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Contemplation

POUR OVER: WHEN THE OTHER SHOE DROPS

POUR OVER: WHEN THE OTHER SHOE DROPS

What would each of our staff members share if we had the chance to sit down with you one-on-one over a cup of coffee? What is God doing in our lives, and how are we personally experiencing transformation and awakening? Pour Over is a blog series by our Watershed staff members answering those very questions. Today we'll hear from Abbie Fay, Watershed Office Administrator, GreenHouse Support... and quiet force behind much of what goes on around here!


If you have ever met me in person, you know that I am a woman of few words. I have found in my 27 years of life that being quiet and listening is a lot easier than putting myself out there and talking. That requires vulnerability, something that I have struggled with since childhood. 

I was a shy child, so much so that talking to people was terrifying for me. I remember in 6th grade when my family moved to a new town and started going to a new church. My parents coaxed me into going to the youth group in order to make friends. The problem was that I was so terrified of this new situation and of my peers that I spent every week with my back against a wall, not moving for the entire two hours. It took me a year to get up the courage to actually acknowledge the people who tried to talk to me and begin making friends. This is just one instance in my long history of struggling with communicating and interacting with other people.

Despite my early struggles, I somehow found a way to enjoy life and build relationships. Friends at school, buddies on the ski slopes, and roommates in college... I was put into situations where being vulnerable was made easier by being forced to live with someone, ride the chairlift over and over for hours on end, and do homework together for classes. Opening up to people is a lot easier when you don’t have a choice of who you do life with.

This all changed when I got married and moved to California with my husband. In California, he was the only person I knew, but that was okay because I felt comfortable being vulnerable with him, at least initially. I was looking forward to moving across the country to an exciting new place and starting life with the man that I loved.

But that excitement for this new life didn’t last long. Some issues that we had discussed before we got married, that I didn’t think were a big deal, began to grow and slowly consume our lives. I started to sink into despair as the safety net that I felt I had in my husband slowly fell away. 

All of a sudden I found myself lonely and desperate for someone to talk to. I touched base with my friends and family back home, but I didn’t feel like I could talk about what was really going on in my life with anyone. I had friends in California, but they were surface-level friends, and, even if they were vulnerable with me, I never felt comfortable enough to be vulnerable with them. I engaged enough to make it seem like I had my life together, but aside from that I never put in any effort to help these relationships grow. 

As time went on and things got worse, I began to stop caring about having someone to talk to. Staying home and knitting on a Friday night was a lot easier than going to someone’s house and actually engaging in conversation with them. I slowly isolated myself to the point where I had no desire to spend time with people. I would spend my free time knitting or sewing and thinking about everything that was wrong with my life, and how much I hated everything, especially other people. I began to feel that, as an adult, people only hurt each other, so there was no point in trying to befriend anyone, and there definitely was no point in being vulnerable with anyone, because I would just get hurt in the end. 

I got to the point where I didn’t even feel like a real person. I was just going through the motions, trying to keep everything together, just trying to survive another day. I felt numb, I stopped crying when my husband and I would argue, I became a very angry person when things would not go my way at work, and I stopped knowing how to have fun. I was a shell of a person: lonely, isolated, and miserable. 

This all changed when the proverbial “other shoe” dropped in my marriage, and I crumbled. The problem that we were facing had grown so big that it had consumed our marriage completely and was now slowly killing it. I could not handle it alone anymore, it was too much. I had to talk to someone, anyone, about what was going on. 

The day everything came crashing down, I needed a distraction, so I decided to drive to work, the only other place in that town that felt like home. I ended up talking to a couple of girls who were working at the time, and to my surprise, they were comforting, and supportive, and understanding. They didn’t judge me, they just listened. 

I began to open up to more people, and so did my husband. I realized that I wasn’t the only one who was isolated. We had both isolated ourselves from the outside world, and from each other (which is pretty hard to do in a 500 sq ft apartment!). We both started seeking help. We met with other couples who had gone though what we were going through, we started going to counseling, but I knew I was still isolating myself more than I should. I was still afraid to talk to people about what was going on inside my head and heart.

We moved to Charlotte a year and a half ago, in December 2015. We left California about six months after we started the recovery process for our marriage. My first year in Charlotte was a year of healing. Being in a new place, I was able to see everything that had been going on in my life from a new perspective. I was able to be more vulnerable with my family and my husband’s family about what was going on in our lives. I could feel myself awakening from the numbness that I had fallen into the previous two years. 

This year has been a year of clarity. We are still in counseling, but we can actually see the light at the edge of the woods now, rather than just darkness. I finally feel alive again. I am learning that even though isolating myself is my default, in the long run it does more harm than good. There are actually studies that show that isolation and loneliness can be harmful to a person’s mental, emotional, and even physical well being. We as humans are not meant to live life in complete isolation. 

I am still figuring out what all this means for me. While I would rather spend a Friday night knitting or sewing (and most other nights of the week, honestly!), I am learning to step out of my comfort zone and find ways to form relationships with others, whether it is joining a Bloc, tutoring, or coaching. It is definitely still a learning process for me, and I still struggle with even talking with people at times without feeling super awkward. But I know that I am on the right path. I am growing and transforming right now, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

 

If any of this resonated with you, or if you would just like to talk, please feel free to email me: abbie@watershedcharlotte.com.

What Is Justice? IV | Restorative Justice Via Blessing

What Is Justice? IV | Restorative Justice Via Blessing

From inception Watershed has sought to put justice at the forefront of our mission. Whether embedded into the themes of pop culture artifacts or real life events in our city, nation, and world, justice has become a hot topic. Over the course of the next few weeks Pastor of Justice Cedric Lundy is going to conduct a blog series aimed at unpacking our understanding of justice and why it’s fundamental to our community. 


What’s enough? Abram and Lot both had more than enough wealth in the economy of the ancient world and yet there was seemingly not enough land to support both of them dwelling together. There was strife between the herdsmen of their livestock. Unlike Cain and Abel they come to an agreement that the tension needed to be resolved, but how? They decided to separate.

Rewind a chapter in the book of Genesis and we see the promise that God gives to Abram to bless him, make of him a great nation, and to bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him, and in him all families of the earth shall be blessed.

Blessed is an interesting word. Now-a-days we largely use it to say that we’ve experienced some sort of divinely appointed stroke of good fortune, like an upfront parking spot at the mall on a Saturday, or to shut down a conversation on how we’re really doing. However, in ancient Jewish thought it was much more than simple good fortune accredited to the divine. To be blessed by someone was to be fortunate because someone was present to you. To bless another was to literally be with someone, to be present.

With that in mind, Lot was the first person mentioned to bless or be with Abram after God made the promise to bless or be present with Abram. Abram left behind everything he had known, his country and his kindred, to chase after what probably seemed like foolishness to everyone. Everyone except Lot who decides he is going to remain present with his uncle. Yet here they are about to separate because their herdsmen can’t get along, and it’s about to turn ugly.

In the account we receive in scripture it appears that Lot truly was cursed after separating from Abram. In Genesis 14 Lot and all he possess is taken captive in a war in the region where he settled. In Genesis 19 Lot barely escapes Sodom and Gomorrah before it is destroyed. A widower and completely broken and afraid, Lot, with his daughters, decided to live in a cave in the hills.

A cave… let that sink in for a minute. How scared, how scarred, how broken would you have to be by war and injustice to decide that the best, most safe place would be in a cave in the middle of nowhere? But wait, it gets better, and by better I mean worse.

We are told that, while in the cave in isolation having given up hope of having husbands, Lot’s daughters devise a plan to get their father drunk and have sex with him in order to get pregnant. Regardless of whether or not this is true or really happened, the point the text is making is that one of the sons of this incestuous encounter would be credited as the father of the Moabites who went on to be one of Israel’s enemies for generations to come.

For generations after, the offspring of Lot would be a curse to the offspring of Abram and their very existence considered a curse solely based on their origin via incest. How is it that the very first person to bless Abram in whom “all the families of the earth would be blessed” would come to be the poster child of accursed? It seems rather unjust, plain just not right.

That is until a young widow traveled back to the native land and kin of her mother-in-law.

In the hands of modern readers the story of Ruth as put forth in the sacred scriptures has often been used to promote godly womanhood. It’s been used to encourage and instill hope in those whose lives turned tragic. Yet, it’s not about godly womanhood nor is it really about God redeeming an individual. It’s about redemption and restoration of a family, an uncle and his nephew. It’s about a blessing becoming a curse becoming a blessing all over again.

Ruth is a Moabite, a daughter descended from Lot, and her new husband Boaz is an Israelite, a son descended from Abram. In the small book of Ruth we see what was understood to be, by ancient Jewish scholars, God joining back together two things that had been separated, Abram and Lot, in preparation for the arrival of God’s anointed King David. Ruth ends with a brief genealogy that places David as the great grandson of Boaz and Ruth.

So what is the significance of this story to our understanding of restorative justice?

One, the divine’s mode of operation when it comes to bringing about justice from injustice in our world seems to be through blessing or presence. The divine promises to bless Abram is presented as the catalyst to bless all the families of the earth.

Secondly, as alluded to already, Judaism understood or interpreted the sacred scriptures by looking for patterns that grew into something larger greater more inclusive and all-encompassing. King David is often seen as the archetype for “The Lord’s Anointed” who is most fully realized in the Messiah or Jesus The Christ. Jesus, who announced the poor, the meek, and the hungry, the very people who were most often associated with being cursed by God, were in fact blessed by God.

Taking those things into account could it be that the beginning of practicing restorative justice is as simple and complex as blessing others? Could it be that the beginning of restorative justice is to look for those who are separate and bring them back in? To be present to those who are broken, scared and scarred? To be joined with those who are often seen as a curse?

At Watershed we are energized by seeing people in our community who practice restorative justice by being a blessing to the marginalized, the excluded, the separate, and the other. There are no quick fixes. No fly by rescue missions. Truly restorative justice also restores us one to another so that we can be truly present to each other, fully human.

POUR OVER: The Next Step

POUR OVER: The Next Step

What would each of our staff members share if we had the chance to sit down with you one-on-one over a cup of coffee? What is God doing in our lives, and how are we personally experiencing transformation and awakening? Pour Over is a blog series by our Watershed staff members answering those very questions. Today we'll hear from Becky Santoro, Watershed's Children's Pastor.


I guess it’s always been there. Always in the background, though. I’d pass a poster with a sign on it or I’d have student in my class who would identify as it. I’d talk about it, try to imagine it, and try to dismiss it. But a few summers ago, the voice got louder and my heart kept saying, “if not you, who?”

So I brought it up over dinner on our tenth wedding anniversary. 

Becoming foster care parents. 

We had just started a full-time business, we had a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, and I had recently transitioned to a full-time position at Watershed. Our house is tiny… 1,000 square feet. We are still paying off student loans, our family lives thousands of miles away. I could list literally 50 more reasons at least about why this just wasn’t the “right time” for us on paper. But he agreed and a few weeks later we decided to take just one step forward. Just one. And we set a rule for ourselves: if at any point we decided “not now” or “no”, we’d give ourselves a ton of grace and turn back. 

Just one step at a time. That’s it.

So we went to an informational class. And we didn’t talk the whole time. And then we sat in the car and we were still silent.

“Well?” I finally said.

“It’s time to take another step, don’t you think?” he said.

“Yep.”

And that’s how the next 10 months went. 

One step.

Then the next one.

It was the classes, the paperwork, the conversations, the inviting of our closest friends to bear witness to the process and give their perspectives, the background checks, and the home inspections.

In all of it, we didn’t move away from that “next step thinking”. Each time we tried to live just in that step… not overthinking or forward planning too much. It allowed us to just be where we were and to stay mentally present. When a new decision needed to be made, we wouldn’t think beyond that one decision.

It was really freeing in a way. Our “next step thinking” took the pressure off knowing all the answers and we found that it allowed us to stay grounded and rooted into what we both felt was best with the knowledge we had at the time. It took six months until we found ourselves fully licensed foster care parents.

Maybe there’s something inside your heart or gut that keeps coming up. It might not make any sense to you on paper and you can easily sweep it under the rug, but in the quiet spaces of your mind, it lives. 

There is so much power that exists in taking just one step… especially when you can figure it out as you go, allowing yourself to take your time and live within each new step fully. Maybe today is the day you finally take that step. Don’t overthink it. Just one step, friends.

Or maybe you’ve taken a step… several, even… but that next step would mean you’d have to let go of something. Perhaps to the known, secure, comfortable way of life, or even a past belief. You’re not sure if you’re ready for that quite yet. Grace upon grace, friends.

On July 21st, 2016, our next step was the final home inspection. Less than a hour later we received the call (side note: If you ever wondered if there was a need for foster care parents here in Charlotte, I believe you just found your answer).

“Baby girl, one year old. Local to Charlotte. Will you take her?”

Our next step was saying yes. 

Literally overnight we became a family of five. Now we’ve been saying yes for 258 days and counting. It has been redemptive, exhausting, transformational, frustrating, beautiful, disruptive, fulfilling, complicated, joyful, and messy all at the same time. But it has also shifted. We no longer have the power to take a “next step.” We’re on the same step with no clear timeline or outcome in sight.

We are waiting.

It’s hard to stay in the “next step thinking” when you don’t have control over it, right? 

Maybe there is something that has you in a holding pattern… you’ve been there for awhile and you feel frozen. It’s out of your control with no “next step” in sight. There may never be if you’re honest.

Or maybe you are faced with taking the next step knowing there is a real possibility that it won’t breathe the outcome you hope for, and you’re wondering if it’s worth the risk.

Or maybe the next step was decided for you.

I’m there too.

We aren’t sure if or when she will leave us. We’re not sure if a day in the future will include us packing her bags for uniting/reuniting with members of her family, or if it will include joining our family permanently. Either way, it will be a celebration. Either way, there will be bittersweet tears. But right now, there is no next step. It’s just the waiting. 

And so I wait on this step and I am trying to learn how to become more self-aware in this season when my mind and soul are weary for answers and outcomes. I try to visualize myself physically planting my feet down and dwelling within this step, JUST within today, in this moment, in this tiny house as a temporary or permanent family of 5.

So… What is God doing in my life, and how am I personally experiencing transformation and awakening? 

He’s teaching me that He’s in the “one steps” with me.

He’s in the waiting and we’re co-creating this story together. 

He's showing me what real living looks like… it’s not in the huge shifts but in the everyday, right-now life.

It’s simple, it’s holy, and it’s hard work to stay put in a moment of time. So I dwell there, with Him. 

These days I’m taking notice of my breath, my habits, and my triggers, trying to become more aware of myself and His presence when I want to jump off of the step or rush ahead to find out how this story will end. And I’m reaching out to my people, the ones standing there with me, reminding me that this story is all of ours, too.

Today, may you take a step forward into your life and discover more of your true self in the process. May it include walking into someone elses brokenness and finding that this was meant for the redemption of your own brokenness as well. May you have people around you who can root for you and remind you that they’re standing on the step with you. 

And may you feel His presence and Spirit in the waiting like you’ve never felt before.

 

P.S. If we actually did sit down for coffee there are five things I could promise you:

  1. There will be smashed goldfish crackers in my coat pocket. 
  2. I’ll have a random sock in my purse.
  3. This will be my 4th cup of coffee.
  4. There'll be snot on my pants… exactly at the height of a 3-year-old.
  5. I won’t do small talk very long. Let’s get right into the heart. 

Now that we've got that out of the way, welcome. Let’s chat.

In case our journey to foster care spurred some questions about the process, maybe your first step is to just click HERE and learn more about it: http://charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/dss/adopt/howto/Pages/FosterHomeLicensing.aspx 

What Is Justice?

What Is Justice?

From inception Watershed has sought to put justice at the forefront of our mission. Whether embedded into the themes of pop culture artifacts or real life events in our city, nation, and world, justice has become a hot topic. Over the course of the next few weeks Pastor of Justice Cedric Lundy is going to conduct a blog series aimed at unpacking our understanding of justice and why it’s fundamental to our community. 


The dictionary definition of justice is as follows…

“The maintenance or administration of what is just, especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments. The principle or ideal of just dealing or right action.”

Undoubtedly pop culture has shaped our understanding of justice. We have a plethora of television shows movies and comic book heroes who administer justice by pursuing evildoers and holding them accountable for their misdeeds. However, they most often present an incomplete picture of justice. The collateral damage in the form of property damage created during the heroine’s pursuit is usually glossed over. There are some exceptions.

Pixar’s The Incredibles builds a story where the collateral damage develops a major plot point. It leads to a flood of lawsuits that eventually leads to legislation forcing the supers to go into hiding. The movie Hancock starring Will Smith picks up a similar theme. Ever since watching those movies I find myself thinking about the millions dollars in property damage caused by the Avengers, Superman’s final battle with Zod in Man of Steel and not to be out done the Transformers franchise. Point being, we often have an incomplete understanding of what justice truly is evidenced by the popular stories we tell and consume.

On the other hand the Christian scriptures present a complete picture of justice one often easily missed. Many are familiar with Christian traditions where the climactic point in the story is when God banishes evildoers and the unrighteous to eternal punishment and suffering for their crimes.

However it has often left a huge unresolved issue, “What about Earth and all of creation?”

Many of the same Christian traditions would reply by indicating that Earth is destroyed after the saints are relocated to heaven, which only causes people to balk even further. Imagine a story where the heroines only save the inhabitants of Earth and not Earth itself?

You needn’t think too hard if you’ve seen the movie Interstellar. I absolutely love that movie, but I can’t help but wonder if I’d feel slightly different about it if the lasting image or scene from that movie was a dead and desolate Earth with no signs of life instead of a father who has literally crossed space and time to be reunited with his daughter. We get so lost in the image of Cooper boarding a ship to go find Brand all alone on her planet that we’ve all but forgotten that while the remaining humans have managed to escape there is no justice for planet Earth (as I’m writing this it's suddenly occurred to me that it appears they left all the animals there to die as well).

On the contrary, that depiction of the biblical narrative is an incomplete one. The story doesn’t end with Earth destroyed. It ends, or, better put, re-begins, with Earth being renewed. The saints don’t go up to heaven, heaven comes down to Earth. The original vision of heavens and Earth joined together without separation is recast.

In the same way something is missing when super heroes can ride off into the sunset satisfied that they’ve brought the villain to account while the city crumbles literally and financially, there is something missing when we paint the Divine as only concerned with saving souls... and matter does not matter. Assuming we all agree that all matter matters, Christians who promote this incomplete story need to be reminded that the Earth Matters (too!).

The end of the Bible in Revelation is not the only place where we see this picture of Earth being restored and renewed. It is mentioned in the similar language in the prophesies of Isaiah.

“For behold, I create new heaven and a new Earth…”

“They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat.”

“The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall ear straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord.”

All that being said, a complete yet simple definition of justice is “putting the wrongs to rights”. In the super hero movies it would look like the Avengers working to help restore and rebuild the cities that were laid waste in their epic battles to defeat their adversaries. In Harry Potter it would be Harry using the Elder Wand quickly to rebuild and restore Hogwarts before snapping it half and tossing it into the Black Lake (that always bothers me when I watch it). 

With the exception of Potter, where it’s as simple as a waving of his wand and everything magically coming back together like new, a scene where we see the process of justice come to completion isn’t a climatic high point. Justice, the real substantial justice that we long for, is long and slow. It doesn’t happen over night. The pains and wrongs of this world didn’t happen over night, so it only makes sense for the real work of justice to be long and slow as well.

When we talk about justice at Watershed, it is with this understanding of justice.

When we look at the Christian scriptures we can’t help but be drawn to this over-arching theme of the Divine creating an entire world worth saving, not just its inhabitants. We see a God who is deeply invested in putting the world to rights. We see a God who is about long, and sometimes painfully slow, justice as He communes with mankind and equips us, the vulnerable ones in this equation, to be a part of bringing justice to His good creation.

Sure, Harry Potter could have used the Elder Wand to repair and restore Hogwarts in an instant, but I have to admit that there is something beautifully communal and healing for all who considered Hogwarts home to pocket their wands and get their hands dirty. There is a new level of ownership they’d all have by forgoing the quick, easy, sanitary way of rebuilding.

In the process, maybe they’d find some semblance of healing themselves as well.

 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Reflections

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Reflections

By Cedric Lundy, Pastor of Justice 

How does one celebrate a day like Martin Luther King Jr. Day? It’s the same question some of us ask in regards to other days similar to it: Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day. When it comes to these federal holidays, how each day is observed, if at all, seems to be disconnected from the significance of the person or people being remembered. In the case of MLK Day, a lot of people, myself included, have taken to posting their favorite quote of King’s on social media. Yet, in large part, MLK Day serves to remind me that, while we may think of King fondly, we are still largely confounded by how to break free from the societal systems that keep us segregated.

As a junior in high school I attended an all-boy Catholic School in suburban metro Detroit. Out of the approximately 980 students at the school, 21 of us were Black Americans. It being my first year there, I was informed that school was in session on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but, since I was black, I could take an excused absence. The white students were not given the same exemption.

A few years ago I took a group of middle school students into uptown Charlotte early on a Saturday morning to pass out bag lunches and care packages to the homeless. I had a bad habit of scheduling these service opportunities on road race Saturdays, which can make getting from South Charlotte to uptown like navigating a labyrinth. On this particular day there wasn’t a race to contend with but, instead, a parade. I didn’t even know Charlotte did a MLK Day parade, but given how many black people there were in uptown that early on a Saturday morning, it wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on. It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that my twelve or so students, all of whom were white, were the only white people to be seen on Tryon Street that morning along the parade route.  

The year the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture opened, my wife Emma and I, along with two friends of ours, went on MLK Day. The place was absolutely mobbed, however Emma and our two friends were the only white people there on a day when all of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools had the day off.

Despite his honored legacy of fighting against racial injustice and inequality (and, less mentioned, his brief foray into fighting against economic injustice and poverty), the fifty years that have passed since King’s death have proven at least one thing: the systems at the foundation of our culture and society and their penchant for keeping us divided from one another based on race and class have not been eradicated, but have merely adapted to the times. While the way we think about people of different races may have changed and become more inclusive, our society and culture have remained steadfast in keeping us excluded from one another and have allowed us to feel more familiar with race-based caricatures than actual people of different racial and cultural backgrounds. 

Our schools are still largely segregated. Our neighborhoods are still largely segregated. Our religious gathering places are largely segregated. Our work places are still largely segregated. While countless hearts have been affected by Dr. King, our societal systems have managed to persist in keeping us largely separated. 

Those of us African Americans who have managed to assimilate into the larger, dominant white society appear to be exceptions to the rule, and our assimilation often comes at a cost. We are often viewed as pariahs by those who consider us sellouts, for in their minds we have taken on the caricatures of white people in order to be accepted. And yet we are keenly aware of moments and places where we are still judged based upon the color of our skin regardless of the content of our character. Likewise, talk to white people who have either been born into a minority community or have made attempts to bridge racial divides by going into minority communities, and many will describesimilar experiences of never truly being accepted as the minority and of being viewed as misguided by their white peers.

I think if he were here today, Dr. King would be encouraged by the softening of our hearts to embrace the other, but discouraged by the resilience of our social systems to keep us separated while allowing just enough exceptions to the rule to make us feel like we are getting somewhere. I think he would challenge us to tap further into our imagination and creativity for how we can overcome together. I think he would continue to make all of us uncomfortable with our contentment with the way things are, calling us instead to press up against the system to finally realize what could be.

POUR OVER: Emmanuel + Two Pink Lines

POUR OVER: Emmanuel + Two Pink Lines

What would each of our staff members share if we had the chance to sit down with you one-on-one over a cup of coffee? What is God doing in our lives, and how are we personally experiencing transformation and awakening? Pour Over is a blog series by our Watershed staff members answering those very questions. Today we invite you to sit down with Austin Smith, Watershed's Pastor of Operations & Creativity. 


How do you get to the core of who you are and uncover the thing that wakes you up and gets you out of bed every morning? What kind of questions would it take to unearth the thing deep inside of you that is really steering the ship? 

Over the past few years I have started to try to ask these kinds of questions. Not because I am necessarily on a quest to find out who I am and what I was born to do, but because I am curious. You see, these past few years have been a sort of awakening for me. It’s almost as if I was asleep for a long long time and finally I stopped dreaming and opened my eyes to reality. The natural progression of waking up would be, then, to get out of bed and to start exploring. That place is where I find myself these days. 

As I’m writing this, we are almost halfway through December and deep into the Christmas season. I’m not too much of a Christmas music fan (especially before Thanksgiving) but there is one “Christmas phrase” that has become intensely meaningful to me: God with us.  

There’s this scene in the early part of the book of Matthew where the stage is being set for Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph are engaged and she finds out she’s pregnant. Two pink lines that undoubtedly meant divorce for them. Verse 19 even says that “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Instead, Joseph has a life-altering dream in which an angel appears to him and tells him that Mary is going to give birth to the Divine. That his name will be Jesus and that he will be called Emmanuel, God with us. 

For a long time, that was a really nice, almost moving story. That changed when I had my son. That really nice story of God entering into humanity as a baby came to life when I saw the helplessness of my infant. I’m not aware of a more humble position to be than to exit a womb and come into this world naked and completely unable to care for yourself. And in a very real way, we have this picture of God doing that in Jesus. 

Here is where these two thoughts collide for me: in the Christmas narrative of “God with us”, I see and feel a motive from the Divine. 

The idea of somehow getting a glimpse into the nature and purpose of God is exhilarating. If somehow I got the chance to sit down with God and ask “What gets you out of bed in the morning?”, I think at least part of the answer would include this: "being with you."

For someone like me, this is comforting, but, if I can be honest, also a little terrifying. I am a doer. A task-driven person. I like to-do lists, goals, reviews, action plans and anything that moves me towards more productivity and efficiency. “God with me” isn’t exactly the action plan I’m looking for. Sounds a lot more like a passive statement than an active one. 

A few months ago I began to adopt a meditation practice. It started with an app called Headspace that focuses solely on breath work and sensation awareness. From there I started to use guided meditations with all different kinds of focuses. That’s when it clicked for me. Sitting on my couch at 5:30 in the morning, in the dark, with headphones on, I tasted what it was like just to BE. There is something other-worldly about the ability to just be. It seems to export me out of my current reality, culture and life style into a different place. 

As I spent more and more time in this passive "being" space, I noticed something interesting happening: I began to see the motivations and desires of my active life with greater clarity and definition. I began to understand what's really driving me.

Here’s a glimpse what gets me out of bed in the morning these days: 

I have a wife who is a little over half-way into the process of bringing another life into this world. And she needs me. She needs me to be strong and gentle. Caring and decisive. Aware of her needs as well as my own.

I have a second child coming into the world in a few months. And I’m not ready. I’m not the kind of person I want to be for him yet. I want to be a better dad. A better husband. A better provider. A better listener. A better man. I’m aware that there will always be more to do, but everything within me wants to have it all put together and in place before he gets here. 

I see projects on the horizon that scare me to life. Projects that are well beyond my perceived abilities, and definitely outside the realm of anything I’ve ever experienced before. The uncharted waters of the future give me life.

For the first time in a long time, all of my family (dad, mom, brother, sister and their families) are living in the same area. And there are massive opportunities to experience relationship with them unlike any other relationship I could have. The pursuit of relational worth with them gives me great amounts of drive.

So how can you pick away at the question of what drives you? How do you get to that place?

There aren’t too many things that give me life more than uncovering the deeper parts of others and of myself, and if you and I ever get to sit down over a real cup of coffee, I hope we can do just that. But for the sake of this post, let me suggest three things that might help: 

  1. Ask the question. Over and over and over again. What drives you? What wakes you up in the morning? You and I will continue to change, and the ability to change in light of who we are is imperative.
  2. Can you wrestle with the idea that God might want to just BE with you? Can you, before you try to tackle the endless list of how to live a Christian life or how to be a good person or how to understand right theology, just be with God?
  3. Can you sit alone with yourself? Can you listen and be aware of what is happening in you internally? And will you be brave enough to deal with what you find?

Merry Christmas, and may you experience "God with us" in a tangible, personal way this holiday season. 

POUR OVER: On Boys' Clubs & Brokenheartedness

POUR OVER: On Boys' Clubs & Brokenheartedness

What would each of our staff members share if we had the chance to sit down with you one-on-one over a cup of coffee? What is God doing in our lives, and how are we personally experiencing transformation and awakening? Pour Over is a blog series by our Watershed staff members answering those questions. First up we'll hear from Taryn Hofert, Watershed Co-Founder and Co-Director of Music & Creativity. 


In our current series, The Fourfold Pilgrimage, we are unearthing the connection and theme of the first four books of the New Testament, known as the Gospels. In Matthew we see the theme of CHANGE, in Mark we see SUFFERING, in John (which actually flows better out of order) we see the theme of JOY and in the book of Mark we see MATURITY. 

As I look at this flow I can’t help but be intrigued by how the author who dealt with how we mature and develop and grow was also the same author who displayed the prominence of women in his accounts of Jesus’ life. How very interesting. 

As Jesus had shared what is referred to as the Beatitudes or The Sermon On The Mount (“blessed are the poor”, etc.) with a large crowd who had gathered to hear Him and be healed, the passage in Luke 6 says that Jesus looked right at his disciples when He spoke these beautiful words. Despite a large crowd assembled it was if he was speaking directly to his group of followers letting them know, “THIS IS WHAT I’M ALL ABOUT, watch me, now.” 

After teaching and healing people, Luke’s account goes on to show us: 

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”. The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

Luke 7:11-16

In all the exhaustion and activity and buzz of the day, Jesus sees a single mom of an only child, who is a widow, mourning the death of her one and only and the text says, “his heart went out to her”. So he resurrects her son and the people who saw were filled with awe. The scene ends with THIS NEWS ABOUT JESUS SPREADING. 

So what was the news? That Jesus can bring people back to life at their funerals? Maybe. But so much more…

Next Jesus is having dinner at a Pharisee’s house and a woman considered “sinful” by her city hears that Jesus is there and shows up in the middle of the meal with a jar of her best and most expensive perfume. She proceeds to wash his feet at the dinner table with her tears mingled with a jar of her most precious perfume and kisses his feet and dries them with her hair. 

She’s touching him, and crying on Him and covering him in a womanly scent and when the host objects, again Jesus reminds those at the table that none of them have showed him this kind of uninhibited, beautiful, humble love and he sees her and loves her. I can only imagine some gasps were heard around that dinner table. 

I can’t help but be moved by how Jesus then continues on in his travels, most likely reeking like a jar full of women’s perfume. And now that the news of this Jesus has spread, his wingmen have a bit of a new look

The Twelve (His disciples) were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others.

Luke 8:1-3

IT WAS NO LONGER A BOYS' CLUB.

Jesus had a woman posse now and they were on making stops at villages and towns and cities near you and the news was spreading like wildfire. And not just any women: formerly possessed women, important women, formerly sick women, women named Susanna, everyday women… all kinds of women were now part of the traveling Good News. 

Like an ancient Middle Eastern Ghostbusters Gal Team meets Golden Girls kind of posse. 

Make some room, Simon Peter... Joanna IN THE HOUSE. 

I bet that news BEGAN. TO. SPREAD.

The passage says a man named Jairus who knew about this good news begged Jesus to come to his house and bring that good news of healing to his daughter who was on her deathbed, but the crowds were so large they almost crushed Jesus on the way. 

Yet, Jesus stops in the middle of it and notices that someone had touched Him (I’m sure lots of people had touched him in the crushing crowd). But this touch was the kind that Jesus said caused power to go out from Him. And who had done it?

A woman. 

Crawling on the ground because she had been sick so many years that she couldn’t walk.
Someone who had been bleeding for 12 years, yet no one had been able to help her. 
TWELVE YEARS OF NOT BEING HELPED. 
TWELVE, as in twelve disciples who were the men noted for helping Jesus carry the good news... but they weren’t the only ones. 

She couldn’t just stand and ask for Jesus’ help like the man Jairus had done so she writhed and wriggled her way to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment because SHE had heard of this good news.
The word was on the street. 
The news about about the single mom losing her only child. 
The sinful perfumed foot washer.
The formerly possessed and diseased and rag-tag female Jesus posse tribe. 

SHE knew if she could just get close, close enough to the good news that God in human form CARES ABOUT WOMEN AND HOW THEY SUFFER, then maybe healing could be hers as well.
Maybe she was important enough to be a stop on Jesus’ tour.
Maybe this news was for her too. 

And when Jesus sees that she is trembling on the ground, not only does He heal her, he calls her “DAUGHTER.” 
Then, yes, he headed onto Jairus’ house and was too late, but it didn’t matter, He brought that daughter back to life. 

MAKING WOMEN WHOLE AGAIN WAS HIS KIND OF THING.

So my friends, my lady comrades, let me tell you something that the church might have failed to let you know: God isn’t into boys’ clubs

The GOOD NEWS is much more than heaven and hell talk, which sadly might be what you were told.

THE GOOD NEWS isn’t a black, red, white, blue, green and yellow bead bracelet like you made in Sunday School. They forgot the pink beads (and a lot of other colors, might I add). 

THE GOOD NEWS isn’t just Jesus on a cross or Jesus rising on a cloud and pearly gates for days…

THE GOOD NEWS is Jesus doused in perfume, hitting the road with a rag tag group of lady folk and turning things upside down in the best possible way.

THE GOOD NEWS, in case you missed it or no one told you, is that the very eyes of God see you in your mourning or your singleness or loss or brokenness or situation and the very heart of God is WITH AND FOR YOU. 

YOU, GIRL. 

Stretchmarks and cellulite, single and married, old and young. 
WITH AND FOR YOU. 

You have a seat at that table no matter how many people gasp. 
You are heard, you are known, you are valued and you are as much a part of His posse as your male counterparts. 
Made equally in the image of God. 
Perhaps even adored in a more tender, compassionate way. 
That’s the GOOD NEWS.

So, as a middle-aged girl who has been a bit worn down by my many years in church leadership, I want to remind you that Watershed is the first church community in my life where I felt this GOOD NEWS reverberate. 
Where my close friend Rachael has been part of our leadership (aka deacon) team since day one.
Where women speak and teach and preach with regularity on our stage. 
Where single moms are abundant and where the child-bearing, adoptive, childless and everyone in between are continually reminded that YOU MATTER HERE. 

My husband did the wedding of a beloved Watershed couple, Jesse and Brian, a few years ago here in Charlotte. I remember watching Jesse being walked down the aisle by her single mom who raised her so beautifully and just feeling God all over it. God has been WITH AND FOR THEM all along. I saw really good and gorgeous news walking that aisle. 

So I leave you with a blessing that I wrote for the women of our community a few weeks ago. I’m thankful for a church where we can take time out on a Sunday morning to even do something like this. I invite you to say it over your daughters and your sisters and your mothers and grandmothers and aunts and friends. In the wake of all the news/drama of our election and in all the ways that we as the Church have missed opportunities to represent the real GOOD NEWS, maybe this rest on your estrogen-fueled souls. I often need this reminder too, girlfriends. 

AND THE NEXT TIME YOU PUMP A FEW SPRAYS OF PERFUME, BE REMINDED THAT JESUS SMELLS LIKE YOU AND HE WEARS IT PROUDLY. 

A DAUGHTERS’ BLESSING

You are not:

Forgotten
Second class citizens
Property
Less than
Valued for just your appearance
Unworthy
Too much
Too dramatic
Too loud
Too feminine or unfeminine
Better seen than heard
Here to be in the kitchen
Born followers
Unfit for leadership
Limited to specific roles

You are beautiful and loved
You are daughters made in the image of your Father God

Read more from Taryn on her blog: www.the8ths.com

Pursuing God: Thoughts on Music & Spirituality

Pursuing God: Thoughts on Music & Spirituality

By Austin Smith, Watershed Worship and Creativity Pastor

Hi! My name is Austin Smith and I’m the Worship and Creativity Pastor at Watershed. One of my roles is to oversee our Sunday morning experiences and the different elements that go into them. I’ve been leading worship and doing music in churches since I was in high school (so, like, two years ago) and I’ve been asked a plethora of questions regarding what I do. I thought exploring some of the questions I get most often would be a great way to converse about this topic.

Why music in a church?

We don’t really have much of a choice.

This entire conversation is about God. This big Other that man has been grappling to understand since the dawn of time. And at every generational, sociological turn, just when we think we’ve finally figured God out, we realize again that we are falling woefully short. So what does it mean for us to continue a pursuit that has frustrated many a spiritual and intellectual giant?

Music enters this picture with, arguably, better hands and tools for processing the conversation.

In the 1997 movie Contact, Jodie Foster plays an astronomer character who has found what she believes to be extra-terrestrial life. This finding leads her on an explorative space journey to the edge of some celestial other-world. She describes it as a celestial event and then, at a loss for words, exclaims, “They should’ve sent a poet!"

In many ways, this is the same reason we still sing in church. It’s not so that we can better explain God or our interactions with him, but so that we can marvel in the mystery that shrouds this entire conversation. Music gives us a way to experience God when words fall short. We use combinations of emotive melodies and instrumentation to evoke deeper parts of our response systems. We employ the use of mystical metaphors to give space where space is due while still attempting to wrap ourselves around God. This dance often leads us not into a place of knowing, but of unknowing.

What do you think about the music in our church?

Much of what I just described holds true for us at Watershed. We use music as a tool to more fully understand our experience with God. We realize that there are many avenues to experience God, so we do not presume that music somehow holds the key to unlocking any great mystery about what an encounter with God looks like. We do, however, think that there is something extremely powerful about a group of people coming together and singing together and listening to music together. For better or worse, there are things we do as a group that we simply cannot do as individuals, and one of those things is experiencing music in a corporate way. At Watershed we value this idea that everything is more complete when we experience it both as an individual and as a group.

Where do you think we’re headed?

We could probably have a big conversation about genre, style and particulars when it comes to the music at Watershed, but for the sake of time sincerity, those are secondary in my mind. When I think about where we are headed, I think about two avenues: honesty and quality.

So much of what we all experience in our everyday lives isn’t honest, often to the point that we’ve become largely skeptical of almost everything. I hope that as a church we can embody some sense of honesty with the music that we sing. We won’t get it right every time, but it has been my experience that when honest music is engaged, it changes the musician and the listener.

If the music isn’t good it doesn’t matter what it says or what it’s supposed to do, it won’t accomplish anything. That being said, good music is an unbelievably subjective statement. Everyone has a different opinion about what type of music is good and what type of music is bad. In this sense we try, as best we can, to move towards what moves people. We try to make informed decisions about what it is that stirs people’s souls and moves them into deeper parts of themselves and into deeper relationship with God.

What can I do to engage music in a meaningful, spiritual way?

The first thing that science will tell you about music is that for it to have any sort of positive effect, you must like it. I know it sounds simple, but go find the music that you really like. Not something that you think you’re supposed to like because your friend group, society, or family tells you to. If it’s Justin Bieber and Beyonce, then so be it. You have to find something or someone you really enjoy.

Secondly, if you want music to be something that changes you, you have to make time for it. You can’t just listen to it on occasion while you’re doing other things and expect some sort of transformational experience. Take a few minutes each day and just sit and listen. Close your eyes and take in the intricacies of the music and lyrics. Allow yourself to notice the experience as well as what the experience is doing to you and for you.

Lastly, I would encourage you to move towards music as a group practice, whether that be at church, or at a venue in town. Like I said before, there is something about a shared experience that is quite unlike anything we can experience as individuals. That shared experience has personally been one of the driving forces in my own life and in the lives of many others.

It is a joy to spend time with many of you on a Sunday morning for an hour or so and share this communal musical experience, and I hope that you will continue to join in as we allow music to pull us further up and further in.

Check out what we've been singing together recently at Watershed and take a peek at what's coming up next on our Playlist page!

A Place Where the Ground Can Hold Us

A Place Where the Ground Can Hold Us

By Becky Santoro, Watershed Children's Pastor

On Sunday I shared my stories of a childhood place I call my Green Pastures (named after Psalm 23). My Green Pastures was a place where I was so intricately connected to my soul and to God’s presence. I talked freely to Him and danced with Him in the wind. It was my magical place. My secret place. My safe place. Until one day…

I lost my child-like eyes.

If you weren’t in the audience, it may be helpful to stop reading and listen HERE for some context before your continue on. 

My hope is that, as a community, our lives can be an attempt to regain child-like eyes in a messy, broken world. To turn cul-de-sacs into places of worship and to physically be the Green Pastures in the injustice you see around you.

Some days are harder to see Green Pastures than others, but it’s the best place I have known where to be planted. Come with me. Spend your days catching glimpses of the softness of His spirit within your everyday moments and be reminded that God can meet you anywhere.

Even in the getting older. 

Even in the pain. 

Even in the anger. 

Even in the injustice.

Even in the mundane. 

Even in the transition. 

Even in the brokenness. 

Even in the deep grief.

These things can swallow you up and disillusion you, can’t they? They can make you turn everything into a cul-de-sac or they can ground you and root you into real living… where you notice the Green Pastures in the simple things around you and you find chances to be a part of creating the Green Pastures for others. It can make you rise up from the ashes and be a part of heaven on earth. The here and not yet.

What I’ve come to realize is when I stand on my broken Green Pastures filled with grief or when I embody Green Pastures for others, it allows me to carry someone’s grief-stricken heart inside my own.

When I don’t rush past the pain, I am able to be a guide because I’ve honored and walked on that Green Pastures before.

 I chose to sit down.

 That allows my heart to break all over again.

And I’ll do this again and again as many times as I can…as long as I have this breath.

This is real living.

Find your real and metaphorical Green Pastures. Embody it for others. And sit down in your broken ones. Grief is holy ground. Your Shepherd is safe.

Your stories will become the most sacred place and holy ground for others along the way if you bring them to the light. It is the fertile soil of a Green Pastures.

And above all, I hope you know deep in your soul…

You are not forgotten. 


 PS - What I didn’t know is that the exact DAY I sat down and wrote the first draft of my talk… my mom had written about my Green Pastures 25 years earlier in her journal. May 17th. She sent me pictures of the diary recently and I almost fell out of my chair. Reading her words now as a mom myself and after just putting pen to paper to these memories is beautiful and priceless to me.

May 17th, 1991

Dear Becky,

Last night you took me to the “Green Pastures”…this silly cul-de-sac in our neighborhood. At this time of your life, you are showing me that you share my intensity for life and for the Lord. A part of me wishes you won’t have to experience the intense pain that you will ultimately have to feel. But, I know that you’ll feel the joy in your life just as intensely and I believe that its God’s way of making it up to us. I pray you will always have such a fierce devotion for God… You talk to God about everything. Thank you for that.

So, I’m not surprised that you find “Green Pastures.” You need them as much as I do. A place of rest and peace- a time of reflection on God and His beauty, a “hiding place.” It’s so comforting there, you’ll bring others. Some of these others will love it as you do- most will fail to see its merit. It’ll break your heart that they’re missing out- that they can’t see the value. But, oh little one, allow no one to steal your vision! Hold onto your Green Pastures! Experience it to its fullest. Eat and lay down satisfied as the Psalms say. I’ll go with you. I understand. Thank God, there’s you. I love you, Mom.

 

 

Nate George's Sermons

Nate George's Sermons

On November 18, 2015, our Watershed community suffered a great loss. Our dear friend and former Children's Pastor, Nate George, passed away after complications stemming from a heart condition he'd had since birth. Nate and his wife, Lauren, have been an instrumental part of this community for many years and there is no way to measure the impact they've had here. Everyone who knew Nate was better for it and Lauren is a precious soul who radiates God's joy and grace.

We are so thankful to have been Nate's church home during his years in Charlotte. As a member of our staff, Nate not only directed GreenHouse, but he also spoke several times from stage. Nate was a gifted speaker and we are incredibly grateful that we were able to capture his messages.

Below you'll find a listing of all of the sermons Nate preached while he was at Watershed. To the many who loved and adored him, we pray that these recordings will bring you peace, joy, and sweet gratitude for someone we were so lucky to call our own.

We love you, Nate, and we miss you terribly. But we trust that you are at peace and we know your legacy here on Earth reaches further than we could ever begin to imagine.

To save Nate's messages, click the download button in the bottom right-hand corner of each podcast. 

Self-Sabotage and Faith

Self-Sabotage and Faith

By Cedric Lundy

Self-sabotage is the way an individual, through their individual beliefs, self-esteem, self-confidence, and permission from their past, keeps themselves within their self-chosen—and surprisingly comfortable—boundaries.

This past Sunday, as a part of our Interwoven series, I shared my own experience of realizing that I have a pattern of sabotaging myself in certain aspects of my life. I gave some examples from my youth of sabotaging even the possibility of dating, and from trying out for the basketball team. More currently I shared how identifying myself as a youth pastor had prevented me from even considering, much less pursuing, how else I could be used in ministry.

For those of you who were in attendance or have listened to the podcast hopefully it resonated with you and you are able to carve out some time this week to contemplate how and in what areas of your life you are your own worst enemy to achieving your goals and dreams. That being said there is one area I’d like to delve into deeper than I did on stage. Specifically two of the four questions I posed in relation to being a self-saboteur. Have your ‘yea buts’ become the primary obstacle to the life of transformation and renewal God is attempting to orchestrate in your life? How many of us are horrified that being made into a new creation in Christ, means a new set of expectations and new and higher levels of required performance?

I grew up in a Free Methodist church. The joke about Methodists is that they’re "all about the methods." More specifically, Free Methodists are all about living a disciplined lifestyle characterized by strict observance of moral codes and practice of Christian disciplines, most particularly Bible reading and prayer. That is one of my major starting points in understanding how to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus. Not to say that those two practices are somehow invalid, but those two practices have, over the years, become the “yea but” preventing me at times from fully engaging Christ for the purpose of continued life transformation and renewal. Those practices have, at times, caused me to assess my own personal spiritual health based solely on the frequency at which I practice them instead of assessing myself based upon the evidence of the fruit Paul mentions in Galatians 5.22-24 (love joy peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness and self-control).

All that to say, at times, I struggle to feel like I’ve met my perceived expectations of required performance, especially since becoming a full-time vocational pastor. If I perceive I’m not meeting those standards I become paranoid God is going to distance himself from me, and before I know it I start to move away from him internally before he can.

For some of you, your ‘yea but’ is your doubts. I imagine there is an event or circumstance that has become your current starting point for life with and in Christ, but that event has evoked all sorts of doubts regarding the goodness and trustworthiness of God, or worthiness of yourself. I know fellow journeyers who have been railroaded by divorce (their parents’ and their own), being the victim of abuse, failure of health, losing their virginity, becoming addicted to porn, betrayal—the list goes on and on—into doubting God’s existence or that he could ever truly love them.

Could it be that you’ve become comfortable keeping God at a safe distance ever since?

For some of you, particularly those who are relatively new to church, your ‘yea but’ has been the valid questions raised by the history of grievances of those who claim the God and Christ of the Christian scriptures. How the first century Jewish teacher of love and grace became the mascot of the crusades, annihilation of Native Americans, and the tormentor of sexual minorities is perplexing to the point of there being a myriad of internet memes that can illustrate these incongruences better than I ever could.

Or maybe your questions reside within the realm of trying to reconcile faith and reason. Regardless, your questions have become your ‘yea but’ preventing you from going any deeper into your journey with God. Could it be that you find an odd comfort in knowing that your questions likely don’t have satisfying answers that would serve as a catalyst for you to move further towards God?

Whether our upbringing, our doubts, or our questions I suspect that our ‘yea buts’ in this regard have a common thread. At some level we all need to feel like we have arrived. Arrived at a point of excellence. Arrived at a point of resolve. Arrived at a point of resolution. The prickly underbelly to feeling like we need to have arrived is that we know, or at least should know by now, that life is too unpredictable and filled with too many unknowns for that to be the thing we base our relationship with God and Christ upon in any facet.

We never know when something is going to come and disrupt our comfort in feeling like everything is in its right place. When that reality becomes the reason for keeping God at arm’s length, then it can become the thing that actually sabotages our engagement with him without us realizing we’re doing it.        

Mother's Day: Preparing the Table

Mother's Day: Preparing the Table

By Becky Santoro, Watershed Children's Director

I grew up surrounded by a group of women. My mom has strong friendships with many but I remember a handful of women that were her TRIBE. These ladies got together to laugh, pray for each others' kids, and supported each other in the ups and downs of life. Literally, these women were in my mom’s everyday life and they watched me grow up… awkward phases and all.

When I turned 18 these women all got together in one room to sip on tea, sit around a table, and read out loud a letter they wrote me. It was a letter of encouragement: things they saw in me growing up, ways they prayed for me, what they hope I would experience and learn as I moved forward into adulthood.

I’m a mom of a 4 year old and a 2 year old and I’m picturing who might be at the table when it’s their turn to sip on tea and hear women read them a letter.

I’m preparing the table now.

A tribe isn’t born overnight. It’s 1,000 small memories and conversations. It’s staying in touch when some of them move. It’s laughing at the mom moments and it’s the crying alongside them when hard parts of life happen; when infertility, miscarriages, and unexpected trials enter.

It’s being vulnerable enough to share the deepest fears and failures as a parent or wife and then realizing you’re not alone. It’s the judgement free zone when you need to vent but also those who will tell you the tough truth when you need that too.

It’s showing up in the lives of their children too and loving them like your own; going to the ball games, birthday parties, dance recitals. It’s lending an ear when their kids won’t listen to them but will listen to you. It’s problem solving together through the growing pains.

So pull up a chair around the women you care about. Make sure your calendar, in all its busyness, carves out time for you to be with them and their families. Let your kids bear witness to it too.

It’s too important to not spend time investing in preparing the table by building your tribe.  And the good news is there’s always room for more chairs.

Find your tribe and love them hard.

Happy Mother’s Day,

Becky

Because He is Risen

Because He is Risen

Thanks to all who joined us yesterday at Watershed to celebrate Easter Sunday! You can listen to the complete message here if you missed it. 

Because He is risen
Spring is possible
In all the cold hard places
Gripped by winter
And freedom jumps the queue
To take fear’s place
as our focus
Because he is risen

Because He is risen
My future is an epic novel
Where once it was a mere short story
My contract on life is renewed
in perpetuity
My options are open-ended
My travel plans are cosmic
Because he is risen

Because He is risen
Healing is on order and assured
And every disability will bow
Before the endless dance of his ability
And my grave too will open
When my life is restored
For this frail and fragile body
Will not be the final word
on my condition
Because He is risen

-Gerard Kelly

 

Conscious Coupling

Conscious Coupling

Yesterday Watershed welcomed Charlotte therapist Patricia Butler to share a Valentine's Day message about conscious coupling. Patricia walked through the states of partnership/marriage and explained an intentional dialogue practice couples can use to communicate in a healthy and effective manner.  

STAGES OF PARTNERING OR MARRIAGE

  1. Romantic Stage (18-24 months)
  2. Power Struggle Stage
  3. Mature Love Stage

After about 18-24 months, most couples will begin to find themselves in the Power Struggle Stage of a relationship. The subconscious needs and desires of each person might clash, and, if left unexamined, will continue to cause unresolved tension. In this stage, many couples strive to return to the Romantic Stage, to "get back to how we were." However, returning to that stage is not possible. Thus, couples need to find a way to move forward into the Mature Love Stage. 

Practicing intentional dialogue is one way couples can begin to move forward into greater wholeness and mature love. Intentional dialogue slows down our brains, fosters deep listening, creates a sacred space, and can serve as a contemplative practice. Click here to view a description of each stage of the intentional dialogue practice.

After hearing from Patricia, Matt reminded our community that it can be easy for couples to lose hope during the power struggle stage. However, the moment you connect with the idea that there's something else happening beneath the surface, that there's a whole internal sub-story which is unknowingly informing your life and the life of your partner, you might experience a new sense of liberation and hope.

In Matthew 13 Jesus told a parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."

May it be the same in our relationships. Once we discover hidden treasure we didn't know existed, may we be willing to forgo everything to run after the wholeness and healing that can be ours.

Contact Patricia (pjbutler-msw@earthlink.net) or check out this recommended reading list for more. Also, Patricia and her husband will be leading a Conscious Coupling Workshop next month:

 

CONSCIOUS COUPLING WORKSHOP

March 5, 2016

Myers Park Baptist Church, 9:30-4:00pm

$295.00 (before 2/26/16)

$325.00

 

Listen to the full podcast of Matt and Patricia's interview here

Reshaping the Future

Reshaping the Future

"It does take a village to raise a child. It is the role of the entire community to uplift this school."

Last Sunday Principal Sarah Reeves from Shamrock Gardens Elementary School came to Watershed's Sunday Gatherings to share about the importance of community support in education (watch the full interview below). Through Catapult, Watershed's local justice initiative, volunteers have been coming alongside the staff and students at Walter G. Byers school for more than seven years. We are so excited to launch this second school partnership with Shamrock!

Our primary focus at Shamrock will be providing reading buddies to scholars who need them. That's right - scholars. It's no accident that the young people at Shamrock are labeled with a word loaded with such potential. The staff wants Shamrock students to know just how much they believe in them, and part of helping scholars internalize that belief is having people from outside the school community reinforce it as well.

On Sunday Principal Reeves shared some sobering statistics with our Watershed community:

"Reading is the achievement gap for our kids. You could fill the NC music factory amphitheater with [CMS 3rd graders] who are below proficient in reading. There is so much research that shows if you don’t get them by the end of 3rd grade, the chance of them becoming proficient really decreases. States look at 4th grade reading proficiency levels to project prison rates. Getting our kids on grade level is a non-negotiable."

Inevitably these stats and figures beg one question: what is the solution?

The solution is layered and complex, but one facet that seems to be moving the needle is matching up struggling readers with one-on-one reading tutors. 85% of the 3rd grade scholars at Shamrock Gardens who started with a reading buddy before October are now on grade level. For just an hour a week, it truly is possible to help reshape the future for a struggling student in this community. 

Watershed's goal is to resource Shamrock Gardens with 20 new reading buddies before the end of March. As a reading buddy, you'd visit your student for 30-45 minutes each week on a consistent day and time. Resources and lessons plans are provided - no education experience necessary!

Thank you, Principal Reeves, for visiting Watershed and providing our community with an opportunity to undermine injustice right in our backyard.  

Would you like more information or are you ready to jump in? Click here to get involved!

Worth the Effort: 4 Lessons About Marriage that the Fairy Tales Forgot

Worth the Effort: 4 Lessons About Marriage that the Fairy Tales Forgot

We have some seriously talented, passionate people in this community, and today we'd like to introduce you to one of them: Desmond Smith. Des is a member of our Watershed Lead Team and is a fantastic communicator who writes a blog called Part Saint & Part Sinner - Perspectives on Life, Growth, Relationships, and Faith. Des is pursuing his degree in Marriage & Family Therapy and recently wrote this blog post about marriage. Thanks for allowing us to repost this as a part of our Stogies & Stilettos series, Des!

 

Worth the Effort: 4 Lessons About Marriage that the Fairy Tales Forgot

Marriage is a loaded word. You’d think that after thousands of years of marriages, we would have figured it out. If you were able to step outside of time and look in at humanity, you would think that marriage is something brand new that we are still trying to work out the details about. We have been pairing up for thousands of years but it can still seem like marriage is a crap shoot – like we’re amateurs still trying to figure this out.

And that might be a good place for us to start.

Marriage is not like the wheel. It’s not something that we discovered and it changed our lives. It’s something that evolved – that is still evolving. Every rom-com, prenuptial, and romantic dinner are, in a way, efforts to help us all figure it out a little more.

Surely, over the course of all this time, we’ve learned something though right? As it turns out, every single person has a different definition about what marriage should be, how it should look, and what it should do for us. Still, I do think there are a few assumptions we can make about marriage but that we don’t typically hear when we pursuing the one that we want to be with. They’re not the most romantic things you’ve ever heard, I’ll admit. But they’re real. They’re tested and tried. They emerge from the experiences of people riding the continuum from friends to roommates to lovers to parents.

If you’re thinking about getting married or you’ve been stuck in a matrimonial rut for years, they’re a good place to start with building a realistic marriage that can actually thrive outside of the unrealistic expectations that we often set up for ourselves.

1. This is Going to Be Hard Work
Think about all the complications that come up in life as an adult. You’ve got bills that need to be paid. You get a weird vibe from your boss that you’re not staying late enough at the office, even though you’re getting all of your work done. Your parents are asking about how things are going and wanting you to come home for the holidays while you really want to take that ski trip. Your car just broke down. You’re thinking about going back to school because you’re just not happy with what you’re doing and trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for it, because all those other bills are still due.

Life can be complicated.

Now multiply it by two.

Even that’s not realistic accounting since adding a person introduces an inordinate number of other things to think about, a new set of interpersonal considerations. It’s important to move up the ladder at work, but it’s also important to spend time with your partner. If you’re like most people, now you’ve got two histories of debt to contend with, probably without doubling your salary. Personal beliefs and thoughts are all still very much your own but they somehow have to be compatible and it’s not like these things come with user manuals or cheat sheets. There are two sets of parents, two preferred vacation destinations, two competing ideas for what you should do and every single decision has to be filtered though all sorts of new lenses.

We’ve been told a fairly tale about marriage. It’s turns out it’s not necessarily about princesses or knights in shining armor. It’s about workers. It’s about people that are willing to make an effort and that understand that there are times when it’s going to feel pretty sucky. It takes effort to understand each other’s points of views It takes effort to chose your words in a way that clearly communicates your perspective. Collaboration and compromise are active pursuits. And practice – much practice – doesn’t always make perfect.

The work is hard. It requires dedication to each other. A decision to spend your lives with each other can’t mark the end of some pursuit. The pursuit transforms and, if anything, intensifies. When the novelty wears off, partners still need to know that they’re loved and cared for, that they’re physically attractive, that they’re worth the effort. Your partner is not a trophy to be won after the competition of dating.

Dating is merely the qualifying round. Now the real race is about to start.

2. You Don’t Complete Me
My wife and I call this the Jerry McGuire syndrome. If you’re into faith, you might also think about it as the “Two become one flesh” problem. Either way, it’s helpful when you enter marriage intent on keeping your individuality. You are completely unique in the combination of genetics and experiences that have made you who you are. You are a beautiful person, completely able to stand alone, completely free to choose to partner up or fly solo.

Your perfect partner is not someone who is everything that you are not. There are lots of reasons as to why it’s helpful – seemingly providential – when you find someone who has strengths in areas in which you are weak. But the idea that there is a perfect someone out there that can make you whole is, at best, unhealthy. At worst, it’s damaging.

The issue is not unlike your happiness after winning a lottery. With the recent $1.5 billion jackpot, there was a lot of conversation among my friends about what they would do with all that money and if it would make us happy. The consensus seemed to be that, if you weren’t happy before the money, you probably had a poor shot at being happy afterwards. If you were content with you life before, then unlimited wealth would probably only heighten that contentment. It’s much the same in relationships. No matter how great your partner is, if you’re not happy with yourself beforehand, there is little chance of being completely happy after. It’s very unlikely that any one person can turn things around for you.

Your partner can absolutely help. When you feel confident that you can tell them anything without risking the relationship, when you understand that they’re trying to do their best just like you, the relationship often grows. You become attuned to one another’s needs because you realize that both sets of needs are important. It’s here that two individuals join and a third entity – the couple – emerges. The couple doesn’t take the place of either of you. All of you dreams and hopes and aspirations are still perfectly valid, but now they’re filtered through a lens of companionship and partnership. We choose to approach as a single unit – the individuals often sacrificing for the sake of the whole.

Maybe, you augment me.

Maybe, you inspire me.

Maybe, you enlarge my perspective.

But you don’t complete me.

If the feeling you’re fighting is that you just need someone to be with, that finding a lover will help with the feelings of anxiety or depression that you experience, that another person might help you find meaning, I’d encourage you to do some internal work. Maybe do some meditation. Find a therapist to help walk through some of the messages you’ve received that might not be so helpful anymore.

When you’re as confident as you can be in yourself before marriage, you’ll be happier after marriage.

3. You are Not the Person I Married
People change. There might not be anything more universally true than this. Think of who you were just a few years ago. Are you the same person today? Do you believe exactly the same things that you believed then? Has you thinking changed even slightly? Most likely not.

We know now that the brain changes throughout the entire lifespan. We used to think that by the time you hit your mid-twenties or so, that was it. All the circuitry was laid down and whoever you were is who you were always going to be. As it turns out, we now understand that there is this concept of neuroplasticity: your brain is constantly changing. Every time your brain circuits fire, it alters and refines something about that neural pathway. You can teach an old dog new tricks, even if they’re stubborn, because there are always new circuits being formed. Our personalities are relatively stable, but our potential for change is astounding.

We’re nothing if not potential.

The flip side to the endless possibility of change is that we are always changing. Every experience impacts us in some way. I once heard a professor in my master’s program talk about how he could talk to his brother for hours. Even though they were close and spoke at least once a week, my professor would talk about how he was always curious about what was new with his bother between phone calls. My professor recognized that his brother, in some small way, wasn’t exactly the same person as he was before. With every phone call, his brother was different than who he was the week before. Every experience changes us.

People are multilayered ad multifaceted. We are complex systems in which small inputs can have dramatic impact. Our genetics, our moods, our past experiences, the food we choose to eat, the amount of sleep we got the night before, our regular exercise routine all impact our personalities and how we see the world. If we believe this, then it will probably follow that we and our partners are constantly changing. Couples that live from this assumption also tend to take a stance of being endlessly curious about the other.

Ask questions even if you think you know the answer.

Be aware enough to notice differences in the way that your partner reacts or tells a story.

Celebrate their growth.

Each of us are on our own trajectories. Each of us have our own lives to live. Since we remain individuals when we commit to each other, we cannot assume that our perspectives, desires, experiences, frustrations, or dreams are the same. Our partners are not the people that we married. All of us grow and are different than we were. When we take it as given that our spouse is going to change, when we track with them on a daily basis and remain wildly interested in who they are becoming, we won’t find ourselves having drifted slowly apart and no longer knowing who the other person has become.

4. This Might Not Work
Happily ever after is a phrase that gets bandied about from the time we are old enough to hear the fairy tales and continues through the the beginning of the end credits in every romantic comedy ever. The religious thread that runs through our collective history has helped reinforce the notion that marriage is to be forever. To underscore the permanence of marriage, church communities use words like covenant and sacrament. Many of us – regardless of religious affiliation – would say that there is something about divorce that feels wrong, even if we can’t fully identify what that feeling is about. We might come to the conclusion that divorce is the right decision and still feel like we’ve done something wrong; that we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

On one level, marriage is simply a part of our culture, our shared history. There is a framework for what we understand marriage to be from a cultural perspective that has been based on years and years of history and tradition and experience. I’m not saying that this understanding is correct or healthy. It’s pleasant to think of marriage as being the pinnacle that we are all striving for. It is nice to believe that there is something magical or mystical about marriage.

Unfortunately, it’s not true.

There are multiple domains within the idea of marriage. From a language stand point, marriage is merely a label. It’s a word. Marriage is nothing but a container for meaning that is empty until we put something in it. There is opportunity for us to define what we believe about marriage and relationship and switch out what is in the container. Many of us have taken out the idea that marriage is reserved for a man and woman and have replaced it with the idea that any two people who love each other should be able to get married. Some people have chosen not to switch out what was in their containers previously. There are complexities here that involve our past experience of caring relationships and cultural understandings. How much did my caregivers care for myself and for each other? What movies and books and politics and religions have formed my conceptualization or marriage? Everyone’s idea of marriage is different because everyone’s experience of life is different.

On another level, we find a domain of marriage that feels like a business partnership. All relationships have this domain. We engage in relationships with needs that we need fulfilled and obligations to help meet the needs of someone else. Success in this domain is determined by how satisfied both people are with the terms of this agreement – how much does each party has to give and take? Does it feel fair? Of course, it’s rare that any of these negotiations are made conscious, but out brains are constantly processing and evaluating. If our brain feels as though we are giving too much and not getting enough in return, we feel uncomfortable. Sometimes we start to feel the need to end the relationship and move on.

This brings us to our biological domain. Our brains mediate our attraction. Attraction is a fundamental part of what it means to be animal, let alone human. I don’t mean to flush the romance out of the room but it’s important to acknowledge. Part of what it means to be committed to another person for the long term is a physical component. There are lots of hormones and interpersonal energy that swirls into this mix that we call love. I’m not necessarily in the camp that would say biological forces are undeniable but they definitely are very powerful and hard to override. It’s about sex, but it is not just about sex. Each flirty look, each caring touch, and each passionate encounter have underlying chemical reactions that contribute to the quality of our relationship.

Marriages cannot thrive in the realm of biology or business propositions, however. Marriage is about connection and layered above these more fundamental domains is emotional connection. This is the substance of our closest, most important relationships that is kicked into overdrive when we talk about our intimate, long-term partners. Emotional connection is, I would argue, the most fundamental part of what it means to be human. What makes it so powerful is that we know, now, that emotional connection is more than just good feelings and swooning hearts. There are neurological consequences of building relationships. Your closest relationships are capable of changing the way you think and feel. You can see the world from a different perspective. We literally shape our brains by engaging wth the people that we love.

The closest relationships are those that allow each other to know and experience the other person. Words and stories have limited fidelity to share what it means to be you. When partners become attuned to each other’s emotional channels – their tone of voice, their facial expressions, their tears and laughter – it raises the resolution. It adds pixels and vibrance. The whole picture because clearer and richer. Marriages thrive in this realm of empathy. When partners fully engage with one another, taking parts of each other into themselves and integrating with each other, there is a greater sense of love and happiness.

If nothing else, I’m trying to make the point that marriage is complex. When I say that it might not work, what I really mean is that is difficult to keep all of the various channels open. If any of these channels close or become blocked, we start to lose what it means to understand the others situation. If we close these channels thinking that there’s nothing left to learn about our partner, we lose the fidelity of their experience. If we don’t acknowledge that each person brings their own definition and set of experiences to the relationship, we start from a handicapped position, with a compromised field of vision. If we shut down physically, we are tampering with a drive that is fundamental to what it means to be alive.

Marriages fail all of the time.

And while it’s not always true, marriages often fail because we don’t enter them realizing how hard this work is. It is essential to put effort towards monitoring and keeping open the various channels that share yourself with the other. Sometimes we take this for granted. And you never want to take your spouse for granted.

This is why my wife and I hold to the idea that divorce has to always be an option. For us, if divorce were to be held as forbidden, it would actually demotivate us to work on our relationship. It would hold us back from giving everything to make sure that our marriage will survive and thrive. It’s not that we keep our divorce cards in our back pockets waiting to pull them out during every little quibble. Instead, we have a sense that the only way that we can avoid our relationship ending is to see every day as a pursuit of the other. It’s not all about ourselves (though learning to express our own concerns has been an important part of this process) but rather it’s about being present and engaged. It’s about giving. It’s about the endless balance of me, you, and we.

There are lots of fairy tales that talk about living happily ever after in beautiful kingdoms with no cares to weigh us down. Real relationships are not this way. Real relationships require work and attention and dedication. Relationships that thrive are those where partners are interested in knowing about the other’s experience.

Marriages may not be happily ever after. They’re always needing attention. They’re going to need some effort. They’re sometimes in need of help. They’re never set in stone. It can be frustrating to hear that these relationships that seem to hold so much promise aren’t everything that we’ve always understood them to be.

But they can be.

They can be life-giving and fulfilling. They can be the source of some of the greatest joy you can experience. They can help you see the world in a different way. They help you understand that you’re never alone.

In other words, they’re totally worth it.

God's Power in the World

God's Power in the World

Dating, relationships and love (or lack thereof) can feel messy and difficult for many people. Yesterday Co-Pastor Matt O'Neil spoke about asking better questions as we wrestle with the "wheat and the weeds" in our lives. (Listen to the full message: Stogies & Silettos 2016 | There Are Always More Questions)

Good questions don't usually have simple answers - they often require a journey, a commitment and a surrender to something bigger than ourselves. Even though Jesus says there will someday be a harvest when the wheat will be kept and the weeds burned away completely, asking better questions often doesn't make circumstances any easier in the present. The good news is that we have a God who took on our human condition to become nothing and embraced our powerlessness to enter our pain. God's full resolve is to join us in our darkness. 

Matt closed this talk with the following mediation from Fr. Ron Rolheiser about the true nature of God's power in the world. May it bring you deep peace and comfort as you commit to stand amidst both the wheat and the weeds of your life and ask questions which push you forward into greater wholeness and intimacy with our Creator.

 

God's power is never the power of a muscle, a speed, a physical attractiveness, a brilliance or a grace which (as the contemporary expression has it) blows you away and makes you say: "Yes, there is a God!" The world's power tries to work that way.

God's power though is more muted, more helpless, more shamed and more marginalized. But it lies at a deeper level, at the ultimate base of things, and will, in the end, gently have the final say.

So what does God's power look like?

If you have ever dreamed a dream and found that every effort you made was hopeless and that your dream could never be realized, if you have cried tears and felt shame at your own inadequacy, then you have felt how God is in this world.

If you have ever been shamed in your enthusiasm or approach and not given a chance to explain yourself, if you have ever been cursed for your goodness or effort by people who misunderstood you and were powerless to make them see things in your way, then you have felt how God is in this world.

If you have ever tried to make yourself attractive to someone and were incapable of it, if you have ever loved someone and wanted desperately to somehow make him or her notice you and found yourself hopelessly unable to do so, then you have felt how God is in this world.

If you have ever felt yourself aging and losing both the health and tautness of a young body and the opportunities that come with that and been powerless to turn back the clock, if you have ever felt the world slipping away from you as you grow older and ever more marginalized, then you have felt how God is in this world.

And if you have ever felt like a minority of one before the group hysteria of a crowd gone mad, if you have ever felt, first-hand, the sick evil of being violated, abused or taken advantage of, then you have felt how God is in this world... and how Jesus felt on in his last breaths. 

 

Fr. Rolheiser's original mediation was sent in one of his twice-weekly E-newsletters, which you can sign up to receive by email here. This version of the meditation was altered slightly. We also recommend Fr. Rolheiser's book The Holy Longing.

Whose Responsibility Is It?

Whose Responsibility Is It?

By Jen Windland

When does trust and faith lead us to abdicate our personal responsibilities?

You’ve probably heard phrases like “Let go and let God” and “Jesus take the wheel” and other sorts of sayings meant to reinforce what we might believe about trust and faith in God, but is there ever a point in which the things we say as reinforcement to our beliefs begin to coerce us into abdicating our personal responsibilities?

There's a scene in a movie called Forgetting Sarah Marshall and in it Peter, played by Jason Segel, is in Hawaii and wants to learn to surf. The resort he is at is one of those insanely expensive, all-inclusive types that has private instructors for almost any activity the island might provide, so Peter heads out to the beach to find an instructor to help him out.

He stumbles upon a hut and meets none other than Chuck, played by Paul Rudd, who agrees to teach him to surf. Chuck’s technique to teach Peter to surf is to tell him, “Don’t do anything. Don’t try to surf. Don’t do it. The less you do, the more you do.” He then tells Peter to pop up on the surf board. Peter does as he’s told and is scolded by Chuck, “That was too much. Do less.”

This continues until Chuck tells Peter to pop up and Peter just lays there on the surf board, not moving a muscle. Chuck comes back with, “Well, you gotta do more than that. Now you’re just laying there looking like you’re boogie boarding."

Honestly, sometimes I’m right there on the surf board of my faith wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. And in a much more complex way, it seems as though our directives can lead us to a little bit of this kind of an internal conversation.

Faith moves us in and out of places where we have complete and total reliance upon God to pull off a miracle when there is seemingly nothing we can do about it, and then there are other times when God seems silent and we are left to our own devices to make seemingly monumental decisions.

As I have probed down into my own heart, and have seen this conversation take place internally in others, I have noticed some consistent patterns that frequent the conversation surrounding this thought.

YOU ARE GOD, AND I AM NOT.

Something very real is exposed when we begin to ask questions of faith and personal responsibility. We begin to notice the gap between what it would take to be God and what it takes to be human. There is a question of vision that begins to arise.

We sometimes blindly trust in the mystery of God and the things we can’t understand that surround him because we are, for the most part, comfortable with the idea that if there is a God, then he should most certainly be capable of seeing some sort of a bigger picture than what we can see. He, hopefully, isn’t limited to the confines of space and time that we are. His vision is infinitely more clear.

This idea, however, exposes our inability to see. It puts us in the position of the kid holding the parent’s hand as they make their way through a crowd. The kid hoping that the parent is going in the right direction. The parent just asking the kid to trust them and to continue to take another step. 

FEAR

Another piece to the conversation that typically arises is some sort of fear. It is usually wrapped up in a fear of failure, but I’m sure there are other forms it could take as well.

Often when it comes to personal responsibility, undertaking a task, or making a decision, it is a certain step towards possible, inevitable or statistically probable failure. No one succeeds at every point, at every turn and in every situation. So some, instead of taking a step towards failure, will turn in fear to make statements that put the responsibility on God.

On a side note, this person will most likely blame God when things in life go wrong. Again, abdicating personal responsibility.

LAZINESS

This one was me.

I grew up in a home where trust was paramount. Some of the clearest conversations I had with my parents as I was growing up were about trust. There were two things that warranted a spanking when I was a kid, lying and disobeying. And when I went to kindergarten I remember my parents telling me I had two objectives in going to school. Learn to tell the truth, and learn to get along with other people.

The fascinating thing about my childhood wasn’t that they placed such a high priority on trust, but that my parents were actually trustworthy! I’m sure there were bumps in the road of trust along the way, certainly on my end, and possibly on their end, but when the parent-child relationship shifted when I went to college and moved out there was a sense in which there was a general mutual trust.

That trust was transferred to God. People often say that your primitive views of God stem from your views of your father, and for me, that was a pretty good deal. I trust my father, and so I trust God. Pretty simple.

Well, later down the road that trust in God began to get me pats on the back when I should have been getting kicks in the rear. I would use words like “patience” and “faith” as ways to get out of talking about how my life was stalling out. Deep down I did trust God, and unfortunately I knew that I could say the right words so that I wasn’t held responsible for my life or my future. It was in “god’s hands”.

This kind of laziness, at it’s most basic level is a type of immaturity. It’s the kind of laziness that can either continue well into adulthood or can come face to face with the consequences of reality. Fortunately for me, I landed on the latter. But that’s another blog for another day.

PEACE

Ideally, faith and trust in God leads to peace. If you had a father or father figure whom you couldn’t or can’t trust, you might have immense anxiety when this conversation arises. You may never come to a place of peace with this, but I hope that there is in some way a sliver of hope that it is possible.

The kind of peace I’m talking about is a deep internal peace that allows you to operate fully present in the moment with the weight of responsibility firmly pushing you forward while tranquilly understanding that there are forces outside of your control that have to be let go.

This kind of peace breeds freedom, not fear. It pushes you harder than you’ve ever been pushed. Away from laziness and into maturity. It gives you some semblance of balance and wholeness that comes from a partnership with God, not in resistance to God.

It allows you to see clearly your own personal limitations and embrace them with a sense of deep understanding. A knowing that penetrates the barrier between what we wish things could be and what is reality. In this sense we begin to see more clearly who and what God is and who and what we are.

I'm Thankful for Serving with Catapult Because...

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, we asked our Catapult volunteers to reflect on why they are thankful for serving the students and teachers at Byers. Read a few of their responses below! 

I am thankful for serving with Catapult because…

...it reminds me of a beautiful cliche: To the world I may be one person, but to one person I may be the world. It's so easy to feel insignificant with the massive scope of hurting out there. But, if you direct your energy in a concentrated way, it becomes clear what an enormous impact we can have.

 …of my relationship with my student, Alaysha. She and I have worked together for 3 years; she knows about things in my life that only my good friends know. Her mom and I text once in a while and I get photos of Alaysha from her, which make me so happy. We are very comfortable with each other and she makes me feel like what I say and do and stand up for really matter. I am thankful that I know about a portion of our community that some try and brush over!

 …I can pray regularly for a teacher that is working with a special world of children and I can be an encourager in a practical way.

 …I am serving with a group of amazing, giving people who love on our kids in the community.

 …every week when I meet with my student, I am reminded of God’s amazing love and patience for me and that He gives me the strength to give that love and patience in return.

 …it gives me a specific way to connect with Charlotte.

 … I get to create a (hopefully) impactful relationship and help an awesome girl navigate some key years in her life!

 …it matters. Not just to the students and staff, but also to me.

 …selfishly, it makes me feel good. The smiles, the accomplishments and the back and forth with a mischievous young man are just a few of the things that I am so thankful for. 

 …my student, Elijah, is the joy of my week. He's kind, he's smart, he's artistic and talented. He's been learning from me, yet I find that I get to learn from him as well. He is a blessing to my soul.

 …I believe relationships are what ultimately create lasting change. I love seeing the way the relationships built through Catapult impact both the volunteers and the students/teachers so deeply!

“Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35

Learn more about Catapult or email Ashley if you’re interested in serving!