Category Archives: Opinion

Patty LaRoche: Going to the Dogs

Their world has gone to the dogs. Correction: dog. Mollie hit the mongrel jackpot when she was adopted by parents who are giving her every opportunity to succeed in the canine world. Mollie is a rescue dog, which makes her parents sort of foster heroes because they chose a reject instead of purchasing a full-blood. Their home is a shrine to their baby, and even though she is only three years old, scrapbooks fill the fireplace shelves. Should you ask, a slide show is available in the family room. Okay, perhaps that is an exaggeration.

Then again, maybe not.

My friend Debbie is Mollie’s “grandmother.” She visited Dave and me over Memorial Day weekend, and we all cracked up when she pulled out the most recent photos of Mollie. We began with swim lessons. Yes, you read right. I questioned if Mollie’s parents paid extra for poochy to learn the back stroke and the butterfly. Seriously! What ever happened to tossing a dog off a dock to teach him to doggy paddle? If it was good enough for my kids…

The next snapshots were at Mollie’s day care center’s graduation. (See photo.) This is no normal pup school. The interview process assures an appropriate fit. Not just anyone is accepted, nor would just any faculty be right for Mollie. (Thank goodness Sunbeam Pre-School wasn’t as selective.)

Debbie shared that she was flabbergasted after receiving a graduation announcement listing a gift registry at Petco. As if that weren’t enough, at the ceremony Mollie was awarded a separate certificate for finishing her pre-school education as “a good citizen.” Since Mollie is the only “child” of Debbie’s only child, “Grandma” coughed up $50 to purchase doggie dental floss.

Mollie is fed better than I fed our children. Her diet is controlled with nutrients I can’t even pronounce. No ballpark hotdogs or frozen pizza or leftover pb&j’s for this mutt, and

Heaven forbid if her parents ever received a phone call from Sonic telling them that “yet again” their dog was mooching off of their patrons. Mollie’s diet is organic. Our pooch never saw a

preservative he didn’t like. Then again, neither did our kids.

I must be honest here. I’m not a dog lover. I’m a dog liker, but there is a difference. I have two girlfriends—let’s call them Marti and Sally because…well, that’s their names—who have saved more animals than the Humane Society. Not me. I will stop my car to help a turtle cross the road, but I have no desire to sleep with a dog or pick up their messes or buy a stroller so my pet can vacation with me.

That being said, I do believe God created animals to be protected and cared for. We know there was a bond between Adam and the creatures because Adam was told to name the animals…not the trees or plants. Proverbs 12:10 states, “Whoever is righteous cares for the life of his animals.” However, God declares in Genesis 1:26-30 that humans have the responsibility to rule over the nonhuman creation. There is a balance in there somewhere.

I’m just not sure swim lessons were what He had in mind.

Patty LaRoche: By the Grace of God

A man dies and goes to heaven where St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates. St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter. “That’s worth three points!”

“Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”

“Terrific!” says St. Peter. “That’s certainly worth a point.”

“One point? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”

“Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says.

“TWO POINTS!!” the man cries. “At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!”

“Come on in!”

Grace is one of the most taken-for-granted messages of scripture, yet there is nothing more life-changing than this fearsome force flowing from God’s heart to messes like us. It is offered to transform our lives, and once we grab hold of its treasures, we will never be the same. If ever there were an identity-changer, it is grace.

Pastor Bill Giovannetti wrote a powerful article on this truth. “People act out of who they are. If you want a man to love his wife better, you can teach him to communicate, suggest he

bring flowers, and offer ways to express affection in the daily routines of life. That’ll preach.

“But what if he hates himself? What if he has never overcome early abandonment issues? What if the voice of dysfunction keeps screaming he’s a failure, or if all the programming inside defines him as a loser? In that case, there are no ‘practical steps toward being a better husband’ that will work.”

Giovannetti continues with the answer: Man must understand that in God’s eyes, he is righteous, valued, beloved and accepted. Scripture proves that God lavishes him with grace and calls him righteous, “so he’s got nothing left to prove to that abusive, dead father who keeps hissing from his grave.” The gifted author prompts us to get involved. “Help him see how the Redeemer’s blood has set him free from every shackle slapped on him by his stoned-out mother or that bully who made school a living hell. Grace rehabs the identity first… and maybe, two months down the road he might actually say a kind word to his wife because he’s finally feeling better about himself, in Christ.”

We cannot work enough to impress God in an effort to earn points or negate our sins. Ephesians 1:6 advises us how to proceed. Let us praise God for his glorious grace, for the free gift he gave us in his dear Son!

It is a reminder of where we need to start…and end.

Patty LaRoche: Picked First

Do you remember the classroom spelling bee? The game Red Rover? Playground softball matches? For all three, captains were picked, and in front of the hopefuls desperate not to be last, they selected their teammates. Too many times that last one chosen was the same person, no matter the contest. He/she knew it was coming.

Public humiliation at its finest!

As a teacher, I knew that competition could be a fun motivator, but when I used it, I never picked the top student as captain. Those students who elected to sit in the back of the classroom, those with little-or- no eye contact, those whose clothes labeled them unpopular, were selected. The three of us would meet in the hall to choose the lineups, and the leaders were instructed that when we returned to the classroom and announced the teams, we would say the names in reverse order of how they were picked. Sometimes we would start in the middle, but we never began with the ones recognized as the best.

It’s no secret that everyone needs to matter. Rich or poor. Christian or atheist. Educated or uneducated. There are no exceptions. Being chosen validates us. Maybe that’s why the central focus of scripture is that God chose us. Did we deserve it? Definitely not! (With my past, I’d be lucky to stand on the sidelines and cheer.)

God sees things differently.

He is good at that.

In the Old Testament, Haggai the prophet is told by God to instruct two people, Zerubbabel, the governor’s son, and Joshua, the high priest’s son, to rebuild the Temple which their enemy destroyed 66 years before. There have been previous, paltry attempts at reconstruction, but work has stalled as the men become discouraged because their workmanship pales in comparison to Solomon’s original structure.

The warning from God is stern as He jolts them into action. Patty’s paraphrase: “You certainly don’t have a problem tiling and re-carpeting your own homes, but Mine looks like a tornado leveled it. Not cool.”

Just 23 days after Haggai’s message, the men get to work. God continues to instruct Haggai to tell Zerubbabel that devastation will befall the foreign lands of their enemies, but then affirms what He will do next. “On that day, I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you.” Power-punched words to end this Old Testament book. “I. Have. Chosen. You.” Of all the Israelites, Zerubbabel was labeled a favorite.

We have the same opportunity, no matter what worldly designation we have been given.

If we are a Jesus-follower, we need to thank God (literally) that He looked down from His throne and, ignoring what the world has to say, offered grace to everyone, even those defined as a “last pick:” the teenager with the kinky hair and the crooked nose; the boy who can’t hit a baseball; the girl whose parents will abandon her; the murderer; you; and me.

God chooses the ones who will love Him back, repent of their sins and become new creations in Christ. But there’s more good news: In God’s kingdom, there are no last picks. We might be the outcast on everyone else’s list, but we all are first on His.

We. Are. Chosen.

But don’t shout “Hallelujah!” too soon. It doesn’t end there.

One question remains which we need to ask ourselves: “Have we chosen Him?”

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.