Center for Neighborhood Enterprise

I caught a segment on The World and Everything In It recently featuring Robert Woodson. He is a black leader who was around for the Civil Rights movement and remembers Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. personally. He has worked for helping those in poverty improve their position through empowerment rather than subsidy.

The basic premise is to look at the poor neighborhoods. Study what the

What he said made a lot of sense. I looked him up and found links and contributions on a number of other sites.

Poverty Cure

Center for Neighborhood Enterprise

The Bob Woodson Show

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Life is like a Jigsaw Puzzle

Life is like a Jigsaw Puzzle

Life is like a Jigsaw Puzzle

Life is like a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. When you are building a puzzle, first, you find all the border pieces. The ones with the flat sides – the edge pieces. Once you’ve completed the edge pieces or border of your puzzle, the best strategy to follow is to pick out major, easy to identify sections of the puzzle. Pull out all those pieces. Fit them together. Put them in their place within your puzzle. Then select out the next easy to identify section. Separate out those pieces. Put them together as best you can and put them in their relative position within the puzzle framework.

As you move along through this process of identifying specific areas of the puzzle and putting those in order in their relative positions, the overall puzzle begins to take shape. Not all at once… it doesn’t come together immediately. But over time different areas of the puzzle begin to form as you concentrate on them.

And after a while those pieces which at first you did not recognize as being part of one of the earlier sections, you start to notice patterns of where they belong. Pieces that are all one color, for instance, are really hard to identify where they belong. You start to notice shades of color difference that you hadn’t noticed before. Pieces of the sections you had already isolated and built but were missing a few pieces, you find those pieces mixed in with the hard-to-identify pieces because they just didn’t have that easy-to-find characteristic.

And over time the process builds on itself as you get more and more sections in order and put together, until eventually you’re almost picking up pieces and putting them directly in their places one after another.

Growing as a person is like this. When you find and identify the boundaries to build your life within that’s the beginning. This is like finding the foundation for your life. It gives you a starting place. You want to find the firm foundation that is true – that conforms to reality. We find this true foundation in the Bible and in the person of Jesus Christ.

Then you begin working on certain areas of your life and try to put them in order. It might start with your finances, your marriage, your work life, or your spiritual life. As you put the different areas together, your life starts to take shape. Getting additional areas under control and in focus and in order and productive starts to become easier. Unfortunately life is not completely the same as a jigsaw puzzle. For the puzzle there is finally a finishing point, a finite amount of time when you can put the whole thing together and say you’re done. With life however, although there is a definite finishing point for our lives, we never reach a state of being done on this side of eternity. We leave that to our Lord and Savior for the next life.

We can use this principle of focusing on specific areas of our lives, getting them in order as best we can, getting things in place and moving on to another area. This principle can help us move the ball forward in our lives toward reaching our goals.

Marriage Goal-setting Retreat

Goal-setting

Start your Year with Goal-setting

Target by Jasper Johns

If you aim at nothing, you’ll be sure to hit it. [Target by Jasper Johns (Photo credit: cliff1066™)]

If you haven’t written goals for the year, I highly recommend you do so.

I’m a relative newcomer to goal-setting. I’ve only been writing personal goals for the last four years or so. My goals before that were more… abstract. The process has helped me to define what I am working toward with more precision and persistence. In many cases, my goals have provided an impetus for getting started in a new or risky area that otherwise would not have been there.

For my goals, I use a resource from Dan Miller, one of my podcast sources for inspiration. He recommends setting goals in seven different areas of your life: financial, physical, personal development, family, spiritual,  social, and career. If we neglect one or more areas of our life we will end up with problems in the long-term. For instance, one of my personal development goals is to read 24 nonfiction books this year. This as been one of my more successful areas the last couple of years. I also have some physical goals for exercise and eating right. These have been a little tougher for me to follow through with, but I need to continue to give them attention.

I try to use Zig Ziglar’s advice to track my goals, in fact, getting better at tracking is one of my goals. I’ve noticed that the goals I track regularly have a much higher chance of getting accomplished.

Finally, I try to be specific and measurable in my goal-setting. Dave Ramsey says a goal has five characteristics. A goal is specific and measurable, has a deadline, is owned by the goal setter (not put on them by someone else), and is written down.

If you haven’t already, take some time to think about and write down some goals for your life.

Here’s to a great new year!

Yes on 32

Yes on 32

Yes on 32

Unions in California are making a concerted effort to push a “No on 32” vote. They say that this proposition will weaken unions, take away the worker’s voice, and put us at the mercy of for-profit corporations. Unfortunately most of that is obfuscation. I wrote a post on this a few weeks ago. Prop 32 makes it so unions have to get permission from each union member before they can take dues for political uses from their paycheck. This provision actually gives the worker more power.

Currently there are a large number of “union” employees who do not agree with the political agenda of the union. For instance, in 2008 the CTA donated over $1 million to try to defeat Prop 8, our traditional marriage amendment. I give over $1000 in dues to the union every year, but I support traditional marriage. I was not sent a questionnaire asking about my stance on traditional marriage. But my money was used against me in that political battle. That is just one example of the Union taking a stance in opposition to my values.

If union organizations have to ask their members if it is okay to deduct the portion of the dues for political purposes from their paycheck this provides a fairly big incentive to those union organizations to listen and pay more attention to what the rank-and-file union member wants. Essentially we are simply making unions less compulsory, more voluntary. Yes on 32 will help to ensure that unions are representing exactly those workers who wish to be represented by that union.

Teavangelicals: Taking Back America

David Brody’s new book The Teavangelicals: the Inside Story of how Conservative Evangelicals and the Tea Party are Taking Back America describes the high degree of support between conservative evangelicals and Tea Party groups. In fact, Mr. Brody states that Tea Party organizations are made up of about 60% conservative evangelicals.

The shared goals between libertarian fiscal conservatives and conservative evangelicals make sense to me. While liberal nanny state programs seem to help the poor on the surface, welfare actually has a dis-incentivizing effect, hurting the poor in the long run. Making citizens dependent on government only overburdens the economy. These fiscal policies are not moral. Our nation is being overwhelmed by debt and obligations which our economy cannot supply. We’ve taken on trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities from  promises politicians made but had no funding source. Of course, over 50 million taxpayers murdered in the name of women’s choice hasn’t helped matters much either.

So I’m thankful we seem to forming a kind of coalition. Some people feel strongly that we need conservative fiscal policy and smaller government to turn our country around. Others feel the same way while being concerned that the moral fabric of our society is frayed with the push for so-called same-sex marriage and the prolongation of the abortion killing fields.

The Republican National Committee’s campaign literature for Romney almost exclusively discusses fiscal issues. My wife and I wanted to find a group that has a broader conservative approach. I am supporting Romney now as the conservative candidate to beat Obama in November. At the same time, I want more air time from our side on the moral and religious battles our nation is facing.  One example of a group that spans this gap is The Faith and Freedom Coalition. In our home we’re contributing to this organization because they are pushing for socially conservative as well as fiscally conservative policies. You might want to check them out as well.

11 More Furlough Days?

Tax

Tax (Photo credit: 401K)

Regarding upcoming cuts in pay for our school district. The adage ‘hope for the best, plan for the worst’ is a good strategy to employ in this situation. If your current financial situation is one of living paycheck to paycheck, it would be best to get on a strict budget right now. The 4 furlough days cut about 2% of our income away this past year. That probably hurt some, but was small enough to overlook in many cases. With the prospect of another 11 furlough days next year, we had better have a plan. 11+4=15 furlough days total. That is about 8.3% of our salaries. While we aren’t supposed to need that unless the governor’s tax initiative doesn’t pass, I recommend that each of us exercise the self-discipline to live on 8.3% less from the beginning of the school year. Set aside the overage in an emergency fund. If you can, set up your budget this way by cutting back on lifestyle or selling an item on which you are now making payments. You are going to be in much better shape for the cuts next year. If the cuts don’t happen you’ll have a nice little emergency fund all ready to go. However, if the cuts do go into place you won’t be caught off guard. You can go into them with confidence—knowing you are ready. Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University can help you with this.

For more particulars on our district’s situation, see the slideshow here. My apologies. Some of the shots are a little fuzzier than others.

Whether the tax initiative passes or not, decline is on the horizon for California. Our state business climate is very poor because of regulation and taxes. Private sector businesses fund the public sector. If the private sector leaves the state, school district funding will only get worse. And guess what, our governor’s little tax initiative is one more example of making government bigger, and as a result, our business climate worse. If you would like to read more on how this works visit my post about Politics as Easy as Pie. Overall, I cannot in good conscience vote yes for the governor’s tax initiative.

Power Grab or Stop Special Interest Money?

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs the ...

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs the act on July 5, 1935. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (right) looks on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last year Mark Mix gave a talk at the Pro Family Legislators conference on compulsory unionism which I have found very informative. I’ve blogged about it before.

In 1935 the Wagner Act forced all workers in America to be in unions whether they liked it or not. Mr. Mix talked about Samuel Gompers who was an early union organizer who advocated for volunteerism as opposed to compulsory union membership. “No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion. If we seek to force, we but tear apart that which united, is invincible.” His reasoning was that unions would be more cohesive and stronger if they were voluntary groups. Unfortunately, Other union leaders did not agree. In 1935, at any rate, the Wagner Act made compulsory unionism the law of the land. This was and is in opposition to our 1st amendment freedom of association. In other words, if we have the freedom to choose with whom we will associate, don’t we have the converse right to choose with whom we will not associate?

Unions quickly gained an enormous amount of power. For instance, the Mineworkers Union basically shut down the war effort soon after by refusing to mine coal until their demands were met. Congress amended the Wagner Act with the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. Among other things the act made it so states could enact ‘right to work’ laws. Since that time 22 states have opted for ‘right to work’ legislation. ‘Right to Work’ basically means no one can be compelled to join a union nor be compelled not to join a union. In other words, the only unions in ‘right to work’ states would be voluntary unions. Just like Gompers ennvisioned. Today our most prosperous states are those right to work states. The industries in heavily unionized states have crumbled or are crumbling under the overburden of union demands.

I for one am in favor of voluntary unionism. I am a member of a voluntary teacher association. I am also a member of the compulsory teachers union CTA.

There is legislation afoot that would allow teachers the choice of whether they want their union dues to be automatically deducted from their check as they are currently. I think this legislation has merit. Unions are calling it “The Corporate Power Grab Initiative“. The other side is calling it the “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act“. They have very different stories to tell about what the act does and does not do. One point of disagreement is on who gives more to politicians. CTA claims that corporations out give unions 15 to 1. But I was recently told by a CTA officer that CTA is the most powerful voice in Sacramento… Here is a site that tracks giving to politicians.

The Stop Special Interest Money Now Act may be the right act for giving freedom back to workers in California and eliminating the overbearing liberal voice of union officials in our state legislature. I invite you to read the text of the act for yourself and enter the discussion by making a comment here. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this proposed law.