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 27
2018

Cornerstone Community Update – Summer Schedule

Community, News | by Pastor 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.

Apr 4
2018

Stories of Grace | Family Found

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.”

Almost eight years ago, my girlfriend at the time made a choice to pack her bags and leave the sunny shores of California for an internship opportunity in New York City.  She was confidently pursuing a dream that she had held for a very long time. I knew better than to be the one to stop her.

While Amy and I had talked about what it would look like for me to move to the East Coast as well, I was extremely hesitant to leave behind my very comfortable surroundings. Both of my parents were from families based in California. I had grown up my whole life in Orange County. Since as early as I could remember, I had been blessed in knowing and being known in church families that were integral parts of my life. From Christian summer camp friends, to small-group men that became roommates when I first moved out, I was never without friends and family close-by.

Yet despite all of these undisturbed comforts, God had begun to put on itch on my heart to leave California and follow Amy to New York.

Skipping many of the details of the way God “parted the sea” for my extremely effortless move to New York — which, talk to anyone that’s moved to New York from out of state, it’s not easy! — I soon found myself living in Brooklyn, only a block away from Amy. It was fall and the Christmas holiday was quickly approaching.

Amy and I spent Christmas together in New York that year. After doing our best to recreate the traditions we would both do with our families, we quickly realized how far removed we were from being with those people who were closest to us. We were those annoying family members who called and asked to be passed between all the relatives and family friends so we could feel like we were there.

Despite meeting numerous people over the next year, often we still felt like our closest friends were on the other side of the country. This stopped us, in many ways, from being fully present in several of the relationships and opportunities that God put before us.

Building into this same story, we were slow in finding a church to be a part of. Now, to be clear, we were going to church every weekend. In fact, we found the biggest reformed Christian church in the city and loved attending and soaking up the riches of the Sunday sermon.

But something was still missing. We were “attendees” of a church, and not creating relationships beyond the weekly meet and greet. Funny enough, the church was so big, we used to joke it wouldn’t matter if we remembered the names of the people sitting behind us, because the likelihood of actually seeing them again was so slim.

Having grown up in a family that was highly involved in the local church, I knew what we were doing was not “church’’. Going to church does not mean you are a part of the church. Even more so, we were going to church but had no desire to give back to the church.  It wasn’t until a year later when we were able to realize the joy of being a participating member of the church family. And what a difference it was.

By our second year in the big city, we stumbled upon another church we had heard about through the grapevine. It was another reformed gathering that had great music, good teaching, and people in similar stages of life as we were. The difference was it also had community gatherings, and the leaders often spoke about it and encouraged people to get plugged into these. Amy and I, now engaged, had never been a part of a community gathering in this type of sense.

In our remaining two years in New York, our Brooklyn community became a core source of support and friendship. And these were not just friends we would occasionally bump into. These were friends we would celebrate holidays and birthdays with, babysit for, ask for moving help from, road-trip with, call with heavy decisions to make, and much more. And yet, I will tell you emphatically — and this is not just because New York attracts the most unique people — we could not be more different from one another.  Something bound us together in a very fitting way.

I learned this is one of the hidden mysteries of Christ. Outside of any job or set of hobbies, any gender or ethnicity, any hometown or parallel past, Christ was the common bond that always rose above.  I had found a family of people that loved God and loved me for the imperfect sinner that I was.  We longed to do life with one another.

Reflecting on this experience reminds me of the verse in Revelation 7:9-10 that says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

God, by His grace, continues to reveal this mysterious truth to me, even now in Seattle, where we’ve been for nearly three years. There is always a family, a local church, that God has prepared for us.  Always a family that is welcoming me “home” even if it is 3,000 miles from where I just was.

After learning the joys of being a part of community, you only can imagine how eager Amy and I both were to find a community when we first came to Seattle. In fact, I sent several emails to local churches asking to hear more about their community gathering.

I received a reply from the community deacon at DCC.  He excitedly connected me to the community leader in Queen Anne. Before I could even finish typing my “thank you” response, I received an email from the local community leader, himself. He wanted to know what service I typically attended so we could meet up that Sunday.

Once again, I am beyond blessed to say I have found a family like I could never have anticipated or imagined here in Seattle.  And this, I confidently know, is something God has prepared for any and all of His disciples wherever they go.

– Dave Osborne, DCC Member

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

Feb 21
2018

Meet Our Newest Elder Candidate: Luke Davis

Community, Discipleship, News

Downtown Cornerstone,

Last Sunday we presented Luke Davis to the church as a pastoral candidate. We are taking the next four weeks to give you time to meet with him, ask questions and/or express any concerns you may have. One of the over-arching qualifications for a pastor is that he must be “above reproach” (1Tim 3:1). This waiting period is our attempt to ensure all bases are covered and you have an opportunity to speak into the process.

The office of pastor (or elder) was created by God, for the leading, feeding, and protecting of his flock, the local church. Therefore, we treat the equipping and installation of such men with great seriousness – and joy!

Luke will not be on DCC’s pastoral staff (i.e. vocational pastor), but will serve as an elder in a volunteer capacity (i.e. lay pastor). Therefore, by necessity, the scope of his pastoral involvement will be limited when compared to a staff pastor. However, his service will be equally significant. As a non-staff pastor Luke will be involved with preaching, counseling, membership interviews, officiating weddings and funerals, elder meetings and practical leadership (which currently includes leading a Cornerstone Community). Our hope is to have many non-staff pastors in the future, as it helps diversify and strengthen the elder team and, therefore, the church.

Luke is a good man with integrity, love for Jesus, and for Jesus’ church. As elders we believe he is called, qualified, and ready to be installed as a pastor of Downtown Cornerstone. However, we are taking this time in case you know something that we do not.

That said, would you pray for the Davis’ in this season? Would you also pray for our church? It is a sign of God’s grace to us that we have men, like Luke, being raised-up to lead, feed and protect Jesus’ flock. Let’s ask Him for more.

Provided nothing arises that would cause us to stop the process, which we don’t foresee, we will install Luke as our fifth pastor, and first non-vocational pastor, on Sunday, March 18th. It will be a great celebration and a joyous moment.

What follows (below) is a short interview with Luke so that you can get to know him a bit better.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns you can email me directly at adam@downtowncornerstone.org.

Christ is all,

Pastor Adam

On behalf of the elders of DCC

-———————————————————————————

Q: How did you meet Jesus? How has he changed you?

LD: God was often on the perimeter of my mind making forays to the forefront around visits to church on Christmas and Easter. The rhythm of my relationship with Him drastically changed when dad decided our family needed to become faithful members of a local church. The timing coincided with my entrance into high school. As the message of the Gospel became clearer my heart put up a fight. I didn’t want to accept that I was busted without Jesus. But the Spirit patiently melted away my crazed attempt to grasp at some measure of merit and Christ became a living hope.

I guess just about every area of my life has been affected since following Jesus half a lifetime ago. We would not be in Seattle, for instance, were it not for submitting my vocation to His will. Jesus has been the closest of friends, fulfilling promise after promise. My marriage, family, and work have all been profoundly shaped by Him.

Q: Tell us a little about your family.

LD: My beautiful bride, Lynn, and I have been married for almost a decade (wish us a happy anniversary on March 8th!). Within those years we have welcomed William (10), Ezra (8), Rowan (6), and Haven (1.75). Our little girl is the lone Seattleite in the bunch. The rest of us hale from Florida.

Q: What are you most passionate about?

LD: I am deeply committed to seeing wisdom and virtue cultivated in the hearts of children. Paul admonishes all parents to bring up their kids in the discipline and instruction of the Lord; to lead them in the way of Jesus. It is a joy of mine to partner with parents as they pass on what it means to be human.

Q: How did you get involved with DCC?

LD: It was paramount for Lynn and I to identify a few churches where we could worship in good conscience while considering a move to Seattle. DCC, along with some other churches, appealed to us because of its theology and location. When attempting to line up some personal connections during a first visit to the city, David Parker’s warm communication and generous invitation drew us in like a beacon. Our very first impression of DCC was full of good conversation, camaraderie, Gospel care, and hospitality. The connection was set at that first meeting and we have been celebrating our local church ever since.

Q: What are your current areas of oversight?

LD: Within DCC I oversee the Belltown West Community.

Q: How did you determine you were called to be a pastor?

LD: I have desired to serve the church in this capacity for 16 years. At the simplest level I originally recall a pull to the pastorate when initially reading through 1 Timothy 3 as a young Christian. But discerning the pastoral call should never be done in isolation. The desire grew in clarity, understanding, and affirmation through wise counsel, prayer, and mentoring. My prayer is that our Lord may use me to help lead, feed, guide, and protect the flock.

Q: How can we be praying for you and your family in this season?

LD: Lord willing, I will be the first lay elder in DCC’s history. That distinction is attended by humbling honor and trepidation. Our pastors expend themselves, body and soul, for the welfare of the church. I need wisdom to walk out this call well in the midst of being a husband, father, headmaster, and citizen of Seattle. Please ask our Father for the grace to serve DCC well without betraying the other responsibilities in my life.

Additionally, my family has called Belltown home during the duration of our time in Seattle. As I write this I am surrounded by bins. We are moving just a couple miles east to the Central District within the next week. Leaving Belltown is going to hurt. But we are celebrating our transition to the CD. Please pray for quick connection with neighbors and vision for flourishing within a neighborhood full of historical hurt and triumph.

Thanks, Luke!

Jan 4
2018

New Connect Group Begins January 10th

Community | by Pastor Craig Sturm

Friends,

I hope you’re doing well and enjoying God’s gift of a new year!

As you plan and establish rhythms for the new year ahead, I want to encourage you to prioritize the local church and create space for God-centered, biblical community in your life. It’s our desire to see all our people connecting, sharing life, and forming communities that are deeply rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We’re excited to launch a new Connect Group format to help foster this type of community and invite those who are brand new with DCC or have been participating with us for a while but have yet to get connected to community to jump in. The Winter Connect Group is kicking off on Wednesday, January 10th and is a great opportunity for those looking to build meaningful relationships within our church body!

The Connect Group is an introductory, 8-week group on Wednesdays at 6:30pm where you can meet new people, learn about biblical community, open and discuss the Bible, pray together, develop meaningful relationships for yourself and your family, and learn how to take steps for connecting with a long-term Cornerstone Community. The primary purpose and hope for this time is…

  • Belong. Providing a place for you to begin to build meaningful relationships for the purpose of discipleship.

  • Discover. Laying a foundational understanding and giving you a hands-on taste of biblical community.

  • Grow. Providing encouragement and steps for connection into a long-term Cornerstone Community.

Whether you’ve tried to jump into a Cornerstone Community before, had a hard time getting connected, or want to take the next step of getting plugged into meaningful relationships with our church, we invite you to jump into the Winter Connect Group.

Learn more about the content & schedule, and register here. Have questions? Email community@downtowncornerstone.org and we’ll follow-up!

Expectant and prayerful,

Pastor Craig Sturm

Nov 30
2017

Stories of Grace | A Mighty Love

Community, Stories of Grace | by Anne Johnson

“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.”

Walking through the book of Job and seeing the affliction and suffering he experienced, I’ve been reflecting on the story that God’s been orchestrating in my life. Like many, it has included several helpings of trials, pain, and suffering. There’s a sign in Swedish’s Cancer Institute office that says, “Cancer is a word, not a sentence.” Cancer is one of the major fears of our modern American culture and most people have been touched by it in some way or another, including me. I am two and a half years out from my diagnosis of cancer. Two years after my last chemo treatment and one and a half years out from my final radiation session. A friend asked “what do you think is the biggest thing you’ve learned through all this?” There are layers of what I’ve learned and, Lord willing, will continue to learn for years to come. But in the interim, I’ve learned about the Church and God’s power to move through it when we are willing to obey. When the Church keeps “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV), we are able to accomplish such grand things through Him who strengthens us.

I thought I knew what community was. I thought I grasped everything that God had to offer through His Church. After all, I was living in Christian community and had helped lead community groups. Service was one of my love languages and I’d always had a heart for social justice. But the riches of Christ are unsearchable (Ephesians 3:8). There is no end to the Alpha and the Omega. He is the beginning and the end, which is to say He is always (Revelation 21:6). It will take an eternity to try to understand what I thought I had on lockdown after little more than a decade of following Christ.

When I reflect on my cancer treatment, there is pain, both physical and emotional. There are moments that I hope never to experience again and pray no one else would have to endure. Make no mistake, it was not fun. But what comes into focus much more sharply is Love. Not the word love that we throw around when we talk about our favorite foods or movies. I am talking about Love that came incarnate through Christ. I am talking about the Love of a community that brought countless meals and shuffled children around. I am talking about the Love of a care package with all of the cancer essentials because friends cared enough to research what was best. I am talking about the Love of a 10 year old son who prayed every night that I would be healed from my cancer. I am talking about the Love of friends who changed a cross-country motorcycle trip they’d been planning for six years to better care for me and my family. I am talking about the Love of a community who asks how they can pray for you and actually prays with you in the moment. That is not the love we give to things of this earth. That is not the love that comes from human “kindness”, but the Love that is only possible through Christ Jesus our Lord.

I can only hope that I would be able to proclaim this great news had the cancer still been ravaging my body. I am healed in my body of a disease that threatened to take my life, but moreover I stand healed of the sin that threatened to take my soul, which is of immeasurably more worth and value. So my boast will not be in the healing of my body from cancer, but my boast will be in Christ who lives and reigns and invites me into eternal joy and life with him whether I die tomorrow or in 40 years. Like Job, my suffering helped me turn my eyes upward, fixing them on the Living God, and I’m praising Him all the more.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

– Anne Johnson, DCC Member

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

Nov 15
2017

Supporting Families and Children in Foster Care

Community, Foster Care, Service, Stories of Grace | by Anne Johnson

“Take up the cause of the fatherless.” Isaiah 1:17 (NIV)

November 12th was Orphan Sunday, a day when the Church stands up for the orphan. November is also National Adoption Month. As of July 2017, there were 1,460 children in foster care in King County, and about 8,800 children in foster care across the state of Washington (more statistics here). Our church family hopes to rally around these children and the families directly supporting them, bringing and being Christ to them in their isolation, fear, and uncertainty.

Caleb and Leah Gross, members of Downtown Cornerstone, have experienced first hand the joy, heartache, difficulty, and miracle of welcoming foster children into their home. Leah was familiar with foster care and adoption through her previous church and had a strong desire to be involved after seeing the great need for homes and foster parents. When they got married, Caleb was still getting used to the idea of foster care.

The Grosses reached out to us as we had gone through the process to become licensed and had been fostering for a short time. We shared our story of how God grew our desire to foster parent and our experiences with the fostering process. We met with Caleb and Leah a number of times over the course of several months. They helped care for our kiddos in foster care and brought us meals during transitions. It was remarkable to watch their hearts grow for children stuck in the foster system and become increasingly confident in God’s sovereignty and goodness for their life.

The Grosses became licensed through the state with relatively few hiccups and have since welcomed two kids into their home. When things got difficult, as they inevitably do, we met together, we encouraged one another, we cried together. We left that place more confident in the call to which Christ has called us.

“Is this the most comfortable or most convenient life? No. But if we’re followers of Christ, comfort isn’t the point at all. Rather joining in the work of bringing redemption and hope to the brokenness and darkness. In the meantime we are sanctified and are touched with new awareness of God’s love for us, His heart of mercy, and His compassion towards us. He is our good Father. If we get the honor of being a father or mother to those without, why wouldn’t we?”

Their story continues. The day in and day out of caring for children, going to appointments, attending court dates and bio-family visits, checking in with social workers, etc. We are here to support one another, spur one another on, and remind each other what Christ has done for us and the life for which He saved us.

DCC ENGAGEMENT

DCC has been engaging with the foster care system for a number of years. During the 2014 and 2016 Advent seasons, we ran clothing drives for the foster youth in King County. We collected over 1,000 pieces of clothing! These clothes were distributed to kids in need of comfort and necessities. Learn about opportunities to help support foster families this season here.

  • The Capitol Hill North Community supports a ‘Fostering Together’ support group by providing childcare and dinner every month to the foster families who attend.
  • The Foster Support Faith Alliance (FSFA) is a ministry of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. The FSFA connects local churches wanting to engage the foster care system with the agencies and foster families in need of volunteer service. I have the opportunity to represent DCC as well as facilitate the local chapter of FSFA. We partner with the King West Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) office which is less than a mile away from our church building. We’ve partnered with the office in numerous ways to support foster families, bio families, and social workers.
  • On September 30th, DCC hosted a Caregiver’s Evening Out event. Foster, adoptive and kinship care parents were able to enjoy an evening to themselves while we cared for their children. Thirty-five volunteers welcomed 40 children from 18 families, prepared dinner, played games, made crafts and tangibly loved these families involved in foster care. We were also able to provide goodie bags for all the parents. For various reasons, many of these families don’t have opportunities like these to take time for themselves. The families were so grateful and appreciative for the special night we helped facilitate for them!

WAYS TO GET INVOLVED

“I could never do that”, “I want to but would get too attached”, “They are so lucky to have you”. Many people don’t understand who can or can’t become a foster parent or the multitude of other ways you can support the fostering community.

We are holding a Foster Care Info Session & Viewing on November 19th at 1pm and will share specific ways to get involved. We’ll also watch the ReMoved films to give insight into foster care and will have time for discussion and questions.

If you are interested in attending or would like to find out more about foster care opportunities, please contact Ben and Anne at mercy@downtowncornerstone.org.

For His glory,

Anne & Ben Johnson
DCC members & foster parents

Sep 7
2017

Stories of Grace | Planting Roots in a Concrete Land

City Life, Community, Kids, 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.”

People have places and place yields meaning; it’s easy to forget. Rivers have beds, houses have foundations, kings have thrones, and planets have orbits. Adjust any of these places and you will find fundamental shifts in the meaning and expression of the object. People aren’t all that different. Christian people are called to be pilgrims, to seek, but even we have places along the way. Like Florida, for instance.  

Florida — sunny, humid, beautiful, and weird, was home to my wife and me for the first three decades of our lives. Like all good Florida kids we knew the smell of suntan lotion from the earliest of ages and could pick out the venomous snakes from the harmless varieties. Yes, the logs have eyes and are called alligators, not crocodiles. Florida had family and friends, thirty years’ worth. It was our place. And we left it for Seattle.

More specifically we left a four-bedroom home in a subdivision on a cul-de-sac with three kids in tow and moved to a two-bedroom condo in a downtown neighborhood. Then we added another kid. Suburban to urban, cicadas to cyclists, red to blue, known to unknown. Why? The driving impetus behind the cross-country relocation was a call to serve a young classical Christian school in the heart of the city. But that’s not the part of the story we want to emphasize. Rather, we want to tell you about living through this call, what we as a family have experienced, and how Jesus has continued to demonstrate His kindness.

When others discover our living situation, family of six residing in downtown Seattle, they tend to focus first on what must have been sacrificed. Our people back in Florida typically note the amenities we no longer possess: multiple vehicles, expansive square footage, expendable income, a yard. Progressive neighbors either don’t know how to process the parade of children perpetually accompanying us or openly marvel at our choice to plant roots down here where dogs outnumber kids 2:1. Conservative neighbors, likewise, question the wisdom of exposing children to the vanguard of cultural redefinition. It’s not surprising that a person’s first reaction is shaped by the difference in their position compared to our own. But our experience has not been dominated by missing pieces or dysfunction. In truth, we have known community, family unity, and purposefulness unlike any other time in our marriage.

Seattle became home for us largely through our Cornerstone Community. Members of the church community, people we had not yet even met, were here on day one helping us to unload our moving truck. These friends have told us to go out on dates and freely babysit our children, approach us with straight exhortations from Scripture, invite us to know their hopes and hurts, and have effectually knit us into this place. It’s common to head out on the sidewalk and spot someone we recognize or hear our names called out by a passerby. Our children see firsthand how other adults in seasons similar or dissimilar to their parents seek to follow and serve Jesus. We couldn’t imagine leading life here apart from our Cornerstone Community.

One of the most common perceived drawbacks about family urban living we have heard is the concern over too little space. Surprisingly, not least of which to us, are the gifts we have enjoyed as a result of proximity both in and outside the home. Within 950 square feet it’s tough to avoid one another. But this closeness means we have to live life among each other. Contentious problems are rarely left unresolved, challenges with the kids are discovered early; it’s hard to keep skeletons in your closet when you don’t have any closet space. The absurdly restorative message of the gospel must, therefore, be present often.

As we strive and struggle to follow Jesus and raise up our children in the instruction and admonition of the Lord we find that our home in the city demands purposefulness. This is not to say that living with purpose is solely relegated to urban life. However, culture, what people do with creation, is typically innovated in the city. As our family encounters developments both beautiful and ugly we are pushed again and again to send roots down deep into the Truth and Goodness of God. Divisions, disparity, images, stories, change, appearance all vie for a place to stand in our hearts and the souls of our children. And we have the amazing opportunity to seek His kingdom amongst our diverse neighbors! Shoot, do you know the parental training opportunities provided by a protest? The old Story proves fresh, resilient, and life-giving over and in the pulsations of the city.

God was good to us on the cul-de-sac and He’s been good to us in the city. I don’t think our story is all that exceptional or inspiring, but it is true. Make our story less peculiar. Consider planting roots, sticking around, and raising your kids here as well. The challenges are real, but our Father loves to give good gifts. His church is called to bear and bequeath the beauty of Jesus in every square inch of this world.

– Luke Davis, DCC Member

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

Aug 28
2017

Stories of Grace | An Unlikely Door

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.” 

When I became a foster parent two years ago, I anticipated changing relationships: a new relationship with a child, her family, social workers, and even changes in my own family relationships. What I did not expect was a dramatic change in my relationship with the church body.

As a single, childless adult, I was (or thought I should be!) pretty self-sufficient, more in a position to give than to receive. However, when I received my first foster placement, I was thrown into an uncomfortable position of neediness. I needed baby clothes, supplies, advice, prayer… I needed a door.

In order for my foster daughter to remain with me past infancy, I was required to install a partition door in my apartment. As a deer-in-the-headlights, sleep-deprived, carpentry-clueless, first-time single parent, I wasn’t going to pull this off on my own. I humbled myself, became vulnerable, and asked my church family for help. I was overwhelmed by the love I received. Two men gave up a Saturday with their families to construct a sliding door. Other people in the church, whom I knew only by name, brought a crib mattress, baby carriers, clothes, and a diaper bag.

In receiving these gifts, I was surprised to find that the greatest blessings were not the need met, but the deep bonds of affection that the love of these people called forth in me. As I opened myself to the love of the church, I experienced, in a new way, the love of Christ himself. In fact, I had been caught up in an out of control love spiral; as the love of Christ moved me to pour myself out in love for a child, I was filled to overflowing by the love of Christ through the love of the church.

This is the mysterious trinitarian love economy that Christ prayed we would experience in John 17:20-23: “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Isn’t it amazing that Jesus says our love for one another preaches the gospel to the world! Truly, our Father delights to bring marvels from mustard seeds, from a licensing requirement for a door, to unleash a deluge of love and proclaim his glory to the world.

– Adrienne Haass, DCC Member

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