So many of us can picture the scene near the end of The wizard of Oz where Glinda the Good Witch tells Dorothy all she has to do is close her eyes, click the heels of the ruby slippers and say “There’s no place like home.” After a few repetitions, and some early twentieth century special effects, Dorothy is home. The message? No matter where you are, no matter how far one may have wandered, there really is no place like home.
Since mid-January, I have been living in my new home town of Salisbury, North Carolina. Coming to a new Lutheran Church (NALC), serving a new congregation (Union Lutheran Church) and living in a rental house has certainly been an adventure. Not necessarily on the scale of Dorothy’s trip to the land of Oz, but certainly there have been many wonderful and unexpected surprises. All in all, I have come to really enjoy my new surroundings, but there is one part I would change if I could. My family will not join me here until the school year in South Carolina is over. So for the time being, we are a bi-locational family.
During their most recent visit, my wife asked me, “Does it feel like home?” I had to think about that one for a bit. I wasn’t sure what she was getting at. In my response I told her that the house we are renting feels more like a motel. I am comfortable in the living room, it seems like a place where I belong but it isn’t really mine. I also feel comfortable in the bedroom at night. In these two rooms I have furniture from our house in SC so there is a sense of belonging. The rest of the house though is different. I don’t enter the two other bedrooms belonging to my daughters when they visit, those rooms are just there right now. The stove in the kitchen is still a little tricky when it comes to cooking, and overall I know this is a temporary situation. So, given the unfamiliarity of the house, and the absence of my family, my answer to her question was, “It’s comfortable, but no, it doesn’t feel like home.”
Of course, being a man, I completely missed what she was getting at. My wife’s question to me was, “Does the town of Salisbury and the church feel like home?” Once it was clear what she was getting at, there was little thought needed.
I have fallen in love with Salisbury, especially since there are so many reminders of the town in Michigan where I grew up. On Main Street there is a deli – ice cream shop just like the one I used to go to as a kid. There are mom and pop shops that offer small town shopping experiences, and there is even a small lunch counter where a person can stop in and get a hotdog and a drink to enjoy at the counter, or the wooden table outside.
The landscape near the church is also a reminder of where I grew up. There are hills, trees, and ponds at nearly every turn’ something the Charleston area didn’t offer. There are large fields dotted with farm houses, barns, horses and cows. There is a golf course reminiscent of the one across the street from my aunt and uncle’s farm at Six Mile and Sheldon, and I’m sure, if I look hard enough this fall, I’ll find a cider mill within acceptable driving distance.
As far as the church and congregation go? I have also fallen completely head over heels in love with my new flock. There are so many wonderful people eager to learn more of God’s will for our church. The children of the congregation love being at the church and in the presence of their Lord Jesus, and the joy of Christian worship as expressed through the music of the church is so uplifting. So many members of the congregation have welcomed our family and made us part of their family. Certainly, God has blessed us all with the power of his love and the presence of the Holy Spirit where we can all look forward to the possibilities and ministry opportunities God has placed in front of us. Even though I have been here for a short time, it feels as if I have belonged here and my family is also eager to be a part of this family in Christ for a long time. So yes, for all these reasons it feels like home.
I have no ruby slippers, and there is no yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City. But I can click my heels and give thanks to God for the blessings of this new place. It is true; a house is not a home. Home is much more than bricks and concrete. Home is following God to the place he would have you be. Home is being a part of a loving family, following our Lord Jesus and being guided by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this place, even as our family is currently occupying two separate houses, we are at home. And there truly is no place like home.