Toxic Charity – by Robert Lupton (2011)

Toxic Charity

Robert Lupton has worked among the poor in the United States, particularly Atlanta, for over 40 years. During that time, he has learned much about the best ways to help people. There are approaches that work well, some that only temporarily help, and some that actually hurt communities in the long run.

The problem of poverty has been with the human race almost since the beginning of our existence. God told the Israelites in Moses’ time: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11) Centuries later, Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.” (Matthew 26:11) He fed thousands of hungry people as an example for us to follow.

Jump ahead to present times. In the metropolitan area I live in, the number of homeless shelters, housing subsidies, food pantries/trucks/kitchens, clothing banks, free phones, and other helping programs are increasing. But it doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect on the number of impoverished people. Do we just give up? Absolutely not! We still have a responsibility to help our brothers who are struggling. Some of our methods are flawed though. Mr. Lupton gives his thoughtful suggestions on making charity something that truly lifts people up, even though it may take longer to accomplish.

Excerpt from pages 129-130:

Anyone who has served among the poor for any length of time will recognize the following progression:

give once and you elicit appreciation
give twice and you create anticipation
give three times and you create expectation
give four times and it becomes entitlement
give five times and you establish dependency

Excerpt from page 179:

But when we mainly look on the negative aspects of a community, we overlook the legitimate business entrepreneurs, the good parents, the wise grandmothers. When we focus on what is wrong, we miss what is right. And our strategies for helping are driven by combating problems rather than strengthening potential.


Skateboarding Downtown


Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more difficult to drive downtown, it got more difficult. The main street, Division Avenue, used to be four lanes wide, two for northbound and two for southbound. The lanes were very skinny though, and you risked scraping your car against the cars in the parking lane. The road could not be widened, as the century-old buildings were built up to the sidewalk, and the sidewalk up to the street curb. Delivery trucks would park half-way in the driving lanes and unload during morning rush hour, much to the annoyance of other drivers. Almost constant road repairs hindered the traffic flow. Water mains and sewer pipes frequently needed fixing. The asphalt surface kept developing potholes. For the better part of the year, drivers played dodge-ball with mammoth sinkholes.

Several years ago the city decided they had found a solution for our four skinny lanes – turn them into two lanes, one for each direction, with a left-turn lane at intersections. Adjacent to the the driving lanes they created bike lanes, since cycling downtown had increased. Ah, at last we could drive in a lane wide enough to not bump into anyone! But due to the peculiarities of the street, the bike lane would, in places, abruptly stop because there wasn’t enough room for it, so the cyclists would suddenly merge into the car lane, then the bike lane would begin again and all was well. It was – and still is – an awkward arrangement that mystifies first-time drivers to the downtown. The rest of us have gotten used to it. Other streets in the downtown area have been modified to add bike lanes, which is a good idea on some of the streets, but the chronic poor conditions of the roads make them difficult to bike on. (The streets by the government offices are the exception, with quality concrete and nice wide lanes.)

This morning, over my cup of coffee and oatmeal, I read that the city has decided it will now allow people to skateboard in the traffic lanes. In fact, if you feel like rollerskating or rollerblading in the traffic with cars, that’s okay too. What??? Were the seven city commissioners who unanimously voted for this sober when they made the decision? We still have recurring potholes, pavement cracks, endless road repairs, pedestrians that just walk into the road whenever they feel like it, and bikes darting in and out of the car lanes. Do we really want to add skateboarders to the mix of things to watch out for when we’re driving?
Here’s the link to the story:

This is going to be a legal nightmare for the city the first time that a 15-year-old kid is rollerblading or skateboarding in the street, wipes out because of some bad cracks or a sinkhole he/she didn’t see in time, and gets hit by the car behind him. The driver of the car will see their insurance premiums go up because they hit him/her. The police will make money off the citations, and the hospital/doctor’s office will get more business. Come to think of it, maybe this whole thing is just set up to be a moneymaker from the start…

Corduroy – by Don Freeman (1976)


One of my all-time favorite kids’ books is “Corduroy”. It’s the story of a stuffed bear that lives in a department store. A button has fallen off his corduroy pants, and he tries his best to find it. Eventually the teddy-bear is adopted by a child that loves him, and he gets a new button. It’s a simple story that warms my heart every time I read it.

You just can’t beat a good pair of corduroys. They’re sturdy and warm, and can be worn for most of the year. Men, women, and kids wear them. They wash up well, and don’t need ironing if you pull them straight out of the dryer. Also, they never go out of style.

Today turned out to be a great corduroy day. It’s mid-May, almost summer, but the temperature topped out at a mere 49 degrees. So I wore a pair of gray cords today. Tomorrow I’ll probably grab the tan ones, or maybe the black ones. There’s nothing quite like them…

The Testament – by John Grisham (1999)

The Testament


Troy Phelan, a cynical billionaire who has grown tired of living, jumps from a skyscraper after signing a simple will that leaves his massive fortune to an illegitimate daughter whom his family knows nothing about. Only a pittance is granted to his other children, and not a penny to his ex-wives. Rachel Lane has grown up not knowing her father, and is a missionary to a remote tribe of Indians in South America. The majority of the book covers the search for the elusive missionary, and her reaction to the inheritance.

Nate O’Reilly is the lawyer that is sent down to Brazil to locate Rachel. His life is a total mess – twice divorced, estranged from his children, in trouble with the IRS, and newly released from a detox program. The sub-story line about Nate’s life is just as intriguing as the main plot of finding Rachel. The stories intertwine perfectly as Nate and Rachel finally meet.

The book switches back and forth from the United States, where the Phelan children are legally contesting the will, to South America, where Nate is traveling through the Pantanal area looking for Rachel. He encounters difficulties of all varieties, making it a hellish trip.

I thoroughly enjoyed “The Testament”, both in book form and as an audiobook. Frank Muller is the narrator, and performs to perfection. His reading is animated, as if he really is the character he is reading. Mr. Muller was the narrator for a number of popular novels, but was injured in a serious motorcycle accident in 2001, from which he never fully recovered. He passed away in 2008, leaving “The Testament” as some of his finest work. Whether you read it in printed or audio version, you’re sure to find this one of John Grisham’s best novels.

True Light/Dawn’s Light – by Terri Blackstock (2007, 2008)

True Light   Dawn's Light


It’s been almost three-quarters of a year since the planet has been plunged back into darkness by a natural electromagnetic pulsar. There are none of the conveniences we take for granted, such as electrical lighting or indoor plumbing. Hope is on the horizon, though. The pulsars have finally ended, and the government is working on getting power grids working, and re-opening the bank system.

In “True Light”, it is the coldest part of the year, and people are struggling to find enough food to feed their families. Someone is willing to kill to get what he needs. It’s an incredibly difficult time for law enforcement. Without paychecks, most of the police force walks off the job. Much of the story focuses on Mark, a newly deputized officer trying to solve a case of murder in the woods, and keeping order in the town jail. Deni Branning is working for the local newspaper, which is up and running again. Doug and Kay, Deni’s parents, are becoming spiritual leaders in their neighborhood.

The last book in the Restoration series is “Dawn’s Light”. Deni has to decide whether she wants to pledge her love to Mark, or to Craig, her ex-fiance who unexpectedly shows up in town as a government worker restoring electrical service. Beth Branning, Deni’s younger sister, is an eyewitness to a terrible crime, but can’t tell anyone because she is afraid of retaliation against her family. Just when it seems that life is starting to get better for everyone, a medical emergency hits the Branning family. They go through the agony of every family that has had a child in a life-threatening situation. The ending of the series does not answer every question, but it reminds us that God walks with us through the difficult times of life on this earth.


Note: If you haven’t read the first two “Restoration” novels, you will want to read them first.

#1 Last Light


#2 Night Light




Fall Down Laughing: How Squiggy Caught Multiple Sclerosis And Didn’t Tell Nobody – by David Lander (2000)

Fall Down Laughing

Looking for a good biography that won’t take you forever and a day to read? I would highly recommend “Fall Down Laughing”. Author David Lander is probably best known for his television role of the dim-witted Squiggy on the show “Laverne And Shirley”. While Squiggy was a shallow character whose life was an open book, Mr. Lander’s real life was anything but an open book. Unbeknownst to the public and his co-workers, he had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

Many people would have succumbed to depression and discouragement, but not David Lander. He loved his work, and wanted to keep going entertaining folks as long as he physically could. The great lengths he went through to keep his secret were amazing. If you think your life is difficult, read what it’s like to live with MS every day. Squiggy never impressed me, but David Lander has definitely earned my respect.


“I had suffered a pretty bad fall earlier in the day, and I spent quite a bit of time on the floor trying to get up. By the time I was finally able to stand, I was bruised, battered, and exhausted. I wanted very much to climb into bed and turn on a baseball game, but instead I pulled on my pants, tucked in my shirt, and went to the dinner, hoping like hell I wouldn’t fall down again.” pg. 176-177

Is There Any Good Cell Phone Customer Service?

cell phones

Today I went to our local mall with my mom and my son. Mom had a Verizon phone that wasn’t getting a good signal where she lived. This was phone number four or five in an attempt to find one that actually worked indoor her building. My son Jonathan had a phone with service through T-Mobile that he wanted to downgrade because he wouldn’t be using it much anymore. The mall had a kiosk for Verizon as well as one for T-Mobile, so we figured we could stop at each one and get the issues resolved.

First stop, the Verizon kiosk. There was one lone employee leaning against the counter with her back to us, totally oblivious to our presence. She appeared to be typing a long text on her cell phone. After about 30 seconds she noticed us. We explained Mom’s situation, and asked for a recommendation on a phone that would work in her situation. To our amazement, she said, “Gee, I don’t know much about these phones. I just started working here.” She suggested we go to the nearest Verizon store.

Our next stop was to the T-Mobile kiosk. There were three employees behind the counter. One of them started helping Jonathan, but couldn’t seem to get anything to work. They couldn’t find his account, this wasn’t right, that wasn’t right, they tried to talk him into more service than he wanted. Mom’s legs grew tired, so we sat down at a table at a nearby coffee shop. For the next 40 minutes we watched as each of the three employees talked, stared at their screens, and generally seemed to be accomplishing nothing. Several other T-Mobile employees meandered over at one point and started chatting with their co-workers. Mom and I could see Jonathan bending and stretching his legs in discomfort. At last he finished, and the three of us rushed out of the mall. Jonathan said things still weren’t really resolved.

On to the Verizon corporate store. We walked in the front door and were greeted by a pleasant employee. We described the situation with Mom’s phone reception, and she seemed sympathetic. She typed Mom’s name onto her iPad, asked us to take a seat, and said it would be about a 30-45 minute wait to be helped! By this time my poor mother was beginning to worry about getting home before dark, and we decided to wait till another day to tackle the phone situation.

My conclusion: Cell phone companies are basically an expensive racket, and good customer service with them is rare. They promise so much, and often do not deliver. People have the illusion that they will have the security of being able to make and receive calls whenever and wherever they want. They’ll be able to surf the web, take great snapshots, send out pictures, listen to music, download e-books onto their phone, and so much more. With expectations that high, people are almost guaranteed to be disappointed. That’s why I’ll just stick with my lowly tracfone. It takes care of my basic calls, and I don’t have to hassle with poor customer service.