Pruning the Good


At the end of each growing season, the vinedresser prunes the branches that were most productive during the season. Rather than have them sap the energy from next season’s fruit by growing the branch, they will cut the branch back drastically. Even though it has been highly productive, perhaps even because it was highly productive, it will be pruned. When the new growing season starts all the energy stored up in the vine is able to find its way to the new fruit rather than the old branch.

When I read this I had an “ah-ha” moment. Finally something made a bit of sense about the last year and a half. You see, while I wasn’t altogether surprised by my move to Chicago, it wasn’t one I was quite ready for. I felt like I still had so much more to do where I was. Not only that but I had people around me that I was able pour into and who poured into me. I had family, impact, and many plans.

Yet God very clearly moved me to the city. I’ve loved living here, don’t get me wrong. As I’ve often mentioned, Chicago is the first place that I’ve truly felt at home. Granted most of that had to do with my internal peace and healing, but still there is something about this city that makes me come alive. The people, the food, the energy, the lake, the opportunities, the diversity, the brokenness, the beauty that arises even out of the worst situations are all things I’ve found in Chicago. This is where I know I’m suppose to be.

Still I feel like my right arm has been cut off. Outside of a small group of people, I’m not involved in the lives of others as I once was. I no longer do life with people who I could call up at a moments notice, who worked side by side with me in my neighborhood, who I was able to disciple and pour into, who discipled and poured into me. For the first year, I attributed it to moving, getting established in my new work and world, and the reality of proximity. But I think there is something more at work. I have a sense that in this second year, there is something that will come out of the pruning of the good.

Rather than bemoan the fact that I’m no longer tightly connected to the people I love so much, I need to see what is right here. Who and what is God raising up in my life right now? What is God about in this moment? If I focus on then and there, here and now will be lost, as will what is to come. I either trust God and let him prune where he sees fit, or I don’t trust him at all. There is no other choice.

God prunes the good for a good reason. Prune away, Master Vinedresser, prune away!


Violence & School


Most of you will have heard of the extraordinary violence that has plagued Chicago this summer. Over July 4th alone about 84 people were shot and 14 people were killed. Each weekend it seems like there is a fresh batch of shootings with children getting caught in the crossfire. Most of these shootings are localized in various neighborhoods. One such neighborhood is Englewood. When I was looking for a neighborhood to move into last year, Englewood was at the top of the violent crime list and has one of the highest levels of poverty in the city. Yet it is also a neighborhood where families are fighting to survive and thrive.

It should not surprise you that one of the offices I work with, and occasionally in, is in Englewood. Family & Community Services has a significant presence there. So, you might ask, what are WE doing about the violence? Excellent question!

Working with the elementary schools of Englewood, we are connecting students who are at risk with the tools to deal with their situation and to find healthy alternatives. Alongside counseling, we have a Girls’ Journal Club that allows the girls to express how they feel. This helps them make better decisions instead of simply reacting. The Boys’ Book Club engages the boys in reading that helps them see the world through a different lens as well as discuss their situations in a healthy environment. What has been really great is a parents’ group that has formed from our efforts. The parents are sick with worry for their kids, for their neighborhood and are working hard to raise healthy children amidst the violence. One great challenge among many they face is the lack of viable income to provide the basics that are needed to set their kids up for success.

When I was in working in Lake County I saw many students who were not able to buy the supplies they needed for school. But because of generous churches, most students had supplies. Some even had too many and their parents worked the system to make a profit. This is definitely not the case in Englewood. Kids are ill supplied and are coming from a deficit position even before they start.

I want to raise $2000 to help the students in Englewood with the supplies they need. For just $20 I can get a backpack, school supplies and supplies for our youth program for one student for the school year.JUST $20!

$2000 will help 100 students in our program. $2000 will provide basic supplies to our social workers for the entire year. $2000 will take one more weight off the already hard-working parents’ shoulders. If we raise more, it simply means we are able to increase our efforts in Englewood.

Many of you have worked with me either in the mobile home park, in Love INC, in the nursing home, in the homeless shelter, in church or in the kids ministry in Waukegan. Or you are reading this blog because you to share a commitment to the least of these and for kids who through no fault of their own are being set up for failure. Will you help me help them succeed?

Many of you have donated to The Salvation Army before. Please do not stop or divert your on-going gifts. BUT if you are able to give an additional $20 either to the address below or by following the link, I know it will make a real difference in a child’s life.

We need the funds (or the pledge) by August 8, though we will accept funds throughout August. If you want to donate online, you may do so HERE. If you would like to write a check please send it to the address below. If possible, can you let me know the check is coming and the amount? That way I can buy the backpacks in advance. Our parent workshop where we will distribute the backpacks is on August 22. We need time to prepare.

If you are unable to give, please pray for our staff in Englewood, the parents who will be attending the workshop and who are involved year round, and for Family & Community Services as we work in the dangerous places around the city. Your prayers mean the world to me and to the people I work with.

If you have any questions, please let me know. I appreciate you reading this and praying as God leads!



Send checks to:

The Salvation Army Family & Community Services
Attn: Kim Dougherty
4800 N. Marine Drive
Chicago, IL 60640

Sweet Home Chicago!


Chicago Street

It has been a whirlwind of a summer to say the least. The last two weeks have been particularly so. Moving, Ravinia concerts, birthday fun, conferences and deadlines galore.  Yet with my first full weekend in the city under my belt, I find myself praying, “What now, Lord?”

Obviously, my first priority is to the work that God provided through The Salvation Army Family & Community Services. Understanding the ins and outs of all the programs that serve the vulnerable, marginalized and otherwise forgotten will take some time. But once that work is done each day, I know there is something more to this move than the job, worthwhile though it is.

I have a sense that time is what is needed now. Time to give God room to breathe new vision and new direction. Time to understand what it means to live in one of the largest cities in the country. Time to enjoy my new world. Time to meet new people, build new relationships, and strengthen old ones. Most importantly, I need to give time to let God prep the next phase whatever it might be.

My three years in Wauconda were marked by great passion, ambition and, quite honestly, pain. All of which was necessary to take me from one side of the mountain to the other, just as God intended when he sent me there. On the other side was and is tremendous peace, joy, power and love. God brought all that into my life because I committed to the road of mission. I’m still on the road, but it is something completely new now. Unlike the past, I find I don’t want to anticipate what lies ahead. I’ve learned to let God lead fully, and I’ve also learned true peace and trust in him. I wouldn’t give that up for anything, even a road map to the next adventure.

So as I pray, “What next, Lord?” I have no anxiety or drive to make something happen. If I have learned anything by living in mission, it is that God will make his will known and he will do the hard work of laying the foundation. I simply need to follow him. In this case, I followed him to Chicago. Go figure.

A Place to Call Home


Chicago HomesAs I seek a place to live in Chicago, close to my new job, I realize that my criteria for a home is slightly different than what most people in America look for. What I find important is usually the very opposite of what others find important and vice versa. Granted, I do have some things on my wish list: a dishwasher, laundry in the building, hardwood floors (which isn’t really all that hard to find in Chicago), a place for my flowers, and enough space for my books would all be welcome. These items would make my life immeasurably nicer, but I won’t reject a place because they are lacking. The fact that I have a wish list indicates just how blessed I am. Many in America and many more around the world simply desire a roof over their head and food in their stomachs.

What I won’t compromise on is what makes my search a bit more challenging.

The greatest priority is to be in a diverse neighborhood. To me, diversity signifies God’s kingdom made visible. In heaven we will see people from all “tribes and tongues” gathered in worship of the One God of all creation. Living in an ethnically diverse neighborhood not just feeds my palate (think of all the food!) but also my spirit. It really is a joyful experience being surrounded by the nations.

The second priority is access to the Lake Shore bike path. I have found that proximity to a bike path, wherever I have lived, has directly impacted my fitness level. Even in Wauconda where there are paths that connect in town, I find it difficult at times to jump on the bike and ride. In Gurnee, this was never a problem since it was immediately behind my place. I’m not much of a street biker, but if it is just a few blocks to the lake or other paths, I’ll be fine. My bike and I need this quality time together and I have to make provision for it.

Other priorities have to do with the type of neighborhood I’m looking for. I want a small building where interaction with my neighbors is likely because of the design. A 3- or 6- flat would be great. I want the neighborhood to be relatively safe, where families live, but I do not want a middle class neighborhood if at all possible.  A working class or even poor neighborhood would be lovely. Safe and poor are not necessarily mutually exclusive, though it is more challenging to find.

For me, it is a matter of principle (and calling) to live in a neighborhood and be active in it. Since my heart is with the poor, it is natural I will gravitate toward those neighborhoods. I have learned my lesson about trying to do community development alone, but wherever I live I will want to get to know my neighbors and demonstrate the kingdom of God in that place. My hope is that others will be in or move into that neighborhood to do the same with me.

In my new job I will be interacting with all kinds of folks. I’m thrilled by this opportunity. I also know that this could be emotionally and spiritually draining. So my new home will also need to be a place of sanctuary, a place of refreshing and retreat as needed. I will want to have people over, to do any and all kinds of ministry, but still a place to be renewed will be important. God knows I need this and he will provide.

With all these considerations is it any wonder that I struggle with finding, or even describing, the right place? Just as I know God gave me my job, I know he will provide the best place to live both for me and for the community I live in. Until he reveals it, I will wait. I’ll suffer the commute and pray for the neighborhoods I visit. God knows where he is leading me. He also knows I’ll follow.