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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Please Don't Kill My Kid

Hey. Can I show you something? Grab your phone. It’s within twelve inches of your hand, isn’t it? Now take a look at your last three texts. I’ll wait…
Oh, here are mine:
~ Lori, re. my daughter’s birthday (her daughter can’t make it)
~ Dana, in response to my question about her new job
~ Julie, can my kid cat-sit next week?
How about your last three emails? Me?
~ An ad from Amazon
~ A response from my colleague about a marketing idea
~ From the VBS director about praying for our kids this week
One more? Facebook notifications:
~ From FB: “People are looking at your Page! Write a post now!”
~ Someone in my crochet group posted a new pattern
~ I got a new Like on my last post
What does every one of these distracting little bings have in common?
They’re not worth my kid dying over.
My son is volunteering this summer at a parks and rec camp for handicapped kids and adults. I’m so proud of him I’m thinking of making him his own five-layer chocolate cake just because. Picking him up after his job has been tough, however, because I have to pick up his little sister at exactly the same time, fifteen minutes away. So he’s had to wait for me.
Today, he’s decided to bike instead.
And I’m terrified.
Because I’ve seen how many people drive their cars while holding their cell phone screens next to the steering wheel. I’ve seen cars narrowly miss clobbering the vehicle next to them because their drivers were too busy dialing or scrolling or clicking to notice that they’d wandered into the wrong lane until the other driver honked in terror.
I almost rear-ended somebody one time because I was three words away from finishing a text and I just. couldn’t. wait. (Thank you, anti-lock breaks.)
It’s not worth it.
It’s not worth it.
It’s not worth it.
Put the stupid phone away. Please don’t kill my kid because you can’t delay the gratification of knowing what someone said about your photo on Instagram until you arrive at your destination. That thin line of white paint on the pavement—the one that separates the car lane from the bike lane—won’t do a thing to keep my kid safe from you if you’re navigating your phone instead of your vehicle.
I know how hard it is to ignore the alerts. But I’ve committed to never touching my phone when I’m driving, because I’ve told my kids that if I ever catch them touching their phones when they start driving I will take their licenses away and feed them to the paper shredder, and I will flay my progeny within an inch of their lives.
Because it’s not just their lives they’d be jeopardizing.
It’s the life of the toddler who pulled away from his mom and ran into the street.
It’s the life of the pedestrian who played chicken with the WALK sign.
It’s the life of the kid on his bike.
I’ll bet if you checked your texts, emails, and notifications like I did, you discovered (like I did) that there’s nothing so time-critical it couldn’t have waited.
If there is—maybe you’re the only doctor in the world who has the knowledge to save that patient and you have to do it right this moment—then pull over. Stop driving, and give that business your full attention.
Otherwise, put the phone away while you’re operating a ton-plus slab of hurtling metal, against which a bike helmet is no match.
Please don’t kill my kid.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

No Little Prayer

I’m going through something right now. It involves someone that’s not me, so in the interest of that person’s privacy I won’t go into detail, but fear over this thing has been keeping me up at night, as well as jettisoning my appetite into a far corner of the space-time continuum.
The good news is I’ve dropped five more of those baby pounds that I really can’t keep blaming on my now-teenagers.
Recently, during another sleepless night, I called a friend in a different time zone and she prayed for me. After we hung up, I texted her to say thanks. I typed:
I’m going to pray a little more before I try to go to bed.
And because autocorrect has so many times bitten me on my bottom-parts, I went back to proof it before hitting Send. It read:
I’m going to pray a lot more before I try to go bed.
I didn’t want to give my friend any false impressions about my piety, or make her think I intended to stay up for hours after she just prayed for me to find enough peace to be able to sleep. So I put the cursor at the end of the word lot, backspaced, and retyped little.
It autocorrected to lot.
I tried again.
It happened again.
little à lot
little à lot
little à lot
It’s no exaggeration to tell you I tried six times or more to get that sentence to read little.
But little would not stay little.
I gave up and sent the text: I’m going to pray a lot more before I try to go to bed.
Then I started a new text message, and typed:
Spacebar. No change.
Send. No change.
Holy God. (And that’s no blasphemy.)
This thing I’m dealing with, God seems to be saying, demands prayer. Not a little prayer, but a lot of prayer: a lot of prayer from me, and a lot of prayer from my prayer warriors. It’s going to take all the prayer I can get, from all the places I can get it.
Because it feels like we’re standing against the whole savage world and the bloodthirsty legions of hell with this one.
And we are.
But God.
But God said…
But God remembered…
But God intended…
But God did…
But God was…
But God came…
But God struck…
But God charges…
But God drags away the mighty by his power…
But God will never…
But God redeems…
But God promised…
But God knows…
But God is…
So there is no little prayer, because “the prayer of a righteous person has great power” (James 5:16) through the grace and sovereignty of the Almighty One.
And this is no place for a little prayer.
I am going to pray a lot more.
I may have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
But I will fear no evil.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Pay For Your Own Darn Cell Phone

I have slacked off and failed to charge our son for his cell phone use for the past five months. Why? Because I forgot how much each megabyte of data costs, and Consumer Cellular* charges by the gigabyte, and that meant I needed to do math and I just haven’t felt like it.
Hubs would be displeased.
But I sat down this morning, pulled up the last five invoices and ran the numbers. The boy owes us $79.66 for January-May.
How did I arrive at that figure? Let me start from the beginning.
The boy has been asking for a cell phone since he exited the womb. We held firm to our refusal until he turned 14 in September and entered high school.
And we have no regrets. Our girls, 10 and 12, do not own cell phones. The elder mistakenly thought that “fourteen” and “freshman” were the magic words that unlocked cell phone ownership. I laughed in her face and replied, “You and your brother attend the same school, and will until he leaves for college. Therefore I have no need for you to carry a phone, because I can reach either of you via him.” Bwah-ha-ha!
But yes, she’ll likely get hers when she enters high school. That’s how kids and teachers and the entire developed world communicate. We get that.
A cell phone is a never-ending, monthly-recurring charge. Once you start it, you’re never going to stop. So when do you pass the baton to the kid and make him/her responsible for the bill?
How about right away?
We’ve told our kids they can have a cell phone when they can pay for it, independent of the salary we give them to cover their basic needs. The boy has had a job for the last two years. He walks our elderly neighbor’s dogs every weekday morning and twice on Saturdays. He pulls in $50-60 a week. That’s better than I do with my books. (Cough, cough, click the link, support a starving artist?)
The next consideration has to do with minutes and data sharing. Hubs cogently pointed out that while the extra line on my account only costs $10, the kid (and before long kids) will be sucking up my minutes and data like a toddler sucking at a half pint of chocolate milk. We needed to incentivize seeking out Wi-Fi and dis-incentivize streaming Netflix, YouTube, and Pandora via cell tower while riding in the back of the bus.
Hence the math I had to do.
My monthly plan through Consumer Cellular* gives me 250 minutes of phone time for $15 and 5 GB of data for $30. So, the boy pays $0.06 for every minute he talks on the phone (to anyone other than me), and $0.006 for every MB of data he eats.
He watches those numbers carefully, friends. He occasionally asks me to pull up the online statement to see where he’s at for the month.
It works great. And he ends up paying around $15-18 a month for the privilege of having a cell phone. When my daughters get their lines we’ll probably have to up the minutes and data plan, but they’ll be covering that extra charge.
Just wanted to share this little family plan with you, in case you’re pondering how to handle cell phones and kids. This is how we do it. It’s certainly not the only way, but it works for us. And we think it’s teaching our young about responsibility and finances.
If nothing else it shuts down the “I want a cell phone!” whining.
“You got a job yet? No? Then there’s nothing I can do for you.”

*Consumer Cellular did not pay me anything to reference them in this blog. I just really like them and think everyone should consider switching. They’re awesome. (P.S., Consumer Cellular, if you liked this post, I’m open to talking about remuneration of some sort…)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Losing English

I love the English language. It’s my first language. I teach it. I write in it. Finding just the perfect word gives me a little charge of visceral glee that non-lexophiles probably find slightly perverse.
But there’s nothing special about English.
There’s just as much—or more—beauty, utility, meaning, and nuance in Spanish, Russian, Tagalog, and Navajo.
Classic stories have been written in Chinese, Japanese, Lao, and Hindi.
Heart-wrenching lyrics are sung in Mongolian, French, Polish, and Inuktitut.
One can find Finnish-, Khmer-, Farsi-, and Serbian-speaking performers, scientists, teachers, and data processors.
English is just another mother tongue.
A foreign-serving missionary once told me, “I’m not doing anybody any favors learning to speak their language. English is the international language. That’s what everybody speaks.”
No, it isn’t.
About 20% of the world’s people (or 1.5 billion) speak English; only 360 million natively. Nearly as many speak some dialect of Chinese.
Oh, you say that most of the world’s business takes place in English? I don’t have any numbers on that, but I can tell you that a couple of thousand years ago Latin had its Golden Age. It remained the favored language of educated people all the way through the Renaissance (14th-16th centuries A.D.).
It’s a dead language now. No one speaks it natively.
English isn’t special. It isn’t more learned, more cultured, or more valuable than any other language. It just happens to be the set of lexicon and grammar that has flourished in this particular time and place in history.
America is changing. Our Hispanic population is quickly overtaking our Caucasian population.
And by and large, Hispanics speak Spanish.
We may lose English.
We have certainly lost the America of the 1700’s and the 1800’s. We’re in the process of losing the America of the 1900’s, too. There are some losses that I consider mourn-worthy. Others are long overdue.
Everything changes.
Let me correct myself on that. The Amish have done a bang-up job of freeze-framing a pre-industrial lifestyle. So I guess it is possible to hold onto the past.
But that’s not nature’s normal. And I don’t think it’s something to which we should aspire.
We’re not going to lose English in my lifetime, or probably my children’s or grandchildren’s lifetimes. But the world may lose it eventually.
And like everything that goes, there is a genuine loss.
But language itself will go on.
So when you hear someone around you speaking in a tongue that isn’t yours, don’t get your knickers in such a twist, Brother Amos. It’s just a different set of words. You’re not going to lose your own language, and during your life you’re unlikely to see a time when public discourse in America is wholly foreign to you.
Our kids will grow up and adapt to whatever language is spoken around them, as kids always have.
It’s all going to be fine.
Shalom. Paz. Paix. Vrede. ሰላም. Salam. Мир. Bakea. 和平. Mír. Paco. Rauha. Maluhia. Ειρήνη. शांति.  שָׁלוֹם. Friður. Pax. Síocháin. Pace. សន្តិភាព. Мир. Keamanan. سوله. Тынчтык.