Thanksgiving Blessings

rbtc-sealThanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

It’s a great time to reflect on the blessings of being in Christ—He’s given us everything!—and to recall all the ways His hand is moving in our lives.

Did I mention that turkey and dressing is one of my most favorite meals?

There’s nothing like a good pan of dressing (or stuffing as it is known by my friends above the Mason-Dixon Line) to make the heart happy.

And while I am thrilled that my family is invading Broken Arrow to visit me, I was reminded that many of my fellow Rhema classmates will not be sitting around the dinner table with their natural family.

The good news, though, is that no one will be alone because the Rhema family is huge—and worldwide!

Many graduates add extra dinner plates to their tables.

Many current students bring a passel of people home with them for the week.

I’m reminded of the words of Jesus in Mark 10:29-30:

Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.

I am so thankful for the friendships that are burgeoning this school year!

My more extroverted personality makes me a social butterfly, so leaving the place where my roots run deepest was a challenge for me.

Jesus’ promise, however, remains a source of constant comfort and encouragement.

I have sat around numerous tables with new friends, both students and alumni, since moving to Oklahoma. Every single person has told me the same thing:

If you ever need anything—and I mean anything—do not hesitate to call.

This one statement illustrates the Rhema family at its best. And it’s one of the many reasons I give thanks for Rhema Bible Training College.

Ordinary Hamburgers

 “This is just an ordinary hamburger. Is that okay with you?” 

I was invited to eat lunch with a few friends and they were bringing the food.

“Of course, I love ordinary hamburgers–I love all hamburgers!” 

And it’s true. I was not lying to my friends, blowing happiness and sunshine their way to be nice.

Ask anyone who knows me well: I’ve never met a hamburger that I haven’t liked. If I had to choose between a salad and a hamburger, a hamburger will win every time.

What got me thinking was the phrase “ordinary hamburger.”

My friends and I had a great conversation over ordinary hamburgers.

I loved every minute of it because I was secretly thrilled to be invited to eat an ordinary hamburger on an ordinary day for the sake of connecting with someone else.

I am a big fan of ordinary. 

If I had to choose between big, magical, once-in-a-lifetime moments and small, ordinary, yet repeatable moments, that choice is a no brainer to me. Ordinary wins every time.

Because 95% of life is ordinary. Chasing the extraordinary 5% is costing us big time. 

So, please, invite someone over for an ordinary experience, like coffee or dinner, and have some fun!

Because we’re family

The Kingdom of God is an upside down Kingdom from beginning to end.

And I struggle as a young person to wrap my head around these upside down commands because nothing about our world is about putting others first.

The worlds says, “Me first!” and the Kingdom says, “Me last!” 

Check out Romans 12:10 in these 3 translations:

NLT: Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

ERV: Love each other in a way that makes you feel close like brothers and sisters. And give each other more honor than you give yourself.

MSG: Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

We are to love everyone like they are our brothers and sisters. This makes sense when you think about it because there are only two types of people in the world: Those who are already our family in Christ and those we want to see become our family in Christ.

My favorite verse is 2 Corinthians 5:16. 

 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!

Evangelism is not about us versus them. Outreach is not about being a bully and forcing Jesus down someone’s throat.

I can’t get away from these thoughts…

I am not sharing the gospel to get ahead.

I am not seeking a platform to build “my ministry.”

 Evangelism has absolutely NOTHING to do with my advancement and absolutely EVERYTHING to do with showing someone else the path to redemption. 

The path of humility is all about taking jealousy and the need to get ahead off the table.

We’re on this journey together.

We’re growing together.

We’re serving together.

You’re not more important than me and I’m not more important than you because we’re family. 

 

 

 

Just keep asking

“I’m just going to keep asking if I can help. Who knows? One day the answer might be yes.”

After the Boiler Room I was teasing one of my friends–a mom with two young kids–about her not accepting my requests to help ferry things to her car. 

She’s never really needed my help because her husband is great at taking care of that kind of stuff–which is awesome btw. 

It got me to thinking…

There’s nothing wrong with sticking your neck out after being turned down by whoever you’re trying to help. 

Just keep asking. 

Just keep being a friend. 

I truly believe that’s one of the biggest reasons most Christians aren’t making disciples like we should be. 

Most of us give up way too fast on people. 

Most of us have bought into the lie of microwave evangelism when evangelism and discipleship is more akin to a crock pot. 

It takes time. 

I’ve spent a lot of time in different communities where trust is everything. 

You have to show up and keep your word. When you don’t, you better fess up fast because the people can smell a phony a mile away. 

This kind of intentional lifestyle of service is refining; think about it like sand paper that takes off the rough edges. It demands absolute sincerity. 

And it’s truly the most worthwhile way to live. 

I am a better person and Jesus follower because of this demand to slow down, to take off my mask. 

Going back to what I said earlier, never stop asking how you can help. 

Being available to serve is a foundational teaching within the gospel. If Jesus’ mission was to serve and not to be served, then that’s our mission too. 

Be unrelenting in your pursuit to help, to pray, to encourage. 

You might get turned down 9 times out of 10. 

You might get cussed out. 

You might be misunderstood. 

Just keep asking. 

Because your quest to serve will provide opportunities to share the love of Christ in ways you could never orchestrate on your own. 

Lessons from Finding Dory

Finding Dory was awesome!

This is one of the few times when I think the sequel is better than the original. 

The journey of Dory, Nemo, Marlin, and the gang was quite epic. 

I knew it would have a happy ending, but Finding Dory really stuck the ending–I didn’t see it happening that way!

Plus, it tied in really nicely with Finding Nemo. I loved how Pixar weaved the two stories together. 

Here’s some of the lessons I learned from Finding Dory:

  • Family is #1
  • Life lessons are truly unforgettable and will always guide you to make the right decisions
  • Always be yourself 
  • Don’t say things you don’t mean
  • Just keep swimming (couldn’t resist!)

Go watch the movie. It’s super cute. 

Momentary Challenges

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to talk with my family and friends a bit more than I was during the school year. 

Technology makes it easy to stay in touch. Thanks to Facebook, email, text, and FaceTime living so far away is much more bearable. 

Honestly, I have struggled with a touch of homesickness the last week. 

I know that Rhema is where I’m supposed to be, but these feelings can creep up faster than you realize. 

Reminding myself what this season is all about–following the Holy Spirit–is why I chose to move away. 

This is something I needed and wanted to do. 

And while I do miss my family and friends, I know that they are supportive of my desire to follow God. 

I’ve come face to face with homesickness ( and I’m sure this won’t be the last time).

I’m also living in such a sweet season of blessing. 

The amount of stuff I’m learning at school and in ministry service is more than I ever imagined.

It makes these momentary challenges worth it. 

Game Night

Here is a great recipe for fun:

  • Friends
  • Dr. Pepper
  • BLTs
  • Clue

Granted, I’m not the greatest at Clue, but it was fun to hang out. 

We laughed a lot. 

We munched on barbecue chips (solving murders makes you hungry.)

Friendship is awesome. 

Now I’m headed towards bed because it’s after midnight and I desperately want to finish the last 4-5 chapters of my novel.

A Moment of Silence

Since when did complete agreement become the goal? 

I’ve listened to the news quite a bit since the Orlando massacre and the amount of political talk and civil rights talk and gun rights talk is nauseating.

What about just being sad for 5 minutes before we launch into “These are the issues we need to address”?  

Which, by the way, is what everyone says EVERY SINGLE TIME after a tragedy of this magnitude.

Here’s what I want to say: Everyone, shut your mouth. 

This is not the time to start a conversation about gun control.

This is not the time to start a conversation about conservatives vs. liberals.

This is not the time for Christians and the LGBTQ community to stand off nose to nose.

This is not the time to pick a part Islam.

I just want everyone to please be quiet. 

There are 49 families who are mourning. Their son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father, lover was killed.

If you can’t think of a kind, compassionate thing to say, please shut up. 

We can riot in the streets later.

We can debate for hours later.

I am sad about this senseless loss of life. None of those victims set out thinking, This is it, my last day on earth.” They were just out having fun (albeit at a later hour than I like to be out) on a Saturday night. 

Please pray for the families. There are some hard days ahead.

Pray for ways you can show kindness and compassion to those around you–no matter how different they are. 

Pray for strength and wisdom on how we should all properly respond to this tragedy.

But for now, I think we all need to take a breath and just sit in this space for a minute. Let’s take a few moments to grieve before responding rashly. 

 

Reading and Hope

There’s a little girl who comes to Thursday Night Lights who has captured my heart. 

We’ve talked about Joan before (I’ve changed her name) but seeing her this week gave me an idea…

She’s out of school for the summer, so I know Joan spends most of her time alone. 

Several weeks ago, I was given some books by a friend who moved back to Shreveport, Louisiana. Many of them were young adult fiction books. 

I asked Joan if she likes to read and she does! Next Thursday I’m bringing her a few books. 

Joan’s 11, which is around the time my own love of reading took off. I bet Joan will have the same experience. 

No matter how bleak the circumstances, the settings of a good book draw you in.

 I’m not recommending reading as a method of escapism, but more as a method of seeing that there’s a world beyond your circumstances. 

Imagination is a powerful force. 

My hope for Joan is that she doesn’t look at her circumstances and think, “This is it.”

Obviously, a relationship with Jesus is what Joan really needs. And I plan on talking with her more about that. 

I just remember how much reading impacted my life as a child. 

If you live in the Tulsa area and have some books you’d like to see go to a good cause, I have some friends who would greatly appreciate your generosity. 

A standard of grace

The line between business and customer, ministry and church member, can get blurry pretty fast. 

You can NEVER forget that numbers, statistics–the bottom line–represents a person.

Whenever I get frustrated, this is what comes back to me. 

You’re talking about a person, Audra, take a chill pill! 

Whatever problem I face (real or perceived) can be traced back to a real life person. A person with their own personality, flaws, interests, hurts, hopes, and dreams. 

He or she also has a list of problems….

A little grace can go a long, long way. And here’s another thing to consider: 

Most of the problems I face can be traced right back to me. Did I mention that I am not good at giving grace to myself?

About that….

Don’t forget about extending a little grace towards yourself. We all make mistakes. It happens. 

Let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with having a bottom line, a set standard to aim for.

Just be sure that the standard you set doesn’t become more important than the people you serve and live/work with. 

I’m finding that having grace as my standard is the best way to go. It keeps everything in perspective.