Monday, May 13, 2013

Because no matter where you live, there is Community and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to the Soli Deo Gloria party!
This is a place where women gather to encourage each other to live authentically,
sharing our heartbreaks, our joys, and the wisdom from God that sustains us.
Please, link up your heart with ours and encourage other's before you leave.  Only have time to read one?  Choose your neighbor -- no one wants to leave a party empty-handed!
If you would like to be a part of a Soli Deo Gloria small group, now is a great time to join.
Click here for more details.
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Today, I have a special guest.  His name is Justin and he is married to one of my best friends, Jenny, a fellow Soli Sister.  Because I am passionate about people living into their callings AND community, I asked Justin to tell us about his new adventure.  And we SDG girls love adventure (or at least we are learning to, like me).  Here's Justin's amazing story.


Community?

I sometimes feel that my community is lost and disconnected.  Not because it actually is, but because I have been disconnected and kept myself apart from the masses.

Why?  Good question.  I used to believe “people” made horrible decisions and only “individuals” could be a light to those in darkness.  I avoided the masses because those were the “people” who cut me off in traffic, had 21 items in the ‘20 items or less’ checkout line, or insisted on paying by check at the exact moment I was in a huge hurry.  In my opinion, these “people” – the nameless, faceless masses – made horrible decisions that would inevitably annoy me.  Frankly, I had the attitude: “who needs ‘em?”

These days, however, I’m singing a different tune.  Over the last couple of years, as my circumstances changed, my understanding of community has drastically shifted.  I used to think that my community involved my wife, my children, and five others with whom I have walked for two decades.  I didn’t need anyone beyond that.  Until, that is, I did.

After a series of really hard life changes, my wife and I found ourselves without money and scrambling for everything.  I was diagnosed with epilepsy, we had our second child, and I lost my job.  My daughter developed inexplicable health issues, then my wife also started dealing with severe health problems that still aren’t resolved, and on and on.  Nothing seemed stable and it felt like everything was always crumbling around us. We were drowning, and we definitely needed help.  

We were beyond pride.  It was time to reach out.

As we slowly started letting down those outer walls of pride and sharing our circumstances with “people”, we started to experience two Scriptures that, I believe, embody community:

Mathew 18:20 – Where two or more are gathered in His name, He is also there.

Galatians 6:2 - Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ.

In the last four years I have been challenged to rethink what my community looks like due, in part, to kind gestures from strangers.  Here’s one of about a thousand stories I could tell you (all of which God has used to transform my perspective and realize the supreme value of people, as God sees them).

There was one night early on in our ‘Period of Poverty’ when I knew Jenny and I needed time together, desperately.  We needed a night out, we needed a break, but we only had $30.00.  Not, I just got paid so let’s blow $30.00.  That is all we had to our name.  We thought: let’s split a meal to save money.  Let’s not even go out to save the money. Shouldn’t we give this to the church?  My stomach won out and we went to dinner.  I could feel tension rising as the bill came to the table.  Had we made the wrong choice?  Would God be mad at us for eating out instead of buying groceries?  How would we ever afford our $25 meal?

The waiter walked over and, instead of handing us the check, she simply said: “That table over there took care of it.”  We looked and there was no one there.  They had already left before we could acknowledge their gift.  Jenny cried with joy and humility; I changed my definition of community.

As far as I was concerned those strangers were the “people” I had previously resented and avoided, and, yet, they had just bought me dinner for no reason.  To me, that couple embodied both of the verses above.  They were gathered, God was with them and did amazing things through their community, and they truly helped carry our burden.  For me this was the beginning of a giant leap in my personal understanding of what community is and can do.

The stories (experiences) kept coming.  Neighbors brought us groceries.  Fellow church-goers (anonymous) paid our mortgage.  Family and friends and strangers alike stepped up to help us get back on track in known and unknown ways.  In the end, I realized I was living Matthew 18:20 and Galatians 6:20, and I was on the receiving end.  All of those folks for which I had had disdain – those “people” – were now the very ones that helped me feed my kids and keep a roof over my family.  Talk about humbling.

With this realization and new understanding of community, after many other transformational experiences, I have decided to start a new venture called Stonebridge Coffee.  I have always wanted to own my own business, and a coffee shop fits me in so many ways.  I like places where you can hang out, be yourself, and slowly, over time, get to know others.  I like places where live music can be heard.  I like meeting places.  I like the idea of owning my own business so that I can buy strangers dinner some day, employ people and help them pay their bills, and provide a physical space where God is present on a daily basis.

Stonebridge Coffee is designed to be a light in my community and serve what I once called “people”.  Now, I look at “people” as part of a greater community that has the ability to make a powerful difference in individuals’ lives.  That’s why Jenny and I decided to try to raise our startup capital through something called Crowd Funding. 

Crowd Funding is a way for “people” to support and build up other people, whether they know them personally or not.  To us, this process is all about Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

Stonebridge will strive to live that out as a business in the way we can give to those around us, but we also want to live that out in the ways we receive.  For Jenny and me, our understanding of what it means to walk in community has had a lot to do with learning how to humble ourselves and ask for/receive help.  That’s why we jumped on the chance to write this post when Jen asked us to.

So, why a coffee shop? Why Stonebridge Coffee? We see Christ in a community of twelve, impacting the lives of millions, and all of it being launched with a last supper. Stonebridge Coffee, with God’s help and our community’s help (which now includes you) will be for some the first time they experience a smile, a safe place, new music, coffee and even Christ.

Won’t you join our team?  You can help launch this venture by giving to our startup needs and/or by spreading the word to everyone you know.  

(Note from Jen:  And guess what?  There are rewards for those who donate, level by level, so YOU can have a reminder of what YOU helped to build!  I know how the SDG gals feel about prizes, so I thought you HAD to know about this!!)


13 comments :

  1. What a neat vision your friend has! Praying for success!

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  2. Justin, thanks for sharing your story. It's amazing how God uses our valley experiences to change our perspective and give us a vision to serve others. Blessings to you and your family as you step out in faith for this adventure! :)

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  3. It is such a blessing when believers obey the voice of the Holy spirit and end up blessing themselves and others as a result. God is so good, and thank you for this reminder.

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  4. This is the second time in one week that I've heard the term "Crowd Funding." ... It's truly an example of the beauty that can come from effective use of our social-media channels. Keep up the good work, Justin.

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  5. We've been there. Unexpected checks and loving bags of groceries. Powerful story and powerful ministry.

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  6. Stretches of our life can be incredibly difficult. However, when you look beyond the storm, you discover such a richly colored silver lining! Thank you for sharing your story of transformation. It was inspiring way to start my day!

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  7. Community and neighbors are on my heart too, so I'm encouraged to read this post.

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  8. The person with 21 items in the grocery store? Yeah, that was me. On behalf of every frazzled mom out there who is desperately trying to get out of the store before all hell breaks loose, I'm sorry I missed the sign and/or miscounted my items. :)

    Loved this post. My husband LOVES to be the anonymous payer of meals at the restaurant...so it makes my heart happy to hear what it feels like from the other side.

    God is so good.

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  9. We've purposely given a 30% or more tip to a waiter or waitress of a way of serving others. Thank you for sharing this today. We are experiencing help at the moment and pride keeps threatening to get in the way. How timely this is in my life.

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  10. I love Justin's courage to step out in faith. I pray the Lord will bless the coffee house community with tight fellowship and many great acts of kindness done in His name.

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  11. Thank you, Jen, for the lovely, Godly community you have created here! Thanks for the great post & for hosting & God bless!

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  12. I really enjoyed reading this, and can identify with much of it - how God created us to need "people" and how sometimes we have to get humble to get comfortable with that. I pray that Justin and Jenny's courageous journey continues as a bright light to many, many people. Thank you, Jen, (as always) for the beautiful community you have created here.

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  13. Hi ya'll, Jenny here (Justin's wife). Thank you so much for your comments. We've spent the day talking about how much they've encouraged us both. Community impacting community - thank you. May God bless you!

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