At Some Point
by Hugh Halter on March 4th, 2016

​At Some Point                                   
                                    The Real Reason We Left The Ranch For Alton Illinois
 

My good buddy Dave Runyon (Co-Author with Jay Pathak, another great buddy, of a book called Art of Neighboring, which you should buy and read… how’s that for a long parenthesed statement?) just called and begged me to write a blog explaining why we have left our amazing Denver Ranch, full of beautiful views, life-long friends, and humidity-free sunshine to move to a small 30,000 person town with none of the before-mentioned amenities? “Hugh, I can’t make up answers anymore to make you appear reasonable, and I’m tired of answering for your stupid decision.” (This is how true friends communicate in the real world.)
So with that encouragement, I have relented and will now do my best to relieve Dave’s stress. I’m not assuming anyone really cares but I am tired of answering Dave who is tired of answering for me. So here goes.

The Fake answer I will use to make myself look good will go something like this. “God has called us there.”  This line is perfect for keeping people guessing and forcing them to into a ‘no argument’ option. It works for almost any decision we humans like to justify so I will refer back to it in case our reality gets a little dicey.

The Real Answer may take a little longer.  But it all centers around the idea that AT SOME POINT, following Jesus messes things up. Here are the four biggies for me.

AT SOME POINTThe Great Commandment must become a priority.  I have joked with Dave and Jay about why they are both brilliant but also why their book still won’t work for most folks. Brilliant, in their main premise, that maybe…just maybe, when Jesus said “love God will all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself,”…that he actually meant your literal neighbor. Won’t work, in that most of us don’t even know our neighbors names. And even if we fill out Dave and Jay’s silly little refrigerator magnet where you can write down the names of your neighbors after you go over and awkwardly say, “Hi neighbor…what’s your name?” most of us will never go over to say hi again let alone love them and give your life for them.
So without over spiritualizing what we are doing, Cheryl and I know there’s 1 million people in Denver we could do this with but when you live on a ranch 1000 feet from the nearest neighbor, it ain’t going to happen. We could but we won’t and we know it.  Yes there are poor people, refugees and homeless just 15 minutes away so we could drop in on occasion. But we don’t believe occasional visits change lives. Yes, of course we have people come to us all the time and the ranch has been used for training pastors, getting all my buddies together for a great night in my Western Irish Saloon in the barn, church gatherings, and even my daughter’s wedding, but somehow, some way, it only happens if ‘they come to us.’

If you Google earth our new address 322 Langdon St in Alton Il 62002 you will see that we will now have real neighbors. You will also see that we are 2 blocks from Old Bakery Brewery, 5 blocks from Morrison’s Irish Pub, and 4 blocks from Elijah P’s Burger and whiskey joint. For a guy like me this ‘trifecta’ is tantamount to being the holy trinity of the Art of Neighboring!  We are doing this because we want to give the next 20 years to living a walkable life, around the same people, same community, and same neighbors. AT SOME POINT Jesus' big priority must become our own.

AT SOME POINT you have to downsize to gain freedom. Although it is doable, it takes a lot of cash to live in Denver and enjoy all the Front Range has to offer. So far this has been manageable as long as Cheryl works her fingers to the bone in real estate and I stay a pathetic prisoner to United Airlines. For me, life has been one trip after another. I only make money if I fly somewhere. I know according to Louis C.K. I should stop complaining and just be thankful that I can fly across the world in a few hours but these trips are sucking my soul into a dark death spiral. The constant delays, rental car fiascos, hop up on a stage, sign books, then back home to do it again just seems weird.  And just like the benefits and good sides of the ranch, of course I do feel blessed to get a chance to encourage and learn from so many different contexts, but to keep it up for another 20 years? I just don’t want that to be my story. I’m actually on a flight right now to Barbados to work with church leaders and I can’t even get excited for that because the $&!#%$ 400lb guy next to me is forcing me to smear my face against the window just to get oxygen! See what I mean. I’m becoming a not nice person!

Alton on the other hand is a poor city.  40% African American, the rest while folk of which many are of hoosier persuasion.  50% of the homes are rental properties. That's really bad! Its 10 minutes north of Ferguson. There is racism, bad crime stats and every local we’ve told that we are moving from Denver to their city says, “seriously. You are moving here.”
But the benefit of moving to a city like this is that we can completely change our financial structure. We bought our daughter and son in law their first house for $10,000 so they can join us on this mission and start their life together, and we just bought an amazing turn of the century mini-mansion for a couple hundy.

Our monthly income drops by 70% so that translates to less time in airplanes and more time walking and relating to humans within the 6-block trifecta mentioned above. I’ve found that time is the same as money and money is the same as time. They are both commodities that can be harnessed for kingdom living or harnesses that keep us from kingdom living. AT SOME POINT we just have to choose.  Equity on your computer spreadsheet is only real equity when you cash it in. This is why Jesus speaks about the difficulty, almost the impossibility of the rich finding the kingdom of God.  So we’ve pushed all in while we’ve still got healthy bodies, and kingdom visions, and before dementia sets in. 
 
 AT SOME POINT you have to leave the 99 for the 1
Jesus made an interesting statement. He said, “I have sheep you know not of.” Later he taught that to go find  the 1 sheep you have to leave the 99.
I love the 99. For me the 99 are family we’ve left in Denver, and some of the most amazing friends we could ever been lucky enough to know and serve with. Jesus loved the 99 too. But the 1 compelled him so much so that he was willing to pry himself away and go. For me, I feel this same struggle. But as Cheryl and I give up living life with the best people we’ve ever known, it doesn’t make much sense to go find another 99. In other words, this move makes no sense if we fill our time with the found ones instead of loving those still looking for a home.
Since moving to St. Louis area I’ve already had about 50 emails from people saying, “I’ve been reading your books for years and I love the stories you share, and I live within 30 minutes of you. I heard you’ve moved to town so can we do coffee?” Although I’m always humbled, truly that our story has been inspiring. I am done with my old stories. I’m tired of retelling, reliving and trying to revive the old. I am trying to let God start a new story. So with all humility and passion, ‘Leg humpers’ beware.  If I have coffee with you, I will simply not have time for coffee with them. And the “Thems” is what we are here for.
Please don’t be offended at the leg humper comment. I'm just trying to add some levity to what has been the toughest decision we've made as a couple and a family.  Its not that I’m tired or jaded against Christian brothers and sisters, I simply have come to the point where I believe more highly of you than even you may think of yourself. I believe God has called you to people right around you just like he has me. I believe that the very best thing you can offer them is your time and so you too will need to downsize. I believe that same power that raised Jesus from the dead is latently still simmering away inside you and that if you release yourself from the bondage and tyranny of the perceived urgent; and if you wake up in the morning available to go to the ONE God will lead you beside the still waters of daily, walkable life with neighbors. AT SOME POINT you have to live into these realities. The kingdom of God won’t force its way down your throat but the kingdom of God is taken by force and forceful men and women lay hold of it.

AT SOME POINT you have to try instead of talk.
Ferguson, political and social strife, poverty, racial divide, the decline of the church, violence and every other lamentable situation we see on the evening news will keep getting worse.  At Some Point, we can keep watching, pointing fingers, pontificate our stance, just turn it off, or we can enter in. Jesus entered in and asked us to follow suit.
I don’t know if we can actually do any good or make any substantial changes in this town, but AT SOME POINT we have to try. And in trying we don’t do it just for them or the situation, I think we try because every night or at the end of our lives we have to turn off the lights and live with ourselves. Are we just talkers? Are we the Pharisees? Are we the Frauds? Or are we faithful followers? I want to work toward the last one.
All these real reasons may not sound as spiritual as simply saying God called us there but I think the teachings of Jesus and our honest hearts longing to live a life alerting and demonstrating the universal reign of God through Jesus, make this move make sense…at least to us.

And Yes, besides these four real reasons we did have a conversation out of the blue with a young waitress in a bar just 4 months ago and walking out, both Cheryl and I knew something had just happened..and Cheryl grabbed my hand and as we walked back to our hotel she said, "Babe..lets just sell it all and move here. Maybe we can help out." Pretty sure that was God.

What will we do?  To be honest we have no idea. Cheryl brought the horses with us and she hopes to use them in therapy to people with disabilities, my daughter Alli is already teaching in the Ferguson public school system, my son in law Matthew is an EMT in St. Louis and our daughter McKenna is setting her sites on a crossfit gym for those that can’t afford crossfit when she graduates college next year. I may start a business that helps the local economy, or that crashes and burns! I may roll my smoker/grill into one of the 4 government housing complexes every week to smoke a pig, listen to stories and tell our own. Cheryl and I will most likely fill our home with people God connects us to. I will for sure, find or create another Saloon and have men over; we will dive into a local church, and in my spare time I will continue to play a role as US Director of Forge America, an organization committed ‘to help every person live as a missionary where they already do life.’ So I will strategically get on planes where I feel I can really do some good helping churches, denominations, and people who are serious about the four points I’ve mentioned above.

Our 14 years in Denver and specifically the family and mission we called Adullam, was the best 14 years of our lives. Our best friends will always be in Denver. The two year break from the front line has also been needed and we cherish every moment. We also think God really did bless us with the ranch and it will be a season we will always look back and say, we love that! But, AT SOME POINT, its time to get back to our primary calling, God’s greatest invitation, and our sincere and eternal hope that God will continue to write new stories for the Halter family. Time to be missionaries again.
If you are a bored empty nester, a burnt out church planter; if your tired of the financial rat race, or the day to day mundane and want to live in community, on mission using your business or benevolent aspirations, might I suggest you pick a town like Alton and give it a go. They are everywhere. We’ll be here for quite a while so we’d love to have you join us! Just don’t ask me for coffee! Kidding! Sorry all my pictures were at the top. I have no idea how to work this blog site. 
I’ll keep up my normal pace of one blog a year so stay tuned.
How’s that Dave?


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