Friday, August 09, 2019


Invited - The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness
Many people today feel lonely, isolated, and disconnected from God and others. We crave authentic community, but we have no idea where to start. We'd be glad to cultivate friendships; but honestly, who's got the time?

In Invited, writer Leslie Verner says real hospitality is not having a Pinterest-perfect table or well-appointed living room. True hospitality is not clean, comfortable, or controlled. It is an invitation to enter a sacred space together with friends and strangers. Through vivid accounts from her life and travels in Uganda, China, and Tajikistan, and stories of visiting congregations in the United States, Verner shares stories of life around the table and how hospitality is at the heart of Christian community. What if we in the West learned about hospitality from people around the globe? What if our homes became laboratories of belonging?

Invited will empower you to open your home, get to know your neighbors, and prioritize people over tasks. Holy hospitality requires more of Jesus and less of us. It leads not only to loving the stranger but to becoming the stranger. Welcome to a new kind of hospitality.

I was provided a pre-release copy of Invited and found it very thought provoking. Verner challenges us to step out of our comfort zone and to walk out loving our neighbors as Jesus called us to do. She relates story after story from her own life about how real the struggle is against our own nature and western culture and at the same time rewarding.

Read even MORE about Invited and the ideas behind the book in this post on Leslie's website:
 Four Simple Ways to Practice Hospitality

Leslie has provided me a paperback copy of Invited to giveaway to one lucky reader. Interested? You can enter by simply responding in the comments with "I WANNA COPY!" Contest ends Aug 20th. Winner will be chosen at random. Sorry, only open to U.S. residents.

If you pre-order a copy before August 20th, you are eligible for these pre-order bonuses:

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Free Water - Part Deux

Our testing found that the main HVAC unit on our house in the middle of June and July was producing 10 gallons of condensation a day. I picked up a 90 gallon tank and with some help from my daughter's boyfriend, have it now catching the condensation from the main system. In theory, this tank should store 9 days of condensation from that system. If we find we need more storage (I usually shoot for 14-21 days worth), I will find a second tank and plumb them in line.

I used the same overflow configuration as on the wine barrel, it has a 6 ft garden hose coming off the top edge of the tank leading down to a female how barb screwed on to the hose containing a screened washer like used on washing machines to keep out the mosquitoes. 

I riveted aluminum window screen wire in the center of the lid to allow filling and keeping out mosquitoes and leaves.

The tank had a 1 1/4" fitting in the bottom, so I installed a ball valve and then reduced to a 1 inch Tee. On one side of the tee, I reduced to 1/2" and installed a hose bib. On the other side, I installed a 3/4" ball valve. Plans are to run 3/4" PVC pipe under the house to provide a hose bib on the other side of the house.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Free Water?

We've experienced a few drought periods that last anywhere from three weeks to a couple of months. It can be frustrating when you've planted new trees or shrubs or watching your lawn die. The alternative to watching it all die is to water, but that can quickly get expensive if you don't have a well or access to reclaimed water. In the past, we remedied this by diverting a gutter downspout to a rain barrel. But without gutters and during a drought that doesn't even help. Another source to consider is your HVAC. During the hottest days, the HVAC system displaces condensation through a drain line. You might be very surprised at just how much water that produces in a day's time.

Our home, the "Charm House" has a main system with an air handler in the attic and a mini-split in the master bedroom. I elected to determine how much water each system was producing. So, I cut the drain line off on each one just high enough to place a 5 gallon bucket under the drain line, but high enough that when the bucket filled and overflowed it wouldn't back up the drain line. I was pleasantly surprised to find the mini-split produced 1/2 - 3/4 of a 5 gallon bucket of water a day (2.5-3 gallons). The main system produced closer to 10 gallons of water a day. That spells out to me a pretty good source of water that could be collected and used for watering during drought periods.

I just completed the collection system for the mini-split. Here is what it took:

(1) 55 gallon used wine barrel ordered from ($99.99 w free shipping)
(1) 1/2 inch MNPT brass hose bibb
(1) 3/4 inch black steel close nipple fitting
(1) 3/4 inch black steel 90 degree elbow
(1) 3/4 inch threaded male hose adapter to 3/4" pip thread
(1) rubber washer with screen diverter washer garden threads
(1 ) 3/4" barbed barb to garden hose female adapter fitting
(1) 6ft garden hose
(1) screen door repair patch 5 inch x 7 inch

Used 55 gallon wine barrel (as it arrived from

Drilled and 1/2 inch hose bib installed

drilled and 3/4 inch close nipple installed, 3/4 inch elbow installed, 3/4 inch hose adapter and 6ft hose installed for overflow

The screened hose washer goes in the 3/4" barbed barb to garden hose female adapter fitting and the the adapter screws on the hose (this prevents mosquitos getting in the barrel thru the overflow drain line)

3/4 inch hole drilled in top of barrel, screen wire cut and stapled over the hole to prevent mosquitoes from getting in the barrel. Mini-split HVAC drain line cut and draining over the hole in the top of the barrel.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Community First! Village

For those of you who have read Awakened, you may recall in the epilogue, I discussed Community First! Village in Austin, TX - a community established to restore dignity and community to the chronically homeless in the Austin area. I had the extreme privilege to visit for a week in December and stay in one of their tiny homes in their Community Inn. I knew my readers would be keenly interested in learning more about this exciting village, so I did be best to take lots of pictures to help tell the tale.

So first off, here is the cozy tiny home that I stayed in for the week:

(you know like the slippers from Wizard of Oz!)
It had a full size loft bed, a twin bed on the main level, gas stovetop grill, fridge, and full bathroom with shower.
Photo credit : Community First!
Photo credit : Community First!
Photo crddit: Community First! 

Photo credit : Community First! 

Ruby was very comfortable, and I was ever more grateful for the HVAC unit. It got pretty chilly at night in December in Austin, but the min-split unit kept the tiny house toasty warm. I was also grateful when I discovered it had a Keurig coffeemaker, so I woke each morning with a delightful cup of coffee to start my day out right!

Also included in the selection of accommodations in the Community Inn are, yes, Tepees! It seemed a bit too cold for this option in December. Imagine my surprise when I woke Monday and discovered that other guests had slept in the teepees.

Community First! has an amphitheater where they host free family movie nights on Friday nights that is open to the public. It is a great way for the surrounding neighbors to learn about the community. 

 Mobile Loaves and Fishes originated as a ministry that provided food, hot beverages, water, socks, and blankets to the homeless around Austin by driving to the various homeless camps and serving Goodness with trucks like this one.

They now have a fleet of trucks!

One of the wonderful elements of construction through out the community is the water catchment systems that is included on the tiny houses as well as the public community buildings. This water is used to water plants and gardening.

Along with the water catchment, the community also has included solar power in the design of several buildings. (at the corner of Grace and Mercy Trail and Goodness BLVD.)

The community has an incredible garden. They hold a farmers market on Saturdays where everyone in the village can get fresh vegetables for free.

How's that for an outdoor chess set?

The coolest barbecue grill ever. I tried really hard to figure out how to get it home with me. They watched me really close every time I got near it.

Homeless individuals are allowed to select from RVs, canvas "tent homes", or tiny homes varying in size. They pay monthly rent which varies depending on the size of the home. Residents can work in various jobs within the village to pay their rent, laundry mat, and have spending money. Jobs include grounds maintenance, cleaning the community buildings and shower houses, working in the gardens, and working in the auto service shop that provides car wash/detailing and oil changes to the general public.

They even have a community library where residents can check out books and movies.

A sneak peek in the door of the chapel.

They have an art studio, a blacksmith shop, and a woodworking shop where residents can earn money building various items and selling them to the surrounding communities. 

There is even a frisbee golf  (or disc golf) course. 

They have enough laying hens that everyone in the community gets a dozen of fresh eggs each week.

I had the honor of volunteering for 4 days alongside of the residents who were performing their daily jobs in the village and got to hear their stories of what it was like living on the streets and how they came to live at Community First! It was encouraging to hear them tell how the community had changed the quality of their lives and restored their dignity.