Fighting Terrorism

Who fights terrorism in our world today? Is it the military? Is it undercover operatives and spies, gathering information to prevent attacks? Is it police and other organizations on the home front? Or does the battle belong to all of us??

I recently was thinking about this after listening to a CD by LIFE Leadership founder Claude Hamilton. He said the attitude he takes when dealing with challenges he faces in his life is, “Well, at least we’re not fighting terrorism here!” It’s his way of reducing the size of his challenges, and putting them into proper perspective. It’s a good attitude for dealing with the things life throws at us on a daily basis.

As I thought deeper on Claude’s words, I remembered something I learned in school. I studied World War II, and how the ordinary citizens of the free world responded to the war efforts. Let’s investigate that a bit.

The men went off to fight. Some men who tried to go to fight were denied because of age (either too young or too old) or infirmity. Others stayed behind because they were needed at home, or in critical industries or positions, and governments refused their service. And if brothers joined and all but 1 died, the military sent the remaining one home, as was portrayed so vividly in the movie Saving Private Ryan. Those who didn’t go to fight served at home, in civil defense and in other crucial roles.

The women supported the men. Some went to work in factories to make the arms and munitions required. Some joined the Red Cross to help the wounded. Some joined the USO to help morale. Others knitted socks or sweaters or scarves to keep servicemen warm. Some rolled bandages. They took care of children and took on all the roles their absent men would normally have done, all in the effort to support the men.

Even children and young people got into the act. They collected metal for recycling into munitions and arms. They participated in civil defense activities. They helped out neighbors who were participating in war efforts and who were caught short for workers on the home front. They learned about the principles of freedom, the philosophies the free world was fighting against and about the places where they were fighting.

In some way, from oldest to youngest, everyone in the free world helped out in World War II. They all saw it as “doing their part for the cause of freedom.” In fact, this was a common thread in the newsreels and advertisements of the day. War Bonds were purchased by the thousands by ordinary folks, just so they could do their part. It was considered abnormal not to support the war, and people were shunned in society for it. People from all walks of life rationed luxury goods, and even things they’d previously considered necessities, all to support the efforts to win the war. And win they did.

Terrorism is the war that we are fighting today. Our news media, politicians and political candidates remind us of this on a daily basis. So, in light of what we’ve just discussed about World War II and the free world’s war efforts, I want to bring us back to the questions with which I started this post: Who fights terrorism in our world today? Is it the military? Is it undercover operatives and spies, gathering information to prevent attacks? Is it police and other organizations on the home front? Or does the battle belong to all of us??

I believe the war for freedom, against terrorism, is the same as those who we now call “The Greatest Generation” fought in World War II. While the military, the undercover operatives and spies, the police and so on are our active fighters today, we all have a part to play!

What is our part? Allow me to ask a series of questions, to define some possibilities for you:

  • Do you know the principles of liberty and freedom on which Western civilization, and most particularly your country, was founded? Have you read and can you understand your country’s founding and most essential documents?
  • Are you financially sound? Are you out of debt? Do you have a plan to get out of debt, and are you working actively on that plan? Do you understand and practice the principles of sound financial management, as taught by Warren Buffet and Benjamin Franklin (get out of debt, stay out of debt and invest in self-education)?
  • Are you stable relationally? How’s your marriage and family life? Do you communicate and work well together? Are you committed for life? Do you have friends on whom you know you can count for life?
  • How are you spiritually? I’ve written about my relationship with God a lot on this blog. Do you know Him? Do you read what He says in the Bible and follow it?

I could ask other questions, but I think you get my point. For every person who understands freedom better, for everyone who leaves the bondage of debt slavery, for every better marriage and stable family, that’s that many fewer people who have the potential to be terrorists. That’s families standing up in a trickle, flow, then flood for freedom, for liberty, for marriage and family and for the values they hold dear. This is fighting at the grass roots, folks! We are fighting for the hearts and minds of individuals and families, which is where the only true changes take place.

I use the information from LIFE Leadership as my weapons in this fight.

  • I understand liberty and freedom better, thanks to the Freedom series.
  • My husband and I have crawled out from under almost $100,000 of consumer and other debt, and just paid off our last credit card and car loan, thanks to the Financial Fitness series and Wealth series information. (We’re not debt free yet, but we’re a whole lot closer to it!)
  • The books I’ve mentioned in other posts and the Marriage Pack of CD’s have made our good marriage into a great one, that improves all the time. The Parenting Pack has helped us be better grandparents, even better than we were as parents. The books and CD’s of the LIFE series have helped us to make new friends, and be better friends to the ones we already had.
  • The books and CD’s of the AGO series, along with the coaching of our mentors, have helped our spiritual lives.

Consider what might be your part in our current war. Terrorism doesn’t just impact us at home when a sleeper cell is activated, or someone sneaks over a border to do something. It has already impacted the way we live, the way we travel and the way we view the world. It has impacted our children. What we need to do now is decide the impact stops here, it stops now and push back against it. We all need to fight against it together. No one is exempt this time, either. Because, as Benjamin Franklin said,

We must hang together, gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.

 

Advertisements

Not So Fast Food

A lot of comment has been made recently on social media regarding the decision by the New York State Wage Board to recommend a hike of the wages of fast food workers to $15 per hour incrementally over the next 6 years. I have a few comments and questions about it.

First, I want to address it from my personal perspective. Sorry, gang, like everyone else, I’m just a tad selfish, and think of my own interests first at times.

I work at a job that requires a minimum of an Associates Degree and prefers a Bachelor’s Degree. (I actually have about 1/2 of a Master’s Degree, but that’s beside the point.) I work in a business office setting, dealing with peoples’ confidential information. My work requires skills in multiple computer software products (including Lotus Notes, Microsoft Office Suite and work-specific software), high-level typing and data entry skills and dealing with the public. While it is not a professional position, it does require skills I needed to train to acquire to get the job, as well as experience in the field.

My starting salary was less than the Wage Board’s recommended $15 per hour. After almost 10 years with my current employer and multiple raises for high performance, it’s still less than $15 per hour.

Where will it end? I know professional teachers, health care workers, first responders and members of our U.S. Armed Forces who make even less, despite the incredibly higher stress levels of their jobs, let alone the greater physical demands placed on them. These people deserve much higher wages than I make and often make less, and in the case of our military, much less. But where does the “Me, too!” attitude stop??

Something isn’t quite right with a system that demands fast food workers are paid higher wages than employees on jobs that demand higher levels of training and skills. Fast food has always been meant to be an entry level position for a teenager, a stop-gap someone older might get while training to get a better position, or a job a retired person might get to supplement their pension. It was never meant to fund a lifestyle, which is what the demands for a $15 per hour wage really is when you look at it realistically.

I am not meaning in any way to criticize families who are caught in a minimum wage trap through no fault of their own. I know some of them. They are good people, caught in a circumstance beyond their control. They are making the best of their situations, and working to get out. Such folks deserve all the help we can give them. I’m just not sure $15 per hour is the answer. It’s too broad a brush to paint across too many different lives and circumstances.

Many fast food corporations have training programs for ambitious young people to move up within the company, to take on more responsibility and make more money. McDonald’s Mike Andres started as a manager of a family-owned store. and is now its U.S. Corporate President.  McDonald’s Charlie Robeson started as a crew person and is now its U.S. Corporate  Chief Restaurant Operations Officer. Restaurant Brands International’s David Clanachan started as a crew person for Tim Horton’s and is now the Corporate Vice President, as well as President and Chief Operating Office of the Tim Horton’s chain.  (Their bios are easily found on the corporate websites.)  These are just a few of the corporate success stories available.

How are businesses going to afford this? Before you tell me, “Out of their corporate profits,” may I remind you of something? Fast food restaurants are generally operated as franchises. Corporate owned stores are the exception, not the rule, and the corporations tend to try to get these back into the hands of franchise holders as quickly as possible.

This means the corporation offers its name, training, and supplies and leaves management up to the franchisees. The corporate profits of an entity like McDonalds come out of franchise fees and a percentage of the daily take. The rest of the daily take is what the franchisees use to pay their bills for lights, heat, taxes, salaries, supplies, food, losses, improvements, training and whatever else is needed, and eke out a living for themselves and their families. When the employees or managers don’t show up, franchisees have to be ready to fill in. When there is a crisis at a store, the franchisees have to be available to fix it, or arrange for it to be fixed. In other words, franchisees, like all other small business owners, take all the risks, and don’t really net all that much in profit.

Speaking of risks, are you aware of how much it costs to become a franchisee in the first place? A simple internet search yielded some astonishing results! Someone wanting to take such a risk must have a minimum of $100,000 for a smaller franchise with low returns on investment. To buy into McDonald’s, a minimum of $1.1 million is required, and often you need to have extra for the land, and you don’t get to decide where you’re putting it. They do. The returns on investment on one franchise are so low, most own at least 3 to eke out a living wage for themselves and their families.

It is from these people the NY Wage Board wants to take the $15 per hour. Not corporate entities like McDonald’s or Burger King. But the owner of the store down the street, who must raise prices and/or let go staff, and/or find other ways to cut costs to meet these demands.

So where will these wage hikes come from? If these business owners don’t cut staff or otherwise cut costs, then the only pockets these raise hikes will be coming out of will be those of the consumers. Because sure as I am sitting here writing this, prices must go up to accommodate it if nothing else goes down proportionally. This means fewer people will be spending less at fast food places, and more will close for lack of business, causing job loss and business closures, leading to these workers making less money, instead of the more for which they petitioned so vigorously.

Do you want some proof? Here’re a couple of links: Fox News Article and Give Away Pundit Article.

Getting back to my own (perhaps a tad selfish) perspective, with this decision by the NY Wage Board, my already stretched budget just stopped including any fast food place that pays its workers $15 per hour. On my salary, quite frankly, I just cannot afford it. And the problem is, I don’t think a lot of others can, either.

Success 201 – Delayed Gratification

In my earlier posts, I discussed the idea the secrets of success are available to all of us, and not just the fortunate few in life. I mentioned best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki and his Cash Flow book series, and the clues he shares in it. In this post, we’ll discuss clue #2, Delayed Gratification.

What is Delayed Gratification? If you ask some people, you might get a blank stare of confusion. It is unusual to find people who actually understand it today.

However, prior to the 1960’s, Delayed Gratification was common in Western culture. Previous generations understood it very well. Credit was almost unknown to them. Purchases were made with cash or barter. Some of the only parts of society that had credit were businesses (though most operated on a cash basis) and the few who had mortgages for their homes or farms.

Today we have a credit driven culture. We often hear of young people graduating college many thousands of dollars in debt, not just in their student loans, but also because of credit cards, overspending and a failure to practice Delayed Gratification. We often hear of coworkers and relatives struggling with their finances because they got mortgages they couldn’t really afford or credit card debt due to not practicing Delayed Gratification. Some of this debt is due to life circumstances, such as job loss or catastrophic medical bills, but much more is due to a failure to practice Delayed Gratification than for other reasons.

We use Delayed Gratification when we see something we want, but don’t buy it immediately. We use the Long Term Thinking we discussed in my last post and set a goal to reach toward, understanding after we do the work to meet the goal, we can reward ourselves with the desired item.

To practice Delayed Gratification like that produces self-discipline as we do it over and over. Instead of acting on our impulses like small children, we grow into ourselves maturity and self-respect. We know we can see something we want, set goals, practice Delayed Gratification, apply some hard work and see the fruits of our rewards become manifest in our lives.

Toward this means, another purpose of Delayed Gratification is to teach us the stuff we set goals to acquire is just that, stuff. We learn the process and growth within the process is more important than the reward. By learning these things, we also learn some of the proper place in our lives of stuff, below invaluable things like relationships and undefinable things like life lessons.

I didn’t understand Delayed Gratification early in my adult life. I was a college student, paying for my needs with student loans and part-time jobs. A bit later, we got married. He’s a bit older than I am, and came equipped with credit cards, savings and cash to buy whatever we wanted and needed. A long series of financially unwise choices, including a failure to live frugally, and emergencies led to a crushing load of debt. Almost all this was debt we could have otherwise avoided, had we practiced Delayed Gratification.

It took us several years and information from our mentors and what we learned through the materials (particularly the best-selling Financial Fitness package) from LIFE Leadership to straighten out our financial mess caused by our own personal failure to practice Delayed Gratification. Now, we look at things we want, and if it’s not an immediate need we cannot live without (like necessary car repairs or medical bills), we look at our list of goals, decide where it would be appropriate on that list to reward ourselves with it, and put it on there.

Delayed Gratification is why our relatives think we’re out of touch with reality because we have smart phones but don’t use our data plan (as they do), and don’t have tablet computers (as they do). Do we have the money? Most folks have the money for something they really want, and if we looked, we could probably get a tablet. But practicing Delayed Gratification is teaching us discipline, self-denial and is an undeniable cure for the instant gratification culture in which we live today.

LIFE Leadership Logo

Success Is For The Fortunate Few – Or Is It?

I had an interesting conversation a while ago. I had been listening to a recording by LIFE Leadership claude-speakingfounder Claude Hamilton about some of the thinking he used to be successful. It reminded me of something I’d heard before, so I tried asking the person I was talking to about it.

I asked, “Which would you rather have, a penny a day doubled daily for 30 days, or $1 million?” The person I was talking to said $1 million. Unfortunately, because that person doesn’t know the rules of success I’ve learned, they answered as most of us would, which sadly is wrong.

Many of us start out in life thinking success is for people who have talent, or who are “lucky,” or smart, or “born on the right side of the street,” or whatever. And yes, while there are a few who do win life’s family lotto and are born into wealth and seemingly instant success, most of the rest of those who succeed do it in largely the same ways. I don’t mean they use the same paths of occupation. Hang with me, and I’ll explain.

Best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki points out in his Cash Flow book series those who win life’s birth lotto are born into families who have learned the secrets of success, and pass these on to their children. These families account for about 1% of the population in the West. Any family in this group that doesn’t teach success to their children and grandchildren loses its wealth, no matter how immense and painfully accumulated, in a generation or two. 20th Century Industrial Age history of families who were successful show these concepts quite clearly.

The rest of us, not born in that 1%, account for about 95% of the Western population. However, I’m sure you’ve noticed there is a math discrepancy, which can be easily explained. The final 4% or so are those who were born into the 95%, but who through diligent work, study, learning and application of a few simple success principles launched themselves into the rarefied air of the 1%, making that total about 5%.

Kiyosaki goes on to explain, among other things, there are three concepts which make up the means by which “ordinary folks” can employ to attain the kind of success of which I speak. These are:

  1. Long Term Thinking
  2. Delayed Gratification
  3. The Power of Compounding

In the next few posts I will further discuss these concepts in detail, as I understand them. While I have learned much about them, I will be the first to admit my understanding is still incomplete. If you want to know more, you may refer to information available through LIFE Leadership, where I learned it, for further study.

Oh, and in case you were wondering when I was going to explain how that person was wrong in their math in the story which started this post, stay tuned and be patient, please. I will get to it in a future post in this series, I promise.  😉

LIFE Leadership Logo

My Mom Was Rich – Guest Post

The following eulogy was given on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at our mother’s funeral by Suzanne Aardema, one of my younger sisters.

Suzanne said so much good stuff about our mother’s life and the example she left for us, I asked her if I could share it with you. I told Suzanne her words deserve a much wider audience than just those of us present that morning. I am reprinting it (other than the emphasis, which was how she said it) exactly as she wrote it. Thank you, Suzanne, for allowing me to post it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Hi. Thank you for coming.

We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, but my mom, she was rich.

Mom worked a bunch of lousy, low paying jobs in order to help make ends meet in a family with five kids, and yet mom, she was rich.

You see, my mom, she understood the secret to being rich. My mom understood that being rich is not about what you have or what you can get. Mom understood that the secret to being rich is in what you can give.

From the time that I was a young child I can remember my mom exemplifying that giving spirit in how she lived.

The door was always open. Everyone was welcome, and there was always enough for another plate at the table.

My mom and dad opened their home to so many people over the years. People who were down and out. People who needed a place to stay temporarily or for a longer time. There were the foster children, and my brother’s friend Allen from high school who had been booted out by his parents.

There was Mary, a young lost woman who mom took under her wing. Mary became a part of the family lived with us for several years until she could get back on her feet.

My friend Ray from college lived at the house for a while, and even my husband stayed there long before he was my husband or even my boyfriend.

The Makokha family came and stayed for the better part of a year, and they became a part of our extended family. Then there was Diego who lived there for like, forever and then Bruce. I’m sure that I’m missing a few names.

The door was always open and everyone was welcome. Even when times were tough, there was always enough for another plate at the table. Because my mom, she understood the secret to being rich.

I remember in my wild high school days I used to have friends sleep over a lot. One night I had permission for my friend Donna to sleep over. Well, I came home with not one, but two friends.   I can still remember sneaking my friend Vickie up the stairs on her hands and knees while mom was sitting in the living room. Of course, we were laughing so hard, she suspected something was up. But when she came upstairs and opened my bedroom door and saw the three of us there, she just laughed. Everyone was welcome.

Even in my wildest years, my mom never gave up on me. She kept hoping, praying, believing that I would come around. She bailed me out of trouble and disciplined me because she could see the bigger picture.

My mom understood that serving was better than being served. As many of you know, she was involved in this church and served in various capacities for many many years.

She sang in the choir, served in the altar guild and the prayer chain. She regularly visited shut-ins, and organized a woman’s retreat.

Mom loved this place, and she loved the people here. Even as her health declined over the past several years, the only thing that mattered to her was being able to get to Our Savior’s church every Sunday so that she could worship.

I never realized what an impact she had made here until I was speaking with my friend Arleen the other evening and she told me about how mom had supported her and the other young mothers with the moms group for many years. Mom was always there, praying, interceding, supporting.

Mom was rich in life. A loving wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. She loved travel, adventure and trying new things. I remember when we went to Israel together in 1993, she couldn’t wait to ride the camel. That was the highlight for her.

Mom was a woman of faith, and she understood the principle of Galatians 5:6, that the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love. She lived her faith by loving the people around her.

Even in her final moments, mom gave us a gift to cherish.

I have lived overseas for almost 20 years, and my brother Rob and sister Judi have also lived outside of this area for most of their adult lives. Whenever we came to visit or mom came to visit us, there was one thing that remained constant. Whenever it was time to say goodbye, mom would tear up and cry. It never failed. She hated to say goodbye.

In her final moments, she knew that she wasn’t going to see us for a while. Her eyes opened and tears streamed down her face as she said her final goodbye.

As mom walked into the arms of Jesus, she was a very rich woman. It has nothing to do with the amount of finances that she did or didn’t have in her bank account.

Her life was rich because she understood that being rich is not about how much you have or what you can get, but it is about how much you can give.

I hope her example inspires us all.

Thank you.

Christmas 2013

 From left to right (siblings in birth order): Rich, me, Judi, Suzanne, Rob & in front, Mom

What The US REALLY Needs . . .

Our Family Portrait, 2008

Our Family Portrait, 2008

If you have read my bio, you know I’m a mother and grandmother. As Mom with 2 kids, I’ve had to break up a lot of arguments. Heck, there are times now that they’re adults when I still have to break them up!

I’ve had to let our children know I refused to tolerate the infighting, bickering, name calling, posturing, blame casting and other dirty tricks used in their not seeming to want to work through their difficulties. There was a time or two I would shut a door and walk away, refusing to let them out except for basic needs, until they settled it peacefully. And a few times I had to impose a negotiated settlement neither one liked, just to regain peace in the house. Other times, they were thankfully able to finally work things out to their mutual satisfaction, at least until the next squabble . . .

When I look at Congress and the President in the current budget deadlock and looming debt ceiling crisis, all I can United States Capitol

think is, “They need a Mom!” They need someone to sit them down, demand they stop bickering, name calling, posturing, blame casting and all the other dirty tricks used in their steadfast refusals to work out a settlement. They need someone willing to shut them in behind closed doors, take their toys away and refuse to let them out until they compromise. They need someone willing to impose a settlement no one Official photographic portrait of US President...

likes, just to regain peace. And they need it quickly.

Then I realized something. People of the US, WE are the Mom.  WE are the ones getting sick and tired of the news reports of the ridiculous things being imposed by the government shut-down. WE are the ones the monetary crisis

An Angry Mom is Worse than an Angry Mob

will fall on the worst if the debt ceiling issues aren’t resolved. WE are the ones who can make the leaders of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the President sit down and work something out. WE have this power. And its high time WE used it.

How do we use our power? We contact our friends, our family, our representatives, the media outlets and anyone else we think might listen to us, or not. We write letters, we email and we call. We inundate news media and the Congressional and White House switchboards. We blog, we text, we post on FaceBook and send out tweets on Twitter. We light up the social media world and make the issues viral. We make our feelings and

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

opinions known.

What do we say? In all this communication, we demand something be done. We insist the politicians stop sitting around blaming one another and speaking in sound bites, making for good television and bad negotiation. We insist more be done than said for a change.

It doesn’t matter, really, what side of the aisle your politics are on now. The disasters with the government shut down and the looming debt crisis will impact all of us, no matter what we believe, or how we voted (or not) in the last elections. What matters is

Breakdown of political party representation in...

that we all use our voices, in whatever means we can, to let Congress and the President know we are tired of their posturing, bored with their blame casting and name calling, sick to death of the political gamesmanship and fed up with whole sorry mess they call politics as usual. It’s not about Red or Blue States or sides of the aisle any more. It’s about our economic survival and our children’s future.

Our country needs leaders. It now has politicians. By holding them accountable, by calling them to task as a united people, we can demand they lead for a change and get something done. The choice to demand it, and the challenge, is up to us.

That Ought To Be A Crime!

Recently, I overheard some folks discussing how people shipped things overnight places to hurry processing of their items. Often, people pay substantial fees beyond normal postal rates for this service. However, all it does is get the item to its destination faster. It does not promise faster processing once it reaches where it is going. The difference is 100 times regular cost in some cases! When one of them realized how much it cost, they said, “That ought to be a crime!”

While I am aware the person was speaking for emphasis, I immediately realized at least some of the holes in their argument. It is these holes, and the paths down which they lead, away from our essential freedoms, I want to discuss.

To decide to regulate and criminalize how we spend our money is to violate an essential freedom we have as human beings. The person who spends 100 times more than someone else to get his item to its destination overnight (instead of the 3 to 7 business days for normal postal delivery) is spending their own money. They’re not spending my money, nor yours. It’s theirs. As such, the right of property ownership means they get to decide what happens to their property, so long as it does not harm others. If I use my property, like my car, to deliberately hurt or kill someone, that’s a different story. We can all agree the law would be right to step in such a case.

Our freedoms guarantee we have the right to live, work and recreate as we choose, within the confines of a sensible legal system. They give us the ability to think, create and invent. Without freedom of choice and property, there is no creation, no invention, no innovation. The most repressed societies of the world have contributed the least in scientific developments, except for military applications. The greater the freedom in a society, the greater the creativity, in all walks of life.

The inventor Albert Einstein said,

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.

I considered these thoughts during the debate over Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s declaration sodas of a certain size (or larger) would no longer be sold in New York City. His decision to do it was for the health reasons of the people of his city, and its visitors. But I kept wondering what right he had to decide how much soda my family and I drink? Yes, sugared soda is harmful, when consumed over the long-term in large amounts. To me, as a diabetic, it’s even harmful (in more than very small quantities when I am having a low blood sugar episode) in the short-term. But it’s also my right as an adult to drink this legal beverage, in as large of quantities as I choose, and take the consequences of my behavior upon myself.

Is a 32 ounce cup of sugared soda sensible? Probably not. But our adult son buys and drinks them occasionally, and when he does it with his own money, all I can do is casually mention our family history of diabetes (besides me, both my parents & several of my grandparents), and the risk he’s taking of it. But it’s his choice, his money, and if he wants to spend it foolishly, it’s his business. My husband occasionally drinks them, too, as do our daughter and son-in-law. Not sensible, but their choices. Our grandchildren, however, drink water or milk when we’re out with them. We can control the behavior of 1, 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 year olds. Well, not the behavior, but at least what they drink! 😉

When it come to each choice, the consequences generally also fall on the people, or those closest to them. To say we must criminalize some behavior because of its potential for long-term damage is to remove the consequences of both the behavior and the damages. As humans, we all instinctively know our actions have consequences, whether we like them, or admit it, or not. By removing all consequences, we remove all personal responsibility, and thus remove all personal choice.

My father died of esophageal cancer, caused by being a smoker most of his adult life. Was it sensible for him to smoke? Of course not! He tried to quit many times, and failed. It was only in the last few years before he died that he succeeded. Does that mean I want smoking criminalized so other families don’t have to go through the pain he and we as his family did? Of course not! His personal choices, determined by his personal freedoms, lead to his personal consequences, and thus our own personal consequences as his family.

To remove all personal responsibility, and thus all personal choice, is to remove all freedoms. For each freedom criminalizing and regulation removes, we are a more restricted people. Yes, there needs to be a rule of law, to dictate things a society considers inappropriate, like hurting or killing one another or stealing from each other. Yes, there needs to be laws about how what side of the road to drive on, and what to do when emergency vehicles are seen. These are sensible, and good, and we can all agree on such things.

But to go to extremes, to remove all personal responsibility, and thus all personal choice, is also to remove much of what makes us human. We instinctively want to choose our careers, our lifestyle, our cars, our homes, our clothes, our food, our life partners, whether we have children (and how many), how we school our children and ourselves and so on. Even the world’s most repressed peoples have some choices in life, no matter how tiny they seem to us in the “free” societies of the world.

As toddlers, we understand instinctively the rights of free people to have property and choice. Watch small children at play if you don’t believe me! Even if an adult starts them by encouraging coöperation, the play among toddlers normally quickly descends to a “Gimmie! That’s MINE!” level, unless an adult stops them. And if an unsuspecting adult tries to force an unwilling toddler into a situation, outfit or activity in which the child has no interest in participating, this instinctive want of personal choice becomes all the more clear, and loudly verbalized!

With each cry of “That ought to be a crime!,” we have that many fewer freedoms. A free society is loosely regulated. The more regulations and laws, the less free the society becomes. We are moving closer to less and less freedom, and more and more restrictions daily. All because so few are stopping to think that just because it’s not sensible, doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be regulated or criminalized . . .

To Number My Days – Essay

I recently saw a graphic a friend shared on Facebook. Here it is:

When I look at it, I think about Judy and I remember how she was when I first knew her.

We got to know each other in school. By “in school,” I mean middle school (we called it “Junior High”) and High School. We were young, knew it all and positive we were invincible. We were egotisticaly convinced, as most of us are in those years, we would live forever and never, ever become “old fogies” like our parents and grandparents! (Looking back on my younger self with my current wisdom, I think, “What a jerk I was sometimes!“)

Well, it’s been over 30 years since. In the intervening years, my classmates and I went our separate ways into college, marriage, children, careers and businesses. But in the last few years, through social networking sites like  Facebook, we’ve found one another, and we’re back in touch.

A strange thing happened in the meantime. I don’t remember it happening. I remember getting married, having and raising kids, being employed, owning businesses, seeing our daughter get married and start raising her own family, and all the other joys and challenges of my life up to now. But I never stopped to consider, except on birthdays, I was getting old. And my friends, too, as that graphic Judy shared so obviously pointed out to me. When in the heck did that happen?!?!?!?

We became what we as youthful Baby Boomers dreaded, the older generation. Not only are we over 30 (as in “Never trust anyone over 30.”), my classmates and I are heading for 60 faster than any of us care to think about or discuss. We, who used to so disdain our elders, are the old ones being disdained by the youth now. When in the heck did that happen?!?!?!? (One of my coworkers, who is our daughter’s age, when told of this revelation declared emphatically, “You’re not old!” Thanks, Rachael!)

In considering this revelation, only one conclusion came to my mind. I knew it, but in the rush and bustle of day to day living, I forgot. It’s an ancient truth, first penned by King David of Israel, when he said in,

Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Our days are numbered. Our time is limited. As young people, we deny it in the invincibility that too often is youth. We continue to do so until life forces its truth upon us, often in painful and harsh ways. That happened for me when the first of my school friends died when we were in college, a victim of a tragic accident on icy roads.

We are finite. We don’t have forever to work with, to see our dreams come true. Despite the motivational saying and the song from the hit musical Annie, there isn’t always a tomorrow. We eventually run out of them. We cannot count on them always being there.

So, what are we going to do with the today we’re given? Old or young, rich or poor, we all have to face that question. Best selling author of  7 books, TEAM LIFE founder and award-winning blogger Chris Brady visits this thought with his favorite quote,

“Our greatest fear shouldn’t be that we won’t succeed, but rather, that we’ll succeed at something that doesn’t matter!” (attributed to D. L. Moody)

These things that matter are of lasting value. Yes, we build fortunes and businesses to will to our heirs. But this is still temporal, since they could squander it, if we do not also teach them financial wisdom. We also teach our children and grandchildren the values and morals we hold most dear. And we work to see a faith life grow into them, to keep them in hard times and give them an eternal perspective.

Let’s do as King David asked God to teach us, and number our days rightly. And then, let’s use them for things in our life that matter. If we look at life that way, and work with forever in mind, then getting older gets to be not so bad, after all.

The Politics Of “The Greater Good”

English: NASA astronaut image of Diego Garcia ...

Diego Garcia

In 1965, the British government purchased the Chagos Archipelago, including the island of Diego Garcia, from its owners, their self-governing colony of Mauritius.  In 1966, the U.S. and British governments concluded a treaty allowing the U.S. military to have rights to the area for the next 50 years, with a 20 year option.  In 1971, the indigenous populations were evicted, in the name of U.S. military interests in the region.  History books say it was done for the greater good.  The indigenous people disagree, and continue to fight their expulsion in World Court.

The "Baker" explosion, part of Opera...

Bikini Atoll is part of the Marshall Islands.  The indigenous population was removed in late 1945, so in June of 1946, the U.S. government could begin atomic weapons testing there.  The islands continued to be used for this purpose until 1958.  In 1964, the U.S. government tried to bring back the people, but had to remove them again, because of unsafely high radiation levels in their bodies.  History books say the use of Bikini Atoll was done for the greater good.

These are two examples in the history of governments doing things against their basic tenets, all in the interests of what those in power rationalize as being in the greater good.  But at what point do we leave the good, making what we are contemplating wrong?  Is it only through the eyes of history that we see the compromises and slippery slopes that lead from bad decisions into worse consequences?

It happens in economics.  It seems right to many for the government to take care of the poor and elderly.  Someone has to do it.  But a look at U.S. history shows it wasn’t the government who did it before the Civil War.  It was families, churches and charities.  No one had to tell them to

Benefit Security Card .. HALF of the U.S live ...

Benefit Security Card

do it.  They did it from love and a spirit of generosity and compassion.

But when it became sponsored by the government during the Great Depression because private institutions were overwhelmed by the size of the need, compassion became pity.  Pity is a sad way to run charity.  It forces from the giver and expects no gratitude from the recipient.  It leaves no room for individuality of need or giving.  It does not encourage leaving the system.  It wipes out the humanity of the process.  It is something we are told being done for the greater good that harms the very people it intends to help, and the population.

The TARP bailouts by the U.S. government between 2008 and 2010 are another example.  This looked like a good idea to save American businesses and thus jobs that were declining and threatening to fail in the post-2008 crash.  However, there was no oversight in the funds, and some companies that were rescued still failed.  Others wasted the money on luxuries for their corporate leaders.  The government spent money it didn’t have on something it didn’t belong doing, mortgaging the future of our grandchildren on the debacle.  Another project done for the greater good failed because of short-sighted thinking and a lack of accountability.

Cover of "Star Trek: Insurrection"

Cover of Star Trek: Insurrection

In the movie “Star Trek: Insurrection,” there is a moving scene in which the Captain confronts his superiors, who want to move a small population away from their home, a move that will kill the people.  It would benefit the civilization the leaders represent.  The move is against everything they stand for as a culture.  As they rationalize to him, the Captain says, “How many are enough, sir?  300?  500?  1000?  1,000,000?”  His superiors stop him before he can go father, but we can get his point.

When a politician stands up and says they is going to fix something by throwing money at it or do something “in the interests of the greater good,” I pay closer attention.  Because the money that politician is about to spend isn’t theirs; it’s mine and yours.  The thing they may want to do may look good in the short-term, but could have unseen long-term consequences no one wants to visit on future generations.  The good the politician is promoting may or may not be my good, or your good.  It could be the good of someone else, and a “good” that causes a harm to you or me in some way.   This harm would at least be to take away some of my freedoms if it taxed my money to do it.  I don’t know anyone who likes more taxes, no matter the cause.

Portrait of William Pitt the Younger as Prime ...

Portrait of William Pitt the Younger as Prime Minister of Great Britain

Just because politicians say it’s “good,” doesn’t mean it’s always good.  Political office doesn’t convey godlike powers.  It never has and never will.  We have to look closer, at long-term and big picture consequences, particularly as we endure this season of U.S. presidential rhetoric and electioneering politics at every level.  In December of 1783, William Pitt the Younger told the British Parlaiment,

 “Necessity was the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It was the argument of tyrants; it was the creed of slaves.”

It has been said the good of the many outweighs the good of the few, or the one.  When it comes to governmental choices, however, the good of the one is the only choice promoting freedom we have available.  

(My great thanks to mentor David Phillips and husband Bob.  A conversation with them on a June afternoon prompted this post, formerly called ‘Diego Garcia, Bikini Atoll And The Politics Of “The Greater Good”‘.)

Taming The Money Monster – TEAM LIFE Leader Tells All

Why do so many people have a hard time with managing money? 

Chris Brady

TEAM LIFE leader Chris Brady offers a unique perspective in the recent article Money View.

“World View” is a term recently popularized by philosophers and media pundits who debate spiritual and political matters.  It refers to the lens through which people see (and therefore interpret) the world around them.  All information and observations must pass through this lens and be colored by one’s World View.

Similarly, there is another “View” I would like to propose for consideration, and I’m calling this the “Money View.”  In my nearly two decades of dealing with people and their finances I have slowly awakened to the fact that how people are doing financially is often a direct result of their “Money View.” Just as with World Views, there are several very different Money Views, each with its own ramifications. These include, but are probably not limited to, the following:

1.  Money as a Mystery – in which people seem to have no clue how money is made (or retained) and therefore think that others who are successful financially are somehow “lucky”

2. Money as a Master– in which one’s entire life is lived out

Money

in bondage to the need for more money, or at least the drudgery of scraping by. This is often accompanied by terms such as, “I have to go to work,” or “Another day, another dollar.”

3. Money as a Monster – this is the condition whereby financial pressures become so large they dominate a person’s thoughts and affect him emotionally. Often at this stage relationships are damaged and health is compromised.

4. Money as a Major – in which a person applies most of his focus and fascination on how to acquire more. In this situation money is an idol.

5. Money as a Motivator – this is the condition whereby money is used to push one to higher achievement and greater contribution. This can be for both selfish or selfless reasons. Beware.

6. Money as a Manipulator – whereby a person uses his or her money to get what he or she wants out of other people. It is here where phrases such as “Money is Power” apply.

With a little help from my friends...

7. Money as a Minimizer – the condition in which the presence of money diminishes one’s ambition. This is where complacency and mediocrity reside.

8. Money as a Maximizer – where one is driven to utilize his or her money to make a greater contribution and maximize his or her potential. This is usually much more selfless and altruistic than #5 above.

9. Money as a Monument – where money is used as a status symbol, to build a reputation, or as an attempt to establish an immortal family legacy.

10. Money as a Menace – wherein the money one has is a destructive force in one’s life, either by feeding addictions or by causing fights or by dominating one’s time and energy with the care and maintenance required to sustain it.

Svenska: Forex's lilla kasse som man kan förva...

In considering this list, it may be helpful to ask yourself some questions, such as:

1. Which “Money View” best represents where you are right now?

2. Which of these “Money Views” have you encountered previoulsy in your life?

3. Notice that several of these “Money Views” are quite negative. What are you doing to make sure you are living under a positive and productive one? Which one would you choose?

4. What are you doing to grow in your financial understanding and education?

In each of the above views we see that money is always used as a Means. The key question in money matters is therefore, “As a means for what?” This is why the Bible again and again treats money as a heart issue. Money in itself is not evil, but the heart is desperately wicked, who can know it? Money becomes a dangerous or productive tool, depending upon the heart that wields it.

Make sure you choose your “Money View” deliberately and intentionally, don’t simply let it choose you. Pursue some financial education to enable you to be in charge of money instead of it being in charge of you. And guard your heart when it comes to money, in plenty or in want.

That’s my view.