Take On The Challenge

As I was nearing the end of my walk today at the park, a boy on a scooter approached me.  As I tried to figure out what side of the sidewalk he was going to take, he uttered, “Are you going to take on the challenge?” before slowly surfing down the paved hill.  It was clear what his challenge was–he was going to see how far he could coast without pushing off.  My challenge was a little less clear.  So, the kid forced me to think…

  • What are you going to do today in trade for another day of life?
  • Who did you make feel better about themselves today?
  • Were you a helper or someone who avoided helping those who needed it?
  • Did you show those you loved that you cared for them today?  Do you need to have a bigger list so you are more challenged?
  • Did you laugh today?  Did you make someone else laugh?
  • Did you feel empathy for someone who hurts? (Preferably someone you know personally.  There is a spectrum of hurt–it can land anywhere on that spectrum.)
  • What did you do today that will be remembered tomorrow?  For how many tomorrows will it still be remembered?
  • Do you think you were more good than bad today?
  • What reward do you think your opinion deserves?

It seems I have come to a point where I am challenging you to think about where you will spend eternity.  Am I allowed to do that?  Could it hurt someone’s feelings?  In the past, forcing a person to think about their eternity was effective.  In the present, a discussion about eternity could trigger someone.  If anyone is curious about the hereafter and what you can do now to affect your eternity, please contact me on the contact form for this site.

Gender What?

As I recently looked at the “disclaimer” at the bottom of listing on the Monster job site, I saw this in the footer of the job posting….

As an AA/EEO employer, “INSERT NAME OF INSTITUTE OF HIGHER LEARNING HERE” recruits, hires, and promotes qualified persons in all job classifications without regard to age, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, ethnic origin, disability, genetic information, covered veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. 

I guess my old-fashion-ness is showing, but the words “orientation”, “expression” and “identity” seem a little hard to nail down.  It would seem any questioning of a persons claims associated with these words tagged on as a suffix would make virtually anything a person does part of the norm.  This is not denying the world is a crazy place and circumstances have caused crazy thoughts and patterns to occur in people’s lives.  Regardless, with all of these qualifiers, it still seems like we are bending so far over backwards to be inclusive that we have forgotten how to be clear.

Since our genes give us a our gender and we are allowed to question our genetics, it would seem unfair to not be able to change our race, age or color by a simple declaration.  Something like, “I, [state your name] declare myself to be a 30 year old, Chinese-American.” (I have no desire to change my gender, thank you.)  If someone denies me the right to make this proclamation, wouldn’t they be questioning my right to alter my orientation, expression or identity?  They may argue, “Genetically and chronologically, you can’t alter your age or race or color.”  That seems quite discriminatory.  Why can certain things “baked into the baby” be changed when other things not be changed?

I realize I am not a biologist, psychologist, or a geneticist.  I don’t have the scientific background, (beyond my 5 senses–or 4, I don’t think tasting helps unless it has something to do with spicy food.  Maybe this should be another protected class.  Spicy food can offend some people.  I officially propose adding “diet” to the list above.  The poor peanut allergy people don’t seem to be adequately protected by the disclaimer.) to assess such important things.  But, it seems science has been redefined from what it was a few years ago.  I guess the problem is the science of the past was repressive and wrong, so it was reevaluated.  (Maybe evolution and the big bang could be given the same scrutiny.)

If we are going to go all in with “disclaimers”, might I suggest the following…

  • Diet:  (see above)  Besides nut allergies, spicy food and a strict vegetarian diet can sometimes have detrimental affects on the office environment, too.  I know we are all big enough to hold our noses and not mention it, but it should be explicitly protected.
  • Heavy sweaters:  I have worked with people who fall into this category.  They took great strains to not have people made aware of this fact.  The person I am referring to worked in retail.  He changed his t-shirt multiple times per day.  The secondary effect of his sweating was attempting to control the odor.  I know this quality might not come out until a person is hired and working.  It still seems unfair not to protect them as well.
  • Religious expression:  If they endorse the behaviors of one religion and not another religion merely for practicing their faith, then it does seem inconsistent.  As a Christian, I try to be flexible with what others believe.  How far do I let other religions go in this expression?  If it is codified in a neat little generic clause like listed above, the doubters can point but the ambiguity can continue.
  • This is not really a specific add on, but maybe it would help clarify.  Is it really “law” or is it Presidential decree or proclamation?  It seems a little bold referring to all of the issues addressed in the disclaimer as “being protected by law”. (I know some of them have been for many years.  Some of them are “hitchhikers” where the law is still unclear.)  Would this be natural law?  If natural law, some of the issues mentioned above would not seem to qualify.  (Gender confusion may allow for short term peace and happiness, but it doesn’t do much for continuing the human race.)

Have I offended or bothered you?  It was not my goal, but it was an accepted possibility.  I believe we have a right to participate in a work environment that is a positive, encouraging place.  If all of the things introduced in the disclaimer above are evident in every work place, I believe there will be to much tip-toeing around trying to be inclusive.  If the thought police care more about what you think and don’t say then what is done to fulfill your job description, then maybe staying self-employed is a saner option than being obligated to “endorse” all of the above behaviors.  God, please help our country!!

 

Greetings From The Curb

When I get an idea while walking, I pull out my Iphone and attempt to capture my thoughts.  While sometimes the voice capture feature does okay, most times it leaves me a little wanting.  If I capture a note and fail to review it within a day or so, I often can’t recognize my original thought.  Today’s thought was supposed to be, “Grading on the curve”.  My chosen English female friend on my Iphone chose to record this as “greetings from the curb”.  I can blame the wind or my inability to enunciate clearly.  The point is if I were writing this next week, I might have no idea what the note was a reminder of.

Why did I feel the need to capture this thought?  I was trying to find a way to describe what God does with us.  Does God award heaven on a curve?  No.  This is assuming you have already confessed you are unable to “do” salvation on your own.  You recognize you need a Savior, and His name is Christ.  My thought comes in a post-conversion situation. (Or post being born-again or being saved or “washed in the blood”.  I hope this is completely clear what I am referring to.)

God had given us all different abilities.  He has given us different strengths and weaknesses.  He does not hold us all to the same level of service.  He wants all of our hearts and our lives.  We don’t become us thru the efforts of a cookie cutter.  We are all uniquely made and given unique talents and abilities.  We may be similar to others on the outside, but on the inside we have talents given to us by God.  These talents allow us to reach unsaved people in a variety of different ways.

As I live my life, I often ask the question, “Am I doing enough? With all of the potential I believe I have, am I doing enough to justify a “C” grade?” (Depending on another person’s ability, if they were to do what I have done, they might justify an “A”. )  So, if I am figuratively on the curb, what more can I do to give a better witness of He who gave all for me? When I get off of the curb is there a grading curve?  Are all types of witnessing good action or does God make us accountable for the decisions we make in regards to how our witnessing/evangelizing time is spent(or not spent)?

I know we don’t just get an “A” for effort.  I regularly seek God’s will, and I encourage you to do the same.  If there is a good-better-best plan for my life, I want best.  If there is a plan that involves lots of trusting God, I pray I have the ability to turn all of my fears over to my Maker. And, if there is a plan that relies on us depleting our savings and relying entirely on God, then may our kids forgive us for doing what God has asked us to do.

I know God realizes what I wrote, but do I?  I think I do, now may He put the pieces in place to allow it to occur.

 

Life Mystery

Yesterday, both my daughter and my wife informed me the girls would not be having softball practice today.  I thought that was a little odd.  The coach is pretty hardcore about practicing.  Even if the coach used running during practice time to remind the team not to make so many errors, she rarely gives up a practice  UNLESS the weather is working against her.

As I show up at the regular “no practice” pickup time, my youngest daughter comes out without her books or anything.  She let me know the reason practice was cancelled.  It turns out one of the fathers of a girl on the team had committed suicide over the weekend.  I won’t say I took this hard, but it certainly does make one wonder what brings a person to this point.  Prior to last Saturday’s game, I believe the dad had attended nearly every game.  We had talked quite a bit while watching our girls play.

He genuinely had a good heart.  At one of the games, he bought a packet of M&Ms.  He shared a few with me.  He usually stood behind the bleachers and leaned on them.  I was usually sitting on the second row from the top.  He would just talk about his softball exploits, or his time with his daughter, or whatever other random thing a middle aged dad might think to say.  He was probably less odd than me….but this still left plenty of room for him to my left.  I wasn’t the only one he talked to–he seemed to enjoy being social as he roamed the back of the bleachers talking to whoever would listen or had a thought to share.

Just last Saturday I was talking to the mother of the girl.  During the games I attended, the parents interacted and seemed to get along.  There did seem to be some distance, but I never was bold enough to ask the specifics.  Last Saturday, the mother was talking about shopping for groceries.  In context, it was appropriate to ask who she buys them for.  (I believe the specific point was with bananas.)  She said, “I only buy for myself and my daughter.”   It was at this point I was certain they were divorced, and they played nicely for the sake of their daughter.

Last night, my daughter made both my wife and I promise we would never end our lives in such a sudden way.  We assured her we would not.  The mystery of why someone would end their life in such an immediate way puts me at quite a loss.  Relationships are not always as smooth as you would like.  Finances can also be a source of frustration.  I have found that no matter how badly things may go the only consistent comfort comes from knowing God put you on this planet for a purpose.  If you are still asking that question, then God still has a purpose to reveal to you.  When hope dies, the heart often follows.

 

Old People Sunday School

After foregoing Sunday School (aka Adult Bible Class) for over a year, we finally decided to try and get in the habit again.  My daughters get “credit” for attending both church and Sunday School as part of their Christian School education, so rather than play hooky while the other mature adults gathered in their weekly groups, we decided to test the waters and join them.

As we wandered the halls seeking guidance and direction for which class to attend, we stumbled across a man who gave us some clarity.  The “portable Adult Bible Class Information desk” informed us, “This class is 30’s to 50’s.  The other class is 30’s on up.”  For some reason, we felt in an “on up” mood, so we chose to walk through the doors of this classroom.

My immediate reaction was not positive.  As my eyes did a first sweep of the crowd, I believe gray dominated every head of hair in the audience.  Additional sweeps found exceptions, but there were not many.  As we found our seats and avoided the walkers and canes, members of the class were giving their prayer requests.  In our past life, prayer requests were about aging parents and wayward children.  Most of today’s prayer requests were about hip replacements and grandchildren on mission trips.  Certainly, all prayer requests are valid.  None of the prayer requests allowed my eyes to filter out any of the gray they had already seen.

As the time to teach began, I was prepared to have the theme repeat itself.  I was ready to see old, tired people stand up front and give an obligatory lesson with a much less than inspiring message.  Fortunately, I was very disappointed.  The first person stood behind the lectern and attached his headset.  He immediately introduced his “team teacher” for the day.  The next 45 or so minutes was an interactive dialogue with good comments from the crowd.  The team teachers took enough shots at eat other to keep both the crowd interested and God happy.  

As my wife and I left, we had a nice conversation with an older couple.  (It was really all that was available.)  They let us know this was a “normal” week.  When we walked out the door, I let the primary teacher know I enjoyed it.  

Maybe we will or maybe we won’t attend this class again next week.  If we don’t, it is only because we are curious what the other classes do.  It has nothing to do with the age demographic or the amount of gray hair in the audience.  Bible Class is about studying the Bible.  If  you want to hang out with people your own age, you can go to your job or the rec center.  If you want to appreciate the book that your faith is based upon, older people are likely wiser than you and if there hearing aid is turned up, you can have a conversation! 😉

Walking With My Senses

As I was walking today, I experienced a couple things that inspired a few of my sense to higher places.  As a stroke of creative genius (or in a fit of over-inflated ego), I captured pictures of a couple of things my senses constantly seeking….

Smell

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Since we lived in Ohio, I have missed the smell of lilac.  And, while I cannot say for certain this is a lilac, it smelled LOTS like one.  It may have only temporarily hijacked my sense because my lilac-sensor was out of practice.  Regardless, whatever it was, I enjoyed it.  The aroma/scent/smell tapped into a part of my brain I have not visited for awhile.  I pictured our house in Ohio with the lilacs on the east side of the house.  I pictured my nose stretching into their blooms with my eyes closed–trying to capture the moment a little longer.

Sight

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All parts of the country (and world I am guessing) have their native wild flowers.  I don’t necessarily love just this flower while forgoing all others.  While working at my landscaping job many years ago, I took great pride in trying to memorize all of the names of the flowers sitting in the green houses at the nursery.  (My pronunciation may not have been right, but I could spell them.)   I love natures color.  And, since spring is the season worthy of queen status, I love this time of year the most.  (The wet Texas spring has certainly helped remind me how much I love it.)

Sound (No pictures here!)

When I walk, I don’t have the ear buds in.  I just like listening to whatever is there to distract me.  If I want to talk to myself, I don’t have to talk over any music.  If I want to listen to the birds or the breeze or the the bicyclist/walkers who I walk past, I can give them a smile and “hello” without trying to convince them the music (or whatever the buds are delivering) are more important-I can try to be sincerely interested in them.

Touch

A bit of a stretch here—I am not in the habit of picking up things or crawling while on my walk.  During a portion of the walk, the rains has gifted me with a partially flooded path.  As I walk thru this part of the path, I tiptoe or pick my feel up to try and avoid the wet impact my normal gait would create.  When the splash occurs, the droplets briefly run down my leg.  I only feel the first one–my mind has gone gone back to a time when walking barefoot through the water and splashing were more acceptable.  Everyone should have some memories involving water and unexpected wetness.

Taste

For some reason, I am not in the habit of picking up things and tasting them along my walk either….  Today was no exception.  Today, I had an early-stage cold coming on.  I have been brainwashed into believing using Zinc lozenges is a way to minimize the length of the colds uninvited stay.  Although my sense of taste is generally left out of the walking experience, today I tasted every bit of medicine (homeopathic, but still medicine)  before it was swallowed on its journey to whatever zinc does when it is invited by way of an oral invasion.

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Although not explicitly stated, this blog post is meant to be a little “thank you” to God.  I am blessed to have each of my senses, my thoughts, and experiences.  I don’t have to rely on a walk to be reminded of these things, but it is a pretty good catalyst.   When I separate myself from the computer and most of my electronics (the phone that almost never rings does accompany me), I gain perspective.   I am reminded of my size in comparison to the rest of creation, and I am reminded of my Creator.  So, the question is, “Do I really like to walk OR do I really just like to use all of my sense to carry on a dialogue with my Maker?”

 

Revenge Of The Pink Poodle

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Merry Christmas to all! Well, at least it was when I first had the brilliant idea this would make a good post!

I have seen this pink poodle lawn ornament on previous walking trips, but while walking today, it made a special impression.  As my brain noodled on the poodle, I tried to come up with a few theories as to why this creation made it out on their front yard along with the other items that were part of their secular display. (I remember a couple of penguins and related “polar” items.)

A few of my working theories:

  • Somewhat who is not an animal lover lost some sort of bet.
  • The residences of this house are one of only a few people on the planet seeking a lost herd of pink poodles.  This ornament is a constant reminder that there mission is not yet complete!
  • These are the remains of a mummified poodle previously owned by the residences.  Or, maybe the ashes are stored somewhere on the present ornament.  Thus, allowing “Fi-Fi” do live on for many more Christmases!
  • This ornament is a beacon to the space ships bringing the invaders from the planet “Bark”.
  • The dog works days and the pink flamingo works at night.

All of my whining is not really relevant–really it is not.  Where my decorations were a few lights and a loud, “Ho, ho, ho!” whenever the front door was opened, this neighbor chose to make their yard a buffet of animals.  If they find it important to have a yard for unwanted ornaments (picture the Rudolph special where there is an island for unwanted toys), then it would seem rather petty of me to criticize their special purpose.  Were it not for their efforts, their ornaments would have been picked up by a rather large vehicle that makes house calls and picks things up at the curb once or twice a week.

And, deep, deep down, this is the real meaning of Christmas.  We are all attempting to find a purpose, and when we were at our lowest, we were recycled and put in a yard where our King is very proud of us.  (Possibly a little too deep and meandering, but I “think” I got us there.)

Blessed Eggs

As the “alarm clock” (My mother calling from a time zone to the east) went off this morning, the day began.  With everyone needing to be out of the house by 10:00 (or so I thought), the coffee got going and the breakfast options were decided.

I had boring toast. Even though it was some special new flavor from the discount bakery, it worked well with peanut butter, so I was content. My wife pulled out the eggs to get her diet its necessary protein fix.  I wrongly assumed the eggs were for her, when she had already decided they were for my son.  As my son (the one heading to a day of food prep at Chick Fil A) watches my wife make his eggs for his breakfast this morning, I scold him for letting her do it.

He casually replies, "I am making the toast."
Unfazed, I reply, "I could make toast in a body cast."

My son and I laugh.  My wife glares.  My daughters look annoyed as they turn up the volume and continue watching the DVRed “Once Upon A Time.” As my sons scrambled eggs are plated with toast on the side, my wife finishes the carton with the eggs that will serve as her breakfast. Before putting the egg carton in the trash, she glances on the inside lid.  She is rewarded with a bit of inspiration.

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Psalms 118:24 This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Prior to realizing this message was inside the carton, I was just glad to get eggs at $0.79 a dozen from Aldi’s .  (Below cost, but it certainly sucks me in the door.) Now that I know this message is there, I think I will smile a little bigger knowing somebody, somewhere cares enough about my eggs and my day to sneak in a bit of encouragement.  If an egg carton can encourage, what can I do to encourage the people I interact with today?

Politically Correct Sign?

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Even though I REALLY like to talk politics, I believe it is better to focus on what is better for our nation than doing excessive venting. For this reason, the Gruenbaum house is choosing to promote something non-political.  (Whoops!  Forty years ago, this sign would have been much less political than it is now.  In today’s climate, choosing to think differently then some politicians makes you VERY political regardless of how vocal you are.)

Our church offered these signs for pickup after the service.  Besides our house, there are 3 or 4 other houses that also have this sign up in our neighborhood.  (My dad’s excuse for not telling people how he voted or being on the church registry was, “What if the communist get a hold of the list?  What will they do then?”) Besides the few signs out in peoples yards, I am guessing there are a few sympathizers in other homes.  (Living in my part of Texas makes me pretty certain of this.)

Other homes have signs encouraging you to vote “yes” (Are you a Backer?) or “no” on the school bond. (The “yes” signs seem much more popular–I guess a visible “yes” for kids is much better than a visible “no”. )  I have not seen many political signs for candidates in yards.  Off of the main roads, I see a few.  I get the feeling the enthusiasm this year is not there…(The “…” is all of the political things I want to say, but since I have already likely shown my political hand, it probably doesn’t matter.)

Regardless of where this election or this nation go, the sign points us to Whom we need to put our trust in.  The Senate may change hands, or it may not.  The evils of the world may infiltrate our borders and make us feel less safe than we have felt in many years.  Chaos may reign internationally, nationally or on the local level.  But, in your household, commit to a focus on eternal things.  You will be rewarded with a peace that will survive any election process.

 

Warm-ups Or Leftovers?

As my daughter was designing at attachment for her team’s robot project, I had a pretty good food conversation with one of the other parents.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, I am supposed to be a coach on for the team.  Since they are one of the older teams and have been doing this for a few years, my services are more along the lines of asking them questions “why?” rather than being there to keep them from losing focus.)  After the other parent told me of her younger daughters refusal to use cake mixes out of the box because making it from scratch was so much better, we talked about a couple of things we make for dinner.  (Her same daughter who is home-schooled will search out recipes on the internet and give her mother shopping lists.  She makes dinner 1 or 2 times per week, and she rarely watches anything other than Food Network on TV.)  When it came to the portion of the meal remaining on the table after everyone has eaten their fill, I received a temporary blank stare when I used the term “warm-ups”.  Not sure if it is a Midwest term, but maybe it is an attitude.  Sure I know what she means when she says “leftovers”, but it set me to thinking….

I am proposing the use of “warm-ups” or “leftovers” is an attitude.  In our house, we rarely if ever use the word leftover.  Leftover sounds like something you tolerate.  (Although, the Caribbean beans and rice did fall into this category.  Our “rice-lovers” had a hard time accepting the coconut milk taste in the rice.) Leftovers are something that are the last thing picked when the foods on your table were picking teams.  It is an unwanted thing your refrigerator needs to be bribed to keep alive for the few days necessary before the container is either full of mold or too sloppy/stiff to be able to believe the microwave could revive it.  Whoever the chef is on any given night (chef is used loosely, but is much more complimentary than, “person charged with cooking and responsible for all of the blame if the meal goes horribly wrong”.  We make every effort to be flattering, but the number of second servings speaks louder than, “Great job.  I really loved it!”) usually pulls from something they know will be good.  (If our exchange students, they either call or email their mothers to get ingredients and/or ideas.  For the “natives”, we build on things we know will be eaten and expand from there.)  When I hear “warm-ups”, I think of taking a glazed donut out of a box from Krispy Kreme and putting it in the microwave for a few seconds.  A warmup is something to look forward to.  It is something to be savored.  The term implies good (possibly slightly decadent) eating ahead!

In our household, warmups better describes the dining remaining for these reasons:

  1. Warm-ups is a much happier term in our household.  Since my daughters and exchange students all pack lunches everyday, the ability to rapidly consume the warmups allows us to view any food left over after a meal as only a temporary contributor to refrigerator clutter.  Each girl usually has 2 – 4 plastic containers at the end of each meal.  It depends on the individual night (they pack the night before because cross country demands a very early wake up call) how frustrating their towers of protein and veggies are to navigate when something is needed at the back or bottom shelf.
  2. Taste better warmed-up:  This is a possible lie we have cultivated to improve the enthusiasm for “maturing” meals.  The argument does have some validity with a couple of our meals.  The jambalaya has been accused of being too hot on day one.  As the rice mixture matures, it tends to become a little less potent.  It still tingles the tongue, but it doesn’t rattle the tear ducts.
  3. Kudos and praise:  When the warmups pile up and it is one of those summer lunch meals, the counter top is covered with lidless plastic containers.  Bounties are placed on certain containers, and rewards are offered for emptying a container.  Special rewards are offered for those who are capable of consuming the contents of two or more containers at one meal.  If necessary, peer pressure is placed on the potential diner who refuses to consider any of the offering and claims, “I am not hungry.”  When they reluctantly pull out a plate, choose a warm up and take their place in line at the microwave, they are again embraced and accepted as a fellow soldier in the battle to exterminate the warmups and admitted leftovers from the household.

Despite the bickering over what is a warmup or a leftover, I will fully agree with the title of “leftover” being assigned to anything that remains in the refrigerator for over a week.  Once the criteria is met for disposing of the “aged” food, we ask ourselves what we could do different so we don’t have to throw the food away next time.  Do we need to make it differently?  Do we need to make less?  Do we need to find a new way to repurpose a warmed up meal?  (We will often make roast and carrots in the crockpot.  The roast does not usually get eaten well as a warmup, but it usually does pretty well as beef and noodles.  While breathing life into a pork roast as pork ‘n noodles does not seem to be quite as winning of a plan.) Do we need to make LOTS of something and just freeze the balance knowing its reception will be much warmer if the intended diners believe it is fresh (assuming the taste it not too badly compromised) rather than a “revisit”?

We do realize less cooking would help us have less dishes to wash.  The table is a place to cultivate belonging.  It is a time where the grunting/chomping that goes with oral consumption is blended with the chatter of school, work and relationships.  When we pray over a meal, it is like we are making the table and everything that transpires around it sacred.  When we arise and clean up, the sacredness is broken.  In the spirit of this mood, why would anyone want to introduce anything to make the experience less than the bonding/coaching/parenting experience it should be.  If you are ever hear on a warmup night, you are allowed to sit at our table and refer to the items eaten out of the plastic containers as either leftovers or warmups, but one needs ketchup, and one needs a good appetite.  Which do you want to eat?