Instead of Living “Right” I Want to Practice Living Well.

In the rural hills of the Bible Belt where I grew up, I was taught a number things about how to live “right”. Emphasis was often put on behaviors that were considered sinful or not in accordance to the Bible or will of God. Sometimes the teaching was direct perhaps, through a sermon heard on a Sunday morning. Other times I was taught indirectly through culturally promoted ideas.

Through most of my youth and early adulthood I have felt the intense pressure of measuring up to a seemingly unreachable expectation of living “right”. Most of the time I have failed miserably. But, over the last few years there is one particular fault which I have come to regret more than anything else.

I regret the judgement I have passed on others.

In my quest to live “right” I found that it was easy to slip into deciding what was right for others too. I have felt intense shame and guilt when I remember times which I have potentially made others feel the sting of my self righteousness.In the past I have been fortunate enough to feel that sting which came from someone who was possibly trying to “help”. At the time I remember the rage I felt toward those who I felt were imposing their religious opinions on me. I say fortunate because I now realize that it has been through those experiences that I learned how important it is to treat others better in future relationships.

Recently, through a period of searching my heart for the person I want be, I realized that my fear of sin had created someone whom I did not want to continue to be. So, I changed.

The first step was to become aware that I did it at all (judged or persecuted in the name of religion).

Becoming aware of my own self righteousness has been the biggest gulley I’ve had to cross in my Christian life.

1 John 1:8If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us

I realize now that during the times I have felt the most inadequate, have also been the times I’m the most critical of those around me. This brought me to a change in terminology for myself.

I will focus on living well, not necessarily “right”.

Who of us can really ever live right anyway? We can’t. For those who profess Christianity we rationally know that we can’t. For me to aspire to live well encourages me to extend more grace to myself. When I’m forgiving of myself I’ve found that the ugliness of judgment rears it’s nastiness much less frequently.Earlier this week I saw this meme and thought “wow, isn’t that the truth”. Then I realized, how often have I been perceived as a religious person? Since I shifted my focus toward growing in love instead of growing religiously, I have found a peace unlike any I ever experienced. I am a Christian, a sinner and I will aspire to live well.

My religion is Love. And everything is as it should be. ❤️Xoxo-Brandi

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It isn’t supposed to be like this. 

A young woman named Heather died yesterday. She was murdered by a terrorist on US soil. I didn’t know Heather personally, but I won’t soon forget her. 

Because, she is a hero. 



I’m overwhelmed with sadness that someone lost their life in the protests yesterday. What makes me even more sad, and angry is that in the political climate in our country today people everywhere– just like Heather– feel that they have to stand up for rights of millions of citizens that our country isn’t protecting. At the expense of their own safety sometimes. The reality is…. 

It is dangerous to be not white. 
It is dangerous to be a female. 
It is dangerous to be LGBTQ.
It is dangerous to be born poor. 

Any one of those four things listed above put an individual at a greater risk of being the victim of a violent crime. Those three, or other disadvantages combined create increasing odds that individuals will be targeted for violence, hate, or even just neglectful abuse. 
I’m so proud to live in a country where so many will stand up for those who are outnumbered. 
While our country hasn’t progressed at the rate I would like at least there is this… there are people who care and there are those who are willing to give their life to promote freedom AND equality for those who face oppression. Because of people like Heather, and countless others… we will get there. 
A very wise person once told me when I was down about something I was working desperately hard to improve….
“Two steps forward and one step back is still progress.” 

That’s what I’m reminding myself tonight. ❤️

A Little Story About Faith

Photo credits Ashley Smith 
For most of my life I feared that I lacked faith. Faith in God, faith in humanity, faith in my own ability to make good decisions and trust my own judgment.  When we are a person who grows up in a faithful home… I think it can be even more terrifying to admit insecurities especially pertaining to our spiritual life. 

About 3 years ago, my own life took a bit of a turn. I began suffering from debilitating panic attacks. Even though I rationally know up to 30% of the population will experience this at some point in their life… it can still be a hard thing to speak of publicly. But, I feel like it’s time to tell my story of Faith. Before those of you who suffer begin to throw your hands up. Please keep reading. 

When Faith was a young girl, she often felt afraid of things that no one else seemed understand.  It wasn’t typical things… Faith didn’t fear the dark, or the woods, she didn’t fear her parents, or even social interactions. But, sometimes when Faith least expected it… she had an overwhelming fear that raced through her and would shake her to her core. 

As Faith grew into a young woman she had many happy peaceful times. She fell in love easily and could totally throw caution to the wind when it came to romantic endeavors. She married and had children… and always felt confident in caring for them and making choices pertaining to them. However, randomly and without warning… Faith would feel a sense of impending doom. Her family and friends would worry and try to help her, but nothing seemed to ease her excruciating internal pain. A pain that even she couldn’t describe. 

As Faith grew older, her anxieties grew and grew. She tried so hard to fight them and overcome them. As if it were her against her fears, a battle to be won. But, as time went on Faith became weak, she became tired, worn, and sad. She felt like a failure because the enemy had won. Faith no longer had the courage or the ambition to stand up to her fears and she felt deeply ashamed…. because Faith had been taught by a culture she lived in that she could overcome anything if she wanted to. Since she couldn’t this it was her fault. She had only herself to blame. She spent weeks in agony, barely able to leave her home from sadness, fear, and pain. 

What Faith hadn’t been taught was how generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can take over your life. Faith hadn’t been taught that panic disorders existed and were as real as cancer, or other diseases that we identify as nothing we can prevent, but are a part of nature. 

As Faith learned of all these things… she felt  a sense of cautious relief. She got some help with her doctor because her loved ones didn’t give up and begged her to–and a therapist because at this point she would do anything for relief. 

Faith was incredibly fortunate that she had family and friends who loved her and believed in her more than she even believed in herself during this difficult time. As the days went on… Faith grew. She grew spiritually in ways she before could not have imagined. She grew in friendships, developing relationships to a level she didn’t know existed. Also Faith grew as an individual. She began to trust her judgment and love herself. She began to trust that she was “fearfully and wonderfully made” and deserved to be loved, especially by herself. Even when she was not perfect. Maybe, especially when she was not perfect. 

Now, Faith is overall much better. Some days are still a challenge, but aren’t they for everyone? Faith has some hope now though. She has overcome her struggle with anxiety and she has won. However, Faith did not do it alone. She had to learn to trust herself and her heart that even if she were not perfect, she was still worthy. Worthy of love from her family, friends and God and even herself.  

There are so many scriptures about faith. While I don’t doubt the power of faith in God and the teachings of Jesus for one minute, where are we without faith in ourselves to make good choices and do what’s best? As children of God, we should have some faith in our own abilities to strengthen our works in ways that will promote the gospel. 

In the world of traditional Christianity are we making an easier path for Faith? Or, are we marring progress by outdated ideas that should be re-evaluated because they don’t work. 

If anyone who reads this identifies with Faith’s struggles. I hope you don’t feel like you’re alone. Reach out to people who understand. Talk to doctors seek therapy… and don’t feel like a failure in doing so. This may be the very test of your faith… that can elevate you to the next level of hope and faith.

Xoxo-

Brandi 

Sometimes… it’s worth it.

Some days are super hard. 

It seems like you work and work…to just bang your head against a wall and get nowhere. 

But then. Every once in awhile. You make a connection. Something clicks. And things work out. It makes all the head bangs worth it. 

Don’t ever give up. 

Things can turn around so quickly. ❤️

Rural Missouri. Comments on the state of our State. 

 Our family enjoys the outdoors for recreation by hunting, fishing, camping, and hiking. Maintaining the scenic beauty of natural resources is important. But, our congressmen wage war on regulations that protect our beautiful countryside while ignoring the human suffering which is occurring and spiraling out of control in our state. 

Apparently, being able to use certain types of ammunition and fishing tackle is the hot political topic in Missouri this week. For reals. 

Most of the reasonable adults I know do not even consider legislation about ammunition or fishing tackle something that should be being discussed, in light of the poor quality of life that so many of our citizens in Missouri are enduring right now such as: 

  • People are sick because Medicaid was not ever expanded in our state. Those, especially those with mental health conditions, cannot get the care they need and are in crisis. 
  • Children are hungry because of the availability of low income housing units that are located in food deserts. 
  • Teachers in our state, ask any of them… right now they aren’t just teachers they are also serving as case workers for their students because of the psychological effects that come with being a child born into deep poverty. 

In light of all the recent hub bub of the proposed budget plans, I decided to take a quick look at where our Missouri congressmen were going to stand on the matters. While my fear is that they will support cutting programs for our poorest and most vulnerable individuals… I thought maybe not? I mean…. a great deal of money is pumped into rural communities from federal programs such as community services block grants. So much in fact that many rural communities will find it difficult to continue to exist with out that funding.  

So- surely OUR congressman is going to be stepping up and speaking out right? 

Right now Missouri ranks in the lowest half of our nation in nearly every area (see links below). In health, education, unemployment, poverty…. anything that is considered in relation to quality of life. We’re no where even close to average. In addition our state relies more on federal dollars than almost all the other states in the nation. 

Missouri is the mythical “welfare queen” of the federal government in relation to other states.
A whopping 38% of revenue that comes into our state- does so through federally funded programs. 
Pause for a moment…. and think about that. 
Much of the funding that makes up that 38% is currently on the chopping block. The meals on wheels that many elderly rely on, after school programs, energy assistance for disabled and elderly… the list goes on and on. 

Hunters and fishermen- sorry. But your right to use lead in federal forests is not more important than caring for those who are physically unable to help themselves. 
Don’t be fooled folks. The federal government wants to take care of Missouri the same way that they do any other state. But, a few Missourians want to have their cake and eat it to and it won’t work long run, I really believe there are too many compassionate logical people in our state who will begin to speak up and out about what we truly care about for our state. 
I am so disappointed to even still be having conversations where ammunition and fishing sinkers are the main topic. Is this really a win, something to celebrate?? When our region is currently in crisis from lack of access to healthcare, jobs, poverty. Deep poverty that has became more and more complex with each passing generation? I don’t think so. I think it is a perfect example of representing about 5% of the white male population in our region who enjoy outdoor sports. Oh- and maybe a few women too. But none the less, completely at the expense of 95% of the population. 
Hunters and fishermen- there are other types of ammunition and fishing sinkers than the kind that are made with lead. The government does not want to steal your hobby. But you know what, even if they did… is it really worth it? Not for me. Not. Even. Close. 
So please Missouri congressmen. Represent the majority of the folks here in Missouri please. 

http://assets.americashealthrankings.org/app/uploads/ahr16-complete-v2.pdf

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/articles/how-states-compare

https://taxfoundation.org/which-states-rely-most-federal-aid-2/
https://jasonsmith.house.gov/

Am I Brave Enough to Follow the Teachings of Christ? 

Photo credit: Alaina Tompson 

Grabbing on to a Bible, holding it tight, memorizing each rule and law….. gives comfort to many who profess Christianity. But is that what Jesus really taught his followers to do? 

Lately I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought about the topic of fear. Specifically in regard to my spiritual journey. I’ve noted throughout my life that sometimes, main stream Christianity seems to prey on people’s fear or anxieties in an effort to win souls to follow Christ. I guess there is something to be said about being able to count the people called to Christ…  Yet, when I would search for examples in the Bible to support that method, I would come up short. 

In years past I have clung to my bible with white knuckles. Pouring over words to clear my conscience… or seek direction (usually my preferred direction). While I think it’s a great idea to use the word of God to guide our own path…. I’m a little less comfortable than I used to be about deciding the “rights or wrongs” of life base in rules or doctrine of scripture.  

Sometimes this seems obvious, but really… when we get down to some of the hot topic issues of the day are we really able to let go of mainstream religious bias?  Are the churches that we are attending support systems for all people who want to follow Christ? Or are we merely creating social systems for our own comfort? Sometimes, I fear the latter of the two is winning out.

It’s scary to live in the Bible Belt and not concede to mainstream religious ideas. Whether we like to admit it or not, there is a great deal of religious bullying that occurs in rural areas like the Ozark’s. It seems as though people are divided into groups of “who believes what” or heaven forbid… “who doesn’t believe at all!” *gasp.  

But. Is that what the teachings of Christ REALLY promote? 

Mark 10:

44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 5:

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 22:

37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments

Matthew 12:

1At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 

2When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

3He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 

4He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.

 5Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 

6I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 

7If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’a you would not have condemned the innocent. 

8For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

9Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue,

 10and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 

12How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Finally…. Paul says…. 

1 Corinthians 6:12

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.


The teachings are very plain. Whether they are most popular or not. If there was EVER an incident where Christ had the opportunity to show grace and mercy…He.Did. 

Now. Am I brave enough to show grace and mercy? 


Christian self check: Are we making human connections to fulfill the Great Commission?

by HopeisPuttingFaithtoWork- Monson
Photo credit Alaina Tompson Photography.

In recent years many Christians have been concerned with the declining rates of membership and attendance of faith based organizations. Two organizations (listed below) found when they surveyed American citizens that there has been a sharp decline in those professing Christianity over the last decade.
I’ve heard a wide variety of reasons behind the phenomenon of decreasing numbers among the faithful. Some include:

our government has turned its back on God, therefore God has turned his back on us.”

people are just too busy, they don’t love God enough to make time”

“other religions are systematically taking over our country and will soon be the most popular religion”

No offense if I’ve heard any of these ideas from you, but I’m not buying. I visit with many individuals throughout each week. Those who are believers and those who aren’t. I am particularly interested in the non believers reasons for not identifying with any religion. I know it makes some Christians uncomfortable to consider being friends with those who openly do not profess Christianity. It’s understandable given that our culture has been so predominately Christian for so many years. However, it is my belief that if Christians want to follow the Word, and continue in the great commission, we are all going to have to get more comfortable with non-believers.

Matthew 28:16-20 Jubilee Bible 2000 (JUB)16 ¶

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into the mountain where Jesus had appointed them.17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.18 And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.19 Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

It is my belief that the declining numbers in the world of Christianity are not from government, busyness, or an attack on Christianity. The declining numbers reflect that Christians themselves are driving people away from church buildings.

When Christians are doing their job right…. the gospel will be taken to the lost. When they aren’t we will see this type of shift in our culture. At some point Christians and churches have to look at what they are doing and evaluate if it is working to spread the LOVE of Christ to those who have never known it.

This week I had a bit of an Aha moment. I was visiting with a young woman that I will call D. She is a beautiful young woman inside and out. D is very childlike, and during our time together she described many events in her life that are considered traumatic. She is optimistic about her future, very full of life, and says that she knows that after all she has been through she knows she is going to be able to use it to help other people. She states repeatedly during our few hours together “All I want to do is help people be okay, I know that is why God let me go through all I have been through”. D is in her early 20’s. My guess is she can’t read or write, and she has never been employed by anyone (at least not legally).

Oh, and she says fuck. She says it all the time. Likely, she doesn’t even know when it pops out of her mouth and while we are visiting each time she uses profanity I think to myself…. I know too many people that can’t hear her story because of her language. It struck me how off that was. As Christians how have we became so sensitive to that which we have decided is distasteful that we have decided it is a good excuse to not promote the Love of Christ to the lost?

Instant Gratification. As a society we have become so used to immediate results. We measure success by numbers and feedback. We feel that we are failures when we execute plan A and it doesn’t produce the results we want, so we move into plan B and so on. I have come to the realization that it doesn’t work that way in doing the work of the church. As Christians we all need to strive to reach a spiritual level that we can connect with others who don’t know the love of Christ. The Bible showed us that the connections Jesus made through relationships with the lost is what brought them to follow him. Social science backs that up.

As Christians, we want to do important things. We want promote the love of Christ to the lost. It’s our job as Christians. What we are doing …. it hasn’t been working. We have to do things differently, and I feel like a strong possibility for progress may be to work on making connections. Sometimes we have to get outside our comfort zone and listen to those that scare us a little bit. There are many, MANY people in our world who want and need the comfort of Christ in their life. But, as a Christian are we strong enough spiritually to handle delivering what they need? If we are offended, hurt, or run scared from every curse word, admission of sin, or lifestyle choice of those who we seek to help, it isn’t their fault. It’s our fault. We can be strong enough to carry the gospel to the lost, but it starts by having enough faith in Christ and in ourselves that we won’t be pulled away.

I challenge everyone to put aside what we have all been doing in an effort to spread the gospel and instead focus on this. Make a connection with someone who needs and wants a connection. Don’t worry about immediate results, worry about their well-being. I really believe if more Christians do this we will be more successful than in years past in promoting the gospel to the lost.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/187955/percentage-christians-drifting-down-high.aspxhttp://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/
HopeisPuttingFaithtoWork- Monson | September 4, 2016 at 2:10 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/p7uOx3-dO

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