Favorite Tweets from January

Six years ago . . .

Time speeds by, doesn't it? I can remember taking this picture. Here's to great memories.

I hope your January was a good start to 2013. Here are some of my favorite thoughts and moments from the past month.

Top Tweets by Others

@ChalmersCenter"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." - Mark Twain

: Our love for Christ grows with our knowledge of Him. :9

@LeadersServe:  You can tell if a man is clever by his answers. You can tell if he's wise by his questions. 

@KurtWillems:  "Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win." - Bobby Knight

@johnpfinchAs a dad, you set the standard by which your daughter measures every other man.

@LeeStrobel92% of Planned Parenthood's pregnancy services are abortions. Prenatal care: 7%. Adoption referrals: 0.6%.

@plattdavidGod has not redeemed you to dwell in a Christian bubble; He has redeemed you to spread the Christian gospel.

@PaulTrippToday you have hope, not because you've gotten stronger and wiser, but because God's grace is everything he declared it to be.

@AnonBaptist Yes we joke about both, but neither is really funny.

Favorite Tweets from Moi

In the midst of my sin, God still pursues me (see Genesis 3:9). Thankful for His unfathomable grace & love! 

Rewind --> "Angry Boys" was the top post on this blog in 2012.

A great tension of life: God is sovereign, & yet we are responsible for our choices. 

"God is more concerned with our character than our comfort, with our holiness rather than our happiness." Bruce Ware  

When does human life begin? // It's hard to argue that an embryo is not life.  

Enter into the suffering of a fatherless child, to help them learn that God can be their Father.

One Small Thing: No Sugar

A few weeks ago when I was outlining our family's goals for 2013, I mentioned that I was going to do something new for about a month. The inspiration came from this TED video:

Matt Cutts added or subtracted a habit for 30 days; I will do each "small thing" for a month.

January Small Thing:  No Sugar    

For January, I did not eat or drink any foods that contained added sugar. Though I am not about to launch a crusade against sugar, I did this partly for health reasons (especially after gaining some holiday weight), and partly just to see what it would be like. That's the inquisitive scientist in me, I guess.

You're wondering, "How did you do, Joey?" Thank you for asking, Reader.

Day 1 started off with a big strike, as I unthinkingly put jelly on my biscuits for breakfast. And another time, I forgot that didn't think about salad dressing having sugar. And another time . . . Well, nobody's perfect.

But mostly, I was pretty careful. And my kids kept eating their treats and saying, "I'm sorry, Daddy!" The hardest things for me to give up were:
  • My nightly cup of hot cocoa (I had a sugar-free variety, but it's not the same)
  • Flavored creamer in my coffee
  • Honey roasted peanuts
  • Ketchup on my hamburgers and hot dogs
Did I notice any difference? Yes, I noticed that soooo many things have added sugar. Try finding a cereal that has no sugar. I mean, what's the point of eating Corn Flakes -- go for Frosted Flakes!

Health-wise, I don't know if I lost any weight or feel any different. But if I did, I don't think it had to do with choosing no-sugar hot cocoa over regular. I think it more has to do with not eating that cookie with my hot cocoa at 10 o'clock at night.

So, I'll add some sugar-containing foods back to my diet, but I will try to keep be conscientious about those "little" snacks.

February Small Thing:  Photo per Day

Next month, I will take a photo per day. While not an avid picture-taker, I was encouraged by Matt saying that he vividly remembers when he took each picture. We'll see how it goes.

I'll try to update my Instagram (joeyespinosa) and other social media each day, so you can follow along. Hashtag #1smallthing

The Rest of the Year

Here are some other ideas I have for March - December:
  • Jog or walk 20 minutes per day
  • Build a Lego creation every day
  • Write a novel (in November, of course)
  • Eat one new food each week
  • Wash dishes every day (my family will love this)
  • Do 5000 push-ups in a month

What about you? Do you have any ideas of new things I can try to do, or not do?

Even better -- Would you like to join me? (You can have different goals than I have.)

How to Swindle Your Little Brother: A Play in 3 Scenes

List of Characters:
  • Elijah, older brother
  • Sender, younger brother
  • Daddy and Mommy (no lines, only observers)

Setting:  We are out of town for the weekend, and staying in a hotel. The room we booked has two queen beds, plus a pull-out sofa bed.

Scene 1:  In the Minivan
Elijah:  "Hannah doesn't want to sleep in the sofa bed, but I want to."
Sender:  "Well, I want to sleep there, too."
Elijah:  "Let's play rock-paper-scissors. Two out of three."
(Game is played. Elijah wins.)
Elijah:  "Yes! I get to sleep in the sofa bed."

Scene 2:  In the hotel room
(Sender is in the bath. Elijah tries out his bed.)
Elijah:  "Ugh! This bed is not comfortable. I want to sleep in the regular bed."
(Elijah thinks for a moment, and then goes to the bathroom.)

Scene 3:  In the bathroom
Elijah: (in a sweet, soft voice)  "Sender, do YOU want to sleep in the sofa bed?"
Sender:  "Yes, but do YOU want to?"
Elijah:  "I'll let you sleep there if you want."
Sender:  "OK! Thank you, Elijah."
Elijah:  "You're welcome."

Everyone got what they wanted, and everyone had a good night sleep.

Related Link:

**image courtesy of KassandraBay via flickr

Parenting Children Is Impossible, But Fun

Watch this cute video --

First, I wish they left the word "literally" out of the title of the video. How can having kids be literally impossible?

Second, parenting isn't impossible. Challenging, yes. A day full of interruptions. We'll get frustrated with them. We'll wonder if they'll ever learn to say "Thank you" and "Yes, Ma'am" without a reminder.

But they are growing and learning. Be sure to smile. Hey, part of parenting means we get to have fun with our kids, and sometimes at our child's expense (like having a Secret Vacation).

Have a fun 2013!

Related Links:

Top 5 Books I Read in 2012

I read 19 books in 2012. That sounds like a lot, but a few of these were short (less than 100 pages). And I can't touch Jeff Ryan's accomplishment of reading 366 books in 2012. Still, I never would have guessed that I would have completed this many books in a year.

Also surprising (to me) was the number of fiction books. I read 3 fiction books this year (and one of them I read twice; you'll see why below), whereas I usually read 0 or 1 per year.

I read several devotional books, including My Utmost for His Highest, The Purpose Driven Life, and A Gospel Primer for Christians. I began Jesus Calling, but quickly felt uncomfortable with it, and stopped after a couple of days (so I didn't include this book in my total). And to round out my theology books, I read two by Francis Chan -- Forgotten God and Crazy Love.

I read some great books, some good books, and some books that made me say, "Meh." But here are five books that I found most illuminating, helpful, and challenging. (If you buy any of the books, you can use the link in the description.)
  1. Fatherless Generation.  More than any other book, this book inspired and motivated me. I wrote about how fatherlessness can lead to Angry Boys and girls with Forgotten Fairy Tales, and helped me see the need for male mentors.
  2. A Framework for Understanding Poverty. The author's premises are not without controversy, and I do not agree with everything in this book. However, this book helps provide just what the title promises -- a framework for understanding poverty. It helped me understand, among other things, the need to help children strive for middle class.
  3. When Helping Hurts.  I gained a different perspective on what poverty is and what means we should use to "attack" it. For a parallel book that is easier to read and is less theologically-deep, check out Toxic Charity.
  4. The Water Is Wide.  My first Pat Conroy book, in which he chronicles his year of teaching on Daufuskie Island. I will have some excerpts from this book on my other blog, beginning with this post.
  5. The Hobbit.  I read The Hobbit twice in about 45 days, once by myself, and then to my kids. I read this book over a weekend when I was in high school, and I'm just as captivated by the story today. I also read The Fellowship of the Ring. That's as far as I got in high school before losing interest, but I hope to finish the Lord of the Rings trilogy this year.
As you can see, the topic of poverty was especially on my mind. Reading six books on the nature and consequences of poverty has helped me to understand our experiences in Allendale, SC.

Noticeably absent from my list of 19 books were any books specifically on parenting (the closest one to this category is The Read Aloud Handbook). I definitely need to read something in this category this year!

If you are looking for sites that give good book reviews, be sure to check out:

Happy reading in 2013. 

PS -- You can go the complete opposite route, like Josh King. He will not read any new books in 2013.

Related Links:

Washing Your Sins Away

The activity was simple enough. It was Day 3 of the Advent material I decided to use that year. Each day's material included some Scripture and an activity to do as a family.

The first few lessons focused on the original sin and the fall of man (Genesis 1-3), and Day 3 continued along that vein. The Bible verse (Isaiah 59:2) went along with some recent conversations we've been having as a family, about the consequences of sin.

I explained the recommended activity to our kids. We were to put some dessert on the table, and show it to them. But there weren't allowed to eat it, until they washed their hands. Then we were to enjoy the dessert, while talking about how God is holy and cannot tolerate sin. It is only when our sins are washed away that we can enter God's presence and enjoy him.

But, it was not going to be done in our family. I told our kids that I didn't like the activity. But I challenged them to come up with the reason why I thought it tainted the gospel.

Because we're not supposed to eat dessert before dinner. Ummmm, no. That's not the main point.

Because not everyone likes dessert. No, keep going.

With some more prodding, one of them came up with the right answer. Because it shows that we can wash away our own sins. Bingo! Only God deal with our sin problem.

I know. Analogies often break down easier than an old cardboard box. Physical activities fall short of explaining spiritual realities. But it's not that we shouldn't use analogies or activities with our children; we just have to be able to understand where they fall short. And we have to help our children think critically, even about "Christian" teachings.

So instead of leaving it there, I asked my kids how they would make this activity more true to the gospel. They had a great suggestion: instead of washing their own hands, Daddy should wash their hands. Yes!

That's the great thing about our Father-- not only does He provide the prize (salvation), He also provides the means to obtain the prize (sending Jesus as the atonement for our sins).

Our kids need to know that truth about God. And we do, too.

**image courtesy of SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via flickr

2 Thought-Provoking Videos About Education

While I have always thought that education was important, it is only within the past couple of years that I've become more interested and involved in the public education system. It's been a pleasure to work with some great teachers and administrators.

But . . . from my observations, and from talking with and reading about numerous educators (in Allendale, Greenville, and beyond), problems are staring us in the face. And it is easier to shout your political rhetoric than change your own mindset.

Here are a couple of videos that have challenged and inspired me:

Why This Teacher Quit

This disgruntled 29-year veteran says, "Rather than creating life-long learners, our new goal is to create good test-takers. Rather than being the recipients of a rewarding and enjoyable educational experience, our students are now relegated to experiencing a confining and demeaning education." He then goes on to describe a typical school day, and the consequences that result.

Experiments in Self-Teaching

Several years ago, I would have been skeptical of this talk by Sugata Mitra. But now I am much more of a believer in the thinking that, "If children have interest, education happens." And I like the "method of the grandmother" (see 9:30), i.e., stand behind them and admire them all the time (with prodding questions).

What do you think of these videos?

Related Links:

Family Goals for 2013

If you are like most Americans, you have goals / resolutions / objectives for 2013, whether individually or for your family. I have one major goal for my family.

We will stop using pennies as currency. 

Why? As this video from CGPGrey explains, the penny is economically inefficient.

Earth-shattering goal, isn't it? Well, maybe not to you. But for a guy who once argued with the phone company for 45 minutes over a 13-cent charge, and for a guy who once couldn't rest unless my checkbook was balanced to the exact penny, it's a big deal.

It's not that we're going to throw away these coins or ignore them. We just won't use them in transactions. We will collect them in a jar, and then roll them up. After all, my kids have never rolled coins before, and everyone should get to experience the thrill of stacking coins. When the jar is full, we'll do something with that money.

I hope our family's boycott of pennies won't push our country over the fiscal cliff.

Our Other Family Goals 

"The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps."  Proverbs 16:9

Perhaps these other goals will be more significant and meaningful:
  1. Grow in knowledge of God's word. This goal breaks down into several parts:
    1. In addition to other Bible reading, our kids will finish their inductive Bible study of James
    2. Along with this, we are all (minus our 6 year old) memorizing the book of James (I use Memverse to help me). 
    3. A few times in the past, I have read through the Bible in a year, but I find that I don't get much out of it. More recently, I've been reading through the Bible in 3 years (I did this for 2 cycles). But for 2013-14, I will be following a plan to read the Bible chronologically; the setup is for 1 year, but I will stretch it to two. Joanna is in the middle of reading through the Bible over two years.
    4. We will make it a point to share with each other (at breakfast?) what we read that morning. I think this mutual sharing can be an encouragement for each of us.
    5. See the "Related Links" section below for some ideas on how you can read the Bible this year.
  2. Give our kids more responsibilities. They groaned at the mention of this idea. But we know that as they want more freedoms, they also need more responsibility. We call them "responsibilities" instead of "chores," but that's our preference. Need some ideas? Here's a great article from The Art of Manliness, How to Get Your Kids to Do Their Chores (And Why It's So Important They Do Them).
  3. Have at least two 4-or 5-day vacations. We need time together to get away. Possible ideas: beach, DC, and Florida.
  4. Hike in the mountains. We missed this the past two years, and want to get back.
  5. A get-away for just Joanna and I. What has become a staple for our marriage, such as last year's trip towards the end of a busy summer.
  6. An activity for each of our children. We've never had our kids involved in many extracurricular activities, but we'd love to see what opportunities are available around Allendale. Hannah mentioned gymnastics, Elijah chess (like father . . .), and Sender karate. We'll see.
  7. Determine our family's ministry involvement. We did camps last year, and plan to again. But does God have something more for us in 2013? We love the opportunity to do things together.

How Did We Do in 2012?

Let's see how we fared last year, from our Family Goals in 2012:
  1. Give the kids an allowance. Check. This has been great. The kids love having their own money. Please don't tell them that they get waaaaaayyyyy less than average.
  2. Bible memory. We began this in the fall, with the book of James.
  3. Get-away with Jo. Done, as I mentioned above.
  4. Have a 9-day vacation. Due to my schedule (between teaching in the spring, camps in the summer, and coaching in the fall) this was not possible.
  5. Visiting family. Joanna and the kids did more of this than I did -- again, mostly because of my schedule.
  6. Our family's ministry. Our spring break and summer camps in Allendale were the key things we did together. And we loved it all!
  7. Go somewhere.  This was a nebulous goal. I think the closest we came to meeting it was our Secret Vacation.
"Many plans are in a man's heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand."  Proverbs 19:21

Another Personal Goal for Me . . .

I came across a video that inspired me to do something new for 30 days. I'll write more about this idea later in the month. But just to let you know, my goal in January was to give up any food with added sugar. Sigh . . . .  I hope you'll consider joining me in this project (with your own objectives, not mine), starting next month.

Edit: Here's a list of my "1 Small Things" for each month:

Edit:  You can read about all the Small Things in 2013.


. . . And Yours?

How about you? Do you or your family have any goals for 2013? Please share in the comments; I'll give you a penny nickel for your thoughts.

Related Links:

Top Post of 2012

For the 2nd year in a row (see this), the top post on this blog is not directly about parenting. With lots of page views, shares, and discussion, the top post is a recap of a conversation that I had with my son a couple of years ago.

So, since it started as a conversation with my child (and perhaps you have similiar conversations with your kids), I guess it is a parenting post.

If you missed it, be sure to read "How Do We Know That Jesus Is Real?" 

You can also see the 2nd and 3rd top post from 2012, and the top post on my Mission: Allendale blog.

Additionally, a few posts from 2011 also received significant attention this year, mostly being found through searches. The top ones are:

**image courtesy of Ambroz via rgbstock.com

Favorite Tweets from December

Happy New Year! As you can tell by my new car decal, I may need some resolutions about starting to exercise.

Here are some of my favorite tweets to close out the year. (You can follow me at @EspinosaJoey).

From Others

@ChrchCurmudgeonDriving a hearse with U-Haul past the pastor's house. Someday he'll stop using that illustration.

@PaulTrippGrace has not only removed your condemnation, but given you a new identity and new power. Live today in light of that grace.

@DeionSandersLet me tell all y'all something that's real!Listen close! If it wasn't for Bo it wouldn't of been No Prime! Bo opened the doors 4 me! Truth

@Compassion"Giving back involves a certain amount of giving up." ~Colin Powell

@PastorTullianChristmas is the coming of light, life, and love into the occupied territory of darkness, death, and hate. 

@fakejimgreggThe NRA=ACLU.....both completely insane and out of touch 

@JimGaffiganIsn’t there part of everyone that hopes the Mayan calander is right?

@GloriaFurmanBridges: It is b/c we belong to one another & are members of the same body that we are to make each other's needs our own.
@RecoveringBaptiOur deacon board reminds me of the wizard of oz - one needs courage, one needs a heart, one needs a brain, and one just needs to go home

@tomascol:  The best way to prepare for death is to die daily.  

From Myself

Had a great time getting to know 12 prison inmates, as we started The Quest for Authentic Manhood tonight.

"A grumbling spirit is sinful, because it fails to recognize God's goodness and kindness in providing for us every good thing in life that we enjoy." Bruce Ware

When your wife refers to "the blog that I read," but she's not talking about yours.

A comforting word for all of my friends who have a child with a disability.

"What should we do with this leftover bacon?" -- No one ever

My car now speaks the truth.

My wife is making me hot cocoa, and we're about to watch Christmas Vacation.

God's wisdom & grace >>>> Our traditions & comfort