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?

Assistant Phys Ed Coach – Sorta

Still attempting to break in my new shoes.  I am very grateful the new shoes came to me broken…

As I nearly reached the halfway point of my oval, 1-mile, walking path, the connected Christian school was conducting PE class.  The days objective was the 1-mile run.  As the runners lined up and took off on on their teachers “Go”, I was about 200 yards behind the “enthusiastic” runners.  The runners didn’t go for much more than 200 yards before they went behind a bathroom/picnic building.  On the other side of the building (bathroom and picnic tables) where the path emerged, the runners were transformed into very slow walkers.

As I passed their phys ed coach, I asked her, “Is it okay if try to motivate them a little if I pass them?

“Sure”,  she said.  “They often go pretty slow on the back of the course.”

I took this as my license to try and encourage them in my best coaches voice as I passed the kids.  Out of the 10-12 that started, it appeared 1/3 of the kids ran the mile per instructions, and 1/3 was a group of guys walking slightly faster than the group of girls bringing up the tail.  Although my feet may have been working a little extra hard due to the thrill of a challenge, the girls were pretty easily vanquished.  Because the girls were so involved in their conversation, my heavy foot falls right next to them made them jump a bit when I began my passing move.

“Your teacher said I should remind you to keep running.” I said somewhat encouragingly–I know I was smiling big when I said it.

As I kept walking, the girls continued to get farther in my rearview mirror.  Now, I could focus on the boys in front of me.  They were spanning the whole width of the sidewalk.  As were their female classmates, they revealed in no outer way they were aware of me about to pass them. Because they were boys, I am pretty sure my encouragement was more like what a football coach might say.

“Your teacher wanted me to remind you not to walk.  She knows how you guys always use it as social time.”, I preached-a sneering smile likely adorned my face.

My sermon did have some brief success.  The boys grunted before picking up their pace (in fact they ran) for a couple of hundred yard.  When they resumed their previous slow walking speed, I knew we would meet again.  “Ditto” was all I needed to say as I passed them the second time.  They laughed a little bit, but based on the reaction of their feet, they were not very interested in anything that would interfere with their social time.

As I came to the part of the path where my non-responsive high school friends had started their lap, I did have to give their teacher an update.

“In the boys defense, I did have to pass them twice.”, I proclaimed.

I believe she understood the ramifications of the comment.  At least, it gave her something to chew on.  As I continued my walk, I heard her raising her voice to get the slackers over the “finish” line.  It appeared the two groups had merged as they came into the final stretch.  I am not sure how the boys slowed up enough to let that happen!  If I get the chance to coach again, I will need to crank the encouragement up a few notches!

Whether the teacher admitted to the license she granted me or not, I hope the kids I interacted with do remember me.  Whether I am the weird guy who spoke to them or, if the encounter was slightly humorous, the guy who walks really fast, I hope I am not some phantom they hide in their brain only to be brought back to life under deep hypnosis.  I believe it is our obligation to stretch ourselves forward a generation or two.  (The older we get, the harder it is to stretch forward.  The older we get, the more we hope others are willing to stretch from ahead back to us.)  The more the next generations sees others noticing them, the more value they assign to themselves. (I have not done studies…it just makes sense to me.  And, since much of what I do has a spiritual “side” to it, I think the kids need more “good” people [I may not be good, but I am not dangerious ;-)] in their lives.  If you are not a mentor of a particular kid, exhibit a quality that is one worth emulating, like walking fast or whatever.)  If the world wants to devolve into chaos, our influence may lessen the impact of the chaos in our communities.  Touch a life today.  Make them smile, and see who smiles bigger-you or them!

 

 

Board With Life

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Prior to our home being invaded by our exchange students, there was this blank wall.  As we anticipated having to maintain reminders and schedules for two additional young ladies, the board seemed like a good idea.  It is mounted right inside the back door.  It is visible (at least partially) from our dining area, and it is magnetic.  All of these things would seem to be all of the ingredients necessary to keep us organized–making sure the board performed its assigned function without any argument.

Unfortunately, we did not factor in the need such space would create in our local “artist”.  They have felt inclined to show off for us in a number of ways.  And, as a couple of the images illustrate, they felt the need to take a few different English names and write them in both Korean and Chinese.  Having a tub of colored markers readily available also makes it more difficult to maintain “board” integrity.

Although, many things don’t work out the way you plan, it does not mean it does not work out like it is supposed to.  I do believe in serendipity. I wish I opened myself up to it more often.  I look at this board and the humble plans I had for it.  I wish I gave serendipity more latitude–not because I think I am a secret genius capable of solving the world’s problem somewhere in my subconscious mind, but because I believe in a God who tries to nudge me into action much more frequently then I let Him.

Conversation While Cleaning the Wok

As we did a little Korean cooking this weekend in our wok, the need to clean the wok for that meal and for sins in previous cleaning was scheduled with our Chinese student on Sunday afternoon. She has such a great heart to take the lead in this task, so even though I had done yard work already, I was glad to find out proper wok maintenance from an expert.

As we used a green scratchy pad and a little “soft” soap to clean the wok, we did quite a bit of talking. She told about her experiences with the exchange student process. And, she informed me she was not very interested in attending the orientation weekend with the other exchange students this weekend – her mother would not sign the paperwork to grant her permission. I am sure I volunteered some other info on our family as well. As the wok got shinier, our conversation got deeper.

“Is your son a Christian?”, she asked. (This question surprised me a bit. Culturally, she is not any religion. She has been willing to participate in the parts of our life that actively make us Christians. We hope all areas of our life reflect our faith, but she has actively participated in church and attending Christian school with my daughters.)

I replied, “He has chosen not to be right now.”  (Of course, this is a disappointment to us, but we are working on understanding why this is so.  We are trusting God to bring him back in His time.)

“That is odd.  I thought he would be a Christian if his parents were Christians.”, she stated.

I replied (I don’t remember exactly, but it went something like this), “He went to a Christian school for 13 years.  And, once he graduated, he decided it was not important to him right now.  He still has a good heart, but he does not see the importance of many of the things his mother and I believe.  He knows Jesus died for his sins (I tried to make sure she had some knowledge of this.  I did not want to over explain.  I wanted to answer her question w/ the hope I would give her enough to think it over further.  She is almost certain to think something over before she speaks.), but he is not interested in that right now.  We hope he chooses to make the decision to follow Jesus again.  It is his decision to make to follow Jesus – his mother and I can’t make it for him.” (Due to any language and or “Christian-lingo” words, I may have had to state or restate the above in a slightly different way.)

There was additional back and forth to clarify a couple of details – I didn’t take the reigns of the conversation.  She asked, and I answered.  Based on knowing her 2.5 weeks, she is a thinker.  She will have more questions, and when she does, I hope and pray I am able to provide information to allow her to continue to be curious and ask questions.

Exchange Students As A Mission Field

As the father of two exchange students, I was fully aware I would have some adjustments.  As a family, we knew it would keep us busy.  Besides the getting to know them and the figuring out what they like to eat, we wanted to make sure we unraveled where each of the students was at spiritually.  The Chinese student was VERY easy.  No affiliation does not make you think your work is already done.  (The fact she is attending a Christian school certainly makes us think she is open to the idea.  Or, maybe the desire to learn English far surpasses her lack of interests in anything overtly spiritual.)  Our Korean student is a Christian who was recently baptized before coming to our home.  So, we thought most of our work was done.

Their first weekend in our home led to our first trip to church together.  I was prepared to handle both students differently, but the post-church discussion makes me not so sure….

  • Korean student:  As we walked out of church, she asked me, “What is sin?”  I just thought this was a failure of her English education.  When a response of “bad things” did not seem to get the right facial expressions, I tried to refer to the Bible and Moses and the 10 commandments.  I am not sure if this had any more success.  Certainly something to stay mindful of.  I am not sure culturally if this is a failure or if it is just a translation issue.  Plenty of time to observe….
  • Chinese student:  The sermon was on the Holy Spirit.  She sat nicely, listened intently, stood when the “entertainment team” did their singing, and clapped at all of the right times.  As I listened tot he sermon, I viewed it as a “heavy” sermon.  I am not sure how she perceived it.  With another 9+ months of living with us and the attending a Christian school, it would seem I would not be trusting the Holy Spirit at all if I tried to convert her after just one sermon.  She will certainly be the subject of our prayers.

So much time remains with them.  We look to our faith growing from them being here.  And, we look forward to observing some seeds taking root (or roots growing more deeply) within both of their lives.  We feel very blessed to be able to observe them as they begin/continue a faith journey in a different culture.

What Is A Family?

A friend fancies himself as a pretty good photographer.  (I know he has a pretty good camera.  His skill does bring out the best in the camera.)  Recently, he posted some pictures on Facebook of a couple he photographed.  He captioned the group of images with this phrase, “Thank you for letting me photograph your beautiful family.”  And, they were a beautiful family made up of two moms, a child, and one on the way.

I am not sure if they are married or what the laws in Ohio are now regarding the marriage of same sex couples.  Upon seeing the images, I could not help thinking how appropriate the caption was for these particular pictures.  A family is something which can have a different definition from the culture, the church or any individual can come up with a unique definition of what family feels like to them.  Family is a word I am in full support of being customized to meet the needs of each individual.  If you want an inanimate object in your family or want to have a family of SO MANY people, this definition does not or should not offend anyone.

If the caption would have been, ” What a beautiful couple” or “What a happy marriage” or something along those lines, then I would have been more bothered by what he posted.  Marriage is joining that occurs legally.  It was for many years “recognized by God”.  Now, the government is redefining through less than legal channels (it is all being done in the courts and not by legislatures) what ALL CITIZENS must recognize as a marriage.  If you don’t like it and won’t treat them like a traditional marriage couple you can be sued and whatever else.

As citizens of the US, we do have the right to pursue happiness.  When your pursuit of happiness interferes with someones else pursuit of life/career/happiness, the present climate has the “non-traditional” largely winning.  People much smarter (this is such a basic question–I don’t think they need to be much smarter than me!) than me should be able to resolve this in a way so it is not so political.  If you have to put an adjective in front of “marriage”, than what has become of the institution of marriage?

Back to the pictures…I applaud the couples commitment to each other and their family.  (I wouldn’t want my spouse to have tatoos, but that is my issue.)  A family should have children and love.  If you venture to much farther from these issues, at its best, the word “family” means stable.  When their marriage is one not capable of procreating as God designed procreation, then I know which marriage more closely aligns with a biblical definition of marriage.  I don’t want to judge them.  When judged, I know I will fall short on many counts as well.  Marriage was established by God.  He set it up for a man and woman to be bound together with Him.  On judgement day, God will have to sort out those who willingly ignored His commandments with an unrepentant heart.