I don't know how to fully grieve this incredible loss, other than to write. I write- that's much of what I do. When I think of Lincoln, NE, I think of Grace Chapel and I think of our neighborhood on Diablo Dr. in particular. Someone said to me recently that there is something wholesome about Nebraska. It took me a few minutes to take in the comment, as I have been an evangelical Christian for many years now. Our first instinct as evangelicals is to assess that there is a real problem with this world, and that problem is sin. I think the instinct is right and that we must be honest about brokenness and sin in this world; however, I also think we get away from the theological notion of Common Grace that often permeates a people and a place as well. After all, we are His creatures (apart from redemption in Christ) and this is His world (apart from the New Heavens and New Earth). This is not to say that we no longer need to be redeemed or that this world doesn't need the transforming power of Christ and the hope of the New Heavens and the New Earth; but, it is to say that all good gifts in which we partake come from the Father of Lights (James 1:17).
What are the "good gifts" that have come from the Father of Lights to this corporate thing called Nebraska? To borrow from Wes Jackson, what is the "genius of the place"? I think it is probably wrapped up in this idea of the wholesomeness of Nebraska. When we were negotiating a deal on our house, doing a For Sale by Owner, we got to the point where we had two offers on the house. The first family to offer had the first right of refusal and basically the promise that their situation was solid, and that they were committed to buying the house. However, the question of an earnest payment then came up, so that before we could let the second family "walk," we had to have some sort of good faith deposit that the first family would actually come through on the purchase of the house. Coming from more of an urban cutthroat environment, some of my new friends from Vancouver thought we should ask for a 5-10% earnest payment on the house ($15k-$25k), before releasing the second family from their interest in the house. We talked to a good friend here in Nebraska, someone who had been a realtor for years here, and our friend said that he had never heard of such a large earnest payment from an interested buyer. Our friend said that in Nebraska, $1500 was a more typical earnest payment, so that's what we asked for.
Now, what would keep a family from walking away from a $240k house, if the only thing they stood to lose was $1500? Well, here's the answer: not much. But what I came to realize in the experience was there is still very much a "handshake culture" in Nebraska; someone's word is their bond. The good faith expectation from this first family has been that they will do everything on their end to see the purchase of the house through; $1500 and a handshake is what has been asked of them initially (we plan to close on Sept. 6th). Of course, in the middle of all of it, we have made new friends with the buyer family, and we have said to them, in the future, we would love to come visit our neighbors and see how they as a new family to Diablo Dr. add their personal style to the house as well. They responded, "We would love for you to come over when you are back in Nebraska and hope to stay in touch with you!" This is the wholesomeness of Nebraska. You see, I trust my neighbors with my life and my children. What am I describing? It's the notion of the wholesomeness of Nebraska, isn't it? It's the good gifts of the Father of Lights to these people, a wonderful attribute of our neighborhood we will miss terribly. Now, as a good evangelical, I can spend a lot of time qualifying what I mean and what I don't mean, how it pertains to salvation, how it doesn't, but I don't want to qualify anything at this moment of grief, just to appreciate the moment for what it is. So we grieve for leaving Nebraska, but we do so with thanksgiving and hope.
Since today was the first day of school for our Diablo Dr. neighborhood kids (and we think about them today), as a way of honoring our neighbors, which is a way to honor the genius of Nebraska, I thought I would post a picture from the first day of school from last year 2012: