Sunday, March 28, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: A Life Lesson on Adversity

Strength in Adversity
A devotional written by Stephanie Bankhead

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4 (ESV)

“How long does this go on, God? Will it never end?”

Does this prayer sound familiar? If you are breathing then you have probably whispered this about the pandemic. For many years during any struggle or trial, this was my prayer. I wanted God to sweep in like a knight in shining armor and remove whatever it was causing suffering or trouble. And I won’t lie, there has been a time or two during this pandemic I’ve asked God to please remove the suffering.

I recently had a conversation with a young, Hispanic woman who is my friend. I asked her what it was like growing up as a Hispanic female in our city in Texas. She shared what I had suspected—stories of racism and sexism: being judged and shamed for being a teenage mom, having two years of fast food experience and still getting hired for a new job at a lower rate than her male friend who had no experience, being called racial slurs by men in places like parking lots and grocery stores for no reason.

What surprised me was her response when I asked her if there was anything that she would change about her circumstances growing up. She confidently stated she would not change a thing because all these situations have made her who she is today. When I asked her what she would change for her own daughter, she simply replied that she would have people treat each other with kindness rather than division and hatred.

I went home that day thinking about her comment about how the adversity made her who she is today. There is wisdom in her words. When I look back on times when my relationship with and faith in God has grown, they’ve all been times of adversity. Having a prodigal child will drive you to your knees at the feet of Jesus like not much else will.

I’ve come to believe that God has a different, higher perspective of adversity. In the book of James in the Bible, He says to count it all joy. And that trials produce steadfastness that leads to us being complete. I do long to be complete. I still don’t long for adversity, but I don’t shy away from it anymore either. If that is what God uses to bring us closer to Him, then let it be.

The next time you find yourself praying the “Will this never end, God?” prayer, I want to encourage you to stop and instead ask Him what He is trying to teach you through the situation. And for the courage and strength to keep your eyes fixed on who He ultimately is helping you to become.

Let’s Pray: Lord, Your love is steadfast and sure. Thank you for loving me enough to help me walk through the adversity in my life with Your power and strength. Help me to see what You’re trying to teach me in this and to come out of the other side a person of greater faith and more fruit for Your Kingdom. I ask this in the Mighty Name of Jesus! Amen.

Author Bio:
Stephanie Bankhead is a Bible teacher, mentor and author of several Bible studies. She has worked at a local church as the Women’s Ministry Leader since 2013. In 2018, she became an ordained Teaching Pastor. Before that, she worked as the director of a very successful youth volleyball club. 

What both of these experiences taught her is that women are still little girls inside. Deep down we are all still asking the same questions, “Am I capable? Am I attractive? Am I enough?”

Stephanie delivers sermons and speaks at women’s events on a multitude of topics. Her favorite topic is teaching people what the Bible says about their own identity in God.

Stephanie lives in Amarillo, Texas with her husband of 32 years. They have a rescue pup who barks too much, and a bird abandoned when her two grown children flew the nest. Her four grandchildren are the apples of her eye.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Reading books and addressing racism in the stories and real life

How to Read Books from Different Eras
A guest post by Roseanna M. White

As a writer, I believe in the power of story. But before I was a writer, I was a reader who loved nothing more than being taken to a different time or place through the pages of a book. Books are powerful things—they have an amazing ability to create empathy in the heart of the reader, helping us to see things from new perspectives. Throughout history, books have moved culture and helped create change that we still see the effects of today.

Here’s the thing though—even books that were cutting edge for their time, that changed the world, are going to appear dated or even awful when we read them today. Why? Because the change has already happened. We’ve progressed, society as a whole has come to conclusions and taught those conclusions to the next generations. These are things that may not have happened if not for particular books…but the growth continued.

This is as it should be. But sometimes readers pick up a book written 20, 50, 80, 100+ years ago, and instead of seeing how this moved the culture, we simple gasp and are horrified. Sometimes people cry out against these books. Or sometimes they do the opposite—they say that because this book was world-changing, nothing within it could possibly be objectionable.

But how should we be reading these titles?

I believe this is a question worth asking. But more, we also have to judge not only the words on the page, but the intention of the writer. Mark Twain, for example, is famous for writing satirical passages that show the reader one thing, and then state another through the eyes of the main character, in such a way that the reader has little choice but to recognize the racism so common to a time period. I’m thinking specifically of the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where Huck recognizes within Jim something far more than what he was taught a Black man should have. He doesn’t know how to reconcile his experience with what had been hammered into his head—but his struggle to do that invites the reader to examine his or her own biases and question what we’ve been taught. On the other hand, there are books like those written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in a similar time period, in England rather than America, where the narrator simply assumes that people with darker complexions must have darker hearts—an assumption never challenged within the pages. Ugliness equates with evil in these literary pages too.

Readers today obviously know this isn’t so—but we also choose not to toss out the entirety of Conan Doyle’s works, because we recognize good things within them too. This, my friends, is the beauty of the human mind and the beauty of literature. We can evaluate. We can argue. We can defend. We don’t need to censor—because we can think for ourselves and decide what is right and what is wrong. I’d argue that, in fact, we should and must do this with every book.

We stand on the shoulders of those who came before. I believe it’s critical to understand what that means, what they believed, where they were right, and where they were wrong. This is how we grow, and how our understanding grows with us.

But there are exceptions, and those exceptions are for when the reader does not have the ability to discern and judge for themselves. I’m speaking especially of children and children’s literature. I homeschool my kids, and we read primarily classics that have won Newbury Awards throughout the years. Stellar literature, to be sure—but even in these pages one can see evidence of prejudice, stereotyping, and racism. A fine example is Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. 

It’s a wonderful book, and it’s a book in which the title character actually goes out of her way and risks her life to protect the American Indians in her area. She’s battling the assumptions of her entire family and settlement in that moment—this is worth reading about. Even so, the author chooses phrases that we today would never choose. She makes assumptions about the nature of the indigenous people that we shake our head over. Should we still read this? Yes…if. If we also engage our kids in conversations about it. If we talk about the beliefs of the time and how we’ve grown. If we show how loving, fair-minded Caddie still had room for growth, and how we do today too.

Then there are books aimed at kids too young to even participate in a conversation like that—picture books. Picture books are, in my opinion, a category all their own when it comes to what care we should take. Because these are the books that shape our worldview and show our kids visually what is normal, what is acceptable, what is fun, what is serious. The images in those pages are going to help form their minds, one way or another. And those minds aren’t capable of reason yet. You can’t show your kids racist images on the page and then just say, “But…” and explain it away.

A great example of this is with Dr. Seuss’s books—a major hot topic conversation as of the writing of this. Dr. Seuss was a pretty amazing man. He was writing political cartoons that called for racial equality even before WW2, at a time when it was far from fashionable or accepted to do so. Even so, he gave in to fear when Pearl Harbor was bombed and drew cartoons impugning Japanese Americans…which he came to regret. After the war, he traveled to Japan, made friends, and wrote Horton Hears a Who as a result of his journey. His ideas, like all of our ideas, grew and changed over the course of his life. He came to new understandings as the years went by. And he is quoted by his relatives as deeply regretting the work he did that was racist in his earlier days. So it’s not surprising that the foundation that runs his estate conducted a study in 2019 to evaluate each of his books. They came to the conclusion that six of his sixty works contained offensive imagery or language. So after much consideration, they announced in March 2021 that they were pulling those six books from publication.

The media on both sides went crazy. You probably saw some of the fallout. Each side began looking for a villain to blame. Some people wanted to censor all Seuss. Other people wanted to go buy every Seuss book they could get their hands on and accused the left of “banning” Seuss when it was really his estate that made the call. But it seems to me both sides were missing the point—that the estate recognized, as Seuss did himself, that each work, each image matters. They made a decision to keep in print only those titles that wouldn’t risk teaching young children that one person is worth any less than another—a lesson many of Seuss’s stories teach so beautifully. They did what we all do when we’re reading for ourselves, and what we as parents or grandparents must do when reading to our kids: they asked questions, they evaluated, they used their discernment, and they made a judgment call.

Too often we get so entrenched in our ideas that we either throw out the good with the bad, or refuse to entertain the notion that there could be any bad in what we’ve called good. But nothing in life or in literature is so simple. And so, I invite you to read widely…but also to read deeply. 

Read with a willingness to learn but also to question. Read knowing that your perspective comes from standing on the shoulders of those who came before, those who wrote before…and know that your journey isn’t over, and neither is literature’s.

Keep reading. Keep talking about what you read. And keep encouraging others to evaluate the words and pictures in the pages thoughtfully. Let’s not just read and judge—let’s engage.

Author Bio:

Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes.

When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing for WhiteFire Publishing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself.

Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books … to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary.

You can learn more about her and her stories at

Connect with Roseanna:

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: When God interrupts the world, church, and life as we know it

Divine Interruption

A guest post by Dr. Angelle M. Jones

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 
–Psalm 82:3-4 (NIV)

I can hardly believe it’s been almost one year since my plans to celebrate my birthday in Dubai were cancelled. After working with a travel agent to plan a replacement trip to Italy instead, it was also abruptly interrupted.

In February 2020, the news hit that there was a deadly virus moving rapidly throughout Asia, then Europe and had now landed in the United States. By the time of my birthday at the end of March 2020, all fifty states had reported cases of the virus that has now become a household name. Unlike any other virus in my lifetime, COVID-19 has ravaged the United States with over 500,000 deaths by the end of February 2021.

This deadly virus has left the entire world reeling! Quickly rising to the elevated status of a full-blown pandemic, I watched as the world we had all known slowly but surely disintegrate right before our eyes.

In the beginning I was intrigued, not so much with the disease, but with following the way the virus was transforming life as we had known it. It hit me personally as a group of female friends from different seasons in my life were all but packed and ready to go to take in the beauty of Rome and all her history, food, love and architectural majesty.

Although I had traveled the world for years as an itinerant minister, I had come to understand that those were actually work trips. Even though preaching and giving away humanitarian aid were rewarding and gained me a heart for serving others, it was now time for me to spend the later years of my life traveling for pleasure. Italy was going to be the first of only a few places left to mark off my bucket list. My dream trip was interrupted when Italy became one of the first countries in the world where the virus moved rapidly, ending thousands of lives. As with most of us, I thought, “This can’t last too long.”

However, the pandemic continued to claim more lives around the world and since meeting in person to celebrate my birthday was too risky, I made different plans. Last March, I was one of the first in my tribe to host a group of family and friends to celebrate my birthday via the now famous world of Zoom. To my dismay, in a few weeks I may be celebrating the same way again.

As we enter into the one-year mark of this global pandemic, no matter how the United States has been looked upon as the role model in almost every aspect of life for other countries, this Divine Interruption has shone the light on the darkness of America. What became clear was a healthcare inequity. Whether you were affected by the virus or not, it was sobering to watch as this strange new mask-covered world quickly became the norm. Exposing racial disparities ranging from healthcare to politics, the world has paused to give us time to admit the sins of our nation.

The pandemonium of this pandemic has everyone asking, “When will it end?”

In the year that has changed the world, everything has shifted. The globe has experienced record-breaking highs of anxiety caused by an unknown virus bringing with it the uncertainty of its long-term effects. But more importantly, this pandemic has revealed the need for the world to heal. Who would have thought that in our lifetime God would step aside and say to the cosmos, “Heal thyself,” causing even the Church to push pause?

Were we listening in 2020 when the still, small voice of God silently screamed as though there were little fires all over the world, “Get out of the buildings!” As we entered deeper into this state of uncertainty, I began to ponder: Could this be the time spoken of in the Word of God that says, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” (Romans 8:22 KJV)

I’m not so sure of the dispensational theology framing the verse, but I do know that something Divine has happened to gain the world’s attention.

The voice went on to say in more of a hush, “I live outside the walls of your normal spaces of worship. Seek and you shall find me. Find me in sacred spaces where you can learn authentic worship in Spirit and Truth. Find me in the spaces where the needy can just be. While the playing field has been leveled and the curve has been flattened, no matter what our status, the stillness of God has breathed a holy hush upon the creation. The stillness calls us to be defenders. To uphold. To rescue. To deliver. This is your time to be the change you have been seeking. The stage is set to find your voice to stand in the gap for the oppressed in this season of fear and trepidation.”

The quiet Voice is whispering to us all, “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3-4 NIV)


Can you hear the voice of the voiceless, the weak, the little ones without a father to guide them through the wilderness of social isolation, and technological stimulation?


Can you hear the cry of the poor and the oppressed who were seated on the pews looking for a place of solitude for their wearied souls to be healed?

In the Divine Interruption, will the prophetic and social witness of the Church be heard?

Author Bio:

“Inspiring and Motivating With the Power of Words”

Angelle M. Jones believes that the power of words inspires, and motivate to bring about transformative change individually and collectively.

Angelle originally hails from Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in African-American studies from the University of Cincinnati. Angelle has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia and an earned Doctorate in Ministry on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, and his philosophy of The Beloved Community from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Her ministry career began as a staff member of the Northeastern Ohio Billy Graham Crusade in 1994. For twenty years, as founder and director of In The Spirit Ministries, Inc., she led teams on mission outreaches throughout the world. From 2007-2012, Angelle served as Missions Director of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio where she currently resides. Angelle is founder and director of GlobaLife Coaching and Consulting serving as a Life and Transformation Coach and Church Consultant.

In 2016, Angelle authored and self-published her first book, Happily Never After. Along with sharing words of hope by sharing her writings on her social media platforms, she has been published in Vantage Magazine which is a literary source for faculty, students and alumni of Columbia Theological Seminary, and Ready, which is a cutting-edge online magazine addressing current events and trending socially relevant topics for women.

Angelle is the mother of an adult daughter. She is a grandmother and great-grandmother.

Connect with Dr. Angelle:

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Don't be defensive

Challenging Defensive Thoughts
A guest post by Kristen Rimer Terrette

Defensiveness. The desire to challenge or avoid criticism.

When was the last time you felt this way? Maybe when you went on the defense because you perceived a threat to your integrity about a situation?

If you’re on social media, it’s likely you can say this recently happened to you. It seems confrontation and combativeness are a part of daily life on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Even if you weren’t the one who “came out swinging,” you might have felt the need to stand up for yourself or others by merely reading the comments on a feed.

The physical and emotional feelings that come with defensiveness usually aren’t good. I loathe conflict of any kind and will avoid it all costs, but every once in a while, my hackles go up. I’m like a lion in sheep’s clothing. Wanting to remain a sheep most of the time, but when needed the lioness inside can and will make an appearance.

A while back, the lioness appeared as I had a defensive reaction to a situation.

I received a comment from a reader on one of my articles about (in short) God loving and showing off His creativity through our skin colors. The reader asked me, “How would you feel about your daughter dating a person of color?”

Quickly, many defensive thoughts and assumptions ran through my mind. I assumed the person saw my author picture—therefore recognizing I was a white woman—then proceeded to pose this baited question in an effort to trip me up, to expose me as a hypocrite.

Irritation and something very close to anger ran through me. I almost started typing a quick and snarky response. Something to defend myself, like “My daughter has dated men of color already. And we loved each of them.” Those words would’ve had an underlining current, saying, “Ha! You didn’t trip me up!”

But the Holy Spirit pulled me back from typing anything right away and thank goodness for that! 

Because the more I thought about it, the more God birthed in me an even bigger desire for racial unity and reconciliation, as I realized this person did not trust me.

Now, I recognize my initial thoughts were based on assumptions, but it’s like God wanted me to see, through this situation and my reaction, that trust is not a given. If someone or group has been wronged, trust is not handed over freely, no matter your skin color.

This realization changed my viewpoint, and when I did construct a response, I tried to put one small drop of trustworthiness back into an empty bucket for us (White people) as a whole. I hope I achieved this, because it’s so important as we work to undo past hurts.

Trust is foundational for all relationships. When trust is broken, even if you feel like you didn’t specifically cause this break, the relationship is strained. As a White woman, I want to do my part in planting seeds of trustworthiness as I interact with all people.

Next time your own hackles go up, stop and breathe. Process and pray then ask yourself these questions: Where is the root of my defensiveness coming from? What am I not seeing on the “other side of the story”?

Use these answers to challenge yourself, pushing down anger and drawing out love instead.

Let’s make an effort to reestablish trust between each other by listening, learning, and helping one another move toward racial reconciliation.

Author Bio:

Kristen's passionate about storytelling and helping people take their next steps in their relationship with Jesus. 

She lives forty-five minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. where she served as a Children's Ministry Director for many years. With the support of her husband and two children, she now stays home writing fiction and non-fiction.

She also serves on the women’s leadership team at her local church and writes for Crosswalk and Wholly Loved Ministries. You can check out her articles and novels at

Connect with Kristen:
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