By: Andrenna Williams
As a child, I was always fascinated with the seasons. I had an appreciation for watching the snow fall slowly outside our living room window on chilly winter evenings, hearing the birds chirping and feeling the dew on the grass on early spring mornings, dancing in the summer rain showers with my purple rain boots and smelling the wet asphalt, and sipping hot apple cider on sunny Sunday afternoons in the fall while on family car rides to see the leaves changing their beautiful colors. Even in my young age, I knew that it meant that the current season would only last for awhile, and that soon the next would be here with new beauty for me to admire. I understood that these events were orchestrated by God and that no matter what the new season was to bring, He was in control.
In my adulthood, I still hold that same appreciation for the beauty of the seasons, and have made a conscious effort to pass this on to my children. However, I have lost some of the confidence, joy, expectation, and hope for the next season. Nowadays, the length of the seasons vary. Sometimes they overlap or fail to show up when expected, and are harder to recognize. At some point, life hit hard and a lie crept in, causing me to grow weary, suspicious, and unable to trust that regardless of what trials, obstacles or hardships came, God would not only protect but also provide.
I'm currently going through an unrecognizable, unusually long, difficult, unpleasant, winter-like season. It's confusing, scary, and upsetting. However, I am trusting God for protection and provision. I was always fond of Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future," and believed it to be God's promise of a good life for me. This is true, however there is more. The next 3 verses are what have helped me to understand the true promise. They read:
12 "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
There's not talk of roses and cherries. There's no promise of a "crisis free" existence. There WILL be scary times. I WON'T always have the answers. People WILL disappoint me. Troubles WILL come. BUT GOD...WILL restore me as long as I seek him and abide in Him. No matter what happens, I can trust in Him. And for that reason, I can sit back, relax, and enjoy each season of my life.
By: Lauren Zawatski
Lately, God has been reminding me to wait. It’s a simple concept, something most of us have learned as we’ve grown. From the toddler stages of waiting until after dinner to have that cookie...to the adolescent waiting to finally get to high school...to the young adult frustrated with college, ready to become a part of the “real world...” to the adult, waiting to find a job or to have kids...even to the older adult who is waiting to retire, or to all believers, who eagerly await eternity with Jesus. Waiting is built into every single stage of human life.
I recently read a story, meant to make you say “Awww!” but the Lord dropped some major truth into my heart through it as well. The gist of the story is this: a man does an experiment called the “marshmallow test” with his 3-year-old granddaughter. He offers her, in this case a piece of chocolate, and tells her that if she can wait 10 minutes without eating that chocolate, he’ll give her a second piece. Ten minutes go by and the girl successfully passes the test. Her grandfather gives her the second piece, and instead of eating both she asks him, “Would you like one Grandpa?”
The little girl’s response is adorable, of course, but the Lord highlighted something more to me: waiting produces something lasting inside of us! Sure, when the girl waited those 10 minutes she gained a second piece of chocolate, but she also gained something much more valuable: perseverance. Often, waiting is not an easy task. It takes the gift of perseverance to be able to patiently stand in our moments of waiting - not begrudgingly, but joyfully.
Ultimately, we have a desperate need for perseverance if we’re going to make it through the journey of life. Thus, waiting seasons can truly be a helpful gift from the Lord to us, enabling us to face life with patient endurance. Romans 5:3-4 says, “[...] we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope...” What a treasure! Waiting is not God saying “I’m here to make you squirm and ruin all of your fun...” In reality, we actually gain hope from our waiting. Not just hope for the Lord to break into our situations, or to bless us with something... but true, eternal hope that one day all of our waiting will be worth it, and we’ll get to see Jesus face to face. And this hope? It’ll never put us to shame!
By: John Bryant
People often ask me what a street pastor does. I tell them I go to a lot of soup kitchens and eat what everyone else does. I wait in line, get my tray, and look around for someone who’ll look back at me and nod. These are people I would pass in my car on my way somewhere, people sitting on the street, bumming cigarettes. I would normally pass them by. Now, I’m waiting for their permission to sit down. They have no reason to trust me other than the fact that I love Jesus and have a tray full of food.
There’s a gruff looking guy. Always wears a cap and a sweater, even in the heat. Keeps to himself mostly. I see him all the time. He does something miraculous. He looks up, says my name, and asks me what time it is.
It’s all I need.
You may not know what it’s like, but if a guy like that asks you what time it is, looks at you, says your name, and asks for the time, it means you’re alright. It means you get to sit down. It means you get munch on the baked beans, swig down the coffee, and pass the time with all the other gruff dudes. It means you get to sit down.
For the first two weeks starting this job, I just sat down where I was allowed to. Turns out, if you know someone and they know someone, and they think you’re alright, then everyone’s cool with you. You get to sit anywhere. You sit down, you wait, and you pass the time. You talk to Jesus on His throne and pray for an opening.
I sat down next to that same gruff man a few days later. I pulled my small Bible out, the one I keep in my back pocket. He looked at me, and I expected the next question to be what time it was. He looked puzzled.
“What are you reading?” He asks.
The man looks concerned, tips his hat back, squints at bit.
“You think he’s gonna do it?”
“Who?” I ask.
I’m puzzled “Think he’s gonna do what?”
“You think He’s gonna raise the dead?”
I sit back on the bench.
“Yeah,” I said. “I think so.”
He looks relieved. “Yeah, me too. I think he’s gonna do it. I think he’s got it in em.”
“I think so too.”
Two men. A bench on the street in the hot summer. Two men waiting the resurrection of the dead.
By: Tessa Sentell
Cycles of addiction are hard to watch. Everyone has their own cycle tied to substances, people, power, money...pick your poison. Everything functions out of relationship at the cafe, and this cycle is something everyone is very familiar with, so I have been learning to engage when I see it.
I work behind the counter and see several regulars come and go in any number of stages of altered reality, and I never know if or when they will be back. As I enter closer into relationship with hurting people, I’ve had to ask God how to handle this.
Something along the lines of “What do I do?” “How can I pray?” “What do I say?”
I kept seeing hurting people and wanting to solve the problem while knowing nothing about their situation. I kept stepping up on the cross and tried to make myself the savior.
What God has shown me in revealing a deeper view of His gospel is the discipline of daily throwing all the sin and nastiness and hurt back to the cross of Christ, and letting Him say “it is finished.” In this spot of kneeling before the cross, I get to acknowledge Him as the one running the universe. I get to give the weight of my hurt and others' hurt that I’ve been carrying back to Him and see what He will do with them.
Because He lives, I can be satisfied praying and interceding from behind the counter since I’m not the one running the room. Because those people belong to Him, I can take my hands off and simply watch what He does, and the development of that every time they walk into the cafe. And because Jesus took the weight of our collective mess, I can engage in relationship and love anyway.
What a freeing thing to do nothing but love, step down off the cross, be available for His purposes, and let the God who knows and loves people much better than I ever could run the universe.
By: Gabriel Roman
I moved to Pittsburgh at the end of February. Ever since that move, my life has been a constant cycle of: “Lord if you don’t show up, I can’t get through this situation.” These are situations that are bigger than me and are supposed to take me out. Over the last few months the Lord has been showing me how he is bigger than the biggest situations I can face, and how being in a place where you are desperate for him is the best place to be. He has shown me how he takes care of his children. When I moved here, I felt like the Lord was telling me to go, but I didn’t have anywhere to stay, I didn’t have a job, and most importantly I didn’t have a community to plug into. One by one the Lord knocked each one of those obstacles down. Let me give you some examples...
My fiancé and I were invited out to California to be a part of praying over a vision that a close friend had of revival in the United States. We both felt like we were supposed to go, but did not have the financial means. A little bit of time went by and we just prayed and said, “Lord if you want us to go, you are going to have to provide a way.” That same night we got a phone call from our close friend, and he said that he had been saving money for the last few months and felt like the Lord was telling him to buy our plane tickets. We went, and on that trip we experienced the Lord in new ways, and had a glimpse of what doing ministry together looks like. The team we were with got to put on a worship event in the middle of the food court of a public university, and 500 people showed up. We got to experience all of this because the Lord provided for what he called us to.
Shortly after California, rent was due, and because I wasn’t working for two weeks, it wasn’t in my bank account. However, I knew I had been faithful to where the Lord asked me to put my funds and time. I remember sitting in my room trying to figure out a way to pay rent. Starting to feel overwhelmed, I just prayed. I knew I had done what I had been told up to that point. If following the Lord got me to this situation, then I knew the Lord was also going to provide a way out. So as I was praying I asked the Lord, “what is my role in the way you want to bless me?” Honestly his response was the last thing I wanted to hear. He said, “I want you to go and ask people.” In that moment, I realized that there was pride in my life. I didn’t want to ask people for help because I didn’t want them to think less of me. I remember being so convicted after the Lord said, “Are you going to follow me even when it makes you look bad?” I called one person and shared my struggle and what the Lord had been doing my in my life, and the person responded: “Gabe I love you, I trust you, and I want to cover your need in full.” A lot of times what the Lord is asking us to do goes against what WE want to do. Sometimes our blessing is behind the door that is the most uncomfortable for us.
I am not saying that following the Lord is going to give you riches and that He is going to give you everything that you want. God is not a genie. I am saying that when you follow the Lord you will eventually find yourself in a tough situation. But any tough situation the Lord leads you to he is going to lead you through. In the midst of those tough situations, he is either going to show you more of his characteristics and who he is, or he is trying to weed out of your heart something that isn't supposed to be there. The Lord is faithful to his children and he wants to bless you in the process of becoming more like him. Sometimes that involves doing something that you are uncomfortable with. So, if you find yourself in a situation where something seems much bigger than you are, then congrats. The best place to be is a place where you have to be completely dependent on the Lord.
By: Scott Colburn
Sometimes when I walk through my kitchen, I sense that something is a little “off.” I'll stop and try to smell where it's coming from, and I know that something will have to be used up, thrown out or mopped up. Sometimes this happens in my spiritual life, as it does for all of us, from time to time. We've neglected something, or hidden something away and it's festering, or we failed to throw something out, or we made a mess and never cleaned it up.
At the Uncommon Grounds Cafe and in our Church Army Ministries, we have some ways to bring renewal and cleansing for ourselves and for you when something is off. Our staff reads and discusses books on listening, on creating boundaries for helping and loving people ,and on using spiritual disciplines to grow closer to God. We have weekly Bible Studies, a support group for grieving women and a Saturday Night church and dinner fellowship.
That fellowship, Church In The Margins, partners with my “Sunday Church” occasionally to host a healing prayer service. Trinity Church, Beaver will join us August 3 for the next healing prayer meeting at the cafe, at 6pm.
Of course, one of our main ministries is just listening to people. Sometimes when your life is off, it helps to talk to someone so you can hear yourself talk too. I know it helps me to confess what I think is wrong in my life that I have to take responsibility for, and to know that it isn't getting me thrown out of community. The cafe hosts a Celebrate Recovery meeting on Tuesday evenings, and I've been attending, because I want to take steps to address the change I need in my life, and I want to do it in the context of my relationship with God. We also have folks just sitting around the cafe sometimes who are trained in our listening ministry methods, and who are happy to listen.
Those smells in the kitchen are almost always easily taken care of, and some of our spiritual “stinks” may not be, but it's certain they don't get better if we do nothing. Consider using the Cafe as a resource—Call us the Quicker Picker-upper!--and get your life spiritually spiffy again.
By: Herb Bailey
One of the wonderful things about doing a thankless job is that it keeps a person
humble. When it gets discovered, somehow the person is seen as doing something
extraordinary, and people gather around and celebrate. The danger for me is that I
can believe that, somehow, I manufactured the results. I can begin to believe the
hype that I am super special, or more special than someone else. The truth is, I am a
man under authority, with authority.
It is amazing how quickly things get balanced out. Two days after the news story WTAE did on the cafe was replayed a second time, my service was suspended on my phone, as if it were reported stolen. The thing is, I never reported it as stolen. It took them two days to rectify the situation. In the meantime, they kept turning my service on with the promise that it would stay on. Only it didn’t. Multiple calls and even a visit to the
store later, and it looks like the service is now truly restored.
We talk about A+ versus A- and realize that when we have a normal expected
interaction, we don’t get excited and it goes unnoticed. When we have an amazing
interaction, we tell people about it, and when we have a less than normal
interaction, we also tell others about it. Apparently someone was treated well by our
team and the news got wind of it. I was treated with less than good service through
my cell phone carrier, and now you are hearing about it.
God does us better than we deserve. He gives us A+ service and we then get to tell
people about it. We share the Good News of God’s grace and mercy with everyone.
By: Nancy O'Leary
Over the past couple months I have been coming alongside a young woman who has needed help with transportation, as well as with some other matters in her life. She is a single mother with a young child who is trying to maneuver through some impossible situations, and she cannot possibly resolve them on her own. During our time together, not only have I had the opportunity to be a friend and to share my life and faith with her, but I also have had the privilege of just being present in her life as a person of faith.
This scenario reminds me of a time when I working in Washington, D.C. and I had an officemate with whom I shared my comings and goings. I was active in my local church and doing evangelism ministry at the time. Another time, I recall a different woman who was my officemate and she and I became close friends. Again, I briefly had conversations about my church life and faith with her.
The reason these stories are important is that both of my officemates, unbeknownst to me, started attending church. The first woman, to my complete surprise, came to work one day and asked me if I wanted to attend her baptism and confirmation. The second woman, who I am still friends with, is also now attending a local church in Florida. My point is this: we don’t need to be theologians. Our life may be the only Bible people may ever experience. Already, I am seeing that things are changing for this young woman and her child. We just need to be present by living and expressing Christ’s love in the world around us.
By: Maggie Dannenmueller
Hello friends! In the past three weeks I have found 9 four leaf clovers, and one five leaf clover. After realizing that maybe God was speaking to me, I decided to look into the ideas and origins of the four leaf clover beyond the “Kiss Me I’m Irish” and drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. Early references that date back to Patricius, also known as Patrick, who is remembered as the saint that drove the snakes out of Ireland, used the shamrock (three leaf clover) to teach and explain the Trinity. There are petals each for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is said that when there is a fourth leaf found, it represents God's grace. The scientific odds of finding just one four leaf clover are 1 in 10,000. I found four on Monday alone.
It's no secret between myself and the Lord that I struggle with grace...not accepting it for myself, or sometimes not having grace for others, especially when I feel wronged. Knowing when enough grace is enough grace is really hard for me, and I’m afraid of too much grace to the point of it losing its meaning. But then I ask myself, "When is enough grace just enough grace coming from Him? When does He draw the line and say that’s enough?" And that’s the simple part...He doesn’t. Our sin is actually what qualifies us for grace. He doesn’t withhold that from us, and it’s not my job to withhold it from myself or from anyone else either. These little clovers are big reminders from Him. I’m comforted to know that he hears me, and that He's moving.
P.S. I am sitting at the picnic table in the garden at the café writing this, and I just found another one!
By: Marla Duncan
In 2013-2014, I was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety. I went through the worst mental health breakdown I've ever had, and God sent Dr. Ken Murray into my life. He kept it completely 100% at all times when I was living the way I was. At my worst, he was there to help correct things. When my medical insurance was done covering my visits, he started treating me free of charge. He even gave me his personal number in case of a crisis. There were times when he would pick up his phone at 3:30 in the morning just to pray with me.
Dr. Murray became a big brother to me. When he saw me at my worst, he suggested that I move back to PA with my boys...and that I did. He even paid for our trip in full! After moving back, I continued to call him and keep him updated on my improvement. In January 2014, he said that he had to let me go and asked me to send him a thank you card in the future, because he sees nothing but success and happiness to come. In a panic, I hung up the phone. But in March 2018 I found his business card when I was cleaning out some things, and I sent a thank you card to his office address. It returned to sender twice. So, I Googled his name and up came an article that he was in a car accident and died on impact July 26, 2014. Until this day, I still Google that story.
I THANK GOD for sending Doctor Murray to me and my family. Rest peacefully Dr. Ken Murray. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of you. The moral of this post is that God will use an individual to help you in life, no matter if it's temporary or long-term. But it's up to you to accept it and embrace it, to thank him for doing that, and for loving you unconditionally. God will never leave you or forsake you, and that is why I thank him every day for the things that he's done for me, and for what he's brought me through.
Uncommon Grounds Cafe