Saturday, May 27, 2017

It’s Just a Phase

by Sylvia Gaston

If you are raising kids, or have raised kids, you know that there are distinct phases of their lives that present their own joys and challenges.

Infants bring indescribable love as well as sleep deprivation like you’ve never, ever known.

Toddlers are on the go and exploring everything around them. But this can also be when a defiant human emerges.

Preschoolers are fiercely independent and curious-er and curious-er.

Elementary – I call this the sweet spot………they still like you and are self-sufficient enough to make life just a little bit easier.

How about them Junior High and High schoolers? Hang on, parents, it’s about to get bumpy - for them and for you.

Emerging Adulthood is a whole new ball game and each child and their situation looks a little different. Parents are still vital in their lives as they explore their next steps.

Adult Children – who knew we would still do important parenting stuff through this stage, too?

Each of these phases brings the highest highs and desperate lows. No handbook, no way to prepare for the unknown, and no two kids are alike. What worked for one, is a complete fail with the other.

I remember waiting with great anticipation for the next phase, focusing on the difficulties of the current one. I thought, “If I can just make it through night feedings (or diapers, or chasing, rescuing, puberty, peer pressure, dating, you fill in the _______________), the next phase is sure to be easier.”


 Why did I ever think that? Each phase came with it’s own NEW set of challenges and struggles.

Luckily I realized early on, if I was always in a rush and looking to the next phase I would miss the beauty of the current phase. So I developed a personal habit of clicking “Kodak moments” in my head. I captured in my mind, if not on camera, the sweet moments that I never wanted to forget – the delight of each of my babies at their respective phase of life.

I created mental memory books of Bryan, Justus, Mackenzie and Seth – as well as the other children that God brought into our lives. Those kids that hung around ours, spent time at our house, and became “our” kids too – in our hearts.

Special events…*click*. Family moments…*click*. Laughter, accomplishments, struggles…*click*, *click*, *click* - our Kodak moments.

And, oh the struggles! What family doesn’t or hasn’t had them? Don’t believe your social media feed. We all present to the world the best of our family. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I, personally, think it’s OK to use social media as a personal parent brag book. But I do not fool myself into thinking that it is the whole picture of ANY family – including mine.

So what did my dear husband and I do to survive the struggles that each phase brought? We hit our knees! (Well, not really – I actually only occasionally pray on my knees J) But, PRAY, we did! And, DO!

I’ve said it before…who can survive marriage, parenthood, or life without God? I pray to the One who knows all, sees all, and still loves us all. Without Him, I would have given up long ago.

Even now, with my children in high school, emerging adulthood, and adulthood – I know that I still have much to survive (!) and much to offer them. I can’t do either of those things very well without God.

So, I pray. I confide in, cry to, seek wisdom and advice from God in Heaven who loves my kids, and the phase they’re in, even more than I do.

The Bible says, “We do not know what to do but we are looking to You for help.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

Remember, they’re just phases…but they last our entire lifetime. Don’t try to do it alone.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Stand Your Ground

by Tim Howard

Everyone is tempted! That’s one thing all of us have in common! 

The correct question isn’t – Are we tempted – but how does a person deal with temptation? Do you say YES and yield to the strong desire within or say NO and stand your ground?

The answer you give will affect your future in a variety of ways.

C. S. Lewis made these insightful observations about temptation: “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. That is an obvious lie. But only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is... Christ, because He was the only Man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only Man who knows to the full what temptation means.”

According to the dictionary, temptation is the act of enticement with the purpose of causing you to do something wrong or unprofitable by promising something positive.  

Temptation motivates you to do bad by promising you something good. According to the Bible, every temptation that seeks to entice and entrap mankind is designed for ignoble purposes. It is very important that we learn to say NO when temptation comes our way.

Adam and Eve were tempted to disobey God in the Garden of Eden and set up his and her own autonomy. Guess what? They yielded to the voice of temptation by saying YES and suffered long lasting ramifications. Their disobedience ultimately resulted in death and a whole lot of pain throughout their lives.

Yielding to temptation will cost you! It will distance you from God, distract you from the goal He has designed for you and erode away the very integrity of your lives.

An article in Discipleship Journal recorded a top-ten temptation list that affects most people. They were tempted to be greedy rather than giving; Selfish rather than selfless; Lazy and not productive; Apathetic rather than caring! And let’s not forget the temptation to take the easy road rather than the right road when things get difficult. Gluttony, envy, lying and sexual lust also ranked in the top ten.

What temptations are you facing right now? Have you been sober for a few months but things aren’t going so well and a drink sounds pretty good? Are you in a marriage that doesn’t seem to meet your needs and you’re tempted to seek out another relationship? Possibly you have been caught for doing something wrong and lying seems to be the best scenario.

Whatever the temptation you’re facing, please hear the good news that’s recorded in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

“ … temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.”

There is a way out for those who seek God’s best. Growth cannot happen without encountering temptation but if you are to succeed you must learn to stand your ground. The two-letter word NO may sound negative in our English vocabulary but it will produce positive, long-lasting results when used in connection with temptation. It will be the most positive thing you can say in the midst of any enticement to do wrong.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Finding Healing

by Candace Cortez

I remember about a year ago, sitting at a Christian worship conference and listening to a known, followed, and respected pastor speak candidly about his mental breakdown the year prior. I remember sitting there in tears, so thankful for his willingness to demonstrate that mental health issues, anxiety and depression are not absent within our church walls. It is scary as a leader to admit that you are struggling. It’s even scarier to admit that you needed more than prayer to get you through your dark time. But for most people, this is truth. 

Recently a series came out on Netflix called “13 Reasons Why” which has caused a lot of talk (some may say controversy) over the explicit nature in which the series displays suicide. The show follows the story of a girl in high school named Hannah who ends her own life after many instances of bullying, sexual molestation, and situational tragedies. She then depicts her process of choosing suicide and the 13 people who were involved in pushing her towards her sad end. 

I’ve watched the series and as a youth pastor I am encouraging parents with teenage students to also watch the show, ESPECIALLY if their student is already watching. I do not however, encourage young students to watch. The show has earned its rating of TV-MA for its language, drugs and underage drinking, multiple rapes, nudity, violence, and a graphic and very realistic suicide scene. 

Now that that disclaimer is out of the way, I can write about what I actually want to focus on: healing. 

The Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why has brought suicide prevention to the table in a way that is being heard and received by so many. I do not believe the Church can sit this one out. We need to be in the conversation. Why? Not to gain momentum on another social platform. Not to gain favor in the eyes of the community. Not to prove that Christianity is the best way. But because love heals, and God is love. 

I believe faith is not the absence of awareness. Yes, we can pray. But we are not limited to just praying. We can do more. 

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of prayer, and that God hears when I talk to Him. But I also know He has not limited His process of healing to that one mode. As the church, we can be a part of opening the door to the several different avenues that healings manifest themselves. 

God can and does heal brokenness. Sometimes it’s the unexplainable type of healing. Sometimes healing comes through close friendship and intimacy with another of God’s creation. (I believe friendship is such a miraculous gift!) Sometimes healing comes from medicine. Sometimes healing comes from wise counsel. 

It’s ok to get help. It’s ok to seek treatment. It’s ok to pray. It’s to ask God for healing while also taking medication. 

As Christians, we need to be sensitive to the role we play in bringing light to the dark hours of the people within our circle of influence. Here are 3 simple ways we can begin to increase our sensitivity to those around us who may be struggling, so we can step in and take their hand for this journey towards health and healing. 
  1.  Pay attention! God gives the gift of discernment to see through the faces people wear when they are in public. Most people will give signs that they are struggling. Some common signs are substance abuse, social withdrawal, extreme emotional responses (either too much or too little), sudden changes in appearances or hygiene habits and excessive internet use. 
  2. Ask the question. It’s ok to ask one more question than “hey how are you?” It’s very easy to say ok and force the conversation to move on. Being in community with people means getting past the pleasantries and growing an interest for knowing others well. Especially if you suspect someone is struggling, ask and keep asking to create that open door for someone to reach out. 
  3.  Know that you are not alone. You absolutely should be praying for those who are struggling around you. A lot of people who are going through darkness will need professional help. Most people will need more than one person to be in their corner. You are a great start, but should not try to carry the burden of walking alongside someone alone. 
If you are struggling today, I am praying for you. I pray that you know the church is available to you. You don’t have to be “whole” to walk through those doors, because none of us are. We do not have all the answers, but we for sure know the One who does. 
  •   National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (
  •   Suicide Prevention Resource Center (
  •   American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (
  •   American Association of Suicidology (
Candace Cortez is the Youth Pastor at Koinonia Church. Any comments can be sent to:

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Get Your Mind Right

by Andrew Cromwell

Life is frustrating. Just about the time things appear to be in order, something goes wrong. Often it seems as if all we do is crisis management, running from one fire to the next, just trying to keep our head above the water. And then when everything is going smoothly, we start to worry because we know something is about to go wrong. So even the enjoyment of these moments is robbed from us.

If this describes your situation, then I have a suggestion. Instead of worrying about what could go wrong and instead of being overwhelmed by the impossible task of trying to fix and control everything in your life, give that up. Seriously. Stop trying to fix and control the things that you can’t.

We don’t like this suggestion because we generally prefer to live in the fantasy where we are able to control and carry everything. We tell ourselves that if we just keep moving, keep talking, keep working, and keep fixing, then things won’t fall apart. But we need to remember that very often we are just afraid of being still as we obsessively nag and manipulate those around us in order to create the world that we want.

Sorry if I stepped on your toes there.

So stop focusing on the things that you can’t control in the first place. Stop worrying about all the stuff you can’t even do anything about. The Bible’s advice is to take the things you are worried about and turn them into prayers and God will give you peace in exchange for anxiety:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:6-7

Instead of focusing on things you can’t do, focus on the things you can do! We often ignore the things we actually can do, failing to realize the incredible power these things have. Instead of worrying about whether or not you are going to lose your job and being paralyzed by it, you can talk to your boss, show up earlier and work your hardest. Instead of worrying about your marriage or your relationship with your kids, you can plan a date, write a note, or do something special for them. And instead of wishing things were different so you could finally do “x”, maybe it’s time do actually do something about it.

Above all, we should never think prayer is not doing something. Very often prayer is exactly the thing we need to do, but because prayer involves us slowing down and talking to God, we feel like it doesn’t really “do” anything. Prayer has the power to change both us and the situation. It is the process of inviting the supernatural into the natural.

We should never underestimate that.