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Wisdom for the Seasons of Life: Aging and Retirement

Contributor: E. Taylor

Who knew love and loss could both be just as powerful as the other? The pain of both love and loss are rivals in the continuum of life. Love one another as God has loved us – words easier to verbalize, much harder to live. Love pierces not just the heart, but the fiber of a person, their essence, and soul. Love is seen manifested in their daily life – activities, interactions with others, thoughts, home, work, family, friendships, correspondence, and all communication. 

Show and live love, live a life that exemplifies Christ, and that touches others. Wherever you go and whatever you do, let it be something that helps, supports, and blesses someone. Plant, grow and give out flowers while people can still smell them. Losing someone can be as life changing as loving them. How often do we continue to look for them, talk to them, replay their words and conversations, reach for them, search out their smile, seek their familiarity in others? How do we move forward without them, when our hearts burn, our beings ache, tears run, eyes cloud up? The older we get, the deeper the hurts, the harder the pain is to shake, the less time there is to waste on dislike, disdain, distress, denial. 

Loss comes in all shapes and sizes – separation, divorce, death, unemployment, bankruptcy, sickness, moving residences, empty nests, foreclosure, depression, hopelessness. As we age, we have to muster the energy and hope to combat these losses, for our warfare is not against the flesh and blood embodiment of these things, but it is against the spiritual, the forces that are unseen and not visible to the physical eye. 

Grow older gracefully using the wisdom God has granted each of us. We must learn to treasure others and moments, make memories, live each day as if it really is our last day here on this earth. It is so easy to get caught up in the past hurts and traumas and to continue carrying them with us daily as if they are brand new occurrences. Lay aside these heavy weights and past hurts as if they are literally hot potatoes. Move forward; smile and make someone else smile; laugh and make someone else laugh. Do what makes you and others happy. Share your heart and your thoughts with others, tell them you love them, share how they make you happy. 

Life is too short, too precious not to take some time to smell the flowers or to give some to others while they can still smell them. Lee Ann Womack sang these words in the song “I Hope You Dance”: “I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance; never settle for the path of least resistance; living might mean taking chances, but they’re worth taking; loving might be a mistake, but it’s worth making…And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” Live. Love. Never stop dancing.

Wisdom for the Seasons of Life: Dating and Marriage

Contributor: A. Dorcent

What is your favorite season? For me, my favorites change as I do. When I was a child, my favorite season was summer! School was out, and we played all day. In high school, my focus changed to learning and observing. I enjoyed the newness of spring. As I moved into my forties, I learned weathered things develop character. My favorite season was fall. I love a beautiful seasoned fall tree. Now, moving into age fifty, winter is my favorite season. During the festive holiday season, I settle down, enjoy family, good food, and a cozy fireplace.    

After twenty-eight years of marriage, we have learned our relationship goes through seasons as well. Our needs and desires determine our season. Things change. We change. 

Here’s what I mean: 

Spring – This was our dating season — a blooming season for us. During our spring, we learned about each other. Of course, we learned mainly the good things. We naively thought, “Wow, you’re nearly perfect!” I remember us having the discussion that we could never make the other upset. Boy, were we wrong! We loved spring, but we learned it was only a season.   

Fall – This was our “I see you” season — the leaves changed. In our fall season, still dating, we learned neither one of us was perfect. We saw each other’s true colors. The worst of us can reveal itself when we become angry. We had to learn how to communicate and give each other space to think about our words and actions. I must admit, in this season, I wasn’t very good. I learned anyone could end the argument by remaining silent, praying, and finding the time and place to address the issue later. 

Summer – This was our passion season — “we want to get married” season. During this season, we had grown out of the dating season. We wanted to be married. The great thing about the passion season, we can raise the temperature at will any season of our marriage. If the passion-meter isn’t at a desirable temperature, find ways to raise the temperature. For us, a weekend getaway works wonders — no work, no children, no housework.     

Winter – Our rest season — cuddle up and pull a throw over us. I’ll never forget when we reached this stage. At the end of the day, my husband and I were sitting on the couch watching television. He asked, “Ready to go to sleep?” He could have announced he was going to bed. Instead, he invited me to rest with him. In this season, we rest in the beauty of the relationship. We reflect on our couple’s accomplishments. We enjoy the family and treasure each moment. However, we don’t consider the road has ended. We also dream.

We are looking forward to our retirement — possibly retiring on a Caribbean Island. It’s a pretty big dream. However, we believe when two people walk in agreement and serve a very big God, all things are possible. 

Things change. We change. What’s your favorite season?

Wisdom for the Seasons of Life: College and Singleness

Contributor: T. Dozier-Grady

As a recent graduate from college, I thought I would have experienced dating by now. I thought I was going to find my soulmate in college, but it did not work out the way I thought it would. I was trying to rush into something that God knew I was not ready for. I was still developing as a person, figuring out what I like and did not like, or the person I wanted to become. I did not realize this until my last year of college when I took the Singleness class at KCC. 

If I could go back and give myself any wisdom about being single, what would it be? I would tell myself to learn how to be content with who you are. Make a list of what you like and what you need to improve so that you are a whole and complete person. I made the mistake of getting caught up in what qualities my partner should have instead of focusing on what I could bring to the table. 

Second, do not let everything you see on social media put a damper on being single. I was guilty of doing this a lot. I would look at my news feed and see people my age posting pictures of spending time with their significant other, an engagement ring, or the wedding day. I felt like I should have been dating and in the same stage. I was trying to rush the process without completing the work God had for me. The top priority is learning to be content with yourself and developing who you are through God. 

Another thing I would tell myself is, don’t rush. Pastor Trev preached a sermon on how to maximize the state of singleness. I have come to terms that this season is the time for me to be single. Pastor Trev defined singleness as the “state where you have the greatest opportunities to develop and express who you are.” You can frustrate the person that you bring into a relationship if you don’t know who you are. When Pastor Trev made that statement, I remember thinking, “What do I really like? What are my non-negotiables?”

Four, learn to live within God’s restrictions and see as HE sees. During the Singleness Life App class, our teachers explained that using the boundaries from the Word of God can allow us to learn about ourselves. When we live within the restrictions, then we can avoid unnecessary drama. 

Finally, the most important step of maximizing the state of being single is your relationship with God. This is the foundation. We must understand His love for us and develop our hearing for the Lord’s voice. 

I would recommend for anyone who is single to listen to the “Don’t Rush” sermon by Pastor Trev Evans. Also, Bishop O’neal has written a book called The Ultimate Achievement about the singleness stage. Remember, “singleness is a time for preparation, and preparation is never wasted.” (Bishop O’neal)

Clergy Appreciation

Contributor: K. Wyatt

We often give thanks to individuals who play a huge role in our communities. For example, there’s teacher appreciation week, social worker appreciation month, healthcare worker appreciation day, and so on. But seldom do we hear about appreciation and recognition days or months for our spiritual leaders. Of course, they are just as important as other professionals in our communities. And when it comes to religion, there is a mutual understanding that we honor and take care of spiritual leaders for the selfless work that they do. Because if it wasn’t for some spiritual leaders, we might not have the teachers, social workers, doctors, etc. that we rely so heavily upon. Therefore, it is important to honor and recognize our spiritual leadership, as well. 

Mark 10:45 (NIV) states, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Those who take on the roles of spiritual leaders choose to live a life that reflects that of Jesus Christ. And although Jesus was above everyone else, he still sat and broke bread with sinners and tax collectors (Mark 2:13-17). In the same way, our spiritual leaders want the best for us and will lead by example. However, they will also humble themselves to show their congregation and nonbelievers that they are not better than anyone just because they are performing the Lord’s work. 

Our spiritual leaders show us how to live a life according to the plan of God. They have the ultimate responsibility of helping save our souls and giving us the direction and guidance, we need to make it to Heaven (Hebrews 13:17) and do His work here on earth. The Bible says, “remember your leaders those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7 ESV). This is an extremely important reason to honor our spiritual leadership. 

For many of us, our spiritual leaders are the reason why we put our old ways behind us and started a new life in Jesus Christ. Those who labor in teaching and preaching are worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17). Go and let your favorite spiritual leaders know how much you appreciate them, especially now as they continue to lead us on a path of righteousness through an unforeseeable pandemic.

The role of children

Contributor: K. Wyatt

There is an old saying that states it takes a village to raise a child. Well, once that child is raised, it is up to them to become a part of the village that will raise the next generation of children. Adults and parents are responsible for instilling positive values and beliefs in children. But those children, even as adults, have the responsibility of using what was taught to them to become functioning members of society. 

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) states, “start children off the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” It is a child’s job to learn, play, grow, and make mistakes. The mistakes that children make are what turns them into the individuals who will lead in the future. Of course, a parent or another responsible adult is the one teaching them right from wrong. A child will not know stealing is bad until someone tells them it is. But once they know better, it is up to them to do better. 

First Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) states, “when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” Even children who do not have a good upbringing or have positive role models have the same responsibility. Psalm 27:10 (ESV) states that “for my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.” All children must find their way to God and spread love and His Word to the next generation. Then those children will spread it to the next generation (Joel 1:3), whether this is through biological reproduction or spiritual mentorship. 

Today’s children play a large role in what the children of the next generation will be like.

There is an old saying that states it takes a village to raise a child. Well, once that child is raised, it is up to them to become a part of the village that will raise the next generation of children. Adults and parents are responsible for instilling positive values and beliefs in children. But those children, even as adults, have the responsibility of using what was taught to them to become functioning members of society. 

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) states, “start children off the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” It is a child’s job to learn, play, grow, and make mistakes. The mistakes that children make are what turns them into the individuals who will lead in the future. Of course, a parent or another responsible adult is the one teaching them right from wrong. A child will not know stealing is bad until someone tells them it is. But once they know better, it is up to them to do better. 

First Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) states, “when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” Even children who do not have a good upbringing or have positive role models have the same responsibility. Psalm 27:10 (ESV) states that “for my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.” All children must find their way to God and spread love and His Word to the next generation. Then those children will spread it to the next generation (Joel 1:3), whether this is through biological reproduction or spiritual mentorship. 

Today’s children play a large role in what the children of the next generation will be like.

#Children, #family, #friends, #generational

What defines a father?

Contributor: T. Dozier-Grady

A father has many roles, like mothers, in society. It goes beyond the idea of being a breadwinner. They help develop a positive role in a child’s life, provide a sense of security, build self-esteem, lend a helping hand to those in need, be a caregiver, give affection, be nurturing, and plenty of other things. In the Bible, the role of the father is described as the leader and protector of the family. He is an example of showing love towards his wife and children (the way Christ shows His love). 

First Timothy 3:2-5 (NIV) says “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?).” 

A father is strong in his faith. He gives a sense of direction and disciple to his children in the ways of the Lord and helps the child(ren) embrace God as their Heavenly Father. I know there were plenty of times where I did not like to be corrected on my behavior, and I had to apologize for my actions. The Bible says, “because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Hebrew 12:6 NIV). Our earthly father is mirroring the Heavenly Father because he wants to help shape the child’s long-term character. He points his children to Jesus as the model because He is our Everlasting Father.

God is the reason why we were created. Bishop explains that regardless of how we arrived on this Earth, it was no mistake. We are made in His image, and we have His genetic makeup inside of us. He wants us to show people how He gave us conditional love and always stuck by our side through good and bad, and thick and thin. He wants us to help those in need feel the love that God gave us. 

God is the source of everything, the Jehovah Jireh. He will provide for you when you do not know if you can make it to next week. He will give you the affection you need because He is a father to the fatherless (Psalms 68:5). God wants us to know that we can trust Him with anything and everything. Trusting Him can lead your soul to find rest, salvation, and security (Psalms 62:1-2). 

The role of the father is to empower and transform his children to live like Jesus, to have open arms to those who are different, and to spread the love of Jesus. 

#father, love

The community as a whole – the village

Contributor: E. Taylor

It truly does take a village to flourish and thrive through today’s societal changes, the current pandemic, and a climate of social injustice.  It takes a village is an old African Proverb that has been shared for many years that means that people work together as a community to raise and nurture children and others in their community.  This philosophy is highlighted by the power of people uniting for a common cause – to support one another.  

The village is a safe and healthy place for children to live, grow, learn, and experience the world as they mature into self-sufficient individuals.  The village represents everything that a child and family need.  We are who we have become because of the village that raised us.  Our own foundation was laid in “our” village. Then those other important bricks and blocks were laid on it while building additional layers through our interactions with the other members of the village – our parents, neighbors, cousins, extended family members, teachers, community members, and others.  

All of us have a different experience because of the village we have/had surrounding us.  We are products of our environments; we are who we hang out with, live with, socialize with, spend time with.  Whatever we feel and think has been shaped by the things we learned and experienced through those around us and their impact upon us.  

A person who has a positive village experience growing up lays a foundation for an adult life that can differ in how they experience and respond to their community and adversity.  A person who has an upbringing that has less support of their village members or is more traumatic and problematic has a different foundation and may experience things differently.  Therefore, they may have different responses for similar situations and incidents.   

The driving force of the village is the love for its children and families.  The villagers need a genuine love for one another and others, and the village flourishes because of this love.  Love in action is a powerful force.  Luther Vandross sang of this belief in the song, “Power of Love,” reminding us all that we’ve got love and all of the power and that it’s the greatest power of them all.  Love is indeed a power all by itself – fantastic and indescribable, awe-inspiring, and can be difficult and tough simultaneously.  

God is love and the embodiment of love in action.  His love is inspiring and flourishes when we invest it in others as God invests it in us.  Let us continue to love each other, support each other, and be a part of someone’s village, being their community of love.  Love is shown through our actions and is almost invisible when it’s inactive.  Being part of a village is a critical role for all of us, and the power of love helps make it possible for us to build others up and encourage them.  

#village #family #community #love #children

Motherhood and the next generation

Contributor: A. Dorcent

Where are we heading? In today’s social climate, I question how my role as a mother contributes to future generations. If I think long enough, I end with second guesses. I could have spent more time or taught them better. Knowing this makes me grateful for my relationship with God. 

My children are 26, 23, and 12 years old. When asked to write about how my role as a mother shapes the next generation, I was like, huh? From the time my children were born, I was captured by the “Do Spirit.” Get things done! I needed to ensure my children were fed, clothed, and physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally healthy. 

I know you’re probably thinking, you’ve been a mom for 26 years and you’ve got to think about this? I believe women are very analytical; however, when it comes to our children, we’re doers. We’ve been blessed with a human being. My instinct says, nurture, and protect. This nurturing and protection occur in stages. Here’s what I mean:

Feeding our young – (Exodus 2:7 NIV) “Then his (Moses’) sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?””

A mother’s first instinct is to make sure her children are fed. She pours love and attention into their well-being – mind, soul, and body. Moms are protective against behaviors that distort growth toward healthy adulthood. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to say, “No, sorry, you can’t do that.” Or “Let’s do this instead.”

Fostering good citizens – (Exodus 2:12) “And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.”

We want our children to be good citizens. This role of mothering is two-fold. I’ve got to be a good role model. I want my children to recognize injustice. Second, I’ve got to address the consequences when poor choices are made. We must be respectful of authority. My role is to ensure my children know there are consequences. Although I will always forgive, I will not always tolerate their actions.

Forming a support system – (Titus 2:3-4) “The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children.”

Once our children become adults, it does not mean they no longer need us. We have lessons to teach while our children walk in their calling. Life’s waters can become murky, but wisdom provides a clear perspective. We will never have all the answers, which leads me to the greatest thing we can share with the next generations – our faith. We can partner with our children in prayer, seeking His wisdom. 

Connected to the vine, I am confident He will always be present, and our next generation will grow in God’s direction. 

#family #motherhood #children

A salute to the people who protect and serve

Contributor: E. Taylor

Many thanks to military service members, police officers, and firefighters all over the world for great deeds in our communities everywhere.  We value the sacrifice and dedication that is demonstrated on and off duty in neighborhoods, backyards, streets, buildings, homes, precincts, and unnamed places everywhere.  Their devotion goes above and beyond the call of duty in and out of the uniform.  

Our uniformed officers often have to put others before themselves and their families, losing out on important moments and memories in their own lives and the lives of their families and loved ones.  It is difficult to understand the sacrifice that they make in the line of duty, and true understanding can sometimes be skewed by the media’s projections of negative events.  

Being fair and open-minded helps us see the best in everyone, including our public servants.  Seeing the best in everyone helps us reserve negative judgment, support our uniformed officers, and spread the news about their good deeds in our own communities.  Let us show appreciation for these officers – those that we know and love and others across the globe as they continue to uphold their oaths as public servants in our communities.  

The current climate of social change encourages us all to stop and examine our interactions with each other for the positives and to seek ways to be better individuals that can help bring out the best in others.  Along with protecting and serving, police officers perform rescues from unsafe and burning buildings, save animals and people stranded in trees and high buildings, have pulled up people and pets from wells and manholes, rescued miners from shafts, removed babies from wells, used the jaws of life to remove people from crushed vehicles, calm traffic and manage traffic at the scene of an accident.  These brave officers monitor traffic stops to maintain public safety and identify unsafe individuals.  

Firefighters risk their lives for us battling raging fires that blaze uncontrollably for days, weeks, and months without an unforeseeable end in sight.  These firefighters risk their lives all over the world in dark and dismal places, some never returning home to their families, others never returning home the same as they were before they left.  

All branches of military service members serve in various places protecting our borders and the world in so many ways – many known and unknown to us. As we think of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and National Guard, we salute them for the great things they do for us and for always protecting us from dangers that are both seen and unseen.  Our military is strategically placed to keep us safe from unexpected dangers.  

We never know what to expect from day to day, but we know that we can count on all of these public servants to have our backs and to carry out their sworn duties every day.

#lovethepolice, #protectandserve, love

5 Biblical Ways to Improve Finances

Contributor: K. Wyatt

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused stress in many areas of our lives. One of those major areas is finances. Some individuals have been put out of work either temporarily or permanently. A few of us were lucky enough to be blessed with a $1200 stimulus check. And although we should be grateful for everything that we receive, it is hard to appreciate a $1200 check when you have been out of work for weeks to months amid a pandemic. Work and a steady income have stopped, but bills and other financial obligations continue to pile up. It may be hard to trust God during all of this, and some of us may wonder where God is right now. But God is here. He has always been here, and He is never leaving (Psalm 139:7-12). The same way we turn to God for support and guidance for our problems, we can turn to Him regarding our financial status. Here are five ways to improve your finances through God’s Word: 

  1. Trust God. And I mean really trust God. We may say that we trust God and the plans He has for our lives, but our actions may say otherwise. Trust and believe that God will truly bless you financially. Pray often and give all your worries to Him, and everything else will fall into place. The saying goes, “if you pray, then don’t worry, and if you’re going to worry, then why pray?” God knows what He is doing. Let him handle it (Philippians 4:19).
  • Educate yourself. Some of us weren’t taught financial literacy growing up. Now would be a great time to learn some concepts such as budgeting, credit, assets, and liabilities, etc. What you learn may help you to become more financially responsible when you begin working again. Or it may help you handle your finances better if you are still working. No one knows everything. You may find that you have made some mistakes with your finances, and that is okay. God wants us to be well informed, and He is willing to provide us with knowledge if we are willing to seek it (James 1:5).
  • Hold yourself accountable. Learn how to look at yourself in the mirror and realize that there may have been times where you could have made better financial decisions. If we want God to bless us with bigger and better things, then we must be prepared to receive those things (Luke 16:10). You may be hoping and praying for a bigger salary, but are you really prepared to manage and budget with a bigger salary. To whom much given, much is required (Luke 12:48).
  • Be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5). Being content with what you have does not mean settling. It means that you trust God enough to utilize your spiritual gifts no matter where you are in life. So maybe amongst all the craziness right now, you decide to open a business or learn a new skill. Whatever it is, you do it full-heartedly, knowing that you are blessed, and that God loves you. And who knows what may happen after that? You may find yourself realizing your passion in life, which could lead to a new source of income.
  • Save, save, save! Save what you can, whether it is a little or a lot. Save it. You never know when you are going to need it or have the opportunity to invest it. Of course, saving is easier said than done. But try to save anyway, even if you have to use the savings eventually. Getting into the habit of saving now will make it easier to save in the future when you have more to spare. A small change now could really make a big difference later in life (Proverbs 13:11).

#money #finances #corona #covid19

5 Biblical Tips to Deal with Anger

5 Biblical Tips to Deal with Anger

Contributor: T. Dozier-Grady

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 (NIV)

While I was attending college, back in September 2019, a person made me upset. We were a part of the undergraduate psychology executive board. He told the executive board that he lied to some people to get money from them to help raise money for another club to which he was a part. How could he do that? I was so angry at the words he spoke. If I did not have the Holy Spirit help control my tongue, who knows how the situation would have turned out. We have experienced anger at one point in time. “Anger on its own is not a sin but releasing hastily or at the wrong time can be a destructive force.” (Bishop Rosie O’neal) I could have hurt his feelings, broke into an argument or worse, a fight. I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit guided my emotions and led me to express how I felt without being hostile towards what he said.

Bishop O’neal has defined anger as an emotion characterized by antagonism, which is the expression of opposition or hostility. It is when you have this emotion that is causing you to express hostility towards someone or something you believe has done you wrong. During the sermon on Victory Over Anger Part 1, Bishop asked us to think about these questions before we respond:

  1. How are you feeling?
  2. What do you really believe (what triggered it)?
  3. What do you perceive is happening (assumptions)?
  4. What are you focusing on?

There are going to be situations and people that will get you angry. We do not want to miss out on the blessings because we could not keep our temper down and our mouths shut. Moses lost his temper when he saw the Egyptian beating the Hebrew slave, and he killed the Egyptian. Moses was punished for forty years over his anger. We do not want our anger to put ourselves and the people around us back a generation. So, what can we do to handle our anger properly?

Jesus handled his anger by:

  1. withdrawing Himself,
  2. practicing relaxation exercises,
  3. confronting the situation,
  4. sometimes, asking a question to see what people were thinking, and
  5. forgiving and praying for people.

Based on Jesus’ example, we should:

  1. consider where our anger is coming from and why we are angry.
  2. learn how to calm down. Judge something more important than the moment. Become reflective.
  3. get a calculated response. 
  4. communicate clearly. Praying can help diffuse the anger. 
  5. concede to the consequences. 

Remember, anger, when not controlled, is dangerous, and it can set off a chain reaction. God will give you His spirit to calm down and heal you if you ask Him for help. 

I would recommend listening to the series, Victory Over Anger, and one of the latest sermons, Handling Anger Properly.

#dealwithanger #calm #slowtoanger

Salute to our Healthcare Professionals

Contributor: A. Dorcent

Healthcare Professionals, We Salute You!

Have you ever thanked someone for doing the extraordinary and received the humbled reply, “I was just doing my job.”? 

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing healthcare professionals perform above and beyond the call of duty. Their service surpasses the norm as they face insurmountable odds – experiencing overwhelmed medical facilities, working extremely long hours, and in some cases, have limited staff and supplies. They have risen to the occasion not to get to the other side of their paycheck. In this time of crisis, their service reflects the authentic spirit of compassion.

In this authentic spirit, we’ve found healthcare professionals, EMTs, nurses, and doctors become family. Our Pastor, Bishop Rosie. S. O’neal teaches we are not meant to do life alone. When our families cannot sit by our bedside, healthcare professionals have. We have watched news stories of nurses holding the hands of patients while they transition into eternity.

In the worst of times, the spirit of compassion is bursting at the seams. It gives us hope. Mankind is good. I’m reminded of the creation of mankind in Genesis. After God created male and female, He said we were very good. He was right. Compassion is displayed when we are at our lowest. It manifests goodness. It brings peace. It lifts us. It says, although you can’t take care of your personal needs now, I will. Why? Because your life matters. 

I will never forget being at one of my lowest, yet highest moments. I had just delivered a baby girl and was at my weakest. My assigned healthcare professional became my hands. She cared for my well-being. As she cared for me, I was overcome with gratitude. She went above and beyond with a kind spirit. Over the years, I thought of her. I never thought her service thrived on a paycheck. I know her excellent service didn’t come from being watched. It was just us in the room. Compassion comes from a deeper place.

There’s a familiar Bible story (Luke 10:25-37) of the Good Samaritan that cared for a traveler (a Jew) stripped and beaten in the streets. Jews and Samaritans customarily did not interact. None of that mattered to the spirit of compassion. Not only did the Good Samaritan cared for the traveler’s physical well-being, but he also took on financial responsibilities as well. This was compassion in its truest form. It requires us to come together and take on the struggles of others. Our healthcare professionals are daily delivering compassion amid COVID-19.

Healthcare Professionals, we are grateful. At times, you may feel invisible as if the only thing that matters is the work you do and not the person doing it. There is no truth in that. You matter. We are praying for you! We see and experience your compassion, and we honor you.

Thank you for not allowing us to do life alone. 

#Compassion #Healthcare Professionals #COVID-19

Sharing faith during a difficult time

Contributor: K. Wyatt

How do you share your faith during a difficult time? How do you tell others about the goodness of God when you are struggling to see the goodness of God yourself? I think that is something a lot of us are dealing with right now. We could have never predicted that a virus would come and shut down everything that is familiar to us. Usually, in times of difficulty, we can turn to a friend or family member who has gone through something similar and can share words of encouragement and how their faith brought them through. But no one has gone through what we all are going through right now. We’ve never had to shelter in place, shut down schools, practice social distancing, close businesses, and all the other things that have gone into effect due to the virus. We’ve never had our faith tested in this way. 

So how do we keep our faith strong and encourage others to do so during a time like this? Bishop Rosie said it best during one of our prayer calls during the fast: “Don’t let a new enemy make you abandon a past established pattern of victory.” God has delivered us from everything that we have been through so far. What makes you think that he won’t get you through this too? 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). This is the same God that delivered Daniel from the lion’s den (Daniel 6). This is the same God that saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from a blazing furnace (Daniel 3). And this is also the same God that put Joseph in charge of Egypt after being in prison for several years (Genesis 39-41). The God who performed those miracles is going to perform miracles again.

When we remember the good that God has done, especially during times where no solutions seem possible, it helps to restore our faith. It gives us hope and a sense of peace. And it makes us want to go and tell everyone that we know. Therefore, we can share our faith during a difficult time by remembering a difficult time and how our God brought us through. “Faith draws us into a place of discipleship” (Bishop Rosie O’neal). Build on the faith that you have and minister to others during this time of difficulty.

Is social distancing weakening your relationships?

Contributor: A. Dorcent

Is social distancing weakening your relationships? The definition of the word relationship describes how two or more people connect. During this COVID-19 season, modern-day technology has allowed us to stay connected. However, sheltering-in-place and social distancing implore us to ask, how are we connecting? In order words, are our technology connections allowing us to build strong relationships with each other? 

Social media platforms allow us to frequently take a casual scroll on our devices and check up on one another. In an instant, we can send a happy birthday, happy anniversary, congratulations, or share an encouraging word. These casual scrolls can be time-consuming without investing intimately in any one person. 

This season has presented us with our finest hour for building strong relationships. Now more than ever is the time to ensure we are investing in our relationships. Literally, time is of the essence! Instead of the casual text message, we can invest time in longer conversations. Yet, the length of the discussion does not ensure the conversation was meaningful. We must be open and vulnerable with those we trust. I usually have a reflective response when asked by someone how I’m doing. Most times, my reply is, “I’m good;” when in fact, some days are more challenging for me than others. This is where trust comes in. I trust those in my circle that will listen and not judge. In turn, I become a safe place for them to share their true feelings as well. It’s okay to be human even when we’re a Christian. 

Ultimately, being a strong Christian allows us to manage our challenging days. We must intimately invest time with God. During this season, it is imperative we’re not giving God our usual time and attention. These are unusual days. The great thing about God, He is so good when it comes to building strong relationships with us. He longs for, waits, and looks forward to spending time with us. I’m reminded about His walk with Adam in the book of Genesis. I’m sure Adam found not only companionship in God the Father but also comfort. No matter what we are feeling, we can be vulnerable and honest with God. He certainly can handle any weight we throw upon Him. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Casting your care upon Him because He careth for you.” I’m sure when God says let me have it, He means it.

There is a beautiful return to investing in our relationships with each other and God. Connecting with God and one another strengthens us, provides companionship, and comfort. 

As we practice social distancing, let us not allow this finest hour to slip away. We can intimately invest in our relationships and gain strength for today and the days ahead. Strong relationships make us stronger.

In this season, do you find your relationship with God and others growing stronger?  We love to hear from you!

Until We Meet Again…

#Relationships #Isolation #Connection #Social Distancing

Sacrifice – Wear a Mask

Contributor: K. Wyatt 

Romans 12:1 (NIV) states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” We are to sacrifice ourselves for God’s will just as Jesus sacrificed His life for us. 

Sacrifice means to surrender or give up. Jesus gave His life for the world in exchange for our sins to be forgiven (1 John 2:1-2). We too, will receive a reward for the sacrifices that we make. God is pleased with us when we do good and make sacrifices (Hebrews 13:16). We also receive other benefits from making sacrifices for God and others. 

Take into consideration wearing masks during the COVID pandemic. The Center for Disease Control has issued guidelines for individuals to social distance and wear masks in public.  I know that it is hot outside and some people are getting tired of wearing masks and being extremely cautious, but this sacrifice is something that can help your family and your neighbors.

Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for our lives, which resulted in the benefit of eternal life (Romans 6:23). Making a sacrifice is not easy. It takes you out of your comfort zone. It forces you to think and act in ways that you normally would not. 

You may be going through challenges in sticking to the protocols and making little sacrifices like avoiding large gatherings and wearing a mask. But in the end, your community will benefit from what you have done.

Remember that Jesus was crucified and died on a cross as a sacrifice (Mark 15) and Abraham attempted to kill his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice for God (Genesis 22).  However, in the end, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and now sits at the right-hand side of God (Mark 16:19, 1 Corinthians 15:4). Also, an angel stopped Abraham from killing Isaac, and Abraham and his descendants were blessed due to his willingness to sacrifice (Genesis 22:11-19). Therefore, God will also come through for you as you make sacrifices

#sacrifice #WearAMask

Sharing the gospel with strangers

Romans 10:14-17 (NLT) states, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah, the prophet said, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So, faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” 

During the fall semester of 2019, I was reluctant to go to a school event to which my friend invited me since it was after work. I told myself that I would go for a few minutes, but the Holy Spirit knew I was needed that night to help someone. When I arrived at the event, I noticed that my friend was comforting some guy. I asked her what was wrong with him and she told me that he recently broke up with his girlfriend. I offered to walk him to his car. We talked about how he felt and gave him a shoulder to cry when he needed it. He felt that he did not want to continue, felt hopeless and he did not like being alone. I told him I understand his feeling of hopelessness, and I said that “Maybe God wants you to take the time to learn what you like to do by yourself.” I was not expecting that I would be helping this stranger as I did. Long story short, he thanked me for the advice, and he drove off to his apartment. I do not know what happened after that, but I am grateful that I listened to the spirit. 

I know it is not easy for me to start a conversation with a stranger. As Christians, we are encouraged to spread the good news of the gospel and share our faith. But how do we open the floor to discuss how God has been good to the people around me and me? First, pray about it. If you want to have a meaningful talk about God, you need to involve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will be the one who will change and soften their heart. I think you need to set a warm environment to permit a conversation. Be respectful and gentle. You cannot just jump right into talking about God; you have to initiate in casual conversations. “How are you doing?” “I like your hat.” Depending on if the person what to continue to speak, you can use a current event or a personal experience they mentioned to incorporate God. 

Remember, when you talk with someone, you do not have a lot of time to invest. However, you do not feel the need to rush and expect to have a full conversation about God. Be prepared to listen more than talk. Jesus spent time listening to the concerns and issues of others, and we should do the same. If that individual wants to develop their relationship with God, invite them to church or an event the church might be having that week like Bible study.

#gospel #goodnews #thetalk #faith

Connecting with friends during the pandemic

We connect with our friends in many ways. The possibilities range from brunch to road trips to social media and so much more. But with the onset of COVID-19, we’ve had to learn how to connect with our friends by other means. Group Facetime has definitely come in handy at a time like this. Other applications like Zoom, House Party, and Facebook messenger have also come into play in our virtual connections with others. The love, laughs, and secrets that we share with our friends have been preserved. 

In that same way, we should preserve our sharing of the gospel with those who are close to us. For the Bible tells us, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15 NIV). These past few months of the pandemic have taught us that church is more than a building. Church is wherever God’s presence and the Holy Spirit is. So, in the same way that you connect with your friends about the events that unfolded in your day, connect with each other about God’s Word. 

Encourage each other to make safe, quiet spaces in your homes for prayer and worship. There is no right or wrong place to have prayer and worship for, “from inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God” (Jonah 2:1 NIV). Also, hold each other accountable as you fellowship. You wouldn’t let your friend go out in public wearing a bad outfit; therefore, don’t let your friend go without building their relationship with God. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV). Not only is God pleased with us when we do these things, but this will also make reuniting after this pandemic much more worthwhile. 

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three is not quickly broken.” 

Contributor: K. Wyatt

#connecting #fellowship #friends #coronavirus #covid19 #socialdistancing

Neighbors and social distancing

The Marvin Gay song “What’s Going On?” is resonating all over our country and the world.  Some of us are wondering what is really going on in the world around us as we have entered the new normal of social distancing. 

Is it normal to go through daily activities wearing a mask and gloves?  It is difficult to define normal when toilet paper and cleaning products are scarce.  Do we go out in public and risk our health, or do we stay home from work and risk our family’s security?  How can we make things work for good if everything is uncertain and nothing is guaranteed?  

In response to this, a group of neighbors began using an app to come together to provide support and answer these questions.  The neighbors began being “neighborly,” reaching out to each other, looking out for one another, and lending a helping hand while still socially distancing.  They reminded us that the better way to do things in times like these is together.  These neighbors reminded us that two or three people or more are better together – couples, trios, quartets, groups of people – are better pulling together for a common cause.  The Bible elaborates that a two-fold cord is not easily broken and that when we all get on one accord that great things can happen as they did on the day of Pentecost (Ecclesiastes 4:12).  

Together we can do things better and greater than if we attempt to do them alone.  These neighbors decided that it would be better to look out for each other than to try to do things individually. Being neighborly is now and has always been socially acceptable.  So, let us do things for others that we would like done for us.  

Let us share our supplies, Internet links, essential items, food, information, health tips, and general knowledge with one another.  Drop off something to a friend, have an essential or care package mailed to a neighbor, friend, or loved one who needs something but cannot locate it or find it.  Check on an elderly neighbor and make sure that person or family is doing and eating well.  Check on the neighbor with several children and find out if the kids have everything that they need or pick up an extra meal and drop it off to them or order one and have it delivered.  

We can still be neighborly and keep our social distance.  Let us use some of those “back in the day” ways and show others God’s love in action.  Invest in others making good use of our time, our money, and our actions.  Although in-person visits may be limited, there are many ways to be neighborly.  Make more phone calls, send more emails, text more, video message more, or mail letters or cards.  Now are the right time and a good time to show we can love our neighbors as we do ourselves.  

#love #socialdistancing #lovethyneighbor #neighborly #neighbors #helpothers

Contributor: E. Taylor

#love #socialdistancing #lovethyneighbor #neighborly #neighbors #helpothers

Has this season of social distancing changed the way you connect with your family?

The effects of COVID-19 have touched every aspect of our daily life, especially how we connect with family. Initially, when our governor mandated the stay-at-home order, I was okay. I understood it was dangerous to see my parents or my brand-new niece. I accepted easily; I would protect my loved ones. I could not imagine being the cause of them becoming ill.

We found another way to connect. On Easter, I hosted a family Zoom call. It was great seeing each other. Everyone was excited; we seemed to talk all at once. It was a new way of communicating. 

New or not, different or not, we communicated. I believe we must be intentional about communication. Although we are socially distant, we must not be emotionally disconnected. The use of technology is playing a tremendous role in taking the place of our physical experiences. 

Now that the stay-at-home order has been lifted, we may socially distance in groups of ten or more while indoors. This is a true test of discipline. I understand this will not be an easy task. When communicating, I desire to look you in the eye and listen. By nature, I am a big hugger. Before COVID-19, I hugged a lot! 

While the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 does not have a vaccine, hugging is not recommended. We must remain in a “don’t touch” state.

I am reminded of being a young child and going shopping with my mom. She said, “Don’t touch. You look with your eyes, not with your hands.” In my mind, if I really wanted to see something, I had to touch it. I needed most of my senses involved. Many of us might be that way with our relationships. We want to see, hear, and touch to have the full experience of connecting.

So how do we fight the desire to physically connect with that parent, grandparent, niece, or nephew? We must place value upon the relationship above else. In other words, I love you enough not to put you in harm’s way.  After weeks of staying at home, it’s a sad reality we can’t hug our Mama or our Pop Pop?  

As believers, we know no matter the challenge, we can do all things through Christ because He strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). We can say to our loved one, “I love you enough to keep my social distance. Ultimately, I am so happy I can see you alive and well.” 

Finally, my brothers and sisters in the faith, Psalm 68:6 (NKJV) states, “God sets the solitary in families.” This means He has an ordained space for you and I. COVID-19 will not destroy our relationships. With high intention, prayer, and action, we declare our family relationships will be stronger than ever! To God be the Glory.

Until We Meet Again,

Tags: #COVID-19 #Family #SocialDistancing #Relationships

Contributor: A. Dorcent

Dealing with YOU during this time of self-isolation

By Guest Contributor: E. Taylor

Have you ever been lonely?  Loneliness is irrational and confuses us about who we really are.  Do not let loneliness dominate during this time of self-isolation.  Use this time to seek and search and welcome the new creation, new you with a new perspective and new outlook.  This is a time to share the Good News and the Gospel of Jesus Christ with yourself within your home and your family and community because building your faith strengthens those around you.  This is a time to focus on those virtues and characteristics that we have been wanting and talking about for such a long time.  Now is a time to go after them and pursue them with purpose and passion until they are ours.  Now is the time to fulfill those promises to ourselves, where we were just waiting to have time to do something or needing more time at home.  The time is here, and all we must do is walk into it and do it. 

Now is here.  If only is here.  I want, I wish – is here right now in front of us.  All of this is within arm’s reach, and now we must follow through on our part of it by committing to invest in self.  Now is a good time to be selfish, to invest in you, your relationship with God, and your relationship with yourself.  It always sounded so easy when we prayed, or hoped, or even imagined what could possibly be if only there was time for it.  

Now we have been given a time of refuge and solace and shifting away from the busyness and the routine of being caught up in and sometimes swallowed whole by life.  Here it is, the golden opportunity we have been waiting on for so long.  The question presents itself – what are we going to do with it now? How will we manage this time alone, time to ourselves, time away from others and other things, and time away from distractions?  We will not fall prey to loneliness but will wisely manage this opportunity of alone-ness.  

This is the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance we have been anticipating and expecting but disbelieving that it would arrive.  Now is the time to pursue God, to chase Him with all that we have, every fiber of our being.  Seek Him while He can be found.  Run, run, run!! Go get Him.  Grab hold to His Spirit.  He is here and within reach, just waiting for us to gear up and get into place.  As the deer pants and thirsts after the water, so should our souls be in pursuit of God (Psalm 42:1-2).  

Some of us are overdue for some “me” time, so let’s get it in now.  We will use this time of self-isolation to improve our lives and our relationships and to position ourselves into the place God will have us to be.  We will not focus on what we do not have or what we cannot do.  Our focus will now be on God and what He will have us do and become.

#aloneness, #isolation, #loneliness, #purpose, #relationships

Hope

How often do we really take inventory of our lives? Now amidst the crisis of the coronavirus, it is an opportunity for us all to count our blessings, reach out to our loved ones, and pay it forward with kindness, love, and encouragement. Let’s challenge ourselves to demonstrate genuineness and inspire others who may be struggling with everyday life events. 

It is often tough to stretch our budgets just to make ends meet, pay basic bills such as utilities and rent, and be able to afford healthy, warm meals for our family. This is a good time to purposefully link up with a buddy, another family, or an older adult to support and help each other, find out if there’s some way that we can complement each other in resources, time, childcare, meal planning, household shopping, etc. 

Now more than ever, people all over our country and all over the world need each other. There is someone near us who needs a friend, an encourager, a prayer partner, a dreamer, someone to build them up and to remind them that it’s still a time to plan, prepare, and accomplish. There’s someone out there that doesn’t see a way to make it work in their favor right now. They don’t want to give up but have reached a point where they feel there’s no other choice. Please be that person for someone else – the one that reminds them that there is HOPE. It is something that is needed so very much right now. 

How can we offer that hope to others if we seem discouraged, hopeless, or frantic?  We offer them the hope of the Lord, for He alone is worthy of praise and the holder and giver of hope, faith, love.  God alone is the provider of hope, the sower of faith, and the grower of what is to be and to come.  He is the fertilizer of the seeds of those that seek something to latch onto, that are looking for something to believe, someone to believe in, and somewhere to invest the energy, love, and labor of this life in order to reap His reward of a blessed eternal life.  

We are that light in this pressured time, that light that represents our God, that represents His hope, His peace, His love.  This is a time that people all over the world, regardless of their differences, need us, need the hope that there is an appointed time for these things we are experiencing right now.  They need to know and understand that the story of the current times was already written many, many years ago, and is only narrated now with His permission through media and social outlets. 

There are a time and a season and a purpose for everything, even the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic.  And there is still hope, the hope of God, the hope of Glory, the hope of His Son Jesus, the hope of His Spirit to comfort us.

Contributor: E. Taylor

COVID-19: Our Temporary New Normal

On March 18, 2020, President Donald J. Trump declared a National State of Emergency as a result of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus). This is an unprecedented time. Never have we experienced the massive shutdown of schools, places of worship, and businesses. 

Our normal routines have changed. As our Pastor has taught, we are now in the state of a temporary new normal. We adjust, finding effective ways to be productive. The first way to do that is by following the directives of our government leaders.

Even in this temporary new normal, we can be more productive than usual. For those required to stay home, we hope to have more time to pray, read our Bible, and reflect to understand the direction of our lives. We are confident in crisis and will not faint. There is hope now and after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Additionally, we are mindful of the severe impact this virus has had. Many have lost their lives with the possibility of more being lost. As believers, we thankfully realize death is not the end of life. It is a transition. We are spirit, we have a soul, and live in a body. This is our hope. After transition, our spirit does return home to our Father. For those who remain, we hurt, we grieve, and we trust God for His grace and comfort. Ultimately, we hold fast to our hope on earth.

During this time, a great word to reflect on is to carve. The essence of this word requires us to press on or into a tough surface, move forward, and make a beautiful impact. 

For many of us, before COVID-19, we knew God was calling us to be productive in a certain area. For you, that may be finding creative ways to be a blessing to others in this season. For others, it may be starting an online business, writing a book, organizing your home, or connecting with love ones. 

It is important that we do not allow this unprecedented time to pass without greatly reflecting and spending time in God’s presence. During the days ahead, here are three basic questions to reflect on:

  • Lord, what is your will for my life?
  • Lord, what strategy do I need to fulfill it?
  • Lord, how will this impact the lives of others?

Once you receive and record your answers, carve — press in, move forward, and make a beautiful impact. 

During this pullback season, we pray we do not miss what our Father is sharing. God has a way of doing the incredible in challenging times. He has an excellent resume of doing the impossible and providing unimaginable resources. The story of Moses filled with miracles surrounding His walk with God is a great reminder. 

Contributor: A. Dorcent

#COVID-19, #Hope

Fasting is a commitment to God

Christians fast with a purpose, with a goal as their focus, with an end in mind.  This fasting usually involves abstaining from something specific such as food, drink, specific foods or drinks, social media outlets, forms of technology, television, specific activities, variations of all of these, and even others.  The very nature of spiritual fasting is to give up something that often takes up a lot of our focus, our time, even our energy, and our efforts.  This focus, time, energy, and effort is then given to God and poured into our interactions and invested in our relationship with Him seeking to please and satisfy Him.  The time that would ordinarily be spent on watching television or on social media outlets is now focused on pleasing God.   

Fasting accomplishes what we cannot do on our own with our human efforts.  It grounds us, slowing us down where we would ordinarily continue our path of normal, regular, routine, and ordinary.  We now have something telling us how, when, where, and how to listen for God’s voice and to His voice so that we may enhance our relationship and intimacy with Him.  These efforts lead us, rejuvenate our spirits, and provide clarity in the midst of calamity. 

Fasting provides an opportunity for a revelation of God’s Word if we are in a posture conducive to learning, improving, and growing in our knowledge and experience of Him.  Our spiritual development then becomes what we invest in our fast.  If we invest heavily then we gain heavily and vice versa.  Fasting requires discipline which in turns increases our discipline.  Fasting requires us to seek God’s support and to admit that we are unable to achieve the same success on our own as we do with the combination of fasting and praying. 

The Bible identifies fasting as a part of our Christian and spiritual growth and offers suggestions on increasing our intimacy with God and the whys and how’s of fasting in itself.  In the Book of Ezra in Chapter 8, verses 21-23, Ezra declares a fast to find out from God the best route for travel for both the adults and the children.  Ezra and his people were fearful of their enemies, but God protected all of Ezra and the people on their journey to Jerusalem. 

Fasting works when we identify and exercise some basic principles such as inviting the Holy Spirit to do as He has promised: asking Him to lead and guide us and reveal to us His purpose in our lives and our role in this time of fasting and prayer.  This time of consecration can include prayer, fasting, using a journal, reading the Bible, meditation, attending church services, singing, clapping, dancing, and various other ways that we choose to demonstrate our commitment to God.  Christian fasting expresses a longing, a thirst, and a hunger for God’s presence for true transformation of our individual spirituality through our thoughts and actions as well as the changes seen in our lives and daily interactions with others.

Contributor: E. Taylor

#commitment, #fasting, #meditation, #prayer

What to do when you mess up on your fast?

Help, I’ve fallen off my fast!

Do you find fasting to be a challenging commitment? I most definitely have. Our church facilitates an annual 40-day church-wide fast. I’m usually excited to get started. I’ve learned fasting is an external expression of communicating with God when we need more of Him. It is an opportunity to become spiritually stronger. During these moments, we crave Godly intimacy and willingly refuse natural comforts for more of His spirit.

Fasting has taught me that I’m a good starter and good finisher — it’s the middle I struggle with. It seems somewhere around day ten, I dream about cake. One year, one of my friends was celebrating her birthday at work. Well, how could I be rude and refuse to have a sweet slice of cake? Besides, who’s looking, right? God understands. These were my justifications and a dream come true. I was dreaming about cake. Well, just as I was enjoying that slice, another friend and member of my church entered the office and saw me. She was shocked, and so was I. I got caught, cake in hand!

The truth is, I messed up. There’s no denying that. Failing is no reason to give up. I had to go back to the heart of why I was fasting. I needed more of God. Just like in any situation where I’ve fallen short of His glory, I needed to ask His forgiveness and remember my personal relationship with Him was and is worth it. 

Here are some things I’ve found helpful during an extended fast.

1) First things first…I begin my day with prayer and Bible reading. Our pastor leads us in a prayer call at 6:33 am Monday – Saturday. This sets the direction for my day.

2) Having accountability partners. I wonder if my friend had not found me eating cake if I would have continued justifying loopholes. Now my co-workers and lunch partners know when I’m fasting. Even when they are not fasting, they know my limits and are careful to remind me.

3) If you work from home and do not have accountability partners, modern-day technology works as a great reminder. Setting reminder alerts with encouraging Bible verses in my phone or an assistant app are great tools and help me regain my focus.

We must remember fasting is about intimacy — growing closer and stronger in our Father. It’s about turning the volume down on daily distractions. Therefore, food should not be the only item we limit as we seek Him. Just as we build muscle in the natural, by way of physical resistance, the same principle applies in the spiritual. Strive not to lose your focus; however, if you do, remember His grace is sufficient for you.

#fasting, #Spiritualawareness, #spiritualgrowth

KidMin Lesson 3/15

Hi!

We care about your kids and want to keep them and others safe.  We will have online worship services from March 15th-29th.  We want to still reach your kids and support their continued spiritual growth on their level.  On Sunday, please open this link to go over the story with your child.  https://vimeo.com/showcase/6860371.  If your child is 1st grade or younger, they will watch the First Look Preschool Experience video.  If your child is in 2nd to 5th grade, they will watch both 252 Kids Elementary Experience and 252 Preteen Experience videos.  We will continue to send videos that the kids can watch over the next 3 weeks.  

We want to be as helpful as possible.  Here are some resources that may help you and your child:

* Parent Cue App – this free app gives you weekly cues that are aligned with the content in the video presentations:  https://bit.ly/2wTCNtG

* Managing Fear and Anxiety During a Health Pandemic – a blog post on managing anxiety during any number of life disruptions. https://bit.ly/2Q6kJTG

* Anxiety Conversation Guides – you can download these age-appropriate resources to find tips and practical ways to your child.
(Preschool) – https://bit.ly/33eSacg
(Elementary) – https://bit.ly/38LkjZs

When we begin live services again, we ask that you please partner with us to prevent the spread of illnesses. All volunteers, parents, and children should stay home for 14 days if exposed to a person with the coronavirus, the flu, or any other communicable disease or have recently traveled to a Centers for Disease Control Level 2 or 3 country.

You may have questions about what we’re doing to ensure our environment is clean and safe for your family. We want to inform you of the steps we take every week to prevent the spread of viruses in our environments.

– We follow hand-washing procedures and children are instructed to wash their hands when they enter the classroom, after using the bathroom and before eating snack.
– We follow safe and sanitary diaper-changing procedures.
– Staff and children use hand sanitizer.
– We disinfect the classrooms after each service.
– We remove children from the classroom when they appear to be sick, and parents are texted to pick them up.

Given the heightened awareness of viruses during this season, once we return to live services, we ask you not to bring your child to church if they exhibit any of the following symptoms:

– Fever (during this season, must be fever-free for seven days)
– Vomiting or diarrhea (must be symptom-free for 24 hours)
– Common cold from onset through one week
– Respiratory infection
– Flu
– Sore throat or strep throat
– Croup
– Cloudy or green runny nose
– Persistent cough
– Body aches
– Headache
– Chills
– Fatigue
– Infectious or unexplained rash
– Pinkeye or other eye infection (must be on medication a minimum of 24 hours)
– Any childhood disease (e.g., scarlet fever, German measles, mumps, chickenpox)

Thank you for all you do as parents to help your children learn and grow in their faith.  By faith, we will see you soon!

With Love,

KidMin

What is fasting, and why do we do it?

Now, if you’re like me, you probably don’t know much about fasting except for that you’re supposed to do it, and it will bring you closer to God. And if you’re like me, then you’re probably also wondering how fasting and not eating will bring you closer to God, especially if you’re someone who gets hangry (hungry and angry). There’s more to fasting than not eating. The process as a whole is a spiritual challenge that will allow you to rely on God in your weakest moments.

What exactly is fasting? Fasting is an abstinence from food or a limiting of one’s food, especially when voluntary and as a religious observance, according to Dictionary.com. Why do we fast? We don’t just fast because someone tells us to do so. We fast because of the great benefits associated with it. Although the Bible does not give us a direct command to fast, it states that “…man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 NIV). This is not to be taken literally. Metaphorically speaking, it means that we are able to survive based on the Word of God in addition to the other basic necessities of life. Food, water, and shelter alone will not give us what we need to get through life. God’s love and Word are what will sustain us whether we are in abundance of or lacking life’s necessities. 

What happens to us when we fast? Other than hunger pains, some advantages come along with fasting. When we fast, we humble ourselves. Psalms 35:13 (NIV) states that “yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting.” We recently learned from Bishop Rosie that we should humble ourselves so that God can exalt us. And we humble ourselves by casting our cares to God (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV). Therefore, do not worry about being hungry, don’t worry about whether you can do it, and do not worry about all of your other troubles. When you fast, you are giving all your cares to God and relying on your faith and God’s Word to care for you.

What should we do when we fast? We should pray. Of course, the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which means that we should pray all the time. But you should especially pray when fasting. Fasting is a time when you place all focus on God, and unanswered prayers may finally come to fruition. Ezra 8:23 (NIV) says, “So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” God is waiting on you to fast so He can answer your prayers. God will be your confidante during your fast, so talk to Him as much as you can. In the end, you will see that it was all worth it (Matthew 6:16-18 NIV).

Contributor: K. Wyatt

#church, #faith, #fasting, #prayer

What is Fasting?

The Bible defines fasting as giving up food and/or drink for a certain amount of time for spiritual purposes. When I think of the word fasting, what comes to mind is giving up food and only drinking water for a few hours. This is what some would say is normal fasting. I participated in a normal fast for school. It was around the final exam week; my grandmother and I would turn down our plates and only drink liquids for twelve hours. We did it for about four days. When we finished fasting, I did well on my exams and passing the classes.

The Daniel fast (Daniel 1:5-21 NIV) lasted for ten days. Daniel and three other people were given nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. When the ten days were up, Daniel and friends looked healthier and better nourished. Verse 17 says that God gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning, and Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. This way of fasting is called partial fast. Partial fasting is only eating certain food/drinks or abstaining from certain kinds of foods (e.g., no meat or sweets, fruits, and vegetables, etc.).

Another type of fast and the one you should cautious of is an absolute fast. An absolute fast is not taking in any food or water. You should only participate for about three days and if you have a clear command from the Lord while you are in good health.

Koinonia is participating in a corporate fast where the church has been called by God to fast together during a certain length of time. Packets have been prepared to provide guidelines for the fast and devotionals to guide our spiritual walk with God.

Before the fast:

  • Think about the purpose behind why you are fasting. There are plenty of reasons people fast: seeking God’s favor, repentance, spiritual strength, demonstration of our love for Jesus, etc.
  • Think about what food(s) and/or activities you are planning to give up and for how long.
  • Slowly start to cut down on the food(s) and/or activities you choose to give up. Be mindful that your body reacts when you remove particular foods from your diet.

During the fast:

  • Set aside time to worship and commune with God.
  • Keep a journal and write down any ideas, insights, instructions, or directions that He places on your mind and heart.
  • Remember to fellowship with God and listen.

I will be participating in my first corporate fast with Koinonia. I am uneasy because I do not know what to expect. However, I have made goals of the things I want clarification on and help with my direction after I graduate.

Contributor: T. Dozier-Grady

#fast, #Spiritualawareness

That’s What Friends Are For

Scores of lyrics and songs about the hidden power of a real friendship have been written and recorded through the years.  At times in our society, the media represents true friendship as nonexistent or even a rare commodity.  However, there are many of us who know firsthand that genuine friendship is a treasure to behold, loved, cherished, and admired.  

“That’s What Friends Are For” was recorded first by Rod Stewart as a movie theme then again by Dionne Warwick in a relief effort for HIV/AIDS.  The lyrics of this popular song reflect the need to stand by those suffering from debilitating diseases as part of a long-lasting friendship.  The lyrics continue with “In good times and bad times I’ll be on your side forevermore” telling of deep emotion that a true friend feels when the other friend is suffering.  

The lyrics of the song “Friends” by Whodini ask, “how many of us have them…ones you can depend on?”  Have you ever asked yourself any of these same questions when friendships have gone astray leaving us hurt with unanswered questions?  Some of us have been in a negative situation with someone we thought was a true friend only to have it downward spiral and never pick back up.  These negative experiences taught us about ourselves and about others by getting our attention, bringing us in God’s presence, slowing us down, giving us time to reflect on our lives, and teaching us how to respond if we face a similar situation in the future.  

True friends bear one another’s burdens, the friendships withstand the test of time, and each person knows that there is always someone in their corner.  Some of us may feel or seem friendless because of circumstances we have faced such as tragedy, trauma, and stressful life events.   It is during these times that the words of another song bring wistful and melancholy feelings.  “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” reminds us of a true friend who sticks closer than a brother and is incomparable to anyone else. The love Jesus has for us cannot be explained and neither can it be earned.  It is just what it is.  

No one seems to really know or understand why we love and have the friends we do or how the bonds are formed and last.  Some say it just happens, others describe it as a connection, some say its destiny, and yet others say it is a blessing.  Regardless of the origin of friendship, true friends endure hardships with us just as if they are the ones experiencing it themselves.  A genuine friendship is a relationship that just like others cannot be broken but is still tested by disappointments, hurts, shifts, time, distance, heartaches, heartbreak, economic hardship, joy, pain, suffering, celebration, hope, recovery, perseverance, and still the list goes on.  Real friends are like the family we never had but will always treasure.

Contributor – E. Taylor 

Enduring Love

Have you ever found it difficult to love those that are kind toward you? Most times, loving someone like this takes little effort. However, in those challenging moments, we find it difficult to love those that have hurt us. Loving someone in the difficult times requires a patient enduring love, but love has the ability to grow. Here’s what I mean.

The day my husband’s son was born, I cried. Yes, you read that right. After seven years of marriage and two children, my husband and I separated. During our separation, he entered another relationship and had a third child. So, if I had hope that perhaps one day we would reconcile our marriage, after my stepson was born all hope seemed lost. 

The dynamics of my life had changed. I became a single working mom and student. My favorite pastime was crying. Anger, confusion, and doubt became very familiar to me. Then, without warning and in the midst of my heartache, my mother passed. Loving my husband was the last thing I wanted to do. So, I talked over my woes with anyone who would listen: family, friends, but the best listeners were strangers on the New York City subways. Eventually, I did seek a professional therapist though.

I also sought help from God. Anytime I could find Him, I did. I started going to church on my lunch-hour to pray for strength and the strength and joy came slowly. I felt I could do this and deep down I had hoped for reconciliation, but I didn’t know if I could accept my husband’s child. However, I was willing if we could repair our marriage.

After three years, we did find love again and reconciled our marriage, but there was still the question of if I could accept my stepson as a member of our family. I had to stretch my heart — not much — just a little. My heart was not broken beyond repair; it still worked. 

Over the years, our family relocated from New York to North Carolina and my stepson spent weeks at a time with us. I soon realized how kind, helpful and respectful he was. In time, my heart began to stretch more. Then, as our children grew and bonded during his visits, I admired their love and laughter for one another and my heart began to stretch even more.

It is true that no one graces this green earth without the approval of Jesus Christ. I saw that in my stepson. It didn’t matter how he got here. What mattered most was he had arrived. He is a part of our family with a very important purpose. 

I learned no matter how hopeless a situation might seem, not all is lost. If you open your heart, just a little, there’s a Godly love, a mature love, a patient love, that endures. This love can and will stretch your heart. We just have to be willing.

Contributor – A. Dorcent 

#Children, #Patience, love

Act of Kindness

Do you know how we can make the world a better place? By being ourselves. I do not like to see people suffer especially when I have the resources to help them. I give without thinking about what reward I could receive from helping others. That is called being altruistic. Caring about the well-being of others without regarding your own interests. I express my concern towards others by asking, “How are you doing?” If their facial expression does not look like they are happy, I pull them aside to talk to them about how they are feeling that day. 

About two months ago, I was debating if I wanted to go to a school event to which a friend invited me. I was going back and forth in my mind because I was complaining that I was tired.  However, the Spirit led me to go to campus that night. The Spirit knew I had a purpose. Long-story short, I helped a young man deal with his emotions because he had recently broken up with his girlfriend.  He felt depressed and did not have the drive to keep going. I talked him through his emotions and encouraged him since I had been through those feelings myself. If I had been selfish and ignored where the Spirit wanted me to go, he could have fallen into a deep hole.  However, Jesus knew I had something within that would help that person. When we finished talking, he said that he appreciated me talking to him and figuring out things that would make him happy again. It made me feel good inside to know I helped him in some way. My act of kindness was my way of showing that person I loved them. 

Jesus showed us an act of kindness when He washed the feet of the disciples. He said in John 13:12-17 (NLT), “After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.”” Jesus showed us that we should treat everyone with the same respect. Sometimes, it takes that one brave person to lend a helping hand to show that there are people in the community who cares about them. You may not have changed the whole world but you have changed that person’s world.

Contributor – T. Dozier-Grady 

#BeKind, #BeSelfless, #BeYourself

Self-Love

Self-love is the appreciation of one’s own worth, value, well-being, and happiness. In order to truly love others, we must first love ourselves. The Bible defines love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV). This does not just apply to romantic love. It also applies to self-love. The verses state that, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 

Love is a verb. It requires actions. Practice loving yourself in the following ways: Be patient and kind to yourself. Do not be jealous of what others have and do not be prideful in what you have. Honor yourself, don’t be selfish, don’t be so quick to get angry, and forgive yourself for the wrongs you have done. Do not partake in what is evil. Protect your energy, trust in the Lord, have hope, and never give up. 

Self-love is not easy. It is a process just as any relationship is. The relationship you build with yourself is just as important as the relationship you build with others. You owe this to yourself. You are worthy of love. You were created in the image and likeness of God. God, who loved the world so much, gave His only begotten Son to die for our sins. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19 NIV), and when we love, the rewards that we gain are unimaginable: “…Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16 NIV). “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor” (Proverbs 21:21 NIV). 

Loving yourself first will make it easier to extend this same love to others. The Word says, “…love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39 NIV). God loves you, so you should love you. When you love you, you love others. God has commanded us to love others as we love ourselves. This starts with self-love. It starts from within. You are capable of love because God says so. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV). 

Contributor – K. Wyatt 

#GodsLove, #SelfLove

What is #Church

Dictionary.com defines church as a building for public Christian worship. Church, to me, is a place where individuals gather to worship and praise God. Church does not necessarily have to be a big, fancy building. Individuals can gather in the name of Jesus in a conference room, in a section of the library, or any other meeting space. As long as the purpose of the gathering is to spread the Word of God, it is church.

My definition of church has changed over the years in that, I used to think that you had to dress up and have money for the collection plate to go to church. I believed that if you did not dress accordingly or had money to give, then you shouldn’t go to Church because you would be looked down upon. Over the years, I have learned that church is especially for individuals who may not have nice clothes to wear or extra money to give. These are the individuals who we as Christians, are trying to minister to and help them to become believers. Therefore, we must make church an inviting place so that others will want to come back and worship God no matter what their situation is. 

My earliest memory of church is vague. I remember wearing white stockings and a dress and having my hair done. I also remember sitting for a long time and not being sure of what was going on. But whatever was going on, I was required to sit there and listen and not say a word. Luckily, my earliest memories of church have not stirred me away, and I have grown to realize that that is not what church is all about.

It is believed that the world’s first church was built around 230 AD in northern Jordan. Named Saint Georgeous, evidence suggests that this church sheltered the 70 disciples of Jesus Christ. The disciples escaped from Jerusalem because of religious persecution. They met at Saint Georgeous to practice their religion in secret. This goes to show that it is not about where you praise God. What is important is that you praise Him, period. God sees and hears all and rewards those who are righteous in His name. 

*Matthew 5:3-20*

Contributor: K. Wyatt

Finding the Right #Church

Have you considered worshipping in a place that needs and appreciates your gifts? However, not only your gifts, it needs the gifts of your family members. Now, consider those collective gifts poured into the community that ultimately changes our world. This sounds like a wonderful place for a family. Hebrews 10:24-25 speaks about the importance of the assembly of believers, encouraging one another, working together, and sharing the heart of Christ. However, how does a family find the right church?

My husband and I pondered this question sixteen years ago after relocating to North Carolina. We found one very similar to our church in New York. After attending for one year, I could not settle in. A co-worker invited me to Koinonia Christian Center Church (KCC). As soon as I heard the Word of God preached in such a practical life-applicable way, I connected but my husband and children – not so much. My traditional husband liked a smaller congregation. My children were afraid of starting over and being the new kids on the block. It did not take long to see we were welcomed into a loving family and not lost among the crowd. We had found our church home. We unpacked all our baggage! Today, we worship freely and serve in our local church. 

My two oldest children are adults now. Times have changed, and I wondered what do young families today look for in finding the right church. As I chatted with some families, many said a good Bible-based children’s ministry was vital. Other key factors included humble leadership, welcoming environment, great worship, and a strong penetrating Word.

One couple shared their story after relocating, leaving the KCC-Greenville location. Their search for a church home took twenty months. As working parents, they desired a worship experience that would break up the hardness that builds around the heart from working all week. The long search created a starvation for the Word of God. None of the churches they visited hit the mark. They wanted an all-encompassing church, a place for their children, worship music that spoke to the heart and soul, and a Word from God that was meat, not milk. Finally, they did find one. Surprisingly, an opportunity arose to relocate again. After praying, the family relocated to the Raleigh, NC area. They re-connected with the KCC-Raleigh location. With over fifty different ministries to serve in, they knew their gifts would be used and greatly appreciated. Looking back, their experience created a deep affection for authentic fellowship and taught them how to prioritize their search. 

As you seek the right church, here are some factors to consider:

  • Pray for God’s leading.
  • Research the church’s core values.
  • Learn what the church has to offer for every family member.
  • Find out how you can become involved.
  • Research the church’s community participation.

Please review our website for information. You are in our prayers and are welcome here!

Until we meet again…

#church, #family, #findachurch

What does the Bible say about going to #church as a family?

It is vitally important for families to attend church, praise, and worship the Lord together, which affirms the stance that we choose to serve God regardless of what other households have decided (Joshua 24:15).  My childhood memories include my parents, my sister, and I, as we sat together, singing, clapping, and repeating the “affirmation of faith,” which summarized our church’s biblical beliefs.  My parents taught me early on that serving the Lord was important, so I joined the choir as a child.  

God commands parents and caregivers to raise children on biblical principles so that if they go astray, their foundation will lead them back to God.  This is true, especially for myself, who went astray after my parents divorced when I was in middle school.  For many years, I floundered and struggled with my identity in the world.  One day I realized that my identity was within the body of Christ, found my way back to church after being witnessed to by a local pastor, and have continued to rebuild my faith since then.  

God desires us to experience life through our interactions with others, within our family, through involvement in our support networks, as we work alongside employers and colleagues, and in everything that we do.  It is all about our purpose – to worship God, to witness of His goodness to others, and to profess our faith to everyone.  A fond childhood memory is the song “Yes, Jesus Loves Me” because as the Father has loved Him, He has loved me (John 15:9).  This hymn holds special meaning because although the particular details of childhood church service escape me, the feelings of the assurance that this song brought me still rest deep within me.  As the words wash over me, the hope that only rests in Jesus and the salvation that He brings warms and renews my heart.   As a child, I was taught this love and filled with His Spirit and is now reconnected to the true vine.  

Another childhood memory is of Willie Banks and the Messengers singing “Lord, I Know You Been So Good.”  This song was sung in church, at local gospel concerts, and at home around warm slices of an old-fashioned molasses cake.  Memories of church from my childhood all include my family as a unit serving and praising the Lord which set the precedence for instilling those same values in my own children – the importance of attending church, serving in the church, and praising and worshipping God as a family.  God wants all of us to give our children these same types of memories. 

Contributor: E. Taylor

#church, #memories, love

What is the importance of #church attendance?

Church attendance is important because it is a way to check up on people and to make new friends. When I attend church, it gives me the opportune time to greet people and ask them how they are doing if there is no connection between us through any form of social media. It makes me more accountable to make sure that we see each other at church, and we are consistent with attending church each week.  You can establish a bond and create a friendship with those people because you get the opportunity to worship and praise the Lord with other believers. It makes people feel good when they know you care about attending church with them. 

It is also important to attend church to see how you interact with other people and to see how God works within our lives. After church, I go to my deacon or a prayer warrior to talk to them about what is the best way to deal with certain situations and people, so I do not act and speak irrationally. These people can guide me on how to act Godly and can show me what scriptures to study. They also share their stories on how they reacted to similar people or a similar situation. I am gaining knowledge by learning from my fellow church members’ experiences and encouraging me to consult the Bible. This has helped me manage my emotions and control my tongue from speaking too fast. 

Reaching out to church members has helped me become a stronger person spiritually and emotionally. We grow together by learning from one another. I am learning to set an example, not for myself but my peers as well. I believe they are mentoring me so that I can mentor those around me. Titus 2:6-8 (NLT) says, “In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely. And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us.” 

I attend church to understand the Bible more effectively. In the past, I had a hard time understanding the lesson of the sermon. Once I started to attend church regularly, I was able to grasp the concepts and learned how to apply these lessons to my daily life. Church teaches me how to think and act positively and not let negative words control the way that I think about the current situation. Learning the truth behind the Word of God has made me more appreciative and thankful for what He has done and will do in my life.

Contributor: T. Dozier-Grady

#advice, #teamplayer, #thankful

#Community

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

Having pride and love for our communities involves having love and respect for the people who live with us inside of the community. This begins with knowing what Jesus requires from us. It may be hard to believe, but there are young people in our communities who don’t know about Jesus. We take for granted that everyone belongs to a Bible-based church or that they even attend church at all. We also take for granted that all people are not taught about Christianity as children or required to attend church. I encourage you to get out in the community and spread God’s love. This will also be a great opportunity for us to pour into someone by inviting them to our great church.

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1405 SW Greenville Blvd.  
Greenville, NC 27834

info@kccfamily.com

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