Outpour Magazine - Dec. 2020 Issue

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Encouraging Every Day People To Live For Christ OUTPOUR MAGAZINE


OUTPOUR MAGAZINE FOUNDER/EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Krystion Nelson COPY EDITOR Bryndle Bottoms CONTENT EDITOR Joy Shamberger CREATIVE DESIGN EDITOR Donald Currie, 12/24 Media FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHER Donald Currie, 12/24 Media

THEOLOGY EDITOR Ronald Obie SOCIAL MEDIA GRAPHICS Justice Zimmerman Dec. 2020 CONTRIBUTORS Crystal Currie Leslie Moore Traci McCombs Hannah Bemis Mareshah Miller

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FEATURE MAKEUP ARTISTRY Tavia Jackson, Tavia J Beauty

Published by Issuu Inc. Cover/Article pictures: Envato Elements/Canva CONTACT info@outpourmagazine.com Outpour Magazine, Dec. 2020 (c) All rights reserved. Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible.

*Please do not republish, copy, or reproduce magazine pages without written permission.

**Disclaimer: All Advertisers featured in this issue agreed to abide by OM’s Statement of Faith and to maintain biblical, ethical and moral standards. However, OM is not responsible for services and/or products provided by advertisers, and their placement in our magazine does not equal to an endorsement or full alignment of their church, event, products or business practices.


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Letter from Editor Krystion Nelson Founder & Editorial Director

I love this song. It reminds me of wonderful Christmas memories - from singing carols to putting up the Christmas tree to drinking hot chocolate by the fireplace. And yet Christmas, like everything else this year, will look a bit different. Many will not travel to see loved ones or be able to spend as much on gifts and holiday decorations. But regardless of our situation or how we may feel, Christmas is on its way.

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"Joy to the world, the Lord is come Let earth receive her King Let every heart prepare Him room And Heaven and nature sing And Heaven and nature sing And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing!"

And despite our circumstances, we know that God’s love remains. On Christmas especially, we see this tangible love through the birth of His one and only Son Jesus. Luke 2:11 KJV reminds us that we can fix our eyes on the real reason for the season: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” In this month’s issue, we invite you to meet a beautiful and loving family (page 16); recognize Jesus in an unrecognizable world (page 10); and keep Christ as the cornerstone in your marriage (page 12). Also learn more about why you should stay merry this Christmas (page 23), God’s unstoppable love (page 32), and your identity in Christ Jesus (page 31). And lastly, meet Pastor Kate Murphy of The Grove Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC (page 26).

Let us take comfort this holiday season knowing that we can celebrate the birth of Jesus our Savior. And please don’t forget to subscribe to our FREE magazine at outpourmagazine.com and share as a free gift with your family and friends this holiday season. And we’d love to hear from you! How are you celebrating the holidays? Contact us and send us prayer requests at info@outpourmagazine.com. We love you and are praying for you! God Bless!

*Follow us on IG @outpourmag for more daily encouragement and inspiration!


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Contributors Hannah Bemis

Le s l i e M o o re

Hannah invite s us to re cognize Jesus - as Savior, Lord and King - in an unrecognizable world. She is a licensed pastor and lives with her family in Spokane, Washington.

Le slie re minds us that Christ should re main the corne rstone in our marriage . She live s in Charlott e , NC and att e nds Transformation Church.


Full of Joy this Holiday Season Meet the writers of this issue Want to become a contributor? Visit us at w w w.outpourmagazine.com

C r ys t a l Cu r r i e

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Mare shah share s the love of Christ and shows how we too can be love agents in this world. She live s in Orlando, FL and atte nds City of Life Church.

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Traci e ncourage s us to remain merry this Christmas, de spite our circumstance s, by going be yond the Nativity of Je sus and e mbracing His entire life. She lives with her family in Stuttgart, Germany .

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we are in Christ and how to find comfort in knowing we we re made in God's image . She lives in Charlotte, NC and attends Have Life Church.

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Crystal helps us examine who

Traci M c Co m b s

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Contents 32

FAMILY FEATURE STORY PASTOR SPOTLIGHT

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THE CHRISTIAN BOOKSHELF EDITOR’S LETTER

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MARRIAGE: CHRIST AS THE CORNERSTONE

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UNSTOPPABLE LOVE

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Pastor Spotlight

Meet Rev. Kate Murphy from The Grove Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC.

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Be Merry This Christmas

Learn how we can be merry this Christmas, even when it's hard, by focusing on the life of Jesus Christ.

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Family Feature: Stennis Family

Meet Carlos, Tikelia and their three beautiful kids. They sat down with us to talk about their faith in God and how they model Christ in their home every day. SUBSCRIBE AT OUTPOURMAGAZINE.COM


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RECOGNIZING JESUS IN AN U NRECOGNIZABLE WORLD By Hannah Bemis

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“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5 NIV)

We’ve all known it for a while, so I’m just going to put it out there — this Christmas will almost certainly be unlike any other we’ve experienced. Sure, some things will remain the same: colder weather, holiday-themed drinks, festive decorations, Christmas carols, and hopefully an increased spirit of love and generosity. But the world we are wrapping in icicle Christmas lights and pine-scented garlands is unrecognizable from the one we lived in a year ago. Underneath this year’s Christmas cheer is a world still reeling. We’re staggering under the weight of a global health crisis, a struggling economy, joblessness, and social and political turmoil; we are riddled with more anxiety and insecurity than most of us have ever known. And yet…it’s Christmas. In the midst of an unfaithful and unpredictable world, Christmas has arrived faithfully and predictably. However, I find myself wondering: will we still recognize Jesus in the unrecognizable world we’re living in? The world Jesus was born into was also unrecognizable to its inhabitants. The people of Israel were under foreign and oppressive Roman

rule and the nation of Israel was rupturing, bitterly divided into four main groups that fought to lead the people in different ways. At the same time, Samaritans and Jews continued to scorn and avoid one another as they had for generations. Both racial and political tension were woven into the fabric of everyday life. And no wonder things were tense: there had not been a fresh Word of God heard or spoken in Israel for four hundred years. Jewish scholars, having read about the powerful and present God of their ancestors, must have looked at their surroundings and been like, “What!?” Isaiah wrote that Christ, the “great light,” would enter a world enveloped in darkness (Is. 9:1-7). Depending on the translation, the prophecy describes the world at Christ’s arrival as “a land of deep shadows” (Is. 9:2-7 MSG) or “the land of the shadow of death” (Is. 9:2 KJV). Sounds kind of familiar, right? Sounds a little like my world right now. In the past few months I’ve had to work harder — maybe more than ever before — to find glimpses of light amidst the shadows of the culture surrounding me. On some days I fall into bed feeling battered, having been struck


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"These two recognized the form of their Savior because they had remained intimate with God. As the world had grown darker, their relationship with the Lord had grown closer."

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May we be given eyes to see Jesus and by God’s grace, may we know His form in this very dark world. Because the truth is, His light is all around us.

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repeatedly by another crushing news report, the bitter edge to my social media feed, the friend being tested for COVID, and the strife in my own family as we struggle to maintain a peaceful home despite the stress of an entirely virtual work and school life. Some days I just feel numb. Like the Jewish scholars of Jesus’ day, I’m looking around and thinking, “What!?” Where is this Prince of Peace we’ve been promised? Where is the light? And yet, the light was coming. The light that would pierce the darkness was on His way that Christmas… It’s interesting to see how few people recognized the child Jesus as the Savior they’d been waiting for. Apart from Jesus’ parents, there were a few local shepherds, a few Eastern wise men, and two Jewish senior citizens. This faithful bunch, similar in size to a book club or a church small group, are the only ones who acknowledged Jesus’ identity in their dark world. The wise men were given a sign in the stars that pointed to Jesus, and the shepherds were given a heavenly concert by angels that laid out the truth. Similarly, Simeon and Anna, two elderly faithful Jews, had been watching and waiting their whole lives for their Savior (see Luke 2:25-38). They didn't see the star and they didn't see the angels, so how did they know? We're told that the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon (Luke 2:26) and that Anna "never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying" (Luke 2:37 NIV). These two recognized the form of their Savior because they had remained intimate with God. As the world had grown darker, their relationship with the Lord had grown closer. Because they were well acquainted with God, they recognized His image in the tiny human before them. We know that sin has muddied our reflection of Jesus but it’s still there, underneath the shadows. This season, may we maintain our intimacy with the One we love.

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Hannah Bemis lives in Spokane, Washington, with her husband, Jordan, and their three children. She has a BA in Christian Counseling, an MA in Teaching, and is a licensed pastor. She is passionate about teaching others how to find God in the chaotic and mundane moments of everyday life. Her writing captures how God can use our darkest moments to pull us into the light of who we truly are. Hannah’s work has been featured in a number of publications, including Charisma magazine and The Message magazine. You can follow her on Facebook (@ hannahjoybemis) and Instagram (@hannahbemis).

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Marriage: Christ as the Cornerstone

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by Leslie Moore At the age of 18, I met Anthony Moore at Clark Atlanta University in October 2007 through a mutual friend our first year of college. Over summer break of 2008, we reconnected, began to date, and built a solid friendship, which eventually turned into a relationship. But we struggled in the beginning. We each brought our insecurities and immaturity into this new relationship, yet maintained hopeful and dreamed of its potential. Then after 7 years of dating, Anthony asked for my hand in marriage; and we jumped the broom in 2017. We’ve all heard the saying marriage is hard. But how can anything be hard when I am spending the rest of my life with the love of my life? I’ve always had a vivid imagination and as a little girl I knew I wanted to be married. I knew my wedding colors and cake designs; I had it all planned. So when the groom came, I was still focused on the dream wedding and not the marriage. In my dreams I saw a picture-perfect marriage. However, there is no perfect marriage; but you can create a healthy marriage with Christ as the cornerstone. We came into the marriage with expectations of who we thought we would be and what we expected each other to be. After all this time of being together, it seemed like we didn’t know anything about one another! All of our hurt, pain, vulnerabilities and frustrations were housed in a marriage with a foundation that couldn’t support that weight because it was built on our own dreams. God was not the cornerstone. Within our first months of marriage things got very rocky. Everything that wasn’t a big deal when we were dating became a very big deal after marriage. I personally had unrealistic expectations of Anthony as a new husband. I also had no sense of how to extend grace and forgiveness towards my spouse. When Anthony and I decided to go through couple’s therapy together we started to see that we were so busy looking at everything that was wrong in our relationship, that we weren’t focusing on the health of our own marriage. When your marriage is not built on the

foundation that God has provided, it’s difficult to forgive, love sacrificially, and show grace daily to one another. All of these attributes are imperative for a healthy marriage. Within our first year of marriage, Anthony and I came up with rules that we would follow “until death do us part.” We share these 10 tips praying that they help another couple as much as they have helped us. 1. Christ must remain the cornerstone in your marriage (1 Cor. 3:11). We want to grow in Christ and for us this looks like weekly devotionals, attending church, staying active in our church’s marriage ministry, and attending a life group together. 2. Commit to each other as if you and your spouse are in a locked room with no windows and the only key to the room was lost. It’s only you, your spouse and God. There is no way in or out so you have to work it out. Remember, “two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour” (Eccl. 4:9 KJV). 3. Seek support for your marriage as preventative care. We are not meant to walk through life alone. A healthy marriage needs a community to not only survive, but to thrive. You need other couples who support your marriage and help you when you need correction. Don’t wait until you and your spouse are at your wits’ end to get the support your marriage needs. Prov. 15:22 NLT says "plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." Also, going to couples counseling through our church was a pivotal moment in our marriage. Through therapy we recommitted our marriage to Christ and vowed to never allow our marriage to be taken lightly. Our entire mindset has changed when it comes to our marriage. The hierarchy we live by now is Christ first, our marriage second, our child, then everything else. 4. Communicate in the way your spouse understands. This takes work as we all communicate, understand tones, facial expressions and body language differently. I used to be so confused when I would have a mouthful to say, but the only response I would get in return would be “ok”. We finally had a tough conversation to understand what our needs are during intense moments. Anthony and I finally realized after a disagreement that he needs time to process his thoughts before


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My two favorite people on earth call me Lez and Mum but you can call me Leslie. I am an energetic, talkative wife to the best husband ever Anthony Moore and Mommy to sweetest but sassiest little 15 month old lady Arley Moore. I was born and raised in Missouri City, Texas but now reside in Charlotte, North Carolina. My most enjoyable pastimes are traveling, meeting people, talking about different cultures, religions, and food. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends who are truly family, and dreaming of million dollar model homes. I attend Transformation Church in Indian Land, SC. Follow me on Instagram @l.a.j.moore

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giving me a full response. You may have to go through trial and error to figure out the best way of communicating with each other. Remain friends and date. Whatever you and your spouse did before marriage that was fun for you both, continue to do this. Be open to trying new things together as you will grow to like different things. Compromise. It’s no longer about who is right or wrong, it’s about what is right for you both. In really tough moments of marriage remember you are fighting an issue or problem together, not fighting each other (Eph. 4:2-3). Stay focused on the problem not the character of your spouse. Let God lead you through your marriage. When you get frustrated, call on God first, get quiet, and listen to what He has for you to do (Prov. 3:5-6, Ps. 37:5). This takes obedience, but I am a living witness that it works. When I am upset, frustrated, or disappointed with Anthony, the first thing I do is pray and wait for God. Teamwork. The best teams in professional sports and corporate environments all have a few things in common: trust, accountability, shared vision, quality time together, and respect for each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I remember Anthony and I struggled badly with finances. I was doing the budget at the time, but it wasn’t my strength. I finally relinquished doing the budget and what a world of difference it made! We went from paying all of our bills at the last minute with little savings to paying all of bills ahead of time with healthy savings. This was Anthony’s strength, not so much mine. Forgive fast, extend grace, and be kind.

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Your spouse is still human, and mistakes and disappointments will happen. When you understand how much God forgives you, extends grace and mercy to you, it will become easier for you to do the same (Eph. 4:32, Col. 3:13-14). 10. Choose love daily and stay actively in tune emotionally with one another. Love is a choice; you can choose to love your spouse daily even when you don’t feel like loving them. There may come a time when your spouse doesn’t choose to love, be kind, or extend grace to you. It is still your responsibility to govern your actions and do so even when your spouse chooses differently. Love is truly seen when there is a sacrificial love just as Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross for you and me (1 Corin. 13:4; 1 Pet. 4:8, Eph. 5:2). I’ve only been married 3.5 years, but God has allowed me to experience so many obstacles with a discernment that has been key to supporting others in their marriages. In your marriage, be intentional with your prayer and fun time together, your friendship with each other, and never let go of Christ’s divine love. God can and will cover your marriage if you ask Him too. Invite God in so that your marriage can see fruit that only you can obtain through Him. Marriage is a reflection of how Christ loves the church. Pray that you will have the marriage where others can see the love of Christ.


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MEET THE


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PHOTOGRAPHER: DONALD CURRIE, 12/24 MEDIA; MUA: TAVIA J BEAUTY

STENNIS Family

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Meet the Stennis Family: Carlos, Tikelia and their three beautiful children ages 9, 7 and 5. They sat down with us to talk about their faith in God, raising their children in a godly home, and modeling Christ each and every day.

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Outpour Magazine: When describing your family, "Team" was the word that you chose. Talk a little more about that and what that looks like in your relationship and family. Tikelia Stennis: We have a grace, or I guess you can say, we have mastered the art of meeting in the middle, especially when it comes to talking to the Lord. I’ll say, “you go talk to the Lord and I’ll go talk to the Lord” (laughs). I think this just helps to keep your heart tender enough. I always pray that he falls more in love with the Lord more than [he loves] me. I got that from an aunt of mine. I know that I will get my stuff, what I need - he’ll love me if he loves the Lord. I won’t have to nag him so much because God’s going to get him (laughs). And if he is in love with Him, then his heart is still tender. I’ve seen this play out so many times and I am grateful - because I know what God can do best. And even with [our kids] whether it’s a devotion, or giving them a lesson in wisdom, even dinnertime and shopping becomes a collaborative thing. It’s like who’s on first, who’s here, etc. And we try to really build each other up, teach them how to respect each other. Like we’re all in this together. Carlos Stennis: We try really hard and meet in the middle a lot. TS: [Carlos] coached and played football, so I even call him coach sometimes - even when he’s like “I’m your husband.” But I do need that coach in him some days. He’s a coach at heart; it’s who he is. And I love that, even when he disciplines [the kids]. There was one incident with our oldest daughter where I was trying not to yell but correct her. He comes in and he began to coach her through it. So I shut my mouth and I’m like, well thank you Lord. And I told him he was much more graceful in that situation that I was (laughs). So it’s about taking time to build each other up and to apologize, to respect each other, taking time to understand each other. There’s just so much around that team

thing. At first we threw it out there lightly; but we know we won’t make it as a family [without it]. And telling the kids that they are going to be a citizen one day and they will have to learn how to be on a team with other people - it’s not just about you. And we really just try to live out the love of God - you know what that takes. It takes tears and selflessness, and every day going down on your knees, being able to look yourself in the mirror, which keeps us humble. [Our kids] are watching us more. Yes, we do the bible studies but they are watching us to see, they are asking questions and we are having to give an answer with our lives. In the home is how you are a Christian. And we hope that they take this when they leave. They are blessed but we don’t want them to feel entitled. We want them to see [the outside world] and when we pray we’ll add in something else, like the homeless, etc. But [we try] to cultivate those things, that kingdom mindset that you want them to have. And Carlos asked this morning - what’s our mission statement. He said “we’re known for love.” And I was like “I like that!” It’s simple but it’s like when we host people in our home, we want them to see all the hosting stuff, make them feel good but we want them to feel love. And when people say that to us, it’s like “mission accomplished.” My chicken may be dry (laughs) but [that doesn't matter] if they can come and say wow we really felt so good, this uplifted us. We know that we have to have a certain thing flowing to get to that. OM: How long have you been married and where did yall get married? TS: Fourteen years in Orlando, Florida. OM: You guys have talked about your Sunday family activity of going to K&W Restaurant after Church and even your interactions with people while there. Talk to us a little more about that and why this is so important to you and your family. CS: Let’s be honest. You don’t see a lot of pictures of black families. We’ve gone there a couple of times for family dinners after church at K&W and people will say, “wow, y'all have a beautiful family.” And I’m thinking in my head, well maybe they haven’t seen this dynamic - where there's a black male, a black


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wife and all three kids right there. TS: ...coming from church on a Sunday. CS: Seventy percent of [black] fathers are not in the home. And that’s what we got to change. That has to change. We’ve gone [to K&W] a couple of times and have had people come up to us and say “I want to pay for your meal,” saying we have a beautiful family. TS: We’ve had that happen. And it will be a lot of guys [coming up to Carlos] doing that. The first couple of times [it happened] we were like, ok. And it’s never really perfect - we’re saying grace and just doing our thing - but they are watching [our interaction]. And that encourages us to keep doing what we are doing.

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CS: Being the male of the home, we all make sacrifices. It's a give and take. She makes sacrifices and I make sacrifices. And I’ll take some of those sacrifices and see how I can maybe prioritize them. For example, I like to workout. Before the pandemic, I would get up at 4:15am to get to the gym by 5am. I could workout in the evening [after work] but then I would miss out on family time. And I didn’t want that experience with my kids, just saying hey right before bedtime. So I choose to get up in the morning to workout, and come back for my devotional time. Then I go to work.

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OM: Can you both talk to us about being a parent and why parenting is important to you both?

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TS: At the end of the day, we know we really have to go back to the Lord and ask, “Lord, what do you have for our kids?” I think if there is anything in parenting I’ve learned, it is to ask God, what do you have for them right now? What do they need and what do we need as a family. There is no right or wrong, there is no shaming. Even when you are feeling that pressure, give it to God, absolutely. And have no fear.

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OM: In this virtual world we are in, talk more about what went into your decision making when it came to the kids and the school year during the pandemic.

It can be a good day or stressful day - you never know what you are going to get working at the bank. But before I get home, I have to ask myself this question - if I have anything that is going to impede or affect how I transition to my family, Lord I want to leave it at this door. The reason being is that as a kid, I got a chance to watch my dad. I was fortunate enough that my dad made the decision to stay home with me - we know many fathers leave. So in that you get to see certain things. You get to see how a marriage unfolds. You get to see how they work through conflict. I would know when my dad had a bad day - he wouldn’t want to speak. I remember when I was 8 or 9 years old, I told my dad that I would put a plant outside the door. So any problems he had when he came home, he could leave them on the plant and come into the house. Well my dad didn’t think too much about it - and me as a kid, it was probably just creative thinking. But when I got older, and I had my kids, I said Lord, I thank you for allowing me to have that experience, because it is not an experience that I want my kids to have. So when I get home, I try to meet my kids’ energy as much as possible. 80% of the time I don’t feel like it. But I try to meet their energy and enthusiasm. Then we eat and I go upstairs to unwind a moment. And they never know if dad had a bad day because I don’t want them to feel that. And my dad was loving, I am grateful, but that’s just the experiences that I had. And I don’t


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schedule any time for me except outside of time after my second child. [I'm] being more of a Mary as a mom, in this season. I would encourage moms with my kids, my family, my wife. to just think, what does it look like to leave the TS: I had a friend that I was talking to, asking how dishes for the day to just stop and really enjoy your I could pray for her and she mentioned that with children. We’re always like where’s the time, but raising kids, she felt like she was dying inside. It’s you need to take time. And some of my prayers are like who am I? And I got that. I knew going into just like “Jesus!” As moms, He loves to come into motherhood, kids are the greatest blessing but also those moments, because that is where we are. And the greatest act of selflessness, especially when I even want my kids to see what it means to cry out walking as a Christian. It can be rough. My prayer to God. life has grown. It just pulls on you. And any good I grew up in a heavily religious home - a love mother, any good parent, it pulls on you. And you of the Lord but a lot of religiosity. I grew to love the have to be willing to die to self on a daily basis. It’s Lord and build a relationship but when it came to not like you get up in the morning and it’s what you walking it out….I talked to a cousin recently who want; no, it’s what they want. Yes, there’s balance is going through and she says, “nobody showed but here are these tiny human beings that depend me. I need to know how to walk through this.” So I on you. You got to show up. want for our kids to see, even in the small moments Our kids are wonderful, they are good kids. what a relationship [with God] looks like. Even And they have a heart for God. I always pray and when we don’t know, and letting them see that we believe that. They love people, they have joy, and are not perfect. They even see us hold each other they teach you so much if you are willing to learn. accountable. I was raised Holiness and he was I am a joyful mother of my children (Psalm 113:9) raised Baptist. that scripture is my confession. And it’s not that I don’t love them and enjoy them - it’s just that you CS: So we have to meet somewhere in the middle are doing so much. But I’ve learned that in their (laughs). world, when I am viewing it from their lens, I enjoy TS: And sometimes I can be over the top and he them the most. I feel like it's that Mary versus will come in and balance things out. Martha thing. When I step into their world - leave the dishes, go to the park - I love what that does in OM: How has your faith been foundational building our relationship. The Lord is helping me to in your family’s life? And why is raising your be less of a Martha and more of a Mary. Because children in a godly, Christian home so important that’s worship - when you are taking care of your to you both? family, when you are doing life as a Christian and you are taking care of the things God has put in your CS: So the Christian life is about service. Not hand. God had to really show me that, especially service for salvation but service for good works. Because that’s why we were created, for God’s good works. So often we get stuck in the four walls [of the church] and we don’t really take on the mission of Christ to get outside those four walls to do basic things, you know serving at a pantry or doing random acts of kindness around your neighborhood. Just having those good works - again not works for salvation for you cannot work


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your way into heaven. But we should have some mom and dad can find common ground. Just that fruit to show what God has done on the inside of authentic Christian living and love for Christ. From one of my devotionals - “marriages are designed to us. attract others to Christ through love.” So that’s how TS: For us, we couldn’t just start with our family. Tikelia and I live and how we try to teach our family. We had to go back - and I went back to when we We should be known by love (John 13:35). met. To how it was the Lord that had our hearts and brought us together. And then Carlos went OM: What are your hopes, prayers and dreams back further, to when he got saved versus when for your children, for their future? he started walking with the Lord - so two different CS: To foster an atmosphere so our kids can find moments in his life. It wasn’t like I was looking what it is they are supposed to be, supposed to forward to a foundation for my family, it was “God do, their giftings, their calling. One thing I love I’m yours.” And that landed us at the bible college, and we met my last semester. That was so divine - God did that. We both had the foundation first, as opposed to two people coming together to try to build a foundation. So we had a head start. We’re not perfect but being able to build a family on top of that, definitely gave us a good start. There was a process of us yielding ourselves before the Lord, allowing Him to lead us. Our foundation and love for the Lord - that is why we are here. And we are intentional in doing devotions together because we know that as we go, the kids go. And even if you have not had that foundational start, build it together, especially about Disney World - granted I know they do a lot now and seek after the Lord. of the magic stuff, which we don’t teach our kids, OM: So you have this spiritual inheritance being Christians. But outside of that, they foster an passed down before your children were even atmosphere to make you believe. My goal within this home is to keep the atmosphere burning born. That’s wonderful! where they can believe. We know Mark 9:23 says CS: We are the church - as the body of Christ, the “..If thou canst believe, all things are possible to ecclesia. The building doesn’t save us. Water, being him that believeth.” I feel that as parents we have to baptised doesn’t save us. Jesus Christ saves us, keep the pilot lit in the home that they can believe accepting Him into our heart and confessing with they can achieve and do anything they want to. our mouth in Romans 10:9 - that saves us. We are Keep prodding them to keep striving and reaching. trying to teach our children authentic faith. Letting I feel that is what parents are called to do, along them see the good and bad. They can learn as with guiding, nurturing, teaching, protecting, and much from what is wrong as well as what is right. providing. - OM Even when we argue, we want our kids to see how


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C H E E R "WINTER SUNRISE OVER STUTTGART, GERMANY." PHOTO PROVIDED BY TRACI MCCOMBS

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WHY YOU SHOULD BE MERRY THIS CHRISTMAS, EVEN WHEN IT‛S HARD

WHAT IF IT’S HARD? A part of me can’t help but notice everything feels different this year. It’s like the magic has been sucked out of Christmas. We won’t attend the candlelight service at our church. Out of an abundance of caution, we will stay home. The German Christmas markets might not open. If they do, less people will be admitted with BY T RACI M C C OMBS restrictions on attendance. Worst of all, there are empty seats at my table. They were reserved for

! loved ones who will never sit with us again. " # $% & # ' ()*+&** ,!If I’m being honest, it’s the first time in my life that I’m struggling to be merry on Christmas. MERRY MEMORIES Deep in my heart, I know there are millions Christmas is the most wonderful time of of Americans who are faced with a similar the year, isn’t it? I love the classic songs, brilliant struggle to find joy this Christmas. 2020 has been decorations, delicious food, and time spent with a very difficult year for my family, and I’m sure loved ones. Our family tradition is to decorate the many can relate with our disappointments and house the morning after our big Thanksgiving losses. feast. I pull out the red and green Christmas boxes that have been collecting dust all year. The kids DISAPPOINTMENTS help me arrange the cinnamon and spice candles, Our vacation plans with old friends have stockings, seasonal pillows, glittery ornaments, been foiled. It’s been devastating to watch flight and children’s holiday books. Our autumn fest after flight get cancelled and the borders close house is transformed into a winter wonderland between America and Germany. This trend has before my kids can finish their Thanksgiving continued all year long and will likely continue leftovers. through the winter. Our time overseas is limited Last year, my family got to celebrate and our window of opportunity to explore Europe Christmas from our new home in Germany. There is getting smaller. The reality is, many of our were large Christmas markets, castle tours, friends won’t be able to reschedule their visits. gluehwein (hot wine), and hand-crafted wooden This makes us miss them even more. nativity scenes. My daughter’s favorite activity School was closed and moved online. I’m was ice skating with her dad, and my son’s was sure every mother reading this is shaking her riding the carousel over and over again. The fact head, putting her hands over her eyes, and taking that Santa visited our house, ate half the cookies, a deep breath. Like many of you, we had two and left toys was the icing on the cake.


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kids under five at home. All. Day. Long. The worst part was having nowhere to go. Everything was closed including the parks. If my mother wasn’t living with us, I would have lost my mind trying to balance work and parenting! I thank God every day for her support. My husband and I are celebrating our ten-year anniversary this month and we have been planning a vow renewal since 2019. The celebration has been put on hold until further notice. While this is a huge disappointment, I feel even worse for two of my friends who’ve had to reschedule their weddings this year.

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LOSS In May, I lost my beloved grandmother. While her health was already in decline, the isolation and lack of intimacy with family quickened her departure. I chose not to travel home to America for her funeral. The COVID situation was escalating quickly around the world and it was hard to know what to do. I wouldn’t get the chance to say goodbye to the woman who had such a great impact on my life. In July, I lost my father. After a year of sobriety and fighting alcoholism so bravely, he relapsed and went into cardiac arrest. I truly believe my father would still be here today if it wasn’t for the isolation. Before COVID, he was actively involved in his community, doing wonderful work as an assistant principal, and attending all of his AA meetings. Every morning he would wake up at 5AM to do math lessons and talk with his grandkids halfway across the world. My father’s greatest wish was to come celebrate Christmas in Germany. He told me every day he couldn’t wait to be with me, Adam, and the kids. My heart still breaks every time I think about him. In September, my husband lost his grandmother. She lived a beautiful life, and I was so thankful our daughter Morgan got to see her great-grandmother one last time before she passed. Again, our family was faced with a difficult decision and chose not to travel abroad to her funeral. Both my husband and I are learning to accept reality - that we watched our grandmothers' services through a web broadcast on the couch instead of in person with the ones we love.

WHY SHOULD WE BE MERRY THIS CHRISTMAS? Why should we be merry this Christmas? There are so many reasons not to be. There are racial tensions and protests in the streets, unemployment across America, and death and despair on a global scale. If you look at the story of Christ’s birth, Mary had an excuse to be worried too. Yes, the angel Gabriel brought her great news, but Simeon didn’t. He literally warned her of the personal grief she would endure, a sword through her soul, as she would later watch her own son die on the cross. "And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, 'Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.'” – Luke 2:34-35 ESV How did Mary avoid despair and instead treasure the truths that were revealed to her in her heart? How can we find joy in the midst of a very “un-merry” Christmas? The answer is simple. We believe in the greatest redemption story of all time. Our worth isn't measured by the color of our skin, our security doesn't rest in our 401K, and our treasures are not counted by the vacations we get to take. We also know there is eternal life after we depart from this world. We believe this because our Savior lived the perfect life and died on a cross so that we may live. We should be merry this Christmas because the birth of Christ is just the beginning. GOING BEYOND THE NATIVITY OF JESUS THIS YEAR For so many years my focus on Christmas has been baby Jesus and the virgin birth. I love "Away in A Manger" and watching my daughter play with her Fisher Price nativity scene. Jesus’ birth is the entire reason we celebrate Christmas. But this year I think it is important, considering the current situation, to remember the life that Jesus lived too.


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I think we would do well to remember our Savior’s life wasn’t easy. Like us, He experienced disappointments and loss too. Our Lord spent His first night on this earth sleeping in a feeding trough amongst animals and hiding from King Herod (Luke 2:16). He was tempted by the devil after fasting for forty days and forty nights (Matt. 4:1-2). He was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver by one of His closest friends (Matt. 26:14-16). And after He was arrested, Jesus hung on a cross sinless because He trusted God’s plan – because He loves us. Jesus defied all odds and beat sin and death. The hardships and impossibilities He overcame give us hope. And that hope is something to be merry about.

"And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”' – Luke 2:10-11 ESV Yes, Christmas may have its painful moments this year. I know what it’s like to miss loved ones. I know what it’s like to have plans cancelled and schools closed. This year you may feel like your life has been flipped upside down. But let’s choose joy and hope. Let’s remember we have a choice to accept the greatest gift of all time – to believe in the baby, the man, the Savior, Jesus Christ.

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"Jesus defied all odds and beat sin and death. The hardships and impossibilities He overcame give us hope. And that hope is something to be merry about."

What makes Christmas merry is the hope that was born that day two thousand years ago. The hope that God loves us enough to give His only Son to save all who would believe.

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JESUS IS THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL TIME We should be merry this Christmas because our Savior became flesh and blood, He overcame the greatest temptations, He forgave the worst betrayals, and He willingly suffered the most painful death – all for me and you.

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First time author Traci McCombs grew up playing basketball outside Houston, Texas. After college at UNC Charlotte she married Active Duty Army Officer, Adam McCombs, in Hawaii. While stationed in Washington D.C. she had two miscarriages and was diagnosed with bladder cancer. It was during this time that she began chronicling her struggles to conceive and confront her cancer diagnosis. Traci is committed to helping women with infertility by shining a light on these heartaches and connecting women on a similar journey. Traci hopes her book will show the raw emotion of pregnancy loss that so many women experience. Traci's book, My Miscarriage, will be available for pre-order early next year. You can connect with Traci on her blog at www.road2motherhood.com or on Facebook and Instagram @road2motherhood.

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Meet Reverend Kate Murphy

We sat down with Rev. Kate Murphy of The Grove Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. She talks about the heart of her ministry, evangelism, and loving God by serving others.


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Outpour Magazine: The mission of The Grove is “inviting all to serve and come alive in Christ.” Please tell us more about your mission through your ministry.

Charlotte students, and they named it. It is no longer an academic or homework help program but all relational and mentoring and it's all outside. In all honesty I don’t know if families in our community will feel safe. But we’ll try it and there is no shame in trying to serve our neighbors. OM: Rev. Kate, you often get out of your church walls to share your ministry gifts with other churches and organizations. Talk to us more about the importance of ministry outside of the church and partnerships in the body of Christ.

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KM: Our church is unique in two ways: 1. We’ve been through a complete transformation and redevelopment. I didn't do it - but I was there. It was a very spirit fueled and spirit mediated experience for all of us. But when I came, the church was worshiping with maybe forty people on a Sunday morning and the median age was sixty. There were three families with children and one of them was mine. And both of those families left during the process of this transformation. This church was by every natural measurement just dying. When I told the General Presbyter which is the local administrator, he said to me don’t go to that church because it’s not going to survive. He was very kind - I had been working as an Associate Pastor and he didn’t want my first role as a solo Pastor to be this church. He said to me that if that church could have been transformed, it would have by now. He was looking at who was there before and what they had tried. But we went through this transformation and now we are about 100120 worshippers on Sunday mornings. We are multi-generational and just flourishing. And so that is very unique. And we are a multiethnic church which is incredibly unique anywhere, but particularly in my denomination which is Presbyterian. And in the Presbyterian Church USA the stats are 97% white. It is a white, affluent denomination. There’s sincere awareness of how theologically problematic that is and the denomination has done really significant work especially in promoting people of color; but when it comes to local congregations, people tend to think [ours] is the unicorn. We have several valuable congregations that are historically black, in the Charlotte Presbytery, but we all know the history of that. When the enslaved people won their freedom, they stayed in the congregations of their enslavers and were told to sit in the balcony. And after a while they were like forget this and

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Kate Murphy: The heart of our ministry is serving our neighborhood, which is a beautiful neighborhood both physically, in terms of who lives there, but it is also an underserved neighborhood with a lot of need. We serve our neighborhood because of the gospel and because it is a way to build relationships. There are people who know our church a long time before they figure out it is a church. They will bring their kids to the afterschool program or come to community meals. And because our church doesn’t have a steeple, it doesn’t necessarily physically look like people’s expectations of what a church building looks like. People can be part of our ministries, and we don’t function or greet people in a lot of the ways that people expect to be treated by churches. People can be surprised and at first many think we are a community center. I like that people understand that serving them is not a bait and switch; we are not trying to serve you so that later we can count you as one of our members or rope you into contributing to our budget. We can bear witness to the gospel by giving gifts with no strings attached. And also we are not a wealthy congregation. You don’t have to have a certain amount of credentialing, degree or certain amount of money in order to do sacred things in the realm of the kingdom of God. With COVID, the heart of what we do has had to be put on pause and we are cautiously trying to figure out what [serving] looks like in a COVID era. And recognizing that our neighbors are particularly vulnerable to COVID - whether due to racial disparity, lack of healthcare, or more likely to have pre-existing conditions. We can’t love our neighbors and risk their lives; those things are mutually exclusive. Our church has been through a huge time of upheaval and transformation previously; I have a lot less anxiety now than I would have had I not experienced this level of disruption before. But I know how determined God was to have a flourishing church in this community, so I trust that God will see us through. We can’t have community meals which is a huge centerpiece of our ministry. We do these “yard gives” instead of yard sales; we have an afterschool program that is free that is a lot of work but is really valuable in and of itself and has become an engine of growth in our church community. And we can’t do it now in the same way. Our afterschool program is called Firefly we created it in collaboration with UNC

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made their own Presbyterian churches. So one of the reasons that I am very committed to sharing my story in other places in the body of Christ is because I am very well aware that it is not my theology, my talent or my work ethic - I am not the savior [of my church] and it is really important to share the story of The Grove, from the context of God did this and that means that God can do it again. And for people who know about Jesus but are not in relationship with Jesus and watch the church who on most days are at best foolish and at worse blasphemous - what people who are outside the body of Christ see very clearly that if we believed what we say we believe, our churches would not look how they look. And that’s a huge stumbling block for people who are taking Jesus more seriously than maybe we are. If you care about evangelism, then you need to have some urgency about the fact that our churches don’t look like the kingdom of God. I am talking about majority white congregations. We have spheres of influence and I know we can’t snap our fingers and solve the problem but we also can’t ignore the problem because we feel overwhelmed and incapable - because we have a Savior, we have a God. So I want to share [The Grove’s] story, to say this can happen - so don’t use this as an excuse to accept what we know is not acceptable. I came to [The Grove] in 2008 - in the middle of this economic downturn and the denomination was going through a lot of changes during that time too. At the time I was like “really God?” But now it is such a great story that you can’t say, well if you don’t have a pastor with a lot of experience or you don’t have a budget of this size or are in the middle of an economic downturn - the reality is that we had a lot of things working in our favor but we had a lot of things working against us. But God was still faithful. OM: Rev. Kate, can you talk more about evangelism, particularly as God calls believers to venture from what may be familiar to the unfamiliar, to share the gospel? KM: America is so deeply in need of evangelism; the country is crying out for evangelism. Recently we did a sermon series called “Holy Uncomfortable.” It's that idea that we have this expectation, garnered by American consumer culture [rather] than by the bible. We have this expectation that when we are comfortable, we are good. And when we are where we need to be with God, that that place will feel comfortable. But if you read the

bible, that is crazy and that is not there. God is good but God is not comfortable. A lot of the ways that the church has gotten twisted is that the enemy has offered us comfort and we have accepted that. And there are a lot of times that we don’t do things that are faithful because they are deeply uncomfortable and we sense discomfort and think, oh well God can’t be calling us to this - that God wouldn't call us to a place of uncertainty or God wouldn’t call us to take a risk. And that’s just not true. So I am trying to help my congregation understand this idea that if you are uncomfortable, sometimes that is the Holy Spirit telling you to get out, this is wrong, this isn’t right. But sometimes when you are uncomfortable, it’s because you are in the presence of the holy - it’s because you are growing and you are changing, as you are seeing an aspect of God that you didn’t know before. As believers we need to get better at understanding what is uncomfortable and holy and what is uncomfortable and unholy. One of the things that stops us from evangelism is we want to be comfortable - we want to be around people who make us feel good about ourselves and we want to invest in people who we think will give us a good return on investment, whatever that looks like. We want to do it right, we want to do it in a setting that we can control, and know that we are not going to look foolish or stupid, and none of that is faithful, I don’t think. Recently we talked about the story of the Ethopian Eunuch. That is a story about evangelism. It is a story about God taking someone out of a successful ministry context - as an "expert" - and bringing them in direct relationship with someone who was “other” in every single category and realizing that “oh, this dude is already here reading scripture.” And the Holy Spirit is already here. Many times we know God in a particular way and know God through institutions - which is great - but that doesn’t mean that God is limited in working through our local church agenda or things we label Christian or Presbyterian. Evangelism to me is just really having a radical commitment to living out our belief that God is recklessly, abundantly in love with every part of God’s creation. And you can’t share the good news of the gospel outside the context of a relationship that is loving and authentic. [Rather] we want to do programs instead of forming relationships with people. So if you don’t have time for people, you don’t have time for evangelism.


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OM: Your ministry also believes that “God is love. And love is. Love acts. Love serves.” Can you talk about how the church is called to love God and love others (Matt. 22:37-39)? And how does The Grove display God’s love through your numerous ministries?

KM: One really simple thing that has been life changing for me and our leadership when we discern how to be a church, or make decisions, is instead of asking questions of will this work SUBSCRIBE AT OUTPOURMAGAZINE.COM

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LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GROVE CHURCH AND REV. KATE MURPHY HERE:

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Evangelism to me is just really having a radical commitment to living out our belief that God is recklessly, abundantly in love with every part of God’s creation. And you can’t share the good news of the gospel outside the context of a relationship that is loving and authentic." "

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OM: And lastly, how can we become the church God desires us to be?

or do we have the money for this or what will “they” think or say. [Rather] if the question we center is, “is this faithful” and we put all other questions secondarily, then we are so much more able to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The key to being the church that God wants us to be, is to center that question - what is faithful? Then the Holy Spirit can lead you down the path that even with no expectation that it will work, that God will provide and God is going to be a shield. And the work of Salvation is complete, it is finished. The kingdom of God is here. So the burden on my back is not to fix the world or save America. Our work is not to do or conquer or destroy or build. Our work is to “be” the people of God. Anything that will succeed will not be from our power, but through the power of God. - OM

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KM: It’s important that before we say anything, people need to know they are welcomed and loved. We have some therapists in our community and they have brought to us this idea of “unconditional positive regard.” No matter what a person’s behavior is, you don’t have to condone a behavior but you can still have a posture towards them of unconditional positive regard. No matter what you do, I am in your camp, your corner. We can do that as a community. I did not grow up in a Christian home and my parents were not practicing believers, so as a young person I really stumbled into relationship with Jesus because a friend invited me to her youth group. And as a teenager I was in relationship with God but didn’t have any words for that. But what I knew I needed was a community where I would be safe and people would not attack me. So to have a place where you belong even before you know what to believe, that you are worthy of love and belonging period. And that is really important to me. [Church] should be the one place where you don’t feel like an outsider, even if you are walking through the door for the very first time. That is the kingdom of God. When you have a mindset that “we don’t want to be taken advantage of” and I feel a lot of ministries get ruined because they feel they need to have some limits so people won’t take advantage of them. People cannot take advantage of us if our only goal is to love the Lord. What I am trying to do is love you in a way that expresses my love for Jesus, because I have read the gospel and believe it when Jesus says, whatever you have done to the least of these you’ve done for me (Matt. 25:40-45). The Bible claims that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of abundance and Shalom so when we serve our neighbors, we don't rob ourselves. This is a space where for you to do well doesn’t mean I need to do poorly. I believe that God will provide and we don’t have to hoard and we are building treasures in heaven.

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Me, Myself, and My Representative By Crystal Currie

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Crystal Currie, LCMHC, NCC, BC-TMH, TF-CBT, is a Trauma Focused Mental Health Therapist in North Carolina. She is the owner of Compass Life Skills and Counseling. She enjoys assisting adults who desire to heal childhood emotional wounds. Find her at www. compasslifeskills.com and follow her on Instagram and Facebook: @CompassLifeSkills

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God, thank you for creating me in such a unique way. I am grateful that you delight in me. I now understand how important I am. Forgive me for allowing other people to define me. Renew my mind. Protect my eyes and ears from false information. Help me to see myself as you see me. Help me to understand all of the promises you have made to me. I am ready to be who you created me to be, authentically. Amen.

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Billboard advertisements, commercials, and social media algorithms are all methods used to influence our decision making. These methods communicate messages that instruct us to buy certain products and model certain lifestyles. Unfortunately, when we are not properly rooted in God and understand that we were made in the image of God, we can use these methods to search for an identity far away from what God intended for us. As a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Therapist, this can be best explained as our “authentic self” vs. our “representative self.” Our authentic self is based on our true feelings, needs, desires and thoughts. On the other hand, our representative self is based on feelings, needs, desires and thoughts that we believe are expected from us. This expectation is created by the images we see and information we hear each day. From the clothes we buy, to the food we eat, what we see on social media or TV, to even the houses or neighborhoods we live in, we are constantly being influenced, which may shape what we believe. For Christians, the recurrence of this information creates an inner dialogue that may cause us to question God’s plans for our lives and/or alter our personal desires and beliefs. Some accept the beliefs of mainstream media and influencers as truth. Some have internalized these beliefs and as a result, their thoughts and behaviors become more like other people’s and less like God from whom we receive the knowledge of truth - of not only who we were created to be but of what is yet to come (John 16:13 NIV). Rather we are to heed God’s instruction in Galatians 5:16 NKJV which tells us to “walk by the Spirit, [so we] will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” When we gratify the flesh, we begin to behave in ways that are unlike God. Further, living as your representative self leads to an unfulfilled life. The representative self neglects the core needs and desires of the authentic person that God created. The desires of the representative are completely contrary

to God’s desires for you. This version of you entices you to travel through life only paying attention to immediate needs of belonging and comfort. You go through life attempting to obtain societal standards while neglecting the standards of God. And it is impossible to possess the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:2223) while living as your representative self. Be secure in knowing that you were created in God’s image (Gen 1:27). You are the apple of His eye (Ps 17:8). He knows everything about you, even the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7). Since you are so valuable to Him, it is never too late to become your authentic self. Your authentic self can only be found in Him. Everything else is a counterfeit and was created to deceive you. God’s plan has already been created for you. Even before you were born, God created plans for you to prosper (Jer 29:11). He “is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph 3:20 NKJV). Remember, billboard advertisements, commercials and social media influencers all want something from you. God, on the other hand, only wants YOU!


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implemented plans for people to minimize congregating and to distance from each other by at least six feet. This is to keep people safe and hopefully slow the spread of the virus. However, I am reminded that although we must physically distance ourselves from one another, it is impossible for LOVE to be distant or restrained. “Love is invincible facing danger and death. Passion laughs at the terrors of hell. The fire of love stops at nothing— It sweeps everything before it. Flood waters can’t drown love, torrents of rain can’t put it out. Love can’t be bought, love can’t be sold— it’s not to be found in the marketplace” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7 MSG). True love knows no boundaries. No matter what happens in the world, love continues. It’s a force unlike any other. The ultimate evidence B Y M ARESHAH B ROWN M ILLER for such love rests in God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, It was a typical fall Saturday afternoon. A that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, familiar home decorating episode blasted from the but have eternal life" (John 3:16 NIV). “But God television, perhaps watching me more than I was demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we watching it. Rinnnngggg! I was a little startled were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 by the sudden chime of the doorbell. I’m not NIV). “. . .God is love” (1 John 4:8). used to visitors these days. Peering through my God did not allow earth’s boundaries to security system’s camera, I recognized the visitor. stifle His amazing love for mankind. He left the As I approached the front door I heard, "Can you heavenly realm to dwell among human beings come to the door for a minute?" As I opened the and lavish us with His agape love. Although true door, my cousin, Maresha, rested a beautifully love begins with God, it does not end with God. packaged gift draped with festive balloons at Continuously in the Bible we are told to love one the door and ran to the edge of my front yard to another. That is only truly possible as we receive join her husband and three children. They then and embrace the love that God gives us. When fused their voices with Stevie Wonder’s melody the Apostle Paul encouraged the believers in the booming from the mp3 player. Some neighbors city of Ephesus, he told them it was his desire looked on as we all heard, "I just called to say I that they fully know the all-encompassing love of love you! I just called to say how much I care!" God. “. . .may you be able to feel and understand, I was so overwhelmed with joy that tears filled as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, my eyes. Then, I joined in the serenade as we how deep, and how high his love really is; and to blew kisses towards each other. My cousins just experience this love for yourselves, though it is so wanted me to feel their love and to know that I am great that you will never see the end of it or fully thought about even though we can’t physically know or understand it. And so at last you will be come together in the midst of the COVID-19 be filled up with God Himself" (Ephesians 3:18-19 pandemic. After they departed, I enjoyed the TLB). chocolate cake, balloons, and thoughtfully handThe idea is that as we are filled with God’s crafted oversized card. And for the next few love, we will demonstrate that love towards others. days I found myself humming the familiar tune Simply put, if we have accepted Christ Jesus as our and reliving the beautiful moment of that not so Savior, we are God’s Love Agents in the earth. typical fall Saturday afternoon. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He LOVE does not social distance or adhere loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice to boundaries. As we experience unprecedented for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, times with COVID-19, people are feeling isolated we also ought to love one another. No one has ever and disconnected. To help prevent or reduce seen God; but if we love one another, God lives the spread of this disease, societies have

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loneliness is to do something to help someone else. As we reach out to others, we will experience personal joy. “But remember this—if you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much” (2 Corinthians 9:6 TLB). I am challenging all of us to look outside ourselves from this point forward—not just during COVID. How can we demonstrate love? What can we do to help another person?—a friend, neighbor, co-worker, homeless person, orphan, etc. Remember, we don’t have to be rich or famous. Perhaps, we can listen to a friend as he/she works through a problem. We can check on a neighbor; send a friendly card; organize a Zoom watch party or Bible study; offer to grocery shop for an elderly person; or any number of gestures. What may seem small or insignificant to you could be the turning point in someone’s day (or in someone’s life). Your genuine generosity could encourage someone who is on the edge or literally snatch someone from a ledge. Let each of us be that LOVE IN ACTION person and change our society one love act at a time.

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in us and His love is made complete in us" (1 John 4:10-12 NIV). “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10 NIV). “Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31 NIV). “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34 NIV). These are only a few of the many Bible verses with the same resounding message. These scriptures are unmistakably explicit that human beings (especially believers in Christ) are supposed to love people. But it is important to realize that saying the words I love you is not sufficient. Yes, people definitely need to hear those words; but if the words are not held up with something of substance, then they are empty words, with no effect. “. . .Let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them and show it by our actions" (1 John 3:18 TLB). So, what can we surmise from all of this? The pandemic, COVID-19, social distancing, lockdowns, and nothing else can stop us from loving each other! We’ve seen it with the driveby birthday celebrations, Zoom social gatherings, and more. If we truly love someone, we will show it. Real love is revealed; not hidden. It shows up in compassion, kindness, patience, generosity, humility, forgiveness, trust, and courage—I call these the offspring of Love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 1 John 4:18). The Living Bible translation of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 is quite sobering: “If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise. If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do? Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love. If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever.” Wow! Genuine love is the foundation of a productive, effective, and fulfilling existence! That being said, the prolonged isolation during this time of COVID is taking a toll on many people. Some people are lonely to the point of depression. Sometimes, a practical solution to

Mareshah Brown Miller is a retired educator from the Orange County Public Schools. She grew up in the suburbs of Miami, Florida among a large close-knit family and rich spiritual training. She developed a walk with Christ at an early age and continues to encourage others to begin their personal walk with God. She is the author of Divine Pearls: Spiritual Insight Through Personal Short Stories. Mareshah serves her community and is a longstanding member of the City of Life Church in Kissimmee, Florida. She is a widow after thirty years of marriage, and the mother of two adult daughters and a son-in-law. Her desire is to live a life of love every day.

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“A kingdom man is the kind of man that when his feet hit the floor each morning the devil says, ‘Oh crap, he’s up!’” Follow along in this powerful book by Dr. Tony Evans!

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Learn how to pray using God's Word to overcome spiritual strongholds in this book by bible teacher Beth Moore!

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We were made to Crave more of God - over anything else! Explore more in this book by bible teacher Lysa Terkeurst

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