The Theology of the Chore Chart

At our last house meeting, my fellow housemates and I had a nice chat about that frequent specter of community housing, chores.

For those who don’t know, Daniel and I currently reside in a house with another wonderful married couple from our church. They’re pretty great. =) We have house dinner and meeting night every few weeks, and this time chores was on the docket.

As each person shared their thoughts, feelings, and frustrations, I learned something: it’s nice to have a chore rotation, but it turns out that it’s kind of useful to communicate about whether chores are actually being done. In our shared commitment to keeping our shared space clean, we had thought as far ahead as divvying up tasks, making a chart, and trading off chores every so often. But somehow the communication part just wasn’t working out. This resulted in, for example, no one being sure whether I had wiped the counters yesterday or last month.

This may seem like a rather petty, quotidian worry — but it’s kind of an important question. Knowing that everyone’s doing the chores they said they would do allows me to do my own chores feeling like I’m contributing to the group effort rather than slaving away in isolation. (Not to mention rest safe in the knowledge that the rag in the sink is not the same one that was used to mop up last month’s soup incident.)

The absence of that communication can lead to quite a moral and relational quandary: do I wipe the counter myself? Do I ask Rebekah if she did it? If she didn’t, should I be upset? What if she STILL won’t do it? Even if she did, will she get upset and feel like I’m nagging her?

After a great and open conversation about all of these things (I am in constant admiration of all three of my wonderful housemates for their dogged commitment to honest and loving conversations) we decided together on the following solution: Each Sunday, I will write the date on the whiteboard in our kitchen. And each week when each of us completes our weekly chores, we’ll write our names on the board (under a heading that I’ve dubbed the “Chore Rockstar List”). This achieves the goal of communication about chore completion — but we were clear that it’s about each person choosing to be accountable for their own responsibilities, not about us nagging each other. And when each name is added to the list, we can have a little moment of “yay for you!” to celebrate achieving chore rockstar status that week.

Communication, accountability, celebration. Isn’t that what sharing life together is really about?

Sometimes as Christians, trying to figure out what the heck it means to “be a Christian” or “be a good person” or “follow Jesus” or “be Christlike” or “not be a jerk”, it’s really hard to resist the temptation to define those things as “be awesomer than my neighbor” or “do as many things right as possible” or “point out how my neighbor is a little less awesome and right than I am because I know how they should fix their problems”. Sometimes, we — or at least I, I’ll speak for myself — just want to throw up our hands at our loved ones and say, “Haven’t you figured that out yet? Haven’t you been listening to me tell you why that was a bad idea? Why can’t you just do it like I want you to do it?”

But that’s not the way it works.

That’s not what Jesus did and does.

Can you imagine Jesus responding to Zacchaeus or the woman caught in adultery or the rich young ruler by saying those things? “Geez, Zacchaeus, haven’t you figured out this generosity thing yet? For crying out loud, woman, haven’t you been listening to me tell you why that was a bad idea? Why can’t you just let go of your stuff, young man? — just do it already!”

The only reason I can picture that — and it’s a very strange imagination, compared to what Jesus ACTUALLY does in those scenarios — is because that’s what I would want to do. I would want to lecture Zacchaeus about the injustice of stealing from the poor. I would want to guilt the woman for making poor decisions. I would want to throw up my hands in exasperation at the rich young ruler who still isn’t ready to let go and move on, even though the course of action is CLEARLY right in front of his nose.

But that’s not helpful. That’s not relational. That’s not how the Kingdom of God works.

Just like it’s not helpful for us to focus on whether our housemates have gotten their chores done yet, it’s not helpful for us in the body to focus on whether our sisters and brothers have gotten “saved enough” yet or taken care of that one “incorrect” belief yet or kicked all their harmful habits yet. It’s not my job to ride herd on whether my brother has removed that speck out of his eye yet — it’s my job to work on my own eye-plank. It’s my job to wipe all the crumbs off the counter, put the clean dishes away, wipe the caked-on crud from the microwave, and each week to faithfully write my name on that list (or if I can’t, to write THAT). Yes, I tried to clean up my messes again. See you next week.

But it’s also my job to do this in community — not just writing my name on a list by myself, not just wrestling with God and life in isolation, but doing it next to and with and through my community of neighbors. My fellow chore-doers. We each have our tasks for which we are responsible, but we’re all scrubbing and wiping and vacuuming alongside each other.

This, then, is the beautiful mess of the Kingdom of God — the body of Christ coming together, week after week, to listen, to witness, and to celebrate — even when the mess will come right back, and we’ll have to clean it up again and maybe breathe a sigh of relief when it’s time to rotate to another task. Listening, witnessing, celebrating.

See you next week.

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A Story About a Man

There is a story about a man.

At first, he was a boy with wide eyes — he loved to take in everything he could.

As he became a man, his eyes stayed wide, but they also began to be very full with so many things.

He wrestled to reconcile and integrate everything he saw, felt, and came to believe.

He wanted to love his Creator. But his ideas of how to do that could never sit still… and sometimes neither did his resolve.

He wanted to love his fellow humans. But likewise his ideas about how just couldn’t sit still, and at times, his resolve in this too would wane.

From year to year, or month to month, or day to day, he would remember one of these wild hopes that had come through his wide eyes into his eager heart. In fits and starts, he ran here, stumbled there, and sometimes just laid there in the dust and licked his wounds or played in the dirt to distract himself from pain.

He walked a long time, seemingly trying to find “it” — that just-right task or way of life that let him really love himself and his Creator and his near-loved humans and the faraway-lovable humans… as well and big and thoroughly as his heart hoped to.

His hopes were so big, sometimes because he wanted such good things for others, sometimes because he thought that being smart or energetic would be enough to make him succeed. So many times he would try things with big hopes, and then leave them when he realized that he hoped for something more.

Sometimes along the way, the things he learned and tried were helpful to others. Sometimes less so.

In his old age, he spent hours sitting by himself, or talking agitatedly or wistfully with others, scratching his head or with his face in his hands, wondering when or where he should have stopped and sat still and stayed put.

But some other times he smiled, knowing that he had gotten to experience a lot, and that others had loved him, and he had loved others, and that the way he was is okay, and it was okay that his journey didn’t end up sitting still long enough to do anything worth writing articles or history notes about.

He died with some people who he loved — especially his Creator — still loving him back.

And this was a beautiful story.

I’m loving it: Retrace Health: “family-doc”-styled online primary care by nurse practitioners

Time for a big fat shout out and plug for a really sweet (and cost effective) way to get basic healthcare needs taken care of.

My housemate works for an online healthcare startup called Retrace Health. I feel lucky, cuz I wouldn’t know about it otherwise, and am on-board in a phase of the startup’s growth that’s quite advantageous to me.

TL;DR: $100 yearly fee, then video visits are $50/visit. (12 months of visits are free if you sign up using the promo code I posted on Facebook!)

I’ve been very happy with the video visit / remote-primary-care structure; my video visits tend to be 45 minutes with my primary care provider, whereas my doctor visits generally afford me no more than 15 minutes with a doc, at ~$150 / visit.

So yes, it’s a tradeoff – you’re getting an advance practice registered nurse (APRN) instead of a full-on MD… but you get ~3x as long of a visit, for 1/3 the price… (or 0% of the price through 2015). APRNs can write prescriptions, order MRI’s and specialist care, etc. Affordability has made it a lot easier for me to be proactive about little things as they’re arising, rather than following my usual strategy of “waiting it out” to save money.

I also really dig the convenience of the video visits vs. driving somewhere.

It’s obviously limited, which everybody – including them – recognizes, so they’re good about referring to specialists to visit in person as the needs arise… but it’s a good home-base. I never had dreamed of being able to meet with a primary care (e.g. family medicine) provider as often as every month or two without concern for cost, but during this phase of health issues recently (knee, hemorrhoid, screwed-up-toe, tight right-upper-back) I’ve felt like I can basically get all the primary care I need without that worry.

I also feel really cared about and invested in personally/individually. I feel that I have a really thorough and connected relationship with my primary care provider. The accessibility for frequency of visit, and the ability to directly e-message and call my primary provider rather than just one of their staff – is really helpful to my ability to feel personally and closely cared for — in a way that more than outweighs the distance caused by connecting remotely. Retrace has worked hard to make it easy to get appointments with my main provider, rather than just being assigned random to a provider from an available pool who happened to have time available, which, according to my housemate, is often the unfortunate norm for online care.

(I also think my care provider, Jessica Fashant-Peterson, is pretty legit at this as well, so it’s not just a “systems” thing.)

Once, I actually even received a prompt from them to schedule a followup visit with me, even though it was a free visit. 🙂 They also post a custom-typed-out care plan into your online portal account after every visit, something I’ve not received elsewhere.

Frankly, as a bit of an entrepreneur myself, I’m not sure how they manage to provide all this at the rates they’re charging (even without the 2015 free deal). It’s a young startup, and time will tell whether they can actually make money delivering so much effort and value at so low a fee… but — at least for the moment — that’s their topic to be concerned about, and not mine…

(Another note: Membership is per-family… so though I’m the gimp right now, Rebekah can get free visits this year as well.)

Retrace is not the be-all-end-all, and like anything it has its tradeoffs. In-person care from MD’s has its advantages over online care from APRNs, there’s no question — but there are plenty of advantages of the Retrace setup as well, most of which I’d boil down to accessibility. It’s very affordable (basically free in 2015) and convenient… from which flows high frequency of care, and subsequently, both high quality of relationship and the ability to be more proactive rather than reactive with my care. The only scenario in which I wouldn’t find something like retrace to be of value as a part of my “care portfolio” is if accessibility was not a major problem for me with conventional healthcare, e.g. if I worked somewhere with amazing, low-deductible, low-copay health insurance… which I definitely do not!

(UPDATE: I now understand you can get free home visits too as a part of the coupon code offer.)

So yeah, I decided to share this because I’m quite happy to have stumbled across Retrace by the luck of a housing arrangement… and figured it was silly to not take half an hour or so to write this up and share it with others.

P.S. Here’s the official blurb I got from their ops director: (emphasis is mine)

RetraceHealth is welcoming people to become Premium RetraceHealth members for $99/year/household. If they sign up using Daniel’s coupon-code, they will get 12 months of free video and home visits. If you are interested, become a member at this link and enter Daniel’s coupon code.