How to Throw a Memorial Service for your Dog

Living on mission for Louis and I means we look for reasons to gather people together. We look for ANY reason to party, celebrate, honor, connect, and especially eat! I think we should party a lot more. It doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive or difficult. I’m not talking about the getting drunk kind of party. What I mean by partying is living a full and abundant life, a memorable life…meaning a life full of good people, good food, good memories.

Today, we had that kind of time as we gathered to party…to celebrate the life of one special dog ~ Wesley, a dog who was well-loved and loved well.

So…How do you throw a memorial service for your beloved dog???  Here’s what we did…

Yesterday, we threw a sign in the front yard, so our neighbors would know about our loss…

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Earlier today, I texted some the neighborhood kids as a reminder.  Today at 2pm, for about an hour and a half, we gathered…

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colored pictures of dogs and children with dogs (found by googling ‘dog coloring pages’)…

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ate cupcakes with flowers, because a memorial service isn’t the same without flowers (and milk bones for the 4-legged guests!) (Sam’s Club totally comes through!)…

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we talked about some of our favorite memories of Wesley…

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and everyone left with a picture of Wesley.  If possible, it was a picture of themselves with Wesley. (I uploaded pictures to Walgreens.com this morning, used a coupon code; and we were picking them up an hour or so later!)

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Louis read a comforting scripture from Isaiah 11:

6 In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
and a little child will lead them all.
7 The cow will graze near the bear.
The cub and the calf will lie down together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
8 The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra.
Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.
9 Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,
for as the waters fill the sea,
so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.

We decided that if there are wolves, lambs, cubs, calves, cows, and more in heaven – there must be dogs, too! And we prayed together.

We ended our time together watching the video, which brought back lots of great memories of parties, halloween, dogs washes, back yard dog parks, and more! If you missed the video, you can catch it here…this woMan’s Best Friend. Some of us got teary again. And, that’s ok. Grieving is a process, no doubt.

Huge thanks to all who came; and a VERY special thanks to Otis and Banks who came to keep Bella company.  Here’s Banks!

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11 Things I Have Learned by Living Where I Do

Over the last few years, you have read about Louis, me, Southern Barton Heights and so much more!  I recently spoke to a group of 50 women (and a few men, too) at WOVEN’s Hour to Empower Luncheon, and I felt led to share the impact the community has had on me.  Here are 11 things I have learned! These are in no particular order, nor is it an all-inclusive list. My learning is ongoing….nonstop….like a firehose.

  1. I wouldn’t trade my life, my community for any other community in the world. I love my neighbors. I love the way my paradigms are being challenged and shifted.  After Frank was shot, he asked me if I was moving. I went on to tell him – that people asked me that same question when the windows were shot out of my car and my car was stolen. “If I had moved, who would be there for you the night you were shot 9 times? All your friends ran. But, God loves you so much!”  As a matter of fact, I recently told a friend – after driving south on 76 during 5pm traffic, “I’d rather have that bullet come through my front window every 6 years than deal with this traffic every night!” And…I meant it. Crazy, maybe. Honest though.
  2. It’s painful, but necessary, to learn the difficulties of the materially poor. Although I didn’t grow up in the ‘rich’ part of the West End, I have been made aware of how my privilege of education, race, and network provides me. The fact that Louis and I have 2 cars, when 60% of the city population has 1 or no car per household.
  3. I am reminded at any point, that if I have a tire blow out – I have money in savings. Even if I didn’t, I have multiple friends I can call that could loan me money. For many of my neighbors, everyone they know is also in the same situation. Generational poverty is impactful.
  4. I take for granted that I had a father and mother in my home. Now, my home life was far from perfect. None-the-less, my father was at home and provided for the family. Kids today are growing up in a fatherless society. So, girls and moms don’t even know what to look for and expect. Respect often has never been modeled.
  5. I have learned that it is not as simple as ‘pull yourselves up by your bootstraps’, but I’ve also learned that handouts create entitlement. (That statement should offend the Republicans and the Democrats equally. LOL)
  6. I have learned that the church – as an institution and a body of believers, in many cases, have left ‘loving your neighbor’ up to the government. And we can see that that’s not working out well for us right now.  The church has outsourced ‘neighbor loving’ to the government and non-profits.
  7. I have learned that the materially poor inner-city people want the same things I do…that I would dare say most of us want.  Safe, affordable shelter. Good schools. Reliable transportation. Steady employment with a living wage. We aren’t all that different. We are all have sinned. All have fallen short. And we all are made in God’s image. And that being materially poor takes great faith!
  8. As a bit of a type A personality, I have also learned to leave capacity in my schedule. I need to leave time in my calendar to say Yes to God. Louis and I are praying over our calendar more than ever before.
  9. As a group of women, I can also share that I have learned that having my house clean and in order is no longer a top priority. I would be exhausted if it were! With the sheer number of neighbors we have coming by along with 2 aging labs, Bella and Wesley, it’s impossible.
  10. I have learned that I don’t have the answers. Nothing is that simple. It’s actually quite complex. It’s vastly important to ask questions and to listen more than we talk.  It’s more important to do things WITH the community not FOR or TO the community. Even though it will probably take much longer, it will be much longer lasting and sustainable.
  11. Prayer has become an integral part of my life.  My passionate pursuit of God has become my #1 priority….well, most of the time. I try to anyway.

Why do you live where you live? What have you learned about yourself, God or your community recently?


Hallo-BOO-ween 2013

Our annual front yard Halloween gathering! I think the pictures speak for themselves! We had a blast and had a record number of neighbors and friends – old and new, young and old – who came by! It got so busy we couldn’t keep up with picture-taking and candy-giving.

What a great evening for chillin’ on the front porch with the ones you love! I wouldn’t trade this night for anything.


New. Every. Morning.

Last night, I struggled to go to bed and to sleep, but at 2am I finally reached a point where I had pretty much finished processing, crying, fussing at God, crying some more, and much more. Especially as I thought about the many evenings I have spent on our front porch, at our dining room table, playing wii in front of the TV with a house full of youth and friends.

Side note:  Louis treated me to hot chocolate chip cookies, since Terence hadn’t been around! Gotta love him for doing that for me!!! (Terence – your cookies are still the best!!!)

If you have no idea what I am talking about, then you missed my last post…check it out here>>>  A Night Unlike Most Other Nights.

This morning I woke up well rested and with a fresh perspective.  God’s mercies are new…every. single. morning.  Instead of feeling defeated, hopeless, mad, and lacking peace, I awakened a new person! I thank God Almighty for hearing and answering your prayers and mine! I felt peace that passes ALL understanding.

I was reminded that we live in a dark, sinful, wretched, fallen world that is in DESPERATE need of a Redeemer and a Savior!  We need Jesus. I need Jesus.  Jesus is the only answer to what plagues our community.  And we are in desperate need of a move of the Holy Spirit…of individual and community transformation.

I woke up with a greater desire and almost a compulsion to share about Jesus and Him crucified.  I woke up with courage and boldness to cover our streets, our homes, our children, our community, our city in prayer.

So, tonight…at 6pm, Louis and I held a Community Prayer Service in front of our home – at the corner of Barton and Roberts. We had 30+ people (old friends and new from the community and from other parts of the city) praying bold and outrageous prayers covering our streets, our corners, our homes, our children, our community in the name of Jesus. Not only did we pray for our community, but we also spent time just praising and thanking the Lord for His protection, for His blessing, for HIs goodness and faithfulness, and so much more.  We ended our time together singing…

In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus
We have the victory.
In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus
Satan will have to flee.

Tell me who can stand before us
When we call on this great name
JESUS, JESUS, JESUS, JESUS
We have the victory!

Our community grew tighter tonight, as we prayed and believed together….as folks just lingered and talked afterwards.  We also had a time of individual prayer with one man who wants a new start in life. He’s been shot 5 times over the years and struggles with a lot. We are claiming a victory…in the name of Jesus!

At the end of the evening, I learned something new that I did not know before.  I learned the name of the victim. Again…another young man I have known since shortly after moving to SBH. One who has been in and out of my house when he was in middle school, but now about 18 or 19. One who was in our wedding nearly 5 years ago. One who I love, but Jesus loves more.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come.


A Night Unlike Most Other Nights

Revised 10.29.2013 11:57pm – Read here for an update on our prayer gathering and more >>>  New. Every. Morning.

Revised 10.29.2013 2pm – At 6pm tonight, we will be meeting in our front yard for prayer for our community and our city. Feel free to come!  2101 Barton Ave, RVA 23222

Tonight was a night NOT like most.  Our neighborhood has been riddled with different problems and challenges over the 8+ years I have lived here (and, of course, before as well).  But, the last few years, I have been so pleased with how calm things have been. How our community has been strengthened. Tonight, however…that has all been challenged when someone was shot in front of our home at 8:30 in the evening.  A bullet came in the front of the house, between the 2 windows above the couch – traveled through the living room and the dining room and into the back wall of the house.  All this as Louis and I sat in our customary chairs watching TV in the living room.  Meaning, the bullet went just a few feet in front of my eyes….1/2 way between me and the TV.

I am mad. I am angry. I am hurt (not physically of course). Yet, I am also grateful to God for his protection. I am thankful for the neighbors, friends and family who have checked in on us, have hugged us, called us, texted, FB’d, etc. It’s a real encouragement.

I am asking that you pray for me….especially for peace. It is not unusual at all for us to have folks enjoying an awesome night of good food and fellowship at our dining room table at 8:30 at night. It’s not unusual for us to have neighborhood kids and teens sitting on our couch or at our table doing homework, writing essays, watching the World Series, snacking on popcorn or chocolate chip cookies, etc. Our house is a house of peace…which I now feel has been violated.

This, of course, brought back memories from nearly 6 years ago when someone else was shot outside our home on the side street on Louis’s and my 4th date. The gunshot victim lived after being shot 9 times.  Praise God!  Tonight, yellow police tape hung around our house for the 2nd time.

I am asking that you pray for my community and others like it. As neighbors called and stopped by, everyone had a story about how bullets had at sometime entered their home by forces beyond their control. Pray for healing in our community.

I am asking that you pray for tonight’s victim and his family. Pray for the medical staff at MCV who is treating him.  I understand that he was shot once, and it wasn’t fatal.

I am asking that you pray for the shooter. That God will ‘arrest’ him/her even before the police do. That the shooter will ‘surrender’ his/her life to Jesus and find what he/she is looking for. That the shooter will turn himself in and seek the help he/she needs.

I am asking that you pray for the police and detectives, as they tirelessly work to solve these senseless crimes.

I am asking that you pray for our ministry and our friends. I know that these things often scare people away. We have youth and adults who join us in our ministry on a regular basis. Pray that this does not deter folks from wanting to love our community with us.

I am asking that you pray that God will work in and through us to bring glory to His name. May Jesus’ name be known through us during this time. That we won’t miss opportunities to minister to our neighbors. That this won’t be a distraction from our calling.

I am grateful to God for so much this evening. To name a few…

  • All of us are fine. God’s angel armies are camped around us and our home. I still praise God, regardless!
  • Terence was on restriction…although I really want some of his chocolate chip cookies!!!  🙂
  • Marques left just moments before the shoot occurred.
  • Shooting wasn’t fatal.
  • So many neighbors who came to love, support and hug.
  • So many friends who are praying, loving and supporting us via email, phone calls, texts, etc.
  • Quick and thorough response of our City’s finest.

And, now, I will answer the question that many of you are probably wondering. The same question we were asked last time a bullet came in the house.

“So…are you packing up your boxes yet?”

And our answer remains the same.

“No. Until God releases us to go or sends us some place else, we will stay.”  May God be glorified through this and through us.

For those who are curious…and want to see pictures….see below! Wonder what our insurance agent will say when we call tomorrow…

entry from the outside

entry from the outside

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up close entry from inside house

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from the living room

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the exit in the dining room beside the chalkboard


“it’s a dangerous thing to let Jesus use your boat.” Bob Lupton

The below article was taken from Urban Perspectives blog from FCS Urban Ministries in Atlanta, GA.  It’s the story of Luke 5.  This is my prayer!  This is my hope, desire and dream for Richmond, VA…especially for Southern Barton Heights/Northside.  Lord, may it be so.  But, in the meantime…are you willing to let Jesus use YOUR boat??? What IS your “boat”? Keep reading…

Let’s Go Fishing

June 2010

by Bob Lupton, June 2010

No one knows fish like a commercial fisherman.  When your livelihood is dependent on your daily catch, you become an expert in the habits and appetites of edible species.  You study spawning seasons, migration patterns, the tides, the weather – anything to calculate the optimal time to cast off for a productive expedition.  But as all fishermen know, fish are elusive creatures.  With all the best intelligence, catching them is still a matter of chance.

Simon was a fisherman.  He and his two partners, James and John, owned a small commercial fishing fleet that afforded them a modest living.  They had been out all night dragging their heavy nets but pulling in nothing.  Discouraging toil but necessary.  It was, after all, a game of odds.  And years of experience had taught them that at this time in the fishing calendar the odds of a catch diminished with the rising of the sun. Time to call it a day, or a night, rather.

They had pulled their boats up onto the shore and had just begun cleaning the seaweed out of their nets when a noisy gathering of town folk came pushing and shoving down the beach.  The crowd was attracted by the provocative speech of a young Galilean.  Rumors were this young teacher was a new prophet on the scene – some even said he might be the long awaited messiah.  Everyone was pressing in for a look.  The young teacher, spying the idle boats, motioned to Simon to push one off shore a few feet to give him a little separation from the jostling crowd.  Simon obliged and the teacher continued his speech using Simon’s boat as a floating platform.

When his speech ended and the crowd disbursed, the young teacher expressed his gratitude to Simon for the use of his boat.  And then offered a most unusual suggestion.  No, it was more than a suggestion, more like an order.  “Give it another try, Simon, out there in the deep water.”  It was not a particularly welcome request.  The teacher may have been alive with morning energy, probably had a good night’s sleep, but Simon was spent.  The last thing he wanted to do was load up his soggy net again and row out into the lake.  But then, who knows, maybe this Galilean was a sure-enough prophet after all.  Maybe he knew something Simon didn’t.  Reluctantly Simon consented.  Motioning to his helper to give him a hand, they dragged the half-cleaned net back onto the boat and shoved off from shore.

They rowed out to where Gennesaret’s water turned an inky blue-green and dropped the net over the side. No sooner had it disappeared below the surface than a furious tugging began.  It was the kind of tension a fisherman recognizes well, the kind of pulling a fisherman’s dreams are made of.  “Pull! Pull!”  Simon roared.   In moments the net was bulging with fish, so many they could barely drag it up over the side.  The bottom of the boat was literally alive with a flipping, flopping mass fish.  Another cast of the net produced the same results.  “Get out here fast!” Simon bellowed to James and John who were still on shore cleaning their nets.  In a few frantic minutes both crews were hauling in nets literally bursting with fish, so many fish that the sheer weight threatened to sink their boats.  Never in their entire fishing careers had they landed a catch to equal this one.  Never.

When the boats were eased back to shore, top-heavy with precious cargo that would bring a record return from the fish merchants, the impact of the episode began to sink in.  Simon’s first reaction, once he caught his breath and wiped the sweat from his face, was profound embarrassment.  “Master.”  That’s about all he could get out. This had to be the messiah, and what disrespect he had shown him!  “Just leave,” Simon motioned, staring down at the sand in humiliation.  “You don’t want to associate with a sinner like me.”

“Oh, that’s alright, Simon,” the Teacher responded with a smile.  “You’ve got some bigger fish than this to catch. Come on, I’ll show you.”   And that’s when Simon the commercial fisherman became Peter the fisher of men.

It’s a dangerous thing to let Jesus use your boat, even for a morning.  It can end up costing you far more than you bargained for.  Just ask Peter.  Lend Jesus an idle asset (like a beached boat or unused office space or a bit of your schedule) and it can open you up to a whole new life.  Take Jack Morse, successful real estate developer, who lent our ministry a little bit of his unused credit capacity to purchase and rehab a vacant apartment complex for affordable housing.  It was a small deal for Jack.  At first.  And then he uncovered the need for a decent grocery store in the neighborhood.  He got drawn in a little deeper.  And then arose the opportunity to transform a nearby public housing project from a killing field to a healthy community, a daunting challenge.  In the end, Jack walked away from his boat and nets to devote full-time to redemptive work in the city.  As I said, it’s a dangerous thing to let Jesus use your boat.

It’s dangerous, yes, but ask Peter or Jack or any of a handful of successful business people you know who have been lured into a Jesus-mission and you will hear a similar response.  “I-had-no-idea.”  That’s what you’ll hear.  You may hear words like “challenging” or “consuming” or “frustrating” or “inspiring”.  But there is one word you will not hear.  “Regret.”  Go ahead.  Ask them.  Ask Tom Cousins who converted a defunct golf course into a cash cow that transformed the ghetto community of East Lake.  Or David Allman who leveraged his assets and influence to take on poverty in Nicaragua.   Ask them or any of the others you know who have taken the risk of lending Jesus an idle asset and you’ll get the same story.  Life has never been the same.


A View from the Porch

Louis and I have a couple simple ministries to build relationships with our community…that cost virtually NOTHING!  Since there is a lot of foot traffic in SBH these are great ways to meet our neighbors.  Living on a corner lot has its advantages!!!  Join us any time!!! We do this with intentionality in warm weather months!

Front Porch Ministry/Chillaxer

Front Porch  Ministry or Porch Chillaxers – We grab something to drink and a snack and just SIT on our front porch.  We meet more neighbors this way than any other.  Some will even come and sit on the porch with us.

Fire Pit Chillaxer with our Missional Community

Our neighbor Brian (from Camaroon, West Africa) eating his first roasted marshmallow!

Fire Pit Chillaxers – We grab some marshmallows and build a fire in the fire pit welcoming our neighbors to join us.

What’s the view from your front porch?

Here’s ours.

Isn’t it the BEST ? ! ? ! ? !

Everett and LouisLiterally...our view from our front porch