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.

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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.

Rednecks

What is our fascination with rednecks?

We love to watch them making duck calls, bootlegging moonshine, hunting in swamps, digging up ginseng, and riding their sofa through a field pulled by a pickup truck.

I’m not judging.

If they can profit off an audience who wants to watch them doing these things, more power to them.
Sure, they are being laughed at, not laughed with, but they are getting the last laugh.

All the way to the bank.

Everyday

Will likes to play the game, “what is your favorite…?” It may be color or number or recently he asked me what my favorite letter is. Yes, letter. But not as in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians or Philippians, but letter in the alphabet.

I really think Will’s brain functions on a much higher level than mine. He is always thinking.

But today on the way to Lowe’s I turned the tables and asked him what his favorite day is. Without hesitating, he said, “Every day.”

What a revelation! That struck a chord in my soul that he would say every day is his favorite day. Even Mondays?

But it’s such the right answer. Every day is a gift from God. We aren’t promised tomorrow. We have today because God gave it to us. To hate Mondays is to hate the gift.

It’s so ungrateful.

My 8 year old son teaches me so much.

Vacation

Today is the first day of my vacation, but it doesn’t feel like it. And I’m pouting about it.

See, I’m supposed to be sitting on the beach right now under an umbrella with a paperback in one hand and a cold beverage in the other listening to Vann Morrison sing about cleaning windows. I booked the condo a year ago especially for this week because my birthday is Wednesday(cash gifts welcome) and I requested the time off work.

But then life happened.

Our plan to buy a house by Christmas 2014 was derailed and we had to fast forward it a year early. By God’s grace we got the house, but it took our vacation money and every other nickel we could find in the sofa cushions.

So today instead of napping beach side, I’m handling some side work and about to dive into painting our kitchen and living room.

Maybe you understand why it doesn’t feel like vacation. But then I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “Don’t wait til it feels like vacation to start acting like it.”
Sounds like great advice. So instead of racing home to paint, I stopped for lunch at The Skinny Cook. It must be vacation for me to eat lunch out during the week.

And when I get home, I’ll paint to some Vann Morrison.

Paperbacks

You can’t replace some things.

I just started my vacation and last night I finished reading my paperback copy of Elmore Leonard’s, Riding The Rap, and I don’t have another novel to read.

It makes me sad.

Yes, I could download a Kindle book and read on my iPhone or tablet, but there’s just something comfortable about a good ol’ paperback. It doesn’t even compare to a hardback which I find heavy and cumbersome.

A good paperback is like a warm blanket. It just feels cozy.

As long as I have my reading glasses. Life changes post-45.

Exercise Equipment

I haven’t become rich with age, but I have become wiser.

At least wise enough to know that I’m done buying exercise equipment. I sold one piece at a yard sale this past Saturday and gave my last one to Goodwill on Sunday. My neighbor asked about it and I told him that I’ve given up exercise. The next time I get an urge to exercise I’ll take a nap til the urge passes.

Ok, this isn’t entirely true. I still believe in exercising, but not in purchasing the equipment. After I use it 3-4 times, it sits around, collects dust and becomes a facilitator of stumped toes.
Instead, wisdom has taught me the better way…a gym membership. After I use it for 2 months on a 12 month contract, I’m only out 10 months or approximately $350. That’s usually less than the cost of the equipment which I have to keep moving to get out of my way and eventually figure out how to get rid of. It’s definitely less expensive than the hernia surgery that all of this moving around may induce.

As I said, I’ve gotten wiser with age, not rich.

Happy Birthday, Shaz!

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There was a spirited young girl with the nickname Hurricane Shelby. She face planted into her first birthday cake and now she wants to jump out of planes. She air dropped spaghetti o’s on our West Highland White Terrier from her highchair and at 2 she learned that flying into a room with hardwood floors while wearing dress tights isn’t a good idea. But she was fearless while the doctor stitched up her head. And she was quick to forgive years later when her big sister knocked out her front tooth with a TV remote. The front tooth is one of those permanent ones, you know.

As a toddler, Hurricane would throw herself on the floor of CVS when Mom wouldn’t buy her the candy she wanted. Now as a teenager she is shy to ask for money for things she really needs. She is full of empathy for those whom she loves.Her smile is radiant and disarming, her greatest weapon.

As a baby through her toddler years I would sing, “You are my sunshine” when I put her to bed. And she still is.

Laughter is her most beautiful song. Hugs, her gift to others.

Today she turns 15. We no longer call her Hurricane. She has transformed into the most outstanding, excellent, sweet and beautiful young lady I know…at 15.

Yes, Keely, you are the best 16 year young lady I know.

Happy Birthday, Shaz, Shazzie, Shelbelle, Shazzie Wazzie! I love you!

Grand

I think that my Big Green Egg pork bbq is the best I’ve ever eaten. Sandra agrees and she’s brutally honest(at least with me). So, I was a little surprised when Mike, my coworker, rated it a 6 out of 10. But he explained that he really liked it, yet he never gives any bbq a 10 and rarely an 8. Once you start rating too high, where do you go from there? He’s a bbq aficionado and a tough critic. Ok, I can live with that; he just won’t get any more of my bbq.

But it makes me think of how often these days I hear people using the word “amazing” to describe something. It has to be the most overused adjective, next to awesome, on the planet. Everything is amazing. What happens when something better comes along? Is it super amazing? Or really amazing while the first one was only amazing? Then the next better one is really, really amazing?

When I hear something qualified as amazing, I’m not moved anymore. The word has lost its pop with me. It’s time for a new word.

Maybe “grand”. As in my bbq is grand. Mike’s taste buds and bbq rating skills are less than grand.

Sounds good to me. It’s a grand idea.

Saturday

It’s Easter Sunday and I am surely thankful for the Resurrection.

But I’m thinking about Saturday. It takes a lot faith to get through Saturday.

On the Friday that Jesus was murdered there were probably lots of cheers, jeers and tears. The Pharisees cheered, the Roman guards mocked and Mary cried. I’m sure that the devil danced in victory.

And his victory party lasted into Saturday. He finally defeated God. But Saturday had to be an incredibly painful and confusing day for Jesus’ followers. They were likely still paralyzed with shock. A bomb had exploded their lives, hopes and plans and on Saturday the dust was settling and I’m sure that depression and hopelessness was moving in.

They didn’t understand anything about Sunday.

We all face Saturdays in our lives. We wake up to the wreckage of our mistakes, losses, tragedies and disappointments. Sometimes we think it’s the end of something, maybe our lives. We can’t imagine getting through it or over it. We can’t see a Sunday.

I’ve been there.

I learned through it that if I don’t quit on God, He won’t quit on me. I slowly pushed against the darkness remaining faithful to Him and my commitments. I guess to be honest, some days I didn’t push. The darkness consumed me. I felt lost, heavy and hopeless. It wasn’t a perfect walk of faith. Sometimes it was sloppy. But I didn’t lash out, react or respond to these feelings. Many times I did end the day as soon as possible by going to bed, but I knew that God had blessed me with too much to lose by giving up.

It was a long Saturday, but the break of day came and my hopes arose with the tender mercies of Sunday morning. The broken places healed with time by God’s grace.

Because He never quit on me.

Happy Easter.

Rest

ShelbyandToby

Poor Toby can’t get any rest when I’m home.

He’s the one on the left.

I feel sorry for the little fella.

Whenever I get up to move around in the house he feels compelled to stir himself out of a good rest and leave the premises. He gets as far away from me as possible. I don’t even have to enter the same room as him. If he sees me move from 2 rooms away, he scampers off.

It makes no rational sense. I have never harmed him. Never yelled at him. He’s never seen me beat my wife or children. He has only witnessed me being my typical angelic self. Giving him treats for no other reason than to win his affection.

Yet he fears me.

Then I realized that I probably run from things not really chasing me. Needlessly submitting to the fears I’ve conjured up and fostered in my own mind. Not trusting in my God who has always provided for me. Always blessed me, never hurt or harmed me. Never left me, nor forsaken me.

It makes no sense, either.

Maybe Toby isn’t my best friend yet, but God is using him to teach me a lot about myself.

Orange Queso

She called it Queso dip.

Almost always Keely is a great cook. I want her to embrace her God-given skills and be a chef, but I couldn’t eat the dip.

Because she called it Queso. And it was orange. Queso is not orange. It’s an off-white color. At least what I’ve been exposed to is off-white. Of course, I just did an image search on my Google machine and found many pictures of orange Queso. I didn’t know this then. Sorry, Keely.

But…based on my earlier perception of what it should look like, it wasn’t right. I didn’t want any part of it. I’ll pass on green catsup too.

Life works the same way, too.

We call ourselves Christians, but sometimes we don’t look like it.

People see us gossiping, maligning, being unkind to the poor, telling or laughing at off color jokes, etc, etc and they think, “He calls himself a Christian and he’s telling dirty jokes? No thanks, if that’s what a Christian looks like, I’ll pass.”

I’m guilty as charged, too. Sometimes I’m the hypocritical orange Queso. But the Holy Spirit used this silly example to convict me that I have a long way to go to look like Jesus and that unbelievers notice my discrepancies.

Privileges

Most of the things in life that we enjoy are privileges. Not entitlements.

We often get confused over the difference. The confusion leads to a complaining spirit.

We get to worship freely, a privilege, but complain if the lines at church are long or the music is too loud. Yet Christians in other countries are persecuted for their faith.

We have jobs that provide, but grumble because the boss doesn’t provide a greater variety of K-cups in the break room.

Teenagers have iPhones with texting, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, yet gripe when the parents who are paying for this privilege monitor their usage. You have an iPhone! Get over it. Teenagers in Third World countries are scrapping for food each day while you’re updating your Facebook status to tell us what you had for your midday snack.

A guiding principal should be that we are always grateful for anything that can be taken away.

Gratitude is the cure for a complaining spirit, but it’s a habit that must be practiced. The first step is realizing that we are blessed to wake up in a dry house in a warm bed, able to take hot showers, put on clean clothes and have peanut butter in the pantry.

Anything above and beyond that is a privilege.

Happy Birthday, Will

Today marks the 8th year anniversary of the best years of my life.

It’s Prince Will’s birthday.

Happy birthday, Will!

Of course all of my girls, including Sandra are saying, “hey, what about us?!!”

Well, you all have contributed to these same 8 years also.

But today we are celebrating Will and the joy he has brought to our world. I don’t know a finer, more excellent, happy, laid back, easy going, quick to smile, eager to please young boy on this entire planet.

God went overboard loading up all the good stuff into this creation.

Thank you, Lord.

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You see the red 1 circled by the Settings icon?

It really gets on my nerves.

I can get rid of it and I want to, but I don’t want to. I know. I’m sounding female.

In order to get rid of it I have to install the iOS 7 update. That’s the part I don’t want to do. I have no problems with iOS 6, so why change? I’m not a big fan of change unless it’s a promotion, a raise or some other benefit. Time Warner is willing to give me $300 to change my TV provider and I won’t do it. Apple isn’t offering anything but possible aggravation and frustration.

At least that was Sandra’s experience at updating. Why sign up for that?

There are some things that I’d like to change, but they’re much more difficult than pressing a button.

I’d like to be more trusting in The Lord.
More patient with my family.
Not so hard on myself.
More consistent in good habits.
Less easily offended.
Quicker to forgive.
Slower to anger.
Lose weight.
Increase faith.

That’s the short list.

The only upgrade I know involves a downgrade.

More of Jesus, less of me.

He is the 1 I need more of in my life.

What Are You Smiling About?

Dude, what are you smiling about?

I just flipped on the TV on the elliptical machine at Anytime Fitness when the local midday news displayed a picture of a man arrested for something. I don’t know what. I wasn’t listening. I don’t usually watch. I was on my way to the NFL Network. Much more important matters. The draft is coming up.

Anyway, this dude was flashing a big toothless grin like he was posing for a family portrait. He’s about to be introduced to a new family, but not one to smile about.

Update his status in a couple of weeks.

Then I thought about those of us who really have something (or Someone) to smile about.

Jesus. King of Glory Prince of Peace.

And His best name…Savior.

Where are all the smiles?