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 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 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 #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 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?

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.)