for my sin. And though it was 2010 AD, I was pretty sure, the response I’d get from others wouldn’t be far from that Old Testament notion.

Beyond that, what would God do to me, a sinner, a harlot stepping foot onto holy ground? His holy ground. I’d never heard of anyone getting struck down by lightning for walking into a church, but it seemed possible.

With a deep breath and holding the hand of my daughter, I walked in, my husband and son by my side. No lightning. Not even the rumble of thunder in the distance. So far, so good.

My daughter, upset by the fact that we weren’t going to be returning to our old church, the only one she’d known, had been given the important job of choosing our seats. Somewhere in the back seemed good. That way, I wouldn’t have to make eye contact with anyone and we could leave the second the service was done.

Nope. My sweet baby angel decided that we needed to be front and center. And I do mean front. And center.

With a little coaxing, we managed to get her to move one row back. So now we were second front and center. Right in everybody’s line of sight. And I mean everybody.

Thousands of people come to this church every week. They had no less than 5 pastors on staff at the time, in addition to the worship pastor and the youth pastor. And there I was, with my sin oozing out of me, right where everyone could see and point and judge and either feel pity for or be repulsed by me. But my daughter wouldn’t budge. We were not moving seats when I’d already made her move to a new church.

Okay. If sitting there would make my daughter feel better about life, I’d do it. I’d just keep my head down and try not to draw attention our way.

Then the music started. Piano, guitar, the rhythm of the drums. It all came together into a beautiful melody of praise, making much of Christ and His great love for us, sinners through and through.

I don’t remember what songs we sang. I didn’t know most of them. What I do remember is the worship pastor, sitting at the piano and looking at me as he sang about a God who loves his people, who calls us His sons and daughters. He sang about God’s goodness and glory, his redemption, and grace. And it seemed to me, his eyes never left my face as the tears streamed down my cheeks.

The house lights were low, the stage lights bright. It’s entirely possible that he didn’t see me at all, but everything about that moment pierced my heart and dropped me to my knees.

I was a wretch. I was broken. I’d hurt the people I loved the most and lied to them for years. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. But here was this man I didn’t know, singing God’s word over me, assuring me of His love and forgiveness.

And I began to heal.

Every week we returned to those same seats. Every week we sang and praised God. Every week my husband and I cried out to God asking for His grace to wash over us and to heal our brokenness and save our marriage. Every. Single. Week.

And He did.

God met us right there. He met us in song and in the teaching. He met us in the people we started to meet. He met me at the Bible studies and recovery groups I attended. He met me in the kindness of a stranger offering words of encouragement. He healed us. He restored us. He turned our ashes into garlands of praise and redeemed our days.

And it all started with a small step. It didn’t take much to get my foot over the threshold of that church, and yet, it took everything. It required that I admit that without God, I am a mess. I can’t do life apart from the Creator of life. I need Him desperately, especially when I think I don’t need Him at all. Left to my own devices I will wreck havoc on myself and everyone in my path. But with God, anything is possible.

He can even take a broken, messed up, guilt-ridden sinner like me and create something new.

Go to church, Beloved. You need it. Trust me.
-Brandy

Posted in May 2018, Podcast Show Notes

Show Notes: Episode 5 “Why Should I Even Go to Church”

Whether you’ve been hurt by the church (or it’s people) or you simply feel like church isn’t really your ‘thing’, this is the episode for you.

Read the full transcript here

Matt and Brandy dive into many of the reasons people aren’t going to church and then talk about why it’s a good idea to be there. The goal here is not to make anyone feel guilty or shameful about not going to church. Hey…we’ve been there, too! There have been years where our church attendance was sparse at best.

So, come along and let’s talk about why it’s sometimes hard to get there on a Sunday morning and why it’s important to try.

Read Sam’s blog post here

Statistics that are listed:
* 4 out of 10 Americans have been to church in the last week.
* 59% of Millenials who grew up in a church have dropped out at some point.
* More than half of the Millennials haven’t been to church in the past 6 months.
* “Regular attenders used to be people who went to church 3 or more times a month or even several times a week. Now, people who show up once every 4 to 6 weeks consider themselves regular church attenders.”
* Three reasons Millenials cite as why they’re not going to church (split evenly): believe church is irrelevant, full of hypocrisy, sick of the moral failure of the church’s leaders.
* Of Millenials, 2 out of 10 feel that God is missing in church
* Of Millenials 1 out of 10 feel that legitimate doubt is prohibited
* Of adults that believe church is important they cite two major reasons: to be closer to God and to learn about God
* 22% go because it’s taught in the Bible
* One in 10 go to find community, despite a growing epidemic of loneliness
* Across age and denomination, 40% say they feel God elsewhere, outside of church.
* 35% say church isn’t relevant to them personally.

The following are just a few of the resources I found (and used) through the larger church we began attending. Churches have countless resources for you to address whatever needs you may have. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Study on Codependency

The Genesis Process (I’m not sure why the pricing on this is so steep. There are any number of churches that offer these Genesis groups and I highly recommend them. If you find a group through a church, I can assure you, it likely won’t cost this much!)

Anger management book

Scriptures we looked at:
1 Corinthians 12:18-27 (this is the extended version)
Proverbs 7:17
Acts 2:42-47

This is the first part of a 2-part discussion. Next week, we’ll examine what a healthy church looks like.

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Intro and Outro Music: “The Long Road Home” written by Brandy J. Goebel, arrangement by James Swanson, performed by James Page

Posted in May 2018

The Ideals of a Nation: A Letter of Gratitude

When he enlisted in the United States Navy, my grandpa, Harold was just a fresh-faced kid. Barely able to vote, he signed up to risk all he had for a country he loved.

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(Harold Barr, 18 years old, 1943)

Having completed Boot Camp, he trained in Basic Engineering and at Diesel School in Virginia. Following that, he trained in what was then known as the Scouts and Raiders, but what we today call the Navy Seals. He told stories of harrowing training, being dropped off at sea, miles from shore in the dead of night with only one objective: get back to base. This perhaps seems especially frightening to me because I’m not a strong swimmer and you know…sharks.

But, he worked hard and soon found himself in China where his unit was sent to train the Chinese as guerilla fighters against Japan. He also did extensive work as a mechanic.

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(Harold Barr, front and center)

Most of the stories he told from his time in China were the antics that he and his buddies shared. One particular incident involved a group of them landing a giant sea turtle and tying it to a cot. Their plan was simple. After dinner, they would take their prize to the local market and sell it for beer money. Sea turtles, it turns out, are stronger than they imagined. Upon their return from the mess tent, they discovered that not only had the turtle found his way back to the sea, but he’d taken the entire cot with him.

It wasn’t long before the war ended in victory for the Allied troops. At that time, it became a job of rounding up the Japanese troops for surrender. Finally, in May of 1946, Harold was honorably discharged.

My grandpa didn’t share stories of great heroism. While his recon missions where dangerous, I don’t know how many, if any of his brothers fell in combat. He didn’t storm the beach of Normandy. He didn’t spend his career climbing military ranks.

What he did was what most kids his age seemed to be doing. They saw a battle for justice being fought and they stepped in to give their support to the cause.

He was strong. He was brave. He was steadfast. He was what America has traditionally been.

Let’s never forget, not only the men and women who have fought and died for the ideals of our nation, but also, let us never forget those ideals. We are one nation. Indivisible. But only if we work together. Let’s not waste the sacrifice that so many have made.

gpa barr funeral 1

(The American flag being presented to my grandma, Lila Lee Barr at the memorial service for her husband, Harold W. Barr; 2015; Kelly Cemetery; Maupin, OR. Daughter (my mom), Teresa in the red shirt.)

 

With gratitude and humility for all who have served,
Brandy

 

(Cover photo by Jakob Owens)

 

Posted in May 2018, podcast

A Beautiful Sacrifice

Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘sacrifice’ as,
“an act of offering to a deity something precious or
[the] destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.”

When Mabel met George she was just a young girl. He was nine years her senior. They met at the farm of George’s uncle in Tygh Valley, Oregon. The year was 1913.

Over the course of the next ten years, the friendship between their families grew. They worked together several times during threshing season. Mabel’s skills advanced as she labored beside her mother in the kitchen as they prepared meals for the men working the fields.

During her school years, Mabel was taught at whatever one-room schoolhouse was nearby or she’d learn under the direction of her mother. She grew to love reading and writing most. Her days of tending to pigs and cows in the field were spent reading David Copperfield and the poems of Longfellow.

Mabel graduation

(Above: Mabel, high school graduation; Maupin, Oregon; June 1924. She was the only graduating senior in her class)

And as she grew, she dreamed of what she might do one day. She was awarded a scholarship to the University of Oregon in Eugene. It would mean traveling hundreds of miles away from her family and friends. But Mabel had dreams of becoming a school teacher and looked forward to going to university. She’d already tasted a bit of what that would be like; she and a small selection of other high school seniors had been granted a trip to visit the University. She had made new friends and was looking forward to what her future held.

But then…

Isn’t that the way it always goes? Our young protagonist is bright-eyed and hopeful, the world in the palm of his or her hands, but then…. Something happens. Because something almost always does.

For Mabel, it was the realization that despite her scholarship and her parent’s hard work, sending her to college was simply not a financial burden her family could afford. But there was something else, too….

During high school, Mabel and George had reconnected. He was home from the war and working wherever he could find work. Meanwhile, she was helping at her father’s confectionary shop in the afternoons and on weekends. Smitten by Mabel’s charm and sweet smile, George spent a good many of his afternoons at the Confectionary just to spend time with her.

George Morris - military photo

(Above: George Morris; circa 1917; Private 1st Class U.S. Marine Corps)

By her senior year, he was courting her. He played for the local baseball team in Maupin, Oregon and Mabel would go to his games. He took her to the dances at the Grange Hall. And when the decision finally needed to be made – college or no? When it came right down to it, Mabel didn’t want to leave George. She wanted, instead, to be his wife.

And so, in June of 1923, Mabel sacrificed one dream to fulfill another.

Sacrifice is often seen as a negative. People seem to only think of it as giving up something and they fail to recognize the other side of the coin. Yes, sacrifice does require that something is given up, but in return, you gain something more.

Sacrifice in marriage is a constant practice of giving up yourself (your desires and expectations) in order to better love your spouse. It comes in a thousand different ways. Mostly, it’s the little every day choices you make – should I make my husband’s lunch for him, while I pack my own? Or, should I clean the kitchen because I know that my wife has had a hard day and could use a few minutes alone? These are small sacrifices and yet, they do honestly require that we give something else up.

Maybe cleaning the kitchen means that you don’t get to sit down and turn on Netflix right away. Maybe packing that extra lunch means you won’t have time to stop for coffee on your way to work. Those are sacrifices.

But what are the rewards? A spouse who feels appreciated, valued, seen, considered. Is it worth it? You bet. Do you get a benefit from it? Yeah, you do. Maybe not right away and maybe not even from your spouse. But God will bless your sacrifice because if anyone understands the meaning of that words, it’s our Lord.

Luke 22:42 finds Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying shortly before He was arrested and crucified. As He’s praying He says, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me, yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Jesus knew what was coming. He understood that His time was very limited and He was about to enter into the greatest suffering anyone could possibly experience.

But He also knew He had a purpose that needed to be fulfilled, without which, none of us would know the grace of God and experience Him face to face. What God wanted was a perfect relationship with us, a fallen and sinful bunch of people. But who can approach a holy and blameless God? A sacrifice needed to be made. And Jesus knew that was His calling.

Listen, I cannot even fathom the sheer physical pain of what Jesus endured as he was beaten mercilessly, made to carry the cross and then nailed to it. I can’t begin to imagine the excrutiation He felt every time He tried to even take a breath, much less talk to those who needed to hear his voice one more time. But, I guarantee, the physical suffering He endured was marginal compared to the separation between He and God the Father when He took on the weight of all our sin and shame.

Jesus gave it all. He sacrificed His very life so that you and I could have a relationship with a holy God.

That sacrifice cost everything. It cost Jesus’ life. And yes, of course, He conquered death and rose three days later, but imagine the agony that He suffered as He felt His heavenly Father turn His face away from Him.

And yet, He did it. Why? What would propel Jesus to lay it all down?

You did. I did. He loved us. He wanted us to know Him the way that He knows us. And without that sacrifice, we would remain far removed.

Sacrifice is a big word. It’s a heavy word. It packs a punch. But it isn’t a bad word.

Sacrifice is wrapped up in love.

George and Mabel 1951

(Above: George and Mabel Morris; 1951)

Posted in May 2018, Podcast Show Notes

Show Notes – Episode 3: Marriage Changes Everything! Is it Even Worth it?

This topic stemmed from a question on Yahoo! answers:
“Does life change after marriage…. Were you better off before gettin’ married or after? Does it change a lot? Do we need to make lots of sacrifices or compromises?
Is it worth it?”

Yahoo Answers (We don’t recommend this as a forum for sound, Biblical answers to your most pressing questions. It is, however, an interesting source of entertainment, but can be something of a time sucker, too. Proceed with caution.)

Listen to Episode 3 here

Matt and Brandy explore the pros and cons of marriage today. Topics like making sacrifices (soooo many sacrifices, folks!), having similar life paths, blessing your spouse, learning to compromise, staying committed, monogamy and how to fold shirts the right way are all coming at you. We also discover lots of other topics that we want to discuss in future episodes, such as passion versus love as well as domestic abuse.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship please seek help:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Contact the Abuse Hotline here
1-800-799-(SAFE)7233
1-855-812-1011 for deaf or hard of hearing
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

If you reach out and are ignored or dismissed, please continue to reach. Your safety and well-being are of utmost importance.

Scriptures we read: 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, verses 33-45
Intro and Outro Music: “The Long Road Home” Written by Brandy J. Goebel, Arrangement by James Swanson, Performed by James Page; copyright 2018

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Posted in May 2018

Boundless Love

I’ve been searching my brain for something inspiring to say about moms. Guess what? The card companies have said it all.

Moms are strong. They seem to have boundless reserves of patience and love. They are multi-taskers extraordinaire. Their hugs are the best and their love makes any illness heal quicker.

At least, if you’re lucky. Which I am.

My mom has been a mom for almost 50 years. That seems wrong to me, as I remain firm in my belief that she’s only 37. I digress…

She and my dad said hello to child #1 in 1968 – my brother. Their lives weren’t really complete though, until 5 years later when I made my grand debut in 1973. It’s been nothing but joy ever since. I’m sure of it.

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(My mom, Teresa and brother, Chris and I on one of our get-away trips. We started these shortly after my dad died in 1997, as a way to stay connected. They don’t happen nearly often enough, but are cherished when they do.)

Listen, rather than share everything that I did to make my mom’s life so wonderful (at least, that’s how I remember it), I just want to publicly declare how awesome my mom is.

Through noisy creative expression, sports and drama practices and events, heartbreaks, teenage rebellion, angst, my own mothering and wife crises, she has been a rock. She’s been there with encouragement and correction, in equal measure. She’s shared her own heart and struggles and allowed me to speak into her life. She’s become my best friend and will forever remain my mama.

I know that not everyone is so fortunate and believe me, I count my blessings daily for the relationship that we’ve built. I hope that wherever life finds you this Mother’s Day, you will be able to reflect on the women that have influenced your own life, whether they’re family or not. Likewise, as women, whether our own wombs are fruitful or we’re longing for the day when we hold a chosen child in our arms, I pray that we would also be influencers in the lives of the young people around us.

Thanks, Mom for being an amazing role model of strength, love and compassion. I love you beyond words.