Forbidden Fruit

Fundamentally, it is all about tomatoes.

Some men have a mid-life crisis that involves a sports car, or a new job. For me, it was gardening, so we spent a good part of the Spring planting tomatoes. Then we had to transplant, stake and prune them, and we even managed to sell some of the plants.

We drew all kinds of deep, philosophical lessons from the planting, growing, staking and pruning, provoking one common reaction from our readers:

“For crying out loud, enough with the tomatoes, already!”

A-Camping We Will Go
This boy was so sick of tomatoes, he’s packing to leave.

But at last we have arrived at the day we’ve all been waiting for: Harvest Time.

When I returned home this evening, Kathy asked me eagerly, “When are you going to eat one of your new, red tomatoes?”

I chortled with glee. “Maybe today … ” I hinted, waggling my eyebrows in a conspiratorial way.

Later, I went out to water and inspect my little darlings, and to photograph them appropriately. Looking closely, I noticed that there were only two crimson globes, where three had dangled yesterday. Frantically, I searched in the dirt at the foot of the plant — nothing! Could it be possible that someone had eaten one of my precious tomatoes?

My Precious
The first fruits of my harvest

I rounded up the usual suspects. “OK,” I snarled. “Who was throwing a frisbee near my tomato plants, and what did you do with the tomato you knocked off?” I marched up and down the line of ‘persons of interest’, noting their beady eyes and guilty faces.

But none of them cracked. “We don’t know what happened to your silly ‘ole tomato,” wailed my youngest daughter.

Forbidden Fruit
… and then there were two …

Finally, a confession was received from an unexpected source: “Um, I had one, sweetie,” admitted Kathy, scuffing the dirt with her toe. “It looked so good, and the snake said it would make me wise … ”

It is things like this that really put a marriage to the test.

Project 366, Day 220

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Gearing Up for Fall

NOT!! I’m still in the throes of summer.

Just because school supplies are calling my name and tempting me with their 17 cent boxes of crayons does not mean fall is here.

I still have a few pairs of flip flops that need breaking in, sun screen bottles to use up, and beach towels that want to see more sand and sea water before being tucked away on linen shelves.

don't make me put my towel away!

David, are you ready for school?

Just because I’m teaching three (yes, THREE, I’m obviously an idiot) classes at our homeschooling co-op this year doesn’t mean I should panic. I can still remember the names of the courses so I figure I’m doing great.

Just because I have piles of curriculum (curricula? Which is correct?) to order, doesn’t mean I’m behind. This happens to me every year. I spend a good, solid portion of August living in denial. It’s a happy place full of sunshine, popsicles and, in our case, I hope tomatoes from the garden.

sarah and julia wear 'make-up'

Birthday girl, Julia, puts make-up on Sarah. What?? Much too young for such ‘paint.’

I do, however, have a nice list of August To Do’s going. My prayer for the month is to spend my time purposefully. A Purposeful August. I can fully enjoy the play time with friends, just be sure to work at accomplishing a portion of my goals each day. Sunshine and the lake when there is time, but school and co-op prep as well.

sunshine and water for me please

“You can do it, Mom. Put the camera down and get to work.

It sounds so reasonable, I almost believe it’s possible. What do you think? Is August fun or frantic in your home? I know my sister in law who lives in Georgia has already sent her children back to school. No more summer for them. Does that make life easier or crazier when you’re not homeschooling? How do I possibly get everything done and still manage to feed and clothe everyone, have some fun and keep the house tidy?

party time

Who can work when there’s a party to attend?

Am I asking too much out of life?


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Live at Peace with Everyone

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading the Bible at lunch, and I came across Romans 12. “What a great chapter,” I thought to myself. “I ought to memorize this.”

Bible memorization has been on my mind lately, ever since Tom Meyer (a “Wordsower”) recited all of Jonah and Nahum to us at church. He did a nice job, articulating the story of Jonah, especially, with lots of dramatic flair. “I wonder how hard it would be, to do that?” I mused to myself.

When I was a young lad, I had a great memory. One year I memorized more than 600 verses (on sheets of twenty-five at a time) so that I could earn money to attend a Christian camp. It used to be that if I scanned a page of print carefully, I could see a picture of the page in my mind for some hours afterward, and could literally read the words off the page in that memory picture.

This is true no longer. These days, memorization takes substantially more effort, both up-front, and in terms of maintaining the memorized passage.

In a family with five children, there are always relational challenges, and some even among the kids. Thinking particularly about verse 18, which talks about living in peace with one another, I issued a challenge to my older three children: “I’ll pay a dollar a verse for memorizing Romans 12, and a five-dollar bonus to anyone who memorizes it before me.”

Hold on, Buddy!

“I’ll pay a dollar if you’ll slow down, Daddy.”

Rachel and Daniel are eager to go on a youth group retreat (their first since joining the lofty ranks of Middle School), so they jumped on it, burning the ‘midnight oil’, memorizing in their beds. Daniel had the first eight verses down at breakfast the next day, and so I knew I would need to move fast if I was going to be a credible threat.

Joshua disdained the monetary prize (flush as he is with cash from lawn-work) but casually memorized the whole passage in one sitting. He was reciting it happily (and a bit ostentatiously) to himself as he biked off to do some lawn work. Sometimes we think he was accidentally swapped for some other child in the hospital. I can just imagine a set of wealthy and successful parents as they scratch their heads at their slap-dash, irresponsible son. “Maybe he takes after your Uncle Erwin,” confides the Dad to his wife.

Okay, you may take my picture, Mom.

Joshua, try Psalm 119 and get back to us.

Rachel keeps her cards close to her chest, but I think she is nearly done memorizing the passage. Kathy and I were out in the backyard yesterday evening, and my oldest daughter was inside, washing some dishes. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil … ” we heard her shouting, trying to make herself heard over the rush of the water and the clanging of the pots and pans. “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody … ” she bellowed. Apparently Joshua was checking her progress.

Even the little two are picking up on it. “Do not be overcome by evil … but overcome evil with good …” they sing, as they run across the yard.

Where are the brakes on this thing?

It seems nearly every day, someone asks me, “So, Dad, how much do you have memorized?” All the little ears perk up as I clear my throat nervously. “Well, let’s see … Romans 12:1-21.” There is an embarrassed silence, and then another silence after that.

Finally one of them speaks up. “Um, is that all?”

I try to maintain a haughty dignity. “Yep. I’m still getting started. I do know the last verse, though.” I launch into song, accentuating my point with excessive volume: “DO NOT BE OVERCOME BY EVIL … ”

They shake their heads, sadly, fingers in their ears. “You’re not doing very well, Dad.”

Truth be told, I don’t really mind losing the wager. I’m glad to help the kids raise money to go on their retreat, and I’m delighted to incentivize Bible memorization in the lives of my children. I guess what irks me is how easily they leave me in their dust. I try to stall them, insisting that they recite the passage word-perfect. “After all,” I tell them sententiously, “the scripture is worth our best effort, since it is the living Word of God. We dare not corrupt it by sloppy memorization.”

“Do pauses count?” Rachel asked me. “No, but if I have to tell you a word (or correct a wrong word) then that counts as an error,” I told her. Already Daniel is down to five or six minor errors in the whole passage.

Some people might think it inappropriate to pay kids to memorize scripture. One of my favorite pastors was once challenged about this:

“Isn’t it sort of crass,” a woman asked him, “to pay your kids to memorize? Shouldn’t they be motivated out of love for God and respect for the scriptures?”

“Well,” he answered gently, “that’s an interesting question, but let’s look at it pragmatically. My kids know hundreds of verses. How many verses do your kids know?”

This boy knows a lot of verses.

If you’re a grown-up like me, and your head is already full of the things you need to know to work, or to raise your family, then you’ll have to apply some clever technique to overcome your handicap.

I have three strategies that I use:

  • First, I read the passage over several times, trying to fix the picture of the page in my mind, the way that I used to when I was younger. It doesn’t work anymore, but I seem to be unwilling to try my other two strategies until I’ve proven that this one is no longer effective. I think it helps a little. Maybe.
  • When that doesn’t work, I try copying it down, either writing it by hand or typing it. I look at each sentence and then try to type it from memory, going back to check after I’m done. This usually gets me to the point where I have the passage mostly memorized.
  • To get a passage word-perfect, I resort to my third technique. I write the passage on our whiteboard (or as much of it as can fit) and then I recite it repeatedly. Each time I finish reciting, I erase a word or two. Pretty soon, I’m looking at an empty whiteboard and am able to recite the whole chunk of scripture.

How ‘bout you? Do you memorize scripture? How much, and how often? What techniques do you use? Do you pay your kids to memorize, or do they do it for free?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. -– Romans 12:1-21


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Tomato Promises

My how those tomatoes are growing.

Well, at least the plants themselves are growing. So far we don’t have any actual red fruit. Oh, there are a smattering of green globes here and there all over our back yard garden, but so far no edible tomatoes.

We want our tomatoes!

Look at the size of those tomato plants! Aren’t they impressive. And to think that Tim and the children started out with a little bit of dirt and some seeds. God’s bounty is truly amazing. We’ll have some tomatoes soon. I Promise.

Project 366 – Day 215

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I’m Hungry

Is that a good or a bad sign?

I’ve been snacking my way through the summer and, unfortunately, the snacks are biting back. I’m up a good 8 or 10 pounds from several months ago. Not happy news or a pretty sight.

On Wednesday a few friends gathered to begin phase one (six weeks) of the Prism diet/plan/Bible study. My eating has been healthy, measured and recorded since then. I’ve been drinking lots of water and even managed to fit in a long walk.

Surely those extra pounds are nearly gone.

Ha! :Snort: Weep!

Okay, so I might have to go through more than one or two of the 6 week phases before I get this weight off. It will all be worth the work and mild hunger attacks.

Or so I keep telling myself.

As I pare down my eating and beef up my veggie intake (sorry, unintentional pun), recording it all as I go, I shudder to think just how many calories I was consuming over the last few months. That big bag of chips from Costco, for example, which I managed to consume nearly all by myself over the week of camp comes to mind.

Hmmm, you think there were a few calories in that “little” bag? Ever wonder why those 100 calorie snack bags seem really small? Yep, it turns out 100 calories (in potato chip counting) is pretty small.

So, I’m back to big salads, hearty vegetable dishes and careful eating. I appreciate the accountability of my Prism group and the knowledge that the woman leading the study has been successful in reaching her goal weight. The daily reading and study time (complete with wonderful, inspiring Bible verses) is encouraging me to tackle the mental as well as the physiological aspect of my food issues.

Meanwhile, I’ll go have some hot tea and skip the chips.


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