Saturday, May 27, 2006

That New Car Smell

I bought my 1994 Volvo 850 wagon in 2000 for $9,250. It had 87,000 miles and was in good condition. Six years later, it's time to buy again.

In one of today's featured articles on Boundless, Heather Koerner encourages us to examine our motives when we're tempted by that new car smell. Chances are, she explains, the old one we're currently driving is just fine. That's generally sound advice but there comes a time when an assesment of current and projected costs may mean that you are upside down in car repairs.

The phrase "upside down car" means that you owe in loans more than the car is worth. But what about when repair costs are close to or more than the car is worth? Is there a sweet spot in between repairing and driving an old car and buying a new or used one?

Well, for me, the sweet spot is right now.

If I were to repair everything that's mechanically broken with my 140k mile Volvo, total cost would be over $2,000 - and this on top of $1,500 in repair and maintenance over the last year and a half.

Volvo for life? Forget about it.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Marrying a Much Younger Woman

A new study just released on men and sterility proves that women are not the only ones with a biological clock. Fertilization attempts in men ages 40 or older fail 70 percent more than men 30 or under.

Note the study's conclusion:
As an increasing number of couples choose to postpone childbearing, they should be informed that paternal age over 40 years is an important risk factor for failure to conceive.
This brings to mind a conversation I had with a friend who was in his mid thirties on the topic of marriage and family. I asked, "Don't you want to marry and have family?" He replied, "Yeah, someday. I'll just have to marry a much younger woman."

It appears that the marrying-a-much-younger-woman antidote to the consequences of delaying marriage will have to be replaced with another assumption.

(HT to Slate for pointing me to the study)

Desparately Seeking Folly

The center piece of my home is the television. It wasn't my idea, it was the builder. I remember thinking after my initial walkthrough, How presumputious to put a gigantic, television shaped hole in the wall. I might prefer to hang a picture instead. And that's not all.

Every room in the house is prewired for maximum entertainment potential. I mean, what is my three year old going to do with his CAT5 cable? Nothing, that's what.

However, the real problem isn't a home that just begs for surround sound, it is a heart that seeks folly.

This month I'm reading through the Proverbs. A verse struck me, as verses do when the Lord is trying speak to one about a specific thing. And though I am certain Solomon didn't have in mind entertainment techonology when he wrote it, the application is unmistakable.

The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly. Proverbs 15:14
And with a quick assessment of how I spend my time, it was easy to see my overwhelming love for folly.

In
Like to Watch, Joshua Harris challenges each of us to "test" the influence of media in our lives:
If necessary, let me urge you to consider changing the setup of your home so that entertainment technology, particularly television, is neither omni-present nor central. Let's not allow movie and television watching to become our default free-time activities. You may also wish to abstain periodically from different forms of media in order to test their influence on your life and increase your focus on God.
Save boarding up the gigantic, television shaped hole in my wall, there isn't much I can do about the setup of my home. However, there is plenty I can do to increase my love for knowlegde over folly.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Eternal Umbilicus

The Washington Post has a mildly interesting read on the difficulty college graduates have entering the real world of adulthood. Its an expose on anxiety without any real answers, or reasons for them. This is probably out of fear of offending, not wanting to appear judgemental or assess blame.

Fortunately, I don't have those fears. I blame the parents.

A couple of years ago, Psychology Today editor Hara Estroff Marano addressed these issues head on in her piece titled A Nation of Wimps. In summary, today's college graduates can't make decisions because they've been "overmonitored and oversheltered."

Perhaps it's today's playground, all-rubber-cushioned surface where kids used to skin their knees. And... wait a minute... those aren't little kids playing. Their mommies—and especially their daddies—are in there with them, coplaying or play-by-play coaching. Few take it half-easy on the perimeter benches, as parents used to do, letting the kids figure things out for themselves.

Then there are the sanitizing gels, with which over a third of parents now send their kids to school, according to a recent survey. Presumably, parents now worry that school bathrooms are not good enough for their children.

Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history. "Kids need to feel badly sometimes," says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. "We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope."

Messing up, however, even in the playground, is wildly out of style. Although error and experimentation are the true mothers of success, parents are taking pains to remove failure from the equation.

"Life is planned out for us," says Elise Kramer, a Cornell University junior. "But we don't know what to want." As Elkind puts it, "Parents and schools are no longer geared toward child development, they're geared to academic achievement."
And technology has made matters worse:

It's bad enough that today's children are raised in a psychological hothouse where they are overmonitored and oversheltered. But that hothouse no longer has geographical or temporal boundaries. For that you can thank the cell phone. Even in college—or perhaps especially at college—students are typically in contact with their parents several times a day, reporting every flicker of experience. One long-distance call overheard on a recent cross-campus walk: "Hi, Mom. I just got an ice-cream cone; can you believe they put sprinkles on the bottom as well as on top?"

"Kids are constantly talking to parents," laments Cornell student Kramer, which makes them perpetually homesick. Of course, they're not telling the folks everything, notes Portmann. "They're not calling their parents to say, 'I really went wild last Friday at the frat house and now I might have chlamydia. Should I go to the student health center?'"

The perpetual access to parents infantilizes the young, keeping them in a permanent state of dependency. Whenever the slightest difficulty arises, "they're constantly referring to their parents for guidance," reports Kramer. They're not learning how to manage for themselves.

Think of the cell phone as the eternal umbilicus. One of the ways we grow up is by internalizing an image of Mom and Dad and the values and advice they imparted over the early years. Then, whenever we find ourselves faced with uncertainty or difficulty, we call on that internalized image. We become, in a way, all the wise adults we've had the privilege to know. "But cell phones keep kids from figuring out what to do," says Anderegg. "They've never internalized any images; all they've internalized is 'call Mom or Dad.'"

For another perspective on extended adolescence, check out this article from Josh Harris' little brothers, Alex and Brett, on Boundless. It appears that Alex and Brett were prepared well by their parents to enter adulthood without delay as evidenced in part by their success with their blog The Rebelution.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Whiny Conservatives Rule!

Kudos to William Saletan of Slate.com for his blurb on a recent study from UC Berkley professor Jack Block suggesting that whiny, rigid kids grow up to be conservatives. Saletan sufficiently points out the absurdity of Block's study, as does the article he links to.

I don't care if Block's research has merit or not. At least conservatives allow their kids to "grow up." (In the sense that more liberals have abortions.) Given this Roe Effect, whiny, rigid conservatives will continue to rule the bright, free-thinking liberals for years to come.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Excessive Sports Fan

Even though I quite enjoy the NCAA basketball tournament, March Madness to me means having to wait 6 more months till Clemson football begins. These months are known to many Clemson bretheren as the dead zone. We occupy this time on message boards like TigerNet discussing incoming freshmen and how the graduation of QB Charlie Whitehurst will impact the 2006 season.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the year Clemson football returns to national prominence.

Does all this seem excessive? Time will tell. I have found that the more time and energy I invest before the season begins, the more passionate I am about the outcome. The question is, are such passions wrong?

It's a legitimate question. Just ask my wife.

Last fall, she and my children suffered periods of anger and elation that sometimes lasted for hours. (Don't even get me started about the Clemson/Georgia Tech game.) However, to save myself and my family from this anguish, I will adopt Dr. Peter Ennis' "simple rule" for judging if I have gone too far with my excitement.

      Loving Christ While Cheering for the Yankees I have developed a simple rule for myself: When I have allowed the emotions of a contest, whether anger or elation, to occupy me for more than a few hours, I know I've gone too far. I know even a few hours can seem over the top for those who do not share this attraction to sports, but it is a pretty big step for some. Increasingly, it works for me.
    And if that fails, I will seek help.

    Thabiti Anyabwile recently preached a message at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC encouraging us to "make it a discipline to ask our friends to tell us where our life appears excessive." In a list possible areas of excessiveness, he includes getting "too excited about football games." He ends with this point of application. "Let us sit down with one another and explore whether or not these (areas of excessiveness) are indications of inverted priorities where God is concerned."

    Check back with me this fall and I'll let you know how my "inverted priority" is going.

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Lesbian, Gays, and Adoption, Oh My!

    How would you respond if someone asked you if lesbians and gays should be allowed to adopt?

    Inevitably, the question will be reduced to whether or not a child is better off being a ward of the state or with two loving adults who happen to be homosexual. Make no mistake, a compelling argument can be made to justify this practice that would be difficult to rebut relying solely on religious beliefs about homosexuality.

    For practice, read Dahlia Lithwick's article on Slate.com titled Family Fuse: Why the rules about gay parenting are changing right under your nose. Ms. Lithwick makes some pretty bold claims that children raised by homosexual parents "fare no worse" than those raised in a traditional household.
      There are approximately 588,000 children in foster care. Legislators—like a clutch of Ohio Republicans—pushing bans on gay adoption and fostering must thus argue, without empirical evidence, that it's better for these children to languish in state custody, or bounce from foster home to foster home, than be raised by gay parents who want them. And just as there are no data to support the claim that children raised by married gay parents fare worse than children raised by heterosexual parents, there are no data to suggest that foster care is preferable to gay parenting. (emphasis mine)
    Is this true? No data, Ms Lithwick? Really?

    Let's set aside for a moment the semantics of this particular excerpt where she compares "married gay parents" with "heterosexual parents" and assume she is referring to traditional marriages between a man and a woman. And for this comparison, I submit to you the Family Research Council's Homosexual Parenting: Placing Children at Risk.

    This white paper on homosexuals as parents takles the issue two ways. First by exposing the flawed methodology researchers and homosexual activists use to support their agenda. Then by carefully looking into their own "comparison of homosexual 'couples' and heterosexual spouses," exploring well respected data on:
    • Homosexual Promiscuity
    • Promiscuity among Homosexual Couples
    • Unhealthy Aspects of 'Monogamous' Homosexual Relationships
    • Rate of Intimate Partner Violence
    • High Incidence of Mental Health Problems among Homosexuals and Lesbians
    • Substance Abuse among Lesbians
    The list literally goes on and on and is a must read. However, even with the startling data presented by the Family Research Council that should give any judge pause for placing a child with a homosexual couple, the fact remains that there are still hundreds of thousands of children languishing in the foster care system who need homes, Christian homes.

    There are currently 119,000 children available for adoption and 588,000 in the foster care system in America. One social service agent estimates that only about a third of foster care families are self-described Christians. The sad truth is, if Christians in America were serious about the biblical mandate (James 1:27) to care for the orphan, then homosexual adoption would not be an issue.

    Compare the total number of children who are adoptable and in the foster care system with the total number of evangelical and catholic households in America, approximately 688,000 to over 55,000,000 respectively. The question begs, why are there any adoptable children available and why are not all foster care temporary families evangelical or catholic.

    So where does that leave us? Can we legitimately argue against homosexual adoptions? We can but not without substantial humiliation given the current shortage of Christian families who are willing to care for the orphan.

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Church-enabled Singleness - Part 1

    Pew Internet and American Life Project just released a survey on the state of relationships in American. It reports that only 22% of singles ages 18-29 are actively looking for a romantic partner. The rest, I suppose, fall somewhere between "currently involved" and "satisfied with hooking-up."

    The intentional delay of marriage has been the subject of growing media attention over the last few years and culimnated with last year's Time Magazine article about "twixters," adult aged kids who refuse to grow up. The data shows that in one generation's time, the number of single adults has doubled. Many sociologists assert that the shift is permanent and society should simply accept this new reality and adjust accordingly. Apparently, churches agree.

    When the single segment began to grow within churches in the late '80s and early '90s, singles ministry "how to" books began to pop-up and to a fault began affirming the single lifestyle. In two such books, Starting a Single Adult Ministry and Single Adult Ministry: The Next Step, the main emphasis is to "recognize that the single lifestyle" is the appropriate option to being married.

    "What's the problem?" you may ask. "We don't want to treat singles as second class citizens becaue they aren't married." No certainly, we do not. However, the problem with church-enabled singleness is that it ignores what Dr. Alber Mohler has characterized as "the societal wreckage" caused by prolonged singleness:
    • Years and years of sexual frustration, often leading to sexual sin (read What are you waiting for?)
    • Increased infertility as couples marry after their peak fertility years
    • Difficulty merging adult patterns of behavior within marriage that were established living much of their adult lives as individuals

    Dr. Mohler exhorts young adults to think of marriage, not as something that's out there somewhere on the horizon, but as one of the nearest responsibilities they now face. After all, rarely does marriage just happen.