Updates, Odds, Ends, etc.

Photo by Stijn Dijkstra on Pexels.com

Hi reader.

It seems like quite a bit of life has happened in the last 2-3 months, both in the world and here at home. I don’t have time for all sorts of detailed explanation, so here are the bullet points:

  • Work/ministry/family life is a bit hectic lately, but humming along. I’m thankful to God that my family and I are healthy and that He has graciously supplied all of our needs, just as He always does. That said, I’m feeling the strain of many commitments and not much time.
  • We are in the process of buying our first home. If you’re not aware of how ridiculous things are in the real estate market, I’ll just say that this video is only barely satire. We have a contract on the new place and may be closing and moving in over the next month (more on this later, I’m sure). As such, I may not be posting too much until after we get settled in the potential new homestead. (Of course, anything would be better than the almost-zero I’ve posted since the beginning of the year, right?)
  • Speaking of posting, I’ve started contributing to Things Above Us, a Christian group-blog. (Don’t get jealous–I’ve only posted once so far.) I would very much appreciate if y’all could check that out and, if it interests you, sign up for the email updates and follow us on socials. The guys I’m writing with are solid dudes, and it’s a pleasure to join them and contribute in some small way to the site.
  • I’ll be heading to Together for the Gospel in a few weeks, thanks to the generosity of a good friend. This will probably be the last time I get to enjoy a conference like this for a while (see above re: buying a house in this crazy market). I’m really looking forward to getting a little time away to worship and recharge. It’s been a tough spring.

That’s really all I’ve got going on: work, church, household, a little writing. But that’s enough.

Before I go, a couple links you may find interesting:

  • Starting on a somber note: as I’ve mentioned before, I love international versions of The Voice. Here’s a video from The Voice of Ukraine–one of my favorites, actually. Here’s a band of soldiers performing just a few weeks before their country would be invaded by Russian forces. There’s no way to know if any of these brave men and women are okay, but it’s just another reminder that this month-long war that may not directly touch many of us across the West has a very human cost.
  • Okay, this one’s actually somber, too: Austin McConnell gives us a glimpse of the heart-breaking secrets behind (literally) a 19th century French painting.
  • Less somber, more epic: here’s a cover of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,” in the style of Muse.

That’s it. Happy Thursday, gang. I hope to post sooner again sooner rather than later. In the meantime, join the mailing list in the sidebar so you get notified every time there’s a new post. Thanks!

We Need to Talk about Bruno-19.

First of all: I thought this was really funny.

#FreeBruno

Also, Encanto is an amazing animated movie, and I’ll post about it soon.

But I bring this up because something’s been bothering me that I think we need to consider:

Catching Covid-19 carries a lot of unhealthy and unnecessary social stigma, and we need to stop treating it like a point of personal or moral failure.

Even now, two years into the #ForeverPlague, I still hear people talking about getting Covid as if they were admitting to having an STD–always in hushed tones with eyes askance. It’s as if the only way a person can be infected is if they are reckless with their health and careless about everyone else, or if they’re a knuckle-dragging science denier whose backwards lifestyle begs to be punished by such an illness. After all, it’s the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” who deserve a long, dark winter of sadness and death, or somesuch.

Weird how even people who are vaccinated can get the disease. Also people who are super careful. Even people in Antarctic research stations.

The other day, I was about to mention during Sunday School that a friend of the group tested positive so that the folks in attendance could pray for a quick recovery. As I was about to mention “the respiratory virus that must not be named,” a couple on the front row practically jumped out of their chairs to shout me down and say that person was just feeling “under the weather.”

This isn’t the only time I’ve seen this type of reaction: no one wants to admit the reality that we’re all getting Covid.

Yes, that’s right, I said it: It’s almost a certainty that we will all get Covid eventually. Probably multiple times.

So much of the public conversation about Covid seems couched in shame and exclusion language, and that nonsense needs to end.

Here’s the reality about Covid-19, gang:

  • It’s a respiratory virus, so it’s never going to be eradicated. We’ll have to figure out how to live with it, just like we live with influenza.
  • Treatments will continue to be developed and improve. More options will become available for both prevention and treatment.
  • Vaccines don’t protect against ever getting infected. It stinks, but it’s true. However, vaccines *do* seem to make subsequent bouts of the illness easier to manage. We can discuss and dispute over whether or not that’s sufficient justification for getting it versus the possible risks and side effects.
  • We should all be free to make the decision about vaccines without external compulsion of any kind. This should be stupidly self-evident, but there you go.
  • Natural immunity is usually better than artificial immunity. Artificial immunity is probably better than simply living with higher vulnerability due to comorbidities.
  • We can do a lot of things to boost our immune systems and give ourselves the best chance to fight off the #ForeverPlague. Take good-quality supplements for Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and zinc. Get plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Drink water. Sleep sufficiently. Eat good-quality food.
  • If you test positive, talk to your own doctor (and not some whacko on the internet) about what treatments and medications may be appropriate for you personally based on your medical history and current health status. Again, talk to YOUR doctor and make a decision with YOUR doctor’s input.
  • Pay attention to your symptoms and don’t be a doofus and go out in public when you’re clearly sick. It’s not rocket surgery.

To address the end of the video above: yes, people are deciding to go back to work, go back to school, and move on with life. The virus should be taken seriously, but we still have to move on. It’s not the bubonic plague, killing a third of the population in a matter of months or years; with some basic preventative and/or supportive care, 99% of folks who get Covid will be okay in a few weeks. The rest, we can all try to watch out for and help out as we can.

And ultimately, I believe that whether or not you catch the ‘Rona is in God’s hands. Do your best, be wise about it, and trust the sovereignty of the King of the Universe. Our days are in His hands, and we’re not even promised our next breath. So just chill out and be grateful for His myriad blessings.

In conclusion, and by way of review:

  • People who get Covid aren’t somehow being punished for their epidemiological sins.
  • Covid infection is not a symptom of moral failure.
  • Lack of Covid infection is not a sign of personal righteousness.
  • Trust God’s hand and plan, and stop being ridiculous about this.

Let me know what you think about all this in the comments.

The4thDave Drinks Bones Coffee (and You Should, Too)!

How d’ya do, Mr. Bones!

I’ve reached the life stage in which gifts I receive for birthdays and Christmas tend toward power tools, grill equipment, and leather goods. The last few years’ gifts, however, have been predominantly coffee-related. That in and of itself is funny, since I don’t consider myself a coffee connoisseur. I like my 12-cup Mr. Coffee and will occassionally enjoy a French press. (My wife has now converted to Chemex pour-overs and swears she’ll never go back.)

I’ve gotten to try a few different brands of small-batch and specialty coffee, but the company that I come back to over and over is Bones Coffee. They have a nice variety of both flavored and unflavored coffee, with lots of neat seasonal and specialty flavors throughout the year.

Note: This is not a sponsored/affiliate post–BUT if the fine folks at Bones want to toss me an affiliate link or discount code to share with you, I’ll be more than delighted to do so.

Here are some quick capsule reviews of flavors I’ve tried so far, in case you want to check out Bones Coffee for yourself:

Mint Invaders from Chocolate Space — Chocolate and mint is my go-to sweet combination. Every year, I hit up Starbucks on or around November 1st for the official start of “Peppermint Mocha” season (and don’t talk to me about how it’s available at other times in the year, because I don’t acknowledge that). I dig “peppermint bark” flavored coffee creamer and mint chocolate chip ice cream–mint and chocolate are totally my jam. I had high expectations from “Mint Invaders…” when I first tried it and was extremely pleased. While the flavor isn’t as overpowering as if you were adding a heavy creamer or syrup to your coffee, the flavor and aroma are definitely there. I’ve gotten multiple bags of this flavor and it’s become one of my regular Bones selections as a result. Definite recommend.

Holy Cannoli — I don’t know what kind of eldritch flavor alchemy the Bones folks are using, but I’m stunned and delighted to find that this coffee actually reminds me of the flavors of a good cannoli–the subtle sweetness of the filling, the nuttiness of the wafer, and just a touch of chocolate. The reason this flavor works so well is that it doesn’t hit you over the head with the combination. Some flavored coffees so overwhelm you that the taste becomes cloying. “Holy Cannoli” hits that right level of subtlety so that you don’t forget you’re drinking coffee, but you’ve got a nice sensory boost from the other flavors. Plus, and I think this is really a key factor, it helps when the added flavor actually complements the flavor of coffee itself. Having a cannoli with a cup of coffee makes sense as a flavor combination. Other flavors, not so much, as in the case of…

Electric Unicorn — This is billed as a “fruity cereal” flavor–think “bowl of Fruity Pebbles.” I won a sample of this flavor in a Bones giveaway and was curious to try it out. Turns out, this one was a big miss for me personally. During my first two sips, I was intrigued, if a bit confused. However, around Sip #3, I actually started feeling a bit nauseated. It’s not even that it was too sweet (obviously, since I controlled the level of added sugar in my cup); it’s that the flavoring was just so strong, and it seemed to clash with the natural flavor of the coffee so much, that the whole thing just wasn’t appealing after just a few swigs. I’m willing to give unusual flavors a try, but if I have no desire to finish the mug, that’s a really bad sign. I’d say pass on this one, unless you’re REALLY intrigued by the flavor concept, in which case I’d recommend maybe starting with a sample pack first.

Sinn-o-Bunn — Again, here we have a flavor where they nail the concept in a way that almost defies logic. In fact, for this cinnamon-roll-flavored blend, the magic works a little *too* well. I wanted to get a good sense of this one, so I brewed a pot with a ratio of 3:1 Bones to plain decaf, and after the first mug, I could almost go back and cut it a little more. The flavor of not just cinnamon but honest-to-goodness “cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing” is *so* strong that dialing it down by mixing it with some non-flavored coffee may just be the way to go for me. Truth be told, that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you want to see your coffee dollars stretch a bit. You could find a good quality non-flavored roast (perhaps some of Bones’ single-origin coffee) to throw in the mix so that it dials the flavor strength down a bit and extends the enjoyment of the flavored beans to additional brews. Either way, this flavor is a qualified win for me.

[Fall Seasonal Flavor] Frankenbones – One of the cool things about buying coffee from a small-batch roaster like Bones is that there are seasonal flavors that come around periodically. While these flavors aren’t available right now, they will be later in the year, so I wanted to put them on your radar now. Frankenbones is one that I’m going to give another shot. The flavor of this autumn seasonal offering is listed as “chocolate hazelnut” but when I had it, the chocolate came through much more clearly than the hazelnut did. It was still good, but I just didn’t get as much of the distinction there. That said, I’m a mocha fiend, so chocolate coffee ANYTHING is a winner for me. I happened to receive a bag of it over Christmas and will be enjoying it soon, so I’ll pop back in the comments and let you know if it won me over even more!

[Winter Seasonal Flavors] The Winter Holiday Exclusive Flavors: White Chocolate Peppermint Bark, Gingerbread, Egg Nog, Jingle Bones, Oh Fuuudge! — Two years ago, we ordered the sample pack of the “holiday” flavors, along with a few extra full bags of Oh Fuuudge! and Peppermint Bark (see above, re: my love for both chocolate and mint). Those two are obviosuly my favorites of the bunch. Jingle Bones is a nice mix of coconut, vanilla, and caramel, and I liked that quite a bit; it reminded me one of my favorite local coffee brands that mixes coconut flakes in the whole-bean bags. Not all of the flavors worked for me—I didn’t love the gingerbread and eggnog samples. Don’t get me wrong; they get the flavors right and they’re not that bad (sorry, Electric Unicorn). They’re just not what I prefer. All in all, it’s a great selection, and if you’re a fan of any of the “holiday flavors” from Starbucks, you should check out Bones’ offerings when they become available in the late fall.

=====

If you’re a fan of flavored coffee, I think you should give Bones a try. Like I said at the top, this isn’t a sponsored post. I legitimately like Bones Coffee and drink it often (I’m sipping on some Sinn-a-bun while I’m typing this, as a matter of fact). I’ve reached out to the company to see if they’d be willing to hook me up with a discount code for my readers, and if I get that, I’ll update the post. I also have several more sample packs to try out, so I’ll have another flavor round-up coming out later in the spring with more recommendations.

In the meantime, may your brew be strong and your mug be steaming!

(That may be the lamest way I’ve ever ended a post.)

Meme Sequitur.

I make memes to amuse my coworkers or friends on Twitter. I save most/all of them. They’re mostly stupid.

For some idiotic reason, I decided to gather some of the ones that still make me laugh, even if they are no longer culturally relevant and probably not funny to anyone but me. Think of it as my New Year’s gift to you, the people. But really to myself.

I was tempted to call this post “Meme Time,” but I worried JackSepticEye fans would get upset. (And if you got that reference, you are entirely too hip for this post.)

So, here are some of my favorites, with brief explanations as needed. If any of these are amusing to you, I’ll consider that a win and a great start to 2022.

=====

Remember that time two guys were arrested for loitering inside a Starbucks one afternoon? And how angry crowds stormed Sbux locations, resulting in photos of stone-faced baristas wishing they were anywhere else in the world? Yeah, that was a thing.

I call this one, “Cage-Stage Keto.”

Self-explanatory.

“Mmmy depreciousssss…”

One more. I can’t help myself.

I’m so hydrated right now, I can see sound.

Oooooh, political!

Ironically, I made this more than 4 years ago, and it’s still applicable!

Pretty self-explanatory, I feel.

Bless up, Harambe, wherever you are.

A Calvinist meme for the home folks.

Heh. Medium.

I stand by this one.

We need you now more than ever, Rob.

From the set of “The Social Network 2.” Alternate caption: “Insert a meta-joke here.”

“Look, Clark’s just here to help, Bruce. We all are.”

Theology-nerd alert.

Only Darin Day will appreciate this, and I don’t think he even reads my blog.

Man, I need to fire up my SNES Classic sometime this week.

If Drake were a grittier rapper.

And, finally.

…I feel like I should apologize for most of these. But I won’t. Happy New Year, everybody!

It’s been a long December…

Photo by Toni Cuenca on Pexels.com

“It’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe / Maybe this year will be better than the last / I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell my myself to hold on to these moments as they pass…”

Adam Duritz, “A Long December”

Hey y’all. Quick December update.

Greetings at the end of December. For the 4thDaveFam, it’s been a doozy, full of very mundane busyness, mild frustration, and minor illness. And runny noses. LOTS and LOTS of runny noses.

Of the five elements of the “Power Five” I had talked about in my last post, the one I was most consistent with was telling my girls that I loved them every day. Even that wasn’t a home run itself, but I feel like I’m building into the rhythm of our family pretty well, which is great.

Everything else? Oof. I’ve been a mess, gang. Not sleeping much, not eating well, drinking an unhealthy amount of coffee, not exercising, not spending much time at all in the Word and in prayer. And on top of that, my immune system has been taking a beating from various colds and flus that my sweet little ones have been bringing home and sharing.

Am I hoping to turn things around this week? Of course. Hope springs eternal.

But (literally) at the moment, I’m wracked with wheezing coughs and I’m running a low-grade fever. So any major changes in my daily life may need a couple of days to get going.

Illness and exhaustion won’t stop me from posting a few items this week, I hope. You may see a post I wrote a month ago about frustrated ambition, or a little 2021 reading retrospective, or even a quick affiliate post on behalf of the good folks at Monk Manual (if you’re wanting to buy a journal, wait like 36 hours or so, I’ll hook you up with a discount!). No promises, but since I’m not working this week, I may be able to pull that much off.

In the meantime, just a note of encouragement:

This year, I really feel like I did a terrible job celebrating Christmas (my tongue-in-cheek twittering about the merits of Die Hard as a Christmas movie aside). I wasn’t feeling the comfort and joy on a spiritual level. I went through the motions. I’m bummed out about that in retrospect.

But you know what? That’s why Jesus came: to rescue the hurried, the harried, the helpless, and the hopeless from a life of striving and utterly failing to live righteously. There is nothing I can do in my own power to live the way I’m supposed to. I’m a sinner by nature and by choice, and there is nothing I can do in my own power to overcome that.

But at Christmastime, we celebrate that Jesus the eternal Son of God graciously condescended to be born in human flesh and live among us. The baby of Bethlehem grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man, accomplishing a life of perfect obedience to the will and law of God, in order to earn the righteousness we could never touch. Then, at the perfect time, Jesus died in the place of ruined sinners, paying the penalty for our failures and rebellion, so that all who turn away from their sin and look to Jesus as their Savior may be forgiven and set free from the guilt, the shame, the power, and the penalty of sin. Not only that, but Jesus rose from the dead 3 days later, demonstrating His authority over life and death and that His sacrifice on our behalf is acceptable to God. We who know Him as Lord and Savior have a share in that resurrection and will be raised up with Him on the last day, to life everlasting in Heaven with our God.

If you follow Jesus and, like me, your Christmas season wasn’t the worshipful, meaningful experience you wish it could have been, know that the grace of God extends to your lousy December. And you don’t even have to wait until January 1st to “resolve” to do better, because Jesus has done all the “better” for us. He calls us simply to follow Him in obedience, taking His yoke upon ourselves, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

On the other hand, if you only know of Christmas as a baby in a manger and a choir of angels serenading frightened shepherds, there is so much more to the story. And the so-much-more-ness is what matters the most to you and me, right now, in the shadow of another Christmas season come and gone.

Comment below or email me if you want to talk about that further.

Merry Christmas, friends. God bless you in Christ Jesus. Talk to you soon.

Happy December!

[Source: https://clearlakeiowa.com/high-five-clear-lake/ ]

Howdy, folks!

Sorry for the extended, unplanned break there. I wasn’t really thinking I’d take a solid month off from posting, but to be honest, I was just struggling to find things to say. So here’s a bit of the ol’ “This is Where I Am Right Now.”

Personal Updates

November was better than October, on the whole. I mean, no loved ones died, so that’s a positive right there. I didn’t spend quite as many late nights working. I got to take a few days off here and there and spend time with my immediate and extended families. And while I didn’t really engage in any performative public thankfulness online, I will say that I tried to appreciate all the many gifts I receive from God on a daily basis. And I’m feeling better, at least mentally. Still dealing with some physical pain and stuff, but doing well on the whole.

Blog Updates

While I won’t try to do another daily-posting stretch anytime soon, I will be hopefully uploading at least 1-2 posts of substance each week. I’ve got a few sermons in the can that I wanted to upload (the last half of the Jude series from the summer, and another sermon I got to preach last month). I have some ideas for Christmas-y content that I may roll out before too long, as well. The point is, I’m easing back in. Thanks for sticking around.

Health/Goal Updates

I’m easing back into my low-carb/intermittent-fasting regimen. “Easing back” meaning that I’m not 100% LCHF-keto, but this week I’ve started reducing my carb intake considerably, and I’ve tried to stick to at least a 12-hour overnight fast between dinner and morning coffee. Over time, I’ll tweak that and shrink my eating window down a bit more. It’s all about iterating and learning how I function best. I’ll probably post on that again in the near future.

As for other goals, rather than wait for January to resolve anything, I wanted to get started with an idea I came up with that keeps my goal-setting a bit more simplified: the Power Five. These are five goals I’m shooting for every day, in order to build back some habits that have fallen into disrepair. My five daily goals are:

  1. Time with God, in Word and prayer;
  2. Doing something physical for 30 minutes every day that breaks a sweat;
  3. Taking care of my body, not only by doing the basic hygiene stuff like showering and flossing, but by actively working to heal/recover where I’m hurting;
  4. Eating wisely and making good choices about what kind and how much food I consume; and
  5. Looking each of my girls in the eyes every day and telling them how much I love them.

Now you may be clamoring to say, “Dave, those goals are too vague! They’re not SMART goals! They’re not measurable or countable or–”

Let me stop you right there, bub. I recognize that the Power Five doesn’t hit the mark when it comes to what “good goals” should entail. There’s a reason for that.

The only measurable I’m aiming for is consistency.

My hope is that, over the month of December, I can begin building a consistent rhythm that will carry me forward. Once I have that rhythm going, I can start attaching some numbers to the process.

=====

So there’s my update: life is good and I’m grateful; I plan on posting more often this month; and I’m looking to give myself a Power-Five every single day in December.

See y’all later!

#Blogtober2021 Day Whatever: We’re fine, we’re all fine here, now, thanks… How are you?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Just popping in here to say: I’m doing okay. Lots going on.

  • My grandfather died at the end of last week, bringing the (hopefully) final total to 3 extended family members who passed away this month. All three had serious medical conditions. It’s still sad.
  • Work life is busy, church life is busy; both are stressful, both are blessings.
  • My household’s doing okay. My kids have colds and aren’t sleeping that consistently this week. We’re all feeling a bit exhausted. But down here in the southland, we’re now enjoying a brief cool spell, so that means more time outside this week, which is good for everyone’s disposition.
  • My wife and I are trying to buy our first home and realizing we’re a bit out of our depth with this process. Thankful for a good realtor to hold our hands (and keep our heads above water).
  • Again, I may not post much more this week. But I’m doing okay. Still not getting my sleeping schedule and eating habits (or caffeine consumption) in proper balance. Hope to do that next week, as I take some time off work and spend time with my family. November reset, here we come.

That’s it, that’s what I got. Let me know how I can pray for you in the comments. Talk to you later.

This ‘n That (08/26/2021)

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Hey gang!

I’m taking a break from Twitter for a few weeks, but I still have random topics I’m itching to talk to SOMEONE about, so I thought I’d post some of that here as a grab-bag of sorts. This will be different from the #FridayFeed, since those posts will be more strictly links and videos I’m sharing for your enjoyment.

Think of “This ‘n That” as having more of a coffee-break, chit-chat vibe–a mix of personal updates, comments about current news/culture, and maybe some recommendations of cool stuff I’ve found recently. Those of you who have been reading my stuff for a long time might like to think of this as the next iteration of the “PBB Cool Ten.” I won’t post something like this every week, but whenever I have enough to natter on about, I’ll share with the class. So here we go!

=====

Afghanistan

Let’s go ahead and lead with real news before getting to the silliness. The situation in Afghanistan is a disaster on multiple levels. While I agree that there had to be some sort of end-point for America’s direct military involvement in the country (but not necessarily an end to a US presence in the country/region–see: Germany, South Korea, etc.), the way this has been done is utterly baffling, tragic, and infuriating. The United States should not be treating the Taliban as either a threat or an ally, yet somehow the American president is doing both. We have an obligation not only to extract our citizens and materiel, but also our allies who have risked their lives and families to assist us in our missions. The US military has been put in an impossible and unwinnable position, and their leaders and government commanders have brought shame upon them throughout this episode. The more I read about what’s going on, the more I’m filled with anger, frustration, and grief over the loss of life that is ongoing and will only escalate as American forces continue to exit the country. What an utter disaster. What a failure. What a crippling, cowardly episode that should be hung like an albatross around the neck of this president for the rest of his political career. I have no other “appropriate” words for what I think about this.

A few days ago, I commented to my wife that perhaps on Earth-3 (or some other alternate reality), there is a different American president who is saying something like, “The Taliban has not kept their end of the bargain and are already terrorizing the country again, so right now American troops have begun an overwhelming offensive with the single goal of wiping out the Taliban in its entirety.” Turns out, Jocko Willink and I were on the same wavelength. This instagram post with a message from “President Jocko” is well-worth watching, even if only for giving us a glimpse of a different kind of presidency in this moment.

But seriously, if you are Christian, I would encourage you to pray ardently for Afghanistan and especially for the Christian church there. I’m already hearing reports of frightening and deadly persecution ramping up at the hands of the Taliban. It’s getting bad there, and it’s getting bad quickly.

Okay, serious discussion over. Time for some lighter things. (At least, somewhat lighter.)

Sonny Chiba

I heard last week that Sonny Chiba died. I only knew of him as the great sword-maker (and sushi chef) Hattori Honzo from the Kill Bill movies, but he had a pretty notable career in Asian cinema, both as a hero and as a villain. I’d be curious to check out his older work sometime (you know, during a future life-stage when I’m not watching Blippi or Paw Patrol or Fireman Sam more than actual grown-up television shows). Speaking of which…

Blippi

Let’s talk for a minute about Blippi. Blippi is a gangly, goofy man in his late 20’s / early 30’s wearing a signature blue and orange hat, bowtie, suspenders, and skinny jeans. His videos are mostly harmless, though they can be pretty inane. (I think any parent would agree that there’s a sort of “Mendoza Line” where silliness becomes annoying stupidity. Blippi lives on that line.) His videos are colorful and musical and somewhat informative (half the time, it sounds like he didn’t read his script and is ad-libbing science “facts” about the creatures at the aquarium or on the farm).

While I don’t have the kind of beef that some think-piece writers have against him (which is hilarious to me, to be honest), one thing that has always bothered me is that he’s a grown man displaying the mentality and behavior of a 7-year-old boy (think Tom Hanks in Big, but hopped up on sugar). When I first became a father, I started paying a lot more attention to how dads (and grown men in general) are presented in media. There’s no question in my mind that media catechizes kids on how to see the world, so presentations of what men and women are and how adults behave in these videos and movies matter. I want to find better examples of what men and women are and do for my kids to take in and emulate. Most importantly, I want to be one of those examples. I’d rather they think of me when they think about how a grown man behaves, rather than thinking of Blippi bouncing around and giggling like an idiot.

Back in the Gloom

In April, I talked about starting to attend F3, a boot-camp style workout in the early morning hours. I kept attending occasionally, but through the spring and into the early summer, our family was dealing with several rounds of illness that worked through the whole family, so I’d miss 1 or 2 days a week out of the 3 available at my chosen location. With so many gaps in my attendance, I didn’t make much progress (though some friends encouraged me by pointing out my improvement, however minimal). But then I noticed my forearm started aching and losing strength. I stopped working out for about 6-7 weeks, as I tried to rest my arm and figure out what was going on. I had so much trouble gripping and lifting things with that arm that I eventually had to go to the doctor. Turns out, I had developed a clear case of “tennis elbow.” The orthopedic surgeon I met with told me that 1 out of 3 people he sees that are in my age group will develop tennis elbow, because our ligaments just tend to start breaking down in middle age. Great. Thankfully, there was no visible structural damage, so he gave me some stretches to do and meds to take, and I’m now on the mend. After my long absence, I finally went back to the workout last Saturday, though I was really anxious for some reason that my heart wouldn’t handle the sudden resumption of hard work. As you might have guessed, my heart made it just fine. My legs, on the other hand, were shredded by dozens and dozens of squats, leaving me hobbling and groaning like an old man for almost a week. So I’ll be posting again for a workout this Saturday, and hopefully (with some foresight re: stretching and resting properly), I won’t be missing many more workouts from now on.

Nudge Coffee Bar

Gotta tell you about the newest delightful treat my wife brought home from the grocery store: Nudge Coffee Bars. (#NotSpon, but for real, Nudge, hit me up, becauase I am a FAN). They have the consistency (the “mouth-feel,” if you prefer) of chocolate bars, but they are not made of chocolate (a fact they are strangely emphatic about!). The bars are essentially what you’d have if you made chocolate with coffee beans instead of cocoa beans, added some other stuff, and this magical concoction popped out of the pan. Each square has the caffeine equivalent of a cup of coffee, so if you want to take a sweet treat on the go that gives you a little pick-me-up, this is a great option. PLUS!!! Nudge bars are made with an erythritol/monk fruit blend and some added fiber, so they are only around 1-2 net carbs per square, which means they are a great option for a low-carb/ketogenic eating plan. I tried the Ethiopian and Italian Roast flavors, and both are delicious. The crazy thing is, while Nudge Coffee Bars are most assuredly NOT made of chocolate (don’t you put that on them, Ricky Bobby), they really do taste like a rich mocha or espresso drink. The danger for me is that I’m already drinking coffee throughout the day, so I can’t eat too much of this goodness at once before all the caffeine hits my system, my heart races, and I start to see sound. But man, Nudge is so good. Check ’em out.

Fun with Greek vocabulary

I had the privilege of preaching 4 times at a small church about an hour north of ours. You may have noticed that I’ve been posting my sermon transcripts lately (next one coming this Sunday, Lord-willing). I’ve been really enjoying studying for these sermons, and part of that has to do with how I’m changing my approach to sermon prep and shifting the time spent so that I’m analyzing the text more than studying a stack of commentaries. I’ll go into detail about this in another post on a group blog I’ve joined recently (I really will have something posted soon, Michael!), but I just wanted to note that part of the joy of preparing to preach over the last month has been getting to do some this more in-depth language study. What’s crazy is, I can’t read New Testament Greek yet (hoping to start learning in the spring!). I’ve been relying on a (possibly a bit outdated) interlinear text and a Strong’s concordance that is meant for use with a King James translation (requiring an extra layer of translation on my part, from KJV to ESV!). But as I’ve studied how Jude uses the Greek language to communicate huge truths in just 25 verses, it’s been wild to learn how a slight change in spelling or phrasing makes such a huge difference in meaning. All of this to say: the Bible is amazing, y’all. It’s a miracle. 66 books, 40 or so human authors, across 3 continents and 2500 years–yet still unified and consistent because it has one Divine Author who inspired every letter of it. Just awesome.

Power Wash Simulator

When I first heard about the computer game Power Wash Simulator, I thought it sounded like one of those troll games with janky mechanics that is meant to last only a few minutes. Then I noticed that some Youtube gaming channels I watch from time to time were talking more and more about the game. So, I checked out a few “let’s play” videos. Y’all, I don’t have time to play video games much anymore, but I was *thisclose* to dropping the twenty bucks on Steam to pick it up. There’s something so incredibly satisfying about watching this gameplay. I won’t send you to the channels I watched (I think you have to be used to those streamers’ typical patter in order not to get annoyed), so here’s a no-commentary video of the first level or so of the game. Seriously, I dare you to watch it without feeling some sense of satisfaction as the van is transformed from dirty to spotless.

Dad Clothes

Speaking of things that are utterly dad-like: My wife teased me the other day because my outfit for leaving the house was a “dad” uniform: plaid button-down (untucked and sleeve-rolled, natch), khaki cargo shorts, leather boat shoes, faded ball cap. I’ll admit it, I’ve leaned in hard to the “dad look,” but you know what? I’m comfortable with that. I hate having to think about clothes or style. I have the body type that looks schlumpy, no matter what I’m wearing, so I just go with what’s comfortable and not too form-fitting (gotta protect the hearts and minds of the ladies). And cargo shorts make sense–all that pocket room! (I draw the line at jorts, however… though I wish I’d drawn that line before my teens/twenties. The pictures from the early 2000’s… *shudder*) I did grimace ruefully last week as I was reading an article in the Gut Check Quarterly that was inteded to lampoon seasonal style guides, and did so by recommending…the stuff I normally wear. But you know what? Dads don’t care. Dads abide. Often in a stained white undershirt, like the one I’m wearing…right…huh.

Reading the Paper

Might as well complete the “dad” trifecta: I bought an online subscription to the Wall Street Journal this week, and I’m loving it. It was a phenomenal deal: $4 a month for a year. I’ve been looking to add another source of news to my media diet, and at the odd times over the years when I’ve had access to the WSJ (which is normally crazy expensive, so I only get it when we stay at certain hotels), I’ve found the writing to be thoughtful, even-keeled, and informative. So far, I’ve already learned some interesting things that I probably would not have picked up otherwise by relying on social media trends, news blogs, and local TV news. Plus, the WSJ has a daily crossword that you can complete on the app, and I’ve enjoyed knocking those out over the last few days. I’m starting to develop a daily habit of reading “the paper” either during breakfast or after evening clean-up once the kids go to bed. Hopefully this will make my online news consumption a bit more well-rounded than what it is currently.

#TwitterSupperClub

I’ve been away from Twitter (mostly) for a few days, and I’ve realized that I miss interacting with a few folks on Twitter, but I don’t miss the experience of Twitter–with one exception: #TwitterSupperClub. This is the brain-child of Andrew Donaldson, the managing editor of Ordinary Times, and it’s brilliant. People who participate in the #TwitterSupperClub basically do what non-tweeters thought the platform was in the early days: a bunch of folks posting about what they had for dinner. Participants share pictures, descriptions, and recipes for the enjoyment, envy, and often inspiration of others. Donaldson described it once as a way to cleanse the digital palate of all the madness that often fills our social media feeds. So, if you’re on Twitter, let me encourage you to take a look at the hashtag and perhaps participate. The world could use more noodles and less negativity, more havarti and less hatred, more vanilla creme and less vitriol. Hook us up with pics of your delicious creations. Spread the love.

====

That’s all I’ve got this week. I know I haven’t been posting very often lately, but I appreciate y’all checking in. Check back for a new sermon on Sunday, and more fun next week!

“Let Me Go, I’m Only Letting You Down…”

Photo by Mizzu Cho on Pexels.com

If you follow me on social media, I’m probably going to disappoint you at some point, if I haven’t done so already.

I’m not going to do it on purpose, mind you. I try to keep things pretty light and avoid unnecessary squabbles. I may retweet more “controversial” things, but only if they’re things I truly believe, and even then I’ll admit that I weigh the importance of the issue to the potential negative feedback I might receive. I’d never go out of my way to act like a proverbial internet troll. There have been a few times where I’ve gotten pretty heated about a subject and that comes out in a quick thread that may or may not stay up for more than a few minutes, but usually when I tweet from the spleen, I’ll refrain from hitting “send” or will delete the posts pretty quickly once the moment of anger passes.

All in all, as much as I can, I keep it pretty low-key. It’s more fun for me that way. But even with that approach, I will still disappoint you. (Depending on how up-to-date you are with “cancel culture,” I may have even disappointed you with my post title.)

About 6 months ago, I discovered that over the course of just a few days, I had deeply disappointed folks in two opposite ideological directions. What can I say, I’m just that talented.

You say you want a revolution…

If you’re an American citizen and/or a news junkie, the date “January 6th” holds a new level of meaning after this year. No matter where you land on the political spectrum, the date might inspire some sort of visceral response, even now. In the heat of the moment, it certainly did so for me.

I was in the middle of a particularly plodding Zoom meeting and decided to check the news; it was the day that the presidential election results were scheduled to be certified, and the buzz was that there may be some rhetorical fireworks in the People’s Chamber. (Little did they know.)

As I started to see the raw footage being shared over social media and network news feeds, I was shocked. The Capitol, surrounded by a crowd pressing in at the doors, smashing windows, crossing barriers and security gates, celebrating like they just captured the enemy’s castle. From my virtual vantage point, the mood was a swirl of elation, outrage, and undefined hunger looking for an outlet.

When I saw footage of mobs smashing buildings and burning businesses and cars last summer, I viewed it with a mix of resignation and bewilderment; the logic of looting is something I’ll never fully comprehend. But when I saw this raucous crowd push their way into the Capitol, I felt something else: indignation. It felt like a civic transgression had taken place. I was incensed.

So, like so many watching news they can’t do anything about from a distance they can’t cross, I did the only thing I could think of: I tweeted about it. (Spoiler: This was a mistake.)

My comments were basically that anyone who had been trafficking in weeks of reckless rhetoric about election fraud and Deep State coup owned a little piece of the chaos unfolding, because my position in that moment (and to be honest, even now to some degree) is that there seems to be a pretty clear line from one to the other. If you tell people enough times and in enough ways that their country was being stolen by corporate and political powers who were defrauding them of their ability to vote and that they need to show up at a certain place and time to “fight for their country,” I don’t think you can then see a mob busting into the building chanting “Stop the Steal!” and throw your hands up like Captain Renault, shocked that there’s gambling going on in Casablanca. My tweets were essentially, “Here are your winnings, sir.”

In my head, I had in mind certain political talking heads and commentators–the tastemakers of the right. But hoo boy, did that not communicate well, and members of our church family reached out to my fellow elder and our lead pastor to let him know about it. (Fewer of them reached out to me directly, but that’s neither here nor there.) Thankfully, one of them did follow the Matthew 18 directive, confronted me about the tweets (which he felt were reckless and directed against some members of our church family), and exhorted me to take them down, saying they did not reflect well on the Gospel or our church. I realized I’d really stepped in it this time, so I screenshotted the offending posts, sent everything to my fellow elders for review, and took them all down. It took a while, and multiple conversations, to try to heal the offense I’d made against certain members of my church family. I’ve been able to have coffee with the offended brother and work out some of the misunderstanding, but it would have been better for me to take a minute and breathe and try to communicate things in a wiser manner.

Guilt by Association…

A few days later, I mentioned on Twitter (why am I still on there?) that I had an account on the social media platform Parler, in case people wanted to follow me there. As you may recall, this was one of the several times in the last year that conservatives on Jack Dorsey’s platform were threatening to pull up stakes and move elsewhere (which is about as convincing as when progressives threaten to move to Canada if Republicans win elections).

Now, in the interest of clarity: I originally set up that account because I was thinking it might be a nice, encouraging, apolitical alternative to Jack’s platform. (Silly me.) I used it a little bit, didn’t really like the interface, and saw that the folks I followed from Twitter onto Parler (mostly pastors and writers and podcasters) were actually MORE abrasively political there than they were elsewhere, so I just stopped using it. I kept the account as a placeholder with a link back to this blog, but otherwise haven’t really touched it since late 2020 (as far as I can recall).

I mentioned to my Twitter followers that I had an account over there they could follow, on the off-chance Jack became too inhospitable toward overtly Christian content or content that was too far to the right. (Which, I recognize, seems silly given my stated philosophy of “keeping it chill,” but as it turns out, some of my mutuals are starting to take heat from the tech overlords, so hey, better safe than sorry. Besides, I have a “brand” to maintain.)

I soon got a rather disapproving comment from a mutual follower on the left side of the political aisle who was shocked that I would even have an account on that platform. I’m not “real-life” friends with this person, but we’ve interacted positively several times online, so I was a bit surprised by her comment. She indicated that Parler was a place for those who wanted “people like her” dead. She posted a few screenshots from random Parler users saying particularly crazy things and said she would never want to be associated with a site that engaged in that sort of hate speech. I tried to respond that a) I’m sorry there are posts like that; b) that’s not why I’m using it or who I interact with; and c) I’m really not using it that much anyway (for the reasons outlined above). By that point, the conversation had pretty much ended, and I’ve gotten radio silence ever since.

It’s funny how much a little bit of push-back like that can catch you off-guard when you’re not used to getting it.

“You’re not as brave as you were at the start…”

Thinking back over these interactions, I realize that I could have acted differently in two opposite ways, but somehow with the same end result.

Rather than taking the path of conciliation and explanation, I could have just said “No.” I could have argued my case, cited examples to back it up, poked holes in the accusations. I could have even turned the arguments against these people–arguing that if you’re so offended, perhaps it’s you who are the problem. Doing that would have perhaps gotten me the argument “win,” but at the cost of potential continued friendship or loss of having a voice in that person’s life. That’s a bad bargain for such a fleeting prize.

I instead could have avoided the issue altogether. Said nothing. Kept my head down. Stayed off social media. (There’s always a good case to be made for that.) But I don’t think that would have been any better. Sure, I could have avoided the drama that week, but sometimes living an honest and open life means you are going to rub up against people who just don’t like what you have to say. I’ve spent too much of my life trying to avoid that kind of conflict by being pleasant and agreeable. That’s part of my peacemaking people-pleasing nature. And in the end, am I really maintaining the relationship with someone to whom I’m unwilling to tell the truth? (The irony of this is, we’re slowly reaching the point in which “keeping it chill” stops working and you’re no longer allowed by your peers to avoid taking a position on certain issues.)

I think I need to be braver about saying what’s true and good and right on social media, even if it’s unpopular. I should be willing to get pushback if it can open up dialogue and provoke thought from others. I also need to be wiser and more prudent with my words. I think I’m growing in that, but I know I’ve got far to go.

I probably should get off Twitter eventually, because the balance of usefulness and connection to distraction and frustration is shifting too far to the latter. Until that day comes, if you choose to follow me on Twitter, just know that I’m probably going to let you down. I’ll say something you don’t agree with or are even offended by. And if you decide to push back, to argue, to call me out, I hope that I answer you well. I’m going to try to do so with grace and wisdom, for your good and for God’s glory rather than for a rhetorical win.

But I am going to answer you.

“They’re all Cylons.”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A parable, generally applicable:

My wife and I watched through the 2000’s version of Battlestar Galactica several years ago (her first watch, my second). For those unfamiliar, this iteration of the sci-fi classic involves a resumption of hostilities between the human race and a race of extraterrestrial cyborgs called Cylons that, in the interim since the last war, have discovered how to create versions of themselves that pass for human. Part of the ongoing mystery of the show revolved around the identities of the “final five” Cylon models, who likely were seeded among the main cast like sleeper agents, unaware of their true nature until they are activated.

This meant that anytime anyone in the main ensemble did anything remotely suspicious (or sus, for you younger readers), my wife immediately said with conviction, “Oh, that one’s definitely a Cylon.” When I pressed her on this, she eventually joked, “That’s because they’re all Cylons!” [Ironic spoiler redacted]

When a few of her assertions eventually proved true, she proudly pointed at the TV and said, “See? I totally called that.” When I questioned how many of her othere guesses were actually wrong, she waved my comment away and just repeated with a smile, “I called it.”

The way she saw it, if you make enough accusations of nefarious plotting and hidden agendas, being proven right a few times more than makes up for being proven wrong a great many more times.

Let the reader understand.