Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

You Think Wrong


The other day I was reminiscing with someone (I have forgotten whom.. sorry) and I recounted a story about the Amish community taking down a barn for us in exchange for the trusses. The person I was speaking with informed me that I did not get the better end of this deal, as trusses are worth a lot of money. A while later I pondered that thought, as I know the Amish we interacted with would be deeply, deeply offended if anyone thought they would cheat another human being. (Some Amish may be different, but our friends would be offended.)

So I thought about the situation, and about what the Amish we knew would say. While I cannot be sure, one phrase came to mind… Their answer, “You think wrong.”

So, how do we ‘think wrong?’

We forget that life is not all about money. That things only have the worth we assign to them and that value is really arbitrary.

In my world, I had a decrepit barn that was dangerous and in need of taking down. If we had done it ourselves, it would have taken much of our time (much more than the Amish took since this is not where our skills lie) and we could have potentially hurt ourselves (as I said, we were not skilled in this area). Further, we would have buried and burned the trusses. We would not have taken the time and care to salvage them, and did not know their worth. We also wanted the job done right and well. (The Amish have a reputation for doing this.) Further, we liked the idea of our trusses eventually being a part of an Amish barn and we liked the Amish.

This is the intangible. The sense of community, the sense of good will and peace you get from working and trading with people you like and respect. Too many times I have made money, but from situations that have left me frustrated and stressed. Money is not the only factor one should consider in life. While one needs money to live (sort of- the Amish do well with less….), one must also consider other things. It is better to end the day feeling good, satisfied with how you lived, then to go to bed with a few extra dollars in your pocket.

The Amish community had a need, and we had a need. We helped each other out and enjoyed our interactions. What better way to spend a day?



Jewish tradition teaches that we must attempt to reconcile with a person 3 times. And, the person who is being asked to forgive must struggle within themselves to forgive us. If, after 3 times that person cannot forgive then the process is over and the person seeking reconciliation may stop trying. The person who cannot forgive is written off as a ‘cruel person’ and life goes on.

This is not what Jesus says.

Jesus says we must forgive 7 time 70 times.

If the person is truly seeking forgiveness (not mere lip service while doing whatever they want on the side- Proverbs tells us to avoid them while they are still like that), then we must continue to try to work on the relationship.

It will be hard- hence the need to keep forgiving. The past will come back to mind- and we must forgive again. There will be stumbles, and we must forgive. BUT, if the person is trying to reconcile and is truly repentant, the process is to go on, and on, and on….

Relationships are important in God’s world.

BUT, they need to be good ones.

The unrepentant who are angry, the purposely foolish, the selfish, the lazy are still to face consequences and be avoided. You are not a doormat needing to be unnecessarily hurt.

But these consequences are not meant to be cruel, but to cause a life change so that repentance is possible.

Everything is about restoring relationships to a healthy status.

Examine your broken relationships and ask:

Is the person repentant?

Are they trying to change?

If they are- help them!

If they are not, look to scripture. Find the problem in Proverbs and avoid the person if necessary. Sometimes we enable people to stay as they are because they are getting what they want from us, which is sometimes a free, no consequence, punching bag to let out their frustrations on.

Don’t be the punching bag, but don’t be the cruel person who will not reconcile with a person trying to do better either.

When confused, ask a wise- been there, done that, type person who has no emotional involvement in the situation for help.

Who not to ask for help?

People who are emotionally involved in the situation (or a similar situation).

Why: They have their own baggage, which will cloud their judgment. It is difficult to help someone forgive, when you are struggling to forgive. It is also difficult to tell someone to stay strong and avoid a cruel person, when you, yourself are enabling them. So, if you are contemplating divorce, find people who have struggled and overcome, not those who are in the same boat. Misery loves company, but it is a placebo and it does not do us any good in the end.

People who have never faced a similar situation.

Sometimes we encounter people who have families so perfect it makes you want to barf. These people have likely never encountered the type of people you are dealing with. Though sometimes they have dealt with these problems and have overcome your situation so it is good to do some research because this is exactly who you need to ask!

So who do you ask?

Someone who can be objective who knows something about what you are going through. Fortunately (unfortunately?) our world is so messed us these people are not hard to find…

You have Value- No Matter What You Have Done in the Past

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God is a God of redemption- a God who erases your past and doesn’t care what you have done. He is willing to forgive and use you mightily, so stop beating yourself up, stop repeating the past in your mind, and remember….

Rahab was a prostitute. (Just let that sink in.) She was not a virgin when she got married to Salmon, and her ‘number’ was probably over 1,000 (365 days in a year x a few years is quite a few men… Yet God used her to save the Israelite spies, allowed her to marry a very godly man, and she became an ancestor of Christ. If God can use her and give her a blessed life with a good man, then He can do the same for you! Stop feeling bad about your past and accept, and enjoy, the blessings God is trying to put in your life.

Bathsheba was an adulteress. Whether she enticed David, or simply felt like she had no choice we do not know, but we do know that she, and David, were unfaithful, yet she too was chosen as an ancestor of Christ, and David (who had her husband killed) was known as a man after God’s own heart and wrote many of the psalms. If God can forgive, and use them after what they did, then do not doubt that He can forgive and bless you!

Tamar was a woman in a bad situation. Her first husband dies, then her second husband dies. She is childless and sent back to her family in shame, even though none of it was her fault. God redeems her, and she too is one of the ancestors of Christ. The woman in Song of Songs is also a victim of circumstances. She believes herself to be ugly and her family does not take care of her. Still a king finds her, believes she is beautiful and thinks she is the most wonderful woman he has ever met. Life circumstances are not the end of the story. Life can change. Be ready to embrace the change and accept what God has for you. Too many stories end because the person believes the lie that they are not worthy and refuses to accept the blessings God tries to bestow.

Ruth is an outsider who is taking care of a widowed mother-in-law who has fallen on hard times. She lives in a cave for years after her husband dies, but her hard work and goodness is noticed and a godly rich man (who does not believe he deserves such a beautiful woman) falls in love with her and makes her his wife. She too becomes an ancestor of Christ. Persevere and your hard work and goodness will eventually pay off in ways you cannot imagine.

No story is ever so bad that it cannot be changed. Stay the course and be ready to accept the blessings God bestows. Too often we beat ourselves up and miss the blessings in our life because we think they are too good to be true, too good for someone like us. Stop thinking you do not deserve to be blessed. Step into the opportunities that present themselves as if you are truly forgiven and your past no longer matters- because it doesn’t.

So… How Does God View Our Not So Perfect Past… And Our Iffy Present State


While the Bible is clear that God hates sin, God is not the hard-nosed disciplinarian many make Him out to be.

Let’s take, for example, Esther.

Esther is a good girl, who is picked, without her consent to be part of the king’s harem. She does not fight, or protest or try to escape. Instead she goes along with a system where she is to be one of many women whose sole purpose is to pleasure the king. (Many women in abusive relationships are told that they should have… (fill in the blank).) Esther is in a ungodly situation and yet she does nothing to effect a change. In fact she complies with her captures so well she is chosen to be queen. (God redeems her role in a way- though she will see her husband rarely and it is not exactly a love match.) And even though she is in an ungodly situation, she is still to be used mightily by God.

Rahab is a prostitute. When she performs her heroism and saves the Hebrew spies she is still a prostitute. The red sheet she hangs from the window is not the bed covering of a virtuous woman, nor has it seen only virtue in use. Yet god uses her, a sinner, and a sheet, a sign of her sin, as a sign and method of salvation. She, as a former prostitute, becomes the bride of a virtuous man (Salmon, one of the spies she saved) and is a mother in the line of Christ. How often do we shame women who were not pure in their youth as if it is a lifelong condition they can never overcome? This is not how God deals with a woman who has likely lost count of the number of men she has had…

David is a man after God’s own heart… Yet his list of sins is so long it bears numbering…

  1. He is an adulterer.
  2. He is a murderer.
  3. He ignored the fact that his daughter was raped and did nothing about it.
  4. He did not forgive his son who was obviously repentant and grieving for his father’s love. (Absalom)
  5. He did not come back for, or send for, his first wife, who risked her life to save his while he was on the run, even though he had acquired other wives whom he felt able to protect.
  6. He did not do justice in the case of Joab, Shimi and others, but left them for Solomon to deal with.
  7. He called for a census against God’s will, which resulted in a plague.
  8. He did not follow God’s instructions (or even know what they were) in carrying the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem the first time.

And I am sure there are more if we start to really pick through all that is written about him…

The point is that God still used David, and loved him, despite his mistakes. His mistakes in life did not disqualify him from God’s love, and did not take him out of the plans God had for him. Sure, he was punished, and if there was anything David did well, it was repenting (practice makes perfect?). But the point is that our past, even our recent past, does not change God’s love for us. It does not distance us from Him in a manner that is irrecoverable. God looks at our heart, not the tally sheet of nasty things we have done. It is our sorrow over our situation, not the situation itself, that is judged. It is what we are going to do next that is important, not what we have done. God wants us to love Him and to love others- not that we will be perfect, but that we will try to do better.

So we are to forget the past, in that it is not there to hinder us in doing what is right, and great in the future. And draw closer to God, realizing that He is there for us regardless of the condition we come to Him.

Love Thyself

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

To acquire good sense is to love oneself… (Prov 19:8)

… a good person gets satisfaction from himself. (Prov 14:14)

To act without knowing how you function is not good… (Prov 19:2)

Just a few things I picked up in Proverbs today.

  1. Know Thyself

How many of us try to please others and try to be someone we are not- working more on our weaknesses- trying hard to be perfect? Is it not better (happier, more fulfilling) to spend more time working in your strengths and using the gifts God did give you? This does not mean we neglect those things that must be done, but where is much of our time spent. Remember, a person who loves what he does never works a day in his life*. Be that person!

  1. Be Satisfied With Yourself

Do not seek happiness from others. Imperfect people cannot impart perfect peace. It won’t happen. Instead be content with who you are and what you do. Only then will you bring peace into your relationships. Focus on what you can do to make things in your life better (something you can control) and not on how others should treat you (something you will become frustrated trying to control).

  1. Love Yourself

God made you. He does not make mistakes. You are unique, wonderfully made. Find what you are good at; the gifts God created you to use. (It is typically what you enjoy.) And use your gifts! Stop seeing your uniqueness- your not being like others- as something bad. You are you for a purpose- embrace that purpose and love being you!

Some practical ideas to begin being you:

  1. Make a list of what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. (They are often the same thing.) Make these things a priority in your life.
  2. Make a list of what you hate doing, or feel you are bad at. Find a way to eliminate (delegate them to others- usually for the money you will make doing what you love- remember the Proverbs 31 woman had servants- you can too) or find ways to do them quickly so they do not take up much time in your life.
  3. Go to a thrift shop, a big one. Be honest about what you like and what looks good on you. (Do not take a friend unless you know you can both be dead honest with each other- you may come home with more of what she likes than what you enjoy…) Wear what suits your personality and makes you feel good. You should enjoy (or at least not hate- some of us are more utilitarian) getting dressed in the morning.
  1. Quit trying to make your husband/ friends like you or do what would make you feel special. Make a list of what you like to do, and if time and finances allow, do these things. You will find that people respond more positively to people who are happy/ content, and, when they see what makes you happy, and that there is a possibility of successfully making you happy, they are more likely to bless you in these areas. People like to know their efforts will result in success. Trying to make unhappy people happy is a daunting task that people instinctively avoid. If you can’t please yourself, how do you expect others to figure it out?

*Confucius- paraphrased

All verses from The Complete Jewish Bible- a translation by David H Stern

50 Shades of Grey: A Little Information to Think About


One of my biggest pet peeves is when people, who know nothing about something, feel the need to comment negatively on it. So, when I began seeing comments on my FaceBook feed saying, ‘I would never read this book, but…’ that then went on to thoroughly bash something they just admitted they knew nothing about, I felt the need to do some investigating. First I read the reviews, many of which started with, ‘I have not read the book, but… here’s my uneducated opinion…’ (OK I added a bit there.) Since the reviews were mixed, and not helpful, and, since, surprisingly, the BDSM crowd also had problems with the book, I decided to see for myself what the fuss was about. Here’s what I found:

  1. Christian Grey is admittedly a very disturbed man. In fact, the book is called 50 Shades of Grey because he repeatedly says he is “50 shade of f’d up.”
  2. Why is Christian 50 shades of messed up? Because he has severe attachment issues due to a history of abuse. Christian’s birth mother was a cocaine addict and prostitute. Christian frequently did not have food and had to take care of her. He was also abused by at least one man, leaving cigarette burns on his back and chest. When he was four years old she died, leaving him in the apartment with her dead body for days. When her pimp found her, he called the police, then left Christian there with the body until help arrived. He was adopted by a great family, but could not stand to be touched and did not talk for 2 years. Because he craved touch, but could not allow anyone to touch him appropriately, he fought and was kicked out of more than one school. At 15 (as often happens to abused children) another predator found him and introduced him to the BDSM lifestyle. He became her submissive and, because she taught him to behave properly, and thus improved his life, he thought this was a wonderful relationship. This lasted 6 years, until her husband found out, beat her severely and divorced her. Christian then entered into 3 month agreements with women who were already in this lifestyle, who looked like his birth mother (another messed up issue), where he was the dominant in the relationship. His adoptive parents knew nothing about this and thought he was gay, since he did not date. Christian sees a psychiatrist once a week, as he has throughout his childhood.
  3. Ana is 21 and Christian is 26. Ana is a virgin, just graduating college, with a mother who is married to husband #4. Christian is a billionaire who dropped out of college to start his own business. He employs 40,000 people, takes his responsibilities very seriously and has no friends, except the woman who introduced him to BDSM.
  4. Ana is the first girl Christian has ever been interested in having a real relationship with. Since it is all he knows, he tries to introduce her to a BDSM lifestyle. He believes that her being his submissive allows him to protect, teach and take care of her. One of his main issues is making sure she eats regularly (likely because he did not always have enough to eat as a child).
  5. Ana never signs the contract to be his submissive. When she asks him to show him how bad a punishment could be, he does. She hates it and breaks up with him. He is devastated and does not understand why she is upset since she could have used her ‘safe word’ at any time to stop it. (Which he explained to her before hand.) Christian does not understand that normal relationships do not have ‘safe words.’
  6. Christian does not try to isolate her from her friends. Christian is jealous and possessive-true, but the people he has trouble with, he has reason to have trouble with.

First there is Paul, Ana’s employer’s brother who has been told no, but needs to hang on Ana even though she is clearly uncomfortable with it.

Then there is Jose. The first time Christian sees Jose he is trying to kiss Ana even though Ana is clearly saying no and pushing him away. They are both drunk. While Christian and Ana do drink frequently, Christian is against Ana overindulging. Jose turns out to be an ok guy who had one bad night and Christian learns to tolerate this friendship, even allowing Jose to stay in their apartment when he visits.

Ana’s second boss is also a problem. There are rumors of sexual harassment, which Christian warns Ana about. He is right. The boss accosts Ana, she defends herself, and he is fired. He then spends the rest of the book trying to kill Christian, Ana and Christian’s family. Christian also buys the company Ana works for in an attempt to protect her.

Christian does try to stop Ana from going to a bar with her friend Kate, and suggests they go to their apartment instead because someone is trying to kill Ana and the apartment is more secure. (Ana does not obey, goes to the bar, and ironically the killer is in the apartment. Christian points out that in splitting the security detail, Ana placed the security team in danger as well.)

While Christian is definitely controlling, he does make some valid points…. His biggest problem is that he acts without talking to Ana first, and does not give her information she needs to make wise decisions in his attempt not to worry her—which she frequently yells at him about.

  1. The BDSM lifestyle is itself not made to be glamorous (though the kinky sex is). The other person who tries to kill Christian, Ana and herself is an ex-submissive of Christians who clearly has issues. Christian also realizes he was abused at 15 by the woman who introduced him to BDSM when he hears her side of the story as Ana confronts her. Christian’s adoptive mother also overhears and is very upset. The woman is a family friend. Christian breaks ties with the woman eventually as he processes all of this.

8.While Christian and Ana do try many things from the BDSM lifestyle, they never enter into a dominant/submissive agreement. Ana refuses to have the word ‘obey’ in her wedding vows and frequently reminds Christian that she never promised to obey him.

  1. Christian removes all the things from his apartment that are repugnant to Ana (most of which involve physical punishment) and leaves only those things she approves of. Ana does consent to everything sexual, as well as being tied up and lightly spanked. (She is able to tie him up and spank him as well.) After they are married, when a set of handcuffs leaves red marks on her skin, Christian is very upset with himself. Ana also speaks with his psychiatrist who approves of their relationship and assured her that Christian does not ‘need’ to hurt her and is not a sadist before she consents to marry him, though it is clear that she has already decided to do so.
  2. Everything leads to sex, and Ana realizes that sex is a coping mechanism for Christian. It is a way to avoid the argument and a way to assure himself that she will not leave him.
  3. Admittedly, everything leads to sex, there is a lot of sex and it is thoroughly described. As an older married woman I began to wonder that Ana didn’t get sore, and began to say, ‘really?’ Truth be told I have never found an elevator that exciting (probably because I had seven kids fighting to press the buttons in it) and I could not see becoming aroused while someone is chasing me in an attempt to kill me, but maybe that’s just me…
  4. In the end they are happily married with two children. Christian has overcome some of his issues, but they still have a varied sex life that does include light spankings. (Not that we needed to know this…) Christian also allows his adoptive family to touch him, and finally believes that they do love him.

While this is not a story we would want any of our children to live through, it does bring up some valid questions we should be exploring:

  1. The author points out that Christian wedding vows contain the word ‘obey’ in only the woman’s vow. If you believe in male headship, when does male authority change from a women’s responsibility to obey her husband and become controlling and emotionally abusive? (Do not cop out and say ‘when he hits her.’ We all know that abusive behavior can be more than just physical, and Christian is abusive in his control of Ana even when he is not physically hurting her. He also is only doing things in her best interests, because he loves her, yet we can all recognize in his character that there is something not right…)
  2. What can Christian couples do sexually in a marriage, and what can they not do? Ana consents to everything they engage in, yet many Christians still are upset by some of the sex-play- so where is the line?
  3. What is porn? Can married Christians read a book like this for pleasure? Where is the line that changes this from a story about a man with reactive attachment disorder that is learning to have a relationship and a book that should not be read?
  4. Who is un-marriable? Clearly Ana should have waited to have a physical relationship with Christian and/or marry him until he was doing a little better psychologically- but where is that line? Ana was lucky that things turned out as well as they did; many are not so lucky. But, the truth is that none of us are perfect, or without our issues when we marry, what criteria can we use to teach our daughters when to say no?
  5. Why are millions of American women drawn to a story about a man with severe emotional problems? What does this say about the state of our relationships?

BTW- the BDSM community (or at least those who objected on line) dislike the book because Ana and Christian do not have a signed agreement, Ana does not fully understand what Christian wants from her (she is too naive to be approached for this relationship), they do not use their safe words etc. The BDSM community does not consider this a ‘good’ relationship either, and does not believe it is a fair representation of their lifestyle. In condemning this book, it is one of the few times you will see Christians and BDSM n the same page, for admittedly different reasons.

I Remember… 9/11


I remember 9/11. My husband called to say something had happened and we should turn on the news. We connected an outside antennae to the television and friends joined us to watch. The children were scared and we assured them that even if somehow some force were to take our cities, no one was going to take our hill- there were too many guns, and too few people who knew the woods like the backs of their hands. We calmed them with word pictures describing unknown others trying to find hunters whose presence in the woods was never noticed until they wanted it to be, while watching in somber disbelief as more and more reports came in.

The churches called people together to pray, and we gathered.

When reports of flight 93 came in we were proud, because this is America, and when the threat was known, the passengers behaved like Americans, using what little they had to save countless lives, and almost saving their own.

When we were called to war, many in our small town signed up to go, because we are America and we believed in our country.

When my son in boot camp was asked where he learned to jump and kick, he replied ‘his mother,’ because in our America unexpected people have unexpected skills and we share them with others.

When the drill instructor tried to tear my son down by making fun of his mother, he did not know that the mother did not resemble the son, because in America when a child needs a mother many answer the call regardless of what the child looks like or has been through. Because while there is still a long way to go, we are learning and overcoming and trying to be everything a person should be, because this is America.

While in countries torn by war our soldiers came back with pictures of cute kids and dogs, because even though they were fighting an enemy, they understood that not everyone and everything in a foreign land is evil, and they showed love to both when they were able, because they are Americans and this is how they were taught.

When the soldiers came back they were welcomed, because we learned from our mistakes and would not do what had been done in the past, because this is America.

When our country was again attacked, and our embassy fell, we demanded answers and remembered the victims, because this is America and our people do not die without reason, without answers.

This is still America. Twelve years later millions of bikers are riding to remember those we lost. Millions of people are setting aside time for prayer and remembering. Millions of people, many of whom knew no one personally, are still deeply affected by the events of years ago, because we are Americans. We are people who care, and we are a people committed to God and country. We are the people who run into danger to get someone else out.

So, while the media and those in power may wish to believe that what a young girl does to embarrass herself on TV means more to us than what a leader does to affect our lives we know that the America we know still exists, is still strong and is ready to be heard.

America, the land of the brave, the land where people fight terrorists on planes with coffee pots when needed….

America, the home of the free, the land where our children sign up to fight because we still have a country they wish to believe in…

America, the country who remembers her roots, her principles and her constitution even when those who rule seem to forget, we are the people who stand up and force them to remember…

Continue to pray for our country today. Pray that God strengthens us where we are weak so that we might change, gives us wisdom so that we might know the better ways to go, and the courage to stand up to those who would lead us astray. And then thank God that we are still a nation where the people, we the people, help when crisis hits and remind us that we still have the power over the few who would like to be king.

Repenting Like a King (of Nineveh)


In Jonah 3 we see an excellent example of how to repent and escape an almost certain judgment.

Nineveh was a city known for its cruelty. No matter what you have done in your life, you have likely not done as much as these people had. Killing brutally was a way of life, and Jonah had a reason to be scared.

And God sent an imperfect prophet, one who had run from the assignment, and one who had been recently spit from a fish onto their shores. He was likely not as clean as one would like (there is no mention of his baggage being spit out too), and if questioned he would likely reveal his weaknesses as a leader. There was every reason for the people not to listen to this man, yet they did.

And the king listened as well. He arose from his throne (took action). He humbled himself (laid aside his royal robes). He put on sackcloth and sat in ashes (performed deeds that at that time showed he was sorry). Then he issued a proclamation (He explained to the people under his authority why it was good to do what they were already doing. He encouraged them in their repentance.)

The question is: Do we repent in this manner?

Or do we instead:

-Make excuses as to why the person bringing this to our attention is not worthy to be listened to. Or worse, begin to criticize and harass them publically to all who will listen.

-Refuse to change and find excuses to believe we are fine the way we are.

– Refuse to humble ourselves because of our position, or because we do not want to look weak. Other people may apologize, but what would it look like if the pastor, elder, parent etc did so.

– Refuse to do things that demonstrate our repentance. We may say we are sorry, but often we forget that actions speak louder than words. When there are no acts of repentance (doing nice things for the person you hurt etc), it is often hard to believe that someone is truly sorry. Words are easy, it is your actions that tell who you truly are.

– Neglect to encourage the people under our authority to follow our example. Leaders are examples to those under them whether they do what is good, or what is bad. For this reason it is important to allow those under you to see you are repentant, to know that you are acknowledging that what was done was wrong even if it was done by the leadership and to explain your motivation for repentance. A leader who fails to do this will often have followers (or children) who begin to repent, but then return to evil because they do not see why it is truly important to change, since their leadership does not seem to be getting on board.

Repentance is hard, especially when one is in leadership (even if that leadership is just parental). But, if you do not wish for those under you to follow in your bad example, you must show them, and explain to them, what repentance is and why it is important to do it when we realize we have messed up.

The Minimum Wage Fallacy (And A Possible Solution)


FB rumor has McDonald’s in NYC considering raising their minimum wage to $15/hour and the young adults on my FB feed are excited and are posting about how they should move there. Bad idea. Why? NYC is an expensive place to live and, the truth about wealth is that it is not about how much you make, but about how much you can buy with it. Let me explain.

If you make $500/week and an apartment rents for $300/ month in your area you are doing okay. But, if you make $500/week and an apartment in your area rents for $1,000/month you have a lot less money for extras, and chances are the ‘extras’ in your area cost more too. So in one part of the country $500/week is a living wage, while in another part you may need a second job to make ends meet. This is the problem with living in NYC versus upstate NY; everything costs more in NYC.

Now let’s look at raising minimum wage in general. Here’s what typically happens:

1. Minimum wage goes up.

2. The price of everything you buy goes up as businesses need to make more money to pay their employees. People are often laid off as well to cut expenses.

3. Taxes on goods increase, since sale tax is a percentage of what you pay for an item.

The result:

1. Less people have jobs and the things you buy now cost more.

2. The people who were making slightly more than minimum wage typically do not get raises, so they are busted down to living a minimum wage lifestyle again.

How to tell how much you truly make:

Bread is a great indicator of wealth, since it represents how much it takes to feed your family. If you make $7/hour and bread in your area costs $3.50/loaf then you make 2 loaves/hour. If minimum wage increases to $10/hour, but the price of bread goes up to $7/loaf you can no longer buy two loaves of bread for an hours worth of work, so even though you have more money in your pocket, it is worth less and you are poorer. This is typically what happens when minimum wage is raised, and the poor now have to work harder for less spending power even though they technically make more than they did before.

So how do we actually help the poor?

1. Encourage job growth. More jobs means more demand for employees. Employers will therefore be motivated to pay higher salaries to get the workers they need. In areas where there are a lot of workers and few jobs wages tend to be low and working conditions less desirable.

2. Educate people from a young age about the importance of a good work ethic. Employers will pay more to keep a good worker. Further, when your place of employment is known for its quality more people buy there and they will often pay more money for the service. More money for the company means there is more money for employees’ salaries and benefits, and since every company wants to keep their good reputation, being the best means they will pay more to retain your services as well. Doing things well pays off in the end.

3. Mentoring. Encourage job shadowing early in high school and mentoring later, even through the adult years. People need to be in contact with people who have ‘made it’ to where they want to be in the world. Why? Because there are skills and habits successful people have that some people need to learn in order to succeed. They will not learn business manners unless they are exposed to them. We can all think of someone who did something really inappropriate on the job (and was subsequently fired.). The sad fact is that they probably did it out of ignorance. Mentoring also lessens the feeling of ‘why bother/ it’s impossible/ I’ll never make it’ by showing the person that there is a real person (flaws and all) who did what they want to do, and who can show them how to do it too. Many people do not want to bother others, or do not feel they are good enough to be a more successful person’s friend, so the mentor needs to be pro-active in continuing the relationship.

4. Aggressively counter the victim mentality whenever possible. My adopted son tried pulling the race card once (and only once). He had not been discriminated against (half of the police force here looks like him…), but he did not want to accept that he got what he deserved because of his own actions. Whenever possible the principle of cause and effect needs to be clearly defined so that whatever ‘stinkin’ thinkin’ exists that causes people to feel that it is not worth trying is eliminated, or at least minimized. Any real discrimination needs to be dealt with as well, harshly so others will not do the same. Being made to feel like you cannot succeed (learned helplessness) is a serious crime. (Ironically, my son-in-law (white) grew up in a situation where he felt it was useless to finish high school. My daughter (dark skinned) passed his level of education despite multiple issues that affected her ability to learn. Expectations matter.)

5. Do everything you can to discourage single motherhood. Single motherhood is a big factor in children not doing well. Fathers, even if they do not marry mom, need to be encouraged to be productive, helpful, ever-present parts of their children’s lives. If there are single mothers, support is needed. Not hand-outs, but help. Families who come up beside the mother and help her learn how to handle the terrible twos, or the sulky teen will do much to improve the child’s future. But you must come up along side the mom. Trying to replace mom and subtly implying that their mother is less-than typically undermines her authority and makes the situation worse long-term. Mom is the authority figure in this situation and, unless she is completely neglectful (in which case social services may be needed) she is the one who must ultimately be in charge of the child.

6. Encourage small business start-ups. Many poor people have skills, and do not realize that they do not need an employer to profit from them. (Heck, my cleaning lady runs two crews of young girls and probably makes more than I do!) House cleaning, yard work, repair jobs etc can result in large profits and the eventual employment of others when organized well. Paintings, jewelry and other items can also be sold on-line, so even though there are not buyers who appreciate or have extra money for these things in your community, you can reach those who are interested anywhere in the world.

Things that hurt the poor (that we think help):

1. College. College is great- if you have a career goal and know what to do with your degree when you are through. College just for the sake of going loads young adults down with debt and does not result in a job. Without a clear knowledge of where to apply with said degree and how to interview well enough to be wanted in that field many twenty-somethings return home with large loans and no way to pay them off. Some degrees require a masters, MBA or PhD to be marketable. It is good to know this before you start down that path. Others require great inter-personal skills. Introverts may not find they are a good fit if they did not understand what the job really entailed, and may not get hired because the employer was looking for a ‘people-person.’ Again, college is great if you are obtaining a skill you need to achieve your goal. College is wasted if you choose something you are ill-suited to do, or if you do not complete all the education typically required in your field. Guidance is needed for children of all socio-economic levels so they understand this point.

2. Government programs. Do you know how many times I have been working with someone who is starting to succeed and then they quit because they now qualify for a ‘program?’ Programs without mentoring are useless. Money is needed when you are poor, but so is education. Local help works so much better than a check. One of my favorite charities pays the participants for learning in credits that can be used in their store. The classes involve homework to be done before class, a video, then a session with a volunteer where the video is discussed. Most of the classes are on life-skills such as parenting, and it works. The participants improve their situation, develop relationships with the volunteers so they have someone to ask questions of when life gets tough and they have access to clothing and other everyday items they need for their family.

3. Subsidized housing. It is not the subsidy that is the problem, but the fact that it tends to put the poor in one place. Poor people need access to people who have succeeded, or they will not likely learn how to succeed. There are many ways to de-segregate the poor (and it should not be forced, or there will be resentment). Churches are a great place for people to inter-mingle, as are sports and other community activities. For self-destructive behavior not to be reinforced there must be access to role models who live differently. Placing the poor in one area does minimize crime in other areas, but exponentially increases its likelihood in the places where life is seen as ‘futile’ and trying hard is ‘useless.’

We need to be pro-active when it comes to the poverty problem.

Schools in poor neighborhoods would do well to invite professionals who came out of the neighborhood to speak to the children often so they know it can be done. (And these people know how the children think so they will be more effective in reaching them than you or I would.)

Less traditional teaching methods and out-of-the box thinking must be used to encourage the children to achieve. Anything that is not working must be replaced. Children from environments that do not emphasize the need for school require different approaches than schools that are full of children whose parents reinforce the need to do well. Home school resources have addressed every type of learning style (and then some) in order to make learning fun and effective. Let’s allow the teachers access to what is already available as well. Let’s also allow volunteers from the surrounding communities to help. One-on-one attention for a struggling student is priceless.

Schools also need to keep the teachers excited and motivated. Burned out teachers do not teach well, and children who are not sure why they are even in school are tough to work with. Teacher rotation, encouragement and training by teachers who have been successful with children like theirs may be necessary. (Listening to Mrs. So and So who taught at the prestigious private school may not result in knowledge that applies to this population of children.) (School choice may also help with this.)

Another idea is to capitalize on what the students do know. In our area many of the less-successful-in-school children know two languages poorly. We need translators, and they have a head start having spoken both languages from birth. Offering classes that clean up their grammar and spelling and lead to a job translating in the courts, hospitals, tourist areas or even the UN would be helpful. (I was astonished that, in a largely Hispanic area, the federal court translators we saw on a field trip were not Hispanic. This is likely because, while we have many, many bilingual citizens there were likely not many that could pass the required test.) In other areas children grow up loving cars (mechanic, engineer, design classes), art (typically graffiti) could lead to graphic design courses etc. We need to get creative and real before these children’s talents are lost and they do not know what to do with their lives.

These are all just ideas. It is up to you to decide what will work in your community and make it happen.

Why I Am Not in Favor of the Common Core


As you know, if you have been reading my posts, we adopted three children who were already in school, but definitely not learning. We decided, after trying public, private and supplemental tutoring that home schooling worked the best for us. Why? Because individual attention, when a student is behind, trumps any other form of education. The student needs to back up and learn at their own pace, which is sometimes painfully slow.

Thanks to ‘no child left behind’ my third grade daughter, who did not know her letter sounds and was still counting beans in math, received straight As. (No kidding.) When I asked why, the teacher patted her on the head and told me that children like her (with emotional issues) needed to see those grades for their own self-esteem. Those grades did not help her ‘self-esteem.’ Even though she was doing poorly in school, she was smart enough to know her report card was a joke. Any incentive grades could have made in her learning was now gone. (And she was competitive with her brothers who received ‘real’ grades on their report cards.)

Any national standard will leave children like mine behind. The teacher will need to keep the children on pace with the curriculum and it will be a disincentive to slow down when the children are struggling, and at times whole classes struggle. A friend of mine called me frustrated because he had a class of third graders that did not have their sight-words (the, did, for, run- things you should be able to spell automatically without sounding out) memorized yet. He had to go back and teach the basics before they moved on. This meant that this class would not finish where previous classes had, but they needed the basics. To try to stay on track would have resulted in them being even further behind.

Where we live today the high school students can pass a class titled ‘Algebra,’ but since the math teacher needs to catch them up they may not learn as much as the children who were surrounded by students more motivated to learn. The problem is the children, and their parents think they learned, and succeeded in Algebra. When the child gets to college and fails in math, they will not understand why, and likely be frustrated enough to quit. Common standards will only result in more of this, not less, as schools will have to look like they are following the standard. It is better for a child to succeed at a lower level, knowing that they know what they know then to believe they have achieved and have skills when they do not.

Further, every community has its own flavor and needs. America should be diverse. One community may wish to focus on farming, since that it what they do, while another is overjoyed there is a CAD lab in their school. Let’s let us be unique. One of America’s greatest assets is her diversity.  Let’s not put anything in place to stifle this.

Common Core stands to lessen the overall knowledge of our country since everyone will have studied similar things. Someone should know Shakespeare well, while others studied Van Gogh. There should be a place where computer scientists thrive (like Silicon Valley) without the future farmers wondering why there is all of this programming stuff in their curriculum. (True farms benefit from some computing, but not the level the parents of Silicon Valley employees, or their children who have grown up thinking in C, would enjoy.) Having everyone learn a little of everything makes no one an expert in anything. Further there is bound to be some great stuff that is left out, or an agenda that begins to permeate our country that exists without critical evaluation because it was introduced at a young age and no one is taught to question it. (And everything should be questioned. I once took a course proving that Calculus exists. How many people have just taken it for granted that it does? We need a few people here and there that know why and how it works, rather than just doing it to get the answer right on the paper… but, as most successful adults can tell you, we do not need many of these people, because most of us who have taken Calculus have never used it again in our adult lives. The point: All knowledge is good, but not everyone needs the same knowledge.) Let us keep our diversity and find a different way to ensure than all children learn.

Photo by Matija Barrett

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