Top 5 Things to Do with a Pumpkin

5.     Carve an image that has people wondering.

4.     Punkin Chunkin.  It’s real.  Look it up.

3.     Buy one and set it in your back yard.  Your neighbors don’t need to see what you have…

2.     Scoop out the seeds with goo covered hands.  Then roast the seeds, and wipe your hands on someone you love.

1.     Cut a hole in the bottom, clean out the pumpkin, and attempt to wear the pumpkin on your head.

Devotional for Week of October 27th, 2014

Proverbs 27:12 — The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

 Oh to have been prudent all of my life.  I wish I could say that I’ve never been simple as this verse describes, but many times I have.  I’ve known there were troubles before me and still continued on the path.  I’ve even known the consequences that awaited me, but sought no refuge.  Some might call that being a risk-taker or a dare-devil, but when you know there are definite negative consequences, but continue on you are being simple.

Years ago I was in a tough financial situation.  I’ve since learned that what I was in was nothing compared to the troubles my wife and I have faced over the last few years, but at the time it was a tough situation.  I saw that I was low on money and that little would be coming in, but I put my desires first and continued to spend.  I even went beyond what I had and borrowed from friends and family—just so I could live the life I wanted to live.  I knew I was going to be broke, but I wanted to enjoy myself on the way there.

But then the bottom fell out and I had no money left to spend.  I had change my diet, change my habits, and actually be honest with those around me.  Those were consequences I wasn’t ready to face, but I knew they were there when I started spending.

Since then my wife and I have faced some tough times, and I used to get the urge to keep spending in those times.  But we realize now that if we trust in each other, trust that God will provide, and follow sound financial principles we will find a way out of the financial struggles.  We’ve learned to take refuge rather than continuing down the path of the simple.

We know now that our overall goals are more important than our immediate desires.  We know that giving our first fruits to God helps align us with our goals.  And we know that together we can wait out the danger in order to find a clearer path.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for providing for me and my family in times of need.  Thank you for giving me the reminders to avoid danger rather than jump headfirst into it.  Please help me spot danger from a great distance, Lord, so that I can take refuge  and wait.

Holiday Hoopla

Halloween:  The Candy & The Chaos

I remember the days when Halloween was a one day event that kids dressed up for and hoped to get the most candy of all their friends and siblings.  Maybe I was just oblivious when I was younger, but it seems that there are so many other opportunities to celebrate Halloween now.  In fact, we are still five days from the actual day of Halloween, but my kids have already been in costume three times.

They are adorable as a minion (Despicable Me) and Minnie Mouse, so I don’t mind one bit.  I especially don’t mind that they have dressed up three times and only have about twenty pieces of candy a piece.  Our girls are way too young, in our opinion, to have too much candy.  Since they have only received a little bit it’s easy to try to teach them about how it is special and not to be eaten at just any time.

Turkey Day Drama

Thanksgiving is coming up quickly.  This is often the most overlooked holiday—much to my wife’s dismay—and that’s not the way it should be.  Thanksgiving is a great day to spend time with family, watch some good football, and eat a feast.  This has been the go-to prescription for many people over the years, including me, but retailers and other factors are cutting into the traditions.

I usually take part in the Black Friday craziness, but I don’t buy much, if anything.  Maybe that’s why I won’t take part in the Thanksgiving Day shopping, but I’m pretty sure I just don’t like the idea of an industry changing how they do things in a way that helps their bottom line (theoretically) while hurting their employees.  The extent of my Thanksgiving shopping has always been a morning trip to the corner store for a newspaper and sometimes a coffee.  I welcome you to join me in abstaining from the Thanksgiving Day shopping, and instead stay home, spend time with family, and relax.

The Trees and The Lights

Christmas is just two months away, but that doesn’t mean we need to freak out about holiday plans, present buying, and family photos just yet.  Take it easy, make a plan, and help yourself to a lower stress Christmas season.  It’s too early in the year for me to comfortably write a lot about Christmas, so that’s all I’ll say for now.

Top 5 Things I Learned About Fleas

My dogs decided it’d be fun to get fleas recently, so I’ve had some extra time with fleas this week.

5.     Fleas love the hind ends of my dogs.

4.     Fleas freak out when they land in water.

3.     Fleas could easily be mistaken for cracked pepper if sprinkled on a meal.

2.     Fleas don’t take commands very well.

1.     Fleas don’t travel with the makings of a circus wherever they go.

The Smartness of Our Phones: Blessing or Curse?

Early in the day yesterday I began to dislike the smartness of phones today.  Many people have forgotten how to use their phone simply as a phone.  If something needs an answer quickly, then please make a call rather than sending a text.

I won’t usually stop what I’m doing to check on a text, but if a call comes in I will at least look to see who it is from and answer it if it is someone I know.  To me, a call means important or urgent and a text means chit-chat.

Yet as the day went on I realized how thankful I was for the smartness of my phone.  I don’t have a super-crazy-good phone, but I do have a smart phone.  And the things that it allows me to do are amazing.

Many people argue that smart phones make your life easier, and though I can agree that some apps can help simplify parts of your life I can’t fully get behind the idea that my phone makes my life easier.  Wasn’t it easier when people had to wait for me to check my messages or emails at home before I responded to them?

Though I won’t say my phone makes my life easier I will say that it adds some richness to my life.  I know that seems strange to say that a piece of technology that makes calls and checks emails can add richness, but it did yesterday and it does many days.

Facebook for Family

Between work, my wife’s birthday celebration, and other responsibilities I didn’t get much time with the kids on Friday or Saturday.  I missed my girls.  But thanks to Facebook on my phone I was able to see my girls enjoying themselves.

On Friday they spent the day with their auntie Momo, and one of their adventures was a walk.  Sounds mundane, but the little ones played in leaves along the way and the pictures are awesome.  My sister-in-law is really good at using her phone as a camera to catch so many awesome moments with her nieces.

Our daughters also had their first sleepover at grandpa and mimi’s house on Friday night.  So when Saturday morning came it was nice to not wake up to one daughter crying or the other standing next to our bed, but I still wanted to see my girls.  Thankfully grandpa and mimi each took pictures and posted them to facebook.  It was nice to see that they were having such a great time.

Voice Notes for Big Moments

We’ve been working with our oldest daughter on potty training for a little while now, and though she is pee trained she is not poo trained (yet).  We’ve been trying to figure out the best way to get her to understand that her poo needs to go in the potty too: we’ve tried chocolate, we’ve tried rational reasoning (which usually works for her), and many other things.  Finally yesterday she gave in to us and made a poo on the potty.  She has done it before, but it had been a couple of weeks.

Sadly I wasn’t there to help celebrate the moment, but once it happened I had a text message from my wife alerting me to the goings-on.  I was super excited for my daughter, but stuck at work.  So I recorded a voice note for her and sent it to my wife, so that my daughter could at least hear my excitement for her before I got home and showed her my excitement.

Connecting With and Without

There are so many ways that the smartness of our phones allows us to connect across great distances, to help us feel present or help our presence be felt even when we aren’t there.  But we also need to remember that when we are there the best way to be present is to put the phone away.  Use it to share memories, but build those memories with the people around you and not the phone in your hand.

Top 5 Ways to Celebrate My Wife’s Birth

Today is my wife’s birthday, and though she isn’t big on overdoing it for birthdays I have decided to do this Top 5 in honor of her.

5.     Write a post that goes beyond the post to subtly remind everyone that it’s her birthday.

4.     Find a way to mention her birthday in every message I send to her or conversation I have with her.

3.     Rub it in that she’s old now, because her birthday happens to be a whole 17 days before mine.

2.     Track down the van she was born in (on the way to the hospital) and buy it.

1.     Take her out for an affordable, yet awesome night (at least that’s the plan).

I love you, Bettina.  And I’m so glad I get to be with you for another one of your birthdays!  Happy Birthday!

Devotional for Week of October 13th, 2014

2 Corinthians 9:7 — Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Tithing is a topic that often makes people cringe.  Pastors often stay away from it, because they don’t want to offend their congregants.  But often churches are in dire need of more people in their congregations tithing.

When I say tithing I don’t mean “a tenth”, because that might not be what works for everyone.  Yes, God asks us to give a tenth in scripture, but I argue that more important than giving a tenth is simply giving (to start)–and more importantly giving from our first fruits.

The portion of this verse that is often repeated and often creates guilt is “…God loves a cheerful giver.”  So does that mean that if I’m not cheerful when I give, that God doesn’t love me?  No, it means that you are probably doing one of two things:  you are giving beyond your means or you are giving compulsively.

The beginning of this verse reminds us that our tithing is between us and God.  It’s important for us to be honest with God about our intentions and our fears surrounding tithing.  It’s important that we not try hide away our treasures from God, because He knows what we have and what we are able to do with it.  We may not be able to afford giving ten percent of our gross income, but can we do ten percent of net?  Maybe we can do six percent now, and work up to ten percent.  The important thing to remember is that God deserves what is first.

In our house we have set up our budget in a way that we don’t account for tithing in our bills.  We put our tithe at the top as soon as we build the spreadsheet or jot things on paper.  We do this so that it is never forgotten, never left out.  God has brought us through some tough financial times over the last several years, so we feel that it’s important we continue to give to His works first.

I don’t say this to toot our horn, but simply to give an idea of what might work for you.  Each person has a different number and a different method.  It is between you and God what numbers and methods you choose to use.  When you are sure of your numbers and your methods, and when you’ve taken your fears and intentions surrounding your tithe to God, then you can give without compulsion, reluctance, or guilt.  Then, you will be on your way to being a cheerful giver.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for all the gifts you have given me.  Please help guide my heart and my mind in decisions about tithing.  Lord, help me see the purpose in my giving, and help me to find comfort in giving to your works even when I am struggling.