Posted in June 2018, podcast

When We Become the Church

“…be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit,
intent on one purpose.”
– Philippians 2:2

It’s never easy, is it, coming to others to ask for help?

What will they think if they know my need is this great? Will their opinion change once they know just how dark my heart and thoughts can be? Or, will they think I’m silly; wasting their time with my needs which seem so insignificant?

I’ve had these thoughts on more than one occasion. Yet, at every turn I am amazed by the response I’m met with when I take a deep breath and share my heart.

Sometimes it’s a prayer need, sometimes a thought I’ve been mulling over for days and need to talk through. Other times it’s a sin that I keep finding myself struggling with. Often it’s the critical thoughts that tend to take up residence in my head, shoving aside God’s words of truth and bring me to tears and of guilt, shame, fear and overwhelm.

Consistently though, God has met me in those places of need as I’ve turned to someone at church and bared my burden. I’m met with encouraging words, reminders of God’s promises and faithfulness, prayer and often a hug.

Likewise, I’ve been met with gratitude for my willingness to be vulnerable and broken in front of others. Because, honestly, that’s just not a thing you see all the time.

These kinds of relationships are born in and grown through fellowship in and around church.

Three years ago, our little congregation of less than 50 merged with another local small church. A majority of church merges fail. Ours has been a story of success. And in that place, I’ve gotten to know a whole new group of people; people I’d never have met otherwise.

Some are well into their grandparenting years, enjoying traveling the world. Others are just starting out, eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first baby. And there’s everyone in between. We’ve got nerds, geeks, intellectuals, blue collar, white collar, scrubs, lab coats, graduation caps, Bermuda shorts and button downs with a tie. And every single one of those people has impacted me, whether they know it or not.

You see, going to church is really good. You learn a lot about God. You sing some good songs full of good words and truths. You hear things that encourage you and maybe even challenge you.

But being the church…that’s even better.

Because then you get to rub elbows with people who are just like you and nothing like you at all. You get to see the vast array of people who God calls His own. Sometimes things get a little messy, but hopefully, as Christ stays the focus, even the messy is made clean again.

Being the church you can speak into one another’s lives. You can experience that ‘iron sharpening iron’ accountability and growth that’s talked about in Proverbs 27:17. You become invested in something that is so much bigger than yourself and it reminds you just how incredibly generous our God is.

Going to church is really good. Being the church is the best.

What about you? Do you just go to church on Sunday, letting the message slough off you as you walk out to your car, while the music fades in the background? Or do you take the church with you, presenting Christ to a broken and hurting land, recognizing that left on your own, you’d be just as broken, too?

The choice is yours.

 

 

[Photo by Ingo Joseph from Pexels]

 

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

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 podcast

For the Love of Staying in Love

“…it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be really hard. We’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever. You and me, every day.” – The Notebook

Alright, be honest. How many of you had a list, like I did, when you were in your early teen years highlighting some of the qualities that you were looking for in the “perfect” person? Come on…I said be honest. No shame, here.

Some of the qualities that I looked for: Cute (of course), funny, smart, athletic build, liked theater, liked to read, tall but not too tall (I’m only 5′ 0″ if I round up), likes my family, drives a cool car, Christian. Cute, smart and funny were definitely the most important to me. Mind you, this is not always the type of boy I dated. There were a couple that made rocks seem pretty smart, but they were really cute, so….

Needless to say, this approach to finding Mr. Right didn’t really work too well. And yet, I somehow managed to land him. (I chalk that up to God looking out for me.) But here we are, Mr. Right and Me, approaching our 23rd year of marriage and as we reflect on what makes a relationship that can go the distance, we thought we’d share those insights with you, our friends.

In no particular order:

1. Respect

Here’s a good way to assess if the person you’re dating is going to be a jerk or not: Go to a restaurant and order something complicated. When it comes to the table let your date know that it isn’t how you ordered it. Don’t make a big deal out of it…just wait and see how they respond. If their response is, “Oh, no. Should we send it back?” and then they follow your desire, congratulations! You’ve found a nice person. If, however, they make a big deal about it, ranting about lousy service or belittling the wait staff, puffing their chest out or making bold declarations about customer service, excuse yourself to the restroom and “peace out.” Call a friend or an Uber and treat yourself to a pint of Ben and Jerry’s – you just survived a monster.

Seriously, respect is kind of a big deal. If you have a partner who calls you names or makes threats of separation or self-harm every time there is conflict, you’re in for a lifetime of pain and suffering. I’m not being dramatic. Your needs and desires, your values and feelings are important and deserve to be respected. It is possible to disagree with someone and still show respect.

2. Be Equally Yoked

Yup…I said it. I hated this concept when I was a dating person. I thought it was dumb. I just wanted to have fun. Guess what? If you’re trying to live a Christian life and your partner isn’t, it isn’t very fun at all. It’s really pretty hard.

You see, the way you see God informs everything you do. If your world-view doesn’t include God as a major player, your approach to sexual temptation, finances, even having children may be very different. It’s not always something that you see in those early dating days, but when those conflicts arise (as they are prone to do in a marriage), the differences you have in your approach to the world will become apparent and could potentially put a serious wedge between you and your spouse.

Nip it in the bud from the start – marry someone who’s faith you share.

3. Be friends

Life is hard, right? I think we can all agree on that. And isn’t it also true that when you’re going through a bad time in life, it’s just easier when you have a friend by your side? The world just seems a little bit safer when you have a friend to share it with.

Now, I know it’s easy to assume that if you marry someone you must be friends with them. That’s not necessarily true. Haven’t we all seen that couple at the restaurant that doesn’t even look at each other over the course of a full meal, much less talk?

Admittedly, it’s possible they are in the midst of a crisis which may well inhibit a jovial conversation, but I think more often than not, it’s just a couple that lost touch with each other along the way.

Stay connected. Engage in dialogue. Share your hopes and fears, your regrets and victories. Celebrate the little milestones. Pray for and with each other.

Your friendship may well be the one thing that keeps you married when everything else comes crashing down. It was for us, anyway.

4. Share Common Interests

This relates to being friends. Go do fun things together. Hike, watch movies, go to the museum, race cars, play in a band. Whatever floats your boat…. The point is, sharing common interests keeps us engaged with each other.

That being said, I think it’s equally important to have things that you can do apart from each other. Your partner or spouse can’t be expected to fill your every need for companionship, but having a few things that you enjoy together can keep your relationship grounded when it feels like the world is trying to tear you apart.

This is also a great way to meet your future Mr. or Mrs. if you’re currently dating. I found my true love doing high school theater. You never know where they may be, but if you meet while doing something you both enjoy, it’s a really great start to building a beautiful friendship.

5. Have Integrity

Here’s a chance to do some honest self-reflection: Are you the same at church as you are at work? Does your behavior and words in the ‘real world’ match what people see any given Sunday? Is your word reliable? Can you be trusted to do what you say will?

Let me put this out there – this is a hard one for me. As a kid I learned early on how to adapt to any environment in order to fit in. This worked great for me socially, but it wrecked me personally because I lost my internal compass that kept me pointed toward the God I loved. I’ve had to learn the hard way what integrity does and does not look like.

Here’s the thing, if you can be trusted to be the same person in a crowd of thousands as you are for an audience of one, that’s integrity. It builds trust. It inspires honesty. It grows love.

That’s it.
Those are the five qualities that every strong, go-the-distance marriage I personally know has. There might be others. There are certainly other characteristics that will be beneficial, but as Matt and I talked about in this episode, these are really the main ones. It’s no guarantee that it will all be smooth sailing, but I honestly believe that if you start with this foundation, the life you build will indeed stand the test of time.

God bless!
– Brandy

P.S. The photo is of my great grandmother and great grandfather, Mabel and George Morris. They were married in 1924 and remained so until 1957 when George died. They had three children, Norma Jean, Lila Lee (my grandmother), and Bill. They loved going dancing, baseball and spending time with family. 

Posted in April 2018, podcast

Episode 1: Meet Your Road Trip Buddies!

Here we are, gang! Episode 1 is published and available for your ear-holes. I’m still working out all the details…you know, like where it’s available and all that good stuff, but hang with me. Any minute now this is going to be super professional! In the meantime, you get lil’ ol’ messy us…full of flaws, but oh, so much charm.

Also, it’s entirely possible that I get the name of our podcast wrong for the first several episodes! Remember that charm I was talking about?

Listen to Episode 1 here

Full Transcript here

Episode 1: Show Notes

As an introduction to the podcast, Matt and Brandy share a little bit of their backgrounds beginning with what led each of them to the Lord. From there they share a bit about their dating and early adult years.

They also share some of the subjects they hope to cover in upcoming episodes including marriage, parenting, codependency, recovery, current events and letters from listeners. Finally, they share how they came up with the name of the podcast (which has gone through several iterations (which is why I maybe say it wrong for a few episodes).

Links:
Youth With A Mission www.ywam.or

Brandy’s childhood church camp Black Lake Bible Camp; Olympia, WA

Newsong; the song is called “Between the Cross and Crown”
listen to the song here

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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