Psalm 103 says, “Praise the Lord, and forget not all his benefits,” so here’s a little poem I’m learning to pray:
Table clutter, carpet stains,
broken driveways, backyard messes.
Well-worn homes mean well-used lives,
and busted stuff is how You bless us.
In a minute, I’ll make a strange ask: help keep OCC messy. Read on…
In 1999, with kid #3 on the way, Katie and I bought a house, not fancy but clean. (I grew up in a very neat home, and I still like tidy.) In 2007, with kid #6 on the way, we knocked out the back wall, added on, and it’s never been clean since. Katie and I tried, but cleaning a house with six kids is like shoveling snow in a snowstorm. Floors were covered in dolls, clothes, Velcro shoes, toys, ice-pop wrappers, books, muddy footprints, and—in the middle of the night—sharp-edged, demonic little Legos. We have a riding lawnmower, but what we needed was a riding vacuum cleaner. Praise the Lord for messes? Not how I felt. But I’m learning…
Walk in our front door, and you’ll see our dining room table. It’s huge—an aircraft carrier—and it’s our FFP: First Flat Place. Every house has an FFP where stuff gets dumped when you walk in, and our table is covered with backpacks, jackets, and Walmart sacks, along with homework (Carl’s laptop/books), craft projects (Caroline’s canvas/paints), folded laundry (Conrad’s Chick-fil-A uniform), Diet Coke cans (Katie’s daily fuel), and playing cards (Clara beat me at Dutch Blitz again). I like clean tabletops, but I can see: these are signs of a healthy family. So, thank you, Lord, for table clutter.
Walk into our living room—also huge—where last week we had forty Ozark students sitting on couches, recliners, easy chairs, a futon, a window seat, and every foot of floor. That’s good—they covered up the carpet smudges. Katie shampoos the carpet every spring, but since my extroverted wife has the gift of hospitality, hundreds of guests tromp through each year. (As an introvert, when my brain overloads, I go to the bedroom for a few minutes of alone.) But I do get it: rogue pizza sauce, dripping ice cream, and spilled Coke cans are signs of a welcoming home. Thank you, Lord, for carpet stains.
Walk out into our backyard, and you’ll see a four-wheeler and mini-bike and tractor, trampoline and treehouse and zipline and swingset, raised-bed-gardens and firepit-with-chairs and cornhole and picnic tables, grain-bin-pool-with-deck and volleyball net and tightrope and slip-n-slide, six ducks in a shed, and a dog. Beyond the fence are sheep and cow and donkey. So. Much. Stuff. I’m a less-is-more guy. Katie doesn’t like it when I mutter and grumble about all these “mowing impediments,” but…they just are. Mowing was simpler without the trappings.
But the trappings are why our church’s kids’ choir and the youth group loved coming to our backyard every week this summer—playing, swimming, reading the Bible, laughing, praying.
At a backyard party last night, my youth-group-sponsor-son Conrad sat with sixth-grade Tristan. Last fall Tristan knew nothing about the Bible; last night he said he was ready to be baptized. All the cars in and out are why I had to hire Conrad to patch and reseal our potholed, blacktop driveway this summer, but even I can see: these are signs of a fruitful ministry. Thank you, Lord, for broken driveways and backyard messes.
I know very soon my kids will be gone, and on some winter evening, in a big, empty, clean, memory-drenched house, Katie and I will “sit quietly by the fire and listen to the laughter in the walls.”* But here’s my confession: I hope that house is never clean. I hope grown kids and grandkids and youth groups and kids’ choirs and OCC students keep tromping in, spilling on our carpet and parking on our driveway till it crumbles. My life will be poorer if they don’t.
“Well-worn homes mean well-used lives, and busted stuff is how You bless us.”
It’s true at Ozark, too. With a campus as busy as ours, stuff is always wearing out or breaking. This summer, we replaced library carpet. On Williamson Hall third floor, the popcorn ceiling was thrashed by years of rowdy guys. (I’m not naming names because snitches get stitches.) We replaced the ceiling.
Busted doors, burst pipes, broken A/C units: all year long we fix. And all year long we clean. Trashcans fill, floors get sticky, bathrooms need scrubbed, and lost-and-found boxes overflow with water bottles and hoodies. Ozark’s campus is not quiet, and it doesn’t stay clean.
I’m a mostly tidy introvert, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
In fact, I need your help to keep Ozark Christian College messy. How? Read on…
Sadly, in our fellowship of churches, some sister colleges have had to close their doors. Campuses now sit quiet. Trashcans stay empty. Parking lots go unused. Dorm floors remain silent. It all stays clean but no more workers are trained for the harvest fields.
In Proverbs 14:4, Solomon writes, “Where there are no oxen, the stalls are clean, but from the strength of the ox comes an abundant harvest.” Sure, no one likes mucking out stalls, but without those messy oxen, there is no harvest. A messy Bible college campus means more harvest workers and more harvest.
To be clear, our Physical Plant Department does a great job taking care of our campus. When you drive onto 1111 N. Main, you’ll see a beautiful place for students to study, because our PPD believes excellence honors the Lord. We want to be good stewards, so we budget for regular cleaning and maintenance.
We also include a depreciation line in our annual budget: a dollar amount that anticipates the wear and tear of a well-used campus and pays for replacements and repairs—some we know in advance and others inevitably come up. It’s a good-sized dollar amount! And most often, those dollars come from you. One of the things your gifts fund is that depreciation line in our budget.
I write four fundraising letters a year, usually asking help with one of those replacements/repairs, so can I tell you what I’d love your help with this time? Remember my driveway at home? Ours at Ozark needs patched too. Our Multi-Purpose Building parking lot gets lots of use, peppering it with potholes. Students drive in for class or campus events or practice or games. Guests drive in for the Preaching-Teaching Convention, sports camps, CIY, Creative Arts Academy, Ministry Expo, or Tuesday Tour.
For months, those cars have dodged orange cones around potholes scattered across the parking lot, and we are right now repairing those parking lot sections (in a way that should prevent future potholes). The cost is $31,000, so would you consider a gift to help fix our MPB parking lot?
“Wait!” you might be thinking. “I thought you were going to ask me to keep OCC messy? Aren’t you asking me to fix it?” Yes, I am. We want to keep our campus—specifically the MPB blacktop—in clean and working condition, so I do hope you’ll consider a gift to fix our parking lot.
But by now, you see where I’m going: your gift doesn’t just fix our parking lot—it keeps our doors open. Without your support, we might end up empty like other schools. But with your partnership, hundreds of students come each year, training to take the gospel to the world. Those students mean carpet stains and roughed-up ceilings, but my confession: I hope our campus is never clean. “Well-worn homes mean well-used lives.”
So when I ask your help with our parking lot, I’m really asking: will you help keep Ozark messy? Thank you again for considering a generous gift toward patching our MPB parking lot. You’re not only keeping our campus operational—you’re also keeping it full of rowdy students with cars and precarious Coke cans and stray hoodies. And “from the strength of” those students will come “an abundant harvest.” More lost folks will meet Jesus.
A broken parking lot’s how he blesses, so thank you, Lord, for all the messes.
Yours in Christ,
P.S. This summer, you helped us buy library and dorm furniture (in my June letter), and they’re being put to good use. I see students at those tables and couches—studying, napping, building friendships—so thanks again for giving!
*Bob Benson, Laughter in the Walls, Thomas Nelson, 1990.