#MyStory :: When God Says Go

Posted by Cara Campbell on

In less than a year, God has completely turned my life upside down. My family and I began attending the Church at Severn Run about two and a half years ago. Though I missed my old church, I tried to get in the swing of things, participating in the college-age Connect Group, SMASH, and working...

Finding Our True Worth in God

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#MyStory : Beth Fabianski

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” – Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

God performs the most amazing miracles in people’s lives every day. Each of us has probably experienced one without even knowing it. He can take the broken pieces of our lives and form them into a tapestry of great beauty and worth.

Such was my life about a year ago today. I was in the middle of one of the most difficult experiences I had ever been through, the death of my oldest sister, and on the cusp of other hardships that I would endure throughout the coming year. I had just lost about 160 lbs. and remade myself. My sister dying put that into perspective. Not much else mattered when she was gone. 

The funeral passed and we settled back into the rhythm of our normal lives. Thanksgiving and Christmas were around the corner. We tried to glide back into the spirit of the holidays, but this year they did not come. I was a changed person, altered by the hole my sister had left in my life and other chasms created by childhood occurrences.

I journaled frequently back then, and one of the stories I chose to borrow from that fall was the story of Joseph. I had related to this story frequently when I was a child. It was reassuring, the way God never left Joseph behind. He took every bad circumstance Joseph was in and made it something beautiful. I wished that God could rewrite the narrative to my life like he did with Joseph! 

Before the holidays came, I was gutted, emotionally. I was left a shell of myself just occupying space. I no longer wanted to live, and planned to remove myself from the world. I wrote a letter, explaining this, to my primary doctor, a friend of mine. He received the letter, contacted me and convinced me to go to an emergency room for care. I did this, and began a year-long odyssey that took me through six hospitals for stays of about two weeks each!

For now, I was happy to be home for Christmas. I rang in the New Year at another hospital and finally landed in Norwood Hospital in Massachusetts. There I received electro-convulsive-therapy, or ECT. Unfortunately, I did not understand the side-effects of the treatment well enough. I finished an in-patient course of ECT with my short-term and most of the memories from the past year gone. To this day, I don’t remember being in the hospital, at that point, and I remember none of what came next.

While I was in Norwood, one of my sons let it slip that my husband had lost his job. I didn’t work. We depended on his job for our entire well-being. His bosses were trying to reduce expenses and figured that getting rid of Paul would eliminate a huge amount of expense.

Poor Paul was never even able to mourn the loss of his job. I needed to be comforted and he needed to find a new job. He never got a chance to mourn. He started looking for a new job immediately.

We hoped he would find one that would allow us to stay in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, things did not work out that way for us! We wound up moving to Maryland at the beginning of the next month. While the thought of a new home excited us, leaving our home of many, many years was difficult. Paul and I were forced to leave our home and our three grown children. Everything was brand-new, including the doctors that I would now be forced to see.

All the relationships I had developed over the years were now gone. I had to find and acclimate to new doctors in Maryland. I was not happy. Matter of fact, I made Paul’s task even harder by digging in my heels and being reluctant to go. We did, however!

As we settled in Maryland, I slowly found new doctors and put my trust in them. There are times when you know God has you by the hand and is directing your steps. Because ECT had improved my disposition so much, I decided to chance the memory problems again and subject myself to it. I discovered a hospital that had an ECT program, Johns Hopkins, and they were accepting new people into that program. Everything lined up right and I could enter! 

Not only was I accepted into the program, but the doctors at Johns Hopkins cared about my memory difficulties very much. I was assured that they could administer ECT without the catastrophic memory side effects I had experienced at Norwood. I continued in the ECT program, which was far superior to the one in Massachusetts. My mood improved and there was no residual memory loss as there had been in Massachusetts. This was how the treatment was supposed to have worked. 

As that fall began, I was feeling renewed! Paul and I joined a wonderful church where we clicked almost immediately. Bible studies began that September, for the fall, and God made sure I knew he was speaking to me once again. I had no idea what they had chosen to study for that fall study series. At the first meeting, it was revealed that we would be studying the story of Joseph. It was a story of how Joseph’s brothers had meant him harm, but God chose to use the circumstances for good, and how he can do that with any circumstances.

The next group I went to had also chosen to study Joseph for the fall! I was being surrounded by God’s message to me through Joseph! God could take the most horrible year I thought I had ever had and turn it into a thing of beauty! Maryland was no longer a punishment, it was our home! I had a job and a church and friends.

I found myself working again, nothing earth-shattering, but a job that allowed me to earn a little of my own money for a change. I didn’t feel as dependent. Through so many situations, God was showing me the worth I had as an individual. It was amazing! I realized that if I didn’t see my own worth, I would be in that constant state of self-loathing and worthlessness. Living with self-worth and love, I could see a future for myself. Just as God had stayed by Joseph’s side throughout his trials in Egypt, he also stayed by my side in Maryland and showed me just how valuable I was to him and to others.

Now God has me here, standing on the threshold of a new life. I don’t find that statement over exaggerated: physically, God has had me renewed at Johns Hopkins and, spiritually, he has remade me himself!

I don’t know where I will go from here; I just know that I am in a state of renewal unlike any I have been in for years and years, if ever. I look forward to my future, I am excited to become all that God has created me to be! I am thankful for all the individuals who have helped me recreate my life and myself. 

Know that anyone can recreate themselves with God’s help. Joseph became so much more than he ever imagined he could be. I am happy. This alone is something I never thought I could achieve in this life. Everything that is to come will be frosting on the cake!

 

Nehemiah's Example of Servant Leadership

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We live in a broken world. We all know it and see it every day. We all want something to be done about it but we often fail to see that WE, the community of Christ, are the only group with the strength and support to make an eternal difference. Though we've all been called to serve (Romans 12:1), here I am, in particular, challenging and encouraging men to take the lead in serving. 

Men are called to be the spiritual leaders of their families (Ephesians 5:23) and that includes leading through serving (Matthew 20:26-28). In order to explore this idea further let us consider Nehemiah and his example of leadership after he saw his home of Jerusalem broken and in ruin.

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. - Nehemiah 1:3-4

Nehemiah listened when he was told about the fall of the wall of Jerusalem. He did not wonder about how wicked the world is and how this could be allowed to happen to his people. He did not wish that someone else would do something about it. He turned to God and confessed his sins and the sins of his people. Nehemiah prayed to God for direction and for favor as he began to plan how to rebuild the wall and the hearts of the people of Jerusalem.

I pray that men would listen to the broken and respond as Nehemiah did to the seemingly overwhelming problems they faced. We need to recognize the hard truth that the fall of our communities is entirely due to our absence, because we failed to lead and love as Jesus sent us to do (John 20:21-23). We have to step up and respond to the darkness and despair that we see in the world today by serving in our community with the Spirit that lives in us.

Nehemiah went on to use the resources available (and probably some that he didn't think were available) as cupbearer to the king to do God's work in rebuilding his community. Likewise, we all have been gifted by God with talents, resources, and opportunities to build up our community. We must be willing to use them.

When Nehemiah took on a leadership role, the people of Jerusalem followed. Scores of people (listed in various chapters of Nehemiah) volunteered to rebuild their community because one man stepped up to lead. Not everyone got on board though, the Samaritans and Ammonites ridiculed the Jews. The Jews themselves began to question themselves and their mission. Likewise, evil will try to tell us that we are wasting our time and that the world is too far gone to be saved, but we know better.

After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” - Nehemiah 4:14

 

Response 

Pray that God would reveal to us all the resources that he has given us so that we may use them to serve and rebuild our communities. Humble ourselves in recognizing the part men have played in allowing brokenness to exist unimpeded due to an absence of leadership. Understand the part we have to play in living out the gospel of Christ. Pray that we would be courageous to stand up and take the lead in bringing the love of God to his people. Let's step up! 

Get started by going to http://severnrunner.info/ to see where you can serve through the church and visit http://severnrun.com/men/ to get involved with the Men's Ministry group.

Be the Difference in the Café! - a Level 1 Serving Opportunity

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We’re cruising down the road on a sunny, Sunday morning. My husband has finally convinced me to serve in the café at church. Appealing to me is the fact that our children can serve with us. The trees swish by and the pavement flows beneath like a river carrying us to the body of believers we call family. We stop momentarily at a red light. Wishing to impart the heart of service I toss a question into the back of the van at my kids, “Why is it good that our church has a café?”

Their initial response was, “Because coffee gives people energy!”

Right. Probing further I respond, “Yes, but why do we want people to have coffee?” 

The oldest says, “Because it’s warm and cozy?” 

“Yes!” I declare, “we want to welcome people to our church and make them feel warm and cozy. We want them to have a good experience so they will want to join us again and then eventually, they may have a relationship with Jesus.” Again I ask, “So why should we serve in the café?”

“So we can help people have a relationship with Jesus,” they reply.

Yes!

So, as we pull into the parking lot at The Church at Severn Run, we have our hearts centered and focused on why we left the house 45 minutes earlier than usual, why we will fill carafes, and stock cups. It’s so others can know the God we know (and have a warm and cozy experience while they’re seeking).

It’s an easy thing to do, and the Café is always looking for smiling faces to fill cups and welcome guests each week. Severn Runners who serve in the Café can sign up using SignUp Genius on a Sunday at a time that works best for their schedules. Shifts begin at 7:45AM and go until 12:30PM.

While my kids were excited to don the Severn Run Café aprons, they are optional. Volunteers will receive instruction and training on how to fill coffee carafes and where to find necessary supplies to serve and stock.

The Café is a great place to serve when you’re new to Severn Run. While smiles and conversation are encouraged, an introverted person can work in a behind-the-scenes position while they get familiar with faces and names.

If you’re ready to step into service at Severn Run, the Café is a great Level 1 serving opportunity to get plugged in to. You could get all 3 Level 1 stickers in a matter of 3 weeks!

Contact Kevin McLaurin at to let him know you’d like to receive a link to the SignUp Genius to get started! (And be sure to register at SevernRunner.info!)

Register for your Level 1 Service Challenge Here

 

 

The Jesus Difference

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I have a history of a back and forth relationship with God, but I have a feeling I’m not alone. We have times when we walk closely with God, but we might fall away. And then we will come to a point where we are at the end of ourselves and we realize how much we need Jesus. There is a drastic difference between a life lived in the darkness, and a life filled with the light. I want to show you this difference--the Jesus Difference--in my life.

In order to tell my story, I have to go all the way back to before I was even born. My mother and father were both raised in strong Christian families, and not just religious families, but they had parents who really loved Jesus and served in various ways, especially my father’s parents. My grandparents on my father’s side were extremely active in the Church. My grandmother was cherished by all, and led many people through hard times via her counseling. My grandfather has written many books and has been in leadership roles in churches for as much of his life as I’m aware of. Looking at my father, it’s obvious that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. He met my mom while at seminary, and for about two-thirds of my life he’s been a pastor, or at least involved in ministry in some way. So yes, I guess that means you can call me a PK (pastor’s kid). But honestly, what does that have to do with anything???

Maybe not so much anymore, but back when I was in high school there was a certain perception about what a PK should be, and what they shouldn’t. Let’s just say that I did not fit the mold; at least, inwardly I didn’t. On the outside, I was the perfect pastor’s kid. I spent a lot of time at church, I served and helped my dad out a lot when he was pastoring several churches that he had started himself. And, I behaved (for the most part). However, internally there was no real relationship with God, and in fact I tried to keep whatever was there hidden from the rest of the world. I was ashamed of my faith, if we could even really call it that. I’ve always believed in God, but he was never truly real to me.

Because I had no real faith, I was just a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. And sometime around 2007 I finally exploded…

In late 2006, I joined the Air Force. In truth, it was a good move for me, and honestly it was the only way that my wife Rachel and I could get married and not struggle financially. And where did we get sent? Only a few thousand miles away to Germany…

So, off we went to start our new life in a place where we knew no one, and where I had no real connection to the life I was previously living, except Rachel of course. I still had my morals, which were instilled in me by my parents, even if the faith part never really stuck. So, luckily, I at least had that, and in reality, it probably saved me from going down some even darker paths than I did. But, to be honest, I was already lost. My heart was not in the right place, and my thoughts were not thinking on Godly things. I did some things that I’m not proud of, and I hung out with people that only brought me down. I did not go to church, and in fact I didn’t really even want to. This lasted through three years in Germany, and got even worse our three years in Guam.

After the birth of our second child in Guam, which was not something we had planned, things got pretty grim. I almost made the worst mistake of my life, and made dozens of others that I really wish I hadn’t. I still wasn’t going to church. I was swearing as much as the worst sailor you’ve ever met (no offense to my Navy brothers and sisters). I was not being a good father, I was angry a lot, and I treated my wife poorly. However, again, my morals, as weak as they were by now, still kept me from tipping over the edge. I thank God to this day that he was watching over me, even before I was born. I know that the choices my parents made, and the way they raised me, was just so that I could survive through these trying times later in my life.

So, there I was living my life in the darkness, with no way that I really knew of (at the time) to get out. But then, everything changed…

Just as the dust of an explosion eventually settles, things in my life finally started to become just a little clearer. I was able to get back on my feet and begin to heal from the wounds, though it took time.

In 2013, I changed jobs in the Air Force, which took us to California for several years. For nearly 7 years I’d hardly stepped foot in a church, but when we arrived in California I felt the tug to look for a local church to attend. We tried one, which ended up not being the best fit for us, so I started looking for another. I don’t remember how I heard about Shoreline, I think it was through an online search, but when we tried it out we really liked it there. And for the first time in years I finally started to feel something. It started deep within my soul, and it was a very slow change, but God spoke to me in profound ways over the next year or so. At times, it kind of felt like going to the dentist - it was uncomfortable, but I needed to remove the dead and decaying parts of my life so that I could fully heal and recover. I don’t really remember a specific moment when everything changed, though perhaps Rachel could tell you if you asked her. It was not some big light that opened in the sky and unleashed Heaven’s full glory down on me, burning away all the bad parts of my life. It was just a slow process of change as my mind began to be reformed – old habits and interests slowly faded away, and new ones took their place.

You won’t ever hear me say that I’m wholly complete, but I can tell you that the difference between now and then is night and day. As Nathan "Nate" John Feuerstein, the artist known as “NF”, so wonderfully put it, “Christian is not the definition of a perfect me.” Christian only defines who I strive to be, and who I look to as an example.

So, what’s really different about me? Besides most of the bad stuff that’s gone (yes, I do still sin), I’m passionate about things that I used to not care abiyt. Take this blog post for one. The old me would never have considered sharing all my shame on the internet. The old me would never have freely volunteered to write something meaningful so that in some small way, others might find the courage or the strength to allow change in their own lives. Besides that, the way I think has changed a lot. I see people differently. I judge less, and love more. I treat people differently, and my anger is under control. Of course, I do still have some small outbursts when I have to drive in Maryland traffic, but anyways…

One of the other ways that I’ve changed is in my desire to serve others, which as you know if you’re a Severn Runner, is something that we’ve been talking about recently. I know that I still need to do more, but even that feeling of ‘I need to serve more’ is something I NEVER would have thought about a few years ago. I lived for myself, and that was apparent. Now, though I’m still a selfish human by nature, I consider others more often and have more of a desire to help them.

I know that there are many of you out there right now who are reading this and possibly needing to do some reflections on your own lives, even if it’s only mirrored through my own distant experiences from yours. We all have different lives and experiences, and that’s what makes us unique. God speaks to each of us in different ways. So, it’s my hope that at least through sharing my story you’ll take a moment to listen and see what he has to say about yours.

Is he calling to you? Is he asking you to come discover this Jesus Difference that we’ve been talking about? Or, perhaps he’s asking you to share your own story of the Jesus Difference in your life, so that maybe, just maybe, someone you can uniquely reach might find the courage to allow the change that they’ve been desperately searching for their whole life.

You never know just who your story can affect. You never know just who your story can reach. And you’ll never know unless you share it.

There are a million stories out there of people who’ve come to understand this Jesus Difference, and who will probably tell you that it has been the biggest and best difference in their lives to this day. There are millions of stories through the ages of lives that have been changed – lives once lived in darkness, that are now bathed in the light.

Will yours be one?

The Importance of Racial Reconciliation

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In 1955 Pittsburgh, there was an accident in a steel Mill. Perhaps there were lots of accidents in steel mills during that time, but this one changed the perspective on race in one man’s mind.

Billy was working a fire in the mill. To make the fire hotter, a kind of lacquer was added to the flames. It only took an instant, once Billy added the lacquer, for the flames to leap up and engulf his arm. A man came to his rescue and as he lay in the hospital recovering from his own injuries, he recalled with great emotion, “The young lad was running, a ball of flames…I did all I could…” Billy’s father thanked him and later remarked, “I have a different heart and mind set about white people. Everybody stood there, frozen to the floor, but it was the white man who risked his life. He risked his life for my son and I have a different opinion now.”

Billy’s dad had faced many prejudices in his life. Not the least of which was the inequality he endured during his service in WWII. However, the selfless act of one person showed him that his ideas and opinions did not apply to an entire group of people. Sadly, Billy succumbed to his injuries and passed away. His accident though, was a catalyst for change in his family.

Billy’s sister, Arlene was profoundly impacted by her brother’s passing. Arlene went on to raise her five daughters with love in their hearts toward all people. Even though the community, school, and church where they lived was entirely black, many of the white teachers at their school were loving and poured encouragement and support into their lives. However, the girls did see and experience a lot of discrimination in the extended parts of their mostly-white church organization. It didn't stop them from worshiping with them or attending the events, but it helped them to learn how not to treat people.

Arlene worked at Teen Challenge year-round, and during the summers she took her five girls along with her. Patrice Lyle watched her mother minister with the love of Christ to people of all races. Because of this modeling, Patrice is driven to see and love others as Christ does; humans with beautiful differences all created in the image of God the Father. 

After the events in Charlottesville, Patrice hosted a Coffee and Conversation event. She invited others as an opportunity to learn to love each other by getting to know each other...one conversation at a time. The meeting was attended by 3 of Patrice’s sisters, her brother-in-law and 1 white friend. Patrice was so thankful for the friend that came because it lent a different voice to the discussion. “Every time you allow yourself to hear a different perspective, it opens your heart and mind a little bit more,” Patrice said.

The bottom line for Patrice with racial reconciliation is trying to know and understand each other’s hearts. Most times when people begin a racial reconciliation conversation, even if they don’t necessarily say the “right” things, they’re trying to get there—to racial reconciliation or an understanding of one another. People willing to enter into these conversations need to understand that no one is intentionally trying to offend but to change themselves and their thinking.

Ultimately, Patrice says, “How can you bring people to Jesus if you see people as different from you? When we allow our differences to affect if we share Jesus with someone, it’s sin.”

Patrice refers to the “journey” of racial reconciliation. She offers these steps:

  • Surround yourself with people different from you
  • Understand how you process those differences
  • Make intentional steps to lean, to understand, and then to love and embrace those differences.

Above all, Patrice says, “Allow yourself to be covered in grace. Grace allows you to not see the wrong and the faults in others”. This is great truth for interaction with ALL people!

 


*Quotes in the 1st paragraph are from “The Story of Billy” by Arlene Thompson. https://lilliethompson.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/the-story-of-billy/

 

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