Monday, October 26, 2015

The Farm

By Guest Blogger: Jan Hayes

This season 2015 was the most challenging for me since we started in 2009. We made some huge changes in the spring by adding additional water lines so we could setup a new drip system through out the entire garden-this was a huge undertaking. Then we decided to change row directions, adopt a no tillprocess, and begin our first year using a more sustainable farming practice, Permaculture,(methodpracticed to grow food). And in my mind is simply the Windows 10version of my generations Hippie Lasagna gardening method. So, yeajust a few changes!

When you add all that up and then throw in a really weird weather pattern of dry and warmer air, weed seed that never went dormant we have been up to our necks trying to keep up. 
A few workers really put out some hard time doing some really hard work utilizing the free wood chips from the county and a Tree Service friend of mine. We used these chips as mulch in the “Walking Rows” along with some donated cardboard that we cut into strips the width of the row then piled the chips on top of that. This was to help control weeds, and retain moisture. These components break down over time and will help build a healthy soil.  
Crops finally started growing better, but some food struggle or failed, due to the drought conditions mainly.  We harvested early in season lots of Zucchini, Crookneck squash, lettuce, and kale. Spinach came and went to seed very early. In the 40+ years I have lived here I had never pulledfrom all my knowledge of growing food in Southern California, but now I was faced with trying to blend two different ways into one. Way weird to mix the two methods for sure.
Good things that were cultivated were life long friendships, new relationships with our Youth that volunteer at Seeds of Grace Resource Centers Food Bank. A new program launched from the Seeds Resource Center, the Mentorship Program. This program enabled recipients of the Food Bank to learn how to setup a business plan and run it, and partner with First Fruits by harvesting some of the food grown there and selling it by becoming a vendor at the new Marysville Farmers Market. This helped the mentors realize what it takes to start and run a business, and receive training in hopes of building a stepping stone to improve these participants chance of becoming a contributor into society again. And also participate in the New Farmers Market - a win-win. 
First Fruits Co-0p members harvested food for them selves and also purchased other food and commodities at the new Farmers Market, so we feel we ended this year on a good note.
I’m excited for the 2016 growing season, for the Co-Op members are adopting some new ideas to improve life on the farm. Stay tuned. 
See you all around AC3.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sub Contractors

My thoughts have been returning to the idea of "sub-contracting" these days. You know what a sub-contractor is, right? A General Contractor (GC) is hired to construct a building. The owner looks to the GC as the one responsible. The GC's name is on the sign outside the construction site, the GC signed the contract and the GC will get paid for the work. The GC is responsible.

But a building is a very complex thing with more than just roofs and walls. It has plumbing, and ventilation, wiring, telephones, all KINDS of stuff that any single GC is usually not equipped to build. So they hire a SUB-Contractor (SC) who specializes in just a certain kind of work. For example, right next to AC3's office is Bill the cabinet maker. He builds beautiful kitchen cabinets, custom enclosures and furniture for GCs who are responsible for an entire building. He doesn't do flooring, windows or electrical work; just cabinets.

While this system isn't perfect, it does work pretty well when it comes to getting buildings constructed. It encourages excellence by allowing people to specialize and it makes a project which would otherwise be too big for one firm, manageable.

But the concept does not translate well to the church. In modern times, we have designed our churches in such a way that we have been sub-contracting large portions of the Gospel mandate. 

You see, God "hires" each of us individually to be the GC of our own lives. 1 Timothy 2:5 says For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity--the man Christ Jesus."  Again the Bible says in Philippians 2:12 "...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling." In other words - YOU are the one responsible to live out the Christ-life. No one else can do it for you. And yet, we have built a church culture where things like compassion, discipleship, evangelism and loving one's neighbor have been sub-contracted to "professionals". We see many of the core aspects of the Christ-Life as too "specialized" and so we have come to expect pastors and church staff to do them for us. That's not to say we don't each have specific gifts and roles to play in the church, we do! (See 1 Corinthians 12) But there are some things that we are all called to BE as individuals, and just because we write a check to a church or a missionary every month doesn't mean they are "being" compassionate for us, or that they are "loving" the lost for us.

A couple of examples that have driven this home for me:

This summer I was visited by a very unhappy AC3 attendee who had a substantial list of things he felt AC3 was doing wrong. He was explicit in his expectation that his giving of money should result in certain things being provided by paid staff and if those things did not occur, he would give his money elsewhere. We call this a "pay to play" mentality and it makes perfect sense if you're a General Contractor with an under-performing sub-contractor. If your cabinet maker is turning out crooked cabinets and is always missing deadlines, you take your business to another cabinet maker!

It does not make sense, however, if we are the Church: an amalgamation of Friends, working together in mutual submission under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Friends don’t make demands of one another and then hold resources hostage until the demands are met. We are not contracting with one another - we are parts of the same body...the Body of Christ.

A larger, systemic, but equally disturbing example comes to us in a Christianity Today article from the July/August 2015 issue. Author Bradley Wright conducted an extensive study to discover if (and if so, which) church groups might be harboring implicit racism (implicit meaning they would/could never come out and SAY they are racially biased, but they behave in ways that are.) 

Wright and his colleagues sent emails to various churches (see the article for all the statistical, nerdy details) claiming to be a new resident in their town or city looking for a church home, and would the church send them information. Some of the letters were signed with a clearly American-of European-Descent-Style-Name (in other words white-sounding) like "Tanner Smith" while others were signed with African-American, Latino or Asian sounding names. The results were, in one sense bad, in one sense good and in another sense fascinating. 

BAD in that more churches than I would have hoped seem implicitly biased.

GOOD in that some churches turned out to very open to people of different races.

FASCINATING in that I was surprised by which ones were biased.

Out of the different Christian "groups" of churches in the study, the one that showed the most racial bias was (are you ready?): 

Mainline Protestants 

These are the protestant, denominational churches that have been around for a long time. This includes American Baptists, Episcopalians, Evangelical Lutherans, United Methodists and Presbyterians. 

Why is this surprising? Because out of all the Christian groups in America, Mainline Protestant denominations are the most socially liberal, politically active and usually strongly aligned with the "politics of inclusion" like civil rights, same-sex unions, and welfare programs - and yet, by far, they exclude people of other races from their mailing lists more than Evangelicals and Catholics.

Why might that be the case? 

One theory is that they have a sub-contractor’s attitude. 

Perhaps there is a collective sense that because they pay their taxes to a government which they expect to create racial harmony FOR them, they don’t have to do it themselves. In contrast, Evangelicals, who tend to the opposite political end of the spectrum and take the Bible more seriously, might see racial harmony as a job THEY were hired to perform directly.

Read the article and decide for yourself.

Prideful side note: The most inclusive group by FAR was Willow Creek Association Churches (of which AC3 is one)

So, here's a thought for you as you head into your weekend at church: What have I given over to someone else to do that God has hired me to do myself? 

Here's a little check list:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- Colossians 3:12-17

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Who are the Monsters in Your Life?

Monsters. We all have them. Monsters that steal our joy. Monsters that rob us of peace of mind. Monsters that lie and say, "You can't do that." "What you do doesn't matter." "You can't make a difference so don't even try." "You don't deserve it." "No one really cares anyway." "What makes you think you can succeed this time?" What Monster is whispering in your ears these days?

During our first ever Market Mentorship Project (MMP) Celebration Brunch, we ate, we laughed, we remembered, we cared for and we shared in the celebration of each individual's success. This was a time to celebrate and to encourage one another, to drive stakes securely in the ground so that when we lose our footing, we have something to grab and hold on to, keeping us moving forward and in the right direction.
As our celebration came to a close (just a few weeks before Halloween), it seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask them, "Who are the monsters that knock on their door, whisper in their ears and asks if they can come in and stay a while?"

Is it the 'Monster' of negative self talk? The one that tells you that you can't change,  you don't deserve it and even if you do take positive steps forward, no one cares so don't bother." This monster talks to us daily. Even the most positive individuals I know deal with the 'Monster of the Mind' on a daily basis.

Or will it be the 'Monster' of greed that deceives them? Encouraging them to get 'more stuff' and then they will be truly happy. Although this monster can be convincing, the accumulation of stuff only weighs one down. Individuals, rich and poor, may have lots of stuff but 'more stuff' never makes one happy. These days I do my best to make choices in light of eternity. Building relationships always trump doing tasks or getting more stuff. To quote Francis Chan, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter.” Seeds of Grace recently said goodbye to a dearly loved client and a retired volunteer reminding us that it's relationships that matter! Choose this day to do things in 'light of eternity' and you will not be disappointed.
And last but not least, would it be the 'Monster' of pride that will hold them back from achieving their God-given dreams? The pride monster says, "I can do it all on my own. I don't need anyone's help. I don't have time to pursue God or the plans he has for me Jeremiah 29:11. I am doing just fine thank you. I can handle life on my own."  But we celebrated and took pride in a job well done that day because this team of mentees completed this project as a team, not on their own and each one did so to the best of their ability. But when all is said and done, will the 'Monster' of pride take over and demand that they do life solo, without God and without those who care and expect them to live life to the best of their ability?

Although the monsters of negative self talk, greed and deceptive pride can be a very real distraction in life, we don't have to fear their demands when we walk in Truth. 2 Timothy 1:7 We can be ready when we see them sneaking around us, ready to devour who we are now and what God wants us to one day become. 1 Peter 5:8

Over the years, a few of my friends and acquaintances may think that I 'do' good things to earn brownie points with God, to get to heaven or that I 'do' things out of fear of God. But nothing can be farther from the truth. I DO things out of a love for God, who first loved us, and what he has DONE for us on the cross. John 3:16-17


2 Timothy 1:7 - For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

AC3 VB92 Dunk & Trunk

Check out this weeks video blog right here as Rick and Dan get you information about an upcoming weekend at AC3. Enjoy! :)

Friday, October 9, 2015

A New Seeds Season...

AC3's Seeds of Grace of ministry began 15 years ago with one volunteer putting some free loaves of bread out on a card table...

Since then Seeds has grown into a full service food bank, which served hundreds of families per week at the depth of the "Great Recession" in 2009/2010, and has since bloomed into a complete Resource Center, offering access to all kinds of help from mental health services, to housing and counseling.

But the latest fruit to grow out of Seeds is the Market Mentors Program (MMP). We've learned over the years that when people have a need, helping is not a one-size-fits-all affair. In fact sometimes, "Helping Hurts" and so we began exploring ways to move beyond providing Relief (like a food bank) and adding ways to Rehabilitate and Develop people. MMP grew from that.

Beginning last Summer, our Seeds of Grace Market Mentors began working with 3 "apprentices", coordinating their efforts with other AC3 Community Center endeavors like First Fruits Coop and Marysville Farmer's Market to offer job skills training, resume support, communications and team building and character development.

Under the guidance of their mentors, the apprentices processed fresh produce from First Fruits, set-up and operated a booth at the Market, managed the business, provided customer service and even expanded their product line to include up-cycled pallet furniture and garden aprons! Each apprentice was compensated with a percentage of the profits from the market and with a stipend for actual work performed. At the end of the eight week program, each had attended job skills and interview training, gained scores of hours of practical experience and lots of one on one coaching. Also included is a Certificate of Completion and an expertly prepared resume they can use to land that "dream job".

AC3 - this is a super big win for our Compassion Initative and we wanted you to know! Does this capture your imagination? Can you see yourself being a part of this kind of ministry? We will be launching a second round of the MMP in the Spring of 2016 and Twila Crain would love to hear from you.

If you're motivated by helping in different ways, Seeds continues to provide Relief in the form of weekly food distribution on Wednesdays and Saturdays  - one of our key volunteer leaders is going to be recovering from surgery for several months and we're looking for someone to help out with weekly sorting and storage of foods on Wednesdays...just let Twila know you're interested.

And don't forget: AC3 is a partner in the Marysville Cold Weather Shelter, and there's always room for another caring team member to help save lives as the temperatures begin to drop this Fall. Just drop and email to Dan and he'll get you connected.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Say Yes!

By Guest Blogger: Jamie Williamson

During the summer of 2014 I found myself lonely and depleted as a stay at home wife and mother of 2 girls under 4 years old. All I wanted was to feel like I was more than THIS. I went to Vision Cast that summer, as I have many times before, and our topic of that weekend was “Why Not Me?”. I never thought of myself as a leader or someone who had much left to give after all the things I did for my family and home. I kept feeling a nudge from God to serve, but I never knew where I fit in at AC3. Then God brought Cayce into my life. She was someone looking for a community and support and the Spirit prompted me to talk to her. We spent many hours walking and talking to each other. I mostly listened because I knew she needed a friend.  But as it turns out, I needed her friendship more then she would ever know. That experience gave me the courage to tell God that I’m ready for what He has for me. 

After the Pause that summer, my oldest daughter started school at Prepare The Way. Shortly after the school season started, I got a private message on Facebook from someone I didn’t know, but was friends with her because she was another preschool mommy. She asked to hang out with me so we went for a walk the next preschool day to get to know each other. I met with her on many divine appointments in person and in message to talk about what was on her heart. I didn’t know what was happening at the time, but soon I found myself in the front row seat of Alicia Christiansen falling in love with her Savior. It was the most amazing experience and I am so thankful for every moment of that. 

With those two friendships I had made that year, God gave me a thirst to love my church community greater. I knew loneliness. I knew feeling like an outsider. I knew the struggle of life as a stay at home mom and wife. I began really seeing faces that needed all the things I also needed. I wanted to form a community for women like me, who struggled, sometimes daily, with the hardships of serving a family. I wanted those women to know that God sees all they give every day, and it’s not for nothing. Motherhood is challenging, but if we can embrace this job and lean into it, imagine the legacy we can create?  Maybe we can really change our community? I prayed over it a lot summer of 2015 and God prompted me to come along side Jaime Dodds and Moms as Mentors was formed. I could have never gotten this off the ground without God and without Jaime.

More times than I can count the enemy has tried to make me feel like I have nothing to offer other women.  That I’m not qualified to encourage these moms, because I struggle so much myself as a wife and mother, but God keeps reminding me that I am more qualified BECAUSE I struggle. Again and again God whispers to me to fear not, because if God has plans for something to happen, it’s going to happen! Doesn’t He always promise to be with you where ever you are? I may have one or two women that need this group and they will be profoundly changed from it. I might crash and burn and fail miserably, but I can say with confidence that God will be with me. Will you have the courage to say YES through the fear and doubt? It’s an unforgettable experience when you say yes and it has the power to change your life.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

AC3 VB91 Things to Know

Check out this weeks video blog as Dan and Rick talk about a few things you need to know coming up this month. Enjoy! :)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Buckets, buckets, buckets...

By Dan Hazen

Bill Hybels, Senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, is fond of reminding other church leaders that, "vision leaks".

Imagine each person at AC3 carrying a bucket with them everywhere they go. It's not filled with water but with vision. Like water, vision sustains us, nourishes, energizes and keeps us strong, healthy and focused on the mission to which God has called us. Everyone has one of these vision buckets and everyone needs the vision they contain. The Bible says that "without vision, the people perish..." Proverbs 29:18

So you can understand why it's important to remember that "vision leaks"! Just like a hike through the desert with a leaky canteen, it would be really uncomfortable, or even disastrous to begin a God-adventure with a leaking vision bucket, and no way to re-fill it.

The journey would certainly fail.

There are two responsible parties when it comes to keeping your bucket full to the brim with fresh, invigorating vision:

1. It's you. Acts 2:42 says of the people in the first church, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Notice that the action is on the part of the people: "they devoted themselves..." In our culture of deepening selfishness and demanding customer service, it's important to remember that each of us is first responsible for our own relationship with God and with connecting to his vision in a meaningful way. Is your vision bucket low or empty? It's on you to take steps to get it filled back up!

2. Your leaders. If you need a dose of vision, and you're ready to do something about it..Good for you! But where do you go? Ephesians 4:11 says , "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service..." A big part of a leader's job in equipping the people of the church is to fill up their vision buckets. That's why we're here! One of my favorite experiences as a church leader is to sit across from a brother or sister and hear them say, "I want more of God in my life - I want to make a difference for Him, I want my life to count...but where do I start?" 

In that spirit: here's a cup or two of vision for your bucket:

If, as you read this, you consider AC3 your church home, I want you to know that the Creative Teams are this week working feverishly to get ready for a new series called "Beach Bucket Bingo" 

(do you see what I did there....beach you see? Do you?!)

It's a silly, all original (including music!) sermon series examining friendships in our post-modern world. It's an homage to the 1960's 'beach party" movie genre. You can watch a trailer for the 1965 movie that inspired us here.

What you may not be aware of, though, is that all the effort being put forth by set-builders, actors, musicians, teachers and support people is not for you.

"Wow, Hazen, way to fill up my vision bucket  -  with VINEGAR!"

But hold on. 
Stick with me. 

It's not for you... It's for the people you love. 

One of the biggest leaks in AC3 vision buckets is the notion that weekend services are first for "us". They are not. They are for you to use as a safe place to invite your friends who are far from God, struggling, questioning, or hurting. There are countless empty seats in really great churches all around Marysville where any believer can sit down and receive great teaching, camaraderie, personal fulfillment and a sense of belonging. 

But who is making room for the people who are still on the outside? 

When the the Titanic went down in 1912, only 2 of the 20 lifeboats, once safely in the water, made their way back to the scene in an effort to rescue fellow passengers. Lifeboats #4 and #14. It's true that not many were saved, but that fact doesn't really matter the people who were saved.

As we kick off this fun and energetic series, let us temper it with the sobering, courageous and selfless vision of lifeboat #14 plying the waters. Yes - customer service matters. But never forget, AC3:

We are not the customers...

...We are the Staff. 

We are no longer floundering passengers and drowning victims...

...We are The Crew. 

We are already aboard the boat, pulling hard on the oars together, reaching out into the cold night, ready to make room for