Archives for posts with tag: incarnational living

Last night we watched fireworks, standing on the front step of the house we have begun living in since moving to St Louis almost two weeks ago.  fireworksWe saw the flashes.  A second later, heard the booms, crackles.  Sharp reports.

The house is in the western suburb of Ballwin, where we are now learning our bearings.  Many other Salvation Army officers around the USA are doing the same.  New roads, stores, neighbors, routines.

Several miles to the east in St Louis, sharp reports.  Benton Park West.  John tells us that the past two weeks have been shooting days in his neighborhood.

On two different ocassions, two young men, shot in the back.  John has become attuned to hearing shots, distinguishing the direction they come from, detecting patterns, developing valuable wisdom as to where, when and how to show up and move about his neighborhood.

John waited to drive home.  Shooting season combined with the 4th means exercising prudence as to when you return home.

On the night before the Fourth of July my phone rang as I was headed down the grocery aisle for eggs.  Auxiliary Captain Steve Diaz.  He was checking to see if John was with me, hoping John would know where their missing van was.  It wasn’t where they had parked it.


Moving in, living in the neighborhood.  Learning our bearings.  Bearing the challenges and burdens of that new life.  It varies, doesn’t it?  I see fireworks.  He hears gunshots.  Who took the van.

I’ll get the car washed today.  It’s about time.  I hope I also remember to pray for recovery of a missing van.


John just sent the link, so here’s the St Louis Temple Houses blog.  Check out their posts and pictures from Arsenal Street.

Near Keokuk Street I heard a rooster crow.  Twice.

I was on my run yesterday morning in St Louis.  A quiet Sunday morning in south St Louis, a mile west of the Anheuser Busch brewery.  The sky is lighting up in the east.  I couldn’t tell if the faintly sour air was the brewery or the dumpsters along Iowa Street.

Laclede Park.  Then, where Iowa dead-ends, west on Chariton.  Turn around, back up Iowa.

A block ahead I see a dog in the middle of the street, standing still, looking my way.  Pit bull.  It has staked that block.  I slow to a jog and turn around.  I’m now on California.  Just ahead two dogs together crossing a vacant lot near Cherokee.  I keep my head down and slow to a nonchalant pace.  Several blocks later three cats sit in the remains of a house’s entry, indifferent to a runner in the street.  Near Arsenal, a grizzled tom cat on the sidewalk meanaces me.

Animals with attitudes.

Here are animal photos taken over the weekend at Temple Houses.

John says this hen runs out to greet him, follows him, always curious about what John is doing.  It was curious about me.

Temple Houses have a chicken coop in the back.  They built it earlier this fall and waited for the seven hens to start producing eggs.  Finally two weeks ago, an egg.  Saturday morning I checked a laying box.  A beautiful brown egg.

Young people and senior citizens from Temple Corps programs cross Arsenal to see the chickens, touch and hold them.  The gardens are also an attraction.  Lately the seniors have collected fresh salads to take home.  John pointed out the kale.  Just clip some, nice and fresh.

Saturday night Gail and I had pizza with Steve and Ketsia Diaz (Kyle, too) and the young adults in Temple Houses along Arsenal and California Streets.  Several are City Vision College interns.  Others are involved in the neighborhood as Salvation Army staff, volunteers.  All are part of this growing and developing community living as a witness in the Benton Park neighborhood.

Check out Temple Houses website for photos of Mike, Michael, Darnell and Natalie, some of their current residents.

Steve and Ketsia frequently host these Saturday evening get-togethers for Temple Houses.  After the meal Steve introduced us to those who were new.  He and John gave information on recent incidents and news in the neighborhood.  What to do when trouble is seen (call Steve, John or 911).  How to help young people attending the corps whose father was shot to death.  A time of prayer.

After the meeting sitting in the kitchen, visiting.  I watched Lou and Beckham wrestle.   They are owned respectively by the Diaz’ and Laura Grainger.  Along with John’s Boone they form an impressive set of dogs, not an unhelpful resource for living in Benton Park.

Here’s the egg layer.

I woke up early, slipped downstairs, made coffee, and consolidated my notes for the sermon I was to give a few hours later that morning in the corps’ building across the street.

It was yet dark.  And quiet.  Getting to sleep last night was a throw back to a few years ago when we lived in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood.  Cars and motorcycles.  But this morning, quiet.

Notes completed, I texted John.  I’d be at his place a little after 7 for a run.  Okay.

Just as yesterday, John led me on the route he’s used recently.  East on Arsenal, south at Benton Park Coffee to Cherokee.  John pointed out the Buddhist center as we approached.  A young man, shaved head, robes, tidying the sidewalk in front.  He stopped, smiled and waved as we passed.  West to Gravois, north and east on Utah.  Back to John’s place.

I was enjoying this but it also felt strange.  After 36 months living in the suburbs where there is very little connection with my neighborhood or the people around me, for one weekend I was living, working, and eating with people on the same street. 

Five households of Salvation Army people have moved to live within one block of each other on Arsenal Street.  The truth, yes, there are challenges.  Steve and John discussed how at times life can get very intense.  But there is also a beauty and richness to the kind of life this community of a handful of households experiences.

Gail and I live in a not untypical suburban fashion.  Busy lives, often hardly home.  We’ve lived in our place just a short while.  No prior connections.  How long will we be here?  Sounds like many others.

Young adults. Working together in the corps.  Watching out for one another.  Cookout under the stars and whirling bats overhead.   It is a contrast with the kind of lifestyle I now lead. 

Could I live on Arsenal Street like this?

I think any of us could.  If we did what was right in honoring our need for personal care, just as in our service we honor the needs of others.

Dear Steve, 

Gail and I enjoyed your hospitality, sharing your home for the weekend.  It allowed us to actually feel what it is like to be part of the neighborhood.  I loved the walk with Kyle to get coffee, running in the neighborhood.  With the corps building, the houses, and Booth Manor it felt like Salvation City.  It is a rich experience with a high impact on your ministry.  People know who you are, and you know them, too. 

This weekend we also talked about the dangers.  I’m going to be tongue-in-cheek here, but if you want to develop short-sightedness, exhaustion, temptation, don’t take the time for your personal needs and make sure that your Temple team follows your example.  Guaranteed trouble.  I know that if Army people in ministry in less intense settings are facing great challenges as they do now, how much more will you, your family, and your team.  Take care of yourself and others.

Yes, I could live on Arsenal Street in St Louis.  If I honor the personal needs and responsibilities of the person God so loves.  Whether it’s the other, or me.

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Sometimes the best way to find out about a place is to go somewhere else.

Today’s New York Times carries a story about yesterday’s televised address by Detroit Mayor David Bing.  Mayor Bing told Detroiters  “Simply put, our city is in a financial crisis and city government is broken … the reality we’re facing is simple. If we continue down the same path, we will lose the ability to control our own destiny.”

Bing is suggesting privatization of streetlights and the bus system.

Driving dark lengths of Livernois, Grand River, Joy Road and other main thoroughfare streets on Detroit’s west side.  A quarter, half, even a full mile at night with all the street lights shut down.  Then, after several days or weeks the lights were on.  But then another section of the street was dark.  At first I thought dark because of breakdowns.  At some point during six years in Detroit I realized that somebody was shutting off the lights, then turning them back on.  Off, on.  Do I know for sure?  is there proof?   But the pattern was clear.

Water pipes lining Grand River gushing all day, all night.  For days and days.  I have no idea what that was about.  It looked so strange at night along a street without lights, without humans.  Just water, like fountains at Versailles.

Traffic signals not functioning at all.  Worse yet, showing green both ways at the same time.  Our corps van was T-boned one Sunday morning at an intersection.  Gail was driving the van to give me a break from picking up for church.  It was a Fathers Day gift.  She and her riders survived.

When the city replaced storm drain grates along street curbs with new grates that immediately became plugged, flooding streets.  The flowers planted along the curb by the women of the corps, floated away.

The day along I 96 westbound somewhere between downtown and Grand River when I happened to glance in the rearview mirror to see a chunk of concrete the size of a duffel bag fall from into a traffic lane. 

The bodies of dead dogs and cats laying in streets, on sidewalks.  One dead dog somehow appeared on the ramp from the southbound Southfield onto the eastbound Jeffries.  It was there all winter, curled as if asleep in front of a cozy fire.  Its chocolate brown coat slowly becoming dingy with dust.

Driving past two blazing houses on one Sunday, unnoticed by fire department or anyone else.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  A remarkable day because I saw two fires instead of one.

The Sunday morning I looked out on the congregation and realized that almost every household present had lost a family member by sudden, violent death.

I pause at that memory.   People in Detroit who manage to find a way to live with some dignity and tenderness for others in spite of personal pain and loss.  To live in Detroit demands that one finds dignity.  And many find it in their hearts to have tender concern for others.

Sometimes the best way to find out about a place is to be there.

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