Have you ever been driving home in the evening and glanced at a house you pass, noticing the warm light shining through the window? Have you thought, like I have, “I wonder what they are doing tonight? It looks so inviting in that room!” We’ve probably all experienced that wonder before. Chances are, the people living in that house are doing the same thing you and I do when we get home from work or an evening meeting. We kick off our shoes, make and eat dinner and settle in. Maybe we get the kids in the bath and in bed. Maybe we check email or Instagram or throw in a load of laundry. If we have time, we watch a movie on Netflix or read a few chapters of a good book (if we can stay awake!) We have that in common. We spend our evenings doing what most other people in our neighborhood or apartment buildings are doing. We live a common life.
At Fellowship, we also live a common life. We have in common the habit of getting up on Sunday mornings and making our way to church. We worship, listen to the sermon, drink coffee together and head home for a Sabbath afternoon. We have our faith in common. We share the belief that Jesus really is who He said He was, and that He will do what He says He will do. Together and as individuals we believe and trust in God our Savior.
Although our life is common, it is not mundane. It is not ordinary, although it may seem so at times. In reality, we live an uncommon life in that God’s Spirit lives in us. In 2 Corinthians 6:16 Paul writes to the believers, “And God has said, ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” We live with the Spirit of the Living God dwelling in us. That’s certainly not ordinary! When I take time to simmer on that truth, I am blown away by the fact that God uses ordinary people to accomplish HIS unordinary deeds!
What is your most favorite form of travel? Some people just love road trips in their car, windows down, music playing and wind blowing through their hair. Others think that a plane is the way to go. Get on, sit back and read or listen to your music, maybe watch a movie and suddenly – you’re at your destination. Some folks love the adventure of a train and the gentle rocking motion, the restful pace and getting to watch the countryside as it rolls past. But very few of us would choose a noisy, dirty, hot, crowded and uncomfortable bus to do most of our travel for work or pleasure.
Marta Perez is one of our missionaries who serve in the small country of Belize. Belize is a small country with roots going back to the colonial era of Britain and is now a commonwealth of Great Britain. The official language is English but there are many Spanish speakers and also a local language that is a kind of English based Creole. Marta and the rest of her team work with children and teens throughout the country in teaching Bible clubs, hosting youth events, doing special programs in schools and having summer camp. It is a valuable ministry and has far reaching impact.
For this reason, we felt led to create opportunity for women to chat more often. To connect on a deeper level and really get to know each other. We stumbled upon an activity called the IF: Table. It is simple in its design and yet very effective in connecting women. The concept is based of Acts 2:46 “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” The design is to have a table of six women, answer four questions over a two-hour period. Ideally, these same women would meet each month and grow together. They would also share a meal together, take time listening to each other’s answers without interruption. That simple.
A Liturgy for the Changing of Diapers
I’ve often struggled with wondering - at the end of an exhausting day, where nothing particularly impressive has been done - have I really made any difference at all? It can be really easy to look in the wrong places for tangible evidence of self worth. Serving in a particular ministry at church can have immediate positive effects to the people around you. The pull to “keep up” with friends and spend time with each of them to assure them of their importance in your life can feel powerful. Attending or organizing events, coaching a team, bringing a meal to a neighbor, attempting to look really “put together” to impress everyone with how well you are managing life…all of these things can unearth fears and make you wrestle with what really matters. So easily we seek horizontally for the rest that we can only find vertically.
“I hope the rain will stop!”
“I hope that my kids will behave this time.”
“I hope I finally get a promotion!”
“I hope that I’ll feel better soon.”
So what does “hope” mean in those statements? It seems that the speakers are dissatisfied with their current situation and “cherish a desire with anticipation” (that’s Merriam-Webster’s definition, by the way). In the musical “Annie”, Orphan Annie sang well about that kind of hope: “I just stick out my chin and say, Oh… Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow. You’re always a day away.” She hoped.
Now consider Fellowship Community Church’s mission statement: “We exist to be a community of hope in Christ.” As an affirmation of that statement, “Community of Hope” banners hang in our parking lot. Though they look nice, do you wonder what that phrase means? Could it simply be reworded, “We’re a bunch of discontented people”? I hope you laughed about my rewording just now, because “hope” in the Bible has a different, much more exciting, deeper, richer meaning. Merriam-Webster tells me that the “archaic” meaning of “hope” is trust. And check out the definition of “trust”: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone. For those of us at Fellowship, that Someone is Christ. That’s not future hope. Not just Annie’s “I love you, tomorrow” hope. It’s right now. Today. This minute. And synonyms for this kind of hope? Confidence. Certainty. Assurance. Wow, I like that! With the first definition, we were left uncertain and chewing our fingernails. But with this second definition, hey, our shoulders go back, our smiles grow wide, and our hearts beat steady and firm. We stride into 2019… with hope!
Let’s now consider Fellowship’s vision statement: “Fellowship Community Church seeks to help build communities that experience hope in Jesus Christ and share that hope with our neighbors here and around the world.” How does this work? Consider FCC’s Living Nativity. Don’t you love it?! Hundreds of us – all volunteering in the middle of a hectic month – happily get involved, from set-up and decorations to parking lot to costumes to cookies to tour guides to golf-cart drivers to clean-up. Community. Men play prophets. Angels soar. Young shepherds collapse on the ground. Children run to Jesus. Loud-voiced guys try to control their boat during a storm. And disciples gaze up at Jesus who rises into the clouds. Meanwhile, someone (okay, lots of people) push those behind-the-scenes buttons, check the loud-speakers, and propel that angel choir into the sky. And bless those helpers who secretly bring us hot chocolate, hand-warmers, and food.
One heart. One mind. Lots of hands. Community. A community of hope in Christ.
While we are home in New Jersey on an unexpected furlough from our mission in Nicaragua, we were borrowing a car to get around. But then a very kind and generous person gave us a car, a 2004 PT Cruiser. Of course, then I had to get insurance for it. Sharon from Hardenburgh Insurance went the extra mile for us and got us a good rate even after having a “lapse” in coverage while we were away. (That’s not good for your insurance rating.)
A few weeks later, I got a letter from the insurance carrier that my premium went up because they found a violation on my record that I hadn’t reported! The letter said that I had gotten a speeding ticket in Virginia on September 2, 2016. I know I didn’t get a ticket! And I was in at language school in Costa Rica on that date! This is a testimony on my record that really don’t want nor deserve!
After weeks of trying to figure out how to clear my record of this obvious clerical error, Cassandra tells my son Nate of the situation. He says, “Oh yeah. I remember that. We went to visit Liberty University. On the way back, Dad made us stop at Appomattox. After that, he got a speeding ticket on the highway home. Dad told me not to tell anyone.” Wow! Bomb dropped. (We were at my in-law’s house and, presumably, I didn’t want him running in and making a big announcement about it as soon we walked in the door.)
Usually, getting stopped by the police with your son in the car would be a very memorable event, but I still don’t remember any details or circumstances about getting this ticket. I would deny with my dying breath that it ever happened.
When we read the Scriptures it is easy to see that God has a great sense of justice (after all, He is absolutely Just) and has a desire for His people to also have a true heart of justice. Often in our world exhibit justice includes caring for the needs of those who are in hard circumstances of life. Either they have experienced loss of some kind; they are displaced or maybe have great needs in regards to health and care for their families. In Deuteronomy 10:18-19 God says, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” In Isaiah 58: 6-7; 10-11 He says “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen; to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke……. Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderers with shelter – when you see the naked to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?... and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.”
We are all to have this sense of justice and care, I believe, but there are times that God puts this kind of heart and compassion on certain people to go and make a difference in certain places of the world that have great needs and who need to hear of the great love and compassion of God as well as to have their physical needs met.
Aubrey McQuade is one of these special servants of the Lord. Aubrey spent the first 13 years of her life here at FCC and then moved away with her family to the mid-west. While she was here she already felt like she had a strong calling from God to be involved in missions work and over the years the Lord has strengthened and confirmed that calling. She did her student reaching in Bangladesh at William Carey Academy and then taught missionary children at Memorial hospital in Bangladesh for a year. She returned home to finish her schooling and accreditation and is now ready to head to the next place God is calling her, the island of Lesvos Greece.
I recognize that in just two words in the title of this article I may have already lost you. (The word “A” probably had small impact). “Reading” is already spooking some of you. “Plan” may be the final death blow.
I don’t feel particularly qualified to write this article. At best, I am a learner in developing and practicing a Reading Plan. But, the concept has been empowering to me. Many of you are trying to develop a Weekly plan, or an Exercise plan, or a Financial plan. Plans help keep us on target. They help get us back on track when we feel completely out of control. If you want to be a reader, a Reading Plan will help!
What is a Reading Plan?
It is just what it sounds like. Rather than flitting from random book to random book, you have a system - usually a list – to determine what you should read next. The plan could be specific titles (all of CS Lewis’ works) or a broader topic/genre (Civil War history, 25 Christian Classic books). A reading plan keeps you from stagnating, because you don’t know what to read next, or how to get started! It also keeps you from only reading the book that is right in front of you, which might be only because someone else read it.
You can certainly be reading other books. You could make every other book a just for fun book, and the other book part of your plan. Over the years, my reading plans have included: books on Abraham Lincoln, World War 2, English Puritan Classics, CS Lewis writings, Civil War Battles, Louis L’Amour Westerns, Early Church Writings, Biographies by Arnold Dallimore, Great Books on preaching, etc. But, I sprinkled in other books I had on my desired reading list, or just books that seemed to be fun reads. The Reading Plan is the foundation for your reading, but there is always space for the latest book that “everybody is reading!”.
Benefits of a Reading Plan
What we're learning in Fellowship KIDS
I love watching children learn. Just look at their faces when they are focused, concentrating on something. Hoping to understand. Wanting to understand. Faces scrunched up tight. Eyes glued to what they are doing. Brows furrowed. You can see the stretching and leaning and yearning. What if we all assumed that posture when we are offered the opportunity to learn about God? Could we possibly be as little children, stretching, leaning into, and yearning for truth, for life, for Christ Himself?
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” And they came. Freely and with intense excitement, desiring to sit on his lap. They came. Mary also came to Jesus that way. Sitting at His feet, she learned from the Savior. She desired to spend quality time with Him, even to the point of making her sister mad that she was not contributing to the household chores. Jesus said that if we come to Him as little children, in this same way, with this same desire to spend time with Him, we, too, would meet Him. We too, could learn of Him and His kingdom.
What would we learn?