Heather Handstands Her Way out of the Bathroom: An Excerpt from my Book

Heather Handstands Her Way out of the Bathroom

                One fine morning in Salem as I made my way to the kitchen I heard staccato commotion coming from the basement: abrupt questions against muffled answers. I continued my descent. There stood Carrie speaking through the bathroom door to Heather who was inside. Locked inside. Apparently the lock jammed and she’d been stuck in there for nearly an hour. Various ones tried to undo the door, but to no avail.

The landlords were out-of-country and the repairman was not answering his phone. They asked me for suggestions. I hypothesized we could take the door off its hinges. Soon I had a screwdriver in hand and was doing just that. Then the screwdriver, the blatantly cheap screwdriver, broke. That is to say, the metal bit lodged itself in the hinge’s barrel and cleaved to it “til death do us part.” The handle of the screwdriver remained in my hand. Now what? We’d supplied Heather with magazines we’d slipped beneath the door, but hours had transpired and though she claimed to be content, we figured she had nearly overstayed her welcome.

We wondered aloud if she could squeeze herself out the small window above the sink. The window was about six inches above the ground outside the house. Heather not only thought she could do this; she was enthralled by the challenge. Now, in the Salem House we had a penchant for doing ordinary acts with pizzazz. This was no different. Heather decided rather than putting her arms through the window and having us pull her up from the outside, she would do a handstand on the sink and poke her legs through the window for us to grab onto. Genius. Pure, acrobatic, former cheerleader genius. With remarkable agility it worked. She got her legs out the window and we carefully added our strength to hers and got her out. That was a first: a handstand escape through a basement bathroom window. (Eventually someone did come and remove the bathroom door, repair the lock, and restore the bathroom to its former glory.)

I wonder if our old bathroom is on the phone right now recalling this same story to one of her bathroom friends. . .


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Easter & The Eritrean: An excerpt from my book

Does a watched pot boil? Will a book write itself when you stare at it?

My book is coming along. My housemate Kendra had friends staying with us last week and I ended up sharing a story from the book with them. It comes from the year I spent living in a ministry house in Salem, Massachusetts. My friends and I started the house. I lived with six other women, three blocks from a house of six male friends of ours. Our hearts’ eyes looked to see a neighborhood and a city transformed. It was a sensational year.

I think most everyone should gather some friends and transform a neighborhood via community and intentionality. It looks different in different seasons, but ultimately it is what we are meant for – whether a ministry house for that express purpose or another venue for city-transformation. Every city in the world should be loved to life and charged with supersonic hope. This weekend I listened to my friend Daniel share about the transformation he is seeing in his neighborhood right now. He smartly got the crime and employment statistics for his neighborhood so he can quantify transformation when he sees it. When the crime rate plummets he will concretely know. I recommend this level of purposefulness to everyone: vision must have clear goals so you can know when you are accomplishing what you set out to do. This empowers strategy AND celebration!

For more insight, here are two books about city/nation transformation:



Humorously, the Salem House still has a MySpace profile: http://www.myspace.com/onceuponatimeinsalem

And here’s the collection of Easter shots: https://cid-b7e4f7c8fed61524.photos.live.com/play.aspx/salem%20easter%20photos?Bsrc=Photomail&Bpub=SDX.Photos

Salem Houses together in 2005 (Stephen Dunn & Stephen Nyakairu not present)


Easter Lunch 2006

We wanted a guest list as varied as the potluck of food. And we got it.

The Easter Recipe

  • 11 boiling pots of children
  • 1 dram (yes, it’s a unit) single mom
  • 2 dashes friend from church who brought a friend he met in prison. The friend was stumbling drunk and trying to pick a fight with the men in the house. (Five Stars ***** Spicy!)
  • 1 tbsp mentally unstable, non-English-speaking Eritrean refugee
  • 2 pinches highly-opinionated, somewhat crass elderly neighbor and her, “I’m a bit uneasy with my wife’s crudeness” husband. (He didn’t stay long.)
  • 1 egg (we’ll get to that later)
  • 6 shovels passionate about Jesus men (from the guys’ house)
  • 7 gallons passionate about Jesus women (and one newly-acquired husband (Jenn moved out and got married in January 2006)
SERVES 40,407 (Salem’s population)


Preheat oven to 133.1 degrees (see Psalms for details)

Put everything in the largest bowl you have.

Stir until your bicep makes your shirt rip.

Pour mixture in pans

Bake 5 hours.

Gather kids, assign them parts, tell the story of Jesus’ resurrection with re-created animal noises

Check half-way through to make sure patience isn’t burning.

Serve and eat.

Plan a stealth water balloon attack by gathering kids in the backyard and then throwing balloons over the fence onto                              them. Be amazed by their retaliation.

Laugh like you have never laughed before.

The Eritrean Refugee

The Egg. Back to the aforementioned egg. One fine day two of the men in the Salem Guys’ House were running on trails in a forest in nearby Wenham, MA. While merrily flowing with the curves and rises in the path, they came upon a man. Camping. (?!) Not exactly camping. A sort of camp was set up, but this looked more like living. And the man looked lost – really, the epitome of lost. He also looked crazed.

In classic we-love-people-because-we-are-addicted-to-Jesus fashion, they stopped and struck up a conversation with the man. (Fittingly, Phil had read Hebrews 13:13 earlier that morning, “Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.”) The conversation quickly went from verbal to physical – physical like charades, not like a fight. He didn’t speak English. They invited him to stay with them. Into the car went the man, his chicken-wire backpack, and what appeared to be the totem of his earthly possessions. He fell asleep in the back of Stephen Dunn’s green truck during the short 20 minute ride from the woods to their house.

Shortly after his arrival in their home, Stephen Dunn (there were three Stephens in the guys’ house) and Phil provided him with a shower. Since he only had the clothes he was wearing, one of the guys loaned him some clothes to put on after the shower while his own clothes were being washed. After the shower the man emerged from the bathroom with a gift of gratitude for my friend. An egg. One egg.








With the highest degree of intentionality and sacrifice, this man designated this gift FOR Stephen. It was the widow’s mite in egg form.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44

Indeed, for this man, the egg was “all he had to live on.” He probably pilfered it from a farm he passed by, hungry and needing sustenance. In giving this egg, his lack of words became irrelevant, for what he lacked in words, he communicated in mite.

Later, he unveiled his ID card. He was an Eritrean refugee from a war zone in Africa. One of the men in the guys’ Salem House connected him with some people who spoke his native language. The story began to come out: he’d been in the states a very short while. He lived in Boston under the care of Catholic Charities. He had walked from Boston to the woods (about 25 miles!), and stayed there about a week. My friends contacted Catholic Charities and two days later someone came to pick him up. In the words of my friend Phil, “He was a man that was worn by things we could not have comprehended.”

Yet, in their lack of experiential comprehension, the guys welcomed him in – with fullness of friendship and bravery of spirit. Likewise, we encircled him with care at our Easter gathering. What we did not know, God knew. What we could not say, God said. Our eyes rushed heaven’s waters onto this man’s dry riverbed. Our hope, our simple, plain clothes hope, dressed this man in the promise of a Father who would always welcome him in – a Father whose kids would gladly go outside the camp for his sake. Sometimes you go outside one camp and into another to pull someone back out and into the camp of God – the tabernacle of His Presence. The temple built with cedars, no longer of wood, but of legs and arms and heads and hope. The temple built of us.