#Blogtober2021 Day 9: A Moment of Beauty

I learned something about hibiscus flowers yesterday.

My folks have a braided hibiscus bush in their yard. I noticed yesterday when I stopped by to visit my mom that there were multiple vibrant blooms on the bush. She said, “You know those blooms only last a day, right? They bloom once, close, and fall off. There are some old ones there on the ground.”

For some reason, that struck me as lovely. I know it’s a commonplace thing, and there will be several blooms on the bush each season. But knowing that these blooms I was admiring would only be there for a few more hours made the moment special to me.

I felt privileged, honored to bear witness to these blooms.

It’s so easy to take for granted how beautiful the world can be. We glide right past a thousand daily glories, distracted and dulled, blind to the wonder of creation.

I believe God made this world by the word of His power, by speaking this delightful globe into existence. Let it be. And it was. And He made it good. Not only good, but He made it better than it really even needed to be.

Have you considered the fact that all these delights are unnecessary? Vivid color, enticing flavor, delicious smells. All superfluous. Not that they don’t all serve a purpose—but they don’t have to be so enjoyable, so vibrant.

The tiny delights of daily life are gifts from a generous and creative God who has shown kindness to all His creatures—even the senseless, stubborn people who should recognize His grace and so often refuse to do so.

The next time you experience God’s superlative daily kindnesses—your child’s laughter, the smell of flowers, the sweetness of sugar or delicious aroma of coffee—take a moment and give thanks for His boundless grace, shown to humanity in these countless temporary gifts.

#Blogtober2021 Day 8: Calling an audible.

Hey fam.

I’m wiped out. It’s been a long day of family time and household obligations, and I have nothing in the tank. So no blog post tonight.

Instead, an invitation: in the comments, let me know how I can pray for you. My promise to you is that I actually will.

If you don’t believe in God or in the effectiveness of prayer, that’s too bad but I won’t fuss at ya. Just know that my prayer for you doubters is that you will one day come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord, that you will find forgiveness of sin and receive a new heart and will in Him, and that He will upend and transform your life. That’s honestly the greatest and best thing I can pray for you.

That’s it. Goodnight, gang.

#Blogtober2021 Day 7: Oh, I’m still doing this, am I?

Hey gang.

It’s 11pm. I have been working since the kids went to bed this evening (just took a 20 minute break to watch Youtube videos with my wife and eat some oatmeal–so much for tonight’s fast!). And then I rememembered, oh yeah! I’m supposed to post something every day!

So here I am. Typing to you. Hi.

This is one of those posts where I feel like I’m just wasting your time. I don’t have anything interesting or insightful to say at the moment. I remember hearing/reading something from…someone (I dunno, maybe Jeff Goins?) about how successful blog posts are reader-focused–posts in which the author is providing information, or a recommendation, or something that makes his or her readers’ lives better. In other words, I should be giving you some sort of return on the investment of your time spent reading my work.

If you want to write something introspective and personally expressive, he said, you should put that in a diary or journal, not on a blog.

And I get that; that makes sense. If you don’t know actually me, there’s zero reason you should care what I’m doing at this moment. Odds are, if you don’t already have a relationship with me, you haven’t bothered to read this far. (If you have, thank you, but also…why?) Let’s face it, most of the people in my actual flesh-and-blood life don’t read my blog and can’t be bothered. That’s totally fine, too. But if I can’t compel my closest friends and loved ones to read each post, it’s a fool’s errand to expect a stranger to, unless I’m giving them a good reason.

So, what am I doing here, at 11:11pm (make a wish!), with nothing to say but still nattering on line by line? (What’s worse, I’m blogging about blogging, which is even more double-boring!)

Why am I bothering? Because I need to learn to become consistent.

I want to challenge myself to string together 31 days of writing something. Because if I can do that, maybe I can do 30 more, either here or elsewhere. Or maybe 60 more. Maybe I can start doing the thing I keep telling myself I need to get around to doing: being the writer I’d always hoped I’d become. Maybe I can actually write this crime novel that’s in my head and that I would love to share with you (and the two sequels that might follow it). Maybe I can finally work on typing up years of Bible study notes and Sunday School lessons into resources that would be a blessing to the people of my local church and the wider Church as a whole. Maybe I can keep working hard to produce valuable content so that I can start earning some real money through my writing.

That’s why, on Day 7 of Blogtober 2021, at 11:28pm, I’m taking thirty minutes away from the never-ending cascade of work tasks that have kept me up late for the last two weeks, so that I can pop on here, say hello, and let you know that I want to become the kind of person who writes every day.

And at this very moment, you’re helping me do that. So, thank you.

Talk to you tomorrow.

#Blogtober Day 6: Jason, I’d like to register a complaint.*

Not my actual meal, because you can see entirely too much green here…
Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

I decided to take my family to Jason’s Deli for dinner.

It’s been…a while since I’ve eaten at Jason’s Deli. (My wife reminds me that we ate there the night before our second child was born, so that puts us at about 2-3 years. Pre-pandemic, in other words.) I was pretty excited about this: salad bar, fresh ingredients, hit up the gingerbread mini-muffins and apple slices a couple of times. Very cool.

We were confronted as we entered by a sign that said the salad bar is–I mean, I can’t even believe it still–the salad bar is now… single-trip only.

No more “all you can eat.” No more “lemme get just a little bit more of that pudding and those apple slices.” Nevermind the fact that if we’re being honest, most of us never really took more than one pass through that salad bar. It’s supposed to be all-you-can-eat! Jason’s Deli has given into the red wave of nanny-plate-ism, using the current forever-plague as an excuse to deny red-blooded, God-fearing Americans the right–the RIGHT–to have a mountain of cottage cheese and a multitude of saltine crackers! SINGLE. TRIP. ONLY?!? THE NERVE OF YOU, JASON!!!

But I kept my cool. I don’t want to end up on Youtube or TikTok in a “crazy customer” compilation. I may have given the cashier a minor bit of guff about it (“Is that true? Man, that’s too bad. Are they gonna change that? I tell ya, brave new world we’re living in. Ya hate to see it…”), but I would never cause a scene.

That’s fine, Jason. That’s fine. I’ll play your game.

You say one-trip-only. Very well. One trip.

…And it’s at this point that I wish I had taken a picture of my plate, which was a glorious 5-inch-tall heap of salad greens, veggies, 4 kinds of cheese, bacon bits, and ranch dressing; crested with onion crunchies and dried fruit and nuts; wreathed at the base of the salad mountain by goodly scoops of corn salsa, potato salad, cottage cheese, and THREE HARD BOILED EGGS. The heaping plate was joined by a side dish containing 3 gingerbread mini muffins, a 3-seed cracker, and croutons and pickles for my kids. (No croutons or cornbread muffins for me–I didn’t wanna get crazy.)

Seriously, I’m kicking myself for not taking a picture, gang. It was a sight to behold. And I ate the whole blessed thing, because all in all, it was a mostly-low-carb feast of vege, protein, and some (okay, not optimal) fats.

And my final summary judgment on Jason’s Deli, in light of all I’ve seen and heard and experienced this evening?

Hey, man, it’s still pretty solid. If you like salad bars, it’s worth going.

Just treat it like a college student hitting up the local Chinese buffet when the cafeteria is closed [he says, from experience]: Make sure to maximize your plate space. Go in with a plan. Think about how you will construct the salad for structural integrity and maximum value. And then go forth and execute the game plan.

Bon appetit.

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*Mr. Jason, and anyone else in the “Deli” household who may be reading this: I don’t actually have a complaint. I like your restaurant. And I get what you’re doing with the new menu approach. I’m still a fan.

But just know that if the one-plate limit becomes permanent, I’ll make sure to get every last penny’s worth off of that one plate. Fair’s fair. Dave don’t play.

#Blogtober Day 5: “What time is it? It’s time for lunch!”

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

[If you’re a parent of a toddler, or just know a toddler, you might recognize the quote.]

I haven’t been back to F3 for early morning workouts in a few weeks, and have really been hit or miss for the last few months. Part of the issue has been work/life stuff, but a big piece has been nagging injuries that just aren’t getting better (including tendonitis in one and then both elbows). My wife wisely reminds me that part of that problem may be high levels of bodily inflammation, exacerbated by both being now middle-aged, carrying a lot of weight, not getting good sleep, and not eating in a consistently healthy, disciplined way.

I’m slowly getting back into low-carb eating–still struggling, still not perfect, but trying to make better choices, watch my intake of saturated fats in the short-term, drink lots (and LOTS) of water, and make sure I get enough protein. But before I really get locked in about what I eat, I’m trying to get control over when I eat and how much.

As part of that, I’ve started intermittent fasting (IF)–also known as “time-restricted eating,” if you don’t like that particular”f-word.” There’s lots of evidence that IF has major benefits beyond caloric reduction, specifically in the area of inflammation recovery, improved digestion, and burning visceral fat (the dangerous fat that collects around your internal organs). If you haven’t considered IF, there are lots of good resources out there. I follow both Thomas DeLauer and Logan Delgado‘s channels on Youtube, and they provide some good info. (DeLauer in particular digs into the scientific research around a lot of these issues.) Neither of these guys are doctors or scientists professionally–they’re fitness Youtubers and coaches/consultants–but they both have lost weight and kept it off, so they know something of what they’re talking about.

For me, IF begins with pretty simple routines. Certain days, I’ll go around 14-15 hours between meals, while other days it’s just a basic 12 (8pm to 8am, for example). I haven’t pushed it beyond 15 hours yet, but I may get there. Honestly, just sticking to the 12-hour window is helping to curb some of my snacking temptations–and forcing me to drink more water.

If you’re struggling with over-eating/over-snacking or you’re carrying a lot of weight (especially around your middle), you might want to look into IF. I can’t tell you it’s done all these amazing things for me–I just started. But I can say that it’s pretty easy to get started, and seems like it’s simple enough to be done consistently and for the long term.

Also, I can confirm that once I hit the end of that fast, whenever it ends, something like that Bubble Guppies song I referenced starts playing in my head.

“What time is it? It’s time to EAT!
What time is it? It’s time to EAT!”

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Have you tried intermittent fasting / time-restricted eating? Has it been helpful? Let me know what you think and any advice you have in the comments.

#Blogtober Day 4: The Night the Lights Went Out in Menlo Park.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

So Facebook and Instagram just went down, as you probably know.

I haven’t looked up any theories as to why. I’m sure it’s just a technical glitch–someone accidentally deleted a bracket in the code or something.

I have to admit, in the back of my mind, I’m imagining some sort of white-hat hacker op to take down the platform after the recent Wall Street Journal series of articles airing Facebook’s internal memos and studies about the mentally corrosive effect of their product on teenagers.

Can’t you just imagine the movie: A middle-aged man (who “went straight” after spending his 20’s getting into more and more dangerous hacks) settles down and starts a legitimate business in cyber security. He gets married, starts a family, and then has a child who gets into social media in his or her early teens only to be cyber-bullied into doing something drastic and permanent. Enraged and heartbroken, the grieving father exacts revenge on the multi-billion dollar company that profits (in his mind) off of the psychic desolation of bullied and broken children. He runs his “last big job”–a complete takedown of the very social media platform that contributed to his child’s tragic fate.

Basically, it’s a mix of Taken and Mr. Robot. Naturally, the film would star Liam Neeson. (Just kidding. Imagine the extended shots of Neeson pecking away with two fingers at the keyboard while squinting at the screen. No thanks.)

Honestly, I should have written this up as a short story. Oh well.

I mean, this whole thing will likely be over by tonight anyway. Facebook will figure out what’s going on and fix it. The boomers will go back to sharing memes to show they truly love or hate ___. The millenials will log back into Insta. And life will go on as it has before.

But what if–and just hear me out–what if it didn’t?

What if we all come up for air from our phones for a bit and realize, Hey, I don’t need this thing. In fact, the further away from it I get, the better I feel about myself and the world around me.

I mean, that’s total nonsense–no one would ever think that. But, I’m just saying, “what if?”

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m gonna go jump on Twitter to talk about all this.

#Blogtober2021 Day 3: …welp.

Took me all of 3 days to miss my mark. (Can we still count it if I haven’t gone to bed yet? No?)

Today is (was) Sunday. Church, home for naps, church again, home for bed, and then the nightly reset of the house. What I didn’t count on was a conversation with my wife turning into an impromptu budget and financial planning meeting.

Big pans are being discussed. Good but scary plans. If you’re a Christian, I would appreciate your prayers for wisdom and direction for my family.

Anyway, that’s part of the reason why I missed the daily deadline. It I’m okay with that. Ending the calendar day holding my wife’s hand and praying about our family’s future is a great thing.

I’ll check back in later today. Y’all go to bed.

#Blogtober2021: Once more into the breach, dear friends.

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

Hey y’all, it’s been a minute.

I needed to focus on other things in September. (He says as if this weren’t the recurring theme of the last several months.) I’m sorry that I haven’t been writing consistently…but I’m also not. I know that consistent output increases traffic, which then increases click-throughs and multi-post visits, yada yada yada. But the cold fact is, gang, I needed to have fewer things in the back of my mind that really need to get done. I’ve got enough of those that I didn’t get to, as it is.

But hey, I’m back, and you can see the post title, so you probably can guess what I’m about to say: I’m ready to knock out a blog-sprint with y’all again this year. You may recall the rousing successes of #30ThankYous in 2018 and #Booktober in 2020. (If you don’t, feel free to click through and check ’em out–I think they’re pretty great).

This month, rather than shooting for an over-arching theme, I’m going to try something a bit more challenging: time-bounded consistency. My goal is to write, edit, and publish one post a day, without stacking posts in advance or pulling from my pre-written drafts. Each post will be completed within the confines of a 24-hour period. For some people, that may be an easy task. For me, well…we all know how I do with daily posting.

The posts won’t be long or deeply-researched. More like micro-blogs. Snapshots. Quick hits.

Will it be interesting? I hope so. But hey, you can let me know as we go, yeah?

Okay, that’s it. It’s a quarter after midnight and I need to get to bed (I’ve been averaging about 5 hours of sleep a night this week, and I’m feeling it).

I’ll talk to y’all tomorrow–like, for real, I will.

In all things, clarity.

black text on gray background
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We Christians sometimes struggle to use social media well.

Rather than going out of our way to be clear, we choose to aim for “pithy and incisive” and instead land squarely in “muddled and misunderstood.”

It’s predictable on some level. Social media readers (and here, I’m thinking mainly of platforms like Twitter or Gab) tend to reward those whose posts are punchy, snarky, and meme-able. Everyone loves a good pile-on; there’s a certain warm camaraderie in adding your voice to the chorus of “Look at that guy—what a doofus!” As a result, when we post our own comments and memes, we instinctively revert to middle-school “gotcha” mode, chasing after our mutuals’ “oh snap” replies and GIFs and those precious “shares” and “likes” that affirm our rhetorical prowess. (Please, Mr. Dorsey, just plug all that ephemeral affirmation directly into my veins!)

Sometimes, however, the slings and arrows we are so quick to let fly at our online ideological foes can be based on less-than-complete information or may communicate with all the subtle finesse of a rusted claw hammer.

If we are indeed disciples of He Who Is The Truth and obedient servants of the God Who Does Not Lie, then it seems redundant to say that we should be truthful in all of our interactions, including those online. I’ve talked about this in the past, with regard to the stories and articles we share online. But I would also venture to propose the following three bits of advice for our daily digital dialogues:

  • Part of love “believing all things” may just be assuming the best when someone who is otherwise demonstrably orthodox says or posts something that may be unclear/confusing. When that happens, walking in love could mean starting by asking questions to gain clarity, rather than assuming heterodoxy of a brother. If the issue is minor, it could even mean letting a post go without saying anything. (I know, that’s crazy-talk when someone is wrong on the internet.) And if the issue really does need to be addressed (and you actually can gain a hearing from that person, rather than just being another stranger shouting online), walking in love means addressing it publicly but in a way that is not self-aggrandizing or belittling of the other person. If the person is a Christian, entreat them directly as a brother or sister. Don’t play to the audience. 
  • The flipside of that is, when we post things online, we should be willing to rework our pithy, “retweetable” construction if we realize our readers find it unclear or confusing, especially when (for example) we’re dealing with weighty matters like theology or sensitive issues related to sin or suffering. Zingers get buzz, but they don’t often build up. If you come to realize that you should have said something more clearly in order for it to be of benefit to others, don’t be too proud of your turns of phrase not to “kill your darlings” and try again in order to communicate something important in a way that is direct and digestible.
  • If you do tweet something that you later realize was ill-informed, poorly communicated, or insufficiently considered, don’t double-down. Just acknowledge it and move on. Seriously. Don’t employ tortured logic to contort your original post to mean something entirely different (or at a minimum, tangential) from its plain original reading. If you goofed, say you goofed. If you missed the mark or overstated something, admit it. If you want to add more context to explain things more clearly, or remove/repost with a correction/explanation, go ahead and do that. But don’t insult the rest of us by asking us to disbelieve our “lying eyes” as if the fault lies entirely with us. If you find that a dozen people are all “misinterpreting you” or “taking you out of context” the same way, it’s more likely a “you” problem than a “them” problem.

Am I now seeking to be the social media police because I’ve raised this issue? Yes. You’ve caught me; that’s exactly my desire. All online traffic needs my approval, with proper forms filled out and stamped in triplicate. You’re exactly right.

OR… perhaps I’m just a Christian who gets frustrated that so much of the sturm und drang of my Twitter feed could be avoided if (presumptive) brothers and sisters in Christ would stop trying to be social media influencers for a minute and just seek to be honest, clear, and edifying with their (online) speech. You know, the way we’re told to be. (In other words, I think we should seek to be salty rather than spicy.)

I’m far from perfect in this area–my Twitter “drafts” folder is a barren boneyard of half-baked takes and snarky responses–but I sincerely want to grow in wisdom with how I use social media. At the end of the day, it would be better for me to lose the miniscule “platform” I’ve built and shut down all my accounts for good, rather than become a known and influential online figure who profanes the Name by my sinful speech, conducting myself as little more than a banging gong or clanging cymbal.

I’m still thinking through all this, so if you have ideas/disagreements, or if I’ve missed something obvious that should factor into my thinking, I welcome your pushback and am happy to discuss further. Hit me up in the com-box below.