Humans of North Harbor #7: Laurie Howell

[For an introduction to Humans of North Harbor, click here]

Humbly Seeking The Reality Of God

Laurie grew up in a Baptist home and church.  She felt very loved in her upbringing and supported in her church.  She went to a Christian camp, Camp Fair Haven, growing up and it was very instrumental in her faith upbringing.  Her brother went to camp there before her and was saved at camp. He came home and led Laurie through the sinner’s prayer to become a Christian when she was five.  Later, she went to the camp herself as a camper and then worked there as a teen. While she was working there, in the difficulty of serving in the kitchen and being available to kids all day long, she realized that she really did want to follow Christ no matter what.  That is when she really began to own her own faith.

Laurie went to a Presbyterian college.  Although beliefs between Baptists and Presbyterian were similar, there were some differences too.  She had been brought up to believe that anyone who didn’t believe what her church believed either didn’t really love God or were stupid and naive.  But in college she met many people who were intelligent and loved God and had differences of opinion on certain theological issues. This really made her question her belief system and who God was.  She kept wrestling through different ideas and beliefs with God, and changed her views on certain things, such as predestination.  She feels it has all allowed her to gain a better understanding of who God really is.

Laurie studied abroad while in college in Costa Rica.  When she got home, she felt nothing made sense anymore in her world view including God.  She struggled to see the poverty there and had so many questions. What does it mean to be a white North American woman of privilege and how do you use that and live responsibly and not forget and why does God let it work this way and what is He up to and what is her part in it?  Her world view had changed. She hasn’t necessarily resolved these questions either, but is bravely holding them and living when she can with these injustices in mind while holding faith in a God that she can’t completely understand.

This past summer Laurie was in a dark place and feeling drained being a busy mom of two littles.  One day, she found a rare moment to read her Bible and read one of the Psalms. She felt she couldn’t relate with the psalmist who was talking about enemies who were literally trying to kill him as she did not have that same threat on her life.  But she felt God tell her that yes she can relate, because yes she does have an enemy, Satan, and no matter how she is experiencing attack it is no less real than those Psalms. She felt reassured that God was with her. Later that evening, when her husband, John, came home from work they were talking about their days and it turned out he had read the same psalm that day and heard the same thing.  She felt God fighting their enemy as He pulled them closer together in their marriage and closer to Him as well.

Laurie is a big North Harbor fan.  Because of her theological background, Laurie really appreciates North Harbor and the fact that there are many different theological views represented among us.  She feels The Harbor is a safe place to agree to disagree or admit to struggles. She feels it allows her to invite non-Christian friends to church into a place where it is ok to say you’re not sure what you think about God. She appreciates the focus on spiritual disciplines which she didn’t experience growing up.  She has experienced God in new ways by experiencing different types of prayer, meditation and silence. She continues to push into experiences that she may not prefer, such as silence, but is willing to do what it takes to learn who God is. She is encouraged when she finds a part of God that isn’t how she would choose.  It only shows her that God is God and is real and not just made by her preferences. She loves the music at North Harbor. She likes that there are a lot of young families to relate to. She appreciates the intentionality about everything that gets put in place. Christian community is very important in Laurie’s life. A lot of her closest friends are from her church community.  She knows that any struggle she has, she has people to go to that have similar world views and will pray for her and point her to Jesus.

Watch Laurie's full story below:

Laurie lives in Brunswick with her husband, John, and their two boys.  She is the Elementary (and preschool) Specialist for the Kids’ Cove Ministry at North Harbor Community Church.

I wonder...am I willing to admit to and/or sit with parts of God that I may not like?
I wonder... where does my faith have space for differences in theology?  Where does it not?
I wonder...what does our current world situation have to do with how I view God?  How does my faith in God impact how I view or act towards our current world situation?
I wonder...how do I contribute to making North Harbor a safe place for Christians and non-Christians alike to explore issues of faith?

Humans of North Harbor #6: Paul Elisha

[For an introduction to Humans of North Harbor, click here]

The Blessing In The Curse

Paul grew up in the United Church of Christ with both parents as pastors of separate churches. At twelve he started questioning what he really believed and he decided he was atheist. Between twelve and seventeen wavered between atheist and agnostic, but didn’t talk about it much and kept going to church for the sake of his parents.  At seventeen a romantic relationship ended and he was heartbroken. At the same time he had a friend who was continuously sharing the gospel with him. One night as he listened to his friend, Jesus opened his heart and filled him with His spirit and that night he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

His most encouraging encounter with God was in 2007 during a particularly hard time.  He was physically attacked by a person who was close to him. He survived it, but it was very traumatic.  From that point on he carried PTSD, depression, anger, and fear. He became very paranoid, believing everyone wanted to kill him, that there was something wrong with him, and that even God hated him.  One night he had a dream where he was in a desert in a shack by himself and in the dream he felt like “this is where I belong”. Then all of the sudden John the Baptist appeared and then came Jesus, and he fell on his knees.  In that moment in his dream he became so aware of his brokenness and shame and sins. Then he felt a river of God’s love and grace and mercy flush all of the darkness out of him. It was an everlasting pouring of His love for Paul.  When he woke up he didn’t think much of the dream and assumed he would forget about it. But that dream has come back to him at times when he needs it to remind him of how much God loves him. At the time he was easily giving into his dark thoughts, but God would bring this dream up and take away those feelings.  Paul now knows that, “He is a God of love, a God of reaching out and a God of looking for his lost sheep until he finds it…. Before, I felt like everyone hated me and wanted me dead, and I put that on God, but he kept pursuing me with that dream saying ‘that’s not me’.”

In 2012, Paul developed a very rare condition called hyperacusis.  His hearing became very sensitive and normal sounds became very loud and caused a lot of pain.  It took about two years to get a diagnosis because it was so rare. During that time it was really hard, he felt like he was going crazy and they were questioning his mental health.  Normal things were really hard and he couldn’t do so many of the things he had done before including playing music, leading worship, going to church, hanging out with friends, spending time with his nieces and nephews, going on dates with his wife, Elsbeth.  Going to work was a challenge. It was depressing, and hard and he was asking why God would allow this to happen. During this time he ended up with a lot of free time because there were so many things he could no longer do. During that free time he pursued an interest he had always had in science, and while taking classes became interested in genetics.  A science professor asked him, “What do you want to do with a genetics degree? What are you passionate about?” All he could think was, “I’m passionate about Jesus.” He didn’t find a science niche, but wanted to share Jesus with people. He felt God pulling him away from his science interest, and saying, ‘why don’t you use this free time to seek me’. He dropped out of his courses, and started spending time pursuing God in prayer, in rest and in creation.  “I felt all the same feelings I felt when I was saved on my friend’s porch. I kept thinking about the verse in Revelation about abandoning your first love, and I felt like God was showing me, ‘I was your first love’.... I felt God saying, ‘Everything has been stripped out of your life, but I’m still here. I’ve always been here.’ It has caused me to praise Him for my hyperacusis, because through it He has brought my stubborn heart to this place where I have been able to let go of my life, let go of my agenda, let go of my plans, let go of what I want and instead only want Him.  It’s been really good.” His hyperacusis often feels like a curse, but he can now see God’s blessing in it too.

His condition makes being around people difficult.  It makes being in community a challenge. Over the past couple of years he’s been trying to venture out and share with people about his hyperacusis.  What he likes about community is being with brothers and sisters in Christ where he can confess his sins and process with one another. When he can get with one or two people quietly and share where he’s at and they can pray together and encourage each other he find so much support in that.  He finds that when he shares his sin with others it become so much less powerful.

Paul goes to North Harbor, but you may not see him on Sunday morning.  When he began getting hyperacusis he stopped going to his previous church because it was too painful and he became very depressed.  His wife Elsbeth started attending North Harbor and it seemed to be a place he would like, but he just couldn’t stand the pain. Pastor Dan tried to find ways for Paul to be a part of the church.  He tried to attend a Bible study, but even that was too loud. Finally they realized there was a sound booth at the back of the Orion, and he has been able to listen to the service from within there without pain.  He has joined the prayer team who sit in the back of the auditorium, and you can find him praying us through our service from the sound booth many Sundays. He’s been making gradual relationships at North Harbor. He feels he has a community where he can expose himself and let the light of Christ from others shine on him.  He may not be in the middle of our community gatherings, but he welcomes community with anyone who wants to come whisper with him in the sound booth. He would love to pray with and for you!

Watch Paul's full story below:

Paul lives in Topsham with his wife Elsbeth.  He works at the Merrymeeting Adult Education Center as an Academic Counselor.  You can read more of his story on his blog: www.achangedidentity.wordpress.com/

I wonder...what curse has God turned into a blessing for me?
I wonder...in what ways has God led me to focus more on just Him and let go of other things?
I wonder...how do I engage in community with others in less traditional ways?  How could thinking about community differently help myself and others be more fully connected?

Written by Elaine DeFreitas

Do you love learning more about your sisters and brothers at North Harbor?

  • CLICK HERE to read our first story. 
  • Contact Elaine [elainedefreitas3 {at} gmail.com] or Zoë [zoefaithreyes {at} gmail.com] if you would like to share your story with with our community so they can be blessed as you just have! 

Humans of North Harbor #5: Ruth and Logan Perry

[For an introduction to Humans of North Harbor, click here]

Awashed in Grace

Ruth grew up in a conservative evangelical family.  Her dad was a pastor, a missionary, and she was home-schooled.  Her whole life revolved around the church. Logan grew up Pentecostal.  Spirituality was tightly intertwined with life on the farm that he grew up on.  He says he carries a determination to have a heart ready for God that he learned from this faith background.

Ruth had an experience with God where she felt Him calling her to co-pastor a church with her husband, Logan.  That was over seven years ago. She learned over years of waiting that just because God gives you a vision it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen tomorrow.  She learned to pursue the training that she would need for this calling, and persevere through times when she didn’t see this vision clearly happening or hear from God.  Through this time of waiting and preparing God was readying her for their current place as they recently left North Harbor for Logan to pastor a church in Virginia.  Ruth finishes her course work to become a pastor this spring.

She also has learned about grace and what it is like to experience God’s grace.  She has had to re-learn from her childhood that there are not strings attached to her faith, and she does not have to act a certain way for God to love her.  “I always knew that God is love and I loved God and that was the center of my Christian faith all along, but I was 32 years old before I felt awashed in God’s grace and love and re-centered my identity as a child of God who is beloved by God.”

Ruth appreciates Christian community because it meets our human need to belong.  "We have a tribe and don’t have to pretend, but can be accepted wherever we are." Logan enjoys the balance at North Harbor of sound truth but also open and honest hearts.  He likes that we agree on essential issues, but are open to dialogue on the nonessentials and can discuss them lovingly.

We miss seeing these faces every week!  Watch them and their story below.

Ruth and Logan Perry lived in Boothbay and attended North Harbor with their three kids.   Last fall they moved to Virginia to pastor a church. We continue to pray for their transition and ministry there.

I wonder...what are the truths that have been brought forward into my adult faith from my upbringing?  What things were unhelpful in my faith background that I have had to re-learn as an adult?
I wonder...have I experienced being awashed in God’s grace and love?  What is it like?
I wonder...do I feel that I am fully accepted in my Christian community at North Harbor?  If yes, how can I help others feel belonging in our community? If not, what would need to change and/or what can I do to help this change?

Written by Elaine DeFreitas

Do you love learning more about your sisters and brothers at North Harbor?

  • CLICK HERE to read our first story. 
  • Contact Elaine [elainedefreitas3 {at} gmail.com] or Zoë [zoefaithreyes {at} gmail.com] if you would like to share your story with with our community so they can be blessed as you just have! 

Humans of North Harbor #4: Tai Choo

[For an introduction to Humans of North Harbor, click here]

In The Hands Of God

Tai grew up in a confusing spiritual space.  His parents were both addicts and separated when he was two.  He spent a lot of time with grandparents and split between the two sides of his family.  His mom’s dad, his grandfather, never talked about God. His mom’s mom, his grandmother, was pentecostal and he went to church with her when he was there.  His grandparents on his dad’s side were Christian and in that home he experienced prayer and talk of God and Jesus. His dad was with a woman for a while who was Jehovah’s Witness, and he attended her church for some time.

In 1990, his mom joined Alcoholics Annonymous and became sober.  He spent a summer with his mom that year and witnessed her pray and meditate.  She found spirituality in AA, but never attended church. Shortly after this his dad also became sober for a time.  When he was twelve years old, he spent a weekend with both parents while they were sober and clean and happy for the first time in his life.  During that weekend, they went to an airshow. His mom decided to go hang gliding and was involved in an accident and died instantly. During this very difficult time he pushed away from God wondering why He would allow this.  At 12 years old he began using drugs, drinking, sex and pushing God out anyway he could.

A year into his mom’s sobriety she had told him that she was going to leave him soon, but it would be ok.  He would be alright. At the time he didn’t understand what she was talking about. After she died, it took him a long time to see that this was true.  His dad remarried the woman who brought them to Jehovah’s Witness. Through that relationship his dad began drinking again, there was sexual abuse, and sexual scandal.  Things were very difficult for a long time. But today, he can see that he is taken care of. God’s grace is abundant.

On October 9, 2013 Jess was pregnant with their first son.  Tai had been drinking all day and was in a rage. It was the day of the appointment when they could find out the sex of the baby.  Jess wanted him to come, but he refused and didn’t care about the baby or her or anything other than getting his next drink. While she was gone at the appointment, he went out on the deck and said, “God, please help me!”  His obsession to drink was gone that day. He didn’t drink the rest of the day. He detoxed the next day. Then, went back to Alcoholics Annonymous (this was not the first time he had tried to get sober). He is still sober to this day.  Nothing brilliant happened in that moment, but the obsession was just gone. God had answered him.

"He was in a dark shell of shame, and when he let in a crack of light it just became brighter and brighter."

He says he was in a dark shell of shame, and when he let in a crack of light it just became brighter and brighter.  It was such a beautiful experience for him. His senses became alive. He could taste and hear and smell things like never before.  He had tried to stop drinking before, but always failed. He knows that God is the one that allowed him to break the addiction. His hope grew the longer he stayed sober.  He met people at AA, neighbors he never knew, and realized he wasn’t alone. God gave him power to stop drinking, but also surrounded him with people who could support him. His sponsor in AA told him, “Tai, I understand what you’re going through.  I know where you’ve been and where you’re about to go. My job is not to tell you who to date or what meeting to go to. My job is one thing and one thing only. My job is to get you to God. And I’m going to get you there because that is who is going to help you recover.  I’m going to put your hand in the hand of God and then step aside.” Tai credits this amazing man for saving his life. Four and a half years later, his relationship with God continues to grow.

Tai sees alcoholism as a mind, body, and spirit experience and a lot of the problem is a spiritual malady.  He described himself as spiritually bankrupt and trying to fill it and getting to a point where there was nowhere else to go but to God.  There is still something inside of him that wants to turn away from God. He tends to want to isolate himself from church and Christian community, but He knows the truth that “God is everything or He is nothing.”

"God is everything or he is nothing."

Even in sobriety, he admits to making some really bad choices.  There was a time when he had pushed God away again. He was doing all the things he should be doing in AA, but wasn’t attending church or in community.  He was participating in some sinful behavior and was trying to push God out, but God wouldn’t let him. He had to face the things that he knew were not of God. The act confessing both to another person and to God, allowed him to get back on the path toward God instead of going further back down the road of self-destruction.  Through the healing process his relationships became stronger, a new career path opened up, and God created something beautiful.

Tai describes Christian community as a set of principles that he wants to live by.  He feels like a little kid learning about God, and he wants to learn more. He wants to raise his kids in this community.  As much as he fights community sometimes, deep down he wants Christian community to be their family’s focus. He loves that he can come to North Harbor and look around and see diversity and different people all trying to get to one place; closer to God.  He is learning to trust people and enter into community. Being a part of this project is a step of trust in letting us know who he is.

We appreciate his trust in us!  See Tai’s full story in the video below:

Tai lives in Brunswick with his fiance, Jess, and their two children.  They are getting married this summer. He owns a popular food truck in town.

I wonder...whose hand has helped put my hand in the hand of God? Have I participated in helping to put someone else’s hand in the hand of God?

I wonder...when and how have I experienced the healing power of confession?

I wonder...what are the patterns I experience and/or voices I hear that I know are not from God?  What is the truth God says about that particular struggle?

I wonder...what keeps me from entering more fully into Christian community?  What steps can I take to overcome those barriers?

Written by Elaine DeFreitas

Do you love learning more about your sisters and brothers at North Harbor?

  • CLICK HERE to read our first story. 
  • Contact Elaine [elainedefreitas3 {at} gmail.com] or Zoë [zoefaithreyes {at} gmail.com] if you would like to share your story with with our community so they can be blessed as you just have! 

HNH Shorts

Introducing, Humans of North Harbor [HNH] Shorts! For those who don't have 30 or 45 minutes to devote to watching full length interviews, we're breaking down our stories into more bite sized chunks. Here's the first Short, a clip about why Elaine had to re-do her interview, and how God is already at work through this project!!

Humans of North Harbor #3: Zoë Reyes

Zoe grew up a proud Texan surrounded by a large extended family of Christians.  She was part of a well-known family within her church and was often defined by this role.  In eighth grade she had some hard situations within her extended family that challenged her idea of faith and what it means to be Christian.  Her immediate family struggled through that experience together and at the same time had challenges within their church that required questioning the purpose and role of the church.  Her family ultimately decided to leave the church she had grown up in.  She describes this as a journey that led her to “pathological church leaving” that continued until she started attending North Harbor about 7 years ago.

Zoe bravely admits to currently encountering a challenge with God.  She recently heard a podcast that gave her some academic information that did not align with her understanding of scripture.  This was not the first time this had happened, but she felt as though this particular information was very central to her understanding of scripture and it really rattled her.  Her whole life was shaped around her faith in God and understanding of scripture and she felt as if it was being pulled out from under her.  Although she had conversations with her discipleship group, North Harbor staff and her husband, she still did not feel resolution over this matter and it was impacting her whole life view.  In a dark solitary moment, as she struggled with this issue she felt she heard God tell her, “Zoe are you going to let a little bit of news change all that we’ve gone through together? Change who we have been to each other?”  It reminded her that she has an academic understanding of who God is and what the Bible says, but then she also has a relationship with a living God that has been present since she was young.  For a while she was angry that the Bible might be wrong or a lie.  As she started focusing on her relationship with God and allowing Him to reveal His perspective she learned to separate His voice from what she has been taught as “Christian” or “Biblical”.  Regardless of anything else she knows,  “My relationship with God is real and I can’t deny that.”  She continues to struggle with the information that she is learning and how to reconcile that with her understanding of the Bible.  She is also learning about how God’s word is alive and active through scripture and outside of scripture.  It is a living active dynamic presence in all of the world, in nature and people and scripture.  His word has given her transformational comfort throughout her life and information can’t change that.  This challenge has revealed to her that she had to give up even something as good as the Bible to hold onto just God.

As she holds onto God, her understanding of her relationship with Him continues to grow.  In a recent therapy session, Zoe told her therapist that she felt God’s presence supporting her through this tough time and how God was strong when she was weak and that this was really comforting to her.  Her therapist challenged her on this because she felt Zoe needed to be strong herself to do the work ahead of them.  At first Zoe was offended thinking that “when she is weak, God is strong” and that her weakness was a good thing.  But as she reflected on it she sensed that God agreed with her therapist.  Although Zoe didn’t feel strong, she realized that God brought her to this place and this time because she is ready to do this hard work.  He had been strengthening her through relationships, through life circumstances, through where she is at within.  He had been equipping her for this moment and He had made her strong.  Instead of just stepping in and fixing things in his wealth of goodness, He had been and continues to step into her poverty and work through process.  Process that requires relationship.  God loves her enough to walk with her through this process and this mess and strengthen her.  He has put her in North Harbor where she can find Christian community that can tolerate mess for this process.  As she realized that God wanted to be in relationship with her and in her mess with her, she realized just how strong she really is with Him.

Zoe hasn’t always been a fan of Christian community.  She had been very critical of Christians and struggled with how messy the relationships can be.  She tried to live without the community of other Christians for quite a while, but God convicted her of needing to love His church in order to love Him.  She has been learning over the past decade how to live within Christian community and is now the community development director at North Harbor.  Although challenging for her, she finds great gains from being in community.  Christian community keeps her from being stagnant in her faith.  To see God at work in Christian community grows her view of God and keeps her aware that faith is not about her but about God.  Community keeps her growing, humble, out of complacency and spurs her on towards God through encouragement and challenge.

As mentioned earlier, Zoe has been a “pathological church leaver” most of her adult life always ready to move onto the next thing.  She struggles with wanting to embrace the diversity of the church and interact with people she might disagree with or otherwise not choose to do life with.  But she as she learns to embrace Christian community, she is also learning how to stay in one place and be strengthened by those whose faith may look different than hers.  She appreciates the intention that it takes to sign a partnership agreement every year at North Harbor and commit to this place and these people.  She describes North Harbor as a humble place where there is a culture of honesty in questioning and being messy.  It’s ok with be broken and unsure here.  She appreciates that she can say, “I am not perfect, I do not have it all together, I do not know it all.  I am tripping along the way, but I continue to journey.”  We continue to journey together as we mutually support each other along this path of faith.

Watch her video to hear her full story.

Zoe Reyes lives in Brunswick with her husband, Manny, and two children.  She is the Community Development Director at North Harbor.

I wonder...what role does Christian community play in my relationship with God?

I wonder...what role does scripture play in my relationship with God?

I wonder...what is the significance of God wanting a relationship with me?

I wonder...do I appreciate or can I see times when God has worked through process instead of just giving me what I want or think I need?

I wonder...where do I recognize patterns that were instilled early in my faith (i.e. pathological church leaving, denouncing Christian community) that I can now see God’s redeeming work in?

Humans of North Harbor #2: Elaine DeFreitas

[For an introduction to Humans of North Harbor, click here]

Walking with God

Elaine grew up in a Christian home in Vermont.  She was a part of a large Christian and Missionary Alliance Church which was unusual in New England.  However, at school, in her community and even among her friends there was a clear message that did not support Christianity.  Education and intelligence were highly valued, and the assumption was that if you were smart you would be smart enough to know that God doesn’t exist or at least wasn’t necessary when you had science.  This dichotomous message of faith in God at home and in church, but then also being educated and science oriented and close with many people who weren’t Christians, forced her to own her faith and find a way to reconcile the two.

Her faith in God and her interest in science followed her into graduate school where she explains meeting Jesus for the first time.  She had very high expectations of herself, a self-described perfectionist, and projected those feelings onto God.  Even though she knew Jesus loves us no matter what, she felt as if God expected perfection from her and was disappointed by anything less.  This led to a cycle of fear and anxiety over failure, then shame for feeling anxious (operating on an assumption that Christians are always peaceful and joyful), then more anxiety of having feelings that she thought were disappointing to God.  

She eventually sought the help of a counselor who helped her anxiety by starting with her view of God.  She expanded her view of God by introducing her to a wider scope of Christian thinking, authors like Rob Bell and Anne Lamont.  Then, her therapist helped her separate true guilt over sin from self-imposed shame.  When the fear and anxiety seemed too much, she was encouraged to take it to Jesus, and let him handle it.  This was a terrifying thought at first.  

She knew Jesus loved her and was all-powerful, but didn’t truly believe he would want to be in her mess with her.  

But one evening she sat down in her apartment and cried out to Jesus with all of her fears, anxiety, pain, and shame.  And He showed up.  He was nothing like she expected. He was non-judgemental and protective and loving.  That day, she says, her anxieties lost their power over her because she now knew He was more powerful.  He was not at all disappointed in her, but loved her and wanted her to come to him with her mess; not rely on herself to be fixed up in order to be in His presence.  Her confidence is now in Jesus and not in her own ability to attain perfection.

A few years later she got engaged, graduated with her doctorate, moved to Maine, got her professional licence, started a job, got a dog, bought a house, and got married all within a year.  The next year they had their first child.  It was all she ever wanted, but a lot of stressful life changes all at once were also very difficult.  She struggled with feeling unhappy, and shameful for feeling unhappy with so many good things, and as if her happiness didn’t really matter in God’s grand plan anyway.  She spent a lot of time talking to God and to other people and felt a sense that she was supposed to walk with God through it with honesty about how she was feeling.  She wanted to stay home with her baby, but financially this was not possible.  At the same time, her husband was gaining passion in construction and alternative and energy efficient building, which he could not pursue in their current situation.  They also wanted to be able to give and be more generous with their money.  

All of this led them to decide to sell their house.  She describes having difficulty letting go of her well-laid life plans, of feeling as if changing paths was somehow a failure, but trusting God and walking with Him through this choice.  They ended up moving into a smaller house which allowed her to be home with her kids, allowed more generosity in how they spent their money and gave them room to pursue interests and passions.  God taught her a lot through this move about letting go of the pride and self-worth she put in her career and her ability to be self-reliant.  She learned about having faith enough in God to listen to her own heart and about His ability to provide and care for her.  Years later, she is continuing to learn lessons from this experience about how it’s not about the decisions she makes, but about her heart turning more toward God through them.

Elaine has been coming to North Harbor since she moved to Maine in 2010.  North Harbor has been instrumental in the formation of their family from Dan giving them premarital counseling, her husband becoming a Christian at North Harbor, and now raising a family in this community.   She loves that she is constantly challenged in this community to expand her view of God.

Watch the video below to hear her full story.

 

Elaine lives in Bowdoinham with her husband, Paul, and their two children.  She is a mostly-at-home mom and a part-time pediatric physical therapist.  She is a member of our Board of Directors at North Harbor.

I wonder...do I allow myself to be honest and vulnerable with God?  What do I believe His reaction is or would be when I am?
 
I wonder...who in my life am I able to be honest about struggles with?  What benefit does this provide?  What role does God play in these relationships?  What role do these relationships play in my view of God?
 
I wonder...do I believe that how I feel or what I want matters to God?  How does this impact my relationship with God?
 
I wonder...how does Elaine’s story confirm/change/add to my view and feelings towards God?

 

Do you love learning more about your sisters and brothers at North Harbor?

  • CLICK HERE to read our first story. 
  • Contact Elaine or Zoë [zoefaithreyes {at} gmail.com] if you would like to share your story with with our community so they can be blessed as you just have! 

Humans of North Harbor: Story #1

Humans of North Harbor - Julie Plummer

[For an introduction the Humans of North Harbor Project, please start with this post HERE. Thanks!]

 

I Surrender

Julie was raised in North Harbor.  She was one of the first kids to grow up in our young church and go through the Kids’ Cove program.  She has such gratitude towards those in our church who taught her and showed her what it looked like to know and love God, not the least of which her own devoted mother, Kim Plummer, who was instrumental in the formation of her faith.  She became a Christian at a young age and never doubted her faith.  She describes her child faith as believing a story, but her faith has become so much more real to her after experiencing struggles in her life.

In high school she was very involved in sports, made good grades and had good friends.  But then, her sophomore year she sustained a serious concussion.  Healing through that was really hard, and she felt like her life had been taken away from her.  She pushed to get her life back, then she sustained another concussion the next year.  It was devastating.  As she lay in the dark of her house trying to heal her body, God was in the process of healing her whole self.  She felt like everything she had had been taken away from her.  Her sports, her friends, her academics all felt lost in the pain and the darkness.  She finally cried out to God as she gave up, feeling like she just couldn’t do it all anymore.  And she heard what God needed the quiet to say to her, “Julie, don’t you get it, you don’t need to be strong enough.  I am made strong where you are weak.”  In the hard, dark, quiet place she learned that she is not giving up when she surrenders, she is surrendering to the God who made her weak because he is strong.  She feels that there was purpose in these concussions and that “Everything was taken away to show me that He is the only thing I need.”  In her surrender to God, she found her strength in Him.  

She slowly healed from her concussions and regained her life with her friends and academics and sports, but with her worth no longer found in those things and in God instead.  She finds that these things of her life now hold a greater purpose when she is no longer defined by them, but doing them for God.  Where she would once have described herself as quiet and shy, she has now found a confidence rooted in God’s view of her and is able to speak up about her faith and be love to those around her.  She is able to form deeper, more meaningful relationships.  During her senior year of high school she was a small group leader to our fourth and fifth grade girls in Kids’ Cove and passed on her love and experiences with God just as had been done for her.  She is now in her freshman year of college and has participated in mission trips through Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.  She has had very exciting experiences helping to lead friends to Christ.  She doesn’t believe any of this would have been possible if she had not had learned to surrender herself to God and found her worth in him.  North Harbor will always be a special place to Julie as it is where so much of her spiritual journey was formed.  She hopes that North Harbor can celebrate her journey with God along with so many others, and encourages us all to show God’s love and mercy to others.


Julie grew up in Richmond and has an older sister Jamie.  She is a freshman at The University of New England studying neuroscience. 

Here is her story: 

I wonder … what is the difference between giving up and surrendering to God?


I wonder … where is my worth and confidence found right now?  Does it allow for expression of my faith to others?


I wonder … how am I helping to lead and grow the youth in our church?


I wonder … how does Julie’s story confirm/change/add to my view and feelings towards God?

Written by: Elaine DeFreitas

 

 

Introducing: Humans of North Harbor

North Harbor Community Church is made up of amazing, broken, beautiful, and unique individuals.  Each of us has a compelling story to share.  The stories behind each person of this church make us who we are as the body of Christ.  The purpose of this project is to allow us to truly see the individuals who make up our church and hear about the life-changing work God is up to among us.  Our stories have been woven together in this church and each story allows us, together, to claim and celebrate the redeeming work of Christ.  When we know who it is that we worship and serve with we can celebrate our differences, commune on common ground, and be inspired by God’s love displayed to His people.  We are the Church.  We are North Harbor.

We are interviewing people in North Harbor to find out their stories, to give faces to who North Harbor really is.  The idea of this project came about last year when Dan was getting ready to go on his sabbatical and the leaders of the church were stressing how Dan is not the church and we can all use our gifts during his time away to make this church what it is.  We started thinking about if we are the church, then who are these people who make us who we are?  So that is where this project began, as a “get to know you” community building project, but as we’ve been interviewing people we’ve been experiencing so much more than we could have imagined because there is so much honesty in these stories and so much beauty and mess among us and so much restoration happening in and through it.  

If you’ve been to North Harbor long you know we talk a lot about Genesis, and this project is unintentionally going to follow that same path.  The fall was not just a separation of self and God, but of relationship with God, other people, self, and creation.  And Jesus is redeeming all aspects of relationship.  And I am learning that having the courage to be vulnerable with each other and to share stories is joining in God’s redemptive work of restoration through relationship.  

Because your story helps others experience restoration with God.  It allows us to see God differently than we might on our own.  Our collective stories show over and over and over again the power of a living God and inspires worship.  

 

Your story brings restoration to our person to person relationship because it makes us feel less alone in experiences that we have in common.  It allows us to see differences and celebrate them instead of allowing ignorance to divide us.  It helps us release shame around messy things in our lives that we might be tempted to keep hidden.  It deepens community which God created us for.  

 

Sharing our story brings restoration to our relationship with ourselves.  It helps us process our own experiences differently and changes our personal experience when we say it out loud to another person.

 

Through these stories we are also seeing restoration in our connection with the Earth.  People are experiencing their world differently once having an experience with God.  There are stories of senses being heightened, of environmentalism being awoken, of being able to interact with creation more deeply.

 

Sharing our stories is proclaiming God’s redemptive work.  And the story that was once my story or your story is now our story as it is God’s big story of redemption.

 

Our hope for this project is that you not just read the stories as they are posted on the blog, but that you interact with them and with God through them.  We have added some questions along with the stories to help you start to wonder what God might be sharing through this particular story.  We invite you to sit with God and the story.  How does this story make you feel?  Does it give you a different impression of God?  Does it allow you to say “me to”?  Or does it allow you to feel more compassion towards someone?  Listen to God as you hear these stories, and then pray, meditate on them, worship God through the story.  And then act on it.  Don’t be afraid to talk to the person who shared.  They just laid you some pretty intimate details of their lives in some cases, and they haven’t done it to get your praise, but a “thank you”, or a “me too”, or a “tell me more”, might go a long way.  And then consider sharing back.  Be courageous.  Whether it be with the person whose story it was that inspired you, or talk to someone else in your life about who you really are, or be a part of our project.  We would love to see all of North Harbor involved.  These stories are a celebration of God’s work, His messy unfinished work, and it’s not always easy to be the one sharing, but I have already been blessed by the courage of those who have shared, and I hope you will be as well as we role these out.  If you want to be involved or have any questions you can talk to Elaine DeFreitas or Zoe Reyes, and be on the lookout on the website and facebook.

Update: The first story is live! Check it out at the blog post HERE!

To watch Elaine introduce the project and share the trailer, check out THIS VIDEO.

Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ‘ordinary courage.’
— Brene Brown

NEW GROUP COMING UP! Financial Stewardship

Coming soon, in January, we will be launching our second round of our Financial Stewardship Class. This was a great experience for those of us who participated in 2017 and we're excited to see the fruit it can bring to new participants in 2018. Please contact Zoe Reyes or Ray Whitney if you are interested in joining this 6 week class.

 

  • *UPCOMING* Financial Stewardship Class
    • Leaders: Ray and Hannah Whitney [email: ray.whitney127 {at} gmail.com]
    • When: Thursday evenings, 7:30pm, January 11-February 15,
    • Where: Whitney Household
    • Plan: Learn from our Pastor and a Financial Management professional about how to serve God rather than money with your resources

North Harbor Bookstore! Christmas Shopping for the Triple Win!

Looking for some good books to gift at Christmas? 

Check out our brand new North Harbor online bookstore through Amazon! Books on this site are recommended by leaders at North Harbor. Get your shopping done and benefit North Harbor at the same time! 

Double-benefit North Harbor by shopping through Amazon Smile, designating North Harbor as your nonprofit beneficiary. 

https://smile.amazon.com/shop/northharborcommunity

Please share this opportunity with your North Harbor friends and others looking for some good spirit-provoking literature!

You get great books, and North Harbor benefits twice over - Christmas Shopping for the Triple Win!

Sermon Prep: Two Lives to Live

This week Pastor John Andrade will be preaching on Philippians 3:17-21.

First off, pray to God for His light to see and understand what He would have your heart and mind come to know. 

Secondly, spend some time reading and meditating on the passage. 

What strikes you? 

What challenges you?

What encourages you?

What peeks your curiosity?

What motivates you towards transformation? 

Re-Read verse 21. Now read Genesis 1:28. What type of power do you see in common between these two verses? What does this say to you about fully living out our humanity here and now as God intended, and as is instructed in both these passages? 

 

Lastly, return to God in prayer. How has God spoken to your heart through this time and His word? Who in your life lives their life like an example worthy of being followed? How does your own way of walking through life need to be filled with the power of Christ to better fulfill His commands and desires for you? 

Close in prayer that God would help draw you closer to Him, His Way, and His love.  

 

Other passages for further reflection:

Matthew 6:19-21

1st John 3:1-3

John 14:1-3

Revelation 21:1-4

Revelation 22:1-5

Eastertide Parties!

Let's Celebrate the Risen Christ!!

We have an amazing time at our Eastertide parties, celebrating this beautiful season together. Please join us! It's also a great opportunity to get to know each other better.  

Please bring your own lunch and blanket or chair.  

(In case of foul weather, we will move our party to a house. We'll announce this change at church and also will post an update in the comments here. This picture is pinned to the top of the page through Eastertide so you can find it fast.)

SELF-CONTROL (3): Sermon Prep Guide

READ Matthew 12:43-45

What strikes you? What challenges you? What encourages you? 

How do you see these verses as being related to self-control? 

If, as Dan's been preaching, self-control is more about relying on God's strength rather than exerting our own will-power, how does this parable support this message? 

APPLY YOURSELF TO THIS MESSAGE

In the last sentence of these verses, Jesus points the parable directly at the generation before Him, one that is hearing His teachings but not choosing to enter into His Kingdom. In what areas of Jesus' teaching through His scriptures, through the teaching of the church, or through the Spirit's message to your own heart is a lesson being preached that you are not letting in to your "house"?

Are there areas of your life where you have obediently repented of sin, cleansed your life of sinful habits, but not replaced those behaviors with positive full life of the Spirit of God? Put another way, in emptying your life of the bad, where might you be also closing off the power of the Spirit to flow in and through you to re-fill your emptiness with the Spirit's goodness?  

CLOSE BY READING OVER PSALM 23

What does God desire to fill your house with? 

SELF-CONTROL (2): Sermon Prep Guide

READ Isaiah 55:1-3

What strikes you? What challenges you? What encourages you? 

When one hears "self-control" our first instinct might be to think about self-denial, refraining from that which is enjoyable. How is that NOT the picture in these verses? 

When you experience pain, especially emotional, what is your very first-instant instinct? If you're like me, you grasp at what you can to escape the pain, distract yourself from it. Many of my own struggles with self-control stem from moments like this - shove a chocolate in my mouth, get lost in a Facebook rabbit hole, bark at someone in anger - all to distract or defend myself from the pain. But none of these go-to's are about my true desires. What do these verses say about our true desires and needs and what God desires to do with them? How might this shift our perspective about a God who desires us to live with self-control? 

What guides those obedient to these verses in how they "delight in rich food?" What does this tell us about the growing of the fruit of self-control in our lives?

SELF-CONTROL (1): SERMON PREP GUIDE

Where do you see healthy self-control exhibited around you? What effect does that have on you, others? What effect does lack of self-control have? 

READ Ecclesiastes 3.1-14

How does this passage support a picture where self-control has an important role to play? 

How does this passage paint a picture that contrasts ways of life like asceticism (severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons)? 

How does this passage support living in a rhythm of sabbaths and sabbaticals? 

READ John 5.16-24

If anyone should be free to be self-directed, shouldn't it have been Jesus? How does this passage illustrate something different? 

What rubric or authority should determine how we behave?

How do we lean into a life that exudes self-control? 

 

Sabbatical Q & A 

This past Sunday, we hosted a panel discussion to learn more about the theology and experience of Sabbatical. You can hear that dialogue under the top menu "What to Expect" and then selecting "Recent Sermons" and choosing the panel dated 2.26.17. Following the panel we held a Question and Answer session in case anyone wanted to follow up with the panel participants and learn more about Sabbatical. The Q&A Session is transcribed below:

2.26.17

Question: How important do you think it is for Dan to connect with other pastors, peers, or others who have walked in his shoes during his Sabbatical? 

Brent: I think it’s very important. I think its important for him to hear the feelings people have as they go, and especially to hear about the feelings that have come up as people re-enter. He should talk to several people who have experienced it.

Manny/Will: yeah, it’s easier for me as peers are built in. It’s healthy to connect with them.

Question: What about a spiritual advisor? How does that process work, to find the right person?

Will: I had a spiritual director I met with every month, and 3 times in 6 months, I met with a supervisor. Both were really helpful. It was part of the pre-planning. 

Brent: That’s part of my role. To make sure as Dan goes, we’re walking through what his plan is, how he can find the best fulfillment through that. I think it is important not to legislate what you want him to do, but to allow him to do what God is calling him to do. Some guys really find rest in deeper study, something specific that is going to benefit the church that is part of their work, but is a whole different feeling. I think as a leadership team, you know clearly what he’s doing, but also meet with him when he gets back to hear what God has taught him before he shares back with the whole congregation. 

Manny: certainly in academia, that’s the standard, a written plan and a follow up story.

Amy: What I love in your story is that it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be. We can lay out any plan we want in the world, but we need to hold it with an open hand. It may look very different from what he even thinks once he gets into it. God might have something very different in store for him than Dan knows even now. It might be hard for him to even see what God might have in store for the time because he’s still mired in the daily tasks.

Brent: Is Lisa still going to work? 

Board: Yes. Setting those boundaries will be tricky.

Question: I thought y’all did a fine job up there. Brent, you’ve been through this before, did people leave the church?

Brent: Not in my situation. There are times people don’t like anything the church does and they’ll use any excuse to leave. But my church thrived while I was gone. My staff was young and chomping at the bit, excited to lead, and they did great while I was gone.

Will: My experience made room for my successor, because God changed my vocational direction during my sabbatical. Going into it, I would have freaked out about that, but God used that time to change my heart and raise him up. It was wonderful to watch. My current role is clearly what God wanted to use and if I had stayed in my old role longer, it would not have been as good. 

Question: Can you press more into your transition experience? A lot of us feel like North Harbor is on the verge of a significant promotion through the growth that has been taking place in depth and numbers of folks, NH is about to “level up” and this sabbatical may be an opportunity to facilitate that shift in the way God wants it to happen. 

Will: We often ask a pastor, “I wonder where the church is going to go next?” And with the pastor taken away, we have to ask, “I wonder where we’re going to go next and what’s my role in it?” And I think that’s a critical question we’re wrestling with now and don’t know how to deal with it. Dan is a strong leader even if he doesn’t look like it, and yet he’s tired and his vision is somewhat cloudy. So we’re all in that. So i think it could be significant to see what happens with this sabbatical time.

Question: I totally get the idea of trust, but from a financial perspective, in planning for the future, should we expect less giving? We can trust God, but how should we plan?

Brent: Theology: Pray for a good harvest, but keep on hoeing. You need to tell the congregation how important that is. Help us pray that God leads this church where it needs to go in Dan’s absence, serve and give in ways God leads in this time. We believe that God has lead us in these paths, but its only going to work if we do this together. Don’t isolate finances out of it - but emphasize that it is part of the whole Body Life.

Amy: My experience on the board is that you probably can’t plan for this one. Whatever most statistics suggest, it’s never the case at North Harbor. We go down when we should go up and up when we should go down. We’re a unique being. We’re going to step up into Jesus in ways we never have, so giving could go through the roof. Our history lets us know that God is still in control, it’s going to go the way its going to go. Our rhythms as a church are going to change as much as Dan’s will as a result of this Sabbatical. 

Zoe: I think people are chomping at the bit. I’ve seen the Spirit moving, people’s hearts enlarge and burst and they’re dying for an outlet for their love. 

Brent (praying to conclude): Father, I thank you so much for all that You are and all You’re doing at North Harbor. I thank you for the love for Jesus and the love for other people are the book ends of ministry here. I pray that you would increase both. I pray that the leaders and partners in ministry might experience the deep love of Jesus. As we love Him, we might love others and they might see Him through us. I trust you that for this church, for Dan and Lisa, for the concern that has lead to this day, and in Dan and Lisa’s absence, that they might sense Your love and presence right now. Amen.