Kindness

Don’t use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)

When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.                 (Proverbs 31:26 NLT)

Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (Proverbs 16:24 NLT)

Kindness is something you hear about all around…social media, personal stories, even in tragic events.  Most of us assume we’re kind.  Question is…are we?

I had light bulb moment recently that made me ponder that question.   It was a great moment of clarity, which was unusual since most of the time clarity comes from the rear-view mirror, not through the windshield.

I’ve hosted a Christmas Ladies brunch for over 10 years, and it’s always a fun and festive occasion.   I have so many amazing ladies from all facets of my life, and it always strikes me how little time we get to see each other throughout the year.  Some ladies I only see on Social Media.  Although we laugh that another year has gone by and we haven’t seen each other in person except at this event, I sometimes find it a little frustrating.

The attendance has grown over the years, and many of the ladies don’t know each other.  I remembered a time, many years ago when my handsome husband and I were married, how my dad stood up at our reception and introduced special guests who had traveled great distances to be there.  He thought that since there were so many fascinating people from various chapters of our family’s history, it would be entertaining to hear personal stories of the people who gathered.  And it was!  I realized then…everyone has a story.

So, at my party, I follow my dad’s example and started introducing the ladies as part of the gift exchange.  Each lady would take their turn choosing or stealing a gift, and I would say a few words and share stories about them as they did.  I shared what popped in my head at that moment.  Many of the women over the years have told me how much they appreciated what I said, and what I remembered about them. I love sharing those things because to me, everyone is special.

This year, with over 50 ladies still in attendance at the end of the gift exchange, a woman suddenly stood next to me.  She pulled her shoulders back, stood up straight and said, “it’s my turn next!” and looked at me like she had great expectation about what I was going to say about her. I was taken aback.  It struck me in that moment that we don’t say enough nice things about the people around us, nor do we hear many kind words spoken about us.  I know as wives, business owners, moms, daughters, sisters, employees, friends, employers, grandmothers and granddaughters that we often have kind thoughts about the people around us.  We marvel at a friend’s accomplishments, appreciate how well she overcame what seemed like overwhelming odds, admire how she carries herself, or even recognize something small that was overlooked, but still extraordinary.   Oftentimes, we don’t take the extra step and say,

“Great job”

“Well done”

“Congratulations”

“Hang in there, you got this”

“You did it”

“You’re amazing”

“You look great”

“That’s a great idea”

 

I greatly admire this quality in our Pastor Jude.  He’s a great example of taking that extra step.  He’s always encouraging to someone when presented with the opportunity and has a kind word ready on the tip of his tongue, like it was meant just for you.  It seems to come to him naturally and I’m so blessed by it.

As summer kicks off, I want to challenge you to take the extra step like Pastor Jude, like my dad, and like we do at special events. When the opportunity arises, and the thought strikes you, give the gift of kind words to those around you.  Your words may just make someone put their shoulders back and stand up a little straighter.

GL_0021Lisa Schoeffler is a 3rd generation Real Estate Professional and owns a renowned, successful local business with her husband, Gary.  They have one son, Rex (15) who is a freshman in high school.  Prior, she spent more than a decade in high-tech marketing in the Bay Area, after earning her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Management and a minor in Economics.  She spent most of her childhood in Southern California and Washington DC,  before relocating to the Bay Area and eventually settling in Ventura County.  She is known for her contagious entrepreneurial spirit as well as her talent for entertaining, as her love language is food!  To her friends, she is known as the one they can count on, as she always strives to be there for anyone in need.

His Masterpiece

I love going to art galleries, especially on vacation. A couple of years ago, while on a date in the Gaslamp district in San Diego, Tom and I stumbled into the most beautiful art gallery. The whole experience, from the lighting to the soft music to actual art, was designed to tell a story. Every piece was a progression from the last. The woman guiding us began to tell us about the process of the artist, how he spent years developing each piece. He paid a high price in time and travel to achieve such beauty. I’ve tried my hand at painting a few times but I’ve never spent more than a handful of hours on something. I don’t have the patience! It was clear that art was more than a job for this artist, he had put his whole life into the work. 

I was reminded of this experience when I was reading Ephesians 2:10 (NLT). It says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Genesis recounts that, thousands of years ago, God took dust and fashioned Adam, then Eve, with the tender love of an artist. He breathed his life into them and told them they were designed by him to be with him, to be like him, to multiply and to share in his work of caring for the creation. Then they failed. They trusted the devil instead of God’s word and it appeared that the work of art had been damaged. But the great artist didn’t discard his work, he improved it. 

Over the course of generations, he continued to love his masterpiece, his people, revealing himself to them through the rise and fall of kingdoms and passage of time. It was a long and costly process, ultimately requiring the sacrifice of Jesus, his own son. He knew his people could never do the things he created and designed for them until they received the gift of the grace of God. When Jesus rose from the dead and the people believed, they took a deep breath of that Holy Spirit of life once again and the masterpiece was complete! 

When I thought about that gallery, filled with absolute perfection, and thought about God putting our lives in an even greater, more beautiful gallery, my heart was filled with gratitude. When we believe in Jesus, we receive the grace of God, we are portraits of grace. I imagined the stories of person after person, lit under that soft gallery light, and the overwhelming feeling of goodness and joy that would be conveyed to the observer. When we allow God to use us to do his good work, to love people, to teach children, to give generously, to pray for the sick and serve one another, we feel God’s beautiful spirit rushing through us. We are truly God’s masterpiece!

Sometimes it’s easy to forget, but I hope you will remember today that the great artist designed you to be displayed in his amazing gallery of life and the work that you are doing out of love for him today is truly beautiful. 

XO,

Bethany

Loving Others Is a Big Deal

I keep thinking about that title of the message this past Sunday over and over again.  Everyone is a “Big Deal” to God therefore everyone should be a “Big” deal to us.  The message has motivated me to look at my life and ask myself,  “Does my way of life reflect that people I come in contact with are a big deal?”

To love others effectively we have to first believe God loves us! I love what  1 John 4:11 TPT  say,  “Delightfully loved ones, if he loved us with such tremendous love, then, “loving one another” should be our way of life.”

Our motivation to love comes when we truly know we are completely known by God and completely loved by God!  You don’t have to earn it, you just have to receive it!  Let this be settled in our hearts so we can truly experience an exciting life by giving this kind of love to those in our spheres of influence!  You are a Big Deal to God therefore let those around you become a Big deal to you!

In his book, Everybody Always, which I highly recommend, Bob Goff says, “God’s idea isn’t that we would just give and receive love but that we would actually become love.”

There are 3 things we can do to “become love” in someone’s life: TIME, WORDS and ACTIONS.

1. TIME:

People won’t be a big deal to us if we don’t spend time with them.  Just like we can’t catch something contagious if we aren’t around someone who is sick , our faith won’t be contagious if we aren’t around others.  We love when we make time for those God puts on our paths.  You can invite someone along to coffee or to shop at Target, plan an activity together or simply pick up the phone and ask questions to find out how that person is doing.

2. WORDS:

Goff also says in his book that, ‘People don’t want to be told what they want. We need to tell them who they are!”  Those we come in contact with know who they are NOT but when we tell them who they ARE they will want to be around us!  Everyone is valuable to God, loved, precious, significant. When we affirm that in others, they experience love. When we believe what God tells us about ourselves, we are able to tell others what God says about them.

3. ACTIONS:

One of the best ways to show you love someone is to do something for them.  Maybe someone in your life just had a baby, and you could offer to babysit or bring a meal. Maybe they arrive at work early and you could drop off a coffee for them. Listen to what they say and you will know what they need.  Your action may open them up to the love of God!

Join me in making people a Big Deal and watch how our lives will become more rewarding and fulfilling!

XO,

Becky

Power and Love

I pray that from his glorious unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down in God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how log, how high and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  –Ephesians 3:16-20 NLT

Um, mic drop anyone? 

I was feeling overwhelmed the other day. I was deep in that tension of knowing who God is and yet looking around and trying to figure out which task I should start in that particular moment. Do you ever have that? You feel fine while you’re busy but then you have a space of time (and a list of BIG tasks- like finding a new home, preparing a home to sell, scheduling kids activities for the looming summer vacation, finding childcare for a ten day ministry trip, various projects overseeing a number of people etc.). I wasn’t sure what to do but I knew I couldn’t WASTE the time I was given. There is just so much to do! 

I started thinking about this verse and tried to encourage myself. I had a memory that the NKJV version says God is able to do “exceedingly, abundantly above” what we can do through “His mighty power that works within us.” I closed my eyes and thought, “okay, mighty Holy Spirit power, work! I need exceedingly, abundantly above, right now.” I felt like I needed to read the scripture, and so I went to my Bible app and looked it up. I read the whole chapter. I read it again in a different translation. I sat down in a quiet moment and asked Jesus to help me understand what it means. 

I wrote about Mary back in December, how she “treasured and pondered” the words that her son, Jesus, spoke to her. I wanted to treasure and ponder this scripture and understand it. Treasuring and pondering takes time and patience… I sat and I read it again and I began to write out what I thought it meant. In the scriptures before, Paul was talking about his life and the privilege of taking the message of Jesus to the gentiles (non-Jewish people). I just watched, “A.D. Kingdom and Power” on Netflix and the series illustrates the context of Paul’s experience from the book of Acts. Paul was preaching not just to a people from different culture from his own, but the oppressive ruling culture that was keeping the Jewish people under their thumb. American Christians often think of missions as going to people who have less money or resources than us. God sent Paul to a group of people who believed they were culturally superior to him, who had economic and political power over him. Basically, they were racist, classist and xenophobic but they were spiritually hungry and Jesus used Paul to meet their need for God. Wow! Paul would have had to understand this mighty power. He had to access it constantly. 

However, the thing that impacted me most about this passage is the source of the strength and power. When Christ lives in our hearts, it says our roots will grow down in God’s love and keep us strong. It’s the love of Jesus that nourishes the root system of our lives. Underneath everything we say and do that is visible to those around us is the root system that determines our strength and existence. A tree that has deep roots can stand for centuries while a tree with shallow roots can be easily knocked down. Our roots are sustained and strengthened by the love of God. 

In that moment, as I pondered, I remembered experiencing the love of God deeply, for the first time. As a twelve year old, I began to believe that God loves me, that He designed me and knows me uniquely, and that nothing can separate me from that love. I was changed in a million ways and am still becoming who I know He created me to be. At every moment of challenge, at feeling overwhelmed, I am reminded that it is His love that defines us. It is not our success, our own expectations, the opinions of people who give our lives value. In seasons of insecure adolescence, academic achievement, ministry fulfillment and challenge, marriage, motherhood, throughout my life it has always come back to His love. 

If you need this mighty power to accomplish something too big for you today, remember His love and let it surround you and bring you peace. Be defined by His love for you and believe that He decided you are worth the sacrifice of Jesus. He will make you complete with His love. 

XO

Bethany

Finding Rest

A WILD Devotional

Surrender is something that I think sounds easy to do at times, but can actually be very difficult. I’ve come across many areas in my life this week that I  realized I needed to surrender to God. I became keenly aware of my own “busy-ness.” I have a desire to love others and serve others, to help where help is needed and to constantly be growing. While these are all good things, they can quickly become dangerous things if we aren’t careful. I have a tendency to say yes to everything just because I know help is needed or because I’ll get the chance to love others. Sometimes I’m just striving to prove my love to God. However, I spend way too little time with myself and with God and way too little time resting. By not allowing myself this time and continuing to do things the  way I’m doing them now, I’ll eventually be running on empty, unable to give out anything, and that’s not beneficial to anyone.

God had completely wrecked my Tuesday morning in the very best way. In an inaudible voice, He told me that I needed to learn to accept the love and blessings He gives me, as a gift to be cherished for myself, not just something to be shown to others. He also spoke to me that I don’t need to  strive  because I already have his undivided attention and unconditional love available to me, whether I do anything or not.

Hebrews 4:9-10 talks about this, “So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world.” (NLT)

I’m so thankful to God for creating this rest and for Jesus who made a way for me to enter into this rest by dying on the cross. He’s made amends for my failures and promises to help me. Now I can serve and love from what I already have, not what I’m trying to achieve.

Hailey O BrienHalley O’Brien is a first year student at California Coast Bible College. She has a passion for people and a passion for music. Encouraging others and speaking into others is important to her because she loves to see people grow into their potential. She loves to be around her family and friends and enjoys frequent trips to Disneyland. In her spare time you may find her songwriting, snacking, or telling really corny jokes.

Coming Home

It might seem crazy to some to willingly pack up a 1 year-old in my 1st trimester of pregnancy and spend 2 hours in the car trekking across town just to spend a couple hours with a few, seemingly random, ladies, but that’s exactly what I found myself looking forward to every single week. Let me back up a bit. I had recently fallen head over heels in love with this amazing God-man named Jesus. I was a member of a wonderful church and I was devouring every teaching. I had at least 10 different versions of the bible and I was desperate to know every single thing about, and to spend every single moment soaking in, all that I could find out about this Jesus of mine. I was completely enthralled, and being an introvert by nature, I spent a season so fully satisfied with the Bible, books, songs, and quiet times (as much as I could fit with a 1 year-old anyways). I was so full of this new love that I couldn’t imagine needing anything else but Him.

But, SHIFT happens.

That amazing church I was going to at the time had well over 15,000 people attending on a weekly basis. It was genuinely difficult to connect with people on Sunday mornings, and for a long time I was ok with that, until I felt myself longing to know more about these people I would be doing life with…forever. That is what led me to stepping out of my comfort zone (#introvertsunite) and getting in the car. I found myself happily packing up diapers, toys, snacks, and all the things we would need to make this 2-hour roundtrip journey to find out what small group was all about.

That’s where I met Nicole.

I didn’t know what to expect when I rang her doorbell for the 1st time. I mean, this was a total stranger that I had found in the small groups section of the church website. The door opened and her vibrant energy preceded her. Nicole greeted me with a genuine smile and open arms; you would have thought we were long lost friends by the way she welcomed me in. There were a couple of other women at her home that day. All were equipped with stocked diaper bags for their little ones- we were all around the same age and in the same season of life. The next few months would bring us into close relationship as seeds were planted in our hearts, tears were shed, triumphs were celebrated, and obstacles were overcome- together! Nicole made her home a safe space for us. She invited us to dream. She sparked vision in our lives. She cultivated community. She was the most honest and authentic person I had ever met. This was small group, a place to feel welcome, to connect, and to grow. This was community.

I was intrigued and inspired.

I would soon go on to lead a small group. Nicole and the other women I met with became my support team.  We encouraged each other as most of us went on to cultivate and create these safe spaces of community for other women. These women became more than people I passed by on Sunday mornings. They became my friends.

They became my sisters.

Fast forward a couple of years (and a couple more children) later, and I found myself living in the suburbs of Los Angeles. It was a whirlwind cross country move that completely turned my world upside down in some ways, and right side up in others. I spent the first 2 years in L.A. desperately struggling to manage three children age three and under, trying to be a somewhat decent wife to my husband, battling and losing the fight with post-partum depression. My passion for my greatest love had only intensified in the storms of this season of my life. Jesus was my greatest strength and my ultimate comforter through all of the craziness, but I was not thriving. I was barely surviving. My wonderful husband was, and still is, amazingly understanding and compassionate. He gently nudged me to get out of my solitary space, my comfort zone, and meet new people. I found myself bottoming out after my 5th move in less than 5 years. I don’t know how I didn’t see it sooner, but I suddenly knew one thing for sure.

It was time to find community.

After much google searching and YouTube videos on churches in the area I found Pastor Jude Fouquier and The City Church. Up and dressed in our Sunday best we made a short drive to the Agoura campus to check it all out. Through the double doors someone nice pointed me to the children’s check in area. I swear the lady at the check-in table had a smile that lit up the whole lobby.  She was this beautiful blend of warmth and bubbles. There it was again, a genuine smile and open arms. She introduced me to her equally radiant red-headed friend and they promptly invited me to the moms’ city group that very week.

I went.

I’ll spare you all the details, but there were laughs, lots of tears (from me) and this overwhelming sense of love and belonging. I didn’t know these ladies at all, but in just a couple of weeks their prayers, encouragement, and support would completely alleviate the depression I had been fighting. I felt like the clouds parted, and once again I was surrounded with love from these wonderful ladies who were as in love with Jesus as I was. I had no idea that the bonds that I would form over the next year of meeting for city group would be some of the most encouraging, purpose driven, thought provoking, and inspiring connections I could have ever imagined.

Jesus knew.

I would have been completely content to just have Jesus. To be filled to the point of overflow with his love that he was so generously lavishing upon me. I had no idea that loving him meant there was more. Loving him granted me access to his amazing family. Loving him rsvp’d me to an eternal seat at the royal table. Loving Jesus gave me VIP access to those he loves with the same passionate intensity with which he loves me.

In the depths of his love for me I found family.

My heart has expanded in ways I never knew were possible. Innately, loving my husband and children is easy; they are mine and I am naturally invested in them. But, this new found ability to love and be love, to welcome, encourage, champion, and support people because of our common bond in love with Jesus is mind blowing. My small group leader in Atlanta would suddenly pass away not long after our move to Los Angeles, but she opened my heart to community, and I could never thank her enough. The lovely ladies from The city church moms’ group have become my forever friends, my sisters. My heart burst with passion for my Jesus, and because of Him I am excited to welcome any and all.

To pull out a seat at the table.

Where we are all connected.

Where we all belong.

 

Won’t you join us?

 

img_0064_0Linda Edwards is wife to Bernard and mother two three amazing children. She is passionate about seeing women discover their destiny in Jesus and connect in community. You can see her smiling face at the Agoura Campus of The City Church serving on the worship team, in City Kids and at her City Group.

Raising Kids

I can’t believe how fast time flies!  I just turned 53 in October and all three of my boys came for Thanksgiving with their amazing wives and my incredible grandson, Jack. We now have another grandson on the way, thanks to Jake and Nancy.  Their baby is due May 13th, two days after Jack’s 2nd birthday.  Oh does that bring back memories!  All three of my boys were born two years apart and boy was it a whirlwind!  One of the most memorable, overwhelming moments of being a mom was when my oldest son Jude was four, Jonathan was two and Jake was just an infant.  Jude was climbing on my back, Jon was pulling on my leg, Jake was wanting to nurse and my husband was wanting me in the bedroom (if you know what I mean ;).  I was thinking to myself, “Is my body not my own?”

I remember feeling so overwhelmed in this season of my life.  It could be so easy to just “get by,” on a daily basis but I had to stop and remind myself that this season would pass quickly. If I was going to be effective, I had to remember I was called by God to steward the lives of these three young men who had a purpose and a call before time began.  This became a reality to me when I was in the hospital right after I had my 2nd son, Jonathan.  I had this moment with God where He impressed on me this thought, “You don’t know who you have in this son, raise him well.”  Wow, it sobered me to think of the responsibility God graced me with to raise these young men of destiny.

If you are a parent, an aunt, a teacher, or even a friend to someone who has kids, you have the same privilege and opportunity to help nurture the destiny of a young human being with a divine purpose. If you are a mom, you don’t have to wonder if you have what it takes, God chose you to be the mother of that child and He will give you what you need to accomplish the task.

Every time I felt overwhelmed with the chaos of kids and wanted to react negatively toward them, I would remember this moment in the hospital.  Trust me, I needed that reminder because Jon was a very difficult, sensitive child that needed his mom to be patient with him.

The three boys are now all in the ministry with families of their own and doing well.  People often asked Jude and I how we raised three boys who love God, love His church and are doing what God called them to do. Like everything in life, we committed our children first to the Lord.

Proverbs 22:6 (TPT) was one of our guiding verses:

“Dedicate your children to God and point them in the way that they should go, and the values they learned from YOU will be with them for life.”

The Amplified version says;

“Train up a child in the way he should go (teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents}, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I believe these three keys can help you to be an effective parent:

  1. “Dedicate your child to God.”
  • This is not a one-time dedication, this is recognizing they are not our kids; they are God’s and we just have the privilege of being a picture of God to them!
  • Ask yourself, “Who would my child say God is by looking at my life on a daily basis?  Is he kind? Is he consistent? Is God attractive to my child?”
  1. “Point them in the way that they should go.”
  • We must teach our children that God is their source of wisdom and will. If they see us believing God, becoming who God calls us to be and building His kingdom, it will inspire faith in them.
  • One of my favorite thoughts from the recent parenting series is that our children are “seed full.”  They are full of potential that God has placed in them and our job is to help identify what is in them and help them nurture and begin to discover who they are and what God has called them to.  We water the seeds with our words and by teaching them to seek God for themselves.
  1. “The values they learn from you will be with them for life.”
  • Our children will not just learn from what we tell them but will learn more by how we live out our values.
  • The most effective thing you can do as a parent is to live what you want them to be! Live your life in such a contagious way that it would be hard for them to choose a less than satisfying life!

Trust me when I say, there are so many things I would have done differently as a parent. The next time I post on parenting I will tell you those things but today I pray that you will stop in the midst of day to day living and remember, you have been called and graced by God to parent your amazing children. We do our best to point them in the right direction, and even though the choice is ultimately theirs, we can trust our Heavenly Father to help us all along the way.

I believe in you!

XO

Becky