What Makes This Country So Great?

We observed Independence Day this past weekend and it’s  always been a great celebration of our country – our history, our accomplishments, and our freedoms for that matter.  It’s especially significant as we see the news headlines about the citizens of Cuba protesting against their communist regime and draping themselves in American flags as a symbol of the freedoms that they desire for their homeland.

There are two simple questions I enjoy pondering that tend to provide clarity and conviction about how fortunate we are to live in the United States:

First, if you could be alive at any time in history (including now of course) – what year would you most like to have been born?  And second, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?  Take a few minutes to consider your own answers…

For me, there is nowhere I’d rather live than in the U.S.A. and there’s no other time in history that I’d prefer to be alive than right now.  Regardless of where you land with your answers, I’m convinced that it’s a healthy mental exercise because without pondering the question, we’re all likely to take for granted things that seem ‘normal’ to us.  But is our ‘normal’ really normal to other countries and cultures around the world today?

Here are some of the attributes of our great country that I most appreciate when I take the time and energy to ponder them:

  • The freedoms we enjoy – freedom to worship, freedom to marry someone we choose (even that’s not a given elsewhere), freedom to choose our education, freedom to choose the professional career we prefer.
  • The technology that is available – including our ‘smart’ cars, our ‘smart’ phones, our ‘smart’ home appliances, and even our ‘smart’ TV’s.
  • Our safety and security – although there are some exceptions, the vast majority of our country is safe to walk, ride bikes, and/or drive through with no little risk to our safety and security
  • The ability to travel freely – consider for a minute how simple it is for any of us to fly or drive to any other part of this country without a passport, without a check point and without anyone else even knowing, if that’s how we choose to travel
  • The beauty – although I’ve only seen a small fraction of the countries on planet Earth, I am hard pressed to believe that there is a country that has more beauty, diversity, and evidence of God’s glory on display for all of us to enjoy.
  • Our people – all colors, all shapes, all sizes and all unique attributes – I would put the spirit of our U.S citizens against any other country in the world and we’d compare favorably!
  • Even our government – which has been sustained for 250 years and whose only apparent threat today is a handful of politicians on both sides of the political spectrum who lost sight of the original intent of being governed by and for the citizens of this country – not by career politicians

What about you?  What did I miss on this list?  After you consider your list of why you appreciate this country, does it make you re-think the questions I posed at the start of this blog????

I always value your comments and input!

Posted in Faith, Inspirational | Leave a comment

Sam Berns’ 3 Rules of a Happy Life

Sometimes it’s just nice to consume an inspiring story of a young man without any controversy or tension.

Let me introduce you to the story of Sam Berns who delivered a Ted Talk a few years back that has been viewed by more than 50 million people because his message was so simple and so inspiring.

Sam was born with a genetic disorder called Progeria which causes those with the disease to age far more quickly than the rest of us.  Sam died 7 years ago at the age of 17 but his gift to the world continues on…

He delivered a talk entitled: 3 Rules for a Happier Life.  His message was not sophisticated but was definitely compelling:

  • Don’t worry about what you can’t do because there are so many things you can do
  • Surround yourself with people you want to be around
  • And, keep moving forward (I like to call that – “do the next right thing”)

You can watch Sam’s presentation first-hand at this link:

3 Simple Rules For A Happier Life | An Emotional Speech With Sam Berns – YouTube

And here’s a profile ABC news did on Sam that will give you a sense for he and his family (his mother, BTW, has been part of a team that is working hard to identify the gene and therefore potential therapies to treat Progeria):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fekab9Pu2us

I don’t know what else you are obligated to accomplish today or even this week but do yourself a favor and spend 10 minutes with Sam Berns.  Sam couldn’t afford to get caught up in the life-long pursuits we all fall victim to – accomplishing more, earning titles, and chasing the dream.  He didn’t have that luxury.

Maybe we could all learn some life lessons from a 17-year-old who knew his life would be shorter than most – but who committed himself to living happily.

I always appreciate your comments…

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Will College Enrollment Continue to Drop?

Those of you who follow this blog know I’ve been fairly critical of the U.S. higher education system.  It’s broken today and is ripe for changes, mostly because:

  • The tuition costs have risen far beyond the value they deliver – driven in large part by a student loan system devised by the government to encourage students to take on huge amounts of personal debt to fund a college degree.  These are often degrees that aren’t specialized enough to allow them to make a reasonable income post-college.
  • Parents are frustrated because they have invested 18 years of their lives to instill values in their children and are increasingly finding these values are unwound in 4 years at college by “woke” professors and administrators.
  • Many corporations (including Google, Apple, and IBM to name three notable examples) have now determined that a college degree is not necessary to join their teams with countless more companies to follow in the coming years.
  • And last but not least, Covid has made all of us re-evaluate almost everything – from where we work and commute, to how we consume entertainment to whether our children should really go to college in order to thrive (or even survive) in the world.

These factors all conspire to challenge our previous assumptions about college being necessary to ‘get ahead.’  I found an article at Politico that chronicles the downward trend in college enrollment and they explain in more detail how significant this slide has been (and I’ll predict it will continue to get worse).  Here’s an excerpt:

This trend isn’t solely because of Covid. It’s the first edgeof a demographic cliff coming in 2025 and 2026 when the country will have fewer high school students, Pérez said. The decline arrived early this year because high levels of unemployment and underemployment pulled a lot of families out of the collegepipeline. “We’re worried – what will that look like this September?” he said. “And will the students ever come back?”

You can read the entire article here: Politico article – enrollment is down and dropping

All of this begs the question – “so what?”  Is this a scary trend from your perspective?  It isn’t from mine because the university system is failing our children.  Conventional wisdom used to be that you’d be wise to save $200,000 for your child’s college education in order for them to land a good job with a reputable organization and therefore have a bright future.    

That mindset is becoming far less conventional in today’s world and parents would be wise to re-evaluate their assumptions (and their finances) accordingly. 

So, what’s the solution and how does all of this apply to you and I (and especially our children and grandchildren)?  Here’s a few recommendations and I’m confident that many of you have additional ideas:

  • Don’t assume a traditional 4-year college is the answer for everyone – or even for the majority of our children.  Our world is changing rapidly and the tools, skills, and training required to thrive in a career are changing as well.
  • Look at specialized educational options/programs.  Some are offered by trade/technical schools that include training in technology, healthcare, accounting/finance industries, among others.
  • Don’t forget about the fast-emerging ‘gig’ economy and the endless entrepreneurial opportunities these represent.  The barriers to entry are very low to source and distribute products via the internet with very little capital and almost no infrastructure.  And there are a myriad of products, services, and other creative ways to make a living in today’s world – mostly because we can reach people (digitally) so much easier than ever before. 

It’s a whole new world today for our children and just like so many other assumptions are being re-assessed, it’s time for all of us to re-evaluate the prudence of sending our children to college and trusting that it will be money (and time) well spent. 

I always welcome your thoughts…

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Peter’s New Kindle Book: 3 Truths and 7 Mindsets

If you follow this blog you know that I’ve been “heads down” for this past year writing a book on healthy mindsets that give any of us the best opportunity to experience Jesus’ abundant life.

The book is entitled: 3 Truths & 7 Mindsets: Changing the way we think to experience Jesus’ promise of ‘abundant’ peace, joy, and purpose. Kindle Version link

Here’s the essence of my aim:

Each one of us desires to experience a deep, sustained sense of joy, peace, and purpose.  It’s how God designed us.  In reality though, these are elusive to most people, even those who are faith-filled and otherwise successful. 

Why do these attributes escape our grasp?  Is it because life is hard and not particularly fair?  Or because we have unrealistic expectations that often lead to disappointment?  Or regrets about our past and nagging worries about the future?  Or perhaps it’s that we don’t really trust God and His sovereignty? 

This book provides a simple, powerful set of principles to equip you to experience a deep and pervasive sense of joy, peace, and purpose regardless of your circumstances, your talents, your bank account, or even your achievements.  Your ability to experience them is less about what you know and far more about what you believe (our truths) and how you think (our mindsets).  

This is the journey I’ve been on for nearly two decades now – transitioning from the workaholic, Type “A” person who was intent to solve all of my problems by working hard and accomplishing everything I set out to do…to a Jesus-follower who embraces a small, healthier and more liberating set of truths and mindsets that are life-giving. 

Jesus’ invitation and promise is irresistible, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28).

I’d like to invite you on the journey with me…

I’ve had a few trusted friends read the book and there is one principle that seems to resonate with people more powerfully than I would have predicted: “do the next right thing.”  At the risk that this musing is a bit longer than normal, I thought I’d share this excerpt in case it is helpful and it comes from a Chapter entitled, God’s in control…of the outcomes:

Let go…

My default mode for too many years had been to take control of any situation and to ‘make things happen’ in life.  Dependence on most anything was uncomfortable.  As I’m learning to embrace (and love) this mindset and become far-less ‘driven,’ my dependence on God and His Spirit working in and through me also becomes more attainable.  

I can hear your objections from where I’m writing: It’s easy to say, “let go and let God” but it’s close to impossible for most of us to put this pithy principle into practice.  How does a human, even a Jesus-follower, who is taught from an early age to be independent and self-reliant in life genuinely take his or her hands off the steering wheel of life and let God ‘take the wheel’?  It’s just not our natural inclination!

And yet, when we get this right, it’s amazingly liberating because we aren’t just relying on our own strength to accomplish whatever we set out to do in life.  Instead, we’re plugging-in to where God is working and trusting him to equip us to help accomplish His purposes.  Paul’s words in Philippians are encouraging and reinforce the notion: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).

Best-selling author Sarah Young, in her devotional, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence echoes this encouragement to the reader from Jesus’ perspective: 

Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out. Think of your life as an adventure, with Me as your Guide and Companion. Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me.

When our path leads to a cliff, be willing to climb it with My help. When we come to a resting place, take time to be refreshed in My Presence. Enjoy the rhythm of life lived close to Me. You already know the ultimate destination of your journey: your entrance into heaven. So keep your focus on the path just before you, leaving outcomes up to Me.

Try loosening the grip of your hands and invite Jesus to live in and through you.  Once you’ve chosen to embrace the three core Truths outlined in the previous section, you’ll have the confidence and assurance that God can be trusted with the outcomes.

Do the next, right thing

In case you misinterpreted this first mindset to say, “I don’t really have to do anything – just give it all to God” – that’s not the message!  We still have to be diligent and responsible.  We’re still on a journey of learning, discovering, and growing so that we’re well-equipped to be used by God at work, at home, in church, and in our communities.  But we can pursue all of these things with a genuine sense of peace that God can be trusted with the outcomes in our pursuits and in our lives.

And yes, there are times in our lives when we get overwhelmed.  We may have more priorities than we can possibly manage; a serious illness that prevents us from doing our work effectively; a semester of difficult courses in college that are challenging and seemingly beyond our capabilities; or perhaps even the pressure of a struggling business or a lingering job search as our bank account dwindles to dangerously low balances.

When there are more alligators in the pond-of-life than you can possibly manage – don’t endeavor to accomplish everything at once.  This strategy tends to paralyze even the most capable people. 

Instead, there’s a simple, game-changing principle that’s effective amidst overwhelming circumstances: just do the next, right thing!  You may be tempted to ruminate on your regrets about how you got into this situation, but you can’t change the past.  You also can’t influence the future much at all, even if you endlessly fret about it.  Consider one question that most matters: what’s the next, right thing I can do to make progress today?  And then pause long enough to invite God to give you clarity in identifying your priorities and next steps.

Eventually, as you make progress, you’ll pause long enough to poke your head up and realize just how far you’ve come and how many things you have accomplished – by simply doing the next, right thing.  And very often, the best way we can see our progress in the face of difficult circumstances is by looking backwards at where we have come from instead of being daunted by the enormity of what lies ahead.  Keep things simple – focus on doing the next right thing and learn to trust God with the rest. 

When we get this right… 

We wake up each morning, put our feet (or knees) on the floor and humbly pray, “Lord, I don’t know entirely what lies ahead, but I trust you with this day.  I’m trusting and grateful that today’s activities – my appointments and even the people I meet – are in your care.  I’ll choose to trust that good will come from whatever may transpire and I pray more than anything, that Your will be done.  Help me to see the world as you see it – to celebrate what you celebrate and grieve what breaks your heart.  And finally, Lord, I pray that you’ll equip me to be a prayerful and peace-filled observer of what you orchestrate and that I have the privilege of witnessing.  I will rest well embracing the knowledge that you are sovereign and I am not, thankfully!”

If you do decide to download the Kindle version of the book I’d appreciate you taking an extra minute to rate the book (honestly).  Thanks for taking the time to read this excerpt and I always value your feedback and thoughts!

Posted in Faith, Inspirational, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One Lifetime Earlier…

Devonie and I were on flying back from California recently and I watched yet another well-crafted Tom Hanks movie called News of the World.  The movie is set in the 1880’s and chronicles the story of a civil war veteran who must return a young girl who was taken in by the Kiowa Indians and raised as one of them, to her last remaining family. She had lost both her birth and Kiowa families.

One fascinating part of watching the film was realizing how starkly different the world was a mere 140 years ago.  People traveled on horses and buggies, there were no modern conveniences, and most communication was word-of-mouth.  In fact, Hanks’ character made his living travelling from town-to-town to literally read the news to the town residents.  They would pay a nickel to be present for the reading from recent newspaper editions from nearby cities. 

It almost seemed like it chronicled the dark ages of history compared to today’s conveniences.  But it’s really not that long ago at all – which started a thought experiment in my way-too-busy mind. 

I’m guessing that we all have a tendency to think that today’s modern conveniences (air and ground transportation, smart phones, microwave ovens, hot water heaters, etc.) have been around “forever.”  Perhaps that’s why we often take them for granted and don’t appreciate them nearly as much as we should.

But let’s play this out – how different would your existence be if you were born one lifetime earlier?  Here’s what I mean – I was born in 1959 and I’m 62 years old.  What if we assume I was born 62 years earlier than I was – say…1897.  Now, consider how different my life would be if that were true.

I found a website (https://www.thoughtco.com/20th-century-timelines-1779957 ) that provides a very brief summary of major events, by decade, in the 1900’s, and it’s fascinating to realize that for me – if I were born “one lifetime earlier” (in 1897):

  • Henry Ford’s car hadn’t been invented – so I’d have to travel by horse, or bicycle, or just walking for that matter.
  • There were certainly no airplanes – the first Wright brothers flight wasn’t until 1903 and many years before commercial use of aircrafts.
  • Homes didn’t have electricity – which means you also didn’t even have basic conveniences like a hot shower, an oven, or a refrigerator.
  • The silent movies weren’t even invented by this time (much less Netflix!)

So, what was life like one lifetime before I was actually born?  I can guess that it was less complex, included far more physical labor, had fewer distractions (like social media), and a considerably shorter expected life span (it was 47 years old for the average man born in 1900!).

Here’s the bottom line of this crazy, thought-provoking exercise: the next time you’re distraught that your phone won’t turn on (the phone that is really more like a supercomputer from 40 years ago) – be grateful.  The next time you’re frustrated that your 600 MPH, transcontinental flight is departing 30 minutes later than planned – be grateful.  And the next time you lay down to sleep on your posture-pedic bed complete with down feather pillows to watch your latest Netflix show as you doze off to sleep (with your sleep timer of course) – be grateful.  Need I go on?

I’m grateful to live in the best possible time in the history of humans – in spite of the turmoil we may perceive by reading or listening to our daily news and social media feeds!

I always welcome your thoughts

Posted in Faith, Inspirational, Social issues | 4 Comments

The Danger of the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ in Marriage

The more time I spend studying the topic of marriage and walking with men in the workshops I’ve had the privilege of hosting for the past 8 years, the more I’m convinced that there are a common set of attitudes, mindsets and challenges that plague most marriages.  Here are a few examples and then I’ll further explain the last one – which may be among the biggest contributors to marital strife. 

Attitudes that plague marriages:

  • “I deserve to be happy” – this one is mostly motivated by a self-orientation (or selfishness if you want to be more brutally honest) that contends that my self-interest is paramount in life.
  • “If you knew my spouse…you’d understand why we struggle” – which is the common view that my marriage challenges are mostly resulting from the deficiency of the person I’ve married.  Another variation on this theme: “I think I may have married the wrong person.” In reality, I’d argue that we all marry the wrong person – if “wrong” is defined as joining two sin-prone, self-oriented people who are, by definition, going to have tension and conflict in their marriage.
  • “Our marriage at least needs to be ‘fair’!”  This is the one I’ve come to label – ‘The Fairness Doctrine’.  And when both spouses embrace this doctrine, it may be the single, biggest impediment to God’s design for an abundant marriage. 

The Fairness Doctrine explored:

Why is this concept of ‘fairness’ so prevalent?  Because most of us have embraced the notion, since early childhood, that we are entitled to equity and fairness in life.  Maybe we learned it as a toddler; perhaps it became expected in our school years; it may have become ingrained in our psyche when we started working and became convinced that we ‘deserve’ to get equitable raises, promotions, and opportunities in the workplace. 

And yet, in Jesus’ upside-down worldview  – the concept of fairness is entirely rejected.  Consider the parable of the workers in the Vineyard in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus talks about the workers who were hired as laborers who spent vastly different hours in the field and were paid the same amount. 

And another when Jesus told the story of the women bringing her meager gift offering to the altar – particularly when compared to what other, more wealthy people had given.   Here are His words: “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  (Luke 21:3-4)

And perhaps the most indicting example – that totally destroys the entitlement mentality of the Fairness Doctrine – are Jesus’ final words in Matthew 20:16: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Here’s the point and the promise – God designed marriage to be completely counter-intuitive in today’s culture.  In order for a husband and wife to personify the gospel and glorify Him, we’re called to tear up the Fairness Doctrine entirely.  How does that translate to day-to-day behaviors and attitudes?

  • The next time your spouse doesn’t do his/her fair share of chores – it shouldn’t matter to us the way it often does.  Instead, count it as pure joy.
  • When you don’t get to play golf on a sunny, warm Saturday morning after your spouse had an opportunity to play tennis last week – not only is it ok – it’s actually a great blessing for your spouse that can give you great satisfaction.
  • Or, when your spouse never says “I’m sorry” (and you  do), it’s ok.  In fact, it’s better than ok – because you don’t even have an expectation that you’re entitled to an apology.

A major source of marital dissatisfaction actually derives from clinging to the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ because when you expect ‘fair’ (which you can’t objectively judge BTW because we all have a tainted view of what’s ‘fair’ based on our own, personal definition) you are bound to be disappointed because your expectations are unlikely to be met.  Instead, Jesus calls us to die to our self-interest.  The Fairness Doctrine tugs us to expect the opposite – “my interests are at least equal (or greater than) the interest of others.”

Here’s the bottom line – and a game changer in your marriage and in your mindset: tear up, destroy, or burn the fairness doctrine that resides in your mindset.  That mindset is mostly filled with a self-orientation that won’t serve you well and certainly won’t serve your spouse well.  When you get serious about throwing the Fairness Doctrine away, with no contingencies, your spouse will most-often respond in a profound and selfless way!

I always welcome your thoughts and praying for you and your marriage!

P.S. – here’s the website for the marriage workshops for men in case you’re in the north-Atlanta area and have an interest in registering: www.menyourmarriagematters.com

Posted in Faith, Family and marriage, Inspirational | 1 Comment

Your Happiness May Depend on Your Friendships

Have you ever given yourself a “friendship checkup”?  In a recent article in The Atlantic, Arthur Brooks, Harvard Professor and self-professed happiness expert made this suggestion because his contention is that our happiness is directly correlated to our friendships.  I’ve pasted a couple of excerpts below and here’s the link in case you’d prefer to read the entire article How to Make Your Friendships Deeper – The Atlantic

Decades of research have shown that it is almost impossible to be happy without friends. Friendship accounts for almost 60 percent of the difference in happiness between individuals, no matter how introverted or extroverted they are. Many studies have shown that one of the great markers for well-being at midlife and beyond is whether you can rattle off the names of a few close friends. You don’t need to have dozens of friends to be happy, and, in fact, people tend to get more selective about their friends as they age. But the number needs to be more than zero, and more than just your spouse or partner.

Brooks goes on to explain that most of the friends we have are what he calls “deal friends.”  In fact, the average adult has roughly 16 people they would classify as friends, according to one 2019 poll of 2,000 Americans. Of these, about three are “friends for life,” and five are people they really like. The other eight are not people they would hang out with one-on-one.

If this data makes you self-reflective about the friendships in your life – then mission accomplished.  It made me ponder the same and it’s likely healthy that it does so.  In fact, Brooks goes on to makes two key recommendations for all of us related to friends.  See if these align with your perspective:

  1. Give Yourself a Friendship Checkup

Ask yourself how many people know you really well—who would notice when you are slightly off and say, “Are you feeling okay today?” If you answer “no one,” know that you aren’t alone. In 2018, an Ipsos poll conducted for the health provider Cigna found that 54 percent of Americans surveyed said they “always” or “sometimes” felt like no one knew them well.

For another test of real friendships, try listing a few people, not including your spouse, with whom you are comfortable discussing personal details. If you struggle to name even two or three, that’s a dead giveaway. But even if you can, be honest: When was the last time you actually had that kind of conversation? If it has been more than a month, you might be kidding yourself about how close you really are.

2. Go Deep or Go Home

Cultivating real friendships can be tricky for people who haven’t tried for many years—maybe since childhood. Research shows that it is often harder for men than for women. Women generally have larger, denser, and more supportive friend networks than men. Furthermore, women generally base their friendships on social and emotional support, whereas men are more likely to base friendships on shared activities, including work.

In our go-go world, where professional success is valorized above all else and workism has become like a religion to many, it can be easy to surround ourselves with deal friends. In so doing, we can lose sight of the most basic of human needs: to know others deeply and to be deeply known by them. Christians and followers of other faiths place this deep knowing at the heart of their relationship with God, and it is central to achieving change in psychotherapy.

One of the great paradoxes of love is that our most transcendental need is for people who, in a worldly sense, we do not need at all. If you are lucky, and work toward deepening your relationships, you’ll soon find that you have a real friend or two to whom you can pay the highest compliment: “I don’t need you—I simply love you.”

(End Excerpt)

If you’re brave enough – take a personal inventory of your friendships.  Are you over-investing in “deal” friendships and under-invested in the relationships that most matter?  Your happiness may depend on the answer and on your commitment to change the answer!  I always welcome your thoughts and comments…

Posted in Inspirational, Social issues, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can God Be All Powerful…And Good In This Broken World?

There are a bunch of paradoxical questions that most of us struggle with as we attempt to rationalize and reconcile the world we occupy today.  Here are some examples that I sense are common:

  • Why do bad things happen to good people?  (Although you may ask more frequently: “Why do good things happen to bad people?”)
  • If God already knows what’s going to happen in the future, do we really have free will?
  • How can I truly reconcile the goodness of God with all of the evil and turmoil that exists in the world He created? 
  • If God is all powerful and sovereign, how can he allow bad things to happen in our world – like natural disasters, premature death, and even worldwide pandemics?

You’ll likely think of many more questions of your own but I worry that without a healthy, informed perspective on the answers to these questions, our faith in God will be stunted.  Each of us must reconcile our belief about God and His role and involvement in our broken world and it’s the challenging hardships of times like this that force us to struggle with these transcendent questions.    

These are challenging, thought-provoking issues and yet there are few issues and questions that matter more than these to the average human – particularly those who are seeking answers about our faith and the goodness of God. 

For those of you who love the struggle with these issues, I’ve attached a link here:  (Sermon by Tim Mackie (The Bible Project)) from a young Pastor named Tim Mackie.  Mackie is one of the co-founders of The Bible Project that provides short, powerfully-animated videos that help all of us to better understand and explore topics related to the Jesus and the Bible.  These videos are amazing and incredibly useful.

My daughter introduced me to Mackie a few years back when he was pastoring in Portland, Oregon.  In this talk he does a great job of exploring the tension between the sovereignty of God and His goodness.  I’d encourage you to set aside 40 minutes sometime in the next few days to sit quietly and watch him deliver this all-important message that is so relevant anytime, but especially as we leave this recent Easter season.

What about you: what do you believe about God?  Is He all-powerful AND good?  Is He good but not all-powerful?  Is he both and the struggle we’re left with is to reconcile the notion of our personal freedom and free will?  I think Mackie gets the balance right…

If these topics are useful in your own search for truth, take advantage of the resources available to all of us and “google” Tim Mackie sermons – you’ll find countless messages on an endless number of topics.  It doesn’t mean you’ll agree with everything he says (or any pastor for that matter) but it’s precisely this wrestling match with the truth that we’re designed by God to explore.  There is literally nothing more important in life if God is who He says He is. 

I always welcome your thoughts and comments – or better resources for that matter – because I’m on a quest to learn and discover as well!  In the meantime – hoping you’ve had a blessed Easter season!

Posted in Faith, Inspirational, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Family is the Whole Story!

I found this article from the Institute for Family Studies Family is the whole story – article with the headline, “The Family is the Whole Story.” The topic is intriguing since I spend a fair amount of time trying to understand today’s culture and trends related to marriage and families.  

Dr. James Heckman, a University of Chicago economist and oft-cited expert on government-related child care policies, was interviewed by Katharine B. Stevens in a visit that was hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.  The essence of Stevens’ article was that Heckman is less concerned about the need for public programs for under-privileged children and for more concern for the health and stability of the family unit.  Whatever the program or system, he said many times over, “the whole activity has to engage the family.” 

“Nobody wants to talk about the family, and the family’s the whole story,” he told Stevens during the event. “And it’s the whole story about a lot of social and economic issues.”  Here’s a brief excerpt from Stevens’ article:

As someone who has examined early learning and child care policies for over a decade, Dr. Heckman’s remarks come both as shock and encouragement. Heckman is unequivocal about the power of the home and how it is undervalued and under-studied both in research and public policy. He champions the importance of mothers, who he acknowledges are generally still the ones taking primary responsibility for babies and toddlers even in our gender-neutral age. To me, it’s a vindication from one of the most cited men on the planet regarding early learning and child care. 

“We do want to harvest the powerful force of love and attachment to the child. That is such a powerful force,” he said, adding later, “I wish the family would get back into more of the center of our lives.” 

Parents will always matter more than any program or professional in a child’s life. It doesn’t hurt to have an esteemed Nobel prize winner and early child care expert say so. Now, the difficult challenge is for public policy makers on both sides of the ideological aisle to embrace the Heckman vision in its fullness. 

I agree with Dr. Heckman that throwing more and more government money towards programs designed to address poverty, income inequality, and countless other social programs have not been proven to substantially improve these targeted objectives. 

The fundamental “root cause” of these problems and disparities is far-more connected to the demise of marriage and the nuclear family unit.  The lower the percentage of our population that get married and have intact families, the higher the income disparity.  And the degradation of family and marriage has been on a slippery, downward slope for 50 years.  It has been mostly accelerated by the advent of no-fault divorce and government-created welfare programs that provided disincentives to marry (and work for that matter) while paying more to program recipients for having additional children, whether married or not.  If it sounds like a backwards strategy…you’re right.

Researchers that study work and families consistently conclude that the most likely path to thriving, both financially and socially, starts with three steps: get an education, begin your career, and then marry and have children.  These initial steps, not government-funded programs or welfare, appear to give a young adult the best opportunity to get ahead and become self-reliant.    

Our elected officials, at all levels of government, should focus their time, attention, and our tax dollars on encouraging marriage, family formation and stability.  Perhaps these principles could be part of our education curriculum?  Or we could devise marriage and family-friendly tax incentives?  Or, (and this is a long shot!) our social networking, media and entertainment outlets could begin to shine a positive light and image on the benefits of intact marriages and families vs. today’s environment that makes these look like the exception, not the rule in our society?

None of us, individually, is capable of moving the needle much on this notion but collectively, I’m convinced that the majority of the American public is very much in alignment with the importance of marriage and family in a thriving society and culture.  I pray that we can influence our elected officials and the influencers in our media and entertainment worlds to share a more balanced menu of family and marriage portrayal…for the benefit of all!

I always welcome your thoughts and recommendations!

Posted in Family and marriage, Pop culture, Social issues, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

More School Choices are Coming…I Hope!

There are plenty of things that have drastically changed in the last year because of this crazy pandemic.  Some notable examples:  

  • Commuter traffic in Atlanta has been almost non-existent in most parts of Atlanta for 12 months
  • Airline traffic likely won’t return to pre-pandemic levels for a year or two
  • Grub hub and Door dash are so much more mainstream than I ever fathomed
  • Netflix has now taken a far more prominent role in our lives as we’ve all figured out that we can watch the programs we most like whenever we want to consume them – without those annoying 3 to 4 minute commercial breaks!

I’m sure you can think of many other examples but there’s one more trend that I expect to become considerably more obvious in the next few years and it’s about school choice.   I’m not just referring to K-12 schools – I mean educational choice all the way to the university level.  Why is change so needed and so likely?  Let me count the ways! 

Most parents (myself included, BTW) have largely turned a blind eye to deficiencies in the government-run public schools because they seemed “fine” and obviously a lot less expensive than the private school options.  In essence, ‘good enough’ is good enough!  I’m grateful to add that in our part of North Fulton County, GA., the K-12 schools have been exceptional and all three of our daughters were well-educated  and had great experiences at the same time.

But during this national pandemic, several things have become increasingly obvious as more parents were exposed to what is being taught, who is teaching their students, and the sense of urgency (or lack thereof) in getting children back into the ‘real’ classroom:

  • That virtual learning (i.e., Zoom) isn’t “somewhat” less valuable vs. in-classroom instruction – it is lightyears less valuable.
  • In too many cases there’s been a lack of interest on the part of the teacher’s unions, particularly in the larger metro areas, to go back to the classroom.  If you didn’t know better, you might think that the leaders of these unions are not genuinely interested in the welfare of our children and their intellectual and social development.
  • Most recently we’ve become more aware of the content (and even the tone) of some of the instruction that is designed to inculcate children in a way that may not agree with your family’s view of the truth – from critical race theory to the most recent conclusion that those Dr. Suess books we all grew up reading and admiring are actually harmful according to the “experts.”
  • And perhaps most importantly, that children need school – the ‘in-person’ version specifically.  They need it not only for the learning but for their relationships, their emotional health and for the good of their long-term growth and development.  Our children are not well-suited to being home all day and likely even less so are the parents of these children in many cases

The good news?  History has proven that necessity is the mother of invention and innovations.  I’ll predict that these trends and challenges have been duly noted by plenty of enterprising, well-capitalized people who will rapidly invent new, reasonably affordable educational options and models not long after this pandemic subsides.  These could include more hybrid home schooling offerings and/or more charter and specialized schools that are better tailored to the gifts and interests of the student. 

Even college-age students will likely see a combination of options.  More and more corporations are recognizing that they can teach young, capable students what they need to know to thrive and contribute in their environment and they will relax their requirements for a four-year college degree.   Google and Apple are two notable examples currently.  I’ll predict that there will be more investments made to create specialized educational ‘degrees’ that equip 20-year-olds to do web development, accounting, or even construction related trade jobs in the course of 1 or 2 years (instead of 4+ years) and at a fraction of the cost of today’s universities.

The opportunity is tremendous – for entrepreneurs, for parents, and for our children.  But it will require a substantial number of parents to embrace and choose the less convenient (no yellow school bus in the front of your house) and more difficult choices because cultural inertia and everyday distractions have led to the prevalence of the today’s government-run schools.    

This is a great example of how positive change can come from difficult challenges – including a pandemic.  Particularly if (or when) we end up with far better and more affordable educational options in this country for the benefit of our children’s futures. 

I always welcome your ideas and comments!

Posted in Family and marriage, Politics, Pop culture, Social issues, Uncategorized | 3 Comments