Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Dusty Kingdom

Posted by Jack

I have spent the last couple of months covered in dust. No, really, covered in dust.

We have been remodeling our dining room. The walls and ceilings, both made of plaster and lathe, were crumbling and falling down around us.

First came the black dust. We decided to pull the ceiling down before it descended on its own resolve. With the crashing ceiling came 140 years worth of dust and grime. Plaster dust, asbestos, dirt, soot. It came down in torrents.

In the end, I looked like a coal miner.

It took quite some time to clean up the black dust… in fact, we are still coming across traces of it even now. But we weren’t finished with dust.

Then came the white dust. We replaced the ceiling and walls with sheetrock, and the finishing process inevitably included sanding down the joint compound to make a smooth surface. Gypsum, sanded compound, white dust. It came down in torrents.

In the end, I looked like someone had dumped a bag of flour over my head.

It will doubtless take many weeks to clean up the dust… in fact, we will likely find traces of it for quite some time.

And so we find ourselves covered with dust. Sometimes I feel like that Peanuts character Pigpen… like I am leaving a cloud behind me everywhere I walk.

But, you know something? I think God’s Kingdom is a dusty one.

See, our God is a fixer, a restorer, a creator. He is wildly creative and ingenious. He fixes that which is broken. He heals that which is sick. He brings new life to that which is dead. He imagines things into existence, and in the beginning He fashioned us from… well, dust. He is no stranger to remodeling.

Jesus came to tear down. His once beautiful creation was crumbling and falling apart. The curse of sin and death was weighing heavily on the universe, and all the cosmos groaned under the weight. If left alone, all would come crashing down.

So Jesus the carpenter, the fixer, the healer, He tore into His creation and crushed the powers and authorities, and He ground sin and death into a fine powder.

When the dust settled, Jesus was dead and buried.

And then came the white dust.

Jesus, Who is not content with simply destroying sin, Who is not satisfied with brokenness, Who came to make all things new… this Jesus burst from the tomb. He conquered death. The grave could not hold Him. The gates of Hell could not prevail against Him. And He brought with Him life and light for all who believe.

Now, here we find ourselves… covered in dust.

We are free to shake off the dust that clings from the former life, the dirt and grime that remains from the crushing of sin and death. We are free! We are cleansed! We are not bound by the influence of that way that once was.

And more dust comes, from building and restoring. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! It may not be finished yet, but it is certainly under construction. We have been invited to join in the work that Jesus began, to seek the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth, just as it is in Heaven.

Is it possible to see the Risen Savior in a remodeled ceiling? I do remember hearing about a woman who saw the virgin Mary in her grilled cheese… so I guess it is certainly possible.

No, more than that.

We believe that remodeling is redemptive, that restoring the old and broken is an act of worship. We believe that God has plans for His Creation, and that we, His people, are to be caught up in His universal fixing movement. We believe that He make all things new.

The Resurrection promises that old things have passed away, that new life has come. It promises that our Creator is not finished with His Creation, but that He has much more in store. The Resurrection promises that we, his fixing helpers, are free and able to take part in the building of His Kingdom. And it promises that death cannot stop us and sin cannot hold us, for our King has conquered the grave.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. John 11:25-26

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Posted by Mikal

"Behold, I am making all things new"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cherry Blossoms and Other General News

Posted by Tim
Our cherry tree has blossomed! In about a month and a half we will have thousands and thousands of cherries on the large tree in our backyard. This will be the third time we have been blessed with a yield since moving into the house. Unfortunately, we did a very poor job of harvesting the first two times around. We have higher aspirations this year. If you live in the Springfield area and like cherries, please bring a basket to the house around Memorial Day and take as many as you'd like. We'd love to share.

In other news, we have about a month before we plant our community garden. Sometime over the next couple weeks we will be tilling up the land next door. If you are looking for an exercise in faith, try planting a garden. The plight of the Israelites during drought and Jesus' parables on farming really come to life when you haven't seen rain in three weeks during July. I never prayed while watching for clouds so often in my life. There is also something about watching plants grow out of the ground that is deeply spiritual. Witnessing God bring life out of the dirt is nothing short of miraculous.

Our bible study works its way through Acts on Thursday evenings. About 8 or 9 of us gather to study the Early Church and learn a little bit about a community of Jesus followers who turned the world upside down. We have a pretty diverse group of perspective and opinion which provides us with plenty to think about every week. Please come join us if you're in the area. We would also welcome anyone to join us for dinner (see the "visit" tab), or just drop by if you're in the neighborhood. We love catching up with old friends or meeting new people.

I think that's all for now...

Grace and Peace from Mulberry Street.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Two Weeks Notice

Posted by Jack

A lot can happen in two weeks.

For over two years, I have been teaching preschool in a learning center on the north side of Springfield. Despite some speed bumps here and there, I really enjoy the work.

And then something came up.

I caught wind of a job opening at a faith-based non-profit in my neighborhood. They have a daycare for children and various outreach ministries for teens. They also provide food and other resources to the community. One of their preschool teachers recently quit and they are looking for someone to lead the classroom and to create and implement curriculum.

At first, it sounded like a no-brainer. I have a history in the non-profit world, I love working in under-resourced communities, and I have a gift for working with children. So, I called them up and asked some questions.

Those questions raised more questions, and others after that. It turns out that trying to follow Jesus in my life and work is not always an easy process, and it often leads to some tough decisions.

It is simple, they say, but not easy.

I wrote down some of the very human thoughts I have been having lately. I thought they might be worth sharing, just to shed some light on the type of questions this discipleship thingy is leading me to ask.

Maybe this is familiar territory for you. Maybe you’ve walked through these questions before.

Or maybe not. Either way, it will not be long before the Way of the Cross collides with your way of life, leaving nothing behind but beautiful carnage. Walk with me.

My current job is pretty stable. I’ve had some significant disagreements with my employer, and even gained a reputation as a bit of a trouble-maker after blowing the whistle a few times, but I am in no immediate danger of being without work. They have even given me raises and promotions. I work at a company that has been around for decades, where there is no shortage of private-pay customers. I am as safe and secure as I have ever been.

In today’s economic climate, can I really walk away from something so solid?

Discussions of money normally bore me. However, I will admit that, for someone in my line of work, my pay rate is pretty high. I’ve been fairly comfortable.

In fact, I make more money now, at my current job, than the director makes at my potential new job. This means I’ll be taking a pretty significant pay cut if I move forward. Like 25% or more. It is easy to talk about working with the poor, but joining the poor?

I’m all about downward mobility and community development and all that… but this is my bank account we’re talking about here.

There are resources at my disposal. I don’t have a large budget or anything, but for someone who works in the classroom, I have been pretty blessed. Teaching supplies, toys and games, curriculum materials… I’ve had those things when I needed them.

I saw the new classroom I would be working in. It was empty.

There is also a certain permanence to the move; my current employer will not hold my place while I run off and test the waters at a new job. What if this doesn’t pan out? I can’t click “undo” and go back to the way things once were. I am going backwards here, dropping several rungs down the ladder I started to climb a few years ago.

Is this progress? Or the opposite? Or is “progress” what counts anyway?

So it comes to a decision. I can keep my safe job, comfortable pay, and enviable resources, or I can take a pay cut, enter a more stressful environment, and start over from scratch. Seems like quite a risk.

But, I would be working in my neighborhood.

Within walking distance of the house.

And I would spend my time with kids from this neighborhood.

And impact the lives of under-resourced children and families (98% of enrolled students live in poverty).

And I can be an influence in a place where positive male figures are almost non-existent.

And I can join the staff with an almost unheard of 4-year college degree.

And I can utilize my Bible degree to develop and teach faith-based curriculum.

And my credentials will help a growing childcare program, boosting their state rating.

And I can work in a place where I am needed, where there are not ten others like me who have grown complacent for lack of purpose.

And I can revive and strengthen old programs.

And I can build something new, lay the groundwork for bigger things.

And I can learn from my neighbors, and be challenged, and grow.

And I can do what I am wired to do, what I love to do, what I was put on this planet to do.

In other words, it is the opportunity I have been waiting for.

And praying for.

And working toward for several years.

By the way, I start in my new position next Monday. I'm going for it. I will be teaching a pre-K class, and also developing and implementing new curriculum. This week, I am transitioning out of my current job and gearing up for the new one.

I am excited, and frightened, and cheerful, and sober.

A lot can happen in two weeks.