My Weekend Trip

This weekend my nephew married his high school sweetheart. I drove to Iowa to see the wedding, as well as go to a conference at Fourth Baptist Church in Minneapolis. When those things were finished, I had some free time. I went to church Sunday morning, and then spent the rest of the day visiting with family. Sunday night my best friend Mike and I made plans to go fishing this morning.

The wedding was NOT in Hawaii, which the palm trees may lead you to believe.

The wedding was NOT in Hawaii, which the palm trees may lead you to believe.

I had planned to spend Friday in Minneapolis, Saturday and Sunday with my family (wedding included), and then Monday with Mike and his family before driving home Tuesday. Mike said that he had plans for Monday afternoon, but we could go fishing in the morning, and then I could go home early and surprise my wife and kids.

So we fished. I paid $10.50 for a nonresident one day fishing license. I asked the guy, “Do you have a three hour license that’s cheaper?” No dice. Oh well.

Getting ready to cross the big bridge at Lake Red Rock.

Getting ready to cross the big bridge at Lake Red Rock.

We went to some body of water near Lake Red Rock. Mike had his canoe, which was funny, because the idea was for us to spend time together fishing and talking, but he spent the entire three hours staring at my back. At least we are guys, so we don’t need eye contact to communicate.

After drowning a worm for three hours and annoying a bunch of flies, we pulled the canoe out of the water. We didn’t get a single bite. But we did get to spend three hours talking, catching up, and reconnecting.

We parted ways there after loading up the supplies in his truck. I let him keep the rest of the worms, because hey, what am I going to do with them? I drove to Pella, Iowa, and spent some time at Jaarsma Bakery. This place is amazing. They have traditional Dutch pastries, as well as other bakery stuff. You could get fat going there regularly. I think they should have insulin available on request.

Jaarsma Bakery.  An Iowa institution.

Jaarsma Bakery. An Iowa institution.

Yum.

Yum.

More Yum.  Note the Dutch letters on the bottom left.

More Yum. Note the Dutch letters on the bottom left.

I need ten units of Novolog just from looking at this case, and I'm not even diabetic!

I need ten units of Novolog just from looking at this case, and I’m not even diabetic!

While I was there I bought some Dutch Letters, some chocolate and peanut butter covered pretzels, and an apple fritter.  Now, I like apple fritters, but this one was the best apple fritter I’ve ever had.  It had real pieces of apple in it, and had maple frosting on top.

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Simply amazing! I put the bite there, because I couldn’t wait.

I left there and drove out of Iowa on a road I’ve never used to get out of Iowa: Highway 34. Funny story:  usually as we enter or leave Iowa on I-80 we encounter a pig truck, along with its smell.  But on this road, I encountered something I’ve never seen before:  a turkey truck.

Not pigs.

Not pigs.

The bridge at Burlington is very nice, but the 45 miles of Highway 34 in Illinois between Burlington and Galesburg is not very nice. Add in the lane painter I sat behind for a good ten minutes, and yet again Illinois takes the prize for “Worst State to Drive Through.”

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Goodbye, Iowa.

I made it through Illinois and Indiana without my wife finding out that I was on the way home. Remember, she was expecting me to get home Tuesday night. I got home around 9:30pm and called her from the driveway.

“Are the girls in bed?” (Nathan usually stays up later, in case you are wondering)
“Not yet,” she said.
“Did you give them a hug from me?”
“Not per se…”
“Well,” I said. “How about I just come inside and hug them myself.”
“Whaaaaaat???”

It was a successful surprise with laughs and hugs all around. We prayed together and the kids went to bed.

Tomorrow they get to see the gifts from Grandma and the goodies I got from Jaarsma (Dutch Letters!!).

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I Scream for Ice Cream

I, like many of you, have a favorite ice cream. Unfortunately, my favorite ice cream doesn’t exist anymore.

My favorite ice cream was Ben and Jerry’s “Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch.” The vanilla ice cream was creamy, and the toffee pieces were varied in size, from small fragments that flavored bites of the ice cream, to large chunks that could be eaten separately. And the toffee was Heath, which is one of my favorite candy bars.

vanilla-heath-bar-crunch

Tyrannosaurus Rex. Dodo. Vanilla Health Bar Crunch.

Last month I noticed that my favorite ice cream had disappeared in my grocery store. I assumed they were just out of stock every time I looked. Then this “Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch” showed up, and I wondered what was going on. Did they replace my favorite with this coffee-flavored ice cream? The answer is no, they did not.

Ben and Jerry’s has always advertised their desire to be natural, wholesome, and not use synthetic or artificial ingredients in their products. I have always supported this because it’s nice to know you’re eating “the real thing.” But evidently their quest to be even more natural than before has led them to only use “certified non-GMO and Fairtrade ingredients” in their products now. I don’t mind this. They can use whatever milk and toffee they want, so long as the taste doesn’t suffer.

It suffered.

I bought a pint of their “Cherry Garcia” two weeks ago, and I thought the ice cream was freezer-burnt. That stinks, when you pay $5 for a pint of ice cream, and it’s freezer burnt. But I bought it at a gas station, so caveat emptor, right? Fast forward to last week, when I saw their replacement flavor for my favorite. It’s called “Vanilla Toffee Bar Crunch.” Evidently Heath bars aren’t “Certified non-GMO” or something. The outside of the containter has a promise from Ben and Jerry that they tried tons of different kinds of non-GMO toffee and found the best kind for their ice cream.

It is not good. Not good at all.

It is not good. Not good at all.

I beg to differ.

The new ice cream is, just like the Cherry Garcia, less creamy to the point of seeming almost freezer-burnt. Also, toffee is supposed to be crunchy. The toffee they picked is soft, even when frozen. It is grainy, and does not taste good. I don’t know what they’ve done to their ice cream except for replacing the Heath with some other toffee, but whatever they’ve done, it’s made the ice cream not taste good.  As a result, I will no longer be buying Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. This should be good for my waistline, but now I’m looking for a new favorite ice cream.

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Michael Sam Cut By Rams

I haven’t said anything about Michael Sam here until now. For those of you who don’t know anything about him, here are the basics. Michael Sam was an All-American linebacker for the University of Missouri who was also the SEC defensive player of the year in 2013. This means that he played extremely well at Missouri, and he declared himself eligible for the NFL draft this spring. He was drafted in the 7th round (pick #249 of the draft) by the St Louis Rams. He played for the Rams during their football camp, and their four preseason games, until he was cut on August 30th.

So why is this a big deal? People are making a big deal about it because Michael Sam is gay. He announced his status as a gay person in February 2014, making him the first openly gay football player to be drafted by an NFL team. The LGBT community rallied around him, and the media seemingly fell over each other in their rush to praise his “courage” for being an openly gay football player. Me? I think it’s all silly. Why, you ask? Because when I watch football, I don’t gauge the players based on their sexual orientation, their bedroom habits, or any other criteria other than: can they play football well?

So Sam was cut two days ago. Some people got upset, and some people made a big deal about it. It seems to me that half of Adam Schefter’s tweets lately (and the NFL’s for that matter) have been about Michael Sam.

Let’s look at the numbers. Every year there are approximately 3500 college seniors who play Division I and II football. Out of these, only about 255 are drafted by NFL teams. Being drafted doesn’t mean you’re on the team, however. See, NFL teams are limited to 53 active players per team. There are 32 NFL teams. That means that for any year, there are 1696 professional football players on NFL teams. That number never changes. What does this mean? It means that, for every rookie drafted in the 2014 NFL draft that was signed by his team (i.e. survived the cutting process this past month), there is another player that no longer plays for that team.

The teams end their year with 53 players. In the months after the Super Bowl, they sign, trade for, or draft enough players so that when they hit training camp in July they have way more than 53 players. The Indianapolis Colts, for instance, had 92 players on their roster this past July. They had to cut 39 players by August 30th to comply with league rules. Of those 39, some may find positions with other teams, some may get signed to the 10 man “practice squad.” Players on the practice squad still get to practice with the team, increases their chance of playing in the NFL at some point (usually if a NFL player gets injured, teams look to practice squads to replace him), and helps the team have more guys to practice with.

What does this mean? It means that for Michael Sam’s dream of playing in the NFL to come true, some other player’s dream of playing in the NFL doesn’t come true. These teams are looking for the absolute best players out there. This year the St. Louis Rams drafted 11 players (Sam was #10). They signed the top six. None of the bottom five were signed, nor have they been added to the Rams’ practice squad. So the three guys who the Rams thought were better than Sam didn’t get signed either, but nobody’s talking about them. Not every drafted player gets to play. 

Is Michael Sam a better football player than me? Yes. Is he better than most of the linebackers at the college level? Yes. Is he good enough to be a linebacker in the NFL? Evidently the St. Louis Rams say no. And I’m ok with that, because in the end, to the NFL, it doesn’t matter if you are in a monogamous heterosexual marriage relationship for 13 years (like Peyton Manning), if you like to sleep around and have children by multiple women (like Travis Henry, who has fathered at least 11 children by ten different women), or if you are a virgin (Tim Tebow). Your personal bedroom proclivity doesn’t matter to the NFL, they only care if you can play football.

And Michael Sam evidently isn’t up to snuff. Some other team may sign him.  He may work hard to improve so that he can play at this level.  If he were to work hard enough to be good enough to play, then I would salute his talent and ability to play in the NFL.  But right now he’s not good enough. So can we please stop talking about him?

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Bury Me Not….Or Do.

I have read two posts in the past week telling me to make sure my loved ones know what my wishes are for my funeral, etc. I’ve already told my wife, but being a blogger, I thought I’d let all of you know as well.

The number one thing I want for my funeral is this: whatever my wife wants. Every time I talk to her about this kind of thing, she says she doesn’t want to think about it. Yes, but I’m a planner (she knows this) and I like to think ahead to possible scenarios. So this post will also help her to remember what my wishes were, just in case she gets senile.

Years ago someone asked me if I thought cremation was ok with God, and if this would present a problem in the resurrection. I said, “Well, I figure that if God can create man out of the dust of the ground, I’m pretty sure he can RE-create people out of the dust of the ground. I mean, read Ezekiel 37 (“Dem bones, dem bones, dem….DRY bones!”): God has no problem with resurrecting a collection of bones into a person again. Does the Bible say that we should bury our dead in a 6x2x2 box six feed underground in a special place called a “cemetery”? No.

Doctrinally speaking, I believe that (unless the rapture precedes it), I will die at some point in the future. At that point, my soul (the part of me that is “me”) will immediately be with Jesus Christ in heaven, while my body remains on earth. At some point in the future, without getting into too many end-time details, my body will be reunited with my soul, and I will be transformed (I Corinthians 15:51-57).

So does it matter to me what happens to my body while I’m not in it? No, not really. I have informed my wife that she is to spend as little money on my funeral as is legally possible. She should have the memorial at our church, and pay the funeral home only what is necessary to follow the law (picking up the body, etc). I don’t even need a gravestone, if she goes that route.

I’ve been present at the funeral home for a few members of my family, and I’ve seen the high-pressure sales tactics that can be employed. I’m not saying all funeral homes do this, but the ones I’ve been present for have said things like, “She would have wanted the best.” In preparation for this, I have informed my wife that I don’t want the best, I want the cheapest, because I want her to spend that money on things that matter, like our children, grandchildren, her bills, missions, etc. I don’t want her unable to pay her electric bill because she was talked into buying the $8000 casket for me with extra pillows.

The way I see it, she has two basic options:
1. Put me in a plain pine box and bury me without a vault so I can become quick worm food.
2. Cremate me and dump my ashes in the woods somewhere.

By the time I get back, it won’t matter anyway.

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Ice Water and Ethics

A friend of mine challenged me to do the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” yesterday. According to the rules of this challenge, I am supposed to do one of two things in the next 24 hours: either I donate $100 to the ALS Foundation, or I donate $10 to the ALS Foundation and dump a bucket of ice water on my head.

I am doing neither.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a horrible degenerative disease that paralyzes its victims. I support the drive to find a cure. I would love for there to be a time in the near future when we look at ALS as we now look at measles and polio: largely a thing of the past. So if this disease is so horrible, and I am desirous of a cure, why am I not supporting the ALS foundation?

It’s simple: the ALS foundation is willing to kill people to find a cure.

Let me envision a fictional scenario for you. It’s ten years from now. My wife has been diagnosed with ALS. A man knocks on my door and tells me that he has the cure for ALS in his pocket. All I have to do to receive this cure from him is to go next door and kill a child. This is basically what the ALS foundation agreed to when they sent half a million dollars to a researcher who is using embryonic stem cells to attempt a cure. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the terminology, this researcher is using cells obtained from an aborted fetus (i.e. murdered human being). The ALS Foundation through their actions supports that. I can’t support that.

Is it right to kill other people so that I might live? Is it right to kill others so that my loved ones can live disease-free? Ethically, morally, and biblically, I must say no.

And so I will NOT be dumping ice water on my head, and I will NOT be sending money to the ALS foundation. I know many of my friends have done this challenge already, and this post is not meant to condemn anybody, but only to explain why I am not participating. My heart goes out to those affected by this disease, and I pray God allows us to find a cure, but I will not support those who murder the innocent.

Romans 14:5b “Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.”

EDIT: Apparently I was incorrect in stating that the stem cells came from aborted fetuses, since they evidently come from the leftover embryos from in-vitro fertilization. This does no change the substance of my post, however, since I believe life begins at conception, and these embryos are human beings.

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Rest In Peace?

Rest in Peace. We know what these words mean. They mean that someone is no longer living, and we want them to be at peace after all the struggle of this world.

There’s only one problem with that: it’s not true.

Some people say that death is the end; that you simply cease to exist when you die. But I disagree.

Why do I disagree? Because I believe that the Bible is true. And according to the Bible, there are two groups of people: saved and unsaved. If you are trusting in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross to pay the penalty for your sin, then you are saved. If you are not, then you are unsaved.

For saved people it works like this: They are born, they live on earth, they die, and then they spend the rest of eternity in the presence of God in peace and joy.

For unsaved people it works like this: They are born, they live on earth, they die, and then they instantly enter a place of torment where they will stay until the Judgment at the end of the world at which point they will be thrown into the lake of fire to suffer forever.

You see, saved people are at peace, and they could be described as resting (when compared with the troubles of this world), but they aren’t asleep. Unsaved people are neither resting nor at peace.

Is this harsh? Yes. Sometimes the truth hurts, but we tell the truth. Why? Because it is what is best for the person that we love. And I love you. Whoever you are reading this, I love you. But not as much as God loves you. He provided a substitute for you. Someone who stood in your place so you would not have to go to that place of forever agony. And when you think about it, isn’t it just the craziest thing you’ve ever heard that there’s a way out of this problem, but some people don’t take the way out? MOST people won’t, according to Jesus Christ Himself.

This all hit me as I read messages people were posting about Robin Williams, messages of sadness, and hope that he will “rest in peace.” They even said “At least his suffering is over now.” But according to the Bible, if he did not trust in Christ while he was alive, then he’s suffering more right now than he ever did on earth. He thought he was ending his pain, but he only hastened the most unimaginable torment ever. That saddens me.

And all I can think about is this: how much time do we waste on stuff that isn’t important? And what is more important than knowing where you will spend forever? For those who have already died, their choice is set, but you, if you are reading this: there’s still time for you.

Don’t waste it.

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Obliviots

I used to read Scott Adams’ comic strip “Dilbert.”  I also read his books.  In one of them he wrote about people he called “obliviots.”  The word is a portmanteau of “oblivious” and “idiot.”  It is a way of describing someone who is oblivious to the fact that they are being inconsiderate of the people around them.  One example is someone who blocks the entire shopping aisle with their cart so nobody can get by.

Here’s an example from yesterday.  At my local grocery store there are six “Express self-checkout” stations.  These are stations for you to purchase less than 12 items.  And then there are four or five self-checkout stations with a conveyor belt so that people can self-checkout a cart full of stuff.   I pushed my cart (with more than 12 items) to the checkout, and saw two things:  1. All six express checkouts were open and available. 2. All but one of the non-express lanes were being used.

Here you can see stations 1-6 WERE empty, a woman just arrived at station 3, and the woman at station 4 is an employee cleaning it.

Here you can see stations 1-6 WERE empty, a woman just arrived at station 3, and the woman at station 4 is an employee cleaning it. The offender is wearing the grey soccer shirt. 

I pushed my cart towards the empty non-express lane, when a guy with three kids (looked to be between ages 9 and 14) jumped in ahead of me.  He had no cart.  As I watched, he allowed each of his kids to swipe their item (each item was smaller than a deck of cards…I couldn’t tell what they were). Then he messed around with his payment method and finally left.  Was it a huge inconvenience for me? Not really.  But it was a point in my day that perhaps God had put there to remind me to be patient with people.  I’m sure if I had a time machine and could go back to just before the process and freeze time, I could ask the guy, “Ok sir, you have two options here:  you could use any one of six express checkouts to pay for your 3-4 items, or you could utilize the non-express checkout, thereby making other people with more than 12 items wait for five minutes longer while you pay for your kids’ items.  What do you think?”  I’m sure he would say, “Well, the obvious choice is to use one of the express lanes.”

But I don’t have a time machine. And this guy learned nothing.  But I got to practice patience and understanding.  You see, we all have the potential to be obliviots.  Sometimes we just don’t think.  Sometimes we say or do things without thinking through the effect that we will have on others.  I know I have the potential to open my mouth and put my foot in many times a day.  And so I’m taking this as a reminder to  be considerate to others, to be loving, and to be understanding that we all make mistakes, because we’re human.

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