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From Broken To Mended

Mark Clemons' Story Of Having His Life Mended & Healed Through Christ

How a child is raised will often play a role in the kind of adult they will develop into, but it might take journeying off the path to realize that God was with them all along. Mark Clemons was raised by a single mother in Louisiana who kept a Christ-centered home for her children. It would be years later that those teachings would come back to Mark when he reached a point in his life where there was nowhere else to turn. His mother’s faithfulness in God all these years showed him that even in his shame, he could come home to the Lord. 

  

Growing up, life for Mark wasn't whole. "I didn't notice that until I grew up with a family of my own," Mark said. "I didn't know who my father was. I didn't know a dad is supposed to be in the home until I got older."  

  

As a single mother, Mark's mother raised her children, worked a job to put food on the table, managed the household and made sure her kids were in church. Mark was saved and baptized before the age of ten. "She tried to instill everything that's supposed to be instilled and she did a great job," Mark said. "I grew up knowing God and in church. I was brought up in Sunday school, VBS, and Bible studies."  

  

As Mark grew older, peer pressure and the wrong role models began to influence his life. "When you don't have a father as a role model you can look at, you look at other role models," Mark said. "Where I grew up, it was a low-income area and a lot of things that you think are normal really aren't at all. You think it's normal seeing guys doing drugs, drinking, and staying out late on a day to day basis."   

  

When Mark became a teenager, things started changing in his life. He found new friends and began doing what everyone around him was doing. "I thought I was in control and I thought I knew what I was doing," Mark said. "Once you get so caught up in the world though, you don't have control."  

  

It was at the point where he thought he could be in control of his own life that Mark believes God allowed circumstances to happen to him that would eventually push him back into God’s arms. In his latter teenage years, Mark was in and out of court until he was sentenced to 30 years as a habitual offender, all before he turned 20 years old. 

  

During the sentencing, his mother was in the back of the courtroom with her Bible. Mark was given a few minutes to speak to his mother after his sentence. "My mother looked me square in the face and she said to me, 'The God that I serve won't let you do all that time,'" Mark said. "At that time though, I didn't really feel the Holy Spirit or works of God because I was in a mist."  

  

During Mark's incarceration, he began to reconnect with the Lord. "I had a chance to pray, read my Bible, and talk to God," Mark said. "At that time, I didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel, but God had a plan for the entire situation. It got to the point where thanks to the way I was raised in knowing the Lord, it brought me back."  

  

Mark soon began to see that God was with him, both at the beginning and the midst of his situation, so he knew He would see him through until the end. "Once you get so caught up in the trouble, you have no choice but to look up," Mark said. "You humble yourself. I got myself so wrapped up to where I couldn't get myself out of it, but that's where God works the best."   

  

Mark's first return to court was when his sentence was cut in half, despite the habitual offender law. "It was a miracle," Mark said. "Once I let God step back into my life, He took those 15 years away. Of course, it didn't happen overnight, but I kept trusting in God."   

  

A few years later Mark returned to court again where his sentence was cut yet again. "Each time I went back to court, something good happened," Mark said. "God was without a doubt working in my life."  

  

In April of 1999, Mark was released from incarceration, seven years after his initial sentence. "I should still be in prison today, until 2022," Mark said. "Yet, I was released after seven years and six months. Seven is said to be God's number of completion, having created the world in seven days. Seven was the number for me!"   

  

Throughout this time, Mark's faith was stronger than ever and he had reconnected with God. Mark no longer fears anything else because he has God in control of his life and he knows He will take care of him. "Sometimes, you feel like your past hinders you and you don't want people to know what you went through," Mark said. "That's the devil wanting to shield and hide God's light."   

  

Today, Mark has been blessed with a wife, a daughter, and two sons. He looks back on his life and sees that his season of hardships was part of God's plan so he could be a better father, husband, role model, and man of God. "God didn't take me through all of that to be ashamed of it," Mark said. "It made me a stronger and better man. I don't understand all of His plan, but I now understand a piece of it."  

  

Mark knows that many people want their past to stay in the past. However, he knows that God doesn't bring someone out of a situation to be ashamed of it.   

  

“Hopefully others can connect with my story and keep moving forward," Mark said. "When you make that step to let God use you, the devil wants to make you feel bad about your past. Don't be ashamed, though. Your story can help the next person to not go through something painful, or they can see that you came out of it."  

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Faithful On and Off the Field

Shawn Tolleson's Story of Having Faith In God Throughout His Baseball Career

Having faith in the Lord means trusting Him in all circumstances. For most, God's plans are not their own. Cottonwood Creek's Shawn Tolleson grew up playing baseball and began a successful career out of it after college. However, circumstances arose that led him to realizing that God may have other plans for his life.  

 

Shawn grew up in a Christian home, went to church consistently with his family, and was very involved in the church and growing in what the Bible teaches. "I realized how important of a decision it was to become a follower of Christ," Shawn said. "Even at a young age, I realized the gravity of that decision and how real and important it was in my entire life."  

 

Shawn understood it was the most important decision he would ever make. He finally applied that decision to his life and accepted Jesus as His Lord and Savior when he was 15. His grandfather baptized him that same year at the church he grew up in. Since then, Shawn's goal has been to devote his life to the Lord.  

 

Quickly after accepting Christ, baseball began getting serious for Shawn. "I grew up playing baseball and played a lot as a kid," Shawn said. "I couldn't say no to a game. Baseball was always a huge part of my life, but I never related it to being a Christian."  

 

For a long time, Shawn kept baseball and his Christian faith as two separate things. "When I got to college, I realized it wasn't a mistake that God had gifted me with pitching," Shawn said. "It was no mistake that I was playing baseball and God revealed to me the greater purpose of me doing that was being a light for Him." 

 

 In college, Shawn was around players from all over the country who came from all different walks of life. This gave him the chance to show Jesus to his fellow teammates in the clubhouse and on the field. "I was able to show them through how I reacted to success and failures," Shawn said. "College was when I really began connecting the puzzle pieces together of how God was using baseball in my life."  

 

After college, Shawn got drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. "I wanted to continue what God had been doing in my life through the pro level and I was fortunate to have a lot of success coming out of college," Shawn said. "I was able to move quickly through the Minor Leagues and up to the Major Leagues."  

 

It felt like everything was going right in the world for Shawn, but he began to lose focus on what God had shown him the purpose of baseball was. "Baseball became my job," Shawn said. "This was how I was going to support my wife and family. From college up to pros, it became so much more serious." 

 

The next season, Shawn got called back by the Dodgers, but ultimately missed the entire season due to a back injury and surgery. "That was kind of step one of a humbling experience," Shawn said. "Following my back injury, there was kind of a chain of events that happened that makes so much sense to me now." 

 

At the end of the season, the Dodgers let Shawn go. "The Texas Rangers ended up being the only team who took a chance on me, which was awesome because this was home for me," Shawn said. "For the next three years, I got to play here in Texas. It just so happened that within those three years, I was able to be home with my wife and for the birth of our two boys."  

 

During those three years, Shawn's family went through a dark time with deaths in the family and his dad being diagnosed with stage four cancer. "It was a unique experience," Shawn said. "In the midst of the storm, I was able to be present in that. When I got injured, I had a time of doubt, but now it's so clear to me that when I was picked up by the Rangers, I knew God had me right where He wanted me." 

 

Going into 2016, Shawn had high hopes on the field. He was coming off of 2014 and 2015, which were the best two seasons he had ever had. However, to no one’s explanation, he couldn’t get anyone out during his 2016 season. “I felt healthy and my pitches were good, but failure seemed inevitable,” Shawn said. “It felt like no matter what I did to improve, it just got worse. I was knocked off my pedestal and I felt buried.” Halfway through his 2016 season, Shawn was sent down to the Minor Leagues. While pitching in the Minor Leagues, his season ended abruptly with another back injury.  

 

In 2017, Shawn signed on to play with the Tampa Bay Rays in the off season and went to spring training, but ended up hurting his elbow which required surgery. "When I first injured my elbow, I just wanted to go home,” Shawn said. I felt so defeated."  

 

Since then, Shawn has currently signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers, which was an easy decision for him. He has also been rehabbing his elbow with the Rangers' physical therapist daily.  

 

"I will not pitch this season, but I have ambitions to pitch in 2019," Shawn said. "There have been many ups and downs in the rehab process, and the uncertainty of my baseball career remains.  However, I remain extremely committed to giving it everything I have to make it back to the Major Leagues. Ultimately, I want God to be glorified through my experiences. 

 

At the same time, Shawn and his family are still walking through his father's cancer diagnosis. "It’s been a long battle, but I'm very thankful I get to go through that with him," Shawn said. "For me, it's a constant reminder that God has a plan, and not only a plan, but a perfect plan." Shawn’s father’s energy remains high, despite the fact that his cancer has spread. “There is only one explanation for it, and it is by God’s power,” Shawn said. “He is no different than he would be if he were healthy; he truly has a zest for life now.” Shawn is extremely thankful that he gets to spend so much quality time with his father, and thankful that his two sons get to spend time with their grandfather as well. 

 

Shawn knows that God has him right where he is supposed to be and doing what He wants him to do. “Because of my circumstances, I come into contact with people every day that I otherwise would not know at all,” Shawn said. That is called opportunity.”  

 

Shawn has continued to receive the utmost support from his wife during this season of life through her constant encouragement. He has also received support from his Home Group. “I am so thankful for the group of friends I have made there,” Shawn said. “They continually challenge me to be a bold and committed follower of Jesus.” 

 

During Shawn’s time of waiting for God to reveal His plan, he has begun to realize that he is already in His plan. “Sometimes, we think we just need to sit back and wait for God to show us some clear and magnificent mission for our lives, but we might not see the mission He already has us on,” Shawn said. “There is sometimes a time for waiting, but there is always a time for seeking. Seeking God is somewhat new to me, and the only way to do that is to open God’s Word consistently and listen to what He is telling me. Sometimes, you can’t see the plans God has for you until he cuts something out and you have to be humbled.” God is constantly refining Shawn and his character. “I may come out of this experience as a better pitcher than I was before, or I may come out of this experience and never pitch again,” Shawn said. “Only one thing is certain: God will be glorified.”  

 

 

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10 Things You May Not Know About Pastor John Mark

Pastor John Mark has faithfully led Cottonwood Creek Church for the past 23 years, following God's leading and vision to be a light in the community. His immense impact has had profound effects on the Cottonwood Family, seeing incredible work happen from small beginnings in Fairview to here now in Allen. Anyone who knows him can see his heart for Jesus and for those around him. 

To celebrate the last 23 years, here is a list of 10 things you may or may not know about Pastor John Mark. 

  • Typically, John Mark will function on only 5 hours of sleep per day.
  • Did you know John Mark is a cat person? He is!
  • He can read something once and have it memorized.
  • He always has 20 things on a to do list each day. He only sits down when he is on the computer.
  • He is NOT a morning person! 
  • He loves to be out on the boat on the lake.
  • He is a volunteer chaplain with the Allen Police Department. 
  • He has written and completed 3 different books: Navigating Life's Journey, Marriage Meltdown, and a doctrine book to be released in 2018. 
  • He serves on the financial planning committee at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • John Mark is very proud of his family and of the church. He tells his wife Jeana every day how proud he is of her, and ends conversations with their kids with the same way. He also shares the success of Cottonwood Creek and its staff with excitement and as often as he can. 

The next time you see Pastor John Mark, be sure to tell him how thankful you are for him! 

Pastor - Thank you for your leadership, wisdom, and being a light in our community. 

Posted by Cottonwood Creek with

Recovery in Christ

Scott Neal's Story of Spiritual Healing Through Jesus

 

Spiritual healing can be a long process. The good news however is that if one believes in the salvation of Christ, they are not alone in their healing. Cottonwood Creek's Scott Neal is a thankful believer in Jesus who is still in the process of healing from the struggles of alcoholism, pornography addiction, and co-dependency. For many years, Scott has lived with these hardships. However, by the grace of God and by attending Celebrate Recovery at Cottonwood Creek, he has learned how to put God above his addictions.  

 

Scott grew up on a lake with a loving family. However, with lake life, came party culture. Scott's father was an alcoholic and his mother struggled with co-dependency. Scott had a boat at his disposal at all times, 60 feet away from his bedroom window. "I would boat anywhere and meet up with anyone," Scott said. "The parents would throw parties and the kids were to just be seen, not heard. We soon picked up on that behavior and by the time we were teenagers, we were doing the same thing, alcohol-wise."  

 

Scott began to abuse alcohol, as well as drinking and driving. By the time he was an adult, he was a very highly functioning alcoholic, just like his father.  

 

"The pornography piece came into play through access to elicit printed material," Scott said. "They were not hard to find in my household." During his college years was the beginning of the internet. "I discovered that and it all went from there," Scott said. "I eventually got married and thought that would fix it. After I accepted Christ, I thought I'd make improvement, but instead, the battle within me increased as the Spirit within me cared about my behavior." 

 

While Scott was struggling with his addictions, his wife's friend had invited her to a Bible study at Chase Oaks. The Bible study turned out to be Celebrate Recovery. "Celebrate Recovery is a safe place for us to work on our hurts, hang ups, and habits," Scott said. Scott's wife suggested that Scott give the class a try. "I started Celebrate Recovery at Chase Oaks around the same time that Ryan Koesel introduced the class at Cottonwood," Scott said. "The Chase Oaks one eventually shut down so I started coming to the one at Cottonwood." Scott made sure all of the materials from Chase Oaks were transferred over to Cottonwood Creek. 

 

During this time, Scott had been nominated at Cottonwood Creek to be a deacon. After joining Celebrate Recovery however, he knew he needed to get right with the Lord, put his spiritual healing first, and step down from the position. "I went to the leadership team and confessed to them," Scott said. "I told them that if they were looking for me, come to Celebrate Recovery."  

 

Throughout Celebrate Recovery, Scott has learned how to give his addictions to God. "It's easy to play church," Scott said. "It's easy to sit there and be in leadership and still live a compartmentalized life where you haven't given all of your behavior and your life to Christ. It's about where you place your moment by moment, thought by thought faith in. I'll be doing this the remainder of my life as the addictions brought on by the sinful nature will always be there with me." Scott places his moment by moment and thought by thought faith in Christ by utilizing the tools he's learned in Celebrate Recovery 

 

"Everyone has baggage, as we all have a sinful nature," Scott said. "Celebrate Recovery is a great way to come and learn how to let go of your baggage." When Scott accepted Christ, he did not expect the spiritual battle that began. "It was through Celebrate Recovery that I finally began to give my addictions over to God. I still have to daily, even more so, on a moment by moment and thought by thought basis. 

 

Scott believes that it is never too late to find serenity from hardships and addictions. "Take every thought and make it obedient to Christ," Scott said. "If I let even one thought dwindle, then suddenly I'm dwelling on that. When an image comes, I bounce my eyes off of it." Scott also recites scripture when he is faced with temptation. One verse that always encourages him is 2 Corinthians 10:4-5: 

 

"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 

 

Scott knows that he is able to defeat his addictions by using the spiritual gifts that God has given him through his faith in Jesus Christ. By the grace of God and the support he receives at Celebrate Recovery, Scott is undoubtedly on the path to spiritual healing from his addictions 

 

Celebrate Recovery, Mondays at 7p

Worship/Lesson or Testimony: 7p
Men and Women Open Share Groups: 7:30p
Solid Rock Cafe: 8:30p

For more information, please contact Ron Schrock

 

TOP 10 REASONS FOR NOT SERVING AT VBS

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Top 10 Reasons for Not Serving AT VBS


 
1. Who will watch my little ones? 
We will! Our preschool fills up quickly because it’s so awesome. But we provide childcare and priority VBS space for children of those serving. There’s no wait listing for your child if you serve!
 
2. I’m too old. 
We doubt that. We have lots of seniors who serve. Our eldest is 83!
 
3. I don’t know the Bible very well. 
You’re in the right place to learn. We fully prepare the lesson plan for you. If you read and add love, you will help fulfill the great commission! Plus, we also need lots of people to help the teachers.
 
4. I can’t teach kids for 3 hours a day by myself. 
Good! Because you only get 30 minutes. The rest of the time is moving to other activities with other leaders. And every classroom has multiple leaders.
 
5. I don’t have time to prepare. 
We know that. We prepared everything. All crafts, activities, supplies and lessons are prepared for you. We even send instructional videos for each lesson. 
 
6. I don’t have time to decorate my VBS room. 
Let us know and we’ll do it for you.
 
7. I can’t be there every day. 
That’s OK.  We need you on days someone else can’t be there.
 
8. I am not very organized. 
No problem. We are! Our VBS staff is known for superior organization.
 
9. I’ll get hungry and thirsty. 
We understand. That’s why we provide snacks and drinks.
 
10. I don’t know what to wear. 
We have that covered. You can purchase a shirt at the VBS booth but it’s not required. Dress comfortably to be on the move with kids.


Vacation Bible School is June 11-14 from 9:00a - 12:00p.

Don't hesitate! Register now: VOLUNTEER REGISTRATION 

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Cottonwood Creek Church // 1015 Sam Rayburn Tollway, Allen, TX 75013 // 972-359-7777 © 2018