Category: LIFE

Written By Teresa Goodnight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)

Then if my people who are called by my name will (1)humble themselves and (2)pray and (3)seek my face and (4)turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

In 2 Chronicles, God offers us a 4 part path to recovery from sin.  Sometimes we feel like we just can’t be forgiven. Sometimes, there is so much silence around our specific offense, that we dwell alone in satan’s realm of pity and condemnation.  Sometimes we feel the silence is absolutely fitting.  We start to think “What else do we possibly deserve?” It becomes a comfortable place of darkness.  Without God’s light–how in the world can we find our way out of that darkness?  So let’s put the light right in the middle of it. 

James 2:10 (NLT)  

“For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.”

It’s difficult to add anything meaningful to this very clear statement.  Sin is sin is sin. If we have committed one, we are as guilty as one who has committed all.  We should remember that when we need God’s forgiveness–the same as we should remember it when someone sins against us.  So, when God speaks of forgiveness–rest assured, even the sins we tend to not name because they feel too big, too horrible, to shameful, he includes them all.

Knowing God’s grace applies to whatever silent darkness you are in matters. So, now what?  How do we get some light in Satan’s perfect prison of condemnation? After all, who else would benefit the most if we think God’s grace doesn’t apply to our mistakes?

1 – Humble Ourselves

Before we can start to seek forgiveness, we have to come to term with our own mistakes, admitting they are actually sin.  It sounds easy enough, but we all know there are some sins we want to justify.  Abortion is a great example of such a difficult sin to admit.  If we admit it is a sin against God, then it opens the entire experience for more guilt and shame to attack.  That’s why it’s so critical to have people coming alongside to help guide us on our recovery journey. When we are getting right with God–Satan absolutely wants to condemn us so badly that we walk away.

In our interview for the cover story, Jamie Harrell mentioned “I actually had to spend time thinking it through to admit it to myself as wrong—and then finding a way to forgive myself before I could think about talking to God about it.”  That’s not for everyone, but it was a real step in her recovery process that helped.  Jamie wasn’t even ready to forgive herself.  People often find great solace in living with the pain of our mistakes, as it becomes a home we feel we deserve—one we have earned with our decisions.  Not feeling worthy of our own forgiveness, much less God’s forgiveness, is actually a humble, broken place to go before God–because in those moments, we are knee deep in the feeling unworthy of God’s forgiveness.  We are free from pride and arrogance, which often entangles us.  And, He is RIGHT THERE to let us know He absolutely loves us.  He absolutely can remove our sins as far as the east is from the west.

As an example of a heartfelt prayer in humility and confession in front of God, I offer a Psalm speaking specifically of the “shedding of blood,” because of the grave depth of the offense and God’s specific inclusion of this sin in the Bible.  God is not silent on such sins.  As any parent would, God wishes to protect us from making mistakes that will destroy our lives.  He restores the humble heart in despair.  All of Psalm 51 has such a broken, humbled confession to the Lord, but let’s look just at these 3 verses:

Psalm 51:13-15 (NLT)

“Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.  Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.  Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.”

I love Psalm 51 for so many reasons, but verse 15 really speaks to why we need to know God has forgiven our sin.   “Then…(after He forgives), THEN, I will joyfully SING of your forgiveness.  By healing your heart, God will “Unseal” your lips so that your mouth may praise him from a place of even more gratitude for His mercy than you had before.  When shown that kind of mercy, it allows God to use something Satan meant for evil to bring about good.  How much more mercy does a heart have to give that has been given so much recognizably undeserved mercy from our Creator? 

2 – Praying before God

Humbling ourselves before God and admitting what we’ve done is NOT an easy “said and done” kind of experience.  Don’t misunderstand, God’s forgiveness operates that way, but coming to terms with it ourselves does not.  There are absolute repercussions to our sinful decisions; however, shining God’s light in on the situation helps bring about a peace.  If we’re dwelling in the darkness, we are losing out on feeling the freedom to think on things that are excellent and praiseworthy, which will help guard our hearts and minds.  Humbling ourselves before God frees us to find all the healing He freely offers us to restore us and then protect us when Satan tries to use this tactic to bring us down again.  Praying to God in that humility offers great comfort and peace that makes no sense considering the situation we’re facing. Going before God humbly and telling him what we need brings about the exact healing we need:

Philippians 4:6-9 (NLT)

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

God has always known us–before anyone else knew us.  There is nothing you are going to say in your prayer that surprises him.  He knew you before you were ever born. 

3 – Seeking God

Talk to God about Psalm 139: 1-17 below.  Acknowledge that He already knows as He is omnipotent (knows everything).  This step is critical when you think about God’s guidance in this scripture above.  God says He knew us when we were formed and that He knew the steps we would take in our lives.  There’s nothing you need to tell Him that He doesn’t already know.  He has always known you.  So, humbling ourselves is really admitting to God that we know what we have done is a sin against Him.  It’s finding a broken spirit to lay before Him knowing we just don’t deserve what He has to offer—His payment for our sins and His forgiveness.

Psalm 139 (NLT)

1 O Lord, you have examined my heart and

  know everything about me.

2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You

  know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at

  home. You know everything I do.

4 You know what I am going to say even

  before I say it, Lord.

5 You go before me and follow me. You place

  your hand of blessing on my head.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too

  great for me to understand!

7 I can never escape from your Spirit!

  I can never get away from your presence!

8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;

  if I go down to the grave, you are there.

9 If I ride the wings of the morning,

  if I dwell by the farthest oceans,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

   and your strength will support me.

11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the

  light around me to become night—

12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from  

  you. To you the night shines as 

  bright as day. Darkness and light are the 

  same to you.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of 

  my body and knit me together in my

  mother’s womb.

14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully 

  complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—

  how well I know it.

15 You watched me as I was being formed in 

  utter seclusion, as I was woven together in 

  the dark of the womb.

16 You saw me before I was born. Every day

  of my life was recorded in your book.

  Every moment was laid out before a single   

  day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me,

  O God. They cannot be numbered!

4 – Turn

Tell Him what you have done.  Tell Him you need His forgiveness and healing. Tell Him your heart’s desire is to commit such an offense no more.  There are so many great places where God speaks of His overwhelming grace and forgiveness when we confess (tell him we are wrong and what we’ve done).   I love 1 John 1:9 for this kind of prayer, where we can cling to God’s promises.  If we confess, he will cleanse us from “ALL WICKEDNESS.” 

That’s ALL.

I will repeat for those who really like to feel they have the ONE thing God won’t forgive—that’s ALL WICKEDNESS.

1 John 1:9 (NLT) 

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

Then, while humble, while praying, while seeking Him, pray for the plan to help you turn from your sins.  Some sins are addictive.  Let’s not miss this critical step. There’s not a way to list HOW to turn from any kind of sin here. There are lots of ways I can suggest.  For one, get an accountability partner, one whom you will be honest with and one who will absolutely be honest with you.  Seek out resources inside your church. In some cases, you might need to seek out a Christian counselor. In other, you might need to download an app to keep you from going to certain websites.  If this is any sort of addictive sin, you should seek a restorative group.  There’s a great chance any of us can stumble again and having a group or accountability partners (people to keep us on track and check on us) helps.  Someone in your church leadership or in your church can help point you in the right direction to get the support you need to kick this sin or recover from one that has a lot of emotional weight.  God can absolutely use Christians to help hold you along this path. 

God is super clear. If we humble ourselves, if we pray, if we seek His face, if we turn from our wickedness–He will forgive.  It’s humbling just to think about it.  It can bring us to our knees to dwell upon it. Being forgiven when you know you are horribly wrong, when you know you can’t undo what you’ve done AND when you know how holy and perfect God is—that’s seriously some kind of AMAZING GRACE.

Written By Teresa Goodnight

When God brought our bundle of joy, I wanted to find a Christian pediatric group.  I found out about Broken Arrow Pediatrics. It was beyond what I hoped to find in more ways than expected.  I’m not from Broken Arrow.  Doesn’t matter.  I would drive much further for this proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  

I dropped in on Dr. Kim Terry, as I wanted to help others on the search for a Christian pediatric practice.  Talking with her is a delight, as it has been with Dr. Carl Pfanstiel.  Dr. Terry started with a bit from her heart, “I think the main thing for me is that it’s such an honor that God has allowed me to be a pediatrician.  I love kids and I love their families. So, when folks bring their kids here, I just find partnering with Jesus and God is important.  That’s why at the end, I ask to pray with the child.  I’m just ‘Lord heal this illness and just put your blessing on this child.’  It’s my joy to see these kiddos.  So, I hope that joy is what families feel when they come in.  We’re so very happy to have families here; we connect and ask God to be a part of it.  So, whether that’s through prayer or just interacting in the office or how we treat folks, I hope that it’s honoring.  I hope they feel Jesus in some manner in this office.  That’s my goal.  I know Dr. Pfanstiel’s heart is the same. He walks with the Lord and wants to honor God in what he does.” 

Dr. Terry has practiced with Dr. Pfanstiel about 20 years.  She was at another group for 6 1/2 years.  Then she had her third kid and said,  “I was wanting to do Locums (flexible scheduling) for more family time.  She said, “I was filling in at other offices and Dr. Pfanstiel found out about it.  He said, ‘Come work with me over here. I’ll make it really flexible.’ So I did.”  

When she first started, Dr. Terry liked that Dr. Pfanstiel treated every family the same.  She said, “There was no difference who you were when you walked through the door.  He accepted Sooner Care—which wasn’t the norm.  At that time, a lot of practices stopped because the fees really went down, but the kids still needed healthcare. We still do.”

Dr. Terry said, “The council that Dr. Pfanstiel gives families–it’s solid about being family oriented and really speaking into fathers.  He does that and he loves it.  We need it.  You can tell when the young fathers come in that they really hear him, talking about being the head of their homes and leading their families.”  

Dr. Terry finished, “The advice we give comes from a Biblical perspective, because we are a Christian practice.  Parents need advice on how to be parents.  We know there is absolute truth.  In the middle of that truth though, there’s gotta be love.  If things are going on, if we’ve built relationships, families are more open to hearing from us.  We never press on people.  We love them where they are and will be the best doctors we can be for them.  The door is open—even if our beliefs are different, we’re gonna love on ya and give you the absolute best care possible.” She’s not wrong. They feel like family that we often visit only once a year, but they are still family all the same.

Written By Teresa Goodnight

Enjoying the Animal Kingdom.

We love Disney.  It’s always fun.  It’s always crazy.  Regrettably, the age old “we can do this park hopper pass” lured us in this time.  It plagues parents on their first trip to Disney World.  There are so many parks and just so little time. Plus, with tickets ranging into the $125+ range, plus another $60 to hop parks—it intrigues those of us with the budget-friendly mindset.  What does a mouse need with all our money anyway? So, we decided to try it out.  

There are many factors to take into consideration.  First, are you spending the big dollars for the Disney properties?  We don’t.  I can get rates at really great hotels for somewhere between 50-75% of the Disney property rates. Even in fairly busy seasons, we can easily hop onto Priceline and grab a great room for between $75-150. They are always 3-star and above.  We will often spring for the 4 or 5-star hotel and always get the room for sub $200 vs $750 and up for an equivalent Disney property.  (There is a Disney property where you can camp for about $140 per night if so inclined!)  This time we tried a new Springhill suites up by Universal.  Incredibly clean and safe!  Completely brand new.  So, if you are a bit adventurous, we do suggest you live on the edge of a good deal.

Now, onto the parks.  We decided to try to hop between Hollywood and Animal Kingdom, while entertaining a 4-year old.  If you have ever been to either of these Disney locations, both are hardpressed for entertaining the family for a full day aside from waiting in line after line for a ride. (Or so this mom thought.) It depends on the age of the attendees of course.  We hopped in the car, grabbed some quick breakfast and found ourselves in a 30 minute line just to get into the parking lot.  By the time we arrived, we were already an hour and a half into the park hours.  So, if you plan to hop—we suggest getting up and heading over about an hour before the park is set to open.  Even wiser, we arrived to Animal Kingdom at 9:30 in our next attempt.  Still it’s just a long process to get in the park.

If you’ve booked your 3 fast passes per ticket holder, the day can pack in more adventure.  Unfortunately the Disney App on your phone is about as reliable as the weather in Oklahoma.  Ours was locked up the majority of the time—preventing us from being able to move the passes around as needed.  It’s much easier if you have a computer the night before.  You can log onto the website and select exactly what you would like to do.  Plus, if you are staying in a non-Disney hotel, you will be in line for fast passes after everyone there.  Nonetheless, we booked successfully for the Kilamanjara Safari trek through the open zoo-like area with elephants, tigers, alligators, hippos, ostriches, giraffes, and a whole host of other land animals.  As always, the sleepy lions and tigers were barely seen from atop the rocks (sleeping their 14 hour shifts).  The ride is a unique experience for those wanting to feel up close and personal with the animals in a somewhat natural habitat.

They also had two shows we found to be worth a fast pass (or even the wait).  Nemo’s adventure and the Lion King were both incredibly well done 30 minute Broadway-style shows.  The Nemo show was our favorite.  Characters were held on puppet-style devices next to live singers, who maneuvered their movements.  The props were just so DISNEY!  We even ran into Nemo a few minutes after it started one day, with plenty of seating available during a spring break flood of travelers. 

The Lion King was a completely different style of show.  The props were akin to parade floats although decorated with Disney-esque sophistication.  The cast of characters were African tribesmen (and women) with incredible dancing, gymnastics, and singing talents.  The characters were on the floats in the corners of the room with giant sized Lion King characters that moved and seemed to interact with the show.  Although I much preferred Nemo, my gymnastics loving dancer was equally in awe with both shows for different reasons.  I’m pretty sure she will be trying those dance moves for her next recital.

Animal Kingdom offered plenty of walking trails to observe birds, gorillas, monkeys, and all sorts of wildlife from right along the trails.  Dinoland is the premier spot for younger children.  Having been to all the parks, they all have generally the same style of children’s rides (Universal and Disney) and both are not the largest sections, but adequate.  Disneyworld, as you would expect, really leads the way in the little kid arena.  However the climbing park alone was entertaining for at least 2 hours.

If you’re paying attention to the length of the shows, a little walking plus a little line waiting—it’s pretty easy to see that unless you are a marathon sprinter, what should be a quick in and out trip can become a full day adventure.  We decided emphatically–”Park hopping is NOT the way to go.”  We were so stressed out trying to get to the good stuff before we needed to leave that we weren’t fully enjoying the time.  So, in the middle of the Lion King show, I called Disney to move our park hopper to a 2-day event.  Then, for the rest of the day, we explored in a much less stressful state of enjoyment.  There were dancers, music groups, lots of shops and plenty to keep us busy for the whole day.  Plus, we didn’t even attempt to go to the Avatar experience, which was exempt from fast passes and had lines around the block!

We finished our day at the Animal Kingdom lights and music show overlooking the lake.  The view is definitely best from the Asian side of the arena seating, but everyone could see.  Disney uses amazing lighting effects to portray animals running across sprays of water.  It was a little too “circle of life” for my tastes.  It kept giving images of animals, which felt like they were from a spiritual realm.  I don’t think it was obvious to a 4 year old, but it was definitely a “Be kind. We’re all one.” sort of message.  Having been to Disney World before, I much prefer the fireworks and the light show on the castle.

We will review Hollywood in the fall, as the four year old enjoyed Animal Kingdom so much more we didn’t head back over there.  Next day?  Yep! We went back! I’m not sure I could’ve been more wrong  about what she would enjoy.  You just never know. We still think Hollywood is the best one to link with another park if you dare.  Maybe it would be better with Epcot (unless you are going to want to do the Frozen experience or one of the new Star Wars experiences offered by Hollywood). However, we seriously FULLY vote no on park hopping.  In fact, when I spoke with the Disney crew on the phone to change our tickets—the guy said he wondered why anyone would try to hop.  He agreed.  There’s just not enough time in a day.

Written by Mike Henry Sr. – Follower of One

The Offense

The Human Resources director of your company called. Suddenly, today is your last day. There’s a reorganization and your job is no longer necessary. You’re a great person and this isn’t personal. There’s nothing you could have done, but they don’t need you anymore. There’s a little severance, but you know it won’t last long enough. Meanwhile, it’s time to pack. 

Initial Reaction

“They” did it and it wasn’t fair. Or “They should…” The word “they” is a key.  When we focus on the past and we hold someone else responsible for what happened, we build walls of bitterness because we haven’t forgiven someone.

The Command

‘And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ Matthew 6:12

Can we forgive others in the workplace the way we want God to forgive us? Do you want God to forgive you the way you forgive others? The way I forgive others often falls short of the way I ask for forgiveness. When I’m honest, I appreciate God’s forgiveness. I’m glad he created forgiveness and I know my efforts don’t measure up. 

Three Steps

Even though I’m no expert in forgiveness, I still practice. And in my practice, I’ve found 3 activities that help me move toward God’s command and away from my natural reaction. 

Name the offense. Often, we need to make ourselves aware of the offense we feel so we can forgive properly. Think about this event. Step into the pain. Think about the costs. Get it out there where you can deal with it. Some people think they’ve forgiven someone, but they still harbor ill feelings. They still blame their former employer for debt they incurred while unemployed. Or they blame their boss for a poor review or a less-than-expected pay raise. When we name the offense, we begin to manage it.

Give it away. Once you name the offense, give it away or give it to God. Ask God to give you a heart for the person or people who offended you. Then ask God to make it right. Unforgiveness keeps you stuck in the past. When you can trust God to make something positive out of your offense, you experience the benefits of forgiveness.

Make it unconditional. We didn’t earn God’s forgiveness. I’m unaware of many of the offenses I’ve caused. None of us truly understand the vast scope of the unconditional forgiveness we have each already received. Don’t revisit the offense months from now when something else happens. Remember that you unconditionally asked God to restore you from this offense. Remind yourself everything related to this offense bills to the same account.

Perfect Job

I have always wanted to work where I could screw up BIG without fear of penalty or job loss. When I turned my life to follow Jesus, I got my wish. But I often saw only the temporal. While the pain was fresh, I did not see my eternal boss give me repeat chances. I did not see my career as what God was doing in my life. Whatever offended me was visible, not eternal.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB

Keep it Real

When we focus on visible things, we can find offenses everywhere. For work-oriented problems where we were let go, laid off, or we lost money or status at the hands of someone else, these steps can be a quick guide for how to focus on the future. An unforgiving spirit keeps us locked in the past. We continue to bear the misery of the past rather than giving it away, or even using the offense as a springboard to a new future. We know God uses our stories. Let God use your offense. Name it. Give it to Him. And make it unconditional.

God willing, I will continue to work on my weakness forgiving others. I hope to one day be willing to ask God to forgive me the way I forgive others. For now, I’m grateful he forgives better than I.

_________________________________

Note: Often, issues at work are much less painful or costly than the others discussed in this issue of the magazine. But our workplaces are regular, daily places where we interact with others. Conflict and offense live there too and every grudge or bitterness we hang on to costs us daily. 


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.


Written by Brenda Hilligoss

For the last few weeks I have been thinking about not greeting at Life.Church.  I thought that I wasn’t really helping God.  I would no longer have to get up early on Sunday mornings, since I have some health problems and do not sleep well.  I thought that they wouldn’t miss me.  I kept praying about what I was thinking, but I could not decide what to do.  God kept telling me that it didn’t matter what I thought or what others thought; I was doing this for Him.  He kept telling me, but I certainly wasn’t looking for that answer.  So, I kept praying, possibly, for Him to come around and just tell me what I was wanting to hear—that it was ok to hang up my hat for a bit.

I greet both on Sunday mornings and on Monday nights.  I’ll be 69 by the time this issue is published.  I’m retired and sometimes even bored, but still, I thought about taking a break.  It’s funny how those thoughts creep in.  I think Satan pokes around, looking for a bit of a cracked door, so that he can slip in and bust the door wide open.  He’s just sneaky like that.  If he can find our weaknesses, maybe a little bit of our self pity, or pounce on our desire to just take it easy, he will grab onto it and run with it.  So, I just kept praying and hoping for “MY” answer.

Then just a few weeks ago, the church presented me with a medal and certificate for my service.  March marked 5 years of greeting at the auditorium doors!  I have greeted a lot of people in those 5 years.  It was nice to stop and take note of how long I had been serving.  But, still, you guessed it–I thought about taking a break. You might even say I was just longing for God to give it to me.  When you want a certain answer from God, it’s amazing how long you will seek “His will” in prayer, when you aren’t hearing your own heart’s desire.  Sometimes we don’t want His answer at all, because deep down we already have decided on our own answer.  

However, that same Sunday morning, God decided He would give me one last chance to hear what He was saying about how He was using my choice to serve.  As I was standing at the entrance to the auditorium, waiting to open the doors, a young man came up to me and asked me when the service started.  He told me that he usually came at 10 a.m. but ended up missing that time this morning.  As we talked, I told him of the various days and times of the services; he told me that this was only his 4th time having come to Life.Church.  

We continued to talk for a little longer when my pastor, Isaiah, came out of the auditorium door.  I told Isaiah how the young man was new, as he introduced himself.  Then, the young man immediately told Isaiah how he had been wanting to raise his hand to receive Christ and salvation when he had been in the other services.  I thought “Wow! Was he going to accept Christ as his savior right here at the door?”  Isaiah, without hesitation, asked him if he would like to just do it now.  The young man immediately responded “Yes!” 

I bowed my head, as my pastor prayed for him, overwhelmed with emotion for the young man’s decision.  Together with Isaiah’s guidance, they expressed in his prayer that he knew he was a sinner who needed God’s forgiveness.  He also prayed that he understood Jesus had died on the cross for his sins  and that he wanted to accept his payment and accepted Him as his Lord and Savior.  When he looked up from the prayer, I was overcome with elation.  

It was then I realized that volunteering to be a greeter on the Life.Church host team was such a blessing, not just for me, but for all those who wanted to help fill God’s Kingdom.  It seemed so small before that moment.  It was God that saved that young man’s soul.  But, being at the door greeting allowed me to have a small part in welcoming another child to Jesus.  

I think that’s exactly how God has it all planned out.  He wants us to serve Him so that we can experience the joy I felt at that exact moment.  It renews us.  It gives us strength to continue on in whatever God has called us to do.  After all, God is certainly big enough to reach the world without us.  He said he would cause the rocks to cry out in our silence.  But, He wanted us to share in the expansion of his kingdom for so many of the things that went into my heart that day.  I was renewed. I was reminded how big God was. I was reminded I just needed to be faithful and He would use me.  My own faith was strengthened and revived as I experienced this beautiful moment with this young man and Isaiah.  

Sometimes you might not get to see how God is using you, but it helps to open our eyes a bit to realize that our small part plays into the bigger picture.  Every soul being saved in our church has to enter through those doors—and it sure helps when someone is there to greet them. There are many ways we can volunteer in our church – greeting, waving, handing out invitations or even serving coffee.  No matter how we are being used, no matter how small they may seem on some days, we are choosing to play a part in souls being saved for Christ.  What a blessing and honor to serve, not just for your church or the staff, but for the Kingdom of God.  

Needless to say, I stopped those prayers for my own will.  God answered me with a resounding blessing.  I am grateful to continue being a greeter!  I can’t wait to see what God brings my way in the next 5 years with my invigorated purpose. 


The young man had heard the following message of God’s love if you haven’t heard it before.

God loves all of us.  He always has and always will.  He loved us so much that He gave His only son for us.  He says in John 3:16 (NLT) “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

See, we have all made mistakes.  Some feel bigger.  Some feel smaller.  However, they are all called sin in God’s eyes.  He says in Romans 3:23  (NLT) “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

Unfortunately, because we’ve all messed up, God can’t just overlook our sins.  They actually carry consequences both on earth and eternally.  God says in Romans 6:23  (NLT) ”For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

He loved us so much that while we were still knee deep in our sins, He sent His son to die for us so that we could have eternal life through His son’s payment for our sins.  He says in Romans 5:8 (NLT) “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

But, Jesus didn’t just die for our sins.  It didn’t stop there.  He was actually raised to life 3 days later just as the Bible had foretold.   1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT) says “…Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”

We can’t earn salvation.  We are all offered God’s complete forgiveness and grace.  We are offered His payment for our sins.  An easy analogy is this:  A son was speeding in his car. He was pulled over and given a ticket for his offense.  He went to court to try to get out of his ticket.  The judge asked if he had sped.  He said “Yes. I did.”  Then, the young man asked the judge if he might show him mercy and forgive the offense.  The young man didn’t have enough money to pay his fine.  So, as such, he would need to be put in jail.  The judge, being a judge, was bound to uphold the law.  So, he upheld the fine charged against the young man for his offense.  Then, the judge took off his robe, stepped down from the bench, and paid the price for his child’s offense.  You see, he was the young man’s father.  That’s a tiny picture of what God did for us.  Because He can’t ignore sin, He upheld the law, but then He sent His son to pay the penalty.   

God will absolutely accept anyone no matter how big their offenses.  He is both just (as the judge) and loving as the father, and He has already paid the price you can’t afford to pay.  You can pray that prayer right where you are—but we’d urge you to get to your local church (or email us at info@communityspiritmagazine.com and we can help get you with a local church) for help in your journey as a new believer in Christ!


Senior Moments was contributed by Brenda Hilligoss. Brenda is a retired financial counselor, who enjoys her watching her grandkids, working in her yard, and her role as a greeter at church. She’s been a Christian since she was years old.  She’s spent a lifetime pursuing a relationship with God and guiding her children and grandchildren towards a life in Christ.  She promotes Community Spirit Magazine wherever she goes. She also happens to be the mom of one of the owners. (if she hasn’t already told you!)


Senior Moments, sponsored by Visiting Angels918.609.5600 Tulsa or 918.333.7400 Bartlesville visitingangels.com/greencountry


Written By Lizzy Place

Sophomore, Augustine Academy – Guest Author

I’m not sure what I expected. 

To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about it.

I’d agreed to see the movie Unplanned under the expectation that I would later write a something-or-other about it, a sort of “movie review.” The day rather snuck up on me. It was on my calendar; a circle with the title “Unplanned movie, Community Spirit,” but I barely remembered. It was the third quarter of my sophomore year in high school, and I was swimming in homework, social drama, and the endless concerns of a sixteen-year-old. 

My dad had warned me a few days earlier to accept the request to write about Unplanned with solemnity and to be ready to watch that kind of movie. I wasn’t concerned. I’d written movie reviews before, anyway. Again, I’m not sure what I expected. A saccharine movie about babies, reeking of the Christian message, and full of cliché one-liners, maybe. I am, after all, an infant Christian, and shaking off the pride of my Atheist stubbornness is difficult. I knew about the heat surrounding abortion, and I’d felt it, even in a tiny, Christian high school, but there were more important things in my life. 

Of course, I’d thought about it, to some extent, and decided I was tentatively pro-life. I loved babies, and I hated the thought of killing one, but I didn’t have the foggiest idea if a fetus was a ‘baby’ in the first place, and besides, I had better things to think about. If I could do the last bit of my homework before class started, if that one friend had figured things out with her boyfriend, if “you-know-who” had noticed my waiting precariously long until the only chair in the lunchroom left was the one at his table, you name it. Besides, it wasn’t cool to be “pro-life.”

How wrong I was. To some extent, I was right about Unplanned. It did ‘reek’ of the Christian message, and the occasional scene would grow a bit painful with the awkwardness of the entire group of male actors, but despite the things my pride stubbornly clings to, nothing could hide that message. It left me with only one thought. 

“Why didn’t we know?” 

Before I started this, I thought for a long time about what exactly to say. This is not an easy subject, and I don’t pretend to have experience standing up for the right thing. I was encouraged to write what was on my heart. Throw the ‘movie review’ nonsense out the window. I’m not sure if I’m ready to do that. I’m not sure if I’m ready to be honest. I’m a high schooler, after all, and a member of the part of the population most devoted to petty pleasure. I was devoted to petty pleasure. I was devoted to doing what I wanted, to saying what I thought would get a laugh, and most of all, to being accepted. Maybe we don’t know we are sleeping until we wake up. 

The theatre emptied around me after the movie finished. Suddenly, everything I cared the most about seemed ridiculously small. And I sobbed, while people staunchly pretended they didn’t see me–for tact’s sake, I suppose. I’ve never cried like that. The things I could have done. The lives I could have tried to save. The people I could have talked to, and the things I could have stood up for. It all came crashing down around my ears, leaving my perfectly normal, planned high school life in shambles. And then, one person approached me. She asked what I was thinking, so I told her. I poured out the wrestling I’d been dealing with, and the way the movie had torn me apart. She prayed over me, tears streaming down both of our faces. In that moment, I have never been surer of the presence of God, settling with almost tangible physicality around us. I felt him change my mind. 

I have no doubt why I went to that theatre. After returning home, I realized the dozens of steps that had led to that point. All the people I had ‘accidentally’ bumped into, all of the thoughts that happened to pop into my head, and all the books and articles I’d picked up at random were leading to that night in the darkened theatre, to that stirring in my heart. I can’t get it out of my head.

Having just reached the four month anniversary of my salvation, I can’t pretend to know how God works. I don’t know how he moves, and how he chooses people. But if I could guess, I’d say that something happened that night that might have changed my life. 

I’ve tried to live my convictions. I’ve tried to remain true to what I’ve decided, to take it into my everyday life, to stand up for the thousands of children that I want to save. It’s been difficult. Already, I’m not “cool.”  I’ve been labeled and boxed away from the conversations I used to partake in. I’ve already been argued with and shouted at. Answering the hate and anger with love has been easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’ve never been surer that I’m right where God wants me. I think the worst thing we could do is let the world crowd out our convictions. 

I know my fire won’t last. I know things will begin to feel more important, and I’ll let my fervor fade away. But love is a commitment, not a feeling. I’ve made a decision to fight. While the issue is complicated, and there is definitely evil at work, maybe the biggest problem is our silence. For every abortion doctor, there are a thousand people who refuse to speak out, who ‘haven’t thought about it’ that are unwittingly cheering them on. Blatant evil is only half the problem. 

Maybe we need to wake up. We may not all be able to stand at the fence of a Planned Parenthood clinic or talk to someone considering abortion directly, but I think we all have a role in this battle. The stakes have never been higher. What if one prayer, one conversation, one smile, could save the life of one child? What if living a life of love and commitment could be all we need to turn the tide? What if the tugging on your heart could be God calling you to the battle for life? What if we lived like that?

It’s hard. It could cost you everything, like it did me. We have to trust. I had to decide what was important to me, and I had to submit to the voice in my heart. And now, I can boldly live, believing that as long as my God holds the world in His hands, there is no such thing as unplanned.

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

We pooled. TWICE.

People always get a little torn about why they would or wouldn’t want a pool. There are good reasons on both sides. There’s always the kids and the grandkids enjoyment for an easy win. They love pools. Many adults do as well. However, we pooled twice, because we are BIG on aesthetically pleasing living environments.

Our pool is NOT just a place to swim, although our daughter definitely enjoys it more than we have room to share. But, there are 12 months in the year–we wanted a pool to help us enjoy every one of them. We wanted our pool to create an atmosphere for our patio and home, where it could be enjoyed from all vantage points. We wanted to incorporate fire and water elements to bring a big dose of ambiance. We have traveled all over the world and always enjoy the fire and water elements of hotels. Colorado and New York probably have our favorites. So, we needed an “out of the box” dreamer to work with us in Tulsa. We hadn’t seen a lot of what we liked anywhere here. Enter Travis Hogan and team with Fiesta Pools.

In the first pool, we used Fiesta to create an Italian-themed water space. Due to smaller yards in today’s neighborhoods, we chose a freeform pool to best fill the space with an outdoor oasis. Starting to the left, Fiesta created a hot tub with water flowing over into the pool, giving us a completely peaceful mood both in our outdoor space, as well as in our covered patio area. In fact, the view went throughout our kitchen/dining space in the house to bring the outdoors in. The sound of beautifully flowing water cascaded throughout our home. Every party guest or visitor to our home marveled at the calming effect. Fiesta worked with us to transform this dreamy little Italian heaven in Tulsa idea into reality.

Curving around from the large hot tub, the team built up a 20-foot firewall utilizing water scuppers Fiesta suggested to add even more water flow and a warmer contrasting characteristic for the pool. Scuppers create flowing water and a remarkable level of sound for just the right atmosphere. Curving even further to the right, Fiesta suggested a rainfall curtain that aligned with the opening on our patio to give visibility from the kitchen and dining areas out to the feature. The rain fell onto a lovely tanning ledge, as Fiesta had us add 3 of those areas to the pool. With an infant, they gave wonderful areas for her to sit and play in the pool with us; then, they doubled for a great place to put a lounger and soak up the sun from the cool of the water.

Fiesta was so creative along the way as they partnered with us. We wanted some form of table in the water. They suggested building out seating around the pool edge that provided a uniquely enjoyable area to eat and drink in the pool while soaking up the views and sounds. The table was equipped with a removable umbrella, just like the tanning ledges, which gave shade when needed from those fierce Oklahoma heat waves.

As if their design help wasn’t enough, Fiesta also led us to the best “We love it but don’t wanna mess with it” pool system we’ve ever seen. We’re also not the biggest fans of over-using chemicals in pools. Fiesta suggested an Ozone system with ultraviolet light to clean the pool, which barely required any chemicals be added at all. They paired it with jets on the bottom of the pool, which pushed any debris out through the filter. Having had a standard pool before—we could NOT believe how little we ever did to the thing to keep it looking perfect all the time. As busy career travelers, we didn’t spend a lot of time at home. So, we would come back to the pool and find it pristine, WITHOUT the expense of the weekly pool teams coming around. (No offense pool teams—because Fiesta has some great ones!). It was unbelievable.

Our First Pool

We told Fiesta they had created the ultimate lazy man’s pool. By the time they added the iPhone control system—it became even more than the backyard in our dreams. We could flip on the hot tub from dinner to have it heated just perfectly by the time we walked in the door. There are some little convenient luxuries that leave you feeling 100% spoiled. Fiesta helped us pick and choose what worked best with our dreams and our budget. Fiesta even had quick service to head over to tweak anything needed. Travis made sure our experience was so good that we headed back in for round two just a few years later!

Take Two:

Funny enough, we wanted to take a little break from Tulsa life before our daughter entered school. We think it was the clanging sounds of lost freedom for the older parents ringing. We weren’t sure, but we happened to have an adventurous little traveler side kick and thought let’s go.

So, we sold the new house with the new pool. Yeah. We know. Ugh. However, the pool recouped much of our expense when we sold the house because there was no house with a matching ambiance. Truth is, if you do it right—it’s a serious selling point.

Fast forward. We quickly found we were past the jet setting free-spirited lifestyle. The little one loved her exploratory time all over Florida, from Disney to the Keys, but we were ready to come home. (Don’t let my husband tell the story without me, as he makes me out to be the bad guy who enjoys buying and selling houses!).

Anyway, we started the ever-long pilgrimage for a new house. We knew we wanted to recreate the feel we had before—as much as possible in a new yard. In fact, we even wanted to upgrade our view from our living area to really bring the outside into our main living space. We settled on a fun fixer-upper house in South Tulsa with a pre-existing, outdated pool. Someone had actually re-plastered it but we soon realized that what appeared to be dirt on the floor were actually footprints walking out of the pool. And, that long line of dirt—that was from the hose. We CANNOT stress the importance of finding someone skilled like Fiesta to do the job correctly.

Our New Pool: BEFORE

Once we realized the mess, it was beyond our ability to not be frustrated every time we looked at it. The pool also had a long diving board that felt a little dangerous for our little one. So, we called Fiesta to see what we could do to create the same type of atmosphere at our new place. We did give a few others a chance to bid, as we felt that was the must-do step in the process. However, Fiesta came back both with the best design and a price that fit nicely in our budget!

Travis and his team came right over with their design ideas and went to work. They treated the old plaster to replace it with a new gray, bringing a nice teal color out in the water. While doing so, they created a tanning ledge. They also completely updated our walkway with a new color complementing the whole scene.

Our New Pool: After

And, of course, Fiesta put in an extended firewall, with scuppers, creating a beautiful waterfall effect. The wall is about 15 feet long and curved around the edge. With the new look of our patio and windows, the wall of fire and water can be seen from the living room sofa, as well as the covered three season room on the back of our house. We found an incredible black and cream designed tile which coordinated with our fireplace rock and our reclaimed wood surrounding our patio fireplace. Plus, as an added bonus, the tile matched our indoor design perfectly, creating another beautiful backyard retreat to be enjoyed year ‘round inside and outside of our home.

We personally found using a high-quality pool company, like Fiesta, was the right decision for us–twice.

Plus, their pricing was well within our project budget. In fact, they gave us a little back in the end on the second project, as they actually came in UNDER budget. (Yeah. You read that right!) That financial surprise was just icing on the gorgeous backyard cake!

(And, for the record, this dual set of positive experiences with award-winning style backyards was all BEFORE we ever thought about buying the magazine and sharing our experience with you in here!)