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No rain… Again!

Matthew 8:26 (NIV)

“He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

Mark 4:39 (NIV)

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

So often I’ve read this passage and pictured that night out on the water.  I used to arrogantly and piously scoff at the disciples.  “Look how dumb they were.”  “How could they still not get it?!”  “How could they not understand that they were safe with him?!”

I’ve grown since then though… a little.  The verses just before this are Jesus teaching them how much it will cost them to follow him.  He tells them they will be homeless.  He tells them they will have to miss important, meaningful family moments.  He’s teaching them it will cost them their livelihoods, possibly their families and surely their plans.

He hasn’t given them any comfort.  And shortly thereafter, here they are… on a lake in a furious storm in a boat that’s about to be swamped.  They’ll drown.  Danger is all around.  And they run to him.  They wake him.  They beg him.

They don’t doubt his ability to save them like I used to think.  What they doubt his awareness of the situation.  And they seem to have an idea of how he will save them when they ask.  I’m curious to know what they were expecting.  Maybe they were expecting him to raise the boat out of the water.  Maybe they expected the water to suddenly be held back from over the rails of the boat, similar to Moses crossing the Red Sea and God holding the water back.  Or maybe… they were expecting him to calm the storm.

Whatever their expectations of his actions, they were afraid.  Stressed.  Terrified.  And they were begging him for help.

In five years of CommuniD BBQs, I have no idea how many times God has calmed the storms for us.  I have seen clouds part, literally.  I have seen rain inexplicably surround a park without falling on it.  Twice.  Countless times we have seen and reaped the benefits of those words, “Quiet! Be still!”

Last Saturday.  It was raining.  The forecast called for heavier rain as the day went on.  No relief.  No hope of a break in the storm.  Just cold, miserable rain.  We had three CommuniD BBQs scheduled for the day; Detroit, Hazel Park and Southfield.  I got phone calls from all three leaders asking what to do, when to call it off, etc.  Three leaders who’ve watched these storms calm in the past with me all concerned, maybe even afraid that we’ll get rained out.  I talked them through it, encouraged them, reminded them of miracles of the past and God’s faithfulness in the present.  At the end of the day, all three events happened.  Not a drop of rain fell where it wasn’t supposed to.  Not an once of falling water was left to disrupt God’s plan for the day.  A miracle.  Again.  Amazing.

This Saturday.  It’s raining again.  It’s grey.  It’s cold.  It’s miserable weather.  The rain wasn’t supposed to let up until at least 4pm.  It looked like it would linger on long past then.  We had two CommuniD BBQs scheduled for the day; Detroit and Pontiac.  I looked outside and thought, we might get rained out today.  Again, I got calls from leaders.  Again, anxious, nervous, expecting the rain to continue.  Again, I reassured them reminding them of God’s faithfulness in the past.  What they didn’t know was that this time, I was feeling the same way as they were.  I was nervous.  I was afraid.  I was grasping onto those memories with them.  I was needing the reminders every bit as much as they did.

With the shakiness in my soul of a one year old walking, in faith I continued to encourage them (and me).  I set out from living in Pontiac to drive to Detroit.  Wipers on.  Heat on.  Cold rain.  Answering calls, replying to texts and when no one else was asking me, I was still praying, hoping… no rain.  “Lord, I’m trusting you against my gut instinct of fear.  I will speak in confidence that you will again calm the storms; hoping you do.”

We are such forgetful people.  We are so quick to lose our faith.  We are so quick to be afraid.  And we run to him saying, “Lord, our event will drown!  Don’t you care?  Won’t you help us?  Aren’t you paying attention?”  I don’t think he was bothered that the disciples asked him for help.  They needed help.  What he rebukes them for is their fear and lack of faith.

I can scoff at their lack of faith all I want.  I mean, they could see Jesus right in front of them after all.  But I am every bit as deserving of that scoffing myself.  I may not yet have seen Jesus physically in front of me.  But I have seen the fruit of his words, “Quiet! Be still!” countless times.

So today… AND last week… God held back the clouds!!  In these last 2 Saturdays we’ve seen over 500 people share a meal together.  There have been 5 CommuniD BBQs in 4 locations with 14 partnering groups.  It’s been an incredible couple weeks!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen God work miracles with the weather on Saturday afternoons.  Five years and we’ve cancelled only 4.  That’s quite a track record of good weather!  And yet every time I can hardly believe it!  Our God still calls the storms!  And He creates space for His Body to form and love at a common table.

My God… YOU ARE AMAZING!!

Shared by Mike Schmitt.

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No Rain in HP

The day dawned gray, the forecast was bad…rain, followed by some more rain, then some rain.

We prayed. We went up to Kensington to meet up with Heather and hook up the trailer to her Suburban…still raining.

Heading south on John R, we looked ahead and saw brighter skies. We arrived at Green Acres Park… NO RAIN!!

It didn’t rain a drop. Not one, until we were packing up to head home!

Great day! Awesome God. Thanks to ALL, new faces and old, who braved a miserable forecast and came to be a part of the Hazel Park CommuniD BBQ!! YOU ALL ROCK!!

Shared by Jim Sterner.


Hazel Park and a beer tent

We’d been blessed weather-wise for every BBQ so far…no rain in spite of bad forecasts, warmer than expected temps, very blessed. This Saturday wasn’t looking good though. No problem, God’s taken care of the weather every time. We went ahead and fired up the grill and the skies opened. Harder and harder it came down.  All the pavilions were being used so we were looking hard for a plan B. One of our HP BBQ family came running up and said she’d talked with the people using one of the pavilions and we were welcome to use the end of their pavilion. Plan B had arrived and we took off, lit grill, tables and people scrambling across the park. All eyes were on us as we set up at the end of the music pavilion of the Madison Hts. F.O.E. picnic. God is good…but who is this big dude with the seriously unhappy face coming our way? As we talked (talked=did our best to be able to stay where we were) we found out that the invite didn’t come from anyone in charge of this rather BIG (all three pavilions, beer tent, 200+ people) picnic, but rather from the DJ. After a short conversation, one that went from terse to pleasant, we were given the official OK. God is good!
We talked, mingled, bought raffle tickets, watched horseshoes, got a shout out over the PA from the Madison Hts. F.O.E. president Brian, and had a chance to meet and connect with a group of people we’d have never met without the “unwanted” rain. By the way, the rain stopped as soon as we’d gotten under cover and the sun came out shortly after. Yes, God is good. His plans, not our plans!

Written by: Jim Sterner

Jim & Donna Sterner are the point leaders for the Hazel Park CommuniD BBQs


5 Year Anniversary Luau & Pig Roast Press Release

5 Year Anniversary Luau & Pig Roast Press Release

Elevate Detroit, a nonprofit organization that specializes in creating community-building events across southeast Michigan is celebrating their fifth birthday on June 16, 2012.

The organization, launched in 2007, began when a few friends wondered what it would look like to haul a grill into Cass Corridor, Detroit and share a meal with the homeless people they found there.  Since then, they have added four more locations (Pontiac, Flint, Mount Clemens and Hazel Park) and provide approximately 1,200 meals/month across southeast Michigan.  All of the meals and supplies are provided completely by people who attend the events.

The celebration will be at their Detroit CommuniD BBQ location: Robert Redmond Plaza at the Corner of Second Ave. and Selden St. The event will be luau themed with a pig roast from Coal’s BBQ.  The festivities begin at 1:00 p.m. and will go continue late into the afternoon.


Pilate

Pilate.

What did Pilate do that was so wrong?

I’ve been wrestling with this question a lot this Lenten/Easter season. I am spending this year reading through the gospels. I use YouVersion and often listen to the passages aloud. In January I read through all four gospels. I spent February focusing on Matthew, reading it over and over. March was similarly spent reading Mark. Now April will be spent reading Luke. And May will be spent with John.

At the beginning of Lent I also started reading YouVersion’s “40 Days of Lent” reading plan. It’s been interesting. As I’ve read through the plans side by side I sometimes end up reading the same chapter a second time in a day. Other times I may read the same passage in parallel gospels in the same day or days apart.

Beginning today I’m also going through “The Story of Easter” reading plan. So now during Holy Week I’m reading three different reading plans all involving the life of Jesus. Two of them focus on Easter and the events leading up to it. And this week I’ll be reading the full gospel of Luke. It’s overlapping reading plans. You get the idea.

You may think (Or I would’ve thought) that the repetition or overlapping nature gets boring. But it has been quite the opposite. Reading like this has been like hearing the same story over and over again from different perspectives and in different orders. I feel like I’m getting a bigger and deeper picture of the characters in the story. Not really repetition at all.

However, I have digressed. Back to my question: What did Pilate do that was so wrong?

Having grown up in the church, I remember hearing the Easter story as a kid. I remember thinking the Jews, Pilate and everyone there was so evil except for Jesus and maybe that guy that carried his cross for him because he was forced to do it.

Over time I’ve learned to place myself amidst the crowd. I’ve pictured myself or understood myself as one of the many voices in the jeering crowd. I’ve spent hours meditating on the thought that it was my sin that nailed him to that cross. And after nailing him there with my sin, it was His love that held him there.

But what about Pilate?

Pilate was still my scapegoat. I was ok with placing myself in the massive crowd; even if it was out of sin. At least I wasn’t the only one chanting for Jesus’s execution, right? As long as it’s not only my voice shouting for his death, that seemed bad, but tolerable. I can handle that.

Pilate’s the one that could’ve really done something though. Pilate didn’t have to listen to us in the crowd. Pilate had the power to set Jesus free and silence the crowd. Pilate could’ve done something, but didn’t. And for that… I’ve always thought of Pilate as the worst one there. It’s one thing to be an ignorant peasant and demand an innocent man’s execution. It’s another thing to be an educated citizen of the most powerful empire in the world and condone the death of the innocent by a lack of action. “Yes,” I thought, “Pilate is the worst one there.”

So what did Pilate do?

Pilate questioned Jesus. (Matthew 27:11, Mark 15:2-4, Luke 23:3, John 18:33-38)
Pilate was amazed at Jesus. (Matthew 27:14, Mark 15:5)
Pilate found Jesus innocent. (Luke 23:4, 23:13-15, John 18:38)
Pilate questioned the Jews and gave them a chance to request Jesus be released. (Matthew 27:17-24, Mark 15:9-14, Luke 23:22, John 18:39)
Pilate had Jesus flogged in an apparent attempt to pacify the Jews. (Matthew 27:26, Mark 15:15, Luke 23:16, 23:22, John 19:1)
Pilate declared Jesus innocent again. (Luke 23:22, John 19:4, 19:6)
Pilate was afraid and questioned Jesus again. (John 19:8-10)
Pilate declares that he has the power to crucify Jesus or to free him. (John 19:10)
Pilate tried to set Jesus free. (Luke 23:20, John 19:12)
Pilate gave in to the crowd and handed him over to be crucified. (Matthew 27:24-26, Mark 15:15, Luke 23:24-25, John 19:16)
Pilate had a sign made declaring Jesus was “The King of the Jews” and had it posted in all three common languages of the time. (John 19:19-20)
Pilate stands firm to his declaration of who Jesus is. (John 19:22)

Here’s what Pilate did: Pilate took the time to learn who Jesus was. Pilate believed and declared Jesus to be innocent and the King of the Jews. In other words, Pilate believed Jesus. Yes. I think we’ll see Pilate in Heaven. But Pilate gave in to the pressuring demands of a sinful society. Pilate did not stand up for the innocent like he could have. But instead, Pilate stood by and allowed the innocent to die.

Now… Who is the worst in this story? Pilate? Or the Jews in the crowd? I still think Pilate.

But I can no longer place myself in the crowd. I am not an ignorant uneducated peasant. I am an educated citizen of the most powerful empire in the world. I am no longer a Jew in this story… I am Pilate. I am Pilate because every day I sit and do nothing. And through my passivity, the innocent are allowed to die. I am Pilate every time I do not do all that I can.

Let’s, as the body of Jesus, stop being Pilate. Let’s stop letting our passivity, apathy and complacency condemn the lives of the innocent. Let us stop killing God’s children with inaction! Do something. Bring your friends along. Do something together. And keep doing it.

http://one.org
http://invisiblechildren.com
http://ijm.org
http://bloodwatermission.com
http://20liters.org
http://thepeaceplan.com
http://70x7outreach.org
http://elevateDetroit.com

This list could go on and on and on. Don’t start tomorrow. Do something now.


Fire, Faith & Loss

This past Saturday I walked down to Robert Redmond Park at 2nd & Selden in Detroit’s Cass Corridor.

I started talking to a man named Ken in front of the park. Ken was walking down Selden with a back pack and a tired expression on his face. I asked how he was doing, and he simply said “I’ve had better days.” I understood that saying well, not knowing the reason behind his response. I inquired in the most sincere way I could convey. Ken went on to share a story I wasn’t expecting. Ken’s apartment and everything he owns in it was lost in a fire just a week ago Friday. He explained that his drunk neighbor had accidentally started a fire in the apartment above him. The ceiling then fell in and set fire to his apartment. Ken said, “I was just concerned about getting outta there.” He grabbed what clothes he could find, a bag and his dog came with him. At this point, I could only nod and apologize for his recent tragedy. I asked where his dog is now. Ken said, “He’s at my friends house, ran away twice now because he’s scared of that place, but he’s ok now.” Ken shared how thankful he was, that his girlfriend wasn’t with him that night, and that he’s safe, that his dog’s safe.

He went on to explain the hassle of contacting shelters and help agency’s around the city looking for help. His frustration in a system that expects him to have his I.D birth certificate or social security card before they will help. This man lost all his material possessions a week ago and needs a roof over his head.

The sympathy in my heart, I could only attempt to convey with body language. I asked him, “Do you see God in any of this, and if so…how?” He paused and replied, “Man faith is all I do have now, literally…I have nothing else but these clothes on my back.” I said “And your dog.” We both laughed. For a man that just lost everything he owns, he sounded…thankful for what little he does have.

I asked if he was hanging around the park for awhile to get something to eat. He said, “Yeah, yeah I plan on it.” Before I left the park I waved and smiled at Ken, and he did the same.

If I were that man, would I say the same? Would I remind myself of the faith I have, or focus on what I lost?

– Alexander Tourtillott


Mack and Outreach Love

I spent this afternoon at the CommuniD BBQ in Detroit. It’s August 13th, 2011. Today’s high is 80°F. Mostly sunny. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Today I met a man named Mack. Scratch that… today I met a friend named Mack. I’ve actually met him many times before, but never remembered his name. After today, I will never forget his name.

Mack is 26 years old. He will turn 27 on October 1st. Mack is African-American. He is probably 5′ 10″ tall; a little heavier than average build. He’s a good size to hug. Mack has a sweetness about him. It’s a childlike innocence. To meet Mack is to like him. To talk with him is to love him. I cannot help, but see Christ in his smile. It’s beautiful. He is beautiful.

Mack is currently homeless. Mack stays in a shelter in Cass Corridor. Mack comes to the CommuniD BBQs just about every week. He has for some time.

Today Mack read me a song he wrote. He has chords written out and everything. The song is called Outreach Love. Mack wrote Outreach Love to describe his experiences at CommuniD BBQs at 2nd & Selden.

I hope to be able to post the lyrics to his song soon. For now, I’ll say two things about it:
1. I was in tears after hearing it.
2. The only line I remember goes something like, “No one looks at me like I’m broken.”

To anyone who may read this… success. If the last four plus years of BBQs through winter and summer alike had no other benefit whatsoever, but to give Mack the experience of being seen by God as not being broken… success. Because in Christ, Mack is made whole. In Christ, I am made whole. In Christ, Mack is not broken. In Christ, I am not broken. In Christ, Mack is healed of his brokenness. In Christ, we are all healed of our brokenness.

God,

Thank you for Christ. Thank you for Mack. Thank you for Christ in Mack. And thank you for Christ in me. Thank you for healing our brokenness through Christ and His body… us.

I hope to post full lyrics to Outreach Love soon.

P.S. Get ready for one SERIOUS birthday party on October 1st.

Mack, Heather, Morgyn and friend last summer (8/7/10)

Written by Mike Schmitt
Twitter: @mikeschmitt