Month: February 2019

Written by Teresa Goodnight

In James 2:18 in the New Living Translation (NLT), James writes “’Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith BY my good deeds.’” Before that, James also writes the verse we’re often more familiar with “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” James goes on to say “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

Last month, we talked about how we are all sinners—and through faith in Jesus, all of us can be saved. It’s sort of a ground zero building block to be a Christian. However, this rather basic building block of faith is something many are confused on out of the gate. First, it is important to remember before we go any further—“God saved you by his GRACE when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is NOT a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2 8-9 NLT). So sin comes first. Grace from God comes next. Faith in God and his gift of grace would simply be the step to follow. Then, as our hearts change—gratitude for that grace we love to have slathered all over us leads us to actions—actions of love because He first loved us. 

I say simply, but faith itself can feel like a mystery. God gives us some clear definitions. He specifically tells us how much we need—faith of a child (Psalms 116:6), small as a mustard seed (Luke 17:6). Then, if you want to think it through a little further, He actually tells us what kinds of actions we will be compelled to take if we truly have faith. These actions are NOT required to have faith in God; however, if you have faith in God, your heart and God’s Holy Spirit inside of you will compel you to these types of actions. To say you have faith, but to do nothing with it, is on par with a doctor running around talking about having a cure for a devastating disease but refusing to share it. I can imagine the families of patients with the disease beating down this doctor’s door saying “You say you have it. Prove it. Give it to us.” If the doctor continued to do nothing but talk, the families would depart calling the doctor a hypocrite or a liar—someone who says one thing with his mouth but does nothing about it with his actions. Pure puffery—all talk and no action.

Hebrews 11 is one of the best chapters to read on faith. There is a list of God’s people and their actions based on things they could not see. Plus, these actions came with outcomes they hoped in and believed God would honor. The chapter starts, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Oftentimes, we equate this kind of faith with simply doing good to others. In our minds, giving a thanksgiving meal once a year through our church or a toy through Toys for Tots for Christmas might be some of our best examples of faith in action. Those are on the list of generous things to do of course. However, for those in Hebrews, you see faith in action with excruciatingly difficult outcomes involving the lives of those taking action. 

Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Some examples of this faith are Noah, who built a boat to board animals on a sunny day. Ok, maybe it was cloudy, but no one saw an earth-wide flood coming requiring such massive efforts. God spoke. Noah obeyed. Abraham left his home and took his family to a place he didn’t know—a stranger in a foreign country. Sarah, his wife, through mustard seed style faith (I mean, come on! How much could Sarah have knowing she was well past the age of childbearing?) bore Abraham the son of the promise of God, Isaac. Hebrews goes on to say many of these people died without even seeing the things promised—they just saw them from a distance and really believed they were coming. Their actions were based on promises from a God they could not see and many hopeful results that were impossibly far from tangible. These people were even looking forward to a Messiah, who would come to rescue them. They believed. They hoped. They had faith. That faith led them to action. 

Hebrews talks further about Moses’ parents’ faith. They risked being killed, hiding him until they could no longer do so. Then, they found a way to send him in a basket they crafted to float down a river in front of an Egyptian princess—hoping He was as special as they believed, and God would somehow intervene. He did. That alone is more faith than I can even imagine trying to have. His family waited decades while Moses had to realize who his people were—and a few decades more for him to discover God’s calling to lead the Israelites out of the captivity. Their captivity lasted generations. They prayed. They waited. They clung to God’s faithfulness with their remaining faith.

Moses’ tale included another sacrifice–revoking all the earthly pleasures he had being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter to eventually lead his people out of captivity (a calling he didn’t yet know). By faith Moses led those same people through the Red Sea when God parted it. Can you even imagine? “Hey guys. Let’s go this way.” It had to require more faith than I really know to take those steps. Then, those same steps led to the death of the Egyptians chasing them as the parted waters merged. Those were steps of faith in action without knowing the outcome—but believing in God. They were difficult for all involved, but they chose to follow God. 

Paul, the writer of Hebrews, goes on to tell us of more incredible feats of faith—and how some saw imprisonment, torture, and even death. Some lived in caves and holes in the ground, wandered deserts—taking their faith to the extreme, as they refused to revoke following Jesus. These people didn’t just say they believed. They lived it. Some even died for it.

Isn’t that God? Instead of defining faith for us with simply words—God shows us faith by the incredible faith-filled actions of these people. Their faith has left a legacy to impact generations to come. Interesting. Seems I’ve heard that concept somewhere before? Show me your faith BY your good deeds? (James 2:18).

So what does that look like for us today? I think it looks a little different for each of us. It’s based on circumstances in your life, gifts God has given you (spiritual gifts, financial gifts, parenting gifts, etc.). To stick with the cover theme as an example, it COULD look like fostering or adopting a child in this state where about 8,500 kids are looking for a home. The faith part MIGHT be that you don’t know how it will turn out. Maybe it scares you to bring someone into your home? Maybe you aren’t sure how you would find the time? Maybe you like your life as it is and don’t want to risk messing it up?

 Another example? Parents who take on a second job to send their children to a Christian based school—because they believe God put on their heart that a Christian education for their children is the right choice for their family. For Community Spirit Magazine, it was purchasing the magazine not knowing what God would do with it, but knowing we wanted to touch the city for Christ and be part of His plan to motivate the Body of Christ (the “C”hurch) to action. It’s a bit of a battle in our hearts to press forward some days—but to think of God using us in His plan to change lives, to change one life? It’s worth pushing on.

What faith-based action does God have for you? It’s not the same for everyone. It’s between you and God. A faith-based choice would be answering urges from God’s Holy Spirit working inside of you to take action without possibly understanding how it will turn out. We CAN know we serve a God who does not leave us alone where He leads us (or where he doesn’t for that matter). Faith lived out is about following God’s prompt to action in our hearts, based on an understanding of who He is and what He seeks from us. The most basic thing he seeks? Jesus said it like this: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-38).

Living out your faith, can certainly be as small as daily choices like deleting a Candy Crush (or dare I say Facebook/Instagram/Twitter) from your phone to free up time for reading the YouVersion Bible app on your phone. It’s not like you can see how much stronger you would be in your faith if you read the Bible as much as you invested time in those items, but isn’t that faith? Taking action? Hoping and believing God will bless you for following Him? Don’t these actions really prove our faith more than our words? 

I cannot tell you exactly where that faith-based action move might be for you. I can just tell you what it MIGHT look like and send you off to be on the lookout for it. Whatever you do though, don’t be the doctor with the cure…talking and puffing about, but not having actions showing anything to be true. That won’t help anyone—certainly not an unbeliever.

These choices—actions based on faith, small or grand, they are the CORE of our faith. They are our legacy, our witness. Without them, it could be proof that some of us are just full of hot “Christian” air.

#GoDoBe

To say you have faith, but to do nothing with it, is on par with a doctor running around talking about having a cure for a devastating disease but refusing to share it. 



Written By: R.A. Goodnight

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” – Ephesians 6:16

A BATTLE WITH FAITH

By the time I was twenty-one, I strayed to a path that led me far from God. I couldn’t tell you how long it had been since I had been to a church, read the bible or said a prayer. I was addicted to multiple drugs and had a heavy smoking habit. I had no job, no way to feed myself, and no way to pay for next month’s rent. To make matters worse, at the end of the previous month, my roommate told me he was moving in with his girlfriend. I would have to figure out how to pay for the apartment on my own. As it got closer to the end of the month, I knew I was going to be evicted. Negativity and darkness grew in my mind. The depression, intensified by withdrawals, was so severe that I would run a razor blade across my body believing it kept my mind focused. I carry those scars on my arm to this day.

This path wasn’t what I wanted. It never was. I kept asking myself how I had become so bad and so lost. But there was nothing in my power I felt I could do about it. It became frightening, as I did not know how to fight what was happening in my mind. I felt alone and helpless.  

One afternoon that mental battle reached an apex. I told myself I strayed too far and there was no way back. There would be no forgiveness, because I knew better, yet chose to do bad things. I began to tell myself there was no help, that I had been forgotten. I started to give in to the idea that there was no reason to fight as I would not be able to change. But amid the mental chaos and darkness, there was another thought that echoed in my mind.

“God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him.” 

I couldn’t remember exactly why I knew that. But it had that ring of truth and provided a calming effect on my mind. It made me ask myself – if He wouldn’t forget the works I had once done, then how could He forget me? Even though I had turned from Him, I wanted to believe that He was still there. After all those years and a mountain of sin on my shoulders, I had retained a grain of faith. Though small, it was powerful enough to defend me against the attack my mind was under.  

With my feeble faith, I fell to my knees in the middle of an empty apartment. Through tears I said my first prayer in years. I apologized for what I had done and admitted that I needed help. If it was true that I was not forgotten, I begged Him to please send someone to help me.  No sooner than the word ‘amen’ left my lips, there was a knock on my front door…

FAITH DEFINED

I would rank faith as the most important piece of our armor next to our swords. Understanding what faith is and its importance in our relationship with God will help us understand how it can be used as a shield.

Let’s start with the question – what is faith?  Faith has been defined by many as belief, or confidence.  It is the conviction that what we say we believe in is true and real. To illustrate, you turn on your TV and see a weatherman reporting on a hurricane approaching. He is describing the incoming storm as a category 4 and that you should expect heavy rains and strong winds. He is warning everyone to get out of the path of this storm while time remains. You step outside and look to the horizon, but you cannot see any storm. Does this mean that the hurricane is not really coming? On the contrary, you have confidence the hurricane is approaching because of what the weather report said.  Similarly, Paul said this when speaking about faith, “Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1). It is through our faith that we believe in God. As our faith grows, we then come to believe truths about God. We can have confidence in such truths as: 

  • He loves us – 1 John 4:16
  • We are individually important to Him – Matt. 10:29-31
  • He will never leave us or forsake us – Duet. 31:6
  • That He wants us to succeed – Jer. 29:11

Armed with confidence, we can use those truths to defend against lies, fear or worry that my come into our lives – the “flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Another common arrow is doubt, the opposite of faith. The writer James warns us that “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6). Without faith we run the risk of being tossed about by believing anything or being paralyzed by fear. This will cause us to doubt ourselves and even God himself.

There is an event in the Bible that helps us see firsthand what doubt and fear can do to the strongest of Christ’s followers. In Matthew 14, we read the familiar scriptures of Peter stepping out of the boat to walk across the water to Jesus. Peter became afraid, taking his eyes off of Jesus, and began to sink. Jesus asked him one simple question, “You of little faith…why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). Peter’s lack of faith allowed fear to come in. Fear lead to doubt which led to trouble.

Because of the danger doubt can pose to a Christian, Paul admonishes us to “throw off…the sin that so easily entangles” (Heb. 12:1). The sin he speaks of is a lack of faith which leads to the introduction of doubt. It can be one of the most fatal conditions for a Christian to experience. Our faith is what reassures us and convinces us to keep moving and to keep fighting, regardless of what our enemy may say about us. It shields us against doubt, fear and worry.

FAITH – ITS IMPORTANCE

This leads well into our next question – how important is faith? Faith acts as a great motivator in our lives.  Once we come to believe something, that belief should result in an action. Let’s use the example of the hurricane from earlier. Our confidence that the hurricane is coming causes us to act – to pack up our family and to get out of the way of the storm. If we don’t believe the hurricane is coming, why act? Applying this to our lives, God is a God of action. He expects his people to be people of action (Matt. 25:14-30). It will be impossible for us to be active in God if we do not first have faith in God and who He is. This would include the spiritual defense of our families and ourselves. How important and powerful this makes even the smallest of faiths (Luke 17:6).  

Paul helps us understand the connection between faith and action in Hebrews 11. He mentions many examples:

  • Abel sacrificed
  • Noah preached
  • Abraham went
  • Sarah gave birth

Abel’s faith made his sacrifice acceptable to God. Noah spent many years building the ark. Do you think doubt ever entered his mind? Perhaps, but his faith overcame his doubt. Sarah thought she was too old to give birth to a son, but her faith gave her confidence until she realized the promise. It convinced her that what God promised was true. It was their faith that led to their actions.

Accordingly, Paul states in the same chapter, “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6). We must have faith in order to stand firm and to do in God. Our faith is what keeps us strong, secure and ready for action.

FAITH – A FAMILY AFFAIR

Our individual faith as men, as husbands and as fathers is essential. Seeing how effective the faith of a single individual can be, imagine the defense we can muster if our entire family was a faith filled army.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, he likely had in mind the armor that a Roman foot soldier would employ. A shield was a mainstay of that armor. Roman soldiers were proficient in the use of their shields, both individually and as a group. When their enemy would start firing arrows at them, the soldiers would close ranks and join their shields together. The soldiers on the outside of the formation would form walls with their shields. The soldiers in the middle of the formation would raise their shields above their heads to protect the rest against airborne attacks. This formation (called the testudo formation) was formidable and difficult to defeat.

Similarly, the combined faith of all members of our family can be difficult to penetrate. As family heads, part of our responsibility is to help our families grow in their faith of God.  How can we help our families grow in their faith? Some common ways would be:

Pray together as a family. As you pray as a family, you will experience God answering your prayers together and your family’s trust and confidence in God will grow. Trust replaces doubt.

Have a family study schedule together. It doesn’t have to be a formal reading of bible verses. Make it fun. Play a Bible-based game that teaches them events in the Bible or tell them stories.  Let them see how other people’s faith kept them strong. Tailor your study habits to your children’s age and interests.

Do not give up the habit of meeting together with our extended family. Regular attendance at worship is important to keep our faith strong. Remember, others faith can act as a protection for us as well.

Conclusion

…when I opened the door, a man was standing there. He was involved in a door to door ministry in the apartment complex, bringing the good news to people in the community. Interestingly, the man that was standing there knew me. We had not seen each other or spoken for several years. But he knew who I was. He knew where I came from. He knew the works that I had once done in God.

I believe that seeing a familiar face, having a friend stand beside me, was part of God’s plan to help me. It strengthened me for the battles that had not yet begun – to overcome addiction and rebuild my life. This person’s knowledge of my past allowed him to help me break free from my present and step into my future.

All of this began with a small amount of faith. That faith helped battle thoughts. That battle resulted in a prayer. That prayer, offered through faith, changed the direction of my life.  

Take up your shields men! Do not doubt or fear. Strike with your swords and defend with your faith.

What battles has your shield of faith or your swords of the spirit helped you fight? I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories.

man2man@omegaleague.com

@omegaleagueman


Written by Mike Henry, Sr., Follower of One

Love At Work… It’s Not What You Think

Do you love your coworkers? Chances are, if you enjoy your work, you enjoy your coworkers. Going back to 1999, Gallup has polled people in their workplaces for their level of engagement at work. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman first wrote about employee engagement in their groundbreaking 1999 book, First, Break All The Rules: What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently (Gallup, 1999). They asked twelve questions to measure how engaged people were in their jobs. Two of the questions measured how loved people felt at work. Question 6 was “Is there someone at work who encourages my development?” And question 10 was “Do I have a best friend at work?”

The Great Commandment

Jesus said the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-31 NASB) was first and foremost that we should love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He then continued, “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31).

My neighbors have always been people at work. I grew up working. Often my job called me to leave the house at 6:30 in the morning and I would return home between 6 and 6:30 at night. So, my neighbors were always people I worked with. We even joked that during one period in my career, I left and came home in the dark. I felt like Batman. No one ever saw me unless I was in my Batmobile or at the office.

Love can mean a strong sense of affection, or it can mean wishing and working toward whatever is best for someone else. Paul urged the Philippians to consider others more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3 NASB). He went on to cite Jesus as the example (vs. 4-10). Jesus laid aside his position as God and became a human, even a baby, to a poor family in the middle of nowhere. He lived as one of us, yet without sin, for around 30 years before even beginning to talk about his role as our Savior. And then he went on to suffer the shame of death on a cross as a pauper, between two thieves. Even while we were against him, he was for us. Jesus even said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NASB).

Give Love Away

Jesus set the example for us to love. His kind of love wasn’t a feeling, it was action. Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith and Wayne Kirkpatrick wrote a song based on Jesus’ love for us, titled Give It Away. The lyric was, “love, isn’t love, till you give it away.” If you think of love as something pointed toward you, you’re not thinking about the kind of love Jesus lived. His love was pointed toward others. It was designed to be given away. Jesus’ love inspired him to give away everything for the best interests of people who didn’t appreciate him at all.

Questions to Ask

What does it mean to love a neighbor when that neighbor is a coworker? Let’s start with what it means to be a best friend. Do you think of them when they’re not around? Do you actively look for ways to bless them? Do you help them with their work? Do you know their family? Would you recognize their family members or even know their names? Do you know what their hobbies are or what their kids are involved in? Do you appreciate what they appreciate? Do you ever take your time and money and invest it in their lives, their passions and their interests? What do you give away because you appreciate them?

How would you encourage your coworker’s development? What do you do to help your neighbors at work find the energy and courage to take a class, give extra effort, or get ahead in their own career? Do you encourage others to take a chance? Do you know what your coworkers’ value, so you can encourage them to pursue their passions? When your friends have ideas, do you “help” them by pointing out all of the obstacles or questioning their judgement? Or do you help them find ways around obstacles, so they can move toward their goal? Do you help your friends believe they can reach their dreams, or do you help them accept the status quo?

Go Beyond Your Job Description

When I love my neighbors at work, I find ways to go over and above my own job description to work in their eternal best interests. Every time we do something for someone else, without expectation of return, we cooperate with Jesus. He is at work in the lives of everyone we meet, encouraging them to experience eternal life in his kingdom today. Jesus will use our love for others as a tool. He will show us ways to bless and serve others if we actively work toward their good.

And after we love them, we will find we like them, too. When we treasure our relationship with our friends at work, we will find our heart follows. Jesus wasn’t joking when he said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NASB). Jesus knows our greatest need. We find love when we give love, and we find life when we give life. Give Jesus’ love to others and increase your joy, in your life and in your work, too!

February 25 – March 1, join Follower of One on their Marketplace Mission Trip. Go to your own workplace every day, pray for your coworkers and join God at work. Learn more and sign up at https://www.followerofone.org/marketplace-mission-trips/marketplace-mission-trip-february-2019/.



Written by Andrea Stephens

She was sitting in the front passenger side of their SUV when she and her husband graciously volunteered to play Uber and give me a ride to the airport. Seeing her from the side only, it was her hands that I noticed first. They looked different. Didn’t they? How weird that the backs of her hands caught my attention, but they did. They were thinner. I could tell because the veins were more prominent.  

She had definitely been sticking to Weight Watchers (Wellness Wins) and it was working. Oh, I wish that were true for me! In spite of the 200 0-point foods and the very cool app that tracks your progress and gives you the point score for nearly every single food in the grocery store and item on a menu, I fell backwards off the Weight Watchers wagon at the first sight of the Daylight Donuts in the office break room. I can’t fully blame the doughy sweetness for the weight I had gained since starting this new job, but they were my Monday morning delight. Ugh!

Paris! She just got back from Paris—as in France, not Texas. The land of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the fragrant springtime cherry blossoms, and the love that is in the air (though I’m guessing that is an overrated belief). How I’d love to see Leonardo de Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Claude Monet’s Water Lilies or Pablo Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror. As a former art student, who still likes to dabble in oils, it’s always been a dream to see the master’s original works. Oh, I wish I could go there! Yet the cost of a trip like that is hefty. Ugh!

I listened intently while she told about the latest book she was reading in preparation for writing her dissertation (that mega paper required to obtain a doctorate degree). She explained the verse she had selected, described how she studied it in the Greek language to dig out more meaning, and how it fit into the theme of her paper. I was intrigued. Oh, I wish I could do that! I love to study God’s Word and learn. I finished my Master of Divinity degree two years ago. The idea of continuing on toward a doctorate degree excited me. I felt it calling my name. But how?  Where would I find the time to make it happen? Ugh!

As you’ve read my wish list, did you think about what’s on your wish-list? Any place to visit, class to take, healthy eating goal to set? Maybe your wish list has a Christ-like characteristic like patience or unconditional love that you want to be more intentional about developing.  Does it include a relationship that needs mended? Maybe it’s a homeless shelter where you’ve been meaning to volunteer or that mission trip that tugs on your heart year after year? Maybe you’ve thought about adopting or fostering a child?

While the things we wish for might be good, there is one major problem: wishing! We can wish all we want but as we know, wishing will get us where? Nowhere! Wishing doesn’t move us toward turning a wish into a reality. If desires stay at the wish-level they have the potential to create disappointment. Focusing on what we don’t have, don’t do, or won’t become could keep us from seeing all of the wonderful things we are blessed with. Wish-level thinking can also threaten to cause us to slip into a poor me state of mind, which leads to moping around instead of getting motivated to take action.

Whatever your wish or desire, here are a few things to ask yourself before moving ahead.

  1. Is this a pure desire or is it fueled by one of the three tactics the enemy uses to pull me away from the things of God: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. Check your motivation.
  2. Is this all about me or can it be repurposed into something that will advance the Kingdom? Check your purpose.
  3. Will this develop me into a better version of myself—leading me closer to becoming the person God created me to be? Check your goal.
  4. Does it glorify God? Check your focus.
  5. How is your peace? While praying about your desire/wish do you sense the Holy Spirit’s peace? Colossians 3:15 tells us to let the peace of Christ be the ruler in our hearts—like an umpire—He calls the shots. I like how the Good News Bible puts it: Let the peace of Christ guide you in the decisions you make. And the Amplified: Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. This Holy Spirit peace thing is a really big deal. Check it.

Based on the answers to these questions, adjust your wish accordingly.

Now, stop wishing and do something about it. This will get you started:

  1. Pray.
  2. Share your desire with a trusted person.  Choose someone who might help you think through the pros and cons or who will give you honest feedback.
  3. Create a plan.
  4. Pray. How’s your peace? Feeling anxious or excited?
  5. Set specific goals. Prioritize them.
  6. Break each goal into doable parts.
  7. Pray. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s yes, no, or wait.
  8. Set a target date.
  9. Pray.
  10. Get started.

Forget wishing.

Something things you have to make happen—as long as you are in God’s plan for your life. Remember, the main way you know is to follow after His peace and review the 10-point checklist.

As for me, I said goodbye to the Monday morning donuts at the office and went back on Weight Watchers. Taking care of myself and honoring this temple of the Holy Spirit outweighs a donut splurge. We so easily forget the biblical teaching about our bodies being the actual temple or home of the Holy Spirit, whom God sent to actually live inside of us, is actually TRUE! (Check out 1 Corinthians 6:19).

I have started a Let’s go to Paris fund—but only after I checked into adding a Kingdom purpose to the trip. I contacted CRU—one of my favorite international ministries—and learned that I could be involved with campus ministry while in Paris. Perfect! I can enrich my soul by experiencing the beauty of the God-given talents of the master artists and enrich the souls of those who are new in their walk with Christ.

And about that doctorate degree? I applied to several seminaries with plans to start classes in the fall. I will have a total of 5 years to take the classes, then write my dissertation. I love a writing challenge, so I’m in!

Wishing didn’t make any of these things happen. Prayer and action did. I know that if I can do it, you can do it! Happy wishing and happy creating new realities in your life.


Written by Teresa Goodnight

“We’re so very sorry. Your son won’t be going home with you. We’re setting you up with palliative care to be with him while he is here to make him comfortable. There’s nothing we can do.” 

The doctors said something like that. The exact words never really made it into their minds. Ben and Noelle just sat there. “We were in a puddle on the floor. Broken. How could this be what God had planned for us? Everything I had asked God for…everything…He just didn’t answer one single thing,” said Noelle with more strength than she felt that night. “With what felt like no faith left,” she continued, “we prayed for him, both Ben and I, together. I say I prayed, but I could barely speak the words,” said Noelle.

Ben and Noelle started their journey together long before they knew they were starting THIS journey together. Some, like Ben’s dad, knew Noelle was the one for Ben from the first time they met. Both of them had such a heart for ministering to others through song. Their hearts wanted to share songs about God, praising God, strengthening anyone who would want to worship God with them. Even at the hospital, through this nightmare, someone brought a guitar—and there in their brokenness they sang worship songs with family and friends, both old and new, gathered around them. When praising God is just who you are, it just comes out no matter what path God has you on at that exact moment it seems.

In the beginning, the couple had crossed paths many times in the worship arena. They had a host of mutual friends and acquaintances. It wasn’t until Noelle was working at a homeless shelter in Amarillo and wanted to do a lullaby album for families that they really connected.  Noelle contacted Ben through MySpace, knowing his heart for music and worship—and she wanted him to be one of the contributors on the lullaby album. However, after Ben called her and they talked for several hours, they started a journey that led them here, to this hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas trying to sort through God’s plan for their lives. How was this His plan for bringing little Pierce into their story? How was God threatening to take him in what seemed such an abrupt disruption to their well-laid plans and dreams?

Ben said, “Our first Christmas, we weren’t officially dating. After my dad passed that February, I was going to Eskimo Joe’s. I needed to go play somewhere. Stillwater seemed as good of a place as any. Dad’s passing was unexpected and really hard on me. Noelle drove there with me. We already were really boyfriend and girlfriend I think, but I asked her officially that night.  That was 11-12 years ago. This June will be 10 years since we married in Cain’s Ballroom.” 

When Ben and Noelle married, they knew they wanted children. In fact, they spent several hours on a plane after Ben proposed thinking of the names of their future children. They knew they would adopt, along with the plan to have biological children. It was always the plan. Then, they quickly found themselves in the infertility doctor’s office. Noelle said, “We knew we always wanted to adopt. We had decided when we first got married we would try to have children and just see what happens.” Noelle then said, “We were quickly told we couldn’t have children. With our makeup together, there was less than a 1% chance we could conceive naturally. So, we did IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) a couple of times.” 

The couple was headed to the Texas panhandle to work on their album at Noelle’s brother’s studio. While there, they tried IVF. When they found out they were pregnant just a few weeks later, they were elated. Then, at just 7 weeks, Ben and Noelle lost the baby in a miscarriage.  Noelle said, “It was devastating. IVF is stressful all by itself—it’s really hard. It’s hard on your relationship. It’s just hard on everything. It takes the romance out of things.”

The couple then decided they would look into adoption sooner than they had thought. Noelle said, “We didn’t want to approach adoption as our consolation prize. It’s super important to anyone adopting to pay attention to that. I don’t ever want these kids to think the dialogue of this amazing way we became a family is because we couldn’t have biological children of our own.” 

The Kilgores still weren’t sure they were ready. They needed time to process everything as they moved into this new direction. Between the IVF, the miscarriage, the stress of the situation—it’s difficult for anyone faced with so much to find a bit of peace in anything they are trying to do. It really takes some time in front of God. It takes time to let Him heal the pain, the wounds. It takes time to hear His voice to know where the path is He has for you now. 

In just a short time, Noelle said, “We had a meeting in Tulsa with Dillon, an adoption agency. We didn’t want to do a domestic adoption and certainly hadn’t wanted to do one that was open, where the birth mom remained in our lives. It just didn’t sound like the right step for us.” So, they moved to Phoenix and started the process of adopting internationally. In their first step, the couple got on the list for Ethiopia. Ben said, “Noelle completed massive amounts of paperwork trying to get everything ready. Things weren’t really moving forward for some reason. Then all of a sudden, Ethiopia shut down for adoption.” Noelle and Ben both were frustrated. They were trying to follow God in this story of their family, but they felt they kept running into walls. In times like these, you really start to search your heart and soul—just trying to make sure you are listening to Him. We’ve all been there.

“So, we thought we had a plan—then it didn’t work out,” said Ben. Then Noelle chimed in, “We had this friend out there in Arizona, who said I have an adoption lawyer who helped my brother’s girlfriend’s family or something like that.” Noelle continued, “We had already done all the paperwork for the international path. We didn’t want to go chase a bunch of stuff, but then a month later, I woke up in the middle of the night and felt I was supposed to reach out to this lawyer. So, I reached out to him.”

Ben said, “We kind of went that direction, but we didn’t even know what domestic adoption looked like.” Then, he said, “One morning, we were on our way to Scottsdale for yet another fertility appointment. On the drive, the lawyer called us and said, ‘I have a boy that’s due in September if you are interested.’” Ben and Noelle both chimed in, “We were like WHOA!” They went to the fertility appointment, but immediately called back to put their yes on the table. That yes led them to Little Rock, to the CD-ICU trying to find the faith to just breathe. That boy was little Pierce.

When Ben and Noelle first talked to the young 17-year old mom, it was via Skype. She was Marshallese (native of the Marshall Islands). Ben and Noelle learned there’s a community in Arkansas of Marshallese people due to nuclear testing on the islands, which gave the inhabitants a pass to America. The birth mom came to Arkansas to live with her aunt at about 10-12 years old and her parents remained there. Noelle said, “There was quite a language barrier at the time we talked but the next day the lawyer called. The birth mom told the lawyer she wanted us. It was so fast, but we knew it was God’s plan for the story of our family. We did all the things to prepare. It was just a dream come true.” 

Ben had travelled to New York one week, when Noelle received a disturbing call. Noelle said, “One morning, the birth mom called. She was upset but I couldn’t even understand most anything she was saying with the language barrier. I just knew it wasn’t good.” The one thing Noelle did catch was the doctors had told the birth mom something was wrong with his heart. She wasn’t sure. Noelle went on, “I was just beside myself. How could this be? I just started getting permission for the doctors to speak directly to us. It was just surreal. We had a baby shower. The nursery was done. How could this be happening? How could this be God’s plan for us?” The cries of her voice broke her heart into pieces as she jumped into action mode.

“It took a couple of days to get all of the permissions worked out. Then, the doctor called us and said this list of all the things wrong. It was like THIS long.” Noelle said as she made a gesture of a list extending about a foot long. “It included something about his heart, his lungs, his arm, and it just went on,” Noelle said. 

“Then, he said ‘I’m so sorry. I’m not sure how he’s even going to survive after birth.’”

The words cut straight through Ben and Noelle’s hearts like a cold knife had actually been plunged through them both. Being a couple sharing an incredible strength of faith in a powerful God, Ben chimed in, “We were devastated, but we immediately just started requesting prayers for him everywhere we could. We had friends sending out requests. 

There were literally thousands of people praying for him all around the world, dropping to their knees for him. We were praying for him to surprise the doctors and just be a marvel to them. We just knew God was going to answer our prayers. We knew this marvel was going to be our story. Then, there we were in Little Rock.”

The doctor explained to the Kilgores upon delivery, their new son had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a birth defect where the left side of the heart does not form correctly. That day, the day Pierce was born, the doctors began longer explanations of his inability to be helped due to his other health problems. Ben said, “Pierce had only one full functioning lung and now they also found a kidney problem. Because of these issues, the doctors said he can’t survive the lifesaving surgeries that they needed to do. They said they were going to make him comfortable.”  

Ben and Noelle just paused in the story. They had just been through so much, so quickly—and found themselves in what seemed like a bad dream. Ben went on, “The doctors and nurses rallied around us, but knew it was impossible he would survive. He was life-flighted to Little Rock to the Children’s Hospital. We were there several days; they looked at every way possible to have surgery. Their last resort was to have a surgery to open up his left lung to give him a chance to have his heart surgery. They came back again and said there’s just no way. We’re so sorry.”

That’s where they were when we started the article—palliative care for little Pierce. Ben said, “We were a mess because we really felt God had given us this desire. We dreamed of this boy, and believed God was really going to heal him before he was born. Our prayer was that his life would marvel the doctors. We had people all over the world praying for him.  It just didn’t seem real that he wasn’t healed.” Noelle said, “Pierce was strapped up to about every machine possible for his lungs, kidneys, and heart to sustain him comfortably.” Then, Ben said, “We just sat there—loving him. Waiting.”

Ben said the doctors had meetings to try to resolve tough situations in the hospital. The doctors wanted an echocardiogram of Pierce, which would get a picture of his heart and his breathing, as a way to see if he had a hypoplastic lung as well.” Then, Ben said, “Finally, they pieced together a picture of his heart that day to reconfirm everything. Our families were in the waiting rooms. The pulmonologist pulled us aside and confirmed for good that his lungs definitely couldn’t handle the life-saving surgery he needed.” Ben paused, then continued, 

“Noelle kept saying ‘He (God) didn’t give me ONE of the things I asked for. I mean nothing.’ 

She was so severely disappointed, broken on the floor wondering how God could have abandoned us in this situation.” As they talked, the intense pain from over 4 years ago was clearly brought back vividly in their hearts. The prayer they uttered in desperation over Pierce’s failing body was in broken desperation. “I prayed with what felt like zero faith,” said Noelle. “I just didn’t have anything left.”

The next morning Ben said, “Dr. Garcia, his heart doctor, said ‘Can I have a word with you in the consult room?’” Ben and Noelle walked slowly, knowing the doctor was bringing them to the consult room so that they could be alone to process more bad news. Then, Noelle said, “She said, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news.’ I stammered, wait, GOOD NEWS? The doctor went on, ’When he was born, his left side was 15-20% of the size it’s supposed to be. ‘We finally got a new pic of his heart today—it’s 75% of the size it should be.’” Ben said, “Noelle and I just stood there.” Then, he said, “The doctor went on, ‘He still has a coarctation of his heart. It’s an easy surgery, you go into the side and the repair is pretty standard. It’s honestly impossible to explain it.  We’ve seen growth like this over years but not in a few days.’” Ben and Noelle were overwhelmed. God had just marveled the doctors with their son.

Ben said, “It was just kind of crazy after that. A few days later, the nurses were doing rounds and we overheard them. The nurses said, ‘It doesn’t look like coarctation of the heart.’” Noelle said she chimed in on the conversation with a surprised face, “Wait! Did we just hear no coarctation? What?” The nurse told the couple to hang on, as she didn’t want to get their hopes up. Sure enough. In fact, Pierce’s heart was just great. The team literally had to kick them out of the NICU in the cardiologist department because Pierce had nothing that needed done to his heart anymore. 

In total, they were there 5 weeks and the team didn’t have to intervene with one surgery—not one. Later on, the couple said Pierce ended up having a surgery for a tethered spinal cord, but nothing with his lung, kidney or heart! They found out he had a horseshoe lung and it actually does the work of both lungs. When the doctor who delivered him came back to the hospital and ran into the Kilgores, Ben said, “She said ‘What are you still doing here?’ She was in shock. All the nurses were believers and they knew. It was a miracle from God,” finished Ben.

The Kilgores weren’t even sure how to share the depth of emotion they had been through. It wasn’t a roller coaster ride, unless roller coasters only go down and down and further down and then all of a sudden just before hitting the bottom, shoot back straight up to a height beyond the roller coaster’s rails. It was a work of God. There was no other explanation for Pierce’s recovery.  He went from palliative care to make him comfortable to scheduled to go home with his family.  Some miracles are so far beyond our understanding that we have to fall to our knees thanking God and praising Him for what only He could do.

The Kilgores have gone on to adopt two biological siblings of Pierce, Rosie, now 2 and Merrick, almost 1. Each have their own beautiful stories confirming for them that God knit these children together in their mother’s womb knowing full well they would become a family. Psalms reads “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb…You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, Oh God.  They cannot be numbered.” (Psalms 139:11-17 NLT).

Noelle said their family means everything to them. They couldn’t imagine doing life without their amazing children. God has so richly blessed them.

She closed, “Adoption has become this really beautiful passion of ours that has just wrecked our lives in the most beautiful ways.”


Written By Ingrid B. Skarstad Williams

Reminisce with me for a moment. When you were a kid, did you have a bike? Did you clip playing cards on your bicycle wheels?  Wasn’t that cool? If you don’t know the joy of turning your bike into an imaginary motorcycle with just a clothespin and a card, I’ll explain.

We would bend a playing card at one end around the bike frame by the wheel, then pin it so the other end reached into the spokes (Clothespins were in abundant supply then. We dried laundry on outdoor clotheslines back in my childhood days. Nowadays it seems like clothespins are more like crafting supplies!). When the wheel turned, the spokes flipped the card. The sound made it seem like the bike roared to life as a Harley Davidson!

Some kids got fancy and pinned several cards on their wheels. Oh the magic of making noise! The louder and more interesting the sound, the more we enjoyed it. Then again, it seems like anything that made noise was fun!

But as an adult, the fun doesn’t last when the clatter of living haunts your days (and nights). Every deadline and responsibility is like another card clipped to your wheels—slappety-slap-slap-slapping to demand your attention. They multiply. Even one new event on the calendar can create an array of to-do’s to conquer.

The growing list of what you should be doing gets noisy. The “shoulds” hit the spokes every time you move forward. The faster you move, the louder they get. That’s a lot of noise! No wonder we have the saying, “Stop the world—I want to get off!”

What’s the answer? I reflect back on sentiments I expressed nearly a decade ago. It was written during days that seemed to hold everything but peace.

Thankfully much has changed, and some of it because of the big lessons in that small moment. I still reflect on that picture of my son on his Big Wheel. It reminds me that no matter how hard I listen for God’s voice, if I don’t stop the noise, I won’t hear Him.

God Is Right Here

God has our answers—all of them. He is ever present. He is very near. And He is not silent. He wants us to know His ways, His plan, His purpose, and His peace. So if we need to get quiet to hear our Father’s voice in our lives, it seems to me that it would be of utmost importance to create stillness.

How do we do that? The myriad of answers could be dizzying, but I will share one that is simple and visual: stop the noise and listen. It’s visual to me because I can still see my son riding in circles, loud and unlistening. But there’s more to that little story. After a while of not hearing his father’s responses, my son became a little more frantic. The original sing-song, “Daddy, where are you?” escalated with punctuated frustration. “DADDY! (clackety-gaspy-clack) WHERE (clickety-demandy-click) ARE (clitter-clatter-sobby-click-clack) YO-O-O-O-O-O-U?”

Days are a blur. 

I race through trying (and failing) to do everything that cries out for attention.

I am reminded of a day when my son was racing in circles on his Big Wheel in the basement.

        Those things are LOUD! And he was doing a good job of stirring up the noise.

Above the clatter of the wheels, I could hear him yelling over and over

        in rhythm with the wheels, “DADDY! WHERE ARE YOU?” 

His father answered every time from the floor above,

        but there was no way he could hear him over the noise he was creating. 

The picture seems a lot like me when life is so busy that I feel like I’m running in circles.

        And I am!

I’m making so much “noise” in my life that I can’t hear the answer to my heart’s cry …

        whether it is to know where my Father is, recognize my purpose, feel connected,

                    or simply taste the sweet relief of peace.

How simple would it be to stop for a moment and ask those questions in silence? 

Maybe more simple than I realize.

God has not been silent.

I have not been quiet.


Adoption From the Kilgores

Adoption is now a really big part of the Kilgore’s lives. Ben said, “There are so many people struggling with the possible calling to adopt. They have real questions, real concerns–some they don’t even want to voice. We have been through so much. We feel we just want to help people who want to explore adoption from a real vantage point.” Ben continued, “God has really opened up some amazing doors for us for conversations with people who always wanted to adopt but were scared or didn’t know where to start. There’s so much fear of the unknown and questions. We’ve encouraged and watched as 5-6 couples went through the process,” said Ben.

My immediate response was “Wow, it’s so incredible to think of all those kids lives being changed.” Then, we all broke in at the same time “Actually, all the lives.” Ben went on to clarify and said, “People are always like they are so lucky that you adopted them. It’s really everyone’s life that’s changed. If it wasn’t for those kids, we wouldn’t have a family. We definitely won out in this situation. These kids would’ve been loved no matter where they were.” We continued to talk about that feeling you have when you start out going on a missions trip. You just can’t wait to go there and help the people. Then, somewhere along the way–they help you. When you come home, you realize you went for them, but God used them to change you.  

The Kilgores also said that adoption changes your viewpoint of your relationship with God. Noelle said, “There’s not one single thing these kids could ask of us that we would not try to get for them. This picture of Christ adopting us and knowing that we have this now availability to him.” Then she went on, “At one point, it hit me–wait a second, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them and God feels that same way with us?” Romans 8:15 says, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him ‘Abba, Father.’”

Ben said, “It’s hard to explain.  But they feel like they came from within us. Our baby pictures even look alike.” He continued, “People say ‘are you ever going to try to have your own kids?’ and other things that don’t sound right to us. There’s a whole article on what not to say to adoptive parents. ‘How much did you pay for your kids?’ is a good one,” Ben laughed. He said, “People just don’t get it and don’t talk about it. But they feel like my blood. I don’t know what it’s like to have a biological child. We don’t feel like we’d be lacking anything if we’d never had bios.  They are a part of us…our personalities are intertwined and God wrote this story,” Ben said. 

“There are so many sayings we have picked up over the years but ‘God makes families’ is my favorite. He definitely made our family. He saw it before it happened. He knew and He wove it together. He knit them in the womb with us in mind. So much like people are grafted together into Christ, we were grafted together. We carried them in our hearts and they’re ours and we’re theirs.” Ben spoke with such passion and love, it was easy to see how God used adoption and grafted these children into their hearts.  

Noelle said, “Our prayer and our hope in sharing and exposing the world to our story is that people feel encouraged and moved towards adoption if it’s on their heart. I know it would be a dream come true if the dialogue came where people were asked ‘Are you going to have children anytime soon?’ And the logical question is, ‘are you going to have a bio or are you going to adopt?’ Because it becomes such a normal thing that people look towards.” Noelle went on, “I have to give credit to Hollywood celebrities, who made it like this is a really great thing that you can be a part of. If a celebrity can have an adopted child, I can too. I think it has shifted people’s view on it.”  

Ben went on, “We think Oklahoma needs to eliminate the need for foster families. There are how many kids and how many churches? There should not be a kid without a home who doesn’t have one.” The magazine agrees with them. The “C”hurch SHOULD solve this problem. It’s not just a feel-good kind of thing, it’s actually expected of us by God. When I tried to isolate the perfect verse to demonstrate, my Bible App search overwhelmed me with so many verses calling out those who should help and not oppress orphans. Orphans are discussed throughout the Old Testament. James 1:27 (NLT) says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

Ben shared, “I’ve been saying it that God has put it on our hearts to have a gathering of people who are interested and they come with their questions. Every time I mention it—people are saying let’s do it.” Ben said, “Noelle wanted to have several couples over to our backyard. It’s scary but we do hard things as God’s people and maybe we could help them see. We want to open our arms to people. We want to do that through our music, through our church. Our hope is that God will draw people to us so that they can be loved the way He loves. We want to talk about how we can be an advocate, a voice of encouragement and information.” Ben and Noelle’s hearts were flowing over with a passion for helping the “C”hurch realize our place to care for the orphans. 

Ben said, “People get intimidated. There are so many thoughts that go through people’s minds. People need to have a safe place to explore those thoughts.” One thought that had come to my own mind before, was if I would love an adopted child the same way I love my bio daughter. When you have a child who captures your heart, it’s difficult to think of how to add another. Ben said, “We have friends that have 2 bio and adopted their third child and had those same concerns. They wondered if there would be a difference in how they loved the third child.” Ben continued, “People with their own bio children struggle with those relationships as well. Every kid is different. How it started is just part of the story but you aren’t going to love ANY of your children the same way. You have to love them differently. We all have different love languages.” 

Ben finished, “It doesn’t make sense right now in your head but there’s something that happens miraculously.  You can’t explain it. You can’t describe it. You can’t say this is what you do to gain that perspective and feelings–they just happen.”

Ben and Noelle shared that when they were looking to adopt, it was a bit intimidating. There were so many agencies. Then, their friend, Nicole Nordeman, said Stephen Curtis Chapman was in town—and asked if we wanted to go with her. Noelle said, “Stephen shared his own story, which many of us know, as it was a way to lead and motivate us. It did.” Ben said, “We pray when we share our story that it can do something for people as well.” Ben and Noelle said, “We are humbled and excited that we get to be showcased in a way that tells the story of adoption in a positive light. People need to know adoption is a thing God is mindful of.”

The two were naturally so encouraging, “You have a perfect opportunity with the magazine to shine the light on the need, the barriers and how to help people overcome their fears.” Ben went on, “We’re smart people. God’s given us resources and time—what can we do? How can we come together as the “C”hurch and get this done? Let’s create a dialogue and mobilize into action.”

If you’d like to find out more about adoption or about creating a resource group for your church–reach out to us at adoption@communityspiritmagazine.com and let us help plug you in. You can also visit the Oklahoma Heart Gallery link below to find out how you can help children in Oklahoma needing to be adopted. It just takes one small step, one light in the dark–and we can light a fire that changes generations to come. #GoDoBe

http://heartgalleryofoklahoma.com

Written by Teresa Goodnight

One month shy of 36 years, that’s how long Cheryl Bauman, now 72, has been operating the Crisis Pregnancy Outreach (CPO) in Tulsa. 

Cheryl said, “In the beginning, we had no idea it would become a large, multi-faceted ministry. We just put one foot in front of the other and started walking. Immediately, God brought us a teen having twins. She stayed with a family and they mentored her. Then, things just grew from there.”  

Cheryl’s take is that people just have to be available. She said, “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips those He calls.” She continued, “People get overwhelmed that they need to write these policies up right, have 20 meetings and maybe they’ll be ready. Usually those people just don’t get it off the ground. Sometimes you just have to say we’re willing and away you go.”  

That’s what she did. Now, CPO has so many things they offer–everything from parenting education for girls to helping with adoptions. Girls can even see a licensed therapist for free and then, they can continue to do so for the rest of their lives, if they want.  

The seniors of Tulsa continue to lead the way with their outreach ministries to our community.  Cheryl said.  “We’re not driven by money, because no one gets a salary. At CPO, we’re all volunteers. Each and every one of us has a heart to help women and babies God has placed in our path.”  CPO doesn’t factor in age, ethnicity, spiritual background–they just want to help with unplanned pregnancies. 

They aren’t there to judge, preach or pry. They simply want to help.

Help women discover the pregnancy options available and help pregnant women move forward successfully.

Cheryl says the women who come in are assigned a Christian mentor, who becomes their friend. They can call her day or night to hang out or to go to dinner together. Cheryl says, “Many of the girls who enter our program don’t have moms or they don’t have one who was invested in their lives. Many of them need a woman they can talk to about general things of life.”  

Cheryl said, “There are so many opportunities for people to volunteer in our organization and make a difference. We are always needing mentors. Usually those range in age from 25 and up.  For a 15 year old girl, a 25 year old mentor has a lot of valuable experience to share.” Cheryl said, “We’ve had women in their 70’s take on someone to mentor. They are happy to pour into a woman’s life and have so much wisdom to offer the girls.” Cheryl continued, “We are always needing women to drive women to their appointments–once a week or once a month. There’s usually 24 hours notice and if it won’t work for the volunteer, we just call someone else. It’s really a low pressure place to take part! We even have receptionist positions for just 2 hours a week. There are so many ways to get involved.”  

Cheryl said, “I always loved driving the girls. You always have a captive audience. You just sit in the car and visit. It makes such a difference when you are really investing in these other people’s lives. It’s what God calls us to do. It’s amazing to see these girls be transformed.”  Cheryl went on, “Sometimes they come in so broken and hardened. Then, over time, to see their hearts become soft and eager for the things of the Lord, completely transformed, there’s nothing quite like that.”  

Right now, Cheryl is searching for a house mom for their Sapulpa home. Cheryl said, “We own a home we bought in 2000, in Sapulpa. We can have 6 girls there comfortably or 8 in a pinch.    It’s a beautiful home. So, hopefully, we will be opening that again soon.” Cheryl said the house mom does live-in 24 hours a day. They are really looking for a woman who is a nurturer. “It’s the biggest thing,” said Cheryl. “These women need someone to really care for them and show them love. Many have never experienced that kind of care” she said. For the ones keeping their children, there is government assistance and other programs, but for those choosing adoption, Cheryl said, “They have no place to go. The vision was that they would have a home after they gave birth to recover and to heal. It’s been so successful.” 

One story, a girl named Mary, who was homeless and had several children she had placed for adoption. “After she picked her last family,” said Cheryl, “We asked Mary to come live in the home. She reminded us she had her tubes tied. So, no more babies. She just wanted to get back on the streets. She was a drug addict. We told her that we knew. We didn’t want anything from her. We just wanted to care for her as she recovered from the C-section. She finally agreed, but said, emphatically, she was only going to be there for 2 weeks. After a year, she moved out, eventually married, and now leads a beautifully successful life in South Tulsa. In fact, I had the pleasure of attending her celebration of being 10 years sober this past December.  She still can’t believe it herself. That’s why we do this.” 

Cheryl and I talked about their stats, as they have helped over 1,000 women in the last two years. Cheryl agreed, “Sometimes in the Christian population, we get wrapped up in those numbers. They do sound nice and they are incredible, but to even just have ONE miracle like Mary, that’s why we’re here. That’s what Jesus did” she ended.

The age of women being helped in the last years has increased into their 20’s and 30’s. So, their reach continues to expand. They just seek to be there for women, with love, without judgement. 

It’s a beautiful picture of being Christ in the world. The lives changed, the one life changed, that’s what it’s all about.   

Cheryl said they host a large gala in the spring to raise funds. There’s a huge silent auction, a live auction with Jay Litchfield, who donates his time to so many charities. Cheryl said, “There’s usually one shout out by Jay, at the end of the evening. One year he asked what we owed on the home for the women. We raised the funds that night to pay it off. It’s just exciting to see what God brings to help us meet the needs of these women.” Cheryl went on, “The last shout out, we started a scholarship fund and we’re sending our girls to dental hygiene school, to TCC, and they are becoming women capable of supporting themselves and their children.” Cheryl couldn’t stop sharing all of the ways they are touching women, even though she was interviewing from out of town. Her 27th grandchild had just been born and she was helping with all the kiddos in the house as her daughter recovered. Her energy at 72 is enviable to say the least!

I asked Cheryl about her plans, as she had a birthday since the first time we talked. Cheryl said, “I can’t imagine stopping. I will say to Stephanie Johnson, who runs adoption, ‘Am I still relevant?’ She tells me the girls still love my involvement. I can’t fathom sitting at home and doing nothing. That’s why I keep pushing.” In the fall when we spoke, she thought she could continue to volunteer until 75. So, I asked her if that was still the plan. She fired back with passion, “I’m pretty healthy. I’ve been thinking about it. I think I can make it until 80 now. Why would I not keep doing it?” I wholeheartedly agreed with her. Why wouldn’t she?  

The conversation turned immediately to seniors and the amazing impact they can have. Cheryl said, “Volunteering with these girls will absolutely revitalize their lives with energy and strength they didn’t even know they had. I see so many people just sit down in retirement and that was not God’s plan for us. I encourage people to come and get involved. Come to a support group meeting. Sit there and hear the girls’ stories. See if you don’t catch the fire.” Cheryl has seen women come to the meeting, then think to themselves, “I just love her. I could have her in my home for dinner.” 

Cheryl finished, “There’s just a connection that happens. Do what you are passionate about with what God has given you.

Because being a senior doesn’t mean you stop being a part of things that are important to God.”

If you would like to explore how you MIGHT get involved, reach out to Jennifer Brown at 918.346.4426 today or check out www.crisispregnancyoutreach.org. Don’t wait until tomorrow.  Tomorrow becomes next week. Then next week becomes next year.  Do it today!

Save the Date

March 30, 2019

Crisis Pregnancy Outreach Gala


Written by Pastor Alex Himaya

Years ago, I did a sermon series we called F.A.Q, which stood for Frequently Asked Questions.  During the series I asked lay people to submit questions for me to answer and to preach on. The first question I read was, “Why have I never heard you preach on orphan care?” My initial thought was, “Wow. This is going to be much harder than I thought!” My response was to sit down and re-read the entire bible. I marked every time God’s heart was revealed. My journey was literally
life changing and gave birth to an international adoption ministry called ADOPT(ED).

As I read the bible, I came across four things that He speaks of over and over and He values.

4 things God values

1.  God values: Marriage and Family.

The bible begins with a marriage between Adam and Eve and instructions to leave, cleave and become one. The Bible ends with another marriage between Jesus and the church and the marriage supper of the Lamb. God told us to address him “our father” or “daddy”.  Marriage and family are valued by God. It is how He chose to help us understand how to relate to Him.

2.  God values: Children.

Psalm 127:3 (NLT) states, “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from Him.” Gift, reward, blessing, inheritance. But our culture and world sees them as a wait, cost, burden, inconvenience. What do you think when you see a family with 6 kids? Be honest!

 The bible teaches that God values children. In Mark 10:13-16 (NLT) people were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to Me. Don’t stop them. For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. Then He took the children in His arms, and placed His hands on them & blessed them.”

There is another time that the disciples were admonished related to children. In Luke 9:46-48 (NLT), an argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had Him stand beside Him. Then He said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes Me, and anyone who welcomes Me also welcomes My Father, who sent Me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” God values Children. John 1:12 (NLT) states, “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

3.  God values:  Orphans.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (NLT) states, “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures orphans and widows receive justice.” Over and over in scripture we see that God has great compassion for orphans and fatherless children.

Exodus 22:22 (NIV)  “Do not take advantage the widow or an orphan. If you do, and they cry out to Me, I will certainly hear their cry.”

Psalm 27:10 (NIV)  “Though my father & mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”

Psalm 68:5 (NIV)  “a Father to the fatherless…is God,”

John 14:18 (NIV)  “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.”

4.  God values:  Adoption.

Psalm 68:5-6 (NLT) states, “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” Have you considered the fact that Jesus was adopted? Yes, Jesus’s earthly father, Joseph, adopted Him. In fact, the Gospel of Matthew traces the bloodline of Jesus not through his biological mother, Mary, but through his adoptive father, Joseph. Even though one might easily pass over this fact as insignificant, this detail reveals something amazing about God’s nature. God does not make mistakes, and He certainly doesn’t need a back-up plan. Through this footnote in history we see that for Jesus, adoption wasn’t plan B.

The first century church opposed abortion, child abandonment, deviant prostitution, human sacrifice and suicide. Their high view of life led to the rescue of many children. The church did more than just oppose the actions. They took those children in and adopted them, hospitals, education, economic reform and provided whatever they needed. I wonder. What would happen if just five percent of 400,000 churches in America established adoption ministries? How many millions would be adopted? 

May the stigma of “I am adopted” become non-existent in our church and reversed. The number of children worldwide without families to love and care for them is overwhelming. It’s easy to forget that each/every one of these children is precious to the Savior. I am convinced that Christians should be leading the international dialogue about our responsibility to provide a home and a family for those who have none. I believe that as adopted children in God’s family, believers should be the first to reach out to orphaned and abandoned children around the world.

Yet many are unaware of the great need, or of God’s call on the church to be actively involved in helping the fatherless.

At theChurchat, we have a ministry we call ADOPT(ED). ADOPT(ED) is an educating and exhorting ministry dedicated to supporting and helping the fatherless and connecting those children with loving, Bible believing families. I want us to challenge the heart, head and hands of believers. http://www.thechurch.at/adopted

Just because there are orphans doesn’t mean every Christian needs to adopt. But we all need to be involved – Adopting, Praying, Funding, or Supporting. I don’t know for whom it is God’s will to adopt, but I am confident that adoption is not a second best choice and it’s not just for couples coping with infertility. It’s not a last resort and it is certainly not Plan B.

God only works with one plan, and that is His divine plan, established before the foundation of the world. Just as He predestined the birth child’s existence, He also predestined the path of the child by adoption. Perhaps God is calling you to change a precious little one’s life today. What an awesome opportunity you and I have to reach the world for Christ, one home, and one child at a time.

#GoDoBe

If you read this article and felt God was calling you to be His child,
to be adopted into His family, please send us a note at info@communityspiritmagazine.com and we can help connect you to a local church to help you in your next steps as a believer. What an incredible choice!  Welcome to the family of God.


Written by Betsy Gwartney Catrett

Well, what does THAT mean? Everyone? You might be thinking “I thought foster care was for abused and neglected children? It even works to help bio-parents learn additional skills and to obtain resources to reunite families, right? Foster care can lead to adoption for the children into a forever family–yes?” But really, how does THAT help everyone? Follow me for a few as I set this up.  

I met a man nearly 15 years ago along with a few other very inspirational people. I worked for Oklahoma Department of Human Services Child Welfare Division (DHS) 15 years ago. I was speaking at a mission’s banquet for a local church when someone pressed a piece of paper into my hand. They said, “Call this man.” So, I did. His name was Randy Martin. I was so utterly impressed with what I heard on the phone, that I flew where he lived to meet him and see for myself. 

Randy’s story started when challenged by a friend to attend a Royal Kids Camp (a camp for foster children). The following year his wife, Kim, also attended the camp. That was in 1995-96.  It has been non-stop ever since. Needless to say, “it got in their blood” – so much so that they shared their experience and thoughts with their church family and had literally hundreds get involved in the foster care work. They met with their CA Child Welfare organization, learning the gaps in the program and the various needs they had. Then they created solutions. Eventually, Randy resigned from the pastoral staff of this large and caring church and started Covenant Community Services. At the present time his organization runs a host of complementary programs serving the fostering community and is influencing on a national level! Check them out at www.covenantcs.net.

Randy’s story is only one of a myriad of unbelievable stories I encountered in my DHS days.  There was a single parent with teenagers. 

Her passion was for babies born to drug addicts.  With her dedicated heart, starting one at a time, she helped over 40 babies, many of whom needed support during withdrawal from hard drugs used by their mommy during pregnancy! (40 BABIES!). 

Another family stood out in a completely different way. This grandmother and grandfather, who moved to Oklahoma for the husband’s work, were living far from their own grandchildren. The silence of their home didn’t feel like home-so they got involved. The first children placed in their home came with an opportunity to mentor a very loving mother, who was just not mentally able to care for her children. This lovely grandparent couple was able to provide a forever family for these precious children, but also an understanding and supportive place for their biological mother and grandmother to come and connect. This couple went on to adopt 2 more children into their forever family. This made a whole new second family after guiding their own 4 children to adulthood. 

The last family is one that had a special heart for special needs children. I was totally blown away by their tenacity and love. They were not especially well off, but they were very generous.  They remodeled their home and built on extra rooms to accommodate the wheel chairs and special equipment that was needed for the special needs children they served. When I asked the mother of the home about her plans for retirement and how she would care for all these children (who would never be leaving the home), she assured me that she was not worried in the least. Why? Because her own biological children had the same passion as that of her husband and herself. She stated that they were already having lively discussions about who would take whom when they grew up and left home themselves.

You may be concerned that you just aren’t cut out to work with abused and neglected children.  And, maybe you aren’t. You could be built with totally different gifts. However, everyone can do something. For example, if a couple in your church is willing to take on the day-in-day-out responsibilities of a child, you and others in your church could empower them with the diapers, formula, prom dresses, fees for summer camp, respite care, date night resources, birthday party and Christmas gifts, etc. etc. etc. Chris Campbell is heading up a program called “111Tulsa” which believes that if every church in OK would support one family as a foster family, to care for one foster child, there would be no children in foster care in OK. Wouldn’t that be a testament for the “Buckle of the Bible Belt?”

But until that day comes, foster parents are needed, good foster parents who can show these kids the love of Christ. What good is just talking about it? The magazine’s theme is Go. Do. Be.  Why don’t you? Go call DHS. Do request the paperwork to file, find a family fostering and help support them. The open doors before you are quite limitless. The biggest surprise you will find is you might not be changing these children’s lives for the better as much as THEY are changing yours. Hurt people tend to hurt people. Changed people tend to change people. Take the first step to heal the hurt and change the rest of your life AND theirs.

#GoDoBe