Monday, March 28, 2005

Clutter Happens

To put it mildly Amy and I are not neat freaks. We're not even close, and we're okay with that.

We can clean a room and in about 30 minutes it would be hard to convince anyone that it had been cleaned in the past month.

Clutter happens.

I was mentioning this to our friend Erin, whom we've got to come up with a moniker for beside "boarder" or "roommate" ...she's more like a surrogate daughter except she's quiet and neat. Erin "likes" to organize. I don't mean she likes to be organized...I mean she "enjoys" organizing.

It's a completely foreign concept to us, but a pleasant surprise when we open the fridge and realize everything in it you could eat without risking food poisoning. Or we open a cabinet and step back in our normal defensive posture ready to catch pots, pans , Tupperware or whatever that we've crammed in there, and realize everything is neatly put away and there's even room for other stuff.

Erin has struck again.

We're encouraging Erin to become a "Professional Organizer" and so far her forays along those lines have been profitable, although I'm not sure she's ever going to comprehend our mastery of clutter.

Some people are clutter people and some people are not. I notice on my daily walks that some people have garages you can actually walk into...heck even park a car in.

We have a pathway through our garage that if you twist sideways and are prepared to take a few giant steps and maybe one leap along the way you can reach a doorway or exit relatively unscathed.

Anyway the other day Erin and I were talking about her recent adventures in one of our usual two minute conversations before she headed out the door to one of her many jobs (this is another reason we can not be blood relatives, she works too much to be a member of our family). That's when she actually coined the phrase, "Clutter happens."

It's been on my mind ever since.
I suppose you could say my thoughts have been cluttered by that concept.

I'm not revealing any secrets here when I mention our friend Gordon will occasionally read Thoreau's Walden prompting a mad scurry among his family members to protect their belongings as he becomes infused with the desire to rid their lives of "clutter." Even if he is marginally successful, more clutter appears.

Clutter happens.

One of the radio stations I work for has undergone some changes recently requiring me to write very brief newscasts.
Writing a 60 second newscast is harder than writing a 5 minute newscast. I used to put out writing memos to our reporters advising them of such and then I noticed they simply piled up my wisdom on their desks.

Clutter happens.

Nonetheless the gist of some of my well thought out yet oft ignored advice was that knowing what to leave out of a story was the most difficult thing about broadcast writing. I suppose the same is true in blogging - I'm proving that point as I type.

Clutter happens.

The other day when I wrote about the family that came to our church on Good Friday seeking work, I received several emails from people all mentioning basically the same thing - interestingly no one left their thoughts in the comments area - I suppose out of a sense of gentleness, but that's another topic. All of the emails in one fashion or another warned me that there are people who "scam" churches with this exact type of scenario.

I was actually well aware of that...I've been scammed plenty. I didn't put my thoughts about that in that post because it was too long already and...I didn't want to clutter it up any more. However it's also been cluttering up my mind.

Our little church actually has a policy in dealing with people in need. In general terms all requests for aid must go through the Deacons. Our church budget is too tight for a benevolence fund these days, but in the past we've always been able to work something out when we felt called to do so. The policy says we try to help people in need in our congregation first, and that we don't normally give cash...we give food "gift" cards, or fill up someone's gas tank. Usually we make it clear to people who approach out of the blue that if we help them it will be a "one time" thing, simply because we're a small church and we don't have much money.

There's one other aspect of our policy which we don't mention at all...the policy is written on the wind.

I've violated those rules multiple times, knowing full well the people our church were helping were likely hitting up another church or three and might have even been making a career out of it.

I have no idea if that little family the other night was conning us - Amy is rather insistent they couldn't have been and Amy is a pretty good judge of character if you consider her association with me to be the exception to the rule. I do know that if a family is so desperate that they are using their children to "con" churches out of money...they qualify as "needy" in my book, that's why we had no reluctance to help them any way we could.

Too often I think our churches and spirituality get sidetracked by policies and committees...guidelines...rules...and even theologies. We complicate our religion by trying to make sure we're not being taken advantage of and in the process we literally bury our beliefs.

Clutter happens.

Easter Sunday we spent much of the day with some friends in their new home. At one point when most of the guests had left we had an impromptu prayer session. This is not something to which Amy and I are accustomed. The woman who suggested "we all pray right now" started asking each person individually of their was awkward for a few moments and Amy and I had some reservations about it but we went along willingly...goodness knows we've had enough practice at prayer. Some personal things came up for one or two folks, getting past grief, I mentioned a family friend who has been diagnosed with cancer...and then the woman who initiated the prayer session prayed for "three airline tickets to California."

Clutter happens.

Amy and I gave each other a look and later I noticed our host, who is a man of some monetary wealth, was writing that woman a check to pay for airline tickets. I felt a bit more uncomfortable and later in the evening after the others had left Amy and I tried to broach the subject gently but quickly backed away after we learned a bit more.

The folks who had prayed for airline tickets were friends of our hosts - they certainly knew them better than we did. They had also spent part of the afternoon talking with our host's twin 16 year old daughters, who I came to gather are not believers and with his son from his first marriage, who is my age and an avowed atheist. They were apparently rather extensive conversations...about God.

Our host considered the mere fact that those conversations took place to be miraculous...and I certainly wasn't about to argue the point. He was ecstatic that the "seeds" of Christianity had been planted with three of his children on Easter Sunday. In our circle of prayer he asked for only one thing...for those seeds to grow.

I suspect he would write a thousand checks if he thought that would actually help.

I mentioned he is a man of wealth, but let me clarify that...he has more than money....he understands what money is truly worth.

His deepest wealth is that of wisdom.

It's true...clutter happens.

But if we allow it....if we don't clutter it up...grace happens too.