Category Archives: Opinion

Patty LaRoche: In God’s Image

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Gen. 1:26,27 (ESV)

If you skimmed this passage and missed its point, here it is: we are created in God’s image. Think about that. We matter. Last week I shared about my visit with “Greg,” a sex trafficking expert with “Deliver Fund,” who described what happens to girls taken into bondage. It made my skin crawl. He said that there is NO community unaffected by this crime. Surely he wasn’t serious. Nevada? Fort Scott? Where everyone knows who’s dating whom, what kind of surgery they’ve had and if they go to church or not? That’s just nuts.

Apparently not, because, well…let’s face it—we might know the latest gossip, but we pay little attention to what goes on right around us. Remember Ariel Castro, the man who for ten years imprisoned three women in his boarded-up, Cleveland, Ohio, home? Not one neighbor took the time to put the clues together that something was amiss…and there were plenty.

I asked Greg what people like me can do to help. Most importantly, he said, we need to pray for eyes to see. Greg knows that not everyone can be involved to the extent he is, but there are too many who just want to “scratch-their-action-guy-itch.” They volunteer to help but aren’t

committed. Fewer still want to take the time to be on the lookout for warning signs. Prime culprits are seedy motels with “a lookout” standing outside and convenience stores where men accompany young girls who make little eye contact and refuse to engage in conversation.

Greg wasn’t talking about me. Ask my husband. I live to catch a criminal. Once, after reading of the plane passenger who tried to light his shoe on fire, I alerted airport authorities to a man who had a cord hanging from the hem of his pants. It turned out to be part of his phone. (Or so I was told…um-hum.) Every time I see an adult carrying a screaming child, I immediately think kidnapping. I’m always on the lookout to save someone. It drives Dave crazy.

So, let’s say you aren’t as brave/foolish as I. There’s another way you can help. Yesterday I received an email from a relative. In lieu of a birthday gift, she asked for donations to Operation Underground Railroad, a foundation that rescues and rehabilitates kidnapped children. It is one of many, and all of them need financial support.

David Batstone, the founder of The Not For Sale Campaign, got involved when he found out that the staff at one of his favorite Indian restaurants in San Francisco were almost all slaves. This was discovered when one of the workers went home to find her roommate very ill.  Not knowing what to do, she called her landlord, the owner of the restaurant.  He arrived, then refused to call for help, and instead rolled the sick, unconscious girl in a carpet and loaded her into his van. Then he tried to force the first girl into the van.  A brave woman heard the girl’s screams and called the police.  It turned out that almost all the staff in the man’s several restaurants had been illegally trafficked from India, owed a “debt” to their “employer” for their transportation to America, and were paid minimal wages, which did not cover exorbitant rents that the owner charged for the slum-like apartments in which they lived.

The woman who called the police paid attention. As did David.

We need to do likewise. I’m not saying we turn into peeping toms who roam our neighborhoods with binoculars (although that would be a deterrent). Sex trafficking involves the dehumanization of life. It’s a slap in God’s face, the same God who made us in His image. To really make a difference we must open our eyes…and our hearts…and maybe even our wallets.

Patty LaRoche: Valuing Every Life

“If you are a victim of human trafficking, call this number.” So read this sign on every bathroom stall in the Las Vegas Airport. Just a few hours before, Dave and I had driven “Greg” to the airport in Kansas City. He had been in Fort Scott for a sex-trafficking meeting, and since we were flying to Vegas for our granddaughter’s graduation, we were able to give him a ride.

Greg is considered one of the brightest minds in the business. As a former member of the CIA, he had become interested in trafficking when he realized that the government was not doing enough. He now heads a non-profit foundation to aid in the felons’ capture.

I learned much. I learned that the problem is epidemic, with the United States at the forefront. I learned how the traffickers work. Greg referred to it as the “Romeo Event.” A young girl—typically with an absentee father and struggling mother—links up online with someone who promises to care for her. Within a few weeks a meeting is scheduled. The man entices the teen to return to his house/motel with him, and there he brutally beats her, rapes her and injects her with heroin. Within 48 hours she is addicted.

If she refuses to cooperate, the heroin is withheld. Greg said the girls he has interviewed tell him that coming down from the drug feels like every bone in their body is breaking. They beg for more. They are now the trafficker’s slave.

What surprised me was that 60 percent of the traffickers are women, “look-outs” at motels and houses where the girls are kept. Starting as trafficked women, they work their way up the chain of demand to become madams of the victims. A much easier proposition.

Greg cited a case in which four girls were rescued after being found trapped in dog cages in a motel room. A fifth girl was dead. The offender got 40 years. Not 40 years in a dog cage, which I said was what he deserved. Greg reminded me that Jesus changed the system of justice even though, he agreed, an eye for an eye, Old Testament style, seems more appropriate. Greg explained that he is involved in the computer side of catching the criminal and not the face-to-face encounters, because he doesn’t know if he is capable of that kind of forgiveness. I get that.

We discussed forgiveness and how hard (impossible) that is with traffickers. Greg said, “When someone is convicted of killing innocent people because he was driving drunk, everyone knows he didn’t set out to do that. But when men intentionally kidnap, beat, rape, inject with drugs and traffic, they are evil beyond description.”

As a nation, we have moved away from God, and when that happens, people become of little value. We teach children they originated as sludge. We abort our babies. We ignore the homeless man on the corner or the scantily clad woman on the street. We shun our Muslim neighbors. We turn over police cars while defending our right to protest. We attempt to assassinate our leaders as they practice for a charity baseball game.

Or we simply refuse to get involved. Greg said that if people just opened their eyes, much of the trafficking would come to a halt.

Next week I will share some practical ways we can make a difference.

LaRoche: Fighting the Enemy

Dave hasn’t smiled this much since his first child was born.

The gun he ordered from Amazon arrived a few minutes ago. He is sitting on the edge of our living room couch admiring it a few inches at a time, fawning at his “shoot-‘em- up” possibilities.

“Wanna look at it?” he asks.

“I think I am,” I respond.

“It looks real, don’t you think?”

“I figured it was,” I answer.

“Well, it’s a pellet gun.”

“Aha,” I say, knowing it could be a machine gun and I wouldn’t know the difference.

“It’s to kill.”

Hopefully not me, I say silently. Aloud, I repeat, “Aha.”

There is no point in discussing this any further with my husband. He is talking to himself as he reads the directions to attach his “scope” and “bi-pod.”

I watch as he points his weapon at the television and then continues his personal conversation: “This isn’t going to work.” He feels a need to explain. “See these legs? They get out of the way to put it into a scabbard.” Piece by piece, Dave describes every component of his new treasure. I feign interest.

“They put straps on it so when I’m belly-crawling to get to the animals they won’t see me. I’ll have to wait until the wind is right so they can’t smell me.”

Apparently Rambo (aka my husband) isn’t satisfied with the varmint repellent I recently purchased and is declaring war on whatever mammal is using our dock as his/her porta-potty.

“Look out, animals!” he says, (Yes, he says that!) as he finds a hidden compartment under the gun’s belly for the Allen wrenches which come with his weapon. Something tells me I might need to sleep elsewhere tonight. My husband’s new “baby” will be taking my place in bed.

Dave is going to great lengths to rid our property of pests. He has hired someone to net the underside of our dock roof so birds cannot nest in the rafters and mess in our boat. After one of our son’s visiting Wounded Warrior soldiers developed Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever because of a tick bite—and then Dave found one on his back—a landscaper was paid to spray our yard. Hours of research have gone into the best ways to get rid of annoying creatures, and when a young couple we know recently had to abandon their rental home because of bed bugs, Dave’s intentions were reinforced.

As disgusting as I find these destructive varmints, there are others that deserve even more attention. John 10:10 warns us about one in particular. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Satan prowls the world to find those who take no precautions against his methods. One can read the book of Exodus to realize that impatience, complaining and anger are the invasive species in the Israelites’ march to the Promised Land that prevent them from getting there. Perhaps those aren’t the sins with which you or I wrestle, but like every sin that has the potential to proliferate and destroy, we need to be armed against sin’s danger and ready to do battle against its threat.

“Mess with the bull, you’ll get the horn.” And with those words, Dave extends his gun’s legs, positions it on the floor and aims it at the front door.

Now if that won’t prevent unwanted pests from entering, I don’t know what will.

If only it were that easy to get rid of sin.

Patty LaRoche: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody

Once upon a time

There were four men named

Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done

And Everybody was asked to do it.

But Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it.

But Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about it

Because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it

And Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody

And Nobody did the job

“That Anybody could have done in the first place.” Author: anonymous

When my husband, Dave, coached baseball in Brooklyn, N.Y., he found himself working with a few youngsters who had found ways around performing their duties. One such person, nicknamed “Eddie Haskell” after the troublemaker in the “Leave It To Beaver” sitcom, was notorious for expecting someone else to do his job.

Let me give you some context. In pre-game practice, it is expected that yesterday’s pitcher is “on the bucket.” That means that during batting practice that pitcher stands behind a screen at second base. When balls are hit to the outfield, those players throw the ball to the “bucket guy,” who fills the bucket. When the batting practice pitcher gets low on balls, the bucket guy refills his basket. On Eddie’s assigned day, he was M.I.A. and another pitcher was doing his job…until the end of practice, that is, when he sauntered out of the clubhouse. Dave asked where he had been. Eddie appeared surprised that Dave noticed. “Doing my weight work” was not the answer Dave hoped for. In his opinion, everyone was to do more than expected, never less.

Ephesians 6:5-8 makes that clear: Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

Any work we do should be done with excellence, no matter if we are being watched or not. Rick Warren echoes this idea in “The Purpose Driven Life” when he writes, “Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God and perform it with an awareness of his presence.” Mowing the lawn. Driving a semi. Teaching a class. Cleaning a toilet. Reading to a child. Being on the bucket.

No one respects the person who works only when the boss is watching. The day after Eddie failed to do his job, Dave called all the pitchers together before the game and told them they all needed to thank Eddie. “Eddie somehow missed the bucket yesterday, so he has volunteered to be on it for the next three days.” The players applauded and cheered.

Well, except for Eddie, that is.

Patty LaRoche: Losing Privileges

I am befuddled by parents who provide their children with all the benefits they went without in order to make sure their kids don’t. The iPhone 7. Nike’s $150 tennies. A 2017 monster truck. The parenting motto is simple: “You want it? You get it.”

Freelance writer Gina Luker blogged about detoxing her entitled teenage daughter after realizing she (Gina) had created an unsatisfied monster. Concert tickets with backstage passes were the norm, as was a closetful of designer clothes…and increasing disrespect toward her parents. When enough became enough, Gina did the unthinkable: she stripped her daughter of all privileges.

In Gina’s words, “We took away every single thing she owned. Every. Tiny. Thing.

We put a lock on her room and her ‘bed’ was the couch. We took away makeup and hair supplies. We took away her electronics – her phone, her computer, television even our landline. We took away her car. We took away all visitation from friends – only immediate family. We took away any privileges she had. Period. We left her with: “A pillow and blanket – which had to be put away as soon as she woke up.

A laundry basket with the following of my choosing: three pairs of jeans, three shirts, one jacket, three sets of undergarments, two sets of pajamas, one pair of tennis shoes and one pair of boots (our lock down happened in the winter.) One hair brush and one pony tail holder. The bare essentials of hygiene (deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) That’s it.”

Easy? (I can’t even imagine!) Temper tantrums rivaled any two-year old’s, yet Gina persisted. Within two weeks she saw a difference. To avoid conversing with her mean mother, the teen cleaned…everything. Then she worked a puzzle.

Over the next four months as a more appreciative attitude developed, privileges slowly were returned.

Drastic measures had led to drastic results. Sometimes it’s the only solution.

In my quiet time, I have been studying the Old Testament book of the prophet Zephaniah. God is ticked. The people of Judah have added idols to their worship protocol, and God, who loves them enough to get their attention, is about to strip them of everything they value. Zephaniah begs them to repent and not take things for granted. In the end, most remain stubborn and refuse to take God seriously. Soon the Judah-ites are carted off by the Babylonians, where they live in exile for 70 years. Only then did they understand from where their blessings came.

Gina was lucky. Her daughter learned her lesson before anything more drastic had to happen. God had to be pleased. Perhaps it’s a message all parents need to heed.

Patty LaRoche: Given the Choice

On my recent girlfriend reunion at Hilton Head, Diana, our handicapped friend, was accompanied by her two adult daughters, their friend Jenny and her two daughters: Alice, five, and Hazel, six weeks. We six “grandmothers” doted on the two little girls, marveling at Jenny’s mothering skills, especially since she had been on her own since she was 15. Parenting had not been modeled to this young woman.

On our third day, Diana rode her motorized scooter to the girls’ suite. She returned to tell us that Alice was in “time out,” but Jenny let Diana visit with the youngster after sharing that Alice had not obeyed. Apparently Alice almost had been hit by a golf cart that ferried customers along the boardwalk on which they were walking. Alice had ignored her mother’s instructions to stay to the right.

Diana asked Alice to explain why she was in trouble. Repeatedly jabbing her index finger at her head, she said, “I sometimes don’t listen.” After a short pause she added, “It’s just really hard, you know.”

We six could relate. With months since our last get together, most of the time there were two or three conversations at the same time. Alice was right. Listening is hard.

Another incident occurred the next evening when youngsters were given glow-in-the-dark necklaces. The following day at the pool, Alice loaned hers to her playmate who did not return it. The next day, Alice’s new friend was wearing the necklace. When Alice said that she wanted it back, the young girl replied that Alice had given it to her. A girl squabble ensued with the other mother insisting she give Alice back her necklace.

Once Alice placed it around her neck, Jenny took her aside. “Don’t you think it would be nice for you to give it back? We can get you another necklace.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Alice answered firmly.

Jenny continued. “Well, I want you to sit here and think about what you just said. I will be back to talk to you when you have time to reconsider what you should do.”

To no avail. Alice insisted it was her necklace, so she should not give it back.

Before walking away, Jenny gently responded, “I want you to know that was not the answer I had hoped you would give.”

We grandmothers were in awe and admitted the outcome for our children would have been far less loving. Jenny was teaching Godly principles. Without getting upset or raising her voice, she gave her daughter choices, with clear direction that what Alice had decided was not the best option.

God does the same for us. He gives us choices. We either obey or not. There is no middle ground to His instructions. Love Him above all else. Love our neighbor as ourselves. Don’t lie, covet, dishonor parents, or steal. Make Jesus the Lord of our lives.

It is up to us to decide if we will listen to His instructions, but should our choice be not to obey, God’s advice probably would be no different than Jenny’s: “That is not the answer I had hoped you would give.”

If that doesn’t help us change our minds, I don’t know what will.

Patty LaRoche: Warning Signs

While my sun-lover girlfriends headed off to the South Carolina beach, I, forbidden by my dermatologist to suntan, strolled into the woods for a walk. The isolated path was canopied by trees, and with a light breeze, I would walk for a couple of hours. You can imagine my surprise—actually, no you can’t—when I rounded a corner and was greeted by this sign: “Do Not Feed the Alligators.” Yes, ALLIGATORS! As in “flesh-eating reptiles.” With no intention of becoming an alligator appetizer, my saunter turned into a U-turn sprint.

For the past eleven years, my five college sorority friends and I have traveled together. This year, the alligator year, we went to a resort in Hilton Head—one which caters to physical disabilities because Diana’s handicap has made our usual, annual reunion to Mexico too difficult to navigate.

Diana is an example of one who ignored initial warnings that her medication (doctor-prescribed) was harmful. Irreparable damage resulted. Her legs function only for a few, painful steps with a walker, and she needs constant periods of rest for her swollen feet.

Diana is not the only friend who paid no attention to warning signs. Two months ago, Frank, a friend in Mexico, mentioned several times to his wife that he was having severe headaches. When she tried to talk him into returning to their home in Canada so he could be seen by his doctor, Frank refused. I was there the night he collapsed. The stroke he suffered has left him completely disabled.

We all have had our fair share of warning signs, and the older I get, the more I take them—well, most of them—seriously. A mole with irregular margins. Bruises on a child at Walmart. A friend who talks too much. Ministry requests outside my area of expertise. And certainly, “Do Not Feed the Alligators.” Sometimes, however, I ignore the most important ones: the ones that deal with temptation.

The Bible is full of stories in which warnings went unheeded. Take Samson, for example, the Nazarite who had taken a vow never to cut his hair (which controlled his unparalleled strength). You probably know the story. If not, please read it in Judges 13-16.

What started as a simple look turned to lust as Samson dallied with Delilah, a Philistine woman and enemy of Israel. Goaded by Delilah to reveal the source of his strength, Samson ultimately shared his secret; as a result, Delilah trimmed his tresses, and Samson was captured, blinded and forced to grind grain for his enemies. While in prison his hair grew, and along with that, his strength returned. He died while destroying the temple of the Philistine god, Dagon, killing thousands of Philistines in the process.

Samson ignored sign after sign, never changing course, until his death. He had judged Israel for 20 years and on many occasions had demonstrated his faith in God, but once he turned away from what he knew to be right, his downfall was imminent. I consider it a solemn warning. The slippery slope into a spiritual landslide begins gradually.

Have you been there? I have. By dismissing warning signs, I feed my temptation. Think about it. Every addiction started with “One.” One cigarette. One profane word. One “little white lie.” One drink. One juicy piece of gossip. Or, like Samson, One “look.” Should we ignore the Holy Spirit’s check on our spirit, it becomes much easier to nurture the sin and pull away from God.

We’d be better off feeding an alligator.