People and Place
One of the books I read during my sabbatical was "Keeping Place" by Jen Pollack Michael. She wrote about the importance of the people and places in our story.
No place is insignificant in our stories. In fact, in paying attention, we are paying attention to salvivic movement of God. Wherever we move, we may be sure of this: God always moves us toward himself (p.77).
Jen recommended doing an 'address history'. It sounded like an interesting idea. So one afternoon I listed all the places I've lived:
- The Projects outside Detroit (My dad moved from North Carolina to Detroit to work in the auto factory in the early 1950's. The projects were quad's built closely together under very poor living conditions)
- Flynn Street Westland, Michigan (the 1000 square foot house I grew up in with a family of 6)
- Bryan College dorms, Dayton Tennessee
- Market Street, Dayton Tennessee (The small house Verna and I rented our first year of marriage).
- Cole Avenue Apartments, Dallas Texas (We managed these apartments when we first moved to Dallas to begin seminary - so many stories !?!)
- Oak Street, Euless Texas (A home gifted to us while we served at Mid-Cities Bible Church and attended seminary)
- Georgia Avenue, North Richland Hills Texas (The 1st house we purchased)
- The Parsonage on Kanuga Road, Hendersonville North Carolina (Our only experience living in a church owned house)
- Fletcher Road, Mills River North Carolina (We built a small house on a pond with a view beautiful of the Smokie Mountains).
- Oak Street, Fayetteville Georgia (Our house the 1st time we served at Grace Church)
- Pineridge Court, Marietta Georgia (Our house in north Atlanta while we served on the staff of Fellowship Bible Church)
- Ardenlee Drive, Peachtree City Georgia (Our current house)
Each place is filled with memories of the people and life experiences God has used to shape me and my story.
Three memories from my years growing up on Flynn Street in Westland, Michigan stand out. The first photo is my birth family. To my knowledge, it's the only photo of the six of us together. I'm the oldest, standing on the far right with my mouth wide open. Imagine that! This is a rare picture of my mom happy. Shortly after this picture was taken my parent's marriage imploded and our family fell apart. Most of my memories of life at Flynn Street are difficult and painful with little to celebrate.
The second photo is Leo Dinnan. My mom became a Christian when I was in 6th grade. She took the four us to First Baptist Church. I became a Christian there as a junior high student. Leo was our high school Sunday school teacher. Leo loved the Bible and took a special interest in me. I spent many evenings in Leo's living room talking about the Bible. Leo passed on his love for the Bible to me and changed the course of my life.
The third photo is the Baker family. They also attended First Baptist. Bob (top right) became my closest friend through high school. I could share many great memories of our friendship. But Bob's mom, Marge, all but adopted me - referred to me as her 'other son'. Because life at home was difficult, I spent many afternoons with Marge. We talked about everything - life, girls, dating, my home and family, the future, my walk with God. My favorite Marge story is connected to a special date. I wanted to take a girl to dinner but had never been to a nice restaurant and was quite embarrassed that I didn't know what to do. I shared the story with Marge. A couple of weeks later she said 'we're going out together'. She had arranged for us to have dinner at the very restaurant she knew I wanted to take my date. Throughout the dinner, she kindly taught me what was appropriate and how to conduct myself. Marge died earlier this year after a long struggle with cancer. Thankfully we were able to talk a few months before her death and I was again able to thank her for the ways she loved me an.d believed in me.
So even during the difficult years of my very broken family life on Flynn Street God was moving in ways I didn't see or appreciate until much later in my life.
The people and places that make up our story – also make up the story of God's presence.
We all have memories - each with names and addresses - that tell the story of our everyday life with God.
Take some time to reflect on your 'address history', maybe you'll see and appreciate God's movement toward you in a new way.
Fighting for your heart,