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THE PROBLEM WITHWhat’s the real problem with Fresno?

I grew up here and I grew up hearing your words. In many ways, your words have shaped what the people who grow up here, think about here. Do any of these statements sound familiar?

  • Ugh, it’s just so hot! I hate it here!
  • The only way to survive is to never go outside.
  • Fresno is the armpit of California.
  • Nothing good comes from Fresno.
  • Fresno, the drunkest city in California.
  • Fresno, the meth capital of the world.
  • I can’t wait to graduate and get out of Fresno!

And maybe you graduated and left. But like many of us, maybe you found yourself being pulled back by a gravity you did not understand. And maybe you acted on that gravity or maybe you stay away. Either way…

We need to change our verbage for the next generation. If we continue to talk about how hot it is, how miserable, how awful Fresno is, the best and the brightest will pick up on our scorn and they will leave and they will take their talent and their insight and their drive with them. They will build and contribute to the economy, the industry, the art, the humanity, and the aid of some other people in some other place.

I lived in Malibu for five years and Sonoma County for almost four years and surprisingly, I met a lot of people from the Fresno and the Central Valley area. At the church I worked at in Santa Rosa, we joked about how so many good people come from the Fresno area. We routinely said, “All good things come through Fresno.”

Now, since I’ve moved back and lived here for four years, I’m in love with our cities, with Fresno and with Clovis. There’s so much to love. From a great education, to a police chief that talks to the people and pleads with them to make wise choices, to a mayor who desperately believes in the revitalization of our downtown area, to local restaurants trying to make a genuine impact, not just a dollar. And the list goes on…

I’m not saying we’re perfect, far from it, but we have a strong community and we’ve got people working hard to make a real impact on our problems. People like Feed Our Future Fresno and the Pinedale Impact Center (more on this later).

So, back to my original question, “What’s the real problem with Fresno?” Well, it might be how you think about it.

If you’re going to continue to contribute to the defamation of Fresno, you should probably go find some place to live that you’ll be proud of. I mean it, we don’t have the water or the jobs to support you, so go find someplace that does. Life is too short to live in a place you despise. What’s holding you back? Sell everything, uproot and go. I don’t want my kids to grow up hearing about how awful you think their hometown is. I want them to love it and be motivated to contribute to it. We don’t need to be defeatists, we need to be optimistic and hopeful.

So if you plan on being here, let’s make here the best here it can be.

Let’s be generous and lend a hand to the things that need fixing.
Let’s be active and positive about the future of our great cities.
Let’s be educated and proud of our heritage.
Let’s be supportive and loving to the disenfranchised and marginalized.
Let’s do the things we know we need to do to make our cities even better.

My family and I moved back here to contribute and partake. That’s what being a good citizen is about. You add value to your environment and you engage in the richness of its culture.

But here’s my hunch; a high percentage of you who will move away in the coming months and years, you’ll find yourself in a similar situation, a similar mindset as you have here. You may like the summer temperature in your new location or even the air quality. Those things might be significantly better for you, but in a year or two you’ll find yourself complaining again. The complaints may not be the same, but they will linger. Because your attitude about your city is more about your attitude than your city. Changing your perspective, changes your life and you don’t have to move cities to do that. You may have to move away from relationships or situations, but you may not have to leave your city.

Feel free to disagree, but I love these two cities and I think you should too.


Related Content: 8 Things I learned about Fresno from @HiddenCash

 

 

Rachel Lewis is a Student Impact volunteer at Two Cities Church. She’s a student at Buchanan High School and this is the story of how she searched for and found Two Cities online. Came with her mom and eventually decided to be baptized. Here’s her story:

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I got my family back.

January 6, 2016 — 1 Comment

Missy McGrail has an amazing story of how she got her family back. Missy started hanging around Two Cities Church just over a year ago and now she serves as one of our Guest Services captains and her kids serve in our children’s ministry environments every-other-week. They are now a vital part of our church family. It is because of stories like these that we continue to push forward the mission and vision of Two Cities Church, to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and create a church that unchurched people would love to attend.

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It’s been one year since we launched Two Cities Church into every week Sunday services. We had been networking, fundraising, and praying for what seemed like forever. It took us 6 years of waiting, praying, seeking, listening, learning and dreaming, plus two years of ground work, to get to our launch day. We were filled with expectation, curiosity, and nerves on that day. I remember being a ball of nerves. I don’t get nervous, but on that day I was. We launched with a vision message that we called #WeAreTwoCities. One year later, we took a look back and celebrated what God has done. [You can listen to that here or on our iPhone app.]

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These photos were from our One Year Anniversary after party. See more Photo Booth pictures from our One Year Anniversary here.

After one year, a lot of heartache, ups and downs, changes in our team, changes in the faces that volunteer and attend and more… I continue to say, “It’s Worth it.” It being church planting that is FOR our community and the people in our community. But here’s the thing, it’s worth it because Jesus said with his actions, “You are worth it.” When he spoke to people the religious leaders avoided and he forgave people who didn’t deserve forgiveness and he taught and healed and loved… he communicated that each person, each individual is worth it all. And ultimately, when he died a gruesome and embarrassing death, he did that to pay for the sins of each “worth it” person. You and me.

When I say, “It’s worth it” — it’s worth it because of the stories depicted in the video below, and many more untold stories that have arisen within our community at Two Cities Church.

I know I’m right where God wants me and I can’t wait to see what he does in and through Two Cities Church in our second year.

It’s Worth It. Part 1
It’s Worth it. Part 2
It’s Worth it. Part 3
It’s Worth it. Part 4
It’s Worth it. Part 5

Discovering Periscope
Twitter recently acquired a small live-streaming app called Periscope. It basically allows anybody to live-stream anything from their phone at anytime, anywhere you can get wifi or cell service. It’s an infant, as far as apps go, but it’s pretty powerful. Instead of continuing to explain it… I’ll let Ellen show you:

I didn’t think it would be something I’d get into, but then I read a blog post from my friend Carey all about the possible ministry uses of Periscope and he named several recommendations for people to follow. So, being the early adopter I am, I downloaded the app and tried it out and immediately was struck by the real-time interactive element.

One of the first “scopes” I participated in was from a TV producer who was looking for pitches for shows to produce. I was only on for a couple of minutes, but I wrote in the comment box, “Celebrity Uber Drivers.” And he started talking about that. I was shocked by the feeling I felt when he mentioned my name live and starting interacting and thought, “This is pretty powerful.” I’ve been experimenting with it ever since and even egging on Paul Haugen in doing scopes with cover songs.

I also really enjoy that you can see a world map and jump on any scope you want, but I love that I can zoom in and see if anyone is doing that in my area. I want to make an impact in my area and that means connecting with people I wasn’t previously connected with and this makes it easy to have real-time interaction in a very unique way.

I’ve done several different kind of scopes:
  • Talking about what I’m reading and asking for recommendations — in this one I gave away a book
  • Talking about favorite music and asking for recommendations
  • Streaming some baby birds being fed by their mama in my dad’s backyard
  • Interviewing my son, Josiah (big hit)
  • Brainstorming for message preparation (since I am a Pastor)
  • Showing rehearsal on Sunday morning with our band (@2Cities_Church)

I’m still trying to figure it all out, but I think it’s a platform that will only grow. I know they’re working on an app for desktop and landscape view, which are in high demand.

One guy, Scott Williams, scopes several times a day and he says the key to Periscope is this… You R.O.C.K. it.

Real: Be Real
Often: Be Often
Calculated: Be calculated in what you scope about, where you scope, etc.
Kind: Be Kind

Here’s the infographic that really intrigued me.

PeriscopeTips_Carey_unSeminary

You can download the app here and follow @micahfoster, @haugenpaul and @2cities_church to see how we begin to use it.

What do you think about this new platform?

jamie_no_button1

When we started Two Cities Church, we literally thought to ourselves, “What would a church that (insert name here) would go to look like?” Jamie Medeiros was one of those names. Erica and I have known her for many years now and we’ve never stopped praying her and her family. At one point she told me, “I hate that $%#&*#$* bible.” And now she proclaims Jesus. I am blown away at how God has worked in her life. Now because of the faith she has in Jesus and because her and her son Jack come every week, her son is now telling others that Jesus loves them.

In her story, you’ll notice the many different people played a role in Jamie’s story. One of my favorite quotes is from one of those people and reads, “You are his princess and I love you.”

Imagine how differently our lives might be, if we honestly knew and lived as if this was true.

If you’re looking for a place…
  • that you can be yourself
  • that you are not judged for not knowing about the bible
  • that you can ask the questions you think
  • that you can explore faith without pressure
  • that you can remain anonymous as long as you want
  • that you can belong before you believe
  • that you can believe before you behave
  • and that you can get a sense of family and acceptance

Come and See what we’re all about.

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I Was Blown Away.

June 9, 2015 — 1 Comment

Rudy Gonzalez has an amazing story of redemption. From a stubborn heart to an unbelievable man of God that I am proud to say is my friend. Rudy’s story should be a testimony to us all about grace. I love it when he says, “I was blown away.” I remember that day very clearly and it’s because of these kinds of stories that I continue to seek God’s will in this church-planting adventure at Two Cities Church.

Holy Week is supposed to be an emotional roller coaster. I mean, it’s the week Jesus entered into Jerusalem triumphantly, had an epic meal with his best friends, was betrayed with a kiss, put on trial and executed by the Romans by the pressure of the Jewish leaders and some of the people who were praising him, just one week earlier. That’s a roller coaster.

Add to that the sixth-monthiversary of Two Cities Church and our very first Easter service! There’s some emotion there too.

But this year, Easter weekend was marked by a life-event I never wanted to experience.

Easter Sunday I preached a message about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and how that’s the first-fruit of the resurrection of all of God’s adopted children. But what made that so extremely personal was that as I was preaching, my mom was on her death bed and hardly responsive. She had spent the previous 2-weeks in the hospital and at one point we thought she made a turn and was in recovery mode, but then took another turn.

On Thursday night, the night before Good Friday, I got a call from my sister saying, “You’ve got to come back to the hospital. She’s ready to go home.” Which you’ve got to understand home was not her house. Home meant heaven. So Erica and I rushed over to the hospital and all I could think was, “Of course. She’ll probably wait until 12:01am on Good Friday to go home.” But she didn’t, she hung on. She hung on for my brother to fly in, for my uncle Larry, my aunt Melody, my grandma Dessa and a whole host of others to come say good-bye.

One of the most heart-breaking and memorable things I’ve ever heard was my grandma walking into my parent’s house, seeing my mom on hospice, sitting by her side and saying, “I came to go with you the rest of the way. We started this journey together, just the two of us, long ago and we can finish it together.”

Two days after Easter, on April 7, 2015 Cheryl “Mots” Foster died. My biggest cheer-leader. My go-to person for some encouragement or wisdom. My spiritual role-model. My Mots. But not just my Mots, my dad’s wife, my brother’s mother, my sister’s mother, my wife’s mother-in-law, my kid’s grandma. Our Mots and maybe even your Mots.

The last thing I ever said to her was, “I’ll either see you tomorrow or in heaven. I love you Mots.” And I really do believe that I will see her again.

I could write volumes upon volumes on my mom. Maybe one day I will. But for now, I’ll leave you with this… a video of the celebration we had in her honor this past Saturday. Here are some details.

  • I had the honor to officiating and planning the Celebration.
  • My sister read the obituary.
  • My Uncle Larry told some great stories.
  • My Dad told the story about how they met in Yosemite.
  • My brother talked about her legacy.
  • Around 300 people from all over California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Texas came out to celebrate her life.
  • The majority of us wore RED because that was her favorite color.
  • She had one request in relation to her celebration… she wanted Jill Douty to sing ROAR by Katy Perry. It was her life anthem this past year.
  • We didn’t have a traditional guest book, because that just wasn’t her style. So I had asked my friend’s Josh and Hilary Dildine to create a thumbprint tree for our guest book (pictured below).
  • And we feasted on some great food after the celebration.

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Entire Celebration:

Starting at the eulogy and to the end:

Thank you to all of you who have provided meals, support, love, lent your talent, given hugs and prayed for our family. We have felt your love and will continue on with the mission of Jesus Christ. We love you all.

Sometimes people who are making a huge difference in the world don’t even realize they’re doing it. We have a bunch of volunteers at Two Cities Church who have no idea the impact they have every week on the people walking in our doors. We don’t know the stories of everyone walking in, but a simple “Hello, I’m ______ and we’re so glad you came” goes a long way. It might even change a life.

This is Josh. Jost lost his dad. Josh was bullied. Josh moved to a city school and reinvented himself.

So next time you think you’ve got to have a billion dollars or some significant leadership role to change lives, just remember Josh is changing lives and nobody asked him to. He’s just a door holder.

We’re always looking for more volunteers to help change the world. Why not you?

In what ways are you holding doors?

youre-welcome
A couple of weeks ago I woke up to a Facebook message from someone that I don’t hear from often. There’s a transcript of the conversation:

Friend: Do you need anything?
Me: What do you mean?
Friend: Money?

Let me stop your right there from reading the rest of the conversation. I mean, who wakes up to someone asking them if they need money? That doesn’t happen in real life, right? Well, it did and it happened to me. Ok, keep going…

Me: Well, we are trying to raise 50k to upgrade our elementary environments, invest in chronically hungry kids in Fresno, and hire a second staff member.

I was thinking he was talking about the church, since we’re trying to raise money for our end-of-year giving campaign and expand the work of the church. He responds…

Friend: Nice! Well, I woke up feeling like I needed to give you $300?
Me: Well, I woke up to a crying child and so that brightens the day! LoL
Friend: Haha I should be out of work by 4
Me: Ok, you can also do it through text. Just type WATC to (559) 745-7009. It will ask  you to register a card and then you can text in the amount (300) and it will deduct if rom your account.
Friend: I think it’s cash for you

At this point I was shocked. I thought, “So, you mean to tell me you feel like God is telling you to give me $300 cash, personally… for me? Not for the church?”

Have you ever had an experience like that? No? I wouldn’t expect you to.

Here’s the thing, I met up with him in the Target parking lot. I’m sure it looked like a drug deal to onlookers because we both got out of our cars and he shook my hand with a wad of cash in it and gave me a hug.

I said, “Did God tell you what I was going to do with he cash?”

“No.” He replied.

I thanked him, we chatted and he left.

Imagine the burden to do what is the right thing with this $300. In my family, we have everything budgeted out. We have specific amounts that go to specific categories. We do not frivolously buy anything. We weigh it out because we want to be good stewards of the money God entrusts to us… but for some reason, this $300 weighed extra heavy on us to do the right thing. The problem was, we didn’t know what the right thing was.

So for three days, we prayed about it and one verse kept coming to my mind:

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…”
Luke 16:10 NIV

At the end of those three days, I reached a decision. We were going to give it to the end-of-year campaign at Two Cities Church.

Not even five minutes after I made that decision I got a text from a church planter in Rohnert Park, CA.

Friend: I just saw something on your Facebook about year-end-giving… did you receive our cashiers check? We mailed it.

I had just been thinking about how we need to be faithful with every little gift and God will entrust us with more. That’s exactly what was happening. Now I realize that they had already sent the check and we would’ve received it either way, but I believe God withheld the information until we made the decision he knew we would make.

Later that day I went to the box and do you know what was in that box? A check for Two Cities Church from Discovery Church in Rohnert Park for $1,000. That’s right one-thousand dollars.

Want to see God do miraculous things in your financial life? Don’t squeeze every penny for yourself. Be generous and willing to share. (1 Timothy 6:18) In fact, when it comes to giving, it’s the only thing God actually says to test him on.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the  Lord  Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Malachi 3:10

You have an opportunity to invest in something amazing, the local church. If you do, I think God might do something miraculous in your own life. Be a part of something amazing. Be a part of funding the church so that we can expand our efforts, reach more people, and feed more hungry kids in the name of Jesus Christ.

How?

watc
4 Simple Ways You Can Give to Our “WeAreTwoCities” end-of-year campaign:

  • Send a check to Two Cities Church
    1865 Herndon Ave K304
    Clovis, Ca 93612
  • Send a Text
    “WATC” to 559.745-7009 and then the amount you’d like to give. Here’s a little video to show you how easy it is.
    https://vimeo.com/111665925
  • Give Online by clicking here
  • In Service
    Drop a check or cash into our offering bucket during a service

Your gifts are tax-deductible and you’ll receive a giving receipt in January.

Thank you for being a part of something amazing, the local church, which is the hope of the world.