Newsletter – Volume 40


Newsletter – Volume 40

April 1, 2024

This Week

Confessions From the Back of the Pen
Meet Joseph and Stephanie...
Joseph and Stephanie Claypool experienced the worst kind of heartache that befalls a family. They lost their daughter to a rare disease just after she turned one. In sorting out what to do with the heartache and pain, they made a bold and heroic decision to redeem the pain by investing in the lives of troubled girls in a project they have named “Mustard Seed Village”. I met them while writing for Round Rock Neighbors Magazine, and they were kind enough to let me share their story here as well.

After our daughter passed, we wanted to do something to honor her legacy. So, we started saving and praying. We had a knack for flipping homes and whenever we finished a project, we socked away every extra penny. Once we saved enough to make a credible pitch, we started casting our vision to several local banks. With each presentation the reply was the same, “It’s a great idea, we just don’t see how the numbers will work.” It was tough to hear so many ‘nos’ but we felt like the Lord was behind it, so we kept asking. Eventually we found ourselves before Rene Flores of Amplified Credit Union, and he was so moved by the idea that he said, “We need this in Round Rock! We are going to figure out a way to help get this done.” He did! It is now up-and-running.

There are now 28 leasable two-bedroom units that surround the home for girls. They rent for about 20% below typical market rates. The residents are a cross-section of college students, single parents, construction workers, and first responders. The idea is that the girls can be encircled by people who are ‘making it’ in life. It provides a first- hand view of what can be their own story someday. The girls and the residents share a laundry facility and an outdoor BBQ space, where strategic events are planned, and spontaneous interactions are engaged naturally.

The girls themselves are part of a five-phase discipleship program that is coordinated through Teen Challenge. The girls continue their education alongside their life skills sessions and discipleship. But, perhaps the most meaningful part of the program is that we work hard on making sure they know they are loved. So, they get birthday cakes on their birthday and flowers at their graduation. The broader community is also great about providing free tickets to the ball games at Dell Diamond and free afternoons at Kalahari Resort. For a lot of these girls this is the first time they have ever had a cake or a birthday party. And to see their faces on these special days makes it all worth it.”

When they are not working at the Village, Rachel is a teacher at  Teravista Elementary School, and Joseph is a Lieutenant in the Round Rock Police Department, and for Joseph this is an important piece of his work. “I want the girls to have experiences with police officers that are positive. We are here as part of the community that wants to help them to succeed.” Rachel sees it similarly, “I grew up in Round Rock, and when I was given the  opportunity to teach, I wanted to teach at Round Rock ISD. I love  this community, and this is one of the ways I think our family can give back to a place that made such positive investments in me.”

These folks inspire me to take every hardship in life and see it as a chance for God to work something redemptive through it. That is what is at the heart of every Black Sheep Messenger, and they are exemplary models of it.

Word of the Week


Noun: a desperate or reckless person, most likely a criminal.

It’s one of my all-time favorite songs played by one of the all-time greatest bands – which I happened to see in concert just about a year ago.  The song is about one who is desperate to know genuine love (even though he might not realize that’s what he is longing for).  It’s the story of so many of us. Perhaps that is why the song became so popular. The final line is:

“Let someone love you…”

As many of us celebrated this past Easter weekend, we were reminded of one who loves us better/deeper than any human ever could – he laid down his life for us. Then he rose again! Many of us know and can recite the story verbatim. We can even talk through the theological implications, but maybe it’s been a bit since you felt the power and wonder of it personally.  No shame in admitting that. Sometimes the stuff going on in the world around us does a pretty good job of making the picture pretty cloudy.

But my prayer is that God in his mercy will give you a fresh taste of his goodness and love this week!

A Reflection for the Day After Easter

Living In the Glow of Easter

By Christine Sine:  Liturgist and blogger of Godspace.

Here I sit, the day after Easter, and I have realized something fresh and startling, profound but quite simple – we don’t come to Jesus, Jesus comes to us.

So often we talk about “coming to Jesus” as though we are the ones who control what happens. But we aren’t. Jesus comes to us, as he did to Mary in the garden. The work of resurrection, revelation and transformation lies squarely on his shoulders. And he knows what I need. Nothing is asked of us except a willingness to listen and be willing to walk with him on a new journey into a new way of life.

I look at the disciples and Jesus followers and I am reminded that Jesus comes to us, the presence of love comes to us, when we are in the place of grief and despair and draws us into the light of a bright and shining day. It doesn’t mean that life is the way it was before but does mean that change and transformation are possible because Jesus is still with us.

Sit still,
Let the presence of Almighty God
Embrace you.

Breathe deeply
Allow the love of the Glorious One
To still the turmoil of your soul.

Listen carefully with an open heart.
Hear the words of eternal truth.
Let them bring you life
In the midst of chaos.

Next Steps in the Cancer Journey

BCG Treatment

This past week, I went to my local urologist to talk through the details of a treatment I will be receiving for the bladder. BCG is actually a vaccine made with a species of weakened mycobacterium (a group of tiny bacteria). The bacteria used in the vaccine is related to the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. This vaccine is a type of immunotherapy, which means the goal is to get the body’s own immune system to attack and kill cancer cells. BCG treatments are administered as intravesical therapies. This means the vaccine is administered into the bladder itself through a catheter – oh the joy!

This approach to therapy puts the vaccine and medicines into contact with the lining of the bladder for an extended time. This lets it affect the cells in the bladder and actively fight cancer \ without impacting other parts of the body.  The only risk for me is \ that I have a stent in place from my previous surgery (which the folks at Mayo want me to keep in place). The stent might allow some of the vaccine to escape into the kidney and blood stream, which we do not want. It is a small risk, but it does give me pause. So, if you are the praying type, join me in prayer against that risk I will be in treatment for the next 6 weeks before I go back to Mayo for my next surgery.

Should you want to stay current with a more detailed report along the way, you can follow along on Facebook at Piet’s Phitness Partners.

A Symbolic Gesture of Care

A Pair of Boxing Gloves

These gloves have been across the country in training and winning competitions.  The original owner earned his black belt using them.

This past week he gave them to me…

He fought many a good fight with them, and now it’s my turn.  My fight is also physical – not to earn a black belt – but to kick cancer’s ass.  And that is the plan.

Riser is a fellow Black Sheep Messenger, who was featured in Volume 10. He is a martial arts instructor, a bouncer, a marksman and my hair stylist. He (like many others) has tried to find unique ways to show his support to me in the middle of this health challenge. It’s hard to put into words what this kind of kindness and care means to me.  When people express this level of concern it is highly motivating. It makes me want to get better.  But maybe more importantly it is a wonderful reminder that I am not in this alone. 

The good Lord is fighting for me and with others cheering me on like this – how can I not come out on the other side the victor!?

Fight the good fight of the faith…

I Timothy 6:12
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