My Brokenness, His Strength

Ernest Hemingway once said, “We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.”

I have never found this statement to be more true. I cling to the scripture Psalm 34:18 AMP “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” We live in a culture that tells us that if something is broken, it must be fixed, thrown out, or even replaced. We see this in all aspects of life. From material things, to friendships, to even family members. Though here is my question: is brokenness really a bad thing?

Psalm 51:17 says NKJV “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart – these, O God, you will not despise.” From my perspective, if Jesus is near to those who are who are broken and desires those who are humble, why should we feel the need to ‘fix’ ourselves?  We are all consistently growing, changing, and living out our individual journeys in Jesus and I respect that. However, I want to introduce another train of thought. What would happen If we were to stop trying to ‘fix’ ourselves and make our broken parts whole again? What if we allowed Jesus to draw near to the broken parts of us as we draw near to him? What if we allowed the Father’s love to make us whole and complete – lacking nothing? What if we stopped trying to hide the broken parts of us and allowed God to use us in our brokenness?

I believe that if we can come to the end of ourselves, embrace our brokenness, and invite Jesus into the cracked parts of our existence, God will use us. God will use the very parts of you that you saw as broken. 2 Corinthians 2:9 says NKJV “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in your weakness.” Our weak places are where the spirit can dwell and God can show up and show out.  

Lastly, let us remember the anomaly that Jesus is not afraid of our brokenness. Let us remember that he knows us better than we know ourselves, yet still chooses to love us with an all consuming love – broken pieces and all.

So, I challenge you today and everyday to not allow brokenness to hinder your life or calling. Instead, allow Jesus to use your brokenness as a perfect vessel filled with his miraculous love and grace.

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Sierra Fernald is a Los Angeles based lifestyle blogger, social media influencer, creative and lover of Jesus. She counts serving in City Kids one of the greatest blessings of her life as well as connecting with the women of The City Church and serving on the GC Agoura leadership team. She is passionate about impacting the lives of young people for eternity and loves being a part of what God is doing in her city.

Mary

Hey Beautiful,

It’s been the weirdest couple of weeks in our little town of Ventura. I have friends who are living in a hotel with their three children (two are preschoolers), friends who’ve lost everything, friends whose kids are unexpectedly out of school for a whole month (and can’t play outside because of the smoke). The smoke is thick and no one can tell us what’s going to happen next.

And it’s Christmas. Merry Christmas! Time to shop, to bake, to decorate, to send the cards, to go to the programs, to watch the films and have the parties. I keep going through the normal motions but nothing really feels that normal.

So I started to read about Mary. That’s what we do at Christmas. We talk about Mary, the virgin, teenage, refugee who was chosen by God to deliver the hope and savior of the world. Oh night divine!

Mary lived in a chaotic world where she did not belong, where racial and ethnic strife ran deep and had deadly consequences. When the angel came to her she pondered his words and hid them in her heart. She believed.

I wonder if she was in awe of Him. She lived such a life of devotion. She seemed to be there at every turn, steadfast, unwavering. She didn’t always seem to know exactly what was going on, which is comforting, meaning she was like us. Some things must have been so confusing. What would it be like to watch your child die of asphyxiation on a cross? But it didn’t seem to shake her. She was there at the cross and at Pentecost, in the upper room, praying and believing and waiting to be filled with the Holy Spirit so they could go out and turn the world upside down.

She lived her best life, that’s for sure (great thoughts on that here) It sort of redefines what makes a life really great. What life is this that is available when we say, “yes” to God?! So much promise, probably some pain, but absolute purpose beyond the here and now. We really have no idea, this side of eternity, what our lives can be and do.

When tragedy strikes, it reminds us how precious and fragile life can be. We remember that there’s more than this and we actually don’t have as much control over all of it as we think we do. But He actually does.

The Almighty stepped into the finite, flesh and blood of fragile humanity so that He could really know us, so He could look over and say, “Hey! I get it. We’re in this together.” It’s okay to be shocked, to be overwhelmed, to mourn and weep when tragedy strikes. The Bible says He’s with us, feeling it all and actually praying for us, on our behalf. But we can also live with this hope, that the darkest of ages are done, for the savior of heaven has come.

In light of this, I pray that you and I will always encounter Christmas with the joy and wonder that Simeon experienced, when Mary brought her child to be dedicated at the temple. (Luke 2:28-31 TPT):

Simeon cradled the baby in his arms and praised God and prophesied, saying: “Lord and Master, I am your loving servant, and now I can die content, for your promise to me has been fulfilled. With my own eyes I have seen your Word, the Savior you sent into the world.”

Merry Christmas!

XO,

Bethany

 

 

Ventura Fires: How Can I Help?

Monday night was a life changing moment for so many people in our community.  The stories that I have personally heard have been heart wrenching for me.  One of the families in our church has three little kids and had only three minutes to evacuate.  They left with nothing more than their lives and the clothes on their back.  As a pastor the weight of how we can help our community became a little overwhelming.  I stood in my closet whispering the prayer, “Lord, now is the time for the church to be your hands and feet.  Give us wisdom in all that you have called us to do.”  I know many of you feel the same way.  You want to do all you can to make a difference.

Here are some practical things we can all do:

Pray:  Prayer is the best thing we can do. Pray specifically for the following:

  • 100 % containment of all the fires
  • Wind will cease
  • Every need of those displaced will be met
  • Salvation for those who need Christ, that He would be their comforter
  • Wisdom for the church in all that we can do
  • Join our Thursday night prayer meeting tonight, December 7th from 6-7pm at both our Ventura and Agoura campuses.

Give:

  • Give tax deductable donation by texting ‘thecity’ to 77977  or visit our website
  • Give to the giving tree this Sunday, we are collecting gift cards to either purchase gifts for displaced kids and single parent homes.  Suggested places to buy gift cards to are Target, Walmart, Visa Gift cards, etc
  • Funds for individual families you may know have been set up online. You can access these via social media

Love: 

  • Volunteer to distribute necessities through the church. Join the team by helping at shelters with the Red Cross here or helping receive and distribute supplies with the City Church here.
  • Be available to open up your home for those in mandatory evacuation.
  • Reach out to neighbors and people at church who are affected by the fires.
  • Invite people to church so that they can come in contact with the presence of God and we can surround them in love and provide any supplies they may need.

I believe God calls the church to be an unstoppable force for help and good in times of tragedy. Let’s come together to be the fragrance of God to our community!

2 Corinthians 2:14 “God makes his grace visible in Christ who includes us as partners of his endless triumph.  Through our yielded lives he spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere we go”

Thank you for loving our City!

Becky Fouquier

I Don’t Believe in Coincidence

I don’t believe in coincidence.  I believe everything in my life is and was mapped out by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Not to say He doesn’t allow for free will and choice.  He just knows ahead what choices we finite humans will make, since He lives in all time and space.  God is everywhere at once, and is the greatest chess player in the universe!   

I won’t waste your time with fancy words.  I’ll tell you the facts of life.  Well, of my life.  

Why?  The only reason for me to open my book, called “life,” for you to read, is to give you hope.  The same hope that I have. Not just fleeting, momentary, feel good, positive vibes.  Eternal hope.  

We all go through mud at some point in this life.  I have a blessed life.  God has planted so many beautiful flowers in the mud of my garden that I no longer see the mud, except through the lens of how it has helped an amazing array of flowers bloom.  

I was 2 years old when my dad beat me so bad I had to be put in a hospital.  Now, your mind can go in all sorts of directions.  The main one, I suppose, being, “What a monster of a dad.”  I’m not in denial, believe me, but my dad was no monster.  He was a young father who lost control in a horrible fit of rage, in one moment.  He never lost control, physically, again with me.  Ever.  When I was 35 years old, my dad called me up and told me just that. “Katherine, I need you to know when you were a toddler I put you in the hospital because I beat you so bad.  I never touched you again after that.  Ever kid.”   He carried that huge, torturous, bad father moment, knowledge for all those years.  It was a great relief to both of us when he spoke it out.

Unbeknownst to dad, my mom had told me what happened when I was 18.  I never said a word to my tough, larger than life, John Wayne, construction working father.  Nope.  That was not going to happen.

He was too closed-minded, in my view, for me to bring up such a sensitive, wound-opening subject.  

Do I remember any of it?   I remember getting into mom’s makeup.  I remember dad asking me if I got into mom’s makeup.  I don’t remember telling him no.  I also have no recollection of him beating me.  Completely blocked it from my mind.  Too painful.  

I had a psychiatrist do some role play with me over my dad when I was 21. Yes, I had to see a psych doctor for evaluation after trying to kill myself. That was my life.  I don’t know that I really wanted to die.  I just didn’t want to hurt.  So much pain was bottled up inside that I had no clue how to release it,  how to deal with it.  For the first time, a light came on.  I began to understand the affects that pivotal moment had on young, naive Kathy.  By getting into my mom’s makeup, I was getting in touch with my femininity.  I was trying to be a woman, like mom was, and “pretty myself up.”   When I was beaten for that, it spun my young, unmolded mind into a whirlwind of doubt and shame over who I am.  Am I ugly?  Is that why I was beaten?  Am I shameful? Pitiful? Bad?  Since a 2-year old doesn’t have the capacity of mind to understand, it all gets bottled up to deal with later on in life, when our brains can function well enough to take it in and analyze it rationally.

The first time I walked into the church, I felt the spirit of Jesus immediately.  He captured my heart in a moment!  I knew!  This was it!  This was what I was searching all those empty years for.   My best friend had called me earlier that day and excitedly yelled through the phone, “Kath! You’re not gonna believe what happened to me!!”  My mind autoed on what guy she would tell me all about next.  Instead she land-blasted my thinking with, “I went to church and was filled with the Holy Ghost, Kath!  You have to come check it out with me tonight!!”  I was intrigued.  I was also put off.  ‘Shrug.  Another “Christian” story.  Boring.’  But there was that something in her voice.  What was it?  It peaked my curiosity.  “I have to tell you, I’ve been to every church in the area, and I’m turned off by churches.” I dryly replied.  She was persistent.  I went.

My husband, Dean, was sitting at the coffee table, cutting a line of ‘coke’, with his good buddy, Bob, who had served in the military with him just months before.  Dean looked up at me in surprise as I came downstairs all dressed up.   “Where you goin’?”  he asked me.  “I’m going to the church down the road.  Ruth invited me and I told her I’d check it out.”  I quickly replied, to end the conversation.  He shot back, “Don’t come home preaching to me!”  His buddy asked me what church I was going to, and I dismissively replied, “I think it’s some Pentecostal church,” (with no clue what the word even meant).  He said something so profound in that moment, something we wouldn’t comprehend fully until later.  “If she goes to that church, it will change your lives forever.”  Then they went back to their lines as if he never said it.  I found out later Bob was a Pentecostal pastor’s son.  God grows us all through many expressions of church but thinking about it makes me laugh, because there are no coincidences in life.

There is another Bob I have to give credence to.  He’s another of Dean’s buds from the military.  Bob came over one day, long before the day I stepped in that church, and while waiting for Dean to get home, he and I casually sat across from each other, snorting cocaine, smoking and drinking and chatting about nothingness.  Then Bob brought up the big taboo.  Religion.  He asked me what I believed, and I easily told him, while doing a line, “I’m Christian.”  Bob laughed, and somberly injected some truth into my stubborn mind that I would never forget.  It would haunt me for a long time.  I kicked Bob out of my house immediately over what he spoke, and told him never to come back.  I told my husband not to let his sorry friend back in, ever.  Bob simply and with ease said, “I would never sit here doing what we’re doing and call myself a Christian.”  ‘HOW DARE HE!!  Who the {expletive deleted} did he think he was? (side note:  my husband was a sailor, and I cussed worse than he did) Coming in my house and thrashing my belief like that.  I checked the Christian box on any and all documents, (back then you had questionnaires on pretty much any form you filled out, that asked your religious belief), and I was just that, Christian!’  

Like I said, Bob’s words stuck with me.  ‘I’m a Christian, right?  Of course, I have to be a Christian.  I’ve received the Lord in my heart at just about every church around here.  So I have to be!’  It was Bob that helped me begin to break down the walls of pride and ask serious questions of myself for the first time.  If you’re out there, Bob, thank you.

Another serious incident happened to me when I was a 2 year old.  Those “terrible two’s,” man!  The rubella measles went inside and swelled my brain, which put me into a coma.  On the seventh day, the doctors told my parents I wasn’t going to make it, and to come say last rites over me.  My Grams flew in from Illinois.  I was sprinkled by a Lutheran minister (Grams faith), and left there to die.  I still have the bald spot from that time to prove it.  Mom said they didn’t move me due to the sensitivity of the illness.  I also have dystonia from that brief, nine day, period of life.  Dystonia sucks.  But dystonia does not have me.  It makes my head jerk “no” when I don’t want to say NO.  The positive is, I’m not saying “yes” to everyone.   

When my dad called to tell me about the beating, he also told me this,  “Kid, when the doctors told me you were going to die, I went and prayed all night long with the Pastor across the street from us on Nyeland Acres.”  Mom had already told me that cool happening also, but I didn’t share with dad how I already knew.  I gave him the honor of the moment, and thanked him for loving me so much to do that.  I always knew that was the reason I came out of the coma.  My dad, who died of liver failure from alcoholism, my larger than life father, who tossed profanity around like it was candy, prayed for his baby girl, and God heard.  There are no coincidences.

I don’t know where you are reading this today, or what you believe about life and Jesus, but I do know that He loves you just as much as He loves me. You are not reading this post by coincidence. He wants you to know that He chose to go through the unthinkable by dying on the cross so that He could welcome you into an amazing relationship and life with Him. If you want to be in a relationship with Him and know what this is all about, all you have to do is ask.

Prayer:

God, I realize now that you love me and I believe in You. I want to have a real relationship and life with you. Please help me know what it means to be a Christian and to actually follow you. Show me how you’ve been working in my life even up to this point and help me to become the person you created me to be. Amen.

 
Kathy's picKathy Hageman, by God’s grace, is a mom of four amazing sons, two daughter in loves, and grandma to two precious granddaughters. She and Dean have been married for 33 wonderful years   She’s passionate about teaching and helping women to realize their full potential in Christ.  She has been involved in women’s ministries for many years and leads the “Breakfast & Bibles” City Group with Pastor Becky.  This post is an excerpt from the memoir she’s writing, titled, “I Don’t Believe In Coincidence”.

Hope

“Hope” settled on my heart as my “word of the year”… and I wasn’t excited.  Really, God? Hope? Why not CERTAINTY or STEADFASTNESS? Hope is… weak sauce…

It was early 2016 in Los Angeles and we were “getting on our feet” with shaky legs, having battled a bad financial situation.  George was finally at a stable job and we were grateful.  But this new job’s commute was killing our family time with Daddy. The boys started taking turns pretending to be him at the dinner table. Slowly, George became more discouraged. We were both in bed every night exhausted, dying to regain intimacy and, conversely, alone time.  And then Hope.  Hope said, “Relax.  There is no more you can do than what you are already doing.  Keep driving the kids, keep cleaning, keep meeting with your small groups—keep praying, keep dreaming, keep learning—and hope.  Hope that the future is bright– that the little things you’re doing today, will make a huge difference tomorrow.”  Hope is the confidence that better is coming.  

But the Lord says, “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

So George and I prayed — desperately.   We prayed for the next step; we prayed for wisdom.  And bit by bit the inexplicable peace came.  Peace that trusted—God’s got this.

Eventually, George got a new job.  It paid more and it was two blocks away!  The time we saved  was tremendous!  He was home to eat dinner with us, he could work out, and afterschool activities were easier to plan.  I told him, “We can never go back to you having a long commute again.”  And then, as if to test me, George was offered a job with Ventura County.  The commute would be long if we stayed where we were and moving would save us that precious ‘Daddy time.’  For us, the answer was almost instantaneous.  We would move to Ventura. We said goodbye to our friends, our schools, our comfort zones. We knew from past experience we couldn’t trade time with Daddy.

Though both fear and excitement gripped me, Hope whispered, “God’s got this too.”  I do my part and the part I cannot do, He covers. Jesus went to the cross to take my fear and uncertainty. He became my everlasting Hope, giving me confidence for the future.

Prayer:

Father, help me lay my burdens before you.  Remind me how big you are and how you have already given us victory.  Help me to hope because I know “Hope” is not a wimpy word.   

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Christine Meier is mother to three amazing boys and wife to George. She is a Child Development Specialist and has her Master’s in Human Development with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. She teaches the two year olds (who adore her) at the City Kids Preschool in Ventura. Christine is passionate about marriage and family ministries, particularly around the issues that pertain to women and children. She and George co-lead a fantastic City Group for families on the first and third Fridays of the month. For more information, or to join her group, click here. 

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The Outcome

“And we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan to bring something good into our lives, for we are his lovers who are invited to fulfill his designed purpose. ²⁹For he knew us and loved us before we were born and destined us from the beginning to share the likeness of his Son, making the Son the firstborn among many who will become just like him.”

Romans 8:28-29 TPT

Our church has been in the “Super 8” series this past few weeks. As we have been studying Romans 8,  I keep coming back to one of my favorite scriptures in this chapter, verse 28.  When I think back on many big breakthrough moments in my own journey, I can remember quoting this scripture after the fact.  It’s always easier to believe what God says about a situation after we’ve seen it work out in a positive way.

Did you watch any of the World Series? Wow! What a nail-biter. Game 5 in Houston was particularly intense. The game went on for over five hours and every time the Dodgers scored, the Astros would come from behind. Finally, after midnight in the bottom of the 10th inning, Houston scored a run to beat the Dodgers 13-12. As a fan, this game was exhausting because no team seemed to have a clear lead. The outcome was never obvious. We just had to sit and wait to see what would happen!

When we are in the midst of tough chapters in our story, it’s easy to think that our lives are somehow like this baseball game, too close to rest, a bad thing right around the corner from every good thing, not knowing how it’s going to end up. Sometimes we can’t figure out how a circumstance could possibly come out for good. We can easily begin to feel anxious, stressed out and irritable.  

But the life of someone who believes in Jesus is not like a competitive game, not even close. God has shared with us the beginning AND the end. Jesus went to the cross, rose from the grave and defeated the power of sin and death in our lives once and for all. I love what this verse says in the Passion Translation above, that every detail of our lives is woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan and it is going to bring good no matter what!  He’s already won the game and we can rest in that fact. How? The key to all this is that we are His lovers!

When we are madly in love with someone, our default mode is to trust that they would never do anything to harm us. That is because we are designed to find our ultimate source of love in Jesus, the only perfect lover of our soul who will always be good to us even if things look bad.  When we search for this type of perfect love in other people, it can disappoint because we’re all so flawed. But, when we place our trust in His unfailing love, no matter what is happening in our life, and set our mind on Jesus and not our problem, we can have peace in the midst of any difficulty and trial.   I love what Isaiah 26:3-4 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all you trust you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!  TRUST IN THE LORD ALWAYS, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock!”

I want to encourage you today that you are loved by God and you will fulfill every purpose of your life.  What is the ultimate purpose of your life?  The ultimate purpose is to know Jesus and reflect who Jesus is!  If you don’t know Him yet, that’s okay! He knows you and is ready to talk as soon as you are. If you have questions about Jesus, we’re here to help answer them any way we can. Come to one of our gatherings on a Sunday or City Groups. Be encouraged that your story will show others in your life that God is bigger than anything they face.  

Just as you are blessed by the beautiful stories in this blog, know that God can bless others with your story just as much and more!

XO,

Becky