Peace, be still.

But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”
Mark 4:38-40 (NKJV)

Our pastor has been preaching a sermon series the past few weeks entitled “Responding to Life’s Storms.” For three weeks I have been leaning in, listening and taking notes about how to identify the appropriate response to the storms I face in this life.

The first message was all about taking action; stepping out in faith and doing things we never thought we could, just as Peter did when he walked on water. The next was about letting Jesus in; about seeing him and knowing his voice and giving him space to step into our lives and perform miracles.

But it was the third week that resonated most with me. The topic of rest is one that I’ve never really handled well. I’m a chronic overachiever and do-gooder, and intentional rest is something that has always gotten stuck in my craw. I have also spent the last four years struggling with chronic pain and fatigue so when I have the stamina to do, I can’t justify sitting still.

Something about the way I’m structured lends itself to feeling most successful when I’m on the move. If the calendar is full then productivity is a given, right?

*sigh*

Maybe not.

Over the last few months, we’ve been struggling with a general sense of pressure to perform and lack of real rest in our household. This school year has not been an easy one for my two youngest kids, work for the Saint has been less than encouraging, and our calendar is perpetually full of color-coded reminders of things to be done. I have noticed that I have begun to organize my organizers and still can’t find the time, space, or energy to have a date night with my husband.

As I sat reading the last few verses of Mark 4 during the sermon on Sunday, I was struck by the thought that I am no different than the disciples in the boat during this particular storm. There was undoubtedly a roar of wind and water all around them. They were traveling between miracle moments and were feeling overwhelmed, afraid, and ill-equipped to survive the raging tempest they were facing. And there was Jesus, asleep on a cushion–comfortable, restful, blissfully unconcerned with the noise around him. And all because He knew that the wind and waves obeyed him and not the other way around.

Our family has experienced some incredible miracle moments of our own in the last year and a half; and there are, without a doubt, more to come. But right now, we are in the boat, between those events on which powerful testimonies are built, surrounded by other travelers, and frankly, a little intimidated by the noise.

“You have the same authority to calm the wind & waves, within you, that Jesus had.”
Pastor Jason Huffman-Pneuma Life Church

There it is. The heart of the issue…I have the authority, but will I tap into it?

Countless hours have been spent praying for how to provide the emotional, spiritual and mental pause my family so desperately needs this season, and there it was right in front of me. All I have to do is say the words.

“Peace, be still.”

I get to say “stop” to the noise that is serving as more distraction than lesson at this time. My husband and I are empowered to identify and secure the happiness anchors we need in this season to keep our ship afloat. We are allowed to rest in the middle of the chaos just as Jesus did.

Now, before you go wondering if that means we plan on dropping everything and everyone on our journey toward calm, I want to assure you that we are not. Just as the disciples were committed to following Jesus during his earthly ministry, we are committed to the very same with everything He’s asked us to do.

There are some things that we value much and the privilege we have to serve is one of them. Our family, friends, each other…those are also incredibly precious to us. But the extra things? Those things that don’t define, encourage, teach or inspire us? Those will be on pause for a season.

We love the extras. We do.

But when those things begin to prevent us from investing in our marriage, our children, or our spiritual development, they are no longer helpful additions but distractions that threaten our joy and peace because they take from the very things that fuel us on our journey with God.

So, for this season, we’ve decided to hush the wind and waves by taking authority over our calendars and saying yes only to those things that are necessary for our family to thrive in this season.  Maybe a little rest will inspire even more miracle moments in the next.

With much love,

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All the small things…

This is a season of listening for me…a time for me to be quiet and pay attention, so I’m really watching the small things at the moment. God is moving in my life in ways I’m not yet capable of articulating appropriately, but sometimes I simply cannot contain the joy of learning from Him in the most practical circumstances.  Over the last month, I’ve not climbed any mountains, visited any “holy sites”, or had any epiphanies, but I have seen God move in my living room, in the front yard of my home, and even at the grocery store. Today was one of those days and I simply had to share. 

Colossians 3:17 reminds us…“Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” 

My heart’s cry is that I never forget that He cares about all the small things and wants us to do the same. Only a flicker of light is needed to break up the darkness. I pray that I NEVER forsake the spark. 

 

Much love, 

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Thoughts on purpose…

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Jason and I took a long weekend away and prior to that weekend, I shared the testimony of our marriage on Facebook. Surrounding those days (many days before, during, and since) was an internal struggle to determine if I was in the right position doing the right thing for the right reason. The truth about ministry of any kind is that it is far messier than it is glamorous. I found myself weighed down by a role that reaches far beyond my own capacity in time, talent, and patience. A dear friend asked me to pinpoint where I “flourish” and while I still don’t know that I can clearly articulate an answer to that question, I spent many days taking many notes after praying fervently and seeking both wisdom & revelation. The post below is the truth that I’ve settled on (again) and the one that I’ve decided to use as my compass for all decision-making as I move forward into my next season of ministry.

It seems wrong, to me, for Christians to advertise our victories without also sharing the battles that we fight to experience them and so I share it with you, now.


“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

I, intentionally, disconnected from most relationships & visible media platforms over the last week for the purpose of reconnecting with the wellspring of my own soul. Other than the testimony of marriage that I felt led to share leading up to our 5th wedding anniversary, I remained mostly silent on many fronts.

In my quiet time of disconnection and reflection, one of the truths that the Holy Spirit regularly whispered to me is that my heavenly purpose does not require an earthly platform. There is nothing that pleases the enemy more than knowing we’ve become so distracted looking inward at our gifts, abilities, talents, and outward at those who we wish would appreciate them, that we stop looking upward to the One from whom they originate.

In a world of degrees, certifications, even ordinations, we’ve allowed ourselves to become convinced that unless we are qualified, we cannot be called. We’ve also become ensnared in a web of falsehood that tells us title equates to authority and that platform validates purpose. Over the course of my own life, I have spiraled into despair during those seasons when my office nameplate and almost six-figure salary were separated from me, whether by my own hand or that of another.

Who am I, if not a woman with a title? What am I worth, if not a comfortable paycheck?

And unfortunately, this desire to experience validation does not magically disappear when we join the body of Christ. In fact, sometimes it is magnified.

It’s common for Christians with a calling during seasons of wait or delay to wonder,

“If God has chosen me, why won’t His people accept my calling?”

The one thing I have come to realize over the years of struggle to find purpose and value is that I have been called, first and foremost, to find deep satisfaction in the presence of my God. I am not here to be a vessel of temporary influence. I am here to be a catalyst for eternal expansion, and that can only happen when I sit, learn, study, worship, and rest at the feet of the Eternal One. Everything else is simply an overflow of that relationship.

I do not need to be a staff member of my local church to carry its authority. I do not require a pulpit to be a minister of the gospel. I am not bound by the confines of man or institution in order to be an effective tool in the Master’s hand. He has no boundaries or restrictions and so neither does His use of me, with one exception: my own heart.

If the pursuit of a platform is the desire of my heart, then I will most certainly lose the footing of my purpose. However, if the posture of my heart is one of pursuit for the most intimate relationship a human can ever have with the God of the universe, then the result will most certainly be just that–a spiritual romance so intense that I lose sight of everything else this feeble world has to offer.

He always has my best interests in mind. He always wants to bless me; He sees and knows what I cannot possibly see or know. He has already provided. He has already inspired. He has already saved and redeemed and anointed and equipped me. I have nothing to lose by choosing Him above all other things and I have everything to gain. He is my purpose. So, I choose not good, but God. I focus on the Creator, not the creation. I determine to be defined not by my anointing, but by the One who has anointed me.

Much love,

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I’m the men who can.

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Photo Credit: DC Comics

Last night I saw the new Wonder Woman movie for the second time. I have loved Wonder Woman ever since I was a little girl. My childhood was filled with episodes of Lynda Carter, on our small color television, magically spinning into her red, white, blue, and gold. I spent countless hours outside tying up my brother in my (jump-rope) lasso-of-truth. I wore aluminum foil gauntlets and protected myself from all manner of flying rocks & yard debris. My infatuation with all things WW has not waned as I’ve grown; in fact, as a forty-something woman, I love her even more.

As I sat in the theater tonight between two precious friends, with our children lined up in front of us, I was again struck by the magnitude of this epic tale of strength, compassion, and love.

There are many Christians who do not approve of Wonder Woman as a hero. They cite her real-world origin as a feminist icon and her comic origin as a Greek demi-god as blasphemous and dangerous. I cannot help but find them both inspiring and this newest version of my childhood muse, as portrayed by the beautiful Gal Gadot, was no disappointment.

I will not spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it but there was one scene, early on, as Diana is leaving her home with Steve Trevor to save mankind, where they have a conversation in which Trevor tells Diana that they cannot stop the war, but they must get a critical piece of intel to the “men who can.” Diana emphatically & genuinely replies, “I’m the men who can!”

Those five words struck both my heart & my gut with a ferocity that is quite difficult to fully articulate. Desperately not wanting to forget that statement, I dug into my purse, pulled out a pen and proceeded to write it on my hand, in the dark of the theater.

How often are we looking for help from others when we are the ones called to the task? We leave the preaching to our pastors, the teaching to our church leaders, the street ministry to the missionaries and forget that WE are the men who can. There is no special insight or instruction that is given to any one of them that is not available to each one of us. We have shifted so much of the authoritative weight & responsibility to those we define as “called”, we forget that we too have the authority & responsibility to build the kingdom.

There have been many times in my life when I have found myself waiting for a platform to be influential…waiting for a place to share the words God has written on my heart and planted in my thoughts. What I love about this statement and the woman who made it is that while some may see them as naive, I see them as proof of a woman who is passionately committed to her purpose. She does not require those around her to see what she sees or believe what she believes in order to act. She is not waiting for someone else to fight the battle, while she sits at home and waits her turn. She sees those in desperate need of rescue and mercy and rushes head-on into the mud and devastation to deliver them. She is not weakened by her deep love for humanity or her compassion for those suffering unjustly in this world. She is strengthened by her “more feminine” sensibilities.  She is not waiting for a large, political platform to share the truth of her message. She preaches it from the trenches.

There is a strange dichotomy in the modern church today. Women of the church are finding themselves charged by the Holy Spirit to do the works that all saved men have been called to do and in some, more progressive congregations are even able to walk that out with the support and respect of their male counterparts. Yet, we still, as a global church, find ourselves struggling with what feminism looks like for the Christian woman. The world around us often screams at us to storm the picket lines and cast off traditional female archetypes and prove that we are as good as a man. Still, the church struggles to find ways to honor women as teachers, preachers, pastors, and leaders without undermining our brothers as we do so.

I go back to the conversation between Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman and I do not see or hear a battle between a man and a woman over which sex can get the job done. I see one individual who struggles with a lack of belief that he can make a difference and another individual who believes, with everything they are, that they can and will.

As my ten-year-old son sat in front of me that is what I prayed he saw. I realized in that moment that the reason this incredible persona was so magnetic for me was not that she was a female superhero, but because she was everything I hoped I would be for my children and those I’m honored to have in my life. I prayed that my sons and daughter would see a person with such strong convictions about the value of another man’s soul that she would willingly give of herself for their benefit. I prayed that they would see a person who believed in love, compassion, redemption, and second chances. I prayed that they would see a person who fought for those who were oppressed, suffering, and broken. I prayed that they would see a person who was so committed to their faith that even when they had moments of grief, sadness, and disappointment in their own life, they stood on their belief instead of on their emotions and always chose love over everything else.

At the end of the story these two, uniquely-minded and physically made, human beings needed each other to complete the task they originally set out to do. They fought beside one another, they loved one another, they challenged and inspired one another. In doing so, they each strengthened & empowered the other to do profound and world-changing things. They both became the “men who can” and saved the world.

So, what if we did the same? What if, I became the man who can in my circle of influence and you did the same within yours? What if our children saw us and followed our lead within their own generational influence?

Can you imagine a world of Wonder-filled human beings, inspired by the truth that we were all created to love and to be loved?

Truly…it gives me chills just to think about it.

XOX,

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Leading Well

Rosalynn Carter on Leadership
Over the years I have conducted dozens of interviews for open positions in companies where I worked, whether individually or as part of a panel. There were certain things that I was always watching for in every candidate: initiative, commitment, their attitude and words regarding prior employers and peers, and teachability. I looked for these things, over their technical qualifications and experience, because I knew that some things were easier to teach than others. Processes, procedural mastery, and quality easily thrive in soil that has been properly enriched with a spirit of teachability and humility. Progress and promotion come easier to those who are willing to commit the time and energy to grow and do better, even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient to do so.

These are the people who are a joy to lead; but, as you may know, if you’ve ever served in a lead position, not everyone is that way. A good and strong leader will seek to teach, strengthen, and encourage everyone they are responsible for guiding. I am no expert but in every leadership position, that I have ever been blessed enough to fill, I have tried to practice a few things above all others.

  1. It is important to surround yourself with people who know more than you do. We don’t learn or grow from those who have nothing to teach us. Our knowledge, experience, inspiration, and skills grow when we position ourselves with humility and teachability. It is even more so important to understand that you can learn something from EVERYONE you meet. We are all created so uniquely, by God, and His ability to teach us via every interaction (whether we believe it to be good or not)  is limitless. He uses our friends as well as our foes to develop us. We only need ears to hear and eyes to see.
  2. Invest in others and they will invest in you. This is not an if/then statement. It’s an “AND” statement. People who believe that you value them (their time, priorities, dreams) will value you in return. Where this gets tricky is in defining “value”. Scripture teaches us that we are to love another, but that love doesn’t always mean that you do what everyone wants all the time. Sometimes it means that you value their future over their present. Sometimes it means that you are willing to set boundaries in the present so that others mature & learn in order to be greater and do better in the future.  Hebrews chapter 12 reminds us that none of us enjoy “discipline” as it is happening but, when it is received, it ultimately results in peace and wholeness.  It is rarely an instantaneous process and it can be uncomfortable on occasion. But investing in others, loving them, and encouraging them to learn more, grow stronger, and be better is the greatest investment a leader can make.
  3. Seek to work yourself out of a job.  A person who wishes to stay put forever and hold tight to a title or position often becomes a consumer instead of a contributor. It takes practice to see the potential of those you lead and it takes even more discipline to develop it. Doing so, however, creates space and opportunity not only for those you are leading to grow, but also for YOU to grow. Raising up the successor for a position you currently fill does not make you disposable, it makes you valuable. It demonstrates that you not only have the strengths needed to handle the now but that you also have a vision for the future.

At the end of the day, the strength of a leader is ultimately found in their ability to follow. Throughout scripture, God used those whose hearts were positioned toward Him, not those whose were the most qualified. Jesus did the very same. All logic pointed to the religious leaders of the day to usher in the Son of God and help build His kingdom, but Jesus chose those with the least qualifications and the strongest willingness to be obedient even when it wasn’t easy. He chose men and women who were willing to put their own thoughts, feelings, and preferences aside to adopt His heart and mindset.If we, as human leaders, wish for character over qualification, how much more does God?

If we, as human leaders, wish for character over qualification, how much more does God?

Food for thought.

Much love,

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Planting With The Harvest In Mind

 

One of the most rewarding experiences a gardener can have is watching the growth of seeds that have been planted. To see flowering buds that hint at the fruit to come is exciting. I find incredible satisfaction in the natural process of tilling, planting, weeding, feeding, and harvesting and have no doubt that it was inspired by my grandfather who had a vegetable garden when I was growing up. I remember the rows of carrots, cabbage, lettuce, potatoes, okra, strawberries & watermelons in the backyard of the lakeside home he shared with my grandmother.

There are a few things that were etched in my memory from the hot summer afternoons spent running around and playing as a child. One of them is of this burly man, in denim overalls and large-brimmed straw hat, reminding us kids to stay off the rows so we didn’t crush his seedlings. I also remember his frustration when some plants became “critter bait” instead of seasoned dishes on his dinner plate. And so I watched him adapt his gardening techniques over the years so that his labors were protected. It was a painstaking discipline. It took hours of back-breaking work in the hot sun. It took diligence as he tilled the ground in preparation and then carefully maintained it to prevent it from pests, invading weeds, and hungry scavengers unconcerned with the proper authority which governed the space. It required investments in both time and finances. It also required intentional & careful planning. Yet, in spite of how much effort was involved, he loved it. He told me once that it reminded him of how God works in us.

I learned early on from my grandfather that not all plants were compatible: that they each had their own unique needs in order to thrive and fully grow.  I also learned that one plant could choke out another if the gardener was not careful in the sowing season as to where he placed them because they each needed their own space to properly take root and sprout. Finally, I learned that there were other plants that flourished when planted together. The process that one plant underwent in transforming from seed to fruit became nutrients for another long after it had been harvested. My grandfather was a very good gardener: he planted with the harvest in mind and was never discouraged or intimated by the work to be done in the growing season.

This precious and wise man has been with God for a few years now. I look forward to the day when I can thank him; because the lessons I learned in a classroom of dirt and seed, continue to guide me today as a wife, mother, minister, and friend.

As a parent, it been one of my greatest joys to watch my children grow into the adults they are becoming with each passing day. These incredibly complex creations of the Almighty are so unique that it is often, simultaneously, baffling and breathtaking. And while some things apply to all; providing them with a secure & safe place to grow, being diligent about fighting off emotional & physical scavengers, and preparing the spiritual soil by demonstrating the goodness of God in my own live…other techniques and ideas do not.  I could no more coerce one child into another child’s destiny than I could force a potato to be a strawberry.

I am being reminded these days that life in ministry is no different. Building church serving teams from scratch is hard. Probably more so than growing any vegetable garden because carrots don’t struggle with insecurity, fear, or pride, but people do. As leaders of these teams, we have a responsibility to plant with the harvest in mind…and not just the immediate harvest but the ones to come for generations. We have to be aware that human beings are not interchangeable commodities. We have to be sensitive to the fact that some of them need more light to grow while others thrive better in the coolness of a little shade. We cannot lose sight of the fact that we must remain diligent in nurturing and leading them through discipleship, in Jesus Christ, so that both grace and accountability prosper. We must be willing to work hard to protect them and to be sure that they are planted so that they have space to grow. We also have to remember that while we are called to be kind and compassionate to one other, loving all others as Christ loves us, we are uniquely designed to bloom under the influence of some more than others and so we must be aware of where we place these seedling ministers of the gospel.

Anyone in ministry will tell you that life as a servant leader in the kingdom of God requires a sacrifice of blood, sweat, and tears. But more than that, it requires a sacrifice of pride, ego, and heart. We won’t always get it right.  Not every seed we plant will bloom and grow to the point of harvest. There will be occasions when we are at fault for not properly caring for our seedlings but there will also be other times when the seed that we’ve planted simply does not respond well to the environment in which it has been placed no matter what we do. The heart of a servant leader is faithfully positioned in the court of the Father and tender to the urgings of the Holy Spirit no matter the success or failure of our endeavors.  We learn, grow, and do better when we know better.  Part of health in ministry is understanding that we must adapt and humble ourselves before the Lord and seek His wisdom and revelation as we lead.

In order to plant with the harvest in mind at a kingdom level, we must adopt the desire of the Creator to see all things come to the fullness of their design and to be obedient in cultivating them well in any area we are called to lead.

This is my prayer and my mission as I walk out my own calling.

XOX,

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Hey! Where’ve you been?

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Seems like every post of the last year has been a nod to some form of “anonymous” meeting.

“Hello, my name is Brandi, and it’s been four months since my last blog post.”

And although I’m a little bummed about not posting more here, my reason for not doing so is amazing.

At the end of last year, the Saint and I sat down with three other couples around our dinner table and mapped out what would become the greatest adventure we could imagine. We were going to plant a church. Led by an amazing pastor and his incredibly bold wife, we committed to walking into ministry.

What started as a Wednesday night Bible study, has since grown to a passionate crew of over 100 men, women & young people each Sunday morning. It’s nothing fancy (yet)…we meet in the cafeteria of my son’s elementary school and there is an incredible amount of work that goes into turning that space into a complete church facility, but let me just tell you, that it is worth every single drop of sweat!

Today we served at our 9th Sunday service for Pneuma Life Church (pronounce noo-mah) and twelve hours later I am still stunned by the blessings the day brought.

Ministry is not an easy life. That’s not a new concept to me, but the perspective has certainly changed since I was 20.

At 20, I had strong, female, leaders that were more focused on instructing the young pastor’s wives around us on the need for chastity, discretion, the proper degrees of separate between us and the congregation. Today, at 40, I’m surrounded by an equally strong group of, both male and female, leaders that are more focused on cultivating real spiritual growth, building community, and making room for the Holy Spirit to empower and anoint leaders of all types within the church.

Now, as I serve as the head of the creative team of our church, I am incredibly humbled by both the opportunity to be in ministry and the heart of the community of believers I’m serving. Over the course of the last four months, the church became something completely different to us. While I’ve been “in church” for most of my life now, I can’t truly say that I’ve ever thought that the church was also in me. Living a life that honors God, every day, isn’t about wearing the right length skirt, or avoiding R-rated movies, or never being seen in the company of sinners. It’s about coming as we are, transforming our hearts from the deepest recesses to our most shallow thoughts, and reaching people just as Jesus did.

So, when I’m not writing here, I’m writing there. Writing, singing, leading worship, encouraging, loving others, supporting wherever I’m called because that’s what community does. We take care of each other.

But here is also part of my ministry, and God has been making it very clear that here also needs my attention. So, I’ve carved it out on my calendar (because I live and die by my calendar, that’s just how I roll) and once a week you will get somewhere between 4 and 4000 words about life as I now know it.

I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.

Love you, dearly…

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