I walk away from so many conversations with ideas and regrets of things I wish I said, or what I ought to have said different.  One Thursday evening I met a guy named Zeek, and our conversation did not end up that way at all.

I was walking past the McDonalds towards the park with Claire and Jess late on a Thursday afternoon when we were stopped by a guy wanting to sell us something.  There was loneliness in his words as he began his story.  He said he was from Maine, and had driven his Winnebago out of the winter into the sunshine, and then back again into the gloomy fog that looms over the SF peninsula.  He said he was looking for some kids he could trust to join him on the road up the coast through Oregon, and wondered if we were the kids.  He said he studies philosophy, does a little music, some poetry, and was a bad writer, but all he really knew how to do was sell dope.  Jess wondered if he could sell other things.  He said His father was a sales man, and he thought he could but thought it hard selling things he did not believe in. 

The conversation wandered through learning that his father was protestant, and he was trying to figure out what he believed.  I was surprised because he had some very Jewish seeming features.  He said that when he was thirteen he felt it was time to own his own belief, and so he began reading and studying different ways of thought, and that he had basically collected a lot of ideas from many different places and had put a bunch of them into a big pot of soup.

That prompted me to ask him what he was searching for, and followed up before he could answer with another question, "What are the qualities of something that made them authentic?"  He struggled with this question, and said he really found himself to be an agnostic and a skeptic.  So he did not know what makes something real or true.  He wondered if it was that many people believed it, or was it that he believed it?  I told him that I was sure we could find some guy out in this park who thought he was Paris Hilton, but we would both know that was not true.  I asked him again personally what made something authentic to him, and what was he searching for.  He said he found the question stunning, and said that was something he really needed to think about. 

Then he asked us how we came to our convictions.  We told stories of having grown up in the church, but at 13 plugged into our youth groups.  For Jess, she said that in high school she received a really strong conviction to get serious with her faith, and I gave further testimonies of God's provision and faithfulness in many times of need when I had stepped out into the unseen out of obedience.
He seemed to really be intrigued but our conversation soon ended.  He said we had really challenged him to think about what it was he was searching for, and that his best guess of where he would look for an answer would be according to the laws of the world, such as the laws of physics for instance.  Before he left, he said that he did wish he had the certainty to know when he was walking in the right way and when he was not.  I gave him the last word and we parted.

Two weeks later Jess saw him again, and he had this wild story that happened the evening after we met him.  He lost his dog and then met Christians in the park, while looking for his dog.  They gave him Pizza, and then all surrounded him and began to pray.  It really freaked him out, and he would have left, but he heard a voice tell him that every thing was going to be okay.  Then he felt peace like he had never felt before.  He found his dog again, and went to bed feeling some sort of amazing peace.  He thought his life would never be the same after that.  He was surprised to wake up the next morning feeling normal again.  He was discouraged, but really wanted to talk to us.   Jess invited him to our Amigos bible study.  He was excited, but then he never came.   Two more weeks went by and then we ran into him again.  He seemed to be preoccupied with something but told us he had been busted for selling dope and had been to jail.  We continue to keep an eye out for him every time we are in the park, hoping to continue that work we hope that perhaps the Lord has begun.

The time Andy gave me 112$

When I was 17 I saved up money so I could go to work with an outreach ministry called Prodigal Project in northern California connecting with hippies. I made myself a budget and worked coaching gymnastics to reach it. When I had enough money for the train ride and 300$ extra for spending money, I excitedly bought a one way ticket! I was super psyched! My birthday was a few days before I left so some friends threw me a surprise party! As I was getting ready to go, a friend named Andy walked up to me and slipped me a wad of rolled up money and said Jesus told him to give it to me for my trip. I thanked him- a bit surprised as I hadn’t asked anyone for money. When I unrolled it, I counted 112$. Aghast, never having received money like that, I went back to him and told him it was too much. He put it back in my hand and said Jesus would show me how to use it. I kept that wad, rolled up in my drawer. Every time I had an opportunity to give in a big way I smiled, knowing I had the means, if God wanted me to use it. Every time I felt like I was supposed to use my own money and kept watching for that one special thing that this money was meant for. I got live simply and thus had the ability to do lots of fun things in sharing my 300$, but at the end of my 3 months there I was a bit frustrated wondering who this 112$ was for and sat down to pray. Then I realized. That 112$ had changed me. It gave me the eyes to look for how God may be allowing me to give. I laughed, and when I got home I gave it back to Andy, telling him that his money had done exactly what it was supposed to do- changed my heart and given me the eyes to look for where I have the capacity to give, because I do have a reserve in heaven!

A night at Amigos

Amigos Chow Line

Every Thursday night the Outer Circle hosts a gathering we call Amigos.  Our purpose for this gathering is to provide a space where our Christian friends from the street and our friends from church can mix it up and learn to follow Christ together. I say this, because an outsider walking into our kitchen or living room during a typical Amigos night might not be able to figure out what was going on.  It is a complicated scene.
By 5:30 a meal is usually nearing completion.  What this meal looks like depends on each person's contribution for the night.  It is usually a hodge-podge of food bank faire and some large, simple, and delicious main dish, perhaps chili or spaghetti.  The clanking and banging of pots that functions as a musical prelude during the preparation of food for a group is accompanied by a quartet of singing, crying, and chasing-each-other-through the kitchen two-year-olds.  Add to these sounds, conversation, laughing, especially Jessica laughing, a timer going off to remind Claire to take the biscuits out of the oven, and it is understandable that it requires yelling to gather everyone to pray for the food.

Once circled up and in the kitchen, we all join hands.  The kids either want to hold hands with the adults or stand in the middle of the circle and ham it up for the crowd.  Capitalizing on a moment of quiet, I pray: "Lord, thank you for this chance to be together tonight. Thank you for this food.  Please be with all of our friends that don't have any food or anyone to be with tonight.  Please bless our fellowship, amen." Then plates are filled up, and the eating begins.

Dinner actually goes by quickly.  It's the transitions from prep to meal, meal to clean up, and clean up to worship that end up taking the most time.  When the dishes are done and most of the people have moved from the dining table to the living room, someone starts playing the guitar to kick off our worship time.  Somehow, when we sing together at Amigos no one seems uncomfortable.  It's fine with everyone if someone sings loudly and another doesn't sing at all.

After we finish singing, someone from the group teaches on a passage of scripture that has been helpful to them recently.  This week it's my turn to share.  I sometimes struggle about feeling discouraged and have recently been looking at some scriptures about pressing on.  After reading Philippians 3:7-14 to the group I ask, "How do you all press on?  What makes you continue to want to live and seek God?"
A few different people share their experiences or advice.  Someone reads a verse that they find helpful when they are feeling discouraged.  Then Joe shares.
"My biggest problem is my own stinking thinking.  If I listen to the advice that I give to myself, I get in trouble fast.  I have to figure out how to shut me up and listen to God.  Praying usually helps.  I pray everyday, every time I leave my house.  I struggle with myself everyday," he says.

Joe's simple, honest advice spurs me on, challenging my hopelessness.  Something shifts in my heart and mind.  I feel lighter.  I am encouraged.  I am grateful for this community.  We pray to close our time together and another night of Amigos is over.

todays inspiration...

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

-Oscar Romero
(who served the people of El Salvador and was assassinated in 1980 while he was saying mass in San Salvador.)


I was walking with Molly to the memorial. Her dad and brother had died.
She had spent the night and I am currently in the night time rhythm of reading some cool quotes about Jesus that inspire me, so we had read a Fredrick Dougless quote that read “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

Now it was probably 1 am by the time we had calmed our giggling and crying and settled down to bed so we were pretty tired and emotionally fried as we walked to the memorial. We were quiet as we got closer.

Memorials in the park are held by getting really drunk and writing a note on something to remember them by.

“Jesus,” I began to pray “please keep everyone safe today, and keep alcohol away from this memorial.” Molly laughed. I glared at her- “what- I can pray for a miracle.” I responded. “Maybe we should start praying with our hands” she responded.
I smiled.

Tattoos hurt.
But they are art so we bare with it for the result.
The artist (hopefully if all went well) brags to friends about how fast and sharp he threw up the piece on your arm.
“Nah, the pain wasn’t that bad. Only 6 hours of work.” You respond to the inquiries hoping for that nod of affirmation that -yes, you are a bad ass.

Allowing Jesus to work on us hurts.
It is uncomfortable.
He may brag to the angels how great we are doing, how proud he is of us but we don’t come out looking like a bad ass, at least not to our eyes.

I am on a solitude retreat right now.
Sitting still.
Allowing God to work on me.
Show me pieces of me I never knew were there.
Lousy prison tats.
He is doing a clean up job.
And it is beautiful.
When I go home I am sure I will complain.
I won’t like the colors he chose.
It should be a little smaller or more to the right.
But that is a slam on his art.
And he only does perfect work.

So I will go back.
I will bite a sock and ask for more.
Lay out on that plastic table.
Awkward, half naked and a little scared
and ask,
What are you thinking now Jesus?
I am ready.

Tiny pricks on my skin
The ink sinks in
The blood rises
I am a masterpiece
Of my Fathers hand.


as they fallI’m reminded of their refreshing role to express deep and complex things their ability to communicate far beyond words they respond to that inside their droplets of beauty which  washover my face renew a needful heart I lose to them coming under their release they stream down with each one that falls I remember your care I know you see them they were stored for years believing they represented weakness acknowledging I have needs I need you Jesus in disbelief, mourning, joy, and sadness I need you I need you to pour from me fill me, come closer to me and move inside of me its wonderful to be reminded apart from you i cannot stand my life comes from you you alone make things right I see these things in tears not spelled out but in a mysterious way like your kingdom continue to come my tears saturate this heart that is yours and in great need


when nothing is left and you cant find the answers
for why things have gone and disappeared into blackness
i've tried to remain but change happens fast
too fast to notice until it's long past
etching inside are proverbs
i've been here before the static no longer bothers
cannot make life any harder
love lost to drugs
my offerings are altered
custom fit crosses that come taylor made
i've buried the hatchet reopening graves
being haunted by demons is hard to forget
i'm waiting for patience that doesn't come quick
my quest continues maybe this is as good as it gets
my clothes are still ripped from the the chain linked fence
full of incense from the bowls that were lifted
laid open and bare in the presence of drifters
the organized mislead
organic mechanics
trapped in the orbital magic of bad habits
and the ancient agreements
of those who have come to a decision
nobody asks for the life that their given
a prison surrounds the tap water with bars
we all fall apart and reopen scars

by wes

to nini

These are some Lyrics to a song I wrote about a girl I met on the street who reminds me of "Juno" from that movie- cute, witty, young and determined.

She came over to my house one day and we were patching some holes in her pants and talking about life and I smiled at her choice of fabric- some faux fur- to patch her jeans but knew it wouldn't stay on and I thought about how she was doing the same in her decisions in life when I knew of some (God related) fabric that could really patch things up beautifully.

To Nini

i saw your face today on the TV screen and my heart jumped

i love you Nini

your little face and your patchy jeans make me smile

and make me want to

make it all better

i wanna make it all better

Will you let me make it all better?

We can stitch your heart just like your jeans.

Will you let me make it all better?

I'll choose the fabric.

it wasn't your face today on the TV screen but my heart jumped.

i love you Nini

when i think about you i cry

and quickly move on to other subjects

you left far to fast and aren't all better

Jesus make me all better

you can stitch my heart just like her jeans

Jesus make me all better

You choose the fabric.

man made

that which never was
brings sadness
i made it what i wanted

and it left me sad
the perceived world 
leaves one end
desperate for what i wanted
left sad by the way things are
show me what is real
as to spare this sadness
over things i wished were
bring to light
that which is real
and far beyond what i perceive

I've Walked Through the Desert Heat

a poem by our friend Scott Mitchell

I've walked through the desert heat
I've felt its sun blister my skin
I've shivered in the Montana snow
And even predicted my own end
I've slept with one eye open
In an alley way where junkies fix
Stolen from corporate America
Just for stupid silly kicks
I've sat for hous on city streets
Sparen for left overs and change
I've lied for the sake of lying
When the truth wouldn't hurt
I've lived a life of insanity
So illogical and absurd
And those who've tried to love me
I have simply pushed aside
Drunkenness and self loathing
Are the fortress walls in which I'd hide
Lord please take this sinner
And please save me from myself
I'm lost with no real direction
I need you Jesus an no one else
Come into my heart, Dear Lord
And teach me to walk within your light
Weaken me, for you're my only strength
Walk with me both day and night

Dawn of Day

This is a song by our friend Scott Mitchell

'Dawn of Day'
The dawn of day I miss so much
Watching the darkness melt beneath the light
Like an angels burning touch
Still somehow I can never seem to get it right
:1st verse:
So here I sit inside this cage
Lord please take this anger and rage
Hatred tries to rise up again
It's so hard once it all begins
People here that claim your name
then curse each other it's so insane
So I write my prayers in poetry
I want you not the majority
Guard me heart soul and mind
As once again I'm doing time
:2nd verse:
I heard a convict claim your love
While his knuckles still stained with blood
I guess his idea of mercy and grace
Is bruising up someone else's face
Blessings and curses fill the air
Hypocrites and liars pollute the air
It's so hard not to sit and judge
It ain't easy trying to live in love
Lord help me stand against the odds
Enemy to the world I'm a servant to God