Sunday, December 10, 2017

Principal Payments

"Neurotics build castles in the sky.
Psychotics live in them.
Psychologists collect the rent." - Jerome Lawrence

As I was taking care of my budget the other day, I was keenly aware of how much my giving cut into what I was able to pay toward the principal on my house. When I spoke up about it, my wife immediately framed our giving as making a different kind of principal payment. Being a homeowner with a mortgage really is a matter of principal, literally and philosophically. Literally, the principal owner of "my" house will take control of it if I quite making the payments. I'm only the homeowner philosophically until I pay ALL the principal.

Back to my wife's point, one of Christ's teachings, The Parable of the Talents, was about him making a principal investment in three different guys. The one who returned the principal without even paying the interest it should have earned lost the metaphorical house, a place in Christ's kingdom. The other two faithful homeowners who made their interest payments without any fuss got the house and then some. I'm not sure the bank that holds my current mortgage will be that generous but I am very much the neurotic/psychotic living primarily for my castle in the sky.

So here's the equation that I struggle with. The more I spend on interest here, the less I spend on principle there. I'm convinced you can get in for free but you buy the house, in large part with what you spend your money on this side of the kingdom. And more money spent on interest paid to my bank is less money spent on the things God tabulates to our credit when we enter his economy. Did I just say credit? Maybe I'll at least get a good card with a high limit. Then I can throw a serious - I mean proper and responsible of course - party for the angels that had my back through all the mayhem here along with the cloud of witnesses that encouraged them not let that stupid bicycle stunt accident be any worse. Basically, I'm saying I may have to rent a place for a while.

I think I just identified professional clergy as the psychologists. Not saying that's bad. They need a job, too.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Meaning of Life

“Are you cool?” the obviously cool person I had never met asked from the other end of the phone.

“Uhhh, I don’t know. That’s not really up to me, is it?” I asked sealing my uncoolness.

This phone call started off as a missionary effort by friends of the family to help me connect in the town we were moving to. Now it was a lesson to the poor, cool kid on the other end about why nerds stay nerdy.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless!”

Being a church-raised nerd who was taught that nearly everything was infinitely significant, this verse from the book of Ecclesiastes threw me off for a long time. It didn’t seem to line up with live right, go to heaven and get rewarded for everything. Then on a field trip, I watched one of my orchestra friends have a mental breakdown in our hotel room when he realized he had lost track of the day, eaten meat on the sabbath (or something like that) and was now apparently destined for hell. There was no consoling him until he called his parents who explained that there was some simple ritual to make things right again. Phweew. That was close.

And really, really weird. I would even say, "Meaningless!" I didn’t even know you had to do that stuff to stay out of hell and it seemed easy enough to right the wrong I was still unconvinced I should worry about it quite that much. I mean, our orchestra performance is tomorrow and If you can’t pull it together I’ll be second chair viola and I’m not ready for that!

I know the meaning of life is something a little larger than I have the mind for on my own. I also know the things I don’t understand, like my friend’s meltdown and being cool on purpose, are comparatively meaningless to me, lagging far behind more meaningful things like dinner with my family, staring into the world of my aquariums or the euphoria of passing out in my own bed after a twelve hour night shift. The teacher in Ecclesiastes also says, “A man can do no better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him who can eat or find enjoyment?” Seems good to me.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Writing Prompt: Why I Write

This is my answer to a recent writing prompt: Why I Write.

As a socially awkward high-schooler, I fell in love with writing when an entire English class laughed at my whimsical use of five, disparate spelling words in the same sentence, a feat I could never accomplish at a conversational pace. Suddenly, I was more witty than weird, at least enough to divert some attention from my coke bottle glasses, mullet and Hawaiian shirt with bright yellow Velcro in place of the buttons. After that, I discovered angst ridden poetry as a way to vent the emotional casualties of still being socially clueless even if I was witty. I knew the world would read it one day and realize what a great and influential intellect I was. Now it reminds me what a great and influential intellect I wasn’t. All because those words are still there to read, to transcend the time that’s passed and to allow me to meditate on them again. Writing helps me understand myself and share it with others who grew up thinking wits would make a bigger difference, when In the end, it was actually the Velcro, Hawaiian shirt.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Chasing Rainbows

"Can I touch it?!" my three year old daughter asked excitedly looking back at me from the brilliant, double-decker rainbow that glowed against the dark clouds behind it.
"Give it a try," I encouraged her in a moment of inspiration as iridescent raindrops continued to fall lightly around us through the bright sunshine overhead. No one else spoke up to ruin the innocent wonder as she went to the end of the driveway to get closer to it.
"I still can't reach it. Can I go to the street?" she sought permission to go the forbidden distance.
"Just no further than the street," I let her go and she lit up again with new hope. She reached the edge of the street, reached as high as she could, jumped up and down a little and then looked back at me.
"I need up!" she declared. "Can I ride on your shoulders?"
She reached as high as she could from my shoulders and with a better view of things made the observation, "It's over their, behind their house."
We crossed the street to the end of the world and she made a final effort reaching as far toward it as her short arms and my balance would allow.
"I can't reach it," she conceded the end of the chase while still reveling in the glory of the rainbow and being on dads shoulders on the other side of the street. The pursuit had already taken her higher and farther than usual.
"That's my friends house! Can they touch it?" her enthusiasm picked up again realizing they were closer to the rainbow than we were.
"Maybe they can," I enjoyed sharing the thrilling idea that someone else might be able to reach what we couldn't as we walked back to the house with our attention back on the iridescent rain.

We've chased moons and airplanes the same way. Will we ever catch one? Probably not. Are they worth chasing? Absolutely.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Potato Soup

While I was listening to my kids argue yesterday morning about whether or not my youngest daughter was potato soup, something occurred to me; I was hungry. It was a similar revelation to the one I had a few months ago when we realized that my daughter (the one who may or may not be potato soup) was only chewing up the items in her older sisters play set that represented food items. Until that realization, this was a serious conflict between them as my older daughter believed her mini-figures where in imminent danger as well. We bought her her very own mini-kitchen for her birthday and she's now happily chewing her own wooden food items and preparing imaginary potato soup for everyone.

Before you call CPS, we feed my youngest daughter plenty and we have more wooden food if she doesn't get full on the painted vegetables we already gave her. Besides that, I'm not convinced she enjoys the imaginary food any less than the real stuff. After all, you can eat all the imaginary food you want to without the side affects. And there's no such thing as bad flavor or texture combinations... bring on the chocolate potato soup and top it off with a kale milkshake. It also cuts way down on the cost of social gatherings if you can't multiply food like Jesus.

So, we're back to my first realization about being hungry. We are, of course, talking about spiritual food as much as physical food and, aside from all its benefits, imaginary food just doesn't cut it long term. Sure, it's cheap, it's easy to feed to the masses and you can eat as much as you want. But, somehow you still end up with indigestion and splinters. As Jesus Christ famously and controversially said, "My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink." I feed it to my kids all the time and it really cuts down on the damage to the painted vegetables. If you're hungry, try it.