Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 22

Last night I decided to stay in and nest. While it might not always be my first choice, I enjoy it from time to time. The wife went out with her friends for a little dancing and drinking. Years ago I would have protested such a plan, but I understand that she needs her time. I dropped her off at about 8pm and had the rest of the night to myself. When a man has a full evening of free time there are a few things that come to mind.

2352 By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. "Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action." "The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose." For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of "the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved."

I mostly read, but also spent some time organizing my game plan for our return to the US while slowly strumming my old guitar. I'm one bad guitar player, though. I've been incrementally learning the thing, but just like everyone else, I have quit much more than I have learned. This time I'm going to learn it. Right.

Planning for repatriation is an odd feeling. I mean, I'm about as American as they come, but I have students who know more about current American pop-culture than I do.  From time to time, I'll be asked something very specific about fashion or lingo in American culture and since I have no clue, I typically offer my trademark deflection, "I don't know, I'm a 2005 American."

The America I left had George W. Bush in the White House and the GOP in control. I left an America where Obama was just a freshman Senator who made a kick-ass keynote speech at the 2004 DNC and Sarah Palin was where she should be --out of sight. I left a group of single friends who basically all lived in the same city. We were spectacular drunks. I left a sister who didn't have any children. I left with pretty much no money in my bank account, no international travel and no real desire to get into a relationship.

Now, the entire game has changed. Bush is long gone, but now the loons on the right are starting to miss him. The Dems have control and will keep it until 2012, but their momentum has faded. Obama won the election easily and now the people are turning on him. Most of my friends have finished grad school and are getting married. )We might all still be drunks, though.) My sister and brother-in-law have two adorable children and are settled in for the long haul.

That leaves me. Of course, it's not just me. I am now married and have a dog. We have a lot of money in the bank (more than enough for a house, furniture, a couple cars and a world tour). We own a huge amount of land in Yeoju and I've managed to travel around Asia pretty extensively. All of that sounds great, right? I'm not sure. Is accumulating stuff good?

I'm facing a dilemma that is tricky for the 27-year old and normal for the 67-year old. I get no pleasure in stuff. The number that represents my savings is just a number. It doesn't have the same feel as pirates booty might. The stuff in my apartment will mostly be sold before we head back and my clothes will all fade and eventually decompose. I'm tired of stuff and even more tired of accumulating it. 

But wasn't that the real point of college?

This is a problem for a young married man who will start a family in a few years. Both Matthew and Luke tell me not to worry about food and money and instead let God provide what I need. I'm told that I "cannot serve both God and money" and  it makes sense, but doesn't work in this modern world. God does provide me with everything I need, but I live in Seoul. I can't forage for food and live happily in a hill-side home. God might have given me the tools to succeed, but I'm starting to think those tools were not his but societies.

How can I find the balance?

If I focus too much on what I want rather than what I need, I will ultimately lose both. However, if I don't worry about those things, then I might be seeing God sooner than planned. 
"Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less?" -Thoreau from Walden
Brilliance. I'm not sure what I will learn from this year-long adventure, but I'm certain I will understand myself better than before. I've only gotten through two texts of major religions so far and already I am finding true happiness in what I already have. That's what Luke and Matthew meant, not that God will give us stuff. We have the tools for happiness.

Let me tell you a quick story. 

My sister is cheap careful with money. I said it. She didn't used to be this way though. When the whole gang goes out or we go on vacation, she usually opts for eating-in rather than dining-out. My mother and I would always get frustrated with this. We would make snide comments about her being too cheap and no fun. Now, however, I see what's going on. Whether she knows it or not, she's protecting herself from becoming a slave to greed. By being careful with her funds, she's allowing herself to focus on her own happiness. She's finding the joy in less. 

I need to find the joy in less. Or rather, I need to find the power to find the joy in less. 


  1. Nice to read your "rehabilitation" of your sister!

  2. "Cheap" ;) I'm okay with that....we have our priorities and in order to maintain them, we have to live on less than we make and when you don't get a raise for 4 yrs b/c of this awesome appears cheap.

    Seriously, I have changed dramatically in the last 10 yrs when it comes to money....which is a good thing. Actually, my most drastic change was when we had Hattie and the plan was for me to stay home. That was a scary and tough transition for us, financially. Thankfully Trey and I are both dedicated to me being at home with the children and we form our lives around that priority. Also, thankfully, I have a frugal hubby who is great at saving money.

    Probably my motto since becoming a stay at home mama has been a slogan that was popular during WWII (I believe). I memorized it as soon as I saw it the first time and have to regularly remind myself of it.

    "WEAR IT OUT, USE IT UP, MAKE IT WORK, OR DO WITHOUT." I LOVE it! Wouldn't the U.S. (or world) be a better place if we all lived by that? Wouldn't we be leaving our children with a better world to live in as well?

    One of my favorite books on the subject of living in light of eternity when it comes to finances is Money, Possessions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn. I read this within a couple of months of becoming a Christian and have had the following quotes hanging on my fridge ever since:

    "And so it is, that when a man walks along a road, the lighter he travel, the happier he is; equally, on this journey of life, a man is more blessed if he does not pant beneath a burden of riches." -Tertullan

    "Obedience to the Great Commission has more consistently been poisoned by affluence than by anything else." -Ralph Winter

    "In seeking a higher standard of living we are in danger of sacrificing a higher standard of life"- Randy Alcorn (SO TRUE!)

    "Giving away what we don't need is the greatest cure for materialism"- R. Alcorn

    "If I want my heart to be in one particular place and not in another, then I need to put my money in that place and not another. Your heart, will never be where your money is not." R. Alcorn

    ... and maybe my favorite...

    "That bread which you keep belongs to the hungry; that coat which you preserve in your wardrobe; to the naked, those shoes which are rotting in your possession, to the shoeless; that gold which you have hidden in the ground, to the needy. Wherefore, as often as you are able to help others, and refuse, so often did you do them wrong." -Augustine