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Resolving the conflict between two different theories for how to teach a young child

Wednesday, 24. February 2016 by Renee Ellison

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Today’s topic: resolving the conflict between two different theories for how to teach a young child.

Two vastly different teaching theories are floating around in debates regarding how best to teach our young ones: (1) let the child wander around and discover life or (2) teach meticulously by drill.  Here is a resolution of these highly contrasting teaching theories; in this, we can all find common ground.  Once and for all, let’s nail this teaching dilemma.

Teaching a child a SKILL is vastly different from teaching a child an academic CONCEPT.  The confusion re: theories is cleared up by looking at the definitions first.

A skill:
A skill is the acquisition of a ready, artful, swift TOOL to do REPETITIVE tasks.  (Phonics can be labeled a skill, then, under this construct.)

A concept:
An academic CONCEPT is an introduction to, and growth in awareness of, the complexities of realities, systems, emotions, etc. that touch our humanness (i.e., growth in the study of science, history, government, social studies, literature, and all of the arts).

Views, like that espoused by Common Core (which is one more avenue toward the death of our nation) is that they wrongly view teaching the decoding SKILL of reading as an “academic” process (thus the mistaken idea that the way to get at the CORE of what is needed is to just teach that one topic of “reading” in the first year or two).  The problem with this view is that there is NO RELIEF from the “skill-drill” of beginning reading.  The child is nowhere furnished (at OTHER parts of the day) with answers to the spiritual and intellectual ongoing needs and appetites of a child (who was made in the immense and deep image of God) from the get-go.  These parts of a human being don’t WAIT to be developed only LATER!

Reading decoding (i.e. phonics) is a SKILL—to be taught just like piano, cello, tennis strokes, typing, dance steps, tailoring, electrical engineering, cooking, and mathematical times tables.  These are all acquired through highly repetitious EXPERIENCES of the same demand, all while under the hovering eyes of a meticulous tutor who is there to require the SAME step by step procedure (with a growing speed and accuracy) each and every time the student encounters that challenge.

Academic CONCEPTS, on the other hand, are taught by FEELING the consequences of a mini-session on capitalism vs. socialism for example, or by broad exposure to the trials and tribulations of a wide variety of world pioneers and explorers.  Concepts are taught by providing a WASH of ideas (to continually irrigate the intellect), from which we retrieve meaningful conclusions for ourselves.

Re-write your past points of personal pain

Wednesday, 10. February 2016 by Renee Ellison

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All of us have things that happen to us that were not pleasant memories, perhaps from grade school or Jr. High, or maybe even from our parents (oops, now we are parents—careful—ouch—we all get our day on stage—what is our children’s point of view re: our parenting?) or from clueless peers or thoughtless neighbors or pre-occupied relatives or stubborn cashiers, or overbearing, egocentric bosses, etc.  No one is immune from emotional pain; no one is privy to perfect relationships 24/7 for 90 + years!!!

So what do we do with those persnickety episodes that we reeled from, and perhaps still reel from?  Well, here is a private personal chess move that practically guarantees release from those vexing re-runs: re-write those episodes with some positive gain to yourself.

Realize that each of us has the potential to grow from negatives, as well as positives.  Negatives might even help us grow faster in acquiring discernment and wisdom.  That way, when you re-visit the pain it serves you rather than slays you.  You have total permission to re-write any episode in the cathedral of your own mind.  Ain’t nobody able to stop ya!  It is, in fact, soul-enriching to do such a thing.  Trust that God did and will use it (no matter what your “its” were/are) for your good.

Joseph in Egypt said to his brothers: “You meant it for evil, but God used it for good” (Genesis 50:20).  We can take it a step further, even regarding a clumsy person who didn’t mean us any harm or was oblivious to the hurt they were inflicting.  That, too, can be torqued for good.  Doing this exercise releases the other person to just be a person—not a perfect person—and fuels you to get past your past!  You can move ON, get over it, and say quietly to yourself, “Not My Problem” (or abbreviate that and say “NMP” as you wish).  You don’t have to just drive past the crash.  Driving through the crash at this point puts positive metal to your own pedal.

As for yourself and your own relational initiations?  Determine to look for ways to “inflict encouragement” upon your friends and enemies at every turn. Be head-spinningly positive.  Be a lifetime good lover with whomever, and see to it that you do so, wherever.  Be fleet-footed and free emotionally and you’ll spill blessings all over scores of “next guys” that you just happen to stumble upon—or stumble over!

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

The false promise of a mortgage

Tuesday, 02. February 2016 by Renee Ellison

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A mortgage is laced with a false promise.  It purports to be doing one thing when in reality it is doing quite another.  For the first decade or so, new homeowners come to realize slowly and gradually that their principal is hardly budging—despite their faithfulness month after month in paying what is required.  The bottom line?  The bank will get its money—by using yours.  It is rigged to do that.  Banks live on floating interest from one investment vehicle to another.  But what about you?

Look at it this way.  For a good long while, as a new homeowner who didn’t make much of a down payment, you will actually only be renting your house from the bank, with none of the freedoms normal renting allows.  All of the house maintenance and improvement expenses will be yours.  No one else will cover these costs for you.  The yearly taxes and insurance will be yours as well.  And you may find yourself trapped in immobility, if you should be offered a better job at more pay somewhere else, until you can sell the house.

In the end, when a “home owner” crunches the numbers on a 30 year fixed mortgage, he may be dismayed to discover that he has paid nearly double what his house originally sold for— because of this steady, relentless, compounded extraction of interest.  Debt is never the best scenario—no matter what golden package it is presented in by our culture.  The individual pays dearly for this false hope, and the country eventually collapses under it.

The American Dream based on these easily-acquired nothing-down “no collateral needed” mortgages has now turned into the American Nightmare, while a slew of investors became rich on derivatives—worthless mortgages re-packaged in bundles and re-sold.  But now the false lie crumbles down around us like a house of cards.  Now, as a country (and as individuals) we finally pay the piper.  T’aint purty.  Our economy is contracting by the day, and the stock market is staggering under the debt load.

So what is a young couple to do, who want to own their home?  The only way you can work down that principal on a mortgage is by paying two payments a month.  The first will satisfy the bank’s insatiable hungers; the second will apply directly to the principal.  Banks won’t let you get at that principal-reduction any other way.

But what is an even better way?  If the couple is willing to become “saving-money-maniacs” for a time, working hard, taking on one and a half to two-PLUS jobs each (i.e. working one of the weekend days, and working evenings for an hour or two) and living as frugally as is humanly possible (either in a rental, or in your folks’ driveway in an RV, or in the house that you are buying), not even buying such things as toothpaste or deodorant (make your own—you get the point) for four years, throwing $25,000 a year into savings from their combined earnings—at the end of those four years they can own a $100,000 house debt-free.  This saves the couple $80,000 that would have otherwise been wasted in interest via a full term mortgage.  Think of the vacations that could have been taken or the second house that could have been procured, that they could instead have re-invested in a second modest house that now earns them rental income for the remainder of their lives.

It is even better to begin this bull’s eye focus in your early teens, making every day count toward building this nest-egg of savings while still living for free in your folks’ home. 

Either way, it is best to earn the money before you even make the house purchase.  If, on the other hand, you were to follow the American Dream [Nightmare] and take on a mortgage to “buy” a $100,000 home before your four-year stint at “work-mania,” you must realize that you will waste something like four years of payments going only to interest.  It is a wash either way, whether you buy or rent.  You’ll lose the money both ways.  Moreover, if you take the buying route you will incur hidden additional costs for upkeep and improvements—diminishing the speed at which you can save. 

Of course, be extremely careful what you buy, keeping in mind these vital house purchase principles:

—Buy a house with a good foundation and roof—a structure that only needs cosmetic repairs.  If, however, you are buying it only to improve it and flip it, earning profit from it, use your own free elbow grease to improve it.  Concentrate on making the kitchen and bathrooms the best they can be.  And put extra effort into making the yard gorgeous for curb appeal.

—Buy the poorest house on the block.  That way you can improve it and not out-price it for that neighborhood to be sure to get your “improvement-monies” back when you re-sell it.

—Always counter-bid.

—Wait for a smoking deal.  Don’t fall in love with any house emotionally.  Stay detached until you get the “deal of the century.”  Remember that there will always be another house and a better deal somewhere else.  There is a house on every corner.  Don’t rush to do this.  Watch the market for a while—do research—knock on doors and ask the neighbors what they like and what they don’t like about that house and about their neighborhood—and keep your eyes peeled for the desperate homeowner who must unload his home quickly, at way below market value, because of extenuating circumstances.


Let’s crystalize even further what we are proposing is your best route to long-term financial success.  A home mortgage can be a good investment tool IF:

You have the savings to afford it AND all the other expenses.  You must be able to make a sizable down payment—i.e., at least a quarter of the total sale price of the house—and STILL have $1,000 saved for emergencies, PLUS all the money you expect to need to fix the house up, PLUS 3 months of living expenses.  (If you don’t have enough savings to do all 4 of those, you are NOT ready to have a mortgage.)

You are able to negotiate a screaming deal.  There’s a house on every corner, and in between—and you never can make as much money as on the day you make your house purchase, by agreeing on a price that is well below market value, after you have counter offered.  Don’t fall in love with a house.  Stay committed to your principles and look for God to honor your respect for His principles.  Realtors and sellers are not focused at all on those principles.  Of course they want you to fall in love with it and give them all your money—and then a lot more.

The house is in a highly re-sellable location, in a non-faltering economy.  There are economies that are good to buy in and economies that are not good to buy in.  It’s up to you to weigh the outside economic factors.  If the stock market is tumbling day after day, that can burst a housing bubble in a hurry.  In that scenario, people get stuck owing their bank more on their house than they can now sell it for.  This has happened and does happen; you have to watch the news carefully.  Remember, the root of the word MORTGAGE is mort (death) and gage (covenant or agreement).  Once you sign on the dotted line you become a slave to that mortgage.  Therefore, if you are going to have a mortgage you want it to be in an area where you have a high possibility of pulling your investment out of it if and when you must leave it.

You plan to stay there indefinitely—i.e. your income/employment situation there is very stable.  Otherwise you get into the nightmare of needing to live somewhere else but you are straddled with a house you can’t sell.

• A building inspection is a necessity.  Does it have a good roof and a good furnace?  How solid is its foundation?  How well is it insulated?  Older houses tend to have very poor insulation, which means way higher heating and cooling bills.  Ask to see the utility bills for the last three months; those can be hidden bills you didn’t anticipate.  When you are a home owner you are on the line for all of these repairs: roof, foundation, etc.

Conclusion?
Work, and work hard while you are young and you’ll gain yourself elderly freedoms and financial advantage galore.  Nearly all of your peers will not be on this fast track; most of them will spend a lifetime enslaved to someone else’s agenda for them.

To read more on this topic, read our 10 Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Who Got Free of House Debt and Sure Financial Steps for Beginners.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Dealing with escape artists and manipulators

Monday, 25. January 2016 by Renee Ellison

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Most of life is filled with two-choice dilemmas.  For the most part, which of the two choices we pick will actualize who we are, as we go.  Our choices—all of them—begin to define us as people.  A creative person may cobble together a combination of parts of those two choices or sometimes compromise parts of those two choices, to achieve a later higher goal, but he (or she) will still reckon with the two choices, i.e. deal with the parameters of reality as is.  In other words, a mentally healthy individual won’t try to defy gravity, moonlight, or sunlight.  He/she lives in the light of such immovables.

Conversely, your tell-tale sign of dealing with a person who routinely escapes reality will be to note that that person will not reckon with boundaries, at all.  He/she will attempt to finagle his/her way around them, live as if they didn’t exist, or delay his/her confrontation with them on purpose, indefinitely.  Often this sort prefers to run—either psychologically, physically, or both.  Leaving town might be his/her answer to everything—or leaving relationships might do it for him/her, too.  If he/she is out of control financially he/she may hurry to take bankruptcy as the path of least personal pain.

He/she is a master at washing his/her hands of any implications or any nod toward even his/her own future.  In other words, he/she will not submit to life as it is.  His/her bolder methods of escape may include any number of options: drinking, self-sabotage, delay, drugs.  (His/her ultimate way of escape, of course, is suicide.  For many, though, the self-love is so strong that that avenue of problem-solving is not seriously entertained in his/her arsenal of defenses, except to feign it to exert a manipulation, if needed.  For others it is a real option.)

If you know of someone who seems eel-like to deal with, or who flairs (i.e. goes ballistic, or punishes you someway) when coming under real parameters or having to face real boundaries, you no doubt have some of this going on.  The best solution is to pit his/her outcomes against himself/herself.  Alcoholics may find their last hope in an outside intervention.  For other types of humans’ problems, the routes back to health aren’t so clean and obvious.  Nonetheless, one thing is for sure: he/she will not deal with himself to please you.  It has to sting and sting badly in his/her own psyche to be of any value for a turn-around.  Therefore, hunt for nailing those issues and having those discussions.  Remove yourself from the middle of their equation; you’ll have more peace of mind and the other person will be forced to face his/her own dilemma sooner.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Marriage advice to newlyweds

Thursday, 21. January 2016 by Renee Ellison

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We go into marriage with all sorts of subliminal expectations—expectations we don’t even know we have.  We would, at the outset, classify them as “hopes”—but in the next breath we privately say to ourselves, insistently, that “they’d better be hopes that COME TRUE!”  Marriage is full of surprises, however, and the biggest surprise of all is that you didn’t ride off into the sunset with more of “yourself.”  You rode off into the sunset with a truly significant “other.”  Married, you are literally in bed with that “otherness.”  Not only is that other “significantly” hard-wired differently from you, he/she comes with 120,000+ hours of different software, too!  His/her background is different than yours, the imprinting was different, the social exchanges within his/her birth family were different—you name it—it’s DIFFERENT!

For you two to “get along” you’d think this different-ness would be a recipe for disaster, but, when you are in the Lord, and you are sure that this marriage is of Him (that He sanctions it because you are both spiritually alive in Him), we find out that it comes with great design.  God is starting a new dynasty with each new couple that now somehow influences future generations.  He is the one who designed that the new marriage would have a distinct character/difference from the pasts that each spouse brought to the marriage.  He actually WANTS this new metamorphosis! 

To make this mutual conversion work is, for every couple, a lifetime tussle with our own cocoon.  We’d sometimes rather stay in our cocoon (our past comfort levels) than wrestle with the work it takes to emerge as a butterfly.  It will take self-denial to make it work—to learn to bevel, to grow together.  On the day of my marriage my father told me (with a twinkle in his eye), “marriage is an adventure in adjustment!”  And how true that is. 

Instead of fighting the adjustment, look forward with eagerness to the adjustment and it will make a far more refined, mature and loving YOU.  Marriage is one of God’s finest schoolrooms to teach you how to get past yourself and move into the wide ocean of His huge kingdom.  You can’t possibly know now what God is making of you.  You can’t dictate how it should be, out there in the future, because you can’t possibly know God’s purposes for it, nor how to get there.  Given all the dimensions of the unknown, humility sets in in a hurry.  And this is part of the story—a big part: losing yourself in a world that is bigger than yourself.

Therefore, learn to cooperate with the story, readily, at every turn.  You will experience surprising delights in marriage, IF you don’t look for them.  There will come unexpected wondrous moments that settle in your heart, like the butterflies—elusive to catch, but they come when you don’t anxiously seek them.  Instead, keep your focus on going to God for ever new life-giving, coping strategies, and graces for personal relinquishments, if needed, and He will show you how to NOTICE the butterflies when they come gently and unannounced.

Learn to ENJOY your spouse AS HE/SHE IS. Instead of remaking him/her into your image, imagine yourself sitting back in a big easy chair, smoking a cigar, with your slippers on, content to OBSERVE and watch for the evening!  Marvel at how different he/she is, and seek to stretch yourself to comprehend what it is like to live inside his/her head.  This is a GOOD exercise.  It broadens you immensely, helping you to understand life even outside your marriage where another six billion significant others live.

This is the secret to a good marriage: seek to “love” rather than to “BE loved” and you’ll progressively and mysteriously grow to be like the Great Lover above.  In the end you’ll find that you traded your smaller self for a far larger better self—to say nothing of the joys and contentments you will have brought to your spouse.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Wish that the big parameters of your life were different?  Think again.

Saturday, 02. January 2016 by Renee Ellison

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If given our druthers, who would design our life best? God, or us?

Even if we were allowed the possibility of re-designing our “lot” in life (a real temptation for many who would like to start over, pick a different spouse, not have children, or at least not have that child, or, conversely, wish that they had had children, but couldn’t, or painfully wish that they could jettison protracted unwanted singleness, or skip the mind-boggling and long dissolutions and loneliness of old age, or miss all bouts with illness, injury and unavoidable surgeries, even live in a different country or a different time in history, and certainly have different neighbors, relatives and/or bosses), would we even want the job?

As believers, serious contemplation might lead us, eventually, to eagerly say, “no!”  The reason? —because we couldn’t possibly know, with our finite minds, what is best for the shaping of our spiritually-infinite character for eternal ends.  Realizing that we are people who now last forever (and ever and ever, world without end, amen!), we can’t fully (or even feebly) fathom where all of this is headed and what is necessary for the future journey.

However, look at the conscientiousness with which God designed it for us:
If He had not loved me, “...surely He would not have made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part; surely He would not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire” (2 Samuel 23:5).

The following verses, too, indicate a loving sovereignty even over our path withIN our parameters:
• “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).
• “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

What a confidence is ours, as believers, that we wake up and go to sleep (even our final sleep, at the end of life) held securely in divine hands and in divine plans When we finally “see” the results of carrying each and every perplexing burden, all in hindsight, we might even actually rejoice at our chosen lot, for we will have found that our hard boundaries were, in fact, lined with tender mercies, and our confusions, stumbling and chafings were all understood and marked well by matchless vigilance.  “He does not take His eyes off the righteous” (Job 36:7a).  For, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10b).  What resolute love it all demonstrates.  Surely we could never have dreamed of finding human gold in such places.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Traversing emotional pain

Wednesday, 30. December 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Have you been traversing some emotional pain? We can’t pretend to begin to understand the following verse, but there it sits, in all of its spiritual intrigue: “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s affliction, for the sake of His body, which is His church” (Colossians 1:24).

Surely He allowed His soul the full score of complete and total suffering, not only physically and spiritually, but emotionally.  Rejection, disdain and mockery apparently were necessary parts of His affliction.  His heart, held under the darkness of affliction at the bottom of the barrel—experiencing emotional pain at the lowest of the low, below the belt, gut-wrenching rejection—weathered the worst of human storms.

Our Savior’s suffering in this regard was complete, yet at the same time it was NOT complete.  He was willing to suffer again, and even ongoingly, for 2,000 additional years, through identification with the vicarious emotional pain of His “own” (His dear sheep) in order that they might know the fellowship of His sufferings.  So it must be that by being in the valley of emotional pain we apparently obtain a depth of fellowship that can be found in no other way. What immutable designs He crafts for spiritual intimacy with Him via the open wound of His own continued suffering through us.  Is there no end to the extension of His love and the depth of its concourse?!

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Can’t get on top of cleaning your house or office space?  Clutter got you down?

Friday, 18. December 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Cleaning up, organizing and de-cluttering your space can feel so good, it is like scratching your soul!  Being able to see everything and grab everything (without digging) gives you instant power over your days and your activities.  You start on top of life rather than scrounging around on the bottom, just trying to get up to see-level before you can even begin your trip to the top.  You’ll be far more productive, sharper and more focused if you get your personal external world in order.  Why?  Because letting go of the grip of excess stuff helps define where you are headed (not where you’ve been) and releases all the attendant emotional life that went with that stuff. 

Personal clutter (not someone else’s—that is a different problem) is often associated with two issues: 1) not saying NO to enough outside ACT-ivity to get command of your inside CON-nectivity, and 2) buried personal anxiety.  It is important to take a look at those underlying emotional issues before cleaning and sorting down; otherwise you may find yourself buried in excess stuff, yet again, and soon.

Maintaining the wonderful new condition of your sorting/cleaning labor is solely the result of locating a permanent place for everything.  And not just any place—your optimal organizing-aim is to find prime real estate for all of your prime stuff (frequently used objects).  You don’t want to use prime real estate for sub-prime objects.

Thus, you’ll want to store frequently used objects close to where you use them.  Conversely, put infrequently used objects in more out of the way places.  But make sure that in both storage places, each object is instantly observable and easily grab-able.  Just because you don’t use an object much doesn’t mean that when you do want to retrieve it you should have to go to herculean work and wasted time digging it out to procure it. 

How do you achieve this with limited space? You apply one or more of the following remedies:

A.) Pare down further
Your stuff must fit in your house.  As you know, to optimally organize, you’ll be wanting to find containers that fit in your shelving and drawer spaces.  Accordingly, think one thought beyond that to remind yourself that your largest container is your house!  We don’t have the luxury (or nightmare) of owning an infinite amount of stuff.  There is a boundary to every person’s material world.  You begin with your own parameters.  Here’s a governing principle: if it won’t fit, I can’t have it.

B.)  Within that larger context, if there is not enough room on your in-house shelves, for easy grab-ability of all objects, do one of three things: 
 
1) Build or buy more shelves.  If you do not have enough square footage on the ground for more shelving or drawers, then go up into the air!  Install one continuous shelf above your door frames and along the ceiling of each room, with L brackets underneath, as needed, just one foot down from the ceiling.  Banker’s boxes fit nicely in that ‘ceiling’ space.  These large white cardboard banker’s boxes can then be filled with lighter weight stuff (off season clothing, bedding, etc.) and can be labeled clearly.  This newly added one foot storage area is instant, rent free space!  (If you are renting a storage unit someplace, do the math.  You could probably re-BUY everything in it with the composite rental fee from over a year.)  So you see, if you feel cramped, you may not need a bigger HOUSE, you just may need some more SHELVING—at one-one-thousandth the price!
 
2) Consider putting some stuff in containers under beds.  Buy bed leg risers to make this possible.

 
Now that we’ve finished tackling the practical sorting steps, let’s examine your emotions in relation to clutter.

Compulsive buying (and sometimes going into debt to do it) and/or compulsive gathering can produce temporary emotional highs.  To get a handle on this, examine what your emotional state is immediately prior to buying or collecting.  Try to peg what stress or unresolved emotions the “high” is relieving.  Identify that emotion, and embark on finding a better way to fill it.

Old habits are never beaten back by force of personal will.  Self-will is no match for the bad habit’s power.  Bad habits are so strong, they are beaten back only by replacement. What will the new “go-to” habit be?  Determine this ahead of time.

Once your home/job space is uncluttered by finding and creating an exact spot for everything, there is strong evidence (via people who have done it well) that it will actually stay uncluttered.

An excessive hoarder brings items in one at a time and can’t let go of them.  It becomes a defeating dynamic for such a person.  An excessive spender may be looking to the actual act of buying, over and over, to gain an addict’s high to relieve subtle personal pain that has been caused by an unresolved dynamic.

Internal conflict can keep the would-be sorter/cleaner stuck in neutral for any one of these reasons:

1)  The task seems too overwhelming.
      Solution: break the task into bite-sized pieces.

2)  No time to do it. 
      Solution: determine to say “NO” to other activities for a while.

3)  Identity issues: “I’m just not WORTH having a clean house.”
      Solution: remind yourself of the truth that every human being was made to enjoy order.  You are no exception.

4)  Perfectionism: “If I don’t know the PERFECT place to put something, I’ll do nothing.”
      Solution: put it somewhere, and tell yourself that you can upgrade/tweak the arrangement later.
 
5) Indecision: thoughts like “this is too unique, too rare, to let go.”
      Solution: recognize that your needs are more important than a thing’s needs.

6) Paralyzing grief: “I can’t let go of mom’s (hubby’s or child’s) stuff because that would feel like I was throwing him or her away.”
      Solution: think instead, those objects served him/her well.  They were personal picks of theirs.  He/she contributed to my life; now it’s time to contribute to others’ lives, my way.

7) Stuck in the past?
      Solution: remind yourself that the past no longer exists.  Your life is in the present, only.  How can you well-order your life to make it less chaotic?  You only get one shot at this.  Life is not a dress rehearsal.  It is the real deal, passing by day by day.  You can’t afford to be stuck.


P.S.:  If the clutter is someone else’s issue, give them their own territory to do with as they will.  Let them observe your joy over creating your own neatness.  Inspiration happens in a person’s wake as they speed past—never by attempting to “whip” the other person into shape.

Filed Under: Home management tips

The anatomy of a mid-life crisis.  Want it?

Sunday, 13. December 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Many, many men go through a mid-life crisis.  But, typically, not so many women go through this same sort of “hit-the-wall” passage in their middle adult years.  Why? because women still garner tremendous meaning and significance through the raising of children and grandchildren.  In fact, statistically, it has been shown that mothers of small children and women raising needy grandchildren have the lowest suicides rates of the total spectrum of humanity.  Why? because they are needed.

Now back to the men—and women who suffer mid-life crises.  What goes on here with this syndrome?  Usually, it began in junior high and high school when we tended to grow outrageous fantasies about what life would deliver to us.  Our illusions were grown in the fertile soil of media entertainment and storybooks, coupled with our own juvenile driving insistent inability to master any self-delay or self-denial in reference to our emerging self.  Then, for years and years we fertilized our unrealities rather than weeding them out.

Then came the victimization stage.  Out came the measuring sticks, and nothing, absolutely nothing measured up in our circumstances or relationships—not even close.  Thus, loudly, our protestations began—the masked cries for help.  “Hey, what I’m experiencing doesn’t fit with how life is supposed to be.”  This was followed by the engulfing “me-ism”/entitlement/blame scenario.  Rather than dump the illusion and recalibrate, we clutched the illusion even more vigorously.  In order to make sense of it all, we pandered to self even more.  “This is only happening to me; no one else goes through what I go through.  Look at me.  Take care of me.”  As this unfolds, others tire of the myopia and generally withdraw.  The resultant isolation makes the malcontent even more lonely and perplexed.

But finally, in some drowsy hour, often deep in the night when the noise stops, the truth wills out.  The clutch is finally released.  But is it over?  In many cases, no, it is not.  Often, depression marches right in to replace it.  There’s your mid-life crisis.

So, what does the self-made “victim” DOHe/she frantically now sets out to RE-DO early life.  Find a different spouse.  Go out and change my CIRCUMSTANCES—find BETTER ones.  For surely the right circumstances will deliver the right kind of life.  The only problem is that now, as an older person, all the original plethora of potential spouses is gone—most of the options are used ones and/or defeated ones—and few and far between ones, at all.  And one’s own fading beauty and fading energy make all the “catching a fairy-tale mate” far more sluggish.  And when he thinks he finds one, he doesn’t count on the question of “what THEY will look like in old age?” or ACT like toward HIM in the final chapter?  Is this BETTER than what I’ve got?  Hmmm…I hadn’t thought about old age at all—only my immediate hour.  I thought I could reject with impunity.  “I’ll reject you, but you will feed me lunch!”  Face absolute aloneness in my final hour? —hadn’t thought about that, either.  The only important hour is this current one.  Or be rejected by my grown children and spouse in response to my prior rejection of them?  I thought that there was only ONE person who MATTERED in this story.  Arrghh.

And how goes the self-crafting of new circumstances?  Can we even do it?  Or do we find dead ends at the end of every furtive, darting idea?  In addition, we find to our own chagrin that we can’t even DEFINE what we want now—like trying to catch a butterfly.  Every butterfly caught now immediately loses its magic and lies stiff at the bottom of our jar.

Then escapism must be the solution?  Drink, drug, and bury oneself in entertainment?  Embark, too, on enacting all kinds of little delicious suicides—like self-sabotage?  Relationally increase methods of manipulation and control.  Demand more.  Or try on some type of adult screaming? i.e., louder self-made assertions about how life is supposed to be for me, wafted with more energy into mid-air.  Or perhaps it is found in “buy, buy, buy,” like a maniac.  Surely a new Lexus will do it.  Debt or die.  Is not such a life a catastrophe?

When the mid-life crisis disorder is looked at under eagle-eye scrutiny, we find that experiencing mid-life crises is a New World (a first world) problem.  When we set it in its historical context we can identify different sorts of role models for weathering the mid-term storms.  There, we find examples of nobility, courage, endurance, strangely cropping up in mid-life and old age.  Honest earlier recalibration worked.

If we look even deeper at this modern syndrome, we can note that there is something even better than secular recalibration, engineered by our own wits, to weather mid-life.  Could there be some spiritual answers?  What if the disillusionment was planned by an all-knowing and all-wise God?  Now, let’s back up and re-do this challenge as a believer—even as a backslidden follower of the Lord.

What if God takes every believer through a “world-let-down” on purpose? —insisting that He ALONE is our core?  What if it is part of His school of discipleship for eternal people?  What if it is His graduate school of maturation?  If the job is done well on our behalf, we find, to our initial shock, that nothing in life is as we imagined it!  Nothing.

In fact, Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his matchless little book, Life Together, asserts that every community of relationships, whether it be one’s family of origin, one’s marriage, one’s own family, one’s church, one’s neighborhood or job and work setting, has to crash—and with it, all the aspirations for perfect circumstances have to crash, too.

The restored objective, after falling through the fragile floor of worldliness, is to begin again on spiritual turf.  Through gentle nudgings we now find that life is to be lived in the adoration of our Maker (habitual gratefulness for the smallest of graces—which then mushroom into thundering praises—living waters flowing out of us in torrents in eternity) and responding to His impulses for what to make of life, by our own exertions and influence, moment by moment.  Only then do we step up to the wondrous platform of real life. 

Far from demanding that life serve us, we find that the entrance level requirement to this far more fulfilling world is that we serve life. We begin by putting on the apron, and rolling up the sleeves.  The hunt is on for the needs of others, this time—not the junior high scramble to make it into the in-crowd, myself.  Getting outside of self is the bastion of fulfillment.  How do we sustain it?  By refueling at the throne—treasuring the infinite sweet embraces of our Maker.  As the old hymn writer wrote: “Let me to THY bosom fly.  Other succor have I NONE!”  This, alone, is reality.  And here, on this sure turf, there are no mid-life crises—nor, much to our wildest delight, are there any POST-life crises, either!

Filed Under: Home management tips

Origins of birthday celebrations

Saturday, 05. December 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the quantity and pressure of too many children’s birthday parties?  If you want a way out of this relentless demand, here it is!

Did you know these historical facts about the celebration of birthdays?

• The first birthday celebrations noted in recorded history were around 3,000 BC, and were those of the early pharaohs only (i.e. the kings of Egypt), not of the common man.
• Often, prisoners were released on this day.  (If this is familiar to you, you may have read it in Genesis 40: while Joseph was in confinement in the house of the captain of the guard, the cupbearer was released—and this eventually resulted in Joseph himself being released.)
• In Egypt and later on in Babylon, only the birth dates of royal sons were celebrated.  Some royal women’s birthdays were celebrated, such as that of Cleopatra (her husband—who was also her brother—slaughtered their son and gave him to her for her birthday present).
• The birthdays of children were never celebrated, unless they were the male children of royalty.
• The date of a person’s death used to considered be more significant than that of his or her birth.  (If this seems at least vaguely familiar, you might be thinking of how in Scripture, we are commanded to remember the death and resurrection of the Messiah—but nowhere is there even a suggestion to celebrate His birth.)
• The Greeks took the Egyptian idea of a birthday celebration and added the custom of baking a sweet birthday cake, in honor of their goddess Artemis.  It may be that the cakes had lighted candles, representing moonlight, the earthward radiance of this fabricated goddess.
• With the rise of Christianity, the tradition of celebrating birthdays ceased altogether—until about 1,300 years later.  Most of the early followers of Yeshua faced a difficult life that could include suffering and martyrdom for their faith; perhaps this fact influenced them to celebrate the death of a faithful believer, which was “the true deliverance, the passage to eternal paradise.”
• The early church fathers regarded birthday festivities as a relic of pagan practices, and they wanted to avoid them, in their pursuit of personal holiness and purity.
• In A.D. 245 a group of Christian historians attempted to pinpoint the precise date of the Savior’s birth.  They were opposed in this by the church (i.e., the Catholic Church), which decreed that it would be sacrilegious and sinful to observe the birthday of Christ, “as though He were a King Pharaoh.”

(Source: Charles Panati, Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things (New York: William Morrow, 1989), pages 31-33)

For more on this topic, read the post dated 1/28/2013.

Filed Under: Home management tips