Where’s George When You Need Him?

I think I’ve mentioned that we are in the process of investigating some home improvement companies to do some work on our home. I find it absolutely incredible that so many proclaim that their product is by far the best, the most energy efficient, and simply the most logical choice. According to most of the sales representatives, we would be totally foolish not to purchase their product immediately. Now, maybe I’m just a little bit cynical but I find it a little hard to believe that they are all the best. Don’t get me wrong, I expect them to have pride in their product but I think that there’s a good chance that some of them might be gilding the lily a bit. There I said it. Some of these folks might be stretching the truth just a bit.  I won’t go as far as saying the L word but in politically correct terms, they are expressing their own version of the truth.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every sales person was like George Washington and said things like. “I can not tell a lie. Their stuff is just as good as ours but if you don’t buy mine I won’t be able to summer on the Riviera this year.” Or better yet,what if I knew what their tell was before they made their pitch?  A tell, for those who don’t know, is a sign, a twitch, or some signal that a gambler gives when they are bluffing.  Why couldn’t we have had Pinocchio for a  salesperson so that when his nose out grew our living room, we could hang his demonstration displays on said nose and kick him the door.  Now some might be saying the way to tell that many salesmen are lying is when they move their lips.  I really don’t think it’s fair to lump all sales people into the same category but as humans it is something we learn to do at a very early age.

I’ve heard people who don’t have kids say something along the line of,  “Children are so honest.”  Frankly, those people have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.  Lying comes naturally.  It’s something that as humans we learn to do for self preservation.  I never sat my kids down for lying lessons but I can remember them having chocolate all over their faces and hands and then denying that they had eaten any candy.  This brings to mind when we caught our youngest in bending the truth to put her in the best possible light.  It was around Easter and a local grocery store had an Easter egg hunt in the store.  The award for completion was a half gallon of ice cream.  Each of our kids picked their favorite flavor but were only allowed to partake in the treat with our permission.  We thought we had monitored the consumption pretty well but discovered later that we were not quite as vigilant as once thought.   Our lack of vigilance revealed itself as we began to notice a sickening smell upstairs in the playroom.  There was no obvious dead body in the playroom but the possibility that it had become the dumping ground for the mob’s problems was seriously considered.  Hazmat teams could be observed patrolling our street trying to locate the offending odor.  I finally decided to take my life in my hands to ferret out the culprit.  My gag reflex was put to the ultimate test and the watering of my eyes made the going tough.  I pinpointed the area where the smell was the strongest.  It was one of the dormers that our youngest daughter stored her Barbies.  I waded into Barbieland and began peeling back the layers of dolls. I was like an archaeologist digging through older and older periods trying to discover long forgotten fossils.  The deeper I dug, the stronger the offensive odor got.  I could almost feel the smell melting off my face. I could tell by the looks on their faces that many of the Barbies had suffered cruel and unusual deaths. Finally I pulled a Ken and Barbie who had clutched each other in death off of a piece of cloth and knew I had reached the source.  With great trepidation I lifted what I knew must be a grave cloth for something that had expired years before or a new deadly bio-chemical agent only to discover a melted half gallon of ice cream.  I can’t say for sure but it’s possible that something grabbed my hand as I placed the offending article in triple sealed plastic garbage bags and transported everything to the waiting hazmat team in our driveway.  After multiple decontamination showers, I called my youngest to the living room.  Since it was found in her Barbie area and it was the flavor of ice cream she had chosen,  I was pretty sure using my tremendous powers of deduction that I had located the guilty party.  I asked her how the ice cream got upstairs  and she looked at me with those big eyes and said, “I don’t know, Daddy.”  Looking just as innocent as possible, she nodded as I asked her, “Isn’t that your ice cream?  Isn’t that your Barbie area?  Well, who put it there if you didn’t?  A sweet smile and a shrug of her shoulders was her only response. Bright light and water torture did not result in a confession .  None of the Barbies confessed either but one did look like she put on a lot of weight.  Being less than truthful for us humans unfortunately comes a little too easy.

Like Diogenes, I’ll continue my search for an honest man.  We’ll hope he or she is employed in sales.

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
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B’s House (A FMF exercise on Hospitality)

It’s Friday and once again time for the Five Minute Friday writing exercise. Today’s word is hospitality and I will go ahead and ask for forgiveness because I know I will exceed the five minute time limit, as usual. This particular word makes it hard to stay within the five minute limit because it so much embodies the spirit of my parent’s lives.
I can’t remember a time growing up that people were not welcome in our home. In fact, when we first moved to Tennessee, I believe we had over 75 people stay with us for anywhere from a day to a week that first summer. It got so busy that we would have folks leaving about noon and new folks arriving that same afternoon. My parents never complained; they just wanted to make sure everyone felt welcome and at home.
Mom and Dad encouraged us to bring friends home. After we grew up, this spirit of hospitality was displayed to even a greater extent. They always had Sunday lunch after church. I’m talking full meals with usually one or two main dishes, multiple vegetables, and a choice of desserts. It was a given that both my brother’s families and my family were always wanted (We would have to make it up during the week if we had to miss.) but there were not many Sundays that friends or even church visitors were not asked to be a part of these feasts. Mom and Dad were always happy to add another chair or two.  Holidays were no exception.  More than once, the Thanksgiving table included folks that had nowhere else to go.  Some even became part of the tradition because they felt so much a part of our family.
My kids and the rest of the grandkids got to discover the meaning of hospitality from my Mom and Dad, also. One of the most fond memories I have is seeing all my kids, their cousins, and multiple friends sitting with their legs dangling in the swimming pool and my Mom handing out popsicles to all of them. My Mom did not want to be called Grandma so we came up with Momma B which got shortened to B. All the grandkids are grown now but there is a whole generation of kids in our community that grew up with fond memories of spending time at B’s house.
As a matter of fact I can only think of one instance that someone that was not welcome at her house. It had been a cold winter and apparently a momma mouse felt the spirit of hospitality and decided that the house would be a great place to raise her family. We had done our best to evict the squatters. I came in one afternoon and Mom asked for some help to move the couch outside to beat out the cushions and the frame to evict any that remained. We had the couch about half out the door and Mom expressed her distaste for the rodents saying, “I’d just as soon have gorillas in my house as mice.” It was a while before I could stop laughing to continue moving the couch.
Once again I have blown the five minutes away but hospitality means so much to me because Mom and Dad lived it out in front of me. Mom has been gone for 8 years now and Dad a couple but the memories of a full house remain vivid. Everybody but mice,gorillas included, were welcome at B’s house.

Matthew 25

34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.

(Check out more blogs by Christian writers @ FiveMinuteFriday.com hosted by Kate Motaung)

A Broken String

I’m not real big on making social commentaries, I much prefer relating stories about the weird and funny things that happen in our family life. Today will be a little bit different because of something that was the main headline as I was checking our e-mail. A celebrity was featured making a statement about the breakup of their marriage. They said that they were parting ways as a couple because their relationship had changed. They went on to say that “change was inevitable”, everything is always evolving, and “evolution always wins.” All this change occurred in less than a year. I don’t want to be judgemental and I don’t know or even need to know all the circumstances surrounding this couple, but I’m having some difficulty processing this whole change thing as validation for breaking up a marriage. Change is not a bad thing.  It is inevitable but it’s more about how you deal with the changes as a couple that makes the difference.
This has been the summer of weddings for our family, first, my daughter followed by two nephews. As a word of advice, I want to say to each of them that don’t expect things to remain the same. Things will change and not always for the better. After our wedding, we took a romantic honeymoon to Jamaica. On the flight there, the majority of the plane was occupied by couples only. The ladies adjusted the air and the lights so that their diamonds glittered. We were greeted with  “Welcome to Jamaica!” When we arrived at the resort, the bed was sprinkled with flower petals, everything was perfect. Unfortunately, everything did not remain so idyllic. We traveled to Dunn River Falls on an excursion. The falls were amazing but Sherry got sick on plantain fries. We then had to wait in Ocho Rios for our bus to return for transport to our resort. While we were waiting, we were approached and even to the point of being badgered by every street vendor with in a 5 block area. Our only escape was to duck inside a Burger King (talk about romantic), while we waited on our bus. Upon arriving in our room, we discovered that the air conditioner had frozen up. I made a call to the front desk explaining our dilemma. Being in Jamaica, you probably have already guessed the response was “No problem, Mon.” We, on the other hand, found it less than romantic when the flower petals on our bed floated on a pool of sweat. Using good old American ingenuity, I grabbed our blow dryer and began defrosting the air conditioner. With sweat pouring off of us, we talked, planned, and laughed about our future. Things didn’t go any smoother on our trip home with overcrowded planes, crying babies, cancelled flights, and hoping our luggage made the new ones. It didn’t even stop once we arrived at home only to discover that our car had been in an accident. You know what? Even with all the stuff that happened, the thing I remember most is how my new wife dealt with the change from pure romance to everything going wrong by laughing and dealing with it together.  I don’t mean to say that we have a perfect marriage but we keep working at it. Next month, we’ll celebrate 33 years of marriage and there have been lots of changes but we have dealt with them together.

To all of you recently married, I say once again, expect change because it is inevitable. Keep Christ in the center of your marriages. He is the one constant. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If you both hold on to Him,  changes will not tear you apart.

Ecclesiastes 4:12
And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Again? (A FMF writing exercise- again)

When my kids were little they loved for me to throw them up in the air and catch them.  Their laughter was almost always followed by the same squeal when I set them down, “Again, Daddy, again!”  Most of the time I would do it until I almost couldn’t lift my arms because I loved to hear my children laugh.  Even though my wife would worry  that I might drop them on their heads, hitting the ground was never their concern,  Daddy was going to catch them because I always had.

Then there is the other side of again.  Although my son is very bright, school was not a priority for him.  Homework, to him, was just something his teacher might have suggested he do rather than something mandatory.  The politically correct term would be strong willed but let’s be honest, he was just stubborn.  He would say things like, “I did one problem so the teacher knows I know how to do it.  Why do I have to do 25 more?”  I attribute many of my gray hairs or those that have fallen out to these homework battle of wills.  Many nights it was a challenge to get him to finish his work.  I have no idea how many times I gritted my teeth and said, “Why does the same thing happen every night? Why do we have to do this again, and again and again?  Why don’t you just get it done and then you can go play or whatever.”  I know I wasn’t very patient or understanding.  When he graduated, I have to admit I breathed a sigh of relief that the nightly struggles were over.

I am so glad God doesn’t look at us the way I looked at the homework ordeals. He doesn’t get tired when I keep failing in the same way over and over and over again.  He doesn’t say, “Not again? Why can’t you get it right?”  Jesus doesn’t regret His sacrifice because I keep sinning again and again.  Instead in Psalm 103:12, He tells me that He removes my sin as far as the east is from the west.   God doesn’t roll His eyes or shake His head when I come to Him.  He doesn’t list all my past sins because they have been forgiven and forgotten.

I so want to be more like my kids were when they said, “Again, Daddy, again!”  I want to go to God with that kind of excitement because He is always there to catch me.  The chorus of Steven Curtis Chapman’s song. My Redeemer is Faithful and True, goes :

My Redeemer is faithful and true.
Everything He has said He will do,
And every morning His mercies are new.
My Redeemer is faithful and true.

No matter what I’ve done I can go to God my heavenly Father and say, “Again, Daddy, again!”

Psalm 103:12

12 As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed
our transgressions from us.

(Check out more blogs by Christian writers @ FiveMinuteFriday.com hosted by Kate Motaung

Who Do You Listen to?

We are in the process of getting estimates on repairs for our house. I think the house has grown to hate me.  Much like me, it’s starting to fall apart and we would like to stop it before it tumbles down around us. This Old House could feature us for years to come if they would just answer my letters.  The builders did not pay attention to the little song I learned in Sunday School as a kid. The wise man built his house upon the rock…. and the house on the rock stood firm.  You see, phosphate was mined in our subdivision before houses were constructed.  They just patted the dirt down when they were through mining and started building.  We have already had the exciting opportunity to firm up our foundation on one side and now the other side of our home has decided that it needs some structural as well as financial support.  On top of this, the original siding on the house, a “wonderful” product called masonite, needs to be replaced.  I’ve tried to patch it for several years to get by because this product is no longer available but now the patch spots out number the “good” spots.  We basically need to start from scratch.  If that wasn’t enough, we learned that any window work should “really be preformed’ before siding so they can be properly sealed. So… we have had an endless parade of experts inspecting, giving estimates, and advising us on the work we need to have done.  I’m rapidly approaching the point of information overload.  Hardie board or vinyl siding.  Vinyl replacement windows or new construction widows while the siding is off.  Jack up the foundation or blow the whole thing up.  Aa-a-a-h!  Maybe the aborigines people have the right idea and Sherry and I should just go on a walkabout and the answers will reveal themselves.  When you are getting all sorts of advice, some of which seems to be contradictory, who do you listen to?

The dictionary defines advice as guidance or recommendations offered with regard to prudent future action.   Prudent is the key word here.  Let me share a little story about making sure you are listening to the right people that are offering advise.   It all began on a Saturday evening when our son was attending a concert by one of his friends.  As fond as we were of his friend, we did not attend the jam because I think the genre of music was not exactly our cup of tea.  I believe the style could best be described as screamo.  This entailed lots of bodies flinging themselves around the stage while screaming at decibel levels usually reserved for natural disasters or inside jet engines.  Apparently the really “good” screamo bands can cause minor bleeding from the ears.  I have no idea how his statement was heard above the uh… music, but another of his friends realized that our son had inquired about some type of ear protection.   This is where the story begins to go all wrong.  Just like us, our son received advice.  Before proceeding in hind sight, he should have asked the question:  Who should I listen to?  Although his friend did not have a degree in sound engineering, our son followed his advise to stuff wet toilet paper in his ears.  If you’ve ever dealt with wet toilet paper,  you have probably recognized that it is not known for its tensile strength.  This fatal flaw in his friend’s advise did not become apparent until the wet toilet paper began to cause pain in our son’s ear.  His efforts to extricate the “sound muffler” proved fruitless at which point he made a call to our home.  His mother and I picked him up at church but fearing that we might damage his ear drum decided a trip to the emergency room was in order.  Since he was on my insurance I was forced to at least register him into the ER, however when he was called back to triage his complaint, I told him, “You’re on your own, Bud.”  Please don’t think me a heartless parent but he had graduated from high school at this point and there come a time when you do something stupid, you need to man up to your own stupidity.  He was released after the offending paper was finally removed and given a prescription for some ear drops to deal with the pain.  Oh, by the way, the physician gave him the advise that in the future, the proper target for toilet paper was much lower. He ought to know because he graduated from medical school.

Now back to our question about who do we listen to.  To date, none of our home improvement gurus have proposed either wet or dry toilet paper as a solution to our house dilemmas.   If they did, we would at least know who not to listen to.  We will have to do our due diligence in research, pray, and ask God to help us be the best stewards with our finances. Listening to Him is always prudent.

 

Wisdom and strength belong to God; counsel and understanding are His.

 

Counting (A FMF writing exercise on Five)

I must admit that I was a little disappointed when I saw that five was the writing prompt for this week. This was not where I was hoping to go. I started to just start writing random facts about five until I remembered something the President on my college said. Dr Herbert Gabhart gave the same sermon in chapel all four of my college years . I also heard it when he was the guest pastor at our church on a couple of different occasions. I had heard it so many times that I would switch off as soon as he began speaking because I knew what was coming next. It wasn’t a bad sermon; I just thought I had garnered all I could from it after the first time so I probably dozed more than not. It was entitled The Five Kernels of Corn and was based on the legend of the Pilgrims putting five kernels of corn on their plates after the first Thanksgiving as a reminder when they celebrated later harvests.

The first kernel was a reminder of autumn and the beauty around us.  As I sweated through every thing I was wearing yesterday mowing the lawn, I noticed how the heat had made our patio garden shrivel up pitifully.  Relief is coming. The coolness of fall and the changing of the leaves gives something to look forward to.

The second kernel is a reminder of the love of our family.  I was so fortunate to be brought up in a Christian home with godly parents.  Then I think about my loving wife and our kids and hope they see just a little of Christ in me.  Both my brothers and their families live close by so we have lots of family support.

In the first rendition of the poem I found, the third kernel represents being happy with all we have.  The sounds really good but it was not the way I remembered Dr Gabhart telling it so I searched for an original version.  When I discovered it the original form, the third kernel was a reminder of the love of God.  If God is taken out of the equation, it makes it very difficult to be content.  God loves us and is with us no matter the situation so we can be happy where we are because He is with us.

The fourth kernel was about the support and love of friends.  The Pilgrims learned how to farm from their Native friends.  Our family is so blessed to have a wonderful church family to lean on.  Not to mention neighbors like mine who cut my grass while I was incapacitated following a recent injury.

Finally, the fifth kernel is a reminder that we live in a free country.  For the Pilgrims, this meant they could freely worship God in the way they felt guided.  Their and our real freedom as believers comes from Jesus.  John 8:36 says that the Son has set us free so we are really free.

It’s good to stop and count all the things for which I’m thankful besides the fourth Thursday in November.

Today’s prompt, five, goes to show that sometimes we learn something even if we don’t think we will pick anything up.  So sorry, Dr Gabhart, maybe I got more out of chapel than I thought.  It looks like I was listening after all.

The only thing is that now I have this weird craving for turkey and dressing.

John 8:34-36

34 Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. 36 Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.

(Check out more blogs by Christian writers @ FiveMinuteFriday.com hosted by Kate Motaung )

I’m Probably Going to Regret That

Sometimes we say things that as soon as the words come out of our mouths we think why did I say that. Often those words sneak out before we have fully thought thru the situations. How many times are we encouraged to speak what’s on our mind?  That is not always the best course of action. Abraham Lincoln once said; “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” When I was younger I thought I always had to speak my mind but the older I become, the more I’ve realized that sometimes it’s better to follow Abe’s advice. Too many times, I’m finding it more prudent to refrain than to eat my words later. Those situations are bad enough but I want to talk about those times when you say something that sounds so innocent but end up being something that you later regret.

I like to imagine what some throughout history may have uttered just before their moments of truth.  Goliath all but said, “Like I’m afraid of a little boy with a slingshot.” I’m sure Custer probably said something to his men along the lines of “This looks like a nice safe place to camp.” The captain of the Titanic may have thought, “It’s only a little ice. How can it hurt?” We’ll never know if any of these statements were ever made because these individuals didn’t live to regret having said them.  Luckily we don’t always have to pay such a steep price when we say things that we later regret.

In last week’s post I wrote about my wife’s making memories statement and how it bit her back a little.  She was correct in the sense that we did purchase a tent after that first camping encounter and enjoyed several memorable camping trips when our kids were younger.  Even though I refused to camp as we were traveling, I must admit that I really enjoyed when we camped as a destination.  You know back to nature, fresh air and all that stuff.  We even camped with other families and had a great time.  One time we, along with a couple of other families from church, spent a long weekend at a state park about an hour from home.  I’m not sure missing church on Sunday had anything to do with what happened on our last day but I know that my wife paid dearly for a statement she made prior to an activity on that final day.  Before we broke camp, we decided to go hiking with one of the families.  We had followed a trail until we came to a fork in the path and a sign.  If this had been a movie, the audience would have been screaming, “Go back, you idiots!”  Now would be an appropriate time for a Rod Serling voice over, ” There’s a sign post up ahead.  You have just entered the Twilight Zone.”  Hard to believe that such an innocuous looking sign would precede such dire consequences.  All the sign said was: Trail head 5 mile hike.  Both myself and the other dad, along with the kids, were basically content with having enjoyed all that nature had already offered  so we were going to retrace our steps to camp.  Both moms gleefully blurted out that phrase that has lived in infamy in our family, “Let’s go on the five mile hike.  It’ll be fun.!”  Words equivalent to the Donner party saying, “We’ll be thru that pass in no time flat.”  With great trepidation, we began that fateful hike.  I noticed that the further along the trail we went the less the trail appeared to have been blazed.   Our youngest was about 5 or 6 at the time, and I put her on my shoulders because I feared she would get lost in the weeds.  Picture every jungle movie with porters making a trail with machetes and you might be able to imagine our journey.  I kept thinking I was hearing jungle drums and the sound of little pygmy feet all around us but it was probably just my mind playing tricks on me.  I don’t have an irrational fear of snakes but this was the kind of place that snakes would go to have a convention that I surely would not want to attend.  Everyone but the moms wanted to turn back but they were still insistent on “having fun”.  I don’t believe it would have been possible anyway because the path was being taken back by the jungle almost as soon as we passed.  We finally reached a fence marking the edge of the state park and began to circle back.  We had hoped that was at least the halfway point but had no idea because any signs marking the trial were non-existent.  The kids were ready to stake out one of the moms to distract the pygmies if they had said one more time, “It can’t be too much further.”  We finally made it back to civilization and didn’t manage to lose any of our party.  I would never wish ill will on my wife but sometimes justice prevails.  It seems that the only long term consequence of our trek through the wilds of Cedars of Lebanon was that both mothers developed raging cases of poison ivy. (At least I think it was poison ivy and not poison pygmy darts.)  Our kids are adults now, but to this day whenever they are faced with an opportunity that may have questionable wisdom, their response is often, “Let’s go on a five mile hike.  It’ll be fun.”  As my wife bathed herself in calamine lotion, I’m sure she regretted her unfortunate prediction.

With all that being said, I am so glad that Jesus made a statement on the cross as He faced His moment of truth.  He did it without regret, already knowing the result and the price that would have to be paid.  “It is finished.”  He had done everything that needed to be done.  There was no looking back.  Sometimes I look back on situations and regret that I said something that may have precipitated the events.  Jesus knew exactly what He was saying and what it would mean to Him and for us.

 

When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit