Students Need To Think Long and Hard About College Loans

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was going back to school. I want to be a therapist. I completed the necessary steps to apply and waited. Within a few weeks I received this jubilant notification that I had been accepted. I remained totally unenthused as research led me to the glib reality that the majority of scholarships and fellowships are reserved for either undergraduates or already enrolled graduate students. About the time the acceptance letter arrived, so did my FAFSA offer. I nearly fell out of my seat when I saw that they were offering me $10K a semester in student loans. Student loans? Could they be serious? I instantly thought of the thousands of youngsters who are about to graduate with tons of student-loan debt hanging over their heads and no real job prospects. I know there's something called forbearance that allows the repayment of the debt to be delayed; but, I also know that student loans offered by the government are non-forgiveable. I know there are a lot of students who had this four-year "free-ride" and now have this staggering price to pay. I truly believe the finanicial-aid process for students really needs to be examined. An 18-year-old is not truly capable of comprehending the damage a $10K loan every semester, translates into. I'm long past 18 and have earned two degrees. One was fresh out of high school and grants provided the majority of the costs; and the other was a decade later where I was working full time and paid out of pocket for the degree. But this latest offer, of a loan has me concerned about who's looking out for the "little" guy. I calculated the cost of this degree if all I were offered were loans. At $10K a semester; for let's say six semesters; that totals to $60K of debt plus interest. I'm talking about becoming a therapist. They average about $40-$50K a year. Attending school on student loans would be similar to going on vacation with a credit card. That wouldn't be fun or wise. So here I am at a crossroad. I know God has a solution. Afterall, I believe my returning to school is His desire for me; so I trust He will provide. The student-loan letter reminded me that the borrower is slave to the lender. I left the rat-race world to pursue what I enjoy. That's writing. I simplified my life to the degree that debt is not my friend. This economic slump is proof of that. And yet, the President stood and challenged everyone to get some college or trade-school education. That's all fine and well; but, realistically, people who have lost their jobs most likely don't have the confidence to take on more debt, to go to school for something that may or may not pay off. Starting today, like the musician on the corner who serenades passersby for a living; and like the songsters who belt a tune for donations; I'm hanging out my shingle: "Donations Welcome". If what I write speaks to you; and you feel a yen to contribute, my deepest gratitude. But my overall concern remains the same. I've lived long enough to know student loans are not the most prudent means of getting an education. It's far more sensible to work full-time and attend classes part-time. The system needs to be overhauled totally. A child, even a 23 year-old-child (the average age of college grads) should not have to start life with insurmountable debt. It's a hole that they may never dig themselves out of. Most of the young college grads I know, have degrees in ambiguous fields. Most of them are working in jobs totally unrelated to their degree. Most of them are barely making enough money to pay their living expenses. A student loan tacked to this statistic is an insult to the hard-work and dedication they put in to getting a degree. No. I'm not a candidate for student-loan debt. When I finish this degree, it will be without debt. Even if that means forfeiting for a time, my dream of living totally off what I enjoy and returning to work. I end with a plea. If you're about to graduate high school; consider the cheaper route of community college. Live at home for a little longer if possible. Don't make debt you may not be able to repay. I know a lot of recent grads who are very sorry they did.


God Doesn't Need Help Deciding Who Gives Birth & Who Doesn't

Eight babies. Well, actually 14 babies. In one home. No papa to help wash bottles. No papa to help wash diapers or take the dirty ones to the curb. A single mama with 14 children and not enough income to take care of them. Despite all that; believe me that’s not my biggest concern. I’ll spare you that concern til the end. And I assure you that your concerns will trump my own. It’s obvious that this is one very “gifted” woman. In three years I brought two children home and knew I’d reached my “limit.” I thank God that He had mercy and didn’t test me beyond that measure. This is obviously a woman who does not believe in abortion. For that I applaud her. The downside of that upside is that she chose to “play God” in that He obviously chose to keep her womb from bringing forth life full term. We’ll never know if that was a finite decision or like Sarah and Abraham, a temporary one. I believe something good always comes out of every difficult situation. It’s often said that what doesn’t kill us only serves to make us stronger. Unlike in decades and centuries past when birth-control options were limited and people lived on acres of land and the crops it bore, having extremely large families was more understandable. But this is a horrible case for in-vitro fertilization and what criterion makes for a suitable candidate. Let me say it now. Like the child who yells something meant to stay in the walls of his own home, NO ONE IS A GENUINE CANDIDATE FOR IN-VITRO FERTILIZATION. Obviously I don’t agree with this method. The reason is simple. It’s the same as why I don’t believe in abortion. GOD is the Gifter of life. He plants seeds and allows them to grow in the wombs He’s specifically ordained for a given purpose. Man and woman are merely the vessels. There are far too many children, right here in America, waiting to be adopted or received into a home as a foster child. Women who are desirous of motherhood, should know that there are enough orphaned babies for their lifetime to take care of. I can assure you that having one birthed through another canal is the same as one birthed from your own; without the stretch marks and swollen feet. Children grow on you like your favorite pet. You didn’t give birth to it; and, oh how you love it as though you did. This is an opportunity to take a long, hard look at who’s being the most irresponsible: a doctor who plants seeds in a woman’s womb who obviously has an unstable lifestyle; or a person with six kids working two jobs to afford to have these seeds planted. Laws need to be formed to protect the innocent. In this case, the innocent are the 14 babies who were brought forth at the hands of man; so different from the Mighty Hand and Plan of God. I know. God is in all things. But His Divine Order is not always exercised by human. There was a time when having multiples was a miracle upon miracles. People experienced His awesomeness when He gave them more than one at a time. It was a rare and very highlighted occasion. In fact, under natural circumstances it still is. But now, women are desperately taking the creation of life into their own hands. It reminds me of mad-scientists in labs wondering who can bring the most babies to full term. Is eight enough? Is someone in a lab seeing if they can bring a dozen to full term? Women are people; not dogs. Most women are not born to birth litters. It’s time to draw a line in the sand and say, “NO MORE.” For women who have an appointment to do this man’s way. Call now. Cancel the appointment. Don’t fertilize eggs that God has not ordained. I assure you if you were placed on this earth to be a mother, there are thousands of beautiful children of all ages, skin tones, hair textures that would love to call you “Mama/Mom/Madre.” How beautiful your family will be if you have a rainbow of God’s children taking care of the yard as they get older; parading into church on Sundays. Or maybe, like some very special neighbors I know, you’ll adopt children who blend with your features so much, no one would know lest you told them. Okay, if you read books, last page first, you already know my greatest concern in this most recent delivery. Actually, just as your own, my concerns are grave. As she did the news jaunts I presume this is part of her plan to care for her children sin outside financial help. But, as I watched her prepare her hands to reach inside the incubator to stroke love onto her children, I was extremely concerned at something that may seem minuscule to many: There is something odd about how she stroked their hair “against” the grain as opposed to “with” the grain? That was difficult to watch. Stroking the hair in the direction it grows is soothing. It almost seemed as if one of the little ones tried to push her hand away. That’s it. If I could send a note, it would read: Dear Mommy, Please stroke their hair in the direction it’s growing. In conclusion, the babies really are undeniably beautiful. But unfortunately, most times, beauty doesn’t pay the bills or put food on the table. Instead of criticizing, everyone should pray instead. Even the most gifted of parents need that. For those of you who know her personally, don’t ask if she needs help. Some things are obvious. Most of us who ever had two under the age of three know how valuable someone coming by to do more than idly sit can be. Don’t be convinced of her stoic demeanor. She not only wants help. She desperately needs it. Someone in her church needs to put leadership skills into action and start a diaper drive; a round-the-clock feeding time, etc. etc. If you don’t do it for her; do it for the children. Because this endeavor really will take a village.

Suicide Is Never Really The Answer

The news of late is that our soldiers are choosing self-inflicted death over life. It’s not hard to understand, after all they’ve seen firsthand in war, why they may deem this the lesser of two evils. But to any and every one who reads this, please know suicide could never be an end-all; cure-all to life. I’ve lost several dear friends through the years to this desperate act. The first experience was a high-school friend. I remember the dual emotions of sorrow and anger I felt for years after this act. I finally had to shake his spirit off me after having several very dark dreams of his “current” existence. I’ve come to realize that in each instance a person played God and took what was not theirs to take. I do realize they felt as though the pain, whether emotional or physical, was just too unbearable to deal with. I don’t think those left behind (on this side) ever really get over the emotions of losing someone this way. Life’s taught me that suicide is a personal decision that no amount of words or deeds can prevent one who is sternly determined to end his or her life. I’ve talked to exhaustion with people who were desperate to the point of wanting to end it all; usually around the holidays; until I came to the realization in my spirit that there are no words to keep a grown person from doing what they want to do. And that their need for help was far greater than any I could give them if they were beyond processing words of hope. And that the way out of their dark abyss was not the newest anti-depressant; but a closer walk with right living as described in the Word. Thankfully none of the persons, in their dark moments, chose to take their lives. But too often people succumb to suicide as a means of relieving themselves of problems they have to endure or a burden they feel they are to others. To not take the focus off who this article is primarily about, I sincerely believe that just as our soldiers have to endure boot camp training on entering the military, there should be as stringent an exit-style debriefing boot camp that monitors and measures for at minimum six-weeks any abnormal anxieties our girls and guys who’ve served may be experiencing. I also think that giving them mood-altering medications to in any way numb what they’ve experienced should be halted immediately. Anti-depressants keep a person from facing what’s destroying them on the inside. But, the reason I know suicide is a temporary fix is because God tells us in His Word that our lives are eternal. And that we will either live in eternal light or eternal darkness. More people might jump off bridges if there was proof that if we end it, we can sleep til Jesus comes. But realistically God says in His Word that He formed us in our mother’s womb. He knows the plans HE has for us. Somehow taking matters in our own hands and deciding when “it’s over” is amusing and subtly arrogant. To think that God will say it’s okay that you’ve shown up early on the other side and can prematurely walk through the “pearly gates” means He allows us to change His plans. Ummmm; no, I don’t think life’s that simple. Life’s not that cut and dry. To those who have lost loved ones to this act, I do not believe that these souls are damned to hell. God knows we are weak vessels. In fact He knows we’re dust formed into clay vessels. He’s forgiving. People caught up in this moment usually reach a moment of insanity where rational thinking has become so murky that the irrational overrules the ability to weigh the rational. If this demon has risen in your spirit, let me end this by saying: Don’t take your life. Give your life. Rid yourself of everything that’s keeping you from thinking clearly. Seek professional help for weaning yourself off drugs that are giving you dark thoughts. As far as the tape in your head playing over and over and over and over of what war required of you, leave the mental video at the feet of Jesus and know that He already knows. And if you think you need forgiveness. Ask. Consider it a guarantee; so says His Holy Word. Take up jogging or baseball, or tennis. Pretend the ball is your problem. In reality, God put you here for a reason. It’s my greatest fear that to be so bold as to decide when to hit the exit button may mean going back to square one and reliving this entire existence from birth to God’s Divinely Ordained Time for this earthly departure, living an existence 10 times (or greater) more difficult than the current existence. There has to be a consequence for this action. Realistically, who are we to dare “play God.” It’s a far too-risky and un-chartered gamble to take. If you’ve been strong enough to endure a war; there’s no doubt in my spirit, that you are strong enough to tough out the rest of your days. Nothing, including bad times, last forever. Tap into your God-given gift. Are you the next Da Vinci? Are you destined to do missions work in parts of the world others are not gifted to serve? Are you a lobbyist; the voice of the under-served? Checking out is not really an option. It’s just saying a premature farewell to the people you know; who’d do just about anything to keep you on this side. And if they’re not loving folk; then make it your business to sit out at the park til you find someone who cares. People care. And they’re not always therapists who’re paid to care. You might make the choice your own. You might take your chances of learning what happens when we show up “prematurely” to the other side. What if you have to stand in a barren limbo for decades until your God-ordained number comes up? There are just too many “what ifs” to opting to quit before the game is over. In essence; isn’t that what life really is? We all start. We’re given several clear-cut rules. One includes, “Thou shalt not murder.” I do differentiate that from killing for the sake of defending one’s country. Read about the God-ordained wars of the Old Testament. It’s not for us to determine if a war is justified. As a soldier, it is to serve the duties put before you by the leader of the country. I think of Moses’ killing the Egyptian and in time, being used powerfully by God. But getting back to the semblance of life as a “game.” Aside from the rules, we’re gifted to do some task as we journey. Is that picking up cans and witnessing to lost souls? Or is it building homes for the homeless? We’re put on this planet for a designated time for a designated purpose. Quitting this game of life as you know it today doesn’t mean it ends. It simply means you throw the dice into the unknown abyss and risk losing whatever God’s best is for you. Stay with us another day. Pray for a God-speak moment. Jog or walk until you get some tug in your spirit what it is He wants you to do. I’d hate to think you’re a computer tech, needing to go back to school to get certified. The world could always use someone to fix a laptop gone wrong. Let me stop here. Just know that suicide affects not only you; but, all those who were destined to cross your path and be a part of your life on this journey. Whatever your reason for throwing in the towel; as difficult as this is to say, because I know what pain feels like; give it one more go. Let this be a life-changing moment on this side. Trust God to give you a peaceful purpose. He will. I know He will. There is no problem so big that He’s not even bigger still.


Love, Dating & The Two Year Limit

I don't believe in one-on-one dating. I'm not a fan. These are the words I echo to my many twenty-something "daughters." I think unaccountable dating is an opportunity to find yourself in compromising situations for either short or very lengthy expanses of time. Some of my daughters have been in long-term relationships and are getting a bit uneasy about the fact that no ring or proposal seems imminent. Another Valentine's Day is upon them and they get this strange anticipation that this might be the time the commitment will become formal. Although with each passing "romantic" holiday their balloon-filled hopes lose a little more air. Through cheery and pearlish smiles they sometimes find themselves saying they really don't even want to get married. Yet Wisdom knows that this is a truth that doesn't pass the test. There's an old adage: Why buy the cow when the milk is free? I'll add to that phrasing that even if the milk does go on sale, the farmer won't trust buying the cheaper product for fear that it's tainted. It's in an odd way like having an opportunity to buy a new car. Most people desire to lay claim to something (in this case someone) that hasn't been handled previously. I think most men have trust issues that stem from childhood teachings and experiences. The sad echo of "Mama's baby; Daddy's maybe" rings in the ear of many men from their childhood years. It's been said that all men want to marry virgins; but consummate with every woman they're attracted to.
But this writing is more about young women who find themselves spinning their wheels; in a rut. In their deepest selves they know that what they have has died; fizzled like a fiery sparkler on a rainy 4th of July. And yet they hold on to a dim ray of hope that maybe they're wrong. Maybe this Valentine's Day will find them calling to tell of their Cinderella-style proposal. Anyone who asks me about dating learns very soon that I have a two-year rule. Before one commits her heart and life to a perspective suitor I think she should make an unwavering and very personal commitment deep within herself that after 12 months of loyal devotion, a ring and proposal of marriage should be presented by this "guy-in-love". I believe everything should have a past, present and future. The past is what was before the two of you met. The present is the life you have together today. And the future is what your intent is for the rest of your life. Most guys will admit that they pretty much know very early on, if not instantly, when they've met their future bride. They will also admit that the chase is often more exciting than the catch; though, time and time and time again women fall prey to affection with reckless abandon. It's for that reason, amongst many others, that choosing celibacy before wedding vows is your friend. But this is not about snaring, or entrapping someone to do what they are not interested in doing. Instead it is an opportunity to have a plan of self-empowerment if it becomes apparent that this boat is merely attached to the dock instead of desiring to set sail on the seas of life. After that first year, and the person shows a sincere interest in forever-after by fulfilling the aforementioned commitments of ring and bended knee, I sincerely believe an additional 12 months is ample time to set a date, plan a wedding within an affordable budget, and start life with a covenant promise to Father God. Let's face it. It does no good to show up in church on Sunday knowing you're playing house or doctor with someone who's not your husband. I believe strongly in Divine Order. God's Word clearly states in Genesis that a man should take a wife. He warns in 1Corinthians that it is better to marry than to burn in lustful passion. I would that every woman wait well into her 30s to welcome a love interest. But I'm not God. He knows when the time is best for two people to fall in love. When that happens, and it is truly a love sent by God, then in faith the two must go forward and legally become one. But it's those long-term relationships that have no solid footing and are yielding no peaceable fruit that this writing is for. If you've been hanging in there for more than two years it's time to have that talk; first with yourself and then sadly enough with the person whose abusing the privilege of calling you his own. This is NOT about ultimatums. Who would want that? Would you? No, this is merely a plea that you respect yourself enough to say, 'This is what I want; when I want it'. If your timeline does not align with his, then you have to ask yourself if you're going to be a friend of Compromise for a while longer; with one last and ever-applicable mention: Compromise is not, and never will be, your friend. Be blessed and always know that peace can only come in Divine Order.


Pardon Me, Mr. President; But You WHAT??!!

Before I begin this article, please let me say, on behalf of all those who think I'd dare bash our Commander-In-Chief in a mean-spirit; not so. In fact, on a scale of 1-5; with 5 being the highest; I'd give him a 4.9 rating. I, like many other Americans, know he has been given a crater, the size of America; and somehow, is expected to refill the potentially expanding hole with a stabilized economy and soldiers safely returned to American soil with as little collateral damage as possible. It's said, you know you've arrived when you become the topic of conversation amongst total strangers. Well, needless to say he's arrived. I'm not a big fan of politics. It's too often laced with so much toxic corruption that the ordinary guy or gal finds it far too exhausting to decipher who's telling the truth from who's telling a lie. But recently I've found myself lending a longer ear than usual to what's being said when this newly seated president steps up to the podium, or sits down for an "informal" interview with the media. It's those seemingly unguarded interviews that make me the most nervous. I know, as he, that all it takes is one misinterpretation of a phrase and these 'rock-star journalists' will most likely replay the questionable phraseology over and over again. On a recent interview, I listened as he talked about two of his nominees who asked to be withdrawn from consideration for two key Cabinet positions. I listened, as he did what any person in charge would do: take responsibility for the bottom line. The twenty-somethings in the room instantly took umbrage to the fact that he took the fall for the "mistakes" of others. Before I could assure them that this was proper protocol, he dropped a word that made me do the "head to the side; furrowed brow" look. I looked to the left with this continued, baffled look and observed that I was the only one in the room taken aback by his words. The President actually said that he "screwed up." In my day, this terminology was synonomous with the "F" word. As I write this I'm taking a deep breath at the repulsiveness I have for the latter word. I'm consciously choosing to not hyper-ventilate. Before I go on with this piously saintly drama, I must say that I simply expected more from the President. I thought back to recent days when I used to hear the former President botch the word nuclear; and, how I can empathize as I have a very difficult time saying the month of February. In fact as I think about it, I'm stuck with stuttering at Feb-----. But as difficult as that impediment or defiant behavior was to listen to; I could never really know which; the recent words spoken in public by a person holding the highest office in America was at best, unsettling. During commercial break the chatter centered around him not having done anything he should apologize for. And then I, the odd person out, commented: He said the "S" word. To which they questioned if he'd said the "SH" word. How odd I really felt when they alluded that those words were okay to say in this day and time. It didn't register for a person who has never been okay with the anything-goes crowd; whoever that are or were. In private company, I realize the language one speaks becomes his own. But in public he's the voice of everyone from the unborn to those breathing their last breath. I thought of teachers who already have a tough job with "potty-mouthed" students. Interestingly, I thought of the 3-year-old in the store who unleashed a tantrum, saying, "Mommy, Mommy, I'm sorry; I know I "screwed up." To which his mom would reply as she picked up her jaw from the floor: "Where did you learn such language?" To which the toddler would proudly reply as he pointed to the cover of TIME magazine's "Man of the Year;" the articulate and highly-educated President Barack Obama. I have one final thought as I conclude this article. In a few years suitors will begin shadowing the family's doorstep. I'm curious to know how he will handle it when, in front of his daughters and wife, one of the apologetic suitors runs a little late; and has to apologize with a cumbersome, "Sorry, I'm late. I know I screwed up. I should have taken a different route. Traffic was really backed up." With all due respect, I've been reproved for burdening Mr. President with such a seemingly minuscule issue. But life has taught me that it's in the smallest details that the biggest damage is sometimes done. Youth in general, and Black male youth especially, need an example of intolerance for the vile. For me, the "S" word comes too close to the "F" word. I'm not certain; but, I don't think either of those words are allowed in most homes, nor any classrooms. Please help strengthen our moral consciousness, Mr. President. Some language should only be used (if at all) in adult settings. I'd never offer insult to give him alternatives to this slang; but, I'm hoping leaders around the world won't think the majority of Americans are comfortable with inferred vulgarity in speech, action, or deed. In closing, many prayers of gratitude to God for Him blessing us with this new leader of our country. Just as I'm thankful that he keeps his need for a cigarette away from the eyes of the children; I'm equally hopeful he'll keep the sometimes crass and undeniably vulgar slang away from them as well.

Parents Have The Right To Know

Recently while listening to a talk show, a debate ensued over whether or not a parent should be notified before an underage female gets an abortion. My response is an emphatic YES. It stands to reason that the key word here is underage. If a parent is legally responsible for a child until the age of 18; then, in all fairness to the parent, the law should mandate they be informed before such a life-changing decision is made. I realize the argument for the potential life-threatening situation that can arise for the underage child if an unstable parent learns of this dilemma; but allowing this secrecy to silently fester for the rest of this pre-adult's life is even more potentially life-threatening. In a recent discussion with several twenty-something females I was both enlightened and disheartened to learn that most of them would not want their parents to know if they were contemplating this act. They were even more adamant against telling them if a pregnancy had occurred before they were of legal age. I thought of my own daughter; and, how through the years I have maintained a respectful "as-need-to-know" open book of my life. I have always made it crystal clear to her that if something happened in her life, she and I; not her alone; nor she and other misinformed friends; and especially not her and total strangers with no real investment in the decision, would weigh the consequences that would allow her to make the most informed decision regarding her situation. I have always instilled in her that abortion is never an option. From the many dark stories I've heard of how the emotional scars from this act never fully heal, she and I both agree with a Divine belief that if Father God allows the human seed to be planted, it is with an inevitable purpose for the persons involved. I realize there are a lot of children born, who suffer at the hands of their ill-prepared parents; but, I also know the mental and physical repercussions of snuffing out the life of your own child have to be staggering and infinite. The thought of a child (anyone under 18) having sex outside of marriage is a sad commentary in its own light. The thought of a child being seduced by the moment and obviously ill-prepared to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, not to mention some incurable disease, is an even sadder commentary. But perhaps the saddest commentary of all: At such a fragile age, in such a fragile state, a child has to make such an adult decision without weighing the perspective of a parent, whose opinion they'd probably love to have, and value the most. I'm reminded of a proverbial phrase. What a tangled web we weave, when first we set out to deceive. Anyone who does something under a dark cloud filled with the burden of secrecy, is foolish to think it won't surface to the light in one destructive form or another.