Often my husband and I walk our dog Snuggles and talk about the next thing we want to build, lately that conversation has centered around how our baby church plant is growing up, a new garage or filling the massive potholes where we park our car. Building is tangible, it takes vision and resources and you can touch it when it’s done. Yet, there is something satisfyingly intangible about this process. You can’t be entirely sure how it’s going to turn out and unplanned obstacles interfere along the journey, causing a shift in thinking and dollars. This requires flexibility and creativity on the part of the builders. “How could we value engineer this to get the same result, but not incur the significant up-charge?” A question forever plaguing and refining the building project.
When we built our home in northern Wisconsin the power generator established by the developer sat out on the road and it turned out we needed to add an (unplanned) new junction box closer to the house. The power was too far away since we chose to put the house in the back of the lot. This meant that the limestone apron we hoped to wrap around the entire base of the house got axed. The money for the stone now went to the new power source, an aesthetic sacrifice for a practical reality. Our creative minded general contractor said, “Let’s still put in the extra thick foundation and that way if you want to add the stone apron in the future, you can.” Problem solved, with an eye to the future solution.
My first experience with the joy of building things hit me in sixth grade at Jill Oddy’s slumber party. Jill lived in my favorite house in our neighborhood a couple of blocks from ours. Her parents gutted it, kept every rich historical detail and updated the color scheme with tons of Swedish blue and yellow florals, toile wallpaper, and painted tiles featuring peasant village scenes around the fireplace. Her birthday party occurred between the old wallpaper coming off and the new wallpaper going up and her parents let us write ALL OVER the stripped down walls. Profound quotes by Oscar Wilde, the Bible and Shakespeare would underlay their new decor. Just kidding, “I LOVE MICKEY AND MICKEY LOVES ME,” written inside giant hearts conveyed the sentiments of these pre-teen girls. Just as Snuggles marks her territory on our morning and evening walks, we long to do this as well.
When our church bought a 98,000 square foot warehouse to convert into a gorgeous, post-modern sanctuary, we held a candlelit assembly to worship in the emptiness and mark the old concrete floor and steel girders prior to renovation. We covered that decrepit Alcoa factory in Bible verses written in permanent ink Sharpies. Beneath today’s creamy, ceramic tile those unseen verses undergird the congregations’ walk with Christ. Twenty years after Jill Oddy’s slumber party we wallpapered our own dining room walls in floral yellow and blue and my husband and I wrote life-changing messages all over our own stripped down walls, “C.P. + M.P. – True Love 4-Ever.”
All of this takes me to Nashville a couple of weeks ago. Our youngest son is about to graduate with a music degree from Belmont University and he is involved in a couple of bands who record at “The Basement Space” studios. This start-up began literally in the basement space of a home the brothers lived in during college and beyond. The business grew and they are about to christen their trendy looking, take-your-breath-away recording studio behind the house. We toured this work in progress and took in the writing on the walls…
The owner’s face beamed as he told us about how the builders, a father and son team had experienced a significant growth in their faith since working on the project and they also wanted to contribute messages to the walls. He talked about all the enhancements and expansions the new space will bring to their recording work and I could see energy and light wash over his face and our son’s smile as they contemplated future opportunities.
A dizzying amount of preparations take place prior to breaking ground and that is what Lent is all about. We are on the cusp of a season where the Lord wants to build new things in us prior to the celebration of Easter. When we submit to his desire to write on the walls of our hearts he builds new light and life into us, often by revealing the decaying darkness of our own hearts. Lent is a building work and it starts this Ash Wednesday. Come and break up some ground and prepare a room for him these next 40 days. The master builder is looking for people to take up his trowel and his towel.