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

God First

A WILD Devotional

Every New Year, I make resolutions. This year I only made one, “Put God First in Everything I do!”

My family has been attending City Church since 2013. We loved our Sunday services, but our quality time with God was light throughout our week. Last year, a sweet friend started planting seeds, giving me desires to go deeper. My husband and I decided to do the “grow classes.” In the end, we were signed up as greeters. I was so nervous…but why? I love people! I love to smile and give compliments! This should have been so easy for me. When the enemy saw me putting God first, he planted fear and doubt in my mind, in an attempt to try and stop me. 

But no, this year was going to be different. I printed this verse, taped it to my bathroom mirror, and began reading it often:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

On March 4th 2018, my husband, son, daughter, and myself were baptized as a family. Gods plan was coming together. I joined a City Group and starting unlocking gifts I held inside of me. I was asked to do WILD, but I was still too nervous. I had commitments that conflicted, and decided I wasn’t going to take the class. God had other plans. In my group, a new friend mentioned she was trying to be intentional. She was working to quiet herself long enough to hear from God. I realized I wasn’t giving Him the time and attention He desired from me. The next day I read my Bible, sat quietly, and asked what He wanted from me, and there He was. He was so clear. He said, “take the WILD class.” He also told me not to worry. He was going to give me the peace I was always praying for. 

Prayer:

Lord, help us to always seek you. Help us to hear from you often, in whatever way you want to speak to us. Help us to be obedient, and to put you first. Thank you for the wonderful plans you have for every one of us!

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Marcella Berglund has been a wife to David for 16 years. She is a mom of two amazing kids. Her family started attending the City Church when her son started school at City Christian, during his 2nd grade year. He is now in 6th grade, and their daughter is in 1st. Marcella loves being a wife, mom and friend. She also loves cooking, baking and hosting people in her home. You can find her and her husband serving on the greeting team at the Ventura campus. 

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

By Faith She

The book of Hebrews is one of my favorites in the Bible. It was written to the Jewish people by an unknown author, explaining how Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of centuries of God’s promises to His people. One of my Bible college professors was convinced that it could have been written by Priscilla, Aquila’s wife who was a prominent figure in the early church. Whether he was correct in his belief, we won’t know until we get to eternity, but it’s always fun to remember that there were women, active in the early church, telling their own beautiful stories about Jesus.

As I began to pray about about the idea for this Beautiful Stories blog, which I believe to be a “God idea,” I was reminded of Hebrews, chapter 11, the Great Faith Chapter. In verse 2 (MSG paraphrase), the author of Hebrews describes faith, “By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.” Faith is what gives us a perspective of history, of this life and everything that it means beyond our physical senses. The author gives examples from Abel (Adam’s son) to King David (the author of the Psalms) of many “great faith” moments of the Old Testament. The incredible history lesson is summarized with these statements: 

“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again…

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours. (Hebrews 1132-35a, 39-40 MSG Paraphrase):

Their stories and my story are inseparable. I am undone by the fact that God’s work in history includes millions of people around the world over thousands of years and yet is not complete without me. We are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves! When I see my life in light of this greater perspective, I am inspired to live bigger, with greater passion to do everything God asks me to do. The author tells us how:

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Heb. 12:1-2 MSG Paraphrase)

Wow! That does shoot adrenaline into my soul! It makes me want to get to work encouraging others and telling people how good He is! It makes me want to say, “yes,” when I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to do something. Faith enables us to keep perspective of our story in the great context of His story, of His grace, of His love and His sacrifice for us. Our gaze is held steady on His face, knowing His gaze was steady on the joy of saving us even as He suffered a torturous crucifixion. We can walk confidently in the truth that this life is just a moment on the journey. We are indeed Heaven-bound, where every one of His promises will be perfectly fulfilled.

It is my desire that every post on this blog would be an extension of Hebrews chapter 11. I hope, as you read the stories here, you will believe that Jesus loved you so much that He died for you. I hope you will allow Him to transform you to become the person He created you to be. I hope that you will be reminded that you are not alone on your journey with Jesus, that you are surrounded by a great community of people who are being built together into a place where God lives. Paul describes it this way in Ephesians 2:19-22 (msg):

That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

So, welcome home! I can’t wait to hear your story.

Xoxo

Bethany

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Jesus Time

Have you ever heard someone say they were going to, “Spend time with the Lord”?  Am I the only one who has ever had a problem with that statement? I mean, what does that mean? What does that look like? How do you spend time with an invisible Being?

Years ago, I  moved to Seattle and started going to The City Church up there, I would hear people say that phrase, or something similar to it, all the time. I remember moving in with my best friend from church and she would often go to bed early so that she could spend time with the Lord in the morning. I wanted to know what it was all about. I mean, I was a Christian and it sounded like it was something I should be doing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely said my prayers before meals and before I went to bed. I kept a Bible by my bedside just in case I got an attack of insomnia and needed something to help me fall back to sleep. I had even read through a handful of Bible studies when I was younger (Daniel and Revelation… my mom is SUPER into end-times stuff), and I was a part of a small group. However, the concept of spending time with the Lord by myself, just because, was completely foreign to me.

Back then, I was involved in GC, the youth ministry. I went to my group leader, Ammie, for clarification. She was one who had mentioned spending time with the Lord on several occasions. The conversation went something like this:

“Hey, Ammie?”

“Yeah?”

“What are you guys talking about when you say you’re going to ‘spend time with the Lord’?”

“You mean my ‘Jesus Time’? It means I’m going to set time aside to be with the Lord.”

“Yeah, I get that, but what do you mean?”

“Well…I make God a priority by spending time with Him.”

“Uh-huh. But…” slightly exasperated, “What is it that you DO exactly when you ‘spend time with the Lord’? How can you spend time with God? He’s like, invisible.”

“Oh!” soft chuckle “Well, basically you pray, read the Bible, worship and just…talk to God.”

Now, for those of you who are like I was, this still sounded a little – I’m just going to say it – odd. I mean, aren’t pastors the ones who are supposed to spend hours praying and reading the Bible early in the morning? Like, isn’t that their job?

Anyhow, I decided to give it a try. I had a desire to be closer to God and to live my life the way I saw all of my new friends living, completely devoted to Him. So if this “Jesus Time” was going to do that, then I would give it a whirl.

Ammie gave me some advice based on biblical principles, like having ‘Jesus Time’ in the morning because it’s good to start your day out with Jesus. She also encouraged me to have a “prayer closet” or a special place where I could get away from all the craziness of my house and life. She told me that having worship music helped to set the atmosphere – luckily I had just downloaded the newest worship album onto my brand new video iPod! I set a timer for one hour, sat there in my room at 5-something in the morning, music quietly playing in the background. I closed my eyes and began to pray. When I opened my eyes to look at the clock, a whopping seven minutes had gone by.

“Are you for reals?” I asked out loud. How was I supposed to do this for an hour?!?!

Months passed and I kept plugging away at it. Sometimes I’d start with prayer, other times I’d start with reading the Bible, and still other times I would just sit and sing along with the worship. Ammie (the best group leader ever) would call me in the mornings at 5:00 to make sure I was up early enough to get my ‘Jesus Time’ in. I got into the habit. It became a routine. There were times I would make it the full hour and even times (though very few) that I felt like the Lord was with me and we were actually spending time together. But, if I can just be real with you… for the most part…it was rough. It wasn’t enjoyable. I certainly didn’t look forward to it. And I really didn’t feel like I was growing closer to the Lord.

Fast forward years later. Yes, you read that correctly, years. I moved to California and for almost two years, was still going through the same routine. Although, admittedly, the routine was pretty sparse. One Saturday, after a week or so of being out of the habit, I decided I was going to have some ‘Jesus Time’. So I put on my worship playlist, got out my Bible, shut my door, and began to pray (I had stopped using the timer by this time because…why? Plus it was Saturday and I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be).

As I started going through the motions, something different happened…the Lord spoke to me! It wasn’t audible, but it was very clear in my spirit that this was the voice of the Lord. It wasn’t rough or harsh. No. The best way I can describe it is, friendly. In a very friendly tone, the Holy Spirit asked me a simple question, “Do you like this song?”

I stopped in the middle of my prayer list. “Huh?” I asked.

“This worship song that you are listening to right now, do you even like it?”

I stopped to listen. It was a popular song by a popular worship band. A song we had sung close to a million times before and one I wasn’t particularly fond of. I knew that God already knew the answer, so it was pointless to pretend, “Uh…no. I don’t really like this song at all.” I admitted.

“Well, change it.”

“What?”

“Change it. Put on something you like. And it doesn’t have to be worship.”

Oh. Em Geee, you guys. You have no idea what freedom and joy came with that one simple statement. It was like the Lord had lifted the weight of conformity and rigidity off of me. Of course I knew whatever music I picked had to be something that would keep me in the right mindset, so my gangsta rap playlist was out (just kidding, I don’t have a gangsta rap playlist…well I do, but it’s just the beats – no words). I’d recently started enjoying Americana, folky, jazzy bluegrass, and had a playlist full of decadent instrumentals that I loved to listen to. I put on my favorite song from that playlist and just sat there.

It was like a floodgate opened. I felt the Presence of God so greatly that I laughed, cried, got on my knees, and danced all at the same time. In that moment, God gave me a vision of us together (me as His daughter and He as my Father) that was so sweet and real I am sure we will replay it for real when I get to Heaven.  By the end of the song, I was so full and overcome by joy, I could barely move. I just remember saying, “I don’t want this to end! I don’t want this to end!” I spent the rest of my morning (yes, OVER an hour) just soaking in the Presence of God. I read my Bible, I sang songs, I talked to God and experienced  moments of intense humility and even greater joy!

At the end, the Lord spoke to me. He said, “Shaleta, when you spend time with Me, I want you to WANT to spend time with me! I want you to enjoy the time we have together! I want to hear your heart and I want you to hear Mine. That’s not going to happen if you’re just going through the motions of something you feel you’re supposed to do. I want you to be with me, not because you have to, but because you want to.”

Looking back on that day, my heart races a little bit and I get chill bumps. I had longed for the kind of connection with God that my friends had and when I finally opened up to the Lord and let go of routine and schedule, it was far better than I could have ever dreamed or imagined.

I am grateful for my friend, Ammie who taught me some great principles, like praying before my day begins and having a quiet place where I can feel free to pour out my heart to God. I am even more thankful for my best friend, The Holy Spirit, who led me to a freedom in my relationship with Jesus that I never knew was imaginable.

So for anyone who wants to experience this amazing, wonderful, ridiculously great relationship, I hope you are compelled to go and seek it out! And for those of you who have tried or are still trying but feel like you’re just going through the motions, be honest with the Lord. He is so faithful and GOOD. Maybe you need to change something up. Not big on talking? Try journaling. Can’t find a quiet space in your house? Try going for a walk. Work the early shift? Try driving down to the beach and spending time with Jesus as the sun sets.
Whatever you do, be honest and open to God. He sent His own son to die on the cross so that we could have access to knowing Him in a real and powerful way. He can and will use any opportunity you offer to speak with you.t He wants to! Be real and get ready for the best, most exciting relationship you will ever have!

XO Shaleta

Shaleta Chatman is an elementary school teacher, currently student teaching and working on her master’s degree. She taught the third grade class at City Christian School for many years and has been an active leader at The City Church since the beginning. Shaleta’s passionate about writing and serves on the Beautiful Stories editorial team. She also likes to make us all laugh at every Beautiful women’s event.

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