Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
If you want to build a house, where do you begin?
This fascinated me, and frankly would have terrified me, had I not hired expert builders to execute the design drawn by the architect. They had cleared the lot, surveyed the site, made the measurements, and poured the foundation. Now they brought in the crane whose job it was to lift the segments of “superior wall” into place. Condition Critical: the location, position and seating of the first one which would form the northwest corner of the structure. The integrity of the rest of the house depended on the placement of this “cornerstone.”
If you want to build a sturdy house, you begin by laying the cornerstone precisely. From there, with due diligence, accurate measurement, and careful attention to detail, the rest of the house takes shape. In due time, the structure becomes its design; the house in two dimensions unfolds into three. When we move in and bring our lives with us, it’s 4-D! The cornerstone, hidden yet bearing the structure’s weight, holds it firmly in place even as heavy rains, high winds and broad temperature swings threaten to undo it.
Life is like that. If we seek to build a sturdy life we need to attend to the selection and placement of our cornerstone. It is upon this that everything else is laid.
Who or what is your cornerstone? Have you placed it at the intersection of your household, your family, your life and its work?
In days of old, it was written, “God’s people and also members of his household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:12-22a)
While the home built for us is a sound structure and carefully crafted, it is not a holy temple in the Lord. That designation is offered to each of us as we, in Christ, are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22b)
Day by day, as we get to know our neighbors, become part of our community, maintain our home and welcome family and friends, we exercise the spirit within us to help it grow strong and steady, just like our cornerstone. With Christ as our “superior wall,” what’s built upon it is a very fine house.
We had a much-needed rain last night. Though the arrogant lightning flashed boldly in my window making it hard to fall asleep, when I heard the droplets pelting against my window pane I knew that thirsty Mother Earth would be glad for a drink. In the morning, the soaking had left a smile on the face of my struggling, newly sodded lawn and renewed my hope that the hydrangea I had transplanted into the front mulch bed — a gift to me from my new next-door neighbor — might still gather the strength to stand up tall. Nice as he is, I felt sure he would be noticing.
As I strode along the drive and then through the neighborhood with my two energetic pups, my shoes became altogether sodden thanks to the puddling on the path which didn’t drink the rain up. Neither did signs and vehicles we passed, nor the metal-covered electrical box, nor the roadway, nor the roofs of nearby homes or their driveways nor the …. But so much did. The browning hillside. The drooping trees and bent shrubs. The colorful annuals planted hopefully along the foundations. These surely did.
Suddenly I felt an odd gratitude for the indiscriminate nature of the rains, falling on all things equally, like the grace of God. Paying no mind to where they land — whether needed or well-received, whether shirked, shed or run off down the hill into the pond — they distributed themselves equally. Yes, the Father sends rain on the just and unjust.
At once I felt a bit of a twinge, recalling times when I had prickled at the apparent unfairness of good things that had come to the poorly mannered, undeserving, entitled or even to the apparently wicked while the same good seemed to be withheld from those who needed or deserved it the most. I needed this simple reminder that the grass, my grass, didn’t receive its rain because it needed it but because of the even-tempered and merciful nature of the One who delivers it.
So that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)
When we put our hope and trust in humans and human ways, we are sure to be disappointed, but if we trust in God first, perhaps we can trust in what God’s grace can do. Even in them. Even in us. Especially in the storms of life.
“Can I tell you a secret?” I whispered to the little boy.
The very little boy
who told me he was two
as he climbed across the table
after dumping the entire contents of the bag of blocks
onto the floor
after emptying the cart full of plastic food
into the plastic sink and
trying unsuccessfully to shove the
plastic dish-drainer into the oven
in a way that would allow the door to actually close.
Oh, but he knew how to operate the microwave,
deftly punching its buttons to activate
its pretend revolving tray
then sifting through several plastic plates
searching for the round yellow ones that
were the right size for what he was preparing,
discarding all others in self-selected directions.
The chair I pulled up to this kitchen table
accommodated only part of my backside,
so I plunked myself onto the floor
and drew my glasses onto the bridge of my nose
that I might see the story of the day,
left open to the page where today’s lesson was featured.
“Can I tell you a secret?” I whispered to the little boy
who earlier I had snagged,
wrapping him with one arm as he sprinted
in attempted escape from his grandmother
who held fast to his little brother.
Now, there is a pause in the kitchen preparations
as the little boy takes Mr. Potato Head glasses
previously perched on his head and affixes them
upside down across the bridge of his nose,
their pliable arms reaching out to grab his temples
well short of the ears they would not have looped.
Spectacle to spectacle, we gaze at each other,
this little boy and I, he on home turf
and me very far from mine.
“Can I tell you a secret?” I whisper to the little boy
who now draws very close
because secrets are meant to be shared, quietly,
ear to ear.
Co-conspirators we are now.
“Yes,” the little boy whispers
as he comes near.
We look together for a moment at the page
of faces that don’t look like his,
of people not dressed like him
of words that have no meaning to him.
“This is the secret.” I say, “Are you ready?”
He is ready.
“Jesus is alive,” I whisper.
“Jesus is alive,” he whispers,
because secrets are for telling
when you’re two.
But you must whisper.