What's Next? Back, back to Cali!

In the words of Biggie, we’re going, going, back, back to Cali!*

*We still don’t call it Cali though. 

After a three year hiatus in the Peach State, we are excited to announce that we will be serving in ministry in the Bay Area.

We have accepted positions to pastor with an intentional living community/residential internship program called The Possibility Project. We will also coordinate compassionate ministry and youth ministry leadership on the Northern California district of the Church of the Nazarene. Our move is prompted by Sophie's graduation from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology with her Masters of Divinity.

Our first visit to the NorCal district ignited a spark that surprised both of us, prompting us to wonder if we could move there. After speaking at NorCal district camps and retreats, our connections with this community deepened. Jared has been working on a collaborative book project with the interns. This past summer, we realized that working with an intentional living community could combine our passions for spiritual formation and mentorship, hospitality, community life, social justice, and creativity. We began some conversations with Jeff Purganan about the needs of the district and the opportunities to serve together. 

Under Jeff’s creative leadership, the Sunnyvale Church of the Nazarene re-organized and launched a new ministry. The Possibility Project is a two year leadership development program designed for Christians who desire to live and work in the Bay Area. Participants share in life together, preach and serve in local churches, and develop their own ministry projects. 

FAQ:

You both have jobs?
Yes! Together! Sophie is hired full time and Jared will work half time, while he continues to create films, write, and speak. 

What is an intentional living community?
Quite simply, a group of people who choose to share life together based on similar values. It looks different for every intentional community. The Possibility Project is a more loosely structured intentional community, a.k.a we’re not sharing our incomes (as some of you have asked), but we will share life together and support each other’s growth through intentional communal rhythms, like regular meals and book studies. 

Will you live with other people?
We will live in our own house, but we will live near the two community houses and Crossroads Church in Palo Alto.

Can I join the community?
Yes! We might have more applicants than beds this year, but part of our role will be facilitating the expansion of the program. It is typically a two year commitment, beginning in August. Check out the website here or email to let us know you’re interested so we can have a conversation. 

When will you start?
Sophie graduates on May 8, and after moving, we'll begin working in mid-June. 

Is this where you're from?
Jared grew up in Lodi, CA which is in Northern California but about two hours from where we will be living. Before moving to Georgia, we both lived in San Diego, CA. We're excited to be in California again, but living in the Bay Area will be a completely new experience for us.

Are you going to miss Atlanta?
Of course! We’ve really enjoyed our three years here. We imagine we’ll be back for some BBQ and biscuits, to visit our friends and maintain our connections with the Atlanta Film Society, where Jared is still serving as a filmmaker-in-residence.

Are you going to be a nun/priest?
Okay, you’re probably not wondering that but Sophie gets that question A LOT when she tells people what she is studying. 
 

Our Weekend with Shane Claiborne

On a Friday night, we sat around the table eating popcorn, drinking hot chocolate, and talking with our houseguest...Shane Claiborne. Shane is an author, activist, and founder of The Simple Way, an intentional community in Philadelphia. 

We first came in contact with Shane’s work through his book The Irresistible Revolution. For Sophie, the book brought together her faith commitments alongside her concern for social issues, giving her more clarity on what to study in college and encouraging her to adjust her daily living to reflect these values. For Jared, the book served as a missing piece in what Church was currently offering and painted a picture for what fully dedicated Kingdom-living might look like now. He had the youth staff at San Diego First Church read the book. For the both of us, Shane’s work was both inspirational and challenging, and helped us shape the values of our marriage around simplicity, hospitality, and justice. 

So, why was Shane sitting in our house? Sophie will take it over…

During my first year in seminary, the state of Georgia scheduled an execution date for Kelly Gissendaner. Though I had advocated for the California proposition against the death penalty in 2012, regularly scheduled executions weren’t a regular practice there, so I hadn’t given much thought to the issue. But this execution was different. People in my community knew Kelly. They had served her communion. They had taught her in theology classes. They had written letters with her. They had received ministry from her. Her story was compelling, because I was learning about a prisoner as a real person. Flawed, yes. Guilty, yes. But also forgiven and transformed. Kelly’s story of grace highlighted for me the absurdity and barbarity of the death penalty. 

Despite a groundswell of support, including a petition of over 92,000 signatures, including many of yours as well as a letter from Pope Francis, the state of Georgia executed Kelly in September 2015. She died singing “Amazing Grace.”

Shortly thereafter, I met Shane at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Conference, where he told a few of us Candler students about his upcoming book focused on the death penalty, called Executing Grace: How The Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us. Shane told us when he did a book tour, he didn’t simply want to come read passages and sell copies. He wanted to highlight the way the death penalty affects real people, and bring alongside family members, ex-felons, and policy makers who deal with this daily. As he said, he chose to advocate against the death penalty, but for other people, the death penalty chooses them. 

Our Candler community had been affected by the death penalty, and situated in Georgia, a state that had the highest number of executions in 2016, we knew it was affecting more communities. Furthermore, because it is our tax dollars and elected officials that enforce this punishment, we realized we were all implicated. As a seminary and students training to go into churches, we were convicted by Shane’s explanation that the death penalty has not existed in spite of Christians, but because of Christians. Situated in the Bible Belt, we wanted to have a discussion about theology, ethics, law, and the personal impact of the death penalty. So we invited Shane to a three city speaking tour called Executing Grace in Georgia: A Faithful Conversation About the Death Penalty.

As we traveled to 3 cities in 30 hours, I saw that this movement is building, and despite the continued operation of this death machine, I have hope. As Shane said in the final event, “Before every movement, they say it’s impossible. After every movement, they say it was inevitable.” Change seems unlikely. Change seems daunting and impossible. Yet we are committed to hope. As Kayla Gissendaner, Kelly’s daughter, said at the panel, “I never gave up hope because my mom deserved every ounce I could give.” If Kayla can maintain hope, so can I. If Kelly can die with Amazing Grace on her lips, we can trust that grace will indeed get the last word. 

(click photos for slideshow)

Sometimes Shane gets dismissed for being too idealistic or too outrageous. But spending a weekend with Shane, doing regular things like driving around Georgia and sharing meals, just revealed to us a person who is all in for Jesus. Shane sees injustice in the world and engages it with his whole self. Hearing about his family and his neighborhood, and the creative ways they are building a world they want to live in, reminded us that what he preaches is possible. More accurately, what Jesus preaches is possible. Shane is, simply, is doing what we’re all called to do as disciples of Christ. Shane is fully committed to loving God with heart, mind, body, soul -  and wallet, neighborhood, and vocation. He’s not special, he is faithful. May we all find more ways to be faithful to our calling. 


The reasons Christians should stand for life and stand against the death penalty are abundant. You can read them in Shane’s book much more eloquently stated than I could recount here, or watch this video series with Shane by our new friend Rex Harsin. And I don’t need to recap the full event - you can watch the keynote and panel discussion at Candler here. To get involved with this movement for grace and life, check out the resources + action steps we recommended at the event.

Things We've Learned Living in The South

We've officially been living in Georgia for a year now. Here are a few things we've learned living in this new region. 

  • “Y’all” is a great term. We’ve started saying it, and bonus: it is gender inclusive.

  • Bugs aren’t in your home because you’re dirty, they’re there because it’s The South.

  • Most people “do church” with people who look and think exactly like themselves.

  • Yard sales start way later in the day. No more 5 am early birds.

  • There are film sets everywhere but celebrities nowhere.

  • What neighborhood you choose to live in says something about you. Missional living matters.

  • Helping people is often inconvenient and uncomfortable, because that is when people need help. In those places God helps you as you help others.

  • You can use less water in the shower than you’re using. And less toothpaste.

  • People from other parts of the country don’t necessarily like people from California.

  • Hushpuppies are a food. And they are delicious.

  • It rains. A lot. There is much to be learned from the seasons.

Keep following the blog for more updates on our life and more devotional thoughts!

Beauty for Ashes

By now, most of us realize that sex-trafficking is a major issue today. Many of us have learned that it happens in our own neighborhoods. But few of us know how to respond, how to help, how to offer hope. 

This is a tangible way to join the fight against human trafficking. 

Many women are trapped in cycles of trafficking because there is little hope offered for an alternative future. It can be extremely difficult to leave what seems like your only option for money and search for a job when you have little to put on your resume. It's additionally challenging to recover from the mental and spiritual damage that was inflicted. Women escaping sex trafficking often lack two important things - a community and an education. 

This is a chance to give help where it's needed most. 

Point Loma Nazarene University has long been a voice for justice and addressed the issue of human trafficking. Now they've created the first ever university scholarship for survivors of human trafficking. This was the school we graduated from, the place that gave us community, spiritual encouragement, and a beneficial education. We can both testify to the beauty in this place. 

This is an opportunity to extend that beauty of community and education. 

Donate now to the Beauty for Ashes campaign, and contribute to the long-term rehabilitation for a survivor of sex-trafficking. This is a direct impact on the life of one survivor, which will lead to an increasing impact on our world. 

Scripture: Isaiah 61:1-3 (NLT)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
    for the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Further Exploration: 

Lean more about human trafficking at www.abolishhumantrafficking.com

The Beauty for Ashes Campaign Website & Facebook page

 "Securing the resources to fund a college education can seem impossible to a survivor. We don't think it should be....The money raised from this campaign will go to support the education of survivors of human trafficking. We look at it this way - an education in the loving, academically challenging and carefully mentored environment of a Christian university can take someone from Victim to Survivor to Thriver.

Press about the scholarship

A White Guy Walks Into A Black Church

Has your church changed the world? Sometimes we're tempted to believe church is another weekly activity. It's entertainment or moral encouragement or a social connection. Yet we do recognize deep down that Jesus established more than a sing-a-long and coffee hour. Jesus established a Kingdom. He initiated a new way of living, one with the potential to turn this world upside down.

Last week we worshipped at Ebenezer Baptist Church, in downtown Atlanta. This is one church that can truly claim some world changing members. Among other influential leaders, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was raised in this historic congregation. American culture is significantly altered because someone was transformed by the life, teaching, and salvation of Jesus, and undoubtedly, this body of believers. 

How is your church shaping people to participate in the Kingdom?

Who is encouraging you to put your faith into action?

How can your church challenge current culture?

                            Ebenezer Baptist Church today - educating, equipping, edifying.

                           Ebenezer Baptist Church today - educating, equipping, edifying.

OMG I love your bracelet, and other compliments.

 Regina George pays a "compliment"

Regina George pays a "compliment"

What is that little thing that can brighten your day no matter what? When my Real Simple magazine gets dropped in the mailbox, I'm a happy gal. Sometimes it takes me a while to get around to reading it, but it brings with it moments of rest, learning, and creative dreaming. I recently read in their new "Women and Work" section a survey fact about negative remarks. Far and away, women said that they are most likely to get upset over a negative comment regarding their...appearance. 

At the bottom of the list were remarks about children. To me, this looks like an inverse relationship between the things we are most secure about. A negative remark about our appearance can throw us off all day, because it picks at something about which we can already feel insecure. But a remark about our career or children - well, we don't rely on the off-hand remarks of others for our whole sense of worth in those areas. We stand more secure in the things that deeply matter. 

On the flipside, I wonder if a compliment about appearance would have the same weight as a negative comment. Sure, I appreciate a compliment, and you can always tell me if my hair looks good! But I fear we throw around compliments about looks just to make conversation..."oh, that's a cute skirt" or "you look nice today." Those remarks don't carry much intentionality. However, when someone gives a compliment about something significant, such as career, or children, or how they see God alive in you, that carries some weight. It means someone saw deeper than your trendy outfit and pointed out something worthy they notice about who you truly are.

Repeatedly in the Gospels, Jesus truly sees people. And his words are life-changing and healing - not mere compliments. May we see with the eyes of God and let that change how we speak to others as well as how we receive those remarks about ourselves. 

Scripture:

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Luke 13:10-13 (NIV)

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

How can you compliment others more intentionally?

What negative remarks upset you?

How can that reveal insecurities? How do you respond?

What is in your heart for the Lord to see?

 

 

Cell Phones Are Killing Us

Even without active use, the presence of mobile technologies has the potential to divert individuals from face-to-face exchanges, thereby undermining the character and depth of these connections. Individuals are more likely to miss subtle cues, facial expressions, and changes in the tone of their conversation partner’s voice, and have less eye contact.
— Virginia Tech research study

This is all just because cell phones are present. Simply in our pockets. The idea that someone else might be trying to reach you... or tweeting something amazing, or "liking" something you've posted...it robs of us genuine face-to-face experiences. 

This is not news. We know this is happening. Yet do our actions change? How are we rebelling against the temptation to look down and flick our thumbs? Look up. Jesus loved people by truly seeing them. How do we see and love people if we won't look up?

Scripture: Matthew 9:20-22 (NRSV)

Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. 

 from Jumio's 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits survey

from Jumio's 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits survey



Don't Start a Non-Profit

When confronted by the reality of social issues, it's a natural reaction to want to get involved. And we are indeed called to respond! Yet we need to respond smarter. At this point, the answer isn't always a new organization or a fresh fundraising campaign. Damage can easily be done by taking our good intentions and moving too quickly. When you feel a prompting to respond, slow down. Find and listen to who is already involved. Many groups have invested deeply and built roots over the years. They've built relationships that create sustainable change. They have wisdom and knowledge and experience that allow for effective transformation. Learn from them. Support them. Let's work together.

Here's a short introduction to the anti-trafficking work done by Restore International. 

[Well done Chadwick Gantes on a beautiful video. Check out his work here: http://gantes.co]

Scripture: Luke 4:16-18

And he [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

Further Exploration:

Read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...And Yourself

Invite them over.

 Photo from Darling Magazine

Photo from Darling Magazine

It’s public knowledge at this point that we are moving to Atlanta. After a decade of service to the Point Loma/Ocean Beach community, we are moving to Georgia where Sophie will be getting her masters degree at Emory University.

It began immediately after we announced our impending move. “We’ve been meaning to have you over for years…” Invites over to dinners with different church families poured in.* We were asked, “Can we get into your schedule before you get too busy?” Within two weeks we had a list of invitations and were essentially booked up for our last three months in San Diego. There have been so many kind offers that we have had to start turning people down.**

What’s the point? Don’t wait.

What have you been meaning to do?  Is there someone you’ve been meaning to have over for dinner? There is no better time than now.

Oh, but you’re busy? You will always be busy.

Don’t wait for a goodbye to spark quality interaction of hospitality. Don’t wait for a clean home or a perfect meal. Invite someone over now.

*This is something that we deeply cherish.

** Hence the all church potluck banquet Sunday evening July 27th.

And because Shauna Niequist explores this topic so eloquently in the amazing book Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, Sophie couldn’t let this post without adding a quote.

We throw open the front door and invite people into our home, despite its size, despite its imperfections. We practice hospitality, creating soft and safe places for people to connect and rest.
— Shauna Niequist

Scripture: I Peter 4:8-10 (NIV)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Why You Couldn't Help This Week: A Reflection on Service and Wildfires

 Trained Volunteers at the Red Cross Shelter at Escondido High School. Photo credit: Maggie Buckenmayer, Red Cross volunteer

Trained Volunteers at the Red Cross Shelter at Escondido High School. Photo credit: Maggie Buckenmayer, Red Cross volunteer

This week, wildfires raged across San Diego. They forced thousands out of their homes while structures burned to the ground and fire crews battled the smoke and flames. In the midst of this, I spent Thursday morning at a Red Cross shelter, turning away people who showed up to help. And this was a problem because I still needed many volunteers.

The past few months, I’ve worked with the American Red Cross to train community members as shelter workers. We’ve partnered with congregations to equip their members to respond in a disaster situation. When disaster hit this week, we called these groups and sent them to shelters to set up cots, serve food, and comfort their neighbors.

I turned away more people on Thursday morning than the total number of attendees at last Saturday’s training course.

People want to help. People want to serve. People see their neighbors in need and they want to respond. Yet a spontaneous reaction to a disaster can only yield so much assistance. To serve with the Red Cross, you have to train ahead of time so you are certified and so the Red Cross can rely on its strong volunteer base. I’ve been explaining this to churches and temples and community groups for a few months and while some amazing and wonderful people have responded, many have not expressed interest because it doesn’t seem like an immediate need.

I’ve watched volunteers come in and out of the Red Cross offices, logging hours on the computer, teaching classes, and re-stocking the warehouse. These are not sexy service activities. And yet these are the people who saw the need in advance, and who committed their energy toward preparation because they knew it would be necessary when disaster struck. This week, these were the people on the front lines of the response efforts.

Serving our neighbor can require more than an impulsive response. It may look like having gift cards on hand when you’re approached by someone asking for money. It may look like getting to know your elderly neighbor so they know they can call you when the land in the hospital. Or it may look like a Saturday morning spent in a training class, before disaster strikes.

 

What is the role of preparation in serving our community?

How can you pray to anticipate the needs of others?

Where might you be needed to serve in the future? How can you prepare for that now?

 

Scripture: Proverbs 27:12 (NLT) 

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.

   The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

Further Exploration:

Train to serve as a Red Cross Shelter Worker (email sophie.callahan@redcross.org for details)

Begin volunteering regularly with an organization so they can rely on your efforts

Learn your community and anticipate the needs of your neighbors

Let your church know they can call you in an emergency

Carry gift cards or care kits for people who ask for money