God is Pursuing You

Written By: Nathan David

I played soccer growing up, and if I say so myself, I was pretty good. My life plan was to play soccer, get a scholarship, and then play professionally for a team maybe in Scandinavia. This was a route a lot of young American players were taking at the time. The thing about plans is though, they are generally futile. Plans almost never workout. When I was 16, I suffered a nasty knee injury while playing a game against a local rival. I tore my ACL and partially tore my MCL. If you don’t know anything about knees, all you need to know is that this was really bad. And if you want to play soccer, your knees are really important. I quickly realized I would never be the same player again. After a couple of surgeries and a few attempted comebacks, I had to face the reality that my dream was never going to be a reality.

On the outside, I recovered quickly. I am a pretty smart guy and went off to college and life moved on. On the inside, I hurt really bad. I was angry and depressed. I grew to cling onto this eerie feeling that my life was made to be one giant disappointment. I started to project that pain into all other areas of my life. If I failed with my family, school, work, relationships, or just about anything else I would always reason that this was just the state of my life. I was a disappointment. I would never amount to what I could have been. I was a failure. Through all of this my knee was constantly a painful reminder of just how broken I actually was. A physical reminder of an internal feeling. My knee hurt from the moment I would wake up to the last minute I would go to bed. It was ever present, as I felt my failures were.

About two and a half years ago, I started to do talk therapy. I had recently failed in a significant relationship, and I was at my end. I needed help. Therapy, and a willingness to be open to therapy actually working, was a game-changer. I began to sort through these feelings of failure and disappointment and was able to better understand them. The healing process was beginning and I am still on that road today. I’m still in therapy and still learning. But I am so much better than I was two and a half years ago. Still though, there was my damn knee. I had had another surgery and the pain was getting worse the older I got. Running was becoming unbearable, and though I continued to grow internally while doing therapy and through my journey here with Reunion, I couldn’t get away from the fact that my knee hurt.  It was a constant physical trigger to the negative self-talk of the past.

About a month ago Nate and Kaitlin launched our Kingdom Come prayer ministry. You need to know that I am a skeptic by nature. Prayer has always been hard for me to understand and truly buy into, but I wanted to grow and I wanted to challenge my misconceptions about prayer. So I decided to go to our first prayer training. After doing the training we decided to do a prayer exercise in which we listened to what God was saying and if we had a prayer, word or image for someone in the room or apart of the church we were going to pray for it.

I totally misunderstood the exercise and thought we were just supposed to say if we had something we needed prayer for.   So rather than listening to what God wanted me to pray for someone else, I asked for prayer for myself.  My selfishness is next level.  But for the first time in over nine years since my original injury, I decided to ask for prayer for my knee specifically. The weird thing about asking for prayer for my knee is that this was way more than just my knee.

Asking for prayer for my knee was like asking for prayer for all the other emotional baggage I had tied up it to over the years.  It felt strangely vulnerable, and vulnerability is not something I am comfortable with. But I decided to do it mostly because I trust Reunion and I have grown to love the safety in this place.

So that night, I was prayed for, and people laid hands on me, my knee specifically.  I am not going to lie, it was weird. Right after we prayed, something felt different, Mike asked me if I felt something and I think I said, "I am not sure".

My knee has cracked every time it bent - like 100 percent of the time without fail - for almost a decade. I realized while we were sitting down and I moved my knee around that it wasn’t cracking anymore. I didn’t say anything more that night then woke up early the next morning before work to put myself through a workout. I wanted to see what my knee could do. I went through the workout and felt a soreness that I haven’t felt in years. It was like muscles that haven’t been used in a long time were being used for the first time. I thought I was losing my mind.  To be honest, I still think I might be losing my mind.

I don’t know what you believe about God and prayer, and quite frankly I still have lots of questions. But I know something changed that night. I am confident that when people come together and devote themselves to love people in prayer, crazy things can happen. I believe that on that night of the prayer training, my knee was healed.

Now, I am doing the real hard work. I feel like God has challenged me. I feel Him asking me "I healed your knee, why can’t I heal your heart? Your pains? Your shortcomings?" I am still grappling with this. When you have a pain that has been with you that long it’s easy to become comfortable with it. Sometimes healing can actually be scarier than actually dealing with the pain, which definitely has been my story.

To close (I am sure Mike is sick of reading this by now), I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if this is weird, scary, normal, or what.  Maybe some of you are not ready to ask for help.  If you asked me to do this three years ago, there was absolutely no way I would have done it. But I dare you to try. I can promise you that God is after you. He was chasing me through my knee. How is he chasing after you? Pay attention to those things. He will meet you. He may not heal you. But He will meet you, and meeting Him will change you forever.

Indulgent and Long

Written By: Kaci Thomas

You know how life is super cyclical, and you get super nostalgic as the seasons change?  I think that's especially true in Fall.  As the days get shorter and the air chills, you can't help but reminisce on what you were up to this time last year, and all that's happened since then.

Last night, a friend and I were discussing my life in this season last year.  October 2015, I was heading into one of the busiest, most stressful seasons I've experienced.

This time last year, God was encouraging me to take a leap of faith and give notice to my roommates without any idea of where I was going to end up if I moved out.

I was treading water at a new job, and it would have been really convenient to NOT shake up my living situation.  I'd spent the past few years bouncing around, moving eight times in less than three years.  That house was the first place in a LONG time, where I'd stayed a whole year.  It was a beautiful home, with two beautiful souls, in a beautiful neighborhood, with ridiculously low rent. 

As I look back on that home, I realize it's a place where I straddled BIG life change.  I moved into that home holding onto my life as I'd known it post-college, but somewhere deep down, I knew the ground was shifting below me.  I was reluctant to let go of the church, the city, the friends that had been with me through the chaos of entering adulthood and the transitions that come with your early twenties. 

That home was where God graciously allowed me time to let go as I felt ready.  I was slowly stepping out of the comfort and "known" of that season, and  s o   v e r y   s l o w l y  entering into a new season.  Even though my early twenties were chaotic and FULL of transitions, they were fun, and that chaos was all I knew of adulthood at this point. 

That beautiful home was my God-given space to sort things out.  To recognize what I needed to move on from, and what God was calling me towards.

As I thought about the upcoming lease year ending, and whether I wanted to renew, I realized everything in me would love to curl up and stay in that safe place another year.  But I also realized that I would be so disappointed in myself if I didn't step forward in faith.

So against all logic, I told my sweet roommates that I had to go with this crazy idea and move into Santa Ana.

Never mind that I had a few MAJOR events I was responsible for at work in that holiday season, and hardly had time to eat and shower, much less look for a house, and in six weeks I'd be homeless if I didn't find a place.  I was banking that God was serious about that whole "provision" thing, otherwise, I was going to be couch surfing.

A few weeks in, with no housing leads panning out, God brought me a roommate.  Still no place to live, but a person to be homeless with in a few weeks time! Yay!

Then He had someone give us a TV.

Then He had someone give us a ridiculous deal on couches.

The He had someone give us a refrigerator.

All the things we thought we would need, but still no home.  It felt like such a tease.

My roommate and I drove up and down the streets of Santa Ana every weekend looking for "For Rent" signs and fighting the discouragement that rose every time we heard the words, "Sorry, it's already been rented." 

In this process, however, I recognized a couple things: A) I was praying up and down the streets of this city I was falling in love with - a city God was distinctly calling me into, and B) I learned to start praying for our neighbors, trusting that though we didn't know them, God already did.

There was a specific street I felt pulled to throughout the whole process, even though there wasn't anything currently open to rent or any logical reason to feel drawn to that street.  However, five days after my old lease ended we moved into a beautiful historic home on that exact street.

We now have six other families sharing a driveway, a washer and dryer, and a landlord - more neighbors that we know what to do with.  We were given everything we needed, and then some.  The week after moving in, we got a Christmas tree, stand and ornaments givento us as we celebrated our first Christmas in this new place.  As if God hadn't already provided enough.  Show-off.

As I discussed this season in brevity with my friend last night, he asked if I could see now, in hindsight, how God had shaped me through the unknown & provision of that season.

I paused before I answered.

Other seasons came to mind as "shaping" me, but to verbalize what those seasons entailed and how I walked out of them would have felt juvenile.  Though I didn't feel shaped as distinctly by my move process last year, it felt significantly more important than the previous seasons that have shaped me with more definition.  Wait, those seasons were more shaping, but less important?  It was a weird dichotomy I didn't notice until this friend asked me about it. 

I realized pretty quickly that it's because where I was last year is very similar to where I am this year.  It doesn't feel like hindsight yet.

Though I think things look so different from a year ago, what I stepped into last year - the unknown, the uncomfortable, the place where I really needed to trust God - is exactly where I am a year later. 

Nothing about my life is comfortable.

[I write as I sit cuddled under my favorite quilt with fall candles lit and a glass of Sauv Blanc by my side...  Yeah, totally not comfy...]

Don't get me wrong.  Moving so much has made me the queen of nesting.  My house feels like a home within four hours of getting the keys.  As an introvert, I need a home base where I feel comfortable and can recharge. 

But living so close to our neighbors?  Uncomfortable sometimes.  Living in an area known for gang activity?  Uncomfortable sometimes.  Living in an area known for a large homeless population?  Working at a nonprofit where I don't get paid as much as I should?  Working in a field where I'm faced with brokenness daily?  Planting a church and working a full-time job?  Meeting new people constantly as an introvert?  All things that aren't comfortable all the time.  Very few things about my life feel comfortable.

But I LOVE my life.  I absolutely am in awe of how beautiful it is.  How unique my neighborhood is.  The character and creativity that marks my home, my city, my neighbors, my church... My whole life.

I am constantly gushing gratitude that God's chosen to let me play a part in these things.  I love watching the sun set through our big old windows.  I love sitting around a living room watching new friends experience the joy of authentic community.  I love hugging my new homeless friend, and feeling her hug me back so tightly and sincerely.  I love watching the team I work with rally together to get a kiddo into a safe, loving home.  I love the ways God surprises me and provides for the things I worry about.

I've struggled with anxiety and fear of the unknown more than I ever have before, because this way of living, so uncomfortable most of the time, is not always fun.  It's no bueno for a control lover like me.  However, this journey I said yes to a year ago is definitely one of my favorite and most terrifying and most beautiful yeses I've ever said.

The journey doesn't feel done.  At. All.

In so many ways, it feels like it's just starting still.  It feels significantly more important than anything I've ever experienced before.  I don't know when this "season" will feel over.  I'm sure it will be followed by another exciting season.  And I'm sure I'll eventually be able to wrap my mind around just how much this time of my life has shaped and changed me.  But I'm still SO in the thick of it, that it's hard to see the change that's already happened.  I'm still being shaped so much each day, I'm not sure what I'll come out of this season looking like.  But I am excited about it.  It can't be anything but good, because I'm pursuing that good, full life God told me He has for me.
 

Come As You Are

Written By: Nathan David

Vulnerability has never come easy for me. I have spent most of my life trying to put on display the parts of myself defined as “good enough” and hide away the parts deemed “failures”. A couple of years ago through a few major moral failures in my life, I was unable to run from the ugly parts of my being. Rather, I was forced to confront them. Confronting your frailties, your hurts, and your insecurities is never fun. It is actually pretty terrifying. I would like to think of myself as someone who does not fear much, but there is nothing I fear more than real honesty with myself.

Vulnerability for me is a two part process. The first part of this process is being honest. Recognizing your faults, failures, and general shortcomings. But just recognizing these things is only half the battle. The second part of vulnerability is learning how to accept love despite those things. The message of Jesus, though very hard to accept at times, is clear, “.. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us..”.  That is love that does not ask for perfection but just asks for an opportunity to be given.

Reunion Church has been many things for me, but most importantly it has been a place for me to truly practice vulnerability. Reunion Groups have become a place where I feel compelled to be honest and in turn have received so much love. Where I have feared shame in my life, I have found a community that has not just loved me, but also just liked me and believed in me.  I truly believe that third part to be crucial. Not only is it important for you to feel loved and liked but its equally important for you to feel included. If I could use a sports analogy, you are not just on the team and sitting on the bench but you are playing in the game. You get to be apart of our collective wins and losses.

Our community, like any community, is made up of no perfect people, and I am so thankful that we are not only ok with that, but we welcome that. I believe that God is on a rescue mission for each of us. Not to be angry, not to say ‘I told you so!’, but rather to redeem and restore each of us. Though I would still not consider vulnerability to be something that I enjoy, I can confidently say I have gotten better at it.

Maybe you are reading this and you just need a re-start. Maybe there are some things in your life that you could use some help with. Maybe you are looking to serve. Maybe you are just looking for friends. If any of this sounds like you, we would be so excited to have you at one of our Reunion Groups. We will send you all of the information you need if you email hello@reunionchurchoc.org. Nothing is required. You can talk, stay quiet, come early, stay late, like it, or hate it. Just come as you are.

Meet Megan- Our Involvement Coordinator at Reunion!

Written By: Megan Ezell

For about a year I interned at Rockharbor in the Involvement team.  I loved meeting new people and getting them plugged into the church and using their gifts.  During many services I would hear the pastor mention how Rockharbor is a church that constantly builds people up and sends them out. I started thinking about if that would ever happen to me, but Rockharbor was my home and I was comfortable there.  I couldn't imagine leaving, at least not yet. My internship ended and a few months later I moved to Tustin. The break from ministry was good for me and I learned a lot about myself and my relationship with God, but towards fall I felt a tug to dive back in.  I decided to reach out to Mike Rigdon about his life group that was just down the street in Santa Ana. The first night I attended we did a prayer walk through downtown. I was able to walk through the city and see it from such a different perspective.  I began to see all the potential for God to move and knew that this is where I needed to be in ministry.

A couple of months into being a part of the life group I found myself suddenly needing to move and learned that another girl in the life group, Kaci, also had to move. We began searching for a place to live in Downtown by looking on craigslist and spending weekends driving up and down the neighborhoods praying to see a for-rent sign.  These were some of the hardest weeks I have gone through. I had been comfortable in Tustin and didn't want to move. I enjoyed it there and my life was easy. It was also hard because important people in my life were also uncomfortable with the idea of me moving into Downtown Santa Ana. Friends, family, and coworkers all expressed concern. There were a lot of voices with different opinions on what I should do in this time of change.  Mixed with this was the stress in trying to find somewhere, being turned down at places, and not finding anywhere that felt right. I found myself wondering if Santa Ana was truly where I needed to be. This pulled and tugged at me until I finally hit a breaking point, but it was there in that moment of weakness where I didn't know what to do or where to go that I called out to God the loudest. I slowed down so that I could discern God's voice among the others and as I sat in a quiet time I kept hearing, “be where God is working... wherever God is working is where I need to be.”  Santa Ana is where I saw God working.  Santa Ana is where I needed to be.  

Everything began falling into place.  We found an apartment we loved in the neighborhood we had been hoping for at a cost perfectly in our budget.  Our community provided things we did not have and helped us move in. Everything was working out for us in ways that I could not have imagined. God was showing up, confirming that even though this would not be a comfortable transition He would still be there.  He was calling me out of the comfort that I had gotten used to so that I could be stretched and grow in my strengths again.  I was excited to be in ministry again as we looked at our strengths as a launch team.  I couldn’t wait to see God move and work through Santa Ana and through our team.  We all care about this city so much and are waiting expectantly to see God work through it one person at a time. I never would have thought I would be a part of a church plant in Santa Ana, but there is no where else I can imagine being.

We are so thankful to have Megan as a part of the Reunion team! For more information on how to get involved email Megan at mezell@reunionchurchoc.org

Here We Go.

Written by: Kaci Thomas

Sunday was the first official gathering of Reunion Church in Downtown Santa Ana - a day that was years in the making - and as I sat in my room reflecting on what lay before me, I realized I felt some conflicting emotions.  

I was absolutely exhausted.  The week leading up to our first gathering was a doozy for the Reunion team.  Between job crises, urgent care visits, and family emergencies, it was miraculous we were all present and accounted for come Sunday afternoon.

Through the exhaustion, however, I felt incredibly excited. I absolutely love the people of Reunion Church, so any time I get to be around them is exciting, but even more exciting was the thought of seeing the dream God had entrusted to us come to fruition.

 I also recognized feeling a sense of loss.  Not a loss I needed to grieve necessarily, but a loss I needed to acknowledge.  The beginning of our official gatherings meant the culmination of our preparation season.  It was go time, and that meant things were changing.  We were taking action and getting some skin in the game (which Satan was obviously not a fan of), and that meant things couldn’t go back to how they were before.  This was the part where we had to put our little baby church out there for everyone to see, and there was no rewind button.  

But now that we’re on the other side of our first gathering, I wouldn’t go back, even if I could. 

Set up went so smoothly, that I had to pinch myself.  Seeing the room transformed to become a visual representation of our community was something I had prayed over for weeks. 

As people began to arrive, I wanted to pinch myself again.  My emotions mimicked those I felt at our first interest meeting as I heard strangers pray with our launch team for the city we’d fallen in love with.  When people buy into the vision and heart of Reunion Church I get chills.  Every time. 

As I stood worshipping and heard the voices around me praising together, I had to take a moment to simply listen and soak it in.  God, you are so good. 

As I watched everyone in the room turn to their neighbors and pray together, I couldn’t wipe the dorky smile off my face, knowing God had the same dorky smile watching his kids introducing themselves and praying together for prodigals to experience true reunion with our Father. 

When all our new friends pitched in to help tear down, I marveled at the ways our values of community and meeting each other’s needs happened so naturally.

Finally, when I sat down at that long table at 4th Street Market and looked at the smiling faces on all sides, breaking bread and sharing a meal together out in our community, I let out a big, satisfied, full breath and thanked God for this journey.  This is what it’s all about.

The best part is, we get to do this again.  Sunday was just the beginning.  I cannot wait to watch as others begin to experience the life-changing community that God’s creating and calling people into.

Here’s where you can get plugged in:

Dinner Party on March 29th – Reach out on social media if you’re interested, and we’ll send you details

Next Monthly Gathering – April 24th at 5pm at the First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Santa Ana

We would love to have you join us for any or all.  Let the party begin!

A New Love - Santa Ana

Written by: Kaitlin Schilling

Santa Ana, California – the hub of Orange County. For those who aren’t familiar with Southern California, Santa Ana is absolutely central to Orange County both geographically and politically. Like many urban cities it can be a place of brokenness, but also a place of great history and treasure.

Yesterday while working and driving from one patient home to another I happened to cut through the dynamic city. When I reached the other side I suddenly felt like I didn’t want to leave – like I couldn’t leave – this new city my heart now calls home.

Let me back up to June 2015 when my husband Cody and I were on a road trip to Palm Springs. We recently decided to start the house-hunting process, to make the financial commitment to home ownership. While driving the highway we talked about potential neighborhoods in central and south Orange County. We had the nagging feeling that something was missing in our equation. Where are we going and what is the purpose? Where are we settling and why are we settling there? I suddenly had a large fear of moving forward just to end up in a neighborhood where God’s Holy Spirit had not led us. Not that God would leave our family or withhold blessings in our home purchase, but we found ourselves wondering where is God already moving and how can we come alongside to partner in His Kingdom work.

Unexpectedly the City of Santa Ana came to mind. Yes that’s it, I think I remember something about a church plant and a group of people interested in being a light and loving the people of Santa Ana. We need to meet these people. Church planting, as I’m learning, is the process of developing a new Christian church in a local city.

Fast-forward through seven months of prayer, emails, first introductions and some Bible studies, now this distant group of strangers has become our tight-knit family. We meet, we pray, we love, we hang, we adventure, we join for meals and celebrations, we laugh, we share sorrow. We seek to be after Jesus, how He prayed and played, how He rested and worshipped, how He created family out of strangers and invited the sojourner in.

We are Reunion Church.

The next season will be one of trials, growth, frustration, excitement and discomfort as we initiate interest events and our first gatherings for Reunion Church. [We pray] It will be life close to Jesus as we continue to learn His heart for the city and what it looks like to love one person at a time.

Please join with us in prayer, for God to have His way:

– A home. Each member of the Reunion Church launch team is or shortly will be a resident of Santa Ana. Hopefully Cody and I can join our team in Santa Ana soon! Pray that God would lead Cody and I in our first home purchase, that He would provide a place for growing roots.

– Our hearts. That our hearts will desire Jesus and learn to love Santa Ana more.

– Protection. Over our growing church family, our deep friendships and the marriages within our group. Protection from darkness and from disunity.

– Employment. A number of our team members are experiencing job challenges or job changes. That God’s will would become apparent and those experiencing discomfort in employment would receive clarity as they move forward in faith.

– Peace + joy. Peace and joy over sorrow, weariness, and uncertainties. Confidence in Jesus, the sovereign servant we follow.

– Loving one person at a time. We pray that others will be invited to join the Reunion Church family in prayer, financial support, and excitement over how God is moving in the City of Santa Ana.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20