Bare Minimum

I have fantastic children, but sometimes they provoke a lecture that usually turns into one of these blog posts. 

One such example recently has been about bare minimum people. People who only do the bare minimum required to get by. Barely meeting expectations, but no more. My children are not these people but at times they clone these behaviors. 

To be truly exceptional you only have to do a little bit more than required each time. Over the long haul this little bit extra each time has a compounding effect, not only in the direct results, but also in the type of person you are becoming and the person that people see. It’s a very small code change in our thought programming, but it can positively propel the trajectory of our lives. 

Read The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. This is his concept, not mine. I’m just using it to teach my kids. 

Out of Pocket

I caught myself saying that to Arthur the other day. He was trying to make plans with me and I told him that I would be out of pocket several days.

Really?

Out of pocket? Did I just say that, I asked him. Yes you did, he replied.

I don’t talk like that. What does “out of pocket” even mean? How are people from other nationalities supposed to understand us? Or is that the point? We’ve developed our own code talk just for us. Can you imagine saying “I’m out of pocket those days” to someone learning English? He’d probably look down and around your pockets thinking you’re about to whip something out. Or back up suspecting you’re about to rip him off.

But yet those words came out of my mouth. How easily we adopt the words and nuances of our culture. The Word says not to conform to the patterns of this world and there I was just conforming away. And I’m a 47 year old man who’s not easily persuaded.

Just ask my wife. Or anyone who knows me.

What about our kids who we’ve tried to raise to love Jesus and the Bible? We expect them not to relent at times to the endless pull and attraction of the world? That’s why as parents we can never let up, never grow weary in doing the good and right things by and for our children. It can be exhausting because they are exhausting(I love you kids), but they are a gift from The Lord that we chose to bring into this world.

We can never be out of pocket for them.

Pay Now or Pay Later

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I really had a flash moment of feeling old this morning.

I was filling up a Sunday through Saturday pill container. Isn’t that what old people do?

But I was filling it up with vitamins and supplements, not prescriptions. Those things may eventually enter my life, but I’m fighting against them. It’s expensive, though to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I need to buy stock in GNC.

Then it occurred to me that our bodies do demand a price from us. Since the Fall of Man our bodies begin a process of dying from the moment we are born. If we do nothing to care for them, like cars, they fall apart faster and require medicines, surgeries and frequent doctor visits. All very expensive.

Either way, you pay.

I have to admit that some old people ideas aren’t bad. The daily pill box is actually very efficient.

Agendas

I always want my own way.

Always.

And I usually get edgy when things don’t go my way.

But the Holy Spirit gave me a teaching today. Today is Valentine’s Day, of course and further more, it’s my 23rd anniversary, so Sandra and I wanted to do something special with our kids while they’re still willing to hang around us. As a leader of the family I feel it’s my duty to make the plans so we don’t all pile in the car and look at each other saying,

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know.”

Been there. Done that.

So I scheme up the agenda. Then when I begin to execute the agenda, I get agitated when someone else tosses in his/her last second ideas that makes my plans go sideways. Where were you in the early planning stages? I devised the dang plan and we’re going to stick to it and we’re going to have a flipping fantastic time doing it. Okay?

Enter the Holy Spirit. And thankfully early enough to catch me before the day gets started. It’s good that you made the plan, Dennis. Plans are good. Leaders should plan. But don’t get frustrated at other people’s ideas. Embrace them, encourage them because they might actually be good and even better, yes, even better than yours. Go with it. Be flexible. The purpose of the plan is to have opportunities to create special memories with your family. Don’t be so arrogant as to think you are the only one capable of a good idea and they may enjoy the day more if they can actually contribute to the plan. Even if it is last minute.

But if they have no ideas, you have the plan. As a leader should.

 

Pizza Rolls

Why did I eat that first cold, stale, leftover pizza roll?

Then why did I eat the second?

And the third?

And the fourth?

My short-term memory isn’t great, but it isn’t that short. Each one tasted as bad as the previous one, yet I kept eating. And now my stomach is queasy. I’ve lost 25 pounds since September, so I don’t even eat junk like that anymore.

So what was I thinking?

I wasn’t. It was an impulsive surrender to temptation. A quick fix to satisfy a hunger.

Such things usually make a person sick.

 

You Get What You Pay For

Or do you?

I was recently in my favorite nutrition store and I asked the manager about the difference between his store brand protein powder and the kind I can buy in Walmart for half the price. “You get what you pay for” was his response. Maybe that’s true in this case, but the answer is far from scientific and my mind is far more curious than that.

After all, I could make a widget like thousands of other widgets and mine could genuinely be subpar in quality and workmanship, but I charge twice the going rate for my widget. “You get what you pay for” implies that my widget is better because it’s more expensive(but I can ensure you it’s not unless the widget is a meat product off my Big Green Egg). So, the lesson is that you can’t really always rely on this oversimplistic response unless it’s obvious. Yes, a Mercedes is better than a Kia.

You have to do your own research and figure it out. I haven’t taken the time to research protein powders, so I bought the Walmart brand.

I can attest that there is one case in which “You get what you pay for” certainly does not apply.

Salvation.

It cost me nothing.

And for those who haven’t accepted this free gift, it will cost them everything.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Rooftops

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It’s a small thrill to be on a rooftop walking around and getting a bird’s eye view of the world.

But for me it’s a tiny terror at the very height of the ladder when I have to shift my body onto the roof. There’s a second of shear faith involved when my foot leaves the last step and my knee and foot are in the air. It’s not like the rooftop has a handle to grip. But I guess that bit of danger is part of the thrill.

That terror and subsequent step of faith are probably similar to watching one of my daughters drive off in a car with a boy on her first date. That day is approaching, but I can’t predict that I’ll find it the least bit thrilling.

More On Toby

So Toby and I are making progress. It’s been almost a year. He will come within 10 feet of me now. If I am eating. And he’ll bark at me for food. 
I’ve played into his game by slipping him table food in an effort to win him over, but it hasn’t worked. In fact, I am the only one in the house who does and I’m still the only that he avoids like the plague. 

He’s just a taker. He uses me for food, but never gives emotionally of himself. I make other efforts, too. If someone is holding him, I will pet him with long, sweet strokes along his back. I read that dogs like that. And if I stop, he will nudge my hand to continue. Yet he still rejects me otherwise and it hurts. I have feelings, too. 

On the other hand, my oldest daughter, Keely, is his self appointed master. Wherever she is in the house, he is. Usually under her blanket. If she’s not home, then he’s in her room laying on her bed waiting. The rest of the family may be relaxing downstairs, but Toby will be in Keely’s bedroom. Alone. Waiting. And the truth is, she doesn’t even treat him all that well. No table scraps. I hardly ever see her petting him. And if she goes into a room and closes the door not allowing him in, he will scratch and paw at the door until it gets on everyone’s nerves bad enough that someone gets up and lets him in. But not our princess Keely. Once she gets comfortable, there’s no getting up. 

I don’t understand Toby’s blind and rather ignorant devotion to her. I try A LOT harder with Toby. 

But as a father maybe I should be happy. Maybe Keely is learning how to handle the opposite sex. 

Bad Books Revised

Now about Bad Books. I said there was a 98% chance that I wouldn’t finish the book. Well, you can’t count out the 2%. Even the slightest of odds still have a chance or it would be zero(which is an idea posed in the book, not my own). I decided to finish because this is the year I’m working on consistency and perseverance. Finishing what I start, so not finishing the book would be a bad way to start the year. Setting the wrong trajectory.

So I persevered. And it turned out to be a very good read. Since I’m not bashing it anymore, I’ll share the title. I mean after all, it did win an Edgar Award, so it stands to reason I was wrong, huh? It’s The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters. As I stated, it turned out very good and the main character was developed slowly, methodically and with great craftsmanship. The slow part was getting to me in the beginning.

I gave the 2% room to breathe and I was rewarded. Slim odds, a long shot, but did anyone sitting at the Cross of Jesus give Him 2% or was the Resurrection at 0 odds?

Bad Books

I’m reading a book and according to Kindle, I’m 41% through it. But I’m about 97% sure I’m done with it. 

It’s a novel and I’ve learned that reading helps me get through 60 minutes on the elliptical machine. However, a book needs to be more than a tool for misery management. It should do at least one of 3 things: entertain, educate or encourage. The trifecta would be a book that does all 3. 

At 41% a person needs to take an assessment. Life is too short to read bad books. One could die on the elliptical machine. 

Any book suggestions for the new year? 

Golden Arches

I love my family. And every time I am sent on an errand that puts me in the drive-thru line under the golden arches, it proves my undying love, devotion and sacrificial spirit I have for my family. 

Yes, that begs the question of how I can love my family yet support this dietary habit, but no love is perfect. It is supposed to be patient, but I’ve about lost my patience for waiting on french fries. If I did a statistical analysis of item sales, I bet I could prove that french fries are the number 1 selling product at this FAST FOOD franchise, yet EVERYTIME I am sent to fetch them, it’s anything but fast. I can get a triple espresso double vanilla latte with a lime twist in a nano second, but “sorry, we are waiting on your fries” is always the response from the smiling drive-thru attendant. 

How can you not have fries ready?

But as a Christian, how can I yell at my wife and kids? Or tell a white lie? Or live with unresolved bitterness towards someone?

Sorry. You will be waiting on an answer to those questions. 

It’s A Wonderful Life

Its a wonderful life

This is one of my all time favorite movies and definitely my fave Christmas movie. I’ve watched it most years for the past 20 and something new hits me every time. This year was no different and I’d like to share my 2014 IAWL revelation. You’ll probably think, “You dimwit, that was one of the main points and you’re just now getting it?”

Yes. I didn’t attract my beautiful wife with intellect.

Anyway, George had big, wild-eyed dreams and plans from the time he was old enough to say “hee-haw”. As you probably know, the pattern for George’s life was that he sacrificed all of his plans for other people; his brother, his father, the Bailey Building & Loan, the townspeople and even his guardian angel, Clarence. At the end, George looked back on his life and ate a big, sour slice of self-pity until Clarence showed him what everyone’s life and fate would have been if he hadn’t been born.

My revelation is this: George had his plans, but God had HIS plans. And even though George’s plans didn’t work out, God used George’s plan preparations to fulfill His plan.

Case in point:

George’s plan: George saved thousands of dollars for college and a worldwide adventure. Then the Building & Loan was almost forced to shut down unless George took over.

God’s plan: George didn’t go to college and the college savings was used for George’s little brother, Harry. This set Harry off into a trajectory that led him to shoot down a Japanese war plane that would have suicide-crashed into an American aircraft carrier killing hundreds of soldiers.

George’s plan: He saved thousands more dollars to take his wife, Mary on an extravagent honeymoon. Then the Stock Market crashed and there was a run on the banks. People wanted to withdrawal all of their money which would have put the Building & Loan out of business.

God’s plan: George used the honeymoon money to appease his customers by persuading them to take loans from him personally to get by instead of cashing out. This again saved the Building & Loan and as you know, the Building & Loan is the only thing that saved the town from the wrath of the ol’ meanie Mr. Potter.

So does this mean that we shouldn’t plan? Of course not. The Bible says in Proverbs 21:5, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit” . And if George hadn’t been planning for his future, he wouldn’t have had the resources to help Harry or save the Building & Loan.

George had great plans and God used those plans to do great things, just not how George expected. We have to remember that as we think our lives are going awry. Instead of choosing self-pity, maybe we should praise God for the wonderful life He has blessed us with and consider any alterations to our plans as His protection for our lives and blessings to others.

The Pursuit of God

I should have seen it coming. No, not the object in the road that flattened my tire on my way home. No, not the deteriorated spare tire that went flat 400 feet further down the road.

I’m not perfect. Anyone would miss those things. 

I’m talking about God’s intention for me to read Tozer’s, The Pursuit of God. My friend, Cheryl first suggested it. Ok, maybe I’ll get around to it. Then my small group friend, Dave, suggested it for our next study. Hmm, maybe I’ll take a look. I found it on the Internet free in the public domain. I read a few sentences and it looked like a hard read. Maybe later. I have a novel to finish. 

Then I was passing through our living room a couple of days later and noticed my 17 year old daughter reading what? You guessed it. 

Three separate Tozer encounters in less than a week. Yet, did I start reading? Of course, am I an idiot? Sort of. I read 3 pages. I still had my novel to finish. 

Then on the way home this morning I ran over something and had a flat tire. I changed it quickly and was back on the road. 

But not for long. The old spare went flat. I called AAA. No worries. Except that it may be a 90 minute wait. What to do?

I felt the gentle nudge of God. Tozer. I’ve been trying to tell you. 

So I read chapter 1 and I know that it was meant for me. Tozer closes the chapter with this prayer. 

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, any love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Amen. 

Calm and Cool Will

I wish I was more like my son. Will is 8 years old and today is his 4th surgery to repair his bilateral cleft lip. Throw in a hernia surgery 4 years ago and he’s up to 5 surgeries in his short life.

How does he handle the anxiety of these surgeries? Better than me. We were with him this morning in the pre-op room and I’ve seen him much more uptight playing Minecraft. But I’m highly agitated by the 12 year old year girl playing on the kiddie tool bench in the children’s waiting room and her older brother who can’t make up his mind. Do I stay or do I go? He keeps going in and out of the door.

How am I supposed to nap?

I ask the lady at the desk if there’s another waiting room and I discover that she’s my angel of mercy. She moves us into a private family (did I say single family?) waiting room with comfortable chairs and a couch. And no annoying kids.

The Lord is so good. (The tall guy is our world class, miracle working pediatric surgeon, Dr. Matthews, who has been on this journey with us since before Will was born).

Will and Dr. Matthews

Our Morality Experts

As I write this, sweat is dropping off my pot belly onto my flip flops while I assist my daughter, Shelby in her volunteer assignment at Matthews Alive. We are working the information booth. How did I end up here on a 90 degree midday Sunday?

Oh, yeah, my wife.

Anyway, I’ve struggled with the sunbrella they have for our booth. It’s barely big enough and the stitching on
2 sides is broken preventing it from fully stretching out. While taking a break from this task, I began to read a little pamphlet that someone left at our station. It was about the cruelty and horrors of eating meat. There were pictures and quotes from Hollywood and pop stars about how animals have feelings and it’s wrong to eat them.

Not one scientific or educated opinion was given.

We really do take our moral cues from Hollywood. How sad. Have you noticed the movies and songs they are putting out? And they think they can give anyone advice on morality?

Well, the pamphlet was useful. I folded it up tightly and used it to fix the sunbrella.

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Happy Birthday, Keely!

The story goes like so…a naval captain was out at sea late one very cloudy night and he saw the lights of an approaching ship. He announced loudly over the radio waves, “I am the captain of the USS Minnow. You are in my path. I command you by authority of the United States government to alter course.” 
 
No response. 
 
He made the announcement a second time. 
 
No response. 
 
The third time he was angry. And he was getting closer to the light. 
 
“Alter course immediately or face prosecution by the United States government. I am a captain in the Navy. “
 
This finally rendered a response. 
 
“Sorry, captain. You will have to change course. I am the lighthouse.”
 
My lighthouse turns 17 years old today. If you know Keely you know what I mean. She is a light and she’s so grounded that she’s darn near unshakeable. 
 
Happy birthday!
 
She is wise beyond her years and more self-assured than most adults I know. She is a puzzle for sure. Many people would assume that her quite nature is an indication that she’s shy, timid and unsure of herself. Many people would be wrong. She’s just smarter than most of us.
 
Her uncle Joel and her cousin, Sedona can testify. They took Keely to an Elevation Church “meet the worship pastors” event a few years ago. It was a chance to meet them and get autographs. At the event Keely got separated from Joel and Sedona and found them a bit later. She asked if they were ready to leave. Joel, being the good uncle he is said, “We’ve only met one of the worship pastors so far. Do you want to hang with us and we can help you meet them?” 
 
Keely responded, “No, I’m ready. I’ve already met them and got all of their autographs.”
 
That’s my girl. She is not afraid. 
 
We actually committed to Elevation during a time when we were looking around because she came to us one Sunday morning and had a heart to heart with us. “I’m tired of looking around. I want to go to Elevation. I can work it out with Uncle Joel to ride with him.” The Lord had not led us elsewhere, so a child shall lead them. 
 
She was then the first one to join a volunteer group and the first to join a small group. She was 12. 
 
She’s such an amazing young lady. Keely is a gifted cook, has a great eye for photography and is a talented musician. And people are starting to recognize that she is indeed a very special person. Elevation recently asked her to be a student leader and Jerry, her guitar instructor asked her to coach some of his younger students. I’m jealous that my hidden jewel of a secret is getting discovered. I’ve had her to myself for 17 years. I’m not ready to share.
 
 It seems like just yesterday that I squirted her with a water hose and she scolded me, “That’s not nice, daddy. Say you’re sorry.” 
 
“You’re right, Keely. I’m sorry.” 
 
“That’s ok. You’ll be nice next time.” 
 
Even strangers love her and serenade her.
 
What’s not to love?
 
I love you, Keely. Have a fantastic day. You deserve it! 

A Single Phone Call

A single phone call can change your life or at least your day.

Yesterday morning, a Saturday, I rose at 8am, read my Bible, showered and headed downstairs to start the day. I googled a couple of websites as I planned to cook ribs and a brisquet in the afternoon on my Big Green Egg and let the aromas make my neighbors hate me.

I ate 3 eggs, logged them in Myfitnesspal, put on my shoes and was almost out the door on a walk with Sandra and Will. The day was picture perfect with a beautiful blue sky and low humidity.

A great day to be outside.

When I returned I would wake up the girls to have them help me clean and wash the van to prepare it to sell. They would be so happy.

My day was planned and would end with me wiping bbq sauce off my face and unsnapping my pants to create more space to stuff more ribs.

Then the phone rang at 9:11am.

Hmmm, interesting. I just realized the time.

Because my father’s next call was to 911.

My mother was having difficulty breathing. And she’s the one with much better health.

All of the day’s plans faded to black as Sandra and I hustled over to my parents. Come to find out, my mom had fallen the day before and the fall cracked 3 ribs and punctured her lung.
I pray and believe that she is on the mend now and I guess that it makes me feel better that her breathing problems were a result of an accident and not just poor health.

But it did make me realize again that life is fragile and our plans can change in a nanosecond. I waited helplessly under artificial lighting and subarctic temperatures all day in the hospital and while the day did end up being about ribs, they weren’t the Sweet Baby Ray ribs my appetite craved.

Another day, another plan.

Romans 8:28

God showed me Romans 8:28 over 17 years ago and He has proved it to me over and over since.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

So after spending $350 on my riding mower early this Spring, I was not happy when it broke down again with a different issue. My lawnmower repair budget was shot. Either we eat or fix the mower.

I chose food.

But then I realized that I had never taught my 2 teenage daughters how to use a push mower. Shame on me. Such a valuable life skill in which I’ve deprived them.

With almost an acre, there’s plenty of training ground.

Then The Lord showed me that push mowing is great exercise. For all of us. I am the only one that I allow to cut the front yard, so we all get our workout.

Life skills and exercise.

God even works things out for our good when our lawnmowers break down.

He will if we let Him.

My Princess

My wife said to me today that her daddy loved her and treated her like a princess and she didn’t understand why I had a problem doing the same.

Of course, I was rubbing her feet when she said it.

It was good for a laugh.

But there’s some truth to her statement. If we men could swallow our pride and selfishness and treat our wives like royalty, then maybe more than 50% of marriages would survive.

Gotta go. Feet to rub.

Two Ideas

On Monday night I joined with my small group brothers in an accountability pact to eat healthy and exercise.

I’m on day 3. The longest journey begins…yada, yada, yada. But so far so good except for my last walk. I decided to take Toby for more bonding time. We need it. He still thinks I’m the Anti-Christ.

But I discovered that he’s lazier than me. I tried to maintain a brisk pace which totally did not appeal to him. He had to stop and mark off every sign pole, pause for a nap at every shady spot and constantly fought me to turn back and go home.

tobyyawning

My daughters have created a divo(male diva in case you didn’t know and I didn’t either).

So I thought that merging my exercise goals with Toby’s reparative therapy was a fantastic idea, however I was proven wrong. It’s happened once before.

I guess that two ideas don’t always mix as well as chocolate and peanut butter.

Now that’s really not good for my diet.