“Silence is golden . . . except when it’s yellow.”
“Blessed are the feastmakers.”
Those were just two of the wise, fun sayings that spiced our time together in the Housing Ministry Group. Back in the '80s, at least five friends met for an evening each week for three and a half years for prayer, Scriptural reflections, mutual support, and housing planning.
We were the planning group for Sign of the Cross Housing, a firm that developed quality, affordable housing for lower income neighbors in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati’s #1 poverty community. By 1982, we had put together 20 units of good housing at a cost of only a quarter of a million dollars--without need for government funding.
[Does a quarter of a million sound like a lot of money? That’s only $12,500 per home or apartment. By the 1990's, Sign of the Cross Housing owned or managed 124 units, valued at perhaps $1,400,000. All this time, we never had as much as three month's operating funds in the bank. Often we lacked funds to meet payroll. Yet, the LORD pulled us through.]
In the Housing Ministry Group, quotable sayings were our best byproduct.
Helen Francis, assistant director for the Free Store, and Jane Jansak, parish worker for Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, were the group’s chief cooks. They mixed savvy sayings with the dough of financial data, construction concepts and applicant evaluations. We made no pretence of originality, and we took ideas wherever we found them. Here are the ones that helped me most:
“Don’t wait for the big blocks of time. There are none. Use the little blocks of time.”
“The LORD rewards trust by providing power.”
Helen Francis, on the Christmas rush: “Do it in joy and love. If preparations make me feel grouchy, I don’t do them.”
“A saint is a person through whom God’s light can shine.”
“Mark Twain’s secret of success: ‘I was born excited.’”
“Sometimes duty is the cement that holds us together. Often there’s a gift in it.”
On marriage: “You both have to mow the median strip. But, if you turn your back, what you thought was grass has become trees, and your lawnmower won’t work.”
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know Who holds the future.”
“If you help others out of your own need or guilt, you’ll be paternalistic. If you help from caring for the other person, then you’ll be real, and you can in love say no. Also, you will receive and learn.”
“Instead of growing up, most of us are groaning up.”
And two from St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo:
“Love God and do what you want.” [Watch it. That one’s very tricky.]
“Dubito, ergo sum.” “I doubt, therefore I am.”
[While Augustine didn’t say it in these Decartes-like words, he came close.]
The oven for baking these comments was our housing ministry. We prayed over resident selections. We prayed over purchase and development decisions. We prayed about residents meeting the LORD and growing in His grace. We saw the LORD working powerfully through some residents. We grieved that others continued to reject Him.
Yet, in the midst of the struggle of building an undercapitalized housing firm while aiding others to grow in Jesus, we saw the LORD as our source of help. And He helped us--but often not where we expected. For example, we wanted to buy a large apartment building, but the funding fell through. Later, we discovered that the heating bill would have bankrupted us. All that was part of His training program.
As we continued to seek His will, as we continued to praise and give thanks in all circumstances, we saw Him act--with people, funds, problem solving and new opportunities. Again and again, He pulled us out of insolvency, and funds came from sources we didn’t even know.
Other observations which resulted were:
“Making judgments usually comes to this: There’s a great deal of difference between a little bit and a lot.”
“The call to wealth is a dangerous call, like walking on the lip of hell. It takes a strong Christian to survive. Live simply so that others simply may live.”
“When I have invested a lot in an organization, if I am truly called to leave, the LORD never leaves carnage.”
“The mark of answered prayer: God’s answer is always good news for everyone concerned.”
“When the LORD calls you, His grace will also meet your needs--if you are faithful to the call.”
“If we really know what we want to do, money is seldom the major problem.”
“Wondering is part of prayer: ‘LORD, how does this fit?’”
“When bad things happen, I’m only free to deal with them when I’m thankful for them.” [See Ephesians 5:20 and I Thessalonians 5:18]
“You matter. I matter. Everyone matters. That’s the hardest part of Christianity to believe.” [G. K. Chesterton]
“Fatigue is a sign that you need solitude.”
"In Israel, to be a realist, you have to believe in miracles." [Ben Gurion]
Also true in Over-the-Rhine
“When you have disappointing relationships, don’t be too hard on yourself.”
“One sign of maturity is being able to live in paradox.”
“We’re to be fishers of people. The LORD does the cleaning.”
Purpose of this blog is to compile several books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.
Copyright © 2014 by Jack Towe
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