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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.


Bugs and Aliens: A Nelson follow-up

A month ago I wrote a post about a man I met at Elevate Detroit’s Communi-D barbecue in Hazel Park. I didn’t ever get to post it on Life After Death (to self) but you can read the original on the Elevate Detroit blog.

The story was about Nelson, an older man who was slow to talk but began pouring his story out to me. Some of that was interesting autobiographical information: where he lived, his family. Other parts were a bit odder: defending the world from alien invasion and being offered the medal of honor.

Ultimately it didn’t matter what he was talking about. He was just filled with joy that someone was interested in listening. That was the point.

I have been asked about him several times now and every time I have to say, “I haven’t seen him in a month, there hasn’t been another Hazel Park barbecue.” Well, Saturday was second weekend, which is when we host the barbecue there so I was excited to get back and find him again.

We walked up a little early, the grill was just getting started and people were beginning to gather. He wasn’t there yet. That was okay. We were early.

I waited around a bit. I looked around for some time, but there was no sign of him. I waited. Eventually the grill was cooking, we went through the line, talked to a lot of other people, but I didn’t see Nelson at all. I was a little disappointed. I was honestly looking forward to sitting with him again, hearing more of his stories.

Or, I thought, maybe I want Nelson here for some other reason…

It was true. I wanted Nelson to be there for reasons bigger than being friendly and fun conversation.  I wanted Nelson to be there to show me that barbecues were working. I wanted him to be there to confirm that we were really bridging gaps, enhancing life for people in that community, having some earthly (and by extension heavenly) impact.

It was a moment of real humility when I looked around at the 50+ people who were having fun, eating burgers, petting each other’s pets, speaking different languages, serving each other and realized I was wondering if what we were doing was “successful.” I had set up Nelson as a litmus test for success that was unfair and inaccurate.

I just shook my head and had to smile.  I sent up a small apology prayer, took a bite of my hot dog and began a great conversation with the woman at our table who was passing around political petitions. She told Jenny and I about growing up in Hazel Park, how lucky she was that all of her children were in the area still and that many of her friends have lived her for 30+ years. She began pouring her life into me, just as Nelson had.

Nelson did show up that day. He walked up and sat down at the table with us. “Nelson!” I said. “How are you?”

“Did I meet you here last time?” He said, looking a little confused.

“I… um… yes,” I said, sticking my hand out, “I am Cole.  This is Jenny.”

My litmus test for success didn’t remember me. But for the second month in a row, Nelson came to a park where neighbors, kids, pets, people and friends all converged for food, a good time, great friends on a beautiful summer day.

Success.