That Wasn’t In The Plan

That wasn’t in the plan. She had her eye on Joseph for a while, and well, he had his eye on her. Next thing they knew, things were coming together for the BIG DAY. The engagement was progressing right along and anticipation was building. Soon they would be husband and wife. I mean, it was almost as if they were married already, except for, well, you know. Engagement was a pretty big deal back then. Then the angel showed up. What the wha? That was freaky. And unexpected. And a little inconvenient. It could mess everything up. What would Joseph think?

That wasn’t in the plan. Things have finally settled down after the pregnancy scandal. Joseph was a rock for her – after the angel cleared things up for him. Ha! The “big day” took a back burner and baby-prep was in full swing. She was having a baby. Not just any baby, God’s Son. Jesus. Savior of the world. That was a lot to take in. But God’s Spirit gave her peace. And THEN they got the call. They had to go to Bethlehem! What the wha? Um, this wasn’t exactly very good timing!! Didn’t they know she was about to pop any day?!?

That wasn’t in the plan. Rolling with the punches, they finally made it to Bethlehem when she felt something. No. Certainly not what she thought it was. Yup, there was another one. Um, Joseph, “It’s time.” What the wha? The place was a madhouse, like New York City on New Year’s Eve! You couldn’t even book a room through Priceline if you wanted to. In desperation, Joseph relentlessly asked around for a place to stay. A place for his wife to rest… er, uh, give birth.

That wasn’t in the plan. Jesus was born. Such a sweet, perfect baby boy. They had lots of visitors. It all felt a little surreal. Time passed and word on the street, (or in dreams…) was it was time to hightail it outta there. Jesus was in danger. What the wha? Wasn’t He the King? Savior of the world? So off they went. To Egypt of all places. And finally back to Nazareth. What a ride!

Individually each circumstance seemed like it was throwing things off course, messing things up… that it wasn’t in the plan, or was it? Before He was ever born… This was all part of the plan.

*He was supposed to be born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14

*He was supposed to be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:1-2

*He was supposed to go to Egypt. Hosea 11:1

*He was supposed to be a Nazarene. Isaiah 11:1

Have you ever thought, “This wasn’t in the plan!”? Things were progressing along and then you got the call. Lost your job. A relationship went sour. Lost a child. An illness. An accident. Relocation. Major financial disruption. Fill in the blank. What the wha? It just doesn’t seem right. The Grubbies certainly thought that before… This wasn’t in the plan, or was it? Could what seems like bumps in the road, two steps back, hard blows actually be a part of a greater plan? Mary certainly didn’t anticipate the twists and turns her life took, but it was a part of the great plan. The redemptive plan. For His glory.  While it seems wrong at the time, so often you can look back and see, OH YEAH! God was up to something there!

When God says “all things work together for the good of those who love God,” (Rom. 8:28) we can trust that He has a plan. Just like Mary’s life was a part of the great redemptive plan since the beginning of the world. God has a plan and a purpose for where you are, your circumstances and life’s twists and turns. Trust. Have hope. Believe.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved. We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration of the days of fulfillment — to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him. We have also received an inheritance in Him, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory. When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14 HCSB)

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Beauty from Ashes

It’s a phone call no parent, friend, family member or pastor wants to get.  “There’s been an accident.”  Or in the case of my sweet friend, Tiffany, the announcement didn’t come via Verizon.  It came with two police officers visiting her at work to escort her to the hospital.  “There’s been an accident.”

Her husband, two children and niece had been in a horrible accident.  Deep in the pit of her soul, Tiffany knew the outcome as the officers answered questions about her kids and her niece, but not her husband.  Her 32 year old husband.  The love of her life – just a couple weeks before what would’ve been their 10th anniversary.nickkerfoot

We didn’t know Tiffany and Nick well when the accident happened.  They had just been coming to our church for about 3 weeks, although I knew Tiffany from work.  In fact, Tiffany didn’t even have our number yet.  A mutual friend that was there with her at the hospital knew us and knew how to get Kevin’s number. And card playing with friends came to an abrupt halt.Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 9.23.54 PM

In the three years since that fateful day in July, Tiffany and I have become very good friends.  We have laughed together.  We have met for many a tearful coffee date.  Not only have I been there for her, but she has been there for me.  She is a treasured friend of mine. We have laughed at the ridiculousness of dating (that maybe wasn’t so funny at the time).  We chuckle at the sweetness of her kiddos.   In the bleakest moments we have held on to a miniscule shred of hope together.  Because – somewhere in the crevasses of our soul we hold on to a HOPE.  A hope that heals.  A hope that restores.  A hope that brings beauty from ashes.Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 9.25.33 PM

This Saturday, Tiffany is marrying again.  A wonderful man that God has brought into her life that loves her and her kiddos.  A man that has stolen her heart like she never thought could fully happen again.   My eyes have welled with tears many times in recent weeks in anticipation of this new beginning for her.  My heart swells in thankfulness to our gracious God for this answer to prayer.  And my mouth will bear a smile on Saturday reflecting the joyous hope we have in a Savior who never leaves us.  Never forsakes us.tiffandbrad

Let this be a reminder, a stone of remembrance if you will (Josh. 4:20-24), if you too are in the bleakest of days – that God’s specialty is taking beauty from ashes, remembering what has been taken yet redeeming what is to come.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,

A joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.

I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! 

For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation

And draped me in a robe of righteousness.

I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit

Or a bride with her jewels.  Isa. 61:3,10

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Redefined

Today marks a day that America was redefined – The USA before 9/11 and the USA post 9/11. That day, thousands of individuals were redefined – carrying new identities.  Who was once a regular guy became a hero.  Who was once a stay at home wife/mom became a widow.  Who was once a successful businessperson became a caregiver.

Life often brings circumstances that redefine us.

Today also marks one month since we closed our church. A lot has been redefined for us, at least for now. Kevin went from pastor to… unemployed.  I went from pastor’s wife to – just Kendra.  Employment redefined. Ministry redefined. Friendships redefined. Life as we knew it – redefined.

Sometimes it just takes that one phone call.  That wrong turn.  That diagnosis.  That decision.

Or having a baby. Getting married.  Going to college.  Starting a new career.

All of these circumstances, life direction changes, redefine different roles we have, different titles we hold, different ways people see us.

But…

If you or I are a child of God, a follower of Jesus, then we are not defined whatever life circumstances come our way.  We are defined by who we are in HIM, how HE sees us.  Here are some titles or labels we have in Him that are unchanging:

CHILD of God – John 1:12Rom 8:14-15

FRIEND of God/Jesus – John 15:15

NEW CREATION – 2 Cor. 5:17

CHOSEN – ROYAL – HOLY – HIS – 1 Pet 2:9

WORTHY – Rev. 3:4

So while we’re swirling around in the madness of new identities based on life circumstance changes, we can HOLD TIGHT to our identity that will never change – our identity in CHRIST.