When is the last time you felt out of your comfort zone? When is the last time you felt like a stranger?

For me, it had been a long time. Until this week . . .

Currently, I'm studying the art of spiritual direction at the Chaplaincy Institute for the Arts and Interfaith Ministries in Berkeley, CA. And, what an out of my comfort zone experience it has been so far!

First of all, there was the difficulty of simply getting around and finding the place where I could sleep on Sunday night upon arrival. Coming into the city on Sunday night first the cab driver got lost. I paid more than $10 more than I expected to pay after winding around endless neighborhoods. Then, finally when I was dropped off at the dorm where I'd made reservations to stay at, my code to get in the building did not work! What was I to do? A sign on the door said if you were locked out at you needed to call __ number between the hours of 8-5 on weekdays (didn't help me one bit at that time!). And on top of all of this, I found out that my cell phone was dead.

So, with luggage in hand, I had no choice but to walk the streets dependent on the kindness of strangers to find a way to charge my phone (met a guy named Douglass-- I think an angel-- who took me to his apartment building's laundry room with a wall outlet).

Of course my momma taught me not to talk or follow strangers into their homes but really what was I to do?  Fear began to overcome me. This was not how my night was suppose to go!

In tears flowing down my cheeks as my phone charged, I called Kevin. He helped me make a reservation for another hotel for the night (no way to get back into the dorm until morning!). I called a cab. While I waited on the cab to come pick me up in front of the apartment, a homeless man crawled out from under the porch. I was frozen, hoping that I would not be attacked. 10 minutes later, the cab came and I was still alive! The homeless man who was half drunk seemed not to notice me.

Then, the next morning got lost walking to the school from the hotel where I crashed for the night--- ended up being 5 miles out-of-the-way (after crossing a scary interstate bridge into another not so nice part of town). Google maps totally lied to me. Note to self, never believe it blindly again! I thought the walk to the school was only 1 mile! I was almost an hour late before I figured out how to get to where I was going (via stopping at a Kinkos to ask for help. Making friends with the owner who called me a cab. My last $11 of cash on me luckily got me to the school but I was making change with my quarters in my purse). I'm sure it will be funny sometime soon, just not funny in the moment 🙂

I am especially thankful though that when I arrived at the class, I was welcomed by soon to be new friends.  

I was welcomed by a fellow pastor who walked with me up the hills (gotta love all the hills in the bay area!) to figure out my situation getting in the dorm again with the right door code(where I am now).

I was welcomed by another colleague who yesterday afternoon agreed to drive me to my hotel (where I also stayed last night) and picked me up this morning with my luggage and delivered me to the dorm after class today.

I was welcomed for lunch by a colleague in the area who I "met" three years ago via twitter but finally put a face with a name this afternoon. He gave me some tips so not to be so lost on my walking about tomorrow.

After these adventures in Berkeley, Jesus' words, " I was a stranger and you invited me in" will always hold new meaning. Being welcomed is a really wonderful thing. Really.