On profanity

I’ve noticed swearing has become quite the trend among many Christians.
Most bothersome are usage of “damn” and “hell”. Out of all foul language, this should pierce the heart of the mindful Christian the most. All other language is culturally offensive. These terms are blasphemy.
If you want to say “The way he treated me was really shitty”, that’s on you. I don’t like it, I don’t talk that way, but I’ll give you some leeway on letting you express yourself. However, if I look deep into this term, I find it is first and foremost culturally offensive; it is from the cultural offense the moral offense is found.
I’m really not sure how to convey the weight and seriousness of these terms, without launching into a “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” type sermon. Please, though, let me try. Damnation unto hell (lake of fire, actually, but that’s for another time) is the final, absolute judgement of a most holy God. It is separation from everything good, everything worthwhile, everything holy. It is the culmination of every evil desire of man. It is like intensely desiring to find somebody, calling into a pitch black darkness, and they never come.
Hell is really a very serious thing. It is what it is; I can do nothing about it. Please, think about what I’ve said here and consider your words and works carefully.
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How Do We Deal With Homosexuality? Part 1

A few days ago, I posed a question to my good friend and pastor Rob Harrison. Rob is a master of teasing out the truth when it requires precision and subtlety. My question is one I have long felt is met with a steamroller approach. The question is, simply, “What should a same-sex attracted Christian do?”

For those of you not familiar with me, let me lay out my understanding. To wit, the Bible is the true Word of God, a God who does not change. Within the Bible, God says homosexuality is sin.

Rob turned it over to Ron Belgau of the blog Spiritual Friendship, quoting Belgau’s post “Spiritual Friendship in 300 Words”.

Now, I need to tread carefully here, because I’m talking about this from the outside. I am a happily married man, with a wife and 18 month old. I’m more concerned about the issue because of two former friends who are bisexual. (They are former friends not because of their sexuality, but because I told them, perhaps too bluntly, to pay their rent.) Also, I see a need in our culture at large, of a compassionate and righteous response, to a people whose desires would take them away from God.

To that end, if you’re a Christian struggling with homosexual desires, you may or may not wish to read this with the intent of getting help. However, I would be interested in getting feedback. I might get something wrong. Instead, I’m going to try to target this more at the man or woman in my situation, asking the same question.

I’m not going to pull any punches. There is no single, simple, satisfying answer. The answer can be complex, multi-faceted, incomplete, and, at times, deeply challenging. But I feel like I’ve pulled back a layer or two of the answer which, ultimately, lies within God himself. And it is those discoveries which I wish to share with you.

First, love is greater than sexuality. Belgau, in his study of St. Aelred, points out that our culture has too intertwined love and sexuality. If friendship is defined by love, then we can see that just as there are different kinds of friendships, there are different kinds of loves. Steve Cudworth & Rich Mullins parsed the difference between carnal and worldly friendship, and created space for spiritual friendship, when they wrote “There’s a love that is fiercer/Than the love between friends/More gentle than a mother’s/When her baby’s at her side”.

Second, friendship is greater than sexuality. “Well duh”, you may say. But think about it for a second. It’s common -for us conservative, straight Christians- to try to make our closest friendships (spouses excluded) same-sex. But why? Is that based on a fear of falling for another woman? Or maybe a fear of appearance of impropriety? In either case, I have to say, fear is a dangerous response. I do not say it is incorrect; but I can confidently say it is dangerous.

I am able to form powerful friendships with women, married or not, and learn from them. I have female friends who are more learned, more logical, more giving, or more passionate, than I. Perhaps this situation is helped by the fact I am married; but it is certainly not prohibited by singleness.

Third, there are celibate gay Christians out there, trying to figure things out as best they can. One of the things they point out is that we are culturally indoctrinated to see celibacy as a “fall back” position, a second (distasteful) choice. However, this is not how the Bible puts it! In fact, if anything, the Apostle Paul says celibacy is better than marriage, because there are fewer distractions, and the potential for a greater focus on ministry.

One last thing I will bring out. I don’t recall the mental connection I made, but I was listening to a sermon from Timothy Keller on missions. Although he doesn’t mention homosexuality directly, this sermon is what prompted me to ask Rob the question in the first place: http://www.gospelinlife.com/missions-5778

Flipping Books

I have a new hobby. And a new second job. They’re one and the same.

I picked up a second job in March 2014, to make ends meet, and to pay off loans faster. It was a fine job, and I like and respect the company I worked for. I would go back and work that job if I felt I needed to.

In September 2015, I started reading Caleb Roth’s blog on flipping books. After reading a few posts, I sent him a message:

“I’ve been skimming your blog and wanted to ask you a question. I currently work a second job about 10 hours a week and net about 5-6k yearly. Based on what you know of the market in the Warsaw area, do you think it would be possible to match or beat that in the same hours per week?”

His response was “Definitely.” We met up in October, and he showed me that not only could I match my second job’s salary in the first year, but in the second year, I would significantly surpass it.

I’m now officially 3 months into flipping books. as a little side business, and I’m happy with how it’s going. I consider attending a book sale to be a bit of an adventure. The very first sale I hit, I got 2 sets of books worth $250, and I got several books worth $60-$80.

Now, these numbers are teasers, I’ll admit to that. My average sale price is right about $20, and I only get about $5-7 on a $20 book. However, considering I usually pay 50 cents to 2 dollars per book, that’s a pretty good return!

If you want to get into book flipping, I’ll leave it up to Caleb to teach you. However, before you hop over to his blog, let me try to scare you off first:

-Be prepared to spend several hundred in “startup money”, just to get the business off the ground. I think, as far as buy-in, that’s not bad at all. A scanner runs $100-$300, and is a very good first buy. An app for your smartphone runs $10/month.
-With that in mind, it takes a few months for the business to make a return on the investment.
-You should have a decent back. My back is merely OK, and I feel it after 4 hours scanning books at a library sale.
-You must have a mentor. Caleb is guiding me through this process, and without him, I would be up a crick without a paddle.

I’m hopeful for a day I could maybe be my own boss and flip books full-time. Or maybe just cut back at my day job.

Intermediate Locations: The Enablers of Messiness

I’m going to step away from my usual, philosophical, pondering, and deal with a more practical issue: messiness.

I’m a messy person. Maybe you are too. Now, I don’t actually like messiness. I like things neat and tidy. But it doesn’t come naturally to me.

There is one rule of avoiding messiness I learned from the Frugal Zealot: do not put things in intermediate locations. Use it, or put it away.

To some extent, intermediate locations are unavoidable. If I’m doing car work at a friend’s house, I need to put my tools in my car before I can put them away at home. But as soon as I get home, I need to put them away.

Toddlers are the worst when it comes to messiness. They drop anything anywhere. If they see something they want, they drop what they have, without regard for where it should go. Even my 20 month old son, who is already showing tendencies toward neatness, does this. So don’t be like a toddler.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to tidy up my desk.

Leadership

lead·er·ship

ˈlēdərˌSHip/Submit

noun: leadership

the action of leading a group of people or an organization.

 

What is our culture’s obsession with leadership? You drive by billboards and hear about seminars and books are sold– all about leadership. The push for selling leadership is ubiquitous. You hear about it in church, at work, in the home, and at school.

Does anybody talk about followership?

More importantly, can we understand what it means to be a leader, without understanding what it means to be a follower? Have we taken any time at all to understand what it means to be led?

Oh sure, sometimes, in Christian circles, we talk about servanthood. And that’s more than close enough to what I’m talking about. However, I feel like half the time, we end up talking about “servant leaders”. Because we can’t stop trying to push “leadership”.

Please don’t get me wrong– we need strong teachings on leadership. However, I am increasingly noticing a dearth of teaching and interest in being a follower and a servant. And I think it’s having a deleterious effect on our quality of leadership. I had a boss once who was great in one specific area. But he wasn’t good at managing his people– or at least, not me. His competency in his specialty did not translate to management capabilities.

Here’s my hypotheses:

  • There are three categories of workers: leader, follower, and independent.
    • Everybody, in their job, probably exhibits at least a little bit of each.
  • Your understanding of leadership cannot be kept abstract from an equal understanding of followership. In other words, you cannot ignore followership, believing that it will teach you nothing about leadership.
  • You cannot understand leadership for all areas and competencies.
  • Good leadership may not look like what you expect.
  • Leadership is not being a good independent worker. Taking charge of your own stuff does not make you a good leader.
  • Being a leader is rarely optimal.

Oh no… I may be a morning person

It just occurred to me I may be a morning person.

It all started when I got a 5:30-2:30 job. Make no mistake about it, I do not relish getting up early. However, I get the opportunity to see sunrises. And sometimes, I get to see some real humdingers.

IMG_20160107_080133598

For me, the mornings are beautiful. There is a quietness, and a stillness, which is rarely found anywhere else. There is the opportunity to prepare for the day ahead before anybody else has an opportunity to come in and gum up the works. 🙂

Now, a night owl would probably point out that staying up until 2AM can also be a great way to get stuff done. And if that works for you, knock yourself out. But there is one definite advantage of being a morning person. The day which has passed is in the past; it is yesterday, not “still today”.

And then, after the stillness, there is the gradually increasing hum, the noise of a world waking up, getting up, and going about its business. I’m off to join it now, how about you?

Cheap Living: Driving a Turd

Here’s another way I keep my cost of living down: I drive a cheap car, which I researched with intensity and tenacity. And, when my wife’s VW Golf died, I got her one of these cars as well.

Hi, I’m Kaleb, and I drive a cheap car.

We drive these cars because they’re cheap to purchase, cheap to maintain, reliable, fuel efficient, and common enough that parts are easily available and repairs are well-documented.

Perhaps I should introduce the cars.

My car is a 2002 SL, which is the base model sedan. It’s manual everything except brakes and steering. Manual windows, locks, and transmission. We purchased my car in late 2011 and have put about 27k miles on it in 3 years.

The wife’s car is a 1998 SW2, a slightly more powerful wagon. My wife doesn’t like to drive stick, so hers is an automatic. Between the DOHC engine, the automatic transmission, and the extra weight of it being a wagon, fuel economy takes something of a hit, but it’s not too bad. Its  fuel economy is about 27 MPG (mostly city) over the span of our ownership (10k miles).

I do as much work as possible to my own cars. I always do my own oil changes. I’ve done a couple of tune-ups. Recently, I changed the automatic transmission fluid in the wife’s wagon.

You may chose a different car for yourself, but there are a few things I’ve learned from my car ownership which apply to anybody:

  • Research. It’s your own neck on the line. Learn as much about your car as you can.
  • Learn to change your own oil.
  • Watch videos on YouTube on how to do common maintenance and repairs.
  • Keep a spreadsheet of all maintenance, repairs, and gas. Here’s the one I use: car-work.xslx

Note: since I first wrote this, I sold my Saturn SL. I still love it. If the situation were appropriate, I would buy it back, no question about it. Ashlea still has the Saturn SW2.

The reason I sold my Saturn SL? I was looking at a business opportunity where I would require more space and hatch on the back. I got a screaming deal on a 2007 Ford Focus manual wagon. I still consider myself to solidly be in the “cheap car” bandwagon.