Tag Archives: NOLA Church

An Open Letter to Chris McClarney: Thank You

I wrote this intending to send it as an email, but when I didn’t find one I decided to post it here. I’m thankful for the music and lyrics and how it will forever remain in my mind now. I don’t know if Chris will ever see it or not, but I had to let it all out.

Dear Chris,

Last Saturday was an emotional day for my family and me, and your song, “God of Miracles” played a powerful role in it. A dear family friend, Charlene, went on to meet Jesus a week ago, but my mom and I spent her last moments in this life with her first.

She had been sick for several months, but I didn’t realize how ill she was until she chose to move into a Hospice facility in New Orleans last Friday.
Charlene was an amazing woman of God, and several years ago while I was steeped in sin, shame and bitterness, she told me that God had a plan for my life. I scoffed at her with condescension as she said, “He’s never going to stop pursuing you, and I’m never going to stop praying for you.”

A few years after that conversation, I realized for the first time (even though I grew up as a pastor’s kid) that I’d never be able to earn salvation; it was God’s free gift for me, and I didn’t have to work for it. I simply had to accept it. That realization changed my life, and as a result of my relationship with Jesus I’ve surrendered the anger, self-loathing and bitterness that I carried for far too long.

Now, as a worship leader at NOLA Church, a place I swore I’d never go to when I was initially invited, I listen to a lot of amazing music, and our bass player added “God of Miracles” to my playlist a few months ago. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times since I first heard it, but it helped shape my view of death and eternity over the weekend.

When we arrived at Charlene’s bedside my mom sang one of her favorite songs, “He Touched Me.” (We always sang when we were together.) I thought she’d ask me to follow up with a different Southern Gospel tune, but instead she said, “sing the song you were playing on repeat in the car.”

Charlene was on morphine to ease her pain, so I assumed she wouldn’t know what we were singing anyway. In spite of that I sang the song a cappella, struggling to get through it without breaking down. At the same time Charlene began to lift her hands, and though she had not been responsive before that, her sister asked her to give us a thumbs up if she knew we were there and wanted me to continue the song. She gave a feeble, yet distinctive thumbs up, and at that moment I realized that the Holy Spirit was empowering me to walk with her through the painful moments shortly before all of her pain would cease. By the second verse, the four of us in the room, knew that God’s presence was there and filling in what would be the last few minutes of her life.

“Let faith arise, and see the kingdom come, I lift my eyes, for the battle has been won. My God is faithful, and every single word He says is true.”

As I sang those lyrics I thanked God for His mercy and comfort and for the example of unwavering faith that I saw first hand as my precious friend went on to see Jesus.

Today I sang at her memorial. I woke up heavy hearted, knowing that we’d all be saying goodbye to her a few hours later, but what happened instead was a celebration of her life and her choice to live her life fully surrendered to Jesus.

family

“God of Miracles” is the last song that she heard before moving on into God’s glory, and I’m forever thankful that I was able to worship through her last moments with her, filled with the promises and truths that exist in those lyrics.
Thank you, Chris…

Sincerely,

Kenlie

The Post Mardi Gras, Good Grief I Need To Get It Together, Valentine’s Day Blues, Or Something Like That

I’ve sat down to blog several times lately, and I’ve been almost immediately distracted by other things. I wanted to share the details of my food intake during the week of Mardi Gras. In short, I ate a lot of random junk that can barely be considered food. If you follow me on Instagram, then you may have seen the fried Oreos that my neighbor delivered to me during my afternoon nap. You may have also noticed that I enjoyed King cake with friends on more than one occasion.

king cake sucre new orleans

This city shuts down for Mardi Gras. It’s amazing. Stores close, and everyone goes to parades…lots and lots of parades. The revelry lasts for two weeks, and people take it very seriously. I had more fun this year because I found a way to get back to my apartment while avoiding most of the traffic. (This isn’t easy to do when you live at one of the most popular parts of the parade route.) I also went to a couple of parades with co-workers who have become friends, a former colleague and friend and the guy I started dating recently. My favorite neighbor spent a lot of time with me during the week too, and I got very little accomplished. On Mardi Gras Day (Fat Tuesday) I brought Christopher to Starbucks with me, and we met several of my friends there and played board games all afternoon. It was such a simple day, but I loved every minute of it.

My friend, Andrew, who was here in New Orleans for over a week, returned home to New York late last week. And Christopher  is there right now for work, so I took the opportunity to get some sleep, clean house, spend time with people who matter to me and to consider meals for the next few days.

Mardi Gras consists of 14 days of over-indulgence, coupled with time off, but it’s over now. Thankfully, Valentine’s Day is over too. Every year I feel so much pressure to be loved on that day, and every year I feel positively ridiculous about that. I know that I’m loved everyday by my family and friends and Jesus. I’m also happy that I’ve met someone who’s smart, handsome and easy to talk to and makes me laugh until my face hurts, but the pressure of this holiday is way too intense for something so new. Instead of going out on a date, I spent today singing love songs at an assisted living home near my church. They ate ice cream sundaes, and we had some awesome conversations.  The idea was to serve and honor the lovely people there, but they ended up blessing me far more than I could have blessed them.

I’m ready to get back into the healthy groove that I’ve been carving out lately because I feel so much better when I’m doing good things for my body. I spent a lot of time discussing healthy recipes and nutritious lifestyles with one of my favorite people this weekend, and I feel motivated to consume healthy and delicious meals this week. I’ve also caught up on some sleep that I’ve been missing lately, which feels great.

It’s a new week, and I’m ready to make it a good one. I’m taking on more responsibility at work this week, which means I’ll have more opportunities to exercise. I also have my food planned out for Monday and Tuesday. Bring on the quinoa, black beans and chicken! It’s crawfish season too, and I’m already loving that!

crawfish

Is anyone else fighting to get back into the groove this week?

 

 

 

 

 

 

If You Walk Into Church and Can’t Find A Sinner, You Should Probably Run

I haven’t written a blog post in a while, but as I prepare to attend my favorite blogging conference, I feel inspired.

Blogging has been a big part of my life for years. I’ve gained so much from it, and I’ve also let go of a lot as a result. I love to share my life, story and ideas, but it’s been nice to take a break too. I knew I needed one recently when I couldn’t wrap my head around living my daily life without talking about it here.

I went through a period of almost three months that was stresful and taxing, but I finally feel like I’m standing in the light at the end of the tunnel. There are things happening in my life that make me happy, and I feel a sense of relief that I’ve been craving for weeks. That has allowed me to give some thought to other things that I’ve faced lately.

If we’re connected on Instagram you may have seen a recent post in which I shared my feelings about going to church even though I’m a sinner. Here’s what I said about it:

I’ve taken some flack for being a “church-going sinner” lately, and here’s what I have to say about it: I love God, and I desire a deeper relationship with Him. I seek Him and ask Him to search my heart…to change it…I fall, and He picks me up. I fall again, and He’s still right there…waiting for me to surrender to Him. Even when I turned my back on Him, He never stopped loving me. He’s given me peace and hope, and if you’re reading this, He will do the same thing for you if you ask Him. It’s not easy, and going to church won’t make you holy. Jesus came to heal the sick because they’re the ones who needed a doctor. I don’t go to church to put in heirs about how perfect I am now; I’m not, nor do I pretend to be. I go because I need Jesus, and it’s a place to feel loved and to help me stay accountable to His will. #truth #grace #hope #HisLoveNeverFails #Luke5 #church #christians #disciples #religion #realtalk

The fact is we’re all sinners who fall short of God’s glory. Going to church doesn’t mean that we’re suddenly going to be perfect. Being a part of the worship team doesn’t mean that I’m never going to fall again. That’s not real. It’s not true. I’m weak, but God gives me strength. I sin, and He provides mercy.

Do I use God’s grace as a license to sin? I shouldn’t, but I have. I try not to, but His grace covers that too. He knows my heart. He knows when I’m seeking Him, and He knows when I’m drowning in shame. He loves me regardless.

I desire a real relationship with God, one in which He’s in control of my life and my circumstances. I don’t always act like it because I’m also selfish, and I like to be in control of everything. I love Him, and He loves me even though I often struggle to understand why.  It’s hard to surrender every aspect of my life to Him, but I’m trying (and sometimes failing and trying again.)

If you walk into a church and you can’t find a sinner, then you should probably run the other way. That’s not real. We live in a fallen world, and the the Holy Spirit is the only hope we have as we strive to live Godly lives.

I’m not perfect, and I’ve never claimed to be. Having a relationship with God doesn’t mean that I’ll never sin again. His grace just gives me hope

 

Nola Loves Charleston

If you know me at all, you know that the folks at NOLA Church are a big part of my life. I could list a lot of reasons for that, but today I’m thankful that I’m part of a community that prays.

I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that they’re enduring right now at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and we just want them to know that we’re praying for them and standing with them.

God bless, Charleston and every individual who’s been affected by that senseless tragedy.

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God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psalm 46:1

I Can’t Believe That It’s Been Almost Three Years

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost three years to the day since Uncle Wesley died. I was pretty lost during that time.  I lacked faith in myself and in God. I struggled with my beliefs, my utter disdain for people in church and my lack of understanding in why someone like Uncle Wesley had to suffer so viscously.  I also struggled with guilt because I was so relieved that my parents were both healthy.

I was in a bad place, and one Sunday after a week that we were’t sure if he would live through, my uncle preached an entire sermon about faith. I talked about it on my blog right after it happened.  He believed in God, and he had faith that God’s will was best until his last breath.  It’s still hard for me to think of the last night that I saw him without getting teary-eyed.  He told Mom that he loved her, and with one tear streaming down his closed eye, he smiled as he went on to meet Jesus.

He knew how I felt about church and God, but he never failed to remind me of God’s love for me. He accepted me even though I was a complete mess, and it was obvious that he was at peace in spite of his imperfect life. I talked about that on my blog as well.

…feeling the peace that surrounds him already and the faith he has as he spends his last few days on earth has truly been a testament of his authentic belief to me.  People professing to be “christians” usually just piss me off, but Uncle Wesley has shown me what an imperfect human’s life should look like at its best and its worst.

I was filled with a lot of bitterness and anger at that time.  I was completely lacking in direction, and I was hanging on to hope by a thread.  I had no idea that the next few years would lead to extraordinary life change, but it did.

In December of 2012 I met my friend, Jeff, at the mall through my friend, Shannon, and I couldn’t have imagined that he’d become such a close friend!  As we stood by the makeup counter at Macy’s (waiting for our friends) he invited me to church.  Here’s how it went:

Jeff: Hey, you should come to church sometime.

Kenlie: Uh, I’ll be friends with you, but I’m not going to your (expletive) church.

Jeff: Okay.

During that conversation I explained to Jeff why I thought GOD was real, but I also explained why there was no way in hell I was going to church.

As a kid, I was in church (or church activities) several times a week. My dad was the pastor so I was there for EVERYTHING whether I wanted to be or not. I had to put a smile on my face and go regardless of what was happening in my life. I had to sing whether I wanted to or not.  I saw good things happen, and I saw a lot of horrible things happen – things that hurt me, things that made me angry. I did what I was told to do because well-behaved kids do that, but I was never overly concerned about GOD’s presence in my life.

After meeting Jeff I spent the next several months going out of my way to curse and drink in front of him. I waited for him to judge me or tell me off, but he didn’t.  Instead we became friends and eventually, because it’s hard to say no to Candi, who is now his wife, I walked into church.

Now it’s no secret that I have a relationship with God. I love Jesus, and I often talk about how incredible it is that He loves me in spite of myself.  Uncle Wesley’s birthday passed earlier this week, and I smiled as I thought about what he would think of me now. The truth is he’d love me now just as he did then, but I wish he was still here so he could see the changes that have taken place in me.

I wish I could tell him that he was right, that I get it now, that I know God loves me, and that I love Him back.  I wish he could be here Sunday as I lead worship at my church because he loved hearing me sing and because he loved worshipping Jesus. I wish I could have conversations with him about faith. I wish we could sing southern gospel together like we did even when I was far from God. I wish I could talk about the verses in the Bible that have impacted me recently.  I just wish he was here.

Uncle Wesley and Me

There’s a lot of hope, peace and contentement when you believe in God. You get to cling to the fact that you’ll see your loved ones again in Heaven. I’m able to acknowledge that what’s happening in Uncle Wesley’s life today is far better than what would be happening if he were still alive.

I can’t believe it’s been almost three years since he left earth. My life is different now, more settled…I’ve gained some weight, but I’ve also gained peace, friends who know all of my junk and love me anyway, a church family that is filled with other imperfect people who are working on being faith distributors. I’ve begun the process of healing from a time in which my entire world was rocked. I have a steady routine that I didn’t have back then, and I’m more honest with myself and the people around me than I’ve ever been before.

I miss my uncle, and many people that I love still miss him too. I know, in as much as my human brain can comprehend, that Uncle Wesley is in a far better place where he is.  I know that, but I miss him anyway.

 

 

 

 

Fitbloggin, Friends, NOLA Church and Stuff

I can’t believe that it’s already finals week for the summer session.  The last few weeks have been busy and awesome, and while I haven’t made much time to check in here, I decided to do that this evening.  (I should be studying for a final exam that I’m taking tomorrow at noon, but blogging is more fun than studying – regardless of the topic.)

My weekend was jam packed.  Brandi, who many of you probably know from DietsinReview.com, spent a couple of days at my place with her family.  They weren’t here long, but we managed to explore the French Quarter, eat a po boy sandwich and beignets, take a nap during a thunderstorm and take a selfie or two (while I was a sweaty mess!)

Brandi and Kenlie

I did homework spent Sunday morning at church and had lunch with some special people too.  I am part of the worship team at NOLA Church, and God’s presence filled the place.  It was pretty amazing.

Kenlie NOLA Church

During Monte’s sermon, he said that God’s rewards always come with responsibility, and that hit me like a ton of bricks.

Sometimes (okay, most of the time) it’s not easy for me to invite people to church or to share with them that Jesus wants to be in their lives.  I hate ‘pushing’ these important, well-meaning statements on people because I *hated* being invited to church.  If you wanted to piss me off, all you had to do was tell me to go to church.  (Seriously?  I know…)

I still don’t always feel comfortable pushing my beliefs on anyone, but sometimes I want to share my faith.  If you don’t want to hear it, stop reading now, and come back on a different day.

 

Here are some things that have been on my mind lately:

  • Life without God is a downward spiral.  I’m in a small group, in which Monte is unpacking the book of Romans, and  it’s been awesome so far.  If you want to understand God’s character, read Romans. I can’t tell you how much better life is with God than it is without Him.
  • Religion can’t save you.  Following a set of rules, then showing off how well you did on Sunday is not part of God’s plan for me.
  • God’s rewards always come with responsibility.  When you’re involved in planting a church, there’s a long list of things that you have an opportunity to do.  We’re currently worshipping in a construction zone, which means that we have to do set-up and tear downs each week.  Some of us host small groups or Bible studies, etc.  I do social media and lead worship with an amazing team, and it all takes time.  With great reward (a permanent location, brains, etc.) comes great responsibility.  Check out Luke 12 if you want to see that confirmed.

Now it’s time to get back to the grind.  I had decided that I wasn’t going to attend Fitbloggin this year since I’m heading to New York the following week.  I’ve been feeling disconnected from the blog world this year, but after spending the weekend with Brandi, I was reminded of how much I love Fitbloggin.  I’m about 99% sure that I’ll be heading that way later this week, which means that I have a lot to accomplish before that.

When I started writing this post, it was still light outside.  Now it’s dark, which is a reminder than I need to study.  I also need to complete a research paper before Wednesday.  Yikes.

What are you doing that’s exciting this week?

A Shift in Perspective

I was sitting with the production team for NOLA Church after a meeting last night when my pastor, Monte, who’s also my friend, said something that completely changed my perspective about this blog.

I lead the social media team for our church, and we were discussing how my personal blog has changed over the last year and a half or so.

I explained that I’ve outgrown it -that the good no longer outweighs the negativity.  I don’t exactly believe that so I also told the team about all of the positive things that have come as a result, and I admitted that I was torn.

Some of you have been praying for me for years, while others aren’t very happy that I love Jesus now.  They don’t like that I talk about Him, and they’ve been pretty candid about it.

We talked about the folks who are few in number, though sometimes extraordinarily annoying.  You know them – the jerks who troll the internet trying to tear strangers down.  Sometimes they target me, and sometimes it bothers me.  I ignore it, but sometimes it bugs me.  I’m human, you know?  I wish I could keep all of the good while eradicating all of the bad.

He said,  “If you know what HE did for you, then it doesn’t matter what they do to you.

In the past I’ve treated people poorly.  I’ve been selfish.  I’ve lied.  I’ve spoken people with less respect than they deserve.  That said, I repented, and it’s something that I have to do often.  I’ve spent the last few years becoming honest with myself, and while it has been incredibly difficult,  it has also allowed me to experience freedom.

I’ve found happiness, but I’ve also found contentment.  I’ve experienced forgiveness and grace, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the love of God and the people around me.  I’m more humble, more honest and more fulfilled than I ever could have imagined, and while I’ll never be perfect, I know who I am now.  I know how God sees me.  His grace has been extended to me, and I accept it.

There are some changes coming on this blog, and I hope that they’ll represent me as who I am today.  I still have issues to work through, and there’s a lot that I’d like to say.  I’m not done working through every single issue. I haven’t figured out how to be successful in weight-loss yet, and that’s a big one.

This blog means something to me, and those of you who offer support and encouragement mean something to me.  I’ll be turning a page on this blog soon, and I hope you’re around as I start the next chapter.

 

 

 

 

One Year Later…

It has been just over a year since I walked into NOLA Church for the first time, and I cannot believe how different my life and point of view are now.

I have friends who love me without judgment, and I’ve built relationships with people who know everything about me – my deepest regrets and fears and joys – and love me in spite of those imperfections.

My church isn’t perfect.  It is filled with flawed people who are searching for acceptance, seeking to have their questions answered.  We have issues, but I like that.  Jesus spent time with people who needed Him, and we need Him.  I need Him.

I’ve discovered God’s immeasurable grace and unconditional forgiveness, and I have a relationship with Him that I didn’t realize that someone like me – so flawed and imperfect and horrible – could ever have.

My life is different.  I’m different.

I remember writing a post about my feelings on church, the reasons that I was skeptical about going and the reasons that it just wasn’t for me.  I remember wishing that I could have faith in someone that I couldn’t see, and I remember being terrified of being hurt by the church again.

I needed peace and assurance that everything would be okay, but I didn’t find that. Instead I faced gossip, judgment and condescension.  The meanest, most judgmental people I knew were from the church, and I decided that if that’s what church was about, I didn’t want any part of it.

You can read the whole post here.

Now I love Jesus.  Sometimes people find my love for Him obnoxious, but I’m so thankful that I can’t imagine not talking about it.  It defines so much of who I am now, and I don’t want that to change.

Last week I wrote a post that some of you didn’t like.  Someone called me preachy, and another person called me an idiot.  Someone else called me naive.

I get it.  Some people think I’m ridiculous or full of crap for talking about Jesus here.  I understand that you don’t all love Him or believe in Him or have faith in Him, but it’s who I am now.  I still have a lot of other loves and interests, but He’s part of me now.  I’m happier and more at peace than I’ve ever been so it’s not likely to change anytime soon.

I didn’t write about forgiveness recently because I was trying to preach to anyone; I wrote it because I’ve been working through my feelings on forgiveness lately.  As I look back at my past, I’m forced to think about things that I’ve tried to forget for years.

In my late teens and early 20’s, I was an insecure, suicidal, dishonest person who desperately wanted to feel loved and accepted.  I didn’t think it was possible that I could forgive those who hurt me, and I didn’t care who I hurt because I was in so much pain.  I lived crippled by that pain for years, and now I’m free from it.

It’s by God’s grace that I’m not dead.  It’s because of His love that I get to live in freedom now.  I’m loved.  I’m forgiven.  I’m His.  End of story. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s just the beginning…

 

My Public Statement

I don’t talk about GOD on my blog everyday, but I have mentioned all of the changes that have occurred in me lately.  I’ve experienced life in a completely different way, and one of the biggest differences lies in the fact that I know that GOD loves me.   I believe in Him, and I believe that He lives in me.  It’s weird for me to say things like that so openly because if you’ve followed my blog very long, then you may know that I didn’t always feel that way.

I was baptized in Lake Pontchartrain Sunday afternoon.  I was baptized when I was a kid, but I did it again because I’ve spent the last several months in a totally renewed relationship with GOD.  I was so excited to publicly acknowledge my relationship with Him and my desire to commit myself to Him, and I think it’s important to do it here because I’ve committed so much of myself to this blog over the last four and a half years.  After more than a decade of feeling as though I didn’t need Him, it feels amazing to know that He is for me.

Kenlie Nola Church

Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I saw the worst parts of the church, and as a result, I turned away from GOD.  I could not have been more condescending about church goers if I tried, and I didn’t understand why anyone would waste their time surrounded by such hypocrisy and judgement.  Those things summed up church for me, and I blamed GOD for it.

Over the last few months, I have written about my desire to cultivate my relationship with Him.  I was not looking for a church home, nor did I have any interest in getting to know GOD in my adult life.  I thought I was content in making the changes that I needed to make for myself, then something happened.  I felt His presence, and I began to pray.

I asked GOD to show Himself to me, and He did.  Through prayer I found myself feeling comfort and contentment and strength that I’ve never experienced before, and people in my life started noticing a difference.  I started noticing a difference, and I needed to acknowledge it out loud so I went into a cold lake and made that statement.  (That’s my pastor, Monte Young, next to me in the middle of the photo below.)

Monte Young Kenlie Baptism Lake Pontchartrain

My outside self hasn’t changed or moved forward with weight-loss in ages, but everything is different.  I am different.    I’m constantly amazed by the love and the grace that I’ve received while I was so undeserving.  I’m still imperfect, but I’ve been set free.

If you’re still reading this post, you don’t have to worry.  I have no plans to become a pious, judgmental Bible thumper who gets spiritual about everything.  I’m still the same flawed person who is struggling to finish what I started.  I’m not going to preach to you everyday, but I am going to pray for you.  I believe that GOD  loves everyone one of us, and I want you to experience the peace that comes in knowing Him.

The more I seek Him, the more I realize that He was always there.  I am loved.  I am forgiven.  I am redeemed, and I am blessed.  I could never put into words how thankful I am for his never-ending grace, and I sincerely hope and pray that you will allow Him to work in your life too….