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 June 2018, Podcast Show Notes

Finding A Healthy Church

In this week’s episode, we tackle part 2: What a healthy church looks like. To kick it off, we give a brief overview of the churches we grew up in and a glance at some of the churches we’ve attended throughout our marriage. From congregations of thousands to a mere 35 or so, we’ve experienced a pretty wide range.

Listen to the full episode here

Brandy’s upbringing found her in an eclectic mix of people, with a church full of hippies and suits and ties, while Matt grew up in a rather conservative church in a conservative town.

But how do you know if the church that you’re considering attending is healthy? What are some hallmarks to look for as you consider returning to or attending church for the first time?

Join us as we talk about the importance of God’s word being honored and taught, the value of authenticity of believers and the very real need that we all have to find a place where we can serve others.

We also talk briefly about overcoming when you’ve been hurt by the church. We recognize that there are some wounds that are incredibly deep, but also encourage our listeners to seek counsel in order for those wounds to heal.

Scriptures we reference:
2 Timothy 3:16
John 1:1-5
Acts 2:42-47

Read the full transcript here

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Intro and Outro Music: “The Long Road Home to You” Written by Brandy J. Goebel; Arrangement by James Swanson; Performed by James Page; Copyright 2018

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 March 2018

The Intentional Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about intentionality lately.

There are so many areas of my life that end up getting the ‘left-overs’ of my time, thoughts and action. I think some of that has to be with being a stay at home parent. It’s easy to get sucked into reactionary living – preparing meals when kids are hungry, driving everyone to their classes and activities, comforting a broken heart and helping to navigate a child through the difficult teen years. Not to mention breaking up fights, disciplining sass and saying ‘No’ to a toddler more times in a day than even seems possible.

I also tend to be highly gifted at the art of procrastination. I am currently writing this in the library with my daughter across the table working on her school. This is the first day we decided coming to the library might be a good place to do our work, as we’re both prone to distraction. I’ve been ‘meaning’ to write for days, yet there is always something that demands my time and attention. Sometimes that thing is Netflix, but that’s another topic for another day.

Needless to say, unless I am FOCUSED, DISCIPLINED and INTENTIONAL even basic things like laundry and dishes end up getting piled high before I think to do them. It needs to hit a critical ‘we-have-no-clean-underwear-or-spoons’ level before something will get done.

Now, I’m sure there are a bunch of pyschological things going on inside my brain that keep me stuck in this cylce of procrastination – anxiety, depression, fear of failure, fear of success, laziness, overly ambititous to the point of ineffectiveness – I’m sure it’s in there somewhere. What I KNOW though, is that I’m not alone. I have heard the word ‘intentional’ tossed around for the past several years. Clearly there are other people wrestling with how best to use their time to make the most of the life they’ve been given.

Recently I’ve begun the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. I exercise daily, eat more whole foods and am drinking water…at least I’m trying to, but let’s be honest, the siren song of coffee is real and I am captivated by it. I’ve also started writing out a routine for household chores. One would think that 20+ years of marriage would mean I’d have that figured out by now, but it seems that every new season of life uproots whatever system I’ve incorporated and now I find myself back at square one.

But the intentionality that I most want to pursue, that of a deeper relationship with God, seems to somehow elude me.

What does it mean to be intentionally relational with God? Is it daily Bible reading and prayer? Is it journaling? Is it volunteering my time at a shelter or in the church nursery? Is it weekly Bible studies or fellowship groups?

I think it’s all of those things and more. Honestly, if I evaluate my life, I’m doing most of those things on a fairly regular basis. I’m plugged in at church, both in serving and with small groups. I read the word and pray daily (honestly, the reading isn’t quite that consistent, but close). I have friends that call my bluff and don’t let me get away with things. And yet…

I still feel like something’s missing.

Listen, this is a journey, I know. That’s the nature of relationships – they are ever-changing and growing. I just don’t want to get stagnant or complacent in my pursuit of God. I want to know Him more. I want to hear His voice more clearly and see the works of His hands more evidently in and through me. I want to be ever-awed by His amazing grace, weak at the knees when I think how far He’s brought me and how far we still have to go. I want more.

Maybe that’s the first step of being intentional. Just the simple desire for more – more order in your life, more energy for your body, more depth in a relationship.

I’m going to spend some time over the next several months exploring this idea. I really don’t have any answers or insight right now, just a desire to invite you on the journey with me. What do you do as an intentional pursuit of God? What areas do you think you need to grow in (reading, prayer, fellowship, giving, etc)?

As for me, I am wanting to incorporate other spiritual disciplines into my life, beyond reading the Bible through and praying. I want to have a solitude retreat, to fast, to memorize scripture and hide it in my heart. I want to use my artistic bent to journal my walk with God.

I’ll definately come back to this topic again and give y’all an update. In the meantime, drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts. I’m open to suggestions if you have any spritiual disciplines you practice that have been beneficial to you. Also, why not lift each other up in prayer?

After all, we’re all on this road home together.
-Brandy

Posted in March 2018

A Word of Advice

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
-Proverbs 16:18

I hate Pilates.

This is a relatively new discovery for me, as I have recently taken up exercising regularly for the first time in a long time. Part of my routine includes both Pilates and Yoga, two days a week. Here’s the thing: I keep hearing from everyone¬†how much they love it! So as I warmed up for my first round, I was pretty excited, thinking that I’d finally be one of those sleek mamas, wearing her yoga pants and feeling great.

Nope. Didn’t happen. Not even a little.

Here’s what does happen when I partake of this particular endeavor: I get angry. Seeing. Red. Angry. Like, I want to punch someone in the face kind of angry! Now, I thought Pilates and Yoga were meant to not only work out your body, elongating your muscles and such, but also, to help you focus and bring clarity and peace into your mind. Let me tell you, that is a bald-faced lie.

Here’s a little back story:

I grew up in a little mountain town with only boys for neighbors. We ran loose in the woods for days on end, jumping creeks and building forts. It was required that I kept up if I wanted to have any friends to play with. The one thing I couldn’t/wouldn’t do was climb. (My fear of heights was real, y’all.) But everything else…oh, you can be sure, if the boys did it, I was going to do it, too. I hated being made to feel like I wasn’t tough enough or strong enough or smart enough.

As a kid, every time something came up in my life that I wasn’t good at, I felt the crushing weight of being ‘less than’ or ‘not good enough.’ I hated that feeling. As an adult, I learned that I could, for the most part avoid having to do those types of things. I mean, how often does the average person really need to use algebra? (Honestly, I don’t know…I don’t even like balancing our check-book because you guessed it, I’m no good at math.)

Anyway

The other day I got to doing some self-reflecting while I was praying and felt kind of burdened by this word: humility. So I did the only rational thing and asked that God would teach me humility. But, y’all, I’m not stupid. I’ve prayed for things like patience before and then been stalled out on the freeway behind the world’s S L O W E S T drivers, so I know not to just write that kind of blank check when I pray for God to teach me things. So I phrased it real smart. I said, “Lord, please teach me humility in little bite-size chunks – in little ways – so I don’t have to have a monumental fall.” See how smart that was?

The next day I did Pilates.

I was humbled. And here’s why: my body, created by the God of this Universe, has been endowed with a very short little torso. Add to that the extra weight I’m packing (hence the exercise) and the absurdly short arms I have (painting quite a picture here, aren’t I?), and what you have is the very picture of a person who will never – no matter what – ever be able to do some of the moves that Pilates and Yoga require a person to do. Even with modifications. I have tried. It does not work. It will not matter if I lose every ounce of fat and become as flexible as I was the day I was born, my body will not do it. And that makes me super mad!!! I don’t want to do something that I’m not good at!

So, apparently I’m not going to be stretching my body as much as I will hopefully be stretching my spirit twice a week as I work to do what cannot be done. And hopefully I will realize that it’s okay to struggle and even fail and not be good at everything you try. Maybe I’ll even learn to accept that my body (as goofy as it is) is fearfully and wonderfully made.

But the biggest lesson is this (and I’m giving it to you for free): be careful how you pray, people. Because even when you think you are being clever, God knows your heart and He will do what must be done.

That is all. You’re welcome.

-Brandy