An integrated life

Budding Technology Entrepreneurs

I recently gave a talk on “Equipping Your Budding Technology Entrepreneur” at North Carolina Home Educators. Here are some notes that both go along with that talk, and others might find useful that didn’t attend it.

We are made in the image of our Creator. That means we are created to create. We create to serve. We live at a time where more technology is available from our homes than any other time in history. Use it to be a producer, not just a consumer.

The best way to learn is to build something. A well-rounded education is not humanities & science, but theory & practice. Practice doesn’t fit nicely into < 1 hour slots.

  • Pick a night/week to work with your children on creative projects, learn the theory during “school time”
  • Pick a day, a week, or a month (or three) that only uses books as reference material… build something
  • Pick things that someone might want to buy… instead of getting an A, the goal is to “make a sale”

There is nothing stopping you from writing software at any age. If the parents don’t know something about it, find someone who does. Then, find a meet up and start attending as regularly as you can. You will find comrades and mentors… stick with it, and ask for help “reviewing” your project, or “pointers” to first/next steps. Follow through, and then come back for more.

Think about a web site and application for something that you would like around the house, or some business might want built.

If you want to build an app, there is the “game” route.

  • There are a lot of Card Games that are mostly in the public domain… i.e. you won’t be breaking anyone’s copyright by automating most of these games
  • Start with a utility app like “Weight tracking”, “Height tracking”, “Assignment tracking” anything you might make a checklist for or want to record. Make it so your family or friends like it… if they won’t, you probably won’t be able to sell it to others.

Lean Startup is a buzzword in the industry generating a lot of excitement – probably more than it deserves – but there are solid ideas about validating ideas with customers. For young people who don’t have to provide for a family yet, the risk is very low to invest in a start up where you are the CEO and technologist. If the idea bombs, and you figure out that it won’t work after a 3rd or 4th “pivot”, take what you have learned and get better at the next idea. The skills you learn in marketing, customer relationships, etc. will be huge in addition to what you have learned technologically.

Another great book to read is Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers. No business – hi-tech or not – works without a business model.

Other “maker” tools:

  • 3D printers… make replacement parts for things that you like and are broken.
  • is a great resource for 3D printing and many other building ideas.

Under 12

Here are just a few things you can consider doing for those under 12:

Depending on how mature your young person is, there are some programs for those wanting to get started who are under 16 (some of these work for those as young as 10 or 12):

Under 16

Industry feet-wetting resources for design & basic coding skills:

The Pragmatic Programmer’s Bookshelf is one of the best sources to learn just about anything from practical/experienced experts. Their books are available in both softcopy and hardcopy, and are some of the most well-respected books in our industry. Several of these are particularly appropriate for beginners who have done little to no programming ranging from game programming to basic introductions and messing with hardware:

A great list of project-based learning resources and more are here:

Under 18

  • Dual enroll in local technical and community colleges
  • College Plus – of particular interest is their Applied Science and Technology degree

Alternatives or Alongsides to College

  • Programming Bootcamps and craftsmanship academies like ours
  • Offer yourself as an apprentice to someone
  • If you go to college, look for internships… many colleges have a variety of programs.

The above is not exhaustive by any means, just something to stimulate you to not wait for college to figure out whether a technology career is right for you, and to stop thinking about being a consumer, rejecting the Myth of Adolescence and becoming a producer as your Creator designed you to be.

I’m Back

Long story, but my previous host lost my data and, unfortunately, it was a WordPress site which I didn’t have a local copy of. I never do that with my client’s code. What was(n’t) I thinking?

I’m slowly recovering old blog posts and will hopefully add a few new ones soon.

This time, I’m using Octopress created by a talented friend, Brandon Mathis.

But instead of just saying, “I’m back” and “I’m using Octopress” (as if most readers of this care), I wanted to keep with the theme of this blog and share a pretty cool story about Brandon and his family and what it has to do with our search for an integrated life.

You see, I don’t buy the lie of “separate work and friends”. That is the kind of junk that keeps people connecting at a deeper level and allows “cold, hard business decisions”. (Some business decisions are hard, but that doesn’t mean they have to be cold… but that’s another post for another day).

We built our home with the integratrion of life, and work, and a multi-generational vision. It is 3 buildings in one… with potential expansion for a 4th “building” and grounds to expand for further integration. Our “workspace” is downstairs, “living space” upstairs, and “handicapped accessible in-law-suite” attached to that.

Carol’s mom lives with us in the in-law-suite 6 months of the year (typically November through April) and then lives with Carol’s sister in PA for the other six months. We look at all we have as the Lord’s and look for him to send someone else to live in it when Carol’s mom is not there.

So, a few years ago, I get a call from Brandon, who was a mild acquaintance at the time.

“I hear that you have an apartment attached to your house that you rent out when your mother-in-law is not there. Would you be open to Bekah and I renting it?”

“Sure, Brandon, are you moving back to the Raleigh area?”

“Well, we had a home birth for our first child, Caleb, and we really loved our midwife. We can’t find a midwife in Alabama that we’re comfortable with. We were wondering if you would mind us coming there for a few months and having a baby there.”

“Uh… sure!”

“And would you mind if I worked from your office?”

“Uh… sure. Maybe we’ll get to work on a project or two together.”

So, a few months later, Brandon and Bekah and Caleb move in. We didn’t get to do as much work together as I’d hoped, but we did a little.

But some of the coolest things were celebrating life together.

When Brandon and Bekah were here previously, they worked with a few ex-RoleModel guys… particularly Nathaniel Talbott, Adam Williams (who told Brandon about our in-law-suite), Duff O’Melia, and John Long. Since we had moved into our new place, I hadn’t had the opportunity to have most of them visit the new place.

So, one day Bekah is talking to Carol about throwing a party for Brandon’s 30th birthday. She asks if she can use our deck for the party, she’d do all the work, and invite us, too. How considerate that they didn’t want to put us out… but Carol is thinking, “This woman is almost 8 months pregnant and wants to have a birthday party outside, during the day, in July in North Carolina… she’s going to die.” So, we told her that she could do it in our house, in the air conditioning and we’d help configure the place for all the guests. (The house is designed to accomodate large groups… more on that in another post).

So, a few weeks later, we move a few tables and have a whole bunch of our old friends come visit our house… completely catered by Bekah. How great is that? She was thankful for the facilities. We were thankful she invited our friends. We never offered hospitality so simply. Our home is not our own and God expands the blessings. “Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30, NASB)

But the best part was when the baby came.

As Bekah’s labor started, she dreamed that Caleb would go to sleep and wake up with a new baby sister. Bekah’s first labor had been very long and Caleb wasn’t known for being a sound sleeper. Though we didn’t say it to her, Carol and Brandon and I all agreed she was being, shall we say, “optimistic”.

Carol & I went to bed with Bekah thinking this would happen, and us thinking that this was going to be a long night in which not only Caleb would be woken up, but we would also.

But, we slept like logs. Carol woke up in the morning and looked out the front door to see if the midwife’s car was there. No car. Poor girl.

When our daughter, Hope, woke up a few minutes later, Carol asked her if she heard anything. Hope is a light sleeper, whose room is adjacent to the in-law-suite, and was sometimes woken by Caleb Mathis – the light sleeper. “No, I didn’t hear a thing all night.” Poor girl.

As we were eating breakfast, we heard a small cry coming from the in-law-suite. “That doesn’t sound like Caleb.” “Do we go over and check?” “What if they are exhausted and trying to sleep?” “What do we do?”

“Check Twitter.”

Yes. Bekah’s optimism was realism – faith in and grace from God.

The midwife and assistants had come and gone. The Mathis family and midwives had been in and out of our place, getting ice and other useful things. God had granted us all a deep sleep (well, except Brandon and Bekah) as he brought a new life into the world.

If you are ever going to have a baby born in your house, this is the way to do it. Sleep through it, and check twitter in the morning. Your mileage may vary.

About a year later, we are having breakfast at the NCHE homeschool conference. We see some old friends and sit down to eat with them. They introduce us to a young lady sitting with them and ask if we have ever met her. I say, “I’m not sure”. She says, “I was in your house, but you probably didn’t know that.”

She was the midwife’s assistant.

The Craftsmanship Academy: A New Model for Preparing the Next Generation of Software Craftsmen

OOPS. Just realized this was sitting in draft version for over a year. I guess my year was busier than I thought.

So, a few months (and a year) ago, I posted about Chris Gregory and the Heartland Horseshoeing School.

Although I shared a bit of his story to inspire you, I didn’t share how much he had inspired me.

Though many had suggested that I had the vision and skills to start a school, I could not see how the modern approach to school melded with the integrated life I sought for myself and encourage in others. However, earlier in 2011, I met Chris Gregory, one of the most renowned farriers in the world. Chris and his family started Heartland Horseshoeing School in 1995, which has earned its reputation as the top farrier school in the nation, and perhaps the world. It is an incubator for some of the finest craftsmen in the world of farriery.

When Chris challenged Ken with the same words, “So why haven’t you started a school?”, and then went on to explain how their school works and that it did not keep him from continuing his craft, it only took a few months to take root and the RoleModel Software Craftsmanship Academy was born.

There has been a lot of controversy about the Academy since I announced it. Some people think my faith has no place in an Academy. Others think education should be “free” (i.e. people shouldn’t have to pay to learn… not sure who they think pays the teachers). Others thought it was a scam. Some thought I should teach more than I was planning. Some thought I should teach less.

My timing and marketing suffered as my parents had a series of medical crises in the midst of our attempt to help them move closer to us. However, we eventually had our first group come through the first session. The results exceeded my expectation. We’ll be doing it again. And I hope many more family-friendly businesses will open their own “schools”. The idea that you need to spend four years of your life and a boatload of money separated from your family with a bunch of peers in a godless artificial environment where you have little responsibility is a really bad one. This is a time when young people need to be learning responsibility from responsible, godly people. They need to develop useful skills in a context of serving others, not learn questionable theories out of context in a self-serving environment.

Our culture pours money into these family and faith destroying environments. We instead need to be pouring our lives into building faith and preparing for the creation of strong families.

A Mountaintop Experience

At the end of August, I had the opportunity to go with my son, Caleb, to Zambia and Kenya to encourage some church leaders after an appeal from Tim Bunn of New Foundations International to our church to go to Africa where the need for strong families was huge.

My son kept asking what his role was there. I told him if it was nothing besides showing other men that they should bring their son alongside of them in their work, that would be worth it.

Every place we went, people wondered about my 15-year-old son traveling with me. But, it certainly added credibility when I talked to them about training up their children. At one point, Caleb gave me the perfect opportunity to show how to gently wake up a tired son who was dozing off during his father’s teaching while I was on Mt. Elgon… a place where few men had any excuse as to why they were NOT training their sons.

At some point I will write about the plight of the Ndorobo people on Mt. Elgon. It is an incredible story. There are many places on the internet that can offer SOME perspective but I believe God has placed these people on this part of Mt. Elgon for a very specific purpose. I can only guess how He will use them, but it is clear that God brought us up to the top of Mt. Elgon to encourage them to grow in their dependence on Him and get grounded in the Word rather than looking to the ways of the world to solve their problems. Time will tell the long term effects on them (and us). But I know that I’ve been given a glimpse of something that very few have seen, and am sure it will change me forever.

Though these people have a difficult life, I wonder if they appreciate the beauty in the simplicity of their life and the phenomenal way God has taken care of them. They seem to me like the children of Israel wandering through the wilderness while God gives them all that they need and teaches them to be dependent only on Him while He teaches them and prepares them for a great and incredible work.

Though our dear brother Daniel Chelaghat did so much to enable us to get up the mountain, as we left Kitale (main city north of Eldoret at the foot of Mt. Elgon) where we met Ben Ndiema, Daniel had never been to this part of the mountain. Ben introduced us to his brother in Kitale who talked extensively to our driver (Simon) about whether the Lexus crossover vehicle (which Daniel negotiated a good deal for us… equivalent of $100/day including the driver) could make it up the mountain and why we were not using a Land Rover. We picked up that much of the conversation. As time went on we learned more about the conversation and the phenomenal way God had provided for our journey.

The main road out of Kitale was not unusual to me. A dirt road filled with potholes (and small craters :–) which skilled drivers maneuvered remarkably, as did Simon. But then we turned up the side road to ascend the mountain. I had been on roads like this before for hundreds of meters… but not tens of kilometers. And, evidently, no such vehicle had ever done this climb before. When Ben shared that He praised God that He had answered their prayer that it would not rain for our journey (this was the heart of rainy season on the mountain), we grew further and further in our appreciation of that fact as we continued up the mountain. There were many times when we all got out of the vehicle and walked in the beautiful weather as we prayed that Simon would be able to get the vehicle over the next set of obstacles which ranged from large boulders to several foot deep ravines. For those of you who have hiked in mountains before think of a “moderate” hiking trail… but just widened enough for a vehicle, and then imagine a minivan going up that hiking trail.

I am 100% confident that the vehicle would not have made it if it were raining or even if it had rained in the previous 6 hours. But somehow, it made it all the way to Ben’s “house”. We only had to seriously push it once, about a kilometer from Ben’s place amongst incredibly large trees and a few village people on the latter part of dusk (or was it the beginning of night?… it was definitely night by the time we got the car over the hump). I told Caleb on several occasions how it could turn from a pleasant walk to a strenuous and dangerous hike at any moment if the car got stuck, but we were pleased to learn that we were “not far” from our destination at this point.

The driver, Simon, told us later that his conversation with Ben’s brother in Kitale consisted of them concluding that if God had brought “the servants of God” here, He would get them up the mountain and nothing would get in the way. He also told us that if he had truly known what the road was like ahead of time, he would have parked the car at the bottom and never attempted it.

During the trip, we were gawked at by many people who lived along this road, especially the many children. We ran into a “toll road” where we were told that some men had just fixed the road ahead and we would have to pay to proceed – but the Lord was gracious and had them let us through in spite of the mzungu (European or “white man”) in the vehicle as they were told we were “servants of God.”

We were warmly received at the top of the mountain. Welcomed into Ben’s home: a hut that he had build with his own hands out of bamboo insulated with a mixture of mud and cow dung that was quite functional, and topped with a roof framed out of wood from the forest covered with a thick thatch made out of grass.
It was actually fairly spacious and most of the other church pastors were there. We were treated to a late night dinner that was quite tasty. We didn’t (at least knowingly) have to eat anything particularly unusual. Rice, beans, chipati (something between a wheat tortilla and pita), and stew. (Oh, and by the way, the tea in Kenya is out of this world… I will try to bring some back but not sure I’ll be able to reproduce how good it is at home… and I’m not a tea drinker).

We learned a lot about the people here on the trip up, and much more while we sat and talked into the night (until around midnight). They asked many questions about Zambia (we were traveling with two brothers from Zambia) and America. Some of their misperceptions about America were comical, but much were just curious. They all thought the mountain was incredibly cold (Caleb and I found it beautiful like fall weather in NC), and asked many questions about the weather in America. They found it fascinating that the weather was so varied across the country and obviously had never thought about the size of America versus Kenya. Most of the people we met that night, spoke pretty good English… but we learned that this was not the norm.

However, as I was there that night, I grew in my amazement at the incredible testimony of the Lord’s provision and calling to these people. Ben’s testimony of his conversion and how these people were driven up to this mountain with nothing but their bodies intact found me in awesome wonder. The people I met clearly loved the Lord. They had somehow grown from a few hundred people to a few thousand under these harsh conditions, but were living in a land flowing with milk and honey. No electricity, schools, hospitals. Over the last 5 years since they were driven up on the mountain, almost no one has died from disease or sickness. Although at first glance, you would say these people had nothing, God gave me eyes to see what He had done to preserve these people.

I was growing exhausted and thankful as Ben showed us the accommodations for the evening. Behind a curtain was the room in which I suppose some of his children usually slept. It was just wide enough to have two double beds behind the curtains of the small space between in which one could walk in the room. Caleb volunteered to sleep in his sleeping bag at the foot of the bed, and I decided to sleep in mine on top of the bed. When I crawled into my sleeping bag, I thanked the Lord for his provision for our journey and fell asleep in moments.

I woke before dawn (it was pitch black) hearing what at first I thought was chanting. Half awake, I wondered, “Is it possible that another tribe, or some of the non-believers of the tribe, are here looking to cause trouble for bringing the white man up here?”. As I listened more intently, I recognized the voices sounded like Henry’s and Peter’s (our brothers from Zambia). I made out “Jesu Cristo” and “Missionary” amongst other words from what I assumed were their native language then, for some reason, they switched to English. I realized that they were praying over Caleb and myself, crying out to God for His anointing on us and the hearts of the Ndorobo people. I thought, how faithful our God is to have brought me here with such prayer warriors, and how pathetic my prayer life was as they completed their prayers over us and I fell back to sleep.

I woke up early in the morning shortly after dawn and found myself having to desperately go to the latrine which Ben had built and showed me in the dark the previous night. It worked well, and once I could concentrate again, I looked up and was treated to one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen.

[insert photo here]

People in the U.S. would pay millions of dollars to have the view from Ben’s place. I returned to retrieve my Bible and find a place to meditate. I cried out to the Lord to teach me why He had brought me here and use me. They were all eager to hear “the man of God” teach them “the Word of God”. I wondered what I could teach these people who seemed to have such a pure faith and had clearly had to live in total dependence on God for these 5 years. How could I teach them?

I was drawn to re-read the first 15 chapters of Isaiah (which I have been reading in preparation for our next phase of teaching at SWCA). When I got to Isaiah 6, tears began to pour out. Though I didn’t have a vision of the Lord on His throne, I was looking out over His incredible handiwork and in awe, and as I read verse 5,

Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips;

There was a new depth of meaning and I believe I came closer to feeling like Isaiah at that moment than ever before in my life.

I cried out to the Lord, “What can I possibly teach these people?”

But I was encouraged as I continued to read. Isaiah wasn’t fit to serve God, by himself, but God made Isaiah fit for the purpose He had called him to.

I realized that God had brought me to this mountain through an incredible series of events, including being the first “standard vehicle” to make it up the mountain on an unseasonably perfect day. I had repeatedly told Henry in my correspondence that I was there to be a vessel used by God and now was the time He had prepared. And I said, “Here I am… you have already sent me.”

The one thing that the Lord had impressed upon me was that these people seemed anxious about all that they did NOT have and were pointing out that the government had not treated them right. They did not recognize the incredible blessing they had being taken out of the world’s system and being totally dependent on God who had done so much for them. They reminded me a bit about the Israelites wandering through the wilderness with God meeting all of their needs, but considering the things they had “on the Nile in Egypt” as something pulling their hearts away. I was drawn again to Matthew 6:19-34 which I had used in Eldoret in the “parenting” session.

While I continued to meditate on what I should teach them, some goats and cattle wandered by, as well as some little children who stared at me. They were returning with full plastic jugs. I greeted them and asked if they were returning from the spring to get water. They clearly had difficulty understanding me, but the oldest one (probably about 8 or 9) asked if I knew what they had in the jugs in very broken english. I asked if it was water. She said “it is millek”. I asked for clarificiation, “millet?”. She said, “No, millek. Fresh millek.”. Eventually, I realized they had come from milking their animals. As I sat there, I suddenly heard a buzzing that I had not realized before. As I looked all around the mossy rocks I was sitting on, I realized that there were honey bees going from small flower to small flower, and I recalled that Ben had shared that they had “much honey”. I thought, maybe these people aren’t wandering in the wilderness, but were already in the land flowing with milk and honey.

Eventually, I was joined by Henry who said to me, “I am not exactly sure why the Lord has sent us up here, but there is a great work here.” I explained to him that I was not sure whether these people knew what they had, but seemed anxious about what they don’t have. He said, “Yes. Perhaps there is some unforgiveness toward their enemies. They seem to love the Lord, but there seems to be something missing.” As I explained to him that they reminded me of the children of Israel who God was calling out of this world, Henry said, “Yes.” I suggested that I start by trying to encourage them through using the children of Israel as an example, and then going back through the basics of Psalm 128, he agreed.

While I wandered off to find “the place of texting” to let Carol know we were alive and well, Henry laid his tent on the spot I had been on and meditated on what the Lord would have us do. When I rejoined him, He said the Lord had shown him Luke 11:33-36 and was wondering about what it meant about “the eye being clear” and was wondering what darkness was in this place that needed to be driven out. I thought it was interesting that the section in Matthew that the Lord had pointed me to also contained a similar passage about the eye being clear, that I had mostly passed over in Eldoret.

As we sat their on our place of meditation, Ben joined us. He gently re-explained the plight of his people and had some anxiety in His voice. He said that they want me to be “their missionary”. (I later found out that he just meant to keep in touch and come visit and encourage them). But I gently told him that God had been good to His people and He brought me up here to point them to the Word of God.

Ben continually wanted to extend his hand to our physical comforts like taking a shower (not like any shower most of you have experienced, but it works… air drying), taking tea, having breakfast, keeping warm, but at a very relaxed pace. Henry and I kept imploring him that we were fine and we came up here to teach the Word of God and we wanted to get started. Eventually, we made it to the building we were going to use… a “school” with four ill-equipped classrooms, no teachers other than occasional “volunteer” teachers (they explained that the government ignores their pleas to send paid teachers). On the way there, we took detours to see a half built meeting hall for one of the 6 churches meeting on that area of Mt. Elgon, and to greet some unbelieving men working on some sort of construction whom we briefly witnessed to with the reading of John 3:16-21.

As we got to the classroom, there was no one there to teach, but a few children were loitering there. A few men finally came, and Ben found a couple of pieces of chalk when I asked if I could use the chalkboard (a VERY shoddy one). We eventually found out that we had competition as the government was going to be giving out some plots of land for temporary (2 year) use and many went partially down the mountain to get in line for these plots of land. However, several men showed up including several of the other pastors, two young men (Daniel and Rogers), a few children, a couple of older ladies, and Simon (our driver whom we invited to join us to hear what he had brought us up the mountain to share).

God pointed me to a combination of the passage in Matthew, pointing out that a clear eye sees things from God’s perspective and a bad eye sees things from the world’s, which led to Deuteronomy 29 as the heart of the message, reminding this generation (as He was reminding the children of Israel about to cross into the promised land) all He had done for them and the blessings He had for them if they would be obedient to His Word and have a clear eye. I encouraged them that God had a special purpose for them, but they needed to be listening to His voice and not the things the world had to offer. God had me go to various other passages pointing to the differences between the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of this world or the kingdom of man.

God provided brother William (a half-brother of Ben, whose father was a polygamist) as a capable interpreter. He claimed it was the first time he had done such a thing, but our driver, Simon, who speaks fluent English and Swahili, ensured us he did an excellent job and that he benefitted from learning it all twice (in English and Swahili).

Though attendance was small, it grew a bit larger as we started our second session (a modified version of the first session from the Forging A Head bootcamp from a few years ago, calling them more clearly and directly to recognize God’s Word as their source for everything for life and godliness and, based on the time for questions which Henry encouraged me to provide, provided some clarification of the role of the Holy Spirit… it seemed like they relied often on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but hadn’t recognized that the Holy Spirit was their guide through the Scriptures and that they needed to “test the spirits” by the Word of God. William (our interpreter) said it was life changing for him. Others shared positive feedback. It was decided that we would “take lunch” (at 3:30… breakfast was at 11:00) back at Ben’s place rather than the school at the suggestion of Henry. That was evidently ordained by the Lord…

For our 3rd session, “Man and His Work”, many more joined us (in a small dark space) including many of the wives and older daughters who had been diligently serving us. As the session began, we found out what the “rainy season” is like on the mountain. Not only did it rain, but it hailed as we were protected inside. The hail was so thick (not large but thick), there were sections of the mountains that looked like snowfall from all the small white balls. We wondered at what it would have been like if we had tried to climb the mountain during a storm like that, and prayed that the Lord would bring a breeze by night and the sun by day to dry the road for our journey home.

It was difficult to see anyone during this session. I used my headlamp to read God’s Word. We were just about out of power on my iPad where I had all of my notes and my solar charger did not seem to be working. God had used some of my downtime on Saturday evening and Sunday evening to have me make notes about some of these sessions on paper which pointed me to the important Scriptures, and I had to use those during this time. Brother William was next to me and by the door, which gave him just enough light to read the same passages from the Swahili bible. The room was packed, but I could barely see anyone as I taught, so could not get any feedback from the faces of the people. However, when I asked questions, I knew that they were there and engaged from their responses. The key point was that God had ordained good works for them to join him in. This included both working with their hands and asking God to provide through them, and the work of the Great Commission. But they needed to look at the work God gave them as a blessing and recognize that the man was not to put the curse of Adam onto the daughters of Eve, but to both listen to God’s call in their individual roles.

In the evening, many wanted to fellowship and engage in “idle chatter” (even though I had pointed them to Proverbs 14:23, “All labor leads to profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.”) and I wondered whether any of them were getting the teaching. I was exhausted from the previous day’s journey, a short night’s sleep the night before, and the exertion of teaching. We excused ourselves early to get some rest. I prayed that the Word of God would sink in.

The next day (Wednesday morning) had glorious weather and, indeed, the Lord had provided a light breeze throughout the night to dry the land, and a crystal clear morning. As I went up the hill to the “place of texting”, I eventually found a spot to text Carol and immediately after successfully sending the text, I saw a crystal clear view of the very top of Mt. Elgon with a clearer sky than the day before. As I tried to take a picture, my iPhone shut off so I only have the picture in my mind. I thanked the Lord that I was able to get that last message off to Carol and thanked God for my wonderful wife as I prepared to teach on “Man and His Helpmate”.

Again, Henry and I were frustrated as “Kenyan time” was leaving us and we knew we wanted to leave no later than 3:30 to get down the mountain before dark. We were “forced” to take showers, and have breakfast after 11:00 (very good and filling pancakes, but no syrup… no maple trees in Kenya and they haven’t yet learned to fake it with corn syrup, though “maze” is a staple in their diet :–). Henry and I continued to encourage Ben to gather the people for the Word of God. We just shook our heads and said that teaching about “Man and His Helpmate” would be just like the 10:00 wedding on Saturday that started at 2:00…

We weren’t far off. Eventually, people from all over gathered at Ben’s. We could not fit all these people in his house, but God provided an incredibly beautiful day, so we taught on the mountain as Jesus did. As we hoped it was time to begin, Ben began a series of formal introductions including that of the oldest man in the church (80 and spry) and the “village elders, who represented the office of the President of Kenya.” Neither of these two men were believers. One was Ben’s oldest brother (Reuben) who was a polygamist and seems to come and go from the church. He was VERY long-winded as he joked about the wonders of how his younger brother, Ben, got a white man to come up here. But they all warmly greeted us and said they wanted us to come back again and give them more than a month’s notice.

Eventually, I got started. Trying to “tighten up” the message and hoping to get a 2nd message in about “Man and His children” as there were so many beautiful (and seemingly neglected) children around who were not being taught by their parents. When it came to the Q&A time, I received just 3 questions which the Lord used mightily.

The first was what to do if a wife would not submit. I pointed them to Matt 18:15-18 and the Lord had me expound on that and use the testimony of the recent events at SWCA. Lights went on all over as we discussed how Jesus patiently calls us to repentance, but does not want us to stay in our unholy state.

The second was an anonymous question (written and slipped it to William) “I am a polygamist. Is it a sin and what do I do now?” Needless to say, I had never fielded this question before. God gave me the grace to point them to the OT law, that they must love them both equally. Henry spoke up (who had dealt with this before) and pointed out that they must repent of their sin, not take any more wives, love them both, train up all of their children, and be welcome in the church, but they may not be leaders in the church.

I forget the 3rd question.

However, after the questions, Ben asked Henry to close the session. Before praying, Henry stated boldly that, “you have heard the servant of God speak the Word of the Lord. If you would like to repent and make Jesus your Lord, He is the God of love and will welcome you.” William translated and appeared to be talking directly to Reuben. Before Henry began to pray, Reuben came with tears in His eyes and said he wanted to repent and serve the Lord. Another younger man also stepped forward (we later learned was also a polygamist), and a number of children, and then another man. We prayed for them all and tears were many.

One of the children who had come up was Mark, William’s son. He spoke wonderful english (hardly any of the younger children responded to us when we spoke in English). He began asking many questions of both Caleb and I. He ended up on my lap, and as they were about to give us a light lunch (not much of what we’ve been fed is truly light) I asked Caleb to go into my luggage and bring the dried berries we had and asked Mark to distribute them to the children. They were a great hit. We found out that Mark went to school in Eldoret where his older sister, Grace (who had been serving us all week and was introduced as their only college graduate) taught.

We attempted to eat as fast as possible, but could not get back to teaching right away as I was told the women of the village wanted to come and bless us. They presented us with hand-made baskets, which was the first thing they did to trade for money and goods when they were driven into the mountains. It was how they began to rebuild their lives and they blessed us with a number of them as they sang for joy to the Lord.

By the time we got ready to start the last session it was 3:00 and William and Mark were heading down the mountain to get Mark back to school. We realized both that we were about out of time and had just lost our translator. Ben asked Daniel to translate and he did an adequate job as we closed our time. I taught fairly quickly and pointedly about training up our children in the ways of the Lord as we teach them diligently in both word and action, and we closed.

It took a while to get away as we were formally blessed by Ben’s wife, Mary, and another older lady. And then many continued to shake our hands, hug us, and otherwise bless us. I was told that in addition to driving down with Ben (putting 6 people in a 5 person vehicle as we did from Kitale on) I would be sharing the front seat with Grace, who also needed to get back to Eldoret. Eventually, Henry and Peter started walking ahead of the car, and I joined them wondering if they would ever let us leave in the car (and whether Grace and Ben would ever get in). Henry told me he walked ahead so they wouldn’t see his tears. We would miss this place.

The hike and ride down the mountain was very pleasant without any major incident. The road had dried out wonderfully and going downhill was much easier. We achieved our goal of reaching the main road before dark by at least 5 minutes :–) .

Packed in tightly, we shared trail mix, tight quarters, and worship songs and hymns of praise. Grace had learned many “english” praise songs while in college in Uganda as English was the only common language many could communicate and worship together with. Some of the songs were also known by the Zambians, the driver, and Ben.

We made it back to Eldoret exhausted and found there was no electricity. We felt right at home as we hadn’t had any for days. We met Lamech from India and Fred, a minister from the tribe that had driven the Ndorobo up the mountain. Ben and he were related by marriage. What a glorious international reunion of church leaders from a sample of “every tribe, every nation”.

I learned more about Fred and Ben and their tribes and churches since then. We didn’t get to spend too much time with Lamech before he had to go to Kitale (where we had just left) where he and his wife were teaching at two different conferences, but it was a great blessing to meet this brother also. Before the day was over, Henry and I got to speak briefly to the “youth” at Daniel’s church and Caleb attempted to teach “Exodus” (their Christian evangelistic dance group) how to do back flips and forward flips as we awaited Daniel coming back from the bus station where he dropped off Lamech. (I think they may have had more success teaching Caleb some dance moves than they had learning the back flip, but it was good fellowship).

Praise the Lord for the work He has done.

As we prepare to leave, I worked out a plan with Ben to get some more Swahili bibles back up the mountain with him. I since received a message from him that a transformation has started there. “I heard a certain brother saying that from now henceforth I will balance my living in both my wives my children.”

I wonder why so few bother to teach the simple messages of the Bible, or why so few actually challenge people to apply what it says. Love your wives. Train your children in the things of the Lord. Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Find out what His word says, put it in your heart, and spread it to others, starting with your own family.

I pray that their families will be reformed before they get off the mountain and they have a bigger affect on the world than the world has on them.

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

I usually don’t use this blog for happenings in my personal family, but since prayers for my dear wife seem to have gone viral, I needed a place to point people who were interested in the story, and this was as good a place as any…

On Friday, my precious wife and daughter were on their way out of town for a long-awaited Mother/Daughter getaway that Hope and I had planned for Carol (my wife). They got a bit of a late start and were supposed to head off to Winston-Salem about 2.5 hours away. I prayed that the Lord would watch over them as they were away from us, as I sometimes remember to do.

For some reason, they decided to stop to do some shopping in Cary and all of a sudden Carol found herself in great pain in her abdominal area. (As you will see, this was the first answer to my prayer for their protection). Hope called and we were not sure if it was something as simple as gas or a potential emergency situation, only two years after Hope had to have her appendix out after similar “unexplained” pain. They decided to stop at a friends house and let Carol lay down a little to see if it subsided and they could continue on to Winston-Salem. We sent out a quick prayer request to our church loop for Carol and wisdom as to whether or not she should continue to Winston Salem. Over the next few hours, there were phone calls back and forth and eventually it was decided that Carol should go to a nearby “Urgent Care” place, and I was on stand by as to whether I should meet her at an emergency room.

The UrgentCare place noticed her having slightly low blood pressure, determined that there wasn’t signs of an appendix problem, gave her an IV as she seemed dehydrated and thought it might be some sort of cyst. As she continued to deteriorate and it was getting late on a Friday, they determined she should go to the Emergency Room to get a scan and figure out how serious it was. (Second answer to prayer). I sent a follow up email before leaving saying she had gotten worse and I was going to meet her at the ER. As I scrambled to grab myself some personal care items and a change of clothes in case I needed to stay overnight, my son reminded me that I didn’t need to get anything for my wife… she was already packed for the weekend, so I got out of there pretty fast. (Third answer to prayer).

By this time, Carol could not get up without feeling nauseous and light headed. They wheeled her out of the urgent care to the car, and Hope got her to the ER pretty quickly where they also put her in a wheel chair. Unlike the usual wait in the ER if it is not clear that you are dying, they got to her pretty quickly, just after I arrived there. They asked her the usual intake questions, asked if she was usually that pale, and whether her blood pressure had been this low at the Urgent Care place (72/46). Dr. Bob DiLorenzo, our dear friend who is an ER doctor was on vacation across the country in Yosemite where he shouldn’t have had a signal. He just happened to be in a spot where he was checking his email, and called while we were checking in. (More answers to prayer). He said that it was probably internal bleeding of some sort and that it was good we were in the ER. I sent a quick email out that it may be internal bleeding, and the prayer request started going viral. Carol, by this point was in pain, shivering, and couldn’t move without feeling like she was going to throw up or faint. (I’ll leave some of the more personal details out here).

It wasn’t too long until a doctor was officially brought in, they started pumping her full of IV and arranging a CT Scan. Though the staff was staying calm, they made it clear that this was a serious situation. The doc said he expected to see a lot of blood internally and hopefully see where it was coming from, and that we should be thinking about who we wanted to do the surgery. Though Dr. Bob was in a remote spot, we managed to get a signal long enough to get his recommendations which corresponded to the two men we already knew and trusted:

  • Dr. Eric Dubberman who was the one who found and removed Hope’s mystery problem two years earlier if it was a non-gynecological problem, and
  • Dr. Greg Brannon who is a bold Christian ob-gyn who loves life and had helped deliver Joshua six years ago if it was a gynecological problem – we knew that he wouldn’t do anything to Carol to stop her reproductive system that wasn’t necessary.

But would either of them be available for emergency surgery on Labor Day weekend? We clearly had no time to spare.

The CT Scan showed “blood up to her liver” and the source was inconclusive, though one suspect was the right ovary. As Carol was wheeled back from the CT Scan room, the ER doc got on the phone and found that Dr. Brannon was available as was Dr. Dubberman. Within about a minute we heard Dr. Brannon’s unmistakable gregarious voice saying, “See, what did I tell you. Less than 90 seconds.” He came into the room, made fun at Carol for not coming to see him for more than five years and doing something extreme like this to get to see him again. He checked her out and got on the phone to Dr. Dubberman, who quickly agreed to meet him in the operating room and be there since it was unclear where the source of the bleeding was and that this wasn’t something to mess around with. Dr. Brannon explained that there was no time for a laparoscopic procedure, and that they were going to have to cut her open and move skillfully and quickly, saving whatever they could, but having to do whatever they needed to do to stop the bleeding.

While this was happening, Carol and I spoke very little other than a few words of encouragement that God was in control and had sent the best people we could ask for to help her, and reminders of our love for one another. We prayed briefly together, but little did we know how many prayers were storming the gates of heaven. I was calm and at peace, though very much aware that if they didn’t get to her soon, couldn’t find and fix the source of the problem, or there were any complications, this might be my last time on earth that I would see my wife alive as it was clear that her vital signs were close to the edge and more blood loss could push her over it. When I asked how long I should expect her to be in surgery, I was told, “Best case, about an hour. Otherwise, as long as it takes.”

I got to the waiting room, and now the hard part came for me. While I was with Carol, I could concentrate on reassuring her. Now, I had nothing to do but wait and pray. I wasn’t even sure how to pray. I was somewhat numb from the events of the day. I didn’t know what to ask the Lord other than I wanted my wife to live, but “not my will but Yours”. I was reassured by all of the coincidences that He had already lined up… Carol could have easily been halfway to Winston Salem when this hit her and nowhere close to anyone we knew, deciding to tough it out. She could have gotten to the ER later and been behind other people who looked worse than Carol. We could have had the least experienced and ungodly doctors in the county covering for all the “senior docs” taking a long weekend off. Bob could have been at a part of Yosemite joyfully ignorant of what was happening back home while he enjoyed God’s wonderful creation. Many people who we love and love us could have been away from their computer when the emails and FaceBook posts started… but they were not.

As I pulled out my iPad to send an update out, I was overwhelmed by the pouring out of prayers from all over the country… I’ll come back to this later.

In less than an hour, Dr. Brannon came out and he said that there was a large rupture in her right ovary like he had never seen before. In fact, he had only seen anything like it once before, 25 years earlier in a 20-year-old girl. Evidently, ovarian cysts rupture all the time and sometimes cause some bleeding that gets flushed through the system and out through the paths that are there. Carol, believing she is going through the early stages of menopause, hadn’t had a period for about 4 months. Evidently, she had a large growing cyst during that time and when it ruptured, it basically exploded and blew right through the back side of her ovary. Though she now has one less ovary, it appears that this was the clear source of the problem and, as I am writing this she is well into recovery. The biggest concern at the end of the surgery was her blood level as she lost so much blood.

The prayers of the saints are being answered as Carol’s recovery is going as well as can be expected and better. The difference between where she was 12 hours ago in the recovery process to now is quite amazing. They added 4 pints of blood to her slowly through about 10 AM this morning. They’ve since taken several blood samples, and all the numbers are going rapidly in the right direction. Her latest blood tests are showing that she is continuing to go in the right direction even though she has been off of transfusions or IVs since before noon. She is now on oral pain medication. She just had a really good two hours of walking, urinating on her own, and having full conversations. She isn’t taking in much food (clear only right now) but she is keeping down everything she has taken in. All of these things are what they are looking for before they let her out of here. The last two hours (and the 24+ before that) have wiped her out and she is back to sleep, but otherwise doing great. We expect that she’ll be moving slow for a few weeks, but otherwise will be perfectly fine. (If you are still out there reading this, don’t stop praying. The recovery period isn’t over).

I’m praying they will let her out of here tomorrow, but if she has to stay until Monday as they originally expected we really have no business complaining. It was so good to see her having a normal conversation with color in her cheeks… just 24 hours ago I was wondering if those cheeks would ever have color in them again.

Carol and I were both sharing with each other a few hours ago that when we were in the midst of the crisis, we both had peace and didn’t really know how to pray besides the simple prayer “God, your will be done, but please fix it.” Though we were both aware that it could have been our last night together on this earth, we could only encourage each other and say this simple prayer. While we were coming up short on how to pray, we know that there were literally thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – from around the country praying as we could not. Prayers for Carol were going viral. I didn’t have time to pray in the waiting room while I was reading notes from folks who told me they were praying… I received emails from people all over the country I didn’t even know. I was copied on other people’s facebook comments. I was receiving phone calls from people I had only met once or twice. In fact, I almost missed the news from the doctor when he came out to the waiting room because someone called to pray with me. Just before they called, the folks in the waiting room with me (waiting for someone to finish a routine day surgery) recognized what was happening as I could barely put my phone down and, when I had just a moment between calls, they came over and prayed with me before they left. Just afterward, Tony Hernandez showed up with a Grilled Stuff Burrito and we caught up on each other’s lives while I had to wait to see Carol. Since then, I have been notified today about many more church and ministry prayer loops we were on in North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and who knows where else.

In the morning, during a moment she seemed to be awake, I read the Bible to her and I just happened to have it bookmarked at Romans 8. By the time I got to this passage:

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (NASB)

Carol was already asleep.

How faithful our Lord is. When we don’t know how to pray as we should, He just takes over. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! All glory and honor to His name!

As if that was not enough, we have been offered more meals and service than we can handle.

As I told one dear sister, “There are meals supplied already for the next 4 days. There is a churchwide campout tomorrow night that the children are looking forward to. Carol’s sister and mother are going to be down on Monday to help and, quite honestly, I have no idea what else we could possibly ask for (unless you want to pay off our mortgage?). Our cup overflows, and the children are going to get lazy on me if anyone gives them any more.”

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, and to take Him at his word; just to rest upon His promise, and to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er! Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust him more!

Once again the Lord has proven Himself faithful and done exceedingly abundantly beyond all we ask or think.

Pray for those who don’t trust in Him. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through something like this without Him… Praise the Lord, by His amazing and abundant grace, I will never have to know. Lord, pour your grace upon them as you have on me and my family!


So, I’ve been a bit busy lately. OK. Way too busy. My last post was months ago.
I had planned on getting away for two months at the beginning of August after a really important deadline for one client at the end of June and another really important deadline for a different client at the end of July. As plans were talked about, getting away meant driving about 2000 miles in 10 days to make stops in New Jersey (to see my parents, sisters, their families, and more), Pennsylvania (to see Carol’s mom, sister, her family, and more) and an important trip for a pending business venture in Ohio.

As this trip was being talked about, I heard about CocoaConf being offered in Dublin, OH. I heard about it from Solomon Klein, the son of my friend Dave Klein. It sounded like it would be a good conference, but I wasn’t sure if I wouldn’t be better off just taking the time to work on the iPad app I’m behind where I’d like to be on. As the time to make the final decision approached, I learned more about the fact that the whole conference was being put on by Dave Klein’s family, whom I had never met.
(The Klein family described themselves as “Your average family of 15, seeking to know and follow the Lord Jesus Christ“) We talked a bit, prayed a bit, and I became more convinced that I should go to this thing.

What an incredible conference! Although I’ve been to conferences run by families before, they were usually in church circles. I’ve run local workshops where my family helped out, but never at this scale. And, I’ve been to a lot of software conferences before, but never such a combination of intimacy and quality. The speakers were top notch. The program was meaty. The schedule was not too rushed, not too slow, but just right. And this was their first such conference!

The Kleins drive a big blue bus and have decided that, in addition to the consulting business Dave and three of his oldest sons are doing, they are going to make a go of putting these conferences on all around the country, perhaps 6-12 per year. I’m thrilled to be talking to them about RoleModel Software sponsoring an upcoming Raleigh conference and housing the Klein family before and after the conference. Not only will I enjoy the fellowship, but we’ve got a lot of things we can learn from each other and do together in software. And I’ve got a few projects around the house that could use another 30 hands or so to knock out!

The software industry, like any place the Lord has you, is a mission field. Your family is where discipleship begins. Put the two together.

Biblical Roles in Our Culture: Time to Man Up

The feminists are right about one thing… Men are the problem.

Between attending the recent Family Economics conference, the Bible Study I’m currently doing with another dozen men (using What He Must Be as an outline for the passages we are studying), and an ongoing experience watching the ravages of sin and the scary tactics and philosophy of Wake County’s Child Protection Services (and I’m sure it is not unique to Wake County) when a man who rejects his responsibility to marry a young lady he impregnated turns on her and falsely accuses her. I’ve been reminded of how important it is for men to embrace their roles in all aspects of life, and what happens to our culture when they don’t.

First, the Family Economics conference pointed out many things. The word “economics” itself literally means “household law”. The Scriptures clearly teach that men are to rule their households well. (And, for the record, tyranny is not a form of ruling well). But one of the points made was how the rejection of God’s Word, starting with the household, has led to so much decay of our american culture that is seemingly irreversible. We think economics is all about what the government is going to do to make sure everyone has enough money. The problem is, the households are broken. (And the government gets its power from the governed… broken households lead to a broken government).

Over 40% of children in the US are born out of wedlock and the numbers get worse as they get older. More than 70% of children don’t live in a nuclear family. As disturbing as those statistics are, the rate of growth of both of those numbers in the past 50 years is even more disturbing. And, out of the 20-30% of the children that are left, how many sons are being taught to embrace their role by their fathers? How many daughters are being left to find their way and hope to find a decent husband and father for their children, with no training into what to look for? And even if they’ve been trained well, how many real men do they have to choose from?

But then there is the story of the Exodus, and the many stories of Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings…, the history of Rome, England … the many examples of how terrible culture can get at the hands of negligent fathers and tyrants whom they allow to run over people and the repeated story of how men cry out to the Lord and He answers.

Next week, we will be studying how a man is called to be “Prophet and Priest” in his home. We are not talking about a man standing on a street corner yelling “repent” (though that’s always a good message whether you like to hear it or not) or making ritualistic sacrifices. We’re just calling men to what God has always called them to do. Read God’s Word, live God’s Word, speak God’s Word, and lead his family as God has called him (sacrificially).

For those of you who believe a woman’s primary focus should be based from the home (Titus 2) as an excellent wife (Proverbs 31:10-31) who is industrious (not sitting at home watching soap operas – and doing a gazillion things that bless her husband, children, grandchildren, and society – more on that in another post), I agree. But, if men don’t step up to their biblical roles, what’s a girl to do?

For those feminists who like to point out that God chose Deborah to judge Israel, read the story again. The fact that Deborah judged Israel was a condemnation on the men. And what did she call Israel to do? ”Men, man up and realize who your God is!”. She didn’t call the women to get up and overthrow the oppressors. She called the men. And the “great leader of men”, Barak, said, “I’ll only go if you go with me”. The judgment on his cowardice was that the glory of defeating the enemy would go to a woman. And afterwards, the introduction to the victory song of Deborah and Barak, started out “That the leaders led in Israel, That the people volunteered, Bless the LORD!”. It’s talking about the 10,000 men who stepped it up! And afterward, Deborah did not continue to judge Israel.

Men, cry out to the Lord, and then do your job at home, and don’t stop doing it anywhere else you go. Men, if you don’t know your job, God has already answered your cry. You can find a bunch of Scripture to ponder here.

I’ve heard many men say, “but no one has ever taught me”. Stop complaining and take your role! Think about what you are doing that is keeping you from reading God’s Word, teaching God’s Word (could be as simple as reading it to your wife and children and asking the deep question to yourself and them, “What does this mean, and how should it change the way we live?”), and living God’s Word. Stop doing the less important things (if you have time to read the sports page, you have time to read the Bible), and do what you are supposed to do.

Just do it. If you don’t know where to start, use the words of Julie Andrews. ”Let’s start at the very beginning; a very good place to start”. Tonight at dinner or before everyone goes to bed, open your Bible to Genesis 1:1 and start reading. If you don’t ever come back and read my blog again, but you read the Word to your family every night, my reward will be great and yours will be greater.

Toward the end of his lengthy instruction to the men of Israel (yes, the women and children were there, but he was primarily talking to the men throughout – read it before you object), Moses points out:

“Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life” (Deut 35:46-47 NASB).

Child Labor Laws Need to Be Rewritten

I was reading a blog post recently about my profession and I was both pleased that someone said it, while being bothered that it has to be said.

To many MPs and teachers, using an Excel spreadsheet or knocking up an HTML page is “computer programming”. The educational focus is very much on using software, rather than making software. But we still call it “computing”, which is as misguided as suggesting someone who can take an aspirin understands “medicine”.

The blog post (by a fellow from the UK) was entitled “Software Craftmanship – We Need to Raise Our Game” and the point it made about how pathetic – and divorced from reality – education is in the realms of software may even be understated. I wonder what it’s like in other industries. Yet, we insist that the most important thing for a child or young person is “education”. And when THEY say “education” they don’t seem to be able to divorce this education from sitting in a classroom with a bunch of people their own age supposedly learning the same lessons that someone decided everyone needs to know.

But there are a lot of other ways to get an education. Many of them are much better, especially as part of an integrated life that puts responsibility and value in a real world context. People learned the 3 Rs (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic) in all sorts of ways before it was institutionalized and learned many other valuable skills, too.

I recently was reading about child labor laws in this country and the more I find out about them, the harder it is to not become irate.

I’ve tried, and continually try, to teach my children to be producers, not just consumers. I attempt to do the same with any young person I have any influence over, unapologetically. Saturday is not a day to watch cartoons. It’s a day to work with those that are older than them and produce something of value. (And parts of every other day but Sunday should be, too).

Another thing I’ve taught them to do is to honor the aged and they’ve learned to talk to and listen especially to the World War II generation while we still have a few of them left. It is interesting to find out how many of the Greatest Generation worked when they were children or very young adults. But then, it happened… The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

There are all kinds of problems with the government regulation of employment, but let me just focus on one part. The protection against “oppressive child labor”. We have a Department of Labor to protect us from this great evil. And, of course, they have our best interests in mind. I know, because they tell me so:

The Department of Labor is the sole federal agency that monitors child labor and enforces child labor laws. The most sweeping federal law that restricts the employment and abuse of child workers is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Child labor provisions under FLSA are designed to protect the educational opportunities of youth and prohibit their employment in jobs that are detrimental to their health and safety. FLSA restricts the hours that youth under 16 years of age can work and lists hazardous occupations too dangerous for young workers to perform.

It is this department of our federal government that has decided that working in theatre is OK for anyone of any age, but 12 year olds who know how to program (and want to learn more) can’t be paid for their services, even for two hours per week. Is that because it would be “detrimental to their health and safety” or because we need to protect “the educational opportunities of youth”. If they are 14, they need to get a work permit to do so.

Exactly what does this work permit give them? The people who work in this government office use antiquated software to license young people who want to learn how to write non-antiquated software to do so… but only certain numbers of hours at certain times of the day. I’m sure it would be detrimental to their health and safety (unlike the environment of Hollywood) because they need to go to schools who don’t know the first thing about software, so they can be prepared to go to colleges and pay lots of money (taking out loans, if necessary) for a few hours a week with professors that have never done any “programming in the wild”. I know I’m not the only one who sees a problem with this. And it is not just the software development field in which young, capable people are blocked out.

I understand that there were times in our history where some children were basically employed as slaves and kept from being able to read and write and something had to be done about it. Now, they are slaves to governments who insist that they follow the rules of government school systems. (We know we can homeschool, but the labor laws discuss school hours, etc. as if the only thing a young person should be doing is sitting in a classroom).

We know the track record of our public school systems. Though there are many good people who work there, they need a lot of help to teach a lot of relevant and valuable skills (30 people at a time) that just about no one in their system has. They can’t hire the help they need if it could come from someone who isn’t at least 16. See the article at HSLDA’s site that illustrates how ridiculous this is.

In his 2011 state of the union address, Mr. Obama said:

To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws.

Mr. Obama, do you realize that many of our jobs are going overseas to people who will work for less than our minimum wage? In the meantime, I know a LOT of bright young 12-15 year olds who not only do very well with the three Rs, but also program, interpret sign language, cook, clean, run spreadsheets, do excellent graphic design, etc. and would LOVE to work, but aren’t allowed to. We must “protect our children’s educational opportunities” while american businesses go overseas to get cheaper labor. Our government is enlightened and not only believes the myth of adolescence, but institutionalizes it. We have young people who have never been allowed to participate in significant projects until they get out of college at age 22-25. Many of these same young people think they should get paid a lot of money because they have a degree that says they are smart, and wonder why it is so hard to find a job.

Most people running businesses know why these people can’t find a job. They’ve never learned to work and businesses don’t want to pay high rates for the opportunity to train someone who has an inflated view of their worth. When the World War II generation was growing up, there were a lot of opportunities for industrious twelve-year-olds to earn some pocket change. By the time someone was 22, they already had ten years of some type of work experience.

Fear breeds stupidity. 1n 1946, some people were afraid that if we didn’t have these laws we’d have a bunch of young people being taken advantage of by greedy capitalists, and able-bodied men not being able to find a job to support their families because child labor was cheaper. Sixty-five years later, are the children much safer in our inner-city schools and neighborhoods? Would all able-bodied men (and women) lose their jobs to twelve-year-olds? No, they are losing many of their jobs to 22-year-olds who live overseas. And, if a twelve-year-old can do a job better than a twenty-five-year-old, why should I be forced to hire the twenty-five-year-old? If the education really makes the difference, I’d be stupid to hire the uneducated twelve year old and wouldn’t last long in the competitive business field.

Call me crazy, but I think people should be compensated for the value provided, and people and the marketplace should be the ones determining the value of a particular situation or institution. If I think the value I get from paying to learn some set of things at a particular institution is greater in the long run than working a job, I should gladly seek it out. But why should the government be pushing me in that direction?

My daughter, Hope, is almost 19 years old and is a very talented musician. She has 16 piano students at various levels of proficiency and has been teaching regularly for almost 5 years (after observing other teachers in addition to her own). Hope is active in the Cary-Apex Piano Teachers Association… she became their youngest member last year. She also is an accompanist in various settings, is an assistant with a local musical theatre group, and has several other productive interests (occasional composing, writing a series of books, gardening and other homemaking activities, teaching her younger brothers various subjects, occasionally helping me on various projects, serving others in various capacities, and more). She has taken private piano lessons for something like thirteen years and is currently taking some from a college professor. She’s taken college level music theory classes via correspondence.

She made a decision recently that, although she has been offered scholarships, she is not going to pursue a four-year degree though she will continue to learn and increase her skills. She just doesn’t think it is worth it to give up four years of her life (and her current livelihood) so that she can get a little more intense instruction and a piece of paper that suggests she can pick her livelihood back up in four years after sacrificing everything else she pours herself into.

Please don’t tell the Federal Department of Labor. They weren’t living with us to stop the oppression of her childhood and make sure her educational opportunities were protected.

I realize that Hope has had opportunities that others could never dream of getting. Some children don’t have parents that fulfill their responsibility to train up their children well or have limited means even if they wanted to. The theory is that this is why we need these laws… so these children get the education they need to succeed. NEWSFLASH: the oppressive laws that protect them from oppressive labor does not make them do well in school and be ready for success when they get through the system… and they really aren’t helping anyone else out, either.

I’m not suggesting that we should be looking to hire out our six-year-olds to put in 50-60 hour work weeks picking up scrap material at a local factory, but exactly why can’t a twelve-year-old have a part-time job in an office?

The world knows that children become young men and women around the age of twelve. Look at the prices at a buffet, or the instructions on a bottle of medicine. The Bible teaches that if a man doesn’t work, we shouldn’t let him eat. If we took it seriously, we’d either have a bunch of starving teenagers, or we wouldn’t put up with this nonsense.

What can you do?

  1. Train up the young people around you in valuable skills and teach them to serve at every opportunity, volunteering if they have to, or agreeing to work for food (but tell them not to stand at a busy intesection with a sign).
  2. Join me in asking your state and federal representatives to realize that the current antiquated child labor laws need to be revisited and write up the new bill.
  3. Talk about this with other people you know and get them to agree that twelve-year-olds should be allowed to work for anyone that would like to hire them, with the agreement of their parents.

Once we get the literate twelve-year-olds working again, it will be easier to train our ten-year-olds in the value of learning and serving and leading an integrated life.

Family Economics Conference

I’ve been thinking about posting something about this for a while, but realized today that the conference is getting closer and I haven’t posted anything about it yet.

Here’s the deal. The family is the fundamental economic unit, period. Someone with a Ph.D. may argue differently and footnote a lot of the writings of man. They are wrong. I have one big footnote to back up my argument, Genesis 1:1-Revelation 22:21. Eternity begins with a wedding feast for an exclamation point.

There’s a conference to help people realize the practical realities of this and it is coming to Raleigh next month. I’m not sure how much time I’m going to have to write about it, but the web site does a great job, so I’ll just point you there:

If I don’t write about it more soon, I’m guessing I’ll write about it more after the conference.

I will say that we are blessed to host our dear friends, the Harding family, who live a family integrated life in Virginia. Matthew wrote (and is writing) a neat series of books called The Peleg Chronicles that you can find at as well as other information about his family.

Farriers and an Integrated Life

I just came back from the International Hoof Care Summit in Cincinnati where we were rolling out our latest enhancements to the Farriers United offerings. [NOTE: Since then, that business was sunsetted, and RoleModel helped start My Farrier Supplies.] The founder of Farriers United, Jeff Denson couldn’t bring his wife as she just had a baby last Friday, so I took my daughter Hope with me to help in the booth at the exhibition. She did a great job of helping out in all sorts of ways and it was great to have her take a more active role in business side of what I do. We both enjoyed hanging out with farriers (the folks that shoe horses) and the more I learn about this group, the more I love them.

I’m thrilled that our services were so well received as the farriers, and others who work with the farriers, realized how they can help them save time and make money. These are a hard working group of people that know a lot more than the uninformed would give them credit for. It’s not just a matter of wacking some metal shoes on a horse’s hooves… or avoiding getting kicked! The horse’s hooves and legs are a key part of the horse, and an indicator of the overall health of a horse, and these folks know a LOT about how to keep horses healthy and at their peak. These folks work hard, make a good living (once established), and can live an integrated life a lot better than many professions allow.

I had the honor and privilege of meeting Chris Gregory and his son Cody. They both took off their hats as they were introduced to my daughter, Hope. Their politeness and down to earth nature were very refreshing. Their humility was impressive. especially as I learned more about them.

Cody started working with horses when he was 4. When he was in 5th grade, the family’s move out of a school district prompted them to start homeschooling Cody and his sister. I heard Cody say that homeschooling was the best thing that ever happened to him. At 19 years of age, he has more accomplishments than most farriers. At 15, Cody passed the American Farrier’s Association Certified Journeyman Farrier, shattering the previous record for the youngest to reach that mark by 4 years. He gets it honest.

Cody’s dad, Chris, earned the title of Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (FWCF) at the age of 30. The Worshipful Company of Farriers, (WCF) is a group founded in London in 1356 and regarded by many as stewards of horseshoeing’s highest standards. Only 35 farriers currently hold this distinction of Fellow, four of those Americans.

You can find a bit more about Chris and Cody and the rest of the family at the staff page of the Farrier School the family started in 1995 – Chris’ wife, Kelly, is also a farrier – Heartland Horseshoeing School. (Cody jokingly informed me that his sister is “the black sheep of the family” because she focuses on rodeo). The school turns out 45 farriers a year and is known, according to Jeff Denson, as the premiere school for farriers in the country.

Though the Gregory family is certainly unique, I was also impressed with how many husband and wife teams were at the Hoof Summit. We signed up a number of husband/wife farrier teams for our Farriers United services. Sometimes the husband was the one who typed in their registration at the computer, sometimes the wife. Often the wives were the ones who “did the books”, but not always. Although a major part of farrier technology is still that of a blacksmith, the mobile farrier trucks and a lot of other great products are connecting the old-time craft with the modern times we live in as is our growing suite of services for Farriers United and some other software technology such as ONTRACK. These folks are not left in the dark ages, but have the benefit of a lot of great heritage to draw from.

I’ve heard the average age of farriers in the US is 55. There is a bigger demand than supply. I’ve also heard that it is not uncommon for an established farrier to have a six-figure income. The family economics are there. There is a lot of opportunity in the industry. There are great schools that teach the craft (a lot cheaper than a four-year education) and it is not just for people with weak minds and strong backs… though a strong back is definitely a plus.

If you want to live a family-integrated life and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, consider farriery.

For anyone interested, the American Farrier Association’s Convention is in Lexington, KY, March 1-4.