Safe House

For most of us, when we think of a Safe House we think of a spy thriller like the Bourne series. Jason Bourne, government operative goes rogue and for the rest of the series¬†he’s running from and fighting off those who want to take him down for fear of being exposed. At least once in each film Jason finds his way into a safe house, a place where he can get back on his feet, recover from any injuries, and refuel. Or maybe you’re more of a fantasy fan and remember the scene in Lord of the Rings when Frodo Baggins and the rest of the crew run for their lives, eventually finding their way into the Elfin safe haven, Rivendell. Maybe you’re a history buff and remember the¬†historical safe houses of the Underground Railroad, the secret system that transported escaped slaves from Southern plantations to freedom during the 19th century. Or, stories during World War 11 of members of the French Resistance who hid Jews running from Nazi persecution.

img_2311For us, a “safe house” represents one of our most valuable resources, solid gold. We aren’t government operatives, we are however on the front lines of intense spiritual battles. Our war isn’t against flesh and blood but against the powers and principalities.We trust our cause, our armor and our King. We are well equip with sincerity, righteousness, faith which quenches the darts of temptation, blessed assurance, feet shod with peace, and prayer knitting it all together. Our weapon is the sword of the Spirit, which is sharper than a doubled edged sword and used as an instrument of healing for those that are oppressed, down-trodden or just plain stuck.¬†We see an Empire that¬†wages war on the human soul, traumatizing¬†and binding those caught in the cross fire to debilitating lies and vices. We are love warriors and we battle for what our friend, Craig Greenfield calls the upside-down Kingdom.¬†Oh yes! We freely use our gifts and talents, our story, our merrymaking and music, and a win for us is to see healing, reconciliation and restoration. But, sometimes we need a safe house, a place of refuge from the storm.

Over and over in the ancient text we read that the King of kings IS a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary for all times. In fact, there is a beautiful picture in Psalm 91 of what it looks like to dwell in the shelter of Adonai, the Most High.
It talks of the safety that a baby bird finds under the wings of feather and promises that no disaster or calamity will come near;  for angels will care for and guard us wherever we go.

img_2362We know these words to be true in our hearts mind but also by¬†the evidence¬†demonstrated through the Saints, many of whom we were once strangers to, who continue to offer us refuge along the way. One such community in Australia, has become more than a safe house but a sending house. They have offered us not just a place to heal and recover, but a promise that they will always keep the fire aflame, that they won’t quit in hard times, praying for us with steadfastness and that they will come for us, if we ever fall in the field. And, that is worth more than gold. That is priceless.¬†

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Sacred Space

IMG_3435We talk about sacred space, sharing sacred space and creating sacred space often. It’s not a common term in our circles but it’s not a foreign concept either. Understanding there is nothing new under the sun, we take the idea of going to church, in its limited construct, and usher the sacred into any space that we are in, nature, buildings, buses, etc… so that the space around us becomes “sacred space,”¬†paying sole attention to the Creator of the universe, with hearts of thanksgiving and humility.¬†We do this by leading and participating purposefully in acts of worship, song, reading sacred texts, meditation, reflections, sharing woes and joys, prayers, seeking wisdom and encouragement.

As we travel we are often¬†invited into others expressions of sharing sacred space and¬†it’s always a joy to partner with these folks committed to moving beyond religion and dogma, to the deeper act of worship and sharing in community. Sharing sacred space for us is a necessary part of our journey, it’s like going to the well to refill our water jugs. It’s life-giving and we don’t take it for granted.

Sometimes we meet folks along the way who have grown up in a particular religion and have had what we call “an allergic reaction” to that religion. The result is an on going struggle with guilt, shame, anger and resentment. The conversation tends to revolve around someone or some ideal that they felt betrayed by, leading to disillusionment as well as apathy. Yet, they long for more, but fear and potential lack of desire to push through the pain keeps them from finding the deep connection that comes when we share in the sacred. Our bus rider, Chris, was one of those souls. Our first stop after picking him up from the Mega Bus depot in Washington DC was Frostburg Maryland, where we parked and lived community life with the good folks at Savage River Farm. It was a jam-packed first 24 hours getting to know Chris, digging in the fields, getting to know our hosts and on our second night we made a huge dinner for the everyone, along with about 15 other kinfolk who came to share sacred space. After dinner, we all gathered on blankets and chairs, Ben read a reading from the book of Common Prayer, we spent five minutes in silence, taking in the sounds around us, listening past those sounds in hopes of hearing that still small voice and then we spent the rest of the night sharing our story, bearing witness of our Makers faithfulness in our lives, encouraging those there in their pursuit of God and community and closing with a song. Afterwards, we made our way back to our bus where Chris let us know that maybe he wasn‚Äôt on the same page as we were regarding our faith. We answered, that‚Äôs OK. It was late and we suggested a sit down in the morning where he could share his spiritual story with us.

The next morning he took us on his journey through childhood including a mama and grandmother, a pastor and a teacher all with a strong but simple faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; a faith that included a beautiful beginning, then a disconnect from God, then reconciliation and restoration through God’s son, Jesus. Chris said he was wrapped in this story as a child but that as he got older he met others with different beliefs about God and some with no belief in God at all and began question this simple story of redemption. He felt a swaying towards apathy and eventually claimed to be agnostic, throwing himself into a sexually and status driven mindset. He said that he found some success and happiness during those years but there was always something missing. He expressed a longing to be in union with the God of all gods and a longing for the sacred. And, that lead him to this conversation with us, sitting on our bus. He expressed an acute awareness of this longing and an openness to seeing where the journey on our bus would lead and we continued forward. We knew God was orchestrating the ride of Chris’s life and we were excited to see it unfold.

Through out the course of the month on board, Chris met people all along the way, who without knowing it, answered questions, spoke wisdom and truth and lived out the simplicity of their love for God. We spent loads of time engaged in sacred text with the lens on inquiry, spending time working out some of those pending questions from years prior, finding that somethings were evident and some were mysteries yet to be unfolded. We read and prayed, asking what the text was trying to communicate about Gods character as well as our identity in the story. At one point, Chris began to understand the preciousness of his mother’s simple faith and that was when the invitation came from Chris’s childhood pastor, also named Chris, whom he hadn’t seen in five years, to come and share his faith journey with his church, Grace and Truth Chapel, just outside of Boston, MA.

We were also invited by Pastor Chris to bring an offering of worship, incorporating a time for Chris to share and to deliver a word of encouragement regarding God‚Äôs faithfulness. We love to share in any setting, with any group of kinfolk but it‚Äôs especially wonderful when we get to meet those we are preparing a spiritual meal for and learn from them first. So, we were pleased to be able to meet Pastor Chris and his beautiful wife, Rose the evening before and share a meal. We found out that they originated from Ghana and were delighted to also find out that their community consisted of folks from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo and other parts of West Africa. Having never met someone from Ghana we spent most of our night asking questions about their lives, cultural traditions and faith. We listened intently as they shared the dramatic story of their recent trip home to deal with the death of a loved one. They shared that their cultural traditions are wrapped up in ‚Äúspiritism” and much of the story consisted of their constant redefinition of the local gods (spirits) who were always needing appeasement and would anger easily to the living God who is loving, patient, relational and kind. Rose and Pastor Chris respected their elders by showing a consistent love, embracing the relationally healthy traditions and rejecting those traditions that were relationally destructive. And, although their time there was tremendously wearing, they were fearless in their dealings with the local spirits, setting a new tone of faith that celebrated life but was free from the bondage of fear and ritualist slavery.

This conversation was very helpful in understanding how we would share in sacred space with the kinfolk at Grace and Truth. We knew that our time with them would focus on God‚Äôs faithfulness and we began to look into sacred text for ways to communicate this truth. We found Psalm 145:8-21 which paints a picture of a king who is faithful and compassionate, specially to those who fall. Also, we sourced Paul Penley‚Äôs book, Reenacting the Way, and found many stories of Jesus declaring his Godship and setting a new tone. For instance at one point Jesus sits down to share a meal with his friends and takes a cup, holding it up and declares it the blood of the new covenant. Why would he say that? Culturally, this statement correlates with the first covenant meal ever (you can read about it in Exodus 24:3-11), where there was a meal that took place in the Sinai wilderness a few weeks after the first passover. At this meal God made covenant with the Israelites and they respond that all that the Lord had spoken they would do. Fast forward to Jesus at this passover meal and he announces that his body would be broken and his blood poured out to inaugurate a new ‚Äúcovenant‚ÄĚ which frees people to love and serve the living God. God promises faithfulness by stepping towards us, so that we may fall in step with him. This covenant is pure and relational and requires a two-sided commitment. And, even when we fail in our commitment God is still faithful, slow to anger, quick to love and like the prodigal father, welcomes us back, no matter tribe, tongue or creed.

IMG_3436We love because God loved us first. This is our story, this is Chris’s story, and best of all Chris got to share how this awesome covenant had new meaning for him with people who cared deeply for him. And, this really is the beauty of sharing sacred space.

On a fun side note; for those who have never shared sacred space with West Africans, the gathering lasts about three or four hours and includes loads of “amens,” rollicking songs, clapping, dancing, speaking out prayers, praying over others, words of encouragement, hugs and more words of encouragement and finishes with a hardy and delicious meal!

 

Tie That Binds

IMG_2559I want to tell you about our awesome time in Frostburg, MD; sharing in community with Jon Felton and his kinfolk at the Savage River Farm. And, I will tell you of all the practical ways we shared during our time with these friends, but first I need to get out a few poetic musings about community. For, as we travel, we are continually blown away and encouraged by the ways we are “put together” with others.

So, if you’ll bare with me…

Blessed be the tie that binds… There is a beautiful community out there, hidden yet available, woven together with a tie that binds our hearts in love. The deepest love possible, the love of One who would lay down his life, lay down his life for every tongue, tribe or creed. This love is unfaltering, secure and safe. It is a tie that brings freedom, not bondage. For this gift, we are thankful.

The tie allows for the flow of life to transpire, like that of the interdependent relationship of vine and branch. We stay close to the source waiting with anticipation for opportunities to be united with kinfolk, in order to exchange the witness of our creators goodness, faithfulness and grace; slow to anger, quick to love. When these moments happen, we are filled with such amazement and joy, and our cup runs over.

Honestly, I could geek out about community all day. None the less, our cup surely did run over in Frostburg, MD and continued on through Harrisburg, PA, Shepherdstown, WV and Philadelphia.

IMG_2569We’ll start with Frostburg. Our host was Jon & Leslie Felton, who we had know about for years. Many of our friends, spoke of this “Jon Felton” and when we were coming through this area, we knew we needed to spend time with his¬†family. So, we reached out and his response was welcoming and encouraging. He invited¬†us into his community, linking us up with friends at Savage River Farms as a place to park our bus and neighbor alongside for the week.

We arrived on a sunny afternoon and settled into our field at the farm (which later we had quite the adventure getting stuck and unstuck). We sat down with Ben and Hana, the owners, and came up with a plan that allowed us to learn, serve and share in community with them.

IMG_2570The fella’s got busy in the fields, replanting and pulling weeds.¬†It was fun to see our bus rider, Chris, get his hands in the dirt for the first time, soaking in the goodness of growing food. The guys also learned about how shiitake mushrooms are grown, including¬†holes drilled into logs, a spore paste lathered into the holes and once in that position, a solid years of rest. Then, moving the logs to a water source where they soaked for 24 hours, were stacked like lincoln logs, covered and with in the next few days, mushrooms began to burst forth!

Meanwhile, Graciana and I spend most of our time in the farmhouse kitchen, making meals for the crew. The farm, about three years old, offered much to do, and with the longer summer days, the crew was making hast to get things done. Needless to say, meals seemed to be the last thing on anyones mind. So, it was natural to offer this gift. Plus there was nothing more pleasing that seeing the smiles on folks faces after they enjoyed a meal, refreshed and ready for more hard work. We also helped Hana with the Farmers Market, setting up, selling, meeting town locals, and packing up.

IMG_2603Mid-week, we went to the school that Ben and Jon taught at and we shared our merrymaking, encouraging the youth in identity, reconciliation and moving towards a life that is filled with joy and love.

Later, we spent a little time in Jon’s studio laying down gang vocals for fellow creative, Mark Van Steenwyks book, Wolf at the Gate. 

At¬†the end of the week, we moved the bus to downtown Frostburg,¬†city of¬†about 8,075 residence and home to¬†Frostburg State University. We hit the area just after school let out, so got more of the local feel for the place. We learned that¬†Frostburg was originally called Mount Pleasant until 1820, when the government developed a postal service, and the town was renamed Frostburg. We also learned that¬†the town was one of the first cities on the¬†‚ÄúNational Road,‚ÄĚ US 40. But most of all we learned about Jon & Leslie Felton and their love for their family and community. We learned about Jon’s involvement in a¬†traveling arts carnival, “demonstration village” experiment, and education and social outreach project,¬†call Carnival de Resistance. We also met many of his kinfolk and one evening we all shared a foraged meal sourced and served up by local chef, Horvey.

IMG_2649At the end of the week, we shared in song at Dante’s Bar, a local establishment on the main drag. We opened the night with a song circle, then a Holland’s set and Jon’s band, Soulmobile finished out the evening with a rollicking set of originals! That night we met, fellow band mate, Jake Compton, who invited us to his hometown of Harrisburg, PA. So, we exchanged info and set a date!

As our week came to an end, we took a moment to soak it all in, the goodness that comes when we engage in community, entering into that interdependent relationship, and caring for one another. We are thankful for moments like these where we are woven together with  kinfolk in ways we never dreamed possible. We are forever bound to these friends and look forward to the day we get to roll back to through.

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Byron Bay And The New Earth Tribe

20140228-190313.jpgI’m a beach girl. The surf and sand call to me in my dreams. Craig has taken note of my intense need for this natural setting and booked us a few shows up on the New South Wales coast.

We made our way up from Melbourne to Wollongong, Sydney and as far north as Yamba. We had 2 days free between shows and had our eyes set on Byron Bay. Only another few hours north through banana and sugar cane fields and we could be basking in the sun on one of my dream beaches. It was a birthday wish of mine, but an expensive wish, at over $200 a night in Byron Bay. So, we needed to find a host, and actually really we wanted to find a host. There is nothing more life-giving than sharing a meal and story with kinfolk. And, even better than that is, sharing in that community, ON THE BEACH!

A friend in the US, went to a school called Deep End School of the Supernatural in Byron Bay and sent out an SOS to friends there. At the same time another friend in Australia, totally unrelated to our friend in the US, sent out an e-mail to a friend named Phil Mason. Phil and his wife, Maria are the spiritual directors at a grassroots Spiritual Community in the heart of Bryon Bay called New Earth Tribe. And get this, the Tribe runs a ministry school, the same school our friend in the US attended, so we knew it was meant to be!

20140228-173627.jpgPhil put us on to Hans, one of the Tribe leaders, who was happy to host us. Hans¬†welcomed us to his rustic jungle surf shack. ¬†There was talk of spiders, lizards and the Boa that lives on the roof of the front house, just above Hans’ room. We also talked about the possibility of sharing a meal and an impromptu house concert, which we were happy to do. However, it was the first week of school and both Hans, Phil and Maria were flat-out getting life in order for the new students. And so, we all decided to play it by ear and see what unfolded over the next 48 hours.

Byron Bay BeachAfter we settled in, we found our way down to the beach¬†and experienced one of the most mystical, beautiful, and joyful places we’ve ever seen. We dined that evening at Orgasmic Food Byron Bay, a Middle Eastern Restaurant boasting the best Falafel around. We couldn’t agree more, even our 12 yr old with his picky taste buds, loved it! After a long stroll on the beach we finished off the night with a gelato from Bella Rosa.

Despite the fear of spiders, we had a decent sleep in the surf shack. We woke the next morning before the sun and hurried down to the beach to watch the sunrise. The air, colors and gentle movement of the waves were mesmerizing and enchanting. We stood in awe and savored the precious moment with praise and thanksgiving.

Byron Bay SurfAfter a light breakfast and nap we were ready for the surf! We had our first lesson in Carmel, CA in October and our son was stoked to give it another go. ¬†The waves were fluffy, that’s really the only word I can think of to describe them. They were like riding on fluffy clouds. The sand was softer than talcum powder and a light brown color.

Besides the 9000 locals, Byron Bay attracts millions of backpackers from around the world.  The beach was packed with crowds, but everyone was kind and had a sincerity about them. They all seemed to be as genuinely amazed as we were by the surroundings. We enjoyed a light lunch and a spent another hour or so in the crystal blue water before heading back to camp to get ready for dinner and the gathering that Hans organized.

Phil and Maria MasonAt dinner we dined with Hans, Phil and Maria. Although, our first time meeting Phil and Maria, it was as if we were old dear friends. We sat across the table soaking up every word they said, taking it all in, and longing to stay. We were encouraged to hear about their work in a community that is a mecca for a diverse range of creative and alternative cultures. Also known as the rainbow region, the area in and around Byron is considered to be the spiritual home of Australia’s hippy movement. With that climate in mind, New Earth Tribe was birthed. They are disciples of Christ who are seeking to recapture the essence, power and relationship with the Spirit that He walked in. ¬†I love it when a ministry is in context to the culture around it, meeting people where they are at and offering and opportunity for folks to truly know God more.

After dinner we drove about 25 minutes into the hills to the Cloverdale house. There were fairy lights and candles lit, wine and nibbles set on white linens and blankets strung about the lawn. The vibe was festive and four beautiful women welcomed us to their historical Queensland home. More kinfolk from the Tribe joined the gathering and we enjoyed a night of festivity, celebrating a faithful God who delights in putting the body together.

One day at a time. That’s become a motto, not so much because we are so laid back and easy-going, but because we have been so stripped back touring here in Australia that we really have had times where we go to bed at night unsure what the next day will hold.

Sometimes the weight of logistics can really take its toll on our little family. But, then there are times where we let go and just allow things to unfold. These have been the times where we have experienced provision, seen the most amazing miracles, connected with hidden community and found deep solace in a God who goes before us.

20140228-174927.jpgBy the way, we were smitten with this lovely little bus. We spotted it in a town called Bangalow along side of the road. And, it was for sale! $21,000 or best offer.

After two months without our bus/home we are missing the conveniences of having a home on wheels. There was a tickle of a thought that maybe we could purchase this darling orange mobile but it was too quick to catch and it fluttered away. How cool would that be though?!

Glory and The Pink Lady

We were asked by a friend, how God gets the glory in our lives and service. This is a friend who is serious about his faith and… very wealthy. He’s a thinker, a debater and has watched us from the beginning of our process but there was always a question from our friend, regarding our motives. He¬†knew of our marriage issues and reconciliation, we shared our parenting woes, as well as the amazing ways that we saw God working in, through and, around us. We recently send out a letter to friends and family asking for support and his question was asked in the context of potentially partnering with us financially. ¬†

Now, this whole fundraising thing is a little foreign to us and we long for our friends to care for us whether they can support us financially or not. However, we’ll admit that, we do have some systemic issues with the perceived manipulative nature of it all. We don’t have any trouble asking for help but struggle with the expected corporate way supporters ¬†are catered to, pulled on and adorned just so they share their wealth. ¬†

For instance, the reason we were able to meet our friends for lunch, was because they were flown in and put up as guests at a lovely conference center for a¬†“Presidents” weekend¬†in Scottsdale, AZ. Apparently, they were scouted out by large ministry, and brought in to be lavished on and ministered to, in hopes that they would feel a connection and give. It sort of reminded me of those deals that the fancy hotels in Vegas send out, for free stay at their casino. They know if they can get you there, that you will probably spend your money on their slot machines.¬†

We also know of an organization that does research for some of the richest Christians in the country. They look at a ministry and analyze it in a quantifying way, assessing whether or not the ministry is kingdom worthy. I can see a need for this type of research, as most of the ministries that they are looking at are large organizations. However, it all just seems so distant from where God is really moving. And, can you imagine the hoops those ministries have to jump through, to prove they are worthy of those funds. Good grief.

Here’s the thing… about the Glory of the Lord. We know that humility and poverty has something to do with it.¬†

…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”¬†Matt 20:28

…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.¬†2 Cor 6:10

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to deathРeven death on a cross!  Phil 2:68

Blessed¬†are the¬†poor¬†in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”¬†Matt 5:3

And then there is the story of the widow and the copper pennies. We see Jesus make note of what folks were giving and compares the gifts of the those who give out of their abundance. These were people who great wealth, and though they give much, they could easily spare it, and had enough remaining:¬†but she, the widow, in her”penury”,¬†gives all that she had, her whole substance, all that she had in the world; what was to have bought her food, for that day; she left herself nothing, and trusted to providence for immediate supply.

And then we read about the Corinthians who gave out of their poverty to Paul and Timothy.¬†“For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,¬†they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.¬†And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.”

And so, we throw our hands up and we say, take our lives that we might really live. Take it all, that we might see you’re glory.¬†

20131104-124550.jpgWe arrived in Phoenix ten days ago, on our last financial leg, we had zero dollars. Our host, Kineo Community and our family have been gracious in caring for us. When we arrived we made note of things that might be helpful in our service at Kineo church and we put a shout out on our Facebook group ‘Tillers and Travelers” for art supplies, food and building supplies. Within a few days of voicing that request we had art supplies and a large box of fresh veggies show up. And then, yesterday, our friends The Huff family asked us to join them for lunch.¬†

We met Niqee at Camp Nebowa in Iowa three summers ago. We were in the process of getting our bus and heading out. She stayed in touch and two summers ago she invited us to join her family, Daniel, and two darling children, at an outreach in Shannandoah, IA. And, later at their home in Omaha, NE. we shared in community with this humble family. A few months later we heard that they had sold everything and hit the road, to serve. They travel in a minivan and similar to us, stay with host families and ministries, offering helps, encouragement and healing prayer. We watched them from afar and then two weeks ago they let us know that we were going to be in Phoenix together. We were excited to hear how things were going for them, to love on them and encourage them to keep rolling and serving. Little did we know that they were actually going to be the ones to pour into us. 

We sat at In and Out burger, enjoying our meal and sharing stories of God’s amazing tapestry in putting the body together. Then they pulled out a big yellow envelope and handed it to us. They spoke healing words over us, words of affirmation, letting us know that this gift was an act of obedience for them, that God recognized our faithfulness and wanted to bless us. In the package¬†was a substantial gift for each of us. They wanted our children to know that God see’s how they care for others, and how He wants to care for them. ¬†They wanted us to know that God gave them this blessing to bless us.¬†¬†Mind you, these are kinfolk who live day to day, aka… in poverty. My eyes filled with tears, as I felt the presence of the Lord wrap his arms around us.¬†

We had but a moment to sigh and thank them when an elderly woman approached us. She was a tall woman with silver shoulder length hair pulled back into a pony tale. She had on a hot pink tank top and light pink shorts, pink socks and white tennis shoes. She had two bags with her, both pink. Her name was Debby. ¬†She sat down at the table next to our families and said “hi.” A few polite words were shared and then she asked us, with all seriousness, if we had $10 dollars to spare.

Ok, so wait a minute… In a 24 hour period, I was sitting with my friend releasing him from any financial expectations, blessed by a significant gift from the unexpected and then asked for help.

Debby begins to explain her story about needing rent money.¬†I tell her she doesn’t have to justify it to us, we’re happy to give.¬†Craig pulls out $10 dollars, then Daniel follows. She is now holding twenty dollars. There is a small tear in her eye as she begins to share how that just impacted her. She tells us of a life that is filled with violence, poor health and constant rebuke from those with whom she asks for help. Daniel asks her if she would like us to pray for her. She says absolutely. We move to her table. He begins to talk with her about her heart, and God’s longing for her to move towards him. That God wants more of her. She is in agreement. We pray, Niqee puts a gift card in her hand and Debby whispers, “how much?”¬†Niqee answers “$50 and to get whatever she desires with it.” Debby begins to weep and we all hug her.¬†

We say our goodbyes to Debby and to each other.

My heart is overwhelmed…. Love, Mercy, and Grace flowing from above.¬†

And so, to answer my friends original question: God gets the glory because he knows our every need and he uses unexpected means to care for us, and in caring for us, we are able to care for others. The glory is his because he orchestras it.   

 

 

Being Present

IMG_3788When one thinks of Carmel, California, images of surf beaches, movie stars, a playground for the elite arise, and to some extent it is.  However, there is a whole underbelly of kinfolk who live and work in this region who are desperately trying to hold on to life. There are those who work 3 jobs to pay the bills, trying to uphold the standard of the upper middle class. And, there are those who wonder the shore line without a home, looking for work and a place to lay their heads at night.

The economic divide is vast and yet there is a rising up.¬†The rhythms of the¬†“hidden community”¬†beat stronger and stronger. There¬†are kinfolk in all walks of life, doing the hard work of community. They are committed to the trials that come when one is trying to bridge two worlds. They are committed to the ministry of reconciliation.

The Bajari family is part of that hidden community and they invited us into the fold, to experience the local struggles and joys, and to share their radical hospitality with us. Brian is involved in the global conversation as the executive director for Care Corp International, a NGO that specializes in trauma counseling for refugees around the world. His beautiful wife, Suzie is as a counselor for youth who have experienced extreme violence and trauma in the neighboring town of Salinas.

IMG_3942On a local level, Brian Bajari has a heart for the marginalized in his area and has made efforts over the past five years to build community amongst these weary friends and travelers.

Originally the youth paster at one of the wealthiest churches in Carmel, Brian left the secure position to engage the greater community in a conversation about humanity and what it means to care for one another. He, along with a faithful team of volunteers, build bridges with the city councils in the surrounding areas by attending meetings, they listen and they advocate for the homeless. They communicate with the area churches about drops for the homeless, places that they can bring goods and meals. They also facilitate Gathering by the Bay, which meets every weekend at 9:30am, beachside Monterey, across from the McDonalds, and is open to the public.

IMG_3946Brian leads a simple time of prayer/meditation, sharing stories from the week and an encouraging word, he opens it up for a song and at the end, they share a meal. We were invited to participate last Sunday and our time with them was precious. When we arrived there were a handful of homeless gathering around a few picnic tables on the beach. Cars with boxes of supplies, socks, sweatshirts, pants, shoes, toothbrushes, etc were unloaded. Michael and Tia brought a home made meal and by 10am the beach was filling up. A bicycle race was just finishing up and families were making their way for a day at the beach. All the while, the Gathering by the Bay continued.

We¬†stood in a large circle, with room enough for others to enter in, if they wanted to.¬†Passers by would stop and have a listen or sing along, engaging at all different levels. ¬†It was humbling sharing sacred space with those who have but the shirt on their backs. The thing we were most impressed with was the authenticity of it all. Brian’s motto on caring for others, “It’s not about fixing or solving, its about being present.” And, that is what we felt when we were on the beach with them, presence. There was no agenda for outcome in the way we have seen others approach the poor or homeless.¬†There was a trust and understanding between his crew and those that they were caring for and most importantly there was permission given to the homeless to care back.¬†¬†In a results driven missions economy, this open approach was refreshing.

20131017-144257.jpgWe spent a ten days with the Bajari’s, jumping right into the rhythm of their lives, sharing meals, story, and friendship. Our first night in town they welcomed us by hosting a BBQ with their neighbor Dan at the helm. We parked/plugged in our rig, just down the hill from their home on a patch of land owned by the city. All of the neighbors were welcoming. Our twelve-year-old and their twelve-year-old hit it off immediately and were inseparable the whole visit, making swords and shields for an epic battle, video gaming, playing ping-pong, boogie boarding at the beach and exploring the woods and river where they¬†caught craw dads.¬†The two youngest delighted us with songs and their sweet smiles. Our high schooler’s took a little longer to warm up, but once they did, it was a blast to see such a rich connection. Craig did a few handy things around the property and I was able to have, Ellis their elderly neighbor, over for afternoon tea.

IMG_3932We also met Justin and Maddie who welcomed us by offering to teach us to surf, connecting us with local folkies, Anne and Pete Sibley, and putting together a fantastic bonfire on the beach for our final farewell.

Justin, who grew up in Carmel, was genuine, kind and down to earth with a passion for youth. He invited us to sit in with him at Carmel Presbyterian after we finished at the Gathering by the Bay. So, with four minutes to spare we hoped on stage and joined he and his congregation is a few songs. It was such a trip to go from one extreme to another that morning, from the homeless church on the beach to such great wealth in a bright, new building. In the end however, we’re all made of the same mud, we’re all one. What a joy to be with the Saints!

After the service, we got to chatting with British artist Simon Bull and his wife Joanna. They invited us to lunch where we engaged in fantastic discussions about the momentum in the body, about the hidden community and the faithfulness of the Lord.

We met some fantastic friends in Monterey and can’t wait to get back. Plus there is that beach thing!

The Skinny on Finances

20130515-183702.jpgFolks often ask how we make our way. ¬†In 2010 we started off with ideals that involved becoming self-sustainable, working on ways to market and expand our trade. The simple explanation is that we book shows that offer payment for our performance. Of course, through our travels we have found greater purpose in connecting with and serving communities, involvement in social justice and helps organizations and encouraging kinfolk to live their dream; all the while, still performing. ¬†And, although our original business model only generates about 70% of what we really need to be sustainable we’ve experienced something bigger than us. We’ve experienced the gift of faith and generosity.

On our journey, when troubles have come, there always seemed to be someone who without knowledge or very little knowledge of our situation, that would bless us with just enough to keep us on our way. These moments are beyond our comprehension and we don’t take any credit for them. We didn’t market or try to convince anyone that we were worth it, they were unconditional gifts. Through these experiences we have learned that¬†there is another economy that we can be apart of. It’s not capitalism, socialism, communism, utopianism, prosperity gospel, or even karma.. We call it the divine economy. We think the crux of it is listening, openness and to be genuinely others focused, not in a “pay it forward” sort of way, which says if you give, you’ll receive, but it’s an “even if there is no return, I will give, even my life for another.”

We aren’t taught to operate this way in the business world. Even in vocational ministry, we are taught to have flashy marketing and newsletters proclaiming our mission statement and worth in order to receive tax-deductible donations. And so, two months ago we began a quiet relationship with Modern Day, which allows kinfolk to give to us through their site. They keep a record and at the end of the month they process the tax-free donations, deposit it into our bank account, minus a very small %, and send us a statement. At the end of the year, they send out all of the tax paperwork to both us and our donors.¬†We had planned on introducing our partnership with Modern Day in a smooth, thought out way. However, that graceful introduction was muddled when our bus broke down in Chattanooga a few weeks ago.

Already a difficult month, traveling a new territory with very little income coming in, we were beyond our means and struggling to find community or hope. We were also wrestling with the little things that start to pop up in nomadic life. Things like the discomfort of four people living in 300 sq ft, not having hot water, or the ability to have power without being plugged in, and we were trying to finish up the last month of school.  So when the bus broke down, our hearts sank. There was a moment where doubt crept in and we wondered if we made the right decision to link up with an organization, taking us in a more traditional route of fund raising. We wondered if we had stepped out of that divine economy. We were significantly in the red and we needed a miracle.

A miracle is exactly what we got! What we found was that through the traditional system of giving, the divine economy superseded and yesterday Modern Day sent us a statement with a $2200 in donations.  We had no idea that kinfolk had given to our need until they sent the statement. And, the exciting thing is that the amount donated covers almost all of the bus repair!  We are so absolutely humbled and grateful for that support!

The process of trying to communicate needs doesn’t come natural for us but at the end of the day, whether we have flashy marketing or don’t say a word, it doesn’t really matter. The divine economy is active and incorrupt despite all of us. Palms open, hearts soft, and to God be the glory!