We all have troubles, right? Please tell me I’m not alone. Life is hard, sprinkled with aggravation and sometimes thoroughly horrible circumstances. The news is depressing and it seems kind of like the sky is falling.
Take heart! Things weren’t any better 2,000 years ago as a man named Cleopas and his buddy were walking to Emmaus, talking about the recent crucifixion of Jesus.
Seriously…take heart. Things may not look any brighter in the here and now, but in this story, we are pointed back to the prophets who told of the Messiah’s first coming and assure us of His second coming.
“…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?
We’ve all been there: in a conversation with somebody who just doesn’t get it. It’s frustrating, even exhausting when you’re not being heard, much less understood.
In today’s episode, Matt and Brandy talk about how to look at life from another person’s perspective and how that might help build bridges as we learn to employ this practical tool in our communication.
Jerry McGuire; 1996; Starring Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger; Written and directed by Cameron Crowe; Rated R;
Hi Fidelity; 2000; Starring John Cusack, Jack Black and Iben Hjejle; Story by Nick Hornby; Screenplay by John Cusack, Steve Pink, D.V. DeVincentis and Scott Rosenberg; Directed by Stephen Frears; Rated R
Say Anything; 1989; Starring John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney; Written and Directed by Cameron Crowe; Rated PG-13
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend theselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Forbes – Top 10 Traits Women Want in A Husband (May 2010)
Written by Jenna Goudreau, Forbes Staff
10. Good financial prospect
9. Good health
8. Ambition and Industriousness
7. Pleasing disposition
5. Education and Intelligence
4. Desire for home and children
3. Emotional stability and Maturity
2. Dependable character
1. Mutual attraction and Love
“The highest-rate characteristic women seek from men is mutual attraction and love. They no longer look for a man who will provide for them; they want to be in love.”
Important Traits (as we see it): 1. Mutual respect
* Informs how you argue or disagree with your spouse and seeing your spouse as a whole person 2. Being equally yoked
* 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV) “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
* Also, informs how you approach dating
* Forms a solid foundation for a relationship that will last 3. Internal qualities/ character
* Forming a solid friendship
* Physical attraction grows as the relationship grows 4. Sharing common interests (Mostly, this is a good place or way to find someone you might be compatible with. It isn’t necessary, but very helpful!) 5. Integrity
*Are you the same when we’re alone as when we’re in a crowd? Can your word be trusted?
A TV Show that you really ought to stream: (in Brandy’s opinion)
21 Jump Street; 1987-1991; Starring Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise, Holly Robinson, Steve Williams; Created by Patrick Hasburgh and Stephen J. Cannell; 20th Century Fox Television
Scriptures: The story of David and Michal:(We have a few corrections here.)
1 Samuel 18:17-30. The passage actually says that Michal loved David, though there is no indication that he returns the love. Saul, however was using this proposed marriage as a means to destroy David.
1 Samuel 19:11-17. Here, Michal actually saves David from her father’s hand by helping him to escape and go into hiding.
2 Samuel 6. David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem and Michal’s response, specifically verses 14-23.
“…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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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).
Do you all remember the song, “Looking for Love (In All the Wrong Places)” by Johnny Lee? Probably not, if you’re younger than 40, but it’s likely that you’ve heard the phrase, none-the-less. I remember crooning that song in my childhood, not understanding any of the lyrics until I was a little older.
That being said, here I am, in my mid-40’s now and that phrase is running through my mind, but not for reasons you might expect. You see, a weird thing happened this week.
Let me back up…
So…I’m a Christian. I think that’s pretty well established. But here’s something you probably didn’t know about me – I dig true crime. Now, before you gasp, let me assure you – I do not endorse or support crime of any kind. But, man…give me a good, old fashioned, real-life ‘who-dun-it’ and I’m hooked. I like to consider the psychology of a killer. What makes them tick? Is it nature or nurture? (The answer, by the way – Both.) I like to think about how I would respond if I were ever in a life or death situation because I think it’s important to be prepared and aware that bad things happen to good people.
Likewise, I recognize that we are all just one choice away from becoming the very thing we hate or fear. There, but the grace of God, go I.
So, now that you know that part of me dear reader, it may not come as a surprise that I also listen to true crime podcasts. True crime, it turns out, is kind of a hot topic right now. I’m not entirely sure why it’s become the thing that everyone wants to listen to, but there you have it. Needless to say, there are at least a billion podcasts on the subject right now.
There is one in particular that has been around for a while that I really enjoy. Mind you, the subject matter isn’t especially light and fluffy and, to be sure, the women who host it aren’t exactly reverential. Sometimes their fans get a little…over exuberant, in my opinion, but it’s in this ‘fandom’ that the weird thing happened. And it makes me so happy.
A woman in the fandom decided to create a Facebook group that is for both fans of the podcast and also Christian. Within the first day over 500 people had joined this subgroup. Immediately, people began sharing who they are. We introduced ourselves, like we were members of a 12-step program. “Hi, I’m Brandy. I’m a Christian and I like true crime.” “Hi, Brandy!” It was weird – truly.
But also super cool because just as quickly, people began sharing their prayer needs or praising God for amazing things He’d recently done in their lives. A university student asked if anyone had any good suggestions for Bible study materials for the student on the go. People were praying for each other. Literally. Friendships were formed.
It’s become my favorite thing on Facebook right now, especially in light of all the political turmoil that’s consumed us the past year and a half. Here, on this platform that is so full of either vitriol or shallow memes, there has grown this little group of like-minded people from all over the world that can just as easily talk about the latest tragedy that’s struck their hometown (and ask for prayers over it) as they will praise God because He proved faithful again.
It’s an unlikely place to find a safe corner, is it not, in the middle of a bunch of people who like true crime?
I don’t know where your circumstance find you, friend. Maybe you’re in a job that is dragging you down, surrounded by people who seemingly only care about the bottom line and not a lick about your soul. Maybe you’re a student in an environment that is hostile and runs rampant with the minimization of sin. Or maybe you’re like me, a stay at home mom who’s social life is lived mostly online because that’s just the season of life you’re in right now. But let this encourage you – wherever you are, whatever you do and with whomever is beside you, you have the ability to be a bright light.
Go ahead, reach out to our cubicle mate and share a bit of yourself with them. I bet they feel a little lost in the shuffle, too. Start a conversation with that girl in your Science Lab who always wears the best nerd shirts. Chances are she’s got a great sense of humor. When your “friend” on social media posts something about needing prayer, take the time to actually write your prayer out right then. Trust me, even if they don’t believe in the power of prayer, if they’re asking you to do it and then you do…they will thank you.
Or hey…find a group of people who like something you like and find out how many of them also love Jesus. You may just be surprised. Friends can be found in the unlikeliest of place, it seems.