Monthly Archives: June 2012

Returning to Say “Thank You”

Standard

I recently heard a sermon about the healing of the lepers.  The story goes like this: (Luke 17:12 – 19)

As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “ Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. 15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

Now, I’m thinking that getting healed from leprosy and re-integrated into society after having been an outcast would create a whole set of problems on its own.  Probably, those nine other men were thinking “thank you…” while feeling great levels of anxiety about “…what’s next?”  They were excited and pre-occupied, both.  They did not stop to say “thanks.”

Tonight, on my commute home, I was trapped in the “what’s next?” line of thinking.  I realized that I have neglected to “return to give glory to God.”  So, here’s a list of sweet and wonderful THANK YOUs to God for His work in our Clarkston adventure…

THANK YOU – for a house in the subdivision that is now owned and occupied by a dear ministry family.  Over the last week, we’ve been several times and seen life there.  A young boy swinging from a rope swing.  A sister entertaining her friend in her new bedroom.  A house church meeting – young men and women praying in the living room.  A trampoline packed with rambunctious boys.  A mom happy to be cooking in her kitchen and drinking coffee on her patio.  Life.  Thank you, Lord.

THANK YOU – for a day yesterday of meeting workmen and contractors at the bungalow.  All morning long, Doug and I kept scooting over to the front window of the house, looking at the youth camp being held right across the street.  Our friend who runs a worship and arts ministry was teaching precious refugee children how to clap rhythm in a round.  (Thank you, even, for the incongruous sight of the white guy leading the nations in rhythm expertise!)

THANK YOU – that this process has taken so long.  If it hadn’t, we would never have met the four separate friends who we ran into yesterday as we ran our errands around town.

THANK YOU – that I found a Publix and Chick Fil A within shouting distance of our new home.  That’s good news!

THANK YOU – for two more closings on the other two homes by the end of the month.  Life will continue to be planted and grow in that tiny subdivision that God carved out and laid in our laps last December.

THANK YOU – for our friends who are praying with us and for us along the way.  We are grateful.

Advertisements

Life in Proximity

Standard

This week, we had dear college friend and her husband at our house for a few nights.  Being with someone who knew you when all of the “you-pieces” were coalescing into a whole has a way of turning up the volume on self-perception.

Do you remember college, when you realized how different your family was from all the others?  When it dawned on you that the “right way” your mama espoused was really just “a way” among many?  For me, it was hair.  Turns out, most people didn’t spend lots of time on their hair – they just left their room without thinking about hair.  My hair shenanigans (three round brushes and a hair dryer) were an anomaly.  People would come from other floors to see it.  And, here I thought THEY were the weird ones.

My roommate was on the opposite end of the magnet from me.  It worked, though.  We knew it was fate when we discovered our matching Ralph Lauren bedding.  That was all it took.  Our first meaningful conversation was about solving inner city poverty.  We bonded. Never mind that she stayed up nights and I got up early; she left the cap off and I squeezed neatly from the end; and she did Young Life while I stuck to InterVarsity.  The Ralph Lauren and a few good socio/political/theological discussions a week were enough. Meanwhile, she and I both knocked a few rough spots off of the other, I think.

1993. FLORAL. Ralph Lauren “Allison.”

After college, we move back into our spaces of familiarity.  We marry a boy and make a life and have our own little sub-culture again.  We forget what proximity with strangers does for us. We forget that proximity teaches us grace.

Thankfully, step-parenting is kind of like college.  Living with someone else’s kids helps you remember that there are all sorts of cookie cutters in the world, and many of them are awfully creative.  Most days I find myself sifting through what’s True versus what’s just “their way” or “my way.” It’s kind of like college…sometimes people stare at you when you think you’re just being normal.  Sometimes you learn a new way to do something when you did not even know your old way needed updating.

I hope that Clarkston puts us into proximity with other people in that way.  I hope that knowing refugees will remind us that most of life is just window dressing. The heart stuff (and, sometimes, shared admiration for a bedspread) is what creates real connection.

Facts and Feelings

Standard

The other morning, my husband came to the breakfast table with his Kindle.  He pronounced that he had a word for me from A.W. Tozer.  This pronouncement was made with a smirk on his face, so I knew there would be both truth and irony embedded within it.

He read these words: “I have had people tell me very dogmatically that they will never allow ‘feeling’ to have any part in their spiritual life and experience. I reply, ‘Too bad for you!’ I say that because I have voiced a very real definition of what I believe true worship to be: worship is to feel in the heart! In the Christian faith, we should be able to use the word ‘feel’ boldly and without apology. What worse thing could be said of us as the Christian church if it could be said that we are a feelingless people?” (A.W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship: A True Call to Worship, Chapter 7)

When Doug read this quote, he completely hammed up the “TOO BAD FOR YOU!” line, so that I could hear his heart towards me.  I could hear my husband’s kindness and patience with my feelings as they skate all over the rink of extremes, especially during this season of transition. He works hard to give weight to the value in my feelings, just as I work hard to see the need for all of his facts.

You know, men and women are pretty different.  Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending the day with Doug and our 11 year old boy.  It was great.  The facts were flying and the feelings were few.  By the end of the day, I even knew how a Neti pot worked and had seen it in action.  My men were safe and sound knowing their worlds were in order and the facts were lined up, even down to the facts of nasal decontamination.

As we’ve moved toward Clarkston, my feelings have been riled up.  Excitement, despair, hope, anxiety, giddiness, discouragement.  As we’ve moved toward Clarkston, Doug’s facts have been riled up.  Spreadsheets, contracts, notebooks with tabbed dividers, conference calls, and more spreadsheets.  When things get dicey, I spin my feelings up so that they become my only reality.  He spins his facts up so that they become his only reality.  We are totally, painfully typical.

This week, I’ve been thinking about the fact vs. feeling / man vs. woman / head vs. heart thing.  I thought about it when we realized our house is over-priced and Doug predicted we’d need to solve the problem by planning very thoroughly, while I simply wanted to play through the scenarios of what it would feel like to have to drop the price.  I thought about it when Doug shared the facts of our shared vision with a group of folks we had in Clarkston yesterday.  I thought about it when I left a Clarkston city meeting daunted by the feelings raised by opening doors to 15 new relationships in one evening’s time.  And, I thought about it when we closed on the first home in our subdivision on Thursday (yeah!!) and my heart produced a celebratory thank you note to our buyer, while Doug’s fingers typed instructions for a wire transfer.  Facts and feelings.

Jesus talked to us (men and women, both) about distractions.  He said, “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” (Luke 8:14-15)

I think Jesus knows lots about facts and feelings.  I think He knows that the worries, riches, and pleasures of this world will cause us to claim either fact or feeling as ultimate reality, depending on our bent.   But, Jesus says that only seed that falls on a heart made honest and good by His redemptive work can hold the Word in the soil of faith, even when facts and feelings buffet.  I think He knows and appreciates our facts and our feelings.  I think He wants us to experience the amazing grace that happens when roots of faith anchor them both, and we begin to grow.

Fitting under the Umbrella

Standard

Last night, we had a friend over for dinner.  She lived with us for a year while she interned with the youth at our church, and she’s awesome.  One of those, “I hope my son marries someone like her someday” kind of young women.  Before dinner, we were chatting about life and love and the like, and she was sharing her feelings that sometimes she “doesn’t fit.”  She was referring to being single among the married, and I remember the feeling.  But, I also remembered the feeling from just a few hours earlier, too. Yesterday, as I drove home after work, I passed the line up of cars at the neighborhood swim meet.  My thought was “I don’t fit.”  I’m a non-swim team mom in a swim team neighborhood – I am not a mom whose kids are home all the time to even go to swim practice.  Custody gets in the way of so much – it hurts my kids, but it also feels like a rock in my own shoe.  Something doesn’t fit.

Isn’t that the lie that women all feel?  Perhaps my friends are all nuts, but I have had more conversations than I can count with friends who don’t feel like they fit – in one way or another.

Maybe that’s part of why I loved teaching high school so much and why I love refugee ministry so much.  Teenagers don’t fit.  Refugees don’t fit.  What we all feel on the inside is displayed on the outside in these two sub-groups.

I was so excited to find out from my friend that she is going to bring teenagers to Clarkston!  We’re going to hang out there next Friday with some youth who will help us do some work on the bungalow and visit with our new refugee friends from Somalia. Then, in July, we’re hopefully going to be able to do “block parties” at one of the complexes with some youth from our church, too.

As much as I am psyched about the individual opportunities to bring kids to Clarkston, I was encouraged by my friend’s heart…by what she sees in teenagers who serve.  She lit up when she shared about how much changes in kids when they serve.  She says that they change because they experience the gospel as good news, and she says they change because they realize that the people they are serving are just like them. Those who don’t fit become those who do fit.

So…I am encouraged by the gospel that helps us to see that we all don’t fit…and that we all do fit under the umbrella of the grace of Christ.