Posted on January 26th, 2016

​I felt bad asking Philip to help pull out that nasty basement carpet.
 
Philip, a religious studies major at Westmont College, spent this past summer with us invested in Network. The day before heading back for his sophomore year, I asked Philip to tell me one highlight from his time at Network.
 
“The day I pulled up the carpet,” he said. And I laughed.
 
Philip said working side by side with long-time Network folk made him feel more at home - like family. Participating in that ridiculous carpet project allowed Philip to settle in and feel like one of us.
Philip’s story reminds me of Paul’s description of Jesus in Philippians chapter 2.
 
Although He existed in the form of God, Jesus did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of humans. (2: 7-8)
 
In the gospels, how often do we see the powerful Son of God just hanging out in the smelly boats of fishermen or sharing dinner in the home of despised tax collectors and prostitutes. Our friend, Philip, made coffee, played some chess, and pulled carpet. “I’ll be back every chance I get” he said.
 
Through God’s grace this has been the ministry of Network for 35 years. Open the doors, start the coffee, live and laugh side by side as if we all belong in this life together…
like a family. 
 
Thanks for serving us, Philip! And thank you Christ for the way you help us feel at home.  
 
One beggar to another,

Ryan

Posted on January 26th, 2016

​Transitions. I was honored to stand there within the circle of Rick’s family as we prayed around his hospital bed. Rick, a homeless schizophrenic man who always made us smile, was on his way out of this world.
 
Isn’t that a snapshot of faith? During a season in which we celebrate Christ coming we also grieve (and celebrate!) a friend’s departure. The dynamic of transition, always inviting us to hold both sides – arrival & departure/ beauty & pain – side by side within the same gift-wrapped package.
 
We’ve been practicing transition around here as I settle my fanny into a director chair that has many years worth of John’s distinct imprint. Among our wonderful staff, two got married, one became a dad again, one left town and another returned after a couple years away.
 
We are a people of transition. It’s everywhere throughout the stories of scripture. Remember how tired shepherds and a trio of wise guys transitioned toward a town called Bethlehem?
 
Those haggard travelers looked up to find the Mercy Star. Following the light to the end meant ultimate friendship, deep intimacy & liberation.
 
Similarly, when tired travelers enter the front door of Network they look up to a sign that reads, “Pass Through Under the Mercy.” As 2015 departs us and we anticipate the arrival of 2016 we pray again that Network will be a light leading folks to a taste of that same sweet friendship, intimacy, and liberation.
 
Our lives are marked by transition. So, whether this finds you coming or going may we encourage one another to look up and see that we walk UNDER the MERCY.
 
Our deepest gratitude to YOU for loving Network amidst transition! 

One beggar to another...

​Ryan

Posted on October 2nd, 2014

Greetings from Cap Hill!

The gospel of touch. Jesus took a little child and stood him in front of them all, and putting his arm around the child, said, “Anyone who welcomes one little child like this for my sake is welcoming me. And anyone who welcomes me is welcoming not only me but the one who sent me!”

The gospel of touch. This snapshot of how Jesus lived his life, screams  volumes to me. The power of his invitation came with a congruent embrace.  Our culture is haunted by very high touch boundaries. Sometimes it feels like too much.

The gospel of touch.  It’s not uncommon for me to walk through the coffeehouse touching my friends: high 5’s, pounding the fist, quiet pats on the back… I’m sure all of our directors would consider this part of expressing the love of Christ.

The gospel of touch.  Sometimes it backfires. I touched a man I didn’t know and he started yelling, “Who do you think you are? Did I tell you it was OK to touch me?” I apologized. A friend gave me an article speaking of the power of touch. It’s the one sense that can never be entirely turned off. Touch has a very long memory. For some, touch is not associated with love.

The gospel of touch. Near the end of Vernon’s life, I went for a visit. He was asleep, and glad to be awakened. He pulled me from slouching in a distant chair. He wanted to have our knees touching and our hands holding. I’m not entirely convinced he remembered much about me, but he was certainly concerned about who I’d become! He wanted to make sure I felt loved. It made me feel certain that Jesus’ gospel will one day find a good long embrace.
 
Under the Mercy,

Hicks

Posted on July 2nd, 2014

​Recently, we held a memorial service for Stev Kyser. Stev lived here for 17 years and even served as a shift director for several of those. We liked the good parts of Stev and the bad parts we believe are now redeemed in the BIG and ETERNAL embrace.
Toward the end, Stev was hurting pretty bad and his mood turned quite bitter and angry toward us. After a particularly hard day I poked my head in Stev’s room and asked, “Stev, are you still angry with me?” And after many gritty exchanges his reply knocked me off my feet, “No, Ryan, I’m not angry. Just sad.”

Wow! This was different. Stev went on to tell me how he was never able to say goodbye to his dad before he died and he expressed just how heavy this weighed on him. The shame and selfishness he experienced wasn’t easy to let go of.
I asked, “What would your dad say to you if he were sitting right here now?” Stev, replied, “He’d give me a big hug and tell me he loved me.”

The conversation went a little further but it sure seemed Jesus was hanging there in that little room reminding us of a very basic reality: We’re all struggling prodigals just longing for the embrace of the father.

As we grieved and celebrated at the memorial, I shared how I started to see Stev’s life like a parable. Maybe the life of this poor and simple man was God’s creative way of reminding Stev’s friends and caretakers that ALL of us are simply longing to feel complete in the BIG and ETERNAL embrace. 

Around here we keep plugging away at long-term redemptive relationships. What a gift to see even a sliver of that redemption through our friend, Stev.


It’s all grace,
 
Ryan



Posted on January 27th, 2014

I stood in the doorway and paused to look at what seemed to be two completely different groups of people. Behind me inside the house was a growing crowd of 40 or more middle-class volunteers anxiously anticipating our street friends who would come in to eat a thanksgiving meal. Outside, standing on tired feet our familiar crew of chronically homeless stood patiently waiting for me to open the doors.  

I’ve often heard these two groups commonly referred to as the “have’s” and the “have-nots,” but on this particular day as I opened those doors and watched the ensuing interactions I was reminded once again just how unclear that distinction really is.

I remembered Jesus’ words, “for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.”But as I reflected on the crowded room of volunteers and street friends I wondered...

“Who are the real hungry ones here?”

"The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” ~ Mother Teresa

The overwhelming sense of hunger I experienced in the room that day came more from those inside waiting to help. I deeply resonate with that hunger – the hunger to serve others and play a useful role in caring for the disadvantaged. It’s this very hunger that led me to do what I do at Network.

Hunger is both righteous and restless and if not carefully examined becomes misplaced or displaced. When I examine this hunger in myself I find that far too often my sense of worth can get dangerously enmeshed with my usefulness. When the source of my identity gets wrapped around my usefulness my good works of charity become nothing more than another mask I wear to disguise the truth of who I am.

The mountain of unjust complexities that exist all around the world in every corner of society comes down to this basic question of worth. At the end of the day, our friendships, our time, and our money will all indicate just how we judge worth.

There’s a line in the wonderful Christmas carol, O Holy Night, which invites us to consider how we discern human value. It says that when Jesus appeared the soul felt it’s worth. The line implies that nothing we do or possess can mirror our true worth quite like sitting still with Jesus.

It’s my conviction that Immanuel is powerfully present now among those whose worth is most cast off and questioned. Among the most broken and barred Jesus continues to be both born and crucified.

As we give gifts and serve others this holiday season we’re being invited to do something radical – be still and examine it all! Yes, slow down in the presence of the Christ and see beyond our usefulness and beyond the illusion of haves and have-nots. Unto us a child is born and he revealed that all of us are worth it.

Still in the Presence,
​Ryan






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