Advent, Angst, & Ferguson


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When my phone started blowing up with notifications about the Ferguson grand jury decision, I was in a daze. I grabbed my pipe, poured the biggest single glass of whiskey I’ve ever had, and sat in my backyard in tears, alternating between retweeting others’ comments on the case and just staring at the sky. I watched and heard the helicopters above as they watched the Philadelphia protests below, mere blocks from my house.

I think part of my response was because of where my mind had been in the days leading up to the decision.

I recently pored over Cornel West’s biography and watched 12 Years a Slave. As the weather has gotten colder, the city’s marginalized and homeless have become more noticeable. An organization whose heart is in the right place, and who I otherwise love, put out some promotional materials that unintentionally showcased the degree to which racism and power structures are so ingrained and so unconscious. Last Sunday, I watched as Rudy Giuliani went shockingly racist on Meet The Press (what he said is wrong, by the way). For school, I watched a presentation on the Civil Right’s movement, and also read King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail. 

And then the grand jury came back. No indictment.
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How to End Homelessness (this is what I do for a living) [VIDEO]


philly-rowhomes-neBelow, you will find a brief documentary that was done at my wonderful job, Pathways to Housing, to highlight the work that we do. It features many of the clients and coworkers I work with, and I had the chance to be present for a few of the film shoots. It is so beautiful and well-done. I’m so happy to share with you all a part of me that I don’t really talk about much in the rest of my life.

(Also, if you’ve lived in Philadelphia for a few years, you might recognize some folks in this video that you used to see on the street. But now, they have housing.)

I have spent most of my time in the field of social work pretty disengaged intellectually and emotionally. The older, more subtly coercive model of social work marked my previous companies, and the way the work was structured definitely played more to my weaknesses than my strengths. This left me in a constant state of feeling like I was terrible at my job. And so, it was just easier to not invest much of myself into it at all.

And so I’m only now learning how much of a difference it makes to love and adore your job. This is where I’m at now. I’m at an amazing company with amazing people doing amazing work that produces amazing results. I feel I’m good at my job, and I feel like I’m flourishing professionally, intellectually, and emotionally in it. There’s so much hope and excitement over my work. Here a couple of things I’ve recently heard clients say:

“When I was homeless, I felt like an animal, stuck in a concrete jungle. I only came out to eat and survive. Now that I have housing, though, I feel like a human again. It feels good to be human.”

“I haven’t been homeless my whole life, but I’ve always been a human being.”

And so, though much of my writing (and conversation) is centered around religious, political, and church things, I’m happy to share a little bit of how I spend 40+ of my hours each week. I hope you are encouraged and that you are offered a little bit of hope in the midst of our urban brokenness.

Today, I’m leaving my job. Monday, a new one begins.


paul-city-bwWhen this is post goes live, I will probably be sitting in my near-empty cubicle at work, furiously trying to finish up the last bits of paperwork that has so consumed the past year and half of my conscious thoughts. Today is my last day of this job.

Back in 2011, I wrote about me getting this new job as a case manager (a.k.a. “social worker”–in Pennsylvania, you can’t call yourself a social worker unless you have a degree in it). It’s been an amazing experience, with some of the most knowledgeable and supportive supervisors and co-workers I’ve ever had the privilege of being around.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Love (beyond death)


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This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Love“. The real “challenge” with this theme was try and find something not cliche; something you all would find “novel” and “creative”. As I perused my pictures, though, I fell on this one and all my notions of novelty and “coolness” went out the window. I realized I had a bigger, more important story to tell about love.

I had another client die last week. In my field, this is to be expected now and then, and I’ve had a few of my clients die in the past three years, and even more clients die that I knew from the caseloads of co-workers.

This death this past week has got me thinking about my work, my clients, life, death, and, you know, all those other light and airy topics we so enjoy thinking about (yeah, that was sarcasm). And it got me remembering the photo above.

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The Pain & Substance of Gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving. [REPOST]


Yesterday, the annual meal referenced in this post occurred at my work, so I thought I’d re-post this today on this Thanksgiving Eve.

Sorry that this isn’t your typical feel-good Thanksgiving post.

On Tuesday, my job had a large Thanksgiving lunch for all the staff and clients we serve. I got my food and sat down next to some of my coworkers and across from a client I had never seen before. She was very friendly. She didn’t ask me my name or anything; she just began asking me questions about what I was doing for the holiday, where I was going, if my parents were still alive/together, if I had any siblings, so on and so forth.

As she kept firing one question about my Thanksgiving week after another, I started to feel the awkward tension developing because I wasn’t returning any of these questions back at her. I wondered if my coworkers thought this was odd of me to do, but it was very intentional.

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[art credit: “Freedom From Want” by Norman Rockwell]

The Pain & Substance of Gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving.


Sorry that this isn’t your typical feel-good Thanksgiving post.

On Tuesday, my job had a large Thanksgiving lunch for all the staff and clients we serve. I got my food and sat down next to some of my coworkers and across from a client I had never seen before. She was very friendly. She didn’t ask me my name or anything; she just began asking me questions about what I was doing for the holiday, where I was going, if my parents were still alive/together, if I had any siblings, so on and so forth.

As she kept firing one question about my Thanksgiving week after another, I started to feel an awkward tension developing because I wasn’t returning any of these questions back to her. I wondered if my coworkers thought this was odd of me to do, but it was very intentional.
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I’ve got a REAL real job.


Many of the long-time readers of this blog have been able to follow the drama that was my post-seminary job situation (I had a job, then I didn’t, then I sort of did). But, as most of my Facebook friends now know, as of Wednesday I finally was able to move into the full-time spot at my work that I was originally hired for about 9 months ago. Hindrances both internal to the company and external led to me only having the part-time evening weekend position at the company. Until now. Now I am officially a Psychiatric Rehabilitation Counselor.

The position is at this amazing company called Project Transition. It is a community-based recovery program for people with moderate to severe mental health and substance abuse issues.

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