Back in 1997, Michael W. Smith released the song “Friends are Friends Forever.” If you are of a certain age, you know it was played at basically every graduation. There is something about enduring friendships that make you feel solid and connected.
When friends are connected spiritually, I believe God blesses those friendships. My squad are all believers in Christ. We pray for each other and support each other spiritually, as well as emotionally. I am lucky to have found these Christ-centered sisters.
When I read Philippians 1:3, I think of my friends: “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (NIV)
So when I read this passage, I think of Paul writing to his “squad” of believers. He’s sitting in a Roman jail and just pouring out his heart with Timothy by his side. He doesn’t open with “woe is me.” He opens with thanksgiving and prayer.
He could have just as easily started it with, “Pray for me, the heathen Romans have locked me up.”
But instead, he thanks God each time he remembers them — them being the first church he founded in Europe, according to Bible.org..
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always PRAY WITH JOY because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being CONFIDENT of this, that he who began a GOOD WORK in you will carry on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
“IT IS RIGHT for me to feel this way about all of you, since I HAVE YOU IN MY HEART; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you SHARE GOD’S GRACE with me. God can testify how I LONG FOR all of you with the AFFECTION of Christ Jesus.”
To be honest, I am not sure I would have that much positivity in me.
But what a heartfelt introduction of a love letter to this church.
These seem like the friends you would want to have at your side and behind your back. (Let’s squiggle #squadgoals on our Bibles.)
On Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, it was announced that Christian singer, performer and actor Carman Licciardello had died from complications after hernia surgery. It was the first news I saw as I started my day. Even though I know he was welcomed with open arms into the kingdom of Christ, I cried. First, my condolences to his wife Dana and the kids, and the rest of the family.
Back in the 1980s, Carman was a megastar and I was a teenager who felt lonely and at times depressed. What teen doesn’t, right? But I had God on my side and he walked me through some deep valleys. Carman’s music was there to help.
I cannot tell you how much I adored Carman. I mean, seriously, my bestie and I were planning on tracking him down to his church in Oklahoma where her sister also attended. Yes, I had a major teen crush, but he did not like anyone to fawn over him because he wanted to keep the attention on Jesus and the message. I respected him for that. I did manage an autograph though.
As I got older, I still loved listening to his music, but I did not hear much from him on the radio. He was still producing music, plus acting in movies — who didn’t love him as Boaz? — and he had his own TV program.
Thanks to social media, I was able to reconnect to the ministry in the 2010s. It was through social media that I learned he finally got married — yay! I was very happy for him and Dana. I also learned of his cancer diagnosis, and his fans logged in some serious prayer time. Carman went into remission and was excited to get back on the road again to continue his ministry.
That’s how the photo up top came to be. I wanted to share Carman’s ministry with my daughter. I know he had to have been tired, but the brother was gracious and took photos with fans afterward. We had a blast, and I am so thankful I got to see him in concert one more time.
His ministry impacted so many people — people who are now in the family of God proclaiming Jesus is The Champion and will see Brother Carman once again in heaven.
I am in Training Camp at my church. We just finished the first week. No divulging secrets here. If you want to know more, join our Training Camp 🙂 It’s a great time with a bunch of women who love the Lord.
What I want to write about is how Training Camp, which encourages daily discipline, is happening at the same time as another venture I joined — Flourish. This year, I will be working with a group of other Christian writers, learning how to write and publish a devotional or book. I’m stoked.
So what does one have to do with the other?
In a word: DISCIPLINE.
Both require daily attention and commitment, some planning and work.
COVID left me flailing this past year. Although I was busy covering COVID news at work (I’m a journalist), the rest of my day was rudderless. So I signed up for Flourish to finish the book I’ve been working on. It gave me a personal goal and a sense of direction. Flourish is a group of Christian writers and the focus is not on what I can bring to the world but what God will bring to the world through me.
And then my church’s women’s ministry announced a new Training Camp. There was no doubt I needed to focus on God, so I joined.
Doing both at one time might seem daunting, but I like a challenge.
I’m excited to see what God has in store for me this year. I’ll be posting some updates and perhaps some book excerpts, so stay tuned.
for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
“So don’t look at the troubles we can see now: rather we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” 2 Corinthians 4:18.
Just like in archery, if we are distracted by the action going on around us, we’re going to miss hitting our target. Pictured above is my daughter, who is trying to focus through the rain — a problem beyond her control. She knows concentration and keeping her eyes fixed on the middle of the target is key to hitting a bullseye.
An archer follows her training: Tune out the distractions. Be still. Focus. Breathe. Release. Impact.
And … repeat.
Our spiritual life is much the same. What’s your ultimate focus? Is it God and eternity? If not, what is your priority?