Not an Afterthought

This was originally written by me for the Wellspring Church blog at wellspring.one posted on December 27, 2018.

I started a challenge in the beginning of 2018 to read the entire Bible in a year. I downloaded a helpful app, purchased a new notebook, and started a routine. Well, it’s December 2018 and let’s just say I’m beeeeeeeeehind. Do you know what you have to do when you try to read the entire Bible in a year? You have to actually read it, like all of it. The parts with all the old laws that I don’t understand and then when you get past all that and into the prophets, and battles, and kings, you hit rewind when you get to the book of first Chronicles. It’s literally a history of all the stuff you’ve just read! And, it begins with genealogies. Genealogies are the worst.

But, I’m a big girl with a goal, so I read it. I read all eight chapters of genealogies. It took me until chapter seven to realize the power in the list of names that I was reading. This book would have been read to Israelites after they returned to Jerusalem after being exiled. Who were they now? This book reminded them of their history. With each long list of names I struggled through reading, an Israelite would have heard their family name, would have recognized themselves as a part of God’s plan from the beginning.

I like to imagine that as each family name was read out loud the families in attendance would holler and clap like we do today when we hear our college alma mater or a musician shouts out “How you doin’ New Jersey?”. It probably didn’t happen like that, but hey, who knows?

They were able to connect their identities back to God. God had included them from the start. He had a plan for them. It’s powerful to be reminded that we were always a part of God’s plan.

“God had included them from the start. He had a plan for them.”

When you read the Bible or hear stories from it, do you hear your name? Are you able to see how God has included you from the beginning? Are you the tax collector who takes advantage of his position and robs the weak? Are you the woman or man caught in the act of cheating on your spouse? What about the person who has spent years attacking God and those who believe in him? Are you the person who grew up in a Christian home but when things got uncomfortable you denied even knowing Jesus? What about the person who sees the acts of God right in front of them but continues to doubt and question, are you that person?

These people we read about in our bibles were very real, but they are also very us. Jesus interacted with all kinds of people. Different races, gender, socioeconomic status, and marriage status because he is for ALL people. We, you and I, have been written into the very history of Jesus Christ. We are those people.

Do you know what Jesus did with those people? He showed himself to them, welcomed them in, forgave them, and then used them to build the church, change lives, and spread the message of true love around the world. He offers the very same thing to us.

“We are the movement of his Church. We are not an afterthought.”

Do you recognize yourself as part of God’s plan from the beginning? When questions arise in your mind about your purpose, your identity, your heritage, your history, your legacy, remember that God has already told us the answers. We are children of God, intentionally made and crafted. We are the movement of his Church. We are not an afterthought. We are a part of his family. We are a part of his plan and have been since the beginning. Embrace it, walk confidently because of it and the next time you read a genealogy in the Bible, remember, that’s your name too.

Worship; Here, There, & Everywhere

Blog- Here ThereAn “aha moment” as Oprah has so called it….that’s what I had. A couple months ago I attended Sunday evening chapel at America’s Keswick in Whiting, NJ. This place is something that I have taken for granted. The mission of this place in the middle of nowhere on a lake, to the outsider a summer camp, is to reach men who are struggling with addiction. While they do hold conferences and miscellaneous Christian events, the heart of America’s Keswick is for these men who are stuck in their substance addiction. 

Their chapel is actually more in the middle of nowhere than their main campus is…Jon and I got lost. Once we found it though, we found a tiny white church with one room, a dirt parking lot, wooden pews, hymnals, and the friendliest people I’ve been around in awhile. The people that filled the pews seemed to be a mix of regular congregants, men going through the addiction program, their families and friends, and staff members. We were all gathered there for different reasons, yet still acknowledging each other as brothers and sisters of the same faith. The pastor stood up, asked us to grab our hymnals and directed us to a page number.

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139

139

I am always busy. Too busy for friends. Too busy to play with my kids. Too busy to cook a real dinner. Too busy to read. Too busy to think a real thought. And way too busy to talk to God.  “I can’t right now, I’m too busy.” should be the name of the fourth child I will never have. In a world where we can be reached via text, email, call, Facebook, Skype, twitter, all at once on one device, we are left with little time to sit quietly and chat with the One who made us.

 Today was different. I am blessed to be working at Bayside Chapel. Today the second half of our day was scheduled to be a half day of prayer. Intentional time to remove ourselves from our “busyness” and privately chat with our Father.

 It was in this time that I realized my conversations with Him, while limited have also been one-way, leaving Him no room to speak. I found that I tend to speak with Him about the needs of others and never mention myself or my heart. Does anyone else tend to do this?

 A true conversation happens when we are open and honest, both to the person we are talking to and ourselves. After praying for a little while I could almost feel that awkward moment. The moment when you’re done speaking but the person you’re talking to is clearly expecting more from you but you don’t know what to say. It was as if God was saying, “….Uh…Is that REALLY all you’ve got?…What’s going on with YOU?….” So Psalm 139 is where I began, because honestly I didn’t know where to begin and I saw Psalm 139 written down on a piece of paper near me, so I thought, “Sure, why not?” The whole Psalm is awesome, but the part that hit me, that broke me, was

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

When was the last time I prayed this? When was the last time I asked God to really search me? My response became an open conversation. One where both parties were heard. One where I was able to speak like me, because really, who else should I be speaking like? Our Father loves us each, individually and personally. He made us unique, with different callings, and different voices. Why in the world should I be keeping myself from Him? As if to what, hide my true self from Him….as if He doesn’t already know? I read this Psalm, I prayed this Psalm, and then on my stereo a song began to play by Gateway Worship titled 139. Guess what? It’s based on Psalm 139…how did I not get that before? Oh right, I was too busy.

I long to know my Father as intimately as He already knows me. I asked God today to be the desire of my heart, above all others. I pray that as God answers me, I can continue to be real with Him. I encourage all of us to take time with God today, talk to Him about the important things, about the silly things, about the things hidden in your heart, and leave some free air space for Him to speak too.

Filet O Fish

While many people are spending the month of January thinking about their diets and budgets, I’ve personally committed to New Thru 30, a YouVersion New Testament reading plan created by Elevation church. So you read through the New Testament in 30 days, New Thru 30, get it? So it’s January 23rd and I’m on day 7. I’ve read through Matthew, Mark, and am now reading through Luke. While reading the same two stories, for the second time, I noticed something (that’s right, it took me two times).filet o fish

In Mark 6, starting around verse 30 a familiar story begins. Jesus is hanging out with his disciples and a huge crowd of people, 5,000+, teaching them about the kingdom of heaven. The day wears on and his disciples go to Jesus and basically say, “Ummm, the people will need to eat. There’s no food here. Maybe you should send them out to McDonald’s or something so they have dinner?” Jesus looks at them and says “You feed them.” Uh…with what? The disciples knew they didn’t have enough food for all of these people, and they surely didn’t have the money to go out and buy 5,000+ people dinner. Jesus finds out from the disciples that in their possession they have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.

We know the story right? Jesus blesses the small amount of food, breaks it into pieces, and gives it to the disciples for them to pass out to all of the people. The disciples handed out enough food that evening to feed everyone and walk away with 12 doggy bags (that’s a lot of leftovers). Amazing right? How cool for the disciples to be able to witness and participate in an awesome miracle?! I figure when people witness God’s miracles they must automatically have unfailing faith……and then we turn to Mark 8.

Seriously, just turn your bible a page or two and you will find something pretty funny in Mark 8. At this point Jesus has been hanging out with his disciples and another large crowd for three days. Jesus this time goes up to his disciples and says “So they’re all out of food. I can’t just send them away, they’ll probably faint from hunger on their way home.” His disciples reply with “What are we suppose to do about it?”. OK, maybe not exactly like that, but close enough. I imagine Jesus starts off the next line with a shake of his head and a sigh, “How much bread do we have?” Almost like, “Really guys? I just did this, not long ago, 5,000 people, remember? We had leftovers? We all ate until we were full? Remember?”

Didn’t the disciples remember what Jesus did? Shouldn’t they have had faith to say “Jesus we know you can feed them, can we do that bread and fish thing again?” Do I remember the times that God has so obviously been working in my life? Do I have strong enough faith to say “OK God, I know you got this.” While reading the beginning of Mark 8 makes me laugh at the disciples, I also had to laugh at myself. My ability to  forget God’s blessings is remarkable and my dependence on myself is laughable.

I would like to think that after witnessing God at work in such a remarkable way that my faith would be strong. That I would never doubt. That I would never again depend solely on myself. The truth is that I have seen God at work, I have been blessed by Him, and many times I remain to lean on my own understanding. I pray that my dependence would be on Him, and not of myself. I pray that not only do I remember the blessings God has shed upon me, but that I remember his faithfulness through all things. His faithfulness to never leave me, to love me always, and to forever be a Father who provides for his child.

Being a Child in Faith

Blog- Chlid in FaithHeaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back is written by Pastor Todd Burpo. In a super quick synopsis, his 3 1/2 year old son, near death, goes into surgery. As time goes by his son Colton begins to reveal to his parents that when in surgery he was in Heaven. Throughout the next couple years that follow Colton fills his parents in on details that are more accurate than any preschooler would know.

Did he really go to Heaven? Was it a vision? Was it a dream? Do we have a word for what it was? I don’t have the answer to that, but whether or not he was truly in Heaven, Colten has a way of looking and talking about our Lord in such a simplistic way that it is absolutely beautiful.

“Well Jesus told me he died on the cross so we could go see his Dad.”

In my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus, with Colton on his lap, brushing past all the seminary degrees, knocking down theological treatises stacked high as skyscrapers, and boiling down fancy words like propitiation and soteriology to something a child could understand: “I had to die on the cross so that people on earth could come see my Dad.”

Colton’s answer to my question was the simplest and sweetest declaration of the gospel I had ever heard. I thought again about the difference between grown-up and childlike faith.¹

I too began to think about the difference between grown-up and childlike faith. To have childlike faith is to fully except something without question, or even need for doubt. Childlike faith is not needing to worry about if or when God will provide, because there is no doubt that He will.

 Grown-up faith is one that requires work. Grown-up faith asks God to prove Himself. This may not always be a direct question or demand from us, but we ask God to prove Himself in times of anxiousness. When trials have occurred I’ve looked up and said, “Ok, now’s the time I need you. When are You going to fix this?” Childlike faith is knowing that God is already in it, He hasn’t left you, He doesn’t need to prove Himself by doing a “quick fix”. Really, with a childlike faith we will have no need for anxiety or worry because our complete trust and faith will be in the Father who, to put it in 3 year old terms, loves us so so so much.

 I pray that I can continue to keep it simple and focus on the basic truths of God’s love for me. We may not ever be able to fully grasp how much God loves us, but I think the closer we get to understanding, the more childlike our faith becomes. I am God’s daughter and He gave of Himself so that His little girl could be with Him. Awesome.

¹Burpo, Todd, et al. Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s  Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. 2010, Thomas Nelson. p.111.