Day: January 1, 2019

Finding a Way Around The Temptation

Written by Andrea Stephens

Life has had me living in several different states over the years.  

With each new location, I have had to look for the positives with the goal of learning to embrace where I was living.  This didn’t come naturally; I seriously had to challenge myself.  This was especially true when I moved to a small town in South Louisiana.  They talked with such a drawl.  They referred to “making” groceries and cooking up a pot of red beans and rice specifically on Mondays since it was cleaning day and they wouldn’t have time to fuss with dinner.  I was missing the palm trees from my last location.  So, I purposely learned about bald Cypress trees and the Spanish moss that hung from them.  I also took a liking to nearby New Orleans with its jazz music, beignets (French donuts), and artists around Jackson Square.  However, one event caught my eye—the Crescent City Classic.  This well known 10K was not just any hometown race, it was one that welcomed costumes, marching bands, and dressed up dogs.  The route would take us through neighborhoods that promised to be lined with festive folks cheering us on from their front porch swings.

Now, I am not a runner, but the idea of walking the 6.2 miles with a group of friends just to enjoy the experience sounded perfect.  We got signed up, dressed up, lined up, and took off at the blast of the starter’s gun.  I was excited, full of laughter, snapping selfies and pictures of the craziness going on around me.  As I strolled along, friends at my side, a little something started to bother me.  I was being passed.  And not just by the more athletic types but by women with strollers and dogs in tutus.  The bothering increased.  Then a cackling couple of elderly ladies wearing PJs, fuzzy slippers, and big pink rollers in their hair went flying by!  That was it.  No more.  Something in me snapped and the leisurely fun walk with my friends went out the window.  I just could not allow myself to be passed any longer by anyone not sporting a serious pair of Nike’s.  I quickened my step, ditched my slow companions, and kicked it into high gear.  To my left, to my right—I was now watching for anyone who even thought they might make their way to my side.  Never mind the blisters I could feel forming on my toes and the pain in my right knee (I did mention that I’m not a runner, right?), I forged ahead until my very winded self crossed that finish line.

Funny thing, I was no longer in a celebratory mood.  And, I was also by myself since my friends stuck with the original plan of walking the race and enjoying the journey. Standing there alone, questions started rolling in.  What just happened to me?  Where did that competitive urge come from?  Why did I feel compelled to keep others from passing me by?  How could I have ditched my friends to feed the growing feeling inside of me?  The answer?  I had fallen right into the comparison trap.  

As clearly demonstrated on that festive New Orleans morning, comparison can shift our focus. Like a thief, it sneaks in when we least expect, steals our confidence and robs us of self-acceptance.  When we compare our value to the value of someone else we usually find ourselves lacking.  Instead of being content with who we are and where we are in our own life, comparison has us looking at her haircut, her toned thighs, her put together kids, her shiny new SUV, her husband’s promotion, her flawless complexion, her fabulous vacation, on and on with endless options.  

Looking too long at her can spiral down into all kinds of ugly.  It definitely does not bring out the best in us.  In fact, the scripture calls comparison unwise—that’s a nice way of saying it’s just plain stupid!  For instance, comparison leads to jealousy.  There is nothing good about that, especially when it leads to bitterness and a critical spirit.  Leah and Rachel, two sisters whose story is found in Genesis 29 and 30, perfectly illustrate this downward progression.  Due to their trickster father and no fault of their own, they wound up married to the same man, Jacob.  It’s no secret that Jacob adored Rachel, leaving Leah unloved.  But God enabled Leah to give 

Jacob the one thing that Rachel could not—babies! Leah hoped that giving Jacob children would win his heart so that she would finally feel loved and valued.  Yet with every new birth, Rachel’s spirit of comparison intensified the jealousy toward her sister.  It led to her desperate demand of Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”  Jacob defended himself saying, “Am I God?  He is the only one able to give you children!”  But rather than praying and waiting on God, Rachel came up with a plan.  She reasoned that if she gave Jacob her servant, Bilhah, and if Bilhah had kids, Rachel would take them as her own.  Isn’t it amazing what us women can come up with to make ourselves look and feel better about our lives?  Rachel’s cockeyed scheme got her what she wanted.  In fact, Bilhah had two sons, which thrilled Rachel making her think she was winning the baby race.  But not so.  Leah followed Rachel’s poor example and gave her servant, Zilpah, to Jacob to make more babies.  Phew! Talk about a blended family!  Eventually Jacob had 12 sons by 4 different women all because of jealousy.

Scripture is very clear about jealousy.  It wreaks havoc in our lives.  “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil.” (James 3:16).  In talking to the immature believers at the church in Corinth, Paul says, “You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other.  Doesn’t this prove you are controlled by your own desires?  You are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord.”  Jealousy and selfish ambition (wanting what we want with little regard for others) are red flags for those of us who want to live as true examples of Christ.  They tell us we are comparing ourselves to someone or something else and we need to stop it.  We need to examine it, figure out the cause, and take it to the Lord so He can heal it. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Leah and Rachel’s story had a happy ending?  This unfortunate competition between them resulted in a bitter, broken relationship between sisters.  This was not God’s best for them.  It could have been so different.  Instead, it caused their children to be just like them.  Comparison and jealousy among their children lead to the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers.  Thankfully their story ended in forgiveness and reconciliation, a lesson they could have taught their mothers.

I’m thankful the sisters didn’t have social media, which of course, fuels a spirit of comparison.  Filters, lighting, cropping—it allows for deceptively perfect posts that threaten to deflate us and even infect us with a case of paranoia.  It’s easy to start thinking my posts look pathetic—my life is pathetic—I am pathetic!  This shame-based line of thinking leads many women into a depressed attitude of why try? and for some, why live?  The pressure and the lies, spinning in your brain repeatedly, not only steals your peace, joy, and contentment but worse than all that–the belief that God really loves you. Trust me, the enemy is doing a happy dance when he finally has you at this point of despair.  After all, this was his goal.  For Satan, whatever causes you and me to doubt the goodness of God gets chalked up as a win in his playbook.

It’s just not worth it. But it’s just not going to go away on its own.  So, how do we stop playing the comparison game? The important thing is that we make an intentional decision about how we’re going to react when we recognize it in our lives.  Here is a list of suggestions on how to deal when the temptation to compare is lurking around your heart.  

Give them a try.

  • Celebrate her blessings and successes.
  • Realize that you don’t know her back-story.  Until we really get to know someone, we see their put together self and their life highlights on Instagram but we don’t know what’s behind her smiling face. The truth is, everyone is going through something.
  • Embrace what you value. This is what brings meaning and purpose to your life. It is part of what makes you, you!  Beware of comparison diminishing what brings you joy and fuels your passion.
  • Pay attention to your self-talk. It’s a proven fact that our thoughts directly affect our feelings which can then affect our behavior. Listen to what you are saying to yourself. As scripture instructs us, take your negative thoughts captive—lock them up and throw away the key. Then replace them with positive thoughts.
  • Take a break from social media. This will help you wholeheartedly lean into your own story and concentrate on being the best you.
  • Practice gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal will keep your heart attuned to the good in your life.
  • Grant grace to yourself and encouragement to others.
  • Compliment someone on the very thing that is tempting you to go green with jealousy.
  • Be your own kind of beautiful. Let’s be honest, women are the worst at comparing their looks. It’s very freeing when we embrace our unique look and learn to thank God for His perfect design for us.  
  • Change your audience. Make God your audience of One.  Let’s heed Paul’s words to the early church and set our minds on things above while fixing our eyes on Jesus.

When our eyes are in a love-lock with His, we won’t be looking around comparing ourselves to her! 

A friend recently shared this thought with me: A flower does not think of comparing itself with the flowers around it—it just blooms! Let’s do the same to the glory of God.


My son is a Junior at Regent Preparatory here in Tulsa. We have several customers from the school the come to us just because they have known our family for many years.  As often as I can, I encourage those parents to send their new driver to us to get used to going to the shop – by themselves.  It’s a critical step in being a new auto owner.

For that matter, it’s critical for an old auto owner. Auto care can be completely intimidating.  It’s true. So much so, that many just don’t do it. Many people fear being sold something they don’t need or having the shop speak so much automotive jargon that they just say “Go ahead” to prevent admitting they know little about their car.  

At Christian Brothers Automotive, we believe part of our job is education.  We want to show you what is going on, not just tell you.  We will bring you back to the bays or send you a digital report of everything we see going on with your car.  For every customer, we want to be worthy of the name on our buildings, because Christian means something to us when it comes to our level of integrity and care.  

Each location is an independently owned franchise started in 1982 Houston, TX.  The founders were two men who met in a Bible study.  They created a mission to provide honest and fair car repair in a way that honors the name of Christ.

Regardless of where you choose to go, the best thing you can do to prepare to go to a shop is to know your maintenance history.  

– Russ Knight, Owner 

Christian Brothers Automotive, Tulsa Hills

(918) 289-0636, www.Cbac.com/Tulsa-hills 

FREE STUDENT CAR CARE CLINIC:

January 26th 10-12

Christian Brothers Automotive

Tulsa Hills, 7163 S Olympia Avenue, Tulsa, OK 74132


For those of us who don’t go beyond our 3-5 city mile blocks, a little trek to Owasso might be just the fun you need.  (Only 25-30 minutes from south Tulsa/Jenks and of course actually IN Owasso for our readers there). Their brand new 26,000 sq. ft. family entertainment center features a massive 150’ x 75’ hardwood maple skating floor, with state-of-the-art lighting, sound, and special effects.  With a giant climbing area called the PlayZone, kids can enter for $5 plus tax in that area 11-1 on Fridays. Prices vary depending on the activity/day. During the toddler times, my 3 year old can climb for the entire time by herself without getting bored. She comes out fairly exhausted, while gaining climbing/coordination skills for life. On Tiny Tots Thursdays, there is a bouncy house, skating, fun little cars, bouncy balls, games, dance contests and more. Plus, the real scoop for moms–I can even sit here writing a review while she plays.  It’s just incredible.

Wheels and Thrills is also the place for exciting multi-level, themed laser tag, with amazing special effects. They have free WiFi, pizza and other fun food, and free refills on the tea. For those wanting to skate, play a few games or enter the LAZER ZONE—there’s really something for all ages.  

However, I must say my favorite thing about the whole facility is the staff.  They have hired some of the most kid-focused, caring staff that I’ve met. They are constantly dancing and interacting with the kids. One employee, Harlie, dances and interacts with the kids every time I look up.  She pulls out fun dance moves, tells a joke or just makes a silly face to make them laugh.  If we had enough space, I’d walk through the whole staff, as we’ve had such positive interactions with them all. The owner, Tammy Johnson, is constantly right in the middle of the fun. She has a heart for kids.  She even offers “Sensory Sundays” one weekend a month for kids with sensory sensitivities.  With homeschool skates, Christian music skate nights, and Tiny Tots programs—it really is game on for some fun family time.  

Tammy just loves to make a welcoming environment for all of the kids.  We don’t have enough room to list it all—but check out www.wheelsandthrills.com for a list of events/costs.  We hope you give it a try and tell them Community Spirit Magazine sent you!

 


Written By: R.A. Goodnight

Can you imagine what an actual war in the celestial realms would be like? The Bible tells us that such an event occurred.

“Then war broke out in heaven.  Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.  But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.” (Revelation 12:7, 8)

What that must have been like – angelic soldiers wielding supernatural weapons. An epic war, as the army of light engaged in actual battle against the forces of darkness. As we meditate upon these words, they arouse a sense of awe inside of us. Hopefully, reading John’s account reminds us of a more sobering truth.  A real war – not a metaphorical one – is being fought. You, and more importantly, your family are a part of it.  It is our place as men in God’s arrangement to take the lead in the defense of our families.

If this war was fought in heaven, why would I say that it affects us?  This statement is true in more than one way, but let’s focus in on a singular aspect for the moment.  Notice what John goes on to recount.  Verse 9, “The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”  He takes it a step further in verse 12, “But woe to the earth and sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”  My fellow men, he and his angry army of demons were thrown to The Earth.  They are now among us.  And, as if more emphasis was needed, he wraps up the chapter with these words, “The dragon was enraged…and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” (Rev. 12:18) Yes, he is here.  He is angry, full of fury and intent on warring against YOU.  This is a real war and it has real casualties.  You and your family are right in the middle of it.  If Satan was willing to do battle with Michael (the commander of the most powerful army that ever has or will exist), what is he willing to do to our families here on Earth?  Soldiers, the important question becomes – will you fight? Will you protect your family against the attacks of the enemy?

Our enemy is powerful. However, it is possible to stand our ground. Revelation should give us confidence in this fact, as we see he has already lost one decisive battle.  Let’s make him lose more.  Because of the record in Revelation, it gives us the advantage of battlefield intelligence.  This is not a surprise attack.  We know he is here and we know his plan; He comes to kill, steal and destroy.  We need to put this intelligence to use and prepare our defenses.

Along with intelligence, we have the capabilities to be well equipped for the battle.  An effective soldier will have weapons and armor to use during a fight.  As soldiers of God, we have been given a full suit of armor as well as a weapon.  We have a belt, a breastplate, boots for our feet, a shield, a helmet and a sword (Eph. 6:11-17). Are we not grateful for the provisions our commander has given us to so that we can be victorious in this war?  The ASV version helps us understand that all these components are necessary to be fully protected.  In Ephesians 6:13 (ASV) it tells us to take up the “whole armor of God,” not just certain pieces.  This is an important point, soldiers.  Our ability to skillfully use each piece of our armor determine how effective we are in a fight.  In this series of articles, we break down this suit of armor and discuss its components:  What does each piece mean? What is each piece of armor’s purpose? How do we use these pieces effectively?

Let’s start with learning to wield our sword.  Why start with it?  One main reason–as we learn to use our sword, it strengthens other pieces of our armor, like our shields and our helmets.  We will discuss that claim further in a moment.  So a fair question to now ask ourselves – is our skill as a swordsman equal with the battle that is before us?  Before we can identify how effective we are with our sword, we must first identify what our sword is. Diving into Ephesians, verse 17 tells us, “Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  

Yes, the word of God is our spiritual sword. In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul describes the word of God as being sharper than a double edged sword, an effective weapon in capable hands. (Heb. 4:12). Interestingly, the sword is the only part of our spiritual armor that serves as both an offensive weapon as well as a defensive tool. Knowing HOW to use it, as well as WHEN to use it for either purpose will take training and practice.

Now that we understand what our sword is, the next logical question is how do we use it?  To help us answer this let’s look at the master swordsman, Jesus Christ.  Christ would not use his own words as the basis for his teaching or his defense.  Doing a quick check through the Gospels, Christ quoted from at least 24 different old testament writers.  He would say “For it is written” or “Have you not heard?”or “Did you not read?” and other forms of these scripture-referencing questions (Matt. 4:4; Mark 7:10; Luke 18:20). What was Christ doing when we would respond in this manner?  He was using his sword!  He let God’s word be his defensive (and his offensive) tool.  His method was the same regardless of whether he was responding to doubters, to Pharisees or to his family.  Notably, in his confrontation with Satan, every rebuttal Jesus gives Satan is a direct quote from an inspired writer (Matt. 4:1-11). As fellow swordsman, we should be copying his example.

When confronted by the enemy, a successful offense or defense depends on our ability to recall God’s word–and the truths and principles it contains.  The same is true of a literal sword; the ability to wield it properly only comes from practice.  How did Christ become so familiar with his sword of truth?  There is an account regarding Jesus, while he was still a boy, that lends us a clue.  Luke tells us that during a family trip Jesus went missing.  Luke 2:26 tells us that they eventually found him “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”  From an early age until his death, Christ had a fondness for studying God’s word.  How could he quote scripture if he did not know what it contained?  Studying the word and engaging with his teachers– Christ set the example for us to follow.  It is the only way we will become adept at using God’s word with authority.

Now, back to our question from above – how is your swordsmanship, soldier?  Are you practicing with it regularly?  Each one of us should have a routine for personal Bible study–a successful defense of your family depends on it. Become familiar with principles and verses, both Old and New Testaments. Understand God’s way of thinking. Remember, “All Scripture is…useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16,17). Dedicate time for yourself to read God’s word daily.  Attending church is only the beginning of our training. Personally, I find it helpful to block time off each day on my work lunch calendar.  Not only does this set aside specific times but my phone also reminds me to stop, to read, and to practice my swordsmanship.  In addition, joining a men’s group or some family Bible study for discipleship also helps round out the training.

Now that we have identified what our sword is and how to become skillful fighters – when can we use it?  Perhaps your child is facing challenges at school due to their stand in the faith.  Get up soldier.  Draw your sword!  Go on the offense and share verses with your child to strengthen their confidence.  Perhaps show them Proverbs 27:11 and help them understand that their personal stand for the faith brings joy to God’s own heart!  Has your wife become overcome with sadness due to the death of a loved one?  Your sword is full of encouragement for those who mourn, such as Thessalonians 4:13-14.  Maybe it’s you, fellow warrior, who has come under attack and fallen on some hard times.  Dive into God’s word – defend yourself.  Remind yourself of verses such as Deuteronomy 31:6 where the Lord tells you He will not leave you or forsake you.

What about times when we have drawn our swords, but we are not sure how to strike?  This is one of my personal favorites. God himself gives us this encouragement, “You will hear a voice from behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21). Even as well-equipped as we are, we are not alone in this fight.  God is at our six (military code for “God’s got your back.”).  There will be moments when we may not know what our next move should be. Directed by God’s spirit, He will provide our tactics for us.  It might come through our personal study, a fellow soldier or from a lesson at church.  Believe, listen and the attack plan will become evident.

Learning to use our swords first helps strengthen other pieces of our armor.  Understanding what our swords are, as we study God’s word, we will we learn swordsmanship, but it will also start to build faith (our shield). We will learn more about salvation (our helmet), as we pursue righteousness (our breastplates) and so much more.  Starting with our swords will lead us to eventually equipping the entire suit.  Now you are ready for battle!

Do not forget who we are.  We are soldiers of God.  Do not underestimate the weapons and armor we have been given.  “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Yes, we are powerful.  We were made in God’s image. We were made to be men! Draw your swords, soldiers, and get in the fight! 


We wanted to highlight just one way students make a difference. More than that, we wanted their story to IMPACT others!

Individuals or groups may submit their work here. We have a guaranteed minimum $250 prize for the winner’s cause. However, we will also be accepting donations here from readers for the fund-raising efforts/causes online to help further the impact. Donations will be tracked/accepted online. Deadline for submission is 2/15/19. Winner will be announced in the March issue of Community Spirit Magazine. 

The contest will look at 3 main areas:

1 – IMPACT to the recipient(s).
How will/did your efforts directly IMPACT the targeted recipients? What was the need? What did you (your group) plan/do to help? 

2 – IMPACT to the community. How will/did your efforts IMPACT the community? This can entail many sides.  Can/did your efforts touch a community?  Can/did they motivate your community to come alongside of you? Could others use your idea or be challenged by the idea to motivate more people to action?

3 – IMPACT to you. How will/did your effort IMPACT you? What will/did your involvement teach/instill/inspire in you?

This contest isn’t a numbers game, although we fully support mass efforts. Those coming together to help one family are every bit as worthy as those helping a city block. We all know Jesus taught us that the one matters. Jesus said, “…truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine…” (Matthew 18:14.) So, Go. Do. Be. Wherever God might lead you. And, tell us about it!  Students, we are in awe of your hearts, your ability to mobilize, and your desire to make an #IMPACT4Christ.

The winner will get $250 FOR YOUR CAUSE + A FREE OIL CHANGE from Christian Brothers Automotive!

Submit your work!

Make a donation!

By Teresa Goodnight

The youth are our future. It’s a reminder Christians need to keep top of mind every day.  The buzz around many churches in the city continues to be around discipleship.  Many churches feel they have lost their way a bit on discipling new (and old!) believers and are trying to navigate their way back into more of a discipline.  The problem is—that navigation takes time.  For those who aren’t paying attention, it will take an awakening. However, as parents we KNOW that we really don’t have THAT much time.

Nothing seems faster than a child’s move from diapers to grade school and then out of the house to college or career.  As parents, many seriously wonder where the time has gone (Of course, some ARE anxiously counting down the days to graduation!). With time not being on our side, often one of the things accidentally put off until tomorrow can be the true discipleship of our children.  It’s not that we don’t take them to church—we do.  Mostly.  However, for many, life seems to get in the way of scheduled dedicated time together to talk about the Bible and train our kids.  We are trying, but the quick, hard question is this:  Are we doing enough?  Are our churches training our children to live life as successful, independent adult Christians?  To take it even further, are they being trained in a way to stay grounded in a world moving away from our core Christian values?  If we’re unsure, it’s a great reminder – we only get one chance to raise them right. 

One way parents are getting the extra discipleship is partnering with a Christian school.  I know.  It didn’t strike me at first either.  I never considered sending a child to private Christian schools until I had one. It wasn’t even on my radar. Then, when my daughter was born, I started to feel the burden of managing her education.  My husband and I looked at private schools before she was out of her diapers at just under 2 years.  However, I wasn’t looking for a Christian education partner–I was searching for the school to offer my highly intelligent, little cutie the ability to take advantage of all God had given her.  My husband and I set the course looking for a school avoiding naps and offering her the perfect environment to thrive.  Christian schools were on the list, because I wanted her to grow up around other Christian kiddos, but our first line of business was education.  I just liked the thought of fewer students to one teacher.  I was pretty sure my only child would need all the attention a teacher could muster to feel assured and heard.

In 2018 though, I started meeting children attending private Christian schools.   I was really in awe of how well they could articulate their faith with real depth of meaning. I couldn’t help but wonder if the difference was at home or in where their time was spent studying—maybe both. If it was at home, I was a little jealous of the parenting skills, as we barely found time for meals, much less anything else.  So, I decided to dig a little deeper.  When I started talking to the private Christian schools, I was amazed. Turns out, the majority of them spend semesters of time learning the basics of our faith. The Bible is integrated throughout the school career.  It’s not just for Sundays or maybe Wednesdays.  They study it. They learn to share it. It really becomes a large part of their every day life at school. I never really thought about it before. 

Then I started asking the students. Sure enough, the students were in private schools, attending classes on the basics of their faith, world views, and learning to integrate their beliefs into their everyday life. I was amazed at both their ability to articulate what they believe as well as how confidently they expressed their thoughts.  I knew right then, I had been focused on the wrong thing.  It wasn’t just the general educational experience, but I wanted my daughter to experience all the integration of God with her daily life that I could find.  All of a sudden, her education dropped to second place under her discipleship.

Why does this matter? Because if they don’t understand what they believe and why, when the days come when they question their faith (usually college age but sometimes earlier), they tend to begin to wander.  Only you
can know your child and how your church is faring on instilling the important basics of the faith in them. As a parent, this is a critical part of our jobs. If we miss it, we may not get that chance again. 

So, as a product of an incredible public school, where Bible studies, a few Christian teachers and Christian friends were the norm, I can still see how much of a difference a Christian education might have mattered to me.  As times get more difficult, if school can offer those extra people investing Biblically in my daughter, who help keep my child on God’s path for life–I’ve decided it’s worth the sacrifice. After all, it does take a village. 

CATCH THIS: We’re interviewing a graduate of Mingo Valley Christian, Carson Lowe, sophomore at the University of Arkansas, for February to specifically talk about this training and its value in his University of Arkansas World Views class. You won’t want to miss it next month.

After touring around several of the schools in the Tulsa area, Community Spirit Magazine (CSM) decided we wanted to create an annual contest supporting those efforts. These students are being Christ by showing their love and we want to help their light shine even brighter.  

We think helping others is infectious!  

Metro Christian Academy had a key role inspiring the contest with their act of kindness in October this last year to the community surrounding their school.  They decided to create their very own community block party (a trunk or treat). With a team of 9, they organized the event – coordinating everything from a costume tent for kids to a petting zoo.  They went into the community surrounding their school to invite their neighbors to attend.  With a whole school of volunteers and parents behind them for what appeared a seamless event, they touched hundreds of families in the neighborhood surrounding the school.  CSM went in to talk with Halle Sutton and Annie Blankenship, two of the student leaders to better understand what went on. 

With excitement to discuss their adventure, Halle and Annie were anxiously waiting in the room ready to talk. Annie’s sister Amy Blankenship was the Service Head for the school and actually had the vision for the event.  Annie and Halle both helped start the event in 2017. They both saw exactly how the event impacted lives the first year–and couldn’t wait to be leaders this last year.  

So, without hesitation, they started right in.  Halle began passionately, stating she feels Metro Christian Academy’s campus location isn’t just by accident. She said “It’s a cool opportunity we have right where we are to help the community fellowship with each other.” The community surrounding the school hits the news a lot with more than what it deserves from crime problems. When you’re on the outside of a crime area, people tend to falsely assume the people in the area are creating the problems, when they are just living with them more closely than the rest of us.  Both girls feel strongly there is a need for everyone to come together as a community.   Annie says “It’s a cool safe place.  Even if for one night, kids can feel safe in their world. They can realize we can come together and we can make friends. It was fun watching them make friends with each other as well as the volunteers.”

Halle feels the event is stressful but incredibly worth it to see the kids having fun.  She said, “Some of the more difficult areas for running an event like this are trying to stay in budget.” That’s a common thread in any event planning as we all know too well.   Annie also finds vision planting a bit challenging at times.  She said  “As students we know the most about this event, but then you also have to work with the adults and the people in charge to get them to approve a lot of things. You have to share your vision with them to get them on board.”  

Volunteers were key to the success of the event said the girls.  They all played really important parts in the success.  Halle said “The volunteers could sign up for whatever their interests were. So, if they were good at painting, they could sign up for face painting.” Halle said “With all the volunteers, we had hamster balls, face painting, pumpkin painting, bouncy houses, inflatables, a petting zoo, 9 square and even a fire breather” (as both girls chuckled). “Then there was a costume closet.” said Annie  “A lot of Metro kids and families donated used and new costumes.  So, any kid who came without a costume could get one.“The event had quality and charm with a little something for everyone. Annie followed on to say, “On the night of the event, it was kind of crazy.  As the service committee, we knew we’d be running around trying to make sure everything was happening right but we had these volunteers coming for one night. They were fresh and ready to connect with the kids. So we got to see everyone creating these amazing bonds with the kids as we were running around making things happen. It was just incredible to watch.”  

Annie was thrilled with the smiles on the kids faces who came but also really moved at the impact the event had on the students at Metro. “Sometimes Metro students can wonder ‘Why are we in this location?’  It has a reputation for being a bad place.  So seeing the good in the community around us was a really cool thing for us, as students.  It helps everyone remember kids live here and they’re really sweet–like any other kids you would run into.” Annie also added  “I think the cool thing was also that we had so many Metro parents volunteering and I really saw them making connections with other parents.” 

The girls said they had some great community partners as well. Cane’s on 41st gave chicken kids meal cards for all the kids.  Reasors on Peoria stepped in and gave them a great deal on the food, which helped make the event even better.  That kind of kindness makes you want to run grab some Cane’s right before you go shopping at Reasors!

As I listened to them both, the incredible lessons they were learning for life were really astounding.  Being an event planner, it jumped out that they were touching on everything you would need to create a successful event for any business or charity–from logistics to budget and most importantly, getting people on board with your vision.  These were not just event skills, but critical life skills–all learned while making a difference in their community.  There was such joy in their eyes as they shared.  It was
easy to see deep down the greatest IMPACT of all was on their hearts.

By Randy C. Cowell, ACT Financial

Now that I have your attention, let’s start by shedding light on the grim future of taxation in America.  

Hop in the De Lorean and let’s go to 1980.  Seymore Durst, a New York Real Estate magnate, did a few infamous things pointing to our rising national debt. Frustrated politicians were unwilling to take action, in 1989 he built a National Debt Clock near Times Square trying to jolt the country to action.  Still ticking 30 years later, the National debt eclipsed the 21 trillion-dollar mark.  That’s a 21 followed by twelve zeros! 

Hop back in and let’s stop in 2004.  Allow me to introduce you to David M. Walker.  Walker served under Bush 41 as one of two trustees for Social Security and Medicare. He also was the Comptroller General and CEO of the Government Accountability office under Clinton.  In other words, he was the CPA of the USA under two presidents from opposite sides of the political tracks, noted as a well-respected nonpartisan and apolitical public servant.  

Armed with statistics and the fact that the first of 78 million baby boomers would be ready to tap into Social Security in a few years, Walker sounded the alarm where he could.  For Walker, the writing was on the wall. In 2005, with the assistance of several financial heavy weights, such as, Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker, they began crisscrossing our nation on a campaign called the “Fiscal Wake-up” tour.  Their mantra: “Taxes could and most likely will have to double in the future to keep our country solvent.”  In 2008, David Walker resigned from public service to continue his crusade.  In 2010, he wrote Comeback America-Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility.  It’s an easy read and you won’t want to put it down. 

Now that everyone is in a good mood, let’s jolt our baffled selves back to 2019, where we can discuss some strategies to potentially buffer/insulate you and your family from the oncoming taxation freight train headed our way.

Provisional Income 

Not familiar with the term?  Don’t feel bad. Most Americans do not understand how the Internal Revenue Service uses provisional income to calculate the taxation on their Social Security income. What is considered provisional income?  All 1099 income and all ordinary income. That’s code-speak for pretty much everything not “qualified.”  In addition to that, income is anything from your pension and any withdrawals from your retirement plans. 

So, if you don’t want to pay taxes AND you don’t want 85% of your Social Security benefit to be taxed, what can you do now to get to a lower, dare I say it, maybe even a zero tax bracket?  I believe the first step is recognizing what a truly tax-free investment* looks like.  

Here are the four rules that must be met to truly qualify for tax free status: 

  • It must not be taxable at the Federal level.
  • It must not be taxable at the state level
  • There cannot be capital gains taxation associated with distributions 
  • Income from the investment CANNOT be included as provisional income. 

Even a municipal bond, if purchased out of state, can fail three out of four requirements.  Would it surprise you to know there are only two truly tax-free investments?*  

Roth IRA’s** and specially designed life insurance***.  Whether it is a muni bond, mutual fund, rental property, or the thousands of other investments* available, these four rules must apply to qualify as a truly tax-free investment*.  

  •  If David Walker is right and tax rates must double in the future to pay for our debt and all the unfunded entitlements, how prepared are you and your portfolio to weather that storm? 
  • Knowing that unless congress changes things, at the exact stroke of midnight, January 1, 2026, tax rates are going up– are you going to take advantage?  (i.e. taxes are on sale for the next 8 years)
  • If you could receive your Social Security tax free and perhaps your qualified retirement income tax free, would that be a conversation worth having?  

The concepts and strategies mentioned in this article are guidelines and it is always recommended that the reader(s) seek wise legal, accounting, and investment advice.  It goes without saying that the tax code we are dealing with today could change.  True, but there is a history of legislative changes that over the years have “grandfathered” certain investment products.  Life insurance is one of those investments that historically has been grandfathered.   

Future tax code changes are inevitable.  The treatment of products and the applications surrounding them are subject to legislative change. Until these things change, wise strategic planning is a necessity.

For additional information on how to get to the 0% tax bracket in retirement, please call our office at (918) 664-0081. 


RANDY C. COWELL, MS, LUTCF, CFP®, CRPC®, ACT FINANCIAL SERVICES, INC.

Randy is President and Senior Strategist of ACT Financial Services, Inc in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He is a Certified Financial Planner®, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor®, Investment Advisor Representative of HTK, Inc. and recognized as a Fellow by the Underwriters Training Council (LUTCF).  His expertise combined with a unique “Biblically-based” philosophy, has served his clients well for over three decades.  Randy can be reached at (918) 664-0081 or by email at rcowell@htk.com.


 *“Investment” as used in this article is a blanket term for any vehicle in which you can save money.  Examples would be saving accounts, life insurance, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.  You get the idea.  

**There are income restrictions that could prevent one from participating in a Roth IRA.  There are strategies that could be implemented to take advantage of the Roth and Roth conversion so speak to your financial adviser, tax adviser, and group benefits coordinator about whether you qualify for a Roth IRA or Roth rollover. 

***Life insurance that is characterized as a Modified Endowment contract does not receive the same tax treatment as a Non-MEC version.  Please consult your tax adviser for further details on Modified Endowment life insurance.  Registered Representative of and Securities and Investment Advisory Services offered through Hornor, Townsend & Kent, Inc. (HTK), Registered Investment Advisor, member FINRA/SIPC, 4111 S. Darlington Ave., Suite 800, Tulsa, OK 74135, (918) 664-6511. ACT Financial Services, Inc. is unaffiliated with Hornor, Townsend, & Kent, Inc. HTK does not provide tax or legal advice.  2247317RM-Sep20

Maintenance on an AC/heating unit isn’t fun. In fact, it’s so fun that it’s rarely done. We live in an era where we just expect units to keep our homes at the right temperature for comfort. They’re just supposed to always work. We’ve even invented thermostats that can help us control the temperature when we’re sleeping or not in the home with timers, smart phones and even the dreaded Alexa. (Don’t get me started on her! She’s the only one in our family who gets directions upwards of 8-10x and still gets them wrong).

Having a mid-90’s home we bought and started renovating in 2017, the last thing we wanted to spend more money on was heating and cooling. The units MIGHT be original (don’t judge us!). With the warranty negotiated with the purchase of the home, we cycled into keeping the warranty hoping the units fail and we can upgrade the new ones. Last year, I called the warranty company over 6 times due to temperature issues. I waited 3-7 days each time for my turn. One time included a very expensive leak that spotted my ceiling in two places and caused me to hire a sheetrock guy and a painter.

The warranty company claimed our water was from a leaky roof. Came and went. Nope. For a week, my daughter and I slept upstairs, as my husband was in Colorado hunting. The warranty company’s repair team then shut down the same week for vacation. I’m sorry. What? And, believe it or not, the other A/C upstairs started dripping water from the vent. The only saving grace was the vent being above the toilet (and us sleeping upstairs of course,  as I rarely have cause to go in that guest room bath). All this with my hubby only accessible via satellite texts? Really? Oh come on.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I called Air Solutions.  They pulled in with the cute green mobile unit (I know, but it is cute—I’m sure you’ve seen it). Anyway, turns out the unit WAS leaking. It was fixed the next day after the call. Hunt away hubby! Mamma’s got this. Finally, in a home with not one, not two, but 3 air conditioner units, my dearest daughter and I could enjoy some modern comfort of cool air!

I’ve used Air Solutions dozens of times in my dire emergencies—once at Grand Lake in 2017 (they do go that far!) when our vacation rental property was quickly losing wonderful summer cash waiting on the warranty company.  Sometimes you just can’t take it anymore, warranty or not.

When we bought the magazine, they were the first company I called to support us as the advertisers, as I wanted a good excuse to share my own experiences. See, they don’t know it, but the incident above with my daughter transpired at the exact time we were praying about purchasing the magazine. My mind was a wee bit stressed thinking about the financial burden, while also feeling called to help impact this city for Christ. My daughter was missing her daddy, uncomfortable, not sleeping well AND not liking her new school. (Lights dimmed for lunch. No talking. For 3 year olds? Really? I digress). We all know how much we grow to depend on the hubs to just take care of things, especially the things we take for granted like our heating/cooling system. Air Solutions played a big hero part in that story. They cleared the way, helped me clear my head, and God used them to help me breathe again (much cooler air I might add!). The half dollar satellite texts to my hubby got to stay focused on discussing this potential calling. Now, here we are!

Next time I’ll share about their home plans to help save you from my kinds of stressful messes!

Air Solutions

918-288-0305

www.callairsolutions.com

They are vibrant and youthful.  This morning I met a 70 year old woman with her face still healing from a significant amount of stitches. She was buying a car with her boyfriend. She apologized to me for being out with her face still healing. I laughed with her, as I told her it was fine as I fully believed I felt a little like she looked right now. She explained she had been using a man’s bicycle. She was unfamiliar with how to operate it in general. She headed down a path without knowing how to put on the brakes. We laughed (as she winced in pain from her side bruises). She said “I just wasn’t sure how I was going to stop. So I just dove off the path and into a pile of gravel.” We both knew what happened wasn’t really funny, but the story itself in the way she presented—yeah, giggles. We talked for quite a while discussing everything from ClearTone hearing aids to the fact that she just moved to Springfield, MO. As a Life.Church’er, I encouraged her to go check out the new campus there. Turns out, she had already checked out the building before she headed to Tulsa! 

I loved her sense of adventure and passion for life. It reminded me that 70 is the new 50. Many seniors wonder what they will do after retirement. I searched.  I can’t find any retirement passages in the Bible. I think that’s because true retirement, as a concept, was created to push older folks out of jobs to make way for newer, younger workers in a world where jobs were needed.  Somehow, it’s now become the end all be all for a life goal.  Everyone either can’t wait to retire or spends a little time griping they won’t be able to do so.  Of course, now we have groups trying to retire at 40 with stricter budgets. I guess the idea caught on.

Seniors live longer and are in better shape than ever before. There is life after 65–and it’s really all in what you choose to make it. Whether it’s chasing the grandkids or hopping on the unfamiliar bicycle of life, it’s there for the taking. It’s really up to you. (Although we do recommend checking out the brakes first!). Life is meant to be lived. Jesus said “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10.  

Here’s just a few places looking for volunteers of all ages and make an IMPACT for Christ:

Mend Crisis Pregnancy Center: This ministry impacts the lives of mothers and children right here in Tulsa.  They help women, who find themselves pregnant, and don’t know what to do.  They have a non-judgmental environment to help them get to a better place to be able to love and care for women, children, and even fathers. They also help facilitate adoptions. 

www.mendpregnancy.org

Joy in the Cause: Serving individuals and families facing life-altering situations, one package of care at a time.

www.joyinthecause.org

Good Samaritan Health Services: Tulsa based healthcare going into communities to serve those without insurance needing medical care.  They are literally changing lives through his love.  

www.goodsamaritanhealth.org

Senior Moments, Sponsored by Visiting Angels, offering home care with excellent care, exceptional caregivers, efficient communication and an economical cost.  

www.visitingangels.com

918.609.5600 

The list could go on. The opportunities aren’t hard to find, but they are looking for a few good men and women with a heart to reach the city for Christ.  For 2019, maybe you set your sights even higher than they have been set before. Can’t wait to see you write in to tell us where God leads you in your new endeavors of life!