Great News!

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Exciting things happening at BHOK!  As many of you know, Barnabas House does not yet have a permanent home.  We have sent individuals on a getaway weekend, but our vision for pastoral retreats has not been fully realized.  Our big news is that we are one big step closer! 

Over the weekend, we visited the home of Carl and Mollie Myers at Ft. Gibson Lake.  The house is on the grounds of The Canebrake Resort outside of Wagoner, Ok.  It is a beautiful and very large place overlooking the lake.  The Myers have graciously offered the use of their home for BHOK retreats – our very first group retreat will be this Spring!  We will welcome four couples for a 3 day/2 night retreat, feeding their bodies, minds, and spirits. We are so thankful to God and to the Myers for literally opening this door!

Work is also being done on our website, which we will launch in the very near future, and our LinkedIn page has been updated thanks to the assistance of Amy Campbell at www.theredchecker.com  It’s so great to have such gifted friends to help in our areas of lack.

We are raising funds for the Spring retreat, so please prayerfully consider nominating and/or sponsoring one or more couples for this much needed time of restoration.  The cost to sponsor a couple is $150 – a small amount due to the generosity of the Myers.  You may donate or contact us through our website www.barnabashouseok.com or our Facebook page www.facebook.com/barnabashouseok.  Thank you so much for your encouragement and support!

100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (pt 2)

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This week’s Tuesday Tips is part two of the four part series. 100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (continued)

26. Attitude. Stay young. Just because you grow older—as you will, if God blesses you with longevity—you don’t have to become rigid and “set” in your ways. Psalm 92 promises that godly people “will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green.”

27. Laugh a lot. Spend time around children and teens. Don’t act like a dignified preacher around them; get down on the floor and play with the little ones. Change into your jeans and sneakers and play volleyball with the teens.

28. On the other hand, do not try to fit in as a teenager (a common mistake of youth ministers). Even if it appears they accept you as one of them, they don’t. You are a pastor and thus an authority figure to them, and that’s how it should be. But you can still love them and have them adore you.

29. Prayer. Work on your prayer life, both private and public. Just as Paul said, “We see through a glass darkly,” he also said, “We do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26). If he didn’t, it’s a safe bet you and I are poor pray-ers, too. Give attention to your praying.

30. Take care of your health. Exercise—walking is a better form of exercise than jogging because it frees your mind to think over issues, go over sermons, talk to God—several times a week and eat right. Watch your weight.

31. Porn. Guard against pornography. It comes in all varieties and can pop up anywhere, so stay on the alert. Just because one does not go to the illicit websites does not mean we are safeguarding our minds.

32. Be humble. You may need to work at this. Do not call yourself “Doctor,” even if you have an earned doctorate. And, do not call yourself “senior pastor” or “lead pastor,” regardless of the size of your church. These titles smack of pride. Pastor is an honorable designation. (If others choose to call you by these or other names, that’s fine. Letting people discover by accident that you have an advanced degree is a compliment to you; wearing it on your sleeve isn’t.)

33. Remembering that “character is what you are in the dark,” we would add that who you are when no one knows you are a preacher is the real you. Who you are in the motel room in a distant city is the real you. How you treat the waitress in Denny’s or how you leave a public restroom, these say worlds about who you are.

34. Preparation. If you are too busy to study for your sermons, you are too busy.

35. From time to time, tell your people: “Pastors are not sent to make the people happy, but to make them holy and healthy and to make the Lord happy.” Ask the secretary to print this in the bulletin at least annually as a reminder.

36. Conflict resolution. When conflicts arise in the church, do not automatically assume you are the one to deal with it. When someone attacks you, your church needs a few mature, godly and sweet members who can visit that person to, a) ask, “What’s going on?” (that is, “Why are you doing this?”), and b) to listen to them. If the complainer has a legitimate gripe, they come back and tell you, and together you all deal with it. If they are out of line, the visiting team asks the murmurer to stop this right now. Leaders of the church must possess both wisdom (knowing what to do) and courage (having the will to do it).

37. It’s no compliment to you when all your “calls” to churches have been unanimous and no slam against you that all the votes have been divided.

38. Family. Beware of putting high expectations and demands on your family just because you are the pastor. Children quickly grow to resent this.

39. Toward the conclusion of your negotiations with a search committee, consider asking: “And how much will my wife’s salary be?” When they answer that “We’re not hiring her,” smile broadly and say, “Right. I just wanted to make sure you knew that!”

40. You will never exhaust the riches of God’s word. When you have read a passage 100 times over 40 years, you will still be making discoveries in it. There is nothing else like this Book. Stay in it.

41. Preparation. Remember that preaching is not a written art, but an oral thing. So, once you have finished your plan for the message, go for a walk and preach it aloud. This will alert you to detours to avoid, rabbit trails to shun, potholes to steer around, and will make you aware of areas where you need to do more work.

42. Never deliver a sermon you have not preached to yourself at least three times. Likewise, when you plan to read a Scripture in the worship service, prepare by reading it aloud numerous times to prepare your tongue for forming these particular sounds, to find phrases you need to emphasize, and so you can do the reading justice.

43. When you are invited to guest preach in other churches, do not reinvent the wheel. This is no time to hammer out a new sermon, but an opportunity to use something you have previously preached. This allows you to improve on it. In time, this may become a favorite sermon you preach in many places.

44. While your sermon-machine is always on (and you will always have a notepad nearby when reading anything), make it a point to read Scripture devotionally—asking the Father to feed your soul—every day. Read for no other purpose than to listen to God.

45. Stewardship. Tithe your income and more through your church.

46. If you are not a faithful tither, you will have a hard time teaching your people about stewardship and taking a stand against materialism and greed. Eventually, if someone finds out you are not tithing—as they will—they will use this against you. Be blameless in all things.

47. Keep in mind that no one ever started tithing when they could afford to do so. Everyone needs just a little more money. As with everything else in the Christian life, you will do this by faith or not at all. But, no matter how painful it is, get started. The first year is the hardest; thereafter, it gets easier. Some day, you will look back with pleasure that in this one area at least, you got it right.

48. Benevolence. Don’t be so hard-nosed toward people who come to your church asking for financial help. Be wise, yes, and be on the alert for con men and scam artists. But never forget that our Lord said, “Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30). He did not say we have to give them what they ask for or as much as they want. Try to give them something.

49. If you stop to help a vagrant, it’s perfectly fine to be generous without making the supplicant earn the money by listening to your lecture.

50. Witnessing. Become a personal soul-winner. Learn how to initiate a conversation with a stranger and how to explain briefly the plan of salvation and lead them in the sinner’s prayer. Then, watch for opportunities. (The Holy Spirit will send plenty of occasions to those who are prepared and watching.)

Tell Me the Story of Jesus

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One of my earliest memories – sitting in a semi-circle in front of a flannel board listening to Mrs. Nanson tell us about Jesus. I can still feel the scratch of the backing against my little fingers as she shows us what holds the paper figures on the sky blue felted board. It’s just a mental snapshot of something that happened every week without fail, but there it is. A moment of sweetness captured like an insect in amber.

Two or three years later and I’m six years old. An odd little child who befriends all the neighbors, I’m four doors down at Sherri Graham’s house, laying out in the sun in the backyard with my friend – who just happens to be about 17. The memory is all wrapped up in the smell of suntan lotion, the loops of the terry cloth towel against my face, and the warmth of the summer day wrapping me up like a big blanket. She’s telling me about Jesus and I consider in my heart that it’s time to accept Him as Savior. Years later she has no recollection of the day when I remind her. I know that I will never forget a teenage girl took the time and undoubtedly patience to talk to a little girl about eternal things.

When I turn seven, I decide it is time to get baptized. Mrs. Badry teaches my group the significance of the step we are about to take. She is all musical voice and hair the color of light as she tells us about Jesus. Forty-something years later she remembers me as the girl who rode her bike all over town so she wouldn’t miss out on anything. I certainly didn’t miss out on this.

Woven in and among these are memories of my grandmother. By weekday, she scurries along with a spotless home and a boundless kitchen. A woman who never sat down through an entire meal – always hopping up to serve. Ah, but on the Sundays when it is her turn to tell us about Jesus, the power flowing from her nearly five foot tall frame is a sight to behold. A well-worn hankie tucked into the palm of her hand, she speaks with authority but never harshness. When she teaches Sunday school in her tiny church, we march into the room to the left of the stage and sit in wee chairs from Mexico. She sings with us, “The devil is a sly old fox. If I could catch him I’d put him in a box. I’d lock that box and throw away the key, for all those tricks he’s played on me.” Her faith is a ponderous and awesome thing that she shares with the smallest of her grandchildren. Even then I can feel the responsibility of the truth she entrusts to us.

It is the first day of November – the month of thankfulness. I am so thankful today for the women in my childhood who gave to me the gift of faith, time, patience, life. Women young and old who did not discount my youth or dismiss my presence. Women who were the Light-Bearers to my lonely heart and welcomed me into the circle of belief. All but one of these are already at the feet of Jesus and will stretch out their arms to receive me on the day I join them there. They already know their significance in my story, but I wanted you to know them as well.

Take a moment today to honor the women in your story. The Light-Bearers of faith that made the difference to you. And tell them or their families of their legacy of eternity.

100 Tips for Leaders in the Church

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This week’s Tuesday Tips is part one of a four part series. These 100 tips for leaders in the church come from Joe McKeever. After five years as Director of Missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner where he’s working on three books, and he’s trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way. He loves to do revivals, prayer conferences, deacon training, leadership banquets, and such. Usually, he’s working on some cartooning project for the denomination or some agency. See more from Joe McKeever here or visit Joe at www.joemckeever.com.

1. In all the world, there are only three Christians who love change; none of them are in your church.

2. When you speak before an unfamiliar group, be careful what you say because you never know who is listening to you. You’ll start to tell a story about some guy in your former church and his mama is sitting right in front of you.

3. There will never be a time in your life when you know all the Bible and have your questions all answered; if you cannot serve Him with some gaps in your knowledge and preach without knowing everything, you’re going to have a hard time.

4. Your church members should submit to your leadership, but you’re not the one to tell them that.

5. The best way to get people to submit to your leadership is for you to humble yourself and serve them the way the Lord did the disciples (John 13); they will trust someone who loves them that much.

6. The best way to get run off from a church is to take your eyes off Jesus and begin to think of yourself as hot stuff who is worthy of acclaim; from that moment on, your days are numbered.

7. In worship services, try not to talk so much, pushing events and meetings, that you are worn out by the time you open the Word and begin to preach.

8. Only a pastor with a suicide wish will tell a story about his wife and children in a sermon without their complete and enthusiastic approval. Even if they give it, you should go over it with them ahead of time to make sure they’re OK.

9. Some of your biggest headaches will come from ad-libbing in your sermons, saying things “off the cuff” which you just thought of. Try not to do that until you have fully mastered your tongue.

10. If the Lord is ever to use you mightily in His service, He will first have to break you. (Usually, this involves some failure on your part which comes to light and embarrasses you.) This will be humiliating to you and so painful you wonder if you can go back into the pulpit. However, you will survive and forevermore be thankful for what this taught you.

11. You need to befriend other pastors, old and young. Ministers need fellowship with colleagues. Do not make assumptions about pastors by the size of their congregation. Some of the Lord’s finest pastors and godliest preachers are bivocational.

12. It’s not all about you. Some people will join the church and it will flourish, some will leave and your church may struggle. Some will love you and some will hate you. Very little of it has to do with you. People have their own reasons for what they do. Get over yourself.

13. Marry someone who shares God’s call into this type of work or your life will be dragged down and she will be chronically angry at the demands placed on the family.

14. A little conflict in the church can be a good thing. Where there’s no friction, there’s no traction.

15. One of the surest ways to tell you are backsliding is when you no longer eagerly pick up the Bible and enjoy finding new insights. The day you find yourself thinking, “I know this Book; I’ve been there and done that,” you are in trouble.

16. If you cannot serve God by faith, you will not make it in the ministry. You will plant a thousand seeds along the way which you will never see grow to fruition. Likewise, you will gather a harvest from seed sown by others and cultivated by your predecessors.

17. If your joy comes from numbers and successes and awards, you are setting yourself for trouble. Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in accomplishments, but “because your names are written in Heaven” (Luke 10:20). This will keep you steady.

18. If you think of the ministry as a career and find yourself ambitious to go on to bigger and better things, you run the risk of imposing the world’s standards on the kingdom. Serve where He sends you, no matter how small or out of the way, and you may be surprised by what He can do at Podunk. Someone once asked, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Let God move you when (and if) He’s ready.

19. Get all the education you can and continue learning and growing the rest of your life. There is no stopping place until you get home.

20. Learn to live on your income. Avoid all debt except on a house. The first few years (when your income is smallest) are the toughest; after that, it should be easier and easier.

21. Off days. Early on, establish with your spouse at least one full day (including evening) each week for yourselves. Have an understanding about this when talking with search committees. Protect it. (Then, help your wife to know that, a) you will work hard to protect this day, but b) there will inevitably be exceptions once in a while.)

22. Search committees. When dealing with search committees, do not become so eager to go to that church that you fail to do your homework (such as, looking carefully at the church’s history, its relationships with previous pastors, what income/benefits they offer, the details about the living arrangements, etc.).

23. Mentors. Find one or two older ministers as your mentors. Call them occasionally to tell what’s going on and seek their counsel. Pray for their ministry.

24. Reading. In addition to theological books and ministry periodicals, read outside your field. Run by the public library and browse the periodicals. Scan through magazines you’ve never heard of. Be alert for ideas, interesting concepts, anything you’ve never heard of. Read a lot of history.

25. Always have reading material in your car so if you are stuck in traffic or in a waiting room, you’re prepared.

Tips On Parenting a PK

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Glenn Burris, Jr. is currently serving as President of The Foursquare Church. A longtime Foursquare leader, Burris graduated from Mount Vernon Bible College in 1975 and served as a youth pastor before leading churches in Georgia and North Carolina. He became supervisor of the 10-state Southeast District in 1992, serving in that role until 2002 when he became general supervisor of Foursquare, a vice-presidential position. He also served a brief term as president of LIFE Bible College East in Christiansburg, Va. His passions are planting churches and caring for pastors. This post is one in a series he has written on the needs of pastors and their families.

Pastor’s kids live under a microscope. The expectations of them at times are unreasonable. They attempt to carve out their own identify, as well as discover God’s plan and purpose for their own life, while living in the wake of their parent’s successes or their parent’s struggles. I was a P.K. and Debbie and I were incredibly privileged by the Lord, to parent Heidi & Joshua. A few tips on parenting children in the environment of ministry.
1) Be transparent with them, but also be wise. Sometimes parents share information about issues and people. Just remember that your kids will not process it as easily as you do.
2) When you’re with them, be with them, body and mind. Today’s accessibility with smart phones and tablets make staying connected 24/7 with your ministry responsibilities sometimes too easy. They need your full attention.
3) Model the things you want them to learn, don’t just teach them. They learn more from what they see than what they hear.
4) You can’t love them too much, you can’t hug them too much, and you can’t encourage them too much. But you could under prepare them for a world that they’ll face one day as an adult. Train them, equip them, set boundaries for them, teach them about responsibility and honor.
5) Share your love and walk with God, share about your love and relationship with your spouse and share with them about the values and spiritual principles they’ll need to navigate a complex world.
6) Then trust God with their future and be there for them when they need you.

Waking up with Leah: Learning to Love a Disappointing Church

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Guest post written by Chad Bird. Click here and check out his blog.

In the tiny Texas town where I grew up, sleeping in on Sunday morning was as inconceivable as rooting for someone besides the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. Going to church made the list with apple pie and Chevrolet. My dad was a deacon; my mom a Sunday School teacher; and I was the typical daydreaming boy fidgeting in the pew. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and I found myself in a job where sleeping in on Sunday was highly frowned upon since the pulpit would’ve been quite empty without me. There I was: seminary trained, armed to the teeth with confessions and creeds, zealous to convert a world—or, at least, our Oklahoma town—to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Looking back at myself as that twenty-something pastor, I have to admit that I was almost as steeped in naïveté then as I was as a twelve year old boy. Sure, I knew plenty about the church, but it was heavily freighted with the good stuff. The good stuff of the ladies’ guild cooking casseroles for grieving families, youth groups pounding hammers in Mexico to build homes for the poor, a rancher showing up on the pastor’s doorstep with half a beef from his own herd to stock the freezer. But as good and giving and beautiful as the church can be, there’s a dark side, too, that at times can be dog ugly. The day I stumbled upon a secret meeting of the church leadership and one of the elders stood up and slammed the door in my face—that comes to mind. Over the years, there were the not-so-veiled threats of violence, pastors who broke the seal of confession, bishops issuing warnings about me, and occasional rumors about me so outrageous they could have been ripped from the cover of the National Enquirer. I learned plenty through those years, the most obvious lesson being that the church can be a place that’s just as mean and nasty and royally screwed up as the world.

Like the patriarch, Jacob, who after his wedding night, awoke to the wrong wife in his bed, I too one day opened my eyes to find that the Rachel with whom I had fallen in love, for whom I’d labored long years, was not the one beside me as the sun rose. I rolled over and came face-to-face with the uncomely, undesirable, older sister. And then I had a decision to make: leave the church, or learn to love Leah.

Have you been there? Maybe you too grew up with a congregation as your second home, perhaps even served in the ministry, but later encountered within its walls abuse or neglect or a whole host of other ills. While going through a divorce, or struggling with a sexually charged issue, you found not clasping hands of support but wagging fingers of accusation. As the shards of your broken life fell about you, when simply having a Christian show you they cared, when that alone would have meant the world to you, all you saw was the church’s back, turned away, walking the other direction. Or maybe you just slowly slipped away, skipping a Sunday here, a whole month there, and eventually never darkened the doors again, but not a single believer took the time to call or visit to reveal they missed you. You have your story, and I have mine, but all such accounts shoulder a common burden: the fellowship that is supposed to be a hospital for sinners can seem more like a religious country club, a xenophobic clique, or a horde of hypocrites. Call it what you may, it’s not been a church to you and for you. So what do you do? Do you leave or learn to love Leah, walk away from the church or stay?

I could’ve washed my hands of the whole affair and walked away. In fact, I gave serious thought to just that, and for several years, rarely planted my butt in a pew for, when I did, I could taste the bile rising up my throat. But over time, and through a whole lot of healing, re-wounding, and re-healing, I finally came to the point where I see and love Leah for what she is: a beautifully ugly church in whose arms I encounter the God who loves beautifully ugly sinners like me.

A beautifully ugly sinner like me—that’s where healing has to start, with an honest acknowledgement that there may be a slew of unattractive things about the church, but I’m no supermodel of holiness myself. Part of the way we humans deal with our grief or anger or guilt is to deflect any culpability from ourselves by blaming others for almost everything that goes wrong. And though there are important exceptions—such as the victims of sexual predators—most of us who’ve had a rocky relationship with the church must fess up to our own failings. There’s a good chance Leah finds me just as ugly as I find her. I see hypocrites in the church, but I see in my own soul times galore when I wore a mask of piety in public and a face of shame in private. I deplore how the church’s tongue can destroy a person’s reputation, but my own tongue loves the desserts of lies and rumors and gossip more than it loves the bread of honesty. In our society, where it seems everyone claims to be a victim, it needs to be said that we are all perpetrators ourselves. We struggle with the same faults with which we fault the church.

In addition to personal accountability, we’ve got to kill and bury any utopian daydreams we have about the church hitting the gym to tighten her glutes and getting a boob job so we have a hotter, sexier Leah. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a time when the church was flawless. Barely had Jesus ascended before the church descended into trouble. Squabbles arose, heresies spread, pastors played favorites, sexual immorality mushroomed, and hearts grew cold. In the last book of the Bible, there are letters from God to seven different churches. Although he commends those congregations for many good things, he also complains of them leaving their first love, holding to false teachers and teachings, spiritual death, and lukewarmness. And this while the church was still basking in the afterglow of the earthly ministry of Jesus! As long as there are people in the church, there will be problems, for if humanity is anything, it is problematic.

Therein is the reason I found my way (or rather, like a lost sheep, was carried) back to the church: because it’s a place pregnant with problems. Because of those imperfections, I fit in perfectly. If you’ve got it all together, have no struggles, live a full and happy life, free of sin, then the church is not for you. But if you struggle with selfishness, greed, lust, addiction, problem children, a cheating spouse, fear, loneliness, or anything else that plagues our race, then the church is the ideal place for you. For Leah struggles with all that crap, too. Don’t let the pretty stained glass and padded pews and vested clergy fool you; all around the church are wounded sinners wheeled about on gurneys, doctors sewing up stab victims, nurses checking IVs, and double amputees carried by the blind who are led by the mute while the deaf sing prayers for healing. The church is messy place for messed up people who are in dire need of a God who cares.

In uncomely, undesirable, older Leah, that’s just what you’ll find: a God who cares. You’ll find a God who was born of an unwed teen whose neighbors likely whispered was a slut. You’ll find a God who hung out with outcasts, welcomed whores as followers, touched untouchables, called bullshit on the holier-than-thous of his day, and walked eyes wide open into the clutches of those who would torture him to death so as to save a world that really didn’t think it needed saving. In the church you’ll encounter the God who takes all his beautiful and exchanges it for your ugly.

And so, after a few years of growing up, maturing in a some areas, and realizing a bit more clearly what life is all about, I can now honestly say, “Leah, just as you are—not who I want you to be, not who others say you should be—but just as you are: I love you.”

E-F

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Our guest blogger today is Mollie Myers and we are so glad to have her here! In her own words:
“I have the incredible privilege of doing exactly what I love.

•wife of Karl
•mother of Mandy, Kellen, & Kory (and a four legged 11 year old Golden Retriever named Tanner)
•Hunny to Spencer, Miah, Alli, & Beau,
•Foster Hunny to J, J, A, & H
•Tulsa Director – Red Letter Initiative
•Active member of the LoveTulsa team with CityChurch
•Active member of the 111Project Tulsa team
•Author of children’s books from Red Letter Works
•Chief cook and bottle washer at Dam House South”

Please welcome her and visit her blog here

There is not a letter between E and F, but there is a world of difference between them. I was struck by this as I’ve driven my Suburban more than the Crossfire recently and it seems to loom towards E much more quickly than the one that costs much less to fill.

It occurred to me that when my car runs out of gas it stops. Period. There is nothing that can make it run unless I put fuel in the tank. No wishing, no whining, no bargaining with the lifeless engine will take the place of putting fuel in to motivate the 8 cylinders to come to life. And no substitute or distraction will either.

Same goes for my physical fuel tank. When I am on empty, I stop. Literally. I tend to pass out if I don’t eat. I can coax a little more out due to some energy stored up in the warehouse, (Those are called fat cells…) but it doesn’t take long before I resemble a diva on a Snickers commercial. When I worked with Doug, I would often work through lunch and put off going to get something. He would come in mid-afternoon to find a grouchy, irritable person babbling in incomplete sentences who looked a lot like me sitting at my desk. He would take one look at me and say, “Let’s go have a meet and eat.” Gotta love Doug!

I wish my spiritual fuel cycle operated similarly. There are definite signs that the fuel tank is low, but it doesn’t cause me to come to a screeching halt like running out of gas or fasting from food. Low spiritual fuel has a warning light that starts dimly then begins blinking with slow intensity warning me that I am in desperate need of a refill. Similar to a hospital where a nurse can turn off the sound of the alarm while the light continues to signal alert, I too can silence the alarm and, unfortunately, ignore the blinking light. It is, however, to my detriment. Refusing to fill up may not stop me in my tracks, but it does definitely put me on a different path. One I would never have chosen had I stopped for the refilling.

I think this is why we were created to experience Christ in community to a great extent. When I travel alone, I often tend to ignore the pleas my body is making for a restroom, food, or stretch break and find myself in desperation in the middle of nowhere. (Starbucks stops are the exception to the rule here.) However, if someone is with me I am eager to make make those stops to ensure their comfort and well being. Likewise, people traveling with me seem to do the same on my behalf. Eugene Peterson sums this up perfectly from The Message in Ecclesiastes 4:12 “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.”

Go! Get a couple of other strands and be dangerous!