Category: LIFE

Written by Teresa Goodnight

It’s such an invigorating time of year. It’s crisp outside. Things feel new as the year breaks through. We start on our new path. We buy a new journal. Maybe set new goals. Then life rolls around. It doesn’t hit all at once. However, very slowly we ease back into our old ways. They’re comfortable. They feel less stressful. Truthfully, they feel just easier than these new goals. Most of us simply slide into failure. It just feels like home. Mmmm. Cozy. Not really though.

Familiar? It’s just easier to stay in patterns of thought and behavior than to turn over any kind of a new leaf. Is it any wonder, when we try to walk with God why we slip back into old sins? Find ourselves becoming less and less offended at our offenses? We dull and lull ourselves back into what feels the easiest. Same old same old.

Can we Change our Core?

As a reigning queen of the #EPICfail New Year, I know the pattern all too well. However, last year—I decided to do something about it. I made one big change. Just one. Funny enough, it wasn’t even at the New Year. It was at the end of November.

I’m sure it’s not a big deal to most of you. I hesitate to write it. But, my fellow Sodaholics will know my plight. I went from a few sodas per day to zero. Anyone who knows me knew that was just not ever going to be possible. Dr. Pepper was my end all be all crutch for a stressful day for over 30 years. I knew which states didn’t serve it and consistently offered a root beer when I asked (as if it were even close to the same!). I knew where to get it overseas in France, Italy, China—you name it. I could find it. I could easily distinguish between a Mr. Pibb and a Dr. Pepper for those who tried to pass it off as the same. I’m not proud. I’m just saying—it wasn’t an easy break-up.

I called it “When my Daddy took away my last Dr. Pepper.” (not intentionally but it became an extra funny part of my goal!) He literally held it for me at the hospital one day and I could not figure out where he put it. I kept asking everyone if they knew. It was funny. He didn’t intentionally hide it but it popped into my head as a fun way to stop drinking it. Why? Because I liked saying it. It makes me laugh. I also love to see him crack a smile in the corner of his mouth when I say he took my last one. I actually partnered him with me on the journey not really realizing what I was doing. It worked!

So, I’m sitting here a year later quite proud of myself. It’s certainly not a game changer, but it did prove to me I could do it. I can make changes. I can break difficult habits. My keys to success?

  1. Pick it. Pick one thing or just very few (2!). 2020 is about focus and we can’t focus with 15 goals in 15 directions. It just doesn’t work. Get laser-focused on a goal and stay on it.
  2. Plant it. Be really specific and plant that seed in your heart and mind. Don’t just decide “I’m going to be a better person in 2020.” Decide “I’m going to be a more financially generous person.” Or, maybe, “I’m going to read my Bible daily even if it’s just a verse.” General goals are nice, but they don’t give you specific plans for success. Plant the specific seed you want to grow.
  3. Present it to God. Get yourself what you need to grow the seed. Bring it before God. Pray. Ask for His help. Read what His word has to say about your issue.
  4. Partner Up. Ask Him for accountability partners (or a fun unintentional partner like my dad!). God uses others following Christ to help us get where we want to go. The “following Christ” part isn’t really optional. You need people who are lined up with God’s word to speak truth to you straight from the Bible. They pray with us and for us. They keep us challenged. They make sure we are staying focused. They nudge (or jerk) us back onto our path as needed. They are on board with keeping the seed growing with you.

Whatever you do, be realistic. Many make a list of resolutions as likely to happen as trying to get the Democratic and Republican parties to agree on their political agendas. Instead of making a list even the mightiest of willpower giants couldn’t accomplish, think a bit smaller. Few people can handle massive amounts of change. (Woohoo for those who can!) But if you find yourself reigning in my “#EPICfail” kingdom with your very own crown—why don’t you try a different approach?

Narrow down your list to a few things that simply must change. To reference Kristen Marie’s mantra “Choose Life.” Select YOUR one thing you want to change. Then, decide THIS thing will become a thing of your past (or these 3 THINGS for our overachievers who just can’t live within a limit (but please don’t overdo it if you want to have success).

Maybe this is the year that you want to “Choose Life” by becoming a giver. Write it down. Be specific as to what that would look like for you. Pray about it. Pray for a gardener, an accountability partner, to help you keep the seed growing. I told people I gave up soda. I made sure people around me knew my plan so they could watch me. I even brought my dad in on it, because I enjoyed the proud smirky smile on his face that he had been part of my little journey. Partners to keep you growing strong are absolutely a big factor in your success.

Then, start immediately. Set out to answer all situations you enter as the giver you want to become. Maybe you defined that as when you see a charity making a difference, you will pick an amount of money or time and just give it. Write it down. When the next one comes along—do it again. Write it down. Maybe challenge yourself with the number of times you want to accomplish your giving goal for the year. Then, take the opportunities in front of you (or seek some out!). When you look back at your list at the end of the year, you will find a sense of accomplishment along with the joy you received each time you succeeded. Somewhere along the way, your seed becomes your heart. It brings forth a beautiful change transforming you more into who God made you to be. It just becomes who you are. Then, you have a journal to remind you of the journey.

I know Dr. Pepper isn’t a big problem. Maybe for you it’s something a little more life impacting. Maybe you have a sin that has been kicking you and possibly your family, that you need to kick back. Maybe you have lost your patience with your family and need to find some grace again. Maybe your relationship with your spouse has been strained and it might be your fault. Maybe it’s a substance abuse situation. Maybe you have found yourself wrapped up in a porn addiction. The list could go on and on. Whatever it is—the solution isn’t THAT much different for a serious problem. You have to “Choose Life.”

Do you want to make a change?
Do you want to choose life? 

Some bigger problems have very specific accountability groups that can offer the exact kind of support you need—groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, for example. You can march yourself into an AA meeting and find a system proven to work. If it’s something like porn addiction, download a software system like covenanteyes.com and then find some accountability partners. Whatever you do “Choose Life” and get God involved in your decision.

These bigger items are better tackled with a team, but rest assured, you CAN beat them. You do need a team in your corner. God’s got the foundation. Build on it with Godly men and women who can help hold you accountable. Get real with them. (Check out Accountability Partners in this issue!). Trust me, you are not alone. You are NOT the only one facing that kind of problem. You just aren’t.

What you can’t do this year is try it the same ways you’ve tried before and fail.

Once you know how to be successful, the question really comes down to do you want to make a change? do you want to choose life? If you do, pick it, plant it, present it to God and get on down that road with some partners in your corner. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow to get it right. We are guaranteed that God will never leave us and never forsake us in Hebrews 13:5. He’s right there to take this journey with you—to kick the soda or to kick the habit before you kick the proverbial can. Just kidding. (Kinda). Seriously, not kidding at all. Some of these problems are very big deals and if you have one afflicting you, it’s absolutely time to make a change.

#GoDoBe

Heart2Heart January-February 2020

Written by Andrea Stephens

The idea of having a word for the year was first presented to me by my associate pastor’s wife several years ago when I was living in Florida. She was a very intentional and purposeful type of woman, so it made sense that having a special word, and a scripture to go with it, was something she grabbed hold of. But it wasn’t enough that she had a word, she insisted that everyone had a word.

I passed her enthusiasm (and persistence) onto those in my immediate circle. Each of my family members now select a word for the year. I record their word next to their name on my prayer list so that I’m sure to include it when I am lifting them up to the Lord. As the months go by, I’m sure to check-in to see how they are applying and experiencing the use of their word. We talk about whether or not it is making a difference in the way they are living, whether they are remembering to consider their word as they make decisions about the use of their time and how they choose to conduct themselves.

After all, that is the purpose of having a word. It serves as a guide. It serves as a motivator. It serves as a goal. It serves as a reminder of one thing a person wants to change or become or do as they live their life throughout the year. This is why much thought and prayer are put into the selection of a word. In fact, it can become a partnership—something you and the Lord are working on together.

Last year my sister’s word was outreach. As she analyzed her jam-packed schedule, she realized this was missing from her to-do list. Her job, as regional director for a popular cruise line, kept her traveling, planning presentations, and tracking sales numbers. And usually one of her three kids were in mini-meltdown mode, requiring her attention. And then there was the investment she and her husband made in a beach house that needed updating and some basic TLC before it could be offered as a vacation getaway for families. Of course, none of these things were wrong, she just felt the stirring to focus on being more outward than inward; to support a cause by volunteering her time and abilities.

So that is exactly what she did. She chose the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). Mental health was near and dear to her heart since one of her kids struggles with anxiety. They welcomed her energy and her host of new ideas for fundraising. Over the course of the year, she served on the Board, participated in the annual NAMI Walks for awareness, helped deliver Christmas bags to area group homes for NAMI families, and through her community connections was able to raise a significant amount for the organization. In return, she was blessed with new friendships and the satisfaction of knowing she was helping others.

In September she came to Tulsa to celebrate my birthday. Knowing her word was outreach, I made arrangements for us to volunteer at Turning Point Thrift Store located next to Loaves and Fishes. We sorted clothes, tagged and priced items, and welcomed shoppers. We even found of few treasures to take home. I loved spending part of my birthday guided by her word outreach.

With the arrival of 2020, now is the time to select a word for the year. Are you ready to join in?

I have chosen the word kindness. I’m challenging myself to stop and ask: What is the kindness thing to do in this situation? What kindness can I offer a hurting person? How can I become a kinder person? Where can I speak a word, provide a meal, or offer a hug? Who needs me to watch their kids, run an errand or simply sit and listen to their story? What scripture can I focus on that relates to kindness?

To help develop myself in this area, I picked up The Kindness Effect by Jill Donovan. Jill is the mastermind behind the Rustic Cuff craze. This attorney and law professor at the University of Tulsa has become a wildly successful entrepreneur. Jill uses her profits to bless others. As the book subtitle claims, Jill has discovered the power of irrational giving, encouraging her readers to do the same. In other words, spread kindness whenever and wherever possible—and give credit to God.

Now, what about you? What will your word be? What are you missing? What do you want to add? Is there an activity or even an attitude you want to incorporate into your life? Give it some thought and prayer, then commit it to the Lord. Get ready for Him to open opportunities for you to put your word into action. What a great 2020 ahead!

Andrea Stephens

If you would like to know more about Jill and her adventures with kindness, you are invited to the Asbury Women’s Gathering on Friday, February 21 at 7:00 pm. Asbury Church is located at 6767 S. Mingo Road, Tulsa. No charge, refreshments provided. Register online at asburytulsa.org or call 918-492-1771.


Turning Point Thrift Store

Rise&Shine January-February 2020

Written by Mike Henry Sr. — Follower of One

As I write this article, I just read a devotional on Psalms 16:11 which says, “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalms 16:11b

I hope you agree. I hope you experience God’s joy when you’re in his presence. For many of us, we experience his joy when we worship, or when we’re around his people. We may see God’s glory in our family, or in nature, and experience his joy. We may find his joy in reading his word and prayer when we’re by ourselves or when we’re alone.

Do you often experience God’s joy at work? I think many of this magazine’s readers would say they do. But how often? More than once or twice a day? More than a few times a week? Once a month? Less?

I used to think my faith was a part of my life: the others being work, family, health and hobbies. But the more I chased after God, the more I learned my faith was the place where my life, work, family and hobbies existed. When I’m with God, being directed by God, I experience his joy. At work, my desires and fears called the shots. I avoided getting chewed out, or I worked to earn money or appreciation for my job. I wanted my career to matter, but I left God out of the equation.

But fullness of joy exists in God’s presence.

How can we manage ourselves into the presence of God full-time, even while we’re at work doing things we don’t like or working with people we don’t like?

“But Jesus answered them, My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

John 5:17

“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:”

John 16:8

“But when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

John 16:13a

The entire Trinity works right now. When you can’t be at church, or in a quiet time, you can join God in His work. Years ago, Henry Blackaby and Claude King wrote a popular workbook (and a series of other books based on it) called Experiencing God. Their workbook prompted me to see God is active in every life. We just look for God working in others and join Him.

In every circumstance and any project, we can be present with God. In Psalm 139 we learn we can’t get away from God. “If I ascend to Heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” Psalm 139:8.

God is actively working in the lives of everyone you know and see every day. That includes the person who serves you coffee and the people who clean your workplace; the people you call on today and the person at the tire shop or the irate customer. God is actively working in your boss and your direct reports, peers, and vendors, too.

In the book Rare Leadership by Marcus Warner and James Wilder, they suggest that our brains only run on 2 fuels. Either our brains run on fear, or joy. When you can’t wait to leave work or get to the weekend, you’re operating on fear. When you look for God in everything you do, you experience His joy in every work. The work isn’t joyful but God gives us His joy in His presence. Some work is ugly. He knows. His mercies are new every morning. He has the joy we desperately need to live and work in a fallen world, in a fallen body, among other fallen people.

At Follower of One, we suggest 5 categories of activities we can do to be present with God at work. We call these the 5 daily activities:

  1. Pray—Ask God to put you to work in the lives of others.
  2. Appreciate others—Make God’s treasure our treasure. He died for everyone we meet.
  3. Know what you believe—Prepare to answer the question, “Why are you doing this?” or “Why do you follow Jesus?”
  4. Serve others—Go beyond what others expect of you.
  5. Speak for yourself—When someone asks, answer in the 1st person.

We have found that when people practice these 5 activities daily, they experience God’s joy moment-by-moment at work. Even in miserable jobs or difficult situations, we hear how God brings joy. His presence brings joy, and he’s at work.

God’s joy is available to us when we can pray, worship, study and share time with other believers. But that’s not all. God is a worker. If you want more of God’s joy, join him at work, and watch what happens.


Mike Henry Sr. is the CEO of Follower of One, an online community to equip marketplace Christ-followers in any line of work. Check out their website, podcast and videos at https://follower ofone.org.


Senior Moments--Giving Honor Where Honor Is Due

Written by Kim Thomas

When you think about the older person who really made a difference in your life, who is it that comes to mind? For me, it was the little old lady who lived next door to my family who let me call her “Grandma Lilly.” I was seven years old and lonely because I had just moved more than 1000 miles away from my extended family in Canada. Grandma Lilly let me come to her house each day after school where she lovingly served me cookies and together, we sat on the rickety front porch swing as she smiled tenderly and gently patted my hand with hers. The way she intently listened to my stories and hung on every word I said made me feel like I hung the moon! Now, 46 years later, as I reflect back on these memories, I see how the relationship forged between us had just as much impact on Grandma Lilly as it did me. My taking time to sit and talk with her when others seemed too busy made her feel just as special as I did and let her know that she was special too!

Unfortunately, in today’s culture, it is not uncommon for the senior population to fall into the stigma of being “less than,” feel dismissed, swept aside or simply forgotten. Instead of being valued for their treasured experience and wisdom, seniors commonly get treated like a nuisance or obligation. Over time, the death of a spouse, family moving farther away, or the loss of mobility or productivity can lead to loneliness and isolation with more and more time spent alone. Weeks can go by without them getting out or having even the opportunity to speak to others.

It is too easy for us to get caught up in our own lives, our own schedules, and our own pressures of life that we forget to give honor where honor is due. Job 12:12 tells us that “wisdom is found among the aged and long life brings understanding.” In other words, there are a lot of things we can learn from our elders if we will just slow down and take the time to listen.

In this busy world, challenge yourself to reach out and tell a senior who has had a positive impact on your life just how much they mean to you. Rather than leave them behind, love them unconditionally. This season of their life is when they need it the most. Above all else, keep in mind that one day, you and I will be seniors too!

Ways to Honor our Elders:

  • Recognize the contributions they have made to our families as well as the community. We wouldn’t be where we are today without some of the unconditional sacrifices they have made.
  • Call and check in on them. Take time out of your day to ask if there is anything they need that you can bring them. One 5-minute phone call can communicate the message you care about their wellbeing. Establish a routine for yourself such as when you are driving home and commit to checking in to see how they are doing.
  • Stop by and pay them a visit. It doesn’t have to be long. Stop by and share a cup of coffee. Ask questions about family history, heritage, and traditions while allowing them to reminisce. Surprise them and take them for breakfast or a special lunch.
  • Ask for advice. Be open to their words of wisdom, years of experience, and views on life.
  • Mail a card to them and specifically list things you appreciate about them. Offer sincere words of encouragement.
  • Be aware of seniors around you who may not have any family close by. Aging parents are lonely for family. Consider “adopting” someone who is alone and inviting them to join in your family activities. If there is a senior living community nearby, ask if there is a resident who does not got visited often and shower that person with kindness.
  • Involve your children and teach them to respect and honor elders as well. As parents, we role model behaviors we want our children to follow. Younger generations need to learn the importance of making time to listen and spending unselfish time with others. Lead by example.
  • Recognize that the Holidays can be a lonely time for some. Pay special attention during this season and look for ways to bless a senior who lives alone.
  • Pray and ask God to help you see others the way He does. Expect Him to bring those people across your path that He would have you show special honor to.

ABOUT: Kim Thomas is a licensed professional counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist and I have a private practice, There’s Hope! Counseling.  I am a monthly co-host on KNYD Oasis Network Radio.  I am married with a blended family.  I’m a mom of 4, mother-in-love to 2, and stepmom to 3 kiddos, and a dog mom to Rae.  Contact info is (918)277-0777 or www.thereshopehere.com


Kim Thomas

Senior Moments, sponsored by Visiting Angels
918.609.5600 Tulsa or 918.333.7400 Bartlesville
visitingangels.com/greencountry

Rise&Shine: Are You Too Busy?

Written by Mike Henry Sr. – Follower of One

The Good Samaritan

The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke Chapter 10:30-37 tells of a person on the road to Jericho who gets mugged and left for dead. A Priest and a Levite both pass the man without stopping. Only a Samaritan man, one the Jews would have hated, stopped to help the man.

Jesus told this story to answer a question asked by an expert in the Jewish Law, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).

Would you stop?

I believe most people reading this magazine think we would stop. I’d like to think I would. But in 1973, J.M. Darley and C.D. Batson published a study “From Jerusalem to Jericho.” The study tested Princeton Seminary students. The students prepared a presentation to be given across campus. Half of the students were to present on career prospects and the other half on the parable about the Good Samaritan.

Some students were told they were running late for the presentation, some were cutting it close, and a third group had plenty of time.

Then, for the study, the path of each student went by a person who appeared to have just been mugged. The test was to see who would stop and help the victim.

While 40% offered some help to the man, only 10% of those who thought they were running late helped the man. Forty-five percent (45%) in a medium hurry stopped and 63% with plenty of time stopped to help.

Importance of Time

It seems the American epidemic is busyness. Most of us are in a hurry, period. Often we answer the question “How are you doing?” with, “I’m good, just busy.” Busy is the new black. If you’re not busy, you’re not very important. If you have time, you must not be in demand. Important people are busy.

Time, Attention, and Email

Another commodity seems to be attention. Do you answer all of your email messages each day? It seems fewer people read all of their email. I have friends with thousands of unread messages. If you need to contact these people, text them. And, then wait.

What Am I Missing?

How much of our busyness and attention deficit are related to our fear of missing out (FOMO)? New things happen daily. A new iPhone or a new movie just came out. Did you see this new viral video on Facebook? Our kids are in soccer and basketball, (and this and that) this year.

As Americans, we run from one thing to the next, consuming experiences like fast food and then running to the next experience.

We’re so consumed with our own lives, we never see our neighbors!

Love God and Love People

Jesus told this story because the Jewish lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. I guess he didn’t want to miss out. Jesus asked him what he thought, and the lawyer stated clearly the Great Commandment, that we love God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind, and we love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus confirmed this man’s thinking. Then the lawyer asked, “And who is my neighbor?”

The Neighbors We Miss

As we race from experience to commitment to experience, I wonder how many neighbors we miss. Could it be our neighbors and the things we do for them will last? Everything else will burn up. Our experiences and our busy lifestyles load us up with treasures on earth. Moth and rust will destroy those. The memories may linger, but I doubt they’ll compare to eternal life. And, the treasures will stay here.

See Others

Can we make time for people? Can we put some slack back in our own schedule, so we have time for our neighbors? Intentionally “see” others in every setting, especially those settings, like our family and work, that aren’t optional. Can you make more time for your family? Can you focus more of your life to get to know and serve your co-workers? I wonder how our workplaces and our co-workers might change if we made more time for them? I wonder if they would experience more of Jesus and his eternal joy if we lived more gracefully toward them?

Let It Go

Drop one thing to invest in people at work. We all need to move closer to Jesus. Help your work neighbor see Jesus. They want their life to last. They need a savior who gives meaning and purpose in this life and the next. Create some time in your schedule to serve others and make Jesus visible.


Mike Henry Sr. is the Founder and CEO of Follower Of One, a ministry designed to mobilize Christians in the marketplace. Get started by taking the Marketplace Mission Trip.


Put On Your "God Goggles"

Holiday seasons are funny. For some, they bring such a wonderful time of gratitude for all that they have. Not things, but people really. Family. For others, they highlight things that are missing. Not just things, but people as well. People who are missed. People who may never have been there, like parents or spouses prayed for but not yet met. For all the joy of the season, there can be a real space for sadness and even a bit of despair. Goodness, I remember vividly as a child when we first had a chimney. Finally, Santa had a way in! Crisis averted!

For Christians, this is a season where we turn to traditional giving outlets to share some Christmas joy. It’s a great plan. Keep it up.

However, for 2019, we want to toss out a challenge to think bigger. We want to think even beyond the gift trees at the mall needing a requested present. (Again, still do those OF COURSE!)

Do you have a family in your church? Your neighborhood? Your work? A family who cares for children in foster care? A single parent? Friends without family in town? Friends from other countries? Elderly neighbors missing family and friends? I bet you could find at least one in one of these categories just on your street alone.

So, open your eyes. Put your “God Goggles” on to catch His vision.

Foster care parents take in children who need love during the holidays. Reach out to them. Find out how you can help around the house. Maybe it’s babysitting? Maybe it’s gifts? Maybe it’s wrapping presents? Maybe it’s something special that you can provide that I can’t even imagine not knowing your talents!

And guess what?

Single parents need those things too! My husband traveled excessively for work this year. He was gone for back to back full weeks month over month. Ay-ay-ay. It was beyond trying to parent alone—to not have that person to run to the CVS for cough medicine in the middle of the night. I have an amazing support group in Tulsa with my family. My parents don’t know they’re too old to dance and play in the floor, while they entertain my highly energetic and sometimes slightly high maintenance daughter. Goodness. They help so much!

Not everybody has those kinds of life savers to throw a rope. Single parents could use a break. Offer them one. An evening where they could go shopping without spying little eyes could be invaluable. Tossing in a Visa gift card could make that event a bit more enjoyable!

Stop to invite a single friend or an elderly person over for the whole “magic in the eyes of a child” kind of thing. Invite them to join your family for Christmas lights at Rhema. Put them between the car seat and the door for a crazy night of Christmas light touring they won’t soon forget. There’s just so much fun to be shared!

People aren’t connected in the way we used to be. It used to be that everyone sort of just knew what was going on in others’ lives. Maybe it was the party line my grandparents had back in the day. I don’t know. I just know there are a lot of people who will never ask you for help. They might even be afraid that if they asked, you might ask for something from them later. Right? You know that thought process. These kinds of people will answer “Fine.” when asked how they are. They will smile to keep your attention off of their coffee stained shirt. Sure. They will make it without you, but I bet they could make it SO MUCH BETTER with you.

So grab your “God Goggles” and #GoDoBe in the ways you always do and in ways you had never thought of before.

Senior Moments--Holidays: Stressful or Satisfying?

Written by Betsy Catrett

When I was in junior high school my father retired from 30 plus years of service in the Social Security Administration to be an at home dad with my at home, homemaking mother. Make no mistake he didn’t quit working. After being in retirement a few years, he often said, “I don’t know where I ever found time to go to work!” Between our ever-growing family, running a small 200 head cattle ranch, gardens, being an elder of the church and Sunday School Superintendent, and volunteer work through Gideons International, Big Brothers, writing a column for the newspaper, etc; he was a busy man. One thing both he and our mother delighted in was hospitality around the family table. Not the least in importance to them, were the holidays. The events were almost always at their home and they did the majority of the cooking for years until the seven of us (their children) grew into our new positions as contributors. That is the backdrop of the most recent generation of my family roots and value placed on holidays. How about yours?

About how many holidays have you experienced now that you have reached the wonderful age of grandparenthood? How many of those holidays were exceptionally memorable? Satisfying? Rich? Rewarding? Empty? Frustrating? Stressful? May I ask you, at this point in your life, what is your part in your family’s holiday activities? Are you still doing most of the planning and implementation? Have you primarily taken a behind the scenes position and passed the baton to the next generation? Are you the matriarch/patriarch still providing perspective and strong roots to help keep the family on course?

Me? Well, my parents are now both with the Lord. I’m in my sixties. My hubby is in his seventies. All five of our sons are in their thirties, with the first one turning 40 this January. The establishment of their dreams is well underway and most of them have their quivers full of children. We do hope to have a few more grandchildren however before it’s all said and done. So, how are holidays for us? As a peacemaker and fun loving, hardworking provider of our home, Hubby is all about family, food, and fun. I love that, too. However, as the researcher for the family assignments that bring its fair share of struggles, it’s also super important to me that we make the holidays accomplish all they were created for. Holidays for me are “holy-days”; i.e. days set aside to remember to focus on various topics. Remembering helps us stay the course. It helps us keep our priorities and check the pulse of our values. Holy days are connecting days where we nurture our roots with traditions. Why is it important to do this? Because we are human beings created with a design out of heaven, let’s look to the Owner’s Manual God made available to guide us.

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.” This says to me that holy-days (holidays) are our Creator’s plan for us.  

Leviticus 23: 2 (KJV)

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”

Psalm 78:4 (ESV)

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”

Psalm 145:4 (ESV)

Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:”

Psalm 102:18 (ESV)

These verses say to me that we need to be intentional about sharing the deeds and ways of the Lord from one generation to another. We have a purpose. Let me first share a couple of wonderful resources, then a few practical ideas to prime the pump. Martha Zimmerman’s books Celebrating Biblical Feasts and Celebrating the Christian Year have been invaluable books to me since the 1980s and are still VERY relevant today. I’d start by purchasing those two books. But I wouldn’t wait until reading both of them to get started. We are entering the fall and winter holidays this month. So what are some intentional things we can do right now?

How about having an All Saints Day meal with your family and share some of the strengths of your family with them. Put a strong emphasis on God’s involvement in the journey, through the battles and peace times of the spiritual battles of life. If you don’t have Christian roots in your section of the family tree, emphasize Christian character and morals that are present and have obviously been taught somewhere in the roots of your tree. If possible show pictures of the family of whom you are talking, or something that belonged to that relative as a tangible item for your family to hold on to from their story.

Thanksgiving could include an autumn tree with pictures of Squanto, the Pilgrims, and fun facts about the harshness of their story and the beautiful outcomes. Include also one or two of your family’s stories about lives that went different than their original dreams, were full of harsh realities, and many intimate moments with God as He birthed something very beautiful through them.

Christmas season could be filled with gifts that tell your family story. For instance, write a thirty day devotional with stories from your life or your family roots that share how you came into relationship with God and how He has revealed Himself to you through His word, His names, His creation, His care, His love . . . Could you round up a few items to put into a shadow box for each of your grown children and their families with a story about that item on the back? Last year I started a tradition of cutting a little tree in the woods to bring in for a one evening event thus it is fresh and not a fire hazard. We string popcorn and cranberries as garlands and tie bags with home-made cookies onto the boughs. Lastly we put on the dozen clips with candles I purchased on line from Germany on the tree and light them. This year, I hope to add some family story ornaments that we will let grow into a collection, and use each year forth to tell the generation to come of our family’s assignment in the body of Christ. An assignment that like a terrific page turner of a book has its dark moments of fear, shame, doubt, insecurity but is miraculously turned around as our Hero, the King of kings and Lord of lords enters the scene. If you have been born again spiritually, you have the Creator living within you. Therefore, you have limitless creativity waiting to be tapped to enrich your holy-days and strengthen our part of the world one family at a time. May God richly bless your efforts and give your families ears to hear, eyes to see and hearts to receive we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.


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FAMILY FUN: Easy-to-Love Holiday Traditions

Written by Teresa Goodnight

Holiday traditions really bring about excitement and expectation for the season to come. Some of the ones I have appreciated (or implemented) can be an easy addition to your holiday season. Traditions don’t have to start the day your children are born! They can start at any season that God puts them on your heart quite honestly. So, don’t be discouraged if you haven’t really been doing anything for years and years. It might take a little coercion with older children, but it will be worth it when you have memories that will last a lifetime.

Ideas:

Thanksgiving (or any holiday) candle: One of the loveliest traditions I know, I first did with a group of friends I worked with many years ago. We passed around a candle to each person at a Thanksgiving meal with our group. We each shared one thing we were thankful for (work or personal). As awkward as you might think it was, as this was just not my girls gathering together, but our entire team—it was memorable even now, 15 years later. We all talked about it each season. Our company was sold, but our last holiday together set a light to the meaning of friendships!

Thanksgiving serving: As filling as the holiday meal is gathered around the table with family, many find heading down to John 3:16 in Tulsa to serve holiday meals is even more filling in the end. Serving others a meal, when they have no regularly scheduled meals, can bring about a whole new meaning to the season of thanks. It reminds us to help those who are less fortunate for whatever reason. Most didn’t set out hoping to be homeless or jobless. Life happens. It also reminds our families to be thankful for what we do have. Together, giving to others because much has been given to you—that’s a dish worth serving!

Serving others a meal, when they have no regularly scheduled meals, can bring about a whole new meaning to the season of thanks.

Gingerbread Houses/Christmas Cookies: Ok. I know. It feels like a whole lot of work (and you don’t really get to eat the yummy house—cookies are another story!). However, with today’s amazing retailers, you can grab a ready to assemble house at Costco if you aren’t inclined to do your own. My daughter starts asking when we get to do ours at least two months before Christmas. With a little Christmas music, hot chocolate, and nibbling on the icing, it’s quite fun. Our house isn’t going to win any contest, but it’s made with a lot of love enjoyed by all. For the cookies, you can go completely homemade to Walmart pre-made but not yet baked Pillsbury yummies. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a fun tradition. The operative word here is FUN!

Christmas Caroling: Sounds out of date a bit? Maybe. But, update it with a set of Christmas lights with a battery and you’re golden. Then, wrap up the participants and start knocking on doors. (whoever has a free hand!) You can learn 3–4 songs (most of which you likely already know). Give the neighbors a Christmas smile. If you want to really make someone’s day—add in a local nursing home or retirement center to the list (call first of course!). Pack your hot chocolate and give it a go!

Rachelle and Daniel Gardner love to don period clothing and go caroling in their neighborhood.

If you’re more inclined to stay at home? Start one night of Christmas Carols around the tree either with family or host a youth event with a few of your children’s friends and play some on your device! If you aren’t musically inclined, I love How Many Kings, Toby Mac, Mercy Me, Casting Crowns or well . . . I’m not gonna lie. I love me some Elvis Christmas—and he really makes for a fun evening to boot! Finish the evening by piling in the car and heading off to Rhema (or start there!) or drive through some well-lit neighborhoods, like 106th and Sheridan (go north and south in there!) and wander around the neighborhood towards 111th. There are some BIG sets of lights to see! Even singing in the car on your way to the lights can be a tradition all its own!

Advent Calendars: Yeah, I know. Everyone does them, but not everyone does them like you might! We bought one from Pottery Barn for Kids (although honestly you could make your own with some hot glue in about 20 minutes or less). Fill it with candy or little toys. Then start your countdown. We use the Life.Church Children’s Storybook Bible to read the story of the birth of Jesus to our little one every night while she eats her candy. Last year for Christmas? Our 3-year old recited the entire story to our whole family after Christmas dinner. You can imagine how that felt! (No kids Bible? Download the free Life.Church Kid’s Bible on your phone or tablet. Done.)

Giving (Anything/Anywhere/Any Time): Let your kiddos participate in some form of giving to others over the holidays. It’s a great tradition built on the generosity of the God we serve. Maybe it’s another meal. Maybe it’s one of the many trees around town with presents children might be wanting. Maybe it’s sneaking a bag of presents or food onto the porch of a family who just lost a job and ringing the doorbell as you hide. Maybe it’s just sitting down taking advantage of tax breaks with end of year giving to your favorite charities/church. Whatever way you decide to create a tradition of giving, build it into your traditions with your children. It will remind them of the reason for the season—which has very little to do with Santa Claus and a whole lot to do with Jesus!

Christmas Eve (SERVE)ice: Don’t just go. Serve! There are usually WAAAY more services for Christmas than just the one you will attend. For this season, create a moment of sharing with your kiddos as you serve at your church. Churches often need door greeters, decorators, and more. There are lots of ways you and your family can make the Christmas season special for your church staff by helping out (plus all of those attending!). When you’re done? Go have a Starbucks or a meal and talk about things that happened. There’s always that ONE STORY you won’t forget.

Anything you do can be a holiday tradition. Last year, I might have started a new tradition by not actually cooking the Christmas dinner for our extended family. We had this incredibly overpriced, fancy new Dacor oven that wasn’t heating up high enough. There was a system malfunction that required complete replacement. I didn’t realize it since we eat out all the time. (No judging!) So, unknowingly, I served everything doughy, raw, and ummm yeah just not done! You get it. People were trying to eat it believe it or not. Talk about love! The world didn’t fall apart. We went straight to the desserts everyone bought. My family still laughs about how I could own an oven for over 6 months and not realize it wasn’t working. Anyway, you get the idea.

So, here are my holiday tradition rules:

  • Don’t stress.
  • Don’t overthink it.
  • Memories with a giggle are magic.
  • Your family and Jesus still love you—dry turkey or not.
  • Enjoy family and friends. Period.

Heart2Heart: Generous YOU!

Written by Andrea Stephens

Generosity. The giving of good things to others freely and abundantly out of a heart of genuine kindness. Generosity is something we are challenged by during this season of thankfulness and gift giving. It affords us the opportunity to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

Have you ever met someone who is generous? Not just someone who repeatedly tells the story of her one-time over the top act of kindness. I mean someone who lives it. Someone who sees what they own, what they earn, what they do with their time, and their words of encouragement as tools to use to bless the lives of others. Someone who has experienced the fact that it is more blessed to give than to receive and can attest that giving increases their own well-being and happiness (Acts 20:35). Someone who’s heart has been so touched by the love of God that it overflows toward others in a consistent, almost natural way.

Several years ago, I met Marge. She was an older lady, a widow, the mother of two adult sons who were inattentive to their mother. Her life had not been easy but her disposition was one of gratitude, a key to generous living. She could be heard thanking the Lord for this or that and giving Him credit for all the good in her life; Marge had well learned Jesus’ command to love the Lord with everything within her and to love others (Matthew 22:37-39). I got to watch up close as she would hear about a need and find a way to meet it. Mr. Avery had been laid off and his family needed groceries; Suzette didn’t have a winter coat and the temperature kept dropping; Karen was in the throes of chemotherapy and just couldn’t prepare Thanksgiving dinner as usual. Marge had three bags of groceries delivered to the Avery’s, took Suzette shopping, and shared her festive meal so Karen could rest. The majority of her most generous giving was done anonymously so that the credit went to God alone. Even as someone who became one of her close friends, I didn’t know all the giving she was up to, yet that smile on her face let me know that she and Jesus were up to something good. Together, they were on an adventure that brought energizing joy, contentment and purpose to her life.

Her example taught me that I, too, could possess the quality of generosity. Generosity is not about how much you possess, or how much money you make. It’s about the condition of your heart, your mindset, your willingness to put it into action. Caring, sharing, and giving because it blesses the Lord, blesses the recipient, and blesses you.

Sometimes our generosity is an act of obedience to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. A friend tells the story of having lunch at one of her favorite restaurants—the kind with country style cooking. When she was getting ready to leave, the Holy Spirit whispered to her/impressed upon her to leave her waitress a $20 tip. She admits that her first reaction was what, $20? After all this wasn’t one of her regular waitresses but a new person she didn’t even know, a person with a pink streak in her hair. Well, she knew the thought hadn’t come from her. So, she had a decision to make. Should she trust the impression or pass it off as a ridiculous thought?

Obedience won. She tucked the money along the side of her plate and left the restaurant. The next week she returned to that restaurant for lunch. While scanning the menu she heard someone say, “Hey, you’re the lady that left me that awesome tip last week.” She looked up to see the waitress with the pink streak in her hair. She smiled. “I was having such a bad day. Several customers had been mean and no one was tipping. In fact, I had just been alone in the walk-in freezer crying and asking the Lord to help me. Then I came out and there was your tip. Thank you so much.”

Wow. Who knew her obedience was actually the answer to someone’s prayer? My friend was doubly blessed. She had followed what the Lord lead her to do and she had impacted another life with her generosity.

Of course, the greatest example of generosity was done by God, our Heavenly Father, when He choose to send His Son, Jesus, to earth as a human baby who would one day sacrificially give His life to save the world from the wrath of sin and restore all that was lost in the Garden of Eden. When Jesus gave His life for you and me, it was the greatest demonstration of love being the motivation for generosity. First, God loved the world which resulted in the giving of Jesus (John 3:16). Then Jesus loved His Father so much that He obediently went to the cross to die for the world His Father loved (Matt 26:36-44). Yes, Jesus loved us, but His motivation came from the love he had for God.

To complete this demonstration of love, Jesus rose from the grave having defeated death and paying our sin debt so that we can live forgiven, free, and forever reconciled to our Heavenly Father. This alone, gives each of us reason to be grateful and to show our love for God by loving others. Life can be hard, messy, and disappointing. Yet when we intentionally keep our focus on the generosity of God toward us, we will recognize our blessings and be motivated to bless others.

How can we become more generous women? First, study God’s Word. The more we know His love, the more we will love Him (and the more we will want to obey Him). January will be a great time to get in on a local Bible study. Check out these studies for women: Bible Study Fellowship held at Asbury Church on Thursday mornings and Community Bible Study held at Evergreen Baptist Church on Wednesday mornings. Second, practice an attitude of gratitude. Challenge yourself to write down 3 things you are grateful for each day. Get in the habit of telling others when you are grateful for them. Third, just start being generous. Yes, begin paying attention to how and when you can be generous to those around you—whether it is someone you know or a seemingly random person God puts in your path. As you do these things, your desire to be more generous will grow. Your joy will increase. You will become a natural at it!


Just How Fruity of a Fruitcake are YOU?

Written by Teresa Goodnight

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”

Galatians 5:22–26

I  know. I couldn’t help the reference with the holidays coming, but our fruitiness is pretty important. Our CORE is a pretty good indicator of our status with Christ. Makes sense. God tells us that the closer we get to Him, the more the Holy Spirit will produce these kinds of fruits within us:

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

Self-Control

God tells us “There is no law against these things!” Makes sense. Why would there need to be a law against such things? I know no one complaining at the Thanksgiving table—“Kenzi, she’s just too loving. I always feel like she is just joyful or something. It’s really aggravating me. When things aren’t going her way, she’s peaceful. It’s like she thinks that no matter what happens, everything is going to be ok. She’s kind when I think she should be boiling over. It’s like she’s full of goodness or something. I mean her faithfulness and gentleness anger me. I wish she wasn’t so stinkin’ self-controlled. I just don’t like to be around people like her.”

It’s so silly—it’s difficult to write (and probably read). I just don’t hear people complaining about people filled with the Spirit. In fact, I’m more likely to step back and challenge myself when I’m around such people. There’s no one in my life who would naturally call me self-controlled. Gentleness isn’t exactly on my type A personality trait list either. I want it to be. In fact, when I spend more time with God, it actually starts to creep into me. I notice it. Then, when life gets busy and I get off track. It’s gone. Type A me, me, me is right back in action wondering if anyone noticed I was next in line and not the person they waited on ahead of me. As I wonder in my head how they missed me, I stand there annoyed I’m having to wait longer, fighting rushing up to get my turn that was due. It’s not just self-control I’m lacking there. It’s patience. It’s love. It’s goodness. It’s certainly gentleness. All not happening. ARGH!

So, why can’t I keep producing the fruit I want? Many times, it’s because I AM PRODUCING THAT FRUIT. When I’m just doing it on my own, it won’t last. It doesn’t have the sticking power that a fruit of the Spirit does. People can sense you aren’t even happy with what you are trying to force yourself to do, but when it’s just growing out of you—it has its own life and power, God’s Holy Spirit’s power.

It’s not that I shouldn’t try to be good. We should all try of course. It’s just that there is a different power source behind the actions when we are plugged into Christ. When I’m reading God’s word, spending time in prayer about it—all of a sudden, the fruit just starts growing in me. Sure, I’m participating. I’m there letting the seed be planted with God’s word. I’m listening to God as I pray, letting the Spirit water me like a garden if you will. Then I’m out there operating in the sunshine watching it grow inside me. It really is a very different crop though. One is born out of pushing myself to do it myself. The other is truly born of the Spirit. It actually can feel a bit effortless at times. In fact, it can even surprise you that it’s just happening. I know it has me. (Mainly because I know it is NOT my natural instinct. Hey. Don’t judge. LOL)

My daughter is addicted to a dumplin’/carrot kid’s meal at the Cracker Barrel (Please stay with the no judging theme here. Ha! ). She’s a picky eater. Anyway. One day, we had a waitress who was just downright grumpy with us. Anything we asked seemed like an enormous drain on her. I wanted to throw down a bit of righteous indignation that a paying customer feels they deserve to throw when things aren’t going well. I own that mode when needed (Sadly!). However, we had been challenged at church to be a bit different. The seed had been planted just the service before. It was watered with some Biblical teaching and addressed in prayer. So, without even having to debate it, which still baffles me, we left a $100 tip. It wasn’t because we made ourselves do it. It really flowed right out of us. We left being thankful that God had turned us that direction in that moment.

Several weeks later, my daughter and I went back to the Cracker Barrel. Honestly, I didn’t remember the waitress, but she remembered us. (Don’t even know how she knew it was us, because you pay at the front desk at CB!). Anyway, she came over and talked about what a horrible day she was having that day. She talked with me about some of her trials. She knew she had been pretty awful to us. She was so thankful to us for being generous on her really bad day. I had to tell her—I think God wanted you to have that encouragement. He must have known you needed it. We do NOT do that all the time. We have done that only when we feel a tug that feels from the Spirit and we just respond immediately. It’s difficult to put into words, but it is just different. I’m sure you’ve felt that tug.

So how fruity are you? Are you working on any kind of spiritual fruit crop at all? Do you have some artificial, genetically modified fruit crop that looks a bit like real fruit out of “I oughtas or I shoulds” or are you plugged into the Holy Spirit and watching God grow something amazing in you that you know couldn’t be produced without Him? Again, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t put for the effort, but I’m telling you—there’s something different when the Holy Spirit is growing it in you. There just is.

So, I think we should throw down the holiday fruitcake challenge for this season. Let’s spend some time with God to be as fruity as we can be going into holiday time with our family and friends. See what happens!

Action:

  • Let’s read and study Galatians 5.
  • Look up a definition of the words Paul used like love, patience, etc. day by day.
  • Pray about at least one of them daily.
  • Pray that God will bring you opportunities to display them and that He will grow them in you like a harvest!

Then #GoDoBe.

We’d love to get some notes from you over the holidays with any stories of God producing a bountiful crop in your life through His Spirit! Be blessed, but more than that, BE A BLESSING!

What does a SUPER Lost World Need? A Savior.

Goodness. America feels upside down and torn apart. Admittedly this country has made more than its fair share of mistakes growing up. So have I. One of the best parts of who we become grows out of the grace God gives us for those mistakes. At our worst, at our best, or somewhere in the middle—God loves us, sent His son to die for us, and offers forgiveness that knows no limits. So, in these times of social media wars, families divided over our political state, and hearts that fully reject God’s Word, His grace and even ours, how do we love? Like God did.

God being under attack isn’t anything new although it feels a bit new to our generation. In fact, although we focus on the amazing birth of our savior in this season, we must also remember He too came into a very tumultuous world. There was a hunt to find where the Messiah would be born—to destroy Him. The horrible taxes drove Mary and Joseph to travel when she was with child to get them paid. There was no room for a woman giving birth at the inn? Really? Would noone give their room? The owners? Even through the hunt, the lack of common decency, God still saw fit to send His son. He was born in a barn. He would die on a cross at the hand of the very people He came to save. 

Why? Because then and now, the world still needed a savior. That’s how God loves. 

This is not our home. It’s not. No matter how “blessed” we feel with all the frills even America offers, at the core of every human being, it remains true: THE WORLD IS STILL VERY MUCH IN NEED OF A SAVIOR. You have the answer to a broken and hurting world living inside of you. Breathing His Spirit into you. His grace covers you. You are grounded in Christ. In this season, #GoDoBE Christ wherever you find the opportunity. America is crying out desperately for a savior, reminding us of the real reason why Jesus was born. Give the gift of a savior with God this season. It just may change someone’s eternal life.