“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” — Ephesians 2:10 NIV
Chapter 1: 3-8 (NIV)
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.)
Next, we’ll look at Paul’s prayer for his squad.
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.Philippians 2:13
Sweet Carmel snores and dreams of chasing rabbits. #lovemydogs
I’ve not spent a lot of time traveling around our neighbor to the north. No, I don’t mean Canada. I’m talking about Michigan. Yep, a northern Indiana girl my whole life and I can probably count on two hands how many times I’ve crossed the northern state line.
A couple of weeks ago, my family and I took a vacation up to Hillman, which is just west of Alpena.
For those of you who don’t know where Alpena is, hold out your left hand. See the top of your index finger? That’s about where Alpena is located.
Anyways, we spent the week in a one-room fishing cabin, less than a stone’s throw away from a large lake. We had our own dock that we could launch our kayaks from. Or in our case, fish from.
The winds were a little too strong for a newbie kayaker as myself, so I stayed on shore with my daughter. We fished and fished and fished.
The Mr. decided to brave the waves.
It was relaxing. Every once in a while, it’s good to leave the mad pace of work-school-responsibilities-social media, and vacation in a spot that has little if no phone reception. Our cabin had access to Wi-Fi, but my phone kept losing the signal.
The three of us enjoyed sleeping in, grilling, campfires and, oh yeah, fishing every single day.
We did leave the cabin one day for a trip to the Mackinac Bridge and St. Ignace. I had been to Mackinaw and Mackinac once before when I was a teenager. The bridge is indeed a wonder.
My husband drove us to St. Ignace while hunting for this little pasty shop out in the middle of nowhere, Lehto’s Pasties. That’s all that is sold there, and my goodness, their pasties are huge! The tender, flaky crust pockets a full meal of beef, potatoes and onions.
We stopped at a state rest park along Lake Huron and ate, feeding the seagulls the few morsels we had left while laughing at their antics.
And yes, we got pulled into the tourist trap area of Mackinaw City. But it was fun strolling around, eating fudge from Kilwin’s and looking at some of the shops that had not been there 30 years ago.
When we drove back to the fishing cabin, we took the lake view drive along U.S. 23. Not a lot of Lake Huron was visible because of trees, but when there were breaks, the view was stunning. We could see small beach strips that led out to beautiful green water before entering the deeper blue parts of the lake.
What surprised me most was the lack of people. I don’t know enough about that particular area to explain why there weren’t people out enjoying the sun and waves, but it definitely sparked my curiosity.
I really enjoyed our excursion into northern Michigan and I’d like to see more. I’ve been to Traverse City and found it equally pretty and I’ve been to Sault Ste. Marie, but that’s the extent of my travels in the northern region.
Like I said, I’d like to see more — especially the lighthouses. Perhaps next year we travel all the way to Whitefish Point and stop in for a visit at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.
Thanks for the adventure, Michigan!
Sheila Selman is regional editor and digital content editor for The Goshen News. Follow her on Twitter at @sselman_TGN or on Facebook at Sheila Selman Journalist.
One of my favorite places in the world is Martin Branch in Mousie, Ky.
What’s the attraction? Peace and family history.
Mousie itself is off the beaten track. I bet no more than 500 people live in town and nearby hollows and branches. Mousie has a post office, a park, an elementary school and a volunteer fire department. It used to have a little store and a gas station/convenience store, but those are just vacant buildings now. I am hoping a local entrepreneur will reopen them.
Just outside of “downtown Mousie” is Martin Branch. You drive down a single-lane road that you cannot even see from the main route. You’ll pass by homes still owned by the Martins, the Campbells and the Huffs. But as you get into the hollow, it’s mainly owned by Gibson family members. Not all of them have Gibson as their last names, but they all descend from the same person, John P. Gibson.
We still aren’t clear if John P. purchased the land, or if it was his son (my great-grandpa) Ezekiel Gibson. My grandpa, Van Gibson, owned a good chunk of the mountain, which he left to his children. My dad is the only one who still lives there. Dad’s uncle Carl and his late uncle Junior own most of the rest of the property.
Even our Gibson family cemetery is located there.
I love visiting, taking hikes and picking shoestring, or whatever else happens to be in season. One of my favorite things to do is just to sit outside, watch the birds and relax. The sound of the creek rushing, water flowing off the mountain and into dad’s frog pond and the birds singing soothes my soul. Well, until the frogs start. They are so loud you cannot think.