Tag Archives: Kensington

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.

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:


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?



Joshua The Prophet

Love this picture of my “Joshua the Prophet”.  Special thanks to Brian Craig Photography for sharing his talent with us.

John and I were married in January 1994 in a Methodist church in Royal Oak.  He was Catholic, I was an atheist, so Methodist seemed like a happy medium.  And it was the church that my Granny and Great Aunt Edie belonged to.  Oh, that poor pastor.  I asked him to please use “God” as little as possible in the ceremony.  I really did.  What a gracious man.  I think he really tried to accommodate my request.

Three months later I was working at Franklin Quest in Troy selling Franklin planners.  One of my customers came in on a Saturday morning and was showing me how she was using her planner.  She had Kensington business cards in her planner and she asked me, “Do you go to church?”  I said I was married in a church, but that I didn’t go to church.  As we chatted, she said that she had a group of 27 people from her church who were going to see “Phantom of the Opera” in Toronto.  Really?

Every church I’d been to was full of grey-haired old ladies trying to get into heaven (or so I thought), and I couldn’t imagine a place with young people who loved “Phantom” as much as I did.  I was intrigued.  She wrote her name and number on the back of the business card and I called her later that afternoon.  John was going fishing the next morning, so I had nothing better to do.  I met her at the 11:40 service and was completely blown away.

Not only did Ed Bellaire sing Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (one of my favorite songs), but Dave Wilson spoke about a God-shaped hole in our soul that we try to fill with possessions, food, shopping, perfectionism, all the things I had been pursuing for the first 22 years of my life.  Was this what I had been searching for?  Jesus?  Really?

About a month later, in the bedroom that John and I lived in upstairs at my Mom’s house, I knelt down and prayed, asking Jesus to come into my life, to take over, to lead me and guide me, to be my Lord and Savior.

Fast forward 20 years to last Wednesday night, August 6th, when the K-Rock kids released their brand new, kid-written, kid-performed 6 song CD at Kensington Church in Troy.  Our son Joshua was asked to do the greeting that night.  And as he spoke these words, I was in awe:  “Kensington was started almost 25 years ago, and it was started because a lot of people had given up on church.  So, Kensington came together and made the church experience a little different.  So now more people are coming to Jesus and getting help around the world because of the generosity of people here at Kensington.”

John and I weren’t going to have kids.  I was an emotional mess and John was gone working, hunting or fishing.  I wasn’t going to raise a child by myself.  John believed in God, but he was very happy with his life.  He saw no reason to give his life over to Jesus.  But after I accepted Christ as my Savior, I started praying for John.  After about 5 1/2 years, John decided that he was done running from God.  In December 1999, John decided to turn around let Jesus have his life.

About a year and a half later, John and I were at Ruby Tuesday’s for dinner one night.  I said, “I know we’re saving up to buy a cottage up north some day, but who are we going to share the cottage with?”  We had both been feeling that maybe the Bacarella family should be more than John, Beth and Mandi the German Shorthaired Pointer.  Maybe God had other plans.  So, we began praying about expanding our family and God answered.  Joshua John Bacarella was born June 14, 2002.

So, as I watched that 12 year old young man say those words last Wednesday night, I realized that he would not be here right now if it weren’t for a church that was started for people who wanted to “make the church experience a little different”.

If you’d like to see last Wednesday’s service, click here. The kids perform for the first 40 minutes of the service.  Our little Jordan Rosie is singing and dancing in there too.  She wouldn’t be here either.  If you haven’t read her story, check it out here: Fresh eyes: Jordan Rose and Dr Chub Andrews.  Enjoy!

"Kensington was started almost 25 years ago…"
“Kensington was started almost 25 years ago…”  Special thanks to Brian Craig Photography.

Find more of Brian’s work at Brian Craig Photography.