Out of the City

Banksy | Dismaland Gift Print | 2015 | The Art of Banksy “Without Limits” | Atlanta Exhibition 2021 | Atlanta Underground |


Out of the City

The notion of home and space has perhaps never been as coveted as it is right now. “Out of the city,” serves as a reminder of the big-picture transformations the housing industry is now experiencing. The reshuffling of people from city centers to suburbs is a pandemic-fueled trend that’s unlikely to go away anytime soon.

I am speaking with you tonight on ZOOM about the uncomfortable process of moving itself and what eventually guided our family to move, “out of the city.”

It was at the Atlanta North SDA Church where I first heard the phrase, “out of the city.” The expression was brought up during Sheryl Bernard’s convincing testimony delivered during church service 15 years ago. She and her family were getting out of Atlanta.

“Out of the city” felt very much like a warning to flee and save yourself. We wanted to be safe and secure from all alarms, but we are NOT saved by living in the city or by living in the country.

At that time, our family was living in a quiet, north Atlanta neighborhood, where we were well anchored in power, property and prestige. Wherever we lived, our family wanted to be intentional and willing to be converted, because our white imagination was killing us. We prayed for God to help us set out on a path of true conversion. The only way to convert — emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and culturally — was to uproot our family and abandon our selfishness and self-absorption. For better and for worse, Jesus was in our blood.

Moving “out of the city,” to the country would not be a big transition for me. I had a different relationship to the country. Country living was in my family’s DNA. I came from a long line of ancestors who saw country living as an opportunity. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, I was raised in North Carolina understanding that country living was the path to security, self-determination and freedom. On the other hand, moving deeper into the big unknown was my learning curve.

Moving to the “other side of the tracks” felt patronizing, and I found myself asking complex questions, “Who invited us anyway?” But while spending the weekend in Mississippi at the home of Dr. John and Vera Mae Perkins, co-founder of Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), he opened my mind and gave me permission to relocate to his beloved community. This was the first great commission given to Abram.

“Go to the people, live among them, learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, ‘We have done this ourselves.’ ” Perkins said, quoting Lao Tzu.

We were NOT convicted to move “out of the city,” but instead, we launched our family deeper into the city to stand beside our brothers and sisters in need, sharing our spiritual and material goods with them, discovering what church and community looked like in a non-white neighborhood.

The mission was simple and straightforward, although we hit the ground running. It was not easy or glamorous, but uncomfortable and inconvenient. It was sufficiently stressful and scarry. I held no nostalgia for the South.

Dirt has never been easy. The backyard of our apartments opened onto a half-acre-wide easement overgrown with kudzu, dirty diapers and used tires. It was city-owned land, and soon after moving in, we “borrowed” some for gorilla gardening. Having a garden means planting seeds and watching them grow. We gardened to reconcile the tension between black and white and to make a statement of how far we’ve come and where we’re going. The garden gestured to the future.

I felt like the exiled Hebrews in the book of Daniel who faced the pressures of a foreign land, a foreign culture and a foreign religion while fostering connection and bringing the message of God to the nations. I needed a new pair of glasses to look beyond trials, in the midst of trials.

Parker Palmer, a columnist from On Being with Krista Tippett, echoes my experience this way: “Split off from each other, neither darkness nor light is fit for human habitation,” he writes. “The moment we say ‘yes’ to both of them and join their paradoxical dance, the two conspire to make us healthy and whole.”

It was because of intentional living in the city (2007-2014), that we were shifted to live intentionally, “out of the city,” (2014-present). Now it was our turn to experience the wilderness like Moses.

Remember the rainbow, radiating its transforming power to all of creation? Wherever you choose to live — in the city or out of the city — we are the sign people are looking for.

§tacy §weeney

Thanksgiving Key Lime Cake

Vegan Key Lime Cake | Photo, recipe and cake by Stacy Sweeney

You might as well add green food coloring to this cake recipe because I hear it’s all bad for you, anyway. This is my basic birthday cake recipe with the texture of a wedding cake – dense and heavy.  Cakes are fun to make and they make your house smell like a bakery. Icing a cake is like painting. Normally, I would ice this cake perfectly, but  today I learned it looks better to show the brush strokes.

Thanksgiving Key Lime Cake Recipe
Cake Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flower
1 cup cane sugar
2 tßsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup non-dairy milk
2/3 cup grape seed oil
1/4 cup fresh key lime juice
1 tßsp key‌ lime extract
2 tßsp key lime zest

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flower, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk together milk, oil, key lime juice, zest and extract in a separate bowl. Combine wet and dry mixtures. Divide batter into 2, lightly oiled and flowered, 9-in round baking pans. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Icing ingredients:
1/2 cup Earth Balance butter
1 tsp key Lime juice
1 tsp key Lime extract
3 cups powdered sugar

Slowly beat butter, extract and juice. Add in sugar, one cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Cover cooled cakes with a double batch of icing, then stack.
Stacy Sweeney




 Like walking in a cemetery, I don’t need a headstone to remember you by, I pass through the panic peaks of weather, the wind is dropping down now to only a whisper, I need to go outside and stay, until I put myself together, where the air out there is free, for me, my reality is unraveling, and all I have are a dead man’s clothes to wear, I know I’m a fool but I can’t help it, everything I touch ends up terrible, I need to go outside and stay, until I put myself together, where the air out there is free, for me, I’m afraid I interrupted something, although Graveyard talk is one-sided, the work I do can be done with My eyes shut, We sure pick a funny place to hide, I need to go outside and stay, until I put myself together, where the air out there is free, for me, if I give this up then you’ll know, it was over my dead body, I keep coming back for more, because I live as though dying
— §tacy §weeney




Sargent | Roses


I will fill my flask
with new wine at last
blessed is he who keeps his garments

You have loved us with
everlasting love
and preserved us with your covenant

Your arms are Everlasting
Ever to Everlasting
Ever to Everlasting

§tacy §weeney

Ever to Everlasting

Sargent | Landscape with Rose Trellis

Ever to Everlasting

In your name I pray
we turn in the way
to your secret place and dwell

I will serve you, Lord
here on €arth and there
in the place you have prepared

Your arms are Everlasting
Ever to Everlasting
Ever to Everlasting

§tacy §weeney

Muddy Alligators

Sargent | Muddy Alligators

Dear Barbara O’Neill,

I hope all is well with you.
Today is day 17 post COVID infection for me and my family, and no matter how well versed we are in hand washing, I”m positive we picked it up from our children and summer campers.

Is the world trying to control the uncontrollable? Clearly, there are two well divided groups: the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. With new data surfacing, both groups are further distinguishable: the reinfected – unvaccinated and the breakthrough infected – vaccinated. What has happened to our natural immunity against this disease?

I have not been vaccinated because I am afraid and concerned of a mercury additive, since mercury exposure is a cause of Multiple Sclerosis, but when I went to the CDC.gov to view the ingredient list of all three vaccinations by Moderna, Pfizer and J&J, I did not see mercury listed. FDA.gov is also saying the vaccine is safe and effective.

What are your thoughts?

Stacy Sweeney, RN


Sargent | Two Octopi

It’s a little bit of a science lesson. My Octopus Teacher, an implicit Edenesque documentary, is set in a kelp forest full of vivid sounds and scenery, seaweed and sea anemones, in a place called Cape of Storms, West Africa. The word origin of Edenesque is from ‘Eden’, as the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis + the suffix ‘-esque’.

You might be on another planet. The wonders of watching an octopus’ life — from beginning to end — is getting out of our incredibly hard shells and journaling how the documentary illustrates Eden, and how God impressed our minds with more than one right way to think. I see the Garden of Eden coming through the swell, framing this special place like a lush landscape. This is where it gets interesting.

It’s quite stimulating for their huge intelligence. Adam was the first biologist given dominion over the beasts of the earth, as the marine biologist attested stewardship to one of the wildest, most scary places to swim on the planet.

He did not place us in a palace. God chose surroundings that were best suited for our health and happiness that only a thousand hours in nature can provide. Like God, the marine biologist went outdoors in the cool of the day to meet with his beloved, where he was greeted with some strange level of octopus joy every morning. God was his teacher; the ocean his schoolhouse.

This octopus walks. In the beginning of their garden experience, God was always protecting his people. For protection, the octopus wrapped itself in an extraordinary cloak of algae and a stack of seashells. The shark was completely outwitted.

Followed by an octopus. Somehow the sea animal recognized that this human was not dangerous. It takes an antisocial animal to a different level who can assess the capacity for harm as well as the capability for good. The level of fear between the marine biologist and the wild animal slowly dissolved.

Eden was free enough. There’s a line that can’t be crossed — free will. It’s like a forcefield. Many times the marine biologist wanted to rescue the octopus, but he realized that he would be interfering with the whole process of the forest. Instead, the shark just took her away into the misty forest.

They didn’t come back. The man’s heart was pained by the end result of a 365 day drama. Because the lifespan of an octopus is short, he couldn’t see his octopus friend anymore. Although he did not name the aquatic creature, the two were intimately acquainted, and a strong attachment united them, Like Eden, God could no longer meet face to face with Adam and Eve because their nature had become out of harmony with their Creator, and his presence was now a consuming fire. We still need the spiritual impact that only God can give, and the safest way is by reading the Bible. The Good News is: A greater than Adam is here.

All creation sighs. Eden was paradise lost. Will our oceans be next? In service to the brink of something extraordinary, Craig co-founded the Sea Change Project, a growing community of divers that is dedicated to the lifelong protection of the kelp forest. This high calling must feel like a sacred job, because these divers are like Cherubims guarding the Garden of Eden with flaming swords. I want to see what they saw.

Stacy Sweeney


Ocoee River, TN | July, 2019

Dear Barbara O’Neill,

Metamorphosis is a slow process.
This ends my 7th week of healthier living, or, “practice makes permanent,” and I look forward to seeing my body reactions after one year, five years and even 10 years.

I’m oblivious to the rearview mirrors. Yesterday, I had the energy to review my health lecture notes from the retreat. The lessons you taught on body physiology were indispensable. For example, I have compartmentalized every aspect of life. It was my error to think that oxygen and arterial blood gases were only vital to the respiratory system.

Everybody dive in. I have been going to the outdoor swimming pool once a week, and when I leave, I feel stronger, happier and more alive. I invested in a MOBI non-contact infrared thermometer that I use often. Agatha Thrash (Home Remedies) would say it’s “the prompt and beneficial effects of cold,” but you taught me that it could be the sun, and it could be the fresh air (more oxygen.) It could be all three! It could be all seven!

It’s a bit of a science lesson.
“The cold upgrades the brain because it’s getting this flood of chemicals every time you immerse in that cold water (9° C).
Your whole body comes alive, and then as your body adapts, it just becomes easier and easier and you start to crave the cold.”

// Craig Foster, Marine Biologist (My Octopus Teacher, documentary)

Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Blackberries are coming in harvest, and Pam Allen has given me her tried and true recipe for a wonderful berry-pineapple dessert with coconut cream.

Thinking of you
as I continue
to move toward the heart
of true healing
I have rivers to raft
and mountains to climb
at the Ocoee
this 4th of July

Stacy Sweeney