Let Me Explain Something About Sales and Salespeople

Sales people.  Their allegiance is to the money, not to any principles other than greed.  Go into a sports store and they will sell you a Cowboys jersey OR a Broncos jersey – which ever YOU want.  (I understand there are stores just for one or the other, but those are exceptions, not the rule (and really, even though they are exceptions, that is only at a surface level).)  Really.  Think about it.

 

Yeah, the same company selling “Make America Great Again” hats (not to mention all the knock offs) also sold “Obama” hats just a few years before.

Go into any mall in America and find a shop that will sell you a book, a shirt, a poster, or a coffee cup with the devil on it, and the next novelty shop will sell you the same stuff with “Jesus” on it.  In fact, often enough, both shops are owned by the same company (or parent corporation).  And for that matter, you can find these polar opposite ideals on all that junk in the very same shop usually, and sold to you by the very same clerk.  You might even know her from church!

Getting the picture?

But wait there’s more: When a sales person makes a pitch (or the ad on TV, the radio, a magazine, or even if its just the display window or the merchandizing arrangements on a shelf), the subtext is that you are in charge of the world you are creating through the consumer decisions you make.  (Like the nameless protagonist in Fight Club says: “What kind of dinette set defines me as a person?”)

It’s not the real world.  It’s a parody.  The world of consumerism where your whole reason for being, it seems, comes to a head in that moment you make a selection and plop down your debit card.  It’s a rush.  A mini rush, but a rush.

Our tribal fathers of antiquities seldom purchased goods or services.  Instead, they worked the land or hunted and gathered it.  There is no doubt it was a rush to track and kill the beast for the feast.  But there is none of that for those of us standing in front of 47 different kinds of Suave shampoo (all of which do exactly the same thing) or in front of 26 different kinds of cola drinks.  We are no longer connected to the earth, to God’s creation (and where is the Creator in all that?).  We are connected to the mall, the supermarket, or even the internet shopping.  A world of ever expanding consumer choices to glut ourselves on, and glut we do.

And it’s almost all meaningless, trivial pursuits.  Have you tried the cheese poppers at Burger Box?  They come in 3 different sizes, 4 different flavors, and are all wrapped in environmentally friendly, biodegradable waste paper, just to make you feel conscious of doing something good with your purchasing power.  Again, as the nameless character in Fight Club noted: “I had it all… Even the glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfections, proof they were crafted by the honest, simple, hard-working indigenous peoples of... wherever.”

Sales people create this world and put you in charge of it as if they were your god and you were their vice-regent, but it’s not real.

Everything is new and improved (but is the world really a better place for it all?), everything takes out stains or solves every little problem (but do you still have cancer?), everything is ready for you “because you deserve it” (but if that’s the case why am I paying?)… “BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

Getting the picture?

Okay.  Where do you see yourself in this picture?  What air do you breathe that isn’t polluted with this nonsense?  What food do you eat that isn’t processed?  What clothes do you wear that aren’t stitched in a sweatshop in China or Indonesia?

Getting the picture?

Okay.  Where do you see your church in this picture?  Aren’t you glad you and your bunch are not “LEGALISTS” hung up on “RELIGION”?  You probably go where there isn’t a dress code and think, “God!  I am so glad we aren’t like those fundamentalists!  We have an open mind!

Does your pastor sell you Jesus – new and improved?  Does he get your stains out with no work on your part?  Does your pastor know his place and not bother with your sex life or the way you talk?  What about Jesus?

Getting the picture?

Is your Jesus a fake salesman selling you his Gospel?

Is there a fundamental difference between preaching and making a sales pitch or not?  And if there is, can you tell me what it is?

5:30 a.m. And Still Dark

I awoke at 5 a.m. and my mind and heart drifts to the dark outside.  I know many veteran homeless people are sawing logs just now and thinking nothing of it.  But for those new at it…  The dawn is almost here.  It’s dark now, but soon there will be light.

So much changes in the dark.  Thoughts of safety and comfort come to mind immediately, of course.  But even a homeless person with a shower and fresh clothes (yes, that happens too) walking down a sidewalk in the day light is pretty much just like everyone else.  But regular folk go home when they go to bed, and they do that when it gets dark.  (This stuff is so plain and simple, it goes without saying, and usually without thinking.)

But in addition to the issues of safety and comfort, there is also that other level regarding shame and stigma – a human being made in God’s image who does not have a place in creation TO BE.  And the only relief the dark offers (for the dark compounds this problem and demarcates it) is that the dark hides things from the light.  At least you can hide your shame in the dark.

I pray for those struggling this morning.  Hang in there.  Dawn is coming.

Not sure why, really, but I think of King Darius rushing to the lion’s den early in the morning to check on Daniel.  What did he think he was going to find?  Did he, the pagan king, believe in resurrection?  His actions remind us of the women following Jesus early on the first day of the week rushing to the tomb.

I suppose I live with these narrative rhythms shaping my devotions.  I hope that when the dawn breaks, the church will take a cue from this pagan king and from a few desperate women and seek the souls we left in the dark.  And I hope we find the surprise of glory in the morning.

Zika Babies Wanted

The Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners used to house street-homeless adults (primarily in winter months).  Let’s face it; street-homeless adults are considered “undesirable” for the most part.  But those are the kinds of folx we here at Fat Beggars seek out.  God seems to live among the “undesirables”, just those kinds nobody wants.  Even the Premier Homeless church here in Lubbock kicked them out in the cold of night (thus prompting us to take in as many as we could).  That’s pretty low, but that’s how you know you are “undesirable”.

I will not lie to puff up our image here.  We are not always prepared for all comers.  And since we have transitioned to a home for foster children, I am extremely limited in the information I can share.  But I will admit, we took in one child that proved to be more than we could handle.  I pray for that child all the time, and I apologize to God that his house was not better prepared to heal and help that one.  I make no excuses.  But so far, we have not been confronted with Zika.

Still, I am mindful that the Zika virus is infecting more and more of this promiscuous population around me.  Even the “good” parents are at risk; the virus does not discriminate.  And the burden of giving birth to an infected baby is devastating.  And the devastation promises to last a life-time (and more).

But we are praying about this too.  And we are, hopefully, preparing the house for the Master’s return – should he show up as a Zika Baby.  The CDC reports there are more than 5,000 cases in the US now.  As of November last year, Zika mosquitoes were located in Texas.  It seems news about this virus has slowed a bit in recent months, which suggests the fear has subsided at least a little.  But it is not gone.  And I am certain that for the vast majority, Zika Babies will be considered “undesirable”.  But since that is the skin God wears, I, for one, am working on preparations to receive him.

Please pray for us.  When the day comes, we too will likely be stunned.  But God help us to receive him with the love, the healing love, only God can provide.

The Carpenter’s Church

Once upon a time, there was a great man who was a master builder. In fact he was a true carpenter. Actually, he was The Carpenter – The Carpenter of carpenters. He built a grand house that was so grand, it was in a class all its own. It was vastly huge on the one hand and beautiful beyond compare on the other. Enormous windows with luxurious drapes framing views that would leave you speechless. A delicately ornate fireplace and hearth that instantly made you feel at home. An entryway fit for royalty, and a grand staircase that took your breath away.

The builder filled his house with furnishings he made himself. Everything covered in gold, silver, bronze, and studded with pearls, emeralds, diamonds and precious stones – everything from the study, the billiard room, the great hall, and all the bedrooms (of which there were too many to count). The house was practically a castle in the clouds. And every cupboard, table, and chair was lovingly created at the hand of the master craftsman who etched detailed artwork into every square inch.

The kitchen always smelled of fresh baking and other wonderful smells that would intoxicate you with hunger for more and invite you to stay to live like a king. And the food prepared there was the finest tasting, the wines were the most exquisite, and would draw kings and queens and heads of state from all corners of creation to come and sit and dine.

And the builder invited everyone he knew to come and eat with him, to stay and never leave… to make his grand house their home too and always share in the bounty of his glorious house. And the people came, and they flocked to his mansion; they ate until they were satisfied; they enjoyed The Carpenter’s company and his amenities. And once they had a taste of his food and wine, once they played games in his arcade, listened to the music from his chamber musicians, and listened to his wise words, they could not remember to ever leave. And that was just fine with the great man, the master builder, for he had lodging space for all. And so they stayed.

And the guests in this fine home eventually came to know that The Carpenter’s most intimate secret was trust. It was the trust, you see, that made the comfort so rich. It was the trust that made the furnishings so beautiful, the house so big, the kitchen smell so good. It was the trust. Trust guests put in the builder and in each other. Trust the builder put in the things he made. It was kinda ironic that people could actually taste the trust, but after eating it for a while, you began to realize that trust had a taste, and you could taste it as the secret ingredient in every world-class meal; you could smell it in the kitchen. It permeated everything!

Eventually, you realized it was the trust that lulled you to sleep at night. It was the trust that greeted you in the morning and bid you to come eat breakfast and join The Carpenter and the others. And some folks, after having lived in the vast house eating there for a long time, actually began to dream about how the whole world would be if this trust permeated every particle and atom. In fact someone at dinner one night spoke about how science has determined that humans only use about 10% of their brains throughout their lives, and after much great discussion and some research in the great study, the guests began to theorize that the unused 90% was always meant to be used for trust! And that only truly great trust could open up the mind to its full potential.

Thus the guests, along with their host, began to earnestly celebrate trust. It became a matter of devotion that whenever they threw a party, which was every day, they were celebrating the trust they shared. And this idea of purposefully celebrating trust led some to say that in order to celebrate their trust in their host and in each other, they would have to make themselves ever more vulnerable to each other. Thus they explored ways to practice being vulnerable with each other – things like falling backward into the arms of others or forming large circles where they stood face-to-back and then everyone sat down together at once on each other’s laps.

And then some began to theorize that trust was a group effort. No one can have this trust all alone; it must, by definition, be shared. And that led some others to suggest that this trust is at its greatest when everyone shares in it together with no one left out. And so they all devoted their whole lives to trusting each other and The Carpenter with their very lives. And as they did this, the house itself seemed to deepen in bigness and beauty, which no one could have fathomed since it was already so very grand and beyond all measure. And thus the builder and the house guests learned the value of trust – that it was more precious than silver or gold or anything else in the house – AND that in celebrating the trust with vulnerability as if it were more precious and valuable than the gold or silver or precious jewels, that the gold, silver, and jewels themselves became even more valuable. And no one could have foreseen it.

And so with all this vulnerable trust getting more fragile every day, yet with everyone being evermore committed to it, no one noticed when a new house guest (one of many who showed up daily), began scheming and conniving. This one guest began thinking about how easy it would be to take advantage of all this vulnerable trust. So much trust and vulnerability being engaged by every person so devoutly afforded him great power to make a name for himself.

The wayward guest did not propose to do much damage really. He could have killed someone, poisoned the food, bashed someone on the head with the poker from the fireplace, or he could have tripped someone walking down the grand staircase to watch them break their neck, but he was not being so malicious as all that. He just thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if, when the group formed a circle to sit on each other’s laps, he might just step out of line to watch them all fall down.

And when he did, the most powerful trust in the whole world, the trust around which the grand house was built, was suddenly broken.

It was amazing the speed with which suspicion grew in the group. A few of the trustees saw what the newcomer did, but most did not. They only knew that they had been betrayed. Accusations began to fly. Some pointed to the newcomer, others were not so sure. In minutes the happy vibe had evaporated, and with it the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. Even the music stopped.

By day’s end, some had moved out of the house in disgust with how vulnerable they had become. They felt cheated. How could they make themselves so vulnerable? This was bound to happen. So foolish, and now there was the embarrassment for ever having consented. Others were becoming angry, and some even filled with hatred. Some were falsely accused and trying to defend themselves. One guy was singled out by an angry mob and beat until he died – after all, he had killed the trust that was so deeply vital to their life (so his accusers thought). And in the mêlée, the master builder closed down the kitchen. Once he heard that someone had been killed over the whole thing, he closed up the house and kicked everyone out. No one was welcome there anymore. Not once the trust was broken.

All the kings and queens, lords and ladies, and all the commoners and peasants too who had come to live there were banished to their own little territories. They returned to their own countries a bit shamed over the whole thing. How could they ever explain what had happened? How could they explain what a beautiful dream had been lost? And sure enough, most of them forgot it in time.

Generations came and went while the memories of the master builder, The Carpenter of carpenters, drifted into folklore. A few odd weirdoes still dared to whisper warped and broken memories, but most people never even heard of him. The stories of trust dimmed in the minds of most until they were all but forgotten.

Potent kings rose to power and began their own building projects. Construction projects of ancient times that lay in ruins all over the globe today. But these kings made their mark and ordered the world to suit their own dreams and schemes. And the way they achieved their greatness was largely on the backs of slaves. The weak were enslaved to do the bidding of the powerful, and the work was grueling and offered no reward. But the great ones came to view the world as theirs to order however they wished, while the slaves suffered under oppression.

Those suffering oppression for many generations found that the old stories of The Carpenter gave them hope of a new home – a new world. It was an ironic thing to consider, but the powerful and rich did not understand the ways of the master builder or of his style of trust, but the poor and downtrodden did – AND the worse their circumstance grew, the more the old stories persisted and took hold.

It wasn’t that the slaves knew the story correctly. Most of the complex details of the old stories had been lost to them or warped with time and circumstance. But something of the essence of the old stories remained, and as they suffered, they found themselves drawn more and more to the memories of the old master builder.

Eventually, the master builder, The Carpenter, listened to the cries of these slaves and as if coming back from the dead, he showed his favor and the slaves won their freedom and struck out into the wilderness in hopes of learning to trust the builder again.

By now, I am sure some of you, my dear readers, have heard a similar story as this one. In fact, you may think you know it already, and there is no doubt there are versions of it out there. I assure you, this is a different version alright, but it is no lie. Hear me out, and see for yourself.

The master builder made promises to the ex-slaves – huge promises. In fact, even more than that, he told them that he had made promises to their fathers before them which he was now fulfilling by answering their cries. But he didn’t just make and fulfill promises; he laid down the law too. He told these people that if they were going to live with him (or more importantly, if they wanted him to live with them), then they would need to keep his rules.

Yes, he was the original legalist, laying down laws he expected these people to adhere to if they wanted to live a life worth living. And honestly, it makes sense. If the guests living in his house of old had only adhered to the trust, their life there would never have ended. But now there needed to be assurances, standards by which people could learn what that trust is. So, the law.

At first, the people did not live in any house at all. The Carpenter let everyone wander around in the wilderness until they began – BEGAN – to learn to trust again. But The Carpenter promised he would lead them to a land they could call home. And in the meantime, he instructed these people in the ways of tent making, and ordered them to make a tent fit for him to live in as they traveled. As long as his tent was kept properly, he would remain with them, and this would be close enough. In fact, learning to trust – and thus make oneself vulnerable – made them very fearful, and so they came to appreciate a little distance. They even nominated one particular member of their group to be the brave one who would go talk face to face with The Carpenter and get his rules on their behalf.

This worked out pretty good for a very long time. In fact, generations came and generations went as the master builder seemed content to live in a tent among these ex-slaves, and they came to trust him to help them have the life of freedom they only dreamed about before. Sometimes things went very well for them, other times not so well. Sometimes the people obeyed the laws which taught them to live well, other times they broke them. But The Carpenter showed great patience with them, for the most part, and so they rocked along.

Eventually, these ex-slaves decided they wanted to appoint a king to lead them. They came to the master builder and requested one so they could be more like those neighboring nations around them. Apparently they felt they had reached a point of successful living that they wanted to have the same kind of dignity as those neighbors. The Carpenter did not like this idea, but he let them have their request. He told them that by doing this, the ex-slaves were actually rejecting him, but he let them have their request with many warnings.

This is how we know they only knew broken versions of the tales of old. These ex-slaves had come a very long way from the brickyards in which they had been enslaved when they first adopted the old stories of freedom, trust, and life. They had come so far, it was hard to believe there was still farther to go – but there was. There was still a very long way to go to reach the zenith of such existence and life as the old ones had known in the grand house with the smells of food and all the comforts The Carpenter had originally shared. But these ex-slaves just could not see it. And in fact, their lot in life had improved so much, many, if not most, of them thought they had finally arrived at the final destination. And they thought keeping the master builder in his tent was enough now; having a king lead them would just take them to the next level.

Well, there was some funny business about getting that king. I won’t go into it here now, but they got one that didn’t work out so well before he was replaced by another. But that second one proved to be a truly deep devotee of The Carpenter.   I mean this king was a good guy. Well, actually, he was a bit of a scoundrel in a lot of ways, but at least he devoted his whole heart to The Carpenter, the master builder, and at least he trusted him even if he often failed to obey some of the basic rules. Anyway, this king and The Carpenter were close friends.

One day, the king unified all the people around a common purpose, and as soon as he managed it, he built himself a fantastic palace. After all, this is what kings do – good ones anyway. But this king, being so deeply devoted to The Carpenter, paid that master builder a visit and said, “It’s not right that I live in a fantastic palace and you live in a tent. I think I need to build you a house too. A really nice house. Even nicer than mine!

(Stop and think about that a minute… will you? This king has a good heart. I said that. His heart just really is in the right place. This is so important if you are going to learn to trust and live a life of vulnerability and trust. And he was very close to the master builder, I mean they were really good friends. But this king obviously had some short-sighted ideas about the stories of old. I mean, he dared to think he could build a house for The Carpenter of carpenters, the master builder, whose original house was so grand that people lived in it without dying and shared such incredible vulnerable trust that they found the meaning of life therein. Yeah, this king thinks he will build a house for THAT guy.

Hmmm…

This shows there are some pistons not firing (to use a mechanic’s metaphor). Some cogs in the gears don’t connect. The machine manages to roll forward, alright, but something’s amiss.)

What can I say? The Carpenter was a patient man. He told this king, his good friend, that he would not be allowed to build that house. But don’t go thinking this was bad news or terribly upsetting; it wasn’t. Actually, The Carpenter, the master builder, returned the favor and told his friend, the king, that he would build the house for the king and make him the head of a great dynasty that would last forever, AND that he would have a son who eventually would build a house for the master builder at a later time.

Needless to say, this was a twist. I mean, you can read other versions of this story where so many other things are going on that this twist might seem rather minor, but it’s not. This twist in the story is a big deal, but it’s a big deal that seems to be buried under a lot of other details. For instance, that king has a son, alright, who does in fact build a house for the master builder. And the master builder moves in to it and makes his home there, alright, and to the untrained eye (or ear, if you are hearing this story instead of reading it), it would seem that this is the fulfillment of that promise. But it was not. Not really.

I mean, oh sure, The Carpenter moved out of the tent and into that grand house, but that grand house the king’s son built, for all its glory, was just a parody of the house yet to come. Actually, so was that king’s son. But seriously, no one saw it like that. It’s like I said before. Not all the pistons fired properly. The machine rolled on, alright, but important connections were failing to be made.

But this is the thing about the master builder that is so important to grasp. He was being very patient. So patient that he indulged some of the requests – the deeply misguided requests – of these ex-slaves. And not only that, but when he spoke to them and they failed to obey him on the one hand or even to understand his plans for them on the other, he still showed great restrain and patience. He helped this machine roll even though it wasn’t hitting on all eight. And after all, this too, teaches us something deeply remarkable about trust and vulnerability. The law teaches some of it; The Carpenter’s patience teaches still more of it.

This brings me to the point of telling this story in the version in which I tell it. The people in whose midst this master builder lives even today have numerous versions of the story rumbling around in their hearts and minds. There are all kinds of versions being told and shared. It’s entirely likely that none of the ex-slaves know the story at its purest. Nearly all of us have at least some warped and flawed understanding of it. Some more than others. And there is no doubt that The Carpenter is still patient with us as we work it all out. And he wants us to be patient with each other too. He has a truly loooooooong range view of it all and suffers our abuse patiently.

This does not change the fact that some versions are more deeply flawed than others. Some are, in fact, very damaged and damaging. And those holding dearly to these versions of the story for dear life are not apt to give them up easily. And in a sense, they shouldn’t. To hold to the ideals of this story in any version is to accept an invitation to take it seriously and not give up too easily. And yet the fact that there are many versions (who can deny that?) or that some are more damaging than others (who can deny that?) or the fact that nearly all of us (and in fact likely all of us) hold to versions that at least in part are not pure and not true (who can deny that?) means we must have humility about how we hold to them. We must assess what we see and think and reassess it again and again.

Our guiding spirit will always insist that we have first of all love for The Carpenter, but also love for those whom he loves (even if they are our enemies), that we seek trust with him and with them (and do so with vulnerability). Some of the surest clues that we are holding to some damaged (and/or damaging) versions of this story are found in actions and attitudes that are self-serving rather than vulnerable and trusting. There is nothing wrong with authoritative discipline and criticism, but if that authority is self-serving, it fails to hold to the version authored by the master builder.

If we could hold just to this much ideal, we could make great strides toward joining The Carpenter in that most fragile and vulnerable trust he builds his house around. And that would be a truly great improvement for homeless people who, like ex-slaves, come soooooo far from drifting aimlessly to a respectable life. But let’s recall, we have so much farther to go.

American democracy seems to have taken us a long way. But it has not taken us where The Carpenter would have us be. American democracy might provide for the “pursuit of life…” but not for attaining it. Money will not buy it. It is a gift. And the house that son of the king builds is none other than the church – The Carpenter’s Church – where the homeless are invited to come and share the trust and life and love of The Carpenter inside. And when The Carpenter finally moves back in with us there, we will smell the smells from the kitchen; we will hear the music in the great hall; we will ascend the grand stair case; we will warm ourselves by the grand fireplace; we will find that in The Carpenter’s House, there are many mansions. And we will live that life that is all but a distant dream which was all but forgotten by a few slaves who were saved by it and who share it with us.

Are Missional Communities a Threat to the Local Church?

I found this post linked on Pastor Randy’s blog. I think it is worthy of more conversation, and so, I hope to instigated that here on my blog too.

The Light Breaks Through

lightstock_203698_download_medium_byrene_haney_Missional communities continue to be an instrument by which we can live out what it means to be a missional church in the 21st Century.- Keith Haney

 The new standard for information, Wikipedia, defines “missional communities” this way:

“A Missional community is a group of people, about the size of an extended family, who are united through Christian community around a common service and witness to a particular neighborhood or network of relationships.”

I have to admit that is not a bad definition.  One congregation that has a robust mission community philosophy has the following as their definition and vision.  This plan comes from Christianity Today.

“What is a “missional community”?

 A community of Christ followers, on mission with God in obedience to the Holy Spirit that demonstrates and declares the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a particular people group.

Missional

  • They are committed to having spiritual conversations that…

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Playing Peek a Boo With God

When God made humans, he made them in his image.  In The Beginning, if you wanted to see God, you need only look at each other, and there he was.  But this didn’t last long (thank you Sin) before poof, he was gone.  Moses asked to see God’s glory, and God shielded him in the cleft of the rock until he passed by.  All Moe saw was his back.  Jesus appeared to the couple on the road to Emmaus, but in the breaking of the bread their eyes were opened and (you guessed it) poof, he was outa sight again.

In this home, we raise foster babies so young they are in diapers and do not speak.  Sometimes they get fussy and irritable, and there’s no doubt they need a nap.  But there are a hundred times in a day that they chafe at something difficult.  Each one of them hates getting their face washed.  Each one fidgets while putting on clothes or pajamas.  Sometimes riding in the car they get cranky or when they are hungry and waiting for their food.  And the one thing that cuts through the chaos every time is a quick game of peek a boo.

Peek a boo.  It’s their favorite game.

Peek a boo, I see you!  Ha ha ha ha!

A crying baby clams right up and starts laughing.  Even if only one of them is getting the peek, the other two will drop what they are doing to come play.  Bath time is fun, but getting out is a challenge.  But then I drape the towel over their head and say, “Where did he go?”  Suddenly the tears stop.  Then a pregnant pause… and I whip the towel back to reveal the face.  Then a gasp as I say, “There he is!  There he is.  He was right there the whole time!… the whole time…”  And then the chuckles begin.

It is so sweet.  So innocent.  So fun.  And, it’s addicting.

I live for that pregnant pause, the gasp, the chuckle.  There is that split second when focusing on each other’s faces plays like a surprise all over again.  A little psychodrama, only it’s prophetic too.  A proph-O-drama in which God appears between us just briefly, and we can’t get enough of it.

It nourishes the soul.

There is so much spiritual energy – dynamite really – packed up in that pregnant pause, and every time it detonates, love explodes into life.

Every child should experience this.  Every parent should.  This is how humans are made.  I am certain that in just that moment we are in contact with life as it was created to be lived In The Beginning.

Let the children come to me, the kingdom belongs to such as these and whoever does not receive the kingdom like a child will not enter it (Luke 18:16-17).

When Immigration Authorities Come

I knew when I saw a new post by BrookeM that she was going to break my heart today. And she did. Now let me break yours too. Please visit BrookeM’s blog post. Join the desperate cries to the Lord in the back of her minivan for Maribel’s family. God help us, we are the “greatest”, most blessed nation on earth. Surely we can share God’s bounty with those in need.

Neighborhood Watch

I walk the streets of my neighborhood with my wife and our three foster children in buggies, and I take pleasure in the garden in which God has placed our home.  Crepe Myrtles, lilac bushes, roses, varieties of colorful flowers, fruit trees, manicured lawns on block after block.  We live in a nice area.  It is a great comfort to live here and walk around viewing it all.

I don’t want to misrepresent myself here.  This is not the luxury area.  These are not the fine custom homes of Lubbock, nor is the new area.  These homes are well established with old growth trees.  They were likely some of the finest homes in town 30 – 40 years ago, and they are (for the most part) well maintained even now.  Very few appear to suffer disrepair or appear to be in the rental market.  Half, or more, of these properties play home to established families who have lived here for years – some for decades.

I love our house, even though by my estimation it is the smallest in our area.  I have spotted four within our square mile that appear run down, but other than those, we have the most humble of the bunch.  Our drive way has cracks, the fence out back (though holding up) is well worn and needs repairs.  But all of this just feels like HOME to me.  I feel very much at HOME down in my bones in this house.  It reminds me of my parents’ home or even my grandparents.  I feel connected to this place in those deep recesses of my heart.

I love the fact that my neighbors all invest in their homes too.  We don’t have a neighborhood association that governs us.  I suspect there are some fairly strict zoning ordinances for our area at city hall, but I have never had cause to check them.  Therefore, I sense a camaraderie of shared values.  And I must say, that is hard to beat.

Our homes may be a bit old, but they are not cookie cutter homes.  These are custom homes from yesteryear.  Yet, they mostly look like they belong together.  There is little variance in styles.  The pastor who lives to the west of me is retired, but keeps an immaculate lawn, whereas the retired FBI agent who lives to the east of me keeps a lovely natural landscape that requires no watering or mowing.  Both look very attractive, which keeps pressure on me to maintain my lawn if I want to “keep up with the Jones’s” – so to speak.

But you know what?  These little pressures keep home feeling like HOME in that way.

Yes, I walk the streets with my family observing the comforts of HOME that my neighbors invest into their homes, and I admire most of them.  But I am a bit bothered by all of this too.  For even though I see “welcome” mats on door steps, I also see home security signs in flower beds, and those just seem a bit out of kilter to me somehow.  It’s like the one sign says “welcome” to all while another just a few feet away says UN-welcome.

So which is it?

I look at my own front yard for signs, whether overt or subtle, that welcome people.  I have thought about putting a sign up on the door that says, “Strangers welcome” or “Trespassers welcome” or maybe “Loitering Allowed”.  But I think that would puzzle (or upset) my neighbors and just be weird in general.

What does my yard say about me? About the God I serve?

I have considered moving the park bench from the porch out to the sidewalk right next to it, where people walk by pushing baby strollers or taking the dog out for a walk.  If the bench were just one or two inches away from the sidewalk, I think it would be kinda weird still, but I also think it would be inviting.  I wonder who might stop and sit a bit.  Perhaps I could paint a message on it: “Welcome (no, we really mean it)“.

As I walk around my block, I find “Neighborhood Watch” program signs posted in alleys and on back fences.  And I think, I have never been contacted by any neighbors about watching my property.  I, of course, try to be an observant neighbor and look in on the retired folks next door from time to time if I see something odd.  But honestly, we don’t talk much.  The old man next door could slip in his shower, and the only signal I would have that something is wrong is if I see his newspapers pile up on the step for several days.  I would need to be very observant to catch that, but by the time I did, the old man would have been stranded in his shower for 3 or 4 days, maybe.  Probably wouldn’t have a pulse by then.  What kind of neighborhood watch is that?

I think it’s a false sense of security on the one hand and an unwelcome mat on the other.

As I have said several times on this blog, I grew up in small-town, rural America where most folks were neighbors – neighbors in that sense that they really know each other.  That sense where we shared in each others’ lives a bond of community and trust.  Where if the neighbor man was missing even one day, someone would likely realize it and go check on him.  (Not a hundred percent solid, but likely.)

My neighborhood is nice, and it feels like HOME to me, but there is too much anonymity and too little trust.  And, sadly, it shows, if only you look carefully.  We don’t really trust each other, and we post signs warning outsiders that we don’t trust them either.

Abraham was a rich man.  He owned a lot of property, but he lived in tents like a homeless man.  Rich and homeless.  And when he saw strangers trespassing his lawn, he jumped up and put on a party for them.  He seems not to have realized it at that time, but he was playing host to the Lord, his God (Gen. 18), and entertained angels unaware (Heb. 13:2).  I think that if we could dress our neighborhood watch up in signs of hospitality, it would make the place just a bit more attractive – a bit more HOME.

I wonder what that would look like.

Heaven on earth?