I met him when his father, Mike, became the pastor at our church. He was the same age as our oldest son and just as mischievous. When they were together on the farm, I never knew whether to be thankful they were outside and occupied or worried that they might burn the barn down. Let’s just say there were some broken barn windows because some young boys were having a rock throwing contest.
Our families were close and I loved serving under his father’s leadership. His mom, Debbie and I spent countless hours in prayer over ministry and our families. And when his father was called to shepherd a flock in Kentucky it was one of the most difficult losses I’ve endured outside of my family. Over the next few years they came back and pastored our church and then left yet again for Tennessee to serve a church and be closer to their family.
Only this time Branden didn’t go with them.
He stayed in Michigan, finished college, married and settled down. Today, he still attends the church where his father took a courageous step to revolutionized corporate worship and bring Believers out of religiosity and into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
While Pastor Mike’s gift was preaching, he couldn’t carry a tune in a bushel basket, bless his heart. But Branden can do that and more as he serves on the worship arts team at Grace Church. He straps on his guitar, stands up to the mic and ushers people into the Throne room as he humbly leads worship. And on occasion, when I’m not out of town, I have the privilege to stand next to Branden and sing with him.
I’ve been singing longer than Branden has been alive. I was singing in church when Branden was in diapers in the nursery with my kids. When I was younger I could memorize all the lyrics to the songs we sang, today, my foggy memory is lucky to remember my own name. I stumble over words, and when asked to lead a song, there are times when I totally mess it up. When these moments happen the feelings of incompetence flood my soul and negative self-talk takes over.
“Why am I still up here singing with these young people?”
“I can’t even remember the words!”
“I’m too old for this.”
“They only let you sing because they are being nice.”
A couple of months ago, this happened again in rehearsal. As the song continued, I looked over at Branden to offer an expression of apology. He met me with a reassuring nod and I could hear Pastor Mike’s voice softly saying, “Keep going, you’re doing fine.” Suddenly, my mistake didn’t seem so awful and I continued with confidence. In that single moment, I saw that once mischievous little boy transform into a man of God with a leadership style that mimicked his daddy’s.
Branden’s daddy passed away a month ago. He was loved and cherished by every single person who knew him. We cried for our loss but celebrated Heaven’s gain.
And now on the Sunday mornings when I serve on the Worship team beside Branden, I marvel at how God has intertwined our lives together. I have the joy of standing next to the little rock-chunking boy turned praise-singing servant following a path that only God could predesign.
I miss Pastor Mike.
I miss my friend Debbie.
But I am grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside their son Branden, and watch him as he grows in stature, honoring his God in service to Him.