I’m No Joey Chestnut

Last Friday, the 4th of July, I watched Nathan’s Best Hot Dog Eating Contest. Or whatever it’s called. The contest is one of stamina and stomach elasticity where contestants have 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs as possible. It is both a sight to behold and to become nauseated by.

This year’s contest was won by Joey Chestnut who devoured 61 hot dogs. IN TEN MINUTES. It was Chestnut’s eighth win in a row. After winning his 8th straight title, his stomach reportedly went into hiding.

Thankfully, I ate my hot dogs before watching the contest. If I had eaten after the contest a couple of things could have possibly happened. It’s a possibility I would have tried to eat as many hot dogs as possible to see what my limit is. It would not have been pretty. Another possibility is that I would have gotten sick while eating my hot dogs as I thought about how gross it was seeing that many people eat that many hot dogs. This would not have been pretty either.

As it was, I ate 2 hot dogs. Just 2. I know–that’s nothing compared to Chestnut’s 61. It’s also nothing compared to how many I used to try to eat.

I’m no Joey Chestnut. Let me count the ways:

1. He ate 61 hot dogs in 10 minutes; I don’t want to eat 61 hot dogs in a year. Don’t get me wrong, I like hot dogs as much as the next overweight, American guy. But 61 hot dogs in a year is more than I want to eat. I mean, I eat 2 hot dogs every time I eat hot dogs. If I did that every two weeks, that would be 52 hot dogs. That’s about my limit. Don’t judge.

2. He’s far more romantic. Chestnut proposed to his long-time girlfriend before the contest; no word yet on how many wedding cakes they are planning on for the reception.

3. He’s got a better nickname. His is “Jaws.” Mine is “Big Ugly.” And only 2 people have ever called me that, which means it isn’t really a nickname.

I’m sure there are a lot of other reasons, but you get the point. I’m no Joey Chestnut.

And Joey Chestnut is no me.

If I was supposed to be Joey Chestnut, I would be Joey Chestnut. If I was supposed to be someone who competes in international eating competitions, that is what I would do.

But that’s not what I’m supposed to do. I’ve got a different agenda; a different purpose; a different path.

There was once a time when I would daydream about being someone else. A better athlete; a better looking guy. Maybe someone who never spits when talking. That time, mercifully, is long over. I am what I am because of God’s grace.

And, with His grace, I will continue to seek the path He has for me above all others.

How many hot dogs could you eat in 10 minutes? Are you comfortable with the path God has for you right now?


Worthy of Trust

“I don’t trust ham.” 

That’s what Noelle (my 9-year-old) said Saturday night when I offered her a piece of ham during supper.  She said it without a hint of hesitation.  And I laughed.  But on the inside I cried because ham isn’t just another food; it is one of the best tasting foods the world has ever know. 

If food were baseball players, ham would be Albert Pujols.  If food were movies, ham would be Forrest Gump or at the very least Joe Dirt (two movies that are remarkably similar).  Ham is the Peyton Manning of food, the Francis Chan of food, and the Dick Vitale of food all rolled into one. 

The worst thing about losing my job a few years ago was that I would no longer get my yearly “Holiday Ham” at Thanksgiving.  Well, the whole not having a paycheck thing was worse, I suppose.  But not by much. 

Even though it saddened me to hear my daughter proclaim her distrust of ham, I understand why she feels this way.  A couple of years ago at a family gathering, she choked on a piece of ham.  This incident wasn’t long, but it was scary for her and because of it she has been scarred for life.  I doubt that she’ll ever eat ham again because she just doesn’t trust it.

I think I know how she feels.  Here four things that I don’t trust because of past issues:

1.   Plastic patio furniture.  I almost broke my tailbone a few years ago after all four of the legs of a plastic chair I was sitting in exploded in different directions.  Seriously, the legs of the chair ended up in the 4 corners of the room I was sitting in and my rear hurt for a month. 

2.  Waffle House cooks with clean aprons.  Even though Waffle House is my love language, I haven’t spent as much time there in recent years as I would have liked.  While this fact angers my stomach, it thrills my arteries.  Whenever I do get to eat there, I always check out the cook’s apron.  The cleaner the cook the less satisfied the taste buds.

3.  Sandwiches made by other people.  If I had x-ray vision I would use it to make sure there is no mayonnaise on a sandwich before taking a big bite out of it.  The number of sandwiches I have thrown away because of over zealous condiment appliers is ridiculously high. 

4.  Television executives.  I don’t know any of these people personally and I still don’t like them.  They are quick to provide hype for new shows, yet are even quicker to pull the plug on them if they don’t perform as well as expected.  If we treated our food like they treat some of their shows we would all be dead from salmonella. 

Honestly, this is the first time that I have ever sat down to think of things that I don’t trust.  It has been a good exercise mainly because  it has caused me to think about the One that I trust the most.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Trusting Jesus isn’t always the  easiest thing to do nor does it make sense to everyone, but it is still the best thing to do.  Others will disappoint us; others will fail us.

But Jeus….

never falters,

never fails,

never faints.

He is the same now, tomorrow, and forever.

He is worthy of our trust.

The fact that Noelle trusts Jesus completely overwhelms how I feel about her not trusting ham.

No matter how good it tastes.

(What are some things that you don’t trust?  How has trusting Jesus been difficult for you  in the past?  Share away!)

Profiled by Girl Scout Cookies

“I hate Girl Scout Cookies.”  This is what I yelled at the Girl Scouts who were posted outside of Wal-mart a couple of weeks ago when they asked us if we wanted to buy any cookies.  I did it mostly to be funny (I made sure that they knew that I was only kidding), but I also did it to dissuade them from laying “it” on too thick.  And by “it” I mean their ability to make their eyes appear 67% rounder and 97% more hopeful of making a sale than normal.  We had already purchased at least 15 boxes from various people.  My waist-line did not need any more.

It’s not that I dislike Girl Scout Cookies.  I do like them.  A lot.  But not for the reason that you might think.  The real reason that I like Girl Scout Cookies is that they provide an excellent way to profile people.  If I can find out what a person’s favorite Girl Scout Cookies are, I can learn more about them than their Facebook profile even reveals.  But maybe you don’t know what your favorite Girl Scout Cookies are saying about you.  To correct this I have decided to share my research with you featuring the top five best-selling types of Girl Scout Cookies and what they say about those who pick them as their favorite.

WARNING: The research that these conclusions are built upon is based entirely on observations.

Thin Mints: You are the owner of a mini-van, a time-share, or a poodle.  You are a fan of soap operas and possibly professional wrestling.  You have been concerned about your weight most of your life, thus the word “thin” resonates deep within your subconscious mind.  You are a smoker (or an ex-smoker), probably of Virginia Slims.  You buy 30 boxes of them every year and put most of them in the freezer.  You plan on eating a couple of cookies a day, but all of the boxes are empty within a week.  But you aren’t worried because the are THIN mints. 

Samoas: You are a woman.

Tagalongs: You are a man who likes football, baseball, and basketball and when SportsCenter shows hockey highlights you change the channel to something more interesting, like static or Dr. Phil.  You drool a little when you see a box of Tagalongs, but not as much as when you sleep because that would just be too weird.  Your favorite color is plaid and your favorite fabric is flannel, however you would never tell anyone this because manly men don’t discuss fabric. 

Do-si-dos: You ate a lot of sandwiches as a child, especially peanut butter sandwiches.  Your favorite part of Vacation Bible School was snack-time when you got to eat cookies and drink weak Kool-Aid.  You miss the care-free days of your youth and the freedom that came along with Summer vacation.  You don’t mind that the name of your favorite Girl Scout Cookie sounds like a barn dance move.

Trefoils:  You have the taste buds of a 3-year-old.

Were these descriptions accurate? Probably not. Does what your favorite Girl Scout Cookies say about you matter? Absolutely not.

What really matters is what Jesus says about you.  And He is quite fond of you.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

If you have entered into a relationship with Jesus, you are His friend.  If not, He desires to be your friend and made a way for this to happen. 

Your favorite Girl Scout Cookies might reveal a few things about you. 

 The love Jesus has for you reveals far more. 

(What are your favorite Girl Scout Cookies?  Are some of the descriptions accurate?  When did your relationship with Jesus begin?  Share away!)

Getting Creative with Alternative Fuel

We probably disagree on plenty of topics.

You may think that the new, strange-looking woman on American Idol is acting more like a fan than a judge; I think that Steven Tyler is doing a fine job.  You may believe that hummus is a perfectly acceptable food to put in your mouth and eat; I refuse to eat it primarily because it is called hummus.  You may think that Lost was overrated; I think that you are wrong and need to repent.

There is at least one thing that I believe we can all agree on.  No, I’m not talking about the fact that all newborn babies look like Winston Churchill.  I’m talking about how we can all agree that the price of gas is equal parts ridiculous and painful.  I’m not saying that I have ever wept openly while pumping gas, but I’m not saying that I have refrained from doing so, either. 

While I admit that I am not a scientist and that I am not particularly intelligent and that I was once emotionally invested in The Bachelorette (the one that featured Trista and Ryan), I am a ponderer.  Here’s a question that I have recently pondered: What are some things that we have a large supply of that could possibly be converted into alternative fuel?  Here are a few of my answers:

1.  McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.  In anDouble Mouth Nasty inexplicable display of fast food madness, McDonald’s now has Double Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.  I can only think of one reason why they would put this on their  menu–they have an excessive amount of fish filets that they are trying to get rid of by creating a felt need for a double dose of mouth nasty.  I don’t think that too many people would get upset if we took the excess sandwiches and converted them into a less smelly type of gas than they normally cause.

2.  Silly Bandz.  For the past year my kids have traded Silly Bandz with negotiating skills that would put high-powered sports agents to shame.  One of my boys started wearing Osh-Kosh sized Armani suits and drinking 17 energy drinks a day.  And when I told him that I needed to talk to him about his behavior he  told me to have my people call his people.  I don’t have to worry about this type of behavior now.  The Silly Bandz craze has started to fade.  If we could convert all of them that were sold into gas, we would have enough to fuel every car that will ever be made throughout the remainder of time.

3.  Teeth.  When I was a kid and lost a toot the Tooth Fairy would bring me a candy bar.  Yes, that’s right–a candy bar.  Presumably to ensure job security.  What do my kids get when they lose a tooth?  Money.  They get $10 for the first tooth and $5 for each additional tooth.  It was my wife’s idea and it would be fine if we only had a couple of kids.  But we have 5 kids. Before it’s all over, the Tooth Fairy may have to start taking video games to pawn along with the teeth that she picks up.  Anyway, if we could get our hands on all of the teeth that are being stored in plastic bags in the sock drawers of parents with gullible children and turn it into fuel, we would be set.

Maybe you have different ideas on what to do about the exorbitant gas prices.  Maybe you think my ideas are silly.  But I bet you agree with me that the prices are painfully high.

I hope we agree on a few other things, too.

I hope we agree that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

I hope we agree that we are all sinners in need of a Savior.

I hope we agree that those of us who have obtained mercy should be merciful toward others.

I hope we agree that those of us who are followers of Jesus should be in the process of becoming more and more like Him.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,
that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Romans 8:29

I know that we disagree on plenty of topics, but I have grown weary recently of focusing on what separates us.  I wonder if  there can be somewhat widespread agreement on what unites us. 

Besides the ridiculous gas prices and the nastiness of Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.

(What other items should  we try to turn into alternative fuel?  What can we agree about?  What is worth dividing over?  Share away!)


Preventing Childhood Obesity

The only thing that I really know about childhood obesity is that it is on the rise.  That’s what a few headlines have told me.  The headlines try to say it in clever ways like “Childhood Obesity a Big Concern” or “Childhood Obesity is a Weighty Issue.”  Overall, though, I am pretty clueless about most of the details.

This doesn’t surprise me; I’m clueless about a lot of things.  Like why there isn’t a perfume that smells like bacon.  Or why people have a hard time calling me Matt and not Mike or Mark.  Or how my youngest son manages to break his glasses on a weekly basis. 

Even though I’m clueless about the details, I do know that childhood obesity is a problem that follows many children throughout their lives (of course it isn’t called childhood obesity when they are adults–it’s just plain ‘ol obesity then).  And, while I am not a doctor, I am an overweight guy with a few suggestions based upon my keen observations that will help prevent your child or children from becoming obese.

1.  Name your child Whitney.  I had at least 12 people named Whitney come through my office the other day.  I’m not sure if this constitutes a “gaggle” or a “plethora,” I just know that it was a bunch of them.  And none of them were overweight.  In fact, they were all quite petite.  As I pondered this, it dawned on me–I have never known an overweight Whitney.  I asked a few others (5 others to be exact) and they haven’t either.  This probably doesn’t work with boys, but if you have a daughter and want her to stay skinny–name her Whitney.

2.  Never introduce them to Little Debbie Snack Cakes.  According to the Institute of Fake Statistics (IFS), 67% of all obese children begin waddling on the road to Chubbyville via an Oatmeal Creme Pie.  Oh, it starts innocently enough with the child just eating one every couple of days.  But before you know it your darling child is eating a two Swiss Cake Rolls for breakfast followed by a midmorning Honey Bun snack followed by a sugar rush powerful enough to bring down western civilization. 

3.  Dissuade them from ever becoming repossession agents (aka repo men).  I have learned 2 main things from the “reality” shows that my wife likes to watch: Toddlers & Tiaras is the scariest show on television and all repo men are overweight.  Even though I have only watched the commercials for the repo shows, I know this to be true.  When I was unemployed, I considered becoming a repo man because I look like most of them.  Sadly, I didn’t meet the minimum qualifications because I don’t smoke cigars.

4.  Keep them away from Shoney’s.  The should be a sign over the entrance of every Shoney’s that says, “Abandon good health all ye who enter here.”  You may have known skinny people who went to Shoney’s, but I guarantee you they didn’t leave that way.  The air in those restaurants is even fat.  If you don’t have a Shoney’s in your area, please feel free to include the name of whatever restaurant you desire that leaves customers smelling like fried fish.

5.  Eat every meal inside of a church building.  All food eaten inside of a church building is considered–devoid of all calories and fat.  This is especially true for all casseroles and crock pot food.  Take your greasy grub to a church building and eat, eat, eat without worrying about whether it will attach itself permanently to your thighs.

I have dealt with weight issues all of my life and am currently more than a few Klondike Bars overweight, so these suggestions aren’t coming from someone who could fit into a Smart Car (I’m pretty sure those things have weight limits.)  I know that the real suggestions include a healthy diet and regular exercise, so please don’t blast me in the comments.  I also know something else.

Not knowing and cherishing God is worse than being overweight.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things,
holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
1 Timothy 4:8

I want my kids to be physically healthy, to not have to fight the same life-long battle that I am still fighting.  But above that, I want them to know that they are loved by God and to love him back.  I want them to be filled with the words of Scripture and with the Holy Spirit.  I want them to lead lives filled with compassion for the poor, the fatherless, the widows.

I want them to be like Jesus.

If I had to choose for them to be either overweight lovers of Christ or physically fit people who care nothing about following after Him, I would choose the former every time. 

So, I’ll keep trying to show them Jesus in my life, but I’ll also try to keep them away from the Little Debbie’s.  Especially the Raisin Creme Pies–those are my favorite.

(What other unique obesity fighting suggestions do you have?  What is your favorite snack food? How are you modeling Jesus for the young ones around you?  Share away!)






Lame Celebrity Stories

I have plenty of stories.  Stories from my past.  Stories about my kids.  Stories that I can’t tell because they are deemed confidential.  But I don’t have any good stories featuring famous people.  You probably do, though.  You probably have several cool stories about how you were just roaming around Wal-mart, looked up, and saw Brad Paisley picking up some light bulbs or Celine Dion trying to find her cd’s in the bargain bin.  Kenny Chesney is probably your cousin and you probably once got into a fight with Russell Crowe.  You probably bring up these occurrences casually, like they are no big deal, like they happen all of the time. 

They don’t; not to me at least.  My semi-recent brushes with fame are fairly boring.  See for yourself.

 WARNING: Do not read while operating heavy machinery because doing so may cause drowsiness and lead to serious injury.

1.  Donald Miller.  He tweeted something.  I tweeted a reply.  He tweeted back saying that it was his favorite reply of the day.  Or something like that.  It was the equivalent of the coolest kid in school and one of the nerds sharing a head-nod.  The nerd thinks “Hey, this may be the start of a friendship.” The cool kid thinks, “Why did that nerd just nod at me?”

2.  Bobby Bowden.  I met him a few years ago when he was recruiting the son of a co-worker.  I shook his hand.  Other people seemed filled with joy while doing this; I was just hoping he had washed his hand after using the restroom.  I also expected him to offer me a piece of hard candy because he is old and that is what old men do.  He didn’t.  I was disappointed.

3.  Tony Campolo.  I was eating at a Subway near the airport (and hoping that I wouldn’t smell too much like meatballs when I left) when he came in.  I recognized him immediately, walked over to him, and told him that I had read a couple of his books and that I appreciated his work.  He said, “Thanks.  Keep the faith.”  And then he left.  I told myself that it was the long line that dissuaded him from eating fresh, but it may have been the overly friendly, freakishly big guy with the honey mustard stain on his shirt.  When I got back to work and told a few people that I had met Tony Campolo, they said–“Tony who?”  Which is probably what you are thinking, too.  I warned you.  Bor-RING!

4.  Sonny Shroyer.  That’s right!  Yours truly got to meet Deputy Enos Strate from The Dukes of Hazzard.  Remember, envy is a sin.

And that’s about it.  I don’t have any amazing stories to tell about running in to famous people.  I have something better.

I have a story about Jesus running to me. 

When I was hopeless, helpless, and dead in my sins–He ran to me. 

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

I may not have good celebrity stories, but I have one about encountering the Savior.  I hope you do, too.  And I hope we share this story more frequently and with far more enthusiasm than we do the stories about seeing famous people in random places. 

(Do you have any stories about running into celebrities?  Do you have a story about Jesus running to you?  Share away!)

A Revealing Picture

Chinese food eating pajama wearers

I don’t normally take pictures and post them on this blog.  This is mainly because my phone takes crappy pictures and partly because taking pictures is just below waxing my leg hairs on my personal “fun-o-meter.”  There are some images, though, so silly that must be captured and shared.  This is one of those images.

My wife and I had something of a date on Saturday night after our church Valentine’s Dinner with my in-laws watching our children.   Being the wild and crazy couple that we are, we decided to go to Target because living life on the edge is just what we do.  That is where I saw this picture of two young ladies gleefully eating Chinese food in their pajamas.

I have several questions about this picture:

Who eats Chinese food while wearing pajamas? 

Are they eating the Chinese food at night during a pajama party or are they throwing caution to the wind and eating it for breakfast?

If they are eating it for breakfast, what is wrong with them? 

Is that a sleeping mask on the couch/bed between them?  Did one of them wake the other one up and surprise her with Chinese food?  Is that why they are laughing maniacally?  Or did one of them just pass gas?

Who wears that many bracelets with pajamas?

Do they know that eating while laying back like that is a choking hazard?

Is that how you’re supposed to hold chopsticks?

After looking at that picture for a few minutes like my chihuahuas look at me when I am eating popcorn, I finally snapped out of it.  That’s when I realized that I was close to doing something that too many of us do too often.  I was majoring on the minors.  I was taking a simple, innocent picture and making a big deal out of it.  I was making judgements about the picture based upon a narrow view.  This is not really a bad thing to do when looking at a picture, but it is a terrible thing to do when looking at other people.

A co-worker wears clothes that are just a little too tight and we make jokes at her expense. 

Our neighbor lets junk overtake his backyard and we figure he’s just lazy.

Someone in our church has a speech impediment and we question her intelligence.

An acquaintance expresses an unpopular political opinion and we treat him like an outcast.

Again and again assumptions are made and opinions are formed based upon snapshots of what we see and hear.  Taking the time to actually listen to others and trying to see things from a different perspective rarely enters our minds.  We would much rather ridicule and judge.  It’s easier.  Less messy.

We might be missing out on relationships that could be life-changing, joy that be soul-filling.  We could be allowing minor issues keep us from major breakthroughs.

I’m not saying that we should put pajamas on and eat Chinese food together;  I don’t like Chinese food and my pajamas feature holes in various “delicate” places.  What I’m saying is that when we focus on minor differences we might miss major opportunities to give and receive the precious commodity called grace. 

I’ve missed too many of these opportunities.  I don’t want to do it again.

(Is this picture as weird as I think it is?  What other questions come to your mind when looking at it?  If what other ways do we judge people and what can we do to stop?  Share away!)

Five Ways to Improve Subway

There is one McDonald’s location in Knoxville that I have vowed never to enter again.  Most of the time when we are near a McDonald’s one my kids will say, “Daddy, can we go there?”  When we are near this particular McDonald’s one of my kids will say, “That’s the McDonald’s Daddy hates.”  I don’t normally get angry at restaurants, or any other inanimate object, but on one occasion I became so enraged as to how I was treated that I rent my clothes and covered my head in ashes, Leviticus-style.  Then I went out and found an adulterer to stone.

I’ve never had the same feeling in a Subway restaurant.  For some inexplicable reason, Subway soothes me.  There is no need for Calgon to take me away–I’ll just go to Subway.  And it appears that this might be the case for many others.  Subways are normally quiet with people calmly meandering up to the counter covered with curved glass, casually ordering their sandwiches, and moving on down the line in an orderly fashion.  I was pretty sure that no one ever got angry at Subway, until the other day.  That is when I saw a man almost lose it because of what appeared to be a misunderstanding.

If he would have reacted this way because mayonnaise was added to his sandwich, I would have understood.  If I had x-ray vision, I would use it to determine if a sandwich is mayonnaise-free before taking a big bite out of it.  I’m not quite sure what his issue was, but he was vehemently angry.  I saw him grab his food, stalk over to his table, slam his seat back, plop down, and attack his sandwich using small, vicious bites in order to torture it as much as possible.  He even drank his drink angrily, gulping down large quantities and then holding the cup away from him to stare at it with disgust.

That’s when I did the only logical thing I could think of–I brainstormed about something that doesn’t matter.  As a result, here are a few ways to improve Subway:

1.  Produce a less smelly meatball.  I am convinced that the reason most people get food from Subway to go is that they don’t want to end of smelly like meatballs.  I am also beginning to think that the meatball smell may be slowly impacting our behavior.  Pavlov’s dogs heard a bell and began drooling; some people smell meatballs and become obnoxious.  Surely someone is busy researching this.

2.  Play more Kenny Rogers songs.  When I entered Subway on the day of the afore-mentioned occurrence, Kenny Rogers was singing about how you’ve got to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.  If I wasn’t in the mood for a Subway sandwich upon entering, I sure was after hearing his velveteen voice. 

3.  Hire a Jared Fogle look-a-like for every location.  I can’t think of a better way to remind people that they made a healthy choice than by giving them a living reminder of the fat guy that got skinny by eating at Subway.  Sadly, the Subway diet doesn’t work if you eat a meatball sub every day. 

4.  Make if feel more like a real, New York City subway.  Confession: I have never been on a real subway.  In spite of that, there are a few things that I think doing this would entail–a weird guy looking at you while you eat, someone peeing in a corner, a group of sullen teenagers with ear-buds in their ears texting each other instead of talking, and someone breakdancing.

5.  Make a bigger deal about employees being “sandwich artists.”  Make them all wear berets and act like divas.  Have them constantly complain about a lack of motivation.  Make all the men grow a soul patch and all the women have hair under their arms.  Give them a bonus if they make a sandwich that no one understands yet everyone loves.  

Why did I choose to brainstorm about how to improve Subway and not how to improve myself?  I have learned that the best way to improve myself is by not focusing on improving myself, but to focus on God and his glory.  As I do that, the Holy Spirit works in me to make me more like Jesus.  This sets me free from the bondage of always beating myself up for not being perfect.  While I don’t do this all of the time, I am learning to rely more and more on God and less and less on myself.

Maybe one day I’ll improve so much that I will be able to forgive the McDonald’s that I disdain and go back there again.  But I doubt it.

(What other ways could Subway be improved?  Have you ever been so aggravated by a restaurant that you refused to return?  How is God leading you to improve?  Share away!)