God’s Reliability: Updating to 5.0

{This post originally appeared on My Faith Radio}

We know all too well the adrenaline rush of a beloved phone fizzling out or breaking. Updates to social media page layouts and software give us pause.

We get used to doing things a certain way and using particular tools. It’s normal to feel vulnerable, tired, lost, and frustrated when the things we have come to rely on change.

What a blessing the Lord we rely on does not change.

Just like we find to be the case with cell phones and media layouts, we know the more we rely on something, the harder it is to be apart from it.

This is tenfold with God. More than a schedule or a tool, the Lord is the ultimate helper. Relying on Him makes us more reliant on Him- and that’s a wonderful thing.

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There is nowhere like His presence. We can find no peace, no joy, nor comfort or certainty comparable to that provided by our Lord.

So it’s especially difficult and disorienting when we reach “spiritual highs”…and then wander away.

We’re prone to it. It’s in our nature. Paul laments in Romans 7:19 that “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

Paul’s words are about more than getting convicted about the sins we clearly commit, like lying or gossiping.  Sin is also what we don’t do –like when we don’t rely on the Lord.

Jesus tells us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

Remember when you last laid down your burdens and gratefully stepped into the freedom He gives? Do you remember the rest that you felt when you relied on the yoke of the Lord?

  • There’s no need to stumble around in the dark, even in spaces you feel you know and can navigate yourself. His Word is the light unto our paths. (Psalm 119:105)

 

  • Feeling vulnerable, as if you are without your usual sense of kindness and compassion? We’re never left exposed. He gladly clothes us with His presence. (Romans 13:14)
  • When you’re weary at work and nothing seems refreshing or worthwhile, remember that all things are for His glory. Work can be exhausting –but He renews us day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)
  • Our constantly changing gadgets are no replacement for the equipping Jesus does. How simple and strong are the lasting tools given by the Lord, like the armor of God and the Word that pierces the soul. (Ephesians 6; Hebrews 4:12)

Unlike our phones and the other things we’re dependent on, God doesn’t expect us to catch up on His latest model. We can wander on back to His presence, knowing He is who He is and He’ll love and work on us as we are.

He is ever patient, always faithful, and wonderfully reliable.  

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Overcome Failure Book Review

I’m one of those people who has regularly lived in fear of failure. Are you?

I’ve made too many decisions based on what I know I can do, not what I believe I should do. All too often, I shrink back from the ideas that excite me, even when I know the Lord is offering them. I refuse because I doubt I can succeed in fulfilling them.

My list of “almosts” but “might fail, better nots” is long.

What a blessing it has been in a recent season of growing in boldness to discover Ifeoma Samuel’s new book Overcome Failure.

Unique in style and informal, Overcome Failure has been to me like a series of pep-talks or letters from this lovely woman of God. Nearly every time I dive into the book I’m met with a God-timed phrase or passage from Scripture speaking directly to the fear of failure I’ve needed to face.

For example, on page 35, Ifeoma outlines one of the first reasons fear of failure triumphs over us: we hate to wait without a guarantee of the risk (or of anything!) being worthwhile.

“Only patient people can fully surrender. Are you one?” she says.

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My immediate answer is no. But isn’t she right?

We often surrender something to God only to find ourselves snatching it back when He takes longer than expected. If we don’t take it back, we often head right away from the foot of the cross to another thing we can pick up and cling to instead of simply being patient in waiting for what He desires to fill us with.

Picking up our lesser, safer options, we bypass God’s best for us because waiting to see if we might succeed is scary. But that’s where faith can swoop in and spare us.

As Ifeoma explains on page 7 and throughout the book:

Failure is not a monster to be afraid of. It only becomes a giant when we see it as such; however, when we embrace the hope God offers us, it becomes just another challenge that is brought down.

When God says He can work all things together for good, He even means our failures or potential failures. As He explains in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “His power is made perfect in weakness.”

God doesn’t need us to succeed for Him to succeed in His purposes for us and through us.

I hope that simple, essential lesson from Overcome Failure helps you grow in boldness, trust, and obedience in Christ the way it has me.

Thank you, Ifeoma, for the wise, personal, God-grounded talk on this touchy topic!

To learn more about Overcome Failure, click here.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Blame First, Forgive Next

This post is one piece of a great collaborative effort. Head over to Kelly Balarie's post for encouraging excerpts and links to tons of bloggers' fantastic testimonies on the Lord's work in their lives.

When I tell my husband about an incident and the way it hurt my heart, he listens. Patient as usual. My phrases go something like this: “This happened. Then this happened. It was a mess. I felt____.”

Inevitably, he asks.

“Why did that happen?

I stammer. I don’t get it. I just know I’m hurting. Why do men have to solve everything anyway?

The conversation continues and he gently pushes.

He believes I need to recognize the “why” when something hard or hurtful happens. If a person is behind an issue, I need to assign them blame. Righteous blame…also known as responsibility.

It feels so backwards to me.

Jesus taught us all about forgiveness. I belong to the God of grace. As I live among other people, I tend to see the good in them, and, if there must be bad, only accept that I’m the one at fault.

Isn’t humility accepting blame so others don’t have to?

Scripture doesn’t say so.

Forgive other people when they sin against you,” Matthew 6:14 affirms.

Those personal pronouns get me every time. Other people sin against me. I am to forgive them for it.

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When I neglect to see others’ sin for what it is, I miss the opportunity to forgive them.

The reverse is true. If I sin against someone, pretending it never happened or wasn’t my fault keeps forgiveness at bay. Taking the righteous blame for my sin, however, opens the way for forgiveness.

1 John 4:10 sums up the Gospel: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

God didn’t send Jesus for all of us because I’m a sinner and you all are good enough people.

Likewise, Christ didn’t die for our sin without calling it out, leading us to repentance, and then washing it away.

How can we see our sins made white as snow if we don’t first identify them- bright, glaring, and scarlet as they are? Have you ever tried to forgive a sin without acknowledging the sin first?

2 Corinthians 5:10 continues on the topic: “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

When I neglect to assign others’ responsibility for their own actions, I falsely hold on to hurt and blame that aren’t mine. I tell Christ that the wrongs are my due and give a false account of what has gone on.

Who does a false account of sin serve?

Certainly not me. Definitely not the God of truth.

Absolutely not the people I divert blame from. Because one day, they will be held accountable.

Probably this serves Satan, though. He’s a fan of lies that keep us from God’s best.

So the question when I am witness to sin is this: will I participate in the opportunity to give or receive forgiveness and grace? Or will I withhold it by refusing responsibility?

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This perspective shift has freed me from so much guilt and shame. I’m thankful today for righteous blame. I’m thankful that when I’m hurt by someone, I know that hurt hasn’t just “happened,” but that someone is responsible for it. And that same someone can be forgiven.

Friends, if we’re going to walk in forgiveness like Christ, we need to recognize the sinner and the sin we’re forgiving.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

 

Word of the Week: Peace

Ironically, “peace” is a confusing concept Biblically.

Without any word study at all we observe that Christ at once claims He did not come to bring peace (Matthew 10:34) and at the same time Christ claims He is our peace (Eph 2:14.)

The definition of peace clarifies, citing that peace is:

  • A sense of welfare
  • Being undisturbed
  • Wholeness

When Jesus works, donning a sword, He disturbs our wrong perspectives. He exposes the incomplete pieces of our lives as we try to piece it all together for ourselves.

Peace, on our terms, is all about effort. Striving to maintain welfare, fighting to be undisturbed, and clinging to pieces we want to fit together.

Peace, on our terms, is anything but peaceful.

That’s the kind of peace Jesus didn’t bring.

The kind He did?

When we turn to Jesus as our source of peace, He establishes us without the peace-depleting, stressful effort on our part.

Our welfare is secure as we find our refuge and strength in Him. In Christ, nothing can disturb the connection with God He guarantees. We are in progress, yet simultaneously complete because He is working in us and promises to bring us to completion ultimately.

With Jesus, there is no lack, disturbance, or threat we need fear. We can be at peace because of who He is and whose we are.

Christ’s peace is so much more peaceful than peace on our terms!

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

In Busy We Trust

{The eleventh installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

Glad to have Becky here today- she believes in embracing grace in the messy real of life. At My Ink Dance, she captures hard, uncomfortable, often unspoken feelings and brings light, honesty and God’s truth to them in a relatable way. Becky is a wife and mother of three in Connecticut writing imperfect and finding faith along the way.

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One glance at my calendar and you’ll see more handwriting than white space. Sports, doctors, meetings, parties, holidays, and there always seems to be more. Even in all this “more” I feel like less.

My days keep filling up and I am being drained out.

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Empty is not a way to live.

It’s easy to fall in line and run from thing to thing waving a flag to show just how important we are. Our calendars scream of our significance, of how needed we are. We have so much to do, we must be important. We must matter. Right?

Busy gives us a false sense of worthiness. True worth only comes from God.

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I hate how I feel like I’m running and running, yet I find myself mentioning how busy things are and how the running was so hard like I was name dropping a celebrity. Maybe if people see just how much I do, they’ll see how valuable I am.

We trust this idea that busy is an indicator of how important we are in this chaotic world. There isn’t time for slow. There isn’t time to enjoy. We snap every picture and post and share to prove our lives are full.

No millisecond shutter will capture just how full your life really is, and no amount of likes will fill your heart.

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We give so much of ourselves for the sake of fitting in. The kids do the sports, we serve on the committees, off to church on Sundays, we work a job or maybe two, we make all our meals and have date nights and the list never ends. These are all good things, sometimes even Godly things. But when we seek these things to fill us up, no matter how good they may be, we find ourselves worn out, lonely, and empty.

You were made for so much more than worn out, lonely and empty.

God longs for us to live lives to the fullest. To live trusting fully in who He created us to be without feeling the need to chase meaning and value in full calendars and a life of running. He wants you to know who you are.

But the best part?

He sees us feverishly filling those calendar squares and chasing what we think our value comes from, and He doesn’t go anywhere. He stays. Even when we’re chasing busy and trusting in our status instead of Him, He stays and waits whispering only one thing:

be still

Friend, I know we can’t throw our calendars away. We have responsibilities and bills to pay and kids to grow. But none of those things will give us what our heart desires. Maybe it’s time to let go of our trust in busy and find even the smallest moment to trust in His stillness.

For the next few weeks, guests will be writing each Monday on something (or someone) we tend to trust in besides God. 

What about you? How do you fill in the blank: In ______ I Trust?

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

3 (Hopeful) Truths for the Overwhelmed

My calendar always ends up a mess. It seems like everything is happening at once and at the same time like the things that really matter to me aren’t happening at all. I notice plenty of hurry up and wait. In the meantime, I begin to hear the phrase “you can’t do it all.”

Every little thing adds up and I just feel overwhelmed.

You too?

To read the helpful truths that give me hope and slow me down, click here to visit Ashlee Perry’s site The Maze, where I am blessed to guest post today.

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

In Jobs We Trust

{The ninth installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

Grateful to have Ashlee' Perry here today. A courageous writer and serious student of the Word, Ashlee humbly shares devotional posts and thought-provoking questions focused on Scriptural truth over at her blog, The Maze.

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No, I’m not talking about Steve Jobs here.

Our jobs are our primary source of income. With it, one is able to financially provide for the needs of one’s family, to buy necessities and pleasures of everyday life. Jobs are great, awesome, and the Bible specifically speaks and command us to work, because a laborer is worthy of his wages (1 Timothy 5:18) and if we don’t work, we won’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Working is a part of life, being commanded by God for us to do since the Creation and the Fall of mankind (Genesis 3: 17).

There’s nothing inherently wrong with work, but good things can also become our idols.

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Since May 2015, I have been in search for a full-time job. Although I love writing, and would one day hope to become a full-time writer, at this point in life, I know that isn’t possible. Every day for eight or nine hours, I alternate between job hunting and applying for jobs, which takes up most of the day, and exercising for breaks. With this day to day pattern, and with the constant reminders of the need of income looming around me, it’s hard not to obsess and idolize having a job.

When working becomes an idol, we begin to neglect the things God has stewarded us, placing that thing above God.

When you think of stewardship, most Christians think along the lines of money, but actually that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Stewardship goes far beyond giving money to a charity that you like, or volunteering for a weekend with underprivileged children. Biblical stewardship is our acknowledgment of the various gifts and talents that God has graciously given to us, and using them in such a way to give Him all the glory. With our jobs and time we spend with our jobs, how well are we being a steward?

When things are out of order, and when we have our priorities out of balance, work can become an idol.

We become neglectful of the things God has stewarded to us, to the extent that it becomes a detriment to us and those around us. God gives each of us certain talents and abilities, and when they’re used for things other than to glorify Him, our works become useless. In the words of Solomon, he states:

“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:11

When God isn’t in the center of our business, our work, or our jobs, all those “good actions become completely futile. Stewardship without the presence of God is just good works.

Good Actions

By trusting in our jobs or talents over the One who gave us those skills, we’re in a sense demoting the power of God working in and through us. We’re creating for ourselves another “god” and placing it before the One True God. It’s easy to fall into this trap, whether it is with our jobs or personal life. We place our value and worth into those things, when actually, they can be swept away from us in any given moment. As Christians, our validity isn’t found in what we have or the job we possess. Our validity is found only in Christ.

Proverbs 16:3 gives strong words on what happens when our work is done to glorify God – our thoughts are established by Him. This isn’t saying that whatever we want, God will give it to us like a genie we make wishes to. I’m actually saying the opposite here – by submitting our will to God’s will, whatever He desires for us will be accomplished, for our good and for His glory. Our purpose isn’t defined by our job, title or position; it’s defined by our reverence and trust in God (Ecclesiastes 12: 13&14).

So, where does your trust lie?

Is your trust rested in the things that you possess and can obtain, namely your job, money, or resources, or does it rest in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross?

For the next few weeks, guests will be writing each Monday on something (or someone) we tend to trust in besides God. 

What about you? How do you fill in the blank: In ______ I Trust?

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Word of the Week: Cast

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”1 Peter 5:7

Earlier this week, Liz shared about stepping away from anxiety to trust more fully in the Lord. Take a closer look at that word “cast” in this beloved verse.

Here’s what it does not mean:

  • Gently set
  • Hand over carefully
  • Share between us
  • Pass off in turn

What “cast” is defined as:

Giving our anxieties to God doesn’t need to be a process of careful deliberation and slow surrender. Rather, as Scripture instructs, we do well to simply throw our anxieties upon Him. No agonizing required.

What happens when we throw things?

They are instantly out of our reach (assuming we have any aim at all!)

Thrown things are removed, they have no bearing.

When something is thrown to a catcher, we give up our hold on that thing completely. And, in the case of anxiety, its hold on us.

Heave your anxieties at God. Hurl them into His perfect grasp. It doesn’t matter where or when. You don’t need to be cautious about protecting your pride or keeping some part of control. God is not in danger not ashamed of your worries.

He’s got a place for anxiety. In His hands. Which is way better than in yours, weighing you down and keeping you from keeping up with His will.

Cast that anxiety, friends, as quickly as you can. Relief will come.

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Word of the Week: Will

Free will. My will. His will. I will do that. When will…?

I’m not sure we often get through a day without using the word.

At the same time, I wonder if we view it well?

Perhaps its most famous context is this:

Not my will, but yours be done.”

Luke 22:42

As Lois shared earlier this week in her post about trusting in outcomes rather than in God, praying that God’s will be done is challenging. Often, we’d prefer He just do our will so that we know what will happen and can feel good about the outcome.

But there is something special about “will” in this context.

Transliterated “theléma,” this particular reference “will” can be defined as “best-offer.”

When we pray that God’s will be done, we pray that His best offer be accomplished.

This says so much about our Lord.

We know He wants what is best for us, as is the case in perfect love. We know He works all things together for the good of those who love Him.

Here we have an example of that perfect love and perfect work driving out our fears about not getting “our way.” His way is not only better and higher than our way– His way is the best option we have.

What comfort that gives as we pray and surrender to Him.

His will is His best and ours, too.

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

In Outcomes We Trust

{The seventh installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

Glad to welcome Lois from Waxing Gibbous back to the blog today. A former journalist, Lois has a gift for telling stories while gathering facts- all leading up to the truth of Jesus Christ. So blessed to know her and share her words!

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Here’s the blunt truth. When Bethany introduced her “In ____ We Trust” series several weeks ago, I was intrigued and curious to see where she was going to go with the topic, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to apply to my daily life. I definitely have areas of spiritual struggle and plenty of room for improvement in many spots, but at the time, I was doing OK in the trust department.

Or so I thought.

In my world, one of the marks of a good blog post is when I finish reading and say to myself, “I never thought of it like that before.” With this series, that’s happened more than once.

Trusting in Google? Who would have thought? But yes, I do that. Trusting in medicine? For me, it’s more like trusting in health insurance, but yeah, check that box too. Acceptance? Let’s just skip that one, shall we? As I told Bethany in an email a few weeks back, with that post, she’s quit preaching and gone to meddling.

All kidding aside, even as I was finding much to relate to every week, I kept trying to articulate this one other thing that I often trust in besides God. Several weeks into the series, I still don’t have a catchy little title for it, but it has to do with happy endings and closure and desperately needing to know how things are going to turn out.

This is OK when it comes to reading the ends of books first (which I do, all the time) or checking the internet for spoilers when I’m taking a bathroom break during a movie (which I also do, sometimes).

In real life, though, it can be a serious problem.

There’s a certain way I feel—physically and emotionally—when I am waiting, in limbo or uncertain of an outcome. I’m more prone to irritability during those times. I’m readily anxious. My stomach sours and my sleep grows even more fitful than it normally is.

Then, when the question is answered, the wait ends or the outcome becomes evident—good or bad—calming waves of peace sweep over me. I don’t know how to explain it other than that. I just feel better.

Some of this is just part of being human, and some might be due to my personality.

But I think the lion’s share of this progression of feelings has to do with trusting in the outcome instead of the God of the outcome.

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Thankfully, I’m not powerless to stop it, and neither are you if you recognize this tendency in yourself.

There is a divine antidote that never fails to change my perspective and calm my anxious heart when I’m waiting for closure, and it is as familiar as it is life-changing.

Simply put, it involves praying the way Jesus prayed in the Garden the night before He was crucified. As you may recall, He asked God three times for another way, but He followed each request with that amazing statement of submission, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42)

My husband and I learned the power of this prayer a couple of decades ago when we were struggling with infertility. We regularly told God of our desire for a child, but we always followed it with Jesus’ words, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

I’m not going to lie—this is a difficult way to pray. But back then, it was the only concrete way I found to relinquish my dreams and desires to God. It helped me loosen my grip on my desire to have a biological child AND vocalize my trust that my sovereign heavenly Father truly did know what was best for me.

As it turned out, God’s will in this situation was NOT what I desired originally. We never did conceive; instead, we adopted our two daughters from China.

And that entire experience—including the wonderful eventual outcome—paved the way for an increasing reliance on this prayer in many other areas of my life. From unexpected job losses and homes that took way too long to sell to concerns about aging parents and difficult medical issues, it’s been the only sure way I know to replace my anxiety about an uncertain outcome with quiet trust in God.

Not my will, but yours be done.

I don’t always think to do this right off the bat. Sometimes it takes me days—even weeks—to get there. But when I finally remember and start meditating on this prayer, something amazing happens.

My heart relaxes. The sourness leaves my stomach. Honestly, I’m just nicer to be around.

I still hate waiting. I still read the ends of books first. But, more and more, I’m learning to place my hope and trust in the Author of the ending instead of the ending itself.

God is sovereign. He is good. He loves me and knows what I need. Praying this prayer helps me remember that.

Not my will, but yours be done.

For the next few weeks, guests will be writing each Monday on something (or someone) we tend to trust in besides God. 

What about you? How do you fill in the blank: In ______ I Trust?

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.