Friday, June 18, 2010

The personal side of UNCG expansion

While I believe that UNCG expansion can be a good thing for Glenwood, there is the sad reality that the house that we have worked on for 9 years may be a casualty of this expansion. Diane and I have been married for 10 years this summer, and almost all of those years have been at 828 Silver Ave in our creaky, 102-year-0ld home. The house that made us cry, literally, on our first night in it (because it was so ugly inside and we wondered if we just signed our life away to an ancient mistake), now makes Diane cry when she thinks of losing it. It’s the home that our kids have come home from the hospital to, and we weren’t planning on leaving for a bigger house.

There are about 12 other homeowners in our same position, and for us the expansion just stinks in every way. We don’t benefit from the increase in property values that will come with UNCG expansion. We lose homes that we have poured time and money into. And the best that our neighbors who live south of Haywood (the line of demarcation) can give us is a sad smile, wishing that we weren’t caught in the crossfire and at the same time relieved that they are not in our position (which I totally understand).

I know that the right answer, the one to put my hope in, is that my homes is not a white house on Silver Avenue. My hope is not in property values or equity. My purpose is greater than a quiet fenced-in yard. And on my best days, those thoughts are a great comfort. And on other days, I’m bummed and wish UNCG would just leave us alone.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What is best for Glenwood?

Four years ago I wrote a post about UNCG coming to Glenwood. Now it looks like that post is going to finally become a reality, and in the midst of sadness about our home (which falls right in the proposed expansion area), comes the questions of what is really best for my neighborhood? If my home were not on the chopping block, what would I think of this proposed plan? (Our home would be on the bottom right corner of green space on page 11 of 18 in the linked document, a proposed park).

Change seems inevitable for our neighborhood – it’s too close to UNCG and property values are priced right for quick buy-ups. Right now our neighborhood is already zoned for apartments/mixed use/multifamily buildings to be put up in the area that UNCG is thinking of using. If UNCG does not develop this, what we will likely get is a hodge-podge of development that will not serve the neighborhood in any way, and the neighborhood will not have any say in how things are built. With UNCG, we have the chance to have a voice in how things go. I think that it will beautify a part of the neighborhood that needs work (in much of the proposed area). I also think that will draw more home-owners into Glenwood, which would be a good thing.

The down side is that the poor who live in this area (and in the areas within a few blocks of the development) will no longer be able to afford to live there, as property values will shoot up. I don’t know if there is time/energy available to secure a number of properties which will be affordable and available to the poor. I hope that UNCG will be persuaded to care about those members of its University community who are often unseen, yet essential, the men and women who work in the physical plant and in the cafeteria. For them to be able to live in a neighborhood like Glenwood, connected to the university, would be wonderful, and it would be a credit to UNCG to think proactively about how to make this happen.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Least Favorite Parable

Once upon a time there was a group of workers. Some workers worked 8 hours, some worked 6, and some worked only one. But they all got paid the same amount at the end of the day, which seemed grossly unfair to the ones who had worked the most. (Matthew 20:1-16, more or less)

This parable drives me crazy sometimes because it runs so contrary to my inward sense of right and wrong. People should get what they deserve, what they earn. If one person worked 8 hours, they should make more than the person who only worked one – it’s only fair. And yet Jesus said that God’s Kingdom works like this, that people are given blessings not according to merit but according to the goodness of the Father. Our standard is merit, and God’s standard is generosity.

I really get off track with the Lord when I believe that I deserve anything from Him at all. When I begin to think that my rule-keeping or faithfulness earns me more favor with God, I am leaning on my own righteousness. But the Gospel is clear that righteousness is always a gift, and anything we do is merely a response to that gift. My life should not be about counting the hours that I’ve worked compare to others, wondering why those who do less than me get more than me. Instead, my life should be spent with my eyes focused on the Lord, seeing Him as my reward, not any “stuff” that comes from His hands.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Work of Believing

I preached this past Sunday on Mark’s account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. So this week I've been spending time reading John 6, which contains John's account of the feeding of the 5,000, followed by Jesus' teaching on how He is the bread of life. In John 6:28, the people ask God, "What must we do to do the works that God requires?" And you would think that Jesus would answer with a list of things like, "Read your Bible, go to church, be a nice person, follow the 10 Commandments." But He doesn't. He says, "The work of God is this: to believe in the One that He has sent." And when we get down to it, that is so true. Most of my struggles with the life of faith, at their core, stem from a lack of belief in Jesus. Sometimes I don't believe that He really is the bread of life and that I need to be fed by Him every day. Sometimes I don't believe that God really loves me at all times, but instead that He loves me only when I am acting right. Sometimes I don't believe that God really is at work building His Kingdom and I am called to be a part of that. It takes work to believe, work to remember the hope and life of Christ in the midst life's responsibilities and brokenness. It  takes work to let God's promises and the truth of His word inform our circumstances instead of letting our circumstances shape our view of God.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Weight of Fear

My struggles with fear continue, and a few weeks ago the weight of fear was more than I could lift. While the thing I was fearing was, by and large, irrational, I couldn’t escape worrying about it. I lost sleep and it dominated my prayer life (and by dominated I mean it squelched it).

The weight of fear is loss of trust in God. When I live in fear, I lose focus on the Lord, and I hedge my bets in trusting His character and His promises. Instead of putting my hope in God’s Word being true, I let my experiences and the experiences of others lead me in mistrust.

The weight of fear is isolation. When I live in fear, I am ashamed because the things I worry about seem so silly if I say them aloud, but to my heart they are real and dangerous. And so I don’t let others in, trying to slug it out on my own instead of asking for help.

The weight of fear is control. When I live in fear I try to control my life, either by worry (which gives the illusion of control) or by ordering my life to be as safe as possible. That is exhausting.

The weight of fear is not from Jesus. He promised that His yoke is easy, that His burden is light. There is a freedom that comes from trusting God even in the face of real (and imagined) dangers.

The world is not a safe place – the brokenness of the fall permeates every corner, and we do not have the luxury of numbering our own days. But God’s love and character and Kingdom supersede the worries and fears and brokenness. Our hope is not here. Our hope is in heaven, and I think that God continues to allow the enemy to attack me with fear to train my eyes to look up, to remember the hope of Heaven, and to trust God, not my circumstances.