Sunday, October 30, 2011

The 99%

I try to be funny on my blog. I don’t really enjoy controversy, but sometimes you read or see or hear something and you just can’t stop yourself. This Occupy Wallstreet thing is confusing to me. I don’t like being confused, so I read articles. Read opinion pieces. Then, I pulled up all of these photos from Facebook where people have written their stories online and are telling their version of events that cause them to be in the 99% of abused workers, out of work employees, students who can’t afford to be in school, etc. It’s really heartbreaking. I mean awful. Looking at photo after photo of people who can’t pay their bills and don’t have healthcare.

At first. Until I started really looking at some of those photos.

I first noticed that these people have some sort of computer or phone with a camera and Internet service to upload their stuff. A few were actually posting from IPhones (that I can’t begin to afford) or had expensive items in the background.

Professional grooming, make up, hair dye.
This woman isn't poor.
Most of the woman had on makeup and nail polish and rings, dyed hair and were professionally groomed. One woman had (and I counted to be sure) 12 bottles of premium brand alcohol on a shelf behind her in the photo. I couldn’t count them all because she was standing in front of them. She announced in her own hand writing on a sign that she held up in front of her body that she’s in school to become a teacher. (Lovely.) Another woman had a television the size of my kitchen table featured prominently in the background. (The newest television in my house is 18 years old. I’m not joking.) I bet she’s got cable and Netflix for that bad boy too. Huh.

More than a $1,000 in alcohol on the back shelf. Books. Art.
This woman isn't poor.
Here are some of the reasons these folks count themselves in the 99%:

1) “I am a single mother.”

And this is my problem because…

2) “I have student debt.”

How about this radical thought—don’t start school if you don’t know how you are going to pay for it. My four kids will probably not qualify for loans or student aid or grants. They will have to work while going to school. They will have to apply for scholarships. They have to get scholarships or they won’t be going to school. This is why we push the A/B Honor Roll and academics like we are on fire. They may even have to join the military to have their school paid for—the boys and the girls.

Or, brief pause for the huge gasp of air intake, they may not get to go to college and will need to find a trade. I’d guess that plumbers, hair dressers, mechanics, and electricians haven’t hurt nearly as much as college grads have during this economic downturn. College isn’t a right or something you even have to have. In fact, lots of folks are going to school who shouldn’t have started in the first place. Perhaps you were one of these people. How many of us are working in our field of study? Uh-huh. I thought so. 

Electronic pad in the background, drapes, decorative plates.
This woman isn't poor.

 3) “I don’t garden for fun; I garden so that I won’t go hungry again.”

No, duh. Do you think your grandparents gardened for FUN? Welcome to the way things used to be. You may have to go back to them. I’d get ready to, in fact.

4) “I am $10-20-30,000 in debt without a job.”

When did YOUR debt become my responsibility or anyone else’s for that matter? Don’t purchase things that you can’t afford. You don’t have to have a TV, phone, the Internet, 22 pairs of shoes, two cars, eat out Chinese food, or even own a home. You wanted those things and now are dismayed that the bill has come due. Who is supposed to pay for your stuff? The rich? At what point do we collectively agree that sometimes it’s just our own faults. Why you think that people who could afford their purchases should pay for yours too is completely beyond me.

5) “I can’t earn a livable wage.”

TV the size of my dinette. Nicer home than I live in.
Nice stuff. These people are not poor.

No, you just want everything you want without having to sacrifice for it. I hate to break this to you, but if you have a car, a TV, Internet, a computer, a phone, cable, any kind of music player, and food in your pantry you are not poor. You may be broke due to terrible life choices, but you are not poor. How did your parents do it? Hmmm…

I worked for the same company for 14 years. I moved to another company where I was laid off after six months. It wasn’t a big whoop. Why? We saved our money. We never spent all that came in. We paid our taxes. We pulled our children out of public school and now pay tuition on top of the money will still give to the government to a school system we do not attend.

I work at my job to pay for our health insurance and our kids’ tuition. I literally write them a check every month to work there. No complaints AT ALL! My children are getting an exceptional education, we have health insurance (to the tune of $1,200.00 a month out of pocket), and I get to see my babies more than most stay-at-home moms. This is called “sacrificing”. Some people should give it a go. We have four children and my mother lives with us—that’s seven people in our home and my husband’s income qualifies us for free lunch at the public school (that we don’t take advantage of because we private school--I've had enough of the dadgum government).

We tithe—that means that 10% of our gross income before taxes goes voluntarily to the church before it goes to our living expenses. That’s right, before we pay for a car or gas or food or lights we pay God the bare minimum that we owe Him for giving us life, which in turn goes to the poor in our community and world. And according to His promise in Philippians 4, we have always had our needs met.

Hey, 99%? How about trying this for fun?

Pay cash for everything. If you can’t pay for it, don’t get it. (if you bought concert tickets, went to a show, saw a movie, watched cable, had coffee out, bought a Big Mac, used disposable diapers, etc., you are not poor. You wanted what you wanted and got it.)

Learn to cook from scratch. It’s a zillion times cheaper than eating out or buying convenience foods. (If you bought fast food or ate outside of your home, you are not poor.)

Save until you can afford what you want/need. Use everything you purchase until it can’t be repaired anymore. (If you bought anything on credit, you are not poor.)

Don’t get a credit card. Ever. For any reason. The debtor is SLAVE to the lender. Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” That was written over 2,000 years ago. Hello? 99%? Even Jesus Christ knew this. What took you so long? (Oh, yeah, we don’t read that Book anymore…)

You don’t need brand new shoes—the thrift store sells them. You don’t need brand new toys for Christmas—the thrift store sells them. I shop both of those places for everything—our clothing, our household items, etc. If we can’t find it there, we head to the sales racks at discount stores. I don’t pay full price for anything.

We have abandoned God as a nation, yet think that we should still be blessed, and then expect Him to meet our needs. Um, not how it works. Here’s a basic lesson in God Economics:

2 Corinthians 8:2-5 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.

NOT THE RICH, THE POOR GAVE!!! Hello???? Anyone? Anyone?

Here’s the truth: If you took every dime that the 1% earns, it wouldn’t be enough.

I have never taken money from my parents. My parents don’t pay our bills. We live modestly. We eat at home most of the time. We tell our children that we can’t afford things like the fair and the ice cream truck and that they can’t have most of their wants. We have insurance on everything—life, cars, house, health--because we grasp that if The Husband dies, I cannot support four kids by myself, and if I die, he can’t afford to replace what I do either. We’d eat beans (and have eaten beans) before not having insurance.

We shop at the thrift store. We do not have a credit card. We still have the same television (that was given to us second hand) and dinette set we started our marriage with 17 years ago. We use the same book bags for years—until the handles fall off. We give away everything that doesn’t fit to other families, and we are clothed by people who do the same for us. I can make a pound of ground beef feed all seven of us (plus drop-ins) two nights in a row. We only spend $200.00 per child for Christmas total, and I save for that all year long. We also buy Christmas for three other families. My husband has refused a raise for the past four years in order to keep more of the money in our church. We have no debt.

Dave Ramsey is the most powerful thing that ever happened in our lives after accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior. I think that the bulk of business-minded people grasped that the rich would get richer and the poor would get poorer. It’s the principle of exponential math—if you invest and don’t touch your money, it grows exponentially over time. Hence, the rich get much, much richer simply by saving and investing. The goal should be “how do I get into that club?” not “how do I take money from other people’s savings accounts?”

I’m sorry if your house was foreclosed on. YOU borrowed money from a bank that you PROMISED to pay back to them. They took all of the risk. You didn’t pay. It’s not heartless. You took advantage and didn’t pay back money you borrowed. This makes you the liar in the deal. (The borrower is SLAVE to the lender.) I realize that most people fully intend to pay the money back, but if you can’t, you have to accept that you have failed to keep your word, not the bank.

We’ve been in church work a long time. The bulk of people who come to the church for help don’t come one time. They come for years in a row, without a single change in their personal circumstances. Occasionally, you get someone who needs emergency help—like a boost to get over Christmas or a little help with school supplies or something like that, but the vast majority is comprised of people who never work, always need help, and never change. I look at the photos from this “movement” and I see a spoiled people who bought things they couldn’t afford with money they didn’t have and participated in sin that led them to the place they find themselves and want me to pay for the party without any personal consequence.

The real wake-up call might have been mine. I do not trust my government to manage the money that I give them now. Why would I want them in charge of taking more money from corporations and giving it to people in need (where I don’t think it will go anyway)? I think that’s sort of the job of the church. Also, if you decide the government is the answer to all of your needs, keep in mind that someone is paying for that party…in blood or money. Socialist countries almost always require military service from the working class, unless you can pay your way out of it. That’s something to mull over.

Looking at those photos did the opposite of making me sympathetic; it made me angry. Do you know why? Because we have abandoned God, and that is the real reason for this present crisis. That's the flat out truth of the matter. If we were tithing, God promised to meet our every NEED. If we were living Biblically as a people, there would be no debt or mortgage crisis. If we were following the Word and taking care of our own poor and needy, there would be nothing to discuss. And I am in the 99%.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

We Don't Need No Stinking Costumes

Halloween is a strange time at our house. We don't celebrate this 'holiday', but we still enjoy the dressing up and candy portions via a Fall Festival (aka Halloween party) at church. :-)

So, this year I thought we'd all dress up as a theme. That was met with the standard pre-teen eye roll accompanied by a heartfelt, "Muh-ther". Ahem.

The Fashionista wanted to go as Big Bird. Great! So, we could all be characters off of Seseme Street, brilliant! (I can totally see me and husband as Bert and Ernie. Ha!) Mother!

Naynuh wanted to be the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. Brilliant! I've always wanted to be the White Rabbit or the Cheshire Cat! Mother!

The Little Flower picked out a Toad costume, as in Mario Brothers, NOT Wind in the Willlows (sigh). Brilliant! Daddy and I can be Mario and Luigi. Mother!

The Number One Son chose this thing called a Morph Suit like his cousin Jimmy in Mississippi wore to the fair. Before I could get the 'Brilliant' formed in my mouth The Husband informed me that he wasn't putting one of those things on for a million dollars.

So, The Husband is going as himself.. E1 is going as the Mad Hatter. E2 is going as Big Bird. C is going as a Morph Man. And L is going as Toad. We are going in a group...a group of really eccentric characters. We each chose the strangest characters off of each show...think about it. The Mad Hatter? Big Bird? Toad? So, in keeping with theme, I am going as Lillian. She's the strangest kid in The Johnson Show for sure. (I crack myself up.)
Lillian aka Naked Princess

Lilly sleeping with helmet and sunglasses

She wore this Batman costume of her brothers for the better part of a year.

Playing in the dog crate.


Sleeping in a bucket on her bed

Dressed up for  maxium video game success.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'm the Home Ec. Teacher. No, I'm not Joking.

For anyone who knows me personally, this is going to be a belly buster laughing sort of moment.

I'm teaching Home Ec.

Well, they are calling it Life Skills for the senior class, but it's basically Home Economics. This is the stupidest thing that has happened to me since I became the pastor's wife. Talk about unqualified. I am unbelievably unqualified for this teaching experience. I'm a terrible homemaker. No, really. I mean it.

It's sort of like when people find out we have four kids--the next question they ask is, "Oh, do you homeschool?" Um, no. Just because I over bred, I wasn't suddenly tranformed into a pre-school/elementary school teacher. I realize that I'm completely unqualified to homeschool, so it wasn't an option. Not only that, but I'd kill The Fashionista. (I'm not joking.) Same way, I'm not exaggerating my lack of homemaking skills. I really stink at it. And I'm not all that concerned. God, The Husband, and I are all good here.

Now, for those who don't know me all that well, I'll illustrate exactly why this is so thigh-slapping funny.

1) I hate to clean. No, really. I have a maid.

2) I am an average cook and make most things that are best described as "truck stop food".

3) I have a widespread reputation as a house plant killer from way back. The entire Wal-Mart nursery section shudders collectively when I roll through, praying to the plant gods that it isn't their day.

4) I don't coupon, don't make homemade soaps or cleaners, and I don't do anything crafty. Please don't make me. Please.

5) My laundry room looks like a bomb went off in it. If it's cleaned up, something is bad wrong.

6) The idea of making something crafty makes me slightly nauseated. I don't own a staple or glue gun, and I don't want either. I will borrow one if there is a crafting emergency.

7) My mother crochets like a wild woman. I've got blankets and throws and stuff from one end of my house to the other, hence, there is absolutely no reason for me to learn to crochet.

8) I don't sew. If something needs a button or rips, this is a sign from God that I'm supposed to put it into the donation bin or give it to my mother to fix. Needles are for getting splinters out of Shorties.

9) If something takes more than seven ingredients to make, it's officially Too Complicated.

10) I don't own any specialized pans. No cheesecake pans, no bundt pans, no double boilers. Again, falling into the category "Too Complicated".

I'm the Home Ec. teacher. Are you getting the humor now? Lord, help us all. This might be one of the signs of The End. Y'all better start praying for me and those students right now.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The State Fair

E-Squared and the Mississippi Crew
 Every year we pilgrimage as a family to visit The Husband's People in Mississippi. They live in the Pearl, MS area, so we load up the Shorties and drive four hours for a visit over our fall break. The State Fair is up and running the week of our fall break, so it's double the fun. We arrive at the fair at around noon and stay until they throw us out. It's exhausting and expensive and silly--perfectly Johnson.

Several meaningless observations about the state fair:

As though the corn dog alone wasn't offensive enough...
One, the only real reason to go to the fair is the food. And you better save up all of your points for that one day, because just walking around breathing in the fumes is fattening. Rib eye steak sandwich, chicken on a stick, cinnamon rolls the size of your head, cotton candy, candy apples, polish dogs, funnel cake...there is absolutely nothing nutritionally redeeming about fair food. They even cover the apples in caramel just to make sure. Of course the first thing that you want to do after ingesting 3,000 calories and 500 grams of fat is ride something that spins rapidly for three minutes.

Two, those rides are intended for people under the age of 20. Seriously. You think to yourself, "Oh, it looks like so much fun," but just like Satan tempting you to do evil, it never, ever works out the way you imagined it. (My neck and vertigo are screaming at me as I type this.) They even name the rides to give you one last chance to come to your senses: the Scrambler, the Ring of Fire, the Maniac, the Freak Out. How smart are you that you purchase a ticket to get on something called the Scrambler? If you are over the age of 30 and get on those rides, you should have to carry a sign that says, "Warning, my gene pool is questionable."

Three, fair people are an entirely different group of mammals. Like they should have their own classification system. First, everyone puts on the strangest things to go to the fair. Hoochie Mama is suddenly a viable fashion statement. And even the hideously fat, ugly women have gotten confused into thinking that showing more of their bodies is somehow making them more attractive. Um, not the case.

Our cousin (on The Husband's side of the aisle, ahem) wore a thing called a Morph Suit. Out in public. To the fair.

Now, in his defense he's sixteen, that alone redeems anything stupid that he chooses to do, but this thing is a whole new level of weird. He and his buddies met up wearing different colored morph suits. They ended up being interviewed by a reporter passing through town who is writing a book about what makes America America. (Interesting that he interviewed the three sixteen-year-olds dressed in body condoms, but that's another blog.)

I stood on the main crossroads and looked around the fair just as the sun was setting and the lights were starting to come on. Bright colors, lights swirling, screaming girls, smelling fried food on the cool, autumn breeze, and I turned to The Husband and whispered, "This is why the world hates us so--we are a land of excess. What are we riding next?"

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall Freshen Up

Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing. That's usually how you know it's the Right Thing to Do. And not everyone will love you for doing the right thing. In fact, some folks will really, really not like you for it.

So, for the Christian, the final authority has to be God's Word, not Your Opinion. It's a tough pill to swallow sometimes, since I like being right. (I really like being right.) I want to be right all of the time, but if I can't back it up in Scripture using the Holy Spirit as guide and God the Father as my sounding board through prayer, it's hollow with no substance. I mean, I can call myself the Queen of Persia all I want; calling myself so doesn't make me the queen of anything in reality.

We are called to love one another in God's Word. Saying we love one another means nothing without action. It means that you have to take me, warts and all. You have to tolerate me when I am unlovable. You have to forgive me when I am difficult. And I have to do the same for you. It's what makes us not just church members, but church family.

We also need to remember that we are called to service. If you will spend more time focusing on what God has for you to DO and less time on what others around you are doing (or not doing, as the case may be), I promise that your walk with the Lord will be less stressful, more enjoyable, and more productive. I don't judge Elise's work by Elaina's effort. Each child in my house is judged on his/her individual contribution regardless of the others. It is the same with God. I am held accountable for MY gifts, talents, work, submission, offerings, and devotion to the state of holiness--thank God that I don't have the burden of being responsible for anyone outside of me!

I started examining myself, and as usual, it's been horrifying. Am I as close to God as I ever have been in my life? Am I closer to holiness or further away? Am I diligent in my discipleship and prayer life--as though starving and thirsting for the Word? Am I loving others when they are unlovable? Am I serving and giving the way the Holy Spirit is guiding me? Am I clean and pure in the sight of the Lord? If not, I've got enough shaking the trees in my own backyard to keep me busy for quite some time.

I better get busy now; I've got a lot of cleaning up to do.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Drama, oh, the Horror!

I love, love, love teaching high school English. (And no, that wasn't sarcasm, I was being completely serious.) I love the literature. I love their sense of humor. I love it when something finally clicks, and I can actually hear the gears whirring and humming in their little heads, processing new info, learning something of value. It's incredibly rewarding. Seeing a student's writing go from horrific to passable and finally onto something special is something I can't quite describe. It's fulfilling. And then there are days like today...

Days full of "Drama". I tell you, the soaps may be off of the television, but the over-acting is alive and well in the halls of the high school. Erg. They are almost out of control.

I found this really good website with info that I am re-posting here. Some of you need to read it. Some of you need to read it twice. (You know who you are.)

God wants the best for us in every area of our lives. This includes friendships:

You are known by the company you keep.

We tend to become like the company we keep. This principle is just as important in friendships as in dating.  "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character." (1 Corinthians 15:33)


Proverbs 17:17 says "A friend loves you all the time, and a brother helps in time of trouble."

Understand the truth about your reputation.

Is hanging around this friend bringing down your reputation? Do people think that you are doing the same thing(s) your friend is doing? Find a true friend who can keep you accountable.

If you are starting the mess, just stop it. I mean literally, stop it. Stand up and loudly tell anyone you see being a jackwagon to stop it. Stand up and loudly proclaim that if we call the name of Christ, we sure shootin' better be living it by everything that comes out of our mouths, because it's a direct reflection of what is really in our hearts.

If that fails, go get an adult. I assure you that I'll tell someone exactly where to get off of the bus if someone is bullying you or harrassing you. It's unacceptable behavior and inconsistant with a Christ-like calling. It's only funny to the people not being teased (and even then it should be repulsive to the heart of true Christians).
Don't run your mouth. Just shut it. Not everything you know needs to be said out loud (in fact, probably 70% of it needs to be kept private.) Don't share info about other students. Don't gossip. Don't backbite. Don't lie. Don't exaggerate. Don't be foul-mouthed. Don't sow or encourage discord/fighting. Don't be THAT person! We will all know you by your fruit.

And Ladies and Gentleman? If someone is talking smack about that person over there, the second your back is turned they are talking smack about you too. Keep that in mind when you listen to gossip! You are being talked about out of that exact same mouth you were listening to a minute ago.

Just stand up for what is good and right! Be holy and love what is holy! Be a good friend.