God or Google?

Where do you go with your questions and concerns?

I am very guilty of kneeling at the throne of Google with my inquiries. Want to know the world’s smallest mammal? Google probably knows. Want to find out if a celebrity is still alive? Google probably knows. And when Google isn’t at our fingertips we have Alexa and Siri as backup. I don’t think its an inherently bad thing to take advantage of the access we are given to basically all of human knowledge. But for the Christian, it should not be a substitute for going to Our Father. And even for the secular person, its a vast jungle of internet chaos that can be hard to navigate and extract good answers…accurate answers. All the human knowledge still comes with inaccuracies, misleading theories, divisive arguments, and unnecessarily scary information.

As I type this, our globe is consumed with the COVID 19 scare, AKA the Corona Virus. My employer has cancelled the President’s Club trip, my customers are scaling down when it should be peak season, and my fellow man is out trying to buy everything off the grocery store shelves out of the fear of needing to stay at home for a prolonged period of time. If there was ever a time where people are likely flocking to Google for answers, its probably at its peak right now. But what about God? Are you going to Him? Are you asking Him for guidance, protection, reassurance, good or improved health, healing, and clarity?

If not, I encourage you to do so. And if so, I encourage you to continue and that you encourage other believers as well. This does not mean to abandon your AI tools and technological sources. But it does mean to assign the proper value of those sources and prioritize them accordingly. We live in a fallen world, hell-bent on scaring you. Our enemy is here to steal, kill, and destroy anything of value to you. Yet we serve a higher power. Romans 8:31 states We Are More than Conquerors – What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

That is my two cents…keep the change

Grillable Cheese

Yes, you read that correctly and its every bit as good as it sounds…

Today’s post will be a little different. Less descriptive and more visually rich with lots of pictures and how-to instructions for your tastebuds delight. If I could send you the smells and the taste through this medium, I would. Suffice it to say…I highly recommend.

Start with a trip to the grocery store and a purchase of the above, Carr Valley Bread Cheese. The end product tastes nothing like bread so all I can assume is there is some kind of bread like congealing substance that keeps it from melting and falling apart, hence the name.

Heat your grill full blast to get the grates super hot and ready to make those amazing grill marks. However, do not plan on keeping the heat at this level once the cheese takes center stage. I have learned to use the Pam Olive Oil directly on the surface of the cheese as opposed to the grill surface. When applied to the grill it has a tendency to evaporate and you end up with cheese sticking to the grate and a whole mess.

Once you properly grease that bad-boy up, throw her on the grill and reduce heat to LOW. The iron hot grate should still leave a good mark as you will see later in the post. I recommend four minutes per side depending on how hot your grill gets.

Take a look at this amazing work of art in progress and try not to salivate!

Spray the olive oil on the top side and flip so that side is now facing down and also protected from sticking to the surface. Do not flip unless the grill marks and coloring look similar to this photo. Do your best to make both sides look like this.

Once off the grill just cut into delectable squares and be prepared to wow the family or friends that are lucky enough to partake!

A final touch with a toothpick lanced through the cheese square’s middle and now this party just got fancy! All kidding aside, if done correctly this is about the tastiest appetizer you can possibly serve at your next gathering. The cheese is around $10 so its not the cheapest but its certainly one of the best. Let me know how yours turns out and feel free to send me some pics.

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

Celebrity Death

Tragic in more than one way…

A recent news headline announced another celebrity losing his life prematurely. No matter who it is, death is tragic. It puts an impassible gulf between us, the living, and them, the departed. Pending your worldview on the afterlife it could be a permanent departure and again, this is sad. So why does the pomp and circumstance that occurs when a celebrity passes on bother me? I am not sure if I can completely and succinctly articulate what are essentially emotions but I will do my best to extract them and put it to “paper”.

1. They are just people – I might be strange but I have never been star struck. Even on the occasion that I have met a celebrity in person, I’ve never lost my mind over it. In fact, I usually just give them their space realizing they are continuously mobbed and I don’t want to be part of that herd. So in death I feel the same way. Confused over why there is so much MORE fanfare and grief than that of anyone else.

2. Sole focus on good – I realize a funeral is not the time to air someone’s faults. We don’t eulogize people by saying, “John was a great man. Would have been even better had he not been a raging alcoholic.” But if we are going to practically worship the fallen-famous who has been in the news for their great accomplishments to the complete avoidance of some of the well known and not-so-great headlines they’ve generated, it really bugs me.

3. False grief – For every person that was truly close to the departed celebrity there are lots that use the moment to put a spotlight on themselves with over-the-top gestures of insincere grief. Though I am sad that a human life was taken too soon and even more sad that children were also taken by the tragedy, I cannot suddenly develop the kind of emotion that would equal someone with an actual relationship to those that have been lost and put it on display. Yet some seem to rise to that challenge and its just cringe-worthy.

4. Spiritual state – The primary issue I find myself concerned with when ANYONE passes but especially the celebrity, who is so often surrounded by all kinds of false narratives that leave them spiritually bankrupt, is the condition of their soul. That condition is directly determined by whether or not the person in question had a relationship with Jesus Christ or not. I pray that they came to know Jesus even if just a week or day before.

What are your thoughts? Am I too insensitive to news like this? Do I have a point or not really? What did I leave out if you are also bothered by how our society marks the passing of the famous?

That’s my two cents, keep the change…

The Childhood Experience

Then…and now…

The picture above was normal for my childhood. We rode in the back of pickups without a care in the world. Even when inside a vehicle seatbelts were optional and that is if they weren’t stuffed down to an unreachable spot in the crease. Becoming a parent you look back on things like this and find yourself in a conundrum of sorts. Most of us will admit we had a great childhood. Most of us will continue on and say this generation needs to learn responsibility and be tough like us. If only they grew up when we did, they would understand what they lack and how much more we did.

Agree with me so far? Then I turn my thoughts to what exactly could or should we be doing differently? Do we let them roam neighborhoods and wooded areas all day long without making contact, showing up when”the street lights come on”? Umm, don’t think so. Do we say forget the seatbelt today, lets just hope for the best? Do we drop them off at the mall, arcade, bowling alley with a quarter telling them to call when they want to come home? Age pending, probably not. We even had some of the craziest songs, prayers, and stories that as I revisit them would more than make me think, I probably should not share this with my kids.

Remember this one?:

Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep

If I should DIE before I wake

I pray the Lord my soul to take

I prayed this a million times thinking nothing of it. Then when I started saying it with my kids at night I suddenly realized how morbid and strange it was. That might spur a few posts of its own so I will save other examples for later. Here are my questions for you. How do we solve the problem? How do we give them our childhood with all the great benefits of a less sheltered upbringing without giving into a very stupid idea that never should have been the case for us? How do we toughen up a generation that doesn’t have the hard knocks we did? Ultimately…where is the balance and is there even one to be obtained?

I leave you with this hesitantly because it convicts me as much as it does you. Can we really complain about the generation that WE are raising? If so, what would you or should you change?

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

How it should be…

…what informs us to think that way?

I give my wife a hard time because she has OCD. But the picture above probably irritates every viewer at least a little bit. One can clearly observe one pencil not neatly organized with the other supplies and want to fix it. I think this is a small example of a larger phenomenon that mostly causes problems for the atheist worldview.

I have never met anyone that says our world is ideal. That it could not improve. We all have an idea of what “ought” to be and maybe even sometimes get frustrated about why its not. But have you ever questioned why we are wired like that? If we are part of a godless random creation where dog eat dog, the strongest survive as the narrative suggests then I actually think this existence is pretty ideal compared to what level of chaos could be. There is no room for “ought” in that worldview that holds any water because it goes completely against the storyline.

This is not an argument for Christianity. But it is a challenge to non-believers to think about. You are hardwired to know deep down that this is not Utopia, things could and should be better. Your worldview has no explanation as to why yet theists and especially Christians have an explanation. We are part of a fallen creation that will one day be restored. Our internal operating system that God created instinctively understands this is not ideal and the tension that creates in the human experience is palpable.

What do you think and why? If you are an atheist I would be especially interested in how you explain man’s natural desire to fix things to how they ought to be and what informs us as to why anything should be different?

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

Tight-rolled Jeans

A style I thought would never go away.

This picture sums up my childhood and a bit beyond. Most boys had a skateboard although we could pull off little more than an ollie (AKA: posers). We had the spiked up hair, lots of denim, Converse high-tops, and that extra special touch, tight-rolled jeans. I swore to my parents that I would NEVER stop rolling mine. The ONLY thing worse than unrolled jeans were BELL-BOTTOMS! I realize I was just a kid with very minimal big picture perspective but I really thought that was a permanent fixture in the lives of anyone with any kind of decent fashion sense.

Now as I look back at photos like this I have to say I am glad we moved on. I would still love to dress like that just to troll my kids and get a good laugh though. Another trend I adopted in college was frosted tips and earrings. In fact, when my wife Rachael met me, I was still sporting that look thinking much like I did with the jeans that it was a permanent look for me. I still remember the day my wife gently put her hand on my back and said, “Maybe we’ve outgrown the earrings a bit?” Ouch! Message received. Too old or maybe not cool enough to pull it off anymore, I relented and retired the hoops.

What fads and trends did you think would last forever? What did you think would never change or vow to never stop doing?

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

Kisses or No?

I come from a kissing family. Is that weird?

Give Grandma a kiss!

I am not sure if its a Southern thing but it could be. In my family we greeted one another with a kiss and hug. When we said goodbye, another kiss and hug. Being a very affectionate person I was never bothered by it really. As a boy, I put a stop to giving dad a kiss around 5th grade and just offered a hug. Same went for uncles or any other male relative. But aunts, mom, and grandmothers still get a kiss upon greeting and upon saying goodbye.

I first became aware that this practice could be odd to others when meeting and marrying into my wife’s family. This is not something they like to do. Maybe a few kisses for the grandkids when they were small but mostly a warm hello or a side hug. The interesting thing about combining families with different expressions of affection like this is watching the end results of who prefers what. For instance, my eldest son would think a kiss is worse than death. But my daughter and youngest son would gladly cover your cheeks with them if they knew it would brighten your day. My in-laws and specifically my father-in-law who is a self professed Vulcan has been more affectionate and gentle with his grandkids than my wife could have ever imagined given her upbringing.

I won’t say one way is right or the other. If I had been raised in a non-kissing home that would have been normal for me and probably what I preferred. I just find it interesting how the two types of families exist and in some cases coexist rendering a variety of results. Did the kissy types convert the non-kissers or did the non-kissers convert the kissy types to slow their role? Enquiring minds want to know. Leave a comment about your experience.

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

My Parenting Style

For better or worse…an introspective look at my fatherly traits.

Parenting has its universal elements. Taking care of your offspring is the simplest way to describe it. But just like our personalities, the style in which you provide that care can vary by very large degrees. Below is a list divided in two. The first is a look at some of my faults, potential challenges, and surprising traits that I have but didn’t think I would have growing up. The second half will be some of my more redeeming qualities, hopefully.

Faults, Challenges, Surprises

    Disciplinarian – This is not a role I thought I would take on when I was a child. I think most of us grow up thinking we will not be as tough on our children and we are going to be much more relaxed than our parents generation. That may have some truth to it but ask my kids who doles out the most rules and consequences in our family and all fingers will point to me. Rachael partners with me of course but I am quite a bit less flexible than her. While I think it is good to have discipline and really bad when there is zero, my challenge is to find balance and just chill now and then.
    Helicopter Dad – We alway hear about Mama Bear or the Helicopter Mom but that role belongs on my side of the fence and pairs well with disciplinarian. The idea behind both is ultimately to protect your little ones. Protecting them is a good thing but my fault in this area is delineating precisely where the line of too sheltering is vs. reasonably sheltering. You have to let your kids experience life, failure, hurts, pains, and grow to be functioning adults who have some experience under their belts. Thankfully my wife helps me see quite often where the line of reason stands. This will likely be a lifelong struggle.
    Embarrassing – I think this is actually a good dad trait and I fully embrace doing it to them on purpose or by accident. Its only on this part of the list because I am surprised that I took this role and enjoy it so much. In some ways it goes hand-in-hand with one of the traits on the positive list (Fun-loving) but not always. Embarrassing a child is fun for me but usually not so fun for them. Whether its a corny dad-joke, doing Fortnite dances in public, or yelling I LOVE YOU as loud as I can when dropping them off, I am just giddy with excitement when I hear them exclaim,”DAD, stop!”

Redeeming Qualities

  • Snuggler – I am very affectionate. I kiss skinned knees, I have an unlimited supply of hugs, and I am the Mayor of a place called Snuggletown. Snuggletown is my bed after Mom has jumped out of it and the kids run in and pile on top of me. We have the Snuggletown windmill but Mom calls it a “fan”. The primary rule in Snuggletown is that we have to be calm, stay warm, and get real cozy. Mom sometimes turns into the Snuggletown monster and turns off the windmill, demanding that we all vacate the city limits so she can “make the bed”. SMH
  • Fun-loving – It’s probably strange to have a parent that is the disciplinarian while simultaneously playing the role of fun goofball but here I am in all of my ironic glory. We joke that my wife has 4 kids instead of 3 since I tend to have more behavior in common with a middle schooler than with most adults. Any chance to get goofy and I usually take it. Any chance to have fun and I usually take it. Any chance to become a bit childlike and well, I take it. When its not meant to embarrass them, my kids seem to enjoy this side of my parenting qualities.
  • Transparent – Prim and proper was how I was raised. It wasn’t a bad deal and I really didn’t know any other way. Until, I took the parenting steering wheel and decided to do things a little bit different. We burp, fart, laugh hysterically, and truly talk about everything. There is nothing taboo, nothing that we are unwilling to address or cause the kids to feel uncomfortable about. Like anything, one can probably be TOO transparent and that could land me on the other side of this list. But I would rather err on the side of my kids being able to see behind the curtain than them keeping secrets, afraid to come to us.

That’s my list, what about you? What are your challenges? What traits surprised you? What are your redeeming qualities?

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

Being Kind…

Why is it so hard!?

A couple weeks ago my church pastor taught us about kindness and our responsibility to be kind. Not just randomly when someone buys you a coffee in the drive through at Starbucks by keeping the chain going and paying for the next person in line but with real intention. All of the time. It makes sense. Christians should act Christlike, right? I have this issue tackled in some arenas. Like the picture above I would certainly help someone with their groceries or be that steady arm for someone to balance on. I am even pretty good at discussing emotionally charged topics without disrespecting those with other views. I am simply amazed when I see Liberals vs. Conservatives on the internet at large but even on Facebook with their own friends list.

People that once accepted your invitation to connect are now flaming one another in the comment section because one voted for Hilary and the other Trump. Agreeing to disagree is a thing but I am starting to think the vast majority are not capable of it anymore. There are no discussions just demonstrations. There is no debate, there is yelling, and mob tactics to keep ideas and free speech at bay. It’s more about who can scream the loudest and play the victim better. But I digress.

Where I find it hard for me personally is when my sense of justice is inflamed. You cut me off in traffic? Kindness does not flow from me. You neglect your children or spouse for self serving interests? Kindness does not flow from me. You keep me from eating when Daddy hungry. Kindness ain’t flowing. So I have real work to do if I am to be kind in an intentional or continuous fashion. I think it starts with how we judge others. The more harshly we judge the more likely you’re stifling kindness. If we only gave it to those that deserved it, we wouldn’t give it at all, would we? Part of what makes kindness beautiful is when the recipient didn’t ask for it and didn’t necessarily deserve it.

What makes being kind hard for you? On a kindness scale from 1 – 10 with 10 being the best rating, where do you fall?

That’s my to cents…keep the change.

The Shopping Trap

Is your wife affected (infected)?

It wasn’t always like this. I cannot decide if it was because she wasn’t infected with the bug yet or because early on we could not afford much more than the essentials of life. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Back when we got married though, shopping required leaving the house giving me at least some clue what was happening. NOW…when she is on any device, be it a cell phone, laptop, or tablet I immediately get suspicious. Rachael is only on those things for one of three reasons.

1. She is texting

2. She is keeping up with you on Facebook or…

3. She is SHOPPING!!!

It would be one thing if the average purchase was truly necessary and added an incredible amount of value to our already blessed lives. Sometimes that does happen. But more often than not, its just something we could have lived without and in some cases leaving me scratching my head wanting my money back. A visit to Hobby Lobby this week resulted in the products you see below.

Random nicknacks and a portal?

I present you with $50 worth of stuff. On the left we have a metal tray of some kind holding a towel that will never dry off anything be it a counter or some wet hands, a decorative cookie jar (that’s code for “never to hold a single cookie ever”), a fake plant, and a lantern that you could put a candle in but we probably won’t. On the right…I…I don’t know what that is. My first guess was a portal. Maybe that is the sci-fi part of my brain trying to figure it out. I joked with my wife that if she passes through the portal she might immediately teleport back to Hobby Lobby. She didn’t appreciate this so I tried to recover by suggesting maybe it was a sculpture of two wedding rings bonding together as one. I think that worked but its still most likely a portal.

I guess these purchases fall under the “decorations” umbrella of use. But (a) we don’t need more decorations and (b) why waste the money on things that literally have no use other than to just sit there and take up space? If the cookie jar even sometimes had a batch of fresh cookies in it, I would understand and support its purchase. If you are like me, you see these things, you see the total at the end of the receipt and you ask, “Why!?” Why use $50 in this way when I can think of a dozen other ways to use fifty dollars up to and including NOT spending it at all.

The answer I get is mind numbingly frustrating and ties back to the title of this post, namely the “trap”. Her answer is “It was ON SALE.” Put anything on sale in any store and there is a female that will buy it. She might even admit there was no used for it the day before but today its a dollar less…what a bargain! I have tried, to no avail to explain that “not buying something” is actually cheaper than getting anything on sale for any amount but she just stares at me blankly. I fear I lost this battle years ago. The scary thing is this was a half off sale. So this would have been $100!! I need to buy stock in Hobby Lobby.

Who is the shopper in your family? Do they fall for the trap?

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

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