Posted in Food, Life

Call the bacon guy

So we are on our way somewhere in suburban Dallas when this work van pulls up next to us. I quickly snapped a picture, then pointed it out to my wife and some of our grandchildren riding along with us. I asked, “Wouldn’t it be great to work for bacon?”

That’s all it took to spark our imaginations. A granddaughter asked, “Who wouldn’t want to work for bacon?” I can almost smell bacon frying on the stove as I worked to solder copper pipe to fix a leak.

“How much bacon would it cost to fix the leak in your house?” My grandson added, “I helped the plumbers when they came to our house.” He’s considering that career path, although at age six, he may change his mind a few times. I asked, “How much would you charge to fix the AC?” He said, “A package of bacon!” “How about a BLT?” “No thanks, just bacon.”

“What if you get a free package of bacon every time you hire them for a repair?” “That would be great! The plumber comes to our house all the time.” This is true. My son has had a number of plumbing issues over the past year. A pound of bacon would take the edge off that flat-fee for just showing up.

It’s a win when your family name is the perfect marketing strategy. Who’s going to forget this logo-wrapped van? The next time there’s no hot water, someone’s going to say, “Call the bacon guy!”

Posted in Life, Ministry

Watch your step

I read these words in my morning devotions: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). In that moment, I flashed back to playing soccer in Kenya.

My wife and I went with a medical mission team to Kenya in 2013. As a nurse practitioner, she worked clinics at churches in the Kisii region with other doctors and nurses. I went as chaplain, encouraging the team, helping out as needed, and talking through translators to the many adults and children who came to the clinic each day.

One afternoon I joined a large group of children playing soccer in a field behind the clinic location. Their ball was made from duct tape wrapped around old plastic bags they had scrounged out of the garbage. The goals were a couple of tree branches sunk into the ground ten feet apart. The soccer field was a cow pasture, complete with cattle.

Soccer friends and field in Kenya

Yes, every moment of the game, you had walk, run, and kick very carefully. I was a moderately successful goalie, only dirtying up my shoes a bit. As we played, the group of children, of all all ages, grew and grew. No translators were needed. The game of soccer is like an international language.

Life is like that. In a world filled with dishonesty, greed, anger, immorality, and violence, you have to watch your step. Before you know it, you’re a mess. You’ve been deceived, you’re unhappy, you lash out in anger, and you hurt the people around you.

Messy people find forgiveness in Christ and a different path in life. We can walk (live) with integrity, generosity, encouragement, and kindness bringing light into a dark world.

So watch your step. Check your shoes. Yes, you need God’s grace. Then daily follow in his footsteps, the path of life.

Posted in joy

The joy of an air guy

Originally called a Tall Boy, it’s also called a sky dancer, tube man, inflatable man, and air dancer. If I see one, even if I am alone in the car, I will smile and exclaim, “There’s an air guy!”

While they usually draw attention to a special sale or event, I most often see the small green one outside the Cricket phone store I pass when going to pick up grandsons. The new Goodwill store in our community had a huge blue one to announce the grand opening. I used to see a tall pink one in front of a used tire store near us, but he hasn’t been out for a while.

About ten years ago, I was very excited when our church bought a sky dancer to display at our annual Easter egg hunt. We didn’t get the one that looked like Jesus, but it was fun to watch him flail around nonetheless.

Church air guy

The Tall Boy was invented for the 1996 summer olympics by Peter Minshall who hails from Trinidad and Tobago. Now you can see tube men made to look like a cactus, Uncle Sam, an eagle, skeleton, ghost, leprechaun, Santa, elves, pirate, bride and groom, chef, and pilgrim.

What do I find so appealing about an air guy? I’m not really sure. He’s an image of unrestrained joy in a world too often filled with unhappy people. Regardless of what else is going on, he’s filled with life. I keep a sharp eye out for air guys, and delight in each one I see!

Posted in cooking, kitchen

Gettin’ zesty with it

Right after we went and picked ten pounds of blueberries, I made scones with a recipe that called for orange zest. Not knowing any better I shouted, “Hey, do we have any orange zest?”

Of course not. You zest an orange, or a lemon, or a lime, to get the zest, little pieces of the rind, for flavoring in cooking. Okay, so how do I obtain some zest? Duh. With a zester. “Honey, where’s our zester?”

After rummaging around in the kitchen, I found this trusty and rusty old four-sided grater that might work. I don’t even remember using this before. The smallest and the largest sides didn’t seem right, so I tried second largest one. It kind of worked, but quickly got jammed up with rind. What about the next-largest one? Those pieces of rind were a little large, so I had to chop them up finer with a knife.

Time to level up. This looked like a good zester. Amazon choice. Pretty cheap too.

But not cheaply made. Sturdy, curved, stainless, and easy to clean, this ought to do the trick. Before I received it, the seller sent along instructions and tips. Lightly oil the grater. Be sure to wash the fruit. Only zest the colored part of the rind, avoid the white.

Worked like a charm.

I wondered who came up with the idea of using citrus rind in this way? Here’s what I learned:

According to SPICEography, people began incorporating lemon zest in recipes around the 15th century, but the word “zest” didn’t become a part of cooking vocabulary until the 17th century. French culture popularized lemon zest as a key ingredient for sweetening and flavoring pastries. Today, lemon zest is a commonly used, highly versatile ingredient that is used in both sweet and savory dishes. (Read More:

More and more of my cooking, especially E2M recipes and seasonings, use lemon and lime zest. Now I’m zesting with the best!

Posted in Life

“There’s a toilet in front of that house.”

I know why it’s there. I know there’s a new toilet in the bathroom. I know this one will eventually find its way to the curb for trash pickup. But every time I saw it last week (yes, it was out there for a week) I wondered, “Why is there a toilet in that guy’s yard?” I also chuckled as I thought, “Visitors to this house never have to ask, ‘Where’s your bathroom?'”

Parents of toddlers know you might as well have the toilet in the front yard. The minute you slip into the bathroom, little hands start jiggling the handle, wondering where you are.

It’s a statement, isn’t it? Privacy is a thing of the past. Everything that used to happen behind closed doors is now out in the open for all to see.

Cameras are everywhere. We capture every moment (like this one). We leave digital footprints as we read, shop, work, and relax online. Security searches our luggage. We consent to background checks for paid and volunteer jobs. Delivery workers, garbage collectors, and thrift stores know what we consume. GPS reveals all the places we’ve been.

When we remodeled our bathrooms a few years ago, the contractor tore disposed of the old toilets when he tore up the floor tile. So no one knew that we had brand new, sparkling clean, taller, and more water-efficient commodes.

Until now.

Posted in dogs, Life

Happy dog

I loved watching this dog happily greet every customer who came in the coffee shop. With a grin on his face and his tail a blur, he was glad you came in today, no matter who you were!

I did a quick search to find out why dogs smile. It turns out that a smile means they are indeed happy. Some say it’s a learned behavior. People smile when they see a dog smile. Dogs like to make please their owners. So dogs smile to make people happy. That in turn makes them happy, too.

His tag identifies him as a “medical alert dog.” He’s a working dog. I’m don’t know what he was on the alert for, but I’ll bet he went everywhere his owner went. And his smile proclaimed that he loved his work and enjoyed meeting anyone and everyone he encountered.

I’d like to be like that. I’d like to be all smiles when I encounter another person. I do know that if I smile at someone, they are likely to smile back. And if someone smiles at me, it’s hard not to smile in return.

I think we would all benefit from some therapeutic smiling!

Posted in faith, Life, prayer

Have a little faith

A few things went through my mind when I pulled up to this car.

First, it’s a Saturn. Saturn stopped making cars in 2010. So I’ll bet this car was about fifteen years old. I think it takes faith to keep taking it out on the road. Although, on the plus side, if the student is still a beginner, a few dents and dings won’t bother anyone.

Second, there is probably a student driver at the wheel. It definitely takes faith to ride alongside first-time drivers day after day. If you don’t have gray hair yet, you will very soon.

Finally, I flashed back to my own driver’s ed experience in high school. I turned sixteen in 1973 and took the class that fall. All I remember from the class was a slide show with gruesome pictures of cars wrapped around telephone poles and the mangled bodies inside of them. The main message: wear your seat belt.

But to complete the class and get a discount on insurance, you had to drive with an instructor in a car equipped with a brake on the passenger side. If things got hairy, the teacher could hit the brake and avoid whatever was in front of the car.

I didn’t get to be in the car until the following summer. By then, I had driven the family car and thought I knew what I was doing. I think I went out three times with an instructor. At the end of the last session, I was winding through some suburban Philadelphia neighborhoods when the teacher slammed on the brake from his side and brought the car to a stop.

I asked, “What did I do wrong?”

He replied, “Oh, nothing. My mom lives here and I just wanted to stop in and say hello.” Thanks for the heads up. By the time he came back out, my heart had stopped pounding and we drove back to the school.

A few weeks later, I asked my mom if I could take my license test. She wasn’t optimistic but took me to the state police station where you took your test on a closed course with a smokey bear hat-wearing state trooper. Intimidating? Absolutely. I thought I blew it when I had to back up our big Ford Falcon station wagon a second time to complete the three point turn. Much to my mom’s surprise, I passed and got my license that day.

Thirty years later taught my own children to drive. Yes, it takes a lot of faith. On the plus side, you also learn a lot about prayer!

Posted in Life

An impressive scowl

I was so impressed/intrigued by the scowl on this man’s face that I looped back around an aisle kiosk in Walmart to get his photo. It’s not like he was an anomaly among a store full of happy shoppers. He just wore on the outside what most were feeling on the inside.

So he wasn’t in line at the pharmacy. He wasn’t waiting in a long, slow-moving self-checkout line. He didn’t seem to be with anyone. He was just standing. Standing in the middle of Walmart.

Anyway, I wonder what’s going on in his mind. How’s his day been going? How long has he been standing here? How long would he just stand there?

Maybe he’s hungry. His watch says 12:05, so he might just need a little lunch.

He could be waiting for someone. Waiting and waiting and waiting for someone to decide what they wanted off the shelf.

He still had his sunglasses on inside the store. He may have been frustrated because he couldn’t find his glasses.

Is he working undercover security? I can’t see his right ear. Perhaps a voice is speaking through an earpiece, “Keep an eye on the woman in line at the pharmacy.”

Or once again, someone said to him, “Wait right here, I’ll be back in a minute.” That minute turned into thirty.

As I watched him for a moment, I flashed back to a youth mission trip memory. Stopped at a Waffle House, we watched a man leaning up against the wall, smoking.

He looked angry. Angry that he was smoking. Angry at having to be at the Waffle House. Angry to be alive. Angry.

Note to self: the next time you’re out running errands, remember that anyone can capture your grumpy/irritated/angry face. Crack a smile and make them wonder why you’re happy.

Posted in garden, Life

Time to tackle some yard work

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

It was a gorgeous March day in Florida and I had nothing else on my schedule. Clear skies and temps in the seventies. Time to tackle some yard work.

I cut and trimmed the lawn. I pruned back all the dead branches from some of the backyard plants that had gotten bitten by a few sub-freezing days last winter. I finished moving landscaping rocks from a pile on the side of the house to the edges of the backyard gardens. Then I raked out tons of pine needles and weeded. Finally, I raked everything up and filled some yard waste bags to put out next week on collection day.

During one of my water breaks, I sat under the shade umbrella, felt the breeze, and thought about the whole yard/garden work experience. It’s not something you can rush. Slow and steady wins this race. Most tasks involved persistent, repetitive action. I loaded up and carried about 40 buckets of rock. Back and forth, back and forth. I cut twenty-two-inch wide rows across the lawn. Back and forth, back and forth. I sat and weeded section after section of the garden, leaving behind pile after pile to rake up. I pruned branch after branch, clipping them into smaller pieces and slowly filling bag after bag. I sprayed grass and weed killer along the fence line, killing off the grass that insists on growing where it’s not welcome.

I spent most of the day outside, slowly but surely getting the work done. The sun felt so good. Shade from some of the trees felt so good. The breeze that came in through spaces in the fence felt so good. The Amaryllis looked as if they were ready to bloom any minute. I’ve always enjoyed the smell of newly mown grass, until my allergies realize what is happening and start to clog up my sinuses.

I wouldn’t want to spend all day every day doing yard work. But some days I wouldn’t want to be any place else. I need a healthy dose of vitamin D from the sun. I need many breaths of fresh air. I need to hear the birds singing in the woods around me. I need to feel the dirt between my fingers. I need to feel the power of the string trimmer and the leaf blower in my hands. I need to see how many more lilies are poking up through the soil this year. I need to think about the new flowers and plants I will add this year.

For the moment, I can savor a completed task. It is a fleeting pleasure, for there are more tasks to be done. The grass’ growth accelerates as the days grow longer. Thankfully, I will have many other days in the yard and garden.