The Fourth Wall

Social media makes me think of the” fourth wall.”  It is a term that comes from theater or TV, and because I grew up watching “Full House” that is the show that comes to my mind.  I remember as a kid always wanting to see what the living room looked like looking out from the staircase.  But that “Fourth Wall” was always where the viewers looked in on the Tanner family.  So I never saw it.  That “Fourth Wall” separates the characters in the show from us, the viewers, and the only thing that gets through is what the writers and actors want us to see, the script.

Social media… It’s the same way.  I don’t post much these days.  I have a three year old, and a two year old, I work with teenagers, we are starting a non-profit, and sometimes I have to be a construction worker building a café, and each day another responsibility seems to arise.  I find myself relieved to have days where I am just home with the kids, doing laundry, dishes, and cleaning the house.  Those are easy days.  But even on those days, sitting at a computer is not a luxury I get often.  So I won’t lie to you, I have been guilty of allowing social media to be a “Fourth wall” to everyone watching our ministry from the outside.

I think from the outside it has to look like things are going so great, and I won’t lie, they are.  They really, really are.  God has blessed every step of this café.  Every. Step.  We got our IRS confirmation letter stating we are a registered 501©3, and we received it 4-6 months ahead of what we expected.  A donor fully paid for our water filtration, and this week we completely installed every piece of gear in the café.  The money has always come in at the exact right time, and the random people stopping in for a week, weekend, or day of volunteer labor has always been so profoundly of God, I can’t even begin to explain it here.  Just realize this, when it’s just two guys building a café, everything takes longer.  So when you are looking at a $10,000 deck and sidewalk project without money or workers, and then POW, they both show up, you know it’s of God.  If it was once, ok.  Twice, weird…. Every single time, you can’t give credit anywhere else.

But in all of the good, there has been bad.  But I find myself convicted about hiding behind this “Fourth Wall.”  Every time I read the bible, it’s an open book into the flawed character of the people in it.  Here is the deal, if I wrote a biography on myself, I would conveniently forget the embarrassing parts.  But the Gospel of Mark (from the mouth of Peter) covers all of Peter’s worst moments.  What frustrates me at times is the way we mock him when we read those passages.  Because who openly admits their failures right?  Peter did.  Matthew did.  Paul did.  Jeremiah did.  Moses did…. No fourth wall for those guys.  And then a missionary in Honduras posted on her facebook wall on one of the bad days.  God totally did crazy stuff in a good way the rest of that day for her, but it was the moment of honesty I respected.  And it was kind of the final moment I realized the American church is super good at putting on an “Everything is totally fine” face, when we all know it’s not.

This last year has been hard.  I thought as we got closer to opening the café it would be easier, and I was stupid.  Here is why.  Acts 19.  There was a man possessed by a demon, and some regular Joe’s who didn’t follow Jesus were all like, “We got this.”  But they didn’t.  The demon didn’t cooperate or submit to them.  Finally they are frustrated and start one of my favorite interactions in the whole bible, “I command you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims to leave.’  Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.  But the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”  And then the demon beat them naked.

For me it’s always been a message, the demon knew of Paul, and recognized him.  Not because Paul went to church every week, but because Paul was changing the world around him.  Demons knew Paul.

So I know as the ministry in Ogden grows, not numerically, but in impact, and as the café comes together, and as Ogden begins to be transformed by the Lord…. Darkness will fight back.  And this is the part where I know what some of you are thinking, “The darkness cannot overcome the light.”  Oh yes, I know.  But if we aren’t careful we present a form of Christianity that God Himself never presented.  Every person in the bible knew of God’s power, and of His victory, but every person in Scripture also struggled.  The most faithful sinned, doubted, ran away, and felt abandoned by God at times.  It just sucks that today a Christian has to die, and someone has to find their journals to realize that even the most righteous among us struggle with sin.  But what is easier, is to not let anyone know.  To hide it, not talk about it, and avoid it.  What’s stupid about that though is the fact that when Jesus used the word hypocrite, he was calling people actors.

This last year has shown how faithful God is.  It has shown how profound His grace is.  As I follow Him I find myself completely unqualified for every task He gives me, but then He provides a way or a person to accomplish it with me.  But the struggles of this last year have been real.  We left our church, we left the partnership with Barnabas, there has been constant self-doubt and I have questioned every decision.  The only thing that burdens me daily is one question, “Is this the decision God wants me to make.”  From the name of the café, to becoming our own non-profit organization, to the way we do youth ministry, I ask that one question every day.  And this last year we had so many decisions to make, not small ones, major decisions that would impact the future of what we do in Ogden.  The Zac Brown band has a song I listened to on repeat, “Heavy is the head.”  The lyric that hit the most, “Loved by few judged by many, bears this weight alone.”  Is it the reality?  Probably not, but for months I felt that way.  I felt like every single decision was challenged, second guessed, and then began times of such self-doubt, and borderline depression.

There have been too many days where I was a bad husband and father.  There have been stretches where I go directly from pouring concrete and digging trenches to walking in the door and doing dishes and cooking dinner for Quinn when she gets home.  Those stretches produced some bad moods that I still regret.  So much so that now I find myself asking early in the day and at the end of the day, “How have I been as a husband today?”  Or “How have I been as a father today?”  The stress has been high, the frustrations have been high, and at times my moods have been everywhere.

Then this last year things I hoped to never see have happened.  I hoped we would never work with a teen who would take their own life.  That happened.  I can’t pretend that we were super close, but it is heartbreaking to know that a teenager who was in your house, who you had conversations with and tried to show love to, felt so alone that they thought the only way out was death.  The longer we work with teens in the community , the more information they trust us with.  It’s a blessing, and it’s a curse.  It’s a blessing because they trust us, it’s a curse because it hurts to hear the life these kids fight through.

It’s been an emotional, stressful, burdensome kind of year.  But it has been a year where I have experienced God differently than ever before.  I received a word from the Holy Spirit, to leave where we were and go into unknown territory.  And when I took that step of faith and left everything, it felt like there was silence.  I was doing my quiet time one day when I realized something (meaning the Holy Spirit showed me), in order to get to the promised land you have to go through the wilderness.  Moses did, Jesus did, the whole nation of Israel did.  The trick is this, sometimes you go to the wilderness because of your sin (Elijah in the cave, Moses after killing an Egyptian, Israel after doubting God), but other times you go because you are called by God (Abraham going to a place he would be shown, Jesus going to the wilderness, Paul’s shipwreck).  So, for months, while I struggled, I really questioned if I was going through all of it because of my sin, or because I was called.

But the wilderness, it produces perseverance.  There were days… There were days when I was really going to quit.  But I saw a vision one day, I walked into the desert.  I had been walking in the same direction for months.  If I quit I would have to turn around and go back where I was.  I would have to walk in the desert , retracing the steps from where I came from to get back to the same spot.  Another option was that I could sit down in the middle of this desert and die (not literally of course).  Or I could keep going.  I could take one more step, and then another.  And slowly but surely I would get to the promised land.  So each step has become one of faith, because I don’t really see what is on the other side, but I believe God’s promise.

What’s funny is that I think a lot of people might think the promised land is the café opening.   That isn’t the promised land. It’s the holistic transformation of Ogden.  That means a spiritual transformation and a physical one as well.  It means that many people in Ogden choose to follow Jesus, and that the community physically reflects that reality in time.  When we follow Jesus the transformation takes time, so it will take time.  But I believe Ogden will look different in 15 years than it does now.  I believe, with all of my heart, our teens will be following Jesus.  I believe some of our students who have ended up in jail will be leading bible studies, I believe some of the students who dropped out of high school will be tutoring kids.  I believe a movement is coming.  That is the promised land.  The café is what will propel this movement through God’s leading.

So I am not out of the wilderness yet.  In fact, I stsill have some ways to go

And sometimes, you get a taste of what good is coming…  Two days ago we hooked up the Espresso machine.  All of our gear is operational.  We could open the café tomorrow if we wanted to.  Everything is done.  Today, we have a fully operational Café!  But we are not open.  Here is why.  As much work as we put into building it, we will put into operating it.  Whatever God calls us to, we will do it well.  So we begin training next week.  I am not in a rush like I used to be, thanks to the wilderness.  I know people question when we will open and my answer is simple, “When the Holy Spirit tells me to.”

As we begin training on operating a quality coffee shop, we will know when we are ready.  And so, in the next two months we will set an opening date.  And then the next stage begins, operating a business that doesn’t make a profit, but that makes an impact.  Making money to spend it on serving people.  God’s heart is truly a beautiful thing.  The café will reflect what God has laid on my hear through Isaiah 58, “is not this the fast that I desire, to loosen the bonds of evil, undo the straps of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to break every burden?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house;  When you see the naked to cover him?”

The café is just a tool.  It is a really cool tool, but that is all it is. If we get caught up in the thing, and not the maker of that thing… We call it idolatry.  This season has been the most stressful season of my life.  I say that with no doubt. But through this season I have learned a faith I never knew.  I cannot put into words what it is like to think about what the building was two years ago… .And now we have a fully operational café.  This my friends, is a good day. It might not be open today…. But today, we have a coffee shop!

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What all the Cafe progress really means

cafe pic to deleteI was working out just a bit ago, and I was thinking about the type of person I don’t want to become.  I don’t want to be the guy who only talks about the thing God has given me, and not God Himself.

I have been posting a great many updates on the cafe, and I am so filled with joy and excitement it is pouring out on my social media sites.  But I think that it can easily be confused as to think that my passion and life are about the cafe.  It is not.  My passion, my life, and my focus is Jesus, the man I encountered in Iraq.

The cafe is something God has called me to.  He gave me the vision for the cafe several years ago, it just took time to formulate and become clear.  The cafe is the tool, He is the reason.  What I mean by that is the cafe will simply be a revenue source, and a vital geographical location on main street.  But the purpose of the cafe is to serve the people.  The money, the location, the resources will all be used to serve people, and to point them to Jesus.

The reason I am so excited about the cafe is that it has been a testimony to the realness of God.  I remember the day I walked into the building, I remember the days I brought other people with me.  The building itself was a mountain.  It had been vacant for over 15 years.  In that time it had become a trash dump, a house for all kinds of rodents, and a smelly, dirty, falling apart mess.  I remember the day I brought an inspector in, a christian friend of mine.  I remember him walking around the building mumbling to himself.  He ended his tour with some of the most real words I have ever been told…. “Chris, what are you doing?”   He asked.  I told him.  He responded, “If you do this, if you get into this building and it fails, you aren’t just risking people’s money.  You are risking your reputation.  You have spent years working here in Ogden, telling people about your relationship with the Lord.  If you fail, nobody will have reason to believe you anymore.”

He went after the only thing that really matters to me.  All I want is for my life to be a testimony to the realness of the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent.  I want everything about my life, my work, and my relationships to be all about that.  He basically said if I fail, I lose all of that.  That was a bad, bad day.

But I still remember he wasn’t the only one, I remember the faces as people walked into this building I claimed God had a plan for.  I remember the looks of disgust, and wondered if they were going to throw up on the floor.  I remember as we tore down walls and nests and poop fell on our heads I thought, “What have I gotten myself into?”  I remember when the contracting company who was going to do the work backed out, and I thought the dream was dead.  I remember the early stages of this when the only thing I had, was a promise from God, “This building is the one I chose.”  So in spite of the self doubt, and the people looking at me as if I was a mad man, I kept going.

So here I sit, almost two years later.  We have seen all of the progress I have shown in pictures.  Walls, lights, floor… And while we still have a long way to go, I find myself sitting in that building, all by myself, thinking, “God, I love you so much.  I cannot believe you have done all of this.”  Through this entire process, God has answered prayer, after prayer, after prayer.  In my personal life, in the building, in my walk with Him.  He has been faithful in my doubts, depression, and anger.  He has been constant, unchanging, and affirming of this entire thing the whole way.

The cafe isn’t my passion.  It is however a building where God has shown Himself.  It’s for that reason so many of my posts have been cafe related.  As I walk into the building I see such a living parable.  The building was a train wreck, the worst property on main street left.  In order to make it new, we had to tear everything down.  Very little of it’s old self could remain.  The building had to give up everything except its “Guts.”  The frame and floor.

When we ripped everything out, we could then make it new, in our image.  We hung insulation, redesigned the inside, framed new walls, new floors, and new electric.  The most beautiful thing is that the building still has imperfections and will always have flaws, but the reality is that to me, the building is beautiful.   I would never pick another building.  While some people might walk in and notice a beam that needs sanded, or an imperfection on the wall, I will never fix it.  One day, the building will be filled with people, and I will explain how this building is exactly how God sees us.  In order to have a relationship with Him, we have to surrender everything.  But He will make us completely new, and yes, we will still have flaws, sins, and failures, but He will choose to only see the progress made, the new person in Him.  This building will forever be a living example of what God does to the soul.

The exterior change is coming.  But again, the building has been redeemed in the exact same way we are redeemed.  We started on the inside, where nobody really sees what is going on.  Some people notice, and ask questions, but most people have no clue as they drive by the building.  But as we are nearing  the end of the internal renovation, the external fruit is coming.  Soon, the outside will look as redeemed as the inside.  But this transformation has come from the inside out.

So as I post pictures, please see my reason.  Not because the cafe is where I am focused, but because I am focused on the one who made an insane dream become a reality.  He has taken an unfaithful, unwilling person, and given me a calling far outside my gifts, abilities, and knowledge.  But while I might not know how to do this, luckily my Father knows some people.  And He sent them to help me.

2 Corinthians 5:18, “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.”

The House Update, and God stories

I have not posted a blog update in far too long. I won’t lie, I am just starting to get into a rhythm when it comes to this season of life. I am working on the café construction site several days a week, I am working with youth, and I am a stay at home dad. If it wasn’t for Quinn, I wouldn’t be able to do any of it. She has recruited babysitters for the work days, does our newsletter, and manages the budget. She is a super hero to me, and works a full time job at the same time. So I am sorry that the blog updates come once every 2-3 months. I will try to do better going forward.

I have a personality type that tends to overthink things. Since I do that, I have been overthinking whether or not people really understand why we are starting a café in the first place. I really want to re-address that point just to be sure we are all on the same page, before we move on to updates. We are starting the café for two essential reasons. The first is that we want a place that literally encompasses Matthew 9:10, “And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.” I want it to be a place where anyone…. Anyone, can come and encounter people who follow Jesus. Not to force feed the bible to people, but to live out the bible in the way we run the café. We will also invest money into all the different ministries God is calling us to do. We want to help the teens have a place to go (building a teen center as soon as we make enough profits). We want to help the kids and teens in school (pay for tutoring out of the café and teen center). We want to help our teens advance their future (paid internships that require the building of a resume and going to mock interviews, so we can teach them how to enter the workforce. We also plan to offer some sort of scholarship for the teens so they can go to college or tech school). And we want to use profits to address socioeconomic issues facing Ogden. Hence, a business that is not-for-profit. The irony is that our long term goal is to be self-sufficient, and reach a point where we no longer ask for financial support. We know the café is going to be the source of revenue for all of these plans. But so far we have been asking for a lot of help, and so many people have been a part of that. I cannot thank you all enough for the part of this you have been. The most amazing thing is that we have only had a couple of donations that went above $1,000. Yet through such consistent generosity we have had constant financial provision for the café. I have to be honest, the fact that our donations have come in this form means that our friends and family are giving what they are able to when they can. I know times are tough financially for so many people, and yet we continue to get donations of what people can afford. I appreciate those donations so much. I don’t know if people realize it, but $25 dollars is several pieces of 2×4 lumber. So someone who donated $25 one time, paid for a portion of our counter frame. Every single donation helps. This process has helped me experience first hand Luke 21, “Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Here is what I know, everyone who has given to our ministry is donating what they can afford. That means so much to me. We have actually had teenagers come up and donate $1, and it causes me to thank God for moments like that. Thank you, everyone, for helping us make this vision a reality.

I can’t even describe the amount of work we have done. I just started thinking yesterday about where we were last year. We had to completely demolish the building to give us an empty space (structural support is from above, so no load bearing walls). After months of demolition we dug in a sewer line, a plumbing line, we framed in everything on our own, we installed an entirely new electrical system, hung new siding, repaired roof damage, hung drywall, and now we are painting. In the next few weeks, we will have even more progress than we have now. As of this writing, we have our HVAC almost completely done, we have a running bathroom that is painted and nearly finished (Shout out to Casey’s general store as we have used their bathroom until this week), we are priming the walls for paint, and we will be laying floor next week. We are getting close to hanging lights, counters, and making our finishes on the inside of the building.

Having said all of this, I was convicted last week when Quinn was telling a friend about all of the God stories we have through the café process. This friend said, “I didn’t know any of that.” So I am compelled to share a few of the stories about how God has provided:

  1. Our contractor. I haven’t talked about this man enough, but God brought a retired home builder to us. He has been diligent in his commitment to “The House.” He has built the café with the help of 3 unskilled helpers – Myself and two tech school students – and spent countless hours making the café a reality. The fact of the matter is that I didn’t know anyone in Manhattan who could help us do this, but through a friend he heard about us. He has been relentless in making the Café come together. This leads me to my next God story
  2. Health – Our contractor is 63 years old. He fell roughly 18 feet off a ladder two weeks ago. We spent the day and part of the evening in the emergency room. Somehow he avoided any serious injury. He hurts, but by the next week he was showing up to the worksite to make sure things were getting done (against my wishes by the way, I wanted him to rest).   He has recovered slowly, but he is doing better. There was a time there I was terrified he wasn’t going to be alright, but thankfully God kept him from being seriously hurt. He landed between tools and boards with nails in them, and his head landed on his arm which prevented a concussion. The doctors kept telling him how lucky he was at the hospital.
  3. HVAC – There is a company in Manhattan that does Heating and Air. It’s owner is a Christian, he heard about us and gave me a call. He wanted to come out and here about why we were starting the café and see the layout. The funny thing about this is how the relationship even began. We have been keeping our eyes on restaurant auctions for café equipment. We found a commercial fridge unit (like the ones subway has for their meat and veggies for the sandwiches). We knew if we bid on it, we would have to go get it. I was going to be in Arkansas during the pick-up window. Quinn assured me it would be alright and if God willed it He would provide. So we bid and I left town. Here is the order of events from there:
    1. A friend who helps us on Thursday nights with the teens went to get it with her mom (two ladies hauled a 500 pound fridge onto a U Haul truck)
    2. On the way back that friend asked her roommate to ride along
    3. This roommate knew an engineer who called me and came out to the café
    4. This engineer knew the owner of the HVAC company through his men’s bible study.So through no effort of my own, God brought a man into the picture who took over the mess that was HVAC. He is the one who got a heater and air conditioner donated, has coordinated mission teams to come out and hook up the ducts, and provided supplies. We will have to pay for some of these services, but honestly, instead of a $14,000 bill, we are looking at half of that.
  4. Partnerships – During the HVAC delay (While God was bringing all of those people together) I had two weeks of what I thought would be “down time.” Not so much. I had partnerships opportunities come up. A local coffee shop heard about us and is willing to teach me how to do coffee. We had a doctor find out about the Café and meet with me about a possible “health clinic” to bring things like shots and checkups to Ogden for people who can’t make it to Manhattan (Not official yet, still in talks). A person with the school district met with me about possibly bringing out tutoring or after school programs to the café and future teen center. Instead of the school finding a way to budget this, we could cover the finances and the school could coordinate it. God gave me a glimpse into the things we could do in the future.
  5. Youth and their families – We have had teens in the building pulling nails, or sweeping, or any number of time consuming tasks that helps us get construction done faster. Some of our teens have parents I have never met, but they have stopped in to see the café their kids talk about. Some have even spent days doing demolition with us, or helping us on construction days. The café isn’t even open yet, and I see God’s purpose being shown, without tables or chairs, it is already “The House” A gathering place for the community, where Jesus is present.
  6. The Landlord – Just in case you forgot, or did not read the blog about it…. Our landlord kicked us out and cut off all negotiations once. We were doing demolition while negotiating a contract. It was low risk for him, as we were cleaning up the property. I have followed the Holy Spirit to this specific building. we knew it was a mess, we knew the work was a mountain in front of us. We knew it would cost money, time, and resources. I also knew we didn’t have any of those things. I didn’t know anyone in construction, Quinn and I had very little money to offer of our own, and the only thing we had was confidence that God gave us this vision – a business that would transform a community – and that the Holy Spirit had picked this specific building. But one night the landlord told us we were done. Get out. It felt like all was lost, but by the end of the next 12 hours we had a six year contract, with the first two years being free rent. This is huge! We won’t be making money initially, it will be about breaking even on product and start up costs. Not having rent during that time will be a life saver. Once we start making money we can save it until we can afford the “teen center.” Having a year head start on savings is going to be so powerful.

I am missing many God stories here, frankly there are too many to keep track of. He has blessed the challenges, and provided in many unique and powerful ways to show us we are doing exactly what He wants us to do. The teens are excited, and they are committed to volunteering at events with us to get this café going. At our benefit concert we had almost 20 youth show up in the heat and do thankless jobs to help raise money for the café. I am thankful for what God is doing in my heart through this. I am thankful for my kids and wife who are enduring all of this and helping make it become a reality. For the babysitters who make it possible for me to meet with people and be on site during construction. For the donors and people who pray and encourage us in what we are doing. I thank God for the mighty things He has done for us, and in us during this adventure. But mostly, I am thankful for what God is going to do in our town of Ogden. Teens are excited about volunteering, and I think it will be quite the experience when they see their volunteer hours resulting in community service ministries. I am excited about the quality time the kids will get with true followers of Jesus. People who live out their faith in a way that is worthy of imitating. As the teens see these people volunteering, serving, and loving the Lord, they will have a real life example of what it’s like to follow Jesus. God will use the café to bring people to Himself. I have such confidence in this. Yesterday a guy had a broke down car at a carwash. I stopped to see what I could do. While there I got into a conversation with a guy who asked me where I was from. I said, “Ogden.” He looked at me and said, “Ogden…. My son used to hang out with stoners from Ogden. That’s where you go to hang out with the kids who will do drugs.” I started to think about all of the stuff that has been said to me since I have been here. Ogden is the leech on the backside of Fort Riley.” “Ogden is the ghetto of Manhattan.” “Ogden is like the step child of Manhattan and JC. It’s just forgotten.” A day is coming when Ogden will be a testimony to God’s power, His grace, and how a community that people thought of in this way, became a community of God’s favor. Things are going to be changing here. Soon.

We Are Going to Rome

I know God wants me to look up a passage, or read a story when it is on my mind for an extended period of time. I am even more confident of this when it’s a story I don’t really read often, or think about regularly.  So when Paul’s shipwreck on his way to Rome kept popping in my head this week, I knew it wasn’t from me.

I have always had a heart for the beginning of Paul’s journey to Rome. I have been more interested and convicted by the beginning of his journey to this city.  Paul was intentional with everything he did, and he knew that his actions, visits, and travels were of God’s will.  This is how he began his journey, “Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, ‘After I have been there, I must also see Rome (Acts 19:21).’”

What has always struck me about this is that Paul knew fairly early on that he was going to prison, and most likely death in Rome. On his way to Jerusalem he embarks on what I call his “farewell tour.”  One of my favorite passages in the entire bible is Acts 20:17-38.  Paul stops at one of the churches he planted, and he gave a farewell speech to the elders he appointed over the flock.  He tells the Ephesian elders how he has been repeatedly warned by believers that he will be arrested in Jerusalem.  He gives them a final charge over how to manage and govern their church.  He warns them, loves them, cries with them, prays with them, and departs for Jerusalem and jail.

And that is where my passion for this story usually calms down. After Paul goes to Jerusalem and gets arrested, he is set on a path to Rome.  I have heard many pastors give sermons and lessons on Paul’s shipwreck when he was sailing there, and while I understand and admire all of Scripture, this story has never been one that I think of regularly or that I love referencing periodically.  But this week… It has been on my mind a lot.  So I went and looked it up.

A lot of things make sense now. But before I get to that I will just cite the verses that really struck home:

“Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo.  And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.  When neither the sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempst lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last Abandoned.      Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss.  Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.  For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul, you must stand before Caesar.  And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ (Acts 27:18-24).”

What I heard as I read that was this, “Paul, you’re getting to Rome, God wills it.” And there it is.  So my last blog was a little downtrodden.  I won’t delete it, or even apologize for it because I think it’s glorifying to God to be real, in the good times and bad.  And the reality is that we have had a lot to praise God for.  A lot.  He has never stopped blessing us, guiding us, or most importantly – speaking to us.  He continually affirms His desire for us and this ministry. in the las four weeks we have purchased all of the supplies for the first phase of construction, we purchased café equipment at an auction for a great price, and we have begun doing the “small” tasks that have to get done before construction starts.  At the same time we hit another delay, we need a “code footprint.”  Long story short – we were going to start construction last Tuesday and the code footprint issue came up.  So, yet again, we have not started construction. So I needed that passage in Acts.  God knew it and made me think repeatedly of an obscure story in my memory bank.  And in that passage the Holy Spirit said, “Chris, you’re going to Rome, God wills it.”  The cool thing is that as we hit every new obstacle, I see how God has grown me since the last one.  I see less worry, less stress, and a more consistent presence of peace and faith.  This one is producing a mentality of steadfastness.  I know where I will end up, it doesn’t matter how I get there.

In addition to His comfort through this passage, He made yesterday a day of clear affirmation. It started off simply enough, but by the end of the day we had enough groceries in our fridge for a month, had money given, and had a dear friend call and completely confirm everything I have seen about the café without being prompted.

This café is going to change things. I wrote down the vision statement that God has given me the other day.  I believe everything in that statement was given by the Holy Spirit.  Knowing this, I know that this café is going to change things in our community… drastically, holistically, and for God’s glory. the vision statements says this:

“The House is a not for profit cafe seeking to holistically minister to the community of Ogden through the selling of loose leaf tea, coffee, and simple food items. Proceeds from the café will be used to address the physical needs within the community including; poverty, violence, drug abuse, and unemployment through various community based initiatives.  We will use available profits for equipping and encouraging economic and social growth in our community through education, scholarships, internships, volunteer programs, and other initiatives as able.  While revenue will be utilized to address physical needs as capable, we will not neglect the Spiritual needs in Ogden.  The only one that will completely heal our community is Jesus Christ.  The House will be staffed with followers of Christ who will provide mentorship and counsel to our local youth and community members alike.   The café will serve our community as a refuge, a home away from home, and a place where the Gospel is seen and heard.”

So if all of this is going to happen, of course I am going to endure a shipwreck. I am going to face delays, and obstacles, and challenges because this kind of transformation in our community is bad for what Satan is trying to do here… He can slow it down, he can throw obstacles and challenges at us, but he can’t stop it.  We are going to Rome.  God wills it.

 

A New Year and a new Cafe

We are into the first week of January 2016. This is becoming kind of a scary reality…  January 18th we will begin construction on the café.   For years we have talked about a vision, one that was given to us.  While many of the specifics had to be worked out (largely through my mistakes) we kept seeking God’s will.  Now we are on the eve of building this dream, and making it a reality.

I should be rejoicing. I should be filled with such excitement that this post should be even more joy filled than the last one.  But if there is one thing I want to be, it’s honest.  I am excited.  I am thankful for the ways that God has provided to this point, and the amazing things He has done for this vision and for me personally.  But I am also nervous and a little afraid I guess.

I have always loved history, so much so that I obtained a degree in that field. One of the things I think about often is what it would have been like in the shoes of the people we read about.  Quinn and I had our first major compromise of our marriage shortly after the wedding.  We agreed to an “east coast road trip.” We drove east, and along the way we hit all the major historical towns and event sites.  In return, Quinn wanted to stop and see the big cities, New York, Boston, DC, and many more.  I stood on Lexington Green, where Captain Parker told his men, “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war let it begin here.”  With that rally cry, the war for America’s independence began.  I remember thinking what it must have been like to be faced with the reality of that final part.  “If they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”  They knew any shots fired would ignite a war.  They took the shot.

I know God designed me this way, because I also think this way when I read Scripture. As I get closer to January 18th and the construction beginning, I think about the Israelites and the Red Sea.  I think about how they left Egypt and followed God to what seemed like a dead end.  I think about how they followed God to a point of no return. No matter what happened they couldn’t just turn around and go back now.  What was it like?  What were they thinking in that moment?  They were literally running from their past life of slavery, and their future was blocked by an impassable mass of water.  For a moment in time they were pressed from all sides.  Before the miracle, there was desolation.

Mentally I am where the Israelites were physically… Where those men in Lexington were at.  I have twelve days to back out, but just like Israel, I know I can’t.  It’s like a calm right before the storm hits, and for a moment you have an opportunity to bail, or stay and fight.  In front of me is this insane idea to start a business.  I have no experience, no business management education or wisdom.  All I have is the heartfelt belief that the Holy Spirit led me here.  In front of me is the vision God has given me, a non-profit business that has one goal in mind – holistic healing of an entire community.  We believe God is going to use the café to address the physical needs in Ogden; poverty, hunger, unemployment, etc. while simultaneously addressing the Spiritual depravity of our community. I believe the “The House” will be a tool God uses, and that the Gospel will transform lives in this community, and in time, transform our community of Ogden.

Behind me is the past. This last year has been rough.  Financial stresses have come from every angle, we have had personal conflict with people and church, I have been frustrated and stressed and felt the urge to just abandon the path I am on.   Semi-regularly I am riddled with doubt about how  God could have called a guy like me to such a public ministry.  But, it’s like Israel in their Red Sea moment; they had gone too far to go back.  I really do believe they had a moment where they thought, “Well, let’s just go back” immediately followed by, “Well that won’t work.” In fact the more I read the Scriptures, the more I see that so many people who followed God had a moment of choice.  They had a moment where they either choose to trust God and act… Or they show they don’t believe Him at all and turn away.  But when the flesh gets me to think about leaving, I feel like Peter.  Jesus gave a hard teaching, and everybody was leaving.  Jesus looked at Peter and asked, “Are you going to leave Me too?”  Peter said, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:68)?”

This is the passage the Holy Spirit has pressed upon my heart the last six months. I have, in my eyes at least, so many reasons to not go forward.  I have sin, deficiencies, shortcomings, failures, doubts, and so many reasons I think to myself I can’t do what we are about to do.  But, every time I pray and bring up quitting, or I get angry and audibly say, “I’m done” this passage comes to my mind.  Every time.  And every time the Holy Spirit leads me here, He has one question, “Where will you go?”

I know the answer to that question. Where I will go is outside of the will of God.   Time and time again when I am faced with that reality through John 6, I stop.  I stop saying I will quit because I know I won’t.  I can’t.  I cannot purposefully and willfully make a life decision God disagrees with.  I can’t do it.  Even when so much of my flesh is pulling at me to stop.  In a moment of weakness, I can say I will do it, but I won’t.  I won’t because I love Jesus.

So right now, at this moment, I mentally feel like Paul in 2 Corinthians 4, “Afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you (2 Corinthians 4:8-12).” So in twelve days, we start building a café.  In twelve days I will take that first step onto this unknown path.  I will be honest though, I need people to do it with me.  So… I am asking you to pray for how you can be involved in this.  We need committed volunteers and we need to know who they are and how often they are willing to work.  We also need help financially as we are still almost $10,000 short of our final goal.  Even $10 helps us, because from our perspective that is an 8 foot 2×4, or two square feet of flooring.  And frankly, we need prayer. The closer we get to the beginning of construction, the more opposition we seem to face.

The questions are far more abundant than the answers right now. But that is what faith is.  So no matter how many doubts or flesh battles I have, I know I will be there January 18.  I know God will provide.  And I know things will not be the same here in Ogden.

That escalated quickly…

This whole café thing wasn’t my idea. My plan was to be a history teacher.  In many ways I feel like a fool for doing the things I have done. I quit my job with no replacement salary, I gave up my career path, I moved myself and my family to a community with little job opportunity in our field of study. And several years ago I saw a run down building and knew God wanted to use it.

God used each of these decisions, I would say prompted these seeds of ideas in my head. Over time they turned into what Quinn and I have now, the vision of a café that uses its funds to benefit the local community.   We got serious about this vision last year, we sent out donation letters, started getting the word out about what we were doing, and pushed forward in getting people to believe in the vision we had been given. All the while, in this process I wanted to keep two things. First I wanted to be the one in control, and second I wanted to keep my credibility. I have lost both of these, and I am ok with that.

A week ago the dream came crashing down. It’s funny, I remember the moment I looked at this insignificant run down building in Ogden and dreamed of turning it into something great. I remember the moment when contract negotiations were stalled out, and I looked at Quinn and said, “Listen, if this is the building God wants us to use, let’s just get to it. Let’s take an act of faith and re-model it without a contract.” I remember the landlord actually agreeing to that too. I remember when I thought I was crazy for looking at this building as the one God chose, and I started to look elsewhere. I remember the exact moment when the Holy Spirit said, “You are not picking a different building. That is the one We chose.” All the decisions I made looked pretty dumb when things were going well. Tuesday, they looked like idiocy.

One week ago today the landlord called me, he rejected our first contract proposal and we were supposed to meet and propose our second one. The conversation seemed normal, he asked questions about how much money we thought the project would take, he asked how much we had raised, he asked what we wanted to do in the building.  The conversation ended as he asked me to e-mail him a copy of the proposal, so he could come to the meeting prepared. Two hours later I got the e-mail, “Go ahead and get your personal belongings out of the building, and mail me my key.” That was it. Last Tuesday everything Quinn and I have put ourselves out there for came to a pretty abrupt end. I thought the vision was dead.

I spent the first two hours after being kicked out of the property depressed. What now right? I don’t really just want to be a stay at home dad. That’s not what God called me to. But as the shock wore off, and I prayed throughout the night, peace took over. There was this moment, where I simply prayed to the Lord, “I did everything you asked, I didn’t stray from the path you gave me.” His response was simple… “I know.” So the way I looked at it was like this, if I did everything God wanted me to do, and this whole thing failed… Then I crashed and burned obediently. So I had Shalom, what the bible simply calls “God’s peace.”   It was weird.

Wednesday morning came, and I met the landlord at the building. I had cancelled on our contractors and I was ready to hand over the key. He got out of the car and as we walked up I said, “Well, you at least want to see the building’s progress?” He said, “Might as well.” Then before we got to the building door, craziness ensued.

He changed his mind about the contract, he wanted to work it out. He started offering me supplies in the building that were off limits, he offered to get his church to raise money for the project, he offered two years free rent…. As he was talking I wasn’t even listening. I am not going to lie. By the time he got to the third item I left the conversation. I don’t know where I went, but I left.

So here I sit, seven days later. We just signed a lease on the building. We have 24 months of $1 rent to make it legal. The building I looked at over three years ago and saw what God wanted out of it is now mine (kind of). I re-touched base with the contractors and things are back on.

The craziest part of the whole story is why God did it. God had a purpose in letting the bottom fall out of this whole thing, and He didn’t keep it a secret. God is sovereign. He created all things, sustains all things, redeems all things… and even compels hearts to accomplish His plans. I am Chris Jacobs, and I do none of that. The two things I was holding onto (reputation and control) were really stressing me out, because I knew they weren’t really mine, but I didn’t want God to have them either. So for twelve hours, God took all of it out of my hands and showed me how silly it was to think I had control over anything.

The good news is I am not stressed about any of that stuff anymore. Money, contractors, timeline, volunteers… Turns out I don’t have any control over that. God does. So we have a contract for two years. And now I move forward with that. I have to go now, I think my son is ramming his head into a door to get out of nap time.

The next step in Ogden

Every day I get an e-mail, it’s a devotional I signed up for in Iraq, shortly after I accepted Christ. This devotional has been steady in sending the right Scripture at the perfect time that clearly lays out God’s will. Today’s said, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” And with that I fully believe it’s time to go. Before I get to where I am going, I really have to share with you where I have been.

If you don’t know, here is the quick recap. The town I live in is Ogden, Kansas. Over the last several years my heart has been stirred for Ogden. I think of it like the opening chapter in Ezra which says, “Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem.”   A stirred Spirit is the only way I can think of to explain it. All of our hearts are stirred for something, For some it’s sex trafficking, for some it’s the homeless…. There are lots of things our hearts get stirred for by God. My heart is stirred for Ogden.

It started simple, we got involved in a teenage game night at the community center. We played dodgeball with about ten teens. Over the years it has expanded to where it is now, a community wide movement. Ten teens turned to twenty… The twenty teens needed to bring their little siblings to be able to come… So it turned into 20 teens and 10 kids. Now it is much more than a game night; dinners with families of these kids, volunteering at community events, coaching, serving, and honestly falling in love with the people in Ogden.

I think the way God has stirred my heart is how He does it with all of His disciples. First I saw something I never noticed before, then I kept seeing it, then I was bothered by it, after being bothered enough by it I wanted to act, so I prayed, then… God called me to act. All of this took several years. The first thing I noticed was the great number of people in Ogden who have no desire to go to church, I noticed empty churches. Now to be clear, I am not a “you need to go to church” guy. I am a “You need to seek out Jesus for yourself” guy. But what I know is that when someone finds Jesus, they fall in love with Him, and when they love Jesus, they hang out with other people who do too (whether that is at a building or at a house). I mean it makes sense, we tend to congregate with like-minded people, do we not?  Simply put, I noticed a separation between the churches in our town, and the people in our town. There was a gap.

After noticing the empty churches, I started to notice something else. People had plenty of questions about Jesus, and plenty of issues in their life they wanted to talk about. I am seeing that even people who don’t go to church, don’t mind asking questions and learning more about Jesus. So initially I thought Quinn and I were going to leave our church, and start a new one (to be completely honest). One that focused on not being so…. Churchy. But in the list I gave above, I went out of order. I saw something, was bothered by it, and wanted to act. And naturally I acted impulsively and almost made a big mistake, I almost went ahead without God’s approval.

Quinn and I stayed with our church, but the things I saw continued to bother me. I see lots of teens, kids, and adults who honestly need Jesus. I see many people where I was at several years ago before Christ. The only way I can describe it is that many people I know are not at peace. I have a peace now that I didn’t before, now I know that I am good with God… We cool. And out of that, a lot of stuff that used to matter just doesn’t anymore. Money, conflict with people, feeling like I deserve more… None of this really matters, and although I struggle with all of these things, in my heart I know they are not worth my time, energy, or stress. But God is. So the more I see people struggle with the things God brought me peace over, the more I want to act. So after staying with the church, I started praying. Then I went to Topeka and bumped into some guy on an art walk.

His name is Kevin, and he runs a non-profit café in Topeka. He saw what I did, an entire generation turned off by church. There are lots of people who simply don’t want anything to do with church, but are not that opposed to hearing about Jesus. So he opened the café so teens could be mentored without having to enter a church building until they decided they wanted to.   As he talked everything that had been on my heart began to come together.

So, as I started out saying, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” Now is the time for us to move forward, and here is what we are going to do. Quinn and I are going to start a non-profit café in Ogden. We are going to sell bubble tea, coffee, and food, and we are going to use all profits for community development and ministry startups. We are going to use the business as a hub, a place for kids and teens to go to instead of wandering the streets. If this thing gets successful enough we will use the money (and building) to start a teen center, GED classes, internships, school scholarships, and any of the endless ideas blazing through my head.

We are going to call the café, “The house” because of what I read through Matthew. In chapter 4 Jesus went home with Peter. That night this place became the location in town where everyone went to spend time with Jesus, “That evening at sundown they brought to Him all that were sick or oppressed by demons, and the whole city was gathered together at the door . . . And as Jesus reclined at table in the house behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.”

The people who went to the house were not people who went to the synagogue, or the church of Jesus’ time. It was like God had taken a highlighter to my bible. The house… The whole city… Tax collectors and sinners. The people that didn’t want to go be with the hypocrites didn’t mind going to the house to hang with Jesus. This is exactly what God has stirred my heart for, to bring the house to Ogden.

We are further along than you might think… We have 501(c)3 status, and We have $13,000 raised right now and if we had a building already setup for a café, we could buy equipment and open the doors tomorrow. But that is not the case. In fact the only thing that has stayed constant over the years is which building God wants us to go to. It’s big enough for everything, a café, a teen center, and even more if we want. But it needs significant re-model.

So here is my cheap plug, the property we are looking at is in rough shape. While we have enough for all the equipment to run a café, we need money to fix the property. So if you are still reading this, and you are feeling God put this vision on your heart, I am going to ask for your financial help to make it happen. Like I said, it is a 501(c)3 so all donations are tax deductible.   So here is the info:

Make checks payable to “Barnabas Movement Inc.”

mail them to P.O. Box 9, Ogden KS, 66517.

Include your name and address, I know some people want to do this anonymously but as a Non-profit, we are going to get audited like a mad man. We need records on everything.

If you decide you want to give monthly donations (we need it initially) let us know and we will send you an ACH form for automated withdraws.

Here is the last thing, once this business becomes profitable we will cut all donations off. But starting this out we need help. We are donating our money to it, and we are not receiving any pay for it. As Jesus said, “You received without pay, give without pay.” Our goal isn’t personal profit, but Kingdom growth. We pray that through this new ministry, Ogden becomes this generations Capernaum. I place known for its faith. For what it’s worth, I believe with all of my heart this is from the Lord, and I believe with all my heart it’s going to be awesome.