Aug 15 2013
The Cost of Children

So the news media wants you to know: It's going to cost you dearly to have a kid.

$241,000, actually. And that doesn't even count college, and you know how costly college is! Pretty daunting, this whole procreation deal. 

Thing is, my wife and I didn't have the money, either. When we had our boy, Justice, I made $17,500. We rented a duplex, and drove two cars worth a combined - not making this up, this is what they sold for: $125. And this isn't the 50's. This is the 90s.

Foolish to have a kid? Mathematically, sure. And I love math, but math ain't everything. You can't play kickball with it or watch it giggle in the bathtub.

Turns out, my parents couldn't afford me, on paper, either. Maybe they're filled with regret. ("Wow, we paid tens of thousands and we wind up with BRANT? WHAT A RIP-OFF.") But I doubt it, because they seem to not only like me, they like the expensive humans my wife and I produced. (Full disclosure: There's a big downside to this having-kids thing.)

Ironically, on the same day the annual "Cost of a Child" study comes out, there's this guy from American Idol in the news. Justin Guarini was a star - he finished second to Kelly Clarkson in 2002. But now money is tight. Very tight. He wrote on his website that he's had to skip meals to make sure his family has enough.

There was a time when I could have thrown down cash for a house, and had any number of lovers in and out the door. A flashy car and clothes to match. An ego to trump them all.

Now, I rent a home filled with love. I have a wife whom I love and who loves me (me!) and who lifts me up. Children who give me cherubic-lipped kisses before I leave for work and who are the most delicious morsels of joy and peace and prosperity.

I am a pretty wealthy individual. 

And then this, his best line:

I have more riches than I can count. Most of them come in the form of smiles and drool... but they make me feel like a gazillionaire.

Justin Guarini, I didn't watch your season of "Idol", but I'm now a fan. You, sir, are on to something.

And so is Bruce Brander, unfortunately. Bruce wrote a terrific book, called Staring Into Chaos, and it's about how civilizations, you know, go down the tubes. And Brander notes a commonality: Declining civilizations look at children through a cost/benefit lens. They see them as a drag on our personal autonomy, or another personal accoutrement, to enhance our status. It's plus and minus, and minus and plus, and maybe it's worth having one, if it doesn't make me cancel my Bahamas trip.

(Is it incumbent on everyone to have children? Of course not! But you might want to root on those who do, and create a culture and policies that support marriage and families, even big ones. Other people's kids are wonderful, joyful things, too. For one thing, you need them to retire.)

Of course, this whole "kids are too expensive" thing has a funny familiarity to it, and by "funny", of course, I mean, "tragically unfunny". It's precisely where we are. And precisely why western civilization, demographically speaking, is most definitely, irreversibly, going out of business. The numbers don't lie. As a culture, we simply love ourselves too much to burden ourselves with little versions of ourselves.

And then there are those who will continue to see children for what they are: Miracles and blessings. But they are now the counter-culture. The good news is, the counter-culture doesn't just have drool on its carpet and a beater in the garage. It has a future, and that future is at a table, surrounded by the laughs and cries of our grandbabies.

Expensive inconveniences grow up, and have their own inconveniences, and, like Justin Guarini, wouldn't trade them for the world. What, exactly, was I going to spend that money on, anyway?

I know bargains when I see them. They make me smile.

And these two bargains can smile back.

Jul 01 2013
Chicken Soup for the Unresolved Soul

There's a story about Bach -- or maybe it was Mozart -- and how, even as a little kid, he had to hear resolution.  He was in bed, upstairs, and someone was playing the piano, and that someone got distracted and stopped, just before the last chord.

J.S. - or W.A.? - couldn't stand it.  He tromped downstairs, pounded out the resolving chord, and then went back up to bed again, without a word.  He just had to hear it.

We're all like that.  I think about all the stories I've heard, and then all the ones I've lived, and there's the big difference:  We get resolution in the former, but the other just...lay...out there, somewhere, and, much as we pretend, there are no finish lines, no final chords, no official victories, no ends-of-story.  Not yet, anyway. 


I took the yellow bus home from our country school in St. Berniece, Indiana.  One day, I sat with my best friend's brother, Eric.  He was in second grade, I was in third.  We talked and joked about my lunchbox and a puppet I played with.  Then we got off at the bus stop in front of his house.

I stepped to the right.  But Eric ran alongside the bus, slipped, and fell under the wheel. 

Two weeks later, my mom suggested I go over to my friend's house, to visit him and his little sister.  She told me they probably hadn't had any visitors since Eric was killed, and may be lonely.  So I got on my bike.

Mark, my friend, and his little sister met me at the door, excited to see me - or anyone, for that matter, I gathered.  We laughed and played with a top on their hardwood floor.  It was one of those that spins and makes noise and lights.  I could see their mom in the back room, smoking a cigarette.  Staring at me.

We played for an hour, until she came in the room, and started screaming at me.  She said something about how all I was doing was reminding them of what happened to Eric, and I should get out, like, now.  Her kids were stunned, and started crying, and so did I, and I ran out the door and got on my bike bawling with guilt. 

I never went back.  And we moved away.  I don't know what happened to them.  When I think about that day - this is more than thirty years ago - I still get a knot in my stomach.  There's no ending to the story.  So it's a story I've almost never told.


Most examples aren't this painful, but almost all the "great stories" of my life are this way.  When I speak to people, try to motivate them, try to teach them, I pull a bit of a sleight-of-hand, presenting stories that are edited just-so.  They're not "untrue", they're just dishonest, in a pedestrian way, I suppose, presenting real-life stories like Aesop's Fables, with certain resolution, as though the story were over. 

(Maybe  -- I don't know, I'm musing here -- this is a reason why Jesus's stories aren't specific "victory" testimonies, they're metaphors of the Kingdom.  Maybe he didn't want a specific "Look-at-what-happened" story to ultimately get mis-used, or give the wrong impression.)

I tell about a smashing, eye-opening missions trip for some high schoolers, but I don't include the boring stories, or the stories where some kids just really weren't impacted, how that one inspiring kid wound up getting some girl pregnant two months later. 

I tell -- and hear --  "and then he became a believer!"-type stories, but don't include, " -- and yeah, okay, he's still battling addictions."


I read "look what our church is doing" accounts in newsletters, but don't hear the invariably messy follow-ups.  We get the "victory" stories over sin and depravity, but no one publishes books called, Wups, I'm Totally Messed Again.  Yet, that's where the stories of my actual life are.  We don't like our stories open-ended.  So we clean up our stories, and act like they're finished.

They're not.

I used to be a youth minister, and the conventions would feature one impressive guy after another, with remarkable stories about what happened in their youth groups.  It was really amazing!  Why was my youth group kind of a mess?  Why wasn't I inspiring anyone like that?  It was impressive!...until I realized I could pick and choose stories, make believe they were final, and, presto -- I'm awesome. 

And that inspiring day when Big Joe the Football Lineman cried and prayed?  Well, that was the end of the story!  But in reality, it wasn't.


We like resolution.  But we don't live in resolution-time.  Forgive me for ever giving the impression otherwise, that I believe myself fully resolved, fully arrived, somehow finished.  The story isn't over.

Not everything makes sense, not everything gets explained, not every story is inspiring and ready for Tony Campolo to tell it.  Talk about "inconvenient truth":  We're living in the in-between. 

I think about Eric, his mom, or a thousand other people I've known, and I feel like I'm lying upstairs, and someone just left the piano bench, right before the C chord.  

I'd walk down and play it, if I could.

Jun 19 2013
If Jesus Had a Blog: I Told Nick that God Loves the World

 

WHAT UP...

Sorry I haven't been blogging much. VERY tired. There was a wedding, then I walked in the temple and... wound up throwing around some furniture. THAT was interesting. Ahem.

Anyway, I was up late last night. This guy Nick came by, and he's a religious leader, knows all the rules, etc., and I enjoyed talking with him. He told me he knows who I am.

We talked about what the whole "born again" thing is about, and I told him that God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life. I told him that God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

So now I'm off through Samaria. Planning to stop and get some water. I hope the trip goes "well".  (See what I did there?  "WELL"...? Okay, like I said, I'm tired.)

Peace.

posted 3/14/0029 at 10:26 a.m.

###

 

 

COMMENTS

 

Yeah. Heard about the temple thing. But I'm more concerned with what you told Nick.

God does not "love" the WORLD. The world is evil, and is going to burn. Maybe God loves His people, but not the world.  

Please brush up on your doctrine, since you have such a big platform. 

- Cynthia4Jesus


Jesus, your trying to be all love love love, but I think you're letting TRUTH slide. Here is what I object too:

"God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him."  

That totally makes people think they can just do whatever they want, and you are willing to look past it. Do you WANT people to sin or something? I don't think so, but this sure sounds like it. 

Do you think people will be all like "Oh, God loves me so much, so now I love him, and so now I guess I'll be a totally different person."  I wish it worked that way! Be realistic. Someone could read this and totally take it like that.

- Trent_G


This doesn't have to do with what Trent or Cynthia were writing about, but I'm just sayin:  I heard about the wedding you were at, and they served alcohol at it.  Did you know that?

- Concerned4U

 

Jesus, love the blog, usually, but the Bible says do NOT be conformed to THE WORLD. God does not love the world. 

Please put what you say in context with the Word of God.

Cheers!

- ChristLover23


Christlover, Jesus IS the very Word of God. The entire Bible points to him. He IS the Word. He IS the context.

Secondly, the "world" Jesus is talking about is everything - the whole created cosmos. The references to "world" elsewhere are often references to our culture that tries to destroy beautiful things, including us.

And God DOES love the actual world. He made it, said it was "good", and loves it. So maybe you should love it, too? 

He's going to RESTORE it. He wants to do the same with each of us, to give us a new birth, to start over. 

That IS the mission for his son. If He wanted to judge the earth and destroy it, he sure could've done it without offering himself in a rescue mission.

- come_on_people


OMG I LOST OVER 20 POUNDS IN FOUR DAY S WITH A AWESOME DIET AND U CAN TO. 

YOU SHOULD

JUST CLICK ON MY LINK AND SAVE MONNEY AND LOOK BETTER THAN EVER AT WWW.A2R23ASLFKJLAKJD.COM/AFOAFOSDIFAUSDIOA

- lost40pounds


OMG I LOST OVER 20 POUNDS IN FOUR DAY S WITH A AWESOME DIET AND U CAN TO. 

YOU SHOULD

JUST CLICK ON MY LINK AND SAVE MONNEY AND LOOK BETTER THAN EVER AT WWW.A2R23ASLFKJLAKJD.COM/AFOAFOSDIFAUSDIOA

- lost24pounds


OMG I LOST OVER 20 POUNDS IN FOUR DAY S WITH A AWESOME DIET AND U CAN TO. 

YOU SHOULD

JUST CLICK ON MY LINK AND SAVE MONNEY AND LOOK BETTER THAN EVER AT WWW.A2R23ASLFKJLAKJD.COM/AFOAFOSDIFAUSDIOA

- lost39pounds


You know, Jesus, I think I'm going to read another blog.  I appreciate some of your insight, but you make references to worldly things,and I thought this was a Christian blog.  I'm just disappointed.  We should only think of heavenly things.

- GO_NINERS49494949

 

Jesus, I agree with what you say, but there's way more to the story than just love. To say God sent you here but not to condemn the world makes for a nice story, but it misses the point.

I think you took yourself out of context.  Kind of lame.

cheers!

- jason


Jason, that makes NO sense. He meant what he said. He didn't deny the reality of brokenness, he affirmed it, by saying the world NEEDS rescued.

Your comment is kind of bizarre.

- Bob


Bob, you sure can be bizarre yourself. Seriously. Whatever.

cheers!

- Jason


What's up with people writing "cheers!" at the end of a negative comment, like that makes everything better.

its stupid.

cheers!

- TSmith321


That's neat, Jesus, but maybe talk about how the U.S. Government is watching you, since Big Brother BaFAIL Obama sees what you type here, or your emails. 

- 802Torber


BUSH STARTED IT, 802Torber. Or maybe you missed that, because your to busy watching FoxFakeNews or listening to stupid people like  Sara Palin because your to dumb to read real news.

- becka44


In point of fact, Becka44, Bush did NOT use drones against American citizens. What you are saying is ridiculus.

- TINA


jesus thank u for making me feel welcome and loving us and this place its hard sometimes i bet

i love u 2.

- horsegurl9