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The Gardens is shutting down.  We have to all move out.

WE have to move out.  Not just them, but US. 

They are our neighbors and this has been our neighborhood too.

Landsman Gardens. 

We came here three years ago ready to transform it. 

The kids practically knocked down our door for those three years,

We never had to worry if they would show up.  They always did.

They showed up to get the help they needed with their homework.

They showed up to get a hug or a person to look at them lovingly in the eyes.

They showed up for Bible Study.  Week after week they learned about Jesus.

We never imagined the day when they wouldn’t show up anymore. 

That day has come and gone.  The Learning Center is no more. 

All that is once was fits within a ten by ten storage unit.

Waiting to be of use once again in a neighborhood of need.

 

That wait is officially over.

Just a stone throw from Landsman sits a little known apartment complex.

It is little known outside of this block at least.

The residents within know it as “The Plazas.” 

It’s known as BAD neighborhood.

On the scale of one being Malibu and Ten being Compton…

This is about an eight.

Serious drug use, assault and batteries, full blown gang warfare. 

It also has quite a few families who want their kids to make it.

They want their kids to get an education and grow a moral backbone.

They might want some of that stuff that sits in our storage unit.

 

This week Club Christ moved into 730 Center Street, Apartment 1A.

It is a lot smaller than the place we used to have. 

Just a two bedroom unit that looks pretty plain from the outside.

But the inside is where we will set up shop and settle in. 

We are anxious to see what kids God will bring our way.

Who are we?

All the people who give money each month,

All the churches that lift us up in prayer,

All the board members who oversee the work,

All the volunteers who give their time to the vision,

All the staff who have given their lives for the call.

You and me.

We want God to show up there. 

And shine a little light.

In a dark place.

God, please use 730 Center Street for your glory.

Fill it with your people, your resources, your word.

Club Christ is moving in!

Image

You reconstruct me.

From the ground up.

Starting with my memories

You build on them from your treasuries.

Sometimes it’s loud as a jackhammer

And I just want to turn life off

But after you’re done chiseling

You pour a fresh foundation

Filled with truth, hope and love.

Sometimes you hand me the hammer,

And ask me to hang a picture frame.

Only to fill it with smiling faces,

friends, family, fun-filled moments in time.

And then you tell me to sit because

I’ve become too busy.

And I notice your handiwork again.

The fresh coat of forgiveness to cover my sin,

the lamp to light my way,

the doors that open up to a broken community being made whole by you.

Now I want you to build something new,

a marriage.

Lord, take Vanessa and I

and begin remodeling us again in the image of your son Jesus.

Take our name and make it a masterpiece.

 

H oliness

A ttentiveness to God’s activity

R eceptiveness to the Holy Spirit

T rusting in Christ and each other

S acraficially loving

E xcitement about life

L eaders in the community

L aughing 🙂

Me, LEAD, no way

I have nothing to say.

I’m fine here in the back.

I’m pretty low impact.

That was then, this is now:

Stepping up, speaking out, digging in, showing up.

Letting go of all that insecurity, deficiency, and complacency.

Every day, knowing what to do,

Hearing from you Lord,

You and I in one accord.

Speaking light into dark places,

Seeing life in troubled faces.

Letting your spirit lead,

Becoming what I read.

Ending my days guilt free.

So listen up because I’ve got something to say!

With purpose, plans and people to guide the way.

I’ve got vision and I clearly see,

Great things in front of me.

1955 A.D.

Segregation

Separation

Discrimination

All this an abomination

Declared guilty, condemnation.

They turned a blind eye.

They didn’t ask, “Why?”

God’s people: Preoccupied.

Singing songs of grace that rights our wrong

But silent for way too long.

Right outside their doors,

Injustice that the world ignores.

Status quo: the pimp

The white church: his *******.

Sleeping with the ones that held the guns,

That held the funds,

That held them down,

Without a sound.

One, two, three, four hundred years black people were in slavery.

Then in the 20th century the black church said, “This cannot be!”

A trumpet sounded,

Light pierced a people clouded.

The church finally shouted, “Freedom!”

When that happened the walls fell.

The anchor rose and they set sail.

Towards justice, righteousness and peace.

They caused the tight grip of Satan to release.

They said separate but equal cannot be,

Our God demands racial equality.

When all this occurred,

It wasn’t the white church that was heard.

What a missed opportunity,

A sad note in our history.

 

Lord make me one of your freedom fighters.

I want to be part of the story that kids mark up with highlighters.

Make me like my King,

So that I too can shout:

“Let freedom ring!”

He pulled out the gun for the world to see. Well at least his enemies.

But I saw it too. Right there in his hand ready to shoot.

It didn’t matter who was around in his eyes. He had a reputation to protect. He had to save face.

But there were a lot of people around. A high school graduation had just let out. There were hundreds.

There were Shaquil and D’Marcus. Right next to this dude. Club Christ guys just waiting for a friend.

But it could have been their end. “A bullet has no friend” one of them said. It was true. We were targets just then.

He ended up putting the gun back in his pants. He walked away with his buddies in tow. He probably wanted to finish this somewhere else.

But it wasn’t finished for me. I was left with questions.

Is this the Wild West? Who does that?

I mean I played with guns as a boy but would I ever put one in my pocket to pull out when I got ticked off? That doesn’t sound right.

But this is what surrounds our city. A people gone wild. Unrestricted. Unconstrained by moral law.

Then there are those in the crossfire. There are also those that think, “If only I had a gun. Then I would be safe. Then I would be strong.”

I guess that is why Club Christ is here. To show young men like the one with the gun that they can be safe. They can be strong.

But not with a piece, a nine, or a glock. They’ve got to surrender first. Lay down their pre-conceived ideas about right and wrong. Pick up a Bible and swear to follow a God that shows them what happens on the other end of this violence.

When evil meets innocence. When murderous men get their way. Only to be defeated by a resurrection. Death overcome by life.

Because Jesus demonstrates restraint. He shows them the strength it takes to turn the other cheek. He shows them acceptance. Unlike any gang, clique or crew they will ever rep. He gives them peace.

He can give them a reason to put the weapons away. No one has to die that way. Not today. Not on my block.

For I will forever say like I did that day, “Put the gun away in Jesus name.”

(In honor of my co-worker and friend Candace McDonald as she leaves Club Christ Ministries after five years of faithful service)

Infinite possibilities.

Yet you chose this.

High risk, low pay, long hours, little return.

Yet you couldn’t resist.

Little lost boys and girls waiting at the door.

Waiting to hear of a Savior they could adore.

“Ms. Candace,” they would say,

“What’s for snack today?”

Yet they would get more than just that.

They would get a friend, teacher, and leader to look up to.

They would get you.

No more angry words to heed.

Now they pick up a book to read.

Now they are told they can lead.

Now they get what they need.

They needed Club Christ.

They needed Christ.

And right there in their hood.

They found Him.

I saw an old man today.

Resting on his hospital bed.

Lonely.

Looking up at his television.

Hoping someone would visit.

Longing.

He wishes he would have cared.

Maybe taken the time to call.

Recalling.

Instead of living for himself.

Loving money, using people.

Regretting.

Nice things, that he sacrificed for.

They weren’t there in that room.

No one was.

No friends. No family.

No smiling faces or loving embraces.

Nothing.

“So this is it,” he must be thinking.

“This is the culmination of my life.”

Left alone.

 

Lord, let this not be my story.

Let my world be filled with people, not possessions.

Purpose, not pointless pursuits.

God, I want my hospital room to be filled.

Filled with love.

Filled with you.

 

“I’m pregnant.”

That moment should produce shouts of joy but this was different.

16 years old. Alone.

Who is the Dad?

That older man who took what he wanted.

He now says the seed that made that baby isn’t his.

But it is.

She wasn’t with another guy.

She was with that man that made her feel like a woman.

No her father didn’t take her out, look her in the eye and say,

“You are beautiful. You deserve the best.”

Giving her the grounds to protect herself,

the self confidence to look beyond this guys facade.

To see that he is a little boy who never learned how to control himself.

Preying on little girls.

He knows he shouldn’t,

but he does.

He did.

Now he moves on,

and here is this girl:

left crying here in the street,

hurt, confused, and with nobody in her corner.

Another statistic.

But she’s different.

I know her name. I see her innocence.

I’ve watched her grow up.

She is not a girl anymore, but she sure ain’t a woman.

Now she knows reality always follows fantasy.

Responsibility always finds a way to grab hold of the careless.

But what a tragic way to bring a child into this world.

What a story he is being born into.

Brokenness. A complete mess.

But God, let him live!

Tragically, she does now have a choice.

And the laws of our land will let her kill this child.

Legally.

Conveniently.

Still, let him live!

Let him have a chance to live life differently.

Centered on you Lord.

In freedom, knowing love.

Experiencing joy.

With a chance to be the chain in the link that break free and starts anew.

Someone that can see the world differently.

That can make a mark.

One that shows that redemption is real.

To this boy, to the world, and to this new Mom.

Redemption is real.

Cancer free, could it be?

Indeed! Indeed!

No more battle to fight

No treatments to come

Just pure freedom.

Some will mock

and call it chance.

Others though

will see the miracle.

God did not wait

He came and healed

just as we had asked.

So we shout some praise

and crack some smiles

at the faithfulness

of our servant King.

For now we know he can

heal you, heal me,

because he has healed

Vanessa Vann.

A little wave, I think he saw me.  He is young, I thought.  Is that his wife?  Wow, he has a little girl too!  My new neighbors.  God, please connect me and them.

I remember the day when he had me over for a barbecue.  He started to open up and so did I.  I learned about him, his past, his hopes and dreams.  I soon noticed that Jesus wasn’t his central focus.  In fact, we didn’t talk about God much the first couple years.  We just hung out as guys.

Then I knew the time was right.  If he would give the word, I would be more than happy to come over and teach them truth in love.  So I asked one day, “Hey would you and your wife wanna do a Bible Study with me?”  And to my surprise he said, “Yeah.”  So once a week we would meet and we would talk about Jesus and faith and truth and all.  They shared how they had tried doing church in the past but it didn’t “work.”  They felt judged, unwelcomed and uninterested in religion.

I just told them that where they needed to look for the facts behind Christianity was Christ himself.  So they did and they like what they saw.  In fact, they kept nodding their heads at what we were covering.  Then they shared about their deepening suspicion that something just wasn’t right in their souls.  That maybe Jesus could change things.  That maybe this crazy Christian neighbor was right.

But once they said yes the journey only began.  And it was rocky at first.  They just didn’t stick to Sunday services and soon there were excuses.  I was still there though, right next door.  Still praying and still wondering what needed to happen next.  I mean I’m an evangelist so just crossing the bridge with them was all I was needed for right.  Wrong.  What they needed most was what was the most helpful from the start: a trusted friendship and a Bible study right there in their living room.

So five years down the road and a new baby boy in the picture, we began to do basic Christian community together.  Sharing, listening, learning.  Life on life.  But now I had Joe to help carry us into a different place.  A place of deepening in Biblical truth.

So every Sunday night for the past year Joe and I would knock on their door, take off our shoes and plop down on their couch.  Little Trinity would have another dramatic story to tell and Tyler would want me to throw the ball for him again.  And then we would talk and study and pray.  Sometimes laughing at Joe’s super long explanations.  Sometimes crying over our sin and shame.  Sometimes we were just content on watching Travis play his video game.  Because it was home.  It was a small slice of Paradise.

And now they are headed west, out to Los Angeles.  Far away from just around the corner.  I can’t say that I’m not sad.  If I could do life alongside them for the rest of my days I would be happy.  Still at some point we all have to say goodbye here on earth.  We all have to let go.  And I know God will supply for their every need and pour out blessings on that family.  But I just won’t be as intimately involved anymore.

For all the things I’ve screwed up on and all the stuff I regret, I can at least say for certain that this one thing I got right.  I don’t take credit for it one bit but I’m so glad I got to get this gift.  This family.  This story.  My neighbors.  My friends.  🙂

So when we get to Heaven and I see the place that Jesus prepared for me.  You know I’m going to check.  Even before I open the door.  I’m gonna make sure that Travis, Lonna, Trinity and Tyler are right there.  Right next door.