Category: FEATURES

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.


The BIG, FUN, PEOPLE-LOVING event!

Download Press Release Here

Community event. Open to everyone.  We are showcasing the amazing services available to the community for men, women, and families who need them. 

When: May 4, 2019 12:30pm – 4:30pm

Where: Union High School Stadium


Schedule:

  • 12:30 Congressman Kevin Hern, opening speakers, and band
  • 1:30 simulcast starts with Focus on the Family 
  • 3:30 closing speakers and band

During the event, the following fun, free activities will be available for everyone (especially children):

  • Bouncy houses
  • Scavenger hunts 
  • Obstacle courses
  • Giant 6 ft soccer ball game
  • Frisbee contests
  • Throwing contest 
  • Art sections
  • Face painting and more

Want a table?

Table/chairs provided – $0.00 to $300. Show the community the services you offer! (Pregnancy resource centers, adoption, fostering, medical clinics/services, mobile ultrasounds, churches, community groups, and more).

Email info@communityspiritmagazine.com to reserve your table!

Want to volunteer?

We’re looking for loads of volunteers to host games, sell beverages (cans/bottles), and more. Send us your preferences for areas and we will try to accommodate. 

Email info@communityspiritmagazine.com to volunteer!

Exhibitor List

  • Birthright of Tulsa
  • Mend Medical Clinic
  • Crisis Pregnancy Outreach
  • Go Life Mobile Medical
  • Northeastern Hope Resource Center
  • Pregnancy Resource Center of Owasso
  • Stay Close to Christ
  • Compassion Women’s Center
  • May Be Pregnant
  • James Mission
  • Good Samaritan
  • YouthCare of Oklahoma
  • OKDHS Foster Care and Adoption Recruitment
  • Refiner’s Fire Ministries
  • Nightlight Christian Adoption
  • Dillon Adoption
  • LilyField Adoption
  • Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Owasso
  • Tulsa Hills Youth Ranch
  • Catholic Charities
  • Broken Arrow Pediatrics

Written by Teresa Goodnight

70%–that’s 7 out of 10 college students walk away from Christ by their junior year,

according to Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU). That statistic alone should petrify parents. His haunting question: “Are you THAT sure your child won’t be one of the 7?”

CSM reported in February on Carson Lowe, a student at the University of Arkansas (formerly at Mingo Valley Christian), listening to the professor of 250 students in just one classroom proclaim there is no deity. Sadly, we see college professors gaming on our children. Meanwhile, we smile at our kids’ Instagram photos from sport rallies to fraternity parties, ignoring the statistics and warnings. Or, maybe, we’re just in the dark and need someone to open our eyes.

Dr. Piper started his interview with two simple questions for every parent:

“WHAT are they teaching your kids?”
“WHY in the world are you not concerned?”

Honestly my mind was shaken in minutes talking with Dr. Piper. I felt like the Supers (superheroes with powers) in Incredibles 2, when someone rips the hypnotic mask placed on their eyes. OUCH.

Dr. Piper had quickly volunteered to be interviewed. I sought some perspective from colleges and universities. I wanted to understand from their vantage point what exactly was going on out there. I knew how bad it was—or so I thought. Then, Dr. Piper started to speak. Our discussion made me uncomfortable—wishing it weren’t true. It was so powerful, I scrapped it for March. We changed the focus of the magazine for April to center around his warning. It was too critical to the future of Christianity to be a secondary story, too dangerous for our children graduating in just a few months to be pushed beyond a cover story. Dr. Piper needed the platform to rip off as many masks of deception possible from parents’ eyes.

Walking onto the campus of a university, students expect to receive an education to change the trajectory of their lives. According to Dr. Piper, that’s exactly what’s being offered—a purposeful, powerful effort to steer Christians students off course from their faith in Christ.
With Dr. Piper’s reference to the statistic, think quickly of how that might look:

21 of every 30 children in your youth groups—lost.
7 of every 10 children of parents in your Sunday School —derailed.

Play it out however makes the point in your heart–wide is the path that leads to destruction and narrow is the road towards a life with God. Dr. Piper said, “More professors than you can imagine (even at purportedly “Christian” colleges) find it sporting to destroy your child’s faith. They take pride in tearing down a biblical worldview and replacing it with ideas that are in direct opposition to orthodox Christianity. Everything you have taught your son and daughter will be challenged and maligned before they even get unpacked in their dorm room or attend their first class.” If that is going on, and so many stories like that of Carson Lowe reflect it is happening today—then why are we just sitting back and waving goodbye as they drive off merrily toward such statistically verifiable destruction?


They Don’t Learn Everything in Kindergarten–Indoctrination

I asked Dr. Piper, “What are your thoughts on a Christian education vs. a regular secular university?” He answered, “Every parent should be asking is this – Why spend 18 years training up your child in the way he should go, only to then to send him off to a university, where the goal is to tear his mind, heart, and soul out?” Dr. Piper continued, “Parents do it every day. Homeschool parents do it every day. Some seem to think ‘Oh. my son and my daughter will stand up to the religious persecution, the mockery, and the marginalization. My child will be fine.’ I see this misguided confidence all the time, only to have that parent approach me later and admit it was the worst decision they ever made, because they have lost their child.”

“When I went to college, I may have benefited from the cultural assumption that Christians, while perhaps a bit boring, were “good moral people.” We were thought of more positively. Most of our professors knew we wouldn’t lie and wouldn’t steal and wouldn’t try to hit on their wives or any of that type of thing so we were shown favor. These days are long gone. Christians are no longer treated that way.” he said. He went on, “We are now thought of as adversaries. They call us closed minded. They have decided we are judgmental. We have no right to live our lives by our religious code. We are truly the last minority group that is fair game for prejudice and persecution. So why in the world would any responsible parent want this for their 18-year old child? Since we know 70% of our kids will walk away from their faith before their junior year of college, why would you think your son or daughter is outside of that equation?”

I sat there listening with my mind becoming a bit overwhelmed. It’s not like I haven’t been watching the news. There is absolutely persecution to say, “I don’t have a right to decide what is right or wrong—God decided that for me and gave me a nice little book called the Bible as a reference.” I feel the change in the air about which Dr. Piper talked. Honestly, when you think about it, don’t you? Saying “I am a Christian” now assumes “I’m a judgmental person, blinded by religious bias.” It’s not my imagination. I’ve read it on social media. I’ve heard it first-hand.
Dr. Piper is right. He sees it even more clearly than we do. Students like Carson tell us stories about it. So why do we just go on about our gullibly, sending our children off to the slaughter without much more thought than cheering with scholarships or pledging and football bragging rights? Do we even want to wake up? It sure is fun to head to the Saturday game wearing the team colors after all. However, universities today are NOT the universities of old. And, maybe more importantly, according to Dr. Piper, the Christian universities are not all not necessarily a safer place to go either.

Dr. Piper warned, “Don’t be fooled. Christian colleges might not be better than any state university. You can’t just assume their marketing and nice four color brochures means they are actually faithful to the Christian beliefs and values upon which they were founded. Many Christian colleges are missing the mark. Some are, to state it bluntly, simply dishonest. Remember this simply axiom,

Wolves in sheep’s clothing are dangerous. But, wolves in shepherd’s clothing are downright deadly.”

Dr. Piper emphasized, “Any school can put together a slick marketing campaign that claims they are Christian and Christ-centered but do they truly practice what they preach? Do they hold tenaciously to the inerrancy of the Word? Do they believe and teach objectively of truth? If you do not see clear evidence that all of their faculty, every single one of them, teach and live out a conservative and orthodox Biblical worldview, that’s a red flag. Many “Christian” colleges actually take more pride in challenging and deconstructing a biblical worldview rather than teaching their students why they should believe it and how to defend it. Parents have to do their homework.”

Dr. Piper advises,

“Never send your son or daughter to any college or university until you pull the President aside and ask him two basic questions: What’s your view of scripture? And, what’s your view on truth? If he or she doesn’t say scripture is the inerrant word of God—run. If he or she doesn’t answer clearly, concisely, and boldly that Truth is a revelation of God, run even faster.

If there is any hint that they have imbibed the Kool Aid that truth is not an objective reality but rather a mere product of cultural dialogue, this is a giant red flag. It’s just not a good place to go.”

One thing Dr. Piper tells parents and students is this, “When you go to college you don’t major in opinions. I don’t grant degrees in opinions. That would be absurd. That would be an insult to you. You go to college to learn something. The point is to graduate knowing at a least a little more about what is right and true than you did when you started. Opinions always lead to brokenness and slavery. Pol Pot, Mao, and Mussolini all had opinions and it didn’t end well. But Jesus said, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Never send your son or daughter to a university that doesn’t understand this.” Dr. Piper continued, “There is freedom in truth but opinions always lead to bondage. Almost every college I know of celebrates feelings rather than facts and politically correct opinions rather than God’s clear and unalienable truths and the end result is ideological fascism rather than academic freedom.”

Dr. Piper has had many experiences with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). This Council includes about 120 national evangelical Christian schools. Dr. Piper stated “The council is a broad umbrella representing Baptists, Wesleyans, non-denominational schools and so forth. Within that multidenominational venue, we have discussions over differences like baptism, speaking in tongues and other such matters as you would expect.” Dr. Piper went on, “Back when same-sex marriage passed as a recognized legal status, two of our universities, Goshen and Eastern Mennonite, announced they would immediately begin to hire ‘married” homosexual staff. As the result, the President of CCCU sent out a note to all member presidents saying that we needed to come together for a time of dialogue to determine how the council would move forward on this new matter.” Dr. Piper said he was a bit frustrated at the mere thought of having such a discussion. He said to the CCCU president, “Where in the scriptures are we ever told to have a conversation about sin? The Bible tells us that we are supposed to confess it, not sit around and talk about it.” He went further to confront the leadership of the Council: “You seem to be intentionally conflating a disagreement over methods of baptism with a volitional act of sodomy. How can you even suggest that these two things are on the same moral plane?”

Dr. Piper said “Today’s universities, have embraced agendas that are explicitly condemned in Scripture and are clearly contrary to common sense, empirical science and natural law. Christian and secular schools alike support sexual fluidity, transgender accommodations, and all things LGBTQ. There are ‘Sex weeks’ on campuses from coast to coast. Schools invite in porn stars as guest speakers. Traditional morality is ridiculed as little more than the unfortunate product of bigoted white privilege.” He added, “You would also be hard pressed to find a university that doesn’t support socialism vs. capitalism.” Dr. Piper says, “We should be teaching the next generation the virtues of American Exceptionalism* rather than tearing it down. Our culture is something to be proud of rather than something to apologize for.”

*(Wikipedia defines American Exceptionalism as “an ideology holding the United States as unique among nations in positive or negative connotations, with respect to its ideas of democracy and personal freedom.”)

Dr. Piper referenced a quote from Gilbert Keith Chesterton, an English writer, poet, and philosopher to name a few of his known skills,

“When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty…you get the small laws.”
(July 29, 1905).

Dr. Piper shared, “We have come to the point where we refuse to teach the big laws of God; ten simple and clear laws (and frankly Jesus narrowed it down to two!). We disparage those laws. We mock those laws. We malign those laws and what do we get? Thousands upon thousands of little laws from D.C. and elsewhere rushing in to fill the vacuum. This is not intellectual liberty. It’s ideological fascism. Instead of liberty, you see more and more conformity and more and more control. If you refuse to parrot the party line and or to repeat what is popular and in vogue they will crush you.

Dr. Piper continued, “There’s a reason our culture is in a mess. Fifty percent of the country believes in socialism. We’ve lost the definition of marriage. We don’t understand the male and female physiology in our high schools and our universities. We are seeing the negative consequences bear themselves out in the nightly news. The sex-weeks on college campuses that I mention above have pornographers, adult film stars, sex therapists, booths with sex paraphernalia, lectures complete with X rated movies. This is not just in the Ivy league. It is right here in Oklahoma too.” He went on, “When you teach 18-year old men that this is the way they should think and these are the values they should embrace what do you expect? Why are we surprised to see the Matt Lauers and the Harvey Weinsteins of the world making headlines? You are going to get lechers when you teach lechery. We have taught them to behave this way. It’s really no surprise.”

Dr. Piper reaffirmed to me, there is a war for the hearts and minds of our young people. They are the future. Satan knows it. He’s armed and ready to annihilate them at every chance he gets. He’s beating down the doors to the schools. He’s running rampant on the campuses. We either have to put on the armor of God or admit surrender, as this fight cannot be won with passivity. A fight like Dr. Piper references needs sound instruction for our children in God’s word, God’s laws. It needs someone willing to stand up, who knows the reasons they must stand. It needs disciples of Christ, armed and trained in the inerrant word of God. Make no mistake. It’s a war. Don’t worry though. If you aren’t seeing it, you are exactly where the enemy wants you on his way to many victories at the expense of your children and your grandchildren. Just sit there. He will make you nice and comfortable, as he gently turns up the heat to boil you in the proverbial pot.


A LITTLE ON OKWU

Interestingly, as an example of a University clinging to the principles of the Bible, Oklahoma Wesleyan University is not afraid to boldly be pro-life. OKWU even has a mobile ultrasound clinic, which saved the lives of over 200 children. They are simply unapologetic over their pro-life stance. We have seen another Christian university in Oklahoma shy away from such a stance because of federal funds, which cause them to remain silent in fear. It was of no surprise to me when I read OKWU’s value statement: “Unapologetic in our commitment to the truth of Christ and the truth of Scripture, OKWU models a way of thought, a way of life,

and a way of faith. This is a place of serious study, honest questions, and critical engagement, all in the context of a liberal arts community that honors the Primacy of Jesus Christ, the Priority of Scripture, the Pursuit of Truth, and the Practice of Wisdom.”

THIS IS NOT AN AD for OKWU. If you were educated about what might set them apart for Christ, as I was in writing the article—well, good. I’d love to highlight all universities with this kind of commitment to the Bible and these sorts of values. They certainly aren’t as easy to find as my heart would like them to be.


Education. Does Where it Comes from Matter?

“’The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next’” Dr. Piper quoted from Abraham Lincoln. He expounded, “Where do our children spend most of their time? It’s in school. Think of the average hours in school vs. with mom and dad vs. church. There’s no question. School wins. So why would we think, when that’s where they’re getting most of their information, that these ideas aren’t going to sink in? How can we think they aren’t going to be influential in how they live their lives?” Dr. Piper is again spot on. We have to be equally engaged in the elementary and secondary school years about what’s going in, because it WILL come out. That’s how it works.
Dr. Piper also talked of Richard Weaver, author of “Ideas have Consequences.” He shared, “Why is publication date (1948) of Weaver’s book important? It is because it was just a handful of years after the Nazis holocaust. Weaver was writing to the German people, his own people. He was saying that ideas have consequences. His point was very simple: ‘The terrible things we taught in our schools bore themselves out in the terrible actions of our culture.’ We would be wise to learn this lesson.” says Dr. Piper.

Truth is, Dr. Piper isn’t saying anything our pastors haven’t warned us about before. It sinks in on some level. However, as Christian parents in our current culture, if we want our children following Christ, then we have got to take off the masks and see reality. We must arm them with Truth (the Bible) and an ability to study it, understand it and apply it with precision. We must TEACH THEM how to guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We know we have always heard that. However, in the current climate we live in—Dr. Piper is saying we need to wake up and take heed. Don’t just read his words and this article and think, “Hmm…that’s scary,” and then wonder about what you should eat for dinner. That’s exactly the response the enemy in this war is expects to get. It’s at best lukewarm. Just put the magazine back for anyone else to take. With a broken heart, I sadly guarantee, if your child later becomes one of the 7/10, you’ll wish you could go back to this moment and choose better. #GoDoBe


Taking A Stand. #GoDoBe

Read about OKWU taking it to the mat by taking an important religious freedom case to court and fighting for rights being stripped away by new laws:

• “A federal district court issued an order Tuesday (5/16/18) that permanently prevents the federal government from enforcing the Obamacare abortion-pill mandate against four Christian universities in Oklahoma represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. The order also declares that the mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Citation from https://www.okwu.edu/blog/2018/05/court-orders-end-abortion-pill-mandate/

• OKWU was the only university in the country to challenge the government’s imposition in the courts. “When Oklahoma Wesleyan sued the Department of Education in 2016, we alleged that the Obama DOE had unlawfully issued Title IX guidance in 2011 and had unilaterally imposed unfair and impermissible conditions on all colleges and universities,” said Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan. “The mandate violated the privacy rights of our female students, denied due process for all students, and undercut the role of local law enforcement to investigate and adjudicate sexual misconduct.” Their actions allowed the opportunity for all parties to comment on the proposed rules to result in a much fairer system for effectively addressing issues of campus sexual assault. https://www.okwu.edu/blog/2018/02/okwu-agrees-dismissal-federal-lawsuit-office-civil-rights/

Written by Teresa Goodnight

Community Spirit was able to speak with Robia Scott, starring in the newly released movie, Unplanned that hit theaters March 29th.

Robia had numerous roles in Hollywood, such as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, before becoming a Christian and changing direction. Robia was randomly introduced to the directors of the movie in Nashville. She read a small audition for the role. They offered it. It was all pretty quick. Now she feels she’s back in the industry, as a believer, for such a time as this.

Robia bought the book by Abby Johnson and read it. She said, “I was a bit hesitant to take the part. My role is pretty intense. However, I knew quickly in prayer with my husband, I was prepared and positioned for this part.” Robia says, “Instantly, I was motivated by lifting the veil off Planned Parenthood. Even though I didn’t know a ton about the abortion industry to start, I began studying and realized what they were professing was very different from who they actually were.” Robia was troubled, because she felt people were making a BIG decision on misinformation. She said, “Recognizing this was a belief people were being programmed to believe about abortion, I decided I wanted to help expose Planned Parenthood and the entire industry.” Robia said,

“Interestingly, the directors had the movie rights for 6 years, but they said ‘The Lord said not yet.’’ They weren’t really sure why they were waiting. Then, they felt God released them to make it.

Coming out now with what’s happened in New York and the bills being passed,” Robia continued, “it is so ordained by God. I really believe it’s going to be a game changer.”

Robia also spoke of the film’s star playing the lead role. She said, “Ashley Bratcher found out once she was filming motivation for her character. Ashley called her mom after filming for a few weeks to tell her about what she was doing. Her mom immediately broke down. Then, she revealed to her that she was on the table ready to have an abortion with her. Her mom said something like, ‘Literally in a moment, the choice could have gone either way.” Now thirty some years later, she’s the face of this film.” Robia finished, “God knows the end from the beginning. It’s all in His hands.”

Robia spoke about the oddity of the R rating. She said, “We found it interesting Hollywood thought the topic unfit for those under 17, even though they can walk into an abortion clinic without parental consent and make that decision. However, it’s ok. We want parents to go with their children. You have to decide the right age, but just know Planned Parenthood is starting their message incredibly early.”

We should be seeing the headlines by the time this article is released, but Robia said, “You have to understand how Hollywood works. Opening weekend for the box office makes all the difference. As the body of Christ, we have to unite—and if you don’t want your state to look like New York, you can vote with your ticket.” Robia continued, “When there’s a big box office opening weekend, it gets Hollywood the media’s attention. It lets the movie get to stay there (in the theater) longer, to reach more people. Believers have to vote on this with our tickets if we care about this issue and it’s serious to us. How is my one little voice going to make a difference? Right here.”

Robia is a full-time minister, speaker, author, and one of the stars of the movie, which was put together by the same team from God’s Not Dead. She is a gifted teacher of the Word, specializing in offering Biblical tools for transformation that promote freedom, healing, and wholeness. Robia often teaches principles from her book, Counterfeit Comforts: Freedom from the Imposters that Keep You from True Peace, Purpose, and Passion.

Robia began her professional career as a dancer in Hollywood at the age of sixteen. She appeared in numerous music videos before traveling the world with Prince starring as “Pearl” in his international tour Diamonds and Pearls. When the tour ended, Robia began focusing on her acting career. She appeared in over fifty national commercials and starred in various popular television shows such as Beverly Hills, 90210 and CSI. Robia is well-known for her three-year role as Jenny Calendar on the hit TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was during her time on Buffy that Robia became a Christian. Yes, it is a great story! (We will be following up on Robia with a review on her book later this year!)

Shortly thereafter, she left her career in entertainment to venture into full time ministry. For the last fifteen years, Robia has traveled extensively across the U.S. and internationally, speaking at churches and conferences. Her God-given gift of artistic expression is now being utilized to communicate truth for the Kingdom of God. She has a teaching style that is dynamic, relatable, down-to-earth, and fun.

Robia resides in Orange County, California with her husband, James, and their daughter, Gemma.

Written By: Gary L. Richardson

What brought me to write a book on the subject of FEAR?

Growing up on a cotton farm in Deep South Texas, way out in the country, I was a kid that lived with a lot of fear. I didn’t ask for the fear, it was just there.

I could tell a number of stories as to how fear displayed itself in my life when growing up. But, as I grew older, becoming a teenager, I came to hate the fear that I lived with even more. Most wouldn’t guess it, since today I stand 6’ 2” tall, that I was very small for my age when growing up. When I graduated from high school I was still only 5’11,” having grown two inches in the previous two years. So, I was always small for my age until my second year in college. I later learned that this was something that happened in the Richardson lineage. The men got their height much later than normal, just as I did.

In my late 30s I decided to do something, whatever, to deal with my fear issue. In doing so, I went to the Scriptures to learn what was said about the subject of fear. Thus, my book evolved from several years of studying.

In this book, Fear Is Never Your Friend, you will learn what I have learned that has resulted not only in the book but also in my reputation for fearing no man. To understand more you will need to read my book and learn from a Spiritual basis as well as a practical basis why FEAR IS NEVER YOUR FRIEND.

Several years ago I had a meeting with a banker friend, and after greeting one another, she asked, “Anything new going on in your life, Gary?” I replied that I was working on a new book. “What’s the title,” she asked. As I said the words “Fear Is Never Your Friend,” I could discern by the look on her face that she wasn’t buying into that thought, so I asked her to explain why. She said, “Well, if I saw a snake on the floor that was set to strike, I think my fear could help me remove myself from danger.” I then asked what she thought a two-year-old child crawling on the floor would do under similar circumstances, and she responded, “Probably go to the snake,” to which I agreed. My point was that it was her knowledge (dangerous snake set to strike) and her wisdom (need to get out of harm’s way) that caused her reaction, neither of which the two-year-old was equipped with. When my banker friend and I had that conversation, I already had discussed the subject of my book with numerous friends and had received responses from them similar to hers.

The Bible is replete with the admonition that fear is never our friend (with the exception that we are to fear God, which is a reverence of God). Yet, it is all too common for believers frequently to use the words, “I was afraid to do” such and such, much like those who say, “I don’t do this or that for fear of getting hurt.” In Fear Is Never Your Friend, you will learn in a meaningful way the truth of taking fear out of your thinking. Again, it’s knowledge and wisdom that are your friends.

I have found over the years of doing seminars on this subject that it greatly impacts a person’s life by learning the importance of taking the word “fear” out of his or her conversations. In the seminars, time permitting, I give an overview of every chapter in the book, which is a great help, possibly a “must,” in impacting individuals to the place where they can walk away from the seminar totally convinced to remove fear from their lives and conversations. Much of the same can be accomplished by reading Fear Is Never Your Friend.

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

My friend Rev. Wade Burleson wrote a four-page foreword for my book, and in conclusion he wrote these words: Former Prime Minister of India Jawaharial Nehru is quoted as saying, “There is perhaps nothing so bad and so dangerous in life as fear.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American lecturer-philosopher, wrote, “The wise man in the storm prays to God not for safety from danger, but for the deliverance from fear; it is the storm within that endangers him, not the storm without.”

Fear has reached epidemic proportions in America today. It’s as if it is almost a contagious disease rendering a person weak and ineffective, robbing him or her of the joy of life. Noted Christian writer Oswald Chambers says in his daily devotional book, “If Jesus ever commanded us to do something that he was unable to equip us to accomplish he would be a liar.”

In reading the book Fear Is Never Your Friend you can come to the place of overcoming the fear that many live with. As I said to my doctor once when he commented, “The only thing we have to worry about is…” I stopped him and said, “Doctor, I don’t worry about anything,” and then I added, “but if you tell me it will help to worry, then I will.” Of course, he did tell me to do that.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Read Fear Is Never Your Friend and become one of the many that have shared with me over the years how they have been liberated in removing fear from their lives.

Here is what one reader wrote that stands out among the many responses I have received from those that have read Fear Is Never Your Friend.

It is rare that a writer captures just the right words with just the right story examples with just the right tone to create a desire for change by and within another person, but that is exactly what Gary Richardson has accomplished with his remarkable book, Fear Is Never Your Friend.
I have agonized many times about making a decision – sometimes professional, sometimes personal – simply because I “feared” that someone would like me less or think less of me because of my choice. Sound familiar? Well, making those torturous decisions got easier a few years ago after I first read Fear Is Never Your Friend, which I describe to others as “medicine for a bad case of ‘I’m afraid to …’”

In this inspirational book, Gary lays out key tactics to help overcome fear, and it is these life’s lessons of his that have helped me navigate through life a lot easier. Here are a few of my favorites: * We have the right to decide what will be a part of our lives. * If we allow negative and fearful thoughts to live in our minds, we will discover they are expensive tenants; instead, stop negative thoughts with hopeful, faith-filled thoughts. * Choose your thoughts wisely; monitor what enters your mind and heart. * Choose your words carefully.

My summation of these gems of wisdom is, “Do not fear your fearful feelings. Challenge them and focus instead on how you will defeat them.” Fear Is Never Your Friend will not miraculously get rid of fear in your life, but it definitely will teach you how to do so.

Joyce Gideon
Public Relations, Editor, Writer

Check out www.garyrichardsonspeaks.com where 3 other books I have also written can be seen. “Thank God They Ate The Apple”, “Black Robe Fever” and “I Want You To See Me”.

Written by Sean Farver

I’m not ashamed to admit it… The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies of all time. There. I said it. It has everything: sword fighting, a fire swamp, rodents of unusual size, quicksand, the Cliffs of Insanity, iocane powder, more sword fighting and, of course, a six-fingered man (oh yeah, and some romance as well… but let’s be honest, you can find romance in tons of other movies but only one combines it with the magic of shrieking eels). What’s not to love?

Like many adventure stories, the drama is heightened because it centers on matters of life and death – most notably, the (presumed) death of Westley at the hands of Count Rugen in the dreaded Pit of Despair. After being examined, however, the best news the audience could have hoped for is delivered by the aptly-named Miracle Max: “It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.” So, all is not lost; true love can go on and the evil king can still be defeated. The hero is only “mostly” dead.

Why am I yammering on about an old movie? Well, believe it or not, it offers us a chance to reflect on a true matter of life and death. There’s no question that Easter is for many reasons the most important day of celebration, worship, and reflection that Christians enjoy. The main reason, of course, is summed up in one word: resurrection. We bank everything on it. We believe that Jesus’ resurrection not only confirmed God’s promises to bring salvation but also that it paved the way for those who are in Christ to one day be resurrected as well. Jesus’ resurrection was God’s way of driving the final nail into the coffin of death itself. No longer would sin and death hold any power over us. We believe that when Jesus was resurrected, death died.
No wonder the Apostle Paul joined with the prophets Isaiah and Hosea and wrote these stirring words in

1 Corinthians 15.54-55: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

There is a nagging question, however, that has been asked for the past 2000 or so years: did Jesus really rise from the dead? After all, it’s not our normal experience that people who are truly dead come back to life. For many, it seems like a far too convenient ‘plot twist’ meant to prop up the desired outcome of a larger religious story. At best, it’s wishful thinking. At worst, it’s a dangerous delusion. In that spirit, many alternative theories have been proposed as to what Jesus’ (supposed) resurrection is all about.

The most obvious theory is that, perhaps, Jesus wasn’t really dead. He was only what Miracle Max would call “mostly dead.” I see two issues with this explanation. First, it seems to imply that ancient people might not have known when someone was really dead; those who crucified him and those who buried him were simply mistaken in thinking that he was actually dead.

After all, we are much more scientifically advanced than they were! We forget, however, that ancient people lived in much greater proximity to death than we often do. They witnessed it in their homes and communities. For us, it’s often hidden away in modern clinical institutions. I think they knew when someone was truly dead.

Second, the Bible’s witness is that Jesus didn’t simply ‘come back to life’. He wasn’t merely resuscitated, he was resurrected. He didn’t appear in the same state as prior to his death, he appeared in a state that represents the other side of death. He had a resurrection body, one that actually made him hard to recognize by those who first saw him. He wasn’t “mostly dead.” He was totally dead and came out on the other side!

Another theory is that Jesus’ resurrection was a fabrication, the result of a conspiracy among his followers that involved stealing and hiding his (actually) dead body and claiming that he had risen. Again, I believe there are at least two difficulties with this explanation. First, the gospel writers and especially Paul stake their message, their reputations, and even their lives on the eye witness testimony of those who saw the risen Jesus. In a culture that was steeped in oral tradition (the passing on of truth, history, memory, etc. in oral form), it would literally have been incredible for Paul to have claimed that so many people (hundreds, several of them named) had seen the risen Jesus and to make those claims within the lifetime of those same witnesses if they did not concur. Paul’s claims would have been very easy to falsify.

Second, it seems highly unlikely to me that a small band of people could have perpetrated a conspiracy of this magnitude in the face of the Roman Empire, literally altering the trajectory of world history by virtue of their own efforts. Charles Colson, who was convicted and served prison time for his role in the Watergate cover-up (young people, look it up on ‘the google’), argued many times that some of the most powerful men in American government couldn’t keep their Watergate conspiracy together for more than a few weeks before it fell apart as they all gave way to self-preservation. What hope would the small band of Jesus’ first followers have in the face of persecution? The entirety of Christian faith resting on a conspiracy seems more far fetched to me than someone being “mostly dead.”

A third explanation is that what we call Jesus’ resurrection is really just a metaphor for how he lives on in the memory and even the mystical experiences of those who follow him. In this view, Jesus didn’t literally rise in resurrection-bodily form but instead ‘lives on’ in the lives of his people (for one explanation of this view, see Marcus Borg’s chapter called The Truth of Easter in the book The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions).

On the surface, this view might seem to have great appeal for modern (or maybe postmodern) people because it makes the question of a literal resurrection irrelevant (Borg’s point) but still allows for Jesus to be remembered, honored, and even worshipped. It seems to make Christianity and naturalism compatible by eliminating the need for the supernatural. The ‘reality’ of the resurrection is that it is real to me (metaphorically speaking), not that it actually happened in any literal sense.

One of the issues that I have with this view of resurrection is that I’m fairly certain that someday I will die (insightful, I know). What I mean is that my death won’t be metaphorical, it will be real (certainly not ‘mostly’!). And, it raises real questions. What happens to us when we die? What eternal significance does our present embodied existence have? I need more than metaphors and I believe God’s Word gives us more. It gives us real substance. It tells us that God created us with bodies. It tells us that Jesus entered the creation and was embodied himself. It tells us that he rose bodily from the grave and that someday I will as well. I love metaphors as much as the next person, but they only make sense if there is some reality to which they point.

So, why does all of this matter? One main truth that underlies our celebration of Easter is that Jesus was really dead. Not ‘deceivingly’ dead. Not ‘mostly’ dead. Dead. Period. And so will you and I… someday (unless he returns beforehand). The other main truth, however, is that he is now alive. Not ‘metaphorically’ alive, but alive in the same way that all who believe in him will someday be alive.
For people of faith, Easter is a glimpse of the future. It fills us with hope. It reminds us that life is not, “as you wish” (yeah, I had to get one more movie reference in there; I saw that eye roll…) but is based on the certainty of God’s promises and power. I don’t know about you but I need more certainty, not more speculation. I need more hope, not more wishful thinking. I need a Savior who was fully dead but is now fully alive because I can be certain that’s exactly what I will be.

May your celebration of Easter fill you with hope and joy!


Sean Farver, Kirk Crossing Campus Pastor

Sean worked as the youth minister for The Kirk for six and a half years before transitioning into other ministry roles which included overseeing the The Kirk’s communications, directing some adult discipleship programs and being the first worship leader for The Kirk’s contemporary worship service. He then went to Seminary and afterward, returned to The Kirk in a pastoral role. Currently, Sean is the campus pastor at Kirk Crossing – The Kirk’s second campus in Jenks.

Cover Model: Allie Beach

Our April cover girl model was right for the cover in more ways than one. Alexandria Beach (Allie) is a junior at Victory Christian School, who has been serving as a role model for as long as she can remember. Allie’s father is the minister of Wesley United Methodist Church in North Tulsa. She grew to love the church’s ministry and has been diving in since she was at least seven with ministries like the Tulsa Pizza Kitchen also in north Tulsa.

The thing is, when we raise our children with mission and purpose, they grow strong hearts of service and love. Allie’s family always trained her to go into the daily battles. Allie remembers in elementary her father driving her to a private Christian school. On the way, her dad walked her through putting on the full armor of God. Allie said, “We did it so that I would be ready for the day and anything I faced.” Allie continued, “Dad and I would start with the helmet of salvation and then the breastplate of righteousness and then the belt of truth and then the feet fit with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace and then the shield of faith and then the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. It was fun, but it also helped me grow up with a sense of protection and courage. I knew I wasn’t going to battle having fear, but God was with me.” Allie’s words were both beautiful to hear and further inspired me as a parent to pour, pour, POUR God’s truths into my daughter, training her for her protection against whatever she might face. Allie didn’t hesitate to walk through the full armor. She knew every single piece and its purpose.

After Allie’s school shut down, her parents moved to homeschooling from third through eighth grade. Then Allie started Victory Christian School her freshman year. Allie had enjoyed the time with her parents, but found time with students to be exciting as well. Allie said, “I just love the people here at Victory. When you are homeschooling it’s fun because of the freedom, but it’s also good to be around other peers.” At Victory, Allie pursues athletic training. She volunteers with the basketball teams. She hopes to attend college and study athletic training at the University of Oklahoma.

Allie is also a gymnast but had a back injury benching her from the sport. In line with her beautiful heart, she now teaches gymnastics for Aim Academy in Tulsa, who has programs in north and south Tulsa. It’s a faith-based, non-profit operation helping kids. They teach gymnastics, but they also pray with students and have the kids say ‘God made me special’ before they leave. They try to help students know their true worth to God and to the world.

Allie’s family also started a Tulsa Youth Ranch for their church out of their home. It allows kids to come take care of animals, to be accountable, but also a place for them to recharge mentally. Many of the kids don’t have a great home environment. For them, it’s a break to come to a place where it’s quiet and they can focus on caring for the animals while we care for them.

When I asked Allie if she was ready for the battles she might face in college, she said she felt about 50/50 excited and scared. Allie said, “It’s hard to think about going to college and being away from mom and dad for that long. Plus, having to do everything on my own is a bit scary, but I’m excited.” Allie has another year left to get prepped. When I asked Allie about facing temptations at college, she said “I know it will there will be lots of temptations. There’s a lot of temptations in high school today, even at Victory, but I know that my parents have set a really good spiritual ground for me. I know that even in the temptations, I’ll always know where to turn.” Allie added, “I’ll never be able to forget God, because He’s always been such a deep part of my life. So, I hope to be a light for others. It’s not just about trying to protect myself but also the people around me.” We discussed faith groups like Cru, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and others who are on campus to keep you strong while in school. Allie has already been thinking about how to connect, but still needs to work on the plan for her spiritual side at school. Even the most amazing Christian students tend to focus on path of study and the location of the school before thinking about how to stay protected from outside forces on campus.

Allie hopes to be a light wherever she goes. Allie said, “My focus is trying to protect myself but also to be a light to the people around me. We discussed faith groups like Cru, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and others who are on campus to keep you strong while in school. Allie had already been thinking about how to connect, but still needs to work on the plan for her spiritual side at school. Even the most amazing Christian students tend to focus on path of study and the location of the school before thinking about how to stay protected from outside forces on campus.

Luckily, with the training from her parents, Allie looks better poised to beat the “7 in 10 statistic for walking away from God” at college than most. Allie’s beyond her years sage advice was “I would say the best plan for students heading to college is to always find a group of people or at least one other person who has strong faith that way you can always help you and be around and be an accountability partner while you’re in high school or college.” She went on, “It’s important to have a friend so that you can always turn to each other if you’re ever tempted or people are ever trying to push you off the path.” Funny enough, that’s not just true in college but in life. Like-minded friends can help keep us on the right path.

Thanks Allie for being the face of spiritual training for the magazine—and thank your parents for us. They are doing exactly what God has called us as parents to do,

Proverbs 22:6 (NLT) “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

*Allie’s cover look was created & styled with clothing from Jenny Faye at Hape Chic and makeup from Emily at Brushed By Emily. They were instrumental in creating this month’s cover.

Written by Teresa Goodnight

At the end of January, after February went to print, the state of New York passed a law allowing women to terminate pregnancy up to and through full-term for reasons one might use to return a sweater to the mall. In celebration of what they labeled women’s rights, they lit the heralded Freedom Tower in pink.

It’s puzzling why a tower dedicated to precious Americans, who lost their lives in a horrible strike against our freedom would be the choice for a celebration of forever silencing these children. These children, who wouldn’t be given the basic right to enter independence and start their new life independent of their mothers, could now be terminated at will. 

A child with placental complications is at higher risk, as is the mother, from birth issues—some of which can be pretty severe. How God crafted the mother’s body to give a home for her baby to grow is quite fascinating. The father’s role though is equally interesting inside the womb. The sperm creates both the placenta and umbilical cord. So, it is the father who is the life connection inside the womb for the baby to grow. It’s a beautiful process involving both parents. Both parents are responsible for sustaining the baby’s life while it’s readying to enter the world as an independent little one. The father’s role is not often discussed. It’s really a beautiful collaborative event God created.

My mother was a premature baby in the 50’s, weighing in at only 4 pounds. It’s quite the miracle she’s even here—that I’m even here for that matter. However, if a baby can survive at such small sizes, in such an early delivery, it’s easy to see the line for viable, independent life is crossed quite early in the womb. Interestingly, if a child’s air were cut off while being born, it would gasp for it. On its own, it would choose life. It just does. If we’re honest, I think we all choose life when given the choice for ourselves. It’s offensive to me as a woman and a mother to see the act labeled and celebrated as a right for the mother. How can we just eliminate the part of the father living inside the mother, providing sustenance to the baby? How can we eliminate the right of the one, who is at a point in life where it would naturally choose air if it were taken away? The rights of the unborn without a voice are being suppressed by the alleged right of a mother, who was entrusted with the rights of all three. Should her “rights” come at the expense of another’s rights? 

Seeking the right to terminate a pregnancy, when the child living inside already responds to mommy and daddy’s voices, is a difficult choice to understand. Those precious curves of the baby’s foot that press out so that you can touch it on its exploratory path. The hiccups you strangely feel inside. The pressure on your ribs with that push as the baby turns in order to be ready to head out and start this new journey. That precious child growing inside, looking for care and protection, is certainly not thinking about anyone’s freedom except its own. What law will be passed for the one without a voice to be heard? What tower will we light for its rights if NOT the freedom tower? 

A Christian’s heart should not just break for the child. It should also break for the woman, who thinks she’s expressing her “right to choose.” Then, finds herself completely crushed from the weight of her irreversible decision. She might have felt trapped. This decision might have felt the easiest way out. I haven’t met a lot of people who want their missteps heralded all over town for 9 months. These women are in an incredibly difficult place. These laws offer a seemingly free and clear path of freedom. It’s impossible for any of us who haven’t been there to understand everything going on inside of that woman. Whatever it is, she doesn’t need to be met with those who don’t understand spouting off their insults or hurling things at her on her journey. She needs love, compassion, and real commitments to help. Hurling these kinds of sentiments can help her get through her situation, maybe choose adoption for her child. God offers all of us His love and mercy needed to fix a broken heart. He has it. He offers it freely. 

In Romans 3:23, He says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” ALL. As such, we should also ALL hold onto the grace we were so freely given by God and give it to others. As the church, we need to find new ways to make a difference. The days of hurling objects and insults (and even worse) should also be gone. They never should have existed honestly. 

So, for the lives of children who will never be born, we light this page in pink and blue, representing the little boys and girls. We light it as their voice, but we also light it for the men and women caught in this turmoil. We pray they will find groups like Mend Crisis Pregnancy, Crisis Pregnancy Outreach, Hope Pregnancy Center, Go Life Mobile Medical—all in Tulsa or the Pregnancy Resource Center in Owasso to name a few who are lighting the way with love.

Finally, we light it for those who have already gone down this path. May all who have fallen into this step find God’s love, which knows no bounds. That love that sacrificed everything for our mistakes also covers the mistakes of these lawmakers. That love extends to these mothers and fathers. That’s the kind of love we experience from our Father in Heaven. Unconditional love dripping undeservedly all over us with grace to remove sin as far as the East is from the West. May we all find His peace to choose better. 

Please join with us this month in prayer:

Lift up the leaders, who passed this law–for hearts to be broken by the weight of their decision. Pray for their change of heart. 

Lift up the ones who seek to use the power of this law to terminate the life within them. Pray that someone, somewhere will touch them with the love of Christ. Pray God will send someone to help guide them to a better place for themselves and their child through an option like adoption. 

Pray for those women broken by their “rights.” We cannot understand, but God’s forgiveness and love is right there for them, just like the rest of us.

Lift up the nation, “united under God” to remember the protection His veil affords. Pray for all of us, who as a nation allowed this to happen by remaining silent. 

Pray Christians will respond with that ridiculously amazing, unconditional love God shows us even though we’ve made bad choices—and let that love light the way back from this darkness.  

#GoDoBe. No. Really.

Devaluing human life through a “right” for women—who will be the next victim of our “rights” if we continue to just watch it all unfold? Just giving an emoji or a directional thumb is a mere whimper of support. Join groups like Focus on the Family in NYC in person for “Alive in New York.” Find ways to give financial help. Reach out to one of the many amazing pregnancy resource centers, like those mentioned in the article, to help. Reach out specifically to women caught in this battle. Reach out as your church, as THE “C”hurch. We don’t offer a moment of prayer as a substitute for further action. We pause to get direction from our mighty God to face this with His guidance, wisdom and love. 

Do more than let your voice be heard. Let your actions be seen. Let your love be shown. Go be Christ to the women and men in crisis. Go do whatever God is calling you to do (in love) to help.  Be Jesus, not throwing the first stone, but loving the lost as Christ has loved us.



Written by Teresa Goodnight

Spencer Henson is already building a legacy on and off the field at 21.  A talented first baseman and pitcher for the ORU Golden Eagles, Spencer was training just before the interview.  In just the first few minutes, I knew exactly why the coaches selected Spencer for the story.  We were looking for someone with character, building a legacy—and as you will read Spencer does NOT disappoint.

I told Spencer we wanted to highlight what he does on and off the field in creating a legacy.  I’m not even sure he took a breath before he started.  “I think the way you do things on the field trickles down into how you do things off the field and how you do things outside of baseball. On the field, growing up, you are taught not to skip reps.  Do things like no one is watching to get your training in.  Whether that’s in the weight room or on the field, you are there to make yourself better, stronger.”  Spencer continued, “I’ve always believed what you put in is what you get out. You do good things and good things will happen to you.”  Spencer emphasized, “On the baseball side, the harder you work at something the luckier you get or the readier you are for the opportunities that come up.  I just carry that over off the field as well.”  Spencer’s character of strength showed through in everything he said. 

Spencer started playing ball in Pryor, Oklahoma with honors like the Louisville Slugger All American his sophomore through senior year.  After high school, he landed firmly at ORU when it was time for college. Spencer said, “I actually played here with the summer team, the BBA Titans, from my sophomore year to my senior year. I just liked the atmosphere. I liked the coaches.  They were real and personable with really great attitudes.”  Spencer added,  “When you go to other schools, the coaches, it’s just like it’s difficult to talk to them.”   

Spencer had a lot of offers from bigger schools, but he felt being close to home in a supportive environment with the kind of coaches and team he saw at ORU was the answer.  Spencer said, “Playing at ORU is different.  The guys around here, the coaches, they will step to the side and talk to you and you can share what you’re thinking or feeling.  They’ll get on a personal level with you; you know you matter as a person. I just didn’t see that at other schools as I looked around.  It was different here.”  That kind of support and confidence building landed Spencer the Triple Crown honor for his sophomore year at ORU, along with player of the week several times from the Summit League.  It is easy to see how it’s been a part of shaping him into the confident man across the table.   

When I asked Spencer, “Any people who have guided you in how to stay on your path?” He immediately answered, “Probably my teammates.  When I first got here, it was a pretty experienced, older group. So, I tried to just absorb it all.  I didn’t get much play time freshman year, as the elders on the team had already proven themselves. So, I sat behind and watched the Matt Whatleys, the Brent Williams, Nick Rotolas and how they handled their business and how mature they were on and off the field.”  Watching these other men set such strong examples on and off the field showed Spencer true character in action.  It’s easy to see why joining a team with such committed, caring coaches and well-behaved players would “rub off” the kind of character you’d be proud to see in your child.

Spencer is also a big family guy.  It’s just a support system he’s always had. He said, “Having the family here and looking up there and seeing them in the stands, it’s also a big confidence booster and a reminder that there’s more to life than just playing baseball.”  Interestingly, Spencer actually helped start his family attending church when he was just 9 years old in Pryor.  Spencer said, “I grew up going to Southeast Baptist Church. One of my friend’s dad is a pastor there.”  Spencer was told, “You can spend the night but we’ve gotta go to church in the morning.”  He laughed because he is now pretty sure the preacher had a plan all along.  He said, “It was really cool because I think Pastor Rob knew what he was doing. He had a little parable that he talked about with me and threw me in the story.  It was a cool feeling to have.  Then, he went into how it transitioned into the Biblical side of things. Ever since then, I told my parents, ‘This is a pretty cool place.  We actually need to start going there.’  We’ve been there ever since.” 

We talked about life on the field, as it’s quite a battle in your mind sometimes.  Spencer said, “When I get down on the field, we do a lot of mental side training here. For me it’s like, say I do boot a ball, I’ll always look back at this right field foul pole at the top of it, cause there’s always a right field foul pole anywhere you play.  So, I just stare at it a few seconds, take a deep breath into my glove, and say ‘Flush it. Don’t worry about it.  You’re gonna get another ground ball.  It’s not gonna be the last one you boot.  It’s not gonna be the last one you’re gonna get.’  So I just get myself back in and ready for the next play.”  Spencer added, “I really focus to give myself confidence and a reminder that it’s not the end of the world regardless of how it felt.”

I asked Spencer to translate his life on the field into his daily life.  Spencer said, “I think you try to give like things have been given to you. You know, as an example, if somebody needs some cash you hand them a twenty and there’s some way that the kindness returns to you. Actually, funny enough it happened the other day. A guy was needing some money and I gave him $40.  Then, I was going to the store to get a meal and I was checking my bank account and it wasn’t looking too good.  Then I’m walking in the parking lot and I stepped on $40 on the ground. It was really cool.  It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does happen, it’s just a good reassurance that you’re doing the right thing.”  I couldn’t help but think through life on a college-student budget, when every dollar counts.  Having the gracious heart to offer what you have to someone in need—not knowing what you will do to cover your own meal—that’s giving the shirt off of your back without hesitation.  That’s a guy building a legacy by example, even when noone is watching.

I asked Spencer, “If you were talking to high school students, trying to figure out what they’re going to do in life—what would you tell them?”  Spencer again didn’t hesitate with an answer. “I’d tell them to ask questions.  A lot of people, and I’m calling myself out here, just think they know things and don’t ask to learn more.”  Spencer added, “When I was in high school, I was like ‘I’m gonna do this, this and this.  Then a year later, I’m like ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do.’  You’re still a kid when you’re in high school. If you’re curious about something don’t be afraid to ask.  The more you ask the more you learn.”  Spencer spoke with conviction of experience, “Don’t be afraid to reach out.  Don’t be afraid to try things and fail.  You won’t know if you like it or not if you don’t try it.  Even if you fail—and you don’t mind it, you should keep doing it until that drive runs out or you get better and find a passion for it.  Then, if that wasn’t the fit—go try something else.”  Spencer said, “Make a list of what you want to do, a checklist and a goal list of the things you want to try to do. If you don’t like it, check it off. Have goals and aspirations. Put them down. Ask about them.  Explore them.”  That kind of drive and learning to overcome fear of failure has set him on a path he loves at ORU and in baseball.

In closing, I asked Spencer, “What would you say to someone, if you were wanting to inspire them.  Spencer said confidently, “If I had a chance to inspire anyone—I’d say ‘JUST GO DO IT.’ You don’t know if you’re gonna like it until you try it.”  He said he’s still trying to figure out his post collegiate plans.  He’s going to be doing baseball as long as he can, in whatever capacity that may be. Spencer said, “I’d like to get back into the college level and do some hitting coordination.  Just whatever ways I can stay around the baseball field, just doing whatever makes me feel like I’m 12 still.”  Spencer may love to feel like he’s 12, but he’s certainly built a character and a legacy already of someone much older, wiser, and worth watching.

ORU baseball kicked off February 15th for the 2019 season. Check out Spencer Henson and the rest of the amazing team. Tulsa is quite fortunate to have such a set of examples on and off the field to watch. See the schedule at http://www.oruathletics.com/sports/bsb/2018-19/schedule

Written by Staff Writer

How would you react to an uncomfortable life-altering choice? For one Tulsan, it was a test of character and a call to action.

Fifteen years ago, Kelly Swan was approached by a man whose condition was painfully clear. He was dirty, disheveled and said he’d been eating from dumpsters.

Yes, Roy was homeless. Doing something about it is another matter altogether. That’s the hard part.

Roy asked Kelly point blank for help, confronting him with the proverbial fork in the road that impacted his life ever since.

“My gut reaction was to walk away,” Kelly admits. “And that’s exactly what I did.”

“But I had a serious challenge in my heart. I had been praying for God to use my life to help someone,” Kelly recounts.

“Doing nothing was the easy choice, but I knew I’d regret it. So I chose the tougher road. I retraced my steps, found Roy a few blocks back and apologized.”

Kelly talked with Roy for 15 minutes. He shook his hand, learned about his life, prayed with him and took care of his lunch.

The rest is history, or shall we say history in the making. Colossians 4:5 challenges believers to “make the most of every opportunity.” 

So after the encounter, Kelly and his friends formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit called Filling The Void to feed and minister to the homeless and needy. 

It’s an all-volunteer army that has attracted more than 1,500 helpers over the years. The ministry is heavily active in Tulsa, Denver, Dallas and Houston.

The need here still looms large. Despite successful housing programs, homelessness in Tulsa increased 7 percent over the past decade according to 2018 statistics from the Community Service Council.

“There’s always going to be desperate situations and trauma that turns lives upside down,” Kelly said. “But we bring a message of healing and redemption everywhere we go.”

In 2018, Filling The Void’s volunteers served more than 19,000 sack lunches across their four core cities and prayed with 6,000 people.

All told, they’ve served 150,000 meals since Roy. The annual budget is now up to $100,000 for 2019. 

Filling The Void was founded by Kelly Swan, Erin Bjornberg and Chris Brooks.

The sack lunches are first-rate. We’re not talking about bologna sandwiches or PB&J. Filling The Void primarily serves Arby’s or Chick-fil-A. 

Each bag also contains an envelope. There’s no money inside. Think something greater – devotionals with scripture that are designed to give hope. The organization has written hundreds of versions.

“We feed the soul. It’s a two-fold mission – addressing physical hunger and the emptiness in a person’s heart. People need to know their lives have purpose and meaning in Christ,” Kelly said. 

Filling The Void has won two national awards for public service. They’re known for their personalized approach, taking interactions beyond a surface level and working in conjunction with other agencies.

In 2011, Tulsa philanthropist Henry Zarrow penned a letter to Filling The Void thanking them for pitching in at the Day Center for the Homeless.

“We’re one part of the recovery process that spans from A to Z. Our sweet spot is in front of door A. The people we serve trust us because they know we’re genuine and we’ve been here for years,” Kelly says. 

“We learn names. We build relationships through repeated interactions. Then we can speak truth into their lives and point them to places for other help,” Kelly added.

Teams from Filling The Void hit the streets 223 times in 2018. Each outreach lasts about an hour. There are seven ways to get involved. You can see details and donate online at fillingthevoid.com

“It’s a labor of love in every sense. There’s plenty of labor but we do it because God loves people,” Kelly said. “We’re purposefully working to facilitate lasting life-change.”

When asked to give our readers advice, Kelly said this: “Don’t wait until December to start serving. Nonprofits all over town need your help right now.”