Thursday, September 11, 2008

Heavenly Perspective

One of Ted's five brothers has an old friend who regularly plays basketball with the richest man in the world...okay, just the richest man in Oregon. They wanted to get together and play with full teams, so Ted was invited to join a team for a game this past Sunday. They finish these games off with a cook-out, so the families were invited as well, including me and Abe.

We drove the hour out to this estate and discovered that Mr. Richest Man in Oregon (hereby referred to as RMiO) has built an indoor basketball court in an old barn. But not just any old barn. This place is spectacular, complete with a full bath/shower and loft from which one can slide down on a fire station pole. The guys started the game, and all us women and children drove up the hill, past gorgeous orchards, to pass the afternoon at the house.

We arrived at what looked like an old Tuscan estate. We parked our cars at the five car garage and walked in to this spectacular place. I've been in some nice places in my life, but this house blows them all out of the water. I've never seen anything like it. We ended up sitting outside for a couple of hours at the pool, which is sandwiched between a complete guesthouse (with two baths, flat-screen tv, etc.) and a garden so perfect that not a blade of grass was out of place.

To her credit, the lady of the house was very easy to talk to, in spite of my having no frame of reference for knowing how to respond to someone whose daily life involves the management of gardeners, nannies, two global companies, and trips around the world, including her most recent trip to the Beijing Olympics. As I sat in this idyllic space with three other women and three children, my mind kept drifting to Italy...and then to thoughts of heaven.
This image makes me think about heaven.

I never really felt envious of RMiO and his wife...I just fought back the urge to ask if I could come stay in their guest house for a night...or month. Ted and I spent our honeymoon in Italy, staying at night in a convent (it was the only place in town with a room, which we only managed to get thanks to our friend Staci who was there in the same small town doing a language course and thus had the ability to speak with these Italian nuns...this is a whole other story in itself though) and spending our days doing very little except eating, drinking, and looking at all the beauty. We talked about how this is what heaven might look like for Ted. My heaven needs to have a bit of Scotland in it, though Ted's Italian one is nothing to shake a stick at.

My Scottish heaven

I found it interesting that within the span of 24 hours, we'd been exposed to pretty much the two most distant poles in the spectrum of the human experience on this earth. First, we saw the poorest of the poor struggling to find clean drinking water in Kenya and Ethiopia. The next day, we're sitting by a pool at the estate of the RMiO.

The whole thing got me thinking about where my treasure is. In that spectrum, I'm so much closer to RMiO than I am to the thirsty and poor, even though while I was sitting by their pool in my thrift store clothes, I felt pretty distant. I think I got a "healthy dose of perspective" that day, and I want to hold on to that feeling. Jesus spent the bulk of His time among the poor; they are where His heart is. I want to be the same, and it got me thinking all kinds of thoughts about giving everything away and letting go of things I see as "necessities," like my morning cup of fancy, organic coffee or the upstairs remodel we've been hoping to do.

In light of eternity, these things don't matter. This stuff is my earthly treasure, things that aren't going to last. If I really truly honest-to-God believe in heaven and Jesus making all things right, then what the heck am I doing bemoaning the fact that my 4-year-old pair of tevas are wearing out? Why am I not giving away more of my time, money, energy, talents, and heart to the poor, the ones closest to God's heart? What am I doing for "the least of these?" I've really gotta get with it.

I'm not saying anything new here. I guess this is sort of like the Christian's mid-life-crisis. Instead of having an affair, going on a fancy vacation, or buying an expensive pair of Minolos (okay, way too many Sex and the City reruns in my life, my favorite love-to-hate show), I'm entertaining thoughts of selling it all and signing up to build wells in east Africa until I die. I can get my new tevas in heaven. I know there's gonna be mansions there, but won't there be tevas too?

#9 and #10, an Italian heaven, complete with tevas.

22 comments:

filoli said...

Check out this article - I think you will find it interesting right now:

Talking Dirty - The Politics of Clean Water and Sanitation

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/359/8/784

filoli said...

This may be a better link
http://content.nejm.org/cgi/reprint/359/8/784.pdf

Blog Shmog said...

I LOVE this post Lori. Your post pretty much described what my heart has been feeling for months now. Wanting less and less and giving more and more. "More Stuff" is always there, trying to lure me away from what matters right now. I think sometimes us Western Christians use excuses to make us feel better about how we are living. I hear a lot of believers who like to use the phrase, "we need to live in the world but not be of the world". This is true but I think a lot of times when we use that phrase it becomes an excuse for the way we live our lives. We are actually misusing it. For example: It's okay for me to go out for expensive coffees with my friends all the time and have a large flat screen TV and own a nice home. I'm just living as others do here but still trying to be a "good Christian" and not be of the world. But I think a lot of times we are blind to the fact that these things really can have a hold on us and they become more important then serving the poor. We aren't willing to give it up because why should we? God blessed us with all this right? I think if we ask ourselves,"could I give up my $4 coffee every day or every week and give that money to something important?" and find that it's really hard for us to do or "impossible" for us to do then we are no longer just living in the world we are becoming just like the world. Earthly treasures can be wonderful blessings. But if they become too important to us then maybe we crossed that line from being a part of the world to being of it.

This got really long and I don't know if it made sense. I'm not saying living this sort of life is bad. Just saying that if all that stuff becomes too important that it keeps us from serving the less fortunate/suffering/poor then we can no longer use the phrase,"living in the world but not of it" because it simply is not true. Thank you for sharing this. Love your heart. Hope my comment doesn't offend. This is the longest comment I've ever posted. So I feel I need to write...the end.:)

coffeemom said...

Isn't this the dilemma? It's not new, it's age old. It's scriptural. St. Francis de Sales addresses it well...for a really hard dose and slap in the face read Dubay's Blessed Are You Poor...that's a kick in the gut. I wish I had an answer. I think we all balance on this blade..and, for me, fail daily.

LOVE your posts! And both of your heavens are just about there for me too, but I admit, I sure lean toward the Italian version!

Jocelyn said...

Love this post Lori. I struggle every day with similar feelings. It is hard sometimes to look at the waste here and the lifestyles people lead. Especially when I look at my daughter and know where she comes from...and that Payton is still there. If you go build wells, can I come:-)

Misty said...

Don't know how else to comment except "amen" (in regards to post) and "obviously" in regards to tevas in heaven;-)

Meredith said...

Ryan and Stella and I will go with you and Ted and Abe to build wells in East Africa. We just really want to be your neighbors. I like this post and often think about where my treasure is.

The Albertsons said...

First, I think it is so cool that you spent your honeymoon in a convent. I mean seriously. There's something way too great about that...
Okay but on to the good stuff. I love the way you think and write... and I agree. I struggle every day with what I'm buying, why, how could money be better used, etc.
I drive my friends and family nuts, I'm sure. But it's hard not to think this way... arg...
I'm done thinking. Goodnight deep-thinking friend.

Melissa said...

You know, it's funny, because by North American standards I'm pretty modest in how I live. But I totally hear you. I feel the same. I ache to be that person who can give up all my stuff and live a life of sacrifice and service. But it is a hard leap. Odd, I was thinking about this earlier today. You said it well.

emily and mike said...

Have you seen the movie "Into the Wild?" I think you may like it. Not that I think you want/should live in Alaska or anything... but it is a beautiful movie.

Caroline said...

Yep. What they all said. I think this gets even harder, from what I've heard, once there are kids in the equation. Even if you can kind of give up stuff for yourself, suddenly it's much harder to do it on behalf of someone else (But all the other kids in the class have X...) I'm trying to steel myself! (Without resorting to - if all the other kids in the class jumped off a cliff, would you do it too? - that seems to be the standard answer to such requests).
I know that when I get to heaven, I'm just not. going. to. care what 'stuff' I had here. But wow, it's hard to remember that day-to-day...

It's so horribly rainy here, that I'm voting for Italian heaven as well.

PVZ said...

I probably have to lean towards Ted's Italian heaven, this girl needs some sun. You have beautifully expressed (as you always do) many of the things that go through my head often. I know all the stuff means less to me than it used to and the serving means more, but I still struggle to figure out what the right balance is. For me sometimes it is more of a heart thing, can I hold what I have loosely, however much or what it is. If God asked me to hand over my favorite whatever to someone, would I?

Staci said...

What a lovely post, Lori. Good thoughts, my friend. And I love the photo of your Scottish heaven...
Staci

Hauswife said...

Awesome, Lori! This is beautiful. We have friends and family, too, with gobs and gobs of money (thankfully, most are huge givers), but it's so important to know that that's not what life is all about. I think some of the happiest people I've ever met have been sacrificing Christians who poured their lives into others financially, emotionally, and physically for the Gospel. Also, I think Heaven will be a lot like Scotland with a generous splash of Italy, too. :)

Nicole said...

I love posts like this that make me think.

I don't think there is anything wrong with having earthly comforts. I don't think there is anything wrong with owning a pair or two or a couple hundred pairs of Blahnik heels.

It's when you become so swept up in just the point of having things to have them and caring only about yourself and material goods and not giving a hoot about the outside world that one should start to really get worried.

Even Jesus had to eat. Even Jesus had to have shoes. Even Jesus had to have money for travelling expenses. I don't think he was lacking much in the way of earthly comforts. It's not really fair to compare Jesus to this, I know. But in the most simplest of terms, was he not first and foremost a man who cared about others? The forgotten people of his time? The sick, the ill, the outcast?

I know, this is scattered and disjointed. I apologize,my mind is fried from trying to teach the background of the U.S constitution to my kiddo today. What I am trying to say(I think) is this: Go on and drool over those killer high heels. Don't be ashamed or fell bad because you have a place to sleep, food on your table and clothes on your back. You have your eye on a bigger prize, wanting to help where you can, when you can and however you can. And I gotta say, that's doing a lot more then most in this world.

A Memory Each Day said...

i kept thinking while we were there, wow, they spent a lot of money on those bronze animal sculptures everywhere...but then it's all relative. i've spent a lot of money on --whatever. in the end, it doesn't matter. nice post. it was a cool experience, but made me think about what i have.

those water videos just break my heart knowing that abe could be living there not having clean water to drink. it's unimaginable.

Chris and Jess said...

Excellent post, Lori. Being a mom is redefining my perspective on life, living, and finding balance and peace. In life, I know there is much that I can do without, and more that I could give. My eyes are certainly opening....

Ted and Lori said...

Nicole: I hear you on your points, and I don't feel bad about having the true necessities like a place to sleep and food to eat. It's just the extras that I question my "need" for. Oh, and my main point of clarification: I HATE-Despise-Loathe high heels, hence the deep and abiding love for tevas.

Julie said...

Nice post Lori. I've been thinking a lot about heaven recently. I hope you got my e-mail w/my phone number. Feel free to call if you are here on Sunday!
And, Uhm, how do I say this.... I am not sure that I would have been able to completely enjoy my honeymoon if we had been in a convent. (;

DrewCareyShow said...

What a beautiful post, Lori, with such insightful perspective. To quote my parents, who left my dad's job, sold our house and cars and packed up five kids to join a Christian missionary organization when I was 10, it sounds like you've been "ruined for the ordinary." Although I'm looking forward to actual Minolos in heaven (because alas, I won't care if I'm a bona fide giant in my four inch heals), I'm with you on being ready to give it all up here to make this life count for something with real eternal value. Perhaps we can go help build mine and Ted's wells together =)

Becky said...

So eloquently and well spoken. This post is my heart beat. May God ruin me so that I cannot bear to live any other way than generously extravagant to the forgotten ones He holds so dear.

Becky

Jana said...

Amen, sister. There is, should be, that tension. God help us if we forget to care for the poor and outcast. Would you like to run off and become a Poor Clare nun with me?