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

Posts tagged ‘Christian’

How To Make Parenting Easy

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

1. Take care of problems early.
Do not just “hope” things go away. And, sitting around complaining never solved anything. When you see a problem, work to fix it. And keep working. Inconsistent parenting is just as bad as negligent parenting. This does not mean the solution is always punishment and more punishment. Get to the root of the problem. Poor grades may require tutoring, or finding a way to engage the child so they learn. Sudden disrespect can mean, ‘I’m growing and need so much more sleep I cannot currently function.’ Pay attention and help your child appropriately and early.

2. Don’t make stupid rules.
Children become frustrated and rebel when life seems unfair. One of the things I have never understood is limits on TV and video games. Why? Because free time is free time. It is time to do what you want. Arbitrary limits on things they enjoy just confuse them. (They should confuse you too. Do you place the same limits on yourself?) If the chores are done well, their homework is complete and they have nothing else to do why are you micromanaging them? If you want them to go play outside, say, “Go play outside.” If you want them to exercise more, set aside a time for it, or enroll them in a sport. If you want them to read, reward it. But to subtly tell them they can do whatever they want, and then limit what they can want seems foolish. It also teaches them to place arbitrary limits on their own lives, which is a hindrance to success. (Go through your own inner monologue and see how many ‘rules’ you have for yourself that make no sense. Get rid of them and see if your life improves!)

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Keep life in perspective. If your child is getting straight A’s, is kind to others, and generally does what is expected of them, then an unmade bed is not the end of the world. (Unless he is planning on enlisting in the military.) Do not continually harp on some little aspect and let that be all he hears when overall he is a good kid. This is not to say that you never address it, it is just not the most important thing in life. Talk to him about it and try a new approach. When I talk to my boys about their messes, now that they are older, I typically focus on how their future wife will view things. It works for them. Find what works for you. (Hint: Nagging, repeating the same thing over, and over and over, never works.)

4. Make time to talk.
You cannot build a relationship with your children without mutual respect. True they may obey out of fear of punishment, but fear only lasts so long. Children who respect their parents behave better than those who don’t, and the key to earning respect is time. (It is also by behaving yourself, but I am assuming that, if you are reading an article on how to be a better parent, you already understand that.) You need to spend time with your child, and watching him play sports is not it. This is time where you can talk. You talk about what’s important to you, and he talks about what is going on in his life. Don’t think you know it all. Chances are the things your children are focused on and worried about will surprise you. Prioritize. Missing one season of sports, or other activity will not affect their lives and relationships as much as never getting to know their parents. And make it fun. Sitting down with them in such a way that they feel like they’re being grilled will not garner the same results.

5. Take your kids places.
Too many parents leave the children home when they go grocery shopping, or out for coffee. Why? Because their children do not behave. Do you realize that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy? If you do not take the children, and teach them to behave, they will never learn to behave, so you will never be able to take them. Instead teach them young, if possible. (I adopted a few of mine older, so we went on ‘practice’ shopping trips to catch up.) By the time they were older I could take seven kids anywhere. To the opera, museums, grocery stores- you name it- without trouble. It was hard work in the beginning, but it paid off in the end. So, when I needed a cup of coffee, and felt like sitting for a few minutes, that’s what we did. In the beginning, when my adopted children still did not know how to behave at this level, we took breaks and had a date-night, because it was needed. But the date-night did not make up for the tension in the house. We worked on the things that caused tension, and the date-night became something we do for fun, rather than a needed time to get away. You can see how life would be more enjoyable this way…

6. Do things that make sense.
Do not have rules, or ways of doing things that are based solely on what others do. Do things in a way that makes sense for your family. Let me give you an example. My daughter is home schooled, and has a youth group full of good kids that she loves attending. I do not work outside the home and my other children are old enough to stay home alone. When I show up in the parking lot I wait in the car, usually with a book, until she is done. Her friends have pointed out that it is rude of her to leave her mother waiting like that. (I told you they were good kids.) She talked to me about it (notice that we have established a pattern where she communicates, and does not just do what seems right). What I told her is that her friends would be rude if they left their mothers waiting. Some have small children who get cranky in the car, while others have to go to work in the morning. Our family is different, and my priority right now is to give her as much time as she would like with her friends, while not leaving her as the last one to be picked up, wondering when mom is going to get there. So I sit and read, and it is okay. If I go grocery shopping and there is ice cream in the car, I go in and tell her we have to go, and she goes. The situation changed, and she respects that. Rules should not be black and white. They should make sense. She also does not become upset because I decided to do something productive that would limit her enjoyment. Why? Because she knows I balance my priorities (because we talk, and I often explain why I do what I do), and she knows that most of the time this results in better things for her.

7. Teach purposefully.
The ancient rabbis had their students follow them around as they went about their daily lives. The rabbis would then explain why they did things the way they did. This is important. Your children should know why you make the choices you make, or they may misunderstand your motives. When your children begin to understand that you actually think about them when making decisions, they learn to accept that sometimes they cannot have what they want, but it is not because you did not think about their wishes as well. They also learn how to make proper decisions, using the values and principles you find important.

8. Grow up.
The saddest thing I see is when a child is more mature than their parents. Many times it is because the child has had to assume adult responsibilities, or has had to become an emotional support system for the parent because the parent does not behave. This should never happen, and, even though it seems like the child is doing well, the emotional baggage they carry into adulthood is just not worth it. Get your own life under control before trying to ‘fix’ your kids. (Some of their problems could be because they are copying, or reacting to, you!) Think about why you do what you do, get your emotions in check, start to avoid people who are not good to you and actually obey all of those rules you teach your kids. Immature parents cannot raise well-adjusted children. And they make it difficult for the child to have a relationship with them later in life.

Now these tips will make parenting easier in the long run, but if you have issues you need to address the hard work starts now. You must put in the time to reap the rewards. The irony is that if you avoid putting in the time, you will have less time since you will have more messes to clean up, and the stress and anxiety are just not worth it. Will your family be perfect? No, but children can be manageable and enjoyable most of the time. Think of it this way: There is a Chinese restaurant that called us ‘The Happy Family.’ Why? Because I did not have to yell at my children to sit down, stopping touching your brother, eat your food etc every five minutes. Wouldn’t you like this to be you?

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The Truth About Discipleship

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

I was watching the movie Courageous (good movie, by the way). At the end of the movie they show a man ‘discipling’ an obviously troubled younger man. This is good. I wish more people would take younger people under their wings and help them in life. The problem is that it is not easy.

In the movie the young man was intently listening and obviously hungry to hear what the older man had to say. This is a rare case, and typically only happens when the young man has grown up in a decent environment so he learned how to behave, just not about Christ. These are not the young people who most desperately need to be discipled.

The people who come to Christ and need to learn a new way of living come with a lot of baggage. And it is not just about having them clean up their lives. You are going to have to tackle the thought processes that have enabled them to believe that doing the things that have been messing up their lives is good. And this is a difficult thing to do.

Here is what you typically see:

1. Stinking Thinking:

– “I don’t see who it’s hurting.”
-“What about me and my rights?”
-“I don’t see why I should have to…”
-“If they don’t like me the way I am they can just…”
-“My boss hates me…”
-“If everyone would just leave me alone…”

With ‘stinking thinking’ it is never their fault. The blame is always shifted onto another person. Trying to explain how they could have done things differently is nearly impossible because their focus is on how unfair everything is to them and how they should not have to do whatever it is they do not want to do.

2. Emotional Instability:

-Hot-headed behavior

This can be yelling, cursing or physically lashing out. They may shove you or otherwise try to physically intimidate you. They may stand up and/or get in your face. They have learned that intimidation causes people to back down and it gets them their way, at least in the short term. You will need to stand firm and set good boundaries.

-Drama

Somehow you will have said or done something that hurt their feelings. They become over-emotional and want you to come over and fix it immediately. Again, you need to not let this shake you. Set good boundaries and do not go running to them, or you will be doing this again next week, and the next week, and the next… They may even threaten to kill themselves. Taking them seriously and going to the ER typically ends this, if it is a bluff, when they realize that you are willing to leave them in the hands of a mental health professional for a three day stay against their will. (This is standard treatment for someone who is suicidal. It is a good thing when the person truly needs help. It is a colossal waste of time for a person who is faking it to get attention.)

3. Life crisis:

-There will likely be late night phone calls about things that you need to ‘fix’ for them now. They may ‘remind’ you in not so pleasant terms that you promised to ‘help.’ Typically these situations can wait until morning to be figured out and do not require you forking over sums of money or allowing the person to move in with you and your family. (By the way, people who move in at 3 am are often difficult to evict, and do not behave. That is why they found themselves homeless at 3 am.)

4. Manipulation:

You will likely be made to feel guilty about something. People who have lives that need changing are used to getting things by any means possible. If that means taking advantage of the fact that you are ‘nice’ and using your soft-heartedness for their advantage then that it was they will do. They may not even realize they are doing it. It is a pattern they learned growing up and it works.

5. Lying:

Everyone wants people to think the best of them. People who truly need help typically did not grow up being honest. Check everything you can and question everything before you give advice and help. Typically they are not used to being called on their lies so they unravel if you just probe a bit, but some people are experts at the craft. If you are going to truly help you need to know what is truly happening in their lives. You may even want to establish up front that your ‘help’ stops as soon as the lies start, and that they may come back when they are ready to be honest.

The point is: Do not believe everything they say. Let me repeat: Do not believe everything they say, even if they seem to have proof. Why? Because their lives did not get to the point of them needing your help because they were wonderful people who did nothing wrong. Even if they seem to have everything lined up, ask yourself, ‘How could things get so messed up if this person was doing everything so well?’ Ninety-nine percent of the time you are missing an important piece of the picture. (I know a person who went to job interviews and just stared at the person doing the interview saying nothing the entire time. Still wondering why she didn’t get the job? You never think to ask, ‘Did you talk to the person at all when they interviewed you?’) Remember, you can ask their permission to talk to the people they interact with. Most employers or interviewers, when they know that you are trying to help will give you the information you need. These are generally nice people who would like to see the person you are working with succeed.

6. Broken Relationships:

In truly messed up situations broken relationships are the norm. While you need to help them ‘fix’ their relationships the other person in the relationship typically has just as many problems as the person you are working with, and you have little to no influence over them. Occasionally this is not true and their parents, spouse or children are doing well, but since the person you are working with came out of the same environment these people are in this is typically not the case. It will take the wisdom of Solomon to unravel some of these estrangements.

7. More problems than you can handle:

Typically people who have lives that need help fixing have more problems than people who have lives that work are typically equipped to handle. Have people you can bounce ideas off of, and who can help you problem-solve and/or emotionally support you. Also get to know what services there are in your community. Financial counseling, continuing education, work counseling, GED programs, short term assistance or housing are all things that may help the person as well.

8. Burn-out:

The goal is to help people as much as possible. You cannot do this if you become burnt out. Remember, the good Samaritan left the man at the inn with someone he trusted while he finished his business. He did not move the person in with him and neglect all he needed to do in life. When you are helping someone you need to keep a good balance. If their problems begin to overwhelm you then you will end up breaking the relationship. This is not good for either of you, and because of your bad experience you will be less likely to help the next person who comes along. Keep yourself strong and you will be able to help this person, and many more. And, if this person succeeds, then they will be able to help others as well.

Also remember that not everyone ‘succeeds.’ God gave us all free will and sometimes, even if you do everything humanly possible, some people choose to fail. (Remember, there were only two people in the garden who had complete access to God, who is perfect, and they chose to do wrong.) Re-evaluate to see if there were things you could have done better, but don’t beat yourself up over it. At least you tried, and that is more than what most people would have done.

Discipleship is a dying, but necessary art. It is like fine weaving. It is difficult, and sometimes you have to back up and undo much of what is already there because there was a serious flaw in the fabric, but when you are finally done, the results are beautiful!

The Beauty of a Mistake

photo by Matija Barrett

photo by Matija Barrett

Throughout the years my children (believe it, or not) have made mistakes. Some of them small, and some of them whoppers.

Through them all my husband has had to reassured me that this is not the end of the world.

My problem: I am a perfectionist. I was the ‘good girl,’ the honor student, the one who did not mess up. (At least not often, and not according to the standards of the world.)

My husband did. He knows what it is like to make a mistake and overcome. He knows that even the bigger things are not always as bad as they seem to be.

By making, correcting and overcoming mistakes one learns to put things into perspective. One learns that hard work, and true repentance solve most problems. One learns to have mercy, to worry less, and to not sweat the small stuff.

So… while one never wants to see a child flounder, fall and fail, there is a beauty in having done so. And a beauty in having the loving hand of a parent to guide them through. One who understands and appreciates the truth that the hard work they need to do to overcome is not something to be avoided, but a lesson to be embraced, and to be glad that they have the opportunity to learn to face adversity and win when they are seemingly so young.

And yes… I am preaching to myself today!

How to Raise Children With a Servant’s Heart

One of the toughest things to teach a child is how to do for others in a selfless manner. Toddlers almost instinctively take toys away from each other, and one of the first words they learn is usually, ‘Mine!’ even though this is rarely said in most households. For this reason I looked back and thought about where we went right while raising our seven and thought I’d share.

1. Ask your children to do things for you.
Ask for little things, a glass of water, a piece of paper picked up. Make doing little things a normal part of your child’s life.

2. Do little things for your children.
If you do not extend them the same courtesies, then they will see what you ask for as oppression, and not just the way life is supposed to be.

3. Share the chores with your spouse.
If there are no ‘his’ chores and ‘her’ chore then children learn to pitch in when needed. Sure one person can typically do a task, but when life gets busy, make sure you lend a helping hand.

4. Pick up after yourself and others when you are out of the house and see a mess.
Watch that you do not teach the ‘it’s not my job’ attitude when you are out. If someone missed the garbage can at church, help out by picking it off the floor and putting it in the trash yourself rather than walking by it. Do not be judgmental. Explain that people have bad days, and everyone misses the trash sometimes. But also explain that if everyone left everything for the janitor, then the place would be a mess, and trash, after people have stepped on it repeatedly is much harder to clean up.

5. Do not have a double standard.
If you would not be that messy at home, do not be that messy elsewhere. Just because it is not yours does not mean that you do not have to take care of it. If anything you should be more careful because it is not yours to break.

6. Leave things better than when you found them.
Make a habit of cleaning up well whenever you borrow a place, even if the mess was there before you got there.

7. Set the example.
Remember, your children are watching you. Most of what they do will be because they saw you doing it. So, help your neighbor, hold the door, be nice to the waitress and they will likely do the same.

8. Volunteer.
When the church has a work-weekend, go! When there is community work to be done, help! Take the children if possible. It is how they learn to work.

9. Make helping seem like fun.
Enjoy yourself. Visit with the people there and go out to eat, or for ice cream after. It is okay to have a small reward for a job well done.

10. Do not ask for too much.
If the work seems overwhelming, children will shut down. Break projects up into small manageable pieces and reward them after every step.

11. Work along side them.
If the project is big, help. Your working beside your child makes it seem like a needed job they can be proud to do rather than child-labor.

12. Don’t assume they are just being lazy.
Children do not have a lot of real-world experience and get overwhelmed easily. Before you yell, criticize or punish, redirect them. Tell them specifically what you would like them to do at the moment and talk them through the job. If this works, problem solved. If they continue to ignore you and the work, well, the consequences are for you to decide.

13. Reward work done when you were not watching more than work done under supervision.
Children need to learn to work when no one else is looking if they wish to be successful in life. If everyone learned to do this, we would need fewer supervisors, but that is besides the point. The point is, being self-motivated and not taking an unsupervised moment as an opportunity for a work slow down are skills you wish to cultivate, so reward them, and make sure they know why they are being rewarded.

14. Praise them for any spontaneous acts of good will.
Children respond to praise. If you want to see them offer guests a drink when they come to your house, make sure you praise them when they do, especially after the guest leaves.

15. Be the type of person you want them to be.
As a parent you are ultimately your children’s biggest influence. Make sure you are modeling the behavior you want to see in them.

16. Surround them with other positive influencers.
Don’t forget that the people around them will have an impact on their lives too. Make sure they are surrounded by people who behave in ways that you would want your children to imitate. They should have many role models by the time they reach adulthood, or they may get the impression that you and your spouse are just weird, and that all of that ‘good stuff’ is something they do not need to do.

17. Show them the rewards of going the extra mile.
Use others as an example and point out when someone was blessed because they were the type of person other people could count on, even when not asked. You reap what you sow is a fact of life. Make sure your children understand the long-term consequences of being selfless, as well as where a life of selfish desires will lead.

18. Do not flatter them to make them feel good.
Flattery is lie intended to curry favor. It does not get good long-term results. Instead it results in children who believe they can get away with doing nothing, and still be rewarded.

19. Do not manipulate them.
Ignoring them until they do what you want, or not doing the things they need you to do in a passive-aggressive manner just frustrates them and ruins their relationship with you. Consequences for disobedience should be clear and should not affect the things they rely on you for as children under your protection.

20. Explain the natural consequences to them.
In my house one of the common ‘lectures’ was, ‘If Mom has to do it all then there will not be enough time left to go where you want to and Mom will be too tired to want to do much else, so if you actually want out of this house on a regular basis I’d suggest you help.’ (’cause Mom wants to go to the movies, get ice cream etc too!) There are many ‘natural consequences.’ If you let the lawn go, there are mice and fines from the town. If you don’t take care of the car it does not run. Make sure the children know why they are doing what they do and how it benefits everyone in the home including them.

Life at College… (A Joke)


A mother goes to visit her son at college and is surprised to find out that her son’s apartment mate is female.
‘Oh no, Mom, it’s not like that. We’re just roommates,’ the son assures her.
After dinner the mother leaves, and, while cleaning up the roommate notices her gravy ladle is missing.
‘You’re mother wouldn’t have taken my gravy ladle, would she?’ the female roommate asks.
The son assures her that his mother would not, but weeks go by and the gravy ladle is no-where to be found, so the female roommate pesters the son to ask his mother if she knows where it is.
So he writes an email to mom…
‘Dear Mom, I’m not saying you took the ladle, and I’m not saying you didn’t, but if you know where her ladle is could you please tell us?’
Mom replies…
‘Son, I’m not saying you’re sleeping with her, and I’m not saying you’re not, but if she was using her own bed she’d know where her ladle is!’

The joke brings up an important question: How much do parents have a right to interfere with their children’s lives once they are off to college? Especially if mom and dad are footing the bill. And, is it fair to impose consequences if the college-aged child was not aware that, because mom and dad are paying, there is still some accountability and that rent and tuition may come with a few strings attached? Should families discuss expectations and behaviors that would cause the child to lose their parents’ financial support before they send their children to college?

Photo by Matija Barrett

Some Not So Usual Suggestions for Studying Your Bible

Creation

1. Do not start with Genesis. I know this sounds like bad advice, but the truth is most people who start Bible reading programs do not finish them, and Genesis is the book they already know the most about. A Bible reading program is supposed to increase your knowledge of the Bible. To most effectively do this begin with the books you know the least about.

2. Read the footnotes. Most Bibles contain footnotes. They are great sources of information that most people overlook. They will help to explain what is going on in each passage and give you the information you need to more fully understand what you are reading. Footnotes are like a free mini-commentary, so use them.

3. Choose a Bible translation you enjoy. While there is much debate over which Bible translation is best, most of them are excellently translated. Choose one that you can read and understand easily, then look at the footnotes. Different Bibles have footnotes that focus on different things. Some are focused on ‘life application’ and will try to relate the Bible reading to something in your life so that you can more easily apply the Bible to your own situation. Others are ‘study Bibles’ and the footnotes focus more on giving you background information about the passage you just read. There are a lot of different styles of footnotes so spend some time finding ones that are right for you.

4. Use a Bible reading plan. If you know that you know that this time you will in fact read through the entire Bible use a Bible reading plan. (Google ‘Bible reading plan’ and find one that looks good to you.) Bible reading plans keep you accountable, and also put passages of the Bible together so that you can see how different books viewed similar teachings.

5. Mix it up. If you have already read through the Bible at least once in your life do not use the same plan, or the same Bible to read through it again. Different footnotes will broaden your understanding, and a different plan will put different passages together allowing you to see things in greater context.

6. Use the verses listed in the margins. In most Bibles there are verses listed in the margins beside each passage. They are references to other places in the Bible where similar things are taught. When you get to a topic you are unsure about use them to look up what the Bible says about this in other places. They typically do not contain every passage on the subject, so look at the verses listed next to the passages you look up for even more information.

7. Read with friends and plan to discuss what you have read. Accountability works, which is why Weight Watchers does so well. If possible, find a group of people who are willing to read along with you and encourage you to stay the course. Further, their insights will help bring into your life more than you noticed while reading alone.

8. Use Bible studies that force you to look up scripture and read it for yourself. Commentaries are good. (I have one that is currently being released now, so I am not against them.) But, the best learning is done when you do most of the work yourself. My favorites are Kay Arthur’s Precept Upon Precept studies. You will need a concordance, and these studies require much of your time, but they are worth it.

9. If you know you have limited time, choose a book of the Bible that relates to what you are going through right now. Every book in the Bible focuses on a different theme. Leaf through them and decide which book will speak to you and your situation most right now.

10. Bring your Bible everywhere. Life is busy and most people fail because there is just not enough time in the day to do everything they want to get done. While waking up early and simplifying your life are good ideas, most of us will not make that change, so bring your Bible with you. Whenever there is a moment of downtime take it out and read. Do not be afraid of getting ahead. You will probably need a day off soon, and any ‘getting ahead’ you did will now come in handy. Life vacillates. Some days we have more down time than others. Use yours wisely.

11. Choose a Bible reading plan that gives you days off. These are not really ‘days off,’ they are days to catch up. Most people quit reading through their Bible because they have missed days and are now too far behind to catch up on the arbitrary goal they set for themselves. Days off give you time to ‘catch up’ so you do not feel frustrated and quit quite as easily.

12. Keep things in perspective. The Bible is a big book. It is actually 66 books. Most people would not set reading 66 books as a goal to do in a year. Thankfully many of the books are short, so it is not as bad as it sounds, but reading through the Bible in a year is a big commitment if daily Bible reading is not already a part of your life. Have mercy on yourself and know that if it takes a little longer than you planned it is still worth it, so stay the course.

13. If you have the time, take notes. Journal about what you have read. Writing things down helps you to remember and relate things to your life. Reread your notes frequently to remind you about what you have learned. But, if your time is limited, forget what I just said and keep reading through. Once you have covered the entire Bible more than once there will be time for more leisurely strolls through its pages.

14. Read even if you only have a few minutes. Many people make a big deal about their Bible reading time. This can be helpful, as it becomes a daily habit, or it can be limiting, since you feel you can only read in the right place at the right time. Take your Bible out as if it were a novel. Every little bit adds up, and reading short sections allows you to think about what you read more than you may have if you had read more at once.

15. Make an effort to think about what you have read throughout the day. Even if you do not have time to read more, think about what you have read while you are driving or doing any other task that requires little thought. This will also help you remember things better.

16. Go for the audio version. While the audio version lacks footnotes and other helps, it is better than not reading at all. Audio versions are great for joggers, time in the car etc so they often fit into your life more easily. James Earl Jones does a very nice job with the King James Bible, if you can handle the vocabulary and word order in the King James. There are also theatrical versions of audio available where different speakers assume different roles and try to make the Bible come to life.

17. Incorporate what you are learning into your daily life. This is more than just doing what the Bible says. If you are an artist, take a verse that speaks to you and incorporate it into your art. If you love to cook, try following the dietary laws when you read through them. If you love maps, look up the places mentioned. If you love the outdoors, imagine the terrain you are reading about on your next hike or bike ride. If you are a parent, think about what it must have been like raising children under the conditions described. If you are a nerd/geek, make outlines and lists, or maybe even a computer game that incorporates what you have learned. (You should see the outlines I have accumulated! But only do so if you find this fun.)

18. Pray. Always pray. Pray before you read. Pray when you are dealing with a difficult passage. Pray when you find an instruction and realize that you need the strength to change something in your life. Pray that you find the instructions you need and realize there are things you need to change in your life. Then, when you are done, meditate peacefully on what you have learned and thank God for everything He has revealed.

19. Set up an environment you enjoy to do the majority of your reading in. Making Bible reading time a treat, rather than a chore will help you do it more often. There can be candles, soft music, nice food and drink, a comfortable chair etc. Your routine should invite you to want to read. Even a bathtub can be set up with a bar for reading, so figure out what you like and get creative. Just don’t spend so much time setting up that you never find the time to actually read.

20. Reward yourself when you meet your goals. The Word of God is sweet like honey according to scripture. The Jews took this to mean that there should be rewards for learning it and rewarded children with treats. Most people are motivated by the thought of reward, so set goals for yourself and celebrate when you reach them.

Bible reading should never be a chore, but for those of us who did not grow up doing it, it is something extra to fit into our already hectic lives. Hopefully my suggestions will help you find the time, learn more and succeed. Remember, they are only suggestions. Take the ones that work for you and throw the rest out. And enjoy!

photo art by Kristin Andraka

How To Help The Poor

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It’s an election year and everyone has strong opinions. The problem with most opinions today is that they define the problem using one very limited example. Recently I responded to a tweet that attacked people by stating that if you think the problem with the poor is laziness then you have not met anyone who is poor. This is simply false since there are people whose problem is that they do not wish to work. Some of my favorite ‘lazy’ people include the person my sons worked with who thought the boss would not notice that he was not washing dishes when the boss was not looking. That the ever-growing pile of dishes might give him away never occurred to him. Another woman cleaned hotel rooms. She assumed she just needed to fold the toilet paper into a triangle and no one would know the difference. The management tried and tried to help her be successful. When people were watching she did a wonderful job, but when their backs were turned she folded the toilet tissue and left.

The Old Testament actually describes more than one type of poor person and gives us different instructions regarding how to deal with them.

First there is the ‘roosh.’ This person is poor because they make poor decisions. They will not listen when corrected, are lazy and make other poor people’s lives miserable. We are to feed these people, but because they ruin other people’s lives with their decisions they are also generally avoided.

The next type of poor person is the ‘dal.’ They are weak and cannot help themselves for some reason. Typically, this person’s situation is temporary and if given proper help they will do well. These are the people we are rewarded by God for helping. We are also cursed if we take advantage of them.

Another group of poor are the anav and aniy. They are the poor and needy. In the New Testament these are the people Jesus refers to when he gives instructions on how to treat the poor. These are the people who are poor because of a more permanent condition such as low IQ or severe disability. It can also be because of a more permanent situation like being an elderly widow with no family. They too are to be helped, and we are to be generous to them. They are the ones that the laws regarding gleaning were made for.

There are also a few other types of poor, which occur more briefly in scripture. They are the machcowr, a person who becomes poor because they spend recklessly on their own pleasure. He is best exemplified by the prodigal son. Remember, the son’s father did not send care packages, but did accept his son back fully when he returned in a repentant state.

Then there is the muwk. These are people who have made vows carelessly, or become in debt to the point of not being able to repay what they owe. They do have to work off the debt as a servant, but we are not to take advantage of them.

The ‘ebywon is a beggar. We are to treat him fairly. If we are doing things right there should be no beggars in our land.

The michen is poor through his own foolishness. All we are told about this man is that we are not to listen to his advice.

If we are ever going to truly help the poor we need to realize that there are many different reasons for being poor. Deciding that all of the poor are hard working people who just need a little help is just as destructive as deciding that all of the poor are lazy. It is just not true. Some people just need a little help and they will be fine. Others need education and wisdom. Still others have problems that may never be solved. And of course some are just unwilling to work. All of these situations require different solutions. Until we actually get to know the people we are helping we will not be very effective. The hard working poor will have a difficult time accepting help. The lazy poor will do all they can to gobble up the free stuff. And the people with lower IQs and other disabilities will fall through the cracks unless someone advocates for them. Just throwing money at the problem, or refusing to give any money is not the answer.

Photo by Matija Barrett

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