Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today. . . .

I'm not sure what the experts would call it, but I measure my life in increments. Two weeks ago today. . . one week from today. . . ten years from now. . . . etc. I'm not sure why I do it, but it helps me to both remember and to plan ahead. Playing that little game today has some extra special meaning for me. The first words of The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" have been in my thoughts for several days. You see, we moved here to Elizabethtown on August 31, 1991. Twenty years. So hard to believe. Our days truly are like the grass of the field.

This anniversary is important to me for what it reminds me of. We had been living in the Philly area for six years and were one year into what we are doing now. We had three of our four children and they were little. . . sharing a tiny bedroom we called "the bunkhouse" in a house we were renting from my folks. A move to a bigger place was necessary but the rent for anything bigger in that market was way out of our league. Through a series of miraculous God-planned circumstances, we discovered we could build a house in Elizabethtown for less than renting in the Philly suburbs. Not knowing where the money would come from, we started the process. Along the way, God provided in some amazing and very humbling ways.

That's why I need to pause to celebrate and remember. We never asked for financial help. . . but offers of all types came in from God's people. Generous checks came as we needed them. . . appearing from almost nowhere. I still thank God for those folks. You know who you are. A builder named Gerry Horst stepped up out here and built us a house at what we could afford, making it affordable by allowing us to leave some of the house unfinished while also allowing us to drop the price by doing some of the finish work ourselves. My brother Mark - the most talented wood-working craftsman I know - hung doors, trim, and cabinets. His miter joints still look remarkably perfect! A small army of people came out to help us paint. I can't remember everyone who helped us apply two coats of Pittsburgh Paint's "Bone White" to every square inch of the place, but I do remember Jeff, Bob, Randy, Judy, and Dave as being among the many who drove the 90 miles to help us out for a few hours. Then there was the moving day with the big rented truck and the host of people on both ends who helped to load and unload. Every day that I walk out into our driveway I am reminded of that moving day by the small indentation left in my driveway from the corner of the rental truck lift.

Lots has happened in the twenty years since. I've been thinking about that all week. Over the years I've tried to remember to thank God everyday for the gift of the house we live in. In many ways, I still can't believe that it all happened. We added a child at this house and they are now all grown. The place is filled with amazing memories both inside and out. I've thought a lot about that over the last few days. But there are two overwhelming thoughts I've had as I've pondered the twenty years we've spent in this place.

First, God has reminded me that life on this earth is not what it's meant to be. There's been a lot of pain and heartache since 1991. When I think about the army of people who contributed to our house and our move, I realize that the years and all of our lives have been filled with disease, death, divorce, discord, and all other sorts of messy stuff and brokenness. The rotting window wood I fixed this summer is really representative of life. Moth and rust continue to creep into everything.

But I'm glad there is a second reality. I've also learned that God is and that God is in control. He's in the business of carrying burdens, redeeming suffering, and making all things new. There's a day coming when He'll fix it all and we'll inhabit the new Heaven and the new Earth.

Today, I look back to a great day and thank God for what He did. Today, I look forward to an even better day when all that bad stuff I already mentioned will be healed and happening no more. I was reminded of that once again just yesterday when a pastor friend told me about a woman he knows who was asked, "Tell me about the best day of your life." She answered, "It hasn't happened yet!" I look forward to that moving day as well.


Rob said...

wow, looks like we were on the same page today (posting-wise)...thanks Walt...sorry you can't make it to our church in Feb. (LWCC)

Walt Mueller said...

Nice Rob. . . read your blog. Exciting days for you ahead!

Rob said...

I'm honored that you stopped by!

Stephanie said...

Walt, I ABSOLUTELY HATE having to write comments such as this, but I feel morally and spiritually compelled to do so. I also believe it qualifies under WWJD, which I consistently strive (though often fail) to live by. It is the greatest help in making decisions.

Anyway, don’t you see what a bad light it places God in when you write that, “generous checks came as we needed them…appearing from almost nowhere”, and that you received overwhelming support from so many others? Don’t you see how this denigrates God? Here He is TOTALLY supplying YOU with a magnificent suburban home while millions, including children, remain homeless, without even a roof over their heads.

It sounds so selfish of you to so highly praise God for blessings bestowed upon YOU. Millions of others are NOT looking for “generous checks …appearing from nowhere”, but would give anything just to be able to afford a roof over their heads. Your post makes it appear so obvious that God is ignoring these others but is willing to provide so abundantly for YOU.

I’m sorry, but I detest this picture you paint of a supposedly “loving and just God” for YOU. Where is the “love and justice” FOR OTHERS? Don’t you see where your writings cause such troubling and upsetting questions about God being truly “loving and just”?

How do you think terminally homeless people feel about God after reading that He supplied you with “generous checks… appearing from nowhere”, yet does not supply them with even a minimum-paying job that would enable them to most willingly “work” for a roof over their heads? Where is the “justice” in that?

I think the world of you Walt, and I guess that is why this post bothers me so.

Walt Mueller said...

Stephanie. . . God's blessings come in so many different ways. At that point in our lives we believed God was calling us to move, but had no idea how it would happen. Fact is, He provided abundantly for us. The point of my post is to give Him the honor and glory for what He has done for us. Sadly, I think you are reading things out of the context of everything I write. This was one short blog post referring to one event in our lives. I would encourage you to reconsider what you posted in light of the big picture of God's story, the Scriptures, etc.

Stephanie said...

Walt, thanks for your caring response.

I am currently and for quite some time now, trying desperately to hold onto a belief in a “loving and just” God that I found so much comfort in while growing up.

Posts such as this one create troubling and upsetting questions for me as I cannot reconcile a loving and just God providing such unconscionable disparity in treatment (blessings) to equally worthy persons. I, well fed and sheltered, am no more worthy than the hungry and homeless.

It would be like me treating my two children (hypothetically) in grossly disparate ways, when both are worthy of equal treatment. I could NEVER provide a dinner of steak and eggs to one and cornflakes to the other; allow one to sleep in our warm house while making the other sleep outside in the cold; provide healthcare to one, but not the other. Aren't we are ALL God’s children?

I never judge a person solely on the way they treat me. I maintain an acutely close vigilance on the more important character aspect of how they treat others. I apply the same vigilance toward God.

Stephanie said...

Walt, this is a continuation of my response to your comment. You ask me to “reconsider what I posted”. I have, and this is my response. First, I along with several other posting admirers, like to use a person’s exact words when responding back. Although I think it may appear somewhat attacking at times, what it really does is provide a concise clarity of what’s being responded to, thus optimizing understanding.

You write,
“Sadly I think you are reading things out of context of everything I write.”

Please don’t interpret my presenting valid, but differing aspects of the same topic, to be taking your remarks out of context. Also, I mainly respond only when I do have a strong differing aspect that I feel is relevant. I don’t respond when I whole-heartily agree with you, it would be much too time consuming, and I see that you always have a plethora of accolades sent your way. I really don’t think that my constant “couldn’t agree with you more Walt”, would contribute anything significant. But make no mistake about it; my friends and I are enamored with your type of much-needed “open fundamentalism” (at least you’re willing to listen, publish, and consider opposing views), your acute perception of youth culture, and your immense dedication to our youth. I believe that this generation needs your work far more than any preceding one. This one is definitely different and so much in need of spiritual guidance.

You also imply that I’m taking this post out of context by writing,
“This was one short blog post referring to one event in our lives”.

Here you imply that this “one event” has nowhere near the significance I place on it, because it is just “one event”. Since when does just “one event” equate to not being significant, or not containing different aspects to consider?

Pertaining to your generous blessings, I offered a different aspect regarding those blessings within the exact same context. I am questioning a loving and just God supplying you with generous checks and a multitude of assistance in acquiring a spacious suburban home when you already had a modest yet sufficient apartment. This blessing was bestowed all the while a homeless mother, with an 18 year old daughter, slept under a bridge surrounded by cardboard boxes. Her only other choice was to stay at a homeless shelter which she could no longer tolerate due to the overcrowding, constant noise, foul odor, and having her daughter awakened through the night by the furtive groping of a fellow shelter resident. I don’t see how questioning the priority of your specific blessing as substantiating your blessing being taken out of context. In fact, it could not be anymore within context.

It appears Walt, that we will have to respectfully disagree, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.