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Custom Costs More
 by: Cory L. Kemp

CBS Sunday Morning recently dedicated a whole program to design. Exploring how we incorporate this powerful, creative tool into our lives was fascinating to consider. Designer food tempted taste buds. Designer puppies melted hearts. Designer household items stirred imaginations. But designer homes, they touched souls.

Our homes may not say everything about us, but they are a starting point for a conversation of our lifetimes. Our homes reflect the design of our lives. Frank Lloyd Wright, famed architect of numerous prairie-style homes, was also well-known for designing these structures down to the lamps on the tables and the silverware in the kitchen drawers. He believed the house should work as a cohesive whole from its beginning. While I respect and admire Mr. Wright's sense of how houses come to be, homes are another matter. Homes take time.

Most of us start our homes in apartments and move on to houses much less grand than the cohesive whole envisioned by a world-renowned architect. Ranches, bungalows, capes and colonials have welcomed many families with open arms. Thought of as starter homes, a place to get a footing by some, others find their niche immediately and stay forever. But as with many other things in life, it's not solely what you have, but also what you choose to do with it. While some people buy up to more elaborate, custom homes, some folks stay put and customize what they already have. Either way, there is a clear investment in creating something special out of a simple, basic beginning. Either way, this journey of transformation teaches us that custom costs more.

Consider that ranch house: three bedrooms, kitchen, dining area, living room and bath, and not quite enough closet space. Left in its original state, that is all it will ever be. But bring a vision to this doorstep, and these rooms expand, stretch and evolve into a personal haven, a neighborhood gathering place, a place of love and creativity. The tangibles may be added over time: a bump out to house the spa-quality steam shower off the master bedroom; an in-ground pool in the backyard; window seats next to the fireplace between the living and dining rooms. Everything takes time because everything also takes money. And unlike Frank Lloyd Wright's notion of completion from the beginning, sometimes living in an incomplete house helps in understanding the true nature of what the home needs to be. Custom costs more money, but it can also take more time.

Which, interestingly enough, is not so different than faith. We don't start out our lives with a complete, detailed understanding of what it means to live a faithful life. Time and experience are our allies in this creative process. We can, of course, choose to maintain a ranch house faith, leaving those five basic rooms plus dining area and bath just as they are when we move in. That means we wouldn't have to ask ourselves any tough questions about why we believe what we believe. We wouldn't have to think about understanding other people's beliefs either because that wouldn't matter to us. Overall it's probably easier and cheaper, and we wouldn't have to disturb our lives past the simplicity of "Jesus Loves Me," the Twenty-Third Psalm and the Lord's Prayer. That's plenty of faith for a lifetime, right?

A customized, lived-in faith will cost more. It will take time, attention, study, reflection and a significant amount of personal struggle. Paul wrote of this idea of engaging our faith in his letter to the Philippian church. "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence, but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)." Working out own own salvation is more than an interesting thought. It is a call to embody what we believe in thought, word and deed in conscious, daily living. We all start out with the basics, the Old Testament stories and prophecies, the parables and preaching of Jesus, Paul's letters to the emerging church. But each of us who claims a faith in God also has the glorious opportunity to receive all that God has invested in us from our beginning, discover it and make it our own, and return to our Creator with the gift of a well-lived, faithful life. Customized faith costs more, but the return on the investment is clearly worth the effort.

About The Author

Cory L. Kemp

As an ordained minister, Rev. Kemp has worked in both pastoral and educational ministries in several congregations. Her ministerial background and love of writing have combined to develop Creating Women Ministries, a website dedicated to encouraging theological dialogue, particularly among women, through workshops, journaling and personal spiritual development. Her book, You Don't see Many Chickens in Clearance: Essays on Faith and Living, can be purchased through Lulu Publishing at: Visit Creating Women Ministries at: for the e-book edition. Questions? Thoughts? Musings? She can be reached by email at: [email protected].

This article was posted on October 23, 2006


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