Monday, September 24, 2012

No Place Like Home

I noticed an article in the Post last week identifying the ten wealthiest counties in America, seven of which are located in the Washington, D.C. area. Arlington apparently has jumped from fifth to third in the latest list. Nothing really new about that. I read that in two other categories Arlington ranks #1. This is the county with the highest average property value in the nation, again no surprise to those paying such high rental or mortgage payments. In addition, Arlington is the most well-educated county in America with the highest percentage of residents with college, graduate, and post-graduate degrees.

Another interesting characteristic of Arlington is that so many of us are from someplace else, all over the country and the world. I would bet that our native Virginians make up a minority here in Arlington as the capital draws all kinds of people from all kinds of places. What a unique culture, what a remarkable melting pot of people coming together in Northern Virginia.

I'm not sure what you make of all this, but for those of us who live here in Arlington, there really is no place like home. It's a one of a kind place to live and work and a unique place to serve and minister as the people of God.

So, how do we live out the Gospel in a place like this? How can we be the Church with conscience and credibility? What does it mean to be faithful to Christ right here, right now? These are the questions that we must answer as a church, as God's restless Spirit stirs and leads us on. As I finished the article in the newspaper I thought of these ancient words from the prophet:
23 This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.   (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Am Not Who I Was

“I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being abides,
from which I struggle not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look before I can gather strength to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling toward the horizon and the slow fires trailing from the abandoned camp-sites, over which the scavenger angels wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind,
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn.
I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered and I roamed through the wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice directed me:
-Live in the layers, not on the litter-
Though I lack the art to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter in my book of transformations is already written.
I am not done with my changes.”
      - Stanley Kunitz, The Collected Poems

Monday, September 17, 2012

Poop on the Floor

Duke, our beloved plott hound, is a master of understatement. His preferred style of communication is sophisticated and subtle. Nothing obvious or boisterous about Duke. He prefers to drop shy hints about his personal needs and if we are not paying careful attention, he will drop something else. Poop on the floor. I know, it's not pleasant and it's not frequent, and I am getting more skilled and attentive day by day. I am beginning to pick up on his casual glance toward the door, his soft, almost imperceptible whine, his trot through the kitchen. So, we are doing much better.

In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that Duke is learning some important things about me as well. This educational process is a two way street. I think Duke has picked up on my not so subtle tirades when I see poop on the floor, how his unwillingness to take care of his business outside does not make me more tolerant of his accidents indoors, and how I am so much more agreeable and friendly when he sticks to his normal routine of bodily functions.

On our early morning runs or when we take long walks in the evening or go to the dog park, I don't mind carrying a plastic bag or two and picking up after Duke along the way. No big deal. He's my dog and he's my mess. But no more poop on the floor. Enough already.

The only exception to Duke's shy, quiet manner is when some poor innocent soul rings our doorbell. At that moment Duke is transformed into an incredibly noisy barking beast, bounding to the door to terrorize our unsuspecting guest. And though he is big enough to terrify the faint of heart, he means no harm. When I open the door, he sniffs and calms down and backs away, not really interested in eating our guest. He's all bluff, no bite, and we are glad of that.

So here's the deal, if we would let Duke's nervous habits teach us all a thing or two. You and I would do well to learn when to kick up a fuss and when to keep calm, when to bark and when to be still, when to take care of our business, and how best to make our Master smile.