What a terrific day for an Easter Egg Hunt!
WHY, you ask?
Sun Shining! Birds chirping! Kids laughing! Candy! Cupcakes! Friends! Games! Bunny!
We started the morning by playing a game similar to an old school Cake Walk, while we waited for everyone to arrive. Old friends and new streamed in throughout the morning. It’s always so good to see old friends and make new ones on days like this. LOVE IT!
Shortly after the Easter Bunny arrived, we had a photo shoot on the front porch. People typically keep the photos digitally these days, right? I still like my old school prints, and I have learned that the kids LOVE to have their own photos. So, we will now print out pictures for the kids to have their own photos.
After sitting still for so long, the kids were ready to go on an Egg Hunt!
Once all the eggs were found or at least we think so anyway (Bella will probably find one in the next week.), we paused to hear the Good News story of Easter, as told through Resurrection Eggs. Cherie and Ashley did an OUTSTANDING job!
And a party just wouldn’t be the same without the sweet treats…cupcakes, donuts, lemonade!
Louis and I so appreciate the donations that allow us to be able to do this. For the pictures, the candy, the prizes, cupcakes, donuts and more! For the folks that pitched in to help…we thank you…IMMENSELY. We are grateful for the quiet time of chillin’ with sweet friends afterwards. Although we don’t see them often, we thank God for the gift of our spiritual family and friends. And time to relax and catch up…picking up where we left off last…although the baby is now a toddler who walks, talks, climbs and giggles.
If you wonder why we celebrate Easter…Resurrection Day, it’s not because of the yummy chocolate candy, the good food or even the good fellowship.
We love to celebrate Easter with old friends and new.
Why, you ask?
We were created by a loving God to be in relationship with Him.
But we sinned and cut ourselves off from Him.
In His great love,
God became man in Jesus,
who lived a perfect life,
and died on the cross.
He rose again from the dead.
He calls us to trust in Him alone. If we trust in Christ,
we live a new life
and have renewed our relationship with God again.
This is why we celebrate Easter…
because Jesus lives.
Since moving to Southern Barton Heights, I have more anniversaries than I ever thought I could. So many memories. So many reasons to PRAISE GOD!
So many reminders that…
- God protects us.
- God is in control.
- there’s power in the name of Jesus.
- there’s healing in the name of Jesus.
- God cares for every. living. soul.
- obedience is key.
- Jesus is the Word that became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. (John 1:14 MSG) and…
- as Jesus Followers, Louis and I are called to our neighborhood.
- being a Jesus Follower isn’t the safest place to be on earth and IS absolutely the safest place to be…all at the same time!
- and…it’s totally worth it!
This week is another ‘anniversary’ that I will never forget! This time 6 years ago, Louis and I had been out like maybe 5 times in 4 weeks. So, we barely knew each other, and I wasn’t quite sure that I liked him…until January 26th – the date when I met Louis’ friends. That’s the night I decided I liked him. It was following weeks that I learned I really needed to consider him seriously. The next night, Frank got shot 9 times outside my back door and a bullet came in the house. Much to the surprise of everyone, Louis came back! Never hear this story? or want to hear it again, keep reading and check out the links below. If you are wondering where we got the name of our ministry Into The Neighborhood, read these links for that story, too!
This is the first song I heard this morning, while I was busy cooking breakfast for Louis and me. I was reminded again, that Frank is only alive today because he called on the GREAT NAME OF JESUS. As tears rolled down and dripped in the bacon, I praised God for his goodness, his healing, his tender loving care. It took me back to that night…. January 27, 2008 at 8:30pm when Frank was shot 9 times – right chest, left shoulder, left thigh, right hand and 5 times to the gut. The night that Louis and I met Frank we also gave him first aid. By the time the paramedics arrived that night, Frank was only breathing once a minute and had no pulse. I assured him that we weren’t leaving him. I prayed with him and shared that there was power in the name of Jesus. And if he called on Jesus’ name, he would be healed. Frank couldn’t talk at that point, but he did grab my thigh. I knew he was all good. Just as the lyrics say….”Sick are healed, and the dead are raised. At the sound of Your Great Name” (Rest of the lyrics are at the bottom of this post.)
This is what Louis and I were doing 6 years ago this week. Happy Reading!
Your Great Name Lyrics
Performed by Natalie Grant
Lost are saved; find their way; at the sound of Your Great Name
All condemned; feel no shame; at the sound of Your Great Name
Every fear; has no place; at the sound of Your Great Name
The enemy; he has to leave; at the sound of Your Great Name
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us
Son of God and man you are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise Your Great Name
All the weak; find their strength; at the sound of Your Great Name
Hungry souls; receive grace; at the sound of Your Great Name
The fatherless; they find their rest; at the sound of Your Great Name
Sick are healed, and the dead are raised. At the sound of Your Great Name
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb; that was slain for us
Son of God and man; you are high and lifted up
that all the world will praise Your Great Name.
Your Great Name.
Redeemer, my Healer; Lord Almighty
My Savior; Defender; you are my King
Redeemer; my Healer; Lord Almighty
My Savior; Defender; you are my King
In 2010, we held a Birthday Party for Jesus at a local church. Check it out here >>2010 Birthday Party This year, we decided to host another one…at home. We are grateful that Santa has already provided a YES to our invitation!
For an update from me and Louis, check this out too>> 2013 Louis and Marti Update
Have you ever wondered…
How did the world begin? Why is it the way it is? How will everything end? Is there any hope?
or, why is our world full of pain, disease, poverty?
It wasn’t always this way.
Now you can learn the answers to these questions and more! View at this link The Story or click the picture above. If you have questions, let me know!
I just love our weekly gathering. Some would call it a small group….others….a bible study….more might call it a missional community or a life group. Whatever you want to call it…I LOVE it! It started as a group of people from Commonwealth Chapel who met together for what we call Missional Community…where we did fellowship, read the Bible and prayed together. In addition…we would do things to meet the needs of our community. In this case, Southern Barton Heights.
So here we are…a couple of years later…and our group now consists of mainly our friends from the community…and just a couple of people from church. We experience real life together. We have gone through really hard things together…unemployment, drug and alcohol addictions, family “stuff”…and we have gone through the good things as well…employment! New cars! Sobriety! New people and friends! New homes! I can’t imagine life without my Thursday night gathering of friends…my Spiritual Family, who encourage me from one day to the next, who call me out when I’m not being real, who love me even when I mess up! I could go on and on!
We meet every Thursday night from 6-8pm. Or…something like 8pm. We are guilty of going til 8:30 or later…becasue we enjoy each other so much. But, people are free to scoot if they need to. If you want to come…and join us in real talk…real life….and learn about Jesus…we welcome you! We eat together (covered dish style) at 6-7p…while we also talk about what is happening in our lives. Then, we spend time talking about what God has to say to us through the Word…also known as the Bible. We close with some prayer…for our concerns, our community, and our city.
Starting the first week of January, we will be talking through the Seven Signs in John. Come and join us and bring a friend!
The below article was taken from Urban Perspectives blog from FCS Urban Ministries in Atlanta, GA. It’s the story of Luke 5. This is my prayer! This is my hope, desire and dream for Richmond, VA…especially for Southern Barton Heights/Northside. Lord, may it be so. But, in the meantime…are you willing to let Jesus use YOUR boat??? What IS your “boat”? Keep reading…
by Bob Lupton, June 2010
No one knows fish like a commercial fisherman. When your livelihood is dependent on your daily catch, you become an expert in the habits and appetites of edible species. You study spawning seasons, migration patterns, the tides, the weather – anything to calculate the optimal time to cast off for a productive expedition. But as all fishermen know, fish are elusive creatures. With all the best intelligence, catching them is still a matter of chance.
Simon was a fisherman. He and his two partners, James and John, owned a small commercial fishing fleet that afforded them a modest living. They had been out all night dragging their heavy nets but pulling in nothing. Discouraging toil but necessary. It was, after all, a game of odds. And years of experience had taught them that at this time in the fishing calendar the odds of a catch diminished with the rising of the sun. Time to call it a day, or a night, rather.
They had pulled their boats up onto the shore and had just begun cleaning the seaweed out of their nets when a noisy gathering of town folk came pushing and shoving down the beach. The crowd was attracted by the provocative speech of a young Galilean. Rumors were this young teacher was a new prophet on the scene – some even said he might be the long awaited messiah. Everyone was pressing in for a look. The young teacher, spying the idle boats, motioned to Simon to push one off shore a few feet to give him a little separation from the jostling crowd. Simon obliged and the teacher continued his speech using Simon’s boat as a floating platform.
When his speech ended and the crowd disbursed, the young teacher expressed his gratitude to Simon for the use of his boat. And then offered a most unusual suggestion. No, it was more than a suggestion, more like an order. “Give it another try, Simon, out there in the deep water.” It was not a particularly welcome request. The teacher may have been alive with morning energy, probably had a good night’s sleep, but Simon was spent. The last thing he wanted to do was load up his soggy net again and row out into the lake. But then, who knows, maybe this Galilean was a sure-enough prophet after all. Maybe he knew something Simon didn’t. Reluctantly Simon consented. Motioning to his helper to give him a hand, they dragged the half-cleaned net back onto the boat and shoved off from shore.
They rowed out to where Gennesaret’s water turned an inky blue-green and dropped the net over the side. No sooner had it disappeared below the surface than a furious tugging began. It was the kind of tension a fisherman recognizes well, the kind of pulling a fisherman’s dreams are made of. “Pull! Pull!” Simon roared. In moments the net was bulging with fish, so many they could barely drag it up over the side. The bottom of the boat was literally alive with a flipping, flopping mass fish. Another cast of the net produced the same results. “Get out here fast!” Simon bellowed to James and John who were still on shore cleaning their nets. In a few frantic minutes both crews were hauling in nets literally bursting with fish, so many fish that the sheer weight threatened to sink their boats. Never in their entire fishing careers had they landed a catch to equal this one. Never.
When the boats were eased back to shore, top-heavy with precious cargo that would bring a record return from the fish merchants, the impact of the episode began to sink in. Simon’s first reaction, once he caught his breath and wiped the sweat from his face, was profound embarrassment. “Master.” That’s about all he could get out. This had to be the messiah, and what disrespect he had shown him! “Just leave,” Simon motioned, staring down at the sand in humiliation. “You don’t want to associate with a sinner like me.”
“Oh, that’s alright, Simon,” the Teacher responded with a smile. “You’ve got some bigger fish than this to catch. Come on, I’ll show you.” And that’s when Simon the commercial fisherman became Peter the fisher of men.
It’s a dangerous thing to let Jesus use your boat, even for a morning. It can end up costing you far more than you bargained for. Just ask Peter. Lend Jesus an idle asset (like a beached boat or unused office space or a bit of your schedule) and it can open you up to a whole new life. Take Jack Morse, successful real estate developer, who lent our ministry a little bit of his unused credit capacity to purchase and rehab a vacant apartment complex for affordable housing. It was a small deal for Jack. At first. And then he uncovered the need for a decent grocery store in the neighborhood. He got drawn in a little deeper. And then arose the opportunity to transform a nearby public housing project from a killing field to a healthy community, a daunting challenge. In the end, Jack walked away from his boat and nets to devote full-time to redemptive work in the city. As I said, it’s a dangerous thing to let Jesus use your boat.
It’s dangerous, yes, but ask Peter or Jack or any of a handful of successful business people you know who have been lured into a Jesus-mission and you will hear a similar response. “I-had-no-idea.” That’s what you’ll hear. You may hear words like “challenging” or “consuming” or “frustrating” or “inspiring”. But there is one word you will not hear. “Regret.” Go ahead. Ask them. Ask Tom Cousins who converted a defunct golf course into a cash cow that transformed the ghetto community of East Lake. Or David Allman who leveraged his assets and influence to take on poverty in Nicaragua. Ask them or any of the others you know who have taken the risk of lending Jesus an idle asset and you’ll get the same story. Life has never been the same.
I know I owe you guys the rest of the story…and I will pick it up soon….I promise! Coming soon!!!
Recently, I have been borderline obsessed with listening to the David Crowder Band….anything and everything I can get my hands on! This song especially has been speaking to me. Like me, there are many of us who are struggling with the stuff that this earthly life brings…..job loss, death, uncertainty, addictions, depression, loss of childhood, abuse, cancer, financial strain, prison, lack of identity, sickness, weakness, relationship issues and strife, etc.
This songs serves to remind me…and YOU that He never lets go…..He is with you (and me) always. anywhere. everywhere. He’s got you! 24.7.365.
As you know, Louis and I had only known each other about 5 weeks at this point. I went from “not sure if I like him” to “when are you all getting married?” in a little over a month! We went from seeing each other weekly to every day. I had prayed for the other ½ of my pair as told in Luke 10:1-7, and it looked like that God had just maybe provided that answer. But, we know that when you are walking in the will of God and He is using you mightily, Satan is not going to take kindly to that at all.
Word about what had happened and what we were doing was making its way through the Christian community in and around Metro Richmond. Again, we are so thankful for the many, many prayers that those communications and emails brought our way. It didn’t take long for Satan to raise his ugly head in the form of a character attack. For a short period of time, this attack distracted us from serving and loving on Frank and his family like we had been called to do and discouraged us a bit. But, Louis and I worked through that…through the grace of God, a lot of prayer and the love of some trusted friends. We are better for having gone through that challenge.
Know that Satan and his army will go ALL OUT to tear us down and to keep us from walking in Truth. Today, I was reading John 10:1-21 and was reminded that Jesus is the Gate and the Good Shepherd. Satan may seek to steal, kill and destroy, but, my Jesus says…
9 “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 …My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” He also says…18 “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
As I reflect, this Holy Week…on this Maundy Thursday (the day of Judas’ betrayal, the Last Supper and Jesus washing the feet of his disciples)…the day before Jesus was hung on that cross, that I am so thankful for His voluntary sacrifice. But, as we approach resurrection, I have JOY!!! JOY!!! JOY!!! that He has the authority to lay down His life, but He also took it back up again!!! He died for me…O’ wretched sinner that I am. So, that in his resurrection I can live a “rich and satisfying life” where I am alive, free, and forgiven.
Picking up from the 3/20 post The Word Became Flesh… (click if you want to read it before continuing)
I have been really struggling on what to say and how to continue telling this story about how we met Frank and his family. The last thing I want to do is to hurt anyone by my words or release any confidential information. So, I will not give many details, but will tell what I feel comfortable with until I can talk with Frank and his family.
That night, Louis and I went up to the hospital, just a couple of miles from where I live. Thankfully, it was close since Frank had been shot 9 times!
After praying for wisdom, Louis and I walked into the Gateway Building (like a lobby) of MCV, now VCU Health Systems. I’m not sure about Louis and how he was feeling, but I was feeling a bit out of place and nervous. The lobby was FULL for 11:30pm on a Sunday night. I didn’t quite understand. Louis and I were the only white people in a lobby full of black people where it was eerily quiet and heavy when we walked in. Still in a bit of shock, I’m not sure why I didn’t place them with Frank.
But, Louis, having spent many hours and visits in the hospitals with church members, knew what to do. He introduced himself to the receptionist/guard and we asked for a status update on Frank. When a short woman beside me, firmly and loudly stated…that’s my son! What do YOU people want with my SON?!?!? I quietly and quickly introduced us to her and let her know why we were there. She quickly responded, Not YOU people! YOU didn’t help my son! I assured her that we did and quickly explained again why we decided to come up there. I gently guided her over to where the others were located, as they looked at us with a bit of distrust.
After praying for some help and wisdom, I calmly introduced myself and Louis. It was probably helpful that I introduced him as a Reverend! After learning that they had no knowledge of what happened or if Frank was even alive, we shared with them what we knew….where I lived, the events of the evening, we didn’t see it happen, how we responded, what Frank had said to me, and how he was alive when he was taken to the hospital. The distrust from the crowd waned a bit.
We just shared that we wanted to be there for anything that they needed. When one of Frank’s friends said, but you already have done so much. I explained that we hadn’t done all that much, but that Jesus had done it all. We also stated that we were there to be with them and pray with them. Whatever they needed. When another friend said, so what are we waiting on…let’s pray…as he stuck both hands out to grab the hands of those around him. Louis led us in prayer for the family, the doctors and medical staff, for Frank, etc.
Although it often felt awkward for them…and for us, Louis and I continued to hang out with Friends and Family for another hour or so before going back to my house. Some might call it the gift of being present.
Louis and I were up rather late that night…processing, chillin’, decompressing. I am sooo very thankful for the many many prayers that were offered up for us and for Frank and his family during this time. I don’t know for sure WHAT Frank was doing that night or WHY someone wanted to shoot him. I can assume that it was a robbery…but it wasn’t. He still had everything on him that a robber would want. And…based on my extensive (HA!) experience, I don’t think a robber would shoot him 9 times! I can’t help but think it was personal. We could all probably guess and probably won’t be far off from the truth. Whatever it was. I still don’t need to know.
What I DO know is that my God is in control and He loves us more than we can EVER imagine! I do know that…
…my mom and her friends were regularly praying for me (since January 2007)
….the Lord had introduced Louis and me a month before (not in July 2007) for a reason.
…my heart had changed that Saturday night for a reason.
…Louis and I were home and cooked out on the grill that night (instead of going out)
…Louis wasn’t outside when the shoot occurred
…the kids were dropped off early from youth group and they weren’t outside
….Louis remembered to cut the grill off
…we were NOT going up the inside steps
for a reason. There were soooo many things that the Lord did to protect us and to prepare us for “such a time as this”. All this was done, so that we could be there when Frank got shot. Remember…no one else responded. He would have been left to die that night on the street beside my house. That’s what I used to tell Frank ALL THE TIME…God loves him SOOO much that He did all of this AND MORE. We had been there…as the feet of Jesus. Nothing more…nothing less.
I had prayed a year before for the other ½ of my pair…in ministry to Southern Barton Heights. And God had heard and had answered…in HIS time…His perfect time.
Louis and I have been in the ministry business together ever since!
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!!!
If you missed the last 2 posts…Change of Heart….Just in Time (3.18) and MGV – Barton and Roberts (3.19), you may want to read those first!
After reeling off my medical information, Louis was released from his job as first aid provider before I was. He went to check on the kids. I reminded him of the meat on the grill…which he had already thought of while on his way out of the house earlier. (See how the Holy Spirit guided us through it all?!?!?) It was funny when the paramedics asked if I was a nurse and I told them No…I got my medical training watching Marcus Welby and Medical Center as a child and ER as an adult. My extensive medical expertise must have given it away. 🙂 I was finally released from my position and the paramedics took him away (it took 3 men to lift him on the gurney…as Frank was not a little guy!).
Although the detectives wanted to speak to me right away, I was allowed to go inside and change my clothes. When I entered into the house to head up the steps, I had a surprise waiting on me….a bullet hole under the window at the bottom of the steps. Yes, a stray bullet came inside the house. I am soo thankful that no one was climbing the steps at that time!!! So now…we have experienced a little Law and Order, some ER and now we have CSI goin’ on.
While sitting at the dining room table talking to the detectives, I heard some wailing, screaming and crying outside. I wanted to desperately go and console whoever it was, but needed to give my account of what had happened. Later, I learned that it was Frank’s mom.
Nichelle, my neighbor and true sister, came over and sat with us on the front porch. I am grateful for Nichelle, as she brought a peace along with her. I called a few prayer warriors to cover us during this time. Although I left out a few of the details, I, surprisingly, called my mom as well and told her what was going on so that she could pray. I was worried that it would make the news and didn’t want her to see it there. But, I also didn’t want her to worry.
After everyone was gone and it’s about 11:30pm, Louis and I finally get to eat our dinner…while standing up at the kitchen counter…eating our pork tenderloin with onions with our fingers. You could tell the adrenaline was pumpin’! This is when we both agreed that we HAD to go to the hospital. So, Louis and I venture up to MCV. If that was my brother, son, friend, husband, boyfriend…I would want to know what we knew.
It is in the Gateway Building of MCV that our relationship truly started to develop. This is a story of racial reconciliation, a story of grace and mercy, a story of faith….
This true account is what gives me my life…and mission….scripture….
The Word became flesh…and moved into the neighborhood.
John 1:14 MSG Holy Bible