Speaking Up For the Voiceless

How Going on The Freedom Challenge Impacted My Life | By Brandi Richardson

IMG_1414Last summer, Brandi Richardson participated in a Freedom Challenge trip to the Grand Tetons National Park starting from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The trip was five days and required Almost 30 miles of climbing with fellow women from The Father’s House while raising more than $525,000 going directly to the fields to aid in fighting human trafficking. Here, she shares more about how God tugged on her heart to go on the trip, her biggest challenges, and the lasting impression the trip has had on her life.

 

How did you hear about the Freedom Challenge?

When I heard about the Freedom Challenge through TFH, it seemed a little crazy to me. Seeing pictures of women on top of mountains huddled together, freezing? Nope, not for me! However, I was interested in the local hikes they were training on, and I wanted to train and encourage the women who had decided to do the Freedom Challenge.

What made you want to sign up?

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 7.30.09 PMI actually didn’t want to sign up at first. I had gone on a mission trip to India in January 2015, and this year, 2016, our family had planned a family vacation, so all funds went to this. We had nothing. I wasn’t sure I could raise the money or take more time off of work as I had just done the trip to India the year before.

After a couple hikes and talking with the women on the trails, I started seeing/feeling that God wanted me to take on this challenge.  He put peace in me that would make this possible for me. On my trip to India, I had seen what The Freedom Challenge funds went to, and now I wanted to be a part of raising more funds to help. I felt God wanted me to complete the circle, so to speak.

What were your biggest challenges?

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 7.29.46 PMThe biggest challenge for me was the hours of training and being away from my family. I loved the physical part of hiking but missed being with them. I’m so blessed to have the support of my husband, allowing me to focus on the physical aspect of hiking and training for the hours I did. I physically challenged my body and mind and accomplished so many things. I learned a lot about what I am able do physically and mentally. I learned how to fuel my body and mind. The months of training allowed me to see the beauty of God’s creation all around me. This calmed my mind and brought a sense of peace to my spirit–to take life in, slow down and enjoy the beauty around me.

What lessons did you learn from going on The Freedom Challenge?

Fundraising and bringing awareness to everyone I came in contact with sparked a fire in me to make a difference in this world. I knew the funds would come in and allow me to take this challenge. I knew I would have to work hard for it, and I did because the fire was burning strong to fight for this cause.

Now, looking back, how did the experience change your perspective?

I’m so glad to have taken this journey. The friendships I’ve made and experiences I’ve had is something that I will cherish for years to come. I’m glad I listened to God and did what He called me to do. We are His hands and feet. He asked me to speak up for the voiceless, so I did and will continue to do so.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

IMG_1413California native Brandi Richardson has been attending The Father’s House almost 11 years. She’s been married to Steve for almost 15 years and has two sons (Tyler, 21, and Zakary, 12). She works as a patient care coordinator for a home oxygen and respiratory company and as a massage therapist. She’s lived in Illinois and Germany and currently lives in Escondido, California.

Essential Oils

FROM FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH TO ONYCHA AND GALBANUM; BIBLICAL STORIES ARE FULL OF REFERENCES TO OIL. By Theresa Vardilos

AQ2A0459Those who know me well know my passion for finding and sharing new and practical information with others. This past year I’ve learned much about essential oils; specifically, how to use them in conjunction with praying for others.

I love God’s Word and believe the Bible is the ultimate authority on how we live our lives today.  The more I study the Bible, the more I find that it is chalked full of references to oils and anointing.  Why is this?

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I recently read about the ceremony where Aaron was made High Priest over all Israel.  In Exodus 29:7 God says to the Israelites, “You shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him.”

I picture Aaron kneeling before God at the entrance of the Temple, wearing the ceremonial garments, with a long grey beard, surrounded by the people.  And the next scene is something most of us have never witnessed in modern times; a large container of fragrant oil is poured over his head, running down his beard and onto his garments. The fragrance of the oil would have emanated throughout the gathering to all surrounding.

The whole scenario sounds strange, doesn’t it?  Why was such a practice used in this extremely important ceremony and what did it symbolize exactly?  Why oil?  What was God, in His wisdom, telling the Israelites? If God teaches us to anoint in the Bible, why has using oils become a lost art in our lives today?

There are 1,031 references to oils in the Bible.  You may find them mentioned by name or by “sweet savors, spices, anointing of a king or people, incense, ointments, odors, perfumes, the oil of joy, or oil producing plants.”  We know the anointing oil poured on Aaron’s head was a combination of Frankincense, Myrrh, Onycha, and Galbanum.

Each oil comes from a different plant, each plant with its own unique properties.  God, in His all-knowing wisdom, instructed the Israelites how to use the oils.  The good news is that these oils are still available to us today, and as powerful as they were in ancient times!

Here are just a few examples of some of these powerful Biblical oils and their significance:

Hyssop: Spiritually Cleansing – In Ps 59:7, David cry’s out to God, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”  During the Passover, branches of hyssop were used.  We also see Hyssop mentioned during Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Cypress: God, in his wisdom, had Noah build the ark out of Cypress, also known as Gopherwood, because he knew it would allow the passengers to breath easy and remind them of His provision and the reverence they should have towards Him.

Cedarwood: God led Solomon to build the Temple of unfinished Cedarwood, specifically to bring the aromas of reverence in His presence. This aromatic plant is mentioned more in the Bible than any other plant – over 70 times.

Frankincense and Myrrh: Both were used as ingredients in the Holy Anointing Oil in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, these extremely valuable and well known oils were presented to Jesus as kingly gifts.  The oils were so valuable that many scholars believe the oils provided provision as well for Jesus’ family while they were in Egypt.

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To learn more, you are invited to attend my Biblical Oils class on June 1, 2017 at 7:00 pm.


aq2a0763-2.jpgTheresa Vardilos’ passion for the Lord and no-nonsense approach to health shine through on a daily basis.  Her classes – which include topics such as parenting, knowing your spiritual gifts, and wellness – are a source of practical tips and advice to hundreds of women.  A gifted teacher, she will walk you through the ancient oils of scripture and share new insights into God’s amazing love and provision.  Theresa and her husband, Byron, live in Southern California and work from home as entrepreneurs.  They are the proud parents of 2 boys and 2 girls, whom they homeschool.  Connect with Theresa at thismomcares@gmail.com or at www.facebook.com/thismomcares/.

I Can’t Do All Things! By Bethany Luchetta

What is this all about? The Bible reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and I’ve heard the sermon! AND you bet I’ve heard my friends quote it during prayer or rehearse it as a statement of faith. So, now what? Why can’t I do all things? Why? The question plagues not only the faithfully abiding Jesus follower, but even our agnostic and atheist friends (and probably all humankind, now that I think about it). Honestly, it pushes me further from Him than I wish to be.

I sit abidingly in Sunday service. I go to small group, trying to pull together thoughtful conversation that doesn’t let-on that I am questioning God’s sovereignty. I have even worked for a church and kept this thought tucked away just behind the surface. I am asking this question right now! If I hear one more person say, “Bethany, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you,” I may overflow with some unbecoming sentiments in the direction of their face. I am 5’7” and I will never be able to jump like Michael Jordan. Hands down. Never! I will never be able to grab that hot pan without pain. Never.

image1Take, for example, the context of this scripture. Paul was writing his friends in Philippi. He says in Philippians 4:12 that he knows how to live simply or in prosperity, having a full stomach or being hungry, having plenty or suffering. Following this example, he states in Verse 13, “I can do it all through Christ who strengthens me,” followed with Verse 14 in which he thanks his friends at Philippi for sending him help.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary expands as follows: “We have need of strength from Christ, to enable us to perform not only those duties which are purely Christian, but even those which are the fruit of moral virtue. We need His strength to teach us to be content in every condition. In addition, the Word in the original is a participle of the present tense, en to endynamounti me Christo, and denotes a present and continued act; as if he had said, ‘Through Christ, who is strengthening me, and does continually strengthen me; it is by His constant and renewed strength I am enabled to act in every thing; I wholly depend upon him for all my spiritual power.’”

So, why is this used carte blanche for ‘doing things’? I would like to propose this as a great injustice to God when we use this verse out of context. It creates so many unanswered WHY’s. Is God’s Word true? Is my faith lacking? Am I in some sort of sin? Why is this verse not coming true for me? Instead, let’s ask ourselves, why are we not coming to truth about this verse?

This is ruffling some of you. Don’t worry–I am arguing the same thing and grasping at straws.

IMG_6608But Bethany, what about Matthew 18:19, where Jesus says, “Ask anything in My name, and it will be done”? Jesus says it in RED letters, Bethany! Yes, he does. But perhaps, may I offer, yet again, a deeper spiritual truth than trying to ‘do things’? Jesus was setting up the plan for His Bride. These scriptures are instructions for church communities on dealings with people (in their group) who may be failing. Jesus is expressing His sweet heart to help bring us ‘failing-folk’ back into community. How sweet is that!

One more! Matthew 6:33 says, “All these things will be added unto you.” All these sweet things can be mine?! I won’t have to struggle or strive or trial. Hmmm … yep, you guessed it–again, another “WHY?” Why, God, don’t I have all these beautiful things? I wanted that house. I wanted THAT job. I wanted that man. I wanted that car. I wanted … fill in the blank. Well, let’s break it down one more time. Jesus is teaching ‘how not to worry.’ It’s an ole-time-self-help book. Really. Instead of using this verse for getting all the things I want to help me not to worry, Jesus is actually saying, “Just don’t worry about it?!’ In the rest of this chapter, Jesus teaches on “God and riches,” “treasures in Heaven,” “how to fast humbly,” “how to pray,” and “how to please God.” Wow. None of this chapter leads up to getting everything.  

So, why do we drop these one-liners (usually half sentences) out of context, trying to encourage ourselves or someone else?

I am currently re-programing my knowledge of scripture and the heart of Jesus. I have yelled at God, “WHY?” If you’re like me, part of your problem might be poor teaching. Some toxic spiritual communities use scripture like magic potions. Our job is to unwind these mis-truths (Romans 12:2). Instead of asking, “Why aren’t the promises working for me?” The realities of His promises need to be re-taught.

Jesus is NOT a sweet marketing plan to proselytize to your friends on how goodness and greatness will come in 24-48 hours. Selling Jesus short will only bring more frustrated “why” questions and more hardened hearts. I exhort you to challenge your Spirit; search out the deeper Truth in the Word which will undoubtedly help build a solid life and a mature faith. The Truth of the Word won’t fall on empty promises. It’s just like the great deceiver to use pieces of Truth to make us question God’s sovereign nature. God does have plans for you! HOW the plans develop,and come to fruition,will probably be different than you expect, but nonetheless, this is indeed Truth. God won’t perform magic in your life. He will, however, never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13), which is far better than any other religion or friend or mate can offer!


 

IMG_6618Bethany Luchetta is married to her love, Vince. She mothers her growing toddler and two beautiful girls from Vince’s first marriage. Bethany runs her own Property Management and Real Estate Brokerages. The love of personal growth and theology pushed her to explore her deeper calling. Attending Dr Henry Cloud and John Townsend year-long Life Coaching Program in 2013, she was inspired to plan for her future career in Theology and Family Therapy at Bethel Seminary. Bethany is preparing for her revocation through Life Skills International, a 32-week personal growth course in San Diego.

Transitioning into a Life of Matrimony

GROWING FROM INDEPENDENCE TO UNITY By Drew Walsh

I remember it like it was yesterday… I had just returned home from my Junior/ Senior HS retreat on Catalina Island when my mom called. “Hi Drew, I want to let you know that Ryan drove down from LA to talk to your dad and I about you. He’ll be at your school soon to pick you up and bring you home. Gotta go, bye!”

*Que Drew being so nervous/shocked at what her mom just told her that she throws up all over herself in her teacher’s car.*

Yes, as pathetic as it sounds is exactly how pathetic it was. But hey, when you start out as the underdog girl in the church youth group who’d been crushing on the worship leader, it all makes perfect sense. That same night Ryan took me for a drive and explained his intentions for me and that I was worth pursuing. This moment would begin our journey of five years of dating.

The long distance (California-Arizona) did so much for us individually, but also as a couple. We learned how to communicate, how to love from a distance, and how to release each other to the current plans of the Lord. Among the myriad of other things that Ryan and I learned and learned well, was independence. Although we loved each other, we became used to calling our own shots, making our own decision and following our own dreams. As much as we missed each other, we were proud to say that we loved our freedom to be independent and not “need” each other but “want each other.”

To say the least, this position was comfortable and easy to manage.

Our long distance relationship ended in unbreakable covenant on May 14th, 2016. After five long years of dating, Ryan and I were joined together as not two flesh, but one. Which brings us to the present. People often ask me now what it is like being married to the person I dated for so long. How different is it, what are the struggles? What are the triumphs? Now that we have been married for coming up on one year, I have been hungry to answer those questions. I have been eager to identify what my wins and losses are. Ultimately, I am eager to know how I have been stretched and grown.

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So, what has changed you may ask? What has been the biggest obstacle and realization in marriage? In all honesty, answering this question took some digging. It took some prying, unearthing, pondering, and a good long stare in the mirror.

And then, like a ton of bricks it hit me. My biggest obstacle was me.

Somewhere along this journey of fighting to become we, I have been silently screaming for me. I had become so used to entertaining a long distance relationship, that my independence somehow became my pride. It was my badge of honor; it was my false humility.

To break it down, I had not been fighting for unity in marriage, but rather, my way. In so many words, I of course would say unity is what I longed for and worked towards, but somehow it felt like my flesh was fighting for something else.

In all of the tension, Jesus met me. In the most gracious and loving way I was baptized into fire. I once again was submersed in a sanctification process that only the lover of my soul could take me on. He graciously showed me that the struggle and striving I was fighting for came from a place of pride and was ultimately rooted in selfishness. Women, I want to share this with you because the battle is all too real. From the very beginning in Genesis 1 we see women usurping the authority of not only their husbands, but also their Heavenly Father. Eve was tempted into thinking she knew more, could do more, and be more, on her own and through her own decisions. What a divisive and disunited place to live.

If you’re anything like me, independence has been your mark of success. To do things on your own may be your biggest and most proud accomplishment. But to what demise is independence worth? Why should we trade our independence for unity? Fortunately, Scripture has much to say on the topic of striving for unity:

Ephesians 4:3 “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together in peace.”

John 17:23 “I in them and you in me-so that they may be brought together in complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Psalm 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

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Here is the honest truth about unity: it is really hard. It defies every part of our tendency for selfishness. Beyond these things however, it is NECESSARY. Our unity in marriage has the opportunity to show the world a difference. To show our friends, families, and co-workers, the relationship that Jesus modeled with the father … submission, surrender, and servility.

As 2017 carries on, wives, I challenge you to sharpen your awareness of how your marriage relationship reflects your Christ relationship. We must shift our perspectives. We must see and acknowledge that our marriages are an opportunity to lay down independence and pick up interdependence. I love interdependence because it takes two. Again, I challenge us wives to shift our perspective from one that says “I can do it myself,” to one that says “I choose to submit and come alongside another person.” Think of the the powerful affect our marriages would have as a witness to Christ if we fought for unity… let is inspire you, let it ignite you, and let it change you.

When all is said and done, I am learning what unity means more and more each day. I look at myself in the mirror and choose not to be defined by results, but to embrace the journey, and the process. In the end, this has unlocked a freedom in me that knows my identity isn’t defined by my independence, but by the dependence I have in Christ that allows me to be interdependent with my husband. In the wise words of Francis Chan, “Marriage is one of the most humbling, sanctifying journeys you will ever be a part of. It forces us to wrestle with our selfishness and pride. But it also gives us a platform to display love and commitment.” Over everything, I want to be a part of this deeper sanctification. I want to continually be refined and renewed into the women Christ has destined me to be. So to answer all of the questions; yes, marriage is much different than I thought. I now know that becoming one with my husband was not a one-time transaction that happened on my wedding day, it is a conscious decisions and action that I will fight to walk in every day. My perspective has shifted, my eyes are wide open, and my aim is unity.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

IMG_3430Drew (most recently Walsh) is a 22-year-old, college graduate from Grand Canyon University and a newlywed to her high school sweetheart, Ryan Walsh. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is thankful to use her degree in pursuing a career. Drew is passionate about young people and is eager to see students reach their spiritual potential in Jesus Christ. Drew and her husband Ryan reside in San Diego California and direct an internship program at The Father’s House Church called Immersion San Diego. Some of Drew’s favorite life moments are soaking in a day off at the beach with her husband, writing, sipping on lattes and enjoying a good laugh. Through her writing, Drew hopes to promote transparency and vulnerability that can prayerfully lead to breakthrough and clarity for women of all ages.