Of Boots & Buildings

In the midst of a day of listening and synthesis, my thoughts today have kept returning to my boots, and perhaps a “word” (in the sense of an inspired lesson, as the term is used by the Abbas and Ammas…).

It wasn’t that long ago that I used my worn, old Tony Lama boots as a closing illustration in a Christmas Eve sermon (“Shiny!”, click to download in iTunes). Today, even though I spent an hour this week oiling and cleaning them, they still look old and tired, and the hole developing around my right small toe is growing.

My “grownup” shoes (compared to my many pairs of Converse All Stars), these boots looked dim and dismal in comparison to the shiny dress shoes, and even dress boots, of some of the colleagues I met with during an extended meeting at our Annual Conference office this morning. During our initial conversation, sitting around a circle, my eyes kept being drawn to the difference between the shiny, newer shoes of my companions and my almost-decade old boots. Not that there was any real insight at the time, but it was nagging at my mind.

This evening, I met with leaders from Song of Life to discuss the next steps to pursuing actually preparing our property for a building (we are looking now at the reasonable, very real possibility of doing site prep and leasing a modular structure as our first presence on the land). Any time we meet to discuss potential means of building “our own” space, I have a parable of Jesus rattling around in my mind. In Luke 14:28-30, Jesus says:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’”

In previous plans and conversations, I’ve experienced some significant internal hesitancy; seeking to anticipate and identify both concepts and costs…

This afternoon, in addition to this passage, I had in mind a phrase from an East Valley Tribune Article I read this morning about the building of Wrigleyville West:

“It’s always a tradeoff between trying to get it done and trying to do it right. We’re trying to find that right balance.”

Our leaders and building committee have been working for some time seeking the right “balance” to pursue to find a way that our congregation can establish a permanent presence in our community through some form of church building/campus on our property. Our newest plan is to locate a leased modular building on the property, allowing for the site prep and build-out of the property in stages while also providing a location for church ministries. It seems to strike a good balance. I’m more confident about it than I have been any other plans that we’ve evaluated and presented.

And as I’m driving home, my boots come back to mind. My old, worn, practical boots. They aren’t stylish, and they were not the most expensive in the store when I got them – indeed, they were actually what I would consider a solid “entry” level boot, not the cheapest in the store, but not too far from it. Attractive (when new and shiny, anyway!) and functional. And they have served to prove to me the versatility of boots.

It was my kind of purchase, actually. Although like others I may dream of the fancy car, I drive a Toyota Corrolla in no small part because it was an available, affordable, and practical choice when I needed to replace my Metro. We have a modest (though slightly larger than we personally need) sized home, with both its size and location chosen based on very practical considerations about hosting church groups/events. My clothing purchases tend toward the functional – jeans and shirts – a good fit but often far from stylish…

Pursuing a modular building for the church strikes me as both a good “fit” and a good balance. The vision that is developing as we pursue this – with the modular building’s footprint intentionally placed  inside the future footprint of a later build-out of our master plan – seems very much to me like… my boots. Which is not to say (I hope) that 10 years down the line a modular building is going to look worn and have holes in it; but rather to recognize that the kind of vision that God inspires in me, the kind of vision that I’m drawn toward, is not some grand and daring vision; but one that feels solid. Functional.

Whether my tendency toward simple, functional vision is a result of nurture (e.g. life experiences) or inspiration (e.g. the work of the Holy Spirit), it strikes me that if God is at work in placing me in leadership at this time and place (as I trust God is!), then my developing sense of vision is an important part of what is and what is to come.

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3 responses to “Of Boots & Buildings

  1. It seems to me that an old and well-worn pair of boots speaks volumes about one’s history. They have likely carried us over tough terrain, protected us through inclement weather, and brought us to some destination – whether that destination is at the pinnacle of a mountain or the banks of a river at the bottom of some breath-taking valley. We can reflect on our old boots with a sense of nostalgia – recalling our journey, perhaps reliving the joy of each arrival at some new place (whether physical or spiritual).
    Sometimes our old scarred boots remind us of our departures – and regardless of whether an arrival or departure was joyful or sorrowful, each has shaped us and has left some type of mark – each symbolized in those scuffs and worn places.
    Old boots are comfortable; we know and like how they feel just as we find comfort in things that are familiar. As long as those old boots are a good fit, all is well. And God in His infinite wisdom knows when to make our feet hurt. When those old boots are no longer a good fit, it is time for change. Accordingly we outfit ourselves with new “gear” in order to continue our journey.
    Song of Life’s boots are old. Ten years old and worn and scuffed by ten years of dragging our equipment on and off a trailer, setting up, tearing down, paying rent and hoping for AC in the summer and heat in the winter. But can we help but smile as we look at those old boots and recall our journey?
    It may well be time for new boots. New gear for new journeys. New adventures with old and faithful friends. But you know, Ron, when we have a building, a place of our own, I would love to see your old boots on display there … a reminder of our “nomadic” days, a testament to the journey we have taken together so far …

    • My boots on display? Thanks, Irina, but we want to encourage people to come into the building, not scare them away! 🙂

  2. I have seen God working at Song of Life. We’ve only wandered in the desert for 10 years, and hopefully, God is now guiding us to the promised land.

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