Love in the Land of Lavish Living

At our small group last week, we were running short on time, and our jokingly self-proclaimed dictator (i.e. small group leader) decided we needed to skip a discussion question on our list. But the question is one I ask myself all the time, so here it is:

“Living in North America means that we are among the richest people on earth. How can we maintain a sense of dependence upon God’s provisions?”

I often struggle with my own lavish living. I say this not as someone who lives particularly lavishly by American standards. After paying our necessary bills, I think I’ve spent like $40 this month, and that was a trip to Pizza Hut and trip to a corn maze/pumpkin patch. I have to admit I feel every one of those dollars was worth it to see the joy on my children’s face, but most times I spend money, I am so disappointed with the results: “Mist! Mist! All is mist!” I feel very little joy in things other than prayer, praise, study, and service.

I heard Francis Chan left his church and wants to go to some foreign country and be poor and…whatever. Is that what total reliance on God looks like? I’m tempted; believe me. But is that the proper reaction? Or is it immaturity? Surely all are not called to poverty and this sort of “crazy love.”

In an interview, Peterson tangentially addresses these topics, and I think what he has to say is helpful:

“Do American Christians too easily assume their surrounding culture is Christian?”

“We do. It is useful to listen to people who come into our culture from other cultures, to pay attention to what they hear and what they see. In my experience, they don’t see a Christian land. If you listen to a Solzhenitsyn or Bishop Tutu, or university students from Africa or South America, they don’t see a Christian land. They see something almost the reverse of a Christian land.

They see a lot of greed and arrogance. And they see a Christian community that has almost none of the virtues of the biblical Christian community, which have to do with a sacrificial life and conspicuous love. Rather, they see indulgence in feelings and emotions, and an avaricious quest for gratification.

Importantly, they see past the façade of our language, the Christian language we throw up in front of all this stuff. The attractive thing about America to outsiders is the materialism, not the spirituality. It’s interesting to listen to refugees who have just gotten into the country: what they want are cars and televisions. They’re not coming after our gospel, unless they’re translating the gospel into a promise of riches and comfort.”

Do you preach to your congregation about this?

Yes.

How do you do that? I’m sure that’s not easy.

Well, I’m one of them. I live in the same kind of house they do. I drive the same kind of car they do. I shop in the same stores they do. So I’m like them. We’re all in this together.

It’s possible for a few people to break out of society and form some kind of colony in order to challenge society as a kind of shock troop. But that’s not my calling, and I don’t find it credible to use the language of separatism in a congregation where we’ve all got jobs, where we’re trying to find our place as disciples in the society and do what we can there. If I do that, I lose credibility. I’m using one kind of language on Sunday and another on Monday.

So what I have tried to develop first of all, in myself, is the mentality of the subversive. The subversive is someone who takes on the coloration of the culture, as far as everyone else can see. If he loses the coloration he loses his effectiveness. The subversive works quietly and hiddenly, patiently. He has committed himself to Christ’s victory over culture and is willing to do those small things. No subversive ever does anything big. He is always carrying secret messages, planting suspicion that there is something beyond what the culture says is final.

What are some specific acts of Christian subversion?

They’re common Christian acts. The acts of sacrificial love, justice, and hope. There’s nothing novel in any of this. Our task is that we develop a self-identity as Christians and do these things not incidentally to our lives, but centrally. By encouraging one another, by praying together, by studying Scripture together, we develop a sense that these things are in fact the very center of our lives. And we recognize they are not the center of the world’s life, however much cultural talk there is about Christianity.

If we can develop a sense that sacrificial love, justice, and hope are at the core of our identities—they go to our jobs with us each day, to our families each night—then we are in fact subversive. You have to understand that Christian subversion is nothing flashy. Subversives don’t win battles.

Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (Carol Stream, IL: Word, 1987): 16-19.

Filed under: faith, Money, prayer | 4 Comments
Filed under: Money | 5 Comments

Thankful

I was just listening to Rebecca St. James and Todd Agnew sing “Our Great God,” and it just reminded me how thankful I feel right now.

We’ve had a ton of bills lately with the new table (we outgrew the old one), computer (it died), washer and dryer (they were dying together), computer, midwife, doula, tuition, and visits from family. God has provided a lot of money to meet those bills. I mean a lot. Close to $10,000 in the last three weeks. (I broke a Black Friday sales record and received my overload pay from teaching all in the last three weeks.) That almost covers everything (yeah, they add up). What would normally have been a stressful time has not been that bad.

I have a beautiful new son. The birth was incredible. It couldn’t have gone any more perfectly. The doula was incredible when it came to supporting Rachel. The whole time Rachel was in labor, I kept thanking God for her. The midwife was great too, but let the doula pretty much handle things.

My daughter continues to grow in her relationship to Christ. She amazes me sometimes.

I’m glad to be in a church where we can chant, receive communion every week, feel loved, and our children can commune. We’ve actually been able to develop a relationship with a fellow congregation member (though in its early stages, it’s nice to be able to connect to someone other than the pastor and his family). The lady is a bit older than us, but her youngest son is close to Kyrie’s age.

My class this semester will be taught by Reggie Kidd, and it’s on my favorite subject. How great is that? I’ve been able to finish most of the books (I saved the best ones for last, so woohoo).

I’ve had off of work for three straight days. I don’t think I’ve had more than one day in a row off since August (and even then I was usually working on my day off). It’s been a time of healing and rest (though I must say I am wiped out from all the work I am doing—but it’s different work, so in a big way, it’s restful).

We have family coming to visit. Forrest and Rebekah will be here in less than two weeks. The Enloe family also plans to come by. Mommy and daddy plan on coming in February. It will be so nice to have company again, and it’s nice to have a table that will fit everyone (tightly though!).

I love how all of our close friends’ families are growing. Exponential growth is nice when it involves friends.

We are planning to stay our entire summer in Spokane, if possible. Actually, it would be nice to just move up there, so maybe a job can fall in our laps (pretty please!).

It’s Advent. The long green season is fully over.

Oh, Lord remind us once again of your wonderful works. Hallelujah! Glory be to our great God.

Random 32,363

I like krumping and clowning. Everyone makes fun of me for this, but I think krumping is incredible. I like to watch rap music performed. It’s captivating. I can’t listen to the stuff if I can’t see it being rapped.

FACT: The Office is great this year. I’m so excited it is a Thursday. My co-worker (who thinks I’m like Stanley) bought me some cheap Dwight sticky-notes. They say “Information is Power” and have a picture of Dwight. They’re awesome.

The Scrubs premiere is tonight. The previews look musical. The musical Scrubs are my favorite. I’m hoping.

I’ve already made too much money this year to get an Earned Income Tax Credit, which means our refund is going to be sad and pathetic. This makes me very sad. I was hoping a second child/new child would give us a big refund.

When I woke up this morning, Kyrie was sleeping with her head and chest on her bed and her feet on the floor. It was hilarious. She ends up in all sorts of weird positions by morning. She’s like her mother.

I’ve read six books this week, graded five sets of essays, and gotten to bed before 1 AM every night. I am hoping to finish one more book tonight, grade a set of essays, and get to sleep before midnight (but let’s face it, Conan runs long on his monologue a lot of times, or the guest is just too good).

One more week of less busyness.

That is all.

Ebay hacked

Apparently Ebay was hacked, and while Ebay is saying that no credit card info got out, the hacked posted the cc info with the verification codes.

Check out the forum discussion.

The media isn’t on this like it should be; I had to hear from a colleague who was reading a German news magazine.

Filed under: Money | No Comments

I hate our bank

Ever since we have lived in Monroe, we have had problems with one of our banks (Capital One, formerly Hibernia). They drive me freaking insane.

I checked our balance since I’ll be going on a trip, and I noticed our account said we had $80 less than I had in my ledger. Normally it’s the other way around as we wait for things to clear. I looked through the recent charges when all of a sudden, at the very bottom, I noticed FIVE overdraft charges for $32 each. I saw that I had deposited $3,000 from our other bank account the day after the overdrafts, so I had to ask myself if I was trying to cover up a mistake. Reassured that I really was just transferring money, I looked further.

Then I saw another deposit for $1,050. It made no sense because I hadn’t had any deposits for that amount. When I went to the second page, I saw it. Right before the five overdrafts, they had deducted our rent TWICE. Then they tried to cover it up by putting the $1,050 back (two months rent; don’t you love how cheap it is here?), but they didn’t credit back the five overdraft charges. UGH! What a bunch of punks. PUNKS. Needless to say, I’m not very happy since I only have one day off to sort this out before my trip, and the bank is just plain stupid. Rachel made up a dialogue to my future conversation with them:

Bank: Well, you did go over the balance.
Rick: Well, that’s YOUR fault.
Bank: Well, regardless…you were over the balance.

Taxes finished

Woohoo! Now if only Louisiana didn’t make me pay them another $25. Meanies. At least we’re getting a measly federal refund. We should definitely have another kid. I don’t think we’ll make it for this tax year. Oh well 😀

Filed under: Home, Money | 1 Comment

Stuff

Last day of the semester. Papers are more than half graded.

Car is in the shop…again. I think I need a new Mass Air Flow Sensor. Hopefully, that will fix my acceleration problem, and we’ll have no problems on the way to Tulsa. We’re hoping to drive to Tulsa this Sunday. Snow needs to melt off the roads. If we get to Tulsa, everything will be fine.

Our car has been faithful, but we’ve had to make repairs over the last month that have been way too much. We’re hoping to wait it out until spring before we get a new vehicle. Fortunately, we have about $1,000 more left in our bank account than we normally do after paying all our bills…and it’s December, so I’ll be getting $4,000 or so after taxes in the next two weeks after being paid yesterday. The university needs to get a more normal pay schedule.

I met an actor, Ed Nelson, on Wednesday. He lives around here. Why would anyone want to live around here? He’s done way too much stuff.

I’ve forgotten way too many quatoable things this week.

Faculty Christmas party is this weekend. I hope they have some good wine, so I can be a slosh (that one’s for you, Rachel W.). And while, I am mentioning you, I should tell you that you need to cut your post length in half because I always save long posts for later, so I’m about 27 posts behind now.

We have way too much food at our house to eat before we leave. Most of it is meat, so I guess that’s okay.

It’s World AIDS day again.

Support World AIDS Day

Take a moment to pray for those suffering from AIDS, and especially pray for the church in the world, especially in Africa, as it ministers to those who suffer from AIDS.

The Rambliest of Rambles

Rick’s working at Sears right now. I miss him. He’ll be home around 9:15. Kyrie’s napping. The house is very quiet. It’s not completely clean, so I could definitely make myself useful and get that taken care of, but I am feeling sick from this silly cold, so I feel justified to sit here and waste away in front of the enchanting glowy screen of the computer monitor. I like playing arcade games online. It sort of makes me feel like a loser, but at least I’ve gotten that out. I feel better now. Rick did a very nice thing for me today and took me shopping and bought me a leather jacket. I’ve wanted a leather jacket for years, but they’re quite expensive. It ended up costing just over $70. It was originally $199.99 and was 60% off, plus we used another coupon. I still feel like it was a lot of money, but I do like it. Also, I’ll be playing a concert on November 11 which will cover more than double what it cost. That makes me feel a little less sick to my stomach. Also, plane tickets are purchased, so that stress is entirely gone. There are other financial needs, but God continues to graciously provide (and my husband continues to work!) and day by day, everything is taken care of and more. I’m really thankful for that. It’s a beautiful, sunny day. It’s just about the perfect temperature. I need to read more. I love reading but I don’t really have the motivation to do it. My favorite time to read is around bedtime, snuggled under the covers. I really need to just grab a book from Rick’s office upstairs and start reading it. That’d be fun. Part of me wants to start selling things, maybe books, on ebay and make a little extra cash, but the other part of me thinks that’s too much of a hassle and there’s no guarantee I’d end up with any profits. I used to blog about theology and then I got excommunicated. I wonder why I don’t blog about theology much any more…
Well, first of all, I guess my life is a lot different. I really find myself wanting to talk about my ridiculously gorgeous daughter with the adorable personality that creates all sorts of bloggable moments throughout the day. She’s also quite photogenic and I’m sure people would rather see pictures of her than read boring theological posts. Besides, as much as I love theology, I’m more interested in charity, unity, compassion, etc. I guess that comes from my theology, though. Huh.

Groceries

I spent $72.07 on groceries today. They should last over a week. They also included non-food items such as dishwasher detergent, bathroom tissue, and soap. So do you think I did I good job or a bad job? I have no idea what the normal family of three spends on groceries.