Showing items for 'MyStories'

#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...

Showing items filed under “MyStories”

Jackson – Therapy for Dog and Human

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My wife and I attended Northern Chesapeake Sheltie Rescue’s annual picnic on September 23rd. This year we went alone as our own Shetland Sheepdog, Chipper, passed away last spring. 

We have been grieving his loss ever since and this picnic was a good opportunity to get reacquainted with those we had met over the years as well as to get our Sheltie fix.

Jackson is a nine-year-old rescue Sheltie who, in the first seven years of his life, was kept confined and isolated in a barn with little to eat or drink. He was abused and even though being in a loving home for the past two years, he still bears the scars and fears of his former life. When he was first rescued he did not bark and now he is happy to join the other shelties with his new voice.

 

Jackson is devoted to his adoptive mother and follows her everywhere, but he is afraid of strangers. At the picnic, our families sat near one another. Jackson was skittish and wary of my overtures of friendship but, under the watchful eye of “Mom,” I was able to pet him and, eventually, lift him up onto my lap. 

Once there, he was happy and felt safe. Together, we experienced about an hour of mutual therapy.

Since his adoption, Jackson has been slowly healing from his abusive past and is becoming more comfortable around other dogs. However, he remains timid and fearful of people. His healing will be a lifelong process, which has been helped by the adoption of two more sheltie rescues to mentor him in his loving home. 

It was certainly a pleasure on my part to not only be able to extend love to this sweet sheltie, but to know that – as he was giving me therapy – I was also showing him that he could be loved by other people. (The world is not as dark and fearful as he thinks.)

Despite our time together, just a short time later, as we were departing, Jackson again shied away from me. His wounds run deep, as so often do the wounds in our own human hearts.

Many of the shelties at this picnic come from abused backgrounds. That is why they have been rescued and adopted into loving homes. Most are very friendly and approachable. A few, like Jackson, need more time and encouragement.

It occurred to me that people are like that, too. We all come with our own – very mixed – baggage. There is no one universal approach to healing. We must be alert to the nuances of each situation and story.

For those most wounded, like Jackson, patience, persistence, and love are required. Like some people, Jackson expects the worst from others, including those who may intend no harm and actually have pure love to share.

Jonah Goldberg notes that, almost uniquely among animals, dogs “can read human body language and expressions.” For wounded creatures (human and animal), suspicions and fears can paralyze us and dull our senses. (Our perceptions are not always reality.)

Darkness has a way of blinding us to truth, to love, and to the good that surrounds us. It can blind us to the wounds within other people. And it can blind us to the love that our heavenly Father wants to share with His children.

In our case, we have Jesus to share with others. Let us help heal the Jacksons of this world with the love of Jesus, one encounter at a time, moment by moment, until the Light fully dispels the darkness.

If you’ve experienced times when God has picked you up, placed you on His lap, and lavished His love on you, then share those experiences with others. You never know whose heart might be healed. (It might even be your own.)

 

[Jackson’s mom emailed me writing, “Thank you for 'seeing' Jackson as he is.” It made me think; do we see God’s creatures through His eyes or through the lens of our own prejudices, pain, and fear?]

 

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!

 

#MyStory-Hillary Battle: What Happens When You Share Your Faith

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Why is it so difficult to have real conversation about our personal relationship with Jesus, especially with non-believers?

When given the opportunity, we are quick to say that God has incredible power to transform lives, but we belittle the example of transformed life that we know the most about…our own! What wonderful changes we could make if we were better able to allow others, including non-believers, to see our daily walk with Jesus. We would be able to change lives by introducing them to a faith that is real and alive. One Severn Runner, Hillary, was willing to share her story about how she did just that. 

“I was working as a therapist in a prison. I was ready to make a career move and had applied and accepted a conditional offer for a new position, but was waiting in a holding pattern for almost two years. It was easy to write it off as the pace of the federal governments hiring system, but in hindsight, I think God was keeping me there for a reason. Over that time other coworkers left only me and my coworker, Emily, on our team. Working in prison you find any reason to get out during the day and we regularly began getting afternoon coffee at Dunkin' Donuts. I was under the assumption that Emily was a Christian, not the “I believe in God” type, but the active Christ following type. I am not really sure why I thought this, but I did. Our conversations over coffee were about relationships, family, and daily life. Our conversations got deeper and turned to issues of faith. I thought I was having deep conversations with a person who shared my beliefs and was coming from the same place of faith. I openly shared my thoughts, questions, and experiences. We talked about our churches and I was surprised how little she seemed to know about hers, but didn't think much of it. After several months, Emily shared with me that she had gotten baptized. I was so happy for her, but it was also the first time I recognized that she hadn't been in the same place of faith as me during our conversations. She told me how our conversations had been a part of her journey. Shortly after, I got a start date for my new job and left Patuxent [Institution]. It is hard to think that God didn't keep me there to have that experience with her – to share my faith freely and without inhibition because I didn't know I was sharing with someone might reject it.”

Wow! What a great misunderstanding that turned out to be. But there were a lot of ways that God was moving in Hillary's life to orchestrate the seemingly coincidental relationship she developed with Emily.

“I think God was working through me to share faith with her and draw her into the accepting community of faith. She got into a dating relationship that quickly became an engagement during that time and my marriage, Wes' and my involvement in YMP (Connect Group at Severn Run), and the other Christ centered couples we knew were able to be examples to her of what a Christ centered relationship can look like. Because she was my friend, I shared with her some messy and vulnerable times Wes and I walked through – and I think that realness was impactful for her. God was working through her and the situation to teach me to be bold in sharing my faith – I never would have spoken so openly if I had known there was a risk that she wouldn't be receptive. 

Another thing I think is important is that in sharing with her, I talked about struggles, questions I had, barriers between sharing faith with my family, etc. A lot of times I feel like when sharing my faith I need to have the perfect thing to say or have it all wrapped up in a pretty package with a bow, but real faith is evolving and is sometimes difficult which is just as important to share.”

 

It’s easy to relate to Hillary's feelings on why we hold back when sharing our faith. We are worried about how we will be received, but the person on the other end really just needs to hear Jesus speak through our life's story. When we think we are “improving” our story by focusing on getting everything just right, we are probably just getting in the way.

“My main takeaway from the experience is how differently would I talk about my faith if I was never worried about rejection. I hope that others would hear that too – how differently, how much more frequently, how much more vulnerable would we be talking about our faith if we acted like everyone we talked to was a believer?” - Hillary Battle

Let us know:  How does this encourage you to be more bold about sharing your faith in everyday situations?

Posted by Zach Baum with

Running The Race(s) for Severn Run

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Stephen Hord is taking life as a Severn Runner “On The Road” literally. Through the heat, through the pain, through the training, and by running races, he strives to raise a donation of $5000 to Severn Run’s On The Road campaign. This is his story.

About two years ago, Stephen Hord and his wife were praying about finding a church close to their home. Although they drove past the church entrance often, one day God tugged on their hearts about visiting The Church at Severn Run. So they did. 

“We walked in and it felt like home so quickly,” Stephen shares. “We even ran into two families we knew.”

Stephen also says that he especially loved the church because we have Run in our name, and the congregation is referred to as Severn Runners.

“There are two activities that I love more than anything else; playing guitar and running,” said Stephen. “I feel most alive and closest to God when I’m out on the road and trails running with praise songs in my ears, (although don’t ask me to repeat that at mile 9 of a race--God is usually carrying me by then!)” he adds. “Long-distance running is such an accurate metaphor for the faith journey…I think this is why it’s one of Paul’s favorite illustrations in his letters to the churches.”

You may have seen Stephen on stage with the worship team, playing guitar. He has been giving music as his offering since coming to Christ. But when he heard about “On the Road” and the church’s mission to become a church of 5,000 believers, he knew he wanted to do more.

“Something was stirring in me to do more, something new, to use my love of running for the Kingdom. That is why throughout the year of 2017 I am running 32 races covering more than 262 miles ‘On the Road for The Church at Severn Run.’”

Because the mileage is the equivalent to 10 full marathons, Stephen has playfully nicknamed this his #yearofinsanity2017.

As we strive to be a church that reaches 5,000 people with the love of Jesus, Stephen has set a goal of raising $5,000 where each dollar represents one person who may or may not know that Jesus loves them.

This hasn’t been an easy endeavor for Stephen. He has fought physical pain, emotional upheaval, and the struggle of keeping his eyes fixed on the task God has set before him.

“Earlier this year, I had a string of difficult races and I even considered throwing in the towel in the middle of one. Then, late in the morning at mile 10 of a half marathon, two visions came rushing into my mind. First, the feeding of the 5,000 reminded me that there are still so many people who are looking to be fed with the miraculous love of Jesus. Then, my mind’s eye saw Jesus carrying the cross. I realized that no amount of temporary pain or discomfort or difficulty that I was experiencing would have stopped Him from his mission. I knew I had to press on. Acts 20:24 says it beautifully. ‘But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly the gospel of the grace of God.’” 

God is teaching him so much as he strives to stay faithful to this calling.

“The mantra I’ve adopted is “Run as far as you can, then take another step,” said Stephen. “It’s only by faith in His strength can I do anything. Proverbs 4:12 promises, ‘When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; and if you run, you will not stumble.’” He holds on to that one.

Stephen needs help to reach his goal of raising $5000.

He has been faithful to his running, and he is looking for others who will also be faithful to God’s tug on their hearts. Stephen is asking for prayer from everyone, as what he is doing takes a toll on the body. He is also asking for donations so he can do what God is asking of him and donate a dollar to On The Road for every member and potential member of our church of 5000.

You can follow Stephen on Facebook (@ facebook.com/thumper135) to see when he races and share your prayers and encouragement.

Please also visit this page  to donate, learn more about Stephen and see his finish times and upcoming races.

 

#MyStory :: When God Says Go

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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 in the preschool wing. Other than teaching Sunday School for the three year olds, which I’d done before I came to Severn Run, I wasn’t really interested in taking up any other leadership positions.

Last summer, I attended a church conference that encouraged those of us still in college to start Bible studies on campus, and to spread the Word particularly on secular campuses, such as UMBC. Initially, I thought about it, but ultimately decided I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t outgoing enough; I didn’t know enough about the Bible. I came up with dozens of excuses.

I went home, and life went on, until, last fall I was asked to co-lead SMASH when some of the original leaders were moving away. My mind went back to the sermon at the church conference, and after good deal of prayer and discussion with my parents, I agreed. It was scary and outside of my comfort zone, but this, I figured, was all God was going to call me to for a while.

My life continued to change, though I didn’t see it at the time. I’d kept in contact with Joe Thompson while he was in Hawaii with YWAM. [Read Joe's story here] One night, after attending a campus Bible study that was focused on missions, I remember telling him that I would never be able to do what he was doing. I couldn’t go so far away from my home and my family. I’ve never even been away from my parents for more than a week. I’m also extremely introverted. So many excuses, all saying that I felt I was not made to go to distant lands to teach or spread the Word.

Meanwhile, I was beginning to feel run down. My education classes, though rewarding, weren’t teaching me what I felt that I needed to know. They told me that I needed to adapt my lessons for students with learning disabilities and linguistic differences, but they weren’t telling me how to do it. I felt that I was inadequately prepared to be a teacher even though I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was in kindergarten. I began to pray about whether this was the career path that God wanted me to follow.

Not long after, I saw a video posted about a Teaching English as a Second Language Program at YWAM. The program would teach the students how to create lessons and units for English Language Learners, and then, because Hawaii has such a diverse language population, it would allow the prospective teachers to actually teach those students.

I was somewhat interested, but knew that there would be too many obstacles. I start student teaching in the fall, and the schedules obviously wouldn’t line up. The funds were also an obstacle. As a child in a family of six where the parents are now trying to put three kids through college at the same time, my family simply doesn’t have the money to fund this type of trip. Nonetheless, I was strangely compelled to look into the program, and the scheduling. 

Surprisingly, due to the new law in Maryland that schools cannot start until after Labor day, I wouldn’t have to start student teaching until after the program had finished, and my job, which is directly connected to that of the school system, would only be marginally affected. UMBC’s academic schedule cooperated too. The more I looked into this option, the more it looked like God was giving me a good kick in the pants. It was as if there were a billboard saying, “Cara, this is where I’m sending you. Now, go. Apply.”    

I’ve learned I’ve been accepted into the program, and I leave July 11. With some donations from family and a bonus for extra professional development from work, I’ve bought the plane tickets, and I will officially be going to YWAM for a 6-week program over the summer. I don’t know what God has in store or how He will provide the funds for the tuition, but I do know that God has a plan for my life. I can’t wait to see what it is!

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Cara Campbell is a senior at UMBC, majoring in Literature and Elementary Education who works in the after school childcare program. She is the oldest of four children and has been a believer for as long as she can remember. If you are interested in learning more about this story or Cara’s mission trip, please contact the church office.

Posted by Cara Campbell with

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