Category: FEATURES

Written by R.A. Goodnight

DO YOU ENJOY YOUR FREEDOM OR DO YOU VALUE IT?

I spent most of 2007 living abroad in the Philippines.  Prior to leaving, I had to take a class that taught me important cultural and lifestyle guidelines: what I could and could not say, what I could and could not do, as well as where I should and should not go.  Even before leaving the United States, this was a new experience, as living here, most of us never have to give much consideration as to what we can or cannot say and do.  At least in 2007 we didn’t.

Once I was in the Philippines, I would attend weekly meetings with a security detail, as they briefed me on current threats I had to keep on my radar.  Each morning, when I returned to my hotel, I would be greeted by soldiers with automatic weapons.  A K9 would sniff me down and I would be searched.  My backpack would be emptied, as they checked for explosives or other weapons.  Sometimes I would be questioned; I even experienced the beginnings of a violent coup d’etat.  Could you imagine living in such an environment every day of your life?  You might not have to use your imagination. It is actually starting to happen here.

On the weekends I joined  with missionaries from Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. as we took the Good News into the shanties and the villages on the outlying islands.  In predominantly Muslim villages, we had to be cautious on how we shared the message for risk of violence.  During these trips I would witness utter poverty, victims of human trafficking, malnutrition and illiteracy.  When I returned at night my food, water and per diem would be depleted having given it to the children.  My eyes would be tired from reading the Bible to those who couldn’t read it for themselves, even in their native tongue.  Can you imagine having your family try to survive in conditions such as these?  Some are dealing with a few of these circumstances right here in the U.S.  

During these experiences, I remember a thought that kept going through my mind – “You are complacent, and you take for granted too many freedoms you have back home.”  I have experienced similar conditions and this same convicting thought in other countries as well.  Upon my return home, I always find myself thankful for the freedoms my family can enjoy.

All of us ENJOY our freedom, some of us maybe too much.  But, as you read this article, ask yourself – do I really VALUE, and not just enjoy, the freedoms that I have?  There is a difference.  If you do value them, what are you doing to protect and keep them?  Several of them are already being targeted.

THE CROSSROADS

It is an obvious statement, but the secular freedoms we have are not experienced in most countries around the world.  Despite their rarity, more and more of our countrymen are showing their disregard for the freedoms they were born into as American citizens.  With a few exceptions, most have never experienced life without the present degree of freedom we have; many have never had these freedoms come at a personal cost.  We must remember, these freedoms were not achieved by chance.  To the contrary they came at great cost.  The stark reality is we will not retain them if we do not give them the respect they deserve.  At this point in American history, “We the People” stand at a crossroads, struggling to make up our minds on which direction we should choose.  Do we move to the right or to the left? 

To the right, a path lies before us remembering and honoring things for which honorable men and women fought and died.  It protects the mainstays to freedom – our ability to believe as we choose, to worship as we choose and to have access to unbiased information.  If we choose the path to the right, we will retain our ability to select from among the people, the individuals that will respect our opinions and represent our will as citizens.  That path will allow us to have a say in our own lives instead of being subject to someone else’s agenda for us.   This path does come with costs though.

Regarding the costs of freedom, President Ronald Regan reminds us, 

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same”.  

Yes, to remain free we must be brave, willing to take a stand and to be involved in our communities.  It asks each of us, as individuals, to be willing to teach future generations the importance of freedom and sanctity in protecting it.  It requires sacrifice from each of us to be personally accountable and responsible for our freedoms.   Sigmund Freud stated, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”  

Perhaps that is why the path to left seems appealing to so many.  This path entices the population to a life without personal responsibility–a new nation where everyone can be and do whatever they want.  After all,  the government will take care of the rest.  It advertises with words such as equality and tolerance.  It even promises a release from accountability to financial burdens such as education costs, healthcare costs and mortgages.

But when we pull back the curtain and examine what is really being offered, we find frightening compromises.  The financial freedoms they promise will come at the cost of three inalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  To achieve the world’s definition of tolerance and equality you will be asked to turn in your freedoms of religion, speech and press (as well as others).  That path asks you to renounce your allegiance to key elements of God’s word.  In its place, you will  bend your knee to man and fear.  There’s not enough time to get into all of the costs of socialism.  In many ways though, our country essentially become slaves to sin.

With the two paths having been identified, does the Bible give us any direction to consider on freedom and our responsibility regarding it?

FREEDOM AND THE BIBLE – 

THE GOOD

Throughout human history, we have seen God liberate His people from worldly governments 

such as Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Rome.  In most examples recorded in The Bible, humans (both men and women) played a part with helping God’s servants become free, as well as interceding on behalf of His people before the rulers of the time.  We have examples such as:

Moses and Aaron (Exodus 5:1,2)

Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:4,5)

Esther (Esther 3:8; 4:12-17; 7:3,4)

And Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1-7)

Understanding that neither God nor His purpose has changed, we can be confident that He still desires for His people to be free. (Malachi 3:6) Additionally, we should gain courage from seeing Him bless the efforts of those who work for the good of His people in the political spectrum.  But most importantly, we should understand that freedom is a gift given to us from God. (James 1:17) Knowing this, it only makes sense that He expects us to value the freedoms we have.  However, He will not force us to take it if it is not wanted.  He will take it away if we toss it aside.  Let’s discuss this more.

THE BAD

We find an important lesson that God teaches those paying attention in the story of Samuel.  The Nation of Israel had been liberated from Egypt; they were now in the Promised Land.  They had seen God take care of them in many miraculous ways.  But, after all He had done for them, notice what they asked Samuel to do.  “They said to him, ‘You are old…now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’” (1 Samuel 8:5) Yes, the Nation of Israel came to see little value in the freedom God had given them; they had lost respect for those that had sacrificed for them.  They wanted to be like the nations, like everyone else.

How did God respond?  He told Samuel, “Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” (1 Samuel 8:9 NLT) Samuel did as God directed and warned them of the political decision they were making; telling them that they would come to regret their choice. (1 Samuel 8:10-18) Even though they were warned, they proceeded anyway. (1 Samuel 8:19, 20) History shows that God was right.  Think of all the turmoil Israel went through due to many wicked kings and the decisions they made.  

What lesson do we learn from this?  

God may warn us against taking a certain political path, but He will not stop us if the people’s hearts are set upon it.  How wise it would be to listen to the warnings in advance.

Does this not remind us of today?  Many are clamoring for something different.  We are watching the divide begin to occur, some choosing the right while others choose the left.  Some of what they say might seem appealing to us, but we have been warned – by history, by true leaders bold enough to speak up and by God himself via The Bible.  We have been told, as good as it may sound, do not go down the path being pushed by the left.  But, He will not prevent it…even if we ultimately regret it.

We need to give serious consideration to which path and which leaders we are supporting.  We need to pray for those elected, as well as our fellow citizens, that they make the right choice as it affects all of us. (1 Timothy 2:1,2) While time remains, each of us should show we value the freedoms we have.  Do not allow them to be stripped away freely by the lunacy of the world.  We should be involved in the capacities each of us have been given, making it known that we choose God and His gift of freedom.

THE UGLY

Compared to the world in general, it should be crystal clear that each of us as American’s have been given a great gift in freedom.  The Bible, through Jesus’ words,  gives admonition to people who have been entrusted with such gifts, “For everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48 NLT)

Our gift of freedom demands our continued action.  Right now, we are being asked to protect the freedoms entrusted to us.  By our actions or our inactions, we will prove if we are worthy of what has been given to us.  There is a second scriptural principle that applies as well, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much”. (Luke 16:10) By no means am I suggesting freedom is a ‘very little’ thing.  What I am stating is this: if we want God to continue to bless us with more, to trust us with more, we must be faithful stewards with what He has already asked us to oversee.  For The United States of America, freedom is part of what has been given.

We must pay attention to this important principle, as there is an alternative outcome for those who are not good stewards.  In the parable of the talents, Christ issues a warning to those who do not value the gifts that God has given to them. (Matthew 25:14-30) He says, “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  And throw that worthless servant outside…where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew 25:28-30) If we continue as a country to show disregard for the freedoms that have been given us, they could be taken from us all together.

We are the stewards.  As much, we must take a stand against what we are seeing happen.  Your current freedoms, and maybe even more importantly, the freedoms of the next generations are dependent upon your actions today.

SO, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

At the outset, I asked if you could imagine living in such an environment where freedom was limited or non-existent.  As each day passes, this country appears to move further in that direction.  Will you spectate while this is occurring?  Will you not have any involvement?  Being “neutral” in the issues of our time gives way to victory for the side you likely oppose.

And what about our children and grandchildren?  

Can you imagine them afraid to speak? 

To believe? 

To learn the truths that God gives?  

Time is still on our side.  The ability remains for us to hold back what would transform where we grew up into something unrecognizable.  As Nehimiah said to those helping him rebuild Jerusalem, “Don’t be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14) 

If you more than just enjoy,  if you truly value what you have, then help ensure an inheritance of freedom for the next generation. Each of us must be responsible.  Each of us must get involved.  We must hold fast our stand with God and His views on freedom no matter how unpopular, and we must do our part to secure freedom for our future generations.   

#GoDoBe

Written by Teresa Goodnight, Thesis By Natalie Stitt Regent Preparatory – Student, Guest Author

Help Connect the Dots:  

God likes to display His mastery of His plans sometimes.  Without me, He literally just aligns things for the magazine that leave my mouth hanging open in awe of His intricately laid plans.  When we first laid out the subjects for this issue last year, we planned on talking about Freedom in July.  I immediately thought of Eric Maddox’s Saddam story and the story in LaFortune Park.  I wanted him in this issue.  In retrospect, I had no idea why he would be such a perfect fit. I reached out to him quite a while ago and he agreed.  There was so much of his story I didn’t know, since we hadn’t talked since high school.  It blew my mind as he pieced it together for me (and certainly you should buy the book!  I did.).  Interestingly enough, a few days before I interviewed him, God intervened with this next story.

We had a reader bring it to my attention that our Christian schools do not accept children with Down’s Syndrome.  I’ll admit, I thought she was not possibly correct.  Sure enough.  One by one, as I found a free moment, I called through my list.  I promised her I would look into it.  Not one.  My heart was breaking, as I understood her plea.  If you are looking for a Christian education for your child, then something like Down’s just shouldn’t stand in the way.  The reader said, “When I call, they tell me it’s a funding issue.  Then, I see stadiums or buildings being built.”  She continued, “One school even had a really large multi-million dollar donation made that completely changed the entire campus.  Yet they didn’t add a plan for Down’s children either.  So, I just think that’s something they all might say.”  

I was so shocked.  In fact, I say it out loud to people just to see their reactions.  No one else knows either.  I thought it must just be here.  Surely.  So, I checked with my sweet friend in Texas.  Her son, Adley is maybe one of the funniest kids I’ve met.  There’s not enough room to go into the air guitar singing he does in the kitchen.  I mean wow.  It’s so flipping hysterical.  But alas, nope.  He’s in a Charter School.  I just couldn’t believe it.  

These kiddos are a great fit in a classroom for so many reasons.  For one, it helps them to be a part of the world and to understand the world better.  For another, it helps students in these classrooms learn from these amazing kiddos.  Not to mention, can you imagine siblings attending different schools for this reason?  Wouldn’t that just break a child’s heart?  The last thing that child would need is something else to challenge them emotionally in life. 

So, it kept haunting me.  Finally, I was on my last call to find a school with a program—Regent Preparatory School in Tulsa.  I just knew they would have an answer I needed to hear.  When the woman called me back from the school, I told her the reason for my call.  She said something to the effect that this had been on her heart lately.  There was a young lady who did her senior thesis on inclusion for those with disabilities in the Christian community.  She said it was so moving that it had the staff talking in the halls.  Regent didn’t offer school acceptance for these students either.  However, she offered to connect me to the student.  She thought we would want it.  I couldn’t wait to read it.  I was hoping she would agree to let us publish it in the magazine.  We talked and she agreed.

I wanted to edit her piece in order to fit it nicely in the pages we had reserved. However, I couldn’t.  It was so well written as it was.  It was a testament to her heart and certainly to the education she received at Regent.  More importantly, if her premise was right—just publishing it might open the eyes of our readers causing change. She and I decided to do a two-part series with her piece.  We want to stoke the fire.  Then, we’re hoping we can find churches and resources by our next deadline for September to help us fan the flames.  Maybe we might find schools, who might say yes to stepping up to the call to make a difference in the lives of these kiddos.  

Then, God threw in a fun twist. Something on the heart of this Rockstar Army Ranger, the interrogator?  He wants to play a part in helping children with Down’s Syndrome.  How does that fit?  I don’t know. I expected his very cool story would get the magazine passed around from person to person.  It will get us more clicks.  More people will read and become aware!

In addition, I was introduced to City Elders, the guards seeking to govern the gates of the city.  These guys are intense.  Plus, they are recruiting pastors and business leaders from all over the state and nation.  They had agreed to be a big story in this issue as well.  As they take the magazine from county to county—this message will be spreading through the state of Oklahoma to pastors and Christian leaders.

If that doesn’t strike you as a bit of divine planning, then you should have been there when I read the student’s name.  Natalie Stitt.  It didn’t strike me immediately.  Then, I realized her beautiful heart and powerful thoughts were fathered by our Governor, Kevin Stitt.  (and mothered of course, by his lovely wife, Sarah.)  Most will read her story because it’s amazing.  Others will read it simply because of her name.  All those reading WILL be stirred by God in some way.  You can’t help it when you read it.  

I couldn’t have recruited this group myself with such interesting connections.  What’s God going to do with it all?

I have no flipping idea.  

However, I CAN tell you I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat waiting on what’s going to be in the September/October issue.  It’s too much fun to watch without letting everyone in on God’s work.  He’s working.  He’s waiting for us to be a part of what He’s already prepared in advance for us to do. It’s beautifully majestic.

And with that introduction, I give you Natalie Stitt’s senior thesis.


The Image of God: a concept that has been discussed in theological circles for centuries; it is a factor that is common to all of humanity, and, specifically in the biblical sense, gives each and every individual on this planet inherent value that can never be taken away, but sometimes our vision of the image of God in others is obscured. Even in the church, we sometimes fail to discern this basic human gift. Last summer, I spent three weeks at Camp Barnabas, a camp for individuals with special needs. During that time I was introduced to Emilia. When I first met her, we instantly started talking about our favorite animals, our favorite places to go, and our favorite activities. Like me, she loves the outdoors, music, and spending time with her friends and family. She is bright, kind, and an amazing listener, yet, despite our lively conversation and blooming friendship, she faces completely different problems than I do, because of her physical condition. 

Emilia was born with a spinal defect, and was paralyzed shortly after birth, leaving her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. I could feel myself pitying her, and in my pity, I felt like I was doing good, but as our friendship grew stronger, I realized that there was no room for pity in our relationship. Pity is not wrong, but to truly be a friend to someone, there must be a basis of equality, a recognition of one’s intrinsic value, honoring the fact that they are made in God’s holy image. The ultimate end of a relationship with anyone, whether or not they have disabilities, must be established on this equality. Once I overcame my pity, I saw Emilia as she truly was, in her godlikeness. 

The Bible, although seemingly vague when it comes to individuals with disabilities, is the place where any theological inquiry must start, but first, terms must be defined. Expressions such as “disabled,” “handicapped,” or the recent “differently abled” are contemporary expressions used when addressing or describing an individual with disabilities. These terms, however common they are in the English language, do not appear in the Bible. Instead, the Scriptures use specific terms such as “crippled” or “diseased,” yet, however straightforward the texts are literally, the connotations are much harder to decipher. In order to have an adequate understanding of disability and its relationship with the Bible and the Church, we must examine both the Old and New Testaments, and the ways in which its adherence followed holy commandments. 

One helpful way to examine the Old Testament practices as they pertain to disability is through the lens of contemporary Judaism. Despite all of the curses that are often misinterpreted, Judaism is an extremely inclusive and welcoming community, and they take the rights of individuals with special needs very seriously (Jewish Values). Their mindset is not that of healing or charity, but rather an inclusive model that strives to follow the example of the Israelites in in the wilderness, a body of extremely diverse people serving under one God; in their eyes, Yahweh spoke at Mount Sinai because His people were gathered in unity. They believe that the “religious life of every Jew and the religious life of the entire community is deficient when not everyone is able to be present. That is why it is so fundamentally important that historically marginalized groups are treated with dignity, respect, and honor just like anyone else in the community” (Inclusion is a Jewish Imperative). 

The early Church adhered to Jesus’ commandment to “go out. . . and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” and blossomed as people of all forms grew in a community of love (Luke 14:21). As Jesus’ words echoed through their hearts, Jews and Gentiles, wealthy and poor, strong and weak, all partook in a community that strove to serve God and others. Having followed Jesus while he walked the earth, the disciples went out, sharing the gospel with all people, even those with disabilities, and they recalled Jesus’ teachings of providing for the widowed and orphaned, caring for the downtrodden, and bringing in those with disease and disability. Inevitably, as the Church grew, it became easier for it to be distracted from its original mission. 

Now, there is a disconnect. Within the Christian faith there are several different ways in which churches include those with special needs. To illustrate this fact, one must examine the sacramental life of several Christian denominations. Let us consider the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Baptist churches’ positions on baptism and communion. Who do they say is allowed to partake in these sacraments? The Orthodox policies for inclusion of individuals with disabilities seems to be extremely similar to those of the Jewish tradition. They embrace the “uniqueness and dignity” of each human being, and recognize them as bearers of God’s holy image, therefore, fully including them into the body of the Church by encouraging full participation in their congregation’s sacramental life (Orthodox Theological Perspective). 

In the middle, Catholicism is very quick to include, but not on the basis of one’s individuality in disability, but rather on the basis of salvation. The Catholic faith views the sacraments as playing an extremely important role in one’s salvation, so they do not like to take any chances. People, no matter if they are cognitively aware or not, are allowed access to the sacraments in a Catholic church. 

Finally, on the other side, Protestant traditions such as Baptists, hence their name, elevate baptism as an extremely vital choice in the life of a Christian. Although this is not wrong, it lead to the exclusion of people who are incapable of making a cognitive choice, due to their profound intellectual disability. The topic of sacramental inclusion of those with disabilities is an extremely complex and multi-faceted theological dilemma; I am neither qualified nor able to provide a solution to this particular problem. I am simply pointing out the difference in practice within the Body of Christ for the purpose of examination, while asking the question, “Where do people with disabilities fit in a place of worship?” 

For centuries, the Church has struggled to accept those with disabilities. They have been seen as vessels of charity, as objects to be healed, and even as witnesses to the wrath of God towards sin. These misconstructions have clouded the Church’s eyes to one of the greatest commandments, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4). Now, the ‘policies’ for dealing with those with special needs vary from denomination to denomination, but assuming that every church follows Christ’s example and welcomes everyone, physical accessibility of a church is common in the United States. Following the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties, the American Disabilities Act ensures anyone the right to enter any building. Although this may be a vital step to inclusion for one with physical hindrances, “rights cannot open up spaces of intimacy,” that is, the ability to enter a building does not ensure acceptance from the people inside the building (Reinders 43). In other words, true inclusion into a community of love cannot be accomplished by the mere ability to enter a building. 

Think of your church: how well is the special needs community represented in your congregation? 

One or two members, although much better than many congregations, does not constitute the diverse image of the Body of Christ as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians. In Oklahoma alone, about one in every six individuals has a disability of some form (Admin), meaning that statistically, churches with gatherings of six or more members, should have at least one person with special needs in their community (Religion in America). Yet, nationally, eighty to eighty-five percent of churches do not have any form of a special needs program (Five Statistics). This is because not enough people with special needs attend those churches to warrant such programs. 

Statistics such as these contradict Jesus’ teaching in the book of Luke, to “go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (14.21). Where are all of these people? Why do they not attend a church? In a 2014 study, George White asked these very questions in a survey of 166 people, from eighteen different denominations. The purpose of his survey was to get an internal view of the “current status of people with disabilities within the Christian community” (White 21). His questions ranged from general to specific experiences, all of them inquiring about inclusion and the barriers to inclusion in the Church. Many of the answers he received were both eye-opening and heartbreaking: of the 166 responses to the questions about the barriers to inclusion, 39.8% reported it to be on account of ignorance, lack of training, or faulty theology. Another 40.9% reported the attitude of the congregation as an inhibiting factor to proper inclusion into the church. 

Whether or not this general attitude is intentional, it has still proven to be a factor that inhibits inclusion. As his study continued, those surveyed also noted several actions that proved to enhance inclusion. In their experience, those had been with training, increased awareness, and welcoming attitudes, all of which begin in the heart’s ability to recognize intrinsic value above disability. When God breathed life into Adam and Eve, He instilled within them His own image, instantly bestowing upon them inherent value that is irrevocable; in some circles, people are referred to as “Icons of God” in order to preserve the scared nature of the term and the image they bear. Although this worth can never be changed, the original perfection that God created Adam and Eve with is marred by original sin: a consequence that reaches all of humanity (Hoekema 20). 

The term “Imago Dei” is something that is so often tossed about in theological discussion that it seems to have lost some of its potency, but it is not something to be taken lightly. When God created the world, he crowned mankind with His image, distinguishing them above all other creations, and instilling within them a value that would never be taken away. Christians understand that this term holds weight, and distinguishes humans above other creatures, yet, when topics pertaining to disability arise, the factor of the Imago Dei, and all that it pertains to, is sometimes forgotten. Humanity, in Christian theology, is predominately defined as an icon of God: it is the basis for the intrinsic value that all human beings possess despite status, intelligence, or physical ability. 

As humans, we innately desire community; the Church functioning as the Body of Christ should be the fulfillment of the communal need that God instilled within us, until we stand in His presence. If people with disabilities are made in the image of God, then they are fully human and share the need for community and relationship with the rest of the human race. Those with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual challenges, are individuals not only deserving of the love and support offered by a Christian community, but, because of their intrinsic value, they have every right to be a member of the Body of Christ. In order for these inclusive needs to be fulfilled, we must biblically redefine inclusion and reorient our hearts to view all individuals, with or without disabilities, as Jesus would.


THINGS TO PRAY ON:

• What is your atitude toward those with disabilities?

• Your church’s attitude?

• Your school’s attitude?


WHAT DOES INCLUSIVE LOVE LOOK LIKE?

If we aren’t expressing that love towards all, we might consider 1 Corinthians 13:1, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” Are there areas such as this, where you have slipped into becoming this loud, obnoxious instrument? Even the loud obnoxious cymbal can become an instrument of beautiful music.

Should you consider making a difference in your life/church/school to be more inclusive?

Stay tuned. In September, we will highlight some groups exemplifying the love of Christ who will give us some practical steps to becoming the full Body of Christ. As we know, God has gifted each of us and we each have a place in His body. 


Were you aware that all Christian schools we’ve checked from Oklahoma to Texas will not accept those with Down’s Syndrome?  I’m trying to imagine the face of the child not allowed to attend school with their brother(s) or sister(s). Is there a case for non-inclusion of these children? 

Should it continue?  Email 

downs@communityspiritmagazine.com and share your thoughts.


-Works Cited in Thesis 

Admin, Gardens. “Oklahoma Disability Statistics.” Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, 13 Aug. 2018. // Cross, Richard. “Aquinas on Physical Impairment: Human Nature and Original Sin.” Harvard Theological Review, vol. 110, no. 03, 2017, pp. 317–338. // Edwards, June. “Children with Learning Difficulties and the Sacraments.” Children with Learning Difficulties, 1994, pp. 70-81. The Way, 17 Jan. 2019. // Eiesland, Nancy L. “Sacramental Bodies.” Journal of Religion, Disability & Health, vol. 13, no. 3-4, 2009, pp. 236–246. // “Five Statistics We Can’t Ignore: Disability and The Gospel.” The Banquet Network, 4” Sept. 2018. // Greenberg, Ben. “Inclusion Is a Jewish Imperative.” My Jewish Learning, 8 Apr. 2015. // Hoekema, Anthony A. Created In God’s Image. 1st ed., Eerdmans, 1994. Print. // “Jewish Values and Disability Rights.” Religious Action Center, 3 Dec. 2015. // Lewis, C. S. The Four Loves. HarperOne, 2017. Print. // Moss, Candida R. “Disability in the New Testament.” Bible Odyssey, 1 Oct. 2014, www.bibleodyssey.org/en/tools/video-gallery/d/disability-in-the-nt // “Orthodox Theological Perspectives on Disability.” World Council of Churches, 21 Oct. 2015. // Reinders, Hans. Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008. Print. // “Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public // Life Project, 11 May 2015. The Bible. New International Version. Biblica, 2011. Bible Gateway. // White, George. People with Disabilities within Christian Community. 2014. // Yong, Amos. The Bible, Disability, and the Church: a New Vision of the People of God. Eerdmans, 2011. Print


Written by Teresa Goodnight

Guarding the City Gates: City Elders Call to Action
Christian leaders.  Standing on the Bible.  Standing at the city gates.  Uniting across all 77 counties in Oklahoma.  Uniting counties across the country.  Re-establishing the role of the Church in civil government. Protecting us from anti-Christian agendas plaguing our country.  They are coming.  City Elders is to be a national network of Christian leaders governing the city gates establishing the Kingdom of God. 


Do I have your attention yet? It’s not just time to get ready.  It’s time to answer the call.


In just one gathering of the City Elders, I was ready to go.  Everything I heard was everything I longed to hear from anyone in the Church right now.  Anyone.  From guest speaker Congressman Kevin Hern to his counterpart Congressman Mark Wayne Mullin, they spoke Biblical truths, prayed with authority, and challenged the audience to stand on God’s word and to stop being silent.    

I was overwhelmed with excitement.  The City Elders President, Jesse “Leon” Rodgers, had not even started to speak.  I’ve been watching our freedoms erode in our silence; Christians are pressed into corners finding no ground to stand on.  Most don’t even want to stand.  The persecution has been heating up in America.  It’s been slow enough to desensitize us as the heat was rising; fast enough that we started to boil over in the pot with our freedoms going down in flames.  

When did we allow liberal agendas to enter our school shaping the minds of our children?  When did believing in God’s word make you subject to discrimination from operating your business in a city  or airport? When did Christian religious beliefs become grounds for blocking your businesses like Chick Fil A?  When?  

God gifted citizens of this country with inalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  These are rights deemed given by God to human beings.  However, we are consenting to give them away.  We just sit in our rocking chairs in silence.  We lost a biblically based education system originally created at the hands of our forefathers.  We let our guard down.  We watched it slip away with barely a mention from most pulpits.  It feels like the guards, who were to be at the city gates, were on a break for the last few decades.   We let the walls around the cities God gave us fall down.

Before Jesse took the podium, he aired a video recounting some of the exact battles lost along the way in this war for our freedom in America.  In it, Jesse shared those fires lighting us up towards this boiling point when prayer and the word of God were removed from our schools.  He flashed blazes of heat from when the courts stripped away the sanctity of life with Roe V. Wade. Flames whipped around us as the sanctity of marriage was abolished in our courts. He spoke of states targeting the purity and innocence of our children to be trained in the LGBT community.  One by one, he highlighted the combustions leading us toward destruction. 

Then, the video shared how government funded public education is now the sanctuary for secular humanism and evolution—maybe the best secret weapon being used.  Honestly, it was a bit like watching him paint an explosive, verbal erosion of morality in America.  It was a battle plan connected in its core to remove God from our country.  Completely.  

In it, Jesse also shared the staggering statistic that over 80% of the children of evangelicals walk away from Christ in their first year of college. We shared this concern in our April issue, interviewing Dr. Everett Piper, former President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, (available online at communityspiritmagazine.com or on Issuu). 

The premise was really this:  If we want this country to remain free, then we must stand up and unify with a Kingdom purpose.

Why would Christians “Guard the Gates?”

Maybe you are asking why this freedom should really matter to the Church.  Why should you think about getting off of your sofa, tossing your weekly commercial free Netflix binge?  Well, that same freedom allows us to share Christ and follow the Great Commission.  It allows us to worship.  To pray.  To gather together in His name in His churches.  In other countries, we know people are imprisoned or killed for telling someone about Jesus.  They face the same kinds of punishments for gathering to worship or to pray.  Freedom should matter to the Church maybe more than any other people group out there, if we have any interest in worshiping our God and bringing people into His Kingdom. 

Jesse took to the podium and shared, “The premise behind the City Elders is based on the Biblical pattern of the fortified cities of Israel, who guarded and governed the cities at the city gates.  These leaders were the first line of defense against attacks or intrusions of any kind. Their responsibility was the protection of the inhabitants of the city, including their families.”  Jesse continued, “It’s a Biblical role that we, as the Church, have let go of.  We really have forgotten to keep up with our defenses.”  I listened as deeply as I’ve listened to anything in a long time.  I knew he was right.  I saw the walls down myself.  I saw them crumbling before me even in the last decade.  There was nothing I could do, but hang my head with others in the room, recognizing my own part in letting those walls be torn away. 

Jesse went on, “City Elders are proven Christian leaders from sectors of the Church, business community, and civil government, who when they convene constitute the spiritual governing council of the cities or a community. They are local leaders whose lives are guided by Biblical principles, Judeo Christian values, and who are committed to the exaltation of Christ Jesus and the practice of His Lordship in every sphere of life.  Their mission is to govern the gates spiritually, politically, and economically so that life is protected, liberty is defended, Christ is exalted and families can flourish.” 

If God doesn’t speak to you in that message, I just didn’t use the right font or something.  I couldn’t hold back my spirit wanting to applaud for the God who was calling us to rise up together and defend our cities.  Our freedom.  Our right to worship Him.  To follow Him.  It was incredibly overwhelming as I contemplated my part in the destruction (from my silence) and my potential to possibly be used by God to right the wrong.  With my four-year old daughter’s future at stake—my heart was burdened with the need to tell our readers about the hope God was providing. The calling God was instigating in spirits across the city in the hearts He dwells in.  My hope?  That you too would hear God’s call to support this group in whatever way God specifically might call you.

Unity with Kingdom Purpose

As a “Watchman on the Wall,” Jesse has had plenty of exposure in the political realm, making a mark for both religious freedom and the sanctity of marriage, family and life.  During the election in 2016, Jesse told then candidate Trump, “While you’re focused on building the wall, the economy, the military and decentralizing education, there is a corollary to what you are going to be doing politically that the Church must be doing.  The Church must get our spiritual walls back up.  9/11 showed us that the walls around America are down.  So, we have to start righting the foundation and building again.”  The City Elders are taking up that call to rebuild it.  They are going into our counties to recruit those called by God to be a part, whether as leaders or supporters.

Jesse shared he believes, “Education is key, as well as pure discipleship.  There’s got to be a brand new system of discipleship implemented.  The Sunday School systems have broken down.  Now, we put our children in children’s Church and there’s not the substance oriented foundational teaching that’s going on.  It’s piecemealed instead of systematic didactic teaching.”  Jesse went on, “What’s happened is America has become biblically illiterate.  The stats show it.  We’re having to start at the foundation.  Foundationally, we are talking about government, divine order. I believe that we are going to participate in what the Holy Spirit is doing in reestablishing the government of God in the earth, bringing the Church together and bringing civil government into one Kingdom context.”  

Jesse stressed, “This effort is not about being just multi-denominational.  It has a Kingdom context in the Church’s role in relation to civil government and how the Kingdom of God operates.”  Jesse added, “Unity movements have failed in the past because they were unity for the sake of unity, just for the sake of the Church. The purpose for the unification of the Church is a Kingdom impact.  So, the Church must have a Kingdom context for it to have its significance, purpose, motive, goal, and Modus Operandi in check.”  Jesse continued, “The Kingdom context is civil government, the Church and the family.  There’s more to it but these are the fundamental institutions that are divinely ordained and have their origin in God himself.”  

God’s Leaders on their Knees

Jesse recently attended the national pastor’s conference in Washington D.C. with other members of the City Elders, as well as hundreds of pastors from across the country.  They all reported gaining an understanding of today’s political and policy issues we are facing.  Jesse said, “The best part of the conference was that the prayer was just so powerful. God’s leaders gathered together and praying in Washington D.C. to redirect our nation back to God.”  

While in this particular City Elders meeting that day, Congressman Hern burst into the room.  He had been across the street interviewing on the radio about the devastating floods.  God prompted him to head to the Doubletree, where he knew the City Elders were gathered, and request prayer for our city and for these people whose lives were upside down.  Those kinds of leaders, requesting those kinds of prayers, agreeing with us that God is in control both in Heaven and on Earth—we need more of those.

While in D.C., Jesse ran into Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education.  Jesse shared, “She is possibly the most important figure in the Trump administration for the purpose of the restoration of education. Education is the number one issue. Abortion is critical.  All of the agenda and points of battle are important, but education is the foundational issue, because the secularization of America is the result of a secular humanist education system.  So, to have a Godly, praying woman in that post, working with President Trump is key.”  Jesse then added, “We will be inviting her to Oklahoma.  We will have a symposium on the reformation of education before the year is over.”  Again, those kinds of leaders, praying, seeking God for His direction to lead our nation back to Him.  Those are what we need.

Jesse also mentioned with excitement, “Congressman Hern and Congressman Mullen are going to help us invite President Trump to Oklahoma.  We are going to invite 3,141 county seats from across the nation to converge on Tulsa to cast the vision of City Elders being established in all counties across the nation.  At some point that meeting will take place—either this year or next.”

In closing, Jesse said, “The City Elders are here to rise up in Christ, guard the city gates, and protect our freedom and families.  We are rising up to say ‘You will not bring these things against Christ into my city.  Not on my watch.” 

Jesse “Leon” Rodgers and his lovely wife, Tammy, have served as pastors, evangelists, resident missionaries in South East Asia and as Bible College instructors. He is a graduate of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary where he received his post-graduate degree.  Jesse is the chairman of the Oklahoma Watchmen on the Wall Network; the pastor’s network of the Family Research Council, Washington, D.C. and the Founder of “City Elders” a Reformation Model of City Governance.  His unique role with the Family Research Council has positioned him to influence government officials from the local municipalities to the White House.  He is a sought-after conference speaker, with a heart to teach others to reign in this life, by the power and authority of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 


“Freedom Removed”

In Genesis, Adam and Eve gave up their freedom.  They had it all.  Everything.  With one choice, God took it all away from them.  Generations to come sought to gain it back only to have those who had it no longer appreciate it.  In many cases, they worshipped false Gods and turned their back on the God who had provided the freedom.  In Exodus, in the story of Moses, the Israelites had God’s power leading the Israelites out of Egypt to freedom.  They trembled in fear when they saw the Egyptians coming.  These are the same people being led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  Then, God splits the Red Sea, gets them to the other side, and closes the sea back upon the Egyptians pursuing them.  You would think they would be thanking God for their freedom over and over.  For a short time they did.  But, when they were crossing the desert and found no food, they were once again pining to be slaves in Egypt.  God gave them manna, flatbread, they found each morning to feed and nourish them.  Did that calm them into worship?  Yeah, ok.  I think it lasted like 5 minutes.  

Just a short time after all of these things, when Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, where were they?  Worshiping false Gods made of gold that they crafted while he was up there getting direction from God.  We are taught these stories from the pulpit.  

We shake our heads in disbelief that they could so quickly forget God and what He did for them.  But, here we are.  We’ve prepared our children so little that Satan trips up 80% of them in their freshman year?  Abortion is so horrible, we’d just like to not talk about it?  How long will our weakened platform of freedom remain in tact?  How long will God allow us to be like the Egyptians worshiping our false God’s of our relaxed and slightly selfish lives, while we ignore the state of our union?  It’s really difficult to say.  That said, looking at Biblical references, I fear we might not be too far from the end of His rope.


When the flood waters were coming up, so was the power of God to move through His Church in Sand Springs, Oklahoma.  We spent days talking with flood victims, as many just needed a friend to hear “their” story.  Story after story, we were heartbroken.  However, what we saw above the heartbreak? God moving as His Church was moving.  We were simply BLOWN AWAY at the way the churches of Prattville and Sand Springs mobilized as a force of power and relief for the flood victims.

You may have heard, as the news repeated over and over for Prattville/Sand Springs to check out “www.ChurchthatMatters.com,” who had organized a website with resources available to the flood victims.  Pastor Rusty Gunn of that church said, “www.Sandspringsfloodrelief.com is a site we set up to compile information for flood victims regarding resources available to them. It is a one stop shop for them.”  However, in talking with Rusty—we found there was much, MUCH more to the story.

“Sand Springs is blessed with an incredible network of local churches. We work together on a regular basis.” said Rusty, “So, when this crisis hit our city, it was only natural for us to come together. The pastors of the Sand Springs Local Church Network meet every month to plan ministry projects together such as a huge “Back To School Bash” at the end of the summer, our city’s downtown Halloween event called Boo on Broadway, or a thanksgiving meal where 2,000 hot meals are delivered on Thanksgiving Day.”  Rusty said, “We have a community-wide Thanksgiving worship service, the National Day of Prayer, and more.”  I was really blown away.  We’ve been hot on the trail of what the Church could look like if we united as we felt God has called us to do.  We were all talking about it, but these guys have been doing it for 20 years.

“We also meet a second time each month at City Hall with our city manager, mayor, and other leaders who join us periodically to pray over our city together” shared Rusty. He went on, “Our local church youth ministries also unite regularly for events, serve days, and a Spring Break local mission trip where the groups serve around our city together during the daytime and then have worship rallies at night.  We rotate between different church facilities each night.”

For Rusty, he felt it was this ongoing relationship and partnership that made it easy to come together at this time and be the Church.  He’s not wrong.  Their movement as the Church was really astounding.  I witnessed it.  I felt it.  I was drawn to it.  I went back to their facilities over and over. I haven’t spent that much time in Prattville for a while.  I think I have been craving such a unification that I just needed to be right in the middle of it.  It gave me a place to go help families right where they were.  

Another thing that really helped, Rusty said, “I had been certified through FEMA’s NIMS (National Incident Management Systems) back in 2009. I have not really used much of that training since then, so I am certainly no expert, but I did know that we needed to take one of the approaches suggested by FEMA in a situation like the flood in our city.”  Rusty continued, “One of the approaches is simply a commander of sorts to take charge and make decisions. The other approach was to form a response team or committee. This was a much better option for us, because of the great cooperation we already have in our city. So, we called together a meeting of all of the local church pastors, city leaders, a state representative, and the superintendent of our schools, along with  disaster relief organizations who were beginning to make their way to our city including The Red Cross, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Samaritan’s Purse, and Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.”  Rusty shared, “The meeting was amazing and the support and cooperation was evident. We nominated and elected the Sand Springs Flood Response Team. It is made up of four local church pastors, a city government leader, and our school superintendent. This team also had connection with state government leaders and county leaders.”  I couldn’t believe that the activity I admired that was being rolled out at City Elders was already in full force in action right here in Sand Springs, OK!  They were nailing it, honestly.

Rusty had the mission statement down perfectly for their churches.  They were being the Church.  He stated, “Our local churches are not just churches IN Sand Springs. We are churches FOR Sand Springs. We mobilized this way because this is what the church does. We come together under the banner of Christ to be His hands and get to our neighbors.” Rusty went on, “We know that what we have in Sand Springs is unique. It is special. God has brought it together over many years. We do not take it lightly nor take it for granted. Pastors over 20 years ago prayed in our city specifically for what we are seeing today.”  I believe they prayed for it. I’ve prayed for it—quite recently in fact, but I didn’t really understand how beautiful it would be until I saw it in action.  Then, I couldn’t get enough of it.  

As far as the flood, it’s been really rough on this group.  Rusty said, “The most difficult part is seeing our neighbors hurting and knowing, even with the great cooperation and the great accumulation of people from our churches collectively, some are having to wait for a long time to get the help they need.”

Rusty continued, “There are so many stories from this, but one in particular is a man name Chester who is a military veteran. His wife had passed away not too long ago and then the flood filled his home with water destroying almost everything he owned. He had already been facing depression after the loss of his wife, but this really set him back. When our team encountered him, he was ready to just give up on life. He wanted to light a match and just let the house burn with all of his remaining belongings and he literally did not want to live anymore. Our team went in and did mud out on his house, carried all of the damaged property out and got the home ready for contractors to come restore it. Another part of the team just ministered to him, built a relationship and shared the gospel with him. He prayed and surrendered his life to Jesus and was saved. He was in our church’s Worship Encounter this past Sunday and was so full of joy he was beaming and smiling from ear to ear. His neighbors have commented to our teams that he is a changed man.” Now isn’t THAT what it’s all about at the end of the day?

“The unity of our local churches through this has strengthened my belief that we really can see our city transformed for the glory of God one life at a time. The impact on the affected neighborhoods, on government agencies, and even on disaster relief organizations has been talked about all over town. This will truly be a legacy moment for the churches of Sand Springs in this season. Pastors and other individuals from other communities have commented how unique this has been to see. I do believe we have set a great example of what churches can do if we lay down our preferences and pride and humbly serve, not caring who gets the credit other than Jesus.”  Rusty—AMEN BROTHER!  AMEN.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  #GoDoBe

Ongoing Needs

The ongoing needs will be here for years to come. People who had income disruptions, people who will be waiting for FEMA and insurance claims. The seventy five percent who were uninsured for floods will not recover for a very long time. We still have families with continuing needs from the 2015 Tornado that hit the same area.

You can help.  Reach out to these guys to see exactly what needs they have.  These are people who are displaced, who will not be back in their home for maybe into next year.   

Written By Teresa Goodnight

Ever have someone walk into your life and you just instantly feel connected? Like you have been friends all of your life?  When Jamie walked into my house, it felt a bit God ordained. She was so lovely inside and out; I knew exactly why my long time BFF introduced us.  We had an instant connection we both felt.  Talking to her was so easy. We didn’t stop. Then, she started sharing her story.  It was her mission birthed from an experience she had buried deep inside her heart.  That is, until someone touched the scar and sent her reeling.  All of a sudden, I didn’t know what to say.  She continued pouring out her heart. We both realized, this story needed told.  We changed the entire focus of the next issue in fact.  People aren’t talking about it, but they desperately need to talk.  There are people in our churches who are suffering all alone and they need to know God loves them.  Someone needs to share that overflowing undeserved mercy and love God offers to all of us who have made mistakes–ALL of us. 

Someone needs to break the silence.  

Abortion is a tough topic in the world in general.  You can’t breathe it without stepping on a landmine.  In Oklahoma, one in four women have had an abortion.  In the country, that stat jumps to one in three according to local Catholic Charities workers.    “In the United States, where one half of all pregnancies are unintended, almost one third of women will seek an abortion by age 45.” according to the American College of Gynecologists (ACOG).  The stat doesn’t improve much inside the church.  It’s a decision defined as a woman’s right to choose what happens inside her own body.  For that reason alone, it’s a political hot button.  

Churches steer so far clear of it that in Oklahoma, 25% of the women in our congregations are left facing this alone.  Many believed what Planned Parenthood told them when they walked in the doors.  Then, when they found out it was different—they were left to suffer alone, without anyone to help them walk through it.  There was no one to help talk through the shaming—done both by well-meaning but hard core protesters and the convicting shaming led by Satan himself.  They were left without anyone to help them with that shame Satan uses to minimize them.  They are without anyone to help them know what God thinks about what’s been done and where to go from there.  These women, for the most part, are just alone.

So, we want to start this off and set the record PAINFULLY straight:  God absolutely offers the same grace, love, forgiveness, and removal of all sins as far as the east to the west to anyone who has made ANY mistake. 

To the liar, the adulterer, the person lacking any trace of integrity, the convicted criminal, fill in your blank here–He offers His love and grace as a free gift. We don’t have to earn it.  We do have to turn to him, humble ourselves, and confess our mistakes to him.  He absolutely will forgive anyone.  The difficult part of finding God’s grace though often comes in a battle of trying to find our own.  No matter what God offers, if we feel so much shame—and there’s no one to talk with us about it—we will find ourselves nursing our scar rather than ever being set free from it.

These women were encouraged to save this joyous occasion for a time in their life when they were more ready.  Some were told they were just carrying a blob of cells.  Some were told by the child’s father this was the only way to face the situation. Others knew exactly what they were doing.  Almost all believed they could just go on with their life just as it was after the choice was made.  Jamie said, “The biggest deception in this war on women is that you can just go on with life.  It’s just not true.  You are forever changed.  Your lenses for seeing life are altered.  The truth is, you will never be the same.” 

We run around offering God’s forgiveness He has promised to everyone who has made regrettable choices. However, somehow, as a church (and not all, but most), we’ve decided it’s just too controversial to address from pulpits, where we are supposed to help our congregations.  There are large churches in town, where we have heard it is absolutely a policy that abortion is not an allowable topic for discussion.  

We know the silence, because Jamie heard it.  Over, and over, and over again.  She even heard it when she tried to launch a recovery group inside her church and found her request lost in the shuffle in what seemed like purposeful avoidance.  She heard what no one wanted to offend her with loudly and clearly.  But, when no one addresses your pain, what you hear becomes a deep-seeded pain buried inside your heart for you to bear alone.  That is, until someone accidentally punches through.

Jamie is involved in a women’s group started through a local church.  The women get together, study God’s word and share things they are facing, needing advice or prayer.  They also laugh and fellowship together.  One day, at this group, Jamie mentioned something about not singing anymore.  The woman, unknowingly said to Jamie, “God will use your singing again.  He will.”  Jamie looked up at her with rage in her heart and thought “Don’t you ever say that to me again.  You don’t even know what you are talking about.”  Then, she left her friend’s house.  Jamie said, “I think I didn’t speak directly to her for a month. I just didn’t know what to say.”  Jamie then explained, “When I had come clean about my abortion my church in Minnesota asked me to step down from the praise and worship team. I had decided that this was the price I would pay for what I had done. I vowed that I would never sing again and that God didn’t need someone like me to lead people into His presence.”  Jamie locked away her torment, her pain, and so much more of her heart than she realized until her friend accidentally punched through. 

Jamie said, “I was so upset by what she said. I just felt she had no idea what she was saying, and the vow I had already made.”  Jamie continued, “Honestly, I didn’t even realize how much it mattered to me.”  She went on, “When I lived in Minnesota, I sang on the worship team at my church. The people there became like family to me.  I just knew my boyfriend would get saved and our relationship would change. However, I found out I was pregnant causing my two worlds to collide.  I didn’t know what to do. I talked with my boyfriend, who was very convincing that we would never be together if we tried to be parents right now. He wanted me to terminate the pregnancy. It was not something I ever thought I would even consider.  I just wanted everything to go back to normal and I was desperate to make things work with him. So I compromised everything I believed in for the sake of convenience and what I thought was love.”

Jamie shared, “I walked in to a waiting room full of other people aborting their babies. There were so many people. Really? Is it always this busy? Probably not. I waited and waited and was finally told that the doctor was involved in a car accident on her way to the clinic. My eyes were big as saucers and I distinctly heard God say, “Stand up and walk out. I’ll take care of you.” I shrugged it off, but was visibly shaken by the way this was unfolding. By this time, the waiting room was almost standing room only. I couldn’t believe it. People were laughing and talking like it was no big deal. Was I the only one that was battling a war in my spirit? They finally called my name and I went back alone. The counselor talked to me and told me they had to do an ultrasound to see how far along I really am. So I laid down and she put the cold gel on my belly. She asked me if I wanted to see and I said yes. I saw flashes of light on the screen and what looked to be a pinto bean. The beating of my baby’s heart was right there. Trying to grow, trying to live. The gravity of what I was about to do hit me for a split second and I asked her to turn the screen around. I prayed at that moment that God would just “leave me alone.”

Jamie said, “I was lead to the ‘procedure room’ where I was asked to undress from the waist down and the doctor would be in shortly. Fifteen minutes go by, then thirty, then forty-five. I finally poked my head out of the door and asked if they forgot about me. It was torture just laying there in a cold, sterile room without God’s presence and with the weight of my sin. Why didn’t I just get up and leave?” Jamie went on, “Once the doctor and nurses came in things moved pretty quickly. Bright lights turned on. Clanking of sterile equipment. The nurses were talking amongst themselves about who knows what and I was just laying there with tears streaming down the sides of my head. I finally spoke up and said, “How can you just talk like that when I’m laying here crying?” One of the nurses looked me square in the eye and said, “Sweetheart, we haven’t done anything yet if you want to change your mind you can.” I’ll never know why I didn’t get up and get out of there. It’s a question I’ve asked myself time and time again. I just knew that I wanted to go back to ‘normal.’” Jamie was so solemn, as she shared the events of that day.  She said tearfully, “I had no idea that my ‘normal’ would never look the same again. It was gone. There was no such thing as that anymore.”

Jamie said she left the clinic and went to eat with her boyfriend and then worked an 18 hour shift. It was done.  However, it would never be done in her heart.  Just a few months later, she was working her church booth at a music festival. She saw a booth across the walkway showing graphic video of mid and late term abortions. Jamie said, “I lost it. My mind began reeling, taking me directly back to the clinic, replaying over and over the decision I made. I started to shake and eventually knelt down on the ground to hide my emotion. My pastor’s wife came over and asked if I was ok. I eventually told her what I had done. She was heartbroken for me. She prayed for me, loved me and accepted me where I was. But in reality, no one could have shamed me or judged me more harshly than I had already done to myself. After some discussion, I was asked to step down from the praise and worship team. I understood. In my mind, this would be the price I would pay for what I did. I vowed to never sing again, I wasn’t worthy to lead anyone into His presence.”

The difficult part for Jamie was that she was now all alone.  There was no one to talk with about her situation.  Who would understand?  She said, “I just dealt with it the best I could.  I think I covered it up—buried it deep inside, and finally found the strength to move on.”  Jamie said she and her boyfriend broke up within a few months of the decision. She didn’t want to have anything to do with him.  She didn’t want to think about it anymore.  Then, she was back in church.  About two months later, she was fortunate enough to go on a trip to Israel where she met her husband. She went with her church in Minnesota and he was with his church from Oklahoma. They talked long distance for a while and he eventually came to visit her. 

During their first date, she just blurted out “I’ve had an abortion. Is that gonna be an issue for you?” Not exactly first date material. Jamie said, “I really was just so ashamed and felt so unworthy of anything.  I thought I would just go ahead and end it there. Turns out he actually did have to take some time to pray about how he felt about it. It just further seared into my heart the lie “What you did is unforgivable.” He eventually asked me if I would date him exclusively. I told him I wasn’t going to move again for a guy. So, he moved to Minnesota and the rest, as they say, is history.”

“I can’t really share all the emotions I experienced about my decision over the years. I couldn’t go back. It was done. I was never the same again and I had to learn how to be ok with that place.  It was a dark, lonely place—so I just decided not to go there.  I think I buried it and decided to go on with life.  However, the scar and the pain were always heavy on my heart.” lamented Jamie.  

After marrying, Jamie found herself pregnant.  About 5 weeks into the pregnancy, she miscarried. She was devastated. She said, “I just felt like I was being punished because of what I had done. Would I even be able to have kids? What if God decided He couldn’t trust me with children? I actually understood that. I was just heartbroken.” Fortunately, shortly after, she was pregnant with her third child.  She was elated.  She was so excited to get to meet her Jacob.  Jamie said, “I just couldn’t wait to hold him, to look in his eyes, to be the best mom I could possibly be to my baby, but my previous decision was always there haunting me in the back of my mind.  It crept up enough to shame me and condemn me until I suppressed it again.”  

When Jacob was born, Jamie’s heart was overwhelmed with instant love for his precious face. Being the best mother she could be to him became a top priority for her daily.  Then, just a few years later, she gave birth to her fourth child, Payton.  Payton was a bright, beautiful baby girl with a joyous heart.  Jamie’s life had never been more right with her better-than-dreamed-of family, except for that nagging voice of condemnation always trying to steal her moments of joy.

That’s where we started, Bible study with the friend who drove into Jamie’s scar like a bulldozer speaking words of encouragement that felt like a knife through her heart.  The incident forced Jamie to reexamine her choice, and search God’s heart for what He wanted to with it. How would He turn these ashes into beauty? Jamie said, “All I had was my story, my guilt and shame and a willingness to share it all.” With that, she began sharing her story with close friends, at first, and then acquaintances and eventually people she’d never met.

“The more I shared my story, the more I realized how many people were suffering in silence. I started to become painfully aware that we are in the middle of a crisis. Not only with abortion itself, but the souls caught in the aftermath.

I decided I wanted to do my part. I said ‘YES’ to God’s heart and am willing to do what I can to bring healing, wholeness and restoration to the hearts and destinies of men and women suffering with the torment of a sin that no one is willing to openly talk about.” 

Jamie said the more she talks about it, the more healing it brings–the more God shows her how much He loves her and how His grace covers her. So, that’s what she is doing. Creating space for men and women who have been touched by the effects of abortion. Jamie said, “A lot of people can’t explain why they feel stuck or why they feel depressed, unworthy or don’t feel ‘alive’ anymore. I didn’t realize until much later that the lies I chose to believe about myself as a result of the abortion caused me to sabotage my entire life. Once I realized that, I was blown away. I wasn’t going to allow Satan to steal my destiny. In fact, I was determined to fulfill the destiny God has for me AND the baby I aborted. Her life is going to matter.”

Talk About Destiny:

Jamie’s humble heart is in ministry to help men, women and families who have been touched by silence of sins like abortion to find God’s grace and healing.  Her message of God’s overwhelming mercy can be restorative to people facing Satan’s army of convictive thoughts like shame and guilt.  Let the church be silent no more. 

You can reach Jamie at: talkaboutdestiny@gmail.com.  Get her on your calendar to speak to your group, church or event.  

Caring for broken people is a beautiful path towards helping God’s kingdom be restored.  When restored, we can all operate from His powerful platform of mercy and grace. 

We can be the mighty warriors for Christ He has called us to be and ALL LIVES can come out of the silence and matter again.

Written By Missy Nicholas

Greeta and Jami had been friends since childhood and now were pregnant with boys, due on the same day.  Conversations assured the strengthening of their bond as they planned to raise their sons together, as friends.  I had not known either of them long and did not know either of them well; I was merely a witness of what was about to unfold.  I met Greeta after she found out that she would not raise her son because of a terminal prognosis.  He would only live for hours, if he lived at all.  She would love him for as long as she was given–just 8 hours after his birth. 

Jami’s pregnancy resulted in a beautiful baby boy–a drastic difference shattering all of those fantastic fantasies of fun. Instead of walking the same path, it seemed that a crossroads was forcing them to go different directions.  Jami organized for the normal things a new baby brings.  Greeta, bulldozed over with loss,  was preparing for a road of grief.  

Most friendships fall apart here.  Many relationships end when there is still affection left to be shared. We are not skilled at being in someone else’s reality when it is different from our own. We prefer swimming in the warm waters of comfortable emotions in order to keep our friendships intact.  The difference between what Greeta and Jami had planned and what occurred seemed too drastic to comprehend. Impossible, it would seem, to move through it together while remaining present in each others lives.  It’s often easier to allow these kind of differences to create distance and let the relationship fade into a memory with nobody to blame other than life’s tragic turns.  It wouldn’t have been the first relationship lost at the crossroads of “I don’t know what to say,” and “I don’t know what to do.”  And yet, what I witnessed between these two friends has forever changed my heart and life regarding love in the differences. 

Imagine a new mom stepping out of her euphoria after childbirth enough to sit with her friend in grief because she just lost what you brought home.  Jami could have stayed home in the joy of her new nursery, relishing the gift of health.  Instead, she showed up for Greeta in ways nobody else could have.  Without knowing what to do or what to say, Jami bridged the gap between gratitude and grief simply by just being there. Later, she was brave enough through tears to ask Greeta to be the caregiver for her son, Jericho when she returned to work.  An uncertain and potentially damaging conversation.

Yet she extended an invitation to share in the blessing of life to her friend who had been swallowed by the grief of death.  Jami took a risk to find the solid ground of friendship instead of allowing it to get lost in the unspoken and assumed.

On the other hand, imagine a grieving mom, who experienced the birth and death of her own son cradling and loving her friend’s baby within days of her own loss.  Greeta likely didn’t have words but she was present with Jami in her joy, grateful for what her friend experienced though it was so tragically taken from her.  Resentment and bitterness were surely vying for a place in her thoughts, but she welcomed into her heart a healthy baby boy.  She allowed herself to sit in the joy of new life with her friend, when grief was still her constant companion.  She not only became the primary caregiver when Jami returned to work, but she loved Jericho in ways that only she was able.  She loved him despite her grief, and because of her grief–a love so rooted in grace it formed an amazing bond between these families. 

I have been just close enough to understand that between these two friends is an intentional and compelling love. The place between them can only be described as holy.  Holy, because moving between them is a love that can only be seen as the hand and the heart of God.

Missy Nicholas is a professional psycho-therapist, an amateur photographer and a lifelong writer.

Catch her blog at www.sunsetsandsnowflakes.com



CRITICAL UPDATE:  

This article was written in early January and we loved it so much, we wanted to share it in our Mother’s Day issue.  Two days after Missy published it in her blog, Jericho who is 3 years old was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia.  Now these women with their beautiful friendship are arm in arm fighting together again. Jericho recently had an allergic reaction to the chemotherapy, causing him to code in his mother’s arms.  After 40 minutes of CPR and 3 days in the ICU, Jericho shocked medical staff with his miraculous comeback.  As of the printing of this article only weeks after coding, Jericho is back to his chemotherapy regime. These two women are a living, breathing testimony of love and grace for one another and an example to each of us.

There is a Venmo account for Jericho Roberts, as well as an account at RCB bank in NE Oklahoma (just drop by or mail) if you would like to assist with medical expenses.

Ephesians 4:3-3-16 (NLT)

“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit…Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

The unification of the body of Christ to do good works together…ahhh that sounds nice.  At least we think so.  Although we’d like to take credit for the concept, it’s actually woven throughout God’s word.  At the end of the day, we are to be united in Christ as His Body.  Sometimes we get so caught up in being a certain church, denomination or organization that we lose sight of the advantages for God’s Kingdom when we come together as His “Body.”  When you have an amazing group of arms, who can flex their power inside their realm effectively, can you imagine what they could do paired together with some legs to move around? A torso for stabilization?  What if they found some super fingers, who could be instrumental in finer tasks of detail?  Sometimes we just think too small as the “Body” of Christ.  Can you imagine if we applied our strengths and abilities in a unified manner? 

With decades of diversity training in the workplace under my belt, I can attest that Corporate America spends gigantic budgets teaching the value of diversity in the workplace. When we bring together people with different skills, different vantage points looking at a situation, and varied approaches to being effective, we can create a more powerful solution to the problem.  When we bring together all sorts of companies in an industry association, we can share those approaches, finding ways to work together for the common good of the industry.  

The application of diversity in effecting positive change under a unified movement can greatly expand the reach of that movement.  Just using the famous expression—we all understand resources can be saved from “trying to reinvent the wheel.”  So, it’s puzzling why, as a “C”hurch, who is directed by God to be unified in purpose, that we would hold so tightly within our own boundaries.  What could we do if we applied God’s direction, which is a proven strengthening tactic in the business realm, to our efforts to reach the community for Christ?  There are so many business skills that need applied to strengthen the church. (That’s for discussion another time!)

God already made us aware of His plan for our unity.  He also made us very aware of our varied gifts and strengths.  And, of course, he gave us the symbolism behind the “Body of Christ” to demonstrate exactly how we can work together for the greater good of the Kingdom.  (Check out the interview with Jason Law from “Unite My City” for another great demonstration of this plan!)

We recently found great strength in partnering with pregnancy resource centers, abortion recovery ministries, those with a heart to help little babies, and those in Tulsa who are here to help families in crisis or need.  We all partnered up proactively with Focus on the Family and their event “Alive from New York,” displaying a 4-D ultrasound in Times Square–showing our support for life here from Oklahoma.  The Alive from Oklahoma “Standing in Love” event held May 4th, is an exact representation of the power God puts in our unification of His body, working for His purpose.  None of us could have pulled this event off alone.  I can’t wait to see what we do together next! (Did I mention we also did a red carpet event together for the movie Unplanned, which beat all the expected box office records?  The movie rips the veil from Planned Parenthood revealing truths that need told!)  

We feel God is definitely calling us to continue to work together for His kingdom!  It is our prayerful goal to be a vessel to God’s followers, to the “C”hurch, so that we can have a greater impact together.  We’re here to help.  Let’s do this!  #Go.Do.Be

Written By Betsy Gwartney Catrett 

Celebrating the Joys, 

Minimizing the Pain, 

Maximizing the Gain.

Here we go!

As next to the last of 7, I missed out on Mothering 101.  I flunked babysitting, too. I didn’t know what to do.  So, when I married and babies came up, I felt, ummm STRESS. What was I to do?

I prayed and turned to God’s word for help.  I read Psalm 127:3 (NLT) “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” So how did that scripture truth jive with my feelings about motherhood?  NOT AT ALL.

So, I kept coming back to the Lord each night until my heart was at peace.  I told the Lord I trusted Him to guide our family size and my fears and concerns of ineptness as a mother!  By this time, I had already miscarried our first baby who was named Levi Joseph. Then, in barely seven short years, the gifts of Larry Paul (Lars), Lynden Dale (Len), Lance David, Lark Daniel, and then Luke Stephen were given to us.  Whaaat?  Don’t worry, it’s ok. 

Despite a wonderful life of exciting travel, amazing people, and treasured life experiences I couldn’t have imagined the one area that tops them all is being a mother!  Seeing the joy on each sweet child’s face when he entered into the light and life of spiritual birth and growing in that walk is ecstasy.   3 John 1:4 (NLT) “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.”

So, what do we do with the sorrows?  And I don’t mean just the sorrows, but also the

SORROWS. Thankfully not all of you, but many of you KNOW exactly what I mean.  I had SORROWS that ended up lasting for decades. Little by little I believe the Holy Scriptures washed my mind and gave me a heavenly perspective that eased my pain. 

Family life can be a lot like the “no pain no gain” aspect in the gym. We can reframe the pain, frustration, sorrow, embarrassment, shame into a positive purpose that maximizes hope, energy and honor despite what one is going through.

Let’s give it a try by looking at 4 important foundational beliefs. 

1.  First things first:  Salvation is about becoming spiritually ALIVE; born again into a realm for which we were designed, but by the human choices of Adam and Eve the entire human race died spiritually.  Focus on being ALIVE, not saved.  (Salvation is a wonderful by-product, but tends to result in us trying and trying to be “good.”)

2.  Next, create a family atmosphere of LIFE-LONG LEARNING, with an emphasis on MATURING in our understanding of intimacy with God and the activity of spiritual warfare.  We LEARN by listening for God and acknowledging when we hear Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).  We LEARN from mistakes if we take the time to debrief, process and look for the truths in the experience.  A post I read recently on Facebook went something like this: “Boy did I mess up; Dad’s gonna KILL me!” Or is it, “Boy did I mess up, I’ve GOT to call DAD!” What kind of response does your belief system produce?

3.  Rather than life being about perfect performance of whichever Christian list you choose to follow, understand that life is about LEARNING TO LOVE and LIVE IN UNITY and HARMONY.  (John 17:15-23, John 13:35) How in this world do we authentically love people whose choices affect us negatively and their styles of relating are so irritating and frustrating? Try this, realize that we reap what we sow.  When we experience what we earlier “dished out” we have motivation for growth and change.  The irritating person does, so do we!  Give the amount of love and understanding that you want others to give you (Luke 8:31).  Another helpful tool is to “Get wisdom, but with all your getting GET UNDERSTANDING!” (Proverbs 4:7) Understand that our Creator’s plan is for us to defeat evil together, thus He uniquely designed us and placed us in family systems.  No mistakes on His part!  As we understand one another’s strengths, gaps and growth areas we can mature together resulting in a powerful synergy that dispels darkness and produces intimacy, peace, and provision in every way. 

4.     Thus (and lastly), every family has a spiritual ASSIGNMENT given by God. (Exodus 34:7) Beliefs produce behaviors in every family.  Identify the behaviors that rob of life and love and the beliefs behind them, then ask God for the Truth with which to replace them.  You will be delighted with the new fruit your TRANSITION GENERATION created!

You see, your children don’t need a perfect mother.  They need a mother who will show them where to turn when searching for answers, how to humbly receive God’s  heavenly perspective and the life-learning of others, and how to ask God for power to apply what they know.  You can relax and know that Elohim, our Creator, has a Master Plan for bringing us to spiritual life and maturing us in intimacy and spiritual warfare that results in a victorious harmony that will thrill our souls and delight His heart!  By focusing on spiritual life, being a life-long learner, growing in one’s ability to authentically love and unify, and accepting ones family assignment you position yourself to celebrate the joys, minimize the pain and maximize the gain.  

Let’s GO!


Written By Teresa Goodnight

What’s up with all the “Unite my City” Buzz?

We caught up with Jason Law, who has a passion to see the Body of Christ in cities work together in unity. Jason is the President of World Compassion Terry Law Ministries and the author of Unite My City. Jason shared, “Not only is Unite My City a book but a movement I believe God is reigniting in His Church today. Some people may be trying to figure out what Unite My City really is. That’s one of the reasons I wrote the book. Generally speaking, it’s the concept of unification of the Body of Christ. It takes a little bit of explanation and understanding of what this can look like in the context of a city. The main thing we want to communicate is that ‘Unite My City’ is a movement not just a set of events. It’s even beyond the efforts of what we help facilitate through World Compassion. There are other churches or groups that coordinate unity efforts among churches as well. We have met many in the Tulsa area who have a similar heart and vision. To me, this is a sign of a movement, when God puts something on the heart of many that is similar, I think we should pay attention to that.”

Jason went on, “The events we do are more catalytic to help inspire the movement. Unite My City’s message to the church is unity is not something that we do – it is who we are. We are one in Christ. Our heart is to encourage local churches in our city to continually walk in unity by finding ways to collaborate to serve our city in an ongoing way. So, it’s never just an event for us.”  

I asked Jason what was next on the horizon. He said, “We’ve got the big ‘Serve My City’ day June 8. The heart of the event is really to see churches work together to meet the needs of our community.” Jason continued, “So it’s nothing new in the sense of churches serving the community. We have done that, but we haven’t been great at doing it together consistently. It’s important that we serve with one another at such a high level that our city takes notice. I believe in doing so we point people to Jesus in a significant way.”  

Jason said, “John 17 is a very famous passage of Scripture where Jesus is praying for his entire church. He prayed we would become one, and then our unity would accomplish two things. First, the world would believe that God sent His Son for them. Second, our unity shows God’s love for the world just as He loved His Son – Jesus. For the world to experience these two truths, we must show them what the Church working and walking in unity looks like. This is powerful in the context of a city or town. 

It’s not enough to say we are united; our spiritual unity in Christ must be visibly manifested by the Church. When unbelievers in a city learn of churches and Christian organizations of diverse ethnicities, denominations, and generations united in citywide prayer and worship events and especially see our unity through community service projects, they witness our unity in action. I believe it presents God’s love in a refreshing and powerful way.

John 17: 20-23 (NLT) says “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.  “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”

Jason also quoted John 13:34-35 (NLT), ”So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Jason shared, “It’s our love for one another that our cities will know we are followers of Jesus. That’s what Jesus said.  So, what does the world see when they look at the church? We know we all have our own banners on things and that’s great. We are each unique. In no way do I believe that Bible unity requires us to lay down our uniqueness. It doesn’t require us to give up our diversity or different cultures or styles. Rather, I think it calls us to come together with those differences and even our disagreements and say, ‘Our love for one another is stronger than what could divide us because that’s the command we have from Jesus. We are more united than we are separated. What unites us is stronger than what divides us. What unites us is more important than our differences  – that’s love.’” 

Jason emphasized, “So, unity is really a dissertation on God’s love. I don’t know if we really understand what the sacrifice of loving one another really means. I’m still learning this. Jesus commanded us to love one another as Christ loved the church. There’s a self-sacrifice that’s required. A lot of times we allow our opinions on social issues, politics or unforgiveness to get in the way of truly loving one another and defending the bond of unity we have in Christ as the Church. Events that we help facilitate in the Unite My City movement are designed to help begin to build and protect that culture of unity amongst the local church in the city.”

Jason said, “I’m a champion of the big ‘C’ Church and want to encourage the Church in our calling. I want the Church to know that we have an opportunity to share the love of God by how we interact with one another, how we speak towards one another, how we talk about one another or how we interact. The event is great because we get to set an example of unity through love to our city.  But, we also get to share the love of Jesus with people by practically meeting their needs.” Jason added, “For example, Chris Campbell with the 111 Project rallied the Church community and made a significant dent in the foster care issue in our area. Imagine what’s possible as the churches unite together to serve our schools consistently? What impact could be made if five or ten churches collaborated around serving one school consistently? Where could that school be in a year? What impact could we make if the Church improved our coordination on feeding the hungry and shelter for the homeless. What if? What’s possible? As we work together in unity, we hope we challenge us all to think bigger – to think about what once was impossible may now be possible.”  

Jason continued, “I get to travel to various countries through our international ministry World Compassion. Over the past 16 years of doing this, one thing I’ve learned is the love of my own nation has grown. I’m thankful for the services our government provides to our people, but I still believe there’s more the Church can do to better serve our communities even to the degree in which it could help decrease government provided services, saving our cities and state tax dollars. If that’s possible, it may be a perk in all of this, but our main goal is to inspire the Church to love people and point them to Jesus. Whether they are Christian or not, whether they choose to accept Jesus as their Lord or not, I think we should keep on loving and serving them.” 

As Jason touched on the role of tax dollars trying to alleviate the suffering of humanity. As soon as he did, I remembered Steve Largent, while in the House, sharing with the Tulsa World that the church was called to rally around the widows, orphans, poor and degenerate—not the government. Jason feels strongly, “I’d really like to see a movement begin to almost take the weight off of our city officials. I think a movement like this doesn’t only serve those in need but also serves our city officials, elected officials and allows the Church to come alongside them in a significant way helping to find solutions to better our communities for all. We’re here to serve with a united, servant-leadership mentality—it could really make an impact. 

The Unite My City Serve Day weekend will kick off at the “Great Lawn” at The Gathering Place on Thursday night June 6th, before the event day, June 8th. Jason said, “This is an opportunity to come together to celebrate our diversity and get our hearts and minds ready to serve our city. It’s another chance to promote unity, connect and get excited about serving our cities. It will be a fun night for the family with live music presented by a variety of churches. All are welcome to come even if they are not Christians. For those participating in the Serve Day, it’s kind of like a pep rally before the big game. We’re honored to be able to host this at the Gathering Place as they have created, with excellence, a space for our city to gather from all backgrounds.”

Jason shared, “Last year, the Unite My City Serve Day had 35 churches participate and 963 volunteers mobilized in one day. This year, we are expecting much more. The goal for the Serve Day is for churches to partner together with another church. It’s about churches interacting together, planning and preparing. It’s in this process that relationships are being established around a common cause they both care about. It’s through these relationships that we can begin asking the question, ‘What else is possible together?’”

“We’re not asking them to reinvent the wheel or to add something to their plate. We’re asking them to rewire the way they approach outreach.” Jason thought rethinking our approach was really the first step to becoming greater than our individual selves. He said, “They rewire it by doing it together rather than isolated. So, if one church was reaching an apartment complex or school, other churches could consider  coming alongside them and contribute. The hope is a church partnership will continue throughout the year and beyond.” Jason added, “We’re looking for the event on June 8th to be a catalytic event to help launch people into sustainable ongoing relationships to keep meeting needs together throughout the year. Our hope is every year, it just builds and builds and builds until this becomes the norm of how we serve our city.” 

It’s not too late! If you’re reading this and it’s ringing true in your heart—just reach out to Unite My City and they can help connect you and your church to other groups that may be a good fit. 

Beyond the events in June, if you’re interested in being a part of what God is doing in the Tulsa area, feel free to reach out to the Unite My City team. They would love to connect you any way they can. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination, heart and passion for serving and of course, the power of the One True God we serve!

Written by Andrea Stephens

I’ll never forget the Sunday morning when the Fertility Clinic called with the crushing news that none of the eggs from the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) procedure had produced an embryo.  We had tried so many other procedures but this was the time we were going to actually see what was happening by putting the eggs and sperm together in a petri dish and watching for results.  

But nothing.  

Nothing happened.

The doctor explained that the next step would be using donor eggs.  I could look at the profiles of women who had frozen eggs, select one, then have her eggs used in another IVF procedure.  But we had already decided that we would not take that route.  Though others were making that choice and joyfully producing little bundles of joy, we had decided we would draw the line at this point.  No third-party intervention.

To say I was devastated was putting it mildly.  I was already ten years into this infertility journey.  Hundreds of doctor’s appointments, invasive ultrasounds, blood draws, fertility drug injections, ovulation kits, six surgeries to remove painful cysts and endometriosis and I still had empty arms.  The hand-knit baby booties on my dresser, intended to be a symbol of hope, had become a disheartening reminder of the loss I felt from being childless.

I had already worked through the jealousy of birth announcements from friends.  The Lord had brought me to the understanding that what He was doing in someone else’s life had nothing to do with me and I eventually could rejoice with them.  I had already learned that taking non-emotional gifts like diapers to a baby shower helped me feel stronger (shopping for cute baby outfits could land me in a puddle of tears).  I had already mastered the art of redirecting the conversation every time someone asked me when I was going to start my own family.

I had also already worked through the tough God questions. Why won’t You give me a baby?  Why don’t You love me? What have I done wrong?  Is there unconfessed sin in my life?  Do You not think I would be a good mom?  Why won’t you bless me?  I promise to raise my children to love and serve You! The majority of my wrestling with God over my childlessness had been resolved with the biblical truth that my infertility was not a withdrawal of God’s love, not a judgment call, not a source of punishment, not proof that I’d been abandoned or forgotten about, and not proof that prayer didn’t work.

Yet, that day after the phone call, I felt like I was still missing something.   I still needed the Lord to comfort my heart and give me understanding.  As I sat and prayed, I sensed a whispering in my soul.  It’s time to focus on the bigger picture.  The bigger picture?  What could be bigger than God’s instructions to be fruitful and multiply?  What was bigger than the biblical accounts of God opening the wombs of Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, and others in the Old Testament?  What was I missing?  What piece of the big picture was not in my puzzle?

I decided to dive into the Gospel of John, paying close attention to Jesus’ words in an effort to understand what God wanted me to see.  So, first we learn that Jesus is the Word, John the Baptist came with a message of repentance, Jesus turns the water into wine, then he turns over the tables in the temple.  Got it.  In Chapter 3, the nighttime chat with Nicodemus about being born again caught my attention in a fresh way.  Jesus said we must be born of the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and believing in Him, God’s Son, brings eternal life.  Hmmm. The eternal.  The kingdom of God.  A different kind of birth.

I continued on.  Finally, in chapter fifteen it happened.  A huge clue was uncovered.  Jesus is the vine, we are the branches; we are to bear fruit—eternal fruit!  I was starting to get it.  Fruitfulness was being given a new definition.  In the Old Testament, fruitfulness referred to bearing earthly children.  In the New Testament, it was about abiding in Christ and producing spiritual fruit.

God, does this mean that Jesus brought a new focus, a new sense of purpose? Could it be that being fruitful was not connected with having kids?

Jesus’ focus was not on the earthly development of the family of God, but the spiritual development of the Kingdom of God.  How?  Share the good news of saving grace found in Christ alone, so others might receive Him into their lives and be born again, born spiritually into the Kingdom of God, into His forever family.

Thoughts of New Testament people without children or without mention of children flooded my mind:  John the Baptist, Martha and Mary, Priscilla, Dorcas, Mary of Magdela, Apostle Paul, and Jesus Himself! If having biological children was the end all, then God would owe Jesus, John, Paul, and others an apology for leaving their lives unfulfilled and incomplete!  Not possible.  God was at work in each of their lives, he loved them, He had an obvious plan for each of them and they fully completed their calling before heading to heaven. 

Whew.

As the idea of spiritual children twirled around in my heart, my head realized that according to this definition, I had lots of kids.  Through years in youth ministry and writing for teen girls, I had indeed seen many be born spiritually and had the joy of discipling them—growing them up in Jesus!

I began to take note of some awesome women God had put in my life throughout 

my baby journey, other childless but Kingdom-focused women.  He was using them—right then—to help me see there was a bigger picture.  Rhonda had a local Christian TV show for women and taught a seminary class for soon-to-be pastor’s wives.  Susie was editor of a teen magazine and led groups of girls on mission trips.  Gail had a puppet ministry that told little ones about God’s love.  Rebecca had a worldwide music ministry.  Lori was an award-winning second-grade teacher who developed a mentoring program.

The dictionary says that part of being a mother is providing affection, protection, nurture, and guidance.  It’s what many of us childless women do.  We love, we teach, we train, we coach, we encourage, we guide.  We are an important part of building God’s forever family.  It seems that on some level we meet the definition of a mom.

The various clues had come together!  This the “big picture” God wanted me to see.

Over the years, I have been so grateful for the truths God has revealed to me and grateful for grasping an eternal perspective.  Now I celebrate each Mother’s Day in a fresh way.  I celebrate all the ways God has used me to be a mom in the lives of teen girls during the previous year.  And I smile, remembering all the young ones who took my manners classes—allowing me to have a tiny part in parenting them.  And I focus forward knowing that I am a mother.  Just another kind.

-parts of this article first appeared in Just Between Us Magazine.