Written by: Helen Yi
Remembering Who is Good
Looking back at the past 10 weeks, my biggest regret was missing out on intimate moments with the people I love. The relationship that I completely tossed aside due to “busyness” and “unavailability” was my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I began to distance myself from Him and I erected a wall in my heart that didn’t let anyone in. I ran from intimacy with God-fearing people because I was afraid they would see through my façade and call me out on it. I avoided deep conversations and letting people see the broken, dark, empty places within me. I avoided God’s nudges and whispers. I shut Him out and let myself fall into an all-consuming numbness.
This past week God unleashed all of the emotions inside my heart that I had stowed far deep within myself. He surfaced my pain, insecurities, wounds, sins, depression and anxieties. He shined a light on the darkest parts of me that I was keeping in the shadows and then He boiled down all of it to one thing I was not accepting. My identity. My inheritance. My purpose. I kept telling myself I was not worthy of His love and acceptance. I told myself I wasn’t worthy to be called His daughter. I ignored who He said I was and believed the lies the enemy placed in my mind.
Today, I choose to remember that I am His daughter and that I am who He says I am. Today, I choose to remember that the things of my past do not have any power over me, but the blood of Christ covers me and who the Son sets free is free indeed. Today, I choose to remember He is good. He is God.
Written by Andrenna Williams
1 Peter 1:2 (NIV)
“Who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Life as a child of God whom has answered the call to serve in ministry as an evangelist and minister of the gospel is NEVER void of struggle, yet is ALWAYS filled with hope and promise. It is the dichotomy found within the “perks of the job” that help to keep me both balanced and regularly seated at the foot of the cross. This is a life accepted and journey chosen to follow. As a Candidate of Church Army USA and cafe manager at Uncommon Grounds Cafe, each day is filled with new opportunities to fail, succeed and, most importantly, rejoice in the privilege to “GET TO” do His work.
Between managing the kitchen staff and responding to customer “concerns” to providing spiritual guidance and counseling to those who “choose” the cafe as their place of sanctuary and peace, no two days in my life look the same. And for that I am thankful! However, I would be remiss to say that the burden does not become heavy at times. Balancing family life as a single mother and other ministry responsibilities outside of the cafe is definitely trying, at best. Because of this, I am thankful that because of submission to the call and authority of Jesus Christ in my life, I do not have to carry that burden myself. Psalms 55:22 says to “cast your cares on the Lord and HE will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken”. It’s that truth that fuels and powers me to go on. The fact that sanctification is being set apart for the purpose of being obedient to Christ and it’s done through the work of the Holy Spirit RELEASES me from the stress of “getting it right”. As long as I submit to the spirit doing the work and remain obedient to Jesus in my calling; I’M GOOD!
“I WON’T COMPLAIN”
I’ve had some good days
I’ve had some hills to climb
I’ve had some weary days
And some sleepless nights
But when I look around
And think things over
All of my good days
Out-weigh my bad days
I won’t complain.
Written by Scott Colburn
At the Church In The Margins and at the Jail Bible Study in the past few months we've tried to go back to the beginning and find core principles that will help us and our friends to go forward in personal piety and corporate ministry. At CITM we have shared Paul's letters to the Ephesians and to the Philippians as ways to see how our little dinner get-together can be church to those who need it. We saw that God gives us the gifts of the Holy Spirit, calls us to walk in sacrificial love so that we are the Light in a world of Darkness, and prepares us to battle in the spiritual war between God and the enemy. Look ma, we're discipling! We have been the beneficiaries of a lot of good donated food, so we have plenty of food and room at our table. Turk and Scott are ready for a continued ministry to a bunch of teens who were coming to the CITM but have not been in the past months. Pray for them, whether they are part of CITM or not.
At the jail, the men's side just finished a long study of Genesis. We see how long mankind has struggled to be in the light of God's presence, against its own desire to be master. Genesis is a rich book of repeating themes like brotherly conflict, the killing effects of a lack of hospitality, and the underdog winning out over the favored. Pray for the men and the women as we go forward with a study of Luke on the men's side and as the women work to prepare the women inmates for the gospel in their lives. The struggle is really old, and it helps to go back to the beginning sometimes and engage with the basic questions.
It was a warm evening, the food had been cooked, the music had been selected, and the guests had been invited. Like many fundraising banquets you may have gone to, there was food, and guest speakers with presentations based on the theme of the evening. But somehow this banquet was different. This banquet also included a memorial of sorts for the first Church Army USA National Director, George Pierce, who graduated to the heavenly choir, to join the great cloud of witnesses.
We were blessed to hear from several people who knew him and that was the catalyst for the theme of the evening, Be the Change. In the room were people that have been long time partners and others who, for the first time, were hearing about how God is using Church Army USA to bring His Kingdom to the least of these.
The other focus was on a new program that will be released in partnership with Trinity School of Ministry and the bases of Church Army USA where a person can get a certificate of Evangelism. This isn’t an ordinary certificate. It entails fieldwork right along with theory. It gives churches an opportunity to raise up someone in their midst to prepare the church for receiving as well as being a herald for the Good News to the broken and lost world. This is Church Army USA getting back to its roots.
If you missed this banquet, don’t fret! We have included the message of support from Bishop Jim Hobby and you can always join the movement. If you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions, shoot them over to me and I will do my best to answer them. Thank you and Blessings!
Written By Maggie D.
It’s Wednesday, May 15. I just finished up my shift at the café. I’m sitting on my porch trying to figure out what to write about and I’m stumped. I started to think back about the last espresso that I wrote. And wow! So much has changed since then! The past few weeks have been crazy! And beautiful! I recently got to witness the breakthrough of robin’s eggs becoming little baby chicks in a nest that I found in the courtyard at the café. Then I experienced the heartache two days later after finding the nest rattled, empty, and abandoned. That’s life... isn’t it? The breakthrough and heartbreak. Finally having the love of a mother for myself, but feeling the constant sting of missing my own daughter. Being reunited with people that I love, but only through the death of someone we all loved dearly. The good comes with the bad. The happy and the sad. Life always shows up, but His mercies are new every morning. What is important is staying in a position to be encouraged to keep going. Encouraged not only by the ones around you, but by the Lord as well. And most importantly receiving it.
Written By Andrenna Williams
The gifts that God has given us are never just for our use and satisfaction. All things ultimately work together for the good of those who serve the Lord and when we submit to His will and call he will make space for our gifts to be used for the kingdom.Sometimes, we are not fully aware of or have confidence in our abilities to operate in our gifts. Here at Uncommon Grounds Cafe, we have been blessed with this space to be able to walk with people from "isolation to community" and discover their God given gifts in the process. One of the ways we do this is by offering people opportunities to walk along side of us as we do our work. Volunteers literally help keep the cafe running and are an integral piece of our puzzle.
From cooking in the kitchen and running the register to doing street clean ups to working in our garden to being available to just "listen" to patrons, our volunteers "get to" partner with us in ministry and explore their gifts and talents in a safe and loving environment that is rooted in grace. God not only gives us the grace to succeed but also the grace to fail. Uncommon Grounds Cafe is the perfect place to practice "getting it right". We are currently looking for people to partner with us and volunteer!!! With the summer months ahead, we are getting busier and busier and we need help. We are looking for people who have a desire to serve in a fresh, friendly environment. Is this you? If so, please contact me (Andrenna) at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to meeting and serving with you!!!
Over the last year there have been several big changes in my life that I’ve had to accept concerning my health, job, and relationships. Over the last month God has shown me how much I still had to let go of things in my life that are no longer the same and how much I still need to accept the things that have changed and things that are still changing. I have been going to Celebrate Recovery at Uncommon Grounds for over 2 years, a program that by it’s nature brings about change and transformation in the lives of those who work the program, and I am still learning to truly accept real change and trust that God will take care of me when things are difficult and I cannot see what is in store for my future.
None of us really know what the future has in store, but many like myself try to make plans and figure out ways to feel we have some control over the things that happen to us in life. It has been and continues to be a struggle for me to accept that I cannot know how my life will work out or control my future or make anything certain or secure other than entrusting my life and my future to God. I know and believe that God does indeed work all things for my good, that even when I cannot see or understand what He is doing or how He will use even the difficulties and pain for my good, I can trust that God is faithful and perfect in His goodness and love for me.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” I am learning that because God’s ways are not my ways, when my plans fail and things don’t go as I wanted, it may be hard but I am learning to truly trust and believe that this does not mean God’s good plans for me have gone wrong and that I can still trust that He is at work in my life and His goodness, faithfulness, and love will never fail. I am learning to find peace in trusting the God I know when I cannot rely on anything else for security or peace and learning that God is the only thing in life that can ever truly be relied upon.
Part of the challenge and also part of the fun of ministering at our Church In The Margins grace meal on Saturday nights is to be ready for whoever comes in the door. We have the space, the food and the fairly loose format of sharing the scriptures with a short teaching, discussion at dinner based on a question about where God is this week, and group prayer.
In recent months the Women's residential program with women coming out of incarceration that housed in a nearby apartment building has closed, and so a consistent source of our guests since the beginning of CITM is gone. Instead, we started getting a group of local teenaged boys coming.
Both Turk and I enjoyed the boys, but they were always high energy and impulsive. Sometimes their behavior caused problems, and some of the other guests lost patience with them. Sometimes we had to tell the boys to leave, and they did so disruptively. There were disrespectful; interactions with some of the adults there, with the unintended comedy of some adults who had been extremely disruptive in the past complaining about the kids' behavior. It got to the point where it wasn't a safe place for our guests, and so we decided that the boys couldn't continue as guests at CITM.
We haven't given up on them. They need the gospel, and despite their chaos, they kept coming back. They responded to the fatherly attention, freedom to be themselves and interest in them as people that they found at CITM. We realized that we can't be the ones who decide who gets to "be the church" or hear the gospel. We have kept praying for them, and we are going to provide a time and space for them at the cafe. Mid-afternoon on Saturdays, before CITM, we're going to have a youth hour or two, with opportunity to bang the drums, help cook some food and talk. Turk and I will be there, and we may talk to any men who are part of the cafe community who have interesting skills/hobbies, especially music, and who are interested in ministering to these young men. Pray for us and for them.
Written by Ferdinando Turkovich
The Lord required Abraham to give up his only Son. In this act, Abraham showed his utter faith in the Lord to provide.
Around June of last year, I began the long and drawn out battle for the legal right to have access to my own flesh and blood, my only son. This battle ended in December with the courts deciding that it was best for the child that my parental rights be terminated.
How could I ever come to grips with such a terrible and gapping heart wound? The thing is Abraham had faith that either way God would provide. This of course doesn’t take the pain of loss away completely. I still from time to time feel the longing to see and hold my own son.
I have learned in the last few years that when the Lord is requiring something from me he will replace it with something greater. It was through this process that I was introduced to a group of neighborhood boys that began to come to our Saturday night Church and Grace meal at the café. Church in the Margins is a low requirement Service surrounded around a meal with a question asked around the Central theme of “what is God doing in my life this week”? When our boys showed up (about 5 in total), my heart began to leap for joy inside my chest.
Now these boys have come with their own challenges. They have unfortunately been asked to leave on several occasions, but they ended up coming back week after week. They seemed to respond well to music and cooking. So we tried.
Unfortunately, we have recently had to ask them to leave and not come back to church. This decision honestly broke my heart. The sitting for 1 hour 45 mins to 2 hours was just too much for them and they became disruptive and downright vulgar at times buying for attention. It was heart breaking to watch and even more challenging to keep my composure. It felt like we failed them, that we too let them down like so many other adults. In fact, some of the very same disruptive people that attend our church made suggestions of us turning them away.
So Scott and I turned to the only place we knew that could provide for a safe way to engage these wayward souls: Jesus. And did he provide. With the boys being so responsive to performance arts we have decide to invite them to join us for about an hour every Saturday afternoon to just chill out.
It was in the letting go that God the Father shared his love for these boys and planted deep within my own soul a place for these boys.
Written by Greg Miller
A couple of weeks ago I was teaching some seniors who suffer with dementia about God's promise never again to flood the earth. We talked about the rainbow as the sign that that he will remember and be faithful to that promise. We concluded by saying that our hope and salvation is ultimately dependent, not on ourselves, but on God's promises and goodness. He is the one who guarantees our salvation in Jesus, not us.
After the teaching we talked a little about rainbows and when we had seen them. Several of the people could remember particular rainbows that struck them as extraordinary. Sadly, we concluded that since it was March we wouldn't likely see a rainbow for several months - probably June or July.
As I left the facility where we were meeting I began to drive away and what do you think I saw? A rainbow in March! It was captured by the sun refracting its light through a cloud formation way up in the sky. The words of Genesis 9:13, which we had just read, struck me, "I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth." God was revealing his grace to us by reminding us that he can produce rainbows whenever he wants to and that he is always watching over us. What a great day! What a wonderful God!