March 20, 2023 -


Carrying Traditions of God's Goodness: An Indigenous View

Renee Begay

Following Jesus in the fullness of her Indigenous identity, reclaiming her ancestor’s sacred ways, learning from Indigenous leaders and how noticing God’s goodness in our communities can help us all live in a good way. We chat about this and more with Renee Begay, the director and co-founder of Nations.

Episode Reflection

Invitation to Explore

Renee Kylestewa Begay invites us to bring our full selves before Jesus and recognize the ways in which our Creator God has revealed himself to our unique communities. 

Take some time to think about the ways in which God has uniquely revealed himself in the values you live by or the practices that have been passed down from generation to generation in your community. In what ways can you see glimpses of Jesus in your own cultural upbringing? In what ways can you listen and learn from the ways God has revealed himself in other cultures and communities?  

Scripture to Study

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 

(1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

Wise Words to Consider

“There’s so many Aboriginal and Indigenous groups all over the world globally that are still living and thriving today. And so, take a look, be a listener, and be a learner, versus trying to say how we should live. First, just watch, because we have been here for centuries. And so there’s something about our ways, how God has revealed Himself to us, that needs to be taken seriously.” – Renee Begay

A Prayer to Lead You

Our Creator, you have made each and every one of us uniquely and you have shown yourself and your ways to our communities, our cultures, and our histories. You are not ashamed of us, but you lovingly invite us to bring our whole selves before you.

Forgive us for the ways we have not recognized your wisdom in the communities and cultures other than our own. Help us to sit, listen, and learn from the people around us, especially from those we have wrongly overlooked, hurt, and forgotten. Give us a heart of respect and humility. 

Help us to see how we are connected to one another and to the rest of your creation so that we may partner with you in restoring, nurturing, and serving the communities around us. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.  

A Practice to Begin

Renee remarked that many mindfulness practices we know of today have been practiced by Indigenous peoples for centuries as a way of holistic health, wellness, and longevity.

Take some time this week to find an Indigenous practice of mindfulness from the resources Renee mentioned and engage in respectful curiosity. Reflect and marvel at the ways in which God has revealed himself to Indigenous communities and how they have passed on these practices for centuries.      

Questions to Answer

Renee shared about the importance of taking the time to thoughtfully and respectfully create culturally appropriate ways to engage with Indigenous students and the values they live by as she started Nations.   

Are there stories of pain as well as treasured values in your community that could affect the way the gospel speaks uniquely to you and your community? Are there ways that you can learn to rethink culturally appropriate and respectful ways to deeply engage with communities outside your own?

How well is your faith community doing in understanding the communities around them, and in what ways can you foster a spirit of respectful curiosity?

Resources to Help

Nations website:

Richard Twisse, One Church, Many Tribes.

“Live in a Good Way,” A Reflection by Renee Kylestewa Begay, from Voices of Lament: Reflections on Brokenness and Hope in a World Longing for Justice



Renee: [00:00:01] There are so many Aboriginal and Indigenous groups all over the world globally that are still living and thriving today. Take a look. Be a listener and be a learner versus trying to say how we should live first. Just watch because we have been here for centuries. And so there’s something about our ways in how God has revealed himself to us that needs to be taken seriously.


Chealsia: [00:00:29] Welcome to the Created For Podcast. A space where our everyday lives intersect with God’s redemptive story.


Michele: [00:00:35] Where together we learn from diverse voices, explore our unique callings, and pursue communal flourishing.


Chealsia: [00:00:42] We’re your hosts, Chealsia Smedley and Michele Davis. Today, we have two guests on the podcast. 


First is our guest host, my friend Kathia Avilez, who will be joining us for a few episodes this season. She works with Cru City in Austin, Texas, coaching twenty-somethings through life, faith and the enneagram so they can live out their calling. 


Kathia and I had the pleasure of sitting down with Renee Begay, who is the director and co-founder of Nations, a national ministry that seeks to build good relationships with Indigenous communities. Renee belongs to the Pueblo of Zuni, is married to her high school sweetheart and has three daughters. In her Created For Wholeness talk, she shared how we can continue the tradition of Creator’s goodness. Today we dig deeper. We talk about being our full selves in front of Jesus, carrying each other’s stories and how recognizing the ways that God has revealed himself to our unique communities can help us all live in a good way. 


So we wanted to give you an opportunity to introduce yourself first, Renee, to our audience.


Renee: [00:01:54] Sure. I’ll introduce myself in Zuni. Keshhi ho’ Renee Begay le’shina. Ho K’o:lotda:kwe deyan K’yak’yali:kwe a:wan cha’le. And so in Zuni. I said, hello. My name is Renee Begay, and what we usually do in Zuni is to share our clans because it’s our way of expressing kinship, who we are connected to, which family lineage we have. And so I belong to the Sandhill Crane Clan, and I’m a child of the Eagle Clan, which is my dad’s, and you belong to your mother’s clan. And so it’s matrilineal.


Chealsia: [00:02:29] So I’m not familiar. Can you describe what is a clan?


Renee: [00:02:33] Yeah, I use the term kinship. Within Zuni, there are families within the tribe and we were designated the animal that represents us just to show us who’s who in the village. And then each clan has a responsibility to the village. And so it’s just a way of living in the community. When you live in it, you just grow up knowing it. But then when someone asks you like to explain it, you’re like, ‘ Oh shoot. I never really thought about how to explain it, but living it, you see it played out in the everyday life. 


But it’s a way of kinship. It’s a way of relating to other people. And through that you also are taught that we are all related. And so even in that village sense, we are related. We are all connected in some way. But then in the global sense, we are also taught like we are related as human beings to one another, not just human beings, but also the rest of creation, the water, the air, the land and all the animals and things like that.


Chealsia: [00:03:35] Yeah. Thank you for explaining that. It’s really just beautiful to see all of these values just in the way that you introduce yourself, like being related as human beings to each other and all of creation like that just reminds me of God, how he’s redeeming not just people, but all creation.Llike those types of values that are being lived out. 


You and your husband started the ministry Nations, right?


Renee: [00:03:57] Donny and I, we were high school sweethearts, so we both went down to New Mexico State. And that first week I was looking for, at that time it was called Campus Crusade for Christ. We were enjoying ourselves, enjoying the friendships we were making at the weekly meetings. But then I was also noticing too, ‘Oh, we’re the only few brown people in the room of about 200 students.’ And that to me, that was just like, ‘Where’s everybody else? Like, where’s our communities?’ And all at the same time, like really enjoying worshiping and all those things growing in our faith. And our friend Reece Harker kept bugging us about there’s this thing called Destino.You should come. And we kept saying: No, it’s okay, we’re good. And he just was so persistent in saying, No, this is different. 


And so finally we attended a Destino weekly meeting and it was at this lady’s house, and she greeted us and she did the worship and then she did the speaking part. And then she hosted us while we all ate in her house and like people were dancing and stuff. So that culturally to me was just like way more reflective of what we did in the Native community. And so that cultural piece of just cultural relating stuck with me, and that’s where we were like, Oh yeah, it is different. And that I think just made a bigger opening for me to just dream about what if this could happen also for the Indigenous community here on campus?


 I had been seeing a lot of the Native students walk around campus. I took what templates were being given to me about how to share about this Bible study that I wanted to start for Native students. It didn’t go well because I was invading privacy, like just knocking on doors and like inviting people to come. And I freaked out a lot of my fellow Native students just because we’re not like that. And so that was even for me, a learning moment of, okay, what is culturally appropriate on my end? 


That made me think to sit back and say, what are the values that we live by as Indigenous people and what is culturally appropriate in behavior and approach and all these things. So Donny and I started thinking through those things and we started listing off these values that we had in the reality of being on a campus. So we co-founded Nations as sophomores in college, and from there it just took off because there was other things that the Spirit was doing on other campuses.


Chealsia: [00:06:40] Wow, that’s amazing. I didn’t realize that you were students when you founded this movement. Yeah, that is so cool. 


When you’re talking about values like Nations, like when you look at your website or like the Talking Table, you use language very differently from Cru’s mainstream ministry: language of restoring, nurturing and serving. And so can you talk a little bit about that language?


Renee: [00:07:04] Yeah, it wasn’t done alone. I think just with all the years of just even learning for ourselves, what’s the appropriate approach and then also learning about our history as Indigenous people that we are the most missionized people groups, not a good track record on that. And so there is a lot of historical trauma that’s connected to that, whether people like to engage in it or not, like it’s true. 


And so even taking that into account, we’ve been blessed to be able to sit with other leaders who are leading ministries in their context of like the Asian American space or the Latinx space, and just talking with them, we realized that there are differences. There are ways that you have to approach how to engage with others that’s culturally relevant or that’s culturally appropriate, that’s sensitive to the stories of history that they’ve encountered. 


And so even just thinking through all of that, Cru’s heart is to win, build, send… even just saying win build send there’s a lot of like, even though it’s not the intent, it could be translated as like a lot of colonist activity or just language. And so even just being careful with our communities, there were things that we had to sit and say, okay, so what are the values that we have as Indigenous people? And then what would speak to the heart of what we’re trying to do? And it was like, oh, like restore given our history, like restore, nurture, serve and nurture, almost like shepherding in a way of the things that we had experienced in history. And what does that look like? What questions come into play with that? 


Well, one of the questions historically has been can I be Native and Christian? And once our community has wrestled through that, then what other questions do we go through? You know, so I can be Native and Christian, but how do I do it? Well, so that goes to the question of like, how do we practice our indigeneity? Even within those words, restore, nurture, serve like within restore, there’s all these questions that we’re asking as an Indigenous group or as Indigenous peoples and then serve. How do we relate to others around us or like ourselves and then to others in other communities? It’s packed with what we’re trying to do well as a Nation’s team.


Kathia: [00:09:36] I love those values and I think that language does matter, especially given the historical context of the Indigenous community. How do you answer that question yourself? The question is, can I be Native and Christian? What has your faith journey looked like?


Renee: [00:09:55] A lot of the work was done for us in that sense, with indigenous leaders, phenomenal leaders like Cheryl Bear, Adrian Jacobs, Richard Twiss, the late Richard Twiss. He wrote a book called “One Church Many Tribes,” that just opened my eyes to kind of see the possibility of following Jesus in my indigeneity. And then Uncle Terry LeBlanc and then Randy Woodley. So these are all Indigenous leaders who have really done the work. They got together and they went through seminary to learn all this stuff. And so everything about like hegemony and like theology and all those things, they went through it. They didn’t give up and they were able to answer the questions so that they could articulate it and live it in a way that was a model for us.


 So for me, when I first started, I was wrestling through that question. I probably didn’t have the words for it, but when that question came to me through that book, “One Church, Many Tribes” with Richard Twiss. I started realizing, Oh yeah, like I am asking myself, is it okay for me to bring all of my authentic Indigenous self into a relationship with Jesus? Like, is that even possible? Because I think personally there’s moments of imposter syndrome, a mix of that, and then like really wondering, like, does Jesus really want me to be my authentic self in front of him? 


The practices that I grew up doing, the ceremonies that I grew up doing, because a lot of the church, like implicitly and explicitly have drilled into the Indigenous people that our sacred ways of being is not good, that it’s like evil or like our ceremonies are evil or pagan or just things like that. We’ve been labeled and our Indigenous identity, there are historical attempts at it being erased. The Indian Act, where we couldn’t do our ceremonies, we couldn’t do our religious practices, we couldn’t even dance. Up until like the 50s, I think. There was like policies that have been written. It’s been politicized, it’s been written in history that we couldn’t do these things. I’m holding all of this stuff and I’m trying to figure out, is it even possible to have this real relationship with Jesus? Given that my identity has been attempted at being erased even by the church?


Renee: [00:12:22] So the work of these guys and women, amazing Indigenous women, it’s still serving us today. It’s still serving the Indigenous community today. They’ve done the theological work and they’re still doing it to allow us to be able to answer the question like, yes, we can. And so for me, it was like, okay, so how does that come into play with like how I want to do it? Meaning I grew up praying with my cornmeal. Is my cornmeal evil? 


But then to hear Richard Twiss like he didn’t grow up with cornmeal, but it was something else. But like he said, do I have to use it to pray to God? No. But do I get to. Yeah, I get to. And so for me, that was the thing where I had to like really, there was probably neural pathways that were being created like new ones, new pathways that were created in my mind of I can do this, I can use my cornmeal to pray, to pray to Jesus, and it’s okay. 


I don’t have to do it all the time because it’s not the cornmeal itself is not the thing that like saves the conversation or saves the prayer, but it’s an expression that I get to take part in. And, and people might think differently, but that’s like an open door into some of the things that we go through or just wrestling with like, what does it look like? Yeah.


Chealsia: [00:13:34] Thank you for sharing that.


Kathia: [00:13:36] You talked about how you grew up praying with your cornmeal. For those that don’t know what that is or the context behind that, do you mind sharing?


Renee: [00:13:45] Yeah, I think it’s a sacred expression, right? It’s between you and God or your people and God of just offering your prayers. And so, Old Testament talks about it that there was incense involved in ceremonies in the Old Testament of the Israelites relationship to God. So it was almost like prayers being lifted up to God. And so it was that symbolism that was connected to it, more so for us than for God. But it’s just that it’s here is a tangible thing for me that helps me see that my prayers are being offered to God, almost like a candle when you light a candle to pray that there’s different forms of expressing your prayers to God. And I think that’s the simplest way that I can think of for me as I explain it.


Chealsia: [00:14:36] I’m curious, how did you become a Christian? And even in that journey, was there some sort of moment where you were trying to separate yourself from your culture and how did you find your way back?


Renee: [00:14:47] I did grow up in Zuni and was brought up in a different way of living and and I actually do see a lot of Christ represented in it, the way we reciprocate care for each other, the way our prayers a lot are about blessing of people, praying for the universe to be in balance. All these things, I don’t see that as evil. And so just for me as a little girl, I had always been curious, wondering who am I praying to? And I think as years go by, I’m able to probably articulate that a lot more. But my child-like question was, who are we praying to? And so I held on to that for a long time just growing up. 


And my mom sent me to a Christian boarding school. And the family’s advice for me was to be respectful. When they pray, you pray and so always show respect. I really appreciated that because it really set up my heart to just listen to what was happening around me. 


And I was listening to these stories and these testimonies of people talking about how Jesus had changed their life. And so I was like, Oh, is this could this possibly be someone who I’m wondering about? And I was curious, but then I was also in agony about my decision because I was told that following Jesus was an individual decision, like you make your individual decision to follow him. But for me, I knew from what I was coming from. No, it’s not. It’s a communal like it’s going to affect my community and I was fully aware of that. It took me almost a year to figure out, okay, if I do decide to follow Jesus, it is going to be a type of disruption in a way that would impact my community, impact my family, impact the way in which to live. 


After that, I wasn’t sure how I was going to live after that. So there was like some basic fears of like, oh shoot, I hope I’m not going to be kicked out of the village or, you know, those like basic fears of being outside of community. And I really had to wrestle with what that meant. And there was some things happening within my family where I was just like, okay, so if this doesn’t cause us to live transformed from the inside out, then what will? And so that’s where I made that decision to say, okay, I don’t know what this looks like or I don’t even know how to do this, but I’m willing to try following Jesus.


Musical break


Kathia: [00:17:33] In your talk, you encourage us to remember the evidence of God’s goodness and the practices that keep our ancestors living in a good way. What are some ways that you’ve done this?


Renee: [00:17:46] So I wrote an essay in this book, Voices of Lament, and the title of my essay is Living in a Good Way. And in it I highlight my people’s values. And so one of the values, is we will be considerate of one another and we will think before we act because we know that it’s going to affect everyone else. And so I feel like just having those values, every community, every household, every people group has a set of values that they live by. And I think if we become reflective and think about what are the values that we live by, that’s something that we can go off of as a good way to live. 

Sure, there are dysfunctions. Sure there are traumas and things like that. But like to live in a good way means to see what values do we live by and how can we highlight those things.


 I’ve also been growing a lot in what mental health awareness is and what trauma informed means and all these things. For like the past eight years, I’ve been learning a lot, and one of the things that has excited me recently has been finding out that there were already in place mindfulness practices that Indigenous peoples have been doing and practicing for centuries that have not only helped us to survive, but helped us to live and to laugh and to love others around us. Just even the simple things of like dancing, like those are the things that connect us to who we are fasting. Like my people grew up fasting. And so just stuff like that, like there’s things that actually show in the brain that these are things to help you live in longevity and in health and wellness.


 And so that’s really been the thing that I’ve been learning a lot from, and it’s given me the encouragement with all the disruption that we’ve been experiencing with the pandemic and like the racial violence and all these things, it’s just really overwhelming. And sometimes you just want to know what you can do in the moment to be able to be okay for that moment. And even things like getting up in the morning to pray has been like, Oh, my grandpa was already teaching me that so I can revitalize that or I can continue that and I can actually teach my girls in it. And it’s kind of funny, but it’s like scientists say it in their journals and articles, but then like you’re like,’oh, Indigenous peoples have been doing it for all these centuries.’ So like, so it’s like, ‘oh, okay, yeah, we continue, then we continue on. ‘I think those two things have been really, really teaching me and helping me.


Chealsia: [00:20:30] I love how when you’re talking about these practices, dancing, fasting, like these things that are good for us, like the journals are saying, these are good for us. Indigenous people have been doing them for centuries. And even we look at the Bible, these are things that the people in the Old Testament were doing these things. Yeah.  Indigenous people have so much wisdom when it comes to what it looks like to live integrated and intentionally. And so how would you encourage people to learn from your people?


Renee: [00:21:00] Yeah, I would say that you don’t have to think that there’s no resources. There are.There’s a lot of good books written by all the Indigenous leaders that I talked about. Richard Twiss has like three books. Randy Woodley, he keeps bringing out books right after the other. Terry LeBlanc, Uncle Terry, has what’s called NAIITS. It is an Indigenous learning community and it’s accredited. You can go through schooling of having Indigenous professors or indigenous-minded professors. So it’s really cool. 


Like there’s so much resources, there’s lots of books, and even children’s books have a children’s book about baby’s first laugh. It’s a Navajo tribe cultural practice that when a baby laughs for the very first time, the person who made the baby laugh throws a party for everybody. And there’s just this practice of teaching the baby to be generous and all these things. And so it’s just it’s all out there. And I think it would just be helpful to be open and curious about what do the Indigenous people say? 


Because given that history of our indigenous identity, attempts of erasure and genocide, historically we were always seen as a problem to get rid of because we were in the way of acquiring land. And so it’s always about the land. And somehow we have been seen as very inconvenient to the acquisition of land, knowing that a lot of times we felt that we have been overlooked or people think that we’re not here, but we actually are. There are so many tribes, like over 500 tribes in the US, not including Canada. There’s so many Aboriginal and Indigenous groups all over the world, globally, that are still living and thriving today. And so take a look, be a listener and be a learner versus trying to say how we should live first. Just watch because we have been here for centuries. And so there’s something about our ways how God has revealed himself to us that needs to be taken seriously.


Chealsia: [00:23:20] So in your talk, you asked the question like, can we go back? Can we look at the things that shook us.The things that were painful? So I’m curious, what has it been like for you to look back and how do you hold on to this thread of God’s faithfulness in the midst of such pain?


Renee: [00:23:40] Yeah. Um, I think looking back when I said that it was just to bring a balance to how we as a modernized society are constantly trying to move forward like we’re told, like we just gotta keep going. More than it’s okay to sit and be present in our sorrow or sit and be present in the fear that we just don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. And I can take myself back to how scared I felt when the pandemic first hit. I think all of us were just like, We have no idea. Like we were dousing our Amazon packages in alcohol or like sitting them out in the sun because we were just so scared that we weren’t sure how this virus was acting and stuff.


 And so even just that, going back and just being able to talk about what happened to you, like what happened, how was it for you? And so when things started opening back up, I was very intentional about asking my coworkers, like, what happened to you? I haven’t seen you for two years. What happened? Because I wanted to honor that part of their life because it was in a lot of ways probably felt so lonely or just unknown of how the future was going to go. And so I wanted to bring attention to that and give them that space to be able to share with me what they wanted to. That’s what I meant as far as like bringing a balance to that conversation. To be told to just move forward a lot of times is just as traumatic as the trauma itself. And so just it’s okay for us or like for me, it was like, is it okay? And then I was like, Yeah, I think it’s okay, Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about the things that devastated us. And I think that’s the thing, the storytelling part. When you give someone an opportunity to tell their story, it’s just powerful. You don’t even have to have a response. But just to let the person know that I’m here. I heard it and I’m carrying that story with you as much as I can or just giving attention to it.


Renee: [00:25:53] It’s just amazing to be able to have the honor of listening to someone’s story and being grateful to be trusted with that story. Personally, for me, since I was already on that road of learning about trauma, I was taking every form of like free webinar about trauma, about mental health. I took mental health first aid for adults and for young adults, which I highly recommend. If you do want to learn how to be trauma informed even a little, it just really helps to look up free trainings on mental health First aid. It’s like CPR, but for mental health, it teaches you how to assess the situation and how to like provide care and resources for someone that’s going through a mental health crisis. And so even just that, like those little things help me keep engaged with what was happening and be present in the moment.


Kathia: [00:26:46] Even as you’re talking. I feel tension in my body because it’s uncomfortable to relive the trauma, but to even talk about it. And your body tells the story of not only the trauma you’ve experienced, but also your community as well.


Renee: [00:27:04] Yeah, I think too, that you don’t have to force yourself to tell the story of trauma. It’s okay to just not have to feel like you have to start telling anything where you’re comfortable sharing. It’s okay. But to find people that would hold your story as sacred is also good. So yeah, there is a lot to think about in terms of like, how do I even begin to talk about, you know, this because even with the issue of safety. Safety is so hard to pin down for a lot of people because like, some things aren’t safe for other people. A certain maybe like a room or whatever is safe for them. But like for others, it’s not. So it’s just also being aware culturally and then, yeah, just being very careful in those things.


 So you just have to figure out how to regulate your body in a way where you’re kind to yourself and where you’re aware of your body’s needs because the body will tell you what it needs. It’s just sometimes like we’re just moving too fast to even pay attention to it. Even just learning those things like breathing exercises or stretching all those things, journaling. I will say though, that one of my Indigenous leaders said those types of things like stretching, breathing, coping mechanisms. He was also challenging me that coping mechanisms were never meant to be a way of life either. 


So there’s just kind of like this, ah, I don’t. I’m putting all these coping mechanisms into practice, but then when it becomes too much, again, I think trauma is something that’s too much, too fast, too soon. I think Resmaa Menakem was the one that worded that definition. For some people, a certain event is traumatizing and then for others it’s not. So it’s differing for people like. And so for me to learn, okay, I have to be aware of when my body says it’s enough. There’s something that has been in play where I’m doing all the coping mechanisms, I’m breathing, I’m journaling, I’m doing all these things. But,if my body is still telling me this is something to be aware of, then I have to. Okay, let’s address it. So it’s not easy. We do have lots of things at our hands to be able to help with self care. Being Indigenous too, I also know that I’m modernized too, so I’m not closed off to therapy either. I see a therapist and stuff, so things that can help me in the present moment with my family and all those things. It’s hard. But I think once we like normalize that conversation, there is trauma and we’re trying to figure out how to move and live and breathe in this moment of trauma, then I think that’s okay.


Kathia: [00:30:02] I’m wondering what some practices of resilience, health and wellbeing keep you and your ancestors living in a good way.


Renee: [00:30:10] Some resiliency practices that  I continue is just the praying in the morning. Getting in the sun in the morning has been really helpful for me. That, I  guess like that vitamin D. When I caught COVID, I would sit in front of the sun for like ten minutes and it didn’t heal me, but it felt good to feel the warmth on me. And then a traditional resiliency practice is just continuing to encourage myself to like, talk in my own language. That in itself has a hard story with it. But even just not feeling ashamed for trying to speak my language because I was really fluent before going off to college. And then now I understand it,like I know what’s being talked about and stuff and I’ll laugh when the joke comes. And then my girls, they go to a school where they teach Zuni, which is a huge gift. That’s very rare. So my girls are learning Navajo and Zuni in their classes, even talking in Zuni with my mom and trying to talk to my girls in Zuni. All those things like that’s a resiliency practice. And moving my body has been a big thing too, in just a way of prayer. I think just times when I would feel that tension of I have emotions in here, but I just don’t really know how to process it. Being on my jump rope or working out how to release the tears. And it was just a time for me to pray while I was moving my body. So I think those are some of the practices that I’ve been able to take part of.


Chealsia: [00:31:39] I think that you’ve just done such a great job of giving us a holistic picture of what it looks like to embrace healing and the fullness of who God has created us to be. Like that question that you asked in the beginning, Does Jesus really want me to be my full self in front of him? Yes. Resoundingly, yes. And even the ways that that practically works itself out. I’m curious, how has God met you in the midst of this? Like, how have you been able to find joy and find God sitting in the tension in the trauma of now in the past and all of these things.


Renee: [00:32:17] So during the pandemic I was struggling kind of how I was part of God’s ecosystem. That’s just how I can articulate it. I was just kind of wondering how I was part of it. Because of the pandemic, you couldn’t really go and visit with people or things like that. Like it caused me to take my long bike rides along the Rio Grande River here in Albuquerque. I would sit by the river for a little bit, and then as I kept visiting, like every week, I started asking that question. You know, I was so frustrated, the feeling of just I wasn’t part of God’s ecosystem.


 So I look at these ducks flying around and I’d be like, Oh, these ducks know that they’re part of God’s ecosystem and they’re not questioning it. They’re just being, they’re just there and they’re doing their thing. And here I am, all these questions of like, where do I fit in? Where does this go? Asking all the questions like just so frustrated and just over the years of continuing to go and sit, the conversation has changed. Like I would just pray and talk to God in those moments and just let God know what I was feeling and thinking about. Sometimes I just cried. That’s all I would do was just cry. But I knew that Creator is listening, Creator God is listening. And so I just need it to be real and vulnerable in that moment. And then hearing “follow me” like that was it. That’s all I heard. 


And I don’t know what that means yet, or specifically, I guess to my life, but like I could hear Creator say, follow me like it’s okay no matter what the future looks like. So for me, I see that. I see the places where I have really sensed the Spirit speaking sense, the Spirit moving. And I’ll continue to do that. Continue to just keep praying and keep letting God know what I’m thinking. And that’s been one of the things for me, I think, where I’ve seen God and His faithfulness. There are days where I’m just like, It’s funny that you mentioned joy because I was just like, oh, I think it was like last week,


Renee: [00:34:24] I was kind of like, What does joy look like? And I asked someone, I was like, do you think joy is a spiritual practice? Do you think it’s something that requires discipline? That question just popped out because we think that joy means being happy. But it’s not because one of the verses that are connected to it is like, consider it pure joy when you’re facing adversity and all those things. And so it’s just wait, is it a discipline then? And so we were, my friend and I, we were going through this conversation and that’s discipleship, right? Talking about God, talking about our walks with God. That’s discipleship. That’s been really exciting for me to just be able to talk to other people about, you know, what does it mean to have joy? And just to be honest about it, I don’t know if I’m feeling it. So there’s those days where you just you want to be able to have someone to talk to. You don’t have to come to a solution or a conclusion or anything, but just to be able to share.


Chealsia: [00:35:17] Yeah. This idea of just showing up with God and with each other, that’s big and God is faithful to work in and through us in that. Yeah. So I have one more question in light of all we talked about today. How would you encourage someone to participate in God’s redemption of their community? What do you want them to take away?


Renee: [00:35:38] Yeah, that’s a good question. I think first for me, I just want to communicate respect because I don’t know what it’s like to be you in your context, in your environment, in your community. And I don’t know what your dreams are for your community, what redemption looks like for your community in light of your history, your personal story. All those things. I see that and I want to communicate that respect. So I think if I was talking to someone who was just wanting to see redemption, I think I would just join them in that desire and then just ask them, What does it look like for you to see redemption in your community? Where are the places that Creator has revealed himself to your community? Because I know definitely that God has revealed himself to everyone. And where do you see the spirit working in that? That’s a start. Just acknowledging the uniqueness of that person and where they’re at and then helping them to begin to dream. Because we know that like our communities are experiencing hardship. We do have diseases and addictions and things that our communities go through. But I also know, too, that there are values that we have been living by that have continued to help us. And I think those are God-given too, in how to relate to one another in a good way.


Chealsia: [00:37:12] What are the ways that Creator has revealed himself within our communities, whether it’s the values we live by or the practices that have been passed down from generations? Like Renee said, we know that there is brokenness woven into our human stories, but in God’s faithfulness they also contain the dignity and glory of his image. What if we stopped to recognize those things in the communities around us, to see the evidence of redemption, the work of the spirit, the beauty of Creator’s design? I think then we would be closer to experiencing the flourishing that God has made us for.

Michele: [00:37:59] For more ways to continue journeying with us. Hit subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Check out the show notes for any links we referenced and then go to for a guided reflection based on this episode.

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