Monday, May 17, 2010

Building Houses...

(photo from
I've mentioned a couple times that I used to be a carpenter. Last week I wrote about how my love for building goes all the way back to Tinker Toys and Lincon Logs as a kid. There's just something about building a house that I found very fulfilling. But, for as many as I built from a set of blueprints, the one that meant the most was the one I built for my family.

It started with an old farmhouse. No one really knows when the original house was built; sometime in the 1930's. It had been altered, changed, and added onto over the years. When we bought it, it was in terrible shape. The roof leaked, there were dog piles in the floor, a dead bird in the hallway, dead rats in the attic, and mushrooms growing in the carpet in one room. It was nasty. NASTY. But it had potential.

So we started dreaming. What could we do with it? I began to sketch out some drawings, or as my hero Norm Abram says, "drawrings." I played with the sketch. Moving a wall here, or flipping a room there. Finally, after a dozen or so attempts, we had the design we were going to build from. It was good to design it, and even better to begin building it, because of who it was girls.

There's a story in today's Life Journal readings about someone who designed a house for someone special. He wouldn't get to build it, but he had the design in his head, and had already gathered all of the building materials. This would be no ordinary house, because the occupant was no ordinary occupant. The walls would be overlayed with gold. The timbers would be the finest cedar. Onyx and other precious jewels were to be used as decorations. It would be awesome.

And it made me start thinking about something. David was designing the temple, a place for God to dwell. What would it look like if we got to design a temple today? Now, I know that there are churches built every day, but if you had to design one, based on what you think God would want in it, what would it look like? The way we design that space says a lot about what we feel is important.

Would it look anything like the building you worship in now? Would there be pews so that you're looking at the back of someone's head, or tables and chairs so you could sit face to face? Would it be bright and well lit? Or darker and more reflective, maybe lit by candles? Would it be a large space, or a smaller, more intimate setting? Would it be decorated with lots of brass and fancy trimmings, or would it be a simple space? Would there be music? What kind? Would it feel formal, or would the space itself make you feel relaxed and at ease?

And then the biggest question is..."Who would you design the space for?" For me, that's the key. I built dozens of houses from a blueprint stretched out on the hood of my truck. But the one that I built for my family got a whole lot more of "me" put into it. When we realize who we are designing the space for, sometimes the priorities change.

Ok, I'm not going to ask you to do something I'm not willing to do, so here's is what my worship space would look like if I had to design one: It would be small and intimate, with tables and chairs so that you can see the person you're worshipping with, there would be a coffee pot or three in the back of the room, and the smell of fresh bread baking for Communion. There would be candles to remind me that I am, and am in, the presence of Christ. It wouldn't be a formal space, because formality breeds distance. The decorations would be simple, but symbolic, perhaps a flowing fountain in one corner to symbolize the water that forever quenches your thirst. I think there would be a few rocking chairs on the front porch to make folks feel at home, and signs of life everywhere. I would leave the carpet out, because church carpet just smells musty...and it's always red. Who said church carpet had to be red? I wouldn't put a big, fancy podium up front because that's just intimidating. And finally, there would be no altar rail so that no one felt separated from the table.

Now, you may ask why mine would look like that. It doesn't sound very holy. Heck, it doesn't even sound like a church. But it just might be the kind of place that someone who wouldn't come into a church might feel comfortable. And if I had to design a space for someone to meet God, perhaps for the first time, I would want them to be comfortable. After all, it's God's house, not ours.

What would your design look like? Would God be pleased with the house you've designed? I'd love to hear your ideas.


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