So I was accused recently of seeming more hopeful as of late. The friend who said this couldn’t really put his finger on what exactly it was that gave this impression, but as I’ve thought about it I can definitely “go” with this impression. I’ve been trying to take on some habits again that I had abandoned for years, morning exercise and Scripture reading among them, and I think this is (not surprisingly, I guess) making a difference in my attitude and outlook. I know that these disciplines are essential to the long, hard journey that Jesus calls me to, and I’ve been neglecting them at my peril. I’ve also been working, however falteringly, to remember who and whose I am. Part of my Scripture reading not too long ago brought me back to a passage that is very meaningful to me. It was read during the chapel service at Luther Seminary, where I was a student, on the morning of 9/11. It was very timely then, and remains so now: “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8). I think that really says it all. Knowing that I belong to God in both life and death brings a sense of peace that does indeed pass all understanding, and frees me to really live TO (that is, for) the Lord, not by way of mere personal piety, but rather with boldness and conviction to follow him into the streets as he loves, serves, heals, and calls the “least of these” into his kingdom. It frees me to risk all in order to build “the beloved community,” because I know I’m really gambling with “the house’s money” so to speak. In other words, knowing I belong to God and that “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” relieves me of any pressure to try to hold onto what is “mine” or to exhaust “my” resources trying to store up and preserve treasure here on earth. For years now I’ve carried a fair bit of guilt for leaving a community of radical, but ordinary Jesus-followers in Philadelphia that were imaginatively working to be the Church and break down barriers of race and class that limit the growth of God’s kingdom. Compounding the guilt was our decision to not only leave Philly but to allow ourselves to be lured into a modest, but nice and safe house on the outskirts of the city here in NE Ohio. Of course, I know that there is a degree to which this “guilt” is really appropriate conviction for making a huge theological decision (where to buy your house) under duress and so, poorly. Still, I am reminded that we almost wound up in a house in Philly that was in the neighborhood we wanted to be in but that would have come with what in hindsight now we know was a very bad loan that could easily have made us one of the housing bubble foreclosure statistics. So, I’m grateful things didn’t go that way, of course, and I’m challenged to be imaginative about just what God might have for us here. This house, like me and my family and everything else, does after all belong to God and I’m confident that if we really live as if that is the case and our heartfelt desire is to use this house for his glory and remember that it’s “not for us alone,” God will certainly provide us with opportunities to bless others with it. Lord, please let it be so.