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Meet Mary Smithers
This month’s guest writer is Mary Smither. She is a retired educator from the Polk County Public Schools district. She is a beloved person who lives her life serving others to the best of her ability.
A humble person, Mary was selected by two different schools to be their Teacher of the Year. A lifelong reader, she loved introducing students to literature. She created an environment in which students felt safe. They readily sought out Mary for advice on books, but more importantly, about life concerns.
When Dr. Mays learned that September 11 would be a date on which an Agape Letter was to be published, his first desire was to have Mary write this important article. She graciously said yes.
It is a great honor to have Mary Smither write this month’s featured article in Agape Letters.
By: Mary Smithers
September 11, 2001. A date that almost every American, over the age of 25 years old, can tell you exactly where they were when the terrorist attacks hit our country. The events of that date changed our country, changed our sense of security, and changed our hearts. I grew up with a family who loved their country, served in the military, and passed this love to me. Although we lost no one personally in the 9/11 attacks, we were changed. This was not a tragedy that our parents told us about, this was a life-changing event that we lived through. It made a mark on our lives, our peace, and our security. We held each other closer and knew our lives would never be quite the same after that day.
As I think of this date, I draw an analogy to the “day” that Jesus came personally into my heart. I inherited, from parents and grandparents, a legacy of loving Christ and doing the right thing. This secondhand faith was comfortable and accepted. I went to church, treated others with respect, and tried to be a good person by doing what I had seen my parents do. I thought all was good and that was enough. I believed in God and went through the motions of living the Godly life my parents had talked about. I had not had that moment where I changed; I accepted the faith that had been passed down to me.
All of that changed in February 2011. By this time, I was fifty-six years old; had been married for thirty-four years to the same man; raised two well-adjusted children to adulthood; worked for almost twenty-five years in the public school system; and had been a member of a church forever! I was happy and thought I had it all. That changed when our new pastor challenged us to read a book together as a church. It was called Waking to God’s Dream* by Dick Wills. God had picked this time and this book to be the catalyst to change my life forever. Many of my preconceived ideas about being a “good” Christian tumbled away. I realized I had been going through the motions and doing what others expected me to do. I was a good person, but not a good and faithful Christian. As I read this book one early morning in February 2011, it was as if the Holy Spirit truly washed through my body and said, “This is what I ask of you!” Truly, my heart was calm, and I felt a peace that passed all understanding.
This book has many lessons in it, written by Bishop Wills, but coming directly from God. This was the first time I made a personal connection with Jesus’ teachings.
They were the things that I had been lacking in my faith journey that kept me wandering along the path and going two steps forward and one step backward. Three of the things he said that profoundly changed my life were:
1. Trusting God Enough not to need to be loved by everyone.
2. If you do not have it, you cannot share it.
3. You must be in a DAILY walk with God, believing that he is active now—not just something you read about in the Bible.
I learned that if I am obedient to God by being in that daily walk—praying, studying His word, and doing what I am learning, it doesn’t matter what others think of me because God will love me and give me peace. I must read and know God’s message through the Bible to be able to share it with others. Truly when I read the words in this book, as if they were spoken directly to me, this verse from the book of Galatians settled in my heart, “…It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”
Instead of coming home and turning on the television to chill out after work, I carved out a specific time each day to “be” with God. I prayed, I read His word, and I listened to Him. Many times, I fell asleep during this time with the Bible or a spiritual book in my lap, but I did not give up! Before I knew it, this time had brought me confidence in my faith. I did not feel smarter than anyone else about Christ, I felt worthy and knowledgeable about what He taught and what He wanted for me. I became a prayer warrior-always beginning with a praise to God for allowing me to know him and be one of his children. As Bishop Wills described, I prayed daily to be a part of what God was blessing rather than telling God what I wanted done and trying to get Him to bless that. I gave my faith and my obedience to God. My heart and soul were calm.
Since 2011, I have ups and downs, but have never been afraid. I relaxed in life and let God lead the way. I accepted my diagnosis of Breast Cancer by giving it to God. I followed what the doctors said and had surgery and treatment, but my “heart never shook” because I had faith that God would take care of me. As life continues with good times and sad times, I find that taking the time daily to pray for others, to thank God, and to read His word, keeps me positive and upbeat. I pray about decisions and act according to what I feel God wants me to do.
Whether people are happy with my decision or not, I know God will not give up on me and I find that my decisions are almost always correct in the long run.
You may not have reached your “9/11” date yet—when your life changes and you can see things in a different way in your walk with Christ. Remember, it will happen when it is supposed to happen—age does not make a difference to God. Be open--it may come from a book, a song, an action, or another person, but it will happen. You are a child a God who is loved beyond belief. I live each day with this verse in my heart, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
* Wills, Dick. Waking to God's Dream: Spiritual Leadership and Church Renewal. Abingdon Press, 1999.
Do an internet search and you will find several definitions for the word “Agape.” According to one site, Agape is a Greco-Christian term referring to love, "the highest form of love, charity" and "the love of God for man and of man for God". This is the definition that we use at Agape Leaders for the way we mean agape. In our lives, many of us long to receive a “love letter” from that special someone. You are our special someone, therefore we are sending you our “Agape Letter,” our love letter to you.