Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Tale of 4 Justins

John doesn’t go to Wednesday night church.  He likes Sunday morning church well enough, but standing and singing aren’t his thing.  I take the kids to church on Wednesday nights for their K-Rock classes, and I really enjoy the services.  John has been in therapy every Wednesday night for the last several months for his neck, back and arm, but he couldn’t get an appointment for Wednesday, March 4th.  I invited him to church, but he wanted to close up the tackle store to give the guys a break.

When John texted Justin, our store manager, and told him that he didn’t have therapy, Justin told him to stay home and spend time with his family.  Little did he know, that would mean going to church with us too.  I was excited, but I knew he wasn’t, so we sweetened the deal with dinner at La Botana Mexican before church.  And a lovely time was had by all.

When we got to service, we realized they were doing baptisms that night.  There was a lot of activity with people getting ready for the service.  One family stood out to us, as the dad, mom and daughter were all wearing Superman t-shirts.  We both wondered if they knew Roy Townsend’s family, as Superman t-shirts had come to mean “Justin Townsend” to everyone who knew them (more on that below).

About an hour into the service, it was time for this family to be baptized.  Instead of telling you their story, I’m going to let them tell it:

“Hi, my name is John, this is my wife Heidi, my 13 year old daughter Natalia and my son Antonios.  About the last week we’ve been having conversations with my daughter regarding God Himself and she’s had a lot of questions like most 13 year olds do.  And one of those questions was how do you know when God speaks to you?  And I told her that as you grow in your faith and you have a personal relationship with God and your arms are open and you’re receptive to Him, you’ll know when He speaks.

Unfortunately, about 6 months ago, one of her classmates passed away after a year battle with cancer.  The young man’s name was Justin.  This symbol that we’re wearing here tonight was a symbol that his family had for him in that struggle.  So, we’ve always had the name Justin and Superman in our head.  

About a month ago we came here to Kensington and we watched the baptism.  And it was a young strong man who got up on stage.  He walks up, he’s got a Superman shirt on, he’s vibrant and excited about his journey that he’s going to take on with God and he says his name is Justin.  At that moment, it spoke to my daughter.  She spoke to her mother afterwards and explained to her that she thinks that God spoke to her.

What’s more amazing is God brings people, Christians, together to bring us to that point and be an example.  What’s even more amazing is when we walked in this evening, that man Justin was standing there, which we never met.  And it’s this man right here (points to him down front and everyone claps).  And I want to just say thank you for your testimony.  We all love you.  Without you, we wouldn’t be here.  So, God bless you.”

As we were walking out of church to get the kids from K-Rock upstairs, the “young strong man” Justin was outside the auditorium.  I asked him, “Are you Justin?” and then “Superman” John walked up.  I introduced John to my John, telling him that John had worked for Roy Townsend (Justin’s father) for years.  But I was crying at that point, as John wouldn’t have been there if our store manager, Justin, hadn’t told him to stay home and spend time with his family.  Thank you, Justin!

If you’d like to watch the service for yourself (you don’t have to stand and sing if you don’t want to), click here:  First Wednesday

Justin Townsend’s 14th birthday would have been March 7th.  Roy wrote the most beautiful letter to his son on his Caring Bridge journal, which I just read tonight (and I would encourage you to do the same – click the red words above).  Love this part:

“As you know, several of us went to the hockey game last night.  We found it ironic that the only two goals scored by the “Red Wings” were scored by “Justin” Abdelkader.”

Happy Birthday Justin!
Happy Birthday Justin!  In the words of your father, I hope your birthday was as wonderful in heaven as it was here on earth.
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What to do, what to do… (“Christian Redefined” part 3)

When you think of “Christians”, what words come to mind?  Kensington asked that question on Reddit and here are some of the responses they received:  “rude, ignorant, unthinking, thick-headed, delusional, gullible, doomsday cult, dummy, hypocrisy, cruel, blinkered, judgmental, stuck-up wealthy white people who work harder to preserve their image rather than their souls.” 

Ouch.  And why would I want to call myself a Christian?  That’s why Kensington’s current message series is called “Christian Redefined” (click those red words to watch the first message from 3-1-15).  When I found out that this series was coming, I started writing about what I think it means to be a Christian.  I intended it to be 3 parts, and I wrote about training ourselves to say Thank You (part 1) and Bless You (part 2).  

But whenever I started to write this third part, I couldn’t finish.  Every time I asked, “Lord, what’s next?  What is the best thing for me to do right now?”, the answer was never “write”.  Three weeks ago, the answer was “pack for Disney World!”  But now we’re home and caught up and it’s finally time to write.

The third area of training I’ve been wanting to write about is asking “what am I to do?”  For me, that question isn’t about what to do next week or next year as much as it is a constant, moment by moment activity.  Well, at least I want it to be that way.  But my mind wanders and I forget.

I forget to count my blessings.

I forget to say thank you and bless you.

I forget that the world doesn’t revolve around me.

I forget that God loves me more than I could ever imagine.

Almost 300 years ago Samuel Johnson said, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed” and I believe that’s even more true today.  I get so distracted.  I need God’s Holy Spirit to remind me to come back to Him.  My goal is what Brother Lawrence called “The Practice of the Presence of God“.  If I want to follow Jesus, I need to be aware of his presence every moment of every day.  I need to remember that he is always with me.  And I need to be asking what it is that I should be doing.  There are so many good things that we could spend our time on.  How are we supposed to know what the BEST things are?  One word:

Ask.

Jesus teaches us to be shamelessly persistent in asking for what we need in Luke 11:5-8 (click the red verse if you’d like to read what he said).  He then continues with the following:

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  10 For everyone who asks, receives.  Everyone who seeks, finds.  And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Luke 11:9-10

In John 5:19, Jesus said that he did nothing by himself, but did only what he saw his Father doing.  He was in constant communication with God the Father.  I believe he wants the same for us.  He gave us his Holy Spirit so that we too can be in constant communication with God.

So, as I am reminded, I ask.  Sometimes I hear things that I should do (help the kids get ready for school).  Or things I shouldn’t do, or just shouldn’t do right now (don’t do the laundry right now – it will make you late for your appointment).  Sometimes I hear things that I should say (send a note of encouragement).  Or things that I shouldn’t say (keep your mouth shut, Beth).  Sometimes it’s as simple as keeping focused on the task before me and not letting my mind spiral off into anxious “what if”s of future scenarios that may never happen (what if John dies and leaves me with two kids and a tackle store to run?).

What am I to do?  How can I live my life so that the word “Christian” means what Jesus would have wanted it to mean?  I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I believe I know the One who does.  But I need to slow down to hear Him.  I need to be patient and listen.  I have two ears and one mouth for a reason.  I should be listening at least twice as much as I’m talking.

If you know the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8, you may have wondered why Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust.  The Pharisees (the “religious” scholars) were demanding an answer from him.  They had their case against this woman and they were trying to trap Jesus by his words.  He could have just blurted out an answer to the Pharisees, but he didn’t.  He stooped down, drew in the dirt and waited.  I believe he waited because he was listening for what God wanted him to say.  And when he stood to speak, his reply was one of the most profound statements ever formed by human lips:

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  (John 8:7)

And, one by one, they all dropped their stones and walked away.  What if Christians (the “religious” people) listened to God like Jesus did and responded with God’s grace and truth?  Would we be called rude, ignorant, unthinking, thick-headed, delusional, cruel, judgmental, stuck-up hypocrites?  Or would a whole lot of stones never get thrown?