Forgive me, Lord. I covet.
Rochelle and I have been slowly reordering our lives. What we mean by that is having a life and lifestyle that more closely resembles our beliefs and values than it resembles the American, middle-class death machine. Ro and I would define the death machine as rampant consumerism and protectionist concerns; the thirst for two cars, 2.5 kids, a house in the suburbs in a gated community, and all the typical trappings that come with it. Part of the machine includes what I would call the Christian over-concern for the individual and the individual’s family over and above concern for the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. Rochelle and I are trying to resist the fast-food, slow-death, drive-through, TV-intoxicated, iPhone-lusting, Starbucks-energized, debt-riddled, God-distanced existence that most of us in the suburbs are drowning in.
To do that means reordering our lives. Truth be told, we don’t really know how to do that yet. We’ve made some attempts, though.
We celebrate Christmas differently, for instance. For us, Christmas is about Jesus being incarnate in us calling us to enter and face the world with love and vulnerability. It also means noticing all the cultures and nationalities that visit the manger and trying to urge the church to become like the manger; a place of welcome for all people. We’ve also reordered our eating. More and more we eat things that come from the ground and have as little processing involved as possible. That doesn’t mean that McDonald’s chicken nuggets aren’t good, they just aren’t the best foods for us. It also means that fast-food restaurants aren’t frequented very often and we check the menu at other spots before we go there.
Reordering also means that we are committed to not pawning our children off on others all the time. Our oldest daughter will go to school 3 days a week this fall (just down the hall from my office), but we are committed to limiting the number of hours she will spend there and she will have dedicated days each week with mom, a separate time with dad and time for the family to be together. Much of that time has been and will be spent baking for the elderly, collecting clothes for the poor, auditing toys and other belongings for what we should keep and what we should give away to the less fortunate. These kinds of activities are 2nd nature to our daughter, but they weren’t to me when I was her age.
We are also trying to figure out how to use less gas. Not merely for financial benefit to us, but for the benefit of the world God has given us. We are looking for ways — even in the Houston heat — to spend more time in God’s creation. One of our deepest wishes is that I lived close enough to work to walk or ride a bike.
But we have a growing, deepening sense that we are just scratching the surface, that there are more ways that we can simplify life and connect to God. So I’m asking you. Some of you are way ahead of us on this, and I want to know what you think. What are some ways you are reordering your life to reflect the gospel and your values? What are some of your ideas that we might be able to incorporate?
Besides thinking that $500 is too much to pay for a phone and besides the fact that $60 is a hefty price per month, there is another reason why I can’t but an iPhone. After church yesterday one of our students caught a ride home with our children’s minister. As the two rode, the student, knowing that I’m an Apple nut, asked, “Do you think Sean will get an iPhone?” Melanie, our children’s and worship minister answered, “If he did, I could never listen to him preach again, because that’s the one thing that he is always preaching against.”
Well, there you have it! Though my heart wants to tote the newest Apple must-have item, all of my sermons and talk about consumerism and the American culture of lust and excess have blown up in my face. Alas, if I buy an iPhone, I lose the “cred” that I cannot buy.
I have to make a confession: At the same moment these two were having the conversation about me and the iPhone, I was in fact at the Apple store looking at the iPhone! I watched a movie trailer on it — it looked great; I listened to music — it sounded awesome; I made a phone call — my wife never picked up; and I looked up this blog — it was hard to read, but the blog content was excellent! All in all, the phone is very, very cool, but not a necessity if, like me, you have a laptop that is almost always with you. Plus, I was taken with the fact that the Apple store had plenty in stock still, kinda makes you wonder why so many folks camped out so long to spend so much money.
And this is where my commentary of consumerism does click in.
How much stuff do we need? The human condition and experience tell me that somewhere today there is someone who is deeply in debt already showing off his new $500 phone to his coworkers. There’s some person out there who already had a phone and a way to take pictures and a way to get on the net and so forth, who now has a new $500 way to do the same things that they could do already.
And at the same time, 1 billion people in the world live on $1/day and 1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water. Yet, knowing that, I, along with many others, find myself desirous of something that doesn’t do anything that we couldn’t do before, but only does it in a sleeker, cooler looking way. What’s up with us?
I get that in the American culture, things like internet access, e-mail, sms test messaging, mobile communicating, etc… are needed, even a necessity for some; but it seems that so many of us don’t think twice about buying and buying even if we don’t have a genuine need.
As children of God, we are called more to create than to consume. Maybe that’s something we should give some thought to. That’s just my take!
For the sake of integrity, I feel that every now and then I should share my spiritual weaknesses with you all. It’s true. I am not perfect. There are many areas in life in which I struggle. One of those areas is coveting.
And you better believe that after watching Steve Jobs’ keynote at MacExpo this week, I am in full coveting mode over the new iPhone. Now you should know, the “iPhone” name won’t stick. My best information is that another company does, and has for a while, own the trademark name “iPhone.”
But who cares what it’s called? This phone is the most amazing device I’ve ever seen and I want one NOW! My coveting is so deep that I actually thanked God that I had already decided to switch my cell service to Cingular in June when my contract with another carrier is over. I truly felt that the end of my contract, the fact that I was going to buy a new iPod this summer and the release of the iPhone all in June was providential. How crazy is that?
And on a lighter side, I usually detest celebrity news but I’m loving the Trump vs Rosie feud. Before Rosie got off her blasts against Trump and his hair (which she released simply because he gave a troubled girl a second chance) I never really cared for either, but I’ve gotta say, “I’m loving The Donald right now.” Rosie picked a fight that she can’t win. She thought she was being funny by making fun of Trump for no real reason and he unleashed a brutal attack on her. The smack that he is laying on her – and Barbara Walters now too – has been classic. She showed up for a gunfight with a rubber knife and she’s getting her clock cleaned. Yesterday Trump called her a “third-rate comedian” and that Barbara said, “working with her was like a living hell.”
Now, I’m not on Donald’s side because of the mean things he’s said (things that shouldn’t have beens said about anyone), but rather because Rosie has a history of shooting off her mouth, saying hateful and hurtful things about people. It was just a few weeks ago that for no reason at all she called Kelly Ripa homophobic . And apparently, I’m not the only person who thinks that Rosie has created this herself. I’m not saying that she deserves this or that getting torn up in the media is good. But it seems like the majority of Americans might.
We live in a politically correct culture where anyone who called someone else “fat, ugly, disgusting, etc…” would hear from every circle that he or she needed to apologize–and they would need to. But in this case there’s been no calls to apologize. No one has said anything. Why? Because it’s Rosie. The majority response has been the sound of one hand clapping. It’s almost like people are saying, “Yeah, that’s Rosie!” If Trump had called anyone else “disgusting” he would have had serious consequences, yet in this case, everyone just seems to be happy to watch the daily furor.
I think there’s a lesson here about being a person who speaks words of grace about and to others. When you become known for attacking other people simply because you don’t like them or you don’t like their perspective or politics (and Rosie has launched vicious attacks on people who stand opposed to her politics) then there aren’t going to be a lot of people in line to defend you. And when you dishonor people, some people will dishonor you in return.