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During the course of the past seven years, my wife, Erika, and I (along with our kids) have made certain sacrifices in order that I might pursue full time ministry in a local church setting. As we have counted the cost of this life change, we have been, for the most part, happy – and, we are incredibly grateful. I work from home and take care of the kids and dogs, while Erika excels at her work as a Process Improvement Consultant at Group Health. I stay at home and my wife has a career outside of the house (where she makes way more money than the current zero dollars an hour I get paid for planting a church). There, I said it. That took some guts – cuz, I’m actually more than a little afraid that Mark Driscoll and his wife are going to storm my front door and Mark will scream “Infidel!!!” at me as his wife kicks my ass. But, I digress.

This familial arrangement of ours has one incredible drawback: I am in charge of dinner. The problem? I hate to cook. This problem is compounded by the facts that my wife loves to cook and my kids hate all food. Plus, I have the nutritional intelligence of a public school lunch lady (insert comment about pizza being a vegetable here). But, alas, Erika loves her work and she is incredibly gifted for this specific type of work and there is no way in hell she is going to quit. So, for the foreseeable future, I am in charge of dinner. And, I hate to cook.

that burger is bigger than his mouth!

Last night, I outdid my self. Feeling incredibly ambitious and energetic, I attempted to make a “complete” meal. By “complete,” I mean it consists of at least three items and one or more of them is a vegetable-like substance. Not only did I pursue the ever allusive “complete” meal, but I also tried to make it healthy. I passed on the frozen burger patties from Costco and made my own turkey burgers – complete with oats, raw egg, and seasoning. And, ya know, what? That meat tasted DAMN good. However…

My kids have gotten into that Food Network show Chopped! with Ted Allen. Andddd, cue Ione!

Ione: “Chef Jim. What have you made for us tonight?”

Me: “Turkey burgers, french fries, and corn.”

Erika: “Judges, what do you think of Chef Jim’s dish?”

Thelonious: “Chef Jim, I can feel the oats in my burger. And, it’s way too big. I can’t get my mouth around it.”

Ione: “Chef Jim, the french fries are nice in the middle, but the ends are a bit too… crispy. My burger is over done on the bottom. The “carmelization” is gross.”

Erika: “Judges, what do you like about Chef Jim’s dish?”

Ione: “Chef Jim, the burger is seasoned very well! It’s delicious!”

Thelonious: “Chef Jim, the burger is very moist and seasoned very well. But, I can feel the oats in my mouth.”

At this point, Ione took a commercial break. Then, Thelonious covered his plate with a napkin and asked rhetorically, “Who’s dish is on the chopping block?!?!… Chef Jim, you have been chopped!”

Always the optimist, Erika asked me what I learned from tonight’s meal.

  1. It is not possible to have all items in a complete meal be the same temperature at the same time. (Personally, I don’t mind cold corn, lukewarm fries, and scalding hot burgers)
  2. Johnny’s Seasoning Salt contains no MSG and kids love it.
  3. 1/2 pound burgers are way too big for most humans, especially children (unless you are Ione who ate the whole thing).
  4. I hate to cook.

On the way to school this morning, Thelonious asked me a question. “Dad, what’s the name of that guy at the comic book store?”
“Gabe?”
“No, the other one.”
“I think it’s Panda. But, I don’t know if it’s Panda or just something that sounds like Panda.”
“Panda is kind of a cool name… It’s also kinda weird.”
“Ya. And, I don’t even know if it’s his real name or a nickname.”

At this point, Ione chimed in.
“Well, since he has brownish skin, maybe it’s Pandaria!”

Thelonious and I burst into laughter. “Ione, what are you talking about?!?!?”
“I don’t know! But, do you know what it’s called when a Panda has a diarrhea? … PANDARIA!!!!”

Here’s the point. My kids are in 2nd and 4th grades, respectively – and, they don’t have a clue about race. I think it’s a pretty amazing and beautiful thing. They live in a neighborhood with African-Americans, Africans, Mexican-Americans, Native Americans, and Asian-Americans. But, they consider skin color absolutely random. One of Ione’s best friends is adopted – a Korean girl with two white parents. For the life of him, Thelonious could not figure out how I knew she was adopted. In my kids’ world, there is no Black, White, Asian, or Indian. Instead, we’re all the same thing and some people are just more or less brownish than others – the same way some of their friends have red hair or green eyes.

And, here’s the other point. Poo is almost always funny.

This morning, I did the unthinkable: I downgraded my cable television package. My children watch too much television and I can’t really be bothered with parenting them and keeping track of all that. So, good bye Disney Channel! Goodbye, Nickelodeon! Good bye, Cartoon Network! I’ll miss you most of all. And, good bye, Comedy Central – I’ll enjoy your streaming episodes of the Daily Show.

I suppose this is just proof of Calvin’s total depravity.

Really, this was all too easy. I grabbed my laptop, hit “live chat” and let the destruction ensue. I even did the dishes and wrote a blog post while chatting with Rey Carlo. He was even so polite as to type, “That’s good to know. I’m happy you feel that way.” And, he finished the conversation with, “have a blessed weekend.”

This represents a large change around the Fox household. On Monday, the kids go back to school. Three weeks later, I go back to school. Time to buckle down and do some learning. One other reason for the change – I am a patriot and socialism is sin.

P.S. Here is a picture of Jake handling snakes at the men’s retreat. I would have taken more photos but I was busy drinking poison.

jake models true religion

jake models true religion

After many months away from “space monkey manifesto”, I am making my triumphant return. In my mind, this is accompanied by the Queen classic… “FLASH! AwwwAW! Saviour of the uniVERSE!” Why have I chosen this day to rekindle your love of my written word? One word for ya: It’s summer vacation.

It’s 3:48 pm on the first day of summer vacation and Ione is already thrashing on the floor, crying out in a pathetic little whine, “but, there’s nothing to doooooooo…” Thelonious has already been victim to several time outs as he learns the meaning of the words “respect” and “antagonize.” However, I am determined, I will stay resolute. My children will learn how to entertain themselves this summer – even if it kills all three of us.

To help the Fox progeny learn this valuable lesson, we took a trip to Target to get Wham-O brand TracBall and a big bouncy ball. While we were out, we stopped by Petsmart (there was an argument: is it “pet smart” or “pet’s mart”?!?!?) to price Budgies. In a moment of weakness, brought on by the ridiculously low P.E.T.Club member prices, I let Thelonious buy a parakeet.

As I sat down to write this post, I felt a warm breeze against my ankles. Actually, not warm… hot! “Why is the thermostat set to 82?!?!?” “Dad, the book says it needs to be between 75 and 85 degrees for my parakeet!”

Ione just threw a note at me from the Creation Station. It is written on pink, heart shaped stationary, placed in a matching pink envelope and sealed. The note reads, “I need mu suitcase and my sleeping bag Because there’s nothing else to do.”

I think I better go.

I’ve lost my creative edge. First, there was that damned election and, quite seriously, that thing sucked all the energy out of my life. I just wanted to die when it was over. Instead, we got a new puppy. Then the snow came and vacation and winter malaise. I don’t wanna blog anymore, but I know how disappointed you will be if I don’t. SO! I’ve made a short list of things that I was going to write about during the past two months if I had had enough energy.

1. In high school, I was surrounded by hessians. They were everywhere. We got along but I hated their music and they hated mine. I really hate metal. But, due to lunchtime ghetto blaster wars and riding in Bobby Randles’ Duster, I know at least one line to every heavy metal song written between 1982 and 1988. Something took over my decision making faculties on November 7th and I downloaded 19 songs by Stryper and their nemeses: Maiden, Crüe, and Priest. For over a week I listened to those songs over and over and over again. I listened to nothing else. And, I hated every second of it.

2. I had an extremely profound thought about “core values.”

3. Thelonious, Ione and I were driving in the car. Thelonious said, “Hey dad, I learned some new words to a Christmas carol: Deck the hall with balls of money, fa lala la lalalala, tis the season to be greedy, fa lala la lalalala.” Ione immediately interrupted him and scolded, “Stop singing that! Your Lord would not appreciate it!”

4. A quote from The Shaping of Things to Come
“An incarnational ministry draws not-yet-Christians toward God by exciting curiosity through storytelling, by provoking a sense of wonder and awe, by showing extraordinary love, by exploring how God has touched our lives, and by focusing on Jesus.”

5. My facial hair has grown into an homage to Castro’s Revolution

6. I called our new puppy “the pooper.” Ione asked why I called her that and I said it was because she (the puppy, not Ione) looked like poop. Ione thought that was ridiculous because the puppy is black and white. I asked her, “Haven’t you ever pooped black and white?” She looked incredulous and answered, “No! You only poop black and white in Canada!”

7. I made Thelonious sit at the dinner table for an hour and fifteen minutes and then go straight to bed because he wouldn’t eat three green beans. I think Erika was more angry at me than he was.

Now that I have all that out of my system, I might start writing more.

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In honor of the oppressed who gained some level of voice and empowerment in last night’s election, I decided to wear my Clash “Know Your Rights” t-shirt today. Ione and I were brushing our teeth (actually, I was brushing my teeth and she was just hanging out on the toilet) when she saw my shirt and asked, “Daddy, does your shirt say ‘now your rights’?”

“No, sweetie, it says Know. Know your rights.”

“But, daddy, you’re a left.”

Speaking of rights, this morning I came to the realization that I don’t have to be friends with anyone – on facebook that is. See, I’ve been getting riled up about what some people have entered as their “status.” I rile easy, and I de-rile with much work over a long period of time. So, avoiding the initial riling is important for my spiritual health and well being (not to mention the class project due tomorrow). After my blood boiled over one particularly shameful jingoistic “status” I read this morning, I was prepared to explode – figuratively and literally. And then, it occurred to me. I do not have to be facebook friends with individuals who express their vitriolic fear through jackassery. So, I deleted them and feel much better.

Speaking of jackassery, for many years I thought that word had been invented by my friend, Bill Power. Just a few years ago, I discovered it is a real word! I read it in a scholarly theological work on sin by Cornelius Plantinga. Who knew?

Speaking of Plantinga, he understands sin as the lack or absence of shalom (or, “the way things God intended them to be”). I think in last night’s election, a little bit of shalom was restored and the kingdom of God was made visible.

Erika left early this morning to go to her sister’s baby shower in Southern California. That means it’s the Saturday after Halloween alone with dad – this can not turn out well.

Ione cried for 27 minutes because she wanted me to go get her donuts for breakfast. I finally convinced them both to eat some waffles and sausages. The difficult part was convincing them that they did not need chocolate chips on the waffles or powdered sugar to dip the sausage in.

After breakfast, the kids were counting their candy and Thelonious said, “Hey, Dad, I got a joke book while trick or treating. Check it out… Why do gorillas have big noses?”

“I dunno.”

“Because they have big fingers. ha ha ha. What is the laziest mountain in the world?”

“Hmmm, I dunno.” 

“Mount Ever-rest!!! ha ha hee hee ha. Dad, dad, listen to this one… Who will everyone meet someday?”

(this is a weird set up for a joke) “I dunno, Thelonious. Who?”

“God’s son, the Lord Jesus Christ! Hey, here’s another… Will everyone go to heaven?”

“Wellllll…different people believe different things. Some people think everyone will go to heaven. Ya see, Jesus loves everyone –

“Nope! Says here: The Bible, God’s book says, ‘those who don’t believe and obey him shall never see heaven!'”

Ione laughs hysterically.

Thelonious continues, “Will the bad things I have done (sins) keep me from going to heaven?”

“Well, geez, son, these are kinda complex -”

“It says here: ‘YES! God hates sin! He will not allow sin into heaven! That means I’m in a lot of trouble!'”

Now I know why people think Halloween is evil.

Thelonious finishes with, “I’ve been wearing the same underwear since Wednesday.”

Why am I wasting all this time and money on grad school? Apparently, all truth can be learned by trick or treating.

Erika: Thelonious, you’re so smart, funny, handsome, creative, and fun. Who do you think you get that from – me or daddy?

Thelonious: (pause) Neither. I got them from that cool dude who’s name is spelled G – O – D.

“No, Ione. Eggos do not have crusts. Ione, please keep your Eggo crusts on your plate.”

“My name is donut!

Until just a few days ago, I believed dentists were agents of good who only wanted to make the world an easier place to chew. Now, I know better. Now, I know, dentists exist simply to be used as sermon illustrations. Seriously. If you don’t have the Lord on your side I suggest passing on the next “routine checkup” you have scheduled.

I (used to) have pretty good teeth. In fact, I didn’t get my first cavity until my twenties, and that was in one of my wisdom teeth which was pulled 6 years later. So, I really didn’t think it was that big of a deal to go a year, two years, maybe eight between dental visits. I mean, it’s not like Erika and I had dental insurance or anything. Well, Erika has a good job now and we get dental insurance. So, after waiting 14 months, I scheduled an appointment when one of my molars chipped twice in one week. And, according to the x-rays, all those years of 2 packs a day and surviving off the sweet chemical nourishment of Diet Coke had an impact on my teeth.

The dentist of my first appointment only spoke broken English, so I left the office not knowing exactly what was going on in my mouth. All I was sure of was I required to schedule three follow up “emergency” appointments in a 9 day period. In the last two weeks, it seems as if I have gone to see Dr. Yung every other day. Most of the women working there and I are on a first name basis (in fact, I even have a new nickname: “becky” – don’t ask, don’t tell). One unique feature of my mouth is that it doesn’t react well to novacaine. This results in one shot, some drilling, and me leaping out of the chair with tears running down my cheek. Dr. Yung, always so polite, says, “did that one get ya, Becky? Well, let’s give ya another shot.” This additional shot results in my face being numb for (no kidding) four or more hours. The dental assistants kibitz about what a great patient I am, never complaining. They joke about the tough guy with all the tattoos. If I wasn’t busy trying to swallow my own tongue to end the pain once and for all, I would let them know that I am crying on the inside.

My first set of fillings, last Tuesday resulted in a root canal. Thank God, they were able to schedule it for the following day. My tooth was special. It had an extra canal. This resulted in a four hour procedure. By the end of the 3rd hour, Verenda the dental assistant was rubbing my arm, a look of worry in her eye, muttering, “ohhhhh Jesus, let him be ok, just let him be ok.”

Yesterday was my final appointment. Honestly, I’m not sure how many fillings they gave me. It was three appointments of two or more fillings per cavity plus the root canal. I think I ended up with nine; but, after all that drilling into my skull I have lost the ability to count from 1 to 10. My kids now like to play Treasure Chest with all the new “shinies” in my mouth. I look like Jaws from Moonraker. My upper lip on the right side is still tingling. I’ve averaged 12 advil a day for 9 days straight. Sometimes, I cry myself to sleep. But, this will all make a great sermon illustration one day, I’m sure. And what will the lesson be?

The Calvinists were right: God hates you.