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I’ve been thinking a lot about our upcoming move.

My recent musings have turned in the direction of ease. Specifically, what we as Christians are called to – is it a life of ease, or a different kind of life? A life of toil, sacrifice, challenge, hard work, cross-bearing?

David accepted a senior pastor position at a small, rural church.

We’ll be moving from our city home in a poor urban neighborhood to a relatively wealthy small town. Objectively speaking, this town is probably just solidly middle-class and comfortable – but compared to what we are accustomed to (and to what I really have loved), it’s picturesque and affluent.

We will be moving from a small and struggling inner-city church, where every day brings new crises and fresh loss, where every small victory is celebrated fiercely because we so often see failure, to a regular small church – like the small churches I’ve been in and out of all my life, wonderful groups of people who have regular, comfortable lives.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. I know that inner-city ministry isn’t for everyone, and that’s not where I’m going.

Where I am going is this: I don’t believe that we’re called to live comfortable lives. I don’t believe that being a Christian should be easy. I do believe that it should be fulfilling and exciting, but I also believe that we should be living our ministry in a way that interferes with our “daily” lives.

I worry that our new church will be comfortable for me. Too easy.

Where I am now, I’m constantly busy, often exhausted. There is too much work for too few workers. It’s hard. And heartbreaking. And I love it – there’s something very fulfilling about being useful. In one sense, any sane human can contribute as well as any other – just be being there and being willing to work;  in another sense, I am important. We each have gifts that make a real difference – something that makes us uniquely useful. This is how I have come to understand what Paul talks about when he talks about how the church should be.

We will go to a church that has survived and even grown a bit in the absence of a pastor. They are ready for a fresh vision, and a strong teacher – but the congregation has what they need. There are well-established ministries, and they’ve established a good rhythm.

I worry that, because I won’t see immediate in-my-face need and won’t feel the urgency of  too few hands, I’ll drift back into just being a nice Christian girl who goes to church on Sunday and Wednesday and can separate her walk from her life.

That’s what’s on my mind this week.

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Today was communion Sunday (every first Sunday of the month is at our church). Typically it’s prepared by two deacons (who buy bread and juice and set up the dishes, etc.) and served by those two deacons, the pastor of the church, and his wife. Today was the first time one of our new deacons was signed up for communion – the more experienced deacon brought the juice and Robby, our Director of Children’s Ministry, was in charge of the bread.

There aren’t any rules – we’ve had some interesting communions (onion bread one time – a disaster, grape Kool-Aid another – a good chuckle). We (the deacons) are welcome to bring anything we want, from Matza bread (crackers) to french bread to white bread to pita bread, etc. Robby thought he’d save some time and get something neat – he found these little bread slice-shaped pieces of… bread. Cute, right? And bonus: no prep time.

Turns out, they were as hard as croutons. Turn up your volume and listen to this:

Jesus is crunchy

That noise? That’s a sanctuary full of people chomping on huge croutons.

I could NOT stop laughing. By the end of the crunching (about the time PASTOR says “Jesus is crunchy”) I was gasping and crying. I have never laughed this hard in church. I laughed so hard I couldn’t chew the crouton – so I’m crunching into the Pastor’s recitation of the meaning of the cup. When he finished that speech, he served my row – he hands me the tray and says, “something to wash it down with…”

No sooner than I get control of myself and begin pray – this is well into the passing out of the cups, does my husband lean over and say, “we should give a big slurp to go with the crunching.” Of course, I lose it again.

Robby’s new nickname: Captain Crunch. =)

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We had a true Near Eastside weekend.

First, Friday. Arsenal Technical High, our local IPS school, is performing its spring musical this weekend. Two kids from church were involved in Beauty and the Beast: Kaylin was a bar wench/flower wreath and Zach ran the spotlight. It was a fun show – the kids did a GREAT job with some pretty tough stuff. They worked hard, and it paid off. =)

The show they performed was the Disney Broadway version. I think the musical and plot additions to the movie for the play adaptation really diminished the story – the music was badly written and the lyrics were laughable. Some of the plot additions took away from the character development. Even with the lackluster script, the kids shone. They’re high school kids, but there were some really artistic moments. Mostly, the play was just… FUN.

*on my soapbox*

You live near a high school. Even if you don’t have kids attending, you should be going to see plays and musicals and concerts. These kids work so hard – and may not have a single person there to see the product of months of study and practice. Your property tax goes to support the school system. Your presence should support the kids themselves.


Second, Saturday. Went to the 7:30am – yes, AM – prayer meeting at church, then spent an hour or so helping to start cleaning out Janet’s house. This sweet, simple, homely old woman who was a fixture at our church died this past May. Her brother, who owned her house, donated the house to the church at the beginning of the year (for tax reasons, maybe?). It used to be a nice house – she lived there comfortably (and, I’m sure, messily).

Then, along came David F. This man, about the age her son might have been, moved into the vacant half of her double and began insinuating himself into her life. He was a con and she was incapable of seeing how he used her. For years. By the time she died, her house was literally in shambles (the house was getting run down because Janet’s brother doesn’t live locally and didn’t take care of things that needed to be fixed; DF did some “repairs” and really messed things up). Also, it was filled to the brim with junk and garbage and bugs. Just… deplorable living conditions. Throughout the last year and a half of Janet’s life, the health department was all over her house. It was awful.

So, today. Now that Janet has passed away and the house belongs to the church, we’re going to rebuild it for a big family in our congregation. The first step is cleaning out the mounds of trash and junk that were left. We filled a truck bed to overflowing with humongous black trash bags, and ended up filling a large dumpster. It was just a start. There’s several Saturdays’ worth of trash still in there – and we only were working on one side of the double.

It was hard to do, both physically and emotionally. I am allergic to dust and mold… and the place was a hot mess of dust and mold. I was thankful for the cold – I can’t imagine what the dust, mold, and smell would have been like in the spring or summer. Some of the piles included stinky, wet (there are holes in the roof), worn out clothes – Jodi and I happened upon a big pile of dirty underwear and had to leave the house because the smell made us gag so badly. But what bothered me more than my allergies or the assault on my senses was the fact that at the end of Janet’s life, everything she owned, everything that meant something to her, was thrown away without a thought. We were shoveling her precious memories and keepsakes in to trash bags – with a snow shovel and some dustpans.

Of course it had to be thrown away. It was a hazard to health – literally – and most of it was just… junk. We saved maybe an end table, a lamp, and a few books, but everything else will be gone.

I can’t imagine how someone could have lived like that. I also can’t imagine dying and being forgotten like that. Where was her family? Why didn’t they take care of her while she was living? Why didn’t someone kick DF out before her completely ruined her house? Why didn’t they make sure she was okay? And then, when she died, why didn’t they love her enough to take care of her things, at least to clean out her house? Didn’t they want to save some of her treasures? Wouldn’t they have wanted to honor her memory by taking care of the place in which she lived instead of offloading it to the local church to do the work? To do what we would with the eyesore the building had become?

We, at Woodruff Place, loved this old woman. Pastor called her a lamb. We laughed at her antics, but we all loved her – every one of us. We couldn’t do much about her living situation, but we will honor her memory by making her house a home again – a clean, safe, warm place for a family to live.

Still, even thinking of our “project” in this light wasn’t enough to make me feel quite right throwing away everything the woman had ever owned… I have been feeling… heavy… all day.

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7. kiel


kiel, originally uploaded by tara.aukerman.

Fun kid – I really get a kick out of him. =) Leah posted a photo of her church, so I thought I’d post one I took at mine today.

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… at Woodruff Place.

Today, we had an impromptu tuba mouthpiece blessing at church. The choir got up to sing, and as we were arranging ourselves, the pastor started talking.

Zach isa teen from our church who was just given free private music lessons (via some grant for underprivileged inner-city kids). His new teacher gave him a good mouthpiece for his beat-up school tuba, and he’s been showing it to anyone who’ll look. Zach has had to work for every good thing in his life, music included. He is enthusiastic, willing to work hard, and is ambitious. He got himself into a really great band (the Indianapolis Youth Wind Ensemble), and through that has received his lessons. Everything this kid does, he does it with enthusiasm and a genuine desire to honor God.

Pastor took time during the service today to dedicate Zach’s mouthpiece to the Lord. It was bizarre, but sweet. I know that Zach will remember this for a long time, and I’m sure that he’s been edified, encouraged. Goodness knows he needs someone on his side.

And stranger things have happened here.

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This happened in our neck of the ghetto:

Man shot while interceding in pit bull attack
Police: Victim was trying to stop dog from hurting other canines when gunman fired.

An Eastside man was shot twice Sunday while trying to stop a pit bull attack on two neighborhood dogs, police said, and fell to the sidewalk as his children watched.

Michael Haynes Jr., 41, was in stable condition Sunday evening at Wishard Memorial Hospital after undergoing surgery to treat his chest wounds. Indianapolis metropolitan police continued to search for the shooter and the pit bull.

The children were in the Haynes’ front yard with their small dog, Duchess, when the shooter was walking his dog north in the 1200 block of Tecumseh Street, neighbors and police said. One resident, Tracey Matthews, said the small dog from her next-door neighbor’s home had gotten loose, and both dogs were being threatened by the pit bull.

The pit bull latched onto one of those dogs and wouldn’t let go, police said. Haynes was trying to get that dog away from the pit bull, when a friend came out of the house wielding a rolling pin.

That’s when, neighbors and police said, the dog-walker pulled a handgun from his waistband and said something like, “I told you not to touch my dog,” before opening fire.

“The kids were hysterical,” said neighbor Anita Graeser, a 25-year-old graduate student studying counseling at Christian Theological Seminary.

She took all five children, ranging in age from 2 to 10, into her house after the shooting.

The gunshots woke Graeser from a nap. She said Haynes’ friend might have given the rolling pin to Haynes or tried to use it himself. The aftermath of the shooting was chaotic, she added, as the man with the dog quickly left north on Tecumseh.

Haynes’ wife, Stacy, and a friend were trying to staunch the bleeding until police and paramedics arrived. Graeser watched the kids in the meantime. The youngest, she said, was shouting into his toy phone.

“He kept saying, ‘Police! Come help my daddy!’ “

Graeser described Duchess as a “Paris Hilton kind of dog.” Matthews said the other dog, named Chewy, also is small, but she didn’t know the breed.

Both neighbors said no one they talked to on the block knew the man or recalled having seen his pit bull before.

Last year, a pit bull attack on a toddler prompted the City-County Council to pass an ordinance aimed at increasing penalties on dangerous dogs of any breed.

However, after a series of incidents this year involving pit bulls attacking young children and adults and inflicting serious injuries, Mayor Bart Peterson said this month he had decided to ask his staff to investigate ways to ban pit bulls in the city.

Margie Smith-Simmons, spokeswoman for the mayor, said staffers still are investigating the ordinances of other cities that restrict or ban pit bulls.

“We want to be sure that whatever we put forward benefits the citizens of Indianapolis,” she said. The mayor doesn’t have a deadline, she said, but she expects a proposal will be released by late summer or early fall.

Graeser, meanwhile, hopes she can help the Haynes’ children cope with the trauma. Her studies focus on helping people after devastating incidents, melding psychotherapy and faith-based counseling.

“They are going to need counseling,” she said. While they were in her house, at least one of the children felt responsible — because they didn’t get out of the yard when their father told them to. “They said if their daddy died, it was their fault. I told them they were children, and none of it was their fault.”



David preached tonight. You can hear him at the Woodruff Place Baptist Church website, here. (You can also visit the music page and hear him (and me) sing a few times.)

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