Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reflections on finding our home

If' you've kept up with my wife's blog, then you may have seen that we found a home while in Philly (for those of you who think of the potential length of purchasing your first home, we found ours in 2 days and will have settled on it in less than a month). I spend a lot of time looking up crime maps, neighborhood statistics, and home values before we left for the City of Brotherly Love, but it still seems as if it is not enough. Of course, most of the data is dated and I think it's difficult to determine what crime will look like from year to year unless there is a trend in the statistics (i.e. a gradual increase or a gradual decrease - spikes will occur, but you just don't know when).

Altogether, I think that we're getting a super deal. Except for the framing of the house, it is practically new (new hardwoods, marble tile, granite counter tops, etc.). The framing itself is old growth wood and our home inspector told us that old growth is 4x's as strong as new growth.

We are still lacking an appraisal, but I'm sure it will come along fine - or at least I hope it will.

Here are a few reflections that probably have less to do with the actual house and more to do with areas and neighborhoods.

First off, we're not really living where I first wanted to live - much of this comes specifically due to price. That's no big deal though, I personally love our location. We're about a 5-10 minute drive from City Center (where all the tall buildings are), really close to Ikea and other big box stores (Lowes, Home Depot, Target), about a 5-10 minute drive from Trader Joe's (who don't sell alcoholic bev's in Philly, unlike California), a 2 block walk from the subway, and very close to various small restaurants and grocery stores.

Secondly, the area in which we live is not necessarily "soft." I hope I don't scare any of you away in this (because we sincerely want visitors to our home - we have a security system!), but Laura found a website that listed areas close to our neighborhood as a "Crime Hotspots." To be sure, North Philadelphia is a far more dangerous area. Still, this has aroused some arguing between us. The offer was already on the table, and I don't think that we can (or would want - either of us) to withdraw it now. In another way, this does excite me though. I think that it may be presumptuous to walk into an area and say, "Geez, these folks really need my help," without thinking that God might be putting you in a place because you yourself need help. So, I don't want to do that. I think it is obvious, however, that the neighborhood could use some tidying. Philadelphia is a generally dirty city, and we're excited to do our part as good stewards of the tamed earth.

A third reflection is gentrification. The very word ties the last two reflections together. It wasn't until after our first day of home shopping that it even occurred to me to think of the financial impact we would have on certain neighborhoods. Before we actually went to visit, my first pick was Brewerytown (not because of the name, but because of the location). Once I started reading a few articles about it, my interest waned. Laura was happy about this because it was hard to imagine waking up every morning to chain link fenced in yards fill with trash and walls covered with graffiti.

A more underlying issue for me (and, even where we're buying now) is whether or not we'll be able to relate to our neighbors. Both neighborhoods are predominantly African American - this is not a dilemma to me, I've had friends throughout my who life who are. More importantly, I think nearly 25% (according to an article 3 years ago?) of the population in the entire city lives under the poverty line. I don't know off hand what it is in our neighborhood, but I know that property values are on the increase. I know that when property values increase, property taxes increase. When that happens, the poor are no longer able to sustain a viable life where they are and are pushed further out.

Brewerytown is already seeing some of the ramifications of gentrification - there has been a neighborhood back lash in some areas in response to the razing of dilapidated buildings and the raising of modern condos. I see some signs of that in South Philly - our own home, in fact, was a shell 4 months ago and was totally renovated.

Altogether, it just seems that it may be difficult to be a good neighbor if we're automatically seen as an enemy (which we more than likely would have been seen as in Brewerytown). If you can believe it, I look forward to seeing how we can overcome social barriers and fit in to the complexity of this social structure.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

How Blessed...

μακάριοι = makárioi = blessed
The Spiros Zodhiates Complete Wordstudy Dictionary says that Classical Greek tends to use this word to describe the "hereafter," but that Jesus is using it to describe what is happening currently. What blessed actually means here is to be fully satisfied now.

So we look at the beatitudes (the first 11 verses in Matthew 5, apart from verse one) to read Jesus telling these people, "Completely and currently satisfied are..." Maybe this is where C.S. Lewis told us that he felt like someone was beating him on the head with a sledge hammer - I mean, how easy is it to be completely satisfied anyways?

The circumstances in which Jesus proclaims those who are completely and currently satisfied now aren't exactly easy in the strictest of senses. However, if we can grasp what he is saying and the context in which he is saying it then the promise is that we can be now and fully satisfied.

For example, He first says, "
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." A little further translation might yield, "How fully and currently satisfied are those who understand the very seat of all their affections to be absolutely destitute for theirs is present and future kingdom of God." The hope for those who believe themselves to be found in Christ is adverse to the very method by which you would win God's favor in any other religion, right? Christ says that to have the kingdom of heaven, you must think of yourself as spiritually destitute.

Of course, this is not what you are probably familiar with when you think of much of the North American Christian Culture - and really, I'm not trying to fight that battle with this post. What I am saying is that our entire frame of mind (regardless of where we are and where we originate culturally) necessitates a transformation by the Spirit of God. That very transformation not only allows but also indefinitely and undeniably causes us the see the impotence of our striving for the sake of seeing the fullness of Christ. I heard Steve Brown say on a local radio station that if we believe the gospel, then we don't have to pretend as if we are good anymore.

The problem in life (at least for me) is that I rarely (if ever) see myself as spiritually impotent. Altogether, it is an indication that I don't believe that God is as holy as He says He is or that I don't believe that I'm was as dead as He said I was.

The joy of the life of the believer in Christ is that hope is found in believing that we are who we really are - completely unable to do anything perfect and so imperfect that our very spirit (the seat of our affections) is found to be dead - and that Christ is the righteousness by which we stand before God.

resources used:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How To: Parking in Philadelphia

1. Park in an area without looking at the signs (because you think $21.00 is a ridiculous fee for parking per night).
2. Leave car overnight.
3. Wake up at 7:45am, go to street, realize car is missing.
4. Look at sign, realize that cars left after 7:00am will be towed at owners expense.
5. Kick yourself for not listning to your wife 45 minutes ago when she said "Shouldn't we move the car?"
6. Call the Philadelphia Parking Authority numerous times and get disconnected (also numerous times) while using their "helpful automated" system.
7. Rejoice at the fact that now you'll know where Ikea is since it is in front of the impound lot.
8. Have your Prudential Fox and Roach Buyers' Agent drive you to the impound lot.
9. Pay a $125 tow fee and think, "Gee, that was cheap."
10. Call rental car service 10 times before talking to an actual person. Have them fax the rental agreement to the impound since you obviously can't find yours.
11. Call your insurance agent to have them fax proof of insurance since the only cards you carry are expired (even though you are, indeed, an insurance adjuster and realize how stupid it is to drive without proof of insurance).
12. Go back to receive the proof of insurance and rental agreement from the PPA clerk...along with your $41.00 parking fine.
13. Get your car and park in the same place.
14. Put 30 cents in the meter (because you don't carry cash, only plastic).
15. Get three dollars from your wife and walk around the neighborhood for half an hour looking for someone to make change.
16. Buy two Philadelphia soft pretzels and make change out of the remaining 2 dollars.
17. Place one quarter in your meter. Realize that you only have 20 minutes to move your car because you now heed the sign and realize that vehicles must be moved before 4:00pm (it is currently 3:40).
18. Sit in your hotel room with your wife for 20 minutes as you look at Philadelphia home listings.
19. Go back to your car at 4:00pm.
20. Arrive at your car at 4:04pm.
21. Thank God that your car wasn't towed.
22. Enter your vehicle.
23. Become angry when you see that there is, indeed, another traffic fine sitting on your passenger side window.
24. Open envelope and realize that you owe Philadelphia another $41 bucks.

Here's the deal. We figure the Lord is trying to teach us something about stewardship, or trust, or something and that all of this has been some what of a disciplinary process. You see, Laura gave up her seat in Atlanta (for those of you who don't know, we flew to Philly on two seperate airlines to save some cash) and received a $200 travel voucher and a $7 food voucher. The total of my towing and two tickets equals the amount she made by giving up her seat (that's right, $207).

I mean, honestly, who charges such a strange amound ($41) for a ticket anyways?

Hello city, we are here to join your ranks!

Thursday, April 05, 2007


I don't usually put videos here, but I found this guy through Su's blog.

At this point, I've probably wasted the past 45 minutes watching his junk on youtube, but you can also check it out @ His name (assumably) is Billy Reid, and he is both ridiculous and worth watching!

Enjoy wasting your time as well.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A new game (general announcement)...

If you haven't noticed, there's a new blog on my links list. I've started a new blog called Twilleynomics. Because the content there won't be as dense as what I usually post here, it will probably be updated more often. The site us basically about my quirky economic world. My hope is that it will be both helpful and entertaining. Check it out!

More to be seen from the SotM soon though - thanks for the comments thus far.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Kicked in the face like Danny LaRusso

I remember that Brian had quoted C.S. Lewis regarding the Sermon on the Mount a few years ago as the Collegiate pastor at Briarwood and I thought that it would be worth finding (googling) and posting here.

“As to ‘caring for’ the Sermon on the Mount, if ‘caring for’ here means ‘liking’ or enjoying, I suppose no one ‘cares for’ it. Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledge-hammer? I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of the man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure." - C.S. Lewis

From time to time, I find myself gravitating towards this very passage. It wasn't until recently that I was "knocked on my face," by it, however. It came at the end of the sermon when Jesus said, "Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who build his house on the rock." Maybe it's strange to you, but it hit me hard because even by a casual reading of these chapters I can see how poor my spirit is. Right now, I'm hitting the study deep, and I'll post some of what I'm learning here as Jesus keeps kicking me in the face like Danny Larusso taking out his opponents with a Crane Kick.