An Abiding Friend

An Abiding Friend

Ali R

Hey! While most of my life was spent in Colorado, I am happy to now call Oklahoma my home. I am amazingly blessed to have a supportive and God-fearing husband who is also a terrific dad to our four kiddos (who we had in a 3 year 9 month time frame). I love to drink coffee, sing, hear people’s stories and have dance parties. I am passionate about my relationship with Jesus and desire to share that gift with every person that I meet. My hope is that I can encourage someone today with and through the Word of God and His steadfast love. ::psalm 27:4::

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Love is not affectionate feeling

I’m a People Person

When I say that I love people, I mean that…I LOVE PEOPLE. Just being around new people or in a group setting gets me excited. Does anyone out there feel the same way? There is just something so fun and refreshing about seeing new faces, hearing everyone’s stories, and growing relationships. It’s truly the main reason why I love hosting large parties or get-togethers. I will invite a good chunk of my phone book, for no other reason than I genuinely want to share life with others. Sure, it may increase the budget for the party, but if there is something to celebrate, I want others to share in it with us! Why not, right?

I have always sincerely believed that the more people you surround yourself with, the more encouragement and joy there will be in your life. Truly a “the more, the merrier” mentality.

For over thirty years I have never seen a problem with being wired that way…that is, until lately. As I started to think about planning birthday parties for my kids and summer BBQs and began looking at our list of “friends” to invite, I realized that while they may be on our guest list, we may not be on theirs.

** Now, before you think that this is turning into a big ol’ pity party, I can assure you it’s not. So please don’t give up on me yet! **

Believing Lies Based on Missed Expectations

The truth is, I am a sinful human being and am guilty of reacting in my flesh frequently, so I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t initially feel hurt, betrayed, and bitter at one person’s “oversight” of my feelings. This weird encounter (which truly did nothing more than leave me feeling awkward), completely opened the floodgates of undealt with emotion from over the years. It’s as though I had a flip book of memories and times where I was hurt by a friend flipping rapidly through my mind, taking my thoughts to extremes and probably exaggerating what really happened by 1000%.

Y’all, my mind was out of control. I truly was walking with some nasty lies.  Thankfully, my wonderful mentor (mom), was there to listen to me ramble as I talked myself in circles until the truth punched me in the face: IT WAS MY FAULT.

You heard (or rather, read) that right: The pain I felt was actually my fault. Why? MISSED EXPECTATIONS. Here is the hard truth I had to receive:

Any expectation I placed on another was a setup for relationship failure from the beginning.

The moment I decided what type of friend they should be to me was the moment I became less of a true friend myself. I focused on how they treated me, rather than on their heart and how I should treat them.

A Godly, yet Complicated Friendship

Of course, as with everything, the Holy Spirit oh-so-graciously reminded how I was wrong and pointed me to the Word and the friendship between Jonathan and David. You guys, talk about a complicated relationship. You can read all about it in 1 and 2 Samuel, but this passage about this one selfless act essentially sums up how Jonathan was a true friend, despite all the circumstances and trials that the two faced.

 “… Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself… And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow, and his belt.”

1 Samuel 18:1-4

I love how Beth Moore puts this into perspective…

“Clearly Saul intended for Jonathan to become the second king of Israel (1 Sam 20:30-31), but this son had other plans. In David, Jonathan saw character fit for a king. He was so determined that the throne be occupied by God’s chosen instrument that he offered everything he had…Jonathan sacrificed himself. He removed his royal regalia…and placed it on David.”

 Jonathan literally gave up everything to help encourage and support his friend David in all that God had called him to be. Nowhere does it say that David ever reciprocated that love and sacrificed as Jonathan had, yet Jonathan remained loyal to his friend. Better yet, Jonathan remained loyal to God.

Philippians 2:3-4

You see, it shouldn’t matter how others treat us.

If God has placed on our hearts to love, support, and walk with someone as a friend (Amos 3:3), we need to be faithful to that calling, not only in the good seasons, but also in the hard ones. This isn’t about how they make us feel, but rather about being who God has called each one of us to be and how we are to make others feel.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works… encouraging one another…” 

-Hebrews 10:24

Unconditional Friendship

I still love people and will continue to throw huge celebrations. The difference is, when I call someone friend, it holds no expectation of them. It simply acknowledges that regardless of their choices or how they may treat me, I will continue to welcome, love, and encourage them as Christ does me.

“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. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

-Romans 15:5-7

So what do you say, friend?

Are you willing to take the road less traveled and pursue a life of obedience to the Lord in seeking out the welfare and accomplishments of others over yourself, even if that means giving while never receiving? To be that selfless, abiding friend like Jonathan, full of love and encouragement so that he/she may pursue who God has called them to be?

An Abiding Friend_ C.S. Lewis Quote

The Obedience that Saved

The Obedience that Saved

Melissa W

Melissa W

Melissa is an Okie with a Texas heart. She is a wife and a mother of three - two boys and a girl (the girl being squished right in the middle). After having taught in the classroom for 8 years, she now happily finds herself as a stay-at-home homeschool mom living life on her little 1 1/2 acre homestead raising chickens, two goats and a small garden. In any spare time, she enjoys leisure reading and also enjoys writing on her blog (chroniclesofakeeper.com). Out of all the little adventures of life - her greatest joy is found in her relationship with God. Walking in His grace, living in His peace and resting in His redemption is something she is very passionate about sharing with others.
Melissa W

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When reading the scriptures detailing the death of Jesus Christ, believers often acknowledge that they sometimes can be difficult to get through. Yes, our souls celebrate the freedom resulting from that moment, but our hearts also mourn the harshness and pain of it, too.  Jen Wilkin has said, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” I get that.  Many times I have read through the scripture’s account of everything from the Last Supper to when Jesus cried out His last breath. For a long time, I didn’t love reading it. I didn’t love the words my eyes took in, because my mind did not understand what was there to see. Reading through those passages now, with a desire and purpose to understand, brings about a new meaning. 

Many things could be written concerning those last moments before the death of Jesus Christ. For this post, I want to focus on the obedience Jesus displayed. Christ’s perfect obedience to His Father is so powerfully and beautifully laid out; I wonder how I never saw it all those years ago.

At the Garden of Gethsemane, we get a glimpse of an intimate moment between Father and Son. We read the words Jesus spoke aloud to His Father:

Going a little farther, He fell face down and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will” Matthew 26:39 (HCSB).

Here we see Him not questioning. Rather, in full perfection, He submits to the rescue plan His good and loving Father had set in place since before the creation of the world. The Son lays down His life to His Father, so that He can then lay it down for ours. 

The beauty of the Son’s perfect obedience, as scripture shows, is ours to soak up and savor. We acknowledge Jesus Christ’s beautiful and wonderful perfection as He lived, walked, suffered, and died in perfect submission to His Father. By reading these passages, I am fully aware that my obedience to God is not contingent on my own strength or capabilities. It is only possible because of and through the perfect submission of Jesus Christ to His Father.

Our lives could never be the perfection as that of Christ’s. He lived the life we could never live and died the death we deserve. But, what a glorious gift — that His obedience brings us hope. What a thing it is that His obedience perfected is ours gifted. What a marvel and joy it is that Christ’s perfect obedience resulted in our redemption.

bonnie & Carole

For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. -Romans 5:19 (HCSB)

For just as through one man's disobedience the many were made sinners,

Am I the Critic or the Worker?

Am I the Critic or the Worker?

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;  who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

 

– Theodore Roosevelt

The hit TV reality show “American Idol” was in its prime during my high school years. Remember those days? I avidly watched this singing competition and my favorite judge was Simon Cowell. I felt sophisticated whenever my thoughts aligned with his, as if I were somehow superior to those on the stage.

In reality, I was just a girl sitting on the couch.

A Critic of More than just a TV Show

If I’m honest with myself, I can see that my critical nature goes beyond my thoughts toward televised talent competitions. I’ve been critical of others and of myself countless times. This critical spirit has kept me from taking leaps of faith, pursing dreams, and even serving others. Meanwhile, others are putting themselves out there, growing, and accomplishing. I greatly regret remarks I’ve said and thoughts I’ve had throughout my life.

As Teddy Roosevelt so eloquently put it, “It is not the critic who counts…” 

When I think about the days Jesus spent on earth walking alongside man, he had plenty of opportunities to be critical. He could have presented himself pompously and rebuked all who came to him. Jesus was perfect; He was God’s son, and our ways were with such error.  He didn’t hold his head high though, did he? Instead, he offered grace upon grace. He saw the ones who were downtrodden and raised them up. Yes, at times he did correct, but he did it out of love, while giving opportunity for repentance and change. As he traveled from place to place serving others, Jesus was willing to dirty his feet. Christ desired his church to be devoted to love and service, not criticism.

A Time for Criticism and a Time for Grace

There will be times for correction. Sometimes we will need to evaluate and address what’s stagnant. Other times will be times to call for change. How is our attitude toward each other through all of this?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3:12-14

So now we must ask ourselves, “How are we clothed?” Are our words dressed with complaints? Do our ideals hold back our noble actions, as we wait for perfection? Do we put others down, only seeing their rough spots?

I want to be dressed in the virtues of Christ: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love. These verses remind me to roll up my sleeves and get to work, whether under perfect or imperfect circumstances. As the old song goes, “I want to be a worker for the Lord.”

Kingdom Worker, Not Kingdom Critic

I’m thankful for the gracious words in 1 Peter 4:8: Love covers a multitude of sins. Because this love covers even my own sins, I can put down the self-criticism that often holds me back. None of us will be perfect. But if we dwell on our mistakes, we will never move forward. Kingdom work cannot be done by only a few. God calls all of us to labor. We need each other.

God calls us to be workers, not critics.

I’m so thankful for grace. It’s such a wonderful replacement for criticism. Don’t you agree?

 

 

 

Words Matter: The Storeroom of Our Hearts

Words Matter: The Storeroom of Our Hearts

Kristin J

Kristin J

I am a happy wife and mother to my amazing husband and beautiful little girl and we are living the good life just outside of Oklahoma City. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas where both of my parents serve as ministers. With God’s great guidance, I ended up earning a degree in children’s ministry from Oklahoma Christian University! I am an extrovert and love to make friends and have deep conversations. My days are filled with the duties of motherhood and homemaking but when I find a moment to myself I enjoy reading cookbooks, blogs, and Karen Kingsbury’s books. I have a slight addiction to facebook and pinterest. Holidays are my favorite days. I love to cook meals that make people happy. I have a passion for family ministry and bible class teaching. Most importantly, my greatest desire to is to know my heavenly Father more each day.
Kristin J

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Do you ever find yourself speaking before you think? I’m quite guilty of this habit, and it’s gotten me into trouble many times.

“I tell you that on that day of judgement people will have to account for every careless word they speak.”

 

Matthew 12:36

Our words matter. 

Just before this verse we read: “For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Matthew 12:34b).

Our words are meant to be a reflection of our hearts. How often are we careful to make sure that our words reflect who we are in Christ Jesus? Jesus offers us much wisdom in this message as he lets us in on the secret to speaking what is good. He tells us that a good person produces good from his storeroom of good while an evil person produces evil from his storeroom of evil (verse 35).

What’s in your storeroom? 

If I’m honest, my storeroom can easily be filled with Netflix binges and social media. I’ve noticed that when I’m engrossed in these things I’m usually moody and not as pleasant for my family. I become distracted from my priorities and ineffective for kingdom work. The truth is, though, that God lives in me! Am I allowing my life to show Him to others?

When I fill my mind with scripture, prayer, and uplifting Christian music and books, I feel so much better. When God’s goodness saturates my heart, it spills over into my life. In difficult situations, I have better reactions. I am much more secure in who I am as a child of the Living God. I’m able to see the the people around me and more ready to serve.

If we fill our hearts with God’s goodness, it will spill over into our words and deeds. It’s important to remember that our actions do not hold. saving power. Only the grace of God saves us. How shall we respond to God’s grace? Through our words and deeds, we will show the light of Christ to others.

Our words matter. 

I want to pay better attention to the things I say, making sure that my words are not careless but full of grace and love. I want to make sure they reflect who dwells in me! This means that I need to make sure I’m staying in touch with God. This passage in Matthew has encouraged me to spend time more wisely, to take in less of the bad and more of God’s goodness.

So I ask you again, “What’s in your storeroom?” Is it full of the junk of this world, or the richness God has to offer? Do your words reflect the one who dwells in you?

Prayer over our Hearts

Father God,

You are the maker of our earth and the giver of all that is good. Oh, that we might know you! May we fill our minds and our hearts with your goodness. May we embrace your spirit in us and be fruitful. Help us to shine the light of Christ near and far so that your kingdom might grow for your glory. 

In the name of Jesus, Amen 

 

 

 

 

Is God Missing You?

Is God Missing You?

Toni D

Toni D

Toni was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma.She graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Economics.After college, she returned to her hometown to marry her best friend, Charles.Toni is a stay at home mom to their three teens, two boys and a girl, whom God led them to homeschool.Her goal is to raise her children to love and serve the Lord.They live on a farm where they grow produce to sell at several farmers markets.She also plays the piano at church and teaches piano.
Toni D

This year Valentine’s Day was on a Wednesday.  My husband and I normally do not make too big of a deal about this holiday.  He usually gets me a card that makes me cry and a box of chocolates (because I once told him that $65.00 for a half dozen roses was ridiculous).  This year, he got me roses (from the grocery store, so not $65.00) and a card that made me cry, but no chocolate because I had just lost ten pounds and did not want to find it again.

That afternoon, I had gone with a friend to run an errand and returned after he did.  When I got home, he said we were going out to dinner.  We do not normally do this because I do not like standing in line for an hour to be rushed through dinner on Valentine’s Day.  My husband also has severe food allergies so that limits where we can eat, and since we live in a small town, we have to drive more than 35 minutes to eat.  He decided on one of our regular places that does more takeout than dine-in.  When we got there, they were busy but there was only a few minutes wait for a table, although they were busy with takeout orders.

We had a lovely Valentine’s Day.  The problem began because I normally attend church every Wednesday night.  Lately, I have missed a few times because of my husband’s medical issues, but I usually let someone know if I am not going to be there.  I was not thinking about church or even paying attention to my phone; we were out having Valentine’s dinner.

When we got home, I finally checked my phone. I discovered I had a missed call from the preacher and a message from the preacher’s wife. They were checking on me and wanting to know if I was okay.  The following morning, I also had a message from the music leader’s wife (I am the church pianist). Although I replied to her message, apparently she did not get my reply until after her husband left for work.  He called me to make sure everything was okay.  By then, I was laughing.  I was missing and did not even know it!

All this concern made me think, “All these people missed me in church on a Wednesday night!  God must miss us when we do not spend time with Him like we should!”  I try to have my quiet time with God every day.  My goal is to spend time with Him in the Word and then talking to Him in prayer.  When I am in the car, I try to listen to Christian contemporary music to keep me focused on Him.  Sometimes, life happens and I do not get to spend the time that I want with Him.  I may just have time for a short prayer.  It is those days that I miss out!  I miss Him and He misses me!  God misses us when we do not spend time with Him!

Is God missing you?

Control Issues

Control Issues

Sara

Sara

Hello! I am a native So Cal resident. Human Resources by day, but more importantly Mom to a teenage boy who I often refer to as "Man-child".
Sara

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Oh man, seventh grade strikes again. It was torture enough the first time around and this go-round with my soon-to-be thirteen-year-old is no more enjoyable. However, he has a couple of things going for him that I didn’t at this painfully awkward age–good looks and confidence. And he has such a huge heart! Seriously folks, I could gush about him forever, but I digress. Grades. The struggle is real. I know there are plenty of parents who feel me on this.

Parenting isn’t for the Faint of Heart

September 29, 2015, was a day that I could not have felt more inept at the game of parenting. During the short drive to school my son again informed me he didn’t know what he needed to follow up on with his teachers. At this point I’d done everything in my power to help him be successful (or so I thought). I’d bought all the necessary tools, sat with him for hours to help with homework, and made lists for him. You name it, I addressed it to no avail. He hadn’t changed a single approach to any of his classes or assignments.

I lost it. I yelled, he cried, it was ugly. He got out of the car and just like that I’d ruined any hope he had at a successful day. He likely wouldn’t operate well under that kind of stress. I was at a total and complete loss and in that moment begged God to step in, saying,  “I’ve got nothing left here, please help us! I can’t watch him fail and I don’t know what else to do!” I’m not sure I prayed too much about it before this point. Yet somehow I thought I’d already done everything I could do. The very second I finished praying I got a text message from a friend I hadn’t spoken to in some time. It read:

“Good morning, friend. Prayed for the Lord’s help in the decisions that you have to make. I saw you open-handed toward God, as though saying ‘I have nothing, I need your help.’ He sees you, and loves both you and Andrew so much.”

Overwhelmed by God’s Response

Commence the uncontrollable sob fest that lasted the whole way to work, a good thirty minutes. I’m not talking sad cries–I really don’t know the appropriate descriptor for it–but I was overwhelmed by God’s amazing response to my plea. She had no idea what was going on at that particular moment! I hadn’t spoken to her about this struggle, and we hadn’t even kept in touch like we used to. So for her to reach out with that timing and those words was the perfect way for God make 100% clear that He heard, He cared, and He was already in it. But I could not quite make sense of the part of her text that mentioned decisions I needed to make.

Since that day his grades have improved. Great news, right? Kinda, but not really. I’m coming to learn that this is only half the battle. Maybe more like a quarter of the battle. The problem is that his habits have not changed, and neither have mine. I’ve become a drill sergeant and I’ve tried taking control by micromanaging the status of all his assignments and scores in each class. Thanks to technology and online gradebooks, this is possible.

Learning to Let Go of My Control Issues

Maaaybe not such a good thing. I’ve effectively conditioned my son to take direction from me rather than take initiative for himself. It is like I’m taking seventh grade all over again and there is this nagging voice in my head asking, “Shouldn’t your approach have changed after God’s message back in September?”

Enter the part about the decisions I have to make. More than one person has suggested I let him fail, because “maybe it’s the best way for him to learn.” I sit there and nod my head in agreement but cringe on the inside. What kind of parent would I look like if he had bad grades? I’m a single mom and he comes from a broken home. I loathe these stereotypes and what people expect from these circumstances.

So I’m fighting it to the death and it is my selfish pride that is interfering with the very work I’m pleading with God to do in my son! Will I get out of the way and give control over to God? Or do I care too much about what people will think of me to allow God to teach my son how to succeed in his own timing without me interfering? Without me forcing results?

I wish I could say that I’ve mastered the “let go and let God” part, but I’m a work in progress. We’ll be taking this one day at a time, the kid, God and I. The part of my friend’s prayer that made the least sense to me at the time is now the focal point of my dilemma. God help me in the decisions I have to make!

He Cares for You

Several months ago God gave me this verse for a struggle I was not going to overcome without His help.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

1 Peter 5:7

(It seems I’m a slow learner.)

While we should be obedient and trust God, this verse reminds us that He doesn’t ask us to give our struggles to him because he has control issues. It is a love-driven invitation to watch God do beautiful works in and around us. What reason is there not to accept?

Is God asking you to release control over something you are trying to manage on your own? If the answer is yes, then like me you have a decision to make.

How have you seen God show up in your life when you stop trying to take control? Encourage us with your story in the comments below!

 

 

 

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