May the God of ENDURANCE and ENCOURAGEMENT grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that TOGETHER you may with ONE VOICE glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Although Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in April, 1865, the Executive Order No.3 was still in effect. As Christian Believers, God gave Jesus an Executive Order to free all humankind as declared by the Savior Himself in Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…”
Even after the Executive Order by General Granger, some of the slaves due to the fear of the unknown, the unfamiliar, and the moment of what is unseen, chose to remain captive to their slaveholders. So, it is with all human beings who reject the freedom God has freely offered through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The historical overview of slavery in America certainly imprisoned more Africans and African Americans who were born in slavery than any other people group. “Chattel Slavery” was birthed in Europe and other people groups as Irish and Irish Americans were indentured and shipped to the Carribean under British rule. Native Americans soon began to sell other Native Americans under this hideous form of human debauchery. However, the African humans and those of African descent was by far the largest indentured people group. It was so far exceeding that a “Caste System” was created for those with darker skin. By this time, Black, Irish, and Native American Slaves were intermating, ( as not all were legally married) producing mixed race children of color. Some Black Africans were already wealthy and free both coming to America and many gained freedom fighting for America in the Revolutionary War in 1776 under George Washington. African Americans who gained their freedom after fighting in the war and many remained in southern states to help abolish slavery.
Like many countries, African sailed the ocean and were resourceful in the trade of gold, ivory and other precious commodities. Some regions of Africa sold their people into slavery and other regions retaliated. The earliest known captivity of slaves from 1619 elicited a retaliatory movement as early as 1625 by Northern Africa. These Africans became known as “Barbary Pirates.” As many as 700 colonists were captured as slaves for Africans. The retaliation movement by Africans was deemed “Barbaric” and by March 1794 the United States Navy was born. Yet, slaves held in the new world was considered a justifiable system of manifest destiny and freedom for the chosen class.
Therefore, we ask the imperative question “What is Freedom?” I believe two definitions are in order. One definition, which I describe as the secular term is:
“Freedom is the power to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint; the absence of subjection to a foreign domination or despotic ruler.”
The second definition has been delineated in Luke 4:18 earlier. Jesus said, “He who the Son sets free is free indeed.” John 8:36. Free indeed encompasses the spirit, soul and body in this life and the life to come. Free indeed is the act of receiving the nature of Christ Jesus in the mind, will and emotions of the human soul. Thus, The truth of freedom can only be experienced through Jesus Christ.
Partial freedom provides laws and governing agencies which we all need. However, the unregenerate cravings of carnal minds and insatiable flesh will always seek to medicate its deficient desires through the subjection and unlawful domination of other human beings and human systems of government. What one person or people group calls barbaric is to another person or people justifiable. The vain glory of pride and self-exaltation out of a spirit of greed and insufficiency stimulates strong delusion which leads one to steal, kill or destroy at any cost. Yet the insatiable cravings increase instead of diminishing and one becomes a slave to a destructive power within their own existence. This is the most tragic form of slavery and the most illusive aspect of freedom.
We realize in modern society, despite the laws that offer freedom of choice, humans continue to enslave themselves and others out of a lack of knowing and receiving the Executive Order God made through Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago.
Jesus Christ offers all human beings freedom from the despotic ruler and overlord called Satan. Like some of the slaves, who did not believe they were truly free, many people choose to remain held captive to drugs, alcohol, sexual abuse, pornographic addictions, hate, racism, sexism, classism and other vices that seek to steal, kill and destroy the value of human life.
One acronym for FREEDOM can be ascribed as:
F– Forgiveness of sin (God) ; Forgiveness of self (You), and Forgiveness of others (relationships; both people and systems that have hurt you)
R– Redeemed to live Righteously by Receiving Jesus Christ as savior
E– Eternal life for His Excellent glory and Empathy for Every human being
E– Experience of life more abundantly in this Earthly Existence
D-Divine Deliverance through a born again nature in Christ
O-Ownership of love and Offering it freely by God’s Omnipotent power and Omnipresence
M-Meekness and Mercy with the scholarship of a renewed mind in the word of God
Executive orders made by man such as: GENERAL ORDERS, No. 3. — The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, “all slaves are tree.” This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.
And, the Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, governments are instituted among Men…”
Men and women have fought, bled and died for freedom. But the struggle with “isms” continue even with laws in place. Thank God for the laws. We need legal systems in place. However, let it be said, the true freedom is birthed out of the truth within the human heart. Jesus Christ offers that truth, and He has promised, if you know the truth, the truth shall make you free!
Written By Teresa Goodnight
Ever have someone walk into your life and you just instantly feel connected? Like you have been friends all of your life? When Jamie walked into my house, it felt a bit God ordained. She was so lovely inside and out; I knew exactly why my long time BFF introduced us. We had an instant connection we both felt. Talking to her was so easy. We didn’t stop. Then, she started sharing her story. It was her mission birthed from an experience she had buried deep inside her heart. That is, until someone touched the scar and sent her reeling. All of a sudden, I didn’t know what to say. She continued pouring out her heart. We both realized, this story needed told. We changed the entire focus of the next issue in fact. People aren’t talking about it, but they desperately need to talk. There are people in our churches who are suffering all alone and they need to know God loves them. Someone needs to share that overflowing undeserved mercy and love God offers to all of us who have made mistakes–ALL of us.
Someone needs to break the silence.
Abortion is a tough topic in the world in general. You can’t breathe it without stepping on a landmine. In Oklahoma, one in four women have had an abortion. In the country, that stat jumps to one in three according to local Catholic Charities workers. “In the United States, where one half of all pregnancies are unintended, almost one third of women will seek an abortion by age 45.” according to the American College of Gynecologists (ACOG). The stat doesn’t improve much inside the church. It’s a decision defined as a woman’s right to choose what happens inside her own body. For that reason alone, it’s a political hot button.
Churches steer so far clear of it that in Oklahoma, 25% of the women in our congregations are left facing this alone. Many believed what Planned Parenthood told them when they walked in the doors. Then, when they found out it was different—they were left to suffer alone, without anyone to help them walk through it. There was no one to help talk through the shaming—done both by well-meaning but hard core protesters and the convicting shaming led by Satan himself. They were left without anyone to help them with that shame Satan uses to minimize them. They are without anyone to help them know what God thinks about what’s been done and where to go from there. These women, for the most part, are just alone.
So, we want to start this off and set the record PAINFULLY straight: God absolutely offers the same grace, love, forgiveness, and removal of all sins as far as the east to the west to anyone who has made ANY mistake.
To the liar, the adulterer, the person lacking any trace of integrity, the convicted criminal, fill in your blank here–He offers His love and grace as a free gift. We don’t have to earn it. We do have to turn to him, humble ourselves, and confess our mistakes to him. He absolutely will forgive anyone. The difficult part of finding God’s grace though often comes in a battle of trying to find our own. No matter what God offers, if we feel so much shame—and there’s no one to talk with us about it—we will find ourselves nursing our scar rather than ever being set free from it.
These women were encouraged to save this joyous occasion for a time in their life when they were more ready. Some were told they were just carrying a blob of cells. Some were told by the child’s father this was the only way to face the situation. Others knew exactly what they were doing. Almost all believed they could just go on with their life just as it was after the choice was made. Jamie said, “The biggest deception in this war on women is that you can just go on with life. It’s just not true. You are forever changed. Your lenses for seeing life are altered. The truth is, you will never be the same.”
We run around offering God’s forgiveness He has promised to everyone who has made regrettable choices. However, somehow, as a church (and not all, but most), we’ve decided it’s just too controversial to address from pulpits, where we are supposed to help our congregations. There are large churches in town, where we have heard it is absolutely a policy that abortion is not an allowable topic for discussion.
We know the silence, because Jamie heard it. Over, and over, and over again. She even heard it when she tried to launch a recovery group inside her church and found her request lost in the shuffle in what seemed like purposeful avoidance. She heard what no one wanted to offend her with loudly and clearly. But, when no one addresses your pain, what you hear becomes a deep-seeded pain buried inside your heart for you to bear alone. That is, until someone accidentally punches through.
Jamie is involved in a women’s group started through a local church. The women get together, study God’s word and share things they are facing, needing advice or prayer. They also laugh and fellowship together. One day, at this group, Jamie mentioned something about not singing anymore. The woman, unknowingly said to Jamie, “God will use your singing again. He will.” Jamie looked up at her with rage in her heart and thought “Don’t you ever say that to me again. You don’t even know what you are talking about.” Then, she left her friend’s house. Jamie said, “I think I didn’t speak directly to her for a month. I just didn’t know what to say.” Jamie then explained, “When I had come clean about my abortion my church in Minnesota asked me to step down from the praise and worship team. I had decided that this was the price I would pay for what I had done. I vowed that I would never sing again and that God didn’t need someone like me to lead people into His presence.” Jamie locked away her torment, her pain, and so much more of her heart than she realized until her friend accidentally punched through.
Jamie said, “I was so upset by what she said. I just felt she had no idea what she was saying, and the vow I had already made.” Jamie continued, “Honestly, I didn’t even realize how much it mattered to me.” She went on, “When I lived in Minnesota, I sang on the worship team at my church. The people there became like family to me. I just knew my boyfriend would get saved and our relationship would change. However, I found out I was pregnant causing my two worlds to collide. I didn’t know what to do. I talked with my boyfriend, who was very convincing that we would never be together if we tried to be parents right now. He wanted me to terminate the pregnancy. It was not something I ever thought I would even consider. I just wanted everything to go back to normal and I was desperate to make things work with him. So I compromised everything I believed in for the sake of convenience and what I thought was love.”
Jamie shared, “I walked in to a waiting room full of other people aborting their babies. There were so many people. Really? Is it always this busy? Probably not. I waited and waited and was finally told that the doctor was involved in a car accident on her way to the clinic. My eyes were big as saucers and I distinctly heard God say, “Stand up and walk out. I’ll take care of you.” I shrugged it off, but was visibly shaken by the way this was unfolding. By this time, the waiting room was almost standing room only. I couldn’t believe it. People were laughing and talking like it was no big deal. Was I the only one that was battling a war in my spirit? They finally called my name and I went back alone. The counselor talked to me and told me they had to do an ultrasound to see how far along I really am. So I laid down and she put the cold gel on my belly. She asked me if I wanted to see and I said yes. I saw flashes of light on the screen and what looked to be a pinto bean. The beating of my baby’s heart was right there. Trying to grow, trying to live. The gravity of what I was about to do hit me for a split second and I asked her to turn the screen around. I prayed at that moment that God would just “leave me alone.”
Jamie said, “I was lead to the ‘procedure room’ where I was asked to undress from the waist down and the doctor would be in shortly. Fifteen minutes go by, then thirty, then forty-five. I finally poked my head out of the door and asked if they forgot about me. It was torture just laying there in a cold, sterile room without God’s presence and with the weight of my sin. Why didn’t I just get up and leave?” Jamie went on, “Once the doctor and nurses came in things moved pretty quickly. Bright lights turned on. Clanking of sterile equipment. The nurses were talking amongst themselves about who knows what and I was just laying there with tears streaming down the sides of my head. I finally spoke up and said, “How can you just talk like that when I’m laying here crying?” One of the nurses looked me square in the eye and said, “Sweetheart, we haven’t done anything yet if you want to change your mind you can.” I’ll never know why I didn’t get up and get out of there. It’s a question I’ve asked myself time and time again. I just knew that I wanted to go back to ‘normal.’” Jamie was so solemn, as she shared the events of that day. She said tearfully, “I had no idea that my ‘normal’ would never look the same again. It was gone. There was no such thing as that anymore.”
Jamie said she left the clinic and went to eat with her boyfriend and then worked an 18 hour shift. It was done. However, it would never be done in her heart. Just a few months later, she was working her church booth at a music festival. She saw a booth across the walkway showing graphic video of mid and late term abortions. Jamie said, “I lost it. My mind began reeling, taking me directly back to the clinic, replaying over and over the decision I made. I started to shake and eventually knelt down on the ground to hide my emotion. My pastor’s wife came over and asked if I was ok. I eventually told her what I had done. She was heartbroken for me. She prayed for me, loved me and accepted me where I was. But in reality, no one could have shamed me or judged me more harshly than I had already done to myself. After some discussion, I was asked to step down from the praise and worship team. I understood. In my mind, this would be the price I would pay for what I did. I vowed to never sing again, I wasn’t worthy to lead anyone into His presence.”
The difficult part for Jamie was that she was now all alone. There was no one to talk with about her situation. Who would understand? She said, “I just dealt with it the best I could. I think I covered it up—buried it deep inside, and finally found the strength to move on.” Jamie said she and her boyfriend broke up within a few months of the decision. She didn’t want to have anything to do with him. She didn’t want to think about it anymore. Then, she was back in church. About two months later, she was fortunate enough to go on a trip to Israel where she met her husband. She went with her church in Minnesota and he was with his church from Oklahoma. They talked long distance for a while and he eventually came to visit her.
During their first date, she just blurted out “I’ve had an abortion. Is that gonna be an issue for you?” Not exactly first date material. Jamie said, “I really was just so ashamed and felt so unworthy of anything. I thought I would just go ahead and end it there. Turns out he actually did have to take some time to pray about how he felt about it. It just further seared into my heart the lie “What you did is unforgivable.” He eventually asked me if I would date him exclusively. I told him I wasn’t going to move again for a guy. So, he moved to Minnesota and the rest, as they say, is history.”
“I can’t really share all the emotions I experienced about my decision over the years. I couldn’t go back. It was done. I was never the same again and I had to learn how to be ok with that place. It was a dark, lonely place—so I just decided not to go there. I think I buried it and decided to go on with life. However, the scar and the pain were always heavy on my heart.” lamented Jamie.
After marrying, Jamie found herself pregnant. About 5 weeks into the pregnancy, she miscarried. She was devastated. She said, “I just felt like I was being punished because of what I had done. Would I even be able to have kids? What if God decided He couldn’t trust me with children? I actually understood that. I was just heartbroken.” Fortunately, shortly after, she was pregnant with her third child. She was elated. She was so excited to get to meet her Jacob. Jamie said, “I just couldn’t wait to hold him, to look in his eyes, to be the best mom I could possibly be to my baby, but my previous decision was always there haunting me in the back of my mind. It crept up enough to shame me and condemn me until I suppressed it again.”
When Jacob was born, Jamie’s heart was overwhelmed with instant love for his precious face. Being the best mother she could be to him became a top priority for her daily. Then, just a few years later, she gave birth to her fourth child, Payton. Payton was a bright, beautiful baby girl with a joyous heart. Jamie’s life had never been more right with her better-than-dreamed-of family, except for that nagging voice of condemnation always trying to steal her moments of joy.
That’s where we started, Bible study with the friend who drove into Jamie’s scar like a bulldozer speaking words of encouragement that felt like a knife through her heart. The incident forced Jamie to reexamine her choice, and search God’s heart for what He wanted to with it. How would He turn these ashes into beauty? Jamie said, “All I had was my story, my guilt and shame and a willingness to share it all.” With that, she began sharing her story with close friends, at first, and then acquaintances and eventually people she’d never met.
“The more I shared my story, the more I realized how many people were suffering in silence. I started to become painfully aware that we are in the middle of a crisis. Not only with abortion itself, but the souls caught in the aftermath.
I decided I wanted to do my part. I said ‘YES’ to God’s heart and am willing to do what I can to bring healing, wholeness and restoration to the hearts and destinies of men and women suffering with the torment of a sin that no one is willing to openly talk about.”
Jamie said the more she talks about it, the more healing it brings–the more God shows her how much He loves her and how His grace covers her. So, that’s what she is doing. Creating space for men and women who have been touched by the effects of abortion. Jamie said, “A lot of people can’t explain why they feel stuck or why they feel depressed, unworthy or don’t feel ‘alive’ anymore. I didn’t realize until much later that the lies I chose to believe about myself as a result of the abortion caused me to sabotage my entire life. Once I realized that, I was blown away. I wasn’t going to allow Satan to steal my destiny. In fact, I was determined to fulfill the destiny God has for me AND the baby I aborted. Her life is going to matter.”
Talk About Destiny:
Jamie’s humble heart is in ministry to help men, women and families who have been touched by silence of sins like abortion to find God’s grace and healing. Her message of God’s overwhelming mercy can be restorative to people facing Satan’s army of convictive thoughts like shame and guilt. Let the church be silent no more.
You can reach Jamie at: email@example.com. Get her on your calendar to speak to your group, church or event.
Caring for broken people is a beautiful path towards helping God’s kingdom be restored. When restored, we can all operate from His powerful platform of mercy and grace.
We can be the mighty warriors for Christ He has called us to be and ALL LIVES can come out of the silence and matter again.
Written By Missy Nicholas
Greeta and Jami had been friends since childhood and now were pregnant with boys, due on the same day. Conversations assured the strengthening of their bond as they planned to raise their sons together, as friends. I had not known either of them long and did not know either of them well; I was merely a witness of what was about to unfold. I met Greeta after she found out that she would not raise her son because of a terminal prognosis. He would only live for hours, if he lived at all. She would love him for as long as she was given–just 8 hours after his birth.
Jami’s pregnancy resulted in a beautiful baby boy–a drastic difference shattering all of those fantastic fantasies of fun. Instead of walking the same path, it seemed that a crossroads was forcing them to go different directions. Jami organized for the normal things a new baby brings. Greeta, bulldozed over with loss, was preparing for a road of grief.
Most friendships fall apart here. Many relationships end when there is still affection left to be shared. We are not skilled at being in someone else’s reality when it is different from our own. We prefer swimming in the warm waters of comfortable emotions in order to keep our friendships intact. The difference between what Greeta and Jami had planned and what occurred seemed too drastic to comprehend. Impossible, it would seem, to move through it together while remaining present in each others lives. It’s often easier to allow these kind of differences to create distance and let the relationship fade into a memory with nobody to blame other than life’s tragic turns. It wouldn’t have been the first relationship lost at the crossroads of “I don’t know what to say,” and “I don’t know what to do.” And yet, what I witnessed between these two friends has forever changed my heart and life regarding love in the differences.
Imagine a new mom stepping out of her euphoria after childbirth enough to sit with her friend in grief because she just lost what you brought home. Jami could have stayed home in the joy of her new nursery, relishing the gift of health. Instead, she showed up for Greeta in ways nobody else could have. Without knowing what to do or what to say, Jami bridged the gap between gratitude and grief simply by just being there. Later, she was brave enough through tears to ask Greeta to be the caregiver for her son, Jericho when she returned to work. An uncertain and potentially damaging conversation.
Yet she extended an invitation to share in the blessing of life to her friend who had been swallowed by the grief of death. Jami took a risk to find the solid ground of friendship instead of allowing it to get lost in the unspoken and assumed.
On the other hand, imagine a grieving mom, who experienced the birth and death of her own son cradling and loving her friend’s baby within days of her own loss. Greeta likely didn’t have words but she was present with Jami in her joy, grateful for what her friend experienced though it was so tragically taken from her. Resentment and bitterness were surely vying for a place in her thoughts, but she welcomed into her heart a healthy baby boy. She allowed herself to sit in the joy of new life with her friend, when grief was still her constant companion. She not only became the primary caregiver when Jami returned to work, but she loved Jericho in ways that only she was able. She loved him despite her grief, and because of her grief–a love so rooted in grace it formed an amazing bond between these families.
I have been just close enough to understand that between these two friends is an intentional and compelling love. The place between them can only be described as holy. Holy, because moving between them is a love that can only be seen as the hand and the heart of God.
Missy Nicholas is a professional psycho-therapist, an amateur photographer and a lifelong writer.
Catch her blog at www.sunsetsandsnowflakes.com
This article was written in early January and we loved it so much, we wanted to share it in our Mother’s Day issue. Two days after Missy published it in her blog, Jericho who is 3 years old was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia. Now these women with their beautiful friendship are arm in arm fighting together again. Jericho recently had an allergic reaction to the chemotherapy, causing him to code in his mother’s arms. After 40 minutes of CPR and 3 days in the ICU, Jericho shocked medical staff with his miraculous comeback. As of the printing of this article only weeks after coding, Jericho is back to his chemotherapy regime. These two women are a living, breathing testimony of love and grace for one another and an example to each of us.
There is a Venmo account for Jericho Roberts, as well as an account at RCB bank in NE Oklahoma (just drop by or mail) if you would like to assist with medical expenses.
Ephesians 4:3-3-16 (NLT)
“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit…Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
The unification of the body of Christ to do good works together…ahhh that sounds nice. At least we think so. Although we’d like to take credit for the concept, it’s actually woven throughout God’s word. At the end of the day, we are to be united in Christ as His Body. Sometimes we get so caught up in being a certain church, denomination or organization that we lose sight of the advantages for God’s Kingdom when we come together as His “Body.” When you have an amazing group of arms, who can flex their power inside their realm effectively, can you imagine what they could do paired together with some legs to move around? A torso for stabilization? What if they found some super fingers, who could be instrumental in finer tasks of detail? Sometimes we just think too small as the “Body” of Christ. Can you imagine if we applied our strengths and abilities in a unified manner?
With decades of diversity training in the workplace under my belt, I can attest that Corporate America spends gigantic budgets teaching the value of diversity in the workplace. When we bring together people with different skills, different vantage points looking at a situation, and varied approaches to being effective, we can create a more powerful solution to the problem. When we bring together all sorts of companies in an industry association, we can share those approaches, finding ways to work together for the common good of the industry.
The application of diversity in effecting positive change under a unified movement can greatly expand the reach of that movement. Just using the famous expression—we all understand resources can be saved from “trying to reinvent the wheel.” So, it’s puzzling why, as a “C”hurch, who is directed by God to be unified in purpose, that we would hold so tightly within our own boundaries. What could we do if we applied God’s direction, which is a proven strengthening tactic in the business realm, to our efforts to reach the community for Christ? There are so many business skills that need applied to strengthen the church. (That’s for discussion another time!)
God already made us aware of His plan for our unity. He also made us very aware of our varied gifts and strengths. And, of course, he gave us the symbolism behind the “Body of Christ” to demonstrate exactly how we can work together for the greater good of the Kingdom. (Check out the interview with Jason Law from “Unite My City” for another great demonstration of this plan!)
We recently found great strength in partnering with pregnancy resource centers, abortion recovery ministries, those with a heart to help little babies, and those in Tulsa who are here to help families in crisis or need. We all partnered up proactively with Focus on the Family and their event “Alive from New York,” displaying a 4-D ultrasound in Times Square–showing our support for life here from Oklahoma. The Alive from Oklahoma “Standing in Love” event held May 4th, is an exact representation of the power God puts in our unification of His body, working for His purpose. None of us could have pulled this event off alone. I can’t wait to see what we do together next! (Did I mention we also did a red carpet event together for the movie Unplanned, which beat all the expected box office records? The movie rips the veil from Planned Parenthood revealing truths that need told!)
We feel God is definitely calling us to continue to work together for His kingdom! It is our prayerful goal to be a vessel to God’s followers, to the “C”hurch, so that we can have a greater impact together. We’re here to help. Let’s do this! #Go.Do.Be
Written By 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)prayand (3)seek my faceand (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
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.”
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 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.
“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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.