Posts Tagged ‘Seattle’

Aurora Avenue North

After reading a recent letter to the Major of Seattle, “Hell Starts Here, 145th & Aurora”, posted in the Aurora Seattle Blog (which does a great job of keeping ‘eyes’ on Aurora Ave. N.), my cranium started into a grey matter tsunami about the people I have encountered on Aurora, which Richard, the author of the letter to Major McGinn, tells us resembles Dantes Circle of Hell.

But what, or who does Aurora represent? Indeed if we have eyes that only see the physicality of our immediate surroundings which hem us in on all fronts accosting our eyes with the mere tripe of this facade of stone and steel. This plastic and glass empire wanes heavy and indeed does resemble the inferno of the underworld where man is hopeless without Christ.

At first glance, or for some at second and third glance if not at each glance through his or her life, the Corridor of Aurora Avenue accosts the eyes and mind and the innate desire to be surrounded by beauty, even if it is a man made beauty, stirs our beings to scream, “Hell Starts Here!

The tsunami in my mind is fierce, flooding and disorienting my thoughts because I live in this great city called Emerald that has no belief or desire to believe in a God who is loving yet just. This city, a landscape of 700,000 souls with millions just over the fence, pretends to believe there is no moral Right…but is quick to condemn the many who are described, not by their ideas or character or eyes or even their names, but instead by the “concrete waste land” they have been forced to inhabit.

How is it that a society that believes there is no God and therefore no moral right or wrong can pass judgement so quickly on people who are suffering deep despair and isolation? But when our focus is on our surroundings and the eye candy that we ignorantly suck on, we will miss the souls of the people who drive those cars, who sell those cars and who live in those cars that traverse “Gasoline Alley.”

The common solutions, that I have heard and read, to the problems of Aurora Avenue go something like this, “We need to bulldoze the entire strip of alley cats and rats who call Aurora home, and while we are at it put in a bicycle path running from Pike Place Market to 145th in a park that once was Aurora Ave. N.”  The fact is; if Aurora Ave. N. “closed” thousands would be out of work and thousands would lose their businesses. It would displace businesses into the coveted, almost worshiped, neighborhoods and their quiet streets. Causing yet a greater crisis.

Does it ever occur to anyone that we need the commerce of Aurora? The basic needs of a city lie along this strip along with those who derive their livelihood, those who, by the way, have names. Names like Pericles, Azi, Chey-Sun, Cynthia, Bud, Ryan, Fay, Will, and the list goes on. Sure there are many nefarious activities that occur along the strip but does that mean we throw out the baby in the proverbial bath water? Or…do we make a shift?

What if we seek to transform instead of throw away?

I wish you, yes you, could sacrifice one of your precious well paid hours and walk on Aurora with me and look long into the eyes of the small business owner, or the customers who frequent the same businesses. Come look into the haunting eyes of the homeless, prostitute and “dancer.”  My hope is that it breaks your four chambered muscle pounding with in your chest. My hope is that you and I remember these people where once children with bright eyes, hopes and dreams. Many ruined by their parents and hence trapped in this prison we so easily condemn to hell.

At some point we need to stop throwing insults and condemnation at the problem and start getting involved.

At some point we need to stop throwing money and hopes that the “government” will do something and start getting involved.

At some point we must stop speeding down the Aurora Corridor with blinders held tightly to our eyes and start seeing and hearing.

In a somewhat crazy emotionally unstable state,  I truly believe this strip can be transformed, healed and reconciled to beauty. Don’t ignore it, don’t throw stones. Take a lesson from Jesus, “You who are without guilt may throw the first stone.”

Want to link arms and see North Aurora Transformed…Please join me.

I have recently learned some information from the Seattle Police North Precinct about the prostitution on Aurora. In the past few years prostitution has been decreasing in numbers of “walker.” There has been a concerted effort to clean-up the Avenue, which supposedly has lead to a lesser number of ladies on the streets. But recently the numbers have risen. Estimates have said there are 40+ walking ladies on the North Aurora corridor, who move up and down this stretch of historic Highway, and the numbers are growing.

A few months ago I heard a popular talk radio host, Ron of the Ron and Don Show, tell his audience of 300,000 + listeners that there are no “walkers” on Aurora any more. Well he’s wrong and sadly his listeners are now thinking the problem has been taken care of. (I like listening to the Ron and Don Show, by the way and usually there are some great thoughts and discussions on the show.)

My thoughts on this have been growing as I discover some of the sad truths of what is actually happening on Aurora and around Seattle. When I moved to Seattle two years ago and found God directing my path to start a church on Aurora, it didn’t take long to begin noticing the same girls walking the same blocks. Taking a tour of the underground of Seattle we learned that Seattle use to have quite a prostitution problem down town and somewhere around the time the World’s Fair came to town the city moved the prostitution out of the city, north and south on Aurora. The tour leader told us that the prostitution still exists on Aurora because of that move.

Then we learned more about the motel situation on the Avenue and the drugs, alcohol, homelessness and prostitution being supplied from these old rat trap motels. Now the city has closed the worse four trying to cut the crime, the calls for emergency personnel and the nuisance in the neighborhood.

Now the prostitution problem is growing, according the North Precinct and the lesser known issue of sex trafficking (link, on world trafficking) along with it. All right in our back door. Sounds like it has been around for quite a few years, like 5,000.  Maybe the growth of the street ladies is in direct proportion to the closing of those four motels.

But there is a bigger picture here than a problem…these are lives, human lives being consistently and methodically destroyed. All of these women were little innocent girls at one point with no dreams of becoming something to be used, but wanting and dreaming of being a princess who would be cherished and loved. And through the years, “The enemy has come to steal, kill and destroy…” John 10:10 An he has done just that in so many lives.

“…But Christ has come to give life!” John 10:10. So this all comes down to my thoughts as of recent.  “What can I do?” I wish I could just spend some time with one of these ladies and share with them the beauty that life was suppose to be and that there is a way out of this “career” of brokenness.

Maybe it is time to buy an hour and a cup of coffee and talk. Maybe my wife and I could do something more than see and shake our heads in sadness. Maybe Epic Life Church can make a difference in a woman’s life. Maybe…

It was twelve years ago that God snatched me out of the business world from a company who didn’t like me and thrust me into ministry from the ground floor. Heck there wasn’t even a ground floor, God used me to design the ground floor. Kristine and I were in the small college town of Winona, MN at a small church of 250 people with five college students. God put us into the position of starting a college ministry we would soon come to know as H2O. Those first few years were quite amazing! God had quite an amazing group of young Christians on the campus and we got to minister with them often and see the ministry grow from five to hundreds.

Ben and Kristy Carlson at Kerry Park

I got the privilege of spending quite a bit of time with one young man named Benjamin Carlson. He, along with several others were very influential in the beginnings of H2O and I got the privilege of mentoring him and ministering with him as he spent four years at WSU. He became a wonderful leader on the campus and much of what God began then, through him and many others, is still happening and thriving now under new leadership.

Now, twelve years later, Kristine and I got to host Ben and Kristy and one of their small children in our home in Seattle while they were on home assignment from South Africa where they work with the Navigators.  This time he was an incredible encouragement to me and we got to speak as peers in ministry as we are once again at the beginning of a new work here in Seattle.

What a blessing it is to see God bring us all the way back around and I am sure there will be more opportunities to see others of those students from Winona and hear their stories. I am confident that even though Ben and Kristy went back to South Africa now, we will be serving together in the near future.

Just a couple of weeks ago Epic Life Church had an amazing worship night at the AXIS property. It was a night of beauty and wonder as we rocked the house singing praise to God who is more than worthy of our praise.  It is awesome to be able to enter into a night of worship with new believers and new friends. Worship that night consisted of a lot of music, a bit of spoken word and four baptisms. I have to say that mixing baptism with worship music and a lot of fellowship is one awesome event. It all created such an amazing environment for worship.

The four individuals who were baptized were such a blessing to be with too. One had been a Christian for quite some time and had never taken the step to baptism and felt God calling her to do so that night with much joy. Another had been walking with God but had gotten off track over the years and was being called to step back into pace. She is seeing much change and beauty in her life. Two others are new Christ Followers who have just given their lives over to the Savior and wanted to show that transformation to the world. It was a beautiful night of Life, Transformation and Power!

We had just wrapped up the evening and Kristine was heading home when she received a call from one of our neighbors that there was a robbery and beating near our home and the assailant was still at large. Kristine called me and I dropped everything and rushed home to find ten emergency response vehicles in our driveway.  The night of Life we had just experienced was immediately shattered as we found out that a man was beaten with a table leg just two houses away from us and taken to the hospital in critical condition. We now know that this man died from the head trauma. Our night of Life turned quickly to a night of Death.

We are reminded that we live in a sinful and fallen world where death rules and the Enemy comes “to steal, kill and destroy.”  We are literally watching as the world around us that is precariously held together with the facade of a superficial idea of life is in fact falling apart.

As baptism represents the transformation of spiritual death to life, we are constantly faced with Satan’s attempts to bring people from life to death, physically and spiritually. We are constantly reminded that what we are doing, introducing people to a life with Christ, is vitally important here in our own neighborhood and there in your very backyard.

Roughly three years ago God started assembling the cast for the greatest journey of my life time. He began bringing specific young men and women together to become the foundational pieces of a remarkable church that would desire and pursue Transformation in North Seattle by offering people an Epic Life in Christ Jesus. This team was part of a college leadership team along with a couple of others. They have had no formal ministry training. They all moved away from their families and friends to work together to start Epic Life Church.

Three days ago I got to witness this same team in a remarkable meeting as once again changes were happening.  I was privileged to sit around a room with this team and watch them speak about God’s vision for their ministries. They shared victories and problems, dreams and visions with many emotionally laden words. Each person spoke eloquently about their ministry with a beautiful understanding of the Epic Life vision and mission. It was awe-inspiring to listen to, even though I already knew what they were about to say.

They were speaking this night because of a new team that we have created called the Development Team. This new team will be a group who help the ministry leaders succeed, by encouraging ministry growth and supporting deliberate balance between the ministries of Epic Life. Its a wonderful idea and will be a fantastic team that will help Epic Life build a firm foundation. The beautiful thing is that this team is made up of Seattleites and myself. In other words, God has raised up men and women from Seattle to lead.

As I sat in this meeting listening and watching these leaders from Minnesota speak and encourage each other and interact with this new team, I sat in awe.  They were so mature and gracious and wise as they encouraged the Development Team about what they were doing and how good it was going to be. There was NO defensiveness or pride or protecting of territory. None.

I have been in few meetings where this happens. But at every Epic Life meeting this is the norm. Our meeting are all but boring meetings, they are always Epic! God has truly developed an amazing team and is now adding to it.  This speaks so strongly of the massive ministry God is establishing here in North Seattle.

Way to go; David, Jeff, Kari, Shelli, Averi, Casey, and Sam!

Wow!

A year and a half ago God brought us to a strange land of evergreen trees and a salty breeze. We landed in Seattle not knowing anyone, not knowing where to start this church God was calling us to start and not knowing where to find jobs for everyone on the team, not even knowing where to live. It seemed the best place to start would be to unite in one of the native gathering establishments and plug into the all-knowing and all-encompassing electronic cyber fishing net while sipping some hot brew from the local roast, grind and brew.

So we convened at one such enterprise with the name Hotwire attached to it’s front door. After ordering our favorite brew we sat along one wall together searching for occupational pursuits and domicile habitats with our laptops taking up all the spaces on the small tables. We introduced ourselves to the purveyor of the beany environment who told us the name would soon be changed and that we should return if we were able, “and, by the way, good luck with your church.”

We were new and it was a strange land.

Fast forward eighteen moons.

Sunday, February 28, 2010 we were once again sitting in this same cafe. But this time the name on the door read Laughing Ladies and we were among fifty friends from God’s newly established Epic Life Church here in our city, Seattle.  DVic played his musical wares and mesmerized the audience for two spans of 60 minutes. We filled the establishment and it was a beautifully miraculous night of laughter, singing and encouraging God’s people.

And the once foreign and unknown Laughing Ladies on 15th & 177th became Church.

I was at one of my fave coffee haunts, the Hot-Wire, recently renamed to The Laughing Ladies, on 15th ave. N. and 180th st. It is the only shop that I can find a Mayan Mocha, a chocolate flavored coffee with cayenne pepper. Hmmreally good. The picture I am about to share withyou will be hard to believe, but as I sat down with my 12 oz. Mayan Mocha I accidentally spilled a bit over the lip of the cup, which dripped from the handle creating this sweet piece of art.

myan-mocha with spilled cayenne pepper

Now I don’t know about you but that spillage looks a lot like a cayenne pepper, the reason I enjoy the Mayan Mocha so much. Here’s a picture of what a real cayenne pepper looks like.

cayenne-pepper

Pretty cool.

I have been reading through Acts 19 lately, which is a wonderful true story of when Paul and his companions where in Ephesus for three years and some pretty amazing things happened. Here’s the run down…

This was an account of Paul’s third time out on a journey that was specifically purposed to encourage and strengthen churches he had started in the past and also to venture into new cities to start new movements of people who believe in Jesus. The city of Ephesus seemed like a target destination for Paul. He had some good friends, Aquila and Priscilla, who had stayed there as Paul passed through the city on his second trip and now he returned to this coastal port city to spend time with this couple for what turned into three years.

I often wonder if Paul had any plans when he traveled. Like how long am I going to stay? What am I going to do? How am I going to pay for this? It always seems like he arrives at some location, usually a city of size-able renown, and stays until someone tries to kill him or he has talked to everyone in the city.  This time was no different.

The city of Ephesus was a city of greatness in the first century dating back hundreds of years and centered around one of the seven wonders of the ancient world; the temple to the goddess Artemis/Diana.  This was a massive temple around a stone that fell from the sky and resembled Artemis. The city also had many other temples and baths and places of occultish worship. The city itself thrived on the revenue from tourists who came to the city to see the temples and take part in the goddess worship. It was a corruptcity with a huge occultic practice and following. The temple provided hundreds of temple “priestesses” who were available for orgies and the like as “worship” to Artemis. And as a reflection of this the city offered the same throughout it’s streets.

This is the scene that Paul and his companions were welcomed into as they set their eyes on the people of Ephesus. This of course was an important city around the world also. As a port city it enjoyed a lucrative commercial trade status to the sea and into Asia. The influence of the city throughout the world was great because of the number of people who traveled through and lived in the city of 350,000.

Acts 19 tells of the amazing miracles that were happening because of the Holy Spirit working through Paul. Paul was able to heal many people of disease and demon possession and cloth pieces that touched him would be taken to the ill and healing power would flow from the cloth to the inflicted and have healing power. Pretty crazy stuff.  These things were important for this city to see. Because of the demonic influence on the city and the reliance upon occultic incantations and the worship at many different temples, the power of the Most High God had to be seen in two ways; physically and spiritually. So God allowed Paul to heal the physical and the spiritual lives of the people in this city.

A group of occultic brothers tried to use the name of Jesus to cast a demon out of a man for their profit only to find out that the demon knew who Jesus was and even knew Paul but didn’t know these men, because they did not have the Holy Spirit. The possessed man attacked the seven brothers and beat them, tore their clothes off and chased them away. News of this traveled around the city quite quickly even without the nightly news and the people of Ephesus began to see the power of Jesus and the lack of power of all the gods and goddesses they were worshipping.

This is an important happening so that this city could tangibly see the power of the Holy Spirit. Throughout these three years that Paul spent in Ephesus many people came to the Lord, in fact so many people came to the Lord that the idol selling business started to fail, because people were turning from idol worship to non-idol worship; turning from following a powerless goddess to following an all powerful God; turning from basically worshipping the flesh and desires of sin to setting self aside and worshipping God who gives the ultimate gift of love; turning from a temporary gratification to eternal satisfaction.

So what does this have to do with a cup of my favorite Mayan Mocha and a spilled cayenne pepper?  It just reminded me of a word. Permanent. I showed the coffee saucer to Curtis behind the counter at the Laughing Ladies and he said, “That’s cool.” Then he took it and I am sure the next place for the saucer was the dish washer. “Gone, my art is,” in my best Yoda.

Seattle, like Ephesus, worships many idols that will vanish and can never be permanent. The goddess Artemis/Diana was all about the worship of sex, nature and the fulfillment of self.  Artemis was called “Mother of all things,” “the protector of the Agora,” which was the market place and that of the center of commerce; “Patron of Hunters”, dealing with the gathering of food; “Patron of the Wild Animals” also called “Mother of Nature.” We would say “Mother Earth.”  She was also called the “goddess of Childbirth,” speaking into child centered parenting.  Some would sacrifice to her as a patron goddess before going on a military campaign. Also the goddess of virginity. And more.

The point is that “she” was worshipped in many ways, but now the great wonder of the ancient world is no longer standing. It has been completely eliminated…but for one pillar of the 121 pillars, which was re-errected recently as a touristic location. The rest of the temple after being torn down was made into roads and other buildings and over time the amazing temple disappeared, much like the spilled cayenne pepper at the Laughing Ladies coffee shop.

The Christian movement in Ephesus took over and the occultic practices diminished. Christianity continued to grow and flourish in radical ways and will never be “washed off.”  Although over last two millennium Satan has tried countless times to wipe out the name of Christ, he will never succeed. Never.

Here we are in Seattle a kind of Ephesus in this short period on the time line of the world’s existence. Aurora Ave. screams the worship of sex, money and self. Seattle screams the worship of animals, especially dogs, the worship of nature, of food, and commerce and the name of Christ is being pushed away as men try hard to rid Seattle of the influence of God Most High. I believe God is doing something extra ordinary with Epic Life Church over the next three years that will transform this city and its focus in worship.

All that from a coffee spill?