Having a daughter can be humiliating

This little journey is just over a day old, and Ella Grace has already begun to infringe on both Aiden’s territory and mine. Though Aiden seems genuinely happy about the arrival of his baby sister, he’s also a little conflicted about the way this new creature is demanding his Mommy’s attention. This is normal and something we expected and, with any luck, we’ll work through it in time to prevent him from becoming another statistic among the throngs of preschool runaways.

What I did not anticipate was how quickly Ella would own me, and I’m not talking about the textbook "wrapped around her finger" stuff. I’m talking about practical matters, like internet presence. Look, I’ve been blogging for over two years. I spend countless hours every day (well – every year, anyway) in deep thought and contemplation, mining my vast intellectual resources for brilliant insights to share with the world. This particular site has been alive for over a year.

Ella, on the other hand, showed up a mere thirty hours ago. And here is the traffic log for my verbal gold followed by the numbers for her photo album:

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I always knew girls were trouble.

A new album of today’s trouble is on the left.

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Ella Grace Norvell

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More photos in the album to the left.

Poor folks, Jesus, and Brad Pitt

Yesterday I linked to Andrew Osenga’s post (his site appears to be down, but I have copied the relevant text here at the end of this post) about the differences between Live8 and a gigantic Christian music festival being held the same day. Some comments have already started to surface about this, and I decided to move my responses from the comment section to here. To be fair, I’m not trying to go at anyone in particular. I don’t think the comments that prompted this post are unique or represent an uncommon perspective in the American church. So, I’m not picking on my commenters. I’m picking on a lot of people, including myself. I’m not very good at what I’m about to preach about, but I’m wrestling with it almost every day, and I’m praying that my life will be transformed in this area.

First, it wasn’t Andrew’s point (or mine) to exalt the motives or lives of the celebrities at Live8. There’s plenty of silliness in that whole scene. But here’s the deal – I’m more inclined to reserve the label of hypocrisy (which is the common and completely understandable response for many of us when we see Brad Pitt and Snoop Dogg talking about how wealthy countries should help poor countries) for Christians, or at least to apply it more rigorously in that context. Why?

Live8 rock stars aren’t under any particular mandate to do what they’re doing. If their motives aren’t entirely pure or their words and lives terribly consistent, well, who’s surprised? Obviously not us. In that way, they have the luxury of posing for a good cause before chartering the private jet to Cabo.

But here’s what I think matters: Christians do have a particular mandate in this area, and Americanism and conservatism have mostly neutered this part of the Gospel. They have made us more concerned about being irresponsibly generous than about actually feeding, clothing, and housing Jesus. Yes, Jesus. He said it, not me.

Again, I’m not preaching at you any more than I’m preaching at me. I’m just saying. It’s in the Bible: Feed hungry people. He doesn’t attach many conditions to this command to give and live generously. He doesn’t say, "feed them as long as they prove they deserve to be fed." You think he didn’t know lazy people existed and would continue to exist? That seems unlikely, yet we think we need to add all sorts of caveats and conditions to his teaching. Jesus didn’t coin the "teach a man to fish…" maxim. That doesn’t mean it’s a categorically bad idea; it just means it’s time for us to stop using the folks who take advantage of generosity as a crutch for ignoring one of Jesus’ most common and most consequential teachings.

Listen, do we really pay attention to the fact that all the "feed, clothe, and house me" talk is buried in a passage about sheep going one way and goats going another? He actually tells people who neglect the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, and imprisoned to Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Are we really so willing to continue to hedge on this?

One other note which has been acknowledged in the previous comments: Applying the standard arguments about irresponsible American welfare recipients to the global poverty discussion is a really, really bad idea. Read a little on global poverty first. Even if you think those arguments work for Christians and the poor in this country (and I’m not nearly as convinced as I used to be that they do, or that being poor in the U.S. is always a choice), global poverty isn’t the same animal by a long shot. Over 1 billion people in the world live on less than a dollar a day. Another two billion have about twice that. That’s not because they happen to be the 3 billion laziest people in the world or because the art of fishing has eluded them. In most cases it’s because they have zero opportunity to change their circumstances (and it’s hard to fish where there’s no water). There are millions of men, women, and children in the world working at least twice as hard of any of us just so they can starve slowly instead of all in one week. This isn’t Sally Struthers cheese. It’s the world we live in; the world God gave us.

Why are we taught to spend more time thanking God for all the many ways He has "blessed us and our nation" than living out the reality that we’ve been blessed to bless others? In all of our years of good Christian training, why have we never been encouraged to ponder the biblical reality that Jesus generally seems to take a much greater interest in "the poor" (and the oppressed, neglected, unpopular, and unclean) than he did in the responsible, tax-paying good citizens?

So yeah, there’s a difference in the point of Live8 and the point of a hundred thousand Christians throwing a party on July 4th weekend to entertain themselves. And, frankly, that difference is the point.

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This I know…

  • I like bacon. A lot.
  • In five days or less, I will begin using phrases such as "my daughter" and "the kids" and "Wow, having two kids really is twice as expensive as having one" and "Hey drooling punk, quit staring at my daughter….yeah, I’m talking to you over there in the blue stroller." [For those who don’t know, Amy will be induced on Monday if the baby girl hasn’t made her own way into the external world by then. And no, she doesn’t have a name yet.]
  • I’m not interested in your suggestions about what we should name our child.
  • I am so Lance Armstronged out. Seriously, we get it. All the cancer left his body, he has an oversized heart, and he rides a bike faster than anyone else (especially in the mountains). Congratulations, Lance. You’re the best bike rider ever. Hey kids on blue and yellow Huffys all over America – give up. You can’t be as awesome as Lance (unless, of course, you contract and subsequently heal from a fatal disease, then ride your bike faster than anyone else in France 42 years in a row). Can we be done with it already?
  • I have a diagnosable split-personality disorder triggered almost exclusively by incompetent and inconsiderate drivers, who turn me into a profanity-prone cliché of a man. Newsflash America: When you are in a left-turn lane and you see a round light approximately this color, it is not only your right but your responsibility to pull out into the intersection so as to be ready to make a swift left turn when traffic clears (and before the light turns approximately this color). If you choose instead to sit safely behind the white line, you will most likely cost both you and me the opportunity to turn left until we all sit through another full cycle of changing lights. Why is this so difficult to understand?
  • I think Ricky Gervais is one funny Brit. Don’t miss his Live8 bits.
  • I think Andrew Osenga’s thoughts on the contrast between Live8 and the Christian uberfest he played the same day are pretty important.
  • Weird things happen in my mind. For instance, I visualize days of the week and months of the year. Monday has a particular static look in my head. So does Friday, and it’s a different look. February looks one way, October another. These aren’t associated seasonal images. These are unique visualizations that connect to the days/months before and after them to construct a whole that also has a particular look. There are others. If I were actually capable of doing something impressive with these weird things in my brain, I’d try to pass myself off as a savant. Sadly, I think I’m just weird.
  • Other weird things happen in my mind. For instance, I’ve recently (and mostly involuntarily, if you can believe that) found myself repeatedly thinking about the following question: "If you had to choose a small number (say 20 or 30) of recorded songs for your personal listening collection and surrender the ability to listen to any other recorded music in any other form for the rest of your life, what songs would you choose?" Let me reiterate that I didn’t intentionally come up with this question. I delete the emails asking me to list my favorite TV shows and describe my first kiss. I scoff at lists of the "Top 20 <whatever> of all time." I don’t know what in my disturbed, juvenile subconscious produced this question, but there it is, rattling around my skull over and over for the last few days. And, for the record, the question didn’t ask the Top 20 recorded songs of all time. It asked what songs I’d want to preserve for myself. There’s a difference. Some of the songs I would want to hang on to would never make a Top 20 list of any kind. I doubt I’ll ever actually make the list, but a few songs have consistently come to mind along with the question. My hope is that outing them will rid me of this nuisance thought pattern for good. In no particular order:

North Dakota, Lyle Lovett; Hard to Get, Rich Mullins; In Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel; Lonely Moon, Kevin Smith; Suspicious Minds, Dwight Yoakum; Carolina in my Mind, James Taylor; Easy, Lionel Richie; Walking in Memphis, Marc Cohn; At Last, Etta James; Sleeping to Dream, Jason Mraz; Let’s Get it On, Marvin Gaye; The Man from Snowy River Soundtrack (some medley of a couple of instrumental tunes); Coming to Life, The Normals; Why Should I Cry for You, Sting; You Move Me, Susan Ashton; Fast Car, Tracy Chapman; One, U2.

I’m sure much of the list would change if tyrannical music terrorists really forced me into such a predicament, and I’ll probably laugh at a few of these when I read this again in a month. Blame it on my weird brain. Oh, and a note to those of you in my life who record music for a living: Since the tyrants only seem to be interested in infringing on recorded music rights, I assume I’d still have you around to sing and play to me in person. Consequently your brilliant recordings are lost in the mass audiocide. It’s sad, I know, but oppression is a bitch.

  • Once in a while I use words like the last one in that last paragraph, especially when linguistic rhythms make anything else seem inadequate. No sense in pretending otherwise.
  • I like my life. I like my wife. I like my boy. I like that, though I’m scared to death of having a girl, I’m more excited than scared about seeing her face. I like my family, blood and covenant. I like writing. I like Jesus. I like the idea of "what’s next" for me in terms of how I spend my time and make my money, even when "what’s next" doesn’t seem clear enough or close enough. I like getting to write here, and I like when you write here.