who are you behind the screen?

I recently witnessed a vicious attack on someone’s character via social media. As one who has active accounts on both Facebook and Twitter, this didn’t surprise me because I had seen it before (and have even been on the receiving end of it myself), but it did appall me. The attack was not only unnecessary, but unfounded.

How many times have we witnessed insanely hateful comments posted on someone’s social media?

In today’s “screen” culture, it’s easier than ever to be hateful because of the anonymity. After all, isn’t it more acceptable to be spiteful when you’re not face to face with someone with whom you disagree? When you’re sitting at a desk behind a computer screen or sitting in your recliner with your phone or other handheld device? When you’re on your laptop taking an online college course and someone disagrees with you about a hotly-contested topic?

That distance – sometimes miles, sometimes continents apart – emboldens people, and not in a good way.

In our polarized culture, it’s not unanticipated, although it is unsettling.

Sadly, I’ve seen it among Christians as well. This is perhaps the most disturbing of all, as we are to be in this world, but not of it.  God detests strife among fellow Believers. Yet, it’s easy, even for those who profess Christ, to act like the world and fall into the trap of taking offense and following up that offense with vile words or sharing their disagreements through hateful responses.

Whether in person or online, Proverbs 15:1 still holds true.

It also holds true that if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. This can be difficult, but if you are set on slandering someone’s reputation via a comment, post, email, or online message, you would be wise to heed the advice found in Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

In the “olden” days, if someone disagreed, they said it to someone’s face. Today, as we sit behind a computer or phone screen, the words our fingers find to type seem to come more readily and without much thought, resulting in a slew of hateful, cruel responses and accusations, none of which belong in civil conversations over any medium.

Case in point, a dear friend and I are on opposites sides about a much-debated topic in today’s culture. As we were chatting via text the other day, she mentioned her viewpoint in a gracious way. I responded in same and we agreed to disagree. The difference of opinion did not alter our opinions of each other, nor did it cause us to react in a way that would destroy our friendship. She is a blessing to me and life is too short to allow something so trivial to divide us.

I encourage all of us to set ourselves apart from the culture of social media bullying via words. If you don’t like what you’re seeing in a Facebook or Twitter post, scroll on by. (And I’m not talking about pornography, violence, or sexually explicit images. Those aren’t people you should be following anyway). Rather, I’m talking about someone who posts something on the opposite side of the spectrum politically or religiously than you. If you don’t agree with it, scroll on by. If you have something constructive to add to the conversation, by all means, please do it, but in a civil, professional manner. I am the first to tell you I believe in our right to free speech. But hatefulness, slander, accusatory words, backbiting, and strife-causing is not pleasing to the Lord first and foremost, and it’s not pleasing to those who happen to see it on their friends’ timelines.

Rather, let’s encourage each other.

Most who know me know I am a conservative Christian. Most who know me also know that while most of my friends are in the same “category”, I also have several moderate-leaning and liberal-leaning friends. I also have atheist friends and those of other religions. When they post something I don’t agree with, I’m on the move with the mouse button. Nothing says I have to “like” or “retweet” what they’ve posted. But something, or rather Someone, does say I shouldn’t respond with hatred or vile words.

The book of James tells us to be slow to speak and quick to listen. The same can be said for our typing/texting habits.

My own personal mantra? May every word that is communicated through my fingertips be pleasing in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14, Penny version).

We don’t always have to be right. We don’t always have to have the last word. And we don’t always have to respond in a knee-jerk reaction. Most times, it’s wise to ponder something before responding – if we need to respond at all.

In a world full of hatred, division, and animosity, we (especially if we are Christians) should rise above that and seek to glorify Him above all else.

We can’t glorify Him if our fingers are running amuck with words we should never and would never say face to face.

Other posts on this blog you may enjoy:

How to Host Your Own Sisters in Christ Community Girls’ Night Out

Mom Approved Movies Listing

11 verses about God’s unfailing love

Scriptural antidotes to fear

The great toilet paper caper

the great toilet paper caper

It was early evening when the classified documents indicated there was toilet paper to be found. Lon, a man who prided himself on providing for his family, decided he was up for the task. Sturdy, burly, and strong, he set his eye on the prize: a pack of plush tp for his family. So, climbing into the family truck nicknamed “Little Gray” (although it is brown in color), Lon zipped out of the cul-de-sac to embark on his mission.

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As he drove down the main avenue to the local Walmart store, he happened to look over and see a car that reminded him of a pregnant roller skate. A man of about his age glanced over at just that same time and their eyes connected. Both accelerated.

And then Lon knew.

He was in for the race of his life.

Feeling a bit like Mario Andretti, Lon lurched Little Gray forward and stepped up his speed. He was up for the challenge.  He only wished he had added some souped up options on Little Gray. An engine tuner, a lift kit, a turbo kit, a supercharge… all would have been helpful at this time, as the pregnant roller skate threatened to overtake him.

Were it not for the 30 mph speed limit, Lon knew he would have smoked the competition.

Not to be deterred, Lon rounded the corner into the Walmart parking lot on two wheels with the speed and finesse of the expert he was. He pulled into a parking space only to find the pregnant roller skate pulled in right beside him. Lamenting that he’d worn his camo crocs instead of his running shoes, Lon leapt out of the truck and began to sprint toward the store. Those grueling hours of high school track were coming in handy as he zipped through the front doors, his competitor at his side.

“You get the call too?” his competition asked as they strode side-by-side toward the sacred toilet-paper aisle.

“Yep,” Lon replied.

They continued their race to aisle B26 “Look, man, I got a family,” the driver of the pregnant roller skate said.

“Me too.”

Lon sized up his competition. Similar height, similar build.

But he had this. Failure was not an option.

Everywhere in the store, chaos abounded. If necessary, he would draw upon his former experience as a football lineman and use his massive shoulders to push through the crowds (in a gentlemanly way, of course). Carts overloaded with multiple counts of bizarre items no one would have purchased before the Great Hoarding Phenomenon of 2020 threatened to hinder his quest.

Lon dodged into the tp aisle, the competition on his tail. His eyes settled on the prize: a pack of six rolls of fluffy white toilet paper. Only a couple packages remained on the otherwise empty shelves. He exchanged another glance with his rival. Heart pounding, muscles burning, he made the final leap to the shelf, and in one fell swoop, achieved victory. His competition did the same, securing his own pack.

They both stopped for a minute and chuckled. Were it not for the new social distancing rules in place, they might have shook hands or fist bumped.

The former competitors walked toward the checkout together with their prized purchases, discussing, at the appropriate distance, the ridiculous nature of toilet paper shortages.

Only later did Lon learn the hard sad truth. The toilet paper was one-ply.

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*This story has been slightly exaggerated. The toilet paper pack actually contained 12 rolls, rather than six. 🙂

 

Happy Memorial Day!

May we never forget the ones who sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy. Please take a moment to pray for those who have lost someone in service to our great country.

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10 types of people you meet at the gym

gym stereotypes

Note: I will randomly be posting funny stereotypes on my blog in between my usual “Importance Series”, “Movie Mondays”, and other usual posts.

There are many different types of people who use the gym each day. Do you recognize any of the following? Or…can you identity with anyone on this list?

The Wannabee Bodybuilder – Watches his muscles in the mirrors, flexes, grunts, makes over-exaggerated movements. Perhaps he has a too-healthy sense of self. Telltale identifiers: wears tank tops to show off his “large” muscles, too-tight of clothing to enhance his build, and walks with inflated superiority.

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The Rebellious Participant – Doesn’t think that following instructions in a group fitness class is really necessary. She does her own thing, whether it be the exercises or the stretches. She even has earbuds in and listens to her own music and avoids all instruction. The rebellious participant has always wanted to teach her own class, so she does her own thing to get into practice. Telltale identifier: deliberately ignores the instructor’s workout prompts while partaking in exercises that have nothing to do with the class she’s in.

The Crabby Growler – Complains about EVERYTHING. Don’t even attempt to cheer up the Crabby Growler. Nothing works. For him, everyday is a bad day. Telltale identifier: his trademark permanent scowl and perpetual whining.

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The Bubbly Extrovert – Likes to chat with everyone everywhere about everything. On the way to the exercise machines, on the way from the weight room, during exercise class, and everywhere in between. Telltale identifier: She exudes happiness and bears an ever-present smile while waving enthusiastically to everyone in the vicinity.

Mister Musical Machines– Moves from machine to machine, never staying on one for more than five seconds. He starts with the treadmill before moving on to the elliptical, then the recumbent bike. His favorite childhood game was musical chairs. Telltale identifier: never wipes down machines in between hopping from one to the next, and moves so fast you can’t keep track of him.

The Vulture – She has it all planned out which machine or exercise bike she wants. EVERY TIME. Her name is on it in gold lettering. Touch her machine and your life expectancy will drop dramatically. Telltale identifier: Her gaze is fixed on her machine from the doorway, and she ramrods her way through until she has staked her claim.

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The Monopolizer – He thinks he owns the gym. That walkway between the ellipticals and treadmills? Yep, that’s his designated stretching place, even when the space meant for stretching is completely empty. Those weight machines in the weight room? They all belong to him. Telltale identifier: his personal belongings litter the gym, from his water bottle, gym bag, sleeping bag, and recliner. You can’t get around him, and must wait for him to move before reaching your intended destination.

Alexander Graham Bell’s great-great-great-great-great granddaughter – She CANNOT miss a call, so she makes sure she is always on the phone. And she talks loud enough so that you can have the privilege of enjoying her conversation above your own music, even when you have earbuds. Telltale identifier: she is the only one with her cell phone as an extra appendage.

The Walking Germ Spreader – He takes being generous too far and is only too happy to share his germs with everyone else via coughing and sneezing without covering his mouth. The force of his coughs and sneezes rivals the strongest of fans and you go home fearing you may have contracted some rare disease. Telltale identifier: He is constantly heard saying “It’s just allergies”.

What other stereotypes have you come across at the gym?

 

Movie Monday: Duma

movie monday duma

Once in awhile, I come across a little-known movie that is, in my opinion, a “must-see.” Duma is such a movie.

dumaSet in South Africa in the present day, 12-year-old Xan and his father nearly run over a baby cheetah while driving home on an empty stretch of highway one evening. They take the animal back to their South African farm and raise it as a pet. Xan mentions that when you give something a name, it then becomes your friend.  After trying to decide on a name, Xan finally decides to give his new pet the name of Duma, which is “cheetah” in Swahili. It isn’t long before a wonderful friendship begins between Xan and Duma.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this movie is the portrayal of Xan’s closeknit family. Xan’s dad, Peter, is sure to teach his son all he knows about building things and taking care of a farm (which comes in handy later in the movie). Peter spends a considerable amount of time with Xan and, together, they test Duma’s speed by racing alongside the animal with a stopwatch.  There is also a strong love and devotion between Xan’s parents, even when they are in the midst of tragedy.

Duma is void of anything objectionable (there is a situation with “cultural” medicine practices, but nothing explicit); however, there are several intense scenes that will frighten younger viewers. When Xan embarks on an adventurous journey and a promise he made to his father to return Duma to the wilds where he belongs, Xan encounters the harsh elements, wild animals, a stranger, and near death due to a lack of water and food. Parents will also want to discuss Xan’s choice to leave on his own to help Duma find his way back to the wilds, rather than solicit his mom’s help.

Duma is one of those movies that I hadn’t heard much about, but that I am glad I purchased. Themes of family unity, forgiveness, loyalty, loving your neighbor, and grief all play integral roles in this movie. I highly recommend it for everyone ages 12 and over. (NOT recommended for those under 12).

For a listing of movie suggestions, followed by archived movie reviews, please see Mom Approved Movie Reviews.

 

5 ways to make your child feel loved

5 ways to make your kid feel loved

We tell our children we love them often – and our words are important. But how can we put action to those words and show them we love them? Here are five easy steps.

1. Pray with them. We pray corporately several times daily as a family – in our family Bible studies, before meals, etc. However, one of the things I have found especially important is to pray separately with each of my children as well. In those quiet times we prepare to spend with the Lord, I ask each child what specific prayer requests they have for others, for themselves  – are they struggling with a subject in school? Having difficulties with a friendship? Dealing with an illness?

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2. Spend time with them one-on-one. These moments are some of the most precious. My oldest daughter and I both love to write. We brainstorm ideas together, have “inside jokes” about a writer’s life, and discuss “problem characters.” My youngest daughter and I ran a 5k to raise money for breast cancer last year. It can be, but doesn’t have to be big events. Sometimes the littlest most ordinary times together make the best memories.

3. Listen. Really listen. So many things compete for our attention. Work duties, household chores, other children, etc. When we look our child in the eye and really hear what they are saying, we are showing we love them. I have personally found that the car is one of the best places to strike up conversations. No ear buds, no smart phones, no TVs. Just great conversations (unless, of course, we are all joining in singing with our favorite Christian artist on the radio! :))

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4. Find out what’s important to them. Recently my youngest daughter told me that she really appreciates when I plan out the day ahead with her. She enjoys knowing exactly what we’ll be doing that day and helps her to prepare.

5. Discuss the easy and the hard topics. We, as parents, should be the first line of information for our kids. We’ve always had an open-conversation-policy in our house where our daughters can discuss whatever topic they’d like, as long as they do so respectfully. We’ve had some fantastic talks about fun topics, but also some great discussions about the hard things: drugs, eating disorders, politics, abortion, etc. Be sure that your discussion topics are always age-appropriate.

In James 1:17, we are told that every good gift is from above. Children are such a gift and a blessing that the Lord has given us. May we, as parents, be worthy.

James 1 17

Movie Monday: God Bless the Broken Road

movie monday god bless the broken road

A gifted singer, Amber Hill takes seriously her role in directing the choir at church. She and her young daughter, Bree, are counting down the days until their husband and father returns home from his tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Unexpectedly one day while in church, Amber receives the news…her husband, Darren, has been killed in the line of duty.

Her life changes in a moment.

god bless thebroken road

Things take a dramatic turn for Amber and Bree. No longer interested in relying on God or anything to do with faith, Amber tries to get by on her own. Bree still attends church, but without her mom.

Cody Jackson is a race car driver given a second chance. Can he take the time to listen to advice and have a teachable spirit? Will he be able to get his career back on track? When his path crosses with Amber’s, will he be the friend she so desperately needs even though his heart might wish for more?

God Bless the Broken Road is a story of faith, love, and patriotism. It is a story honoring our vets. It’s a movie that shows the reality of what one faces when a loved one loses their life while serving their country.

This movie depicts the struggles even Christians face when going through difficult times. It does so effectively and realistically.

Excellent background music, which included the likes of MercyMe, Hawk Nelson, Citizen Way, and Audio Adrenaline. Micah Tyler, one of our family’s favorite Christian artists, makes an appearance in the movie and sings a couple songs as well.

There are a few intense moments depicting Darren’s last moments on earth. However, there is nothing objectionable in this movie, and it’s appropriate for older tweens and up. My only recommendation? Be sure to have a box of tissues nearby.

I give God Bless the Broken Road a full five stars out of five.

 

 

 

 

3 things to do this month

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Looking for a way to make a difference this month? Check out these great ideas!

Ministry Opportunity #1: Sharing God’s Word around the world:

Do you have any extra Bibles (new or used), Christian magazines, tracts, non-fiction Christian books, or Sunday school supplies? Looking for a way to make sure they are donated to somewhere that is making a difference?

Love Packages is “a ministry aimed at putting Christian literature and Bibles into the hands of people around the world…We send them to ministries in many poor countries to distribute freely to people hungry for the Word of God”.

Not only does Love Packages accept donations of the above-referenced items, but they are also in need of monetary donations to enable them to ship the materials. According to their website, the average cost to ship one container is $4,200. They are also always in need of volunteers to assist in packing the materials.

For more information on Love Packages, please visit their website.

Ministry Opportunity #2 Showing the love of Christ to the least of these:

Gather your family and go shopping this Christmas (a bit early!). Operation Christmas Child provides boxes of toys, school supplies, and hygiene items to underprivileged children in other countries. Not only that, but through these boxes, precious children have an opportunity to know the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ.

You can even build a shoebox online if you’re crunched for time.

All of the information for this amazing ministry can be found here. Please take special note of the items allowed (and not allowed!) in the shoeboxes.

Hurry! Collection of the shoeboxes takes place November 12-19. Drop off locations are available at the website.

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Ministry Opportunity #3: Putting together a foster care kit.

According to the most recent data, there are over 400,000 children in foster care (source: The AFCARS Report) in the U.S.

Many people will be able to foster a child. Some will be able to adopt a child from foster care. And several will be able to help provide clothing and toys to children in foster care.

A friend of mine who works with foster children and their foster parents told me today that some children arrive in their foster homes with nothing. Some have no clothing, not even underwear or pajamas.

Put together a foster care kit for children placed in emergency foster care by providing the following: new or gently used clothing, a new toy (stuffed animal, coloring books and crayons, etc.), and a book. Deliver the kit to your local family services agency.

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For more ideas, check out 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference.

What ways do you and your family make a difference?

what’s in a name?

what's in a name

When I went to vote in the primaries yesterday, one of the women at the voting table thought my name was Shirley.

Surely. Now, do I look like a Shirley? 🙂

It reminded of the time I was voting a few years ago and they thought my name was “Penny Dollar.” I’ve always been thankful I didn’t marry someone with the last name “Nickel,” “Dime,” or “Quarter.” But, I guess I never really thought about my last name being “Dollar.” I suppose I could blame inflation.

The most hilarious thing was that they announced loudly and for all at the voting precinct to hear, “Penny Dollar has voted!”

Yes, having a name like Penny is sure to garner interesting nicknames. In high school, a friend came up with the name (meant to be a sweet nickname, mind you) of Pinhead. It caught on and extended even to my family.

My fifth grade teacher (and one of my favorite teachers, I might add) never did realize my name was Penny. That entire year, I was known as Peggy! 🙂

My husband, Lon, has all sorts of misunderstandings about his name. We receive mail for Ian, Ron, Don, Ion, and Lom. I signed him up for the health fair blood draw and they had him written down as “Lawn.”

Speaking of silly names, I recently took a poll of funny real-life names. Here is a sampling of those submitted. Remember, these are all REAL names!

Anita Paycheck

Pilot Inspector

Ima Pigg

Dr. Paine (a real doctor – BTW, don’t think I want to go to him for treatment!)

dr. paine

Crystal Shanda Leer

Justin Other Mitchell (he was youngest in a long line of Mitchell children)

Dr. Relich (pronounced “Relish” and not to be confused with his relatives Dr. Mustard and Dr. Ketchup, LOL)

My Own

Dr. McClaws (a foot doctor)

Sunshine E. Day

Liberty Isabell

Justin Tyme

and the sibling groups:

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Lake Trout and Brook Trout (twins perhaps?)

One of the things I enjoy most about writing books is naming the characters. After all, I can’t let all those good names go to waste – names I would have used had I had 50 children!

I love nicknames, and no, I don’t even mind being called Shirley, Penny Dollar, or Pinhead once in awhile.

However, my favorite name? The name the Lord calls me – He calls me “His.”

What funny real-life names have you heard?

7 tips to help safeguard against an entitlement attitude in your kids

Consider the following:

An adult in her late 20s was fired from her job for not showing up for work several days in a row without a valid excuse. Her dad proceeded to go to the place of business and share his feelings, albeit abrasively, with the boss.

angry man

A teenage boy disregards the rules at the local movie theater and puts his feet on the seat in front of him and sends texts during the entire movie. He doesn’t think the rules apply to him.

A 10-year-old really wanted a puppy. When she didn’t get the one she wanted, she made sure to make her disappointment well known by having hysterical fits and giving her parents the silent treatment.

A child loses in a competition and his mother persuades the judges to award all of the participants a trophy, stating that it is unfair for there to be a “First Place.”

A teen is angry because her friend won the award she wanted. She decides to spread false rumors about her friend as “payback.”

bratty teen

A dad yells at a coach because his daughter was not put on the team he thought she “deserved” to play on.

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What do all of these examples have in common? They fit the definition of entitlement.

According to the Merriam-Websters Online Dictionary, entitlement is the “belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.”

In a society where the “me first” mentality is becoming ever more prevalent, what can we, as parents, do to help safeguard an entitlement attitude in our kids?

Teach your kids the importance of respecting authority. The Bible has a lot to say about this topic. Romans 13:1 says, Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”

The first authority children have is their parents. The Bible is clear about this topic in Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1-3, Proverbs 1:8, and many other verses. If a child has not been taught to honor and respect their parents, how will they be able to honor and respect others placed in authority over them? Teachers, coaches, police officers, etc.?

Encourage a teachable spirit. Pride is a forerunner to a selfish and entitled attitude, so reinforcing a spirit of humility is key. The Bible talks of the importance of a teachable spirit in Proverbs 9:9 and Proverbs 12:1. No one knows everything and it’s important for children to learn that early in life.

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Teach your children compassion. Jesus had great compassion in the Bible for those who  suffered, were ill, struggled, and were mistreated. John 13:1-7 details the account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. What an act of service! Teach your children to serve others less fortunate. By doing so, this takes the focus off of themselves. Soon, it will become a habit to serve others, rather than themselves. Make it a point in your family to do regular volunteer work.

Remind your children the dangers of jealousy. Each time a story of jealousy is in the Bible, it never ends well. Think of Cain and Abel, Joseph of the Old Testament and his brothers, and Saul and David. Whenever envy rears it’s ugly head, encourage your children to pray about their struggle so that it does not give way to full-blown envy, which is a sin.

Teach your kids to have a heart of gratitude. If your children have gratitude for what they are and what they have, there will be no room in their lives for jealousy. An excellent way to do this is to encourage them to give thanks often to God and to those around them for the things they have.

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Enforce proper consequences. The perfect way to promote an entitlement attitude is to avoid giving your kids consequences for bad behavior.

Don’t coddle your kids or do everything for them. At some point they will be adults, and at that point, they will need to take responsibility.

It’s not easy to combat selfishness and a “me” attitude, especially in the current climate in which we live. But with prayer and perseverance, we can break the destructive cycle of entitlement.