I had a whole new blog entry spiraling off the end of the last one, so I'm just going to write two entries back to back.
Some of the most painful words spoken to me since I've been in the States came from a complete stranger, who was very well-meaning. He said brightly and cheerfully, "Welcome home!" Not only was I in the States, but separated from my family and friends, and in midst of a culture shock attack. I couldn't even respond for a moment, but finally put on a nice smile and said, "Thank you."
It's also been surprising to see many Christians calling my hometown "God's country". I've seen or heard this three times now. Once was in a prayer meeting where they made reference to someone "being back in God's country". My heart had been crying out Psalm 42 the whole meeting, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Where can I go and meet with God?" Now, I know that when they call Lander "God's country", what they mean is that the mountains are to die for. But it seemed so ironic while I'm longing for the kind of intimacy with God that only comes in a community...welcome to God's country.
I've been thinking a lot about citizenship in the Kingdom of God. The real one, that is. Not something special about Lander, Wyoming. There are a couple of times that I've felt very at home since coming back. It always feels like a safe place has just descended around me in the middle of the storm.
My brother took me into his dorm room for two nights while I was traveling this week. He was generous to me way beyond what was necessary. My favorite was that there was this bathroom that was co-ed at the end of his hallway. The problem was that the door wouldn't lock, and my brother swears that some of the guys will just storm in there without knocking. So, it didn't matter what time of day it was, if I was going to go to the bathroom, Charlie was going to stand guard. We were up watching movies until 3am one night, and I tried to tell him I would be just fine when I headed for the restroom afterwards. But he insisted that the guys might be drunk, and stood guard all the same, putting on this wonderful stern guard face for the occasion.
While I was with my brother, I had the strongest sense of home I have had yet on one particular occasion. Charlie showed a kind of understanding that had to have been Holy Spirit inspired, because even *I* couldn't have told him it was a good idea ahead of time. He took me to the international student house on his college campus to play Settlers of Catan. The house is home to a Christian group as well as many international students. And I found that I really felt at home there, and like I could connect to people again. We stayed for hours...ate cheesy bread, played Settlers, talked about God a bit...I didn't know a soul there besides my brother, and yet I was suddenly safe.
There was a guy there who didn't really like our board game playing too much, I don't think. He kept saying, "A bunch of Christians acting like non-Christians." I didn't know him well enough to know if he was teasing us or serious. But it seemed so funny to me...that one person's "a bunch of Christians acting like non-Christians" seemed like beautiful Christian community to me...where we just sit back and laugh and eat together; and Jesus' name is dropped in casual conversation.