Immerse staff update

Immerse staff update

Nate here writing on behalf of all Immerse staff and leaders. You all probably wonder on a daily basis, "What is going on with the Immerse staff?" Well, today that wondering comes to an end because I'm going to tell you. But, first some history.

In December of 2013 Immerse became a non-profit and a year later the organization hired Nate as Executive Director and general Immerse Overlord (a title that was never accepted or appreciated by the Board of Directors). In September of 2015 Melissa Lundquist joined Immerse full time and Immerse started to feel like a real deal since we had multiple employees. Christy Gudim join the staff in August of 2016 in not-quite-full-time status. Then 2017 happened.

In early 2017, Christy stopped being active full time for Immerse due to a VERY difficult pregnancy with (surprise!) twin girls growing in the womb. Later that spring Immerse made a major organizational shift from paying its employees as independent contractors to full-fledged W2 employees, which was both a stressful and expensive transition for the organization but set Immerse up very well for the future. In June, Mel was in a car accident and endured a very serious concussion that has knocked her out of the running for many a month. The Gudim girls were born in July and Christy entered into an indefinite maternity leave.

Starting in July, Nate was again the sole active employee of Immerse and everything had to change. Prayer Resolution (PR) sessions all but stopped due to the standard practice of working with two Resolution Ministers to one Courageous One. Instead of PR sessions, Nate shifted focus to one-on-one and group mentoring. Immerse Community carried on as it always has, but the culture and DNA shifted substantially due to two primary leaders no longer attending, let alone leading. Things always change. Grieve what was lost and adapt to the new thing that God is doing.

That brings us to today. Mel has been slowing moving back toward full-time status, but she still has a long way to go and recovery is a continual practice in patience and rest. She will likely start trying to do a session or two of Prayer Resolution here and there in the next few weeks. Nate has recently returned from a well-earned sabbatical in December and is super pumped to restart one-on-ones, PR sessions, and teaching at Immerse Community. Christy has embraced mom-hood as her current full-time job and is no longer on the Immerse payroll. She will still be around on standby status and Immerse will likely hire her as a contractor on an as-needed basis.

2017 was a pivot year for Immerse. We learned a lot about rest, God's redirection, and accounting software. We are learning more and more about who we are, what we're good at, and where we're going. Want to know more about the future of Immerse? Those dreams can be accessed by purchasing a caffeinated beverage for any Immerse staff at a local coffee joint of choice. 

Swinging into surrender

Swinging into surrender

I close my eyes and suddenly I’m 5 years old trying to conquer the swing set. Jesus is there. I want to make the process as efficient as possible, so I start my mental calculations of exactly when I need to push off the ground, what angle I should be leaning back, how to combat the wind – all to achieve the greatest velocity. Having finished my methodical planning process, I carefully get situated on the swing. My young face is twisted in concentration as I cling tightly to the swing chains. Better do this right the first time so I can move onto my next childhood milestone already.

Oh yeah, Jesus is there. He was behind me all along, watching sadly as I stripped what could have been a beautiful and fun experience down to a checklist of striving. Effort. Control. Maybe if I had lightened up a bit, Jesus would have given me a joyous shove to send me soaring freely – but safely – into the air. I can only imagine the surprise and delight on my little kid face as I pretended to be a bird, or Wonder Woman. Suddenly my calculations and performance anxiety melt away. I’m shining with a big toothy grin, and so is Jesus.

This is a scene that has played out in my mind a lot when I ask Heavenly Father about my healing process. One thing you should know about me is that I would prefer to attack my “issues,” surgically. Remove my pain, as quickly as possible. No matter what it costs me – time, money, emotional energy, maybe even my sanity. Once I’m aware of a hurting piece of my heart, I want it fixed immediately. Otherwise I’m walking around broken and “in process.” No one wants that, right? I want to arrive at a place where my past sorrows, traumas, sins, mistakes and the lies I’ve believed are all settled. Then I can finally relax and enjoy my life.

I’m slowly learning that I will never “arrive” at full healing in this lifetime. Despite my best efforts, I will never be able to root out every single lie. A piece of my heart will heal – hooray! – and not long after I will discover another part that needs a breath of life again. This sounds pessimistic, but it lifts a heavy burden of pressure for me to “accomplish” wholeness in my own strength and timeline.

My job is to trust my daddy as he lovingly pushes me on the swing. Breathe. Laugh. Cry. Get angry. Surrender. Take a break. Cry again. He’s leading my healing process, and the God of the Universe has got it covered.

Swing on.

Banker family update

Banker family update

“I think this could be our new church home.” Nate was hesitant and hopeful as he spoke. Michelle exuberantly replied, “Me too!” A cacophony of “really?!”s and “wow”s followed by the sudden realization that they were moving out of their season of transition and about to settle down into a new church family. They are super excited about this new place to invest. Check out Nate and Michelle’s new church here. They left Substance Church on really good terms while protecting the relationships and connections they still hope to maintain there.

The Bankers recently upgraded to a new mini-van…not by choice, mind you. Michelle and the kids (including the 20-month-old who Michelle babysits occasionally) were the victims of a hit-and-run, t-bone accident just a block and a half from their house. The hit-and-runner was kind enough to leave behind their license plate, which led Nate and Michelle on a wild goose chase only to discover that person didn’t have any insurance. They were pretty bummed until the community decided to kick this tragedy in the butt with its generosity. The Bankers now own a newer mini-van (Michelle’s dream car, really) and were able to buy it for $2,000 less than the dealer meant to advertise it for!

Nate was given a super cool opportunity to teach the Prayer Resolution forgiveness model to a group of lay counselors-in-training at Woodland Hills Church. It was one of the most effective and fun forgiveness classes Nate has ever done. It’s so cool to see what they’re doing in that church helping the hurting and the broken. It was an absolute honor to contribute to that work.

A few weeks ago, Nate started entertaining some persistent thoughts that it was important for him and his family to take some time off. After some discussion and debate, he has committed to taking a full month off from Immerse. As you read this, Nate is not working. Perhaps he’s at some coffee shop somewhere reading a Richard Rohr book right now. Later in the month he’s planning on spending a few days and nights at Pacem In Terris to detox from our crazy busy modern world and envelop himself in silence, solitude, and God. He is also changing his name to “Ocean” and working on developing an intolerance to gluten, thereby completing his transition into a master hipster. Nate returns to work on Jan 7th.

Giving, for the heart

Giving, for the heart

If you spent years immersed in evangelical church culture like I did, you were likely exposed to “prosperity doctrine” to a certain degree; that is, an extreme emphasis placed on the “stewardship” of financial resources in an individual's expression of faith. What did your church teach you?

If you attended my church, you would have been steeped in statements along the lines of, “Tithing is the most basic way a Christian can demonstrate their faith,” and even statements of tithing being a prerequisite to salvation. Before I go any further, let me be clear: using fear to coax a church body to fork over their resources is nothing short of spiritual abuse. If you’ve shared similar experiences to me, I hope my healing journey can be a catalyst for starting your own on the matter.

It’s a familiar experience for any church-goer ... the offering baskets are being passed around, and if your brain works anything like mine, you begin to think, “Why aren’t you tithing? You’re so stingy! But, I hate feeling obligated to give!” Every Sunday, for a moment, I’d begin to slide down a black hole of guilt on the matter.

It was a lose-lose scenario for me. If I didn’t give, I was overwhelmed with guilt. If I gave, I felt sore about giving out of obligation or I felt guilty because I knew I could give more. Add the evangelical contribution to this mental storm with ideas like “blessing” is held in reserve by God for only the “good stewards,” and I was ready to raise the “double whammy” to God, the church, and all those guilt-inciting baskets being passed around. Thankfully, kind church folk were standing by to explain that the “condition of my heart” was to blame, “But, be sure to keep giving! You don’t want to lose out on ‘blessing’!”

*face-palm*

How should we respond to this inner-turmoil, and how should we respond to abusive giving messages?

For years I’ve heard there’s nothing in the new testament regarding the topic of tithing. Well, actually, the word “tithe” appears just once. Jesus confronts the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23, “... Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law -- justice, mercy, and faith.”

That’s right, folks. Right out of the horse’s mouth: there are more important things than tithing. In His only recorded mentioning of tithing Jesus offers a balanced view on the matter: it’s good to do, yes, but it’s not the end-all, life or death kind of matter that some would have you believe.

The foundation of my healing journey in giving has been the “tithing sabbatical” that I believe God led me to. Healing my heart by giving it a rest season and protecting it by blocking out guilt-triggering teaching on the matter nurtured the soil of my heart. This allowed a sprout of desire to begin to grow. My few moments of giving as of late have reignited a long-snuffed flame, which has included my returning to a hair salon to give a large tip to a stylist I feel I under-compensated.

My experience led me to give more to others in my life. It feels great, and didn’t God intend for giving to be a joyful experience?

 

Little Baby Jesus

Little Baby Jesus

Baby Jesus is having a hard time. Someday he will be back in heaven, seated at the right hand of his Father, but right now the Savior of the World is dealing with the particularly vulnerable issue of being stuck on his chest. After some struggling, he manages to lift himself, a victorious moment that lasts only briefly, as his forward momentum causes him to do a face-plant in the soft dirt. This is a move thousands of babies his age had done before him, and he, our one and only Savior, is not spared the indignity of falling. Or the pain of it.

Pushing himself up, his face contorted with emotion, he begins to cry. Being the Son of God does not protect him from things like this. It seems unjust, really, a catastrophe of poor planning to have a Savior in this form.

Mary instantly leans over and sweeps him up to her chest. She cradles him there, and, for a moment, the heartbeat of God’s Son syncs with hers as he begins to calm down.

Once his tears have stopped, replaced by quiet breaths, Mary holds him out from her and looks into his wide, dark eyes. His facial expression morphs into a smile in response to hers. She gently places him down in front of her, balancing him so that he is, for a moment, standing. The legs that will one day carry a rugged cross up to Golgotha are right now weak and trembling, in need of her support.

Mary sets Jesus down in the pool of sunlight and offers him a toy. His hands, hands that will one day give the blind their sight, are chubby and uncoordinated as they grasp for the simple, wooden toy that Joseph made. Jesus gurgles and sticks it in his mouth. His voice, the one that will one day call Lazarus back to life, has yet to complete the simplest of words.  

Mary watches him with a calm delight. She doesn’t know that the very sun that streams down on Jesus right now will one day go dark as he breathes his last, and that his currently unbalanced feet will one day enter hell and return with the keys to death.

Heaven’s greatest rescue mission has been launched with the most ordinary of beginnings. This is his grand entrance. Fully one of us. Yet completely divine. He has entered our world in the most unconventional way a king could have chosen to come. Into our brokenness. Into our pain. With a simple mission – to mend and restore what was lost -- at the cost of his own life.

For this babe, in all of his gibbering glory and fragile vulnerability, is one day going to save us all.


 

Christy's family update

Christy's family update

One of our two babies is pretty calm, relaxed, and easy. The other one I like to call our more passionate child. She will scream to let you know she needs something and requires more creativity and often time to calm, soothe, or placate.

Slow growth model

Slow growth model

Three-fourths of our donations in 2017 were recurring. That means most of our donations are reliable, predictable, and consistent. This is super great for long-term sustainability and future planning.

Grow as slow as possible

Grow as slow as possible

I’ve been hearing the whispers of God saying ridiculous things like, “Grow as slowly as possible” and “Be as small as possible.” It sounded like crazy talk at first, but I’m starting to fall in love with those ideas.

Surviving on a prayer

Surviving on a prayer

God feels very close these days. He’s holding her, wrapped up, snuggled to His chest like a mother holds and snuggles her baby in a wrap carrier. God’s deep Presence in difficult circumstances is showing Mel that He is tenderly committed to the long-haul healing process of body and heart.

The Gospel according to Jeff

The Gospel according to Jeff

Over the many centuries, various schools of thought have been formed concerning the applicability of the Gospel. Who’s in and who’s out? How exactly did Christ’s death cover our sin? What is hell and who goes there? What does it mean that our experience on earth is still hard?

       Banker Family Update   A lot has happening in the Banker family this summer. River took her first step at 10 months old. Isaac started pre-school (Eeek!) Silas and Isaac got their first bee/wasp stings (with resulting ice cream celebrations). Michelle has started a part-time babysitting gig. Nate has been running Immerse solo most of the summer (it’s okay because it has resulted in really good coffee and company). We have paid off our mini-van and put some money to keep the Corolla running strong.  A few weeks ago we had some good friends treat us to a weekend away at a lakehouse outside of Duluth. Our two families have kids similarly aged and everyone got along so well together (thankfully, since it rained most of the weekend and we were all stuck inside with each other). We did all the vacation things. Marshmallows, board games, Tobies donuts, swimming, eating sand, leech-removal, Finding Dory, good food, drawbridge/boat watching, and someone even got pooped on by a bird! It was a glorious break for both families and hopefully the start of an annual tradition.  This month, Nate is picking up quite a few days doing construction. With Mel being out of the office due to the concussion, we have been unable to do any Prayer Resolution sessions. We didn’t foresee the financial impact this would have on Immerse and we need a bit of catch-up time (many people give in response to this ministry). In order to keep Immerse going, Nate is planning on reassigning roughly 60 hours of his work time from Immerse to carpentry in September.  In general, we feel like our life is fairly well balanced. We’re handling the challenges and stressors like we’re adults or something. We have a very full life and often find ourselves talking in amazement at how great everything is. We wouldn’t choose any other way of living.

In general, we feel like our life is fairly well balanced. We’re handling the challenges and stressors like we’re adults or something. We have a very full life and often find ourselves talking in amazement at how great everything is. We wouldn’t choose any other way of living.

Love up for grabs

Love up for grabs

It’s harder to boldly claim God’s love when things aren’t going well - when your car breaks down, when the relationship doesn’t work out. It’s so easy to feel abandoned. To wonder why God has left - why He has betrayed you.

Gudim Family Update - BABIES!

Gudim Family Update - BABIES!

Some of the best things in life also happen to be the things that require the hardest struggle. Kids are the obvious object lesson, but the not-so-obvious is the wholeness of our hearts. Christy’s commitment to her own heart-health through this journey is an example worth following.

"Don't Charge for Labor"

"Don't Charge for Labor"

I wasn’t sure it was God. It was mostly just a vague impression or random thought that didn’t want to go away. But, I’ve learned to trust that annoying nudge. In the end, God isn’t going to fail to provide for me because I was too darn generous and willing to help some people out in my community. God’s resources are unlimited! I’m always as rich as all the promises of God.

My heart in shadow

My heart in shadow

Like the woman in the story, I, too, don’t want to meet God having carried much of my heart in shadow. I don’t want God to have to eavesdrop on a conversation with a friend to know what is really going on in my heart.

Mel's Update

Mel's Update

The more I allowed my heart to connect to God the more peace flooded my heart.  It's a strange thing to be at peace and wildly uncomfortable at the same time.

Rebelling against Rest

Rebelling against Rest

If I am being honest, there is fear in my heart here, Lord. Fear of stillness. Of what may be uncovered if I stop moving and actually let my heart speak instead of silencing it with busyness. I’m afraid of the loss of control if I stop pursuing things and let you gently pursue me in quiet places. It feels vulnerable to me. To stop.

Banker Family Update

Banker Family Update

...Then again, if we didn’t have people willing to risk it all for the hearts of the broken, all hope would be lost. This ministry can often feel like a ragtag group of youngsters rebelling against a system that defines people by their performance. A group of 20 taking on a horde of demons try to kill, stifle, and silence the hearts of our generation...

Dollars and Sense

Dollars and Sense

Immerse is not at the place where we are impacting thousands or even hundreds of people at a time. We know, however, that by significantly impacting one or two people, we will change the world. The exponential impact of those two people is immeasurable. Every person Immerse has impacted, challenged, helped heal, or taught are the fruit of an investment into two people...

But, what does it take for Immerse to do what it does?...

I love spring.

I love spring.

Change definitely has a way of uprooting heart things. The safe becomes unstable. The known unfamiliar. The things you thought could never change (like the position of your mailbox) suddenly do as the peace of your normal world is suddenly disturbed by road closed signs. 

It can be easy to forget what it’s all for...