The What-If Cycle

by Kelly Borjas

It happens often. A smidgeon of fear enters my mind, then I start entertaining anything that can go wrong. I “catastrophize” a fear to all the possible outcomes (generally bad ones or irrational ones…what if x, y, or z happens? Ironically, I don’t tend to dwell on possible positive outcomes). I engage my fearful thoughts and give them too much credit, which ultimately breeds anxiety and robs me of peace. I call it the what-if cycle. 

This has been a crazy week. My husband and I are both faced with situations that could have a lot of possible outcomes for our family, and I want to have the right outlook. I don’t want fear to rule my days, but I’m also scared to hope after walking similar roads in the past that resulted in pain. I know the past pain and struggles have produced growth, and even an increased dependence on God, but it’s still scary to face the unknown. I think many of us have times in life like this—whether it’s engaging in relationships after a loss of a loved one, starting a new job after loss of a previous job, or something else. How do we handle moving forward when the fear can feel paralyzing? 

My Bible Reading plan has been in Numbers (it’s a book in the Old Testament, trust me, it’s there). I literally prayed this morning for application to my life because it’s been a hard book for me to go through. This morning I read in Numbers 9, how the Israelites moved when the cloud representing the presence of God moved. “Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out…” And I realized, God has me where I am for now. Whether I’m in this situation for a day or two days or a month or longer…that’s where God has me now. It can be so easy to get ahead of myself, to be scared about the outcome, or what will come in the future. The “what ifs” can wreak havoc with my mind and heart, but if I take it a day at a time, I am reminded that God will sustain me. He will provide. I can trust in Him. I am not trusting in the outcome I want; I’m trusting that He is good, He loves me, and all things work together for my good, even if I don’t see it or understand.

A recent tool I’ve learned is to question what I’m believing about God when these thoughts or fears want to take over, then apply truth. Am I believing He’s good, or am I believing He’s up in heaven wringing his hands or haphazardly letting things happen on my behalf? Am I believing that I’m in control, or that He’s in control? Am I believing I need to earn grace, or that it’s freely given? If I’ve learned anything in the past handful of years, it’s how little control I actually have.  I have had to learn to “preach to myself,” not listen to myself, and I can only do this by walking in the Holy Spirit. Walking in the Holy Spirit can sound mystical or confusing, but it’s really just a dependence on Him and a reliance on Scripture. Sometimes that reliance is daily, sometimes it’s moment-by-moment, but it is always a prayerful dependence on God and His promises, on Truth that doesn’t change regardless of my circumstances. 

I need to remind myself that “my times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:15), and the man who fears the Lord “is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid…(Psalm 112:7-8).”

May we all take the what-ifs and the uncertainties we face in life and lay them at the feet of the cross, where the One who is certain and in control and full of grace and truth holds us and carries our burdens. May we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide and sustain us as we apply the truth of Scripture to our lives. I don’t know the outcome of the circumstances my husband and I are facing; however, I know where to turn, and for today, I am sustained. Tomorrow is a new day as “His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).” Let us trust in His faithfulness.

The Ultimate Mic Drop

by Kelly Borjas

When I graduated from college (many years ago) I wanted to change the world. I wanted to be a public speaker and work for a company whose mission I was passionate about so I could do something that matters; I wanted my job and career to have meaning. You can imagine how discouraging it was to find myself (as most of us do) in a job that didn’t directly make a difference in the world (corporate sales). Somewhere in the process of feeling let down I had a realization—relationships with people at work and integrity in my job could make an impact for Christ. They made meaning of the meaningless.

I oftentimes have the same struggle now. As a mom of young kids the days can be long and monotonous (I’m not out changing the world or solving massive problems), but when I look at the days as an opportunity to help mold the hearts of my kids, there is eternal value. What’s the commonality between my “corporate work” life and my “mom” work life? It’s the idea that relationships are a vessel in which we can share what matters; a way to add value to our lives and grow in our faith. 

The question then becomes: what matters? If relationships are a way to share what’s important, then what is important?

I personally cannot answer that question without looking at Jesus and His role in my life. I believe after an encounter with Jesus (a life-changing, direction-giving, identity-naming encounter), our lives are changed…so I would like to focus this short blog post on Jesus. First, my disclaimer: I’m just a regular, church-going person. The focus of this blog isn’t a bunch of technicalities (because I probably don’t know them); however, it is about Jesus and how He changes our lives, specifically about how He’s changed my life. 

Why does Jesus matter so much in regard to how we relate to people? I don’t think I can answer that question without looking at the Bible as a whole—Old and New Testament. Jesus is the turning point in history. Before him, Old Testament laws and regulations prohibited true freedom. I’ve been reading through Exodus lately, and many of the regulations are, quite frankly, overwhelming and exhausting. I cannot imagine living in a time where every detail of a sacrifice must be perfect, or even that animal sacrifices had to be made to cover my sins. Yet, “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). The Bible is full of people looking for redemption, for hope (think of the Israelites escaping slavery in Egypt, the desire and provision of earthly judges and kings, the exile and return in Nehemiah). They needed a savior. I need a Savior. Before Jesus, God still provided, but looking back (like a Monday Morning Quarterback), that era just seems overwhelming.

Then comes Jesus.

He fulfills the Old Testament prophesies. He is the Perfect King. He fulfills the law. He is the ultimate Judge. He’s the ultimate Pardoner and Giver of Mercy. He gives true freedom. Hebrews 10 says “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…” I love this imagery. It’s like the ultimate mic drop. He sacrifices Himself, rises from the grave, reveals Himself as risen to His disciples, sends the Holy Spirit, then sits down next to the Father. Boom. We, as Christians, have an eternal hope (in His steadfast love, in His grace, in forgivingness of sins). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I don’t have to live in a ritualistic way. This is literally life changing!

I’m a total rule follower (not always in a good way; rules for me can be a way to control and have security). I can easily fall into patterns of trying so hard (on my own) to earn forgiveness, to be “good enough” for grace. This is the largest oxymoron ever. I can never be “good enough” for grace, which is the whole point of grace! How can I not look at His grace and respond with joy? With hope? With a peace and an exhale that lets me rest and stop striving so hard?

Hebrews 10 continues with the idea that, “since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,” we should “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean” and “hold fast the confession of our hope” and “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together…encouraging each other (Hebrews 10: 19-25).” It goes like this: I can enter the presence of Jesus because of what He has done for me, which leads me to be assured of my faith and hope… and then I get to encourage others. This is where relationships come into play. Because of what Jesus has done for me, it changes my life, and should change how I view relating to other people. Every relationship is an opportunity to encourage someone—in the joys and struggles—because what Jesus did changes me. The love Christ has for me should spill over into my relationships with other people. 

As we reflect on the perfect life and work of Jesus, I pray it spurs us onto encouraging each other. I pray that the good news of Jesus changes all of us (I know I need daily reminders) so we can share His hope and joy with others. It’s in the sharing of life’s joys and struggles that we are able to apply and remember the Gospel. It’s within the fabric of relationships that we are able to have context for what Jesus does in and through us. It’s in the gathering together that we share how God is growing and changing us through the circumstances in our lives, and in those circumstances give and receive encouragement. Relationships matter because they are a vessel in which we can share Jesus—the biggest, most important discovery in life—with others.

 

Riding the Wave

by Kelly Borjas

Dinner with friends.
My sons’ birthday parties.
Weddings.
Saturday afternoon Tri-tip BBQs (with butter-soaked French bread, minus the beans).
A good bottle of wine with my husband.
Laughing so hard I cry.
Late-night talks when company comes to visit.
A long run with my running partners.
Trips to visit friends.
Coffee with girlfriends while kids play.

These are a few of my favorite things.”

I recently wrote a blog about depth, “going deep,” and relationships. I made a case that depth in a relationship derives from vulnerability and sharing on both parties. That blog focused primarily on the struggles we face. With this blog I was challenged to take a different angle—the joys and celebrations of life, and how those contribute to intimacy.

I smile as I think through my favorite things because most of them involve those close to me (family and friends). Often, these are the times in life we look forward to, plan around, and mark on the calendar; the times we hold with such anticipation. Granted, sometimes they are spontaneous and unexpected, like many gifts given by God, but they are all moments that make the mundane special. These are the memories that spark joy in the fabric of my life (not the things I need to declutter in my house!)

In the book of Nehemiah the Israelites are beginning to come back from exile when they reopen the words of the Scriptures. The people start a communal time of mourning and weeping because of the ways they have forgotten their past, dishonored God, and remember how faithful God actually has been. As they cry out Nehemiah tells them to stop grieving, instead saying Nehemiah 8:10, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Where times of hardship and vulnerability draw us closer together in deep friendships, so can (and does) joy and celebration. Nehemiah pulls them from their communal mourning over remembrance of their sin, and sends them off to experience communal celebration as a remembrance that this is now a new beginning; it is all done together. We don’t usually plan for seasons of hardship, but we can and do plan for communal times of joy.

To me, intimacy is a “both-and;” most of the time there’s not true intimacy based solely on sharing struggles, but it’s also unrealistic to think true intimacy is generated only on the good times (because hard times inevitably come). I like to think relationships (at least healthy ones) are like waves as they hit the beach. They ebb and flow based on the shared joys and struggles. In the ebb and flow the celebrations and struggles are both magnified and managed as we walk them together. If a friend prays for a baby or job or spouse, I cannot begin to explain how excited I am when that request is granted. In contrast, when I’ve seen pain and shared the hard spots of someone else’s life; it makes the good times so much more special.

Celebration is such a good practice because it magnifies God and reflects on Him as the giver of good gifts; it oftentimes marks the end of a time of waiting (just like the Israelites in Nehemiah). There are many times God’s good gifts are unexpected and unplanned, which is a humbling experience, but one to appreciate and celebrate all the more with those around us. 

I once heard someone say we should develop a history with God, so we remember how He has carried us before, and that He will do it again. I think that concept applies in celebration. We should celebrate what God gives us with each other—everything we have is an opportunity to point toward Him. That doesn’t mean life will be perfect, but when we are able to look at God’s gifts through this lens, we realize there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3: 4-5).” As we walk through life in our communities, I hope we remember to ride the waves together, weeping together and laughing together, mourning and dancing together. I hope we celebrate the joys and enjoy the gifts God has given.

Rolling in the Deep

by Kelly Borjas

What does it mean to have deep relationships—or to have depth in a conversation? Recently I was challenged with this question because I’ve thrown that phrase around—that I like deep conversations or relationships, but putting a definition to this idea is very difficult. Shame on me for saying I like something I can’t even define! In fact, this question of depth has taken me weeks of processing, praying, and seeking God’s guidance. Truthfully, there’s some conviction here, because I’ve defined this my way (a way that works for me), and not necessarily in a way that represents many people.

Being “deep” is a hard topic for me to write about, but in an opposite way than you’d probably assume. I, Kelly, am most comfortable swimming in the “deep end” of the pool. Just this year I had an epiphany: I can do small talk well and deep talk well, but sometimes I’m not great in the middle area…just…talking. I get uncomfortable. For a lot of my life I’ve assumed most people want/desire this “depth.” But do they? Or is it just my comfort zone—a security blanket I wrap around as a way of defining myself?

I asked a bunch of people what it means to them to have depth and what it takes for that to occur. I could regurgitate my opinions, but my thoughts may not be indicative of the general masses. I asked local people, some far away, people I know well, people I don’t know well, men and women (thanks to my friends’ husbands who were my guinea pigs!), and Christians and non-Christians. Obviously this is not a formal survey (George Barna is not going to show up at my house and pay me for my work), but I wanted to see if there were any commonalities in responses despite the different personalities and backgrounds.

Most people defined depth as a shared vulnerability—risking judgement from the other person when sharing thoughts, desires, fears, etc. It’s the idea of sharing beyond the surface to what matters, even if it’s hard. Each person’s “issues” may be different; but the idea is to share more than polite niceties or exchanges about the weather. In other words, depth in a relationship does not mean people need to agree or share on the same topics; however, it means that there’s a two-way street in sharing life struggles and joys, as they relate to each person. There’s a safety and mutual respect for the other person’s opinion. Many people expressed a desire for a relationship with the other person (or the knowledge a conversation would have a follow-up). The men especially required trust, common interests, and/or respect (of the other person) to share.

I talked with a mentor friend about this topic and she reminded me that we are complex humans with a variety of backgrounds, personalities, struggles, and layers. We may not have depth with all people at all times, and that’s okay. (I’m reminded as I write that even Jesus had a smaller group of disciples in His “inner circle”). It takes time to develop depth. In other words, I would be naive to think there’s a formula to develop deep relationships or a magic number of people we should have in our inner circle. This is where I’m convicted. After a recent move to Santa Maria and the need to start all over, I’ve probably sought these relationships or conversations out of a desperation, loneliness, or insecurity (my desire to find community as I define it). However, I heard a definition for trust recently that resonated with me: time plus believable behavior. I like that, because it frames how we get to a place of trust (and therefore relationship).

This topic begs the question: should Christians have deep relationships? Is that a biblical concept? If we look at the early church (in Acts), we see a community of people who modeled teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer, and sharing with those who had need. I have to believe struggles were shared in those days—both physical and spiritual. The group of believers banded together to support one another. That takes sharing and vulnerability—not a mask of “having it all together.” 2 Corinthians 1:3 says God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others with the comfort we’ve received in Christ. Again, inherent in this idea is that we are sharing our struggles to lift others and build one another up, encouraging them in Christ. And yet, Colossians talks about bearing with one another, forgiving each other, and putting on love, which binds us in perfect harmony (Col. 3:12-14). This suggests even Christian relationships will have hurts and disappointments as we take the risk of growing together, and that we must forgive and love despite any pain.

Life is full of bumps and turns. It’s not easy. Yet, when we are able to have people who love and support us through these ups and downs, it lightens the load. I recently asked a friend (at Element) to pray for me regarding an area I’m having a hard time trusting and finding peace. This friend has walked this road I’m on, and understands the struggle. She responded with a tear in her eye, a text message the next day, and encouragement to rely on my husband as we seek peace and direction on this topic. I’m so thankful she shared her struggle with me, and can encourage me.

As I write this, I write with conviction. May we all invest in our communities and share our struggles and joys. May we all listen without judgement, and share without fear. May we all pray for one another, comforting each other in Christ (i.e. applying the Gospel) as we journey together. It’s a process of learning and growing, humility and forgiveness, but I believe it’s one that will transform us as individuals and a community at large.

If Only

by Kelly Borjas

If Only…

It’s a frequent idea that seeps its way into my mind, my heart. An “if only” that promises a better outcome or more success, yet it’s cloaked in a nobility of wanting to improve or be a “better version of myself.”

Comparison. 

As a wife, mother, woman, the struggle is real to compare myself with others. I do it all the time in a variety of contexts. I compare how I look (am I skinny enough?); I compare how my house is decorated (is it nice enough?); I compare how my kids are dressed (are they trendy enough?); I compare my personality to someone else’s (do I talk too much?); I compare what I do (do I have enough personal goals so I’m not lost in the abyss of just being a mother?); I compare my kids’ performance (are they well-enough behaved?); I compare my spiritual walk with others (do I read my Bible enough?).

I am constantly seeking that elusive standard of “enough,” fearful that someone, somewhere will say I’m not enough (there are a lot of issues embedded in this—perfectionism, contentment, resting in grace...the list could go on. But for this blog I am narrowing this specific issue to comparison.   

How can I begin to think biblically on this issue that seems to invade my life? I know comparison can steal the joy God intends for me to ground myself in, but I also see the need to compare myself to Jesus as He is the true standard of holiness. Seeking after varying levels of worldly success gets exhausting, and it starts to feel like I’m a hamster on a wheel—running in circles with no momentum forward. 

I would first like to point out that I don’t have all the answers, but I think there’s something to be said about rooting our identity in Christ. I was talking to a couple of girlfriends this weekend about this, and one commented that “rooting our identity in Christ” (while being true) still rings a bit like a trite comment or cliché answer. She’s right. We throw that phrase around without really applying it. So how do we find our identity in Christ and not let all the other comparisons distract us?

I keep thinking I have to go back to what the Bible says: I’m a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). He’s created good works in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). He will continue the good work He’s started in me (Philippians 1:6). When I think about those truths, I must ask myself, “Why am I striving for anything other than trying to love Jesus more?” Why can’t I be confident that God created me with my personality, gifts, passions, etc.? Why do I think I will feel better about myself if I (fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-standard-I’m-trying-to-meet)?

I think I forget. I forget who God is and what he’s done. I believe the lie that something else will make me feel better about myself. I need to remember, we all need to remember, that God’s grace is sufficient for us in ways that give us purpose that can propel all of our lives forward. He’s given the Holy Spirit to lead, help, and guide us as we walk through life, which directs us all to a place where we need to actively remember. The only way I know how to “remember” is to have a community of people who will remind me. Have conversations that steer me deeper into Christ’s truth and can tell me when I’m looking for some cheap satisfaction. My husband can spot when I’m too obsessed with some direction, and tell me I’m chasing something in the wrong way. I have a handful of friends who can do the same.

I don’t think the comparison game gets any easier as we get older. In fact, it may be more difficult because there’s so much to compare. But soaking our hearts in truth and having a group of people who can support us in that quest may be part of the answer to rooting our identity in Christ.

Repost: Trevor Carpenter's Message on Jesus

by Element Christian Church

Sunday, Aaron was talking about how most people come to the realization that life is beyond them in one of two ways. They either have everything they ever wanted and they are still empty, or their life crashes and people lose everything and realize it is all meaningless. During this point, he referenced a message that Trevor Carpenter gave a few years ago. Trevor died a couple years ago from cancer, and after after a bout of chemo he said, “I don’t want to waste my cancer.” He wanted it to teach him and others something. For many people it takes almost losing everything to realize what God has already given you.

Watch Trevor's message about Jesus here:

And listen to Aaron's message this past Sunday about how Life is Vapor (Meaningless).

Christmas Stockings for Delta

by Element Christian Church

This year we stuffed stockings and gave each student and staff at Delta High School a movie ticket and some candy. Here's a card and message we wanted to share with each student:

Merry Christmas from Element Christian Church!A Little about Saint Nicolus

The Queen of Sweden

by Jonathan Whitaker

This post taken from our church plant in Colorado Springs, view their website at ourelementcs.org

“How’d you become king?  I didn’t vote for ya.” said the filthy peasant woman Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The answer of course is found in the annals English lore, which reveal that Arthur became King of the Britains when the Lady of the Lake distributed him a sword from the pond she was lying in.  If indeed strange women lying in ponds were a basis for a system of government then, Saga Vanecek an 8-year-old girl from Sweden would be Queen.

Saga, like King Arthur, pulled a sword from a lake earlier this month.  Google it. In fact, she pulled a corroded rust encased 33-inch Viking sword from the mid 500’s AD from a lake.  Not a bad find at all.  And as it happens, a great illustration for my blog!

This week Element Colorado Springs embarks on our fall series in the book of First Peter called, Identity.  We chose this title because Peter’s epistle has so much to teach believers about who God says we are as Christ followers.  What could a rusty Viking Sword possibly teach us about who we are as believers?

1 Peter 1:3-7 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Do you see the security described in these verses?  Peter describes the new-life of a believer as permanent and durable, “an inheritance…imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.”  Not only that but Peter says it is God that is guarding that inheritance in heaven.  I can only speak for myself, but as I read those verses my heart sinks a little when I see the words, “you have been grieved by various trials.”  I don’t want to go through trials, nor do I want my loved ones to experience trials.  I suspect you don’t either.

Perhaps it is the weakness of our sinful flesh that we can read such amazing promises from God and still focus on something negative.   Let’s try to walk in God’s shoes for a moment.  Peter says, “if necessary you have been grieved by trials.” and, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith...”  will reveal glory and honor when Christ returns.  The cynic would read this incorrectly and say, God tests us to see if we are worthy.  That statement is as wrong as it is blasphemous.  Peter’s words acknowledge that in our sinful fallen world trials come and the trials come reveal (in an individual) their true nature.  In essence, the inferno burns away that which is impermanent and leaves behind that which cannot be consumed by the fire.  God has made you indestructible.

Saga’s sword was made by a master craftsman.  His intent was likely not that the sword would endure for 1,500 years, but durability was the result of his careful work.  You were made for a purpose as well, to love and serve God.  God, as The Master Craftsman has made for you an indestructible inheritance which will be revealed in your indestructible body, “more precious than gold.”  when Jesus returns.

This Viking sword was an instrument of war and tumult.  When it was lost in a lake over a millennium ago it was subject to one of the harshest winter environments on the planet.  This environment marred and encased its surface in rust and mud till the sword underneath was unrecognizable.  Strangely though, it was these harsh conditions that preserved the sword for 1,500 years.  Then when the weather and level of the lake were just right, one little girl with a keen eye recognized something precious when she saw it. 

Peter is not saying that, God tests us to see if we are worthy.  He is saying, that trials will come and God gives us the strength to endure them.  As trials come they also pass.  Once trials pass, God’s master work in our lives is revealed, precious and indestructible.  A lot can be learned from a weathered old sword.  Its beauty is no longer outward or obvious, but to the one who truly knows, it is perfect.  Saga’s sword my not seem beautiful or wonderful, but to the people of Sweden, its priceless.   Your Father in heaven has made as a new beautiful indestructible creation with a living hope in Jesus Christ. That is your Identity.

Element Christian Church: Colorado Springs

by Element Christian Church

We are excited to announce a church plant in Colorado Springs led by Jonathan & Jennifer Whitaker!

One of our core desires here at Element has been to plant churches where needed. It’s in our mission statement: To Glorify God by teaching and living out the Scriptures, transforming community into Gospel Community, and planting churches.

We have waited to see where God leads us in a church planting endeavor, and it seems the first place He is leading us to is Colorado Springs. He has brought together a scruffy bunch of previous Element members and one Elder who found themselves in CS. They have each identified a need for a church that strives to form gospel-community, something they feel is missing for a lot of airmen in the area.

Jonathan feels God has been preparing him for this. At Element he received a lot of foundational ministry experience, but was restationed to the D.C. area, where they were able to practice living missional servant lives. From there they went to England where God lead them to pastor a small church and bring it back from the brink of closing its doors. Jonathan has had several experiences within and leading ministry, now he has a clear vision to plant a home church; a church of Gospel Communities, in Colorado.

Check out their website at ourelementcs.org

Kaitlyn, Sal, Roman

by Element Christian Church

Kaitlyn Virgen & FamilyWe thought we would introduce to you Kaitlyn Virgen. She has a degree in Biblical Studies with an emphasis on youth ministry from San Diego Christian College, and was initially part of a church plant in the San Diego area. If you haven’t met her, Sal (her husband), or Roman (their baby), I encourage you to look for them and say hi. Kaitlyn is the newest member of the Element team, she will be coordinating our middle school students (6-9 grade). 

We have been looking and praying for ways to bring cohesion and health to our junior high and high school ministries and Kaitlyn is part of that plan. Kaitlyn says that in her spare time you can catch her spending time her son or reading 4 books at a time (with the show Friends playing in the background). She loves hiking dates with her family, thrifting, creating macramé art, decorating, and drinking lots of coffee. 

She and Sal are both Santa Maria natives (they actually met in youth group), but just moved back to the central coast last December after almost 4 years in San Diego. As I said, if you get a moment, please make sure to stop welcome them.

If you are wondering about High School, we have also hired a High School coordinator that will get here in October and begin working with High School students in November.

CTV Recap & Pictures

by Element Christian Church

Have you ever woken up in the morning with an acute awareness of every muscle in your body?  That was me on Saturday morning, the day after CTV ended.  I guess I’m just not used to jumping up and down for hours at a time anymore.  Who knew? 

CTV was a huge success and that was mainly due to the amazing servants and families that came out to participate.  For those of you who weren’t able to participate, or don’t know what CTV is and was, Change Their View (CTV) was a chance for our families to get crazy together in the name of Jesus!  We danced together, did science experiments together that followed biblical discoveries from scripture and generally had an amazing time.  Weird scientists like Dr. Hairball and Dr. Lipschtick (say that ten times fast, yikes), slime experiments and magnetic discoveries all drove home the point that we need Jesus and His grace in a big way. 

The crowning jewel of CTV had to be the block party where we invited the entire church and our new neighbors to eat tri tip with us and hang out.  Through the block party we got to meet some of our neighbors behind us and build relationships with some of our Delta friends as well.  All in all, a huge success! 

Check out the pics below to see what CTV looked like, and plan on attending the next one (but let my muscles recover a little first!) 

End of Summer Neighborhood Block Party

by Element Christian Church

All are welcome to Element's End of Summer Block Party this Friday night from 6-9pm at Element. There will be fun activities for all including bounce houses. Free Hotdogs for kids and $10 BBQ Sandwich meals for adults (neighbors of Element eat free!) We would love to have you join us. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any questions.

End of Summer Block Party

 

What if Singleness is Your Normal? Part 3B

by Holly DeKorte

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”  Proverbs 31:25 

Editor’s note: Holly’s last blog ended up being long enough that we broke it into 2 weeks. You can find the first half of this BLOG HERE.) Holly has been sharing her story of singleness with the hope it will encourage God’s people to love and value countercultural singles in a tangible way. If you missed Aaron message you can find it HERE. Now, on to the last blog in this series.

6. Do life with God- that means in a Gospel Centered community.
This is the point where I could be called many things including (but not limited to): bitter, cynical, judgmental, critical, and unforgiving. These are attitudes of my heart that I know can be dark and sinful. Yet, I want to tell the truth out of love.

Do you know where, as a single, I have felt the most pain and heartache? It hasn’t been with my family or at work. It hasn’t been with my friends, enjoying their company. It has been at Element and Element functions But, but, but...we’re Element! We do church “differently”; we’re not like those “other” churches! In my experience, there is sometimes a glass wall that separates singles from those who are married. The glass wall is not always present, but do I run into it at Element and it hurts. Debating who is responsible for the wall does not help us to actually break it down. Ephesians 4:13-16 shows us a picture of how the Church should be: joined with our head (Christ) and held together through Him. Glass walls should not exist at all.

It is rather easy to be unseen or overlooked as a single in any church. Programs catering to families and children are often the norm. We, at Element, pride ourselves on the fact that our church has Gospel Community (GC), not programs. You are supposed to be seen and known in GC. This has been my experience, to a certain extent. Here’s a question for you, though… What do you do if there is a single in another GC who is at your church? Do you think to yourself, “Oh, he is someone else’s responsibility,” or do you think, “What could I do to get to know that individual?” My point is Element is the Body of Christ. We, not only our GCs, are supposed to be a family. Look beyond your Gospel Community! See others who happen to be in your view. Engage them in conversation. You might even find yourself a new swimming buddy.

Oftentimes, singles are the ones initiating friendships. My most valued relationships at Element are definitely reciprocated. Many include walks, talks, beach trips, pool trips, kids’ soccer games, and wine nights. I am grateful for these friendships and by no means want to minimize them. However, more can be done. Random text messages are gifts. It means someone is thinking of me. In a world where I have not met the “one” on whose mind I’ll always be, this is encouraging. I am a busy person, but I do have flexibility in my schedule. Sunday afternoon is an especially vulnerable time for me, as I imagine weekends may be for other singles. Usually my grocery shopping is done, I’ve spent time with my family, the papers are graded, the chores are completed, and then I am alone. If you get a text from me on Sunday, it is me literally crying out for company. On my end, I need to be better about planning dinners with people. What could you do on your end? It’s something I challenge you to prayerfully consider.

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What if Singleness is Your Normal? Part 3A

by Holly DeKorte

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”  Proverbs 31:25 

Last week, we began looking at the points from Aaron’s sermon on singleness and how they have realistically played out in my own life. I am sharing my story of singleness with the hope it will encourage God’s people to love and value countercultural singles in a tangible way. Let us continue looking at the last four points (editor’s note, we split the last blog into 2 weeks because of the length. This blog will cover points 4 and 5 from Aaron’s message found HERE. Next week will finish with points 6 and 7).   

4. Get your life in order before inviting others into it.
As you may have inferred from the last two blog posts, I am a romantic idealist with achiever-like tendencies. Point number four is the most dangerous for people like me. “Get your life in order” has the potential to morph into works-righteousness, the belief that one can earn God’s favor or blessings. In my twenties, I believed that “getting your life in order” meant getting a master’s degree. Most recently, I went back to school for my Administrator Credential. My job is stable, my savings account is solid, and I even own a house here in Santa Maria. I am prepared for marriage and family! (Proverbs 24:27).   

Friends, marriage is a gift, and it is not a gift that I can hope to earn, nor one that I am owed. Marriage is actually one of the first gifts given by the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Yes, there is responsibility on our part. If you are playing video games all the time, are partying like its 1999, or are not living a healthy lifestyle, then I would venture to say you are probably not ready for marriage. These kinds of behaviors are not in step with the way of wisdom Proverbs describes. HOWEVER, God still gives this gift to those who we would say are not prepared. I do not pretend to know the mind of God, but I have seen how marriage has been used to help young people grow up. There is nothing like a sick baby to mature a man!  

I have been told so many times, “Holly, marriage will come when you least expect it!” There is a problem with this... now I have something that I need to do. I need to NOT expect marriage.  William Carey, a Protestant missionary once said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” Though the theology can be debated, this quote reflects how God has created me as an individual. Placing the “no expectation” expectation on me might as well be telling me not to breathe! Instead of taking a works-centered approach to marriage, I need to be reminded that God is the trustworthy giver of gifts. He has currently gifted me with singleness. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that I can do that will earn me the marriage gift.

5. Guard your heart.
This point is perhaps the most countercultural of all. Guess what? I desire physical intimacy... isn’t that shocking? A Christian single woman wants “that!” She must be sinning! Quick! Judge her for wanting the rights of marriage! Tell her that at least she has friends and family who love her!  Friendship love must be able to take the place of marriage love, right? My heart breaks for all single Christians who find themselves with this unmet, Godly desire, and especially for those who do not feel the freedom to express this grief. We are called quite clearly to marriage and sex only between a husband and wife. Aaron has described this as “the normative call God places on His people.” God proclaims marriage good. He uses marriage to build His Church and also as an illustration of the intimacy He shares with His Church. It is not wrong to desire this call; however, it is wrong (as I discussed last week) to make marriage an idol. Let us assume that most countercultural singles desire marriage, and also desire God’s will above their own. How on earth are they to survive in a sex-crazed culture? 

Firstly, I must speak the Gospel to myself daily. My hope is in God alone. It is not in an online dating site. It is not in a man. It is not in family or friends. It is in the One who came to restore His creation back to good. It is in the One who died a death of substitutionary atonement. It is in the One who breaks the chains of Satan, sin, and death. The Gospel keeps my desire for God first in my heart. I desire to proclaim His name among the nations, to reflect His glory, and to disciple others to Him. As the hymn goes, “Thou and thou only first in my heart; High King of heaven my treasure thou art.”

Secondly, I must realize how my heart is guarded. Philippians 4:7 states, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the guardian of my heart; He gives me peace that I do not understand. He really has all authority. As I date someone, I earnestly pray, “God, if this is not the relationship you have for me, open my eyes. Make it clear. Intercede and fight for me.” He does and sometimes I fight back, trying to hold onto something that isn’t right (more about that in point 7). My will does, eventually, become God’s will. My heart is placed in His care. The world of promiscuity is tempting, yet my desire for God is stronger.   

As the Church, pray. Pray that those living a countercultural single life will see how God uses them to proclaim His name and pray that their foremost desire is for Him. Also, if you know singles who are compatible (meaning they both currently walk with the Lord, are in the same age range, have similar lifestyles, and desire to be married), play matchmaker! Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. That is okay! Many singles appreciate an introduction and look at it as an opportunity to get to know someone new. Always check with both individuals, though, before proceeding and certainly pray about it.

 

What if Singleness is Your Normal? Part Two

by Holly DeKorte

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”  Proverbs 4:23

Last week I left you on a bit of a cliff hanger. I shared how God brought me back to Santa Maria and how the attitude of my heart was challenged as He was guiding me home. Finding myself back in Santa Maria meant something of an identity crisis that I inadvertently placed on myself.  I wasn’t “Holly, Child of the Most High King.” I was, “Holly, Matt’s sister,” “Holly, the DeKortes’ daughter,” “Holly, the world traveler who moved back home,” “Holly, the teacher,” and “Holly, the single.” In the years that have followed, God worked through His Word, the Holy Spirit, and even His Church to renew, redeem, and restore my identity. 

Aaron’s sermon on singleness is an excellent platform to discuss how God has accomplished this mighty task of restoring my identity and equipping me to live as a counter-cultural single.  The seven sermon points will also show how we, the Church, the Bride of Christ, can do a better job of valuing and loving singles. Let’s face it...singles need a whole lotta love, but probably not how you might expect! I don’t need another meme sent to me about waiting on the Lord. I need your families. I need your hugs.  I need laughter.  I need the Gospel.

1. Open your eyes and look around to what God is doing.
In my own words, be willing to accept the gifts that God has given or will give. This might be lifelong singleness or finding yourself as a stepparent to three kids. We do not get to dictate God’s grace in our lives, but we have the choice to be obedient to His call. He sees the bigger picture and knows our hearts! I’ve wrestled with this quite a bit and have had many a conversation with God about it. “But God, what if I don’t like the person you bring into my life?!”   Remember, He is a good father. Good fathers discipline and establish character in a loving, non-abusive, non-manipulative way.  

Looking around to what God is doing has helped me move past self-centeredness. Just this past fall, I took a class called Perspectives on World Mission (which I HIGHLY recommend).  God used the class to break my heart for those who do not know Him, who have not heard the good news of the Gospel. After taking the class, I began to believe that God might be calling me back overseas as a tentmaker missionary (one who has a “regular” job, and spreads the Gospel through working the job and living a Gospel-centered life.)  I met with a life coach, and he encouraged me to look around at what God might have me do here in Santa Maria instead.  That led to joining a prayer team for unreached people groups and also becoming involved with Royal Family Kids. Let me tell you, God has opened my eyes and saved me from my self-centered thinking. There is SO much He is doing in Santa Maria. Praise Him!

2. Don’t idolize (or idealize!) any relationship, worship Jesus!
This is where things get messy. In fact, I don’t really like to talk about it. Four years ago, I heard quite clearly to “be still,” specifically regarding singleness. Do you know how hard it is to be still and to try not to control your own life? A few years ago, I had had enough. I saw God giving good gifts to “everyone,” but me. I jumped on a dating site and met a man, who didn’t follow Christ or honor God. Yet, I let him into my life and heart because I so very much wanted marriage and a family. God, like He has done with all my relationships, protected me, and the relationship ended. Like the mother hen, He sheltered me under His wings. I got angry; I questioned His love for me. He took away what I wanted and I threw a fit, just like toddlers and even seasoned Christians are known to do. 

This led me to Redemption Groups, a ministry offered at Element. In my group, I was challenged to see marriage as what I had made it: an idol.  Michelle Gee asked me, “Would you still love God even if he never gave you a husband?” In my anger, I couldn’t answer that I would.  During the weeks that followed, God clearly showed me that He loves me. The phrase “the steadfast love of the Lord,” began to jump out at me while reading scripture. The Psalms especially illustrate how God’s children can cry out to Him, and by doing so, are reminded of God’s unfailing love (Psalm 145).  

I can’t say that stillness and knowing that God loves me came overnight. I had another big bump or two along the way, but Redemption Groups was definitely the catalyst God used in revealing my idol of marriage and who alone is worthy of worship. 

Brothers and sisters, please stand by the Christian singles who will need to grapple with that very difficult question: “Would you still love God even if He never gave you a spouse?” Pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes and hearts, that they will undoubtedly know their lives belong to God alone. Do not shame them; do cry with them. Do not give them false hope or stories about a 70-year-old woman who finally met her husband; do point to the source of all hope.

3. Seek wisdom and understanding.
My family is a picture of a gift I could not begin to deserve. God gave me wise, understanding parents who continue to walk beside me through this season of my life. Their support has not always been perfect, but their wise counsel and prayers have helped me to live a counter-cultural life. When they do not have the counsel that I need, they point me to people who might. “Talk to your brother. Talk to your sister (in-law).  Talk to your married friends. Talk to Deb Harman. Talk to God.” My mom will often say these words, sometimes in one sentence. Its great advice given by a great mom. 

I still have a desire for marriage, so a few months ago, I started talking to the four members of my immediate family about re-joining dating sites. I wanted them to give me feedback on my heart and whether it was ready for the online dating rollercoaster.  The last two months indeed have been an up and down journey.  Imagine receiving paragraphs and paragraphs from an eligible man and then the messages abruptly stop.  Imagine beginning a conversation with a person who then wants to meet you the very next day.  Imagine men who like to post pictures in their underwear and then wonder why you don’t feel comfortable Facetiming them. Imagine meeting someone with potential and then letting that person go.  My family and close friends continue to pray for me through this process. I am so thankful for their wisdom and support.

Next week, we will look at Aaron’s last four remaining sermon points regarding singleness. In the meantime, find a single to invite over for dinner! Get to know his or her story. You might be surprised to find a passionate, God-loving heart hidden behind the “single” identity.