A Life of Thanksgiving

standard November 15, 2017 Leave a response

We were sitting around my parent’s kitchen table with tears in our eyes but a smile on our lips, reading through a list that my brother had made named “Things to be Thankful for (Blessings).”

We found this list in Jeremy’s room after he had passed away in a tragic car accident at the age of 17. Topping the list was his relationship with God and his family members, but as the list progressed there were humorous entries such as, “cool personallity” and “fairly intelligent.” (Thank goodness he spelled that last one correctly!)

We couldn’t help but laugh through the pain.

I’ve often thought of this list and the positive impact that it has had on me. I was inspired to make my own list because I too wanted God and others to know just how thankful I am for each of them in my life.

Paul instructs us in Colossians 2:
You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. Quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

Jeremy certainly did let his thanksgiving overflow within his short life and because he took the time to make his list of blessings, we can look back today and see how very much we meant to him.

I also loved that he was thankful for JOY because that is exactly what we all remember about Jeremy: his overwhelming joy.

If you knew Jeremy’s joy in a personal way, the Jeremy Barnhill Foundation for Christian Teens​ would like to invite you to share a memory that you have of him on our page. It would be a true blessing.

As you get ready to celebrate this season, I encourage you to make your own list of blessings. Let your daily living spill over into a life of thanksgiving.

Even If

standard October 18, 2017 20 responses

Sometimes you’re walking through life and it all makes total sense. A fall breeze is blowing and you’ve got your windows down and your favorite song is blasting on max volume.

And then there are times when absolutely nothing makes sense. You were minding your own business, but suddenly your legs were kicked out from under you, landing you flat on your behind wondering what in the world just happened.

How could your circumstances have changed so drastically within a 24-hour period? It’s a valid question and it’s one that I wish I had the answer to.

I’m sure Martha and Mary felt somewhat similar when they were just trucking through life in the quiet town of Bethany, enjoying being a part of this new movement called “the Way” that heralded Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited Messiah.  When all of a sudden their beloved brother falls ill. And it’s not a “he’ll sleep it off and be better by tomorrow” sort of sick, but it’s evident that he has a life-threatening illness that requires immediate attention. They do some quick thinking and send word to their friend Jesus and ask Him to come on the double!

Jesus receives the message and this is His response: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” (John 11:5-6)

Wait. What??

One of His very best friends is sick, SO He stays put?  What kind of sacrificial love is that? That seems a little counterproductive, wouldn’t you say?

By the time Jesus gets there Lazarus is dead. Not just any kind of dead either, but dead-dead. Like four-day-old-stinking-in-the-grave dead. It’s bad. And Martha let’s Him know it.

Where have You been? If you would have been here, He would not be dead!

Adding to His mysterious behavior, Jesus replies in the most cryptic way. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Umm, yes…I think I do. But my brother’s still dead and I’m beyond devastated.

To say that we believe when life is good doesn’t take much faith.  But we have to be willing to ask ourselves this question when life throws us that inevitable curve ball.

Do I believe this?

Because believing Jesus is the truth is easy enough UNTIL…

your brother dies;

you miscarry that baby that you waited and prayed for;

your spouse confesses the unthinkable to you;

…THEN it’s personal.

But faith is believing EVEN IF…

your brother stays in the grave;

your arms remain empty;

your spouse refuses to come home;

…Trusting in His sovereign plan.

Jesus never said that life would be fair. In fact, He was perfectly straightforward when He told us that in this world we WILL have trouble, but we are to take heart because He has overcome the world! (John 16:33)

He is still the Resurrection and Life, EVEN IF life does not work out the way we thought it would.

Jesus eventually kept His promise to raise Lazarus from the dead with the purpose that God would be glorified through the act (take time to read this incredible story in John 11 if you aren’t familiar with the details). Both Martha and Mary received their miracle that day when their brother was resurrected and reunited with them. However, this was not the case for my sister and me.  Why did God allow Lazarus to live and Jeremy to die? This is a question that I have often pondered and I still do not know the answer to. Nevertheless, I had a choice to make, just as you do.

When He says that He is the Resurrection and the Life and He then asks me, “April, do you believe this?” I answer Him wholeheartedly:

Yes, Lord. I believe You are the One who holds the resurrection power.

I believe You are the only Way to eternal life.

I believe You are the Truth.

Even if…

(“Even If” by Mercy Me)

Finding Your Pearl

standard September 28, 2017 Leave a response

Reposted from LifeWay Women’s Blog

A Note from Kelly King: We continue to hear about the impact of Deb Douglas, one of our LifeWay Women’s trainers, who suddenly passed away on Friday, September 15. One of those women impacted by Deb was April Rodgers. I’m grateful for her encouraging words today. As leaders, it’s a good reminder of our need to have mentors in our lives.

Have you ever met someone for the first time and instantly knew your life would forever be changed? That is precisely the feeling that I had when I met Dr. Debra Douglas, affectionately known as “Pearl,” exactly one year ago.

I remember that I had just returned from a trip to the Philippines and the travel had left me exhausted and feeling a little under the weather. However, my best friend’s sister was getting married that weekend, and I wasn’t going to miss the chance to celebrate with good friends! So, I strapped on my dancing shoes and to my delight Deb was there officiating the ceremony.

Deb had commented in an endearing way on one of my blog posts after discovering that we had a commonality of both graduating from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. So naturally I knew we were destined to be friends. At the reception, I made a beeline for her table and I introduced myself, not really thinking through what I would say, only knowing that I wanted to meet this special woman.

And oh my, was she special! Her ministry work reached far and wide from counseling families to women’s ministry for her church to rescuing countless women from the claws of sex trafficking. She told me that she wrote a weekly article for LifeWay Women on the theme of Ministering in the Messy and that I was welcome to write a guest post for her. I tried to control my excitement as we exchanged numbers, but obviously this was a huge answer to prayer for me. However, what God had in store was more than just a blog post; it was a chance to have a deep and meaningful relationship with a woman who had been in my shoes not so long ago. It was a chance to glean some pearls of wisdom.

At the time, I was leading Beth Moore’s Bible study Entrusted, and I had been longing for a mentor like Timothy had in Paul. The more I prayed about it, the more God kept bringing Deb to mind. I boldly asked Deb if she would mentor me and without hesitation she agreed. This sparked a monthly visit to Bossier City to sit over chips and salsa and soak up every word that she was willing to pour into me. Sometimes the conversation was more serious, filled with opportunities for my improvement. Oftentimes it consisted of how she had ministered in the messy that week. But ALWAYS it included stories of her beloved family, especially her grandchildren.

I knew that Deb had not been feeling well over the summer, but still she would text me to tell me that she was praying for me. The week before she died she suggested that we get together for our monthly lunch saying that we had “much to discuss.” I told her we could wait until she was feeling better, but she insisted that she felt good enough to listen. She bought my lunch and told me that I could pay for her meal next time. And we talked and talked and talked, until it was just the two of us left in the restaurant.

As I was leaving she hugged me and said, “I’m proud of you.” Then she looked into my eyes and said, “And I’m proud of what God’s going to do through you.” I never would have thought those would be the last words that I would hear from her, but how precious to have been given that gift! Words of life.

What had started off as a pearl of wisdom here and a pearl of encouragement there was added with a pearl of prayer, and a pearl of accountability, and a pearl of love…until eventually there was enough to string a short pearl necklace.

Today I proudly wear my beautiful pearls that Deb gave to me. And even though I would have loved to have had a longer strand of them, I am so very grateful for each and every pearl the Lord allowed me to have. They are truly priceless.

In Titus 2, Paul urges the older women to teach the younger women “what is good.”

If you are a younger woman who desires a mentor:

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal a woman to you that will teach you what is good, keeping in mind that you may meet her in an unlikely place (e.g., your best friend’s sister’s wedding).
  • Be bold and ask her to mentor you, offering to drive to where she is and buy her lunch (if she will let you!).
  • Take the initiative to make the meetings consistent, yet be flexible when life happens.
  • Start stringing all the different pearls together.

If you are an older woman with the ability to mentor:

  • Always point her to what is good and ask about her true relationship with God. Don’t be afraid to get messy.
  • Have equal parts of listening, encouraging, and pushing her to get out of her comfort zone and then hold her accountable to the meeting time and topics discussed.
  • Don’t underestimate the impact that you can have on her ministry and her life (even in a short period of time).
  • Freely give your pearls away.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.” —Matthew 13:45-46 (CSB)


April Rodgers is a Christian author and speaker with a passion for encouraging women in their daily walk with Christ. Her involvement in women’s ministry initiated her obtaining a Master’s degree at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She is happily married to Adams and the Lord has blessed them with two daughters, Adelene, age 10, and Ellanora, age 8. April loves coffee, group texts, Wednesday Bible Studies, and Sunday afternoon naps. You can follow April and her blog Reflecting Light in Everyday Life at AprilRodgers.com.

When The Earth Keeps Spinning, But Your World Has Stopped

standard September 9, 2015 5 responses

Sometimes life is incredibly hard and there’s no getting around it. There are times when you go to bed with a broken heart, certain that the earth has quit spinning, only to wake up the next morning and find that it had the audacity to keep going even though your world has stopped.

Have you ever experienced this kind of pain?

Maybe you were carrying your first baby and were thrilled that God gave you the desires of your heart only to find out that you had miscarried and the doctor wants to know when would be a good time to schedule the D&C. ~  No, Lord! There is no good time to let go of this baby!

Or maybe you have spent the past several years building your family, trying to keep things running as smoothly as possible and out of the blue your husband tells you that he’s filing for a divorce.  ~ Please God, don’t let this be happening!

Or it could be that you received a phone call from the doctor’s office saying that they would rather you come in to discuss your test results.  ~ Help me, Jesus! I need You now!

Or what if the unthinkable has happened and you are given the devastating news that your loved one is simply gone. Their life is over.  ~ There was no time to even beg God for mercy.

This is part of My Story and it is now the story of a family in our community. A young man went on the football field on Friday night to play in his first high school game and he left the field fatally injured. It was a terrible accident.  ~ How can this be, Lord? How could it have happened? It’s just a game and now lives are forever changed.  ~ The family members and friends of the young man, his teammates and classmates, the opposing team members…all of these people have experienced their world stopping in an instant.

No matter the circumstance, it still remains that God is sovereign. Yes, you will hurt. Yes, you will cry rivers of tears (and you should!). Yes, your grief will threaten to paralyze you at times. But trust me on this: your God is faithful and you WILL experience joy again.

We serve a big God and He is big enough to handle your hurts and your questions. Take them to Him, like Job did. “If only my grief could be weighed and my devastation placed with it on a scale. For then it would outweigh the sand of the seas! That is why my words are rash.” (Job 6:2-3 HCSB) Call out and be honest before Him. God already knows how you feel, so give Him your pain.

After my brother, Jeremy, died it took me well over a year to begin dreaming dreams again. And longer still to sing “It Is Well With My Soul.” But day after day Jesus held me in His loving arms and slowly but surely made my soul well again. Eventually, I found that I wasn’t mad any longer that the earth was still spinning.  It didn’t bother me quite as bad to see people going about their everyday lives, completely unaware of my pain. I finally submitted to God’s sovereignty and found solace in the Word of God, especially Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

What’s even better is that a few verses later in Isaiah 55:12, we find a beautiful promise from our God:

“You will indeed go out with joy
and be peacefully guided;”

Yes, my friend, there may be pain in the night and your personal world may have stopped spinning, but rest assured there is indeed JOY in the morning and He will once again peacefully guide you.

Jesus, you know our hearts and the pain we are experiencing. Wrap Your arms around us. Take this wrong and make it right. Restore our joy. Amen.

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If you feel comfortable, will you share your story? Please leave your response below.

 

America the Broken

standard April 28, 2015 1 response

I live in a bubble. Not a perfect bubble, but it is pretty insulated. But no bubble exists today for the city of Baltimore, as it has been burst wide open. Monday’s riots were described as “crazy,” “chaotic,” and “surreal.” Protesters were outraged over the death of Freddie Gray and what they perceive to be undue racial profiling. Their grief is real and it is raw.

Protesters took to the streets chanting, “No Justice, No Peace!” Fires were set to businesses, rocks were hurled at police, and looting was rampant. The governor was forced to call a state of emergency for the city. Schools were cancelled, a curfew was set in place, and the National Guard was brought in to enforce safety. (Source: The Baltimore Sun) Obviously, the violence was out of control.

America the Beautiful is now seen as America the Broken.

So what is a bubble-dwelling Christian to do in response to such a broken situation? Pray. I can pray for peace and healing to come to a broken city. I can pray for my words to be used to extend grace and love rather than oppression and hate. I have no idea what it is like to live as a young, black male in gang-ridden neighborhood, but I can pray for him. Just as I have no idea what it is like to be a local law enforcer in a dangerous city, but I can pray for that officer.

There are prejudices that I don’t even know exist just because of the family that I was born into and the color of my skin. But others have to deal with them regularly. Prejudice happens to all races and all genders. I think the cry is how can we be more aware of these “hidden” prejudices? Instead of hurling the axe, what can we do to improve our own ignorance and receive grace for ourselves and give grace to others?

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

There will undoubtably be social injustices in the future. And there will be additional riots to ensue. Just as there will be personal prejudices to work out amongst ourselves. But we do have hope in the fact that Jesus has overcome the world. And until He returns, we can pray.

Take heart, Baltimore. We are praying for you.