Thursday, November 11, 2010

Parables, pictures and prayers from Kaş ... economies and investments

This is another re-post--perhaps more for me as I pray for Jesus' choice resolution to title problems with the villa.... It has been over three years, and today finds us deep in renovation of this "Spa for the Soul."

Nearly two years ago we rolled in Kaş for the first time. Another stop in a multi-year, multi-national search for a place we’d visited in God’s dreams, a place where we would “retire” and throw our doors open to the world. Without knowing what it looked like we had our shopping list: great natural beauty, fabulous view, attractive year-round climate, walkable, plenty of private spaces, outdoor activities, good local food, and culturally interesting. A place people would love to visit. Preferably in the Muslim world. Er… and something we could afford to operate without having to act like a business.

We’d considered Albania, Italy, the south of France, Morocco, Oman and the UAE. We’d been in Turkey six days and hadn’t even come close. But I’d had email contact with an English fellow who made Kaş sound worth a visit.

As we cleared the last curve and saw the town spread down the rocky hillside to the sea below we both caught our breath. It looked, well, like the dream. The road wound down to the now-familiar harbor. We located the estate agent’s office, ready to go.

“Not today,” he said. “You really should get the feel of the place first.” “But we only have this afternoon and tomorrow!” we pled. “Go. Walk around. Talk to people. Tomorrow, if you still want to, we’ll look at houses.”

So we wandered the town’s heart, stopping to talk with shopkeepers and artisans, remarking on the absence of hawkers and mass-market tourist junk, the pleasant music and easy converse floating from coffee shops, restaurants and bars. Curt took photos: the ancient sarcophagus at the top of the delightfully-preserved old streets in the pedestrian area, and the pelicans and boats in the harbor.

We looked at a lot of places the next day. We saw a gorgeous new villa with infinity pool overlooking the sea, and a weird old place that ran straight up and down a cliffside with a tiny terrace at the bottom. One villa had a huge barn-roof, and three really ugly new houses just in front of it. Another was almost right, but not enough rooms and the only access to the pool was through a bedroom.

We arrived at the last place sweaty, weary, and disappointed. Access was down a narrow, weedy track in the highest part of Gőkseke village. Behind the iron gate a vine-shaded rock stairwell led straight up the mountain-side through an weedy, overgrown garden to a tower of a house almost covered with vines and bougainvillea. Junk everywhere, and three little dogs yapping and growling.

As we wandered the disheveled five stories, it felt like we had entered God’s dream. Five shady, quiet balconies overlooked the Mediterranean and beckoned us to rest and to pray. Olive trees in the rocky, unspoilt side-yard whispered to us of the Mount of Olives, and called up images of oil and lamps. Vines invited us to abide in the True Vine. We leaned our arms on the third floor balcony railing and felt we had come home.

We bought the place the next morning.

Since that day in late August I’ve had ample opportunity to revisit our decision and to wonder whether, reality suspended, we momentarily lost our minds. I’ve lived through periods of blind panic. The place has title problems. We knew that and went ahead anyway, choosing the risk. But I’m a lawyer. Shouldn’t I have known better? Since we bought, the world economy has cratered. The dollar is much stronger, so if we had waited, maybe we could have paid less. Turns out renovation costs more in Turkey than the cheerful estate agent said it would. It might have been cheaper to build a place from scratch than to remodel this one. We bat around names for the place. Curt favors something peaceful and romantic like “Fair Haven.” I call it “House of the Cracked Pots!”

One anxious day when I was feeling certain we are complete fools, I leaned into Jesus and began to muse over images of real estate investment in the Bible. My self-critical mind turned first to Proverbs, to wisdom and stewardship images of shrewd understanding and principled management.

But then actual purchases of land rose in my mind. I can think of four that God deemed worthy of record.

In Genesis 23, Abraham buys a cave at Machpelah. Though God had promised him the whole of Canaan, he’d lived for years as an alien stranger and still possessed nothing when Sarah died. He wanted a place of his own to bury her. Given the climate, there wasn’t much time to haggle. In a formal meeting with the Hittites he refuses to use one of their tombs, and insists on giving the full asking price for Ephron’s field. That cave was Israel’s first foothold in the promised land. Generations later, Joseph honored Jacob’s deathbed request and carried his bones from Egypt to be buried alongside his ancestors.

Several hundred years later, Boaz bought some land, Naomi’s land. By then, Israel had possession of Canaan, and had divided it among tribes and families. Under the Law, if there were no direct descendants left to take title to family land, it could be redeemed by a next-of-kin, but with a catch. The land came with the dead man’s wife, and any children born of that union were deemed to belong to the dead man so that the land would stay in the family. Naomi was old, and her husband and sons were all dead. Her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth, had moved to Israel with her to share her sorrow and desperate poverty. Boaz wanted to marry Ruth, but another guy was in line for the land—and the woman. Seems like Boaz already had plenty of land of his own, and no need for Naomi’s, but he had to buy it to get Ruth. So in Ruth 4 we see him buying the land, along with its “baggage”—a title problem that meant his own children would be deemed the sons of another and the land would revert to that man’s family. All for the gracious love of an alien woman who would become one of the four women named in the line of Christ.

Fast forward to David. God calls him the man after His own heart, but David still did stupid things and angered God from time to time. 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 record a census he ordered, and makes it clear that everyone knew this was a huge offense to the Lord. The repentant David is given a choice of judgments, and throws himself on God’s mercy. Seventy thousand die of plague, but at the threshing floor of Araunah, the Lord relents. David is commanded to build an altar there. Araunah, after encountering the angel, urges David to take the site and the animals. But David insists on paying full price to buy the place before he will worship, refusing to sacrifice in a way that costs him nothing. That bit of land would become the site of the Temple, a pivotal piece of land for both Jews and Muslims yet today.

Lastly, in the dark days just before Judah was conquered by Babylon and carried into exile, God directed his prophet Jeremiah to buy a field. Jeremiah 32 finds Jeremiah in prison and Jerusalem under siege, but he obeys this crazy command that no doubt made him look even more like a collaborator. After the deed is sealed away, Jeremiah wonders what God could possibly be doing, and God gives His promise to restore His people and to bring again a day when land would be bought and sold in a prosperous Israel.

Economies and investments. We evaluate a house or a piece of land in terms of financial return, or a safe and pleasant place for a home. These few purchases God thought noteworthy represent pure worship, investment in relationships, and radical acts of obedient faith. Abraham believed God would give him the whole land, and Jacob clung to that promise when he died in exile in Egypt. Boaz desired to marry to a foreign woman of faith and noble character, and was willing to incur the cost and take on the baggage that came with her. David owned his sin with a costly repentance and refused to take advantage of his God-given kingship to avoid the price of sacrifice. Jeremiah made a ludicrous purchase in a costly act of sheer faith.

All these are kingdom investments, and God’s economy knows no scarcity, no downturn. My anxious fear of loss, of appearing foolish for following what I perceived as God’s dream, and my temptation to second-guess our timing, is met and satisfied in His “do not be afraid.” “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:32-34.

I don’t doubt we could have heard wrong on that sweltering hot day. We may indeed have been foolish. But I think I’m beginning to grasp something about God’s economics, and I can trust Him with my feeble efforts to follow. Joyfully, truth is I’ve still never visited “House of the Cracked Pots” without a profound sense of peace descending on my spirit.

Oh Lord, we do continue to ask you for resolution to the title process in Gőkseke. Today we ask for that to happen soon so that we can begin the renovation, and start welcoming the world there.

1 comment:

Susan said...

This touched me in beautiful ways... thank you.