1 week + 2 days ago, I was hopeful that I would find a ticket to the Beyond Thankful event that was to take place at my church last night. (To clarify, this was a free event, but they needed a ticket system so they would know how many people to plan food and seating for.) I figured that somehow over the weekend, I would get my hands on one of those tickets.
The weekend came, and the weekend went. And I did not find a ticket.
I was bummed.
But then I went to class on Tuesday night, where by serendipitous chance (which was not really chance at all!), one of my new friends had a spare ticket she could give me. And not just a spare, but an auditorium seat spare.
I. Was. STOKED. I treated my little golden ticket like just that, and tucked it tenderly into the cover of Jesus Calling leaving it safe on my nightstand until the following night. I was so glad to be able to go after all. 🙂
And let me say that it was even better than I imagined!
I cried pretty much the entire time. But in a good way.
Let me explain the background of my emotions here:
It was not that long ago that I was a freakin’ deviant, okay? I do not for the life of me know why God decided to work in me. I did not deserve His hand in my life, but I got it. Part of that work included bringing me to Eastside right after they moved to the new campus one year ago (hence the Beyond Thankful celebration), where I was baptized and built-into. The point being that for some reason, far beyond my limited understanding, God did a lot of work in me and allowed me to be a part of some truly miraculous stuff! One little paragraph does not convey the weight of all this, but having experienced it, I make no apology for the waves of emotion that come over me because of it.
(Note to self: Blog post about miracles I’ve seen in my life.)
So back to the story. Eastside has been posting a series of pictures over the last several days of some pretty impactful things that have happened during the past year at the new campus. I am borrowing said pictures completely without authorization. Although I am telling you in advance that these are not my pictures and that they are absolutely the property of Eastside Christian Church.
So you see the pictures and you think “aww, that’s great”, right?
And yeah, they are totally great. But as I sat there last night listening to Pastor Gene unpack all of the things depicted here, I was moved to tears by the true significance of it all. I was awed by the work God has done through our church and I was humbled to be a teeny-tiny part of it.
- 610 baptisms?!?!? That’s kinda unheard of!
- What’s the story behind The Story books? Well, Eastside arranged with the publisher to sell these books only in a 3-for-1 package, so when you bought your copy, you had two other copies to give away. It was a church-wide act of hardcover evangelism.
- 11,000 imagined Christmas, and it was amazing! And then Easter, followed by Hope Rising, was life-changing!
- The orange cups, the connection groups, the party on the plaza – ALL great examples of Eastside’s mission to build community.
- The compassion trips made a dent in Gene’s challenge to every able-bodied Eastsider to unleash compassion around the world.
- Our local population is more than one-third Hispanic/Latino, and about 30% of that population speak only Spanish. Eastside and Pastor Hector Hermasillo responded to this massive need by launching Semilla.
- I’m crying again!!!! It’s so unbelievably moving to witness this work.
- A bit that you didn’t see were the two local ServeBeyond days where we had the chance to give ourselves to the Title 1 schools in the area through service and donation.
- And one massive celebration of marriage…could it be any more clear how packed with LOVE this place is???
I can’t describe these things the way Pastor Gene did, but every minute of this event was an awe-inspiring and humbling one.
It really began when I first got there, long before we talked about any of that. Walking on to the campus, it would’ve been impossible not to sense the lively and infectious energy moving throughout. And I wasn’t even in the building yet!
Once things got underway, we shared in some worship, including my favoritest-favorite “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)“. (I cried then too, just for the record.) Then came Gene with his prayer and thoughts on all the things we are so very BEYOND THANKFUL for.
Gene told us about the miraculous ways that Eastside’s GoBeyond Vision has evolved. By the time I had heard all these new-to-me details of this phenomenal story, the concept of coincidence seemed ridiculous to me. God does not deal in coincidences . He deals in great works. So the life-application takeaway on that one is that whenever I encounter a “coincidence” in my life, I should pay a little extra attention.
The guest of the event was Rick Warren, who had come to celebrate all of this awesomeness with our Eastside family. He joined Gene on stage for about a half hour in an interview-style exchange. He snapped a few Twitter pics (just for fun) and said that we were blessed to have Gene as our pastor, and that Gene was blessed to have us as his congregation, with which everyone agreed. Gene is a pretty rad guy, and that’s about all there is to it. It was a fun little introduction, and then they started digging in.
I’m not huge on sharing other people’s business, as public as it may be, but I will say that this is where it got a little heavy for awhile. I was reminded of the power of hope and that we have to trust God, even on the worst day of our life.
But then there was talk about the PEACE Plan, which was really inspiring! He talked about prominence versus significance…big noses and little toenails. He shared the 5-part vision he gathered from The Great Commandment and The Great Commission. And then Gene handed Rick a check from Eastside to benefit the PEACE Plan, and Rick flipped it so the money would be used to provide Eastsiders with scholarships to go do the work of the PEACE Plan! It was a gift of funds, inspired by a gift of great service, and then given back as a gift to those who will serve.
Because THAT’S the mind-blowing way that God does things!
So I walked out of there last night feeling called to make a few out-of-my-comfort zone moves.
- I don’t have a lot of money by any means, but I need to find a way to contribute to the GoBeyond Vision.
- I need to go on a Global Compassion trip, and I think its going to be Chile.
- I have done enough brainstorming and idea-shifting on the whole project – it is time to get serious and actually start writing my book.
As I prayed last night about all this and tried to process all that had been poured into me, I just started sobbing. I had this overwhelming sense of surrender. I wasn’t sad…I was thankful. I was so humbled by God’s love and mercy, and yet so inspired and convicted by His word that I couldn’t do anything but cry.
I know God wants me to really step into in the mini-ministry that He has entrusted to me and these few things repeatedly show themselves to be the next jump in my journey. For the first time in my life, I know that what I’m doing is part of His plan and purpose on my life. But while I know I’ve been doing the right things, I also know it is now time to do more of them. I am not at all sure how any of this is going to actually come together, so I’ll give that part of it to God. I guess my place in this right now is to listen closely for guidance and the calls put on my heart.
All I can say today, right now, is that YES – I am definitely beyond thankful.
There is a video available of the whole event. One hour, 32 minutes. If you’re interested. (And it does include the incredible worship portion, so there’s that…)
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