Dang it, what did I do now?

Quick show of hands - Anyone ever remove the word 'constructive' out of the phrase constructive criticism? The notion that someone is trying to help you improve yourself doesn't come across the way they intended. Instead you interpret it as some vindictive critique. It's OK if you raise your hand. This is the internet. I can't see you.

I ask because I do that. I hear their words and think, Dang it, what did I do now?

Maybe it's an inferiority complex. Or maybe I set my expectations for myself far too high. Or maybe it's a guilty conscience. Or maybe it's my self-deprecating sense of humor. Or my melancholic disposition. Whatever it is, it's not healthy. I am making efforts to change those habits but every now and then it happens. Someone says something that sounds vaguely negative and I assume it's about some mistake that I made.

My bad habits aside, when I read my bible it's nice to know that Jesus' disciples experience the same "crap, what now" feeling of disappointment that occasionally burdens me.

When you read through the book of Matthew, page after page you'll find the parables that Jesus taught. After many of them His disciples ask, "What does it mean?" Nearly all of the responses that Jesus provided went something along the lines of, "Are you daft? Did you really ask that question? Are you learning nothing from me?" But then he breaks the story down into language a five year old could understand. The bible doesn't often record what the disciples said after Jesus decoded his parables, but in my mind I imagine them collectively stating, "Oh ... now I get it." Then somewhere in the background, Jeff Foxworthy asks, "Are you smarter than a fifth grader?"

Most of these parables were delivered with Jesus talking to the crowds or given as an answer to trick questions posed by the pharisees. Then in Matthew 16:6, Jesus delivers a one line parable that is directed to the disciples and only the disciples.

He said, "Be careful! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees."

My optimistic side wants to believe that (if I were a disciple) I would have thanked Jesus for the good advice. Or I would have asked him to clarify what he meant. But I'm not an optimist. I would have reacted the same way as the disciples. "Dang it. We screwed up again."

They were on a boat, a captive audience when Jesus gave them this warning. The disciples had forgotten to pack bread for their trip across the lake. As soon as Jesus started talking about yeast and using words like "beware," They made the logical connection that yeast is in bread and they didn't have any bread. Rather than asking Jesus to explain how people could have yeast, they assumed the worst. Their first thought was, Uh-oh. We did something wrong. He's mad at us agian.

That wasn't the truth. Jesus wasn't talking about bread. But I can't blame them for missing the point the first time around. They were fishermen and tax collectors. They didn't have any experience baking bread; they bought it from the market like everyone else. Once again, Jesus had to spell it out like they were a bunch of kindergarteners.

Yeast is what makes bread rise. What made the Pharisees and the Sadducees rise? Their teaching.

When Jesus said, "Beware of their yeast," what he was really trying to tell the disciples was, "Beware of their words. It puffs them up like yeast does in bread."

The disciples, these guys were idiots. They had a hard time understanding Jesus' stories and they were quick to assume blame where no fault was intended. Truthfully, I'm an idiot too. Sometimes. While Jesus went as far to describe the disciples as dull, they were Jesus' closest earthly friends. That motley group changed the world. They got better.

If they got better, maybe there's hope for me. Maybe next time someone offers me some constructive criticism, I can reply, "Thank you, I appreciate the feedback."


Blogfest in the rearview

Dave at Huckleberries Online just recently celebrated 10 years of blogging. To celebrate, The Spokesman Review hosted the annual Blogfest at Fort Ground Grill.

The wonderful food was created by Jeff Selle (Bent's BBQ), Herb Huseland (potato salad), and Steve Widmyer's staff at Fort Ground Grill. If you weren't there, here's what you missed.

The food was delicious, but the company was better. And I believe I had the best company of all. These three.

They had a great time.

And this girl loved the cookies.

Christian was a little overstimulated from all the noise, so I let him play Angry Birds on my phone. It kept him content, but unfortunately tied up my camera so I wasn't able to get pictures of some of the people I've come to consider friends over the past few years.

Best of luck to Dave over the next year of blogging.


How not to celebrate Valentines Day

Tomorrow is Valentines Day. For some, it is not an easy holiday.
Don't make it harder. Avoid abbreviation.


The places where I lose my keys the most

Have you ever walked out the front door, struck with the sudden panic that you don't have your keys with you? You're late. It's time to go. Work, church, school, the grocery store, your mom's house. Destination is irrelevant because you won't get there if you can't find your keys. What happens next defies all laws of space and time as you tear apart your house looking for those silly metal objects. Minutes feel like hours and your house suddenly triples in size.

I've been there. And more frequently than I'd like to admit. (Yet I'm doing it on my blog with no shame.) It shouldn't be that difficult. I always put my keys on the keyboard that is right by the door when I come in. And by "always" I mean "usually." The days where usually doesn't apply are the days I bounce around like a pinball from kitchen to living room, from bathroom to bedroom. Where are my keys? Where ... are ... my ... keys? For the love of all that is good and holy WHERE ARE MY KEYS? I verbally ask these questions even if no one else is around.

On those days, my keys are not on the keyboard. They are lost and it is my quest to find them. When that happens, here are the five places where I lose my keys the most.

1. This should be the most obvious: my computer desk.
2. The kitchen counter, most often by the fridge - but never in the fridge.
3. Bathroom counter.
4. Bookcase by the TV.
5. In my pants pocket. The pants I'm wearing. When all else fails, it is always the last place I look.


Conversations with the kids

Christian and I have been reading The Hobbit together. He wasn't sure about it at first, but he is growing more and more engrossed with each chapter. A couple weeks ago, I picked up an invisible Bilbo toy for him. But I wanted to wait until we read about Bilbo finding the ring and discovering it's effects before I gave the toy to Christian. I figured he wouldn't have any frame of reference until then. Thursday night, we read about Bilbo slipping on the ring and disappearing for the first time while Gollum chased after him. He knew that I had a surprise for him but I wouldn't give it to him until after we read a certain part of The Hobbit. After we were done, I presented Christian with the gift with little introduction.

"What is it?" he asked.
"Well, it has big hairy feet and walks around barefoot all the time. Carries a little sword. Wears a coat and a waistcoat."
He looks at me, poker-faced. "OK."
"We have been reading about him a lot." I said.
"Oh," a smile and a look of sudden revelation spread across his face. "It's Bilbo. But why does he look like that?"
"Because of the ring." I said.
"Right." Christian still didn't understand.
"And," I continued, "When Bilbo puts the ring on, he turns ... "
"Into plastic?" Christian guessed.
"No! Invisible. Remember? We just read about it."
"Oh, I get it. But where's the ring?"
"He's wearing it. It's invisible too."

He was excited. As soon as he understood.

"Daddy," Christian had a special request while we were driving around town. "Make me laugh. Now."
"Um ... " I have a hard time being funny when put on the spot. "Christian, I love you like a fat kid loves cake."
He laughed. The loud and unmistakably natural laugh that only he does when he finds something hilarious. Then he said. "That was funny dad. But not that funny."
Then I laughed.
"See," Christian said, "now I was funny."

All three kids were arguing. JJ was insistent that he knew what his older siblings were talking about.

"JJ, you're not old enough to know what that word means." said Zu.
Sensing that JJ might have hurt feelings, I stepped in. "What word?"
"Affection." Christian answered.
"Of course he's old enough to know what affection means," I replied. "JJ shows affection all the time."
"See," said JJ, "I do too know what it means."
"That's right JJ," I said. "What does it mean?"
"It's what happens when you bump or scrape your arm or stuff like that," he answered.
"No JJ, that's affliction."

JJ shared his life's dream with me this weekend.

"Daddy, when I grow up, do you know what I want to be?" he asked.
"No," I said, "What do you want to be?"
"I want to be Iron Man when I grow up."
"Well, the first thing you'll need to do is get very very rich."
"OK," said JJ.