Broken by the things we run to . . .

Recently someone very close to me was broken. Broken into a thousand pieces. Immediately, I thought of the time when I was broken in much the same way. A time when the best way to describe me was a “pit dweller”. And we’re all pit-dwellers at some point. But then there comes the divine time . . . the time when God forces you to deal with your stuff. And I’m talking the “not so pretty” stuff. Of course, we all sin everyday . . . but I’m not talking about the day to day stuff . . . I’m talking about the thing that we run to. The thing that consumes our thoughts, the thing that one day we think we can master only to find out that we’re really a slave to it. It can take on any form – pride, addictions of all sorts – gambling, alcohol, painkillers, pornography, gluttony, inappropriate relationships, over-indulgence . . . you name it. Beth Moore calls them “shelters” . . . the places that we run to when we’re choosing not to run to the Father. We all have shelters. And eventually they all break us.

As I was watching and walking thru the initial hours and days of my friend’s public brokeness, my heart ached. There’s nothing more painful and gut wrenching in the world than for God to force you to deal with your sin. But praise God that He does! Praise Him that He loves us enough to force us to deal with it. Because it’s then that God lovingly and tenderly puts us back together again. When the Potter molds and refines his pottery. I can’t say that I would want to go through it again, but I can say that I am grateful that I was broken. It’s in our brokenness when we feel His love the most. Jesus didn’t come to condemn us. He came to give us life. John 10:10 says this: “The thief comes only to kill, steal, and destory; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

I don’t necessarily consider myself a pit dweller anymore, but know for sure that if I breathe in deep enough I can still smell the smoke. And that’s exactly where I need to reside. To know that I must daily depend on Him to be my shelter.

Our God Reigns

I went and visited my friend, Melissa today in the hospital. Melissa broke her leg a couple of days ago and is waiting to have surgery. When I arrived at her room, I witnessed one of the most precious sites I’ve ever seen. Melissa, complete with headphones, was laying in her bed singing as best she could “Our God Reigns” . . .

Our God reigns over the heavens
Over the earth, Our God reigns
Praise His name, All still standing
All that was, all that remains
Our God reigns
So much Holy, So divine
Yours and so much mine

Clearly a picture of how God must feel when He looks down as we
sing praises to His name. She amazes me still. Melissa suffers from a neuro-degeneration with brain iron accumulation disease. But the disease that she suffers from has never reached her smile or her love of music. Melissa’s favorite aritist is Brandon Heath. That’s extra special for me because Brandon is a friend to Dave, Bill and me. As I entered the room, I paused for a few moments and inhaled the site (and sounds) of Melissa singing Brandon’s song. Tho the song is Brandon’s, she very much was singing it to our Father. For she knows that He does reign over the earth . . . and over her body. Admittedly, the thought that followed for me was, “God, why?” I’m sure that’s a question that Pat, Melissa’s mom has asked a thousand times. And the answer is probably one we’ll never know this side of heaven. But I do know this . . . God’s glory and love shows through Melissa Moore that rivals none. In Melissa’s words: “I am rich in love”. Boy, is she.

I walked over to Melissa’s bed and she grinned from ear to ear. She pulled her headphones down, but not off. We could still hear the music thru the foam covers. Melissa asked me several times that day to sing with her. We sang the words to “Red Sky”, “Lay You Down”, and Melissa’s favorite, “I’m Not Who I Was”.

How incredible to experience a touch of Heaven today at the time of year we celebrate Heaven coming to Earth.

The 2007 Morning Cruise Christmas Letter

I thought I’d share our well-written, well-thought out, well . . . I’m not sure.
__________________________________________________
Dear artist-friends, industry moguls and other persons of strategic influence (who happen to be our close, personal friends):

‘Tis the season for Christmas letters, and Carmen put me in charge of ours for The Morning Cruise. The reason for the delegation is, I suspect, that she keeps a very tight schedule – what, with repaving the parking lot, washing, waxing and changing the oil in the station vehicles, consulting with her agent, personal trainer, and vice president in charge of wardrobe . . . for Dave and me, of course. Meanwhile, Dave is busily carrying out the other half of Carmen’s to-do list. Although I don’t recall seeing “web research on LSU football” on the list, he says it’s a very important assignment and shuts the door. So, here I am with all this pretty stationery and lots of room to fill it with highlights of the year that many of you have shared with us. How shall I begin?

It was a dark and stormy night…

Okay, I ran that past the attorneys and they muttered something about “copyright infringement.” Let’s just start by saying that from the beginning of the year, Carmen, Dave and I knew 2007 was going to be special, and it was a lot of you that made it that way. Coach Tony Dungy and the Colts were OUR (adopted) team. Thousands of our listeners were rooting for our former Tampa Bay luminary. They put their encouragement in the form of hand-made notes, and Carmen and I delivered the collected album personally to the Dungys (as they were headed down the escalator surrounded by security) in Miami, Super Bowl weekend. Actually, Carmen delivered it. I got lost between the banquet room and the escalator.

Then there was Ron and Denver. Some of you have read their book, Same Kind of Different as Me. If you haven’t, then don’t tell Carmen unless you want a copy and a deadline. Meeting the authors and becoming their friends was one of the most profound experiences of the year. The picture I still have in my head is Denver, fedora in place, being chauffeured around in Carmen’s convertible. Keep in mind that this is the same homeless guy that lived on the streets for more than 30 years, and swore he’d never again speak to a “white woman” after almost being beaten to death for helping one change a tire. Priceless are the nuggets of wisdom he left us and our audience, like: “Just tell ‘em I’m a nobody that’s tryin’ to tell everybody ‘bout Somebody that can save anybody.”

Not all of you know this, but Dave Cruse is an avid cyclist, which means two things: He watches the Tour de France (while we’re on the air!) and he participates in long-distance road biking events. When Mark Schultz put together his cross-country tour for the James Fund, Dave just had to be part of it – the flat part – Kansas to be specific. The irony here is that, as Dave found out, much of Kansas isn’t flat. Clearly, Dave slowed Mark down. But Mark is a gracious host, and he agreed to help us with our “Bike Ride for the Homeless” in February, 2008. Dave, make him ride the hills!

Another artist-show partnership happened last summer, and it hasn’t ended yet. Brandon Heath joined us for “The Summer Cruise II” in July, obviously not having any idea what he was getting himself into. He was the perfect fit – young, single and clueless to our sneaky radio ways. Little did any of us know just how much impact that week of live morning shows and afternoon live-remotes would have. We’ve not heard the end of all the accolades from our listeners. But on a deeper level, there was a touch of heaven none of us expected in the form of two new friends: Tyler and Melissa.

Music-loving Tyler showed up in Pinellas Park one morning, looking tired in his wheelchair. Brandon noticed him as he was about to leave. Brandon pulled away from the crowd, knelt down and did a command performance of a song he just happened to have in his back pocket called “Tyler’s Lullabye.” For this young boy afflicted with crippling disease, it was a five-star event. For us, it was like seeing Jesus stop and minister to someone society would pass by, unnoticed.

Melissa loves music as much as Tyler does. We met her in Inverness, and again, Brandon, exhausted from the week, took the time to make a personal connection and encourage her. Her battle against a neuro-degenerative disease similar to ALS has not kept her smile from encouraging us right back. Melissa and Tyler, and both their moms have become friends of The Morning Cruise and of Brandon. God is using those friendships as a source of continual encouragement in a much wider circle.

I said I had lots of space, and now I’m running out! So, briefly, Mark Hall’s flying down to Florida to debut “The Altar and the Door” and Matthew West’s flying here to share his story of personal victory through vocal surgery were both major highlights for us. Bring Melanie / Emily next time! So many of you artist-types feel the call of God to come to the Florida gulf coast whenever you can, and we appreciate your willingness to so suffer for Jesus! We also suggest PABA-free sunscreen with SPF level of 15 or higher.

We wrapped the year by collecting and distributing over 7,000 frozen turkeys to food banks and ministries throughout our listening area, just in time for the holidays. “T-Shirts for Turkeys” was an appropriate way to connect faith and works, listeners and ministries, God and needy people. The overwhelming response was, no doubt, partly due to the involvement that folks like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (whoops… wrong list) Brandon, Denver, Ron, Tony and others allowed us to share with our listening family.

Actually, Scripture is appropriate to bring in at this point. Jesus said: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. We feel like, in all the fun we’ve had and the connections we’ve made, God’s will was done. Incarnating Christ to lost and broken people – people like us who are daily reminded of their need – is usually not flashy work. It’s not difficult either. It just requires a personal touch.

And that’s what we received from so many. And that’s what, by God’s grace, we gave.

I’m sure I speak for Carmen and Dave when I say, Let’s do it again next year! That, of course, means Dave’s to-do list just got bigger, Carmen will need more time to balance work, home, pedicures, root touch-ups, TJ Maxx delivery schedules, and keeping the two of us in line! And I’ll keep trying to find new ways to say thanks.

Merry Christmas!

Your Friends,
Dave, Bill and Carmen
The Morning Cruise

Mary, Did You Know?

Today has been about as perfect a day (minus the too hot temperatures!) as you could have leading into the Christmas season. I slept late, awoke to the smell of coffee that my sweet husband had made for me, and watched yesterday’s Oprah with Rascal Flatts, Vince Gill and Amy Grant. A GREAT morning. I quickly added some songs to my iPod that I wanted to intentionally listen to while riding my bike. I even placed them in the playlist on my iPod so they would begin as I turned into Flatwoods.

I told Dave & Bill yesterday that I wanted to tell the story of Jesus’ birth similar to how we told the Easter story this past April. I knew a few of the songs that I wanted to use . . . Breath of Heaven, O Holy Night, Born in Bethlehem, and of course . . . my FAVORITE . . . Mary, Did You Know? As I was riding along listening to the songs, I was writing verbiage in my head to coincide with the lyrics that I heard. As I was listening the lyrics from Mary, Did You Know . . .

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.
When you kiss your little Baby you’ve kissed the face of God?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.

I could barely hold back the tears!! I instantly went to one of my favorite verses found in Isaiah, Chapter 9, verse 6:

For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

As I finished decorating the tree this evening, I looked for the 2nd of our two Nativity sets. Our first set was my mother’s that she has passed on to me. It’s very weathered and shows evidence of being stored underneath our trailer when I was a young girl. The 2nd set is one that I bought last year. It’s pewter, and absolutely gorgeous. I love both of them very much, and plan to pass them on to my girls when they are older. When I went to set up the 2nd a few moments ago, I couldn’t pull out Mary and Baby Jesus without hearing “Mary, did you know?”

Could Mary have possibly known? I don’t believe so. I don’t think she had any idea that the child she’d just delivered had been born to deliver her. To deliver us. To bring us life. No, I don’t believe she had any idea that one day she would see Him hang on a cross to cover her sins; our sins. No, I believe she was a young girl who was simply open to being used by God. And when God called, she answered, “Yes”.

It's Not About You!

That’s what I had to be told yet again this year. And I’m sure at some point, I’ll have to be gently told again next year. Here’s the deal . . .

I’m not a fan of playing Christmas music as early as we do. But here’s the reality – the numbers don’t lie. Each year, when we get the “numbers” back (term that measures “cume” – number of people listening and “TSL” – time spent listening – bet you didn’t know radio was that technical, huh?) we see – once again . . . in black and white . . . that our audience doubles (sometimes more than doubles) in the month of December. What we’ve come to see in the last several years is that people are searching for Christmas music. And the place that they’ve found it has been other mainstream radio stations. Now, please don’t hear me say that mainstream radio stations are bad. Many are not. But . . . if we are a Contemporary CHRISTIAN radio station – why should all these potential listeners have to find Christmas music at a station that doesn’t celebrate Christ’s birth the other 11 months of the year?

If our whole mission is about spreading the love of Christ, and celebrating His birth, and resurrection, then why wouldn’t we as Christians not want to offer them something that they are searching for? Perhaps the reason they are searching is because deep down they know that there is something much bigger than Christmas itself as just another holiday, but perhaps that there is a hope that can be found. A hope in the child. The child that was born to die. To die for our sins.

What it came down to was simply this: the ministry potential of playing Christmas music outweighs our own personal taste – in other words, this few weeks of Christmas celebration is not so much for US as for the documented thousands of folks who are not regular listeners who WILL listen during the holidays.

A couple of additional notes:

1. We are NOT in any way starting Christmas music early to keep up with retailers or merchandisers. THAT I can promise you!

2. We choose to play some of the classics mixed in with the sacred – Classics such as Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” or Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song”, and others in hopes that new listeners will hear some of the songs that they recognize, and will perhaps “stick around” for a few more songs. No one likes to listen to all unfamiliar tunes.

3. This is a well thought out, prayed over decision.

For additional questions and answers, visit our website at http://www.thejoyfm.com/.

Think of it as giving up your seat at the 11 a.m. service at Easter, and attending the 8, so that those who don’t normally come to church will have a place to sit and hear the message at 11.

So – will you join me in letting it be about them . . . in hopes that they’ll hear about HIM?

Thanksgiving Vacation!

If Chevy Chase ever wants to get a jump on his Christmas vacation – he can always head over to my house around Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving in the Brown house this year . . .

Wednesday – call from my mom telling me that she won’t be over this year, because my step dad wants to go over to Daytona to be a part of the “Turkey Run”. I know it has something to do with cars and some other cool stuff, I’m sure. Keep in mind – my stepdad always does what my mom wants to do. He’s very accommodating, and loves her very, very much. Thanksgiving is my mom’s favorite holiday, so it was a little tough agreeing to go . . . but I’m sure the they found some turkey somewhere.

Thursday – my brother-in-law who is visiting from Ft. Lauderdale breaks the toilet seat in the guest bathroom. So . . . all weekend long, if you used the guest bath, you sat on a duct-taped wrapped seat. I’m sure this has to fall under, “you might be redneck . . . ” in at least one of Jeff Foxworthy’s one-liners. And here’s the best part – Pete and Vic (my brother-in-law) went to Home Depot and Lowe’s on Friday and could not find a match. Pete, being in real estate, just wouldn’t have it. Might devalue the house. The house that isn’t even on the market! Funny how dishes, sheets, or guests towels don’t have to match – but – toilet seats . . . Never! Vic left a $20 on the counter to cover the seat. I got a pedicure.

Thursday evening – Pete, Vic and I are watching the Colts game in the den. The rest of the gang are in the “front room” playing monopoly. My sister in law, who is an accountant, is beating everyone. My youngest, Abbey is pretty much bankrupt. All of the sudden, we hear belly laughs from everyone in the other room. Once I investigate, I discover that my brother has taught my youngest how to counterfeit money. Yes, you got it! We have a copier on our printer in the office. My brother has told Abbey to go and xerox the monopoly money. And she’s already cut it!! I told Abbey that I hope she landed on “Get out of jail free” ’cause that’s exactly where’s she’s going! And for any of you that are worried – yes, I have talked with Abbey about counterfeiting; yes, she knows it’s wrong; and no, I’m not worried about her. :-)

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!
You can’t make this stuff up!!

About My Father's Business . . .

I’ve been doing T-Shirts for Turkeys for about as many years as I’ve been in radio. And it is -without a doubt – my FAVORITE promotion. It has all the right ingredients . . . fun, fellowship, (church word for hanging out), and food for those in need.

Last night, however, was my most memorable stop. And it wasn’t because of what happened during the stop. It was what happened afterwards. After the stop, Abbey & I delivered turkeys to River of Grace, a homeless mission in Tampa. Abbey has never been exposed to a shelter, and she was really eager to go. Her eyes lit up when I told her that we were delivering them that night. She asked a thousand questions on the way down there, and sat on the edge of her seat not knowing what she was going to see. I think there was a degree of curiosity, but that was outweighted by her child-like faith and desire to help.

When we arrived, we were greeted by what you would call the “least of these”. But the least of these were some of the most grateful, kind, and sweetest men I have ever met. In their brokeness, a simple frozen turkey was a blessing. At least a dozen men helped unload the turkeys . . . so many that no one had to make a second trip. As I looked at them in their tattered and dirty clothes, I was thrilled that I could ask them if they’d all like a new shirt. It instantly became Christmas morning. They lined up and received their new JOY FM T-shirt, as if they’d just been handed the new keys to a car. Abbey had jumped in the back of the van to personally see to it that they all had the size they had requested. (Tho, they would’ve taken anything that we would’ve given them).

As Abbey & I drove away, my heart was overflowing . . .

  • I was grateful that God had let me be a small part of His story.
  • I was proud of my daughter and her tender-heartedness towards the poor.
  • I was embarrassed at the things I fret over.

In Isaiah, chapter 1:17 , we’re told to encourage the homeless and oppressed. Defend the cause of the orphans, and plead the case of the widows.

Jesus, help me to be about my Father’s business. Not my own.

Amen.

Someone had to go down . . .

Unfortunately, it was Indy. :-(
The Colts lost to the Pats. Yuk! It was not a good football weekend for me and Pete. USF lost, Alabama lost to LSU (congrats to Dave), and the Colts went down. Oh well, it’s only football, right? I must note here tho that the Bucs DID win!

We had a great time at the game. As a matter of fact, we changed the lightbulbs during the TV timeouts. And my girlfriend, Marti enjoyed the game . . . as soon as she got over her altitude sickness. Just kidding! The atmosphere was electric, and it was fun to see three football greats on the field – Tony, Peyton & Tom Brady. So, we were more than happy with our “Ebay-bought nose-bleed” seats! On our way out of the RCA Dome, we ran into Jeremy Camp. He was pulling for the Colts, too! And in addition to that, Lauren Dungy was on our flight home. It was a nice getaway weekend.

Matthew . . .

Matthew West spent the morning with us today. He is absolutely one of my favorite people!! Not only is he an amazing artist, but he is one the best communicators I have ever met. He’s funny, witty, sincere, and just really fun to be around. Me, Mary Mary, Matthew and Josh (with Matthew’s label) went to dinner last night, and litterally laughed until our sides hurt. As I was driving home, I got to thinking . . . in all of my years in country radio, I never had moments like this. Don’t get me wrong – there were some GREAT moments. But none like I’ve experienced since becoming part of The JOY family. Wanna know the difference? Jesus Christ! When Jesus is at the center of your relationships, nothing can compare. There’s a connection . . . a community . . . that transcends, and people that you’ve only known for a few years or even months feel like they’ve been friends forever. And the reality is – they will be! Praise God!

This morning was hysterical! We went from changing dirty diapers to calling Matthew’s brother, Joel and hearing what kind of brother Matthew REALLY was when they were growing up. Matthew also shared about the valley he went through this year. Back in the Spring, Matthew found out that he had to have surgery on his vocal chords. Not really something you want to hear when your profession requires them. He did have surgery and was ordered to be totally silent for months. He was armed with a white erase board, and left with lots of time to think. He quickly realized how our plans are not always God’s plans. Matthew was set and ready to go with his new project, but with the diagnosis, his plans came to a screeching halt. However, he tells the story much better me. For high-lites of this story and the others from today’s show, log onto http://web.thejoyfm.com/Home.aspx?PageID=57 and click on The Morning Cruise’s “As Heard On”.

Matthew’s new CD is coming out in January ’08. It’s called, Something to Say! Interestingly, Matthew had already chosen this title BEFORE he found out he had to have surgery. I’ve been listening to an advance copy for a couple of days now. It’s terrific!! To read more about Matthew, visit http://www.matthewwest.com/.

Meet my girlfriend, Andrea . . .

It’s kind of interesting how I met Andrea. (Pronounced Ahn-drea) She actually had my job here at the station before I did. She was the Promotions Director before me. Though, I’ve since become the Program Director, I can remember sitting in my interview and being told how well liked Andrea was, and that it was going to be really tough to replace her. There went my confidence. :-) Well, I eventually got the job, and after my first week, it was apparent the love/mourning for Andrea was more than I could have imagined. I can even remember thinking, “what is so great about this girl?” And then when I heard she had only been at the station 11 months, I thought “Gees! To make that kind of impression in such a small amount of time. Now I really feel like crap!” At the end of my first couple of weeks Andrea called me from Nashville and said, “I gotta meet the girl everyone’s telling me about”. I said, “Me? Lord have mercy – it’s YOU they love!” We laughed hysterically and ended up talking on the phone for hours. At the end of the first conversation I had with Andrea, it was abundantly clear to me why she was so cherished. I’m now among that group. She has become one of my dearest friends over the last several years. She is hysterically funny, and she can make you laugh so hard it hurts.

Sadly right now, Andrea isn’t making anyone laugh, nor is she laughing herself. Andrea is going thru a really hard time. Her father had to have emergency surgery and is not doing very well. Please pray for Andrea and her dad. I was visiting her myspace a couple of minutes ago to get an update, and leave her a note . . . and I was greeted by the blog below on her site. It’s so good, I really wanted to share.

“Lessons Learned”

Sitting in a hospital room waiting on the next test results, I get antsy. I’ve found myself either working on my laptop, or thinking through some things. Along this new journey (so far 3 days), I feel like I’ve had some realizations and special moments. Here are a few.

>never underestimate the power of a song. even the songs that never impacted you can move your soul in a moment of pain.

>when facing a day full of possible tears, only apply mascara on the top lashes.

>the idea of not being touchy-feely doesn’t apply when you’re faced with wondering if you’re in your last moments with someone you love.

>who knew that I could enjoy watching WWE wrestling with my dad.

>there is a sobering moment when you realize how powerless we really are. I’ve had several of these lately, and have re-learned the meaning of trust.

>I’ve never longed for the power of truth from the Bible like I have over the past 3 days.

>reconciliation is just giving up the past and walking toward the present with open arms.

>not being afraid to ask the hard questions.

>understanding that you can be a friend to your parents.

>finding joy in combing my dad’s hair while he’s sleeping.

>holding hands with my mom and sister and praying as a family.

>trusting God that he knows what’s ahead and how we’re going to get through it.

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