Archive for the 'Home' Category

Going Home–Flood Journal 5

Yes, I’ve been silent for more than a month. But I’ve hardly been loafing. As April ended, so did the lease on our temporary housing. We moved out of the rental and back into our home.  The same strong hardworking friends from Chino Valley UMC who’d helped move us into our temporary quarters in early December helped us move back home. For the next few days we did a dance with the builder’s crew as things like sinks and kitchen counter-tops were finished. It was good to be home, even though we knew we had a mountain of work ahead of us. (If you missed previous installments, “Flood Journal” chronicles our return from a trip to China in mid-November to discover that a “water incident” (broken pipe) had flooded our home.)

Carson, the four-legged member of our family, may have been the happiest about going home. We had traveled the three miles back and forth between our home (The Jobsite) and our temporary housing (The Cabin) almost daily, often multiple times. Carson was always glad to be “home” (at The Jobsite). But whenever we told him to get in the car because we were leaving (for The Cabin), he would give us a look—“Are you nuts? This is our home.”  He had a point, but we left anyway.

Carson finally got his way as April ended. We moved “home” and got completely out of our rented house. The next Thursday the crew that had packed all our possessions into three 8’x20’ storage containers after The Flood came and moved everything back in. They left us with hundreds of boxes stacked (sometimes ceiling-high) approximately in the rooms where their contents had been. The next day the furniture restorer employed by our insurance company delivered the truckload of furniture he’d lovingly and skillfully brought back to life. It all fit (sort of) among the ceiling-high stacks of boxes. My sister and brother-in-law spent the weekend helping us start unpacking. By late Sunday I’d taken two pickup loads of flattened boxes to the recycler, along with a load of 12 40-gallon trash bags stuffed with packing paper from fragile items.

On Monday morning we still faced cold, harsh reality–mountains of boxes packed by total strangers! We’d needed their help, they’d done their job well, we appreciated it, along with God’s provision of the material resources to buy the house and the insurance that came through when we needed it. BUT– the boxes were labeled generically, often cryptically, hardly the way we would have done it in order to find stuff easily. After three weeks we found our silverware! A few days ago a box labeled “Office Supplies” yielded a computer printer. The printer was in perfect condition. It had all the pieces—except the power cord. It looks great sitting in my study, but it has yet to print its first page! This process has been a graduate-level course in PATIENCE! (Yes, in BOLDFACE ITALIC CAPS!) I don’t see that learning curve flattening out any time soon.

Diana and I have had a running conversation about what “Enough” means for us. As we unpack, we ask, “Where was all this stuff hiding?” and “Do we still need it?” Our present household is the product of numerous “mergers and acquisitions”. We worked and lived in different places about half of our last twenty working years, so we maintained two households. My mother lived with us for her last twelve years, so we have her things. After Dianna’s parents died (both within the last five years), we acquired some of their substantial lifetime accumulation. When I retired two years ago, we lost a room—my study at the church. All those books, papers, etc., now live at home. To make this all more interesting, Dianna’s a keeper and I’m a tosser—except when it comes to my tools! So “Enough” is an ongoing dialog.

We’re also learning endurance and perseverance. “Move-in burnout” strikes often. We don’t care how tall Box Mountain is. (Parts of our house look more like The Cardboard Range than a single peak). We’re just mentally and physically DONE! Of course those mountains don’t shrink while we’re on strike. They loom as large as ever. A couple of rooms have become choke points. The contents of those boxes came from those rooms and the movers put the boxes right back where they went. But they’re so full there’s no room to work, no room to put up shelves or bring in furniture to hold what’s in those boxes, no room even to shuffle stuff into the hall or another room to relieve the congestion. So we work through one box at a time. One of these days, we keep telling ourselves, we’ll reach the “tipping point”. Our “home-reclaiming” process will gain conclusive momentum. Then we’ll really and truly be “home”.

What is God teaching us through this process? That depends on how teachable we are. Some days, not very!

  • A) I’m learning a ton about patience. One can wait when one has to wait. Sometimes waiting improves the timing in a way we never imagined. But sometimes one has to act. The balance between waiting and acting can be tricky.
  •  B) “Enough” is a continuing dialog. Friends engaged in similar conversations in their own lives contribute to our conversation, and we to theirs.
  • C)  Endurance/perseverance grows with practice, and I’m getting tired of practicing! In our case, I’m also looking for ways to work smarter as well as harder. Some solutions we haven’t thought of, or been willing to try, may provide the break-through we need.
  • D) We’re newly appreciating friends and family who’ve helped in so many ways throughout this process. And we’re appreciating letting each other survive as we worked through a very difficult period in our life together.

We’re home. But we’re trying to get all the way home. We’re not there yet, but we’ll make it. Meanwhile, as that car commercial said, we’ll “Enjoy the ride!”

Judas-A Place at the Table

This year I played Judas in our church’s Maundy Thursday service. It was my first time playing the villain. The pastor always has to play Jesus, as Pastor Don did that night. The service was built around a tableau of Da Vinci’s iconic “Last Supper” painting. Each disciple offered a brief monologue about his character. About midway through I, Judas, spoke. The script offered a frequently-heard popular interpretation. My high hopes for Jesus were fading fast, I said. Why won’t he start the final holy war with Rome and call down God’s heavenly armies? He needs a push. I, Judas, would give him that push. I’d “finger” Jesus so the Jewish authorities could arrest him. This would create a crisis that force him to act. As I finished my speech “Jesus” said, “Go do what you have to do.” I did— dramatically flinging my moneybag to the floor on my way down the aisle. (Perhaps better drama than biblical scholarship!)

What would “Judas” do for the rest of the service? After the monologues, the Last Supper would be re-enacted. “Jesus” would serve the disciples and they would serve the congregation. I thought I’d be out of the picture. After all, we’re told that in his remorse “[Judas]…went and hanged himself.” (Matt. 27:5) But Pastor Don insisted that “Judas” slip back into his place at the table so that Jesus could serve him along with the other disciples. It felt strange to me. But afterwards I realized it had to be just that way. Of course Judas has a place at the Lord’s Table. If God’s redeeming love in Jesus can reach Judas, it can reach anyone anywhere anytime. If Love can reach and restore Jesus Enemy Number One, it can certainly transform all of us petty-misdemeanor sinners. That “after” scene time-shifted us from first-century Palestine to twenty-first century here-and-now. The table complete with Judas proclaims the power of God’s love to transform the most motley collection of sinners into one Body in Christ. It shows us at once both saving truth and God’s wildly impossible promised New Creation.

The next morning my wife and I headed for Las Vegas to spend Easter with two of our three children and their families. (Truthfully, with our four amazing grandchildren and their parents!) Our 17-month-old grandson had the flu. He’d Velcroed himself to Mom the way sick little ones often do. Neither of them was leaving the house that night. So I was drafted to read Karin’s part in her church’s Good Friday service. [The service was built around Ruth Elaine Schram’s stunning cantata “Tapestry of Darkness”. Check it out!]

It fell to me to read Jesus’ words that have tripped readers for decades: “Eloi, eloi, lema sabachthani.” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)As I did I realized–those could have been Judas’ words as he ended his life. Jesus’ cry sounds like a mirror image of Judas exclaiming, “My God, my God, why have I forsaken you?”  Judas feels isolated and alone, beyond the reach of God’s love. But right beside him is Jesus, Emmanuel, “God-with-us”, living through the same all-too-human experience of total and complete abandonment. Incarnation isn’t just a Christmas word. It’s the Good News from the first page of the New Testament to the very last!

On Easter morning I found myself singing “Lord, I’m amazed at how you love me…” through  my Judas hangover. Granted, we don’t see or hear of Judas after his tragic suicide. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that someplace on the other side of death Judas encountered Love that invited him back to the table.  That’s where he belongs. That’s home for every follower of Jesus–especially when we’ve followed less-than-faithfully.

That church’s Easter Sunday bulletin described the post-Easter worship theme– “Home”. “Home,” I remembered, is “the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in.” Who needs some place to go on Easter morning more than Judas? And it’s our nature as people of God, because it is God’s nature, to “have to let in” all the strays, the lost, the helpless hopeless homeless who have nowhere else to go. It’s our nature as forgiven sinners to make a place at the table for those who have no place. Even the unforgivable. Even Judas.

What does Judas look like where you live? Have you made Judas a place at the table where you meet Jesus and share the holy meal that unites all his followers? What are you doing to invite Judas (him/her/them) to join you, join us, join the whole family of God? Has either your action or your indifference posted a forbidding “Keep Out” sign? If Judas has no place at the Lord’s Table, none of us do. If Judas has a place and we sit in fellowship together, that wonderfully  impossible and surely promised New Creation has come true in our presence.