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.
By: Lilikae Shepherd
This past month, Uncommon Grounds has been a big help in teaching me about what community is. I've been learning that it is all about the people. It's about getting to know who they are, what their needs are, and to then help them in any way that I can.
I am going to be open to whatever those in my community bring to me, and I know that it will help me grow as a person, and in Christ as well. As a woman, I've found that life is often not easy, but in Christ you can take it one step at a time. I know that Uncommon Grounds is one of those safe places to grow and to take life step by step.
By: Greg Miller
People don't like to attribute "bad" things to God, so it is often said that God doesn't necessarily orchestrate those events in our lives that cause us pain or suffering. I'm not sure that an inmate at the Beaver County jail would agree. Two Sundays ago during our bible study he stated, "God put me in jail to save me and make a new man out of me." That isn't something you might expect to hear. But he was sincere. He observed that his lifestyle was keeping him away from God, the church, and the Bible. He wasn't opposed to God and the church, he was just too wrapped up in a destructive lifestyle to care.
Being incarcerated, though, left him with not much to do during the day. So he decided he would start reading the Bible and attending Bible studies. That process opened his eyes to the Lord in a new way. He is walking a new path of faith and wants to continue to do so when he gets released. He realizes that had he not been arrested and jailed, he would not be on this path. Thus, he sees God's gracious, saving hand in his incarceration. I suspect that Paul, Silas, and the Philippian jailer would agree (Acts 16:24-33).
How do you deal with the pain in your life? Our first response is usually to try to make it go away. However, the pain is not there by accident. God uses it for good and to discipline us. "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). "'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.' ...For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:5-6, 11).
Discipline is good for us and shows us God's love for us. We know that, but it is really hard to live it out. Amazingly, a man in the Beaver County jail may have something to teach us. He can see God's hand in "bad" things. May God give us the ability to do the same.
By: Angel Bailey
Friends, it has been an amazing year so far! God has been opening doors for the women’s ministry and Earth Angel Apothecary to grow. There are a few women that I've had the pleasure to get to know last year that have women’s ministries of their own, and have contracted Earth Angel to make specific products for them to sell at their events. I have also started going to churches, recreation centers, and women’s homes to do crafting Make n Take parties. It's a wonderful time of fellowship and fun, and a chance for women to invite friends, coworkers and neighbors to be loved on, let go of the stress of life, and be creative. I have a woman from our community that I have been mentoring in the arts and apothecary that I take with me to these events. It has been an amazing opportunity for her to step out of her comfort zone, get to know other women outside of her community, learn how to work a merchandise table, love on strangers, and have them love on her as well. I am so honored to be able to share my gifts and talents in this way, and I’m so thankful for the prayers and support of all those that have caught the vision of the ministry.
Uncommon Grounds Cafe