Community Blog Party: Renee’s take

Renee Johnson is a spirited speaker and writer to the 20-somethings. She blogs about her struggles while encouraging others toward love and good deeds at

20-somethings Need a Home

In today’s economy it’s pretty rare for a 20-something to own their own home. Especially in California. At the very least it’s even more rare to live in a stable living environment (that’s not their parents).
A safe place.

Tonight, after leading another week of the Summer Book Study it hit me.

20-somethings need a home.

My friend Summer’s graciously allowed us to meet in her home the past three weeks, and it’s fostered so much more than a Panera or a Starbucks ever could.


Because there’s less people.

Less distraction.

Less noise.

No interference.

You get the picture.

Remember those drawings we used to make when we were a kid of a house? It’s like that.

We need a place to belong.

To feel at home.

A place to share our deepest, darkest fears…usually stemming back from our childhood. It’s super painful and if not dealt with in a safe environment…one might never share.

Or find help.

This group that I’m leading this summer was totally impromptu. It wasn’t affiliated with a church. I didn’t ask for a pastor’s permission.

I just did.

I asked around who wanted to be involved and those who came, came.

“You get what you put into it” is our motto.

And you know what? It’s refreshing. Those who are committed show up. On time. Every week.

I love it.

So much.

If you’re wondering how to lead young adults at your church…the best place to start is in a home. It doesn’t even have to be official.

“You build it and they will come” is your motto.

Over the past three years I’ve had the privilege of leading discussions, small groups, spoken at conferences, attended conferences, launched and re-launched a 20-somethings ministry at North Coast Church in Vista, CA…and let me tell you…it’s rough.

Once you think you’re building any sort of momentum it changes.

Someone leaves.




Falls away.


That’s why I think the importance of building a Christ centered community starts in the home. It’s what my parents taught me from such a young age. Not one night has gone by in the Johnson household where dinner wasn’t being served. Together.

In community.

That’s why I take such great responsibility in finding a tool that will work with an age group that is always (and will always be–for that matter) in such great transition.

So here’s where you come in.

Suggest meeting together.

Find a home.


Keep meeting.

The end.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you God for the opportunity to continue to lead my generation and be a facilitator. Wake up those who are capable of leading and provide a home for those who are willing to host. Amen.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young”

Isaiah 40:11, NIV

You can’t go home again

One of my favourite films of all time, is Now and Then. It starts with Demi Moore narrating as her character, Samantha is driving back to her hometown in Indiana.

“Thomas Wolfe once said: ‘You can’t go home again‘”

Today, I was in Aberdeen, visiting the pregnancy centre there. The centre I prayed for. The one I had hoped I’d be working in. Before God sent me back to stinky Edinburgh!!! (in the literal sense Aberdeen is substantially more stinky than Edinburgh – but you catch my point, yes?)

As my car passed the ‘Welcome to Aberdeenshire’ sign, a bird splatted Cassie’s windscreen with poo. I drove up the A90 passing the signs of towns that became familiar to me – and remembered many nights driving in the pitch black trying to find these wee villages and towns with a car full of youth work resources or a community council meeting.

I picked up my colleague on the South of the city, and we headed to a familiar dark and dingy place – the car park I so regularly have had to park in over the years. I got out my car and we were greeted by a very drunken man (it wasn’t even Noon…).

Yes. I was home again.

But it wasn’t the same.

Different people. Old haunts with boarded up windows. New hotels. New shopping centres.

It’s not my home anymore.

It was horrible how unfamiliar I was with everything – I haven’t been back for 2 years, and so much has changed.

And yet, it’s the same with Edinburgh. The city where I grew up. There are different people. Friendships have changed or just fizzled out. All these newcomers who have no idea what it means to be an Edinburger taking over our city! (Who knew the girl that grew up surrounded by so many cultures could be such a xenophobe…?!)

Of course, there are those little reminders that a bit of the ‘deen was left in me.

The part of me who speaks with a throatier ‘Ahhhh’ sound than just ‘ah’. The girl who occasionally lets a ‘Fit ye daein?’ out – a weird Aberdonian/Central Scotland mix of phrase! The person who fears the winter remembering all too well the earache than lasted well into a tutorial after walking up a breezy Ashgrove Road to the Foresterhill campus, or never seeing daylight through November-February, and the 4 hour nights of summer in May-July.

The part of me who remembers how important community and pastoral care is, and how you lose valuable members of a church family when being supported in ministry becomes more about who you know than whether God wants to commission you for a specific purpose.

And the me who knows that unless the café is as good as Kilau, I’ll never choose anything but Starbucks because I’ve never found a place in Edinburgh as good.

The path behind and the path ahead

Apparently I’m crazy. Yes. Totally off my trolley (in the non-alcohol consuming sense).

Once training people, partners days, conferences and anniversary celebrations were over, I decided it was time to take some time out to reflect. Where have I come from? Where am I going?

Of course in the middle of all that my poor little iBook went ‘kaput!’ and all hell broke loose.

Well it felt like it to me anyway :)

For the last 2 months I’ve been house sitting for friends of mine. It’s been an interesting time – the house is lovely, and is located in the middle of a housing estate in the Southern suburbs. Most days about 75% of people at the bus stop are chain smoking, there’s always an interesting crowd hanging outside the local pub no matter what time of day. And most weekends something kicks off at around 2 a.m. or later as people come rolling in from a night out of some sort. For me, this is a return to ‘normality’ – I grew up in an area called Leith where this, with the added factor of having our red light district just down the road, is normal. For most of the last 3 years though I’ve been living in a nice middle-class suburb in the West of Edinburgh where the biggest disturbance is usually cats fighting or a fox getting into someone’s wheelie bin.

Don’t get me wrong, the people are nice in the middle-class suburbs, but it’s not got the same sense of community  – when we’d chap on the doors to ask ‘Do you know what happened? There’s blood all over the stair door‘ or ‘Did the police come round and ask you questions last night?

Well, now I’ve only got 2 days left here. Two months has gone by fast.

I miss my godson and his little brother (who’s cradle cap has all gone. :( Luckily other friends have had a baby and his cradle cap is just coming in…I’m going to have to work hard to resist the urge to pick at the Mini Kahuna’s head in church on Sunday.) I can’t wait to see them again!

But I’m going to be sad to leave.

Because my plan was to have got a secular full-time job by now. And be ready to move into a new more permanent place (ie not go back to living with my mother…I love her, but I’m 26. And I lived on my own for 6 years and having to live under parental roof again does drive us all a little crazy).

However, it seems like God has other plans.

And I have no idea how they are going to work out.

Hopefully I’ll be able to share with you soon. I can say that one of my in-real-life blogging friends is coming on part of this journey too (and I with her!) over the next year.

We’re going to be poorer, and it’s probably going to be a little crazy. I know I’m going to be 100% busier than I am currently.

We’re gonna need your prayers.

Watch this space!

Gathering around Lynnette’s porch

Well, that’s what she said! Basically, this is was a suggestion for Lynnette’s gathering of blog readers so we can get to know each other. So here’s 10 things about me.

1. I have a bit of a love affair and have never felt more at home away from Scotland than I did in Sydney Australia. I’m currently awaiting a Jesus loving Aussie surfer to declare his love for me….(I looked for him at Gretna Green but he wasn’t waiting for me…sigh).

Sydney Opera House

2. Having said all of that Scotland is firmly in my blood. This country is inexplicably, undeniably home. I love landing at Edinburgh airport (not just because it means I can finally get off a plane) because I love being greeted by friendly smiley people with Scottish accents.


3. I have a fascination about other people’s life experiences. I think it’s why I love blogging, but also why I love interviewy shows like Parkinson, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Ellen, Oprah, Rove and Inside the Actors Studio.

4. Talking about Inside the Actors Studio, James Lipton asks every single guest 10 questions based on a Proust questionnaire used or adapted (?) by Bernard Pivot. Here would be my answers… bubbles; moist; music & art which causes you to open your mind and consider; people who expect special treatment or automatic respect because of their social status; laughter or the sound of rain on the roof of a tent while you are cosy, dry and warm inside; desperation and pain; I’ve tried to replace the ‘F’ word with ‘PANTS!!'; Journalist/writer; Anything that involves unpleasant smells; “Welcome home, your daughter is waiting to meet you”

5. I love my job, and can’t imagine life not raising awareness or supporting people dealing with unplanned pregnancy or pregnancy loss in some way  or other.

6. I believe that helping people to think about something and learn for themselves is better than trying to ‘teach them’ by telling them.

7. I’m a little bit crazy. In a good way hopefully. But seriously, if you met the role models I was surrounded by as a child, you’d see exactly where I get it from. The mischief, the rebellious streak, the laughing and general silliness….yup, it sure does run in the family.

8. I love sunshine. I’m miserable and sluggish without it.

9. I am a night owl. I seriously don’t wake up until about 9 p.m. usually. I am useless in the morning.

10. God saved my life – first physically, then later, spiritually.I’m lucky to have experienced Him a lot in my life – I’ve heard his voice, He has spoken to me through others, through creation, through music and art. Sometimes I resent all the hurt and pain he has let me go through in my 25 years so far, but most of the time I’m just thankful that he has made it bearable by taking all the ‘crap’, turning it around and using it for good. He’s given me strength that I didn’t know I had. I will always, always be thankful for that.

Backpacking over…back in Bonnie (baltic) Scotland

I’m really cold!! My Mum is finding my current attire quite amusing as I run around her house turning up heaters and putting on more layers…

I had a pretty pants journey back from Sydney. First the delay, and then only 30 mins in Singapore (if that) which wasn’t really enough time to regain feeling in one’s limbs…shortly after getting back on the plane at Singapore the girl sitting next to me confessed to suffering from travel sickness, I remained calm telling myself, well she was fine for the first 8 hours of the flight – and we’d had some turbulence flying over Australia. I may never again listen to my common sense talks…within minutes my worst nightmare (ok maybe not worst nightmare, but it’s up there in the top 10 at least!) became reality as she started throwing up. After a minute I realised the puking could continue for a while, I think I actually managed to leap from the window seat over 2 children and an air steward to reach the aisle which on the plane we were on (Vikki and Kate will probably back me up after their LA-Auckland flight) should probably be some sort of olympic medal winning sport. An air steward helpfully commented “wow, puking really freaks you out doesn’t it?” – No kidding!! I then got moved seats and spent the rest of the flight squashed between 3 fairly large sized people for the 13 hour flight from Singapore to London…

We arrived in London at 10 a.m., and who should text me but Raz who just happened to have arrived back from Kenya 3 hours before, and was in the same terminal as me waiting for a flight to Glasgow! Which was great, because I got my first hug from being back in Australia shortly after landing in the UK!

By 3 p.m. I was back in Edinburgh watching a whole rugby team from London somewhere get arrested once they got off the plane, and when I took my rucksack off the conveyor belt, my Dad just stood and looked from me to the rucksack going “is that all you have with you?!” I don’t know if this is because he’s used to travelling business class where you can have much more luggage, or if it’s because he’s used to me coming down to visit for 4 days and filling the entire boot of my car with clothes and shoes for every possible occasion. I didn’t really answer him as by this point I’d been awake for about 39 hours. I have the bump on my head to prove it because I crashed into my Dad’s cardoor when I was getting my rucksack out of the boot.

So now, I’m feeling very cold, I’ve managed to get some sleep although I woke up about 5.30 a.m. this morning, and am very confused about the days of the week. My Mum also has all the house clocks set a different times which is annoying because that’s not helping my confusion! Until this morning my phone was still on Australian time. The contents of my flat in Aberdeen are filling the 2 upstairs rooms in my Mum’s house – I can’t find anything at the moment and I don’t know how long I can cope with climbing over everything to get to my bed – it’s a bit like an obstacle course in my room just now with piles of clothes, boxes, stuff from Australia making an interesting unartistic masterpiece!

Already, the trip seems like a dream…I can’t believe 2 months ago I was working in Stonehaven, planning to stay in Aberdeen indefinitely and had no clue I’d be going to Australia…it’s a weird feeling. Coming back to the piles of boxes has brought me back to reality, and realise I need somewhere to live…fast!