Tag Archives: Elevatedetroit

A homeless man’s prayer

I just finished an interview with CBS channel 62 at the new Elevate Detroit CommuniD BBQ park. I’ve got a cold. So on Facebook this morning I asked for prayers during the interview. While there a homeless man came and sat on one of the benches and said, “Hallelujah, thank you Lord for sitting on this bench.”

As I was leaving I waved at him and he waved back. I walked over to say hi. As I came close I could hear him talking, but couldn’t understand everything he was saying. Then he waved me off and said, “I can’t talk right now, I’m praying for you.”

My friends, you haven’t lived until you walk up and overhear a homeless man privately praying for protection and provision for you!

God is so amazing!

Thank you, Lord! I needed that today.

Giving Back


“Giving back means giving all; any inferior definition is pure deception. Our money, our resources, our gifts, our time, our dreams, our selfish ambitions, our comfort — these we give back in their entirety. Anything less is not discipleship at all. It is simply a clever substitution by a crafty enemy who has figured out how to use our own weaknesses against us, rocking us to complacent sleep with a consumer version of the gospel and knowing all the while he is making goats out of sheep.” – Brandon Hatmaker (Barefoot Church, pg. 113)


No rain… Again!

Matthew 8:26 (NIV)

“He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

Mark 4:39 (NIV)

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

So often I’ve read this passage and pictured that night out on the water.  I used to arrogantly and piously scoff at the disciples.  “Look how dumb they were.”  “How could they still not get it?!”  “How could they not understand that they were safe with him?!”

I’ve grown since then though… a little.  The verses just before this are Jesus teaching them how much it will cost them to follow him.  He tells them they will be homeless.  He tells them they will have to miss important, meaningful family moments.  He’s teaching them it will cost them their livelihoods, possibly their families and surely their plans.

He hasn’t given them any comfort.  And shortly thereafter, here they are… on a lake in a furious storm in a boat that’s about to be swamped.  They’ll drown.  Danger is all around.  And they run to him.  They wake him.  They beg him.

They don’t doubt his ability to save them like I used to think.  What they doubt is his awareness of the situation.  And they seem to have an idea of how he will save them when they ask.  I’m curious to know what they were expecting.  Maybe they were expecting him to raise the boat out of the water.  Maybe they expected the water to suddenly be held back from over the rails of the boat, similar to Moses crossing the Red Sea and God holding the water back.  Or maybe… they were expecting him to calm the storm.

Whatever their expectations of his actions, they were afraid.  Stressed.  Terrified.  And they were begging him for help.

In five years of CommuniD BBQs, I have no idea how many times God has calmed the storms for us.  I have seen clouds part, literally.  I have seen rain inexplicably surround a park without falling on it.  Twice.  Countless times we have seen and reaped the benefits of those words, “Quiet! Be still!”

Last Saturday.  It was raining.  The forecast called for heavier rain as the day went on.  No relief.  No hope of a break in the storm.  Just cold, miserable rain.  We had three CommuniD BBQs scheduled for the day; Detroit, Hazel Park and Southfield.  I got phone calls from all three leaders asking what to do, when to call it off, etc.  Three leaders who’ve watched these storms calm in the past with me all concerned, maybe even afraid that we’ll get rained out.  I talked them through it, encouraged them, reminded them of miracles of the past and God’s faithfulness in the present.  At the end of the day, all three events happened.  Not a drop of rain fell where it wasn’t supposed to.  Not an once of falling water was left to disrupt God’s plan for the day.  A miracle.  Again.  Amazing.

This Saturday.  It’s raining again.  It’s grey.  It’s cold.  It’s miserable weather.  The rain wasn’t supposed to let up until at least 4:00 pm.  It looked like it would linger on long past then.  We had two CommuniD BBQs scheduled for the day; Detroit and Pontiac.  I looked outside and thought, we might get rained out today.  Again, I got calls from leaders.  Again, anxious, nervous, expecting the rain to continue.  Again, I reassured them reminding them of God’s faithfulness in the past.  What they didn’t know was that this time, I was feeling the same way as they were.  I was nervous.  I was afraid.  I was grasping onto those memories with them.  I was needing the reminders every bit as much as they did.

With the shakiness in my soul of a one year old walking, in faith I continued to encourage them (and me).  I set out from living in Pontiac to drive to Detroit.  Wipers on.  Heat on.  Cold rain.  Answering calls, replying to texts and when no one else was asking me, I was still praying, hoping… no rain.  “Lord, I’m trusting you against my gut instinct of fear.  I will speak in confidence that you will again calm the storms; hoping you do.”

We are such forgetful people.  We are so quick to lose our faith.  We are so quick to be afraid.  And we run to him saying, “Lord, our event will drown!  Don’t you care?  Won’t you help us?  Aren’t you paying attention?”  I don’t think he was bothered that the disciples asked him for help.  They needed help.  What he rebukes them for is their fear and lack of faith.

I can scoff at their lack of faith all I want.  I mean, they could see Jesus right in front of them after all.  But I am every bit as deserving of that scoffing myself.  I may not yet have seen Jesus physically in front of me.  But I have seen the fruit of his words, “Quiet! Be still!” countless times.

So today… AND last week… God held back the clouds!!  In these last 2 Saturdays we’ve seen over 500 people share a meal together.  There have been 5 CommuniD BBQs in 4 locations with 14 partnering groups.  It’s been an incredible couple weeks!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen God work miracles with the weather on Saturday afternoons.  Five years and we’ve cancelled only 4.  That’s quite a track record of good weather!  And yet every time I can hardly believe it!  Our God still calms the storms!  And He creates space for His Body to form and love at a common table.


Being Jesus

“Everyone needs compassion. A love that’s never failing.”

I love this song. It’s one of my favorites.

I’ve probably sung it a hundred times.  Maybe more.

This is Friday night though. Normally I may sing it on a Sunday.  I may sing it on a Wednesday.  But I bet this is the first time on a Friday.  Certainly the first time the night before a CommuniD BBQ. 

Read those two lines again:
“Everyone needs compassion.  A love that’s never failing.”

We all do don’t we? I know I certainly do.

Tomorrow, when we each get together at 2nd & Selden, let’s look at each other and everyone we see throughout the day with those eyes.

“Everyone needs compassion.  A love that’s never failing.”

The next line says, “Let mercy fall on me.”

Lord, let mercy fall on us. And let us pour it out as an offering to you.  Let each of us experience your mercy and unfailing love through each other’s compassion freely shared amongst every one present at 2nd and Selden.

Assessment completed awaiting results

I’m sitting in a hotel in Indianapolis.  I’m sort of half lying actually.  It’s 10:00 pm.  I have completed a church planting assessment.  To say it was exhausting is to mislead.  It was something more.  To say it was intense is an understatement at best.

Some potential church planters here I wouldn’t consider planting with.  Others I’d be thrilled and honored to plant with.  Vision 360 has sent Diallo and Jameel Smith, Dan and Amanda Sadlier and me all to this assessment at the same time.  I am honored and privileged to be counted in the likes of such great leaders as these.

I remember the day God called me into ministry.  It was November 23rd, 2002.  I had been intensely praying for about two years that God would show me what to do with my life.  On this particular evening, after quite certainly the most emotional day of my life, I finally got my answer.  The following is how the prayerful conversation went,

Me: “God, I’ve been asking you for two years now!  I’ll do anything; just tell me what you want me to do!  I’m tired of waiting!”

God: “I want you to be a pastor.”

Me: “No.  I can’t do that.  Remember?  I thought about that once before.  I can’t do that.  No.”

God: “You’ve been asking me for an answer and I’ve given it to you.  This is what it is.  Are you in or are you out?”

Me: “You’re right, I have been asking and you have answered. (Long pause for thought)  Ok, I’m in.  But you’re going to have to work some real miracles in me if this is going to happen.”

When talking to a counselor last night as one of our interviews I told him I used to be extremely shy, introverted and depressed.  As a psychologist, I expected him to be able to pick up on that.  Perhaps even be able to point out ways it still shows.  But he was shocked.  He said, “Really?!  Wow.  Well I would never have guessed it.  You’re so relationally oriented and open.  So unguarded.  I would never have been able to tell.”

As difficult, exhaustive and trying as this assessment has been, it’s been fun.  Not fun because we did fun things.  Fun because of the challenge.  Fun because I have thoroughly enjoyed the testing, examining and prodding.  Whatever the assessment results are tomorrow I know this… this is my calling.  There’s no other reason I could have gone through the last 3 days and be energized in my soul.

God has indeed worked those miracles.  So many miracles.  Miracles before my eyes, sure.  Lots of them.  But most impressively are the miracles he’s worked inside of me.  When I think about my life now compared to then, it’s hard to comprehend.  I am truly a new creation in Christ.  Thank you Lord for the renewal of all things.  Thank you Lord for the renewal of me.  I really have been born again.  Thank you my Lord.

Mack and Outreach Love

I spent this afternoon at the CommuniD BBQ in Detroit. It’s August 13th, 2011. Today’s high is 80°F. Mostly sunny. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Today I met a man named Mack. Scratch that… today I met a friend named Mack. I’ve actually met him many times before, but never remembered his name. After today, I will never forget his name.

Mack is 26 years old. He will turn 27 on October 1st. Mack is African-American. He is probably 5′ 10″ tall; a little heavier than average build. He’s a good size to hug. Mack has a sweetness about him. It’s a childlike innocence. To meet Mack is to like him. To talk with him is to love him. I cannot help, but see Christ in his smile. It’s beautiful. He is beautiful.

Mack is currently homeless. Mack stays in a shelter in Cass Corridor. Mack comes to the CommuniD BBQs just about every week. He has for some time.

Today Mack read me a song he wrote. He has chords written out and everything. The song is called Outreach Love. Mack wrote Outreach Love to describe his experiences at CommuniD BBQs at 2nd & Selden.

I hope to be able to post the lyrics to his song soon. For now, I’ll say two things about it:
1. I was in tears after hearing it.
2. The only line I remember goes something like, “No one looks at me like I’m broken.”

To anyone who may read this… success. If the last four plus years of BBQs through winter and summer alike had no other benefit whatsoever, but to give Mack the experience of being seen by God as not being broken… success. Because in Christ, Mack is made whole. In Christ, I am made whole. In Christ, Mack is not broken. In Christ, I am not broken. In Christ, Mack is healed of his brokenness. In Christ, we are all healed of our brokenness.


Thank you for Christ. Thank you for Mack. Thank you for Christ in Mack. And thank you for Christ in me. Thank you for healing our brokenness through Christ and His body… us.

I hope to post full lyrics to Outreach Love soon.

P.S. Get ready for one SERIOUS birthday party on October 1st.

Mack, Heather, Morgyn and friend last summer (8/7/10)

Becoming Less

Yesterday was amazing.  Spent the day with Detroit Reverse.  They made a film about me that brought me to tears.  I’m humbled beyond words.  I’m amazed and so thankful at the work God has done in and through me and those around me.  I don’t deserve it at all.  Alexa Courtney, Amanda Sadlier, Pat Zeigler and the team did an amazing job making it.  Thank you so much to Amanda Vizzini, Lindsey Fischer and John Azoni for saying such kind words and doing what you do.  In the afternoon we had a CommuniD BBQ with Detroit Reverse students.  It was a powerful experience for all of us.  Getting to talk with the students afterwards was truly moving.

Easter Brunch CommuniD BBQ

Received from Armond on 5/6/11 through a series of @replies on Twitter:

He begins by responding to my general post asking people to define Hell…

Define Hell: Detroit without positive people like you all.

“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 also to me.’” Matthew 25:35-40

Even though I am a twenty four year old black man, I cried like a baby on Saturday April 23, 2011.  Everything I ever believed changed that day because of some friendly people at a BBQ. I was homeless at that time, but it changed my perception of the possibilities in life. For the longest time I was raised up thinking that ALL Caucasian man hated me, or something, because of my skin color.  Yet the day before Easter, the things I thought I knew suddenly changed due to some friendly folks who were kind to me and my baby son Chad and gave him some toys and food.

But even more importantly they were helping other folks in a currently disadvantaged position.  For the first time ever, AND I DO MEAN EVER, I saw and felt a presence and love energy unlike anything I have ever felt before.  And in less than one hour it shook me to the very roots of my belief system.

Less than two Saturdays later, I now have a temporary place to stay and wash my clothes and keep my body clean, a Gym membership to increase my fitness and a whole box of books to further my studies to become a better vessel for God.  I even have a temp job distributing materials door to door for hospitals and other companies.

Even though none of these gifts came directly from these people at the BBQ, that day sparked a new era in my life because it boosted my faith and love ten-fold as even as the bright sun illuminates the land after a bad storm. I GIVE MY MOST SUPREME THANKS TO THE GOOD LORD FOR GOOD FOLKS LIKE THIS! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

All i know is that I gave my letter to some woman named Amanda and good things started happening.  I know she had to be praying for me and I appreciate every bit of it because I needed it so much.

To follow Armond on Twitter: http://twitter.com/scienceandart23



Link to Glenn Beck on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcSgWLaJuNE
Link to Free Press article about Bing’s reaction: http://www.freep.com/article/20110301/ENT03/110301012/Bing-knocks-Glenn-Beck-Detroit-Hiroshima-comparison
Link to Patrick Reyes blog post: http://patrickreyes.net/2011/03/02/maybe-glen-beck-was-right/

So I’m a few days behind with the whole Glenn Beck thing…
It’s March 4th and although I’ve had a couple articles and a blog post bookmarked for a couple days now, I’m just catching up. But really… I don’t feel like there’s much to say.

For you who don’t know yet, you can click through the links above and read for yourself or I’ll try to give a quick recap here:

Basically Glenn Back compared the last 50-60 years of Hiroshima’s history to Detroit’s.

Hiroshima was hit with an atomic bomb in 1945. Scientists thought the city would be uninhabitable for decades. Instead, the people decided to rebuild their city. Now, 66 years later, Hiroshima is a thriving metropolis. Beck points out that, yes there was some government assistance in rebuilding Hiroshima, but the majority of the work, time and money it took to rebuild came from individuals who loved their city and would not let it lie in ruins.

Over this same time period Detroit has gone from a vibrant and thriving metropolis, the “Paris of the West,” to ruins. Beck says that bad and corrupt government, corporate and union policies are what destroyed the Motor City.

Basically… yes. I would also like to point out that he neglected to mention white flight. White flight, in my opinion, was the catalyzing factor that enabled, encouraged and brought about bad and corrupt government, corporate and union policies.

But why is this news? Anyone who lives in Southeast Michigan and is honest with themselves knows this to be true. We’ve known this for decades. We’ve watched this, we’ve experienced this, we’ve lived this. This isn’t news for February 28th, 2011. This is old news.

Detroit today is not the Detroit that is comparable to Hiroshima. Or maybe it is, but the timelines are just askew. Hiroshima came to its ruin in 1945. Detroit came to its ruin more gradually culminating early this century. But the phrase “will the last one out, please turn out the lights” will never apply to Detroit.

Detroit is being remade. Yes, there are some governmental changes that are helping Detroit to be remade. But not for the most part. For the most part it is people, individuals who have decided they love their city and are not willing to let it fall to the wayside.

What Glenn Beck is missing is the current. The current of Detroit has changed. The river of wealth, knowledge and education is now beginning to flow the other way. We, together, are stemming the tide of escapism, white flight and neglect. We are stirring a new direction for our city. There is a new tomorrow and more importantly, there is a new today.

There’s a song by Robbie Seay Band that says,

“And it might not be
The prettiest thing that you’ll ever see
But it’s a New Day
Oh baby it’s a New Day”

This is Detroit. And this is a New Day. And we have a new current. The current is a city on the incline. The current is a city that is being remade from the ground up through grassroots efforts and community organizers who are encouraging people to love their city and their neighbors. And what is most exciting to me about this current is the strong role the body of Christ is playing in it.

Historically Detroit was a major hub in the underground railroad, led by the church. It was a beacon of freedom and the relief of oppression. As a result there are more church buildings per capita than any other city in the country. Then it became a destination for new jobs and opportunities for people of any ethnicity. Then the church led the way again… in the wrong direction. Running out of the city in white flight. Then Detroit quickly became the most segregated city in the country. Then race riots. We’ve had more than our share. For decades the church has ridden the backs of white folks out to the suburbs and what has been left is health and wealth gospel preachers that I cannot appreciate in any way.

But finally… a new generation is stirring. A New Day has come. The Kingdom is becoming visible here again. The church is shining its Light once again in the city that put the world on wheels… and invented headlights.

We have people reversing white flight. We have people sharing with others as they have need. We have people beautifying their homes, their blocks and their city. And they’re doing it for no other reason than to show the world that it’s a beautiful place and should be treated that way. We have CCS, the DIA and the DSO. We have food and restaurants galore. We have urban prairies with deer, pheasants and wild chickens roaming free. We are number 2 in the nation for fishing rod sales. By consumption, we are the potato chip capital of the world. We have more registered bowlers than anywhere else in country. We have Critical Mass, Noel Night, the Auto Show and DEMF.

We may have inherited the problems of our parent’s Detroit. But this is not our parent’s Detroit. This is a New Day and it comes with a new current flowing in a new direction… forward.

Glenn Beck was right about where our problems came from. But he’s missing where we are now. A lot of people have been up in arms about what Glenn Beck said about Detroit. I see no problem. He’s right. He’s just a bit behind the times. There’s no point in denying our history with all of its victories and all of its defeats. To deny one’s history is to deny one’s current state. And I’m proud of our current state… or should I say… City.

A few links to good things: http://elevatedetroit.com (blatant self-promotion)
Palladium Boots / Johnny Knoxville video: http://www.palladiumboots.com/exploration/detroit
Requiem for Detroit by the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rkm3y (no, not the video clip unfortunately, but I do have a DVD)

Free Your Soul

You have to free yourself of the existing in order to grapple with the possibilities of the not yet.