A House Story – Chapter 1

photography by D. Plasman

This is our kitchen, well, kind of. It is not the one we presently enjoy, but the kitchen in the house we’ve just started to reclaim from the grave. This is a continuation of a story I shared in an earlier blog about purchasing a house in a less than “desirable” neighborhood a few blocks from where we currently live.

The real estate closing took five months in spite of the fact that the house attracted no other interested buyers. That’s a long story and I’ll spare the details. Now we own it and the work is just beginning. This will take a long time since Jody and I currently serve as Interim ministers at First Congregational Church in Rochester, MI, two and a half hours from Grand Rapids.

I’m not sure if this project is a restoration, a rehabilitation, or an attempt at a resurrection. It’s doubtful I can pull off any of these. A professional carpenter, electrician, plumber, drywaller I’m not. I don’t own a garage full of tools. I don’t even own a garage! And I tend to hurt myself a lot when I take on projects. I’m still recovering from arthroscopic surgery for torn cartilage in my right knee which I injured while pulling weeds. Of my species, I’m not the sturdiest.

So, this is our kitchen. When uncrumbling a crumbling house, it makes sense to start in the kitchen, the heart muscle of most homes. After shutting off the basement water main, disconnecting the water lines, and pulling apart the sink trap, the cabinet disintegrated without much prompting on my part. Standing over rotted floorboards, I repeated the words of the funeral liturgy: “Earth to earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes.”

Like most of the house, this kitchen is a mess. But for the nearly two billion people on our planet who live in inadequate dwellings, refugee camps, tent cities, urban slums, and inhumane prisons, this decrepit house is a palace.

On Christmas Eve most churches will experience the largest crowds of the year. I find it a difficult time to preach, in part, because the language is woefully disconnected from our world.  Angels. Virgin Birth. Guiding Star. None of that seems as important as the fact that the realities of this birth came first to the poor and to those farthest from the places of power. That’s how God works. That’s how Jesus chose to live – with, for, and on the side of the poor.

Today, instead of declaring war on poverty, we’re determined to declare war on the poor. Like rust that clogs galvanized water lines, the poor, we’re led to believe, corrode the system. The pregnant teenager Mary, saw it differently: “God scatters the proud and raises up the humble. God fills the hungry and sends the rich away with nothing.” Sometimes, it’s hard to see that as Good News.

[To read previous blogs about rehabbing an old house, go to www.danielplasman.com, click the CATEGORIES menu and select A HOUSE STORY]

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  1. Marilyn Dunn December 16, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Hi Dan and Jody, think of you so often so thought I should finally do a reply. I enjoy your posts and am happy that you are so involved with so many things. Still miss you both. Have a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year. Love, Marilyn

  2. Kris Wisniewski December 16, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    It is so good to hear from you Dan. Both you and Jody are real inspirations to me. Have a blessed Christmas.


  3. RHolton December 16, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    I am happy to hear you are both doing what you love and sad to know it is nearly 3 hours away from GR.
    Thank you for this update. As always, you have chosen the most difficult, unreasonable and most compassionate route. Your home will take time to rehab but your neighborhood will glow in the warmth and the confidence it provides for all.

  4. Diana Farmer December 16, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    So nice to hear your voice in this message. We love you, and miss you, and Jody. You two are so stellar!
    Btw~ Charlie’s band plays in Grand Ledge on Dec. 27, in Grand Ledge, at The Log Jam. Stop over! Peace and Light.
    Diana Farmer

  5. Michael Holton December 16, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    Thank you for reminding once again why as a Christian it is my responsibility and calling to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked.
    I am also available o help you as you bring this house back to life.

  6. Eli December 16, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    Start with the heart in the heart of the home. 🙂 missing you both my friends. Glad to hear work has begun. Let us know when you’re open for visitors sometime. Or wen you need a helping hand. 🙂

  7. Beth Cafagna December 16, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    Thank you, Dan, for the update. I laughed and I cried. It’s true that most people in the world would love to live in that crumbling house. It would be a roof over their heads and walls to keep out the animals and some of the cold. We miss you. keep up the writing. We want to keep in touch.

  8. Aaron December 17, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Great article Dan. Tough to keep perspective this time of year.

  9. Susan MacLean December 19, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    I thought I would chime in to say we were so happy to read your latest message. You continue to move us…so much heart and compassion. What’s with going to the east side of the state?? Wrong direction! Their gain, our loss. We love you and wish you and Jody every blessing of the season.
    Miss You!
    Jim and Susan

  10. Dani Veenstra December 23, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    Daunting task but worthy of hand and heart. We are pretty handy with a hammer, saw and tools, give us a call, many hands make light work.