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Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

Every night at 10:00 p.m., my local news starts the broadcast by asking, “It’s 10:00. Do you know where your children are?” It seems to be a rhetorical question, but living in these days of increased crime and terror, it’s something every parent needs to be able to answer emphatically. Children need to be off the streets and safely home with their parents to help prevent getting into trouble.

So on Friday night, November 10, 2017, at 10:00 p.m., I was at Gatekeeper’s Total Recall Women’s Retreat where the host, Dr. Tiffany Swift noted: “The ability to yield yourself for spiritual, emotional and mental maintenance is a privilege. The grave condition of our city doesn’t have to be a permanent situation. The overload of your schedules and extended taxation of your mind both need a moment to reboot.”

There were many things I learned about rebooting at this enlightening and edifying 2-day retreat from the inspirational guest speakers and fun, interactive sessions. However, the praise and worship experience proved to be the highlight of the retreat for me. Let me explain how a group of 6 millennials provided an answer to the question, “Do You Know Where Your Children Are?” while they helped me reboot all at the same time.

THE GROUP, as they are known, is a close-knit group of gifted singers and musicians who used their God-given talents during praise and worship Friday night at the retreat. Although they are millennials, they are far from the typical “children” their age. They could have been anywhere on a Friday night, yet they volunteered to be part of the retreat, not to entertain us, but to usher us into the presence of the Lord through their ministry of songs and music. Interestingly enough, most of us who attended the retreat were literally old enough to be The Group’s parents!

THE GROUP at The Retreat: seated – Nikki, Ariana, and Liz; on keyboards – LaMonte and Anthony; and Stephen on drums

I posed 3 questions to The Group, but before you read their answers, take a look at the bios they wrote for the retreat booklet. How many millennials would describe themselves like this?

I’m Liz! I have lived in a few different countries and even obtained a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University, but all of those experiences pale in comparison to the ride I’m on with The Group! It is such a blessing to be able to learn and grow with a team that God has put together through his work and for his purposes. My hope is that you enjoy Total Recall 2017 and that God speaks to you personally about your own journey to finding completion in Him!

 

Hey my name is LaMonte Gray and my main goal in life is to serve and please God. I do enjoy sports, playing the keyboard and eating a nice tender steak, however there is nothing that I enjoy or value more than being in the presence of God and his people. He has always been my everything and my hiding place. There is nothing that I could ever put before him in the life that he gave me.

 

My name is Stephen J. Starks. I have always been around the glory of God, and God gifted me to play drums. I’ve been blessed through my years of playing to play with and for many great musicians and singers, but nothing has blessed me more than playing with the great group that I play with now. I have a deep hunger and thirst for Jesus that is being fulfilled! …. Hey beautiful people! My name is Nikki Starks, and yes, I married our drummer. I enjoy being a part of ministry with my family. I consider myself to be a people person; I love spreading God’s love to whomever I can, however I can. Although singing is one of my gifts as part of the group, I am excited to be exposed to the many other gifts and ultimate calling that the Lord has for me.

 

Hiya folks, my name is Ariana Ward. So far during my 20 years of living, I have experienced some great heartache and pain, but God brought me out. Because of certain decisions, I am now a mother of 1. I am a singer, bass player, a full time college student and most importantly a lover of Christ. Everything in my life has led me here with The Group, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

I am but a man after God’s own heart, named Anthony Ward. Alias: Tony Kartez. God has gifted me with a mission of love, to share His heart with the people of this world via music, service, and creativity. Each day He reminds me that there is nothing I can’t accomplish through Him. So I take great pleasure in learning new ways to edify the gifts and talents He’s generously blessed me to possess, so that I may give them back to Him and His people without void.

Like I said, how many millennials would describe themselves like this? So yes, the women who attended the retreat were blessed to be ushered into the presence of the Lord by these kids. It was a praise and worship experience like none I’ve ever had in the past, and as I listen to brief excerpts of the worship experience I recorded on my iPad, I am still in awe at how God’s spirit entered that room on that Friday night and ministered to us through them. Of course I was so caught up in the moment that I did not record the “best” part, but maybe you can catch a glimpse of what I’m talking about by watching the clips below.

PLEASE NOTE: I really had no idea when I was recording that these videos would end up on my blog. Forgive the very amateur nature of the video and just enjoy being in the presence of the Lord through our praise and worship experience that Friday night.

 

 

 

 

 

So now, back to my interview. But first I need to mention that the retreat was actually the very first time The Group led a praise and worship service other than at their local church. For all practical purposes, this was their first public appearance as worship leaders… WOW!

It’s surprising what you can learn about a person just by asking 3 simple questions. I’ve known 5 of these kids since they were born, and all are members at my church, New Covenant Outreach Ministries. Related by blood and one by marriage, The Group is not your typical group, and their answers are very uncharacteristic of what you see in the media from the ‘typical’ youth of today.

Q1: How did The Group come together? Combining 5 minutes of conversation in response to this question, it can be summarized like this:

A: We could easily and appropriately say that we are together because God said so. A lot of things happened to get us to realize that God picked each one of us to be here. Our individual journeys with music and worship were for the most part separate. We grew up in the same church, but never worked together unless it was under the watchful eye of the Pastor’s wife during a holiday program. God took the time to reveal his plan in ways that were unique to each of his little children. In retrospect, it is such a blessing to be known by such a loving and careful God, who really does order our steps for his perfect purposes. We were off doing our own things—one of us too pregnant, another too scared to sing outside of her head, some too busy navigating the trials of marriage, others too focused on everything God had to say other than music—yet God brought each of us face-to-face with his plan. If anything our union is a testimony that you are never “too” anything for God to hit the master reset in order to give you a new purpose!

Q2. What would you like for the world to know about The Group?

A: We exist to cultivate the heart of worship and have a heart for God’s people. We are actually all related and like each other.

Q3. Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?

A: Thank you, readers for reading and jumping in to a story that is being laid out before our very eyes. We are just a group of young people trying to do what God called us to do, and we want to share this burden with you—so please pray! Pray first that we are able to grow together under God’s direction and headship so that we can reach the goals he has set before us. Secondly, pray that we have the faith to believe for his provision. We have very practical individual and group needs in order to keep moving forward in this journey. So please join us in petitioning—better yet, bombarding heaven so that those needs are met, and that we are able to do what God called us to do to the best of our ability. Not only will that improve the music God gives us to create, it will be a bold testimony to each and every person we stand before. It’s not always easy. In a worldly sense we are young and trying to get started. We get scared and nervous. We also need instruments so if you feel led to bless us to continue to bless God’s people, don’t hesitate to be part of this harvest. Please consider donating to help us reach the young (and not so young) through our music as ambassadors of His presence.

THE GROUP (from left to right) Anthony Ward, LaMonte Gray, Stephen J. Starks, Nikki Starks, Liz Hunter, Baby Areah, and Ariana Ward.

If you would like to make a donation to help The Group move forward in their ministry, you can do so through my Paypal by clicking here.  I assure you that 100% of the donations will go directly to The Group.

I’m pretty sure the parents of these “kids” are thankful to be able to answer the question, “Do you know where your children are?” with an affirmative, “YES, they are working in the spirit of excellency in the ministry the Lord called them to do.” After all, this is The Group… Created by God.

 

BONUS AUDIO – Songs (Breakthrough and Weary Soul) composed, produced, and performed by The Group!

 

A Gift for You

If you have the luxury of sitting quietly for a couple of hours to indulge in an inspirational story, A Gift for Me by Tosha Holliman would be the perfect book! I was immediately captivated by the smile on the little boy’s face standing there with his two prosthetic legs on the front cover, and then I saw what appeared to be “a gift” in someone’s hands in the background. The gift was that same little boy, appearing to be not much older than a newborn in the picture, with no legs and missing part of one arm. HE was the gift, the good and perfect gift from above! (James 1:17)

It didn’t take long because just reading the table of contents sucked me in. Once I started, I honestly could not put the book down. It’s literally one that you can read from cover to cover without ever getting out of your seat. I found myself rushing through page after page because I couldn’t wait to see what the author was going to say on the next page. I felt myself full of all the same emotions she experienced as she described her life’s journey and innermost thoughts. The struggles with love, compassion, heartache, heartbreak, disappointment, frustration, shock, concern, anger, devastation, hurt, pain, and unforgiveness seemed so very real as I found myself praying along with her.

I could identify with Tosha, the wife and mother of 4, although I basically had nothing in common with her other than wanting what we all want out of our Christian walk with the Lord, a perfectly normal and happy family living a quiet and peaceful life. That would not be the case for Tosha and her baby boy; yet she discovered God had something much more precious in store for her. This gift came with strings attached because this gift was given to bring glory to God.

You’ll read the book’s synopsis on the back cover which explains against all odds, this mother decided to keep her baby even when doctors said you still have a small window to abort. As she felt him move and heard his heart beat for the first time, her heart, body, and soul connected with his immediately as he continued to grow and thrive in the womb. God gave her a glimpse of Aidan walking one day. She believed whole-heartedly in the power of God. In this excellent testament of a mother’s love for her child, she opens the story of her life and shares the true blessing of Aidan Jeremiah as God is continually being glorified through their lives.

I highly recommend anyone searching for answers or needing encouragement along life’s journey to pick up a copy of this book. You will experience God’s grace and mercy like never before. Although your journeys may be different, you will form an immediate connection with this loving, faithful mother. You will find yourself bonding with Aidan and cheering for him before he was even born. This is certainly a gift that will bless you beyond measure!

Please visit http://peculiarunlimbited.bigcartel.com/ to order your copy of this extraordinary book today!

Then visit https://www.facebook.com/PeculiarUnLIMBitedFoundation/ for more information and find out how Mrs. Holliman is encouraging and inspiring others to go from impossible to possible. Aidan is UnLIMBited and will inspire others to live life with no LIMBits! As an added bonus, you’ll find some very cute videos of Aidan on that Facebook page too.

As Aidan’s photo card says: Thank you for sharing my journey with me and for accepting me for who I am…. Aidan

If you’d like to meet Tosha, she’s hosting a book signing in the Memphis area on February 18, 12:00-2:00 p.m. Come get to know her while enjoying refreshments, prizes, and hear excerpt readings from her book. And guess what; I have a gift for YOU, the first 3 people who leave a comment on this blog post! I’m going to her book signing and will purchase 3 books to give away. If you’d like for me to send you a complimentary copy of A Gift for Me, just be one of the first 3 people to leave a comment on this blog post, and I’ll ship you an autographed copy after the book signing. That’s my gift to the first 3 people who comment on this post. Has Tosha’s story changed the way you look at challenges you may be facing? Have you ever received a gift you didn’t think you wanted, but now you can’t live without? What gift has God surprised you with?

Love Never Fails

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but I don’t have to remind you of that. Society and retailers have taken care of that ever since they took down Christmas decorations and replaced then with tons of Valentines. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been married 28 years to the absolute love of my life, and we will be celebrating our wonderfully and enormously blessed love for each other on February 14 just like everyone else who has a special someone to share that day. We don’t take that blessing lightly!

However, I’d like to take just a couple of minutes of your time to reflect on true love, love that never fails. We know the 13th chapter of I Corinthians is considered the Love Chapter, and here’s the reason why as explained in verses 4-8 of the New International Version: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Yes, LOVE NEVER FAILS. So in this month of love, I’d like to leave you with 28 reminders of true love. If I had planned this better, it would have been delivered to your inbox on January 31 so that you could read one verse each day during the month of February. But alas, as they say, hindsight is always 20/20. Reality is this thought didn’t come to my mind until today. I have been enlightened and inspired by a fellow author who already found these 28 wonderful bible verses to encourage your hearts (pun intended).

God says you are...

God says that you are all of these 28 glorious descriptions. Now that’s TRUE LOVE!

I can attribute this lovely picture to www.JenniferDukesLee.com. I saw it on her website with the following quote: “Do you know what a treasure you are? Do you know how deeply loved you are? Maybe you’re like me, in need of a fresh reminder that you were created on purpose, for a glorious purpose, in the name of love. Your Savior loved you to life, even through His own death. He is your ultimate …”

So with that being said, Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy the true love verses and know that God says that you are all of these 28 glorious descriptions.