On Bravery and Defying Fear

I like to consider myself an adventurous person. One of my favorite things to do when I have down time is to get in my car and drive. Where? If I knew, it wouldn't be fun! My whole goal is to get lost and explore a part of the city (or state) I've never been to before. There are gems hidden throughout these undiscovered places that I enjoy finding. From architecture, to eats, nature and the overall feel of a place, I enjoy exploring.

I've determined that in my life, I will try most everything (don't get crazy, we are talking things within reason) twice.  Why twice? As I see it, my mood can determine whether or not an experience was good. So, if I was in a crappy mood when I first try something, I don't think I gave it a fair shot. Also, let's say I'm trying a new food, I could have gotten a less than awesome batch of whatever I tried.

I say all of that to say: For as curious and adventurous as I may be or appear, I am terribly afraid. What am I scared of? I don't think any honest human being is unfamiliar with my fears.

  • I'm afraid of people knowing my past and judging me.
  • I'm scared I'll be alone forever.
  • I have a fear that one day, the people I'm closest to will jet and the relationships I do have will cease existing.
  • There are moments where I'm afraid that I'll end up at the end of my life having accomplished nothing.

If I'm being completely honest with you, sometimes I don't know if I'm adventurous because that's my personality or if I'm using it as a method of coping so I don't feel so afraid.

What can we do when we're afraid?
Every situation is different, but I believe there are a few things we can do in any circumstance that can help us see with more clarity.

Remind Yourself of God's Faithfulness in Your Life
Sometimes, we glorify our circumstances over God and that's idolatry (and I can assure you, idolatry is a real thing we are all guilty of from time to time). So take a moment and refocus on Him– He's the one who will be present with each step you take.

Surround Yourself with Safe People Who Love You
We all need people in our lives who love us despite where we are emotionally. We also need people to encourage us and sometimes say hard, but truthful, things to us. These people won't laugh at your fears, they'll be patient and honest as you move forward.

Give Yourself a Break
Sometimes, things are scary and there's nothing we can do to change the situation we find ourselves a part of. It's ok! You're not perfect and you won't be ok all the time. Life is hard and fear is a natural reaction to the unknown. You don't have to have it together all the time.

Face Your Fear
Some of the things we face aren't meant to be stared down by one person. Facing a fear isn't always one step process or one time event. Many times, taking action (even if it's a very small action) helps us move passed our fear. Often, we end up realizing that what we were scared of was never as big as we thought.

Wherever in life you find yourself, know that you don't have to live in a constant state of anxiety and fear. I'll leave you with a verse that I read and think on often.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Friends, may we know God as love (1 John 4:8) and be so aware of Him that fear isn't a problem anymore.


Amanda Stokes
(media nerd, part-time time lord, thunderstorm enthusiast)

Creating Culture

Life is happening all around you and the truth is that you are either a person who creates culture or a person who gets sucked into culture. You are either a victim or an influencer. 

The real question is, what are your values? What are the things that really are a big deal to you? Rick Warren says that we attract what we are. This can be a very sobering thought… that the people that are drawn to me obviously share some of my values or ideas. So if you are surrounded by terrible people, guess what?………………………You get the point:)

For leaders this also means that you set the tone for the culture on your team or in your organization. People will be drawn to you because they identify with your values. Even if they don’t agree with your values, they will change their behavior based on the values that you set in place by your example. 

For as long as I can remember it has been a big deal to me that I be on time. In our house growing up, “on-time” was ten minutes early. This is something that I have been consistent with for many years. Interestingly enough, when we have a call time for our worship team, they all show up at least twenty minutes before the actual time they need to be there. Every time someone new joins the team, it is actually something they pick up on immediately. Now there are many reasons why they like to get there early. They like to have time to set up their gear and hangout with each other before jumping right into things, but more than that, it is the culture that we have developed and that was very intentional.

I also place value on excellence and being good stewards of the gifts God has given us. This means that I spend a lot of time at home learning songs and practicing. I remember a few years ago we had a new guy playing with us for the first time. He showed up at rehearsal and didn’t know any of the songs. He was shocked that people actually practice… for practice. It has taken time to develop this, but it is now part of our culture that people work hard at home and learn songs before coming to rehearsal. 

Neither of these values were in place years ago and neither would have come about naturally. This culture was developed by asking and answering hard questions at a time when it was all an uphill battle. The bottom line is you have to start somewhere. Sometimes things can look too hard and the amount of work can overwhelm us, but if we learn to put core values in place and remain consistent with them, we can change our culture. 

What are your values? Does your team know what those values are? How are you being an example of the things you say matter to you?

Here’s a some more of the values that have helped shape the culture of our worship team. I suggest you take time to right down the values of your team or organization and then discuss them. 

  1. Relationships are more important than the music. Those who hangout together play better together.
  2. We are worshippers not performers.
  3. We are not after perfection, we are after excellence. (Am I bringing God my best today?)
  4. Personal rehearsal is crucial. (Am I growing musically? Am I challenging myself to play new things and try new techniques that are outside of my comfort zone.)
  5. Personal times of Worship are essential. (We minister out of the overflow of what God is doing in us daily.)


Kris Carey


In April, Taylor Reams, the children’s pastor at the Erlanger Campus, and I went to a three day conference in Atlanta called The Orange Conference.

There was a sea of 8,000 Children's and Youth Pastors and volunteers, all with a common heart. Spending time with them, and Taylor, made me feel like we were really part of an army fighting for the same common goal. We heard crushing testimonies from adults who were once just like the children we minister to. They thanked us for being the difference in their younger lives, helping them to grow and rise up to their calling.

At the conference, it was not uncommon to walk by an orange mohawk, tutu or pom-pom antenna headband. The second night's agenda mostly consisted of a dance party, with a lit up beach balls flying all over the stadium. These are the kind of people pastoring your kids... Isn't that fantastic!? They don't just stand there and preach from the pulpit. They climb into the worlds of the kids they teach. Most times, they don't teach with words, they teach with action. Getting involved in individual ways to meet these kids in the middle of their unique week; not just Sunday. The people I stood next to those three days are my heroes, and I can think of no greater honor than to be part of that crowd of loving goofballs.

I left the conference feeling completely inspired and empowered, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect. Vacation Bible School (VBS) season is this month. It is the time of year that we push to reach out into our neighborhoods, meeting new kids and giving them an experience that gives them a little taste of God's love. It is my heart’s desire that through this program we are able to give them little bits of Jesus to help carry with them through their very unique challenges that they encounter throughout the week empowering them to step into the purpose God has for their lives.

I'm ready to dive into their world. Will you come with me?

Dena Ashcraft
River Campus Kids Leader

Learning to Love (And Be Loved)

A few years ago, I was in a relationship and after a month or so of dating, was engaged. I remember being excited about being a wife and someday, a mom. I daydreamed of what it would be like to say that I had a husband and a family. I was convinced that I would never feel lonely again.

Those thoughts, however, were the only things I allowed myself to think about. Underneath it all was the reason I was thinking any of it to begin with. Was there anything wrong with me wanting to and being excited about being a wife? Not at all, but if I had been really honest, I wanted to get married to prove that there was nothing wrong with me.

I wanted to be able to say I had a husband because that meant I was acceptable and worth someone calling *their* wife. I was trying to root my identity and self worth in what another person made me.

I ended up breaking off the engagement and spent the next six months in a haze of confusion, pain and isolation. I was embarrassed and angry. I wanted to crawl under a rock, never to be seen again. The truth is that I had been using my engagement and coming wedding to patch up and cover hurt and confusion deep within my heart that I had yet to deal with.

My almost-marriage isn't something to be mourned any longer- it's a reason to celebrate. Why? Because I’ve come to know the faithfulness of God in ever-increasing measure. I've finally begun to see His love and presence throughout different seasons of my life.

There will never be a man (no matter how wonderful he may be) who can fulfill the longing within my heart to be fully known. Yes, having meaningful friendships and relationships are important, but there is only One who knows my heart and I’m more grateful for His consistency with each day.

I'm not defined by the events or circumstances in my life. I'm not even defined by the choices I make. My identity is set in who God is and what He says about me. His truth doesn't cover up our pain, His truth binds up our broken hearts and sets us free.

I am the good shepherd and I know my sheep
and am known by my own.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them,
and they follow me.
John 10: 14, 27