Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Community House

Once again God has reminded me, "IT"S NOT ALL ABOUT ME!"  

We just bought a second house.  That sounds crazy as I write it.  We own a small house on 20th St. in Holland.  We bought it a few years ago, rented it out until we moved into it last June, and said, "We'll never do a rental again!"  But here we are...fixing up a fixer-upper with the intent to rent it out. 

How did we get here???  Good question!  

First of all there were still some foreclosures still available.  
Second, we wondered if down the road one of our kids, most likely Acacia and Ephraim, would need a US home to base in while working in Africa.  
Third, Al finished up an interim assignment in April and there was nothing on the horizon until late summer/fall.  He needed a project, though maybe not such a big one.
Fourth, we have a seminary couple who were hoping to live in the community and were looking for a rental property.

Back and forth, back and forth...does it make sense?  Can we do it when we are basically incomeless?  Is it wise to use some retirement funds to invest in property?  (We are not very investment savy.)

Should we...shouldn't we??  We prayed, we looked, we talked, we did it.

And once again we realize it isn't all about us!  We are very excited to have seminarians living in the house and hope to be able to provide the opportunity for more families to live in the community in the future.  Angel and Janelle will be able to work off a portion of their rent helping us finish the renovations.  Hopefully a win/win.

Our realtor, Jeanette and husband Jonathan are committed to this neighborhood and are so excited that this property will be improved and have a local landlord caring for it.  That felt good.

This weekend there was a BONUS dimension.  Central Park church has played an important part in a ministry called 70x7, which works with ex-offenders.  Al asked them if they knew of any men who would like to earn some extra money by helping with some dirty reno work.  Caan was recommended and showed up Friday.  YEA!  He is a great young man, not afraid of hard work, and looking for opportunities to learn skills.  We have had some exciting conversations with him already.  He might bring another friend along tomorrow.  God is at work and we get to be a part of not only rehabbing a house, but rehabbing a life, or two, for the Kingdom!!

SO, this is not our house!  It is God's house and we get to play a part in it.  May all those who walk through its doors know the presence of God and the joy of community!


A week or so ago I posted a picture on Facebook of African children sitting in a circle with their feet together.  It represented the story of an anthropologist playing a game with the children in which the "winner" would get the "sweet fruits."  The children, instead of competing, were said to make sure they all were able to share.  When asked "Why?"  They responded, "Ubuntu ( meaning:  I am because we are), and asked the anthropologist, "How can one of us be happy when all the others are sad?"

It reminded me of Haiti.  When we lived there for 8 months in 2001 Americans would regularly bring the mission staff American treats.  One time someone brought a small box of instant chocolate pudding.  Every morning we got a little jar of milk from a local cow.  You really needed to use the milk to make something that would cover the taste of the milk, because it would taste like whatever weeds or grass the cow had just eaten.  Chocolate pudding was perfect.  I took an empty kool-aid container, filled it with 2 cups of milk and the pudding and shook it up.

I gave the container to Lipsia the oldest of about 5 little girls who often played near the mission.  I instructed her to share it with the other children.  When they opened it and saw what was inside there was a whoop of excitement and they all ran off yelling, "Chocolate!  Chocolate!"

Later I asked where they had gone.  Lispia told me they had taken the pudding back to the village so that everyone could have a taste.  "How can one of us be happy when all the others are sad?"  I had no idea what an amazing treat this was going to be.  They had no intention of keeping this treat between just the 5 of them.  Dozens of people would enjoy a taste of this treat.

I don't think we have a clue how counter-cultural "UBUNTU" is in the US.  Recognizing that my happiness isn't just about "me"  is also counter-cultural.    We have taken our "right" to the "pursuit of happiness" down a very narrow and unhealthy path.  I want the wisdom that these children have!

 Lord, save us from our entitled, individualistic way of life!  I pray this prayer with a bit of fear and trembling, because I'm not sure what it will take before we can understand what God desires when he tells us to "Love our neighbors as ourselves."

I want the joy these children have as they live in community, even when there is great need; and I don't want our American values to mess up their world, even as we try to help without hurting .

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Finding My Blog

A few days ago I ran into Jean, who is a member of Southridge Church, where we pastored from 1989 until 1997.  It had been 16 years since our paths had crossed.  We didn't have much time together, but she did comment that she had found my blog and was enjoying it.  This came as such a surprise to me.

It was such an encouragement to me.

I remember 30+ years ago reading the book, Balcony People, by Joyce Landorf.   In it she talked about the voices we listen to and the people who bless us.  Balcony people are those who are in our corner...they see the good in us and help to bring it out.  Balcony people are the ones who come alongside and cheer us on. In the New Testament Barnabas was known as,"The Son of Encouragement."  He came alongside Paul when the rest of the church jury was still out.  He parted ways with Paul when he believed in John Mark, and Paul wasn't ready to go there yet.  He was willing to take a chance when he saw God at work in the life of another, even if that other had messed up pretty seriously.

It is amazing how little it takes to brighten someone's day, encouraging someone's heart.  Jean did that for me Friday in a simple statement.  She was a daughter of encouragement for me.

I wonder who is the last person who blessed you with a word of encouragement.  I wonder who God has placed in your path, hoping you will fuel their journey.

I want to ask a blessing favor of you.  It would encourage me so much if you would click "Follow" when you read my post.  It would also bless both me and other readers if you would share your comments, stories or reflections occasionally.  I would love to be surprised and encouraged by finding out that you are following the blogs.  (Add where you are from to add to the fun.)

Luka Wanted Me

Last Thursday night Cory called to see if we could Skype.  In the background I could here Luka say, in a whiny voice, "Grandma...grandma."  Cor explained that Luka had a cold and didn't feel well, and when he saw Cory on the computer he started calling for me.  Did I have time?

Well, on top of it all, this was the first time Luka, who is not quite 2, was able to say "grandma" without prompting.  My heart was all aflutter...Luka didn't feel good and he wanted me, from half way around the world!  So we skyped, of course.  I talked to him a little and began asking him what he was going to do that day.  I asked him about toys that were behind him, which I could see.  He showed me and began playing with them.  He had a train track he was putting together, and every once in a while he would show me something.  The whining stopped as he got engaged in his playing.  I told him I was going to say goodbye, so he ran up close to the computer and I gave him my Michigan to Australia blessing and we blew kisses.

As I pondered this "grandma moment" it seemed to me that this is a pretty good picture of prayer.  Cory's call came at the unexpected time and day, with a whiny cry on the other end.  We usually skype early on their Saturday morning, but Luka wasn't feeling good and wanted me on Friday.  He was whiny, needed comfort, and wanted to see my face and hear my voice.  Once he was comforted a bit he got back to life, to his work of playing, but he knew I was watching and would stop every once in a while and show me what he was up to.

Sometimes I whine when I come to my Father in prayer.  I don't feel good, or things are out of sorts.  Maybe life isn't happening the way I had planned, or someone hasn't treated me the way I had hoped.  Who knows what's causing the dis-ease?  And so there are times I come to God needing a little comfort, assurance of God's love and presence, even when I can't touch him.  David, in the Psalms, assures us over and over again that He hears my pleas, and listens to my cries for help.  He, in fact, is very willing to get those whiny calls so he can comfort and encourage us to get back to living, back to work, back to being and doing and listening and loving, all the while knowing His presence.

Abba, Abba, I want you!


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rounding First...and to Second

When Caleb, our youngest was a baby his big brother Cory adored him.  Cory was 11 years older and had been waiting for this brother a long time!  Cor spent much time playing with and caring for Caleb.

One of the games he would play with him from the time he was just a couple of months old was baseball.  In those early months Cory would take his baby legs and pump them as if Caleb was running and say, "He hits the ball!  He's rounding first rrrrrrr, he's running to second, he rounds second rrrrr, he's running to third, he rounds third rrrrrr.  He's heading home.  He slides.  He's safe!!! And he would wave his arms over Caleb with the umpire's signal for safe.  Over and over again, this scene was played out.

This morning as I was reading in a devotional book by Richard Rohr I ran across this paragraph:  "Faith, for me, is letting go of the images(and expectations).Then you will feel like nothing.  Faith is so rare---and religion so common--because no one wants to live between first base and second base.  Faith is the in-between space where you're not sure you'll make it to second base.  You've let go of one thing and haven't yet latched onto another.  Most of us choose the security of first base."

He continues by saying, "Yet faith happens in the in-betweens, the interruptions, the thresholds."
That often means we feel out of control...uncertain and scared.  Most of the time scared is not our preferred state of being.  On the other hand, there are times when we don't have a lot of choice, and realizing that these are the times when we can most expect to grow, expand our horizons, and seek God's face, may help us see this state of being is exactly where we need to it or not.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite verse for many of us.  "I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you  and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."  (Continue the next few verses.)  We can choose to live in faith, taking chances on God and living in obedience when he calls us to "letting go" places.

So whether you are on to second, or third, or heading for the home stretch I pray for your in-between times, those times of faith growing letting go, and choosing God's preferred future.  That could be letting go of a job, relationship, routine, expectation, long held perceptions, false images of who our God is...  Have courage, my friends, God will bring you safely Home.