A Letter to Rich, the Young Ruler


Dear Rich,

What a pleasant surprise to receive a letter from you! Your previous letter said you’d been working 60 hours a week to get the promotion you wanted, and now I read that you’ve received it. Looks like your hard work has paid off. You certainly are living the American Dream!

Congratulations, too, on your new five-bedroom home and your new Porsche Cayenne. I’m sure your wife and kids are deliriously happy with both. Thanks also for the pictures from your recent vacation to St. Kitts. My, the twins sure have grown.

I read the printout you enclosed of the blog article written by the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. You agree with his contention that there’s no compelling reason to buy an Apple iPhone. That’s probably a wise decision.

In reading that article, though, I find his reasons for not buying an iPhone intriguing. Most of the reasons he cited were technological. I, for one, think a far better reason to avoid it exists.

In our previous correspondence, we’ve gone back and forth on Jesus and what it means to be a Christian. I know you are quite a spiritual person, a “seeker” as you say, but I believe being spiritual and religious doesn’t go far enough.

So, Rich, I’d like to consider a word you don’t hear much today: profligate. That’s a word I would have liked to have seen mentioned in the article from the Thomas Nelson CEO, but even companies that deal with words shy away from some of the less popular ones. Profligate is one of those words.

Here’s how the dictionary defines the term:


1. utterly and shamelessly immoral or dissipated; thoroughly dissolute.
2. recklessly prodigal or extravagant.

3. a profligate person.

I can’t help but think, Rich, that since perfectly good cell phones can be had for $50, the desire for one that costs ten times that much seems…well, profligate. No doubt, the iPhone reeks of style and trendiness, and no doubt, many people who claim to follow Jesus will buy one. I’m not sure, though, that those buyers understand the word profligate.

Let me tell you about some people I know. I know a couple who bought a small home in one of the worst neighborhoods in our city. He has a good job and could afford a much larger home, but he and his wife elected to use their extra money to meet the desperate needs of their poorer neighbors. I know a man who forgos the expensive medication he needs to feel better so he can help a woman who has no health insurance pay for the even more expensive cancer medication she needs. I know a family who sent $1000 of their hard-earned money to help an unemployed couple they had never met in person make a house payment so they could keep their home. I know a man who gave every cent he owned in the world to fund a missionary couple who would have been recalled. Those missionaries were in the middle of their translation of the Bible into a new language. They would’ve had to come home unless they raised enough money to complete the translation.

Funny thing is, those people I just mentioned don’t know the common, negative understanding of the word profligate either—but for a far different reason. They live a different way: the way of Christ. If they have any profligacy in their lives, it’s profligacy in giving, not taking.

You mentioned in your last letter that I sounded out of step with the rest of the world. Indeed, I fear I am. You see, for me, it’s not so much about accumulating the hip trinkets of this life, things that break, become obsolete, and ultimately do not satisfy the longings of the heart. That’s because I believe in a world far more real than this one, a world where hip trinkets pale in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, as you said, it’s a risky belief. It means not keeping up with the social standing of the rest of the world. I would probably never be voted into the wonderful country club you and Mrs. Ruler just got accepted to. But that’s okay, Rich. It really is.

Some Christians believe this world is not their home. They won’t be understood by the rest of the world, nor by some other people who say they believe in Jesus. They’ve said no to many of the things the world offers and that’s an exceedingly hard thing to do.

You see, Rich, it’s one thing to say you believe something. It’s another thing altogether to believe something so much that your life looks radically different from the rest of the crowd. The crowd says so many things and believes so many things, doesn’t it? But who is willing to die to the voice of majority and give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose? In a way then, the true profligate may be the one who appears to have every thing deemed good by the world’s standard, but will one day wind up losing it all in tears and flames. He has gained the world, but lost his soul.

I know my letter may not make sense to you. I’ll keep praying, though, that for all your seeking, God in His grace will make Himself known to you.

But I must caution you, Rich. If He does, and you take that revelation seriously, it may mean an end to one dream and the beginning of another. That new dream won’t look much like the old one, though. It may mean not only forgoing an iPhone, but giving up cell phones altogether. You may end up thinking it better to share those extra bedrooms in your new home with orphans or widows even if it means you could no longer afford that home theater system you said you might be purchasing. Don’t expect to be popular for electing not to keep up with the Joneses so you can minister life to others. The folks you run with probably won’t approve of your new dream. You may lose your standing at the country club. You may even be kicked out because you’re no longer one of the right kind of people.

But then again, that new dream’s the only dream that counts, the only one that ends in the Eternal Golden City. I pray I see you there.

For the Kingdom,

B. A. Disciple

“Arise, My Love, My Beautiful One, and Come Away”


Last Monday, the FedEx driver delivered a package for Christmas, the gift I bought my wife this year. Due to some good fortune, I found that gift for ten percent what it normally cost. We can't afford to have a big Christmas this year, so ninety percent off comes as a real boon.

Since we're literally the last house on the line, the people who built our house needed a power booster box in order for the electric to work right. For some reason they elected to put that box close to the house. When they added a second garage later, the bulky box wound up in the middle of the newly expanded driveway.

Typically, delivery drivers knock and hand me my package. I warn them about the box and all is well. But at Christmastime, drivers hustle, so they don't knock. The FedEx driver didn't, therefore he got no warning from me. You can guess the rest.

Homeschooling got derailed that day as I spent the afternoon contacting all the right parties to ensure that no one got killed from the damaged electrical box. My electric company brought out a crane truck to put the box back in place, then tested to make sure everything was safe.

Jump to this past Thursday morning.

I typically write this blog for the following day after 10PM the night before. Then I date it for just after midnight. For some reason, I wrote "We Need a Gospel That Speaks to Failure" early in the morning on Thursday, then posted it for just after midnight. Unbeknownst to me, as I was writing that post, failure poised to strike the Edelen household.

Shortly after taking a shower that seemed a bit chill, I walked down into my basement to find our hot water heater had exploded. Think how the Tasmanian Devil balloons after Bugs feeds him a cake made out of dynamite, freeze that image at the point of maximum Taz expansion, and you have a perfect image of what our hot water looked like.

Well, I know a man in our church who stood up at a recent men's meeting and declared his plumbing business needed more clients. Being a freelance writer, I know how hard it is for independent contractors to get work. So even though my tendency would be to go with the plumbing company I would typically call, I called the church guy instead.

The thought of another big, unexpected expense heavy on my mind, I contemplated the irony of the post I had waiting to go out later. Of course. Write about a trial; face the trial.

The church plumber tells me when he arrives that it wasn't the hot water heater that failed initially but the pressure regulator on the water line. With no pressure regulation, the hot water heater then blew. He didn't have a new pressure regulator with him.

Now I had a problem.

When you live in a town of 2,000 people, the sidewalks roll up at 6PM. My wall clock read 6:10 PM. To my surprise, a call to the local hardware store reveled they had extended hours that evening—and they had one pressure regulator in stock. Huzzah!

Wanting the job to go as quickly as possible, I told the church plumber that I'd go into town to get the regulator if he wanted to keep working. So my son and I jumped into my truck to head for the hardware store.

Pulling out of my garage, I had to maneuver into a portion of my gravel driveway I never drive over so I could avoid the plumber's truck. By the time I got to the end of my driveway, I noticed my truck handled sloppily. I didn't get 0.05 mile away from home before the thud, thud, thud behind me told me a sad story. Turning around, I limped up the driveway, and found a cotter bolt sticking out of my back tire. Between the tread and the sidewall. Where it can't be repaired. On an expensive 4×4 tire only ten months old.

Merry Christmas.

Oh, the bitter irony that the electrical company's crane would toss a cotter bolt that ended up destroying a perfectly good tire. Oh the extreme bitter irony that I should drive over that part of the driveway in order to get around the plumber's truck. Oh the heart crushing irony that all the money I saved on the item I bought for my wife that the FedEx guy delivered would be more than wiped out by the cost of a new tire.

And Thursday's trial's not over yet… 

{Tonto mode on}

Friday, much filled with appointments. Thirteen-year old spare on truck leak slowly. Ruined tire must be replaced. Appointments must be kept, else great trouble arise. Tire stores in town that can be reached on slowly leaking spare do not have tire. Dan must make dangerous trek over many miles of prairie to procure tire elsewhere, while making many appointments under far less than many moons.

By grace of the Great Spirit, Dan succeeds. Dan very much tired and grinding teeth. Dan not happy with last rising, setting, and rising of the sun.

{Tonto mode off}

I didn't go to church on Sunday. Once a year, for most of the last thirty years, I volunteer for the Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. I've been a birder since I was twelve, so I've got a little experience. The local Audubon Society president lives across the street from me, so we've gone out before to count. It's a good time with a friend and neighbor.

While I normally play drums every Sunday morning for worship, I'd already arranged for someone to fill in for me. Most of the Christmas Bird Counts I've done have been the Sunday after Christmas, but different Audubon clubs run the counts differently, so any Sunday over a four week period is possible. The Sunday before Christmas, I'm sure, wasn't the best time for me to be shirking my rhythmic duties. 

I don't miss church very often. I don't like to miss church. I need to be with God's people every Sunday.

The alarm goes off yesterday at 5:20 AM and I roll out of bed. The day is gorgeous, partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-60s—a rare confluence this time of the year in Southern Ohio. My neighbor, Rob, and I head out, eat breakfast with the counting crew, and hit our region to count.

Within hours, all the garbage from the week before drained out of me as I walked through God's Creation. I spotted a beautiful Ring-necked Pheasant and marveled at the power God built into its legs as it sprung into flight. Ring-necked PheasantI considered the Red-bellied Woodpecker's head, so wondrously made that it doesn't give itself a concussion hammering for bugs under tree bark. I watched the Northern Harrier hover in place, then trace lazy circles in the cerulean blue sky. I stood awed at a flock of Starlings twisting and turning in flight, but with no single bird leading the dizzying formation. The perfectly aerodynamic V formation of Mallards. The Belted Kingfisher's plunge into cool waters. The Kestrel's patient hunt for food.

Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings' palaces. Three things are stately in their tread; four are stately in their stride: the lion, which is mightiest among beasts and does not turn back before any; the strutting rooster, the he-goat, and a king whose army is with him.
—Proverbs 30:24-31 ESV

I worshiped God outdoors today. Carolina Wrens and Song Sparrows provided the special music. In the power and mystery of God's Creation, I heard the same words the Lord spoke to Job, and I asked myself, Who am I in light of so great a God?

When I walked through the doors of my house, I realized I hadn't considered my troubles all day. And I doubted that a Sunday spent in church would have led to the same release I found from the Creator's sparrows:

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
—Matthew 6:26-34 ESV 

Sometimes, God will speak to you apart from the fellowship of believers for a time of special, intimate healing. Listen for that time; this is what He'll say:

My beloved speaks and says to me: "Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.
—Song of Solomon 2:10-13 ESV 

Then let yourself be swept up in His arms.