Our community has been ordered to shelter at home and engage in social distancing. As a church, we have suspended all in-person gatherings until further notice. But, does that mean you have to miss out on real relationships? On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Karl Garcia and Jon Crump about how to have real community in a digital world.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/oleg-magni-E7FYfLSy9KM-unsplash-scaled.jpg13652048Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2020-03-30 05:30:082020-04-23 20:59:48031: How to Have Real Community in a Digital World
All of the sudden, our entire lives have been turned upside down. School is canceled. Travel is canceled. Parties, sports, concerts, lessons, church—all of the activities that fill our schedules have suddenly been put on hold. We finally have the time to rest, but upheaval and uncertainty have left us more tired, worried, and burdened than before. In the midst of unwanted change and overwhelming circumstances, followers of Jesus have a great need to rest—yet it can seem impossible to find.
Hurry is not just a disordered schedule; it’s a disordered heart.
– John Ortberg
We know we need rest, but we aren’t sure how to find it. What do you do for rest? Is it a glass of wine—or three? Is it a Netflix binge at night? A quick escape to Target? Are we even allowed to rest, as people who are supposed to be everything and do everything for work, family, and friends? What do we need in order to find rest in our lives and hearts? Our culture offers plenty of ideas, but let’s discover what God tells us about rest.
The foundation for biblical rest is established in the creation account. In Genesis 2, we find two different Hebrew words for rest:
“So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested [sabbat] from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:3)
The first word for rest, sabbat, literally means to stop, and the first depiction is God himself stopping in his task of creation. A little further into the story, we see another Hebrew word for rest, nuakh, which can be understood as to abide or rest in.
“The Lord God took the man and ‘rested him’ [nuakh] into the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15)
In Genesis 2, where we come to understand the purposes of creation, we already have a picture of what it means biblically to rest: to stop and to abide.
In Eden, there was rest as God intended. Adam and Eve were at rest with each other and the world, in their work and in the presence of God. But as we all know, this Sabbath rest did not last. Adam and Eve rejected the rest God had offered and chose instead to make their own way, to disastrous results. The remainder of the Bible is the story of God’s faithfulness to return us to the rest of Eden.
The biblical story comes to a climax as the Son of God enters into our restless world as the perfect embodiment of the Sabbath we were all intended to experience. The future and complete rest promised in the Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus is inviting us to come and live as his people—to learn from him and abide in him, and through it, to find rest. Through Christ and in Christ, our rest is complete.
Jesus allows us to stop (sabbat) in the midst of all the activities, expectations, and burdens this world places on us. Whether we are navigating education, working from home, or constantly checking the news for updates, Jesus calls us to stop and trust that he created and continues to control the world.
But we are called to more than the mere ceasing of activity.
Jesus is the presence of God himself in whom we abide (nuakh) to find rest. In Jesus, Sabbath is possible, not just as a day, but as a way of life. We can finally return to the rest that God intended for us in Eden, finding rest in Christ from the worries of this world.
When we wonder how to practically live at rest in the midst of our upturned lives, we can look to the life of Jesus.
His life was full, but never striving. He took time to rest with his Father. He got up early to be alone and to gather himself with God.
As embodied persons, we live in space and time and thus need space and time to experience rest. But at the end of the day, rest is found in relationship with a person: Jesus.
What this looks like for you is as unique as the person you are and the life you lead. It might mean putting your phone away to protect yourself from anxiety or comparison. It might be letting go of perfectly planned schedules. It might be less work than you think you should be accomplishing. It always means moving toward Jesus each day to quiet your fears and focus your heart.True rest is found in following Jesus—stopping what the world is calling you to and abiding in the presence of Christ.
One day, Jesus will return to makes all things new and we will experience perfect rest.
As we figure out new schedules and navigate the uncertainty of the future, may we each choose daily to stop and find life and rest in Jesus. Let’s learn to trust him with our time, our hearts, our entire lives, so we can find rest in the only one in whom it truly can be found.
You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/aaron-burden-2bg1jPty490-unsplash-scaled.jpg16682048Rachel Chesterhttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngRachel Chester2020-03-25 21:15:392020-05-18 16:32:24Rest for the Weary
The old excuse of not having much time to read doesn’t hold much water in these days of social distancing. So I asked some Clear Creek staff to give us one book about faith they’d recommend and maybe a sentence or two as to why.
Here are their responses (in alphabetical order):
Free to Believe: The Battle Over Religious Liberty in America by Luke Goodrich
Chris Alston, Pastor, West Campus
Free to Believe is an interesting take on religious freedom, how we have dealt with social issues in America, and how we as Christians can respond with conviction and grace.
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N.T. Wright
Yancey Arrington, Teaching Pastor
There are fewer Christian theologians and thinkers today as important as Tom Wright. I don’t agree with everything he says, but Simply Christian is absolutely pitch perfect for helping people see the big picture of the faith. If you are already one of the faithful in Christ, it will leave you encouraged and excited about being on mission for Jesus and his oh-so-good gospel!
Managing God’s Money by Randy Alcorn
Mark Carden, Executive Pastor
Especially in uncertain financial times, we need to remember what God says about the money he has entrusted to us. That money is NOT ours, it is HIS! Read, learn and obey.
The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
Kara Dawson, Students Assistant, Egret Bay Campus
This book is a great reminder of who we were before our relationship with Christ, why we must constantly point ourselves back to the beauty of the cross, and why we need Christian community to really know Jesus and become more like him.
Good News for Weary Women by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Rachel Fisher, Small Groups Assistant
Gospel on EVERY page. Best Christian book I’ve ever read.
A Praying Life by Paul Miller
Karl Garcia, Pastor, Clear Lake Campus
This is a great book that has guided and challenged me to pray differently for all of those in my life. It’s helped me see situations and how I pray about them from a new perspective.
God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts
Lance Lawson, Pastor, Church on Wednesday
Reading this book made me love my Bible more.
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
Ryan Lehtinen, Pastor, Egret Bay Campus
This small classic challenges you to follow that desire placed within every person by God – to know him and have a relationship with him. I read this book early in my faith and have continually come back to it over the years.
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World by John Mark Comer
Aaron Lutz, Pastor, East 96 Campus
and Tara Warner, Counselor
Aaron: John Mark Comer tackles the great enemy of the spiritual life: hurry. He argues it is the antithesis of love. In order to love God and love people, we must slow down. Love is, first, patient. In a world that runs a frenetic pace, and technology that only encourages it, Comer gives great wisdom and practical ways we can slow down, hear from God, and love our neighbors.
Tara: We can all relate. Comer writes, “There is more at stake [with technology] than our attention spans. Because what you give your attention to is the person you become. Put another way: the mind is the portal to the soul, and what you fill your mind with will shape the trajectory of your character. In the end, your life is no more than the sum of what you gave your attention to.”
Jesus the King by Timothy Keller
Nicole Morris, Children’s Associate, West Campus
This is a book our small group did a couple of years ago that really opened my eyes to the life of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and the power of it all. It’s such a sweet reminder that God is still in control and that he has a plan, in addition to the fact that Jesus is our ultimate King.
Old Testament Theology by Bruce Waltke
Greg Poore, Associate Pastor
This book will teach you about how the Bible communicates God’s revelation of himself to us. It will help you understand how the writers of the New Testament interpreted who Jesus was through the Old Testament Scriptures. It will also teach you a lot about how to read and understand the Bible in general. One of the most helpful books I’ve ever read.
You Can Pray by Tim Chester
Denise Ward, Office Manager
A fresh, gracious, challenging theologically sound book. It can revitalize your desire to pray.
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Susan Wesley, Pastoral Care Associate
This book formed my thoughts and beliefs about the church and how we live together more than anything I’ve ever read.
Broken Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad by Paul David Tripp
Kari Wilson, Go Global Associate
I liked this book because it kept the gospel central and constantly reminded you of who God is, who we are in him, and how to rest in those truths no matter our circumstances.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/sharon-mccutcheon-eMP4sYPJ9x0-unsplash-scaled.jpg13652048Yancey Arringtonhttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngYancey Arrington2020-03-20 21:30:452020-05-18 16:32:29Need a Good Book to Read? Here’s What We Recommend
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/6x9_BW_280_Loving-God-with-All-Your-Heart-scaled.jpg20481368Aaron Lutzhttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngAaron Lutz2020-03-16 20:42:482020-04-23 14:26:12Repent and Believe: Loving God with All Your Heart
Everyone remembers the cafeteria in high school, right?
Band table, football table, art table, and so on?
Maybe you don’t remember yours, but it goes something like the scene in Mean Girls when new girl, Cady, is informed she isn’t allowed to sit with the “popular” girls if she isn’t wearing pink on Wednesdays.
We all laugh, or maybe cringe, at these teenagers. Good thing we would never act that way now! Especially those of us who are followers of Jesus, right? But when I look at my life, I wonder if that’s really true. Do I share a table with anyone who isn’t basically like me? Do I really love others as my family in Christ or do I just tolerate them in the same space as I am?
In Galatians 2, Paul describes another cafeteria where the apostles struggled between rules that separated and created hierarchy and the freedom and love we are called to in Christ.
“But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.” (Galatians 2:11-13).
There were some specific theological questions going on in the new and growing church of Jesus. Were Gentile Christ-followers part of the community of God’s people? If they were, should they be circumcised and eat according to Jewish traditional and law?
These questions werereal and important, but Peter already knew the answers. God had already revealed clearly to the apostles (and specifically Peter) that the gospel was for all nations, and that salvation was through faith in Christ, not works of the law. In fact, Paul makes clear that the reason for Peter’s change in attitude toward the Gentiles wasn’t a theological conundrum.
He was worried about what others would think.
Peter accepted Gentiles into the church at Antioch, but then when some of his Jewish friends showed up, he treated the Gentiles as outsiders because he was concerned with maintaining his status with those whose opinions he really cared about.
How often do we do the same? We share the gospel with everyone, but when it comes to living our regular daily lives, we surround ourselves with those we are comfortable with – those who look and act and think like we do. Whether it’s race, politics, class, appearance, personality, or any other way we categorize each other, we too often gravitate exclusively to those who remind us of ourselves.
In response to actions and attitudes like the ones Peter displayed in Antioch, Paul reminds the church in Galatia that through faith in Jesus we are equal and unified.
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-29).
We are all broken people. We, like Peter, resort to hierarchy, cliques, and cultural rules that create division instead of reflecting the beautiful diversity of Jesus’ church.
Let us not just accept one another’s presence in the room, but instead, invite each other to the table, living together and loving each other as if we are truly clothed with and unified in Christ.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/aaron-burden-Q6UaYI20suw-unsplash-scaled.jpg15362048Rachel Chesterhttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngRachel Chester2020-03-11 10:00:232020-05-18 16:32:40Peter, Paul, and the Gentile Table
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/20643284_10155664701757884_5177792620792713816_o.jpg13652048Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2020-02-27 15:53:322020-04-23 21:12:14#ShowMeTheFaith
It’s so easy to cling to the glory days. Though this looks different for each of us, most people have a moment, an era, a season to look back on with nostalgia and longing.
Athletic victories remembered by a man whose back now hurts getting up from the couch. Firm teenage skin no longer taken for granted by a middle-aged woman staring into her mirror. Professional expertise and command gone by the wayside for a retiree feeling purposeless. The fun and freedom of the college years before the daily drudgery of #adulting began. Sleepy newborn snuggles cherished by the mom now parenting a rebellious teen.
Remembering our glory days can often cause us to miss the moment we’re in now and the good that can be found there. And if we’re not careful, this mindset can even bleed over into our relationship with God.
By the age of two, each of my children has been taught in our Children’s Ministry to recite Ephesians 2:8-9, which begins with the phrase, “For it is by grace you have been saved.” This verse encapsulates the heart of the gospel – we can’t do it on our own. We have no way to earn or deserve the salvation that we so desperately need. But if we only think of grace as something we have already experienced, we’re relying on our glory days all over again.
The completed work of Christ on the cross for our sins is a watershed event in human history, and every believer can look back to the time when they stepped from unbelief to belief, when their eyes were opened in faith to the goodness of the gospel. But it’s all too easy for Christians to camp out there, minimizing the extent of what Jesus accomplished on our behalf.
Christ’s death paid the penalty that our sins deserved, but the cross isn’t the end of the story. When Jesus rose again, he gives us new life in him. This life, moment by moment, is as much a gift of grace as his death. Because we live in him, grace sustains us in the present – and we can trust it to continue in the future as well.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
This passage begins by reminding us of the glory days of the gospel which, unlike our own experiences, can never be tainted by rose-colored glasses or forgetfulness. God acted mightily on our behalf, giving us new life through his love in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, making a way for us to live in intimate relationship with him. But Paul goes on to remind us of God’s future purpose.
There is an age to come. In one sense, it has already arrived – we are one with Christ. His life is in us, and our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). But in another sense, we are still waiting for future promises to be fulfilled, when sin’s presence will be removed completely from the world and all things will be made new. And these verses remind us that grace will be what carries us through. We haven’t plumbed the depths of graces by crossing the line of faith. God promises to show us “the immeasurable riches of his grace” in the days to come.
Just as we began our experience of grace by placing our faith in the work of his Son, so we continue in grace daily. May each of our lives be marked by these moment-by-moment decisions to place our faith in him, whether in difficulty or delight. For our glory days are still to come.
Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
– John Newton
Mandy Turner teaches Women’s Systematic Theology at Clear Creek Community Church. She attends the Clear Lake Campus with her husband Josh and their five children.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/kylo-UNBBdOaltEk-unsplash-scaled.jpg13652048Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2020-02-27 05:30:422020-05-21 16:52:21Glory Days
As a child Rick Scheuring had dreams of becoming a doctor, but he also had a love of space. He could have never imagined being able to combine those two passions into one profession as he does today. Currently he is NASA’s Lead Flight Surgeon for astronaut Drew Morgan (also a member of Clear Creek Community Church). Rick and Michelle have been married for 26 years and have five children. In this interview, Ryan Lehtinen sits down with Rick to talk about how his career in the sciences has grown his faith in Jesus and love for the Bible, and how his work gives him opportunities to share the good news of the gospel with those around him.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/nasa-CpHNKNRwXps-unsplash-scaled.jpg13632048Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2020-02-24 05:30:502020-04-23 21:01:20026: Following Christ as a NASA Flight Surgeon – An Interview with Rick Scheuring
Personality tests have been around for decades, but suddenly you can’t quite turn around in the evangelical world without finding books, podcasts, or conversations oriented to self-discovery.
What is my type? Who am I? What is my unique purpose in this life?
Before you roll your eyes or start arguing, let me be clear: you might not find anyone more enthusiastic about personality tests, spiritual gift discovery, and helping people to lean into God’s purpose for their lives than I am. I love all of it and I think it is God-honoring and kingdom-enhancing. In fact, for someone who thought I was an Enneagram 7 and discovered I am actually an Enneagram 8 (those are, ahem, different), these tools have been enormously helpful for both confessing my sin and discovering my inherent gifts from God. I believe these guides can be indispensable for Christians as they seek to discern their stories, gifting, and place in the church. God created each of us uniquely in our mothers’ wombs; he gives us individual spiritual gifts when we become his children; he planned specific good works for us before the world was created!
We should do all we can to discover and steward these gifts from God.
These self-discovery tools are not bad things—they are good things. But good things turn into bad things when we put too much stock, effort, and time into them. When we turn them into idols or use them to make ourselves the center of the universe. “Not me!,” we all protest. But take a quick inventory: how much do you know about the numbers of the enneagram or Myers-Briggs types other than your own?
Empathy for others? Um, maybe a little.
We live in a self-centered culture and we are all are fallen people with the inherent tendency to make everything about ourselves. We so often take all the great gifts God has given us and use them only for the enjoyment, advancement, and fulfillment of ourselves.
If this is my personality and these are my gifts, here is what I need to find my fulfillment in my career, my family, or even in my church.
We constantly reenact the first sin of the Fall, making ourselves into gods, wanting to make our own choices and decide what is good and bad for our lives.
But in Philippians 2, Paul reminds us to “look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
So, what does this attitude look like? Is it self-actualization? Is it finding acknowledgement and appreciation for what we bring to the table?
To emulate the attitude of Jesus is to make ourselves nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, humbling ourselves and being obedient even unto death.
Here’s the thing, following Jesus is first and foremost about dying.
In order to truly find ourselves, we have to die to ourselves. Truly finding who God created us to be can only happen by following Jesus to places that can be hard and requires radical trust that He will provide what we cannot. Loving God with all that we are means stepping outsideour comfort zones. Loving others means “washing their feet,” and giving up all we think is rightfully ours for the benefit of other people. We have to step out of the center of our universe, and put Christ there where he belongs – trusting and obeying him.
It is in these moments – the broken, the difficult, the stretching moments – that we can truly find the life he has called us to in Christ. Whatever our individual stories, gifts, or personalities, this where our purpose is found: a life of love and service.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Are you finding out more about yourself? Your motivations, your struggles, your strengths? Are you learning where you can best serve your local church and engage with God in deeper ways? That is so good; good and beautiful and important. As I mentioned, I am an Enneagram 8, and I have a deep desire to leave my mark on the world, to change it for the better. But, this mark? This mark should be in the shape of a cross. A mark of love and sacrifice that looks like the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of me.
My prayer is that my journey of self-discovery, and yours, is Christ-centered and other-focused. A journey that leads not to fulfillment of our own needs and desires, but to radical stewardship of all God has given us to be poured out for our King and other people. A journey of self-discovery that helps us die to ourselves and then be truly found in Christ.
“Growing up, I had a really rough childhood, the type that comes up in the news,” Erin Contreras said. “I mean, I went to 23 different elementary schools, so there was no stability or time to go to church.”
Even with so many variables in her life, Erin always felt the presence of someone there for her. She believed in God even though no one in her family was guiding her.
“[He was] who I called out to in my times of need,” Erin said.
When Erin met her husband, Eli, her thoughts of God faded into the background. Although Eli grew up with a really religious background, Erin didn’t have a foundation that stuck. In 2007, a coworker invited Erin and Eli to attend Clear Creek Community Church. Eli, with his strict traditional religious background, was skeptical upon seeing “a bunch of hippies” in jeans and flip flops, but ultimately they decided to regularly attend Sunday morning services.
“We didn’t have any community,” Erin said about their early experience at Clear Creek. “It was a very transactional relationship. We went, we punched our card, and we left.”
Just before the Conteras’ second son was born, Erin was involved in a traumatic home invasion where the intruder tried to kill her and kidnap her oldest son while she was nearly 9 months pregnant. The only reason she was able to escape at the time was because the intruder thought she was dead already.
“It just left me so broken… with such bad PTSD,” Erin said. “I had Max two weeks later and, after that incident, our marriage just fell apart.”
With the ensuing depression Erin experienced, the foundation she and Eli had as a married couple crumbled. On top of that, Eli lost his job.
“The depression cut me so deep. I lost sense of reality. I lost sense of who I was,” Erin said. “We stopped going to church because… I just felt abandoned [by God].”
After the incident, Erin sought relief from her trauma and depression through medication and therapy, but she often felt alone. It seemed impossible to find other people who could identify with what she had been through.
“There weren’t any support groups for ‘Housewives of PTSD’” Erin recalled. “Either you’re a soldier [struggling with PTSD] or you don’t have it.” She had no one else in her circles who could relate to her experience. As a couple, Erin and Eli were never comfortable talking about Erin’s feelings or how her therapy was going.
“All Eli ever wanted to know was how I was doing because he just loved me so much,” Erin said. “But I could not talk about it at all. I would become too emotional, and it was too much for me… I just held it all in, and it was like a cancer.”
No longer trusting God, Erin isolated with her kids, wrapping them up in her self-protective armor. But, Eli’s response to the home invasion was the complete opposite.
“My husband, in that tragedy, found faith and I lost it,” Erin said. “He saw that somebody was there – somebody kept me alive.”
Erin and Eli continued to struggle, leading them to separate and no longer communicate with one another. They were headed towards divorce at full speed.
“We didn’t have family support. We weren’t in a small group. So that was just the path we were going down,” Erin said. “But my husband, out of desperation, started going to church again because he didn’t know what else to do.”
This time, Eli took a step in faith and joined a men’s small group. When the men would pray at the end of every group, Eli would ask for prayer for his marriage and prayer for his wife.
“At that time, I wanted nothing to do with him,” Erin said. “But Eli kept going to small group and prayed for us.” Erin freely admits that it would have been easier for Eli to just leave her completely. But Eli’s small group encouraged him to love his wife, even at her worst. Toward the end of the life cycle of the small group, Eli was ready to get baptized.
Erin finally agreed, and at Eli’s baptism, she met his small group.
“I saw that they were all married men,” Erin said. “And it broke my heart because I saw how happy all those married couples were, and I knew that they knew my story. I knew they knew what I was going through.”
Shortly after Eli’s baptism, he asked Erin, “What do you think about maybe coming to church with me on Sunday?”
Despite her fears of something happening her kids, she took a step.
About a month later the Contreras were still going to church together every Sunday. Erin and Eli had talked about moving back in together, and six months later, they were living together again. When another GroupLink happened, Eli suggested they join a small group for married couples.
“I was like, ‘I do not want to be in a married group. First of all, we’re barely married at this point. We just started living together and… the last thing I want is some hypocritical Christian telling me what I should be doing in my marriage.”
But Erin eventually agreed because she wanted to find some sort of hobby to do with her husband, though they drove separately to group each week.
“I didn’t want to go there to make friends,” Erin said. “I [didn’t] need churchy people in my life.” Within the first few meetings, the group members were already sharing their backgrounds and stories, and when it came time for Erin to speak, she was frank.
“I was like, ‘Basically, I’m not here for you guys. I don’t want any part of this. I’m just here for [Eli].”
Erin calls it “probably the worst introduction that anybody’s ever had,” but she didn’t think her life and marriage were anybody else’s business. But, she found that the group members were willing to receive her exactly where she was at.
After a while, Erin and Eli started riding to small group in a car together, which turned out to be catalytic for their marriage.
“I never thought the car ride would be the biggest thing, but it’s really where he and I became husband and wife again.”
They would talk about their thoughts on the current small group study, and it was the first chance in a long time to connect with one another about something deep. In those moments, without their kids and without distractions, Erin and Eli began to develop a friendship again.
“It just opened up a narrative… where we couldn’t before talk about how we were doing,” Erin said. “It got to the point where we’d get home, and we wouldn’t get out of the car. We’d just sit in the car and talk more for another 15 or 20 minutes. And so, I really think that those car rides were the most special time we’ve ever had.”
After going to small group for about a year-and-a-half, Erin got severely sick one summer and had to endure seven surgeries within a single summer. It was during this time that Erin’s perception of small group took a dramatic shift.
“They just really poured into my family,” Erin said about her group members. “They brought us meals. They checked on me daily. They would check in after every surgery asking, ‘Do you need help with this? Do you need us just to run to the grocery store? What can we do for you?’”
The Contreras’ small group community intimately entered their lives during one of the most critical times for their family.
“I had never experienced anything like this,” she said. “Even when I had both of my kids, it was just me… alone. There was nobody who came over. There was nobody who brought meals… It was a shift. I belonged.”
Something about this love in action softened her heart. Air rushed back into her lungs. She still wouldn’t describe herself as a believer at that time but just going with the flow. Then one day, something that Eli and her Navigator had both said just clicked.
If God wasn’t there, then why are you angry at him?
“I was angry because I felt abandoned,” Erin said. “Eli had tried to tell me this many times. He would say, ‘Well, how can you feel abandoned by somebody that was never there to begin with?’
It finally made sense to Erin. You can’t be mad at somebody who isn’t there.
“I mean, if I’m angry at somebody then obviously there’s somebody in my heart that’s always been there… that’s when I really started believing.”
Erin got baptized in March 2018.
“[My baptism] was just another moment where I was like, ‘I’m still doing life with these people. These people are still pouring into me. They’re still here for my children. For my husband. And it was a really beautiful thing to have my community with me.”
Another part of her recovery has to do with her current job opportunity where she teaches music at a Classical School. She has the privilege of talking about God’s beauty every day.
“My whole job is to point out what is true, good, and beautiful in this world and how that all points back to God,” Erin said. “And not being a believer, I wouldn’t have the job that I have. I wouldn’t be able to form these little lives or these connections with these kids.”
Three months after Erin’s baptism, she took a huge next step by starting to serve in the music ministry at Clear Creek. Once someone who slipped in under the balcony and out before the end of the last song, Erin now uses her gifts to play the keyboard and sing on stage.
“You have to be so vulnerable to be on stage worshiping because you’re not just putting on a show for everybody. You’re worshipping withthem.” And each time she serves, she thinks about the people who might be sitting under the balcony.
“Music is one of those things that engages everybody,” Erin said. “So I always pray before I go on stage, Use our music to touch somebody. Open somebody up.”
Erin found, and continues to find, places where her true passion and talent can encourage others to align their hearts in worship, no matter what their own circumstances might be.
https://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Screen-Shot-2020-02-13-at-3.35.33-PM.png9261488Clear Creek Resourceshttps://clearcreekresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CCResources-1.pngClear Creek Resources2020-02-13 21:29:312020-04-23 21:09:45Here For You: The Erin Contreras Story