Peaceable Yelling

Leonard came up to me, breathless, about halfway through our weekly pancake picnic. “You’ll never believe what just happened,” he said quietly, a small, stunned smile on his face. I stepped away from the canister of wipes I was using to clean the pancake bin of stray batter.

Leonard, a former military service member, came to the park about one year ago, miracles accompanying him across the country as he arrived in record time. He began coming over to our house, stepping into Bible Study, and helped to overhaul our bottom floor to rid it of black mold. He stores delightful secrets. Grizzled gray hair, gnarled with curls, pokes out from under his dark baseball cap. We rarely see him without a coffee; a welcome commonality between he and I, as the rest of the current staff team prefers tea. Leonard speaks with a deep timbre which quickly turns wheezy when he breaks into laughter. He carries a small messenger bag, a soothing presence, and a cache of surprises; it took six months for us to learn that he had coached multiple people to national championships in artistic roller skating.

Two months ago, InnerCHANGE challenged staff members to conduct Bible Studies more boldly in our contexts. Rather than have the team lead a study in the park, Leonard accepted the request to lead the Bible Study himself. A natural teacher, his Bible studies featured an air of calm and introspection. In his personal time, he cultivated a spirit of faith, and a deeper intimacy with Jesus the peacemaker.

The journey to peacemaking did not come without bumps. In Leonard’s hearing, another park resident maligned the military, and started accusing Leonard of lying about his veteran status. Infuriated, Leonard chased the man out of the park; this retribution aligned completely with park code. Still, Leonard walked away after ejecting the man and heard God’s voice. “That’s not how I want you to do things anymore,” God said.

Two weeks later, the breathless Leonard returned to our pancake picnic site. He had left to invite people from the front of the park to come to pancakes. As he approached the front, he saw a friend whose child had recently died. Another tall, unknown man from the park was accosting the man whose child had died. What had likely begun as a small dispute escalated. By the time Leonard saw them, the man whose child had died held a glass bottle, ready to strike. The unknown man stood inches from his face, fists balled. They screamed at each other.

Leonard rushed between them, turning to face the unknown man. Leveling his gaze, he looked at him and said, “In the name of Jesus, you will leave this park.” The unknown man continued to yell to the man whose child had died, attempting to ignore Leonard. “In the name of Jesus, leave this park,” Leonard said again, more forcefully. The unknown man paused. Leonard, yelling, repeated the command, “in the name of Jesus, leave this park! In the name of Jesus, you will leave now!”

Taken aback, the unknown man faltered, turned, and left as Leonard continued to yell and point away from the park. Once the man left, Leonard turned to check on the man whose child had died. After briefly confirming that he was unharmed and could begin to calm down, Leonard left to return to pancakes, eyes wide.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever done something like that,” he breathed as he relayed the story to me, “and I’m pretty sure everyone in the park heard me.” He stepped away, drained from the battle.

We served the rest of the pancakes uneventfully; Leonard had already battled for peace at the front.


“The most powerful thing you can do to change the world is to change your own beliefs about the nature of life people and reality, to something more positive and begin to act accordingly.” ~Shakti Gawai As a child, I was naturally trusting of people around me, my family and those whom I called friends. I would’ve bought the moon if you tried to sell it to me. Even into my mid-teens I was an extremely unquestioning young man to the point that I could’ve gotten into legal trouble by “friends” taking advantage of my gullible nature. Dating as a young man was a disaster; I trusted that the girl I was madly in love with would follow through on all her promises to love me forever. When our relationship ended after three years of dating I was crushed.

Growing up my parents met only my basic needs and I did not receive the emotional support that I craved. My life turned into perpetually hunting for the love and affection that I did not receive at home.  In adulthood, this search led to marriage and divorce, twice, with each marriage lasting three years or less. After some time being single, I was found by a wonderful woman with whom I fell in love with, only for her life to be ended thru a car accident after three years of bliss.

Being vulnerable with people is not one of my strong points because of the emotional pain I’ve endured. Some of the anguish I’ve brought onto myself. Other times, it’s been brought upon me. Learning to accept full responsibility for the emotional distress I brought onto myself has been instrumental in helping me mature and heal. Shutting down emotionally became my default action for many years when I felt I was being attacked by those in my life. My acquired learning of how to be egocentrically numb led to becoming harsh, abrasive, confrontational and rejecting of people which in turn led to automatic suspicion of everyone.

So how does one learn how to be trusting and unguarded after so much rejection, guilt, bitterness, and hardness of heart setting into someone’s life? I can only speak from my own experience on this. My journey began when an unexpected woman and her friends came into my life and offered me nothing but their friendship. Naturally, I was suspicious of their motives and kept them at arm's length for several months. When I figured out that they were giving me a genuine offer of friendship, I cautiously started to accept them into my life. Prior to meeting my friends, I had a jaded and distorted view of love, acceptance, friendship, and family.

As I learn to be vulnerable with others I’m reminded of Christ’s vulnerability with mankind. I think popular worship leader Misty Edwards says it best in her song Arms Wide Open.

And then I saw Him there, hanging on a tree, looking at Me

I saw Him there, hanging on a tree, looking at me….

He had arms wide open, a heart exposed

Arms wide open; He was bleeding, bleeding

Love's definition, love's definition was looking at me...

This is how I know what love is, this is how I know

What love is

Genuine love and true friendship requires open arms which means you have to have an exposed heart. For someone who has been hurt, abused, taken advantage of, traumatized, and rejected this is not an easy task. Are there times that suspicion wants to raise its ugly head and I get the urge to cut and run? Absolutely! In those moments, I’m reminded by my friends, “How does Jesus feel about this”? Of course I never really want to hear those pearls of wisdom, but in the end I know they’re right. Arms Wide Open, a heart exposed.

It feels so good to be able to go and be able to talk freely with someone who “gets” you. Even with all your quirks and flaws, they’re able to let you be you without judgment and condemnation. Not only have my friends have done that for me, but through them I’ve come to realize that God truly wants me to be vulnerable with Him. His open arms and exposed heart have given me the ability to be start being vulnerable with others regardless of how many times they stab me, lash out at me, or reject me. Through their actions, they have modeled for me how Christ has opened Himself up to mankind's rejection, scorn, and abuse, yet His arms are always open to receive you in your mess. Vulnerability can be very messy and painful, if you go about it correctly, it can lead to very big returns in your life.

I have found that forgiveness is a key ingredient for becoming open with those who love you most. Knowing who you are is another additive to achieving freedom from the cage of emotional seclusion

and feeling unworthy of love and acceptance. These are just a small amount of the actions that must be done to attain vulnerability. Healing, freedom, connection, and acceptance are all fruits that grow in your life when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. Take it from someone who once considered vulnerability to be a weakness and who is learning that being exposed emotionally leads to a plethora of freedom in life.


***Service Opportunity for New Staff***

SFOC Discipleship Flat

The Outer Circle Team Vision
We invite the lonely, the outcast, and the wanderer
into restoration of their entire beings by
drawing them to Christ,
giving them what we have,
and bringing them into community
by being their friends.


The San Francisco Outer Circle (SFOC) discipleship flat or as it is “lovingly” called ‘Purgatory’ is a transitional discipleship flat for our formerly homeless and/or drug addicted friends. Our aim is to redefine and redeem the concept of family by modeling Christ-like behaviour, discipling towards spiritual growth and restoration, and encouraging healthy rhythms of life through structured living, volunteering, and regular spiritual practice.


Duration: months, 6 months, or 1 year

Dates: Summer/Fall 2017

Applications due: Ongoing

We are looking for someone who has a passion for trainhoppers, gutterpunks, hippies and other travelers, who is comfortable discipling in the intersection of addiction and faith, and who wants to serve incarnationally!

In short, we are praying for someone to assist as a “right-hand (wo)/man” in our discipleship flat here in the Mission District serving our houseless friends! Do you know someone who could serve in this way for the summer/fall? Maybe a youth leader in transition, an intentional community dreamer with a missional heart, or perhaps a rehab staff who wants to go missional?


Living with us and a few houseless friends in a lovely 4-story Victorian hospitality house in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Hosting, mentoring, and walking with the guests on your flat through faith, addiction, and emotional crisis in life.

Sharing your time and space and choosing to do life together!

Assisting the Discipleship Flat Lead by planning shared learning curriculum and Bible studies.

Pursuing a rich relationship with Christ!

And a willingness to learn!


For this role, we are looking for someone who is comfortable with incarnational community living, loves Jesus, has a passion for the homeless, doesn’t mind reparenting adults, experience/background is a bonus, but not required in psychology, rehab, communal living, or some discipleship program.

You would be comfortable and experienced mentoring someone struggling with addictions and mental health challenges.

We need someone who can be a leader/house parent/host for the flat. Comfortable facilitating flat meetings, making decisions, and dealing with conflicts as they arise. Managing chores and praying!


Are you an accountant, lawyer, gardener, addiction and trauma counselor, storyteller, teachable spirit, a love of cooking, bible study facilitator, great listener, lover of punk music, Someone who wants to experience relationships with homeless youth, comfortable camping, or handy man? We could really use those skills!


Developing and maintaining relationships with homeless and formerly homeless friends, assisting the Discipleship Flat Lead, mentoring and assisting in crisis, as well as daily life skills, helping with meals, attending and assisting with team functions.


For more information or to apply: Email or Facebook Claire and Brian at-


Thanksgiving & Generosity

A Yawn is a Silent Scream for Coffee"A Yawn is a silent SCREAM for COFFEE" "Hey! You all want coffee?" exclaimed a young woman reading our sign, her mouth filled with braces. She came over to us, clutching a tray with a large McDonald's coffee. "Here you go... Oh, there's a bunch of you!?!? Here's a dollar to get another."

We introduce ourselves learning her name is Rosemary. "I got $20 yesterday for telling a guy off for being gross. Never got money for that before..."

Since there were a bunch of us, some of us went to McDonald's while others got to know her more. She'd been on the road for a few months and had been travelling before.

Later Elizabeth and I would accompany Rosemary up the street along with her friend Giant. From time to time she would stop, pick up a smashed but only partially consumed cigarette, and continue walking, mumbling a quick prayer of thanksgiving after each discovery. She and Giant, mostly Giant, told us a story about trans people being aliens unable to comprehend gender which devolved into a general existential malaise and eventually nihilism.

"But love has to win." I proclaimed.

"I mean, whether or not that's true, it's really the only way to live." Rosemary mumbled a quick agreement as we arrived at our destination.

"Need any tobacco?" she asked, "I have a bunch."

Staying in the park a few days this spring, I learned a lot about myself like my fear of not having enough and my tendency to protect resources that we might need tomorrow. By contrast, I experienced great generosity and thanksgiving from Rosemary and others.

I love that we get to join with God's work in the Haight and Golden Gate Park, that we not only get to serve but also learn from our friends.

A Memorial Day Reflection by a Friend in Golden Gate Park

Memorial day is a day where we are supposed to remember our fallen soldiers. What I like to do is make a post about soldiers who impacted my life...whether they are alive or not. The first year I posted was about my Grandfather who was killed on the last day of world war 2 after being recalled from a bombing mission over Japan. My second post was about PFC Devin Grella, a young man in my company who was killed in Iraq in 2004. My third post was about another friend of mine from a different transportation company, SPC Mike Smith, who was also killed in Iraq shortly after PFC Grella. My fourth memorial day post was about my friend and partner SGT Rendo, who is still alive and kicking.
This year I would like to honor SSG Dale Cook. He was my section leader when I was stationed with 85th Division at Ft. Knox KY. SSG Cook was a mentor and guided me towards excellence in my career. Firm, yet gentle was his method of teaching. He could be silly and laugh with us, yet in an instant, turn around and be the leader that he was and needed to be. It was thru his guidance and patience that helped propel me into my own status as a Non Commissioned Officer and combat leader. I recognize that as an NCO, I stood on his shoulders from what he taught me, and that I stood on the shoulders of other NCO's that I followed during my 10 years of service. I honor their service, dedication, and mentoring. While SSG Cook is still alive, I would like to honor him specifically this year because his guidance helped me in ways he may never know...and it helped bring me home from combat. SSG Cook....I salute you.

Spatial Relations

This past weekend, Matt’s parents gave us one of the best gifts a couple can receive: a bedroom door! I cannot overstate how excited I am for the ways a door to our room will give us more felt freedom for hospitality - and longer hospitality. Working with friends who don’t live in houses challenges me daily to think about how space -- physical, geometric space -- deeply shapes who I am and my relationships. When we debriefed our park-stay a couple of months ago, Claire asked us what we had not been able to do as a team and as SFOC staff, because we were absent from our house.

“Hospitality time,” one of us said. Another noted we didn’t have people over for laundry or meals. We didn’t have any conversations with our formerly homeless housemates.

Snickering, I leaned over to Matt and whispered that we had not known each other (in the biblical sense), since being in the park, since none of us had tents and we slept in a clump of sleeping bags.

“We didn’t have sex!” Matt relayed my quip to the rest of the group.

“I’m very glad for that,” Claire said, guffawing, “that would have made me super uncomfortable.”

Of course, we were mostly needling and being silly, but I think about it as a reality for our friends in the park. I imagine what it would be like to have no private place to process, to reconnect, to argue with Matt. I wonder what it would be like to be stuck with him in a tent or car for three days straight due to rain. We often get compliments on our marriage and our interactions with one another, and I find myself doubting how many we would get were we in the same situation as many of our friends.

“What do you do when you fight?” One of our friends recently asked me at pancakes.

I paused, thinking, and then talked about “I”-messages and getting space if I needed to think before having conflict.

“Every little thing builds up more out here,” she said, and then explained some of the more frustrating goings-on in the past few days that had worn out her and her partner. Multiple times in a week, the cops woke up their entire camp and made them move at 4:30am.

Every time Matt and I have been up at 4:30am together has been to catch an airplane. And 87% of those times (according to an extremely scientific study), I have still felt license to be grumpy at him.

When we have had people sleep in our flat, I’ve felt the strain of no privacy. We had a sheer curtain separating us from our guests; being permanently visible exhausted me. Being permanently visible and audible with Matt exhausted me differently. And so when I first clicked our beautiful new bedroom door, I sighed twenty sighs of relief for the past and the future. I’m humbled to think what a great effect a small piece of wood can have on my behavior, and I cast my respect to my friends who find ways love each other, solve conflict, and commit without one.

Thoughts on showing up

"Hey, you been comin' around for a while now, yeah?" and "Oh hey, I remember you guys! What's up?" and "You're in the park every Monday and Friday, right? Every week..." and "You guys are the cool pancake people!" 
Lately, I've been noticing that the consistency of being present is an incredible gift. 
In a city whose culture is permeated with transience, and in a park full of travelers and train-hoppers, consistently showing up is a refreshing change of rhythm. 
I love that we're able to have deeper relationships with our Amigos bible study friends, but sometimes I struggle with not feeling as though I'm connecting in a meaningful way with people in the park. 
Is it really worth it, to have conversations that feel like small talk? But, God has been showing me that being persistently present speaks a powerful word of love to friends in this transient place. 
It says, 
"I am not here to get something from you or to try to fix you. 
I am not just passing through. 
I am just here with you, just sitting and listening and loving and learning alongside you. 
I am not concerned with achieving a result or an efficient outcome. 
I just care about you deeply and love you for you. 
You are worth spending time with and you are valuable in God's sight." 
I pray that God can use my small act of coming to sit with our friends to powerfully communicate His relentless and gently-pursuing love for them!

- Georgia Lee

So you Wanna Know What You Can Give That Really Helps?

 If you have ever worked at a non profit you have received some terrible well meaning donations.

So a friend asked us what we can REALLY use... So we decided to give you a big list!

Street needs:

·       First and foremost as always, socks and underwear (any traveling kid will be your best friend with a pair of clean socks :)
·       Feminine products
·       Tents
·       Sleeping bags (army bags preferably)
·       Small Tarps (preferably brown or green)
·       Backpacks
·       Goodwill gift card
·       Id voucher
·       Quality counseling sponsor
·       Flywheel coffee gift card
·       Whole Foods gift card
·       Another way for homeless friends to eat on a daily basis in Haight
·       A safe dry place to sleep that allows dogs and significant others and discipleship- a transitional but loving home.
·       Lockers so you can go to appointments or even church easily- without what you own being stolen
·       Friends who are sober to hang out with our friends on the street and do normal life things together!
·       New full time staff!
·       Jobs short and long term- so they can get experience and a more current resume as well as legally earned cash!
·       Vehicles for specific sober friends
·       Travel help- flights or greyhound tickets to go home!

Housewarming gifts for newly housed friends:

·       Laptops
·       George forman
·       Crock pot
·       Electric tea pot
·       Coffee set up
·       Microwave
·       Warm blankets

Stuff our house can use:

·       Financial support to get each staff fully funded-
·       Airline miles, or sponsor one of our trips!
·       Grocery cards (safeway, whole foods, trader joes, rainbow, foodsco)
·       Gas cards
·       Blankets
·       Small heaters
·       4 Fans   
·       Shelving for storage
·       Back up pancake power box or someone to invent a new awesomer longer lasting system!
·       A 2000+ watt power inverter

We could use your Talents and Connections!

·       Legal council for friends as well as for pancakes as issues arise
·       Personal assistant
·       Wifi consultant to make it reach our whole house!
·       Volunteer counselor for homeless friends who are scared to go to a center or don’t qualify for free counseling.
·       Babysitters (esp during bible study)
·       Handyman
·       Plumber
·       Bible lovers- to guest facilitate bible study on specific topics as they come up! Perhaps a theology nerd?
·       A person older then us who wants to have kids over for tea and cookies and love on them! Be grandma/grandpa for many who don’t have elders.
·       A house sitter who is willing to host kids while we are gone.- Just sleep at our house and make sure people are alive J
·       A musician who can jam with kids
·       Someone who can introduce good Christian hardcore/punk/folk music to our kids!
·       A Job connector please! To connect us or our kids to possible jobs or to hire them! Please!
·       A passionate person to manage our Odd Jobs website- connecting youth to short term odd jobs for individuals and individuals to a person who needs a short job!
·       A job coach- helping kids get to where they want to be!
·       Rainy day or emergency housing- a person we could call when we have someone who really needs housing but we can’t provide it.
·       A writer to collect our stories and write them well
·       A once a year house deep cleaner volunteer group
·       Moms to visit moms for play dates who are holed up in hotels and learning how to parent.
·       We go on retreats a few times a year to pray or to plan for the year, or sometimes when tough stuff happen to get away and pray and process, so houses with 1+ empty bedrooms that are within 2 hours of SF that you would be willing to let SFOC staff stay in for 2 or 3 nights would be lovely.
·       Other random skills we don’t even know you have! – Tell us what you could do for us and we can tell you if a situation comes up where we could need you!

Pancake supplies-
for 1 year we buy in bulk and spend on average: 926.42$ for Syrup, Sugar, Creamer, Coffee, Pancake batter, Forks, Plates, Cups, etc…

Rainbow Gathering Kitchen supplies:
Around 300$ plus gas.

Thanks for caring!

2960 21st Street
SF CA 94110SF CA 94110


Monday morning I sat down next to Job on our brown plaid picnic blanket. A few others were bustling about setting up to cook pancakes. I asked him how his week was. And he muttered some unintelligible words threaded together as only a maybe 50 year old long term speed user can do, but then pointing at my little book, asked if he could draw. Surprised I immediately found a pen and watched him begin. Circles. Endless circles. Getting deeper. Pushing harder. Almost ripping the paper. I picked up my guitar and began to play. “Give me your hand, and we’ll walk, walk down together” I could watch as the words filled the space bouncing around and calming the area. “lift up your heart and we’ll dream, dream dreams together” And Job began to draw. Slowly but surely. He began to draw. First lines. Then waves. The final product ended when he received his pancake, and wasn’t much to talk about but it was beautiful to me. It was beautiful to see him relax.

What can you give that we can REALLY use?

A gift we really loved! 
If you have ever worked at a non profit you have received some terrible well meaning donations.
So a friend asked us what we can REALLY use... So I decided to give you a big list!
But first I will tell you some stories.
Step is a friend we have known for a few years. He found a bagel shop that was setting its leftovers in a bag in the trash nightly and began acquiring this bag sunday nights and bringing it to pancakes to feed the early arrivers before we made it in the morning. It was such a blessing. There was no desperately hungry souls- we could eat slowly as we love!
Mud is another friend we adore who has been picking blackberries in the park every year in season and bringing them to pancakes to add!
Ryan ground scored (found on the sidewalk) a travel apple to apples game last week and brought it for me, knowing my affinity for the game!
One week I forgot my wallet and needed bus fare- I turned to the nearest friend spanging who immediately gave me the 2$  in change I needed without a hesitation and with a smile- we all know how fun it is to give!
Suzanne would come over monthly around the day her food stamps got turned on a cook a feast at our house and take it out to the park.
Our friends our crazy generous.
Its easy to give when you can look around you and see what is needed and look at what you have to give and make it happen! 
So there you go!
I leave you with a quote.
Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.” 
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“The challenge before the church is that 60% of the world is poor by US standards and 20-30% desperately so, only a tiny fraction of missionaries serve incarnationally among the poor.

 These figures constitute a math problem that is difficult to justify.

 In an age that is quick to speak of the need to minister to unreached people groups the poor remain ironically the single most under reached people blocks in the world. 

Said another way, poverty is keep more people out the kingdom then any peculiarity of geography language culture or ethnicity.

 We believe Christ grieves over this disparity and is busy addressing it.”

 -Postcards from the Journey


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.)