Downtown Cornerstone Blog
Jul 11
2018

Stories of Grace | Community Over Comfort

Community, Stories of Grace

“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.”

I sink onto the stained and faded not-so-white carpet, surveying the cardboard boxes stacked half way to the ceiling. My fearless toddler free-climbs the newly formed summits. I call to her to descend and decide to leave the boxes hungry while I rest. Though tired and a bit overwhelmed, I pause to thank God for this entirely unexpected but miraculous move.

I’ve never lived alone. Born the youngest of three kids, I immediately moved into a full house. After high school, I moved into college dorms. I shared a house with six women and then my husband. I moved six times in less than four years, but not once did I reside on my own.

The summer following my senior year of high school I had no residence to call my own after my family’s house, the only home I had ever known, was foreclosed, and we were evicted. It was that summer I first lived with my friend, Anne Johnson.

I crashed on her couch until the dorms opened. We were roommates throughout college, which is where we met our respective husbands, who also happened to be high school best friends. We intentionally sought to be next-door neighbors, both couples renting apartments above our church’s gathering space in Pittsburgh, PA. When Ben and Anne moved to Los Angeles, we figured our co-residing days were past. But God had other plans and brought us all to Seattle.

We shared an apartment in South Lake Union until Ben and Anne were ready to become foster parents. God provided a home for me and Justin just two blocks away so we could continue to do life with the Johnsons. During our sabbatical, we asked God “What’s next?” He answered by providing a four-bedroom house in the heart of Capitol Hill so that Justin and I could begin our family while living with the Johnsons.

Many single people cut costs by communal living, and some married folks do as well. But two families living together seemed unique to many, enticing to a few, and flat-out absurd to others — namely our Washington State Foster Licensor. She sat across our dining room table, eyeglasses situated sternly on the edge of her nose, staring at us in disbelief.

“I just couldn’t understand why two families who were unrelated would ever want to live together. I thought you all were crazy. But now that I’m talking with you, I see what you have here is really quite special.”

God not only changed our licensor’s mind but He also moved mountains of paper work and bent bureaucracy to create our co-joined foster home. He fashioned a family that shares no DNA but dinner around the table every night. And then He nudged us to grow more. God laid it on the Johnsons’ hearts to extend hospitality to more children in need of a home, but we had run out of space in ours. We either needed to live apart or do the impossible of finding a five-bedroom house within our budgets in Capitol Hill.

With the unlikelihood of us finding such a house, the comforts and conveniences of living apart crept into my mind. I began to linger on how I could put things where I wanted them and not have someone else move them. I thought about a fridge full of food only I wanted to eat and having no parameters around using shared space. I could finally build my own little kingdom unchallenged by anyone else.

But as I pressed into prayer over our next living situation, the Spirit changed my plea from “Lord, provide a place for me to build my kingdom,” to “Lord, what will bring You the most glory? Living together or living separately?” As I prayed, I became confident He would provide the exact residence that would give the glory to Him rather than to me.

After several weeks of looking for our “unicorn” house in vain, we decided to stay in our current house until God provided a bigger space. Letting go of my fantasies of the control and comfort of living as separate households did not come immediately or easily, but I trusted this was the best option even if it felt like a sacrifice. But the Johnsons still wanted to grow their family, so as a last-ditch effort, we reached out to our landlords to see if we could convert the basement into a fifth bedroom.

“No. That’s totally illegal,” they responded, “but we have another larger four-bedroom house if you want to check it out.”

Though it lacked the essential extra bedroom, we agreed to look at it. The house happened to have a second living room space, which we asked if our landlord would be willing to convert to a fifth bedroom.

“Sure. I could do that. It’d take me a weekend to put up a wall and a door.”

We were astonished. Our God, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence that which did not exist, created the exact house we needed. And in doing so, He obliterated any bases for me clinging to my comforts over the narrative He was unfolding between our two families living together.

If you’ve ever done it, you know living with others can be tedious and frustrating at times. God has used those moments of unwashed dishes, misplaced items, and damaged property to again and again reveal the depths of my own selfishness and idolatry of comfort. Community living provides regular occasions to die to myself and out-do my brothers and sisters in showing honor, whether by taking out the trash or cooking a meal. Living with another person helps challenge the happy delusion that I’m in control and the world revolves around me. Multiply that by two families living together and the opportunities for conviction are constant.

But living in community with fellow believers yields far sweeter fruit than my creature comforts could. We enjoy a house filled with laughter and prayer, singing and always an extra set of hands, others to pick up the burden when one of us falls sick or exhausted. We play board games; we talk about what we’re reading in the Word; we sharpen one another.

There are days I’m still tempted to believe that conveniences of living as a single-family-unit outweigh the riches of living together. At those times, I recall how God has gifted us this house and that He is building His Kingdom, not mine. So I join Him by praying, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, in our home as it is in heaven.”

– Jen Keogh, DCC Member

If you are a member with DCC and have a story of grace to share please email info@downtowncornerstone.org.

Jun 28
2018

Serve the City Recap & Photos

Photos, Serve the City | by Justin Keogh

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:12-13, 16-17).

Earlier this month, on Saturday June 2nd, over 175 of Downtown Cornerstone’s members, friends, and families came together to serve the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) at Bailey Gatzert Elementary and Washington Middle School for our 6th annual Serve the City event. Over the last few years, we’ve become the largest volunteer group that serves SPS and as such we had the opportunity to bless not one but two schools with our efforts.

At Bailey Gatzert Elementary we weeded and mulched the entire building perimeter, washed the walls throughout the building, cleared and organized supply closets, painted playgrounds and a mural. At Washington Middle School, we hung birdhouses, painted playground lines, cleaned up multiple courtyard and garden spaces, making them more inviting and safer for students, with the added benefit of clearing out the space in preparation for 8th grade graduation just last week!

Serving as we do through this event (and many others) is part of how we envision building a great city, as we seek to be salt (preserving) and light (guiding) in Seattle (Matt 5:13-16). The staff at each school, as well as the volunteer coordinators, have all expressed tremendous gratitude for our efforts – a small sampling of comments includes these sentiments:

  • Thank you Downtown Cornerstone Church – to bring these wonderful projects! It truly is a blessing. I am overwhelmed with you generosity to purchase tools for our tool library, which has continued to serve multiple schools this summer. – Gretchen, Volunteer Director
  • Please extend our thanks to your church who worked with dedication in making our school campus more beautiful, less cluttered and ultimately more functional for safe and dynamic learning. – Laurie, School Principal
  • Your partnership was invaluable and all the volunteers who were able to help make such a great impact on both schools is inspiring, to say the least. – Sean, Volunteer Coordinator

We know that our service, while grand on some scales, is ultimately a reflection of a much greater demonstration of love and care from Jesus, who willingly came to serve, not to be served (though he had every right to be served as God incarnate). Rather, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and instructed us to do the same (John 13:1-20). So we celebrated the opportunity to be a blessing to SPS this year, as in years past, displaying in some small measure the gifts and glory that have been bestowed upon us in Christ. We know that it is not our works that make us righteous, but God’s gift of righteousness that frees us to serve our neighbors, for God’s glory.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne … Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matt 26:31, 34-40)

Jesus teaches us that our love is not seen only in massive acts of sacrifice, but rather simple, humane, faithful acts of love and service “to the least of these” around us. Let us continue to serve out of thanksgiving, knowing how much we have been served in Christ, and be salt and light to our neighborhoods – to the children in schools, or in foster care, or in juvenile detention; to the refugee; to women seeking to escape the sex trade; to expectant mothers unsure if they can carry a child to birth; or to the homeless men, women, and families throughout our city.

Be on the lookout for ongoing opportunities to serve with your community and DCC in any of these focus areas through our regular Mercy updates and focus groups on the city.

You can find more photos from the day on our Flickr page.

Jun 27
2018

Cornerstone Community Update – Summer Schedule

Community, News | by Justin Keogh

As we enter the summer months and our city comes alive with sunshine, festivals, and cook-outs, so too do our communities shift gears to enjoy this short and wonderful season together. In years past, communities have seen great fluctuation over the summer months as folks take vacations, travel, hike, camp, and seek to engage with neighbors and coworkers during the extended sunlight. So this year, as we enter the summer, we’re intentionally planning for a shift of rhythms over the next two months. Understandably, this may raise some questions – and so I’ve captured some FAQ here.

Why are we adjusting our rhythms?

In part, there is a recognition that rhythms naturally change over the summer as mentioned above. But more than that, this is part of an intentional structure to enable rest for the community leaders and apprentices, women’s discipleship leads, and community hosts who faithfully serve during the year week in and week out. Rest is a means of grace and spiritual discipline, and is essential for the health of those leading, which significantly impacts the health of the communities overall.

What will our communities be doing?

We’ve encouraged the leaders of each community to pursue a rhythm that fits for their community this season. With 21 communities, that is likely going to mean 21 different plans for the summer – and that’s okay! Some communities are leveraging this time to seek intentional missional opportunities to host neighbors and non-believing co-workers; other communities are adjusting to serve together; still others are taking space for prayer and worship together. All of the communities will be doing something together, whether that’s a structured gathering or something informal, at least once a month over the summer (many doing more).

When will we be back to the regular rhythms?

We’ve set July and August as the designated time for this summer schedule, and will return to our regular rhythm of weekly discussion gatherings in September, following Labor Day.

How else can I stay connected over the summer?

There are a number of great ways to stay connected, even while our community rhythm shifts. Consider the following means:

1. Continue in worship on Sundays. While you’re at it, why not invite someone new to grab lunch following the gathering?

2. Continue serving, or join a service team. Our Sunday worship will remain and still needs your help to run smoothly. Not only does serving on Sunday bless the church body, it also creates and supports meaningful relationships with those that you serve with.

3. Continue meeting with your community in the adjusted rhythm. Just because your community may not be meeting for the regular meal and discussion, doesn’t mean the time isn’t relationally valuable. If your community doesn’t have plans set just yet – consider taking the lead to put together a social, missional, or service event!

4. Save the date and join us for our corporate gatherings this summer

  • July 31st – Prayer Night
  • August 25th – Summer BBQ @ Myrtle Edwards Park

What if I’m not currently in a community – can I still jump into a community over the summer?

YES! As mentioned above, there is still great value in being connected to other brothers and sisters in our local family. If you’re not yet connected to a community, check out the map of existing communities here to find out which community is nearby your home or work, and then email connect@downtowncornerstone.org and let us know which one you’d like to jump in to, and we’ll connect you!

 It is our prayer that everyone who calls DCC home will be meaningfully connected to others in our body for their mutual discipleship and spiritual up-building. If you have any questions on how best to get connected, don’t hesitate to reach out!

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)

Jun 25
2018

Stories of Grace | Treasuring God’s Design

City Life, Community, Stories of Grace

“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.”

Three years ago I was on a plane, flying out of Honolulu. In the last week, I had stayed in a high-rise resort, dined at five-star restaurants, and visited the most exclusive venues. From my first-class seat, the ocean below was otherworldly, a perfect blue.

It was just another business trip: days overflowing with meetings and projects, and very little sleep. On these weeks, my colleagues and I arrived at the airport on Sunday morning at 5:00am. I traveled a few times a month – once, five times in five weeks. At home, I lived alone. In the office, I alone knew Jesus.

Before, the weekly presence of God’s family in my life had been constant. They were the people with whom I learned, sang, and prayed on a regular basis. Now, time together was rare. I read and prayed alone, and listened to hours upon hours of sermons. In isolation, luxury, and fatigue, the months passed in a blur.

This work was never meant to be a long-term situation, just a stopgap while I figured out what to pursue after college. But work and worry closed around me like a trap. The breakneck pace and all-nighters that were supposed to end after graduation only increased. I was too busy to let anyone into my life, too tired to have any profound time in the Word, and too stressed to think about making a change. Underneath the glamour, my heart felt deeply anxious. I knew, and learned again, that not even professional success can satisfy the deep places of my soul like Jesus can.

One year in, I took a long-planned mission trip with a small team. During those two weeks of kingdom work in Christian community, I knew more joy, more clarity, and more peace than I had known in months. God graciously gave me time to pray deeply with people, enjoy his company, and consider the direction of my life. Shortly after, I decided to trust God with my priorities, leave the familiar safety of my job, and move to Seattle after my projects ended to be closer to family.

The terrifying thing was that I didn’t know what was next. I had no job and no plan. But week by week, Jesus was with me as I prayed, thought, and researched. He encouraged me with his promises to sustain me and provide for me (Matthew 6:19, 25-34). A friend offered me a place to stay outside the city while I looked for housing. Two days before the move, God gave me a great job downtown. I unpacked and got involved with a gospel-teaching church near my friend’s house. All seemed to be falling into place.

But in the next few months, my social safety net unraveled. Best friends got married, moved churches, and drifted apart as they either neglected or forgot to live out the gospel and show grace to each other. I also struggled as a friend and roommate; the long commute and a shared room left little time for me to be alone with the Lord. After months of looking for an affordable place, and heartache over all the personal and relational failure, I moved into the city. I learned that not even my greatest friendships are as trustworthy as Jesus’ care.

It was wonderful to have my own room and to cut an hour each way off my commute. But it was very challenging to get to the suburbs during the week in time for community, and then back to the city. I asked Jesus what he wanted me to do.

A few days later, a work errand brought me past a large “EASTER” sign posted on a nearby building. Surprised to find a church two blocks away, I read its doctrinal statement and discovered with joy that it taught the gospel and the whole Bible. The first visit confirmed that it was indeed home. My church in the suburbs sent me off with their blessing, and I have been with DCC for the last two years.

My life is so simple and quiet compared to what it was three years ago. Instead of jet-setting for demanding projects or rushing through a work-filled week, I have time to be with the Lord and his people. For the past year, I have relished living in a house with four dear sisters in Christ and a family downstairs. We pray for each other, challenge each other, and delight in giving grace to each other. We host coworkers, family, and friends, making connections between them and disciples of them. I am daily in awe of God’s kindness to us. It is a mighty gift to know that my life’s greatest accomplishment is simply to know and love him and others in the ins-and-outs of life.

Two months ago, we were on the plane, flying out of Boston. A dear DCC sister and I had just spent a week walking, laughing, and learning about this city and each other. Every morning, we took time to be alone with Jesus. The trip used the last of my frequent-flyer miles from business travel. It was a special chance to celebrate not only a sweet friendship, but also the gracious way the Lord taught me to treasure his design of life together, for his glory and our joy.

“He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” – Psalm 18:19

– Megan Addison, DCC Member

If you are a member with DCC and have a story of grace to share please email info@downtowncornerstone.org.

Jun 14
2018

Mercy Ministry Update – June

Mercy Update | by Justin Keogh

The Bible contains numerous exhortations for God’s people to care for the sojourner and the alien (Deut 10:17-19, Jer 22:3). And even as we read these passages, we know that we were once ourselves alienated from God by our sin. In 1 Peter, Peter uses this language of “sojourners and exiles” to call our attention to the fact that our home is not of this world, but with God in heaven. He then speaks to our new corporate identity, saying “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:9-10). And it is from this mercy that we have received from God that we also extend mercy to others, including the sojourner and alien in our midst.

Mercy Focus Highlight: Refugees

As recently as 2015, Washington was the eighth largest refugee-receiving state! Over the years, we’ve had a number of our members working with organizations like World Relief to serve refugees here in Seattle. World Relief is an international ministry that focuses on disaster response, health and child development, refugee and immigration services, economic development, and peace-building. If you are interested in some ways you can continue to learn and get involved alongside others in our church, please join the Mercy Focus: Refugee group on the City, which will be a go-to place for information and upcoming events!

June 20th is World Refugee Day. This is a day intended to honor the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees, show support for those who have had to flee their homes, and raise awareness of the situation of refugees around the world. There are a number of special events coming up this month hosted by World Relief and other organizations in the area. Please check the list of upcoming events below to learn more about those, as well as events related to other mercy ministry focus areas!

Upcoming Events:

June 16 – Caregiver’s Evening Out (DCC Building)
June 16 – Stand with Refugees (Seattle)
June 19 – Refugee Community Garden Work Day (Kent)
June 20 – ARTvocavy: World Refugee Day (Seattle)
June 24 – Worship Service @ King County Juvenile Detention Center (Seattle)
June 28 – Swing for Life Golf Tournament (Kent)
June 30 – World Relief Golf Tournament (West Seattle)

To learn more or get connected, email mercy@downtowncornerstone.org

Partner Prayer Requests:

Refugees

Pray for increased awareness, compassion, and advocacy for refugees through the upcoming events hosted by World Relief and other refugee focused groups on World Refugee Day.

Orphan Care

Caregiver’s Evening Out event on 6/16 – Pray that this event would be a blessing to caregivers and parents, and that God’s love would be made evident in our service to them.

Sex Trafficking & REST

Due to recent legislation, the number of clients seeking aid from REST doubled in the month of April. Pray for the safety of those involved in the sex trade, for lives to be transformed by God’s grace, and for REST to have the resources and ability to support the increase in demand.

Homelessness & UGM

A recent count indicates that the homeless population in Seattle has increased to over 12,000 individuals. Please pray for the safety of those facing homelessness and for the efforts of organizations and ministries like UGM who serve those in need, and that God would use them to bring people to him.

Juvenile Detention

Pray that through the upcoming worship service on 6/24 kids in detention would hear and respond to the gospel.

Life & CareNet

Continued prayers for the mobile unit, that CareNet continues to make progress in the communities they are currently serving (Eastside, Burien, Rainier Valley). Pray that the women who need their services seek them out and use their services, and that they’d choose life and get support they need.