May the God of ENDURANCE and ENCOURAGEMENT grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that TOGETHER you may with ONE VOICE glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image’ . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Genesis 1:26, 27
Found in the opening statements of The Bible, these two verses have serious significance. It explains our origins and the origins of everything around us. It gives us clarity into God’s view of human sexuality when confusion seems to abound (I am not just referring to the “male and female” part of the verse). And, when these verses are understood in a more complete manner, it gives us insight into how we can have a satisfying and meaningful life.
I believe that when considering the creation account, many only think of the natural image that God bestowed upon us. This is how they would define “made in the image of God,” that like God, we have head, shoulders, knees and toes. Physiologically and emotionally we are like God, as similar as flesh can be to spirit. And this is true, we were made in the natural image of God. But there is so much more truth in these verses than only this.
Along with the natural image, we were also made in His moral image. What does this mean? In the beginning, prior to the corruption of sin, God gave us the ability to see choices and decisions as He did—to know the difference between right and wrong. It was as if His standard of morality was part of our DNA, and through that, He gave us the ability to choose good and to do good because we were good. (Genesis 1:31) That was until the fall. This ties in closely with the third way that we are in the image of God.
God chose to make us in His political image and to use humans to be the means by which His current creation as well as future creation would receive His blessings.
God also created us in His political image. No, we are not referring to Democrat vs. Republican or any other politicized human definition. What we are referring to would be the original reasons that God brought us into existence or, simply put, our original purpose. Further, we are referring to the abilities He gave us to fulfill that purpose (such as His moral image, to tie the two points together). Let’s unpack what it means to be made in His political image some more.
The first truth that I find of interest is that God Himself chose life (our theme for 2020). Originally, there was nothing—we were nothing. But God chose to bring forth life from nothingness. What does God do next, or more importantly, what does He NOT do next? Once His creative works were done, God could have chosen to be the primary means by which His creation would be taken care of and blessed. What do I mean? He could have named the animals Himself. He could have cultivated the Earth beyond Eden Himself. He could have chosen to directly create all future generations of mankind Himself. But that is not what He did.
To the contrary, God chose to make us in His political image and to use humans to be the means by which His current creation as well as future creation would receive His blessings. The scriptures state that He blessed us, humans, and then commissioned us with a purpose. We are His representatives on Earth, the stewards of His creations. We were chosen to take care of the animal kingdom. We were chosen to take care of the Earth itself. We were chosen to be the method by which mankind would continue to grow, to bring into existence future generations of life and introduce them to God. The same as a political entity today would represent the government who sent him/her, we are God’s ambassadors. We are equipped to fulfill our original purpose with His natural image, His moral image and His political image. (Genesis 1:28-31; 2:5, 15, 19-20) Yes, God chose to bless and protect life through life—through me and you. And His purpose for us has not changed. (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17) That truth resonates through time and helps us understand part of our purpose. The question becomes, how can we live up to the image in which we were made? How can we fulfill our original purpose, as we represent God, and choose life as He does?
The first and foremost way is that we must choose the truth even when it is difficult. Why did I choose truth as the first way? Because the lie (the opposite of truth) was the first weapon used against life. Not a rock, not a sword, not a gun—a lie. (Genesis 3:4, 5) If we struggle to even side with truth, any other steps we attempt to take will be difficult. Remember what we discussed regarding being made in God’s moral image. It is true that we are currently under the influence of sin and have lost that perfect moral image. But, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, God has restored to all humans (not just those who follow Him) a measure of the moral image. (Romans 2:14, 15) He has given us, even in this life, what we need to side with truth and choose life.
We are equipped to fulfill our original purpose with His natural image, His moral image and His political image.
Beyond that, there are many practical ways that we can choose life. There are several good groups right here in Tulsa doing some great work to be ambassadors of God. Any of these groups would welcome help. In this edition of the magazine are several articles regarding The Demand Project. This is a group of folks, that in some of the rawest ways possible, are reflecting the image of God and choosing to protect life. If there is any cause that we could get behind, the combating of human trafficking should be an easy one. This group could use your training, your brain, your time or your financial support. (www.thedemandproject.org)
Another group in Tulsa is Restore Hope. The principle ways Restore Hope supports life is: hunger reduction, homelessness prevention and emotional and spiritual healing. These are practical ways that our community is being impacted for good. Beyond financial support and food donations, this group is looking for fellow ambassadors of God to help with receptionist work, food pantry help, or even prayer volunteers. Check out their website for other ways that you can help (www.restorehope.org)
In conclusion, Paul reminds us, “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9) Do you see yourself and a worker alongside God? You should, but you should also see this as a great privilege to be able to work alongside The Creator of life itself, to be a means to bestow His blessings upon others. Let’s take our original commission seriously. As we move through 2020, I challenge each of you to pick one of the great charitable organizations in Tulsa and get involved. For God . . . for Christ . . . and for life!
Written by Kim Niles
Grief and loss throughout life are inevitable.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for senior adults to have experienced multiple deaths of loved ones or even to be the only one remaining in their original immediate family. Events that bring about grief for aging adults can cross a broad spectrum of experiences beyond the normal scope you might attribute to grief:
Death of a loved one
Health issues or dementia/Alzheimers/memory loss
Financial or job challenges
Anxiety, uncertainty, or fear over the future
Loss of a spouse, marriage, close companion, or a treasured pet
Loss of independence with diminished ability to do activities, chores, or self-care
Navigating a new residence (selling lifelong home for a more manageable residence, senior care center, nursing home, or assisted living)
Loss of feeling useful, needed, or loved
Guilt over life choices
Daily reminder of our finality on earth
Currently, there is a lot of information to encourage and support those who suffer grief and loss; new strategies are continually being developed and implemented to assist senior communities with grief. However, even with new strategies, grief is never a predictable, cookie-cutter experience. No two people will deal with grief in the exact same way—even if they are going through the same grief event. Coping with grief and loss can be a true challenge for anyone, but especially for seniors.
As a grief author, one of my favorite aspects of helping others through grief is partnering with them on their journey with God. Having experienced multiple major grief events throughout life, I have found the spiritual aspect of grief recovery to be the most encouraging and hope filled. If you are going through a tough grief experience or challenging life event, I want to encourage you with this: You are not alone and God is not done with you.
“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”
With God, there is hope! He never leaves us or forsakes us, and there is always purpose in our pain.
God is the Wonderful Counselor who always draws beautifully close to us as we draw close to Him (James 4:8). Age can only do so much. It cannot touch the depths of your spirit or soul, for these are protected by God. In fact, there are limitations as to what age can and cannot change or hinder.
I know of many who are concerned their best days are behind them, but nothing could be further from the truth. Your very best spiritual days may not have even happened yet. There are many examples in the Bible of those God chose to use in their golden years—like Moses.
Life is a continuous series of stages. Being prepared for important times and taking advantage of precious years can make all of the difference in the world. When we consider that all throughout our life, we have adapted to change, we then can properly and wisely view upcoming change and opportunities with both care and hope.
What we focus on will direct the quality of our life. After all, where our treasure is, that’s where our heart will be also (Matthew 6:21). The good news is we can trade in our unwillingness to see what the Lord would want for us in each new season of life and replace it with a new treasured trust and focus. It is totally necessary at times to redirect our heart, focus, and treasure.
What we may dread or even resent? Well, God can use that very thing to breathe fresh new life into us and create a new purpose for us. As we struggle to find a fresh, new perspective and purpose for life during major grief, loss, or transition, it becomes imperative to:
Ask God to show you His perfect will for your life, and to guide and direct you in each new stage and season. He’s not through with you . . . you have so much to still offer (Philippians 1:6).
Turn a negative focus into a positive focus. Years ago, one of my best friends became a quadriplegic due to a diving accident. I was blown away by his positive attitude and his deep love for God. He would continually say, “I don’t focus on what I can’t do . . . I focus on what I can do.” His life testimony of how he handled hardship made a lasting impact on many hearts and lives. You never know who you can inspire by turning a negative perspective into a positive one.
Celebrate what God is doing—and what He will be doing in your future. He has great plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11).
Choose not to worry. God gives us discernment and wisdom to make good decisions, but after we’ve done our part by obeying God, the responsibility for our life is ultimately turned over to Him (James 4).
Pray. Prayer is one of the most powerful gifts you can bestow on family, friends, and others. Prayer can change everything. Consider each morning who you can pray for. Ask God to direct your prayers and give you ideas of who and what to pray for each day. You can make an incredible impact through prayer. Plus, spending beautifully intense time with God will change you.
Realize we have no time to waste; the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-20). Life can make us believe we have more time than we actually do; assuming we have more time can actually be a punishment for such an unwise assumption. Use your time, prayers, love, and opportunities of ministering to others wisely.
When going through challenges, it can be easy to forget our time is limited. A great quote (by Kelli Bressman-Horn) I have found encouraging is, “Even though I am grieving, the clock is still ticking, and that’s why I keep living . . . purposefully.” No matter what we experience in life, it is imperative to redeem the time we are given in the wisest way possible.
Focus on a heavenly/eternal perspective vs. a worldly perspective. When we look at life through a worldly perspective, we can become depressed, worried, and even despondent. When we focus on a heavenly/eternal perspective, we begin to understand that earth is merely a training ground for Heaven. We clearly see life is a mere vapor (James 4:13-17) and it helps us to focus our time, love, relationships, and efforts into what matters most.
It is so very important to realize that some of our greatest contributions to the Kingdom can come from times of grief, change, transition, and loss. These are often the areas where God can use us most. With each grief event, God widens our ministry and gives us a larger capacity to be used by Him. As we grow older, we will continue to find our purpose. We will find greater hope and joy in the Lord. We can see that our lives , no matter what age we are or what we go through, still hold great value to God.
Kim Niles is the author of Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You and is the co-founder of Grief Bites. She is a writer and partner for YouVersion and has several free reading plans available on the app. Mrs. Niles is a regular contributor for Biblical Leadership, a community leader at her church, and an inspirational speaker. After experiencing the deaths of her father, sister, grandparents, uncles, aunt, and other treasured family members and friends, and going through intense grief—especially with her son’s illness and tumors, Mrs. Niles became passionate about helping others through grief and counts it a privilege to encourage the grief community.
To date, I have written over 40 books. Approximately half of them are fiction and half are non-fiction. I’ve heard it said, “All autobiographies are fiction, and all fiction are autobiographies.” As I have continued to examine this thought, I believe it to be correct.
When I write novels or movie scripts, they invariably come out of experiences I have had in my own life. While I may change the time, place, or people involved, I draw upon experiences I have had in the past. On the other hand, when I, or any other author, writes non-fiction, our best efforts to deliver facts, statistics, and reality are colored by our own perspective. It is vital for us to remember that whether we’re in an educational setting, reviewing the news of the day, or conversing with a friend, the information we are receiving is filtered through the source. Even indisputable facts can vary as one individual may think a specific detail is critical so they highlight it while another individual overlooks that same fact believing it to be insignificant.
My late, great friend and colleague Paul Harvey was one of the most trusted voices for news here in America for several decades. His broadcast was called Paul Harvey News and Comment. While he endeavored to always separate the news of the day from his own opinions, he explained to me that simply by determining which stories to include in his newscast or which item he would present as the lead story, he was inevitably imposing his thoughts and opinions on his audience.
Today there are so many sources from which we can receive information or news, it is vital that we evaluate not only what was said but who said it and why they might hold that perspective.
As a blind person myself, I’ve often thought of the old fable of the three blind men touching an elephant. The man who felt the elephant’s leg thought it was a tree while the man holding the elephant’s trunk thought it was a thick rope, but the blind man feeling the side of the elephant thought it was a wall. All three men were giving their perspective of the same elephant at the same moment, but their individual perspectives totally alter their thoughts and ideas.
We tend to want to think of facts as true and universal. In reality, they are constantly changing and must be evaluated based on the eye of the beholder.
As you go through your day today, separate facts from fiction, but always look for the underlying truth.
Today’s the day!
Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082; by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Twitter at www.twitter.com/stovallauthor; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor.
Written by Andrea Stephens
Here we are getting to ready to welcome the coming of spring. After a few super cold winter days, we dare to focus on warmer weather and the first sight of yellow daffodils and purple crocus. Allow me to interrupt these dreamy thoughts and ask how are you doing with the resolutions and goals you set for yourself when you were courageously ringing in 2020? Remember those?
Statistics show that a majority of people have given up on and even forgotten about the goals they set, the new habits they were determined to develop, the inspirational pictures and slogans on their vision board and the hopes they recorded on their resolution list just a few months ago.
Along with a zillion other people, one of my goals for 2020 is to take better care of myself. My intention has been to eat healthier and increase my exercise. Eating healthier, which to me means cutting out sugar and empty carbs, is a daily challenge and an unrelenting battle. I argue with myself every Wednesday night at our church dinner about whether or not I’m going to eat that awesome looking bread pudding or cherry cobbler or fudgy chocolate cake. And this argument takes place after I have already told myself I cannot have one of the homemade dinner rolls. Ugh. Give a girl a break. I’m exhausted (and slightly depressed) by the time I finally sit down to eat.
Yes, I’m making sure I eat some of the traditional superfoods like blueberries, avocados, dark leafy greens, almonds, and the cruciferous vegetables—I actually like roasted brussels sprouts and riced cauliflower these days. I have been somewhat diligent about protein shakes, green smoothies, and even a splash of lemon or apple cider vinegar in my water.
Working out is more challenging for me because I admit it, I don’t like to sweat. It makes me itch. It causes body odor. I don’t enjoy either of these things. So, I only put out enough effort to ensure that I burn off some calories. Yes, I know that sweating from exercise may help detox the body, improve mood (thank you endorphins and dopamine), reduce stress and build a healthier heart.
But let me be honest. What I eat or don’t eat, what amount of exercise I do or don’t do, has been about maintaining a specific weight—not necessarily to feel more energetic, build muscle or strengthen my cardiovascular system. I, too, buy into the lie that I will appear healthy and all will be well in my world if I can just get my skinny jeans zipped and continue breathing at the same time.
So, keeping a watchful eye on the scale has been my number one indicator of whether or not I thought I was healthy and taking care of myself. But the fallacy of that came crashing down hard recently when I had a surgical procedure on my foot. In the recovery room, through a fuzzy brain, I heard the doctor tell me that I had osteomalacia, which in layman’s terms means soft bones. What? Soft bones? I’ve heard of bones becoming brittle or weak, but soft?
Naturally, I discussed this with Siri. Bottom line, it is a vitamin D issue—either not getting enough or not being able to absorb it properly. And this interferes with the body’s ability to absorb and utilize calcium and phosphorus which are needed to form the hard-outer layer of bone. Sunlight, supplements, eating foods rich in vitamin D and calcium, and weight bearing exercise are the basic remedy. One article recommended reducing salt, soda, caffeine and alcohol intake as they block calcium absorption.
Here comes a little more honesty. I already knew that I should be taking vitamin D and calcium.
And I have been—occasionally. Sometimes I forget, or I’m too hurried or too nonchalant. Well, not anymore!
The why behind my nutritional plan and workouts have been totally messed up. No longer can it be about the scale. It’s about my bones, muscles, heart, and skin. My why needs to be about my health and quality of life. I need to see this body of mine the way the bible describes it—a temple or home of the Holy Spirit. It is gift from God. I have the responsibility to take care of it.
The resolution of taking care of myself in 2020 has taken on a whole new level of seriousness and commitment. It prompts me to ask, not just how you are doing on your resolutions and goal, but are you taking care of yourself? Perhaps you work, have a family, are involved at your church or kid’s school, have to cook, clean, grocery shop, do laundry, make time for aging parents—the list is endless. I get it, we are busy. But being too busy to care for our health will reap a result we won’t like. So, whatever it looks like for you, will you commit to caring for the one and only body you have? I’ll be right there with you cheering you on.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.
Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV
Written by Teresa Goodnight
Did you know we have a host of lovely princesses right here in Tulsa? They are part of a wonderfully charming business called “My Little Dollhouse,” where parties and playdays are always on the menu. From spring break and summer camps to actually booking a princess (or princesses!) to come right into your home or party venue, this group offers some of the most amazing fun Tulsa has to offer. Plus, they have parties that handle different levels of service up to and including a full service blow out with mom never lifting a weary finger!
For years, I drove by the location just west of 91st and Harvard. Why hadn’t I checked it out before? I wasn’t sure, but with my daughter’s starfish birthday (that’s talk down under the sea for 5 years old) on the horizon, I decided it was time to give them a call. When we walked through the doors—both of our jaws dropped in sheer delight at the playful venue. My little one exclaimed “I can’t wait for my party. I just can’t wait.” In hindsight, booking it earlier in the day could have stopped the incessant pleading from the time she woke up until the two p.m. party time we chose arrived!
Location. Location. Location!
Realtors use it for the right neighborhood to buy. But, of course, it is even MORE important for that special birthday event. Duh! The whole atmosphere is just pretty in pink. With costumes, a kitchen with tea sets and cakes, a nursery (pretend one of course!), and a cute little stage for the princesses to do their own fashion show once they have completed their equally darling little princess makeovers—it is just the perfect venue. To my surprise, they also had costumes for young princes (or superheroes of course!). Had I done a little more research, we could have invited the boys to join the fun.
Having been a head of events for many years—President’s Clubs from Monte Carlo to Maui, my expectations for a party are usually far beyond the event at hand. I was known for annoying attention to the finest details. So, when the staff from My Little Dollhouse offered me their option for planning and hosting the entire party—I was truthfully a little skeptical. I hadn’t been inside yet. However, I was also so busy I couldn’t see straight.
So, I gave in. My Little Dollhouse has a simple website. I clicked about 5 boxes. I wrote in a little of my daughter’s princess-style expectations. Then, I just turned it over to them. Exhaustion and opening a new business pushes a perfectionist to make different decisions. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was easy. Then? Their emails started to roll in.
They reached out to confirm party details and to make sure they understood my little princess’s dreams for her party. The emails were fashioned in fairytale form, with playful wording. I read each one to my daughter as we started building the excitement for her party.
Just a few days before the big event, we received an email confirming details, and listing out all the details planned for the day. Honestly, I had been so overwhelmingly busy—I didn’t even realize all that would be taking place. I quickly texted the moms to let their daughters dress comfortably. They would be selecting princess attire, having their hair, nails and light make up done—and would end that part of the event in a little fashion show. The moms and I all delighted in the thought of how much fun our daughters were getting ready to have!
Party on Princesses!
The party did NOT disappoint. The little fashionistas rocked their walks on stage. Opportunities for little girls to practice their special moments on a stage empower them to accomplish bigger goals at more serious events as they grow. It’s a confidence building exercise I just love. You should have seen them. They turned on their sparkle. Then, the princesses coronated my daughter with an official princess crown, a scepter, and a sash; she was so happy she could hardly stand it. All the little girls cheered.
Then, the party got wild. The princesses led our little princesses in a rendition of “Let it Go,” where they did motions for the girls to imitate as they sang. You might have thought they practiced for weeks when they belted out the chorus. It was just fun to watch (and record!). They were just delighted!
We selected cupcakes with rainbow frosting, pepperoni and cheese pizza (the go-to faves for preschoolers!), and apple juice and water in the tea set when it was formal teatime! They can even have a photographer on site to take photos to share with families after the event.
When it was time to leave, the princesses handed out goodie bags my daughter selected for the attending princesses. There was no question when looking at their sweet little faces, thanking us for inviting them—they had a magically fun day. My Little Dollhouse would be etched in their memory of fun for quite some time to come.
The best part for me (other than not lifting a finger)? The delight on my daughter’s face over dinner that night when out of nowhere, she declared her thankfulness for the best birthday EVER!
Friday or Saturday Play Time Fun
After talking to the cheerful manager, Samantha Cathey, I knew we would have to add some Friday mom and daughter play days at 11 to our schedule (or grandmas of course!). It’s an hour of fun with a little princess and mommy as they play or do a craft project. They offer free coffee or tea for moms while the little ones play. Other days, they offer princess play dates. I’m pretty sure my laptop and I could get some work done while the little one plays her heart out in the back. Better still, I’m betting I could dive into a book I’ve wanted to read and just can’t find the time to enjoy.
Summer and Spring Break Camps? Really!!!
Samantha decided to drop the camp bomb on me. I couldn’t believe I had missed this too. They do their own camps in the summer and spring break or they can send the princesses to help you host your own! After all, who wouldn’t want a day with a princess or two from nine until noon? Princesses can be dropped for a seriously fun morning at My Little Dollhouse, while mom heads to the spa! (Kidding.) (NOT KIDDING! Did you see Hand and Stone opens in May? Summer camps can be for everyone! Hello!) Churches or schools wanting another idea for summer camps can hire the princesses and promote their events to create fun times (or recruiting times for private schools!).
Have Princesses. Will Travel.
These princess teams will come to your home or party venue and bring the same kinds of service right to your door. Rates vary from $75 on up, depending on the level of service you would like. It’s such a fun idea to think of having a princess right in your party spot (or event!) of choice just in case the venue doesn’t fit your specific needs at the time.
My Little Dollhouse has a whole host of services. I just never realized all the ways they could partner with families or businesses. They can come to businesses for events from story time with princesses to a little tea party event on site. Business owners should seek out ideas on ways they can partner up. If you’re hoping to have an event for moms or even both parents? Invite the princess team to the event to entertain while you can gain the full attention (or moment of rest!) for the moms and dads. They have so many creatively fun ways to partner with you to make any kind of event a success.
Behind the Scenes
My Little Dollhouse isn’t amazing by accident. The owner, Christi Rowland, bought it just over four years ago. She’s a former stockbroker turned teacher at Augustine Christian Academy. She loves teaching, but it was easy to see how much she also loves attending to every little detail of the parties for the girls. It’s really a family affair, as her daughters, Caroline and Emma, have been actively involved in the parties and events from the beginning. They both attended Augustine Christian Academy as well (Emma is still there!). They have been Christi’s inspiration and her right arms in making little princess dreams come true over the years.
My Little Dollhouse participates in charity events because they truly love giving back to their community. They sent their princesses and some princes to an event for foster children, who sadly don’t get to have many amazing birthday parties moving from home to home. Samantha said, “Those kids. To see their reactions to such a fun event. Wow. It’s just worth it.” I couldn’t agree more. To have hearts to reach out to these children navigating such a tough journey are exactly the kind of hearts we love to support at Community Spirit.
Put Your Dollars to Work
As you know, at Community Spirit, we love to encourage readers to use their purchasing power to make an impact. Utilizing Christian owned businesses, who are using their gifts to make a living while also making an impact for Christ—it’s such a win-win. Families like the Rolands have amazing values they share in a playful environment with our children. Kindness, compassion, and love abound as you share in their wonderful world. So, we strongly urge you to turn into the parking lot. Take a peek inside and meet the Rolands or their staff. Try out a Friday or Saturday playtime. Then have them relieve you of the stress of your next party to plan. We couldn’t have been happier with ours!
SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR YOU: Mention COMMUNITY SPIRIT and you will receive $25 a party booked by September 1st, 2020.
Written by Mike Henry Sr. — Follower of One
As Community Spirit Magazine draws attention to the problem of human trafficking, I wondered how to draw a parallel for marketplace Christians. Human trafficking is an extreme sin we must defeat at any cost. We must support The Demand Project and other organizations and pray for victims and any wrapped up in this horrible lifestyle.
But is that all? What else can workplace believers do to cooperate with this effort? We’re often constrained by our commitments and our obligations. But are we limited to prayer and financial contribution? Can we do anything at work? Do our actions at work matter?
We can live our faith at work without leaving. Most ministry activities require us to get away from work. We leave work for a Bible study or a service project. Many donate their vacations to go on a mission trip. When we return, the ministry is over.
But we can minister to others by living our faith at work, too. Once you decide to be a missionary to your workplace, your view of work changes. You become a full-time, funded missionary to your workplace.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes several shocking parallels to attract our attention to the pervasiveness of sin.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:21-22 ESV
In this two-sentence comparison, Jesus blows our mind. Do you remember the first time you read this? After a while, Jesus’ words become just another statement. But he wants to give us an ice-cold shower about the evil in our own hearts.
Manipulation at Work
If Jesus gave that sermon today, to what would he compare to the abuse of porn and human trafficking? Might he start with little white lies and manipulation? Maybe Jesus would compare Hunan trafficking to gossip or a white lie? Would it be overstating our accomplishments or sucking up to our bosses? Could it be that “spinning” the facts to complete a deal equates to human trafficking the same way getting angry at someone equates to murder?
Sure, this comparison is extreme. But what can we do about this problem at work?
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:12-14 ESV
A Servant’s Response
First, we can make others aware. Do anything you can to help others see this problem in our community. But beyond that, in our workplaces, what can we do? What of we commit to love and serve others at work instead of treating them as a “resource” or something we use. Jesus asks us to love people and use things, but we often use people and love things.
What does loving others at work look like? Would we:
Stay late to help someone else rather than just saying we’ll pray for them?
Encourage and serve others instead of gossip?
Thank more than criticize?
Do an excellent job even if it means we have to work longer hours or miss some church functions?
Make time for others?
Learn more about our coworkers to pray for them better?
Give our own time and money to a coworker in need?
Obey Jesus and trust him enough to wait until he prompts our coworkers to ask?
What if we lived more intentionally around the people we work with every day? What if we commit to obey Jesus in whatever he calls us to do, at work or at home? If we obey Jesus more, will our actions at work make a dent in the human trafficking problem? We need to trust Jesus and obey him where we can. Where we can support the effort against Human Trafficking, we should. Where we can fight porn, we should. But even in our workplaces, we can’t give ourselves any slack. Every place we obey Jesus matters. Where do we make excuses for ourselves? Where do we let ourselves off the hook?
Give Ourselves an A
In a small group setting a friend said he was a “low empathy” person. His statement was genuine and transparent, but we all laughed because he made selfishness sound so good. We had quite a chuckle until we realized that the label fit us too. We can all raise our empathy bar.
Do you have the guts to ask Jesus to show you where you grade your obedience to him on a curve? Then do you have the love for Jesus to act?
All Obedience Counts
Let’s support The Demand Project and every other person and organization in this battle. We need to fight evil in every setting. Often, the first battle is in our own heart and mind, and the second one is in our workplaces. Ask God to show you where you need to obey him today and do it. Even when we’re stuck at work, we can obey Jesus and our obedience matters.
Mike Henry Sr. is a technology consultant and the CEO of Follower of One, Inc., a global ministry to encourage every workplace Christian to serve Jesus full-time and make him known daily. Check out their website at https://followerofone.org.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
I want to look at our Core a little differently this month. The main reason? Statistically speaking the “Core” inside our church is in a bit of trouble. It’s not what you think. Stay with me and I’ll get there.
Have you ever had those times when you feel like God is telling you something, but you just want to ignore it?
The Demand Project came up in almost every conversation I had with readers, advertisers or anyone associated with the magazine or who knew that we did the magazine. Honestly? Human trafficking is a topic that is so horrible that my mind doesn’t want to acknowledge exists. I feel like it’s something that happens far away from here—something that wouldn’t happen right here in the middle of the buckle of the Bible belt. So, to think that we needed to talk to The Demand Project was just something I didn’t want to consider.
I’m not saying I was Jonah. However, there did finally come a point where I felt like I’m either going to have to tackle this whale or the whale is going to swallow me.
Truth? Sex trafficking is very real right here—right where we are. I watched groups of arrests around our area. I saw nine people from my hometown of Sapulpa, Oklahoma be arrested for human trafficking. The fact was this—no matter what I believed about it, it was real. It is real.
When the Jason and Kristin Weis of The Demand Project said—“If your child has a phone or if they have access to the Internet—they are already targeted.”
There are little girls and little boys who are suffering every day. Some of them have been sold into trafficking by their parents. I can’t comprehend that concept, but I’ve never been addicted to drugs. Some of them are talked into sex slavery unknowingly online with what feel like very innocent conversations between them and a random stranger on TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram or even Facebook.
When the Jason and Kristin Weis of The Demand Project said—“If your child has a phone or if they have access to the Internet—they are already targeted.” I shuddered being the mother of a five-year-old with an iPad. To think that someone would want to defile her innocence—imagining the tragedy that horrible experience would have on her mentally was more than I could handle.
This is the only interview I’ve done where I cried. Twice. I’m crying as I write this now. The thought of someone doing that to my baby breaks my heart. These are other people’s little babies. We have got to stop pretending it doesn’t exist and hoping to talk about more pleasant things. We have to stop assuming it would never happen to our kids. We have to support The Demand Project trying to restore these victims and teach how we can end the demand for this sexual product.
I am as guilty as you are. It’s just not in my Christian upbringing to think about and talk about these things. Just the things that The Demand Project folks said out loud to me made me uncomfortable. They made me realize that the kind of world our kids are growing up in isn’t the world I grew up in. It’s not as safe as it was. It’s just not. People have access to our children; however, we can’t just strip them of the Internet and strip them of their phones. But, we can become a very active part of what they are doing with them.
So much of this issue is for those of you out there like me, who want to live in a bit of a fairytale land that just isn’t real. It’s a great place because it allows us to continue to be “happy.” In our apathy we don’t have to participate. We don’t have to get our hands dirty. We just ignore it and assume that it would never happen to our children.
It doesn’t take much to fool a beautifully innocent child into believing that you, as a sex offender, are a friend and not a criminal. So only read this article if you want to wake up. If you’re wanting to continue on living out your 19??’s fantasies, then I would just put the magazine down. This isn’t for you. Do you want to know how to protect your kids? Do you care about helping victimized children suffering right here in our part of the world? Keep on reading.
Statistically speaking, if you look to your right and to the left in your pew at church—just over 6 out of 10 men and 1.5 out of 10 women are actively viewing pornography on a monthly basis. (Barna Group 2014) According to another survey by the Barna Group in 2016:1 in 5 youth pastors and 1 in 7 senior pastors use porn on a regular basis and are currently struggling. To be clear, that is over 50,000 U.S. church leaders.
Statistics show our “Core” is under attack. Part of the reason I had to go down this path was how many people I encounter inside the church who admit to pornography addiction destroying their marriage. Pornography addiction is seriously blowing up church families left and right.
Truth is, if you are watching pornography, you are 100% participating in the realm of human trafficking. You just are. How far you will venture into that land? Well, that is a really good question. Chances are, it will be farther than you ever imagined you would go. Marriages and families are destroyed. Pedophiles are created. Sexual addicts, who cannot get their needs met at home, find ways to go outside of the marriage bed for sexual satisfaction. After all, those paid to perform acts just do as they are paid to do (although not likely along the same lines as the fake stuff in the shows).
Porn is even attacking our children. Do you know most kids have seen pornography at school? If not on their phone, on someone else’s who pressures them to watch. If you think this stuff isn’t happening, Satan is really doing a better job than I’d care to admit.
Participating in any way with pornography essentially supports the horrors of sex trafficking. It’s taking part in an industry that creates the demand for these girls and boys to be pulled from their homes into a life that they feel they can never escape.
Keep thinking it’s not you. Keep thinking what you’re doing is fine. Keep thinking I would never be that kind of person. Better yet, keep thinking it’s better to keep it a secret. Satan LOVES that line of thinking. I’m guessing King David didn’t think he’d fall to sexual temptation when he saw his great warrior’s wife taking a bath and continued to watch. I bet Uriah wished David had been a bit wiser about sexual temptations since it cost Uriah his life. I’m also guessing that the man I was just told about who keeps a bucket under his desk because he can’t leave his desk to go to the bathroom from his porn addiction didn’t set out for that life either. It is kinda safe to assume he wanted more at some point. I’m thinking he probably had bigger dreams, but that’s just me.
The Church should not have these statistics for pornography addiction. As the Church, we can’t sit by and let this world of sexual sin and depravity continue to destroy our congregations. When an “innocent” viewing of porn invades the mind, it starts to unravel the barriers we have to protect us. It creates a new home where addiction brews in secret. Those “harmless addictions” become the focus of lives and the path towards destruction begins.
Porn is just one way to create the demand for human trafficking. They are definitely linked. There are also many others but together they are all the breeding grounds for sexual predators, broken marriages and broken families. It’s a realm where men and women can become something they never imagined.
This stuff is real. What we’re getting ready to talk about lands on us, as the Church, to hold higher standards of living in alignment with the Bible. The indifference of Christians on all accounts is probably the worst reality of all. I’m guilty of ignoring it. You might be guilty with me. We don’t have to stay there. We have to get in this battle where Satan is taking prisoners in our homes. We have to offer help to bring them out of their addictions. We might even need to help them understand (as men, women, and youth) that it’s actually NOT ok. It actually DOES lead to bad things.
As you follow along with Community Spirit, in our next issue, we will tackle porn in the church head on. We are going to be talking to a very well-known Pastor from Tulsa, who fell to the temptation of pornography himself. He’s going to get real with us. He has an incredible ministry to help those battling addiction. We are also going to talk to people who are in the midst of recovery. We want you to know it’s not just some crazy guy locked up by himself in the middle of small-town America. Trafficking, porn addiction, they are real and they are right here in our backyards.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
If we want to know how to protect our children, we are going to have to come out of our self-imposed prisons of propriety and get real. We all want to know how to protect our children, but many of us don’t want to have these conversations. We don’t want to talk with The Demand Project, much less our kids, about the realities they are facing.
I’ve honestly never been so uncomfortable in an interview. My Baptist roots left me pretty secluded from discussions like I entered into with Jason and Kristin Weis of The Demand Project. I was visibly uncomfortable. I cried. Twice. When you have a child, you just don’t want to imagine it is REMOTELY possible these kinds of predators are out there looking to consume them. So, let’s start at the beginning together. It’s past time to get real and up close to this threat.
Every time I bring up The Demand Project, the first question out of the mouths of all the moms around is “How can I protect my kids?” So, let’s get this on the table up front: Social media access needs an age limit. The Demand Project team suggests 15 as the earliest age. You pick the access . Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, TikTok, Messenger, video game chat rooms like FortNite—they’re all the same. They are an open door to allow a predator to invade the personal space of your child. If you don’t think they are hanging out in video game chat rooms waiting to pounce every bit as much as they are perusing Instagram, then they already have an advantage over you and your child.
How far that invasion can go depends largely on the parents. You might think that 15 sounds a bit restrictive. But honestly, would you let a 50-year old man into your child’s bedroom for a private conversation every night? Of course not. You really have to get yourself inside the scenario where good kids get trapped. You must keep the conversations open. You have to stay engaged with any of this activity. You also must help your kids know what to look for and involve them in the protection process.
Every time I bring up The Demand Project, the first question out of the mouths of all the moms around is “How can I protect my kids?” So, let’s get this on the table up front: Social media access needs an age limit.
Inside the Predator’s Moves
So, let’s step inside the innerworkings of these predators for a minute. They are smooth operators regardless of morality. I’ll frame this up for girls, to paint the picture better, as they are the biggest target. However, make no mistake, these exact things happen to young boys as well.
Predators start their approach very innocently. They might ask the age of the girl. They send them a compliment. They crack the door open. They communicate back and forth with them very carefully. They build up trust and admiration. Then, they progress into “Can you send me a photo?” Then, “Can you send me MORE of a photo? Maybe pull your shirt up a little bit? Oh, come on.” The girls giggle. They find the attention flattering. In a moment of haste, they snap a photo that’s a little more revealing than the last. The compliments come. The door keeps opening.
These hunters are so calculating in their moves. They know the art of manipulation. Our young girls might be looking for attention. Maybe they just had a bad breakup. Failed a big test. Didn’t make the cheer squad like they hoped. They might just find the attention a tiny bit flattering. They might not realize the “boy” breaking the law right now could instead be a calculating, perverse man breaking the law, who is a possibly more serious predatory threat.
Jason Weiss of The Demand Project said, “There’s grooming going on. The guys I talk to say things like ‘Baby girl. You’re my honey/boyfriend/girlfriend.’ These kids have never felt this weird feeling before. Then the predator sees them naked for the first time and calls it such an honor. Then, he shares pictures of himself naked. He certainly considers it an equal honor to expose himself to a 12-13-14 year old innocent child. The relationship continues to develop into something meaningful to a child. Then, the predator offers to help them. ‘I’ll coach you on how to hide the app and how to delete the chat so that your parents won’t see it.’” I just listened, as he continued “Pretty soon, the girls feel they’ve found whatever it is they wanted.”
I could see where that kind of treatment could make girls feel pretty or popular. Right or wrong, whatever they feel they might be missing socially can start to feel met with this newfound “relationship.” As things develop, the children begin to cross lines until they’ve crossed the one they can’t take back—that one photo. The trap is sprung.
Once the girls have transmitted a photo that could ruin their reputation, it can quickly become “sextortion” if the girl tries to end the communication. Girls fearing punishment from parents or humiliation at school if the photo gets out start to comply with this manipulative huntsman to self-protect; meanwhile, they are falling deeper and deeper into the clutches of the monster on the other side of that screen.
Even if it doesn’t come to blackmail, the girl becomes comfortable sharing more and more until the relationship has escalated to a very serious threat to her and even her family. We must understand that these guys want what they want. It’s out of control at this point. So, to expect any sort of normal behavior is unrealistic.
Here are just a few things children share not knowing the possible dangers:
Name of their school
Name of their parents
Their phone number
Names of the favorite places they like to go
Schedules of when they will be there
Where they take dance lessons
Their favorite place to eat
The list can go on and on. Anyone with the internet can easily use any piece of that information to get exactly what is needed to get to that child if they wanted.
The information isn’t always shared directly with the predator. We all tend to just not think about it. These hunters can read t-shirts with school names in photos. They can figure out schedules for the dance school you select when the girls (or parents) are tagged. You can create a pretty big collage of everything about a child with just a little bit of access. When the kids are hoping to get more and more followers—they often leave their social media sites wide open without a privacy screen allowing anyone to see whatever they want to find them.
Predators can be completely well versed in anything they want to know about a child as they follow those posts, photos, videos and activities. They look for moments to sneak in and start their pursuit. The more they know, the easier it is to find that perfect point for sextortion.
These predators know the language of the day. Whether it’s emoji’s or text lingo, they know how to disguise themselves. Jason said, “There are things we need to get the public to know, so that they can be smarter about what they’re doing with their kids to keep them safer.” We have to stay alert.
I hope I have your attention. If not, maybe this will wake you up a bit.
Come on into My Daughter’s Room Sir
Kristin Weis of The Demand Project shared, “I remember the first time I watched Jason in a case where he was talking to this guy. Jason knew it was a little bit different, but the guy was asking for bad pictures. Of course, he said he couldn’t send a pic. Then all of a sudden, this guy took over his computer and these things are popping up all over the place. There were threats of ‘If you don’t do this, I’m gonna hurt your family.’” Kristin went on, “This guy was talking to you over here and now he says he has your home address. Someone older might not fall for that, but if you are young and freaked out? It can easily happen.”
“Kids are unknowingly setting themselves up.” said Kristin. She said a bit cautiously, “Do you know who’s largely to blame? In many ways, it’s the fault of the parents and the kids. You read or hear about everyone wanting to know what the government is going to do to stop these predators, but what the heck does the government have to do with your day-to-day life? Nothing. They have nothing to do with our kids and what they’re doing. It’s our responsibility. We pay for these devices. We give them access to a world-wide platform where a 50-year-old guy, who maybe looks like he’s younger, can walk right into your daughter’s bedroom. He can be with her while she gets dressed and you didn’t check him out? Why would you do that? You might as well open the door and say ‘Come on in! Go have some fun with my daughter.’ Would you honestly let a 50-year-old man in your house to just sit with your daughter up in her room and talk? It’s essentially the same thing.”
Kristin added, “Don’t misunderstand. You don’t stop giving the phone. Tech is so integral to the world these days. You have to teach them empowerment and how to be responsible. We have to talk to them. We can’t worry about saying penis and vagina. My gosh, who cares about that? If you don’t talk straight to these kids about it when they are ready, somebody else will.”
When the kids are hoping to get more and more followers—they often leave their social media sites wide open without a privacy screen allowing anyone to see whatever they want to find them.
Education and Communication
Education and communication between parents and children is critical. When it becomes broken, the doors open further for someone to become a victim.
Keep communication open with your kids.
Let them know they can talk to you.
Have the sex talks. Have them more than once. Keep that door open.
Have the “predator” behavior discussions to make them aware who and what is out there. Knowing how they work sets your child up to know when someone is crossing lines and could be unsafe.
Have a safe word for your younger child no one could guess (in case someone tries to pick them up as “sent by their mom/relative.”) I’d tell them to run first and ask for the safe word later, but if the child is engaged in conversation make sure they know to listen for the safe word.
If your social media pages are public, then make sure what you put out there is information you are ok for that predator to know.
Engage in their video game worlds. Check out who is checking them out.
Follow their pages and their posts. It’s not about privacy. It’s about protection.
The Demand Project hosts sessions where they can give much more detailed advice on how to be safe, but this list gives you a place to start. Start now. Really. Kristin said, “We will never end sexual perversion. So, as an organization, we go to the approach with prevention to empower and educate a kid on not becoming a victim.”
Caught off Guard Myself
In January, my then 4-year old said, “Mom—can you download TikTok for me?” I had never heard of it until Jason and Kristin mentioned it in my interview as a great tool for predators. The look on my face sent the wrong message to my daughter. I was just so shocked she had heard of it. We had a longer discussion about it to help her know it was ok she asked.
Evidently a 6-year old in a class she is in was given an account by her parents and told her to get it. My radar went up. Before I spoke with this team, I might have thought it was harmless. I don’t know. Maybe I would have entertained the idea. Thankfully I’ll never have to know. I knew she didn’t need access to such a tool in the hands of these predators at her age.
Sadly, the little girl who had access is in a broken home and expresses frustrations in the class causing disruption. She’s actually the exact kind of target these predators would be looking to find. Her parents were never at the class due to work and health reasons, but I spoke with her grandmother at the next event. I couldn’t just let her be vulnerable without saying something.
We all have to come together to be a village for our kids. There is no room for fear of overstepping when it comes to protecting these little ones. The world is changing so rapidly, we can’t all be expected to keep up with everything. So, helping other parents be aware of potential problems is really important.
Let’s Get Even More Real—Your Kids and Porn
According to Jason and Kristin, “Kids are some of the biggest victims of pornography these days that help generate the demand for trafficking. They don’t have to watch it on their phone. The other kid at school will show them. So, they feel we have to focus on empowering educated kids both to not become victims of predators or becoming a predator themselves.”
“Honestly, we believe some of the biggest producers and distributors of child porn are actually the children themselves with their phones. First base is becoming a paycheck. Sexting in a picture doesn’t stay between two phones. If you’re underage and you take a naked selfie, you’ve just made child porn. If you send that picture to someone you just committed a federal crime,” said Jason.
“There are kids just sending pictures to a boyfriend or whomever and that it’s different, but yet it’s not. Once they are caught, they now will need to be on the sex offender registry as they are graduating and trying to get a job or hoping to get into a college. That’s really tough, but whatever it takes to get this message across—we have to do it.” Jason added.
Kids Requesting Nudes
Kristin said, “Our son just turned 18. One reason he’s been popular in high school is because he never asked for nudes. He has a lot of girls who are just friends, because they know he’s not gonna ask for those. Pretty much all the guys around him—they ask.”
Kristin expounded, “When we talk at the schools, we tell the kids ‘Tell someone. Don’t ask for nudes. Girls stop sending them.’” Jason added, “For one thing, everything they put on social media ends up everywhere. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to trace them and pull them all back once they have gone out.” Then Kristin chimed in, “Every kid, like it or not, is making this history for a future employer, a future husband or wife. I mean it’s out there forever. If you think that stuff disappears, you’re an idiot. Snapchat—if it’s there for a minute and you take a picture of it out on your phone—guess what. It’s out there forever. It never goes away, because there’s always it a handprint on that social media for the rest of your life. So, the biggest distributors of child porn are actually the kids themselves.”
Summing Up the Threat
Sex trafficking isn’t in just other countries. It is in THIS country. There’s only so much “coincidence” I’m able to swallow with a story like Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide in a cell where the cameras happened to be off, the guard happened to be gone and so on. Big players did not want to be named.
We need to wake up to the possibility that all sorts of professional and wealthy men can be in the game. They can be consumers with big pocketbooks. Doctors, lawyers, politicians—haven’t we seen enough to know they are out there? It’s not just them. It’s also that nice gymnastics coach. That piano teacher. That church Sunday School teacher. Look it up.
Keep your guard up parents.
They certainly are.
A Mom Shares it All (But Not on Purpose!)
Do you even realize how much you are sharing on social media?
I wanted to test out how much I could find about a child without being a friend to the parent on Facebook. I hopped on. Typed in Jenks. It listed a Jenks cheer group. I clicked on the group innocently advertising their squad and classes. My next click took me into the names of all the women and kids who had “liked” the posts. My next two clicks landed me on the page of someone I happen to know, but just am not friends with on Facebook. In about 20 seconds, I could read the name of her children. I knew what activities they participated in. I knew the names of aunts and uncles. I knew their ages and their schools. With another five minutes or less, I could have known the time and dates of their cheer practices.
The woman’s page was public. So, everything she had was public. I know she would never want to expose her family like that. It caused me to look at my page really quick to make sure I had my privacy on. However, I found all sorts of pictures and stories that were inadvertently listed as public with my daughter. When I told my husband about my short little experiment, he reminded me that when you tag a friend, the friends of that friend can also see your post. Considering stories I have heard of porn addiction and bad decisions inside the Church, it’s safe to say that we might think we know our friends, but we certainly don’t know the friends of our friends. I just tagged a group last night. <FACE PALM>
It’s not to say that we need to shut ourselves or our kids out of every aspect of social media. That would backfire. However, I am saying—UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SHARING AND WITH WHOM. Then, make sure they understand the same.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
It’s such an invigorating time of year. It’s crisp outside. Things feel new as the year breaks through. We start on our new path. We buy a new journal. Maybe set new goals. Then life rolls around. It doesn’t hit all at once. However, very slowly we ease back into our old ways. They’re comfortable. They feel less stressful. Truthfully, they feel just easier than these new goals. Most of us simply slide into failure. It just feels like home. Mmmm. Cozy. Not really though.
Familiar? It’s just easier to stay in patterns of thought and behavior than to turn over any kind of a new leaf. Is it any wonder, when we try to walk with God why we slip back into old sins? Find ourselves becoming less and less offended at our offenses? We dull and lull ourselves back into what feels the easiest. Same old same old.
Can we Change our Core?
As a reigning queen of the #EPICfail New Year, I know the pattern all too well. However, last year—I decided to do something about it. I made one big change. Just one. Funny enough, it wasn’t even at the New Year. It was at the end of November.
I’m sure it’s not a big deal to most of you. I hesitate to write it. But, my fellow Sodaholics will know my plight. I went from a few sodas per day to zero. Anyone who knows me knew that was just not ever going to be possible. Dr. Pepper was my end all be all crutch for a stressful day for over 30 years. I knew which states didn’t serve it and consistently offered a root beer when I asked (as if it were even close to the same!). I knew where to get it overseas in France, Italy, China—you name it. I could find it. I could easily distinguish between a Mr. Pibb and a Dr. Pepper for those who tried to pass it off as the same. I’m not proud. I’m just saying—it wasn’t an easy break-up.
I called it “When my Daddy took away my last Dr. Pepper.” (not intentionally but it became an extra funny part of my goal!) He literally held it for me at the hospital one day and I could not figure out where he put it. I kept asking everyone if they knew. It was funny. He didn’t intentionally hide it but it popped into my head as a fun way to stop drinking it. Why? Because I liked saying it. It makes me laugh. I also love to see him crack a smile in the corner of his mouth when I say he took my last one. I actually partnered him with me on the journey not really realizing what I was doing. It worked!
So, I’m sitting here a year later quite proud of myself. It’s certainly not a game changer, but it did prove to me I could do it. I can make changes. I can break difficult habits. My keys to success?
Pick it. Pick one thing or just very few (2!). 2020 is about focus and we can’t focus with 15 goals in 15 directions. It just doesn’t work. Get laser-focused on a goal and stay on it.
Plant it. Be really specific and plant that seed in your heart and mind. Don’t just decide “I’m going to be a better person in 2020.” Decide “I’m going to be a more financially generous person.” Or, maybe, “I’m going to read my Bible daily even if it’s just a verse.” General goals are nice, but they don’t give you specific plans for success. Plant the specific seed you want to grow.
Present it to God. Get yourself what you need to grow the seed. Bring it before God. Pray. Ask for His help. Read what His word has to say about your issue.
Partner Up. Ask Him for accountability partners (or a fun unintentional partner like my dad!). God uses others following Christ to help us get where we want to go. The “following Christ” part isn’t really optional. You need people who are lined up with God’s word to speak truth to you straight from the Bible. They pray with us and for us. They keep us challenged. They make sure we are staying focused. They nudge (or jerk) us back onto our path as needed. They are on board with keeping the seed growing with you.
Whatever you do, be realistic. Many make a list of resolutions as likely to happen as trying to get the Democratic and Republican parties to agree on their political agendas. Instead of making a list even the mightiest of willpower giants couldn’t accomplish, think a bit smaller. Few people can handle massive amounts of change. (Woohoo for those who can!) But if you find yourself reigning in my “#EPICfail” kingdom with your very own crown—why don’t you try a different approach?
Narrow down your list to a few things that simply must change. To reference Kristen Marie’s mantra “Choose Life.” Select YOUR one thing you want to change. Then, decide THIS thing will become a thing of your past (or these 3 THINGS for our overachievers who just can’t live within a limit (but please don’t overdo it if you want to have success).
Maybe this is the year that you want to “Choose Life” by becoming a giver. Write it down. Be specific as to what that would look like for you. Pray about it. Pray for a gardener, an accountability partner, to help you keep the seed growing. I told people I gave up soda. I made sure people around me knew my plan so they could watch me. I even brought my dad in on it, because I enjoyed the proud smirky smile on his face that he had been part of my little journey. Partners to keep you growing strong are absolutely a big factor in your success.
Then, start immediately. Set out to answer all situations you enter as the giver you want to become. Maybe you defined that as when you see a charity making a difference, you will pick an amount of money or time and just give it. Write it down. When the next one comes along—do it again. Write it down. Maybe challenge yourself with the number of times you want to accomplish your giving goal for the year. Then, take the opportunities in front of you (or seek some out!). When you look back at your list at the end of the year, you will find a sense of accomplishment along with the joy you received each time you succeeded. Somewhere along the way, your seed becomes your heart. It brings forth a beautiful change transforming you more into who God made you to be. It just becomes who you are. Then, you have a journal to remind you of the journey.
I know Dr. Pepper isn’t a big problem. Maybe for you it’s something a little more life impacting. Maybe you have a sin that has been kicking you and possibly your family, that you need to kick back. Maybe you have lost your patience with your family and need to find some grace again. Maybe your relationship with your spouse has been strained and it might be your fault. Maybe it’s a substance abuse situation. Maybe you have found yourself wrapped up in a porn addiction. The list could go on and on. Whatever it is—the solution isn’t THAT much different for a serious problem. You have to “Choose Life.”
Do you want to make a change? Do you want to choose life?
Some bigger problems have very specific accountability groups that can offer the exact kind of support you need—groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, for example. You can march yourself into an AA meeting and find a system proven to work. If it’s something like porn addiction, download a software system like covenanteyes.com and then find some accountability partners. Whatever you do “Choose Life” and get God involved in your decision.
These bigger items are better tackled with a team, but rest assured, you CAN beat them. You do need a team in your corner. God’s got the foundation. Build on it with Godly men and women who can help hold you accountable. Get real with them. (Check out Accountability Partners in this issue!). Trust me, you are not alone. You are NOT the only one facing that kind of problem. You just aren’t.
What you can’t do this year is try it the same ways you’ve tried before and fail.
Once you know how to be successful, the question really comes down to do you want to make a change? do you want to choose life? If you do, pick it, plant it, present it to God and get on down that road with some partners in your corner. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow to get it right. We are guaranteed that God will never leave us and never forsake us in Hebrews 13:5. He’s right there to take this journey with you—to kick the soda or to kick the habit before you kick the proverbial can. Just kidding. (Kinda). Seriously, not kidding at all. Some of these problems are very big deals and if you have one afflicting you, it’s absolutely time to make a change.
Written by Teresa Goodnight
What’s your discipleship plan for your tiny tots? Teens? It’s surprising just how many parents want a plan, but simply have been so busy they haven’t taken time to implement it. I get it. Life is busy. Basketball season leads into baseball season, which leads into summer baseball, then into football right before it kicks into basketball again. Girls go from dance to cheer to their own sporting events—sometimes all at once. With multiple children and multiple activities, I’m surprised parents can even remember where to be and when. But busy is a distraction used by our enemy. Don’t be fooled.
I have one four-year old. I’m not sure how it happened, but going into the fall, she was enrolled in two dance classes, gymnastics, swim lessons and t-ball, where I ended up being the coach for the Y. I just kept saying yes to opportunities before us. We were involved with two churches, attending services on the weekends and Monday nights as well. All of a sudden, I thought “Wait, Wha???” How did I let my little tiny preschool muffin become so busy we barely had a night at home without somewhere we needed to be.
SHAME ON ME. No. Really. I had good intentions, wanting her to get experiences in things while she was younger to figure out which ones she liked best. Hmmm. Where’s that proverbial road paved with good intentions supposed to lead? Yeah. I know.
We were barely energetic enough for our evening prayers. We neglected our night time Bible reading before she went to bed. All of our good “Choose Life” kinds of choices we established became secondary to trying to keep up with our overwhelming commitments. She was stressed out and FLAT OUT worn out. So were my husband and I. We were just one completely exhausted family.
It’s easy to see how ridiculous these decisions were when I write them down. I hate to even share them. They were even ridiculous in the middle of living them. Halfway through T-ball, I let her miss the remaining practices while I went to coach. It was just too much.
No wonder we’re turning out kids who head off to college and walk away from their relationship with God. What did we teach them to prioritize? Anything and everything over Christ.
It’s easy to get your family wrapped up in things that burn up in the end. There is a healthy way to be active in fun things, but also to carve out that very important time for the family to grow together in Christ. That time with Christ does not need to be the victim of a busy schedule. It is the most important thing Christians can do for our children—discipling them. It has to be THE priority. Everything else has to be somewhere down the list.
If I had asked my daughter what our priorities for her were as a family, I’m sorely afraid Jesus would have been left off the list. He was just shoved in between things that didn’t matter as much. She didn’t know the aching in my heart to get refocused from the mess I created. She just knew what she was experiencing and what she saw. She felt herself wanting to say no to a church service for some down time at home to play. Can you honestly blame her? SHE’S FOUR. (Insert face palm here.)
Imagine how much more chaos there would be with two or three or FOUR children? No wonder we’re turning out kids who head off to college and walk away from their relationship with God. What did we teach them to prioritize? Anything and everything over Christ.
If you don’t think they are being shaped by these decisions we make in our life, think again. No. Really. Stop and think again. Now.
This is serious.
We have to course correct. It’s not a life or death situation. Or is it? It’s actually even more than that. It’s an eternal destiny situation. It’s a path leading them to NOT “Choose Life.” In fact, it is teaching them to value anything and everything over that beautifully abundant life that Christ came to offer us.
They will become and do what we teach them to become and do. Our primary responsibility as Christian parents, aside from food/shelter, which I would argue is still secondary, is to teach them how to walk with our God. It is to teach them who He is; it’s to show them how to live a life WITH Him.
How in the world can anything else be more important? How as children of the King could we not prioritize their inheritance from their Heavenly Father?
There are some of you who are getting it right. I commend you. However, I know statistically from the seven out of ten walking away from Christ at college that we are NOT all getting it right. In fact, we’re getting it very, VERY wrong. The numbers don’t lie. My own ridiculous choices cannot be excused. (Just one of us should have heard my husband protesting in the background). I played right into it even as I am painfully aware of the warning signs.
The liberally focused temperature of our nation doesn’t lie. Many current Millennials actually believe that what they feel about love, fairness, and the way the world should operate is of greater importance than what God actually says in His word. Many aren’t even referencing the Bible in their belief systems. Where do you think they learned that behavior?
If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’re going to get the same results. Thinking that outcome will change if we don’t change is actually Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. If you don’t make a change today—we will watch 70% of our children walk away from our King of Kings and Lord of Lords into a life without God. That’s not ok for me. I doubt you are ok with it either. Do YOUR choices for YOUR student reflect that it’s not OK? Are you stumbling busily down that same pathway paved with good intentions?
It’s 2020. Let’s make this the year we “Choose Life” for our children. Jesus is the way, the truth and He is THE LIFE. Reprioritize whatever needs kicked to the curb and kick it. Ask yourself “Is this choice making a “Choose Life” choice for my child?” If not? Why in the world are you choosing it?
What does “Choose Life” look like for your family? Here are a few guidelines if you need a pattern to follow.
Pray together as a family. Meal-time prayer is fine, but it shouldn’t be the only time. Teach your children to present their requests to God. Help them to understand what that looks like. My four-year old has led our family in prayer many times since she was three. She asks for our prayer requests and if there’s anything troubling us. My heart leaps to hear her do it. I have to believe God’s heart experiences greater joy than mine at her little prayers.
Study the Bible together as a family (and engage your village!). It’s God’s word. Write it on their hearts. It holds the keys to life. Teach it to your kiddos. My daughter attends a Bible-teaching Christian school, which is a integral part of our discipleship plan for her. The school had her memorize a long chapter for her Christmas show. We worked on it several nights. Then, while in church, our minister was reading it in a different translation than she learned. She began to challenge his words. She knew God’s word. She was able to use it as plumb line to assess whether her minister was in alignment with God’s word. Imagine how she will be able to put everything through the filter of God’s word if we keep writing it on her heart and sealing it in her mind when she’s heading to college? Study His word together. That brings me to the next one!
Ask yourself “Is this choice making a “Choose Life” choice for my child?” If not? Why in the world are you choosing it?
Bring in the village you need to help you wherever you can. There are people who will invest in your kiddos at church. Make sure you check out the programs. Make sure they are actually teaching your kids with a discipleship purpose. Church is not just a social connection (although Christian social connection is critical OF COURSE!). It needs to be a “Choose Life” connection, connecting them to Christ. For us, a Christian school is part of our village. It’s not everyone’s. My husband and I wanted her to not learn to separate God from everything else in her world. We wanted God wrapped up all in it everywhere. I honestly feel we need the help. Again, not everyone does. If you need them, we are blessed in Tulsa to have a wide variety of prices and high quality educational programs.
Live out your faith in service as a family. Where that is for your family can only be determined by you. How has God gifted you and your family? Volunteer and live it out. Millennials today complain of words with no actions. Hypocrisy speaks louder than faith without works. Paul says faith without works is actually dead. There are so many ways to live out your faith just inside your local church. But, also live it out with your daily choices so that your children can see how it looks in everyday life. For example, when a friend asks you to pray for them, stop and do that with your children if they are around. Let them see God is just a part of it all. He’s always just in your day.
These are just a few ways but they affect our core. There are so many more options out there if you just look for them. Make your plan. Write it down. Put the plan into your schedule. Make the plan a top priority. Then, make it happen.
Everything else on the schedule that is optional should clear the way to make time for you to “Choose Life” with and for your family. There is no greater legacy. There is no greater gift you can leave them. This is actually THE ONE that matters.