Silicon Valley

Adventures in Faith

God Spoke to Me Using Soccer Metaphor and It Changed My Life

A "Christian brother" and I fasted for one day and agreed to pray for each others "business," and this is what happened.

This impacted me greatly, as I processed what I heard God say to me so clearly. It opened my eyes to the glut of "training resources" and the shortage of Christians stepping onto the field, so to speak.

What I heard made so much sense that I began to share it to anyone who would listen. I realized that the times where God was speaking most clearly to me was when I was living it out on the field, I was doing something about what He was telling me to do.

I saw a way to help guide people into taking action with their faith, in fact, my job at the time for Cityteam was to do just that! I bought a web doman www.handsonchristian.com, set up social media handles, and even started working on a video to capture the message. I wanted it to be perfect so I worked my way into the Major League Soccer (MLS) Earthquakes stadium in San Jose, CA! 

This revelation then led to the creation of a concept to coax people onto the field. Being in Silicon Valley at the time, of course this ended up being conceived as a technology platform with gamification elements to drive outcomes and was communicated in this venture capital (VC) style pitch deck ;)

 

Soon two others were attracted to this vision, it resonated deeply with what God was telling them to do, and the three of us together set to work to build out a minimum viable product (MVP) of this concept over the course of 90 days. It was an impossible task by any measure, even for a 17 year Apply veteran, and skilled community pastor, and I, but we embraced the reality that if it was God's plan, it would work. Ultimately, we couldn't find a way to solve the problem in a way that would generate revenue and we all got job offers that took us away from the project. 

But what I heard from God on that day stays with me, and I continue to examine whether I am just training more, or if I'm actually on the field with regards to my faith. The pull toward the former is so strong.

In fact, the whole purpose of this blog is to encourage others to step out of their own comfort zone to take practical steps in their faith and their attempts to know God and Jesus.

And, I still have it in my sights to build something to this end--something that provides a trigger point to unleash people into the active practical aspects of their faith. My hope and prayer is that in late 2016 / early 2017, this vision might become realized.

To think that this all came from that vision God gave me in prayer during the World Cup in 2014, it's truly amazing how when we seek God in prayer, He can speak to us and inspire us, that in a single moment of quiet time listening, He can direct in such a rich way so as to literally change the way we think and even the trajectory of our life. 

Adventures in Faith

My Talk at Stanford

I was really humbled to be invited to speak at the Stanford Faculty Club as part of the Silicon Valley Prayer Breakfast quarterly event considering the Godly men who had come before me. 

And yet, it made sense since I had been given a prophetic word several times over the past year or two that I would be speaking in front of groups, as a sort of humble pastor. 

As the date came, I prayed, I asked God what to say. I felt like he was telling me, "I have already given you plenty to say." Not exactly a workable outline.

And yet, I knew that, indeed, He had given me everything I need. As the date approached, I became excited, no nervous at all, but feeling as though God was going to use this to do something new. Praise God for that.

When I landed in the Bay Area, it was so wild from the start. A talk I gave at a Christian high school resulted in follow-up contact by students that left me grasping for God's wisdom in response. 

A couple of hours spent in the ghetto of San Francisco left me feeling both filthy and the power of the resurrection spirit in the face of entrenched darkness. 

Just 48 hours before I was set to talk, I sat down to draft up this outline to hand out to the attendees. I did it because we hear so much, we take in so much information, I feel like retention is low, and that God really wanted me to impress the three takeaways on this to the group.

 

Then, on Wednesday, November 3rd, this is what I said:

PART ONE: The video recorder cut out...

PART TWO: So I recorded the 2nd half comments back at my hotel.

Adventures in Faith

God Spoke to Me On the Korean Prayer Mountain

Back in 2013 I started retreating to a mountain to pray in a way where I mainly tried to listen. I say tried because it didn't come easily at first, hard to stop the mind. But I often needed something I knew couldn't come from my own mind, I needed to hear from God. Well, now with a new baby, new job, living in a new city, and a growing sense God that had moved me into a new position of responsibility in His Kingdom for which I was ill prepared, I was desperate to get away again.

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 A trip back to Silicon Valley provided the perfect opportunity. I had heard of a mountain, the Fasting Prayer Mountain of the World to be exact, where people pray just about around the clock, where they have little huts one can sit in and pray all night or any length of time. Sign me up.

As the day approached, my heart quickened for this date away from everything with my creator. The day came and I texted a dozen or so men to join me in prayer; as they responded that they were doing just that I began to feel a surge in my spirit. I drove up with a dear brother who was all too eager to join me, and after a brief walk around we settled into the chapel at about 9p.

I read Revelation Chapter 4 to see again how John describes Gods throne in Heaven. I prayed a brief and completely vulnerable prayer, then said, "God, I'll be there listening all night, oh Lord, if you want to talk to me, I'm here."

And I just lay there on the floor of that chapel, content to be at the feet of the Master, content to submit to him, so simple really, and in that place I found great rest. Once in awhile I read from Scripture, but mainly I lay there and listened. 

There were moments when I had a full vision before me, a great insight I believe. In the early morning I began to intercede on behalf of people who had asked for prayer. It became a sort of blur of laying on my face and stomach, praying, listening, reading, resting. 

At 5:30a a woman came into the chapel, followed by a few others from around the camp, altogether we prayed in Korean I think. We sang in another language. It blew my mind that it was morning already, it felt like I had just arrived. 

I walked out and left the prayer mountain passionate for Jesus. In awe really. As I pulled away I thought that it would be amazing to stay for a week, or a month, or more. 

The internal rest from that time began to sink in deeper as I got further away. In fact, when I boarded the plane, I went right back to praying, listening, reading Scripture the whole trip cross country, maybe another seven hours. I had promised almost two dozen people I'd pray for them, and I intended to usher each of them into the presence of the Revelation 4 God with me.

As I did, God gave me a sense about each person and I wrote it down, 15 pages in total. I've learned that when God gives me a sense about a person in prayer, it's often best to pass that on, if possible, even at the risk of looking like a crazy religious fool. 

As my plane landed back in Philadelphia, I wrote the following words about my experience on the prayer mountain, rather it flowed out of me in one current taking literally just a couple of minutes to write. I'm so humbled and so thankful that God is so available to me (and you too), a second before him makes a lifetime away pale in comparison (there is no comparison). I sincerely hope and pray you are drawn away on a mountain before the King of Kings. 

Can feel restless, tired, even defeated but uncertain as to the cause. Desperate for clarity, or at least trust that simply laying at the feet of God will suffice, as promised. A tingle in the soul to walk upon your grounds. To hear the drum beat worship of those who love you ignorant of the hour. Settle into a posture on the floor lowering myself to be awash in you. Not fully aware that even in that moment you are present and usher me into a dreamlike state. I will never know that which you have done...at times full to the brim with understanding more than I can contain. Settled into your arms in a peaceful rest with nothing but comfort all around me. Oh, how I have yearned to just be here with you. Nothing more, my Lord. Then a drawing into your Word any truth will become more than I anticipated. And like that you rise me with the sun, a sfumato garden in my view dashed with greens and pinks. A yearning to pass thru to my wife, a delightful garden herself. Then a chorus in another language that I understand even though I don't. You look me in the eyes unmistakably and it reminds me of how Holy and worthy of my attention you are. Then you squat beside me, God of the Universe, let it be known that never is there a rush or worry or departure from my side. As I pull away in awe of you reminded again that I need not. Praise you Lord, Creator on High who lives and reigns then and now and forevermore. 

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Workplace

I'm Leaving Silicon Valley to Work for a Very Silicon Valley Firm

I’m elated to announce that mid-June I will join the Geneva Global team HQ on Philadelphia’s Main Line to help grow the customer-centered service approach as well as deepen existing and forge new relationships.

Here's an infographic on the trajectory of my career, how it hits Geneva Global, and a bit about this one-of-a-kind company:

I’ll continue to connect with the amazing network of leaders I’ve met in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as in Seattle, Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. I’m very interested in connecting with individuals, families, foundations, and corporations who want to see their philanthropic investments applied and leveraged in the smartest way possible.

Want to know more about Geneva Global’s innovative approach? Contact me to arrange for a chat and a free copy of Doing Good Great, by CEO Doug Balfour.

Please note, given this new beginning and a focus on my growing family, I will be incredibly selective with personal consulting engagements.

Adventures in Faith

I Just Turned Down a Sweet Job

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Colossians 3:15 -  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

So I had this amazing opportunity presented to me. An international diplomat with a vision to launch this really cool business start-up in Silicon Valley, through a wild set of circumstances/connections was introduced to me. And, low and behold, after a few Skype calls, felt like I was the guy to launch this thing in Silicon Valley, and I had to turn it down.

As the opportunity unfolded, I put a lot of prayer into the decision. And what I heard early on was Colossians 3:15. When I say "heard" what I mean is that I opened my Bible for guidance and when I read it, that verse jumped off the page. Then, it showed up in a devotional. Then, when I talked to a pastor about this big decision, he brought up the same verse without knowing it had already come twice before.

This pastor told me that the word "rule" in that verse, in the original language (Greek  βραβεῖον), it means to umpire or call the shots. He told me that whenever he has a decision with lots of little steps, like an interview process, he let's the verse guide him. And so I took that fact that this verse had popped into my life three times in a row, well, I decided to let God's peace rule in my heart too. 

And so as I take these steps, I let God make the calls, if I get peace about it in prayer, in reading Scripture, through my wife, etc. then I know that I am in God's will, if I do not, I simply backtrack and move in another direction.

That was easy when I had peace about it. Then, something strange happened. A few communications with the parties that were involved left me feeling less at peace. There weren't any huge red flags, by all means, I still wanted to take the job. But, the peace was fading. So, I brought in the big guns, my incredibly discerning wife, to see what kind of peace she had. And, as we reviewed the details, she had great insights, and she too had a fading sense of peace.

There were still a couple of steps to take short of taking the job, and so I decided to take them, and continue to see what happened with this feeling of peace. Within another week, it did not return, and so I reached out to the various parties who were now involved both in Silicon Valley and abroad to withdraw my application. 

The good news is that these guys are also Christians, and I knew they were praying about this whole thing too, so I figured it wouldn't end badly. And, in fact, they were so gracious in their understanding. We agreed that this was the best solution, even if it wasn't predicted or convenient. I resolved to continue to find a way to serve the project and certainly pray for it.

Within 48 hours I realized that the contacts I believed would serve this start-up should still be plugged into it, even without me at the helm. And so I reached out to make those connections. I continued to pray for the project, and then a dear friend of mine, who I had discussed this whole thing with, sent me another candidate for the job. So, I reached out again with a new candidate for the job, someone with arguably a better skill set for the position that I have.

The conversation continues. The team that is in place to launch this enterprise, well, they are Godly men, they're praying too and while we know that I won't work with them in a legal sense, I know that in God's Kingdom we are all co-laborers, and I have a high level of certainty that we will continue to serve each other in our efforts. This is the kind of really sweet relations that can happen even in rejecting a sweet job offer when one is dealing in the Kingdom of God. 

People Getting It Done

Why Francis Chan Is My Favorite Pastor

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When I was first coming into my faith, a guy told me to look up Francis Chan's YouTube videos. The first one I found (just below) had me watching his videos late into the night, very impacted by what he was saying, his emphasis on the profound meaning of Scripture often overlooked, and his sense of urgency.

When I moved to California, I learned that Francis lived in San Francisco, and it wasn't too long before I had a chance to hear him preach in person at a youth event. I realized then that what strikes me most about Francis is his urgency, the man does not want to waste a minute on this Earth. That, and a fear of the Lord, has driven this man deep into his faith, and his teachings have literally changed me as a person.

In November 2013, at the New Canaan Society San Francisco Weekend, Francis was set to speak again. I was eager to hear what he was going to say to a few hundred business guys packed into the opulent Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill. Francis looked to be under duress during his talk, he gazed to Heaven, at one point he knelt on the ground in prayer before the men. Here is what he said.

After this talk, I was struck silent. I walked back to my hotel room, not wanting to listen to another speaker or talk to anyone, I just wanted to get on the ground before God in prayer. I wanted to repent that I just keep doing things on my own terms, not surrendering to God the way I know he is calling me to do. As I walked to my room, coming from the other direction was my roommate, Charlie. 

Charlie and I entered the room one after the other, and I don't recall that we spoke a single word to each other. We put our things down, he in his separate room, me in mine. We soon realized we were both about to be on the floor in prayer, and so we joined each other. We called out to God and our prayers sounded similar. We prayed for maybe forty five minutes or so.

As we got up, we recognized there was a reason we were connected through this group, that we were sharing a room, that we both came back to pray. We offered to each other that while we are friends, we really only know about 70% of each other, at best. We agreed that we didn't want to leave this conference, and make nominal changes for a few weeks or months, to return to the same old way of doing things.

We made a commitment right then and there that we would work hard to get to know each other. And, more importantly, we would call each other every day or two to hold each other accountable to reading Scripture and to getting before God in prayer.

Over a year later, Charlie and I still talk a couple times a week at the minimum, pray together, reveal our struggles as much as anything, and encourage each other through life. There are times when we'd rather not reach out for all kinds of reasons, sometimes we are even annoyed at each other, but we both know that our relationship serves a higher purpose, that investing in the other isn't just about us, its about drawing closer to God, and glorifying Him. I think its fairly rare to have these kinds of real relationships among men, but I think when the Holy Spirit moves men get connected in a very strong way in relationships that bear great fruits.

I digressed there a bit into my personal story, rather than about Francis Chan and why he is "Getting It Done." Most recently, I had a chance to have dinner with Francis with about a dozen other guys. We were eager to hear what he's been up to with his "Crazy Love" project in the Bayview section of San Francisco. In a nutshell, Francis decided to start living church with a core group of brothers and sisters that are known by their love and their unity first, and then multiply from there.

He shared over dinner how they had multiplied a couple of times already, he told stories about how Christ's love is being expressed, and the way that everyday men and women are being raised up to teach and make disciples. In fact, Francis says he seldom preaches, since everyone is willing and able to preach and share together.

The question that came to my mind, which I asked Francis, is this, "Are the people who are coming into the church poor?" Francis said that they are. And then the follow-up question, "Can it work among the rich?" This is the million dollar question (ok, pun intended). So many of the disciple making movements that I hear about that have the characteristics of the early church we read about in Acts, people loving and caring for each other and being united, well, it mostly seems to happen among the poor. 

This lead to Francis talking about a project he feels led to, a partnership with a larger church in Silicon Valley called Abundant Life. The elders at Abundant approached him about going "all in" for the kind of love and unity Francis is seeking with Crazy Love. And so, Francis has an opportunity to try "it" on a larger scale, he's come on as an elder and is preaching there periodically. Needless to say, I'm going to be praying for his effort and keeping an eye on the progress for sure. Here is a sermon Francis gave at Abundant Life called "Giving God Our Best."

In closing, I just heard Francis talk, again at the New Canaan Society Conference in San Francisco. And while a good deal of his talk was directed at the men and movement of NCS, his boldness in speaking the truth, in only desiring to please God was evident. And, his message about defining the God we serve from Revelation Chapter 4 has already vastly changed the way I pray. As soon as the video is available, I'll post it here online. 

Don't stop Francis, fly far as on the wings of eagles brother!

People Getting It Done

Touched by the Suffering of Jack McCall

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4

Jack and I first met when I attended a 6:30 am Christians in Commerce Meeting at the San Jose Chapter. I can't recall entirely how it worked out that we ended up grabbing lunch together soon after, but we did. Jack is the refreshing type of believer who lays it all on the table, his shortcomings, his struggles, and mostly, his praise. 

I've come to Jack with some of my own struggles as a result, and he is a rare person in that he shies away from giving advice. He wrote to me once:

"I'm not one to give men advice, because God has assured me that His voice to each heart is far more impacting than any knowledge I may impart. He does use me to speak to folks, but not usually in the way of advice." 

He may share a relevant story, but usually doesn't say "do this or do that." I've found that when I go to Jack, the Holy Spirit moves through him to me in a profound way.

Jack and I have had several such "Holy Spirit exchanges" between us over the past year or so. One such case was a breakout of prayer in the middle of a Denny's restaurant I wrote about here.

The Holy Spirit moved through Jack as he spoke at his wife's funeral in the Fall of 2014. She passed away after 40+ years of marriage, and I grieved in my heart for him; I also saw God use this difficult trial for His glory. Jack's words were profound--about his failings and love for his wife--it became clear their marriage was a great testimony. 

In the days after Jack lost his wife, he was understandably shaken. He grieved tremendously, and publicly to those who know him and follow his blog. In the midst of this great trial in his life, I saw that God was doing deep and wonderful work in his life. The words he was writing cut right to my heart, I'd often tear up while reading them.

I reached out to Jack to see how he was doing over breakfast a month or two after his wife's passing, I just had a sense I needed to pray with him. When I did, the most miraculous thing happened, I wrote about it here. This was God using Jack's suffering to bless others.

Not long after Jack's wife died, his mother died too. I learned that his brother had died within a year or so prior to his wife's death. He had also dealt with a challenging sale of a business he had built over many years. To look at his life from an outsider's perspective, one might have great pity on Jack. But I know Jack and I know better, and I saw how there was treasure in the midst of the brokenness. In fact, I texted and emailed Jack that on several occasions. I couldn't hold back from telling him how clear it was to me that even while he was numb and grasping most days for a way to get by, his continued faith and obedience to God's word was serving as a great sermon to most everyone around him. 

Now, months later, I've been able to witness Jack start to become outrageously blessed in the wake of all the loss and mourning. He is literally a man dancing with joy at how good God is, and to say that is a real miracle. I know many who have faced this kind of loss and are derailed if not wrecked by it. Jack has been sustained by his faith, and out of his sufferings he has emerged in a deeper walk with God and having impacted many through his walk. 

In closing, Jack has a website where he blogs and provides resources online here, register to receive his blog posts, which I always read when I receive it in my inbox. I really like his "Appointment with God" outline he has posted online here. As Jack shifts from career as a successful salesman to spend more time in ministry, I expect God is going to do continue to do amazing things through him. 

People Getting It Done, Legends

Neil Ahlsten: Prayer Builder

Neil brings a professional focus to faith, a rare and desirable trait when done in step with the Holy Spirit. The questioning, tinkering, hacking in the Silicon Valley sense, matched with top notch execution, all in the midst of and service to the Christian faith is a formula for a modern-day Hands On Christian. And Neil is that.

He left a prime gig at Google to launch a start-up focused on building communities of prayer (story here). The app, called Abide, is growing fast with new functionality and partnerships with the National Prayer Committee, International House of Prayer (IHOP), and more. 

I've been super excited to support Neil and the Abide team, even providing pro bono marketing and event services. This is because over the past year or so I've experienced powerful moves of the Holy Spirit as I've checked my text and voicemail to hear prayers left for me. In fact, my mailboxes have been filled up forcing me to back-up important prayers I want to revisit. It has seemed to be a crude solution with tons of potential for improvement, and I believe Abide is a solution. 

More than Abide, I've watched Neil take part in a variety of other constructive initiatives in Silicon Valley to build the church, including as an organizer, mentor, and key driver of the Code for the Kingdom Hackathon series in the Valley. I've also been blessed to join Neil on occasion early in the morning to, what else, pray.

Keep an eye on what this brother is up to here, and download and try out Abide

Adventures in Faith, Most Read, Miracles

A Moving Experience

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

Whitney and I were limping along--she recovering from major surgery and post-pregnancy, both of us more sleep deprived than we dreamed possible--absorbing the responsibilities of caring for a newborn baby. Boden turned one month old, I returned to work. I received an email notice--we have 60 days to vacate our home, a place we had just turned into our little predictable, cozy, safe nest. I became nauseous. 

The nausea turned to fear and desperation. How would I tell Whitney? I had to be strong and encouraging, we would be just fine, but I felt like, in fact, we would not. This might do us in. We already felt "done in" as it were. My reaction in the midst of the chaos was to pray, "Lord, help me, help us. Father, please do a miracle, strengthen us, assure us you have us in your hand."

Then I called Whitney. In addition to the email a letter was dropped at the house. A knock on the door, a quick check of the place, baby secure, body parts covered, peeking through the port hole, nobody there, open door, letter drops to the ground. 

She already knew. Like me, she was sick. Unbelievable. How could we do it now? How could she [our landlord] do this now?

We prayed together on the phone. "Lord, help us." We prayed that night, and the next day too. Amazingly, within 48 hours, our hearts began to change. We've seen God work too many times before, we trust Him, we thought that maybe He was up to something, we began to expect a miracle or at least personal growth and spiritual sanctification through this trial. 

Still we were faced with the reality of the Silicon Valley rental market, currently ranked by many sources as the most brisk and expensive in the country. I snapped into action, enlisting prayer support by colleagues, close friends, folks at church. I reached out to those knowledgeable about real estate and began to search listing sites. "Lord, I trust you to provide, but please don't let this down to the last minute like you did with our last move," I asked. 

A couple weeks go by, nothing. One night, late at night, in between feedings and diaper changes and soothing the baby, I feel compelled to check Craigslist from my phone. I rarely do this, as navigating real estate listings with all their details on a phone makes for too much zooming, scrolling, squinting.

There at the top of the search is a place that is.... a block away. Clean. Updated. Slightly larger. Ground floor, better with a baby. Same price as now. It would totally work! One problem...the ad ends with the following: ABSOLUTELY NO PETS!!! We have two, a cat and a dog. 

I decide to call and go see it anyway. Two days later, a block away, we enter to meet Hank. A pleasant guy, the place is better than advertised. It would work. We want it. We tell Hank the same. Hank asks if we have pets. I respond that we have a dog, he's a great dog, house trained, small and clean, minimal shedding, I show him pictures. 

Hank says he likes us, but he has many who are interested, and if another equally likeable couple surfaces without a pet, he will chose them. Understandable.

We depart, and immediately realize that, as seems to be occurring often lately, our minds are not working clearly. We did not communicate that we also have a cat. Our hearts sink. We forgot about our cat. It is plain weird to forget about your cat, but lately, we forget how to pronounce common words. We pray on the way back to our house, "Lord, we want this house, please give us favor."

We know that we have to call Hank and tell him about our cat, which is just a weird conversation to have. "Hey, so we just met you, and by the way, we have a cat too, we just forgot about him." Seems shady, but that's what I did, Hank seemed to understand, he hung up. I told Whitney we most certainly lost that opportunity, she replied that it was in God's hands. 

Later that day, our landlord came by to inspect the property, figure out what needed to be fixed before selling. By now, we had no bitterness toward her, God did that in our hearts. When she arrived, we were pleasant, we showed off how well we thought we had taken care of the place. She agreed--she was delighted. She was eager to list the place soon, and asked how quickly we could move out to which we replied it would likely take us the full 60 days, given the baby and all. Plus, we had no strong leads at the time, just the place we'd seen earlier, but there was the pet problem. She asked if she could call the landlord of that place, to tell him how great of tenants we were, we obliged, and she made the call on the spot. 

We engaged in conversation, which led to her telling us that she had to sell because she was embattled in a divorce, had to liquidate everything. It was a tragedy to her, our condo she had planned to keep for her autistic son so he could eventually live there. Everything was in shambles now. Seeing now that this situation was so difficult and painful for her, we told her we'd keep her in prayer. She left.

Forty-five minutes passed. I went to the mailbox. Oddly, the landlord was still outside, standing next to her car speaking with the real estate agent. "Ryan," she called, "would you come here?" She told me how grateful she was for us, how she wanted to help us even more. She offered to pay for our new place so that we could move in effective immediately, give us all of our deposits back, including the non-refundable pet deposit, and pay for a mover to help. Wow, this was becoming surreal. 

I marched back to tell Whitney the good news about our landlord, and then with another call to Hank with the news, we received confirmation and a key to our new place, a block away, within just a few days. After a hard few weeks of moving, unpacking, and reestablishing functionality in the home, we came to appreciate our new place that offered more space, first floor living (a bit help with a baby and a dog), and a little side yard. 

A stark contrast to our first home search in the Bay Area that went right to the wire, this move during a tough time as new parents was clearly blessed by God as we look back on it. Through prayer we saw our hearts shifted, were able to encourage our landlord, made a stand to be honest with our new landlord, got favor with him, and through much prayer, we saw a new, better place emerge with surprising speed and circumstances. Praise God for that!