The Ultimate GMO

*Image is from Rodale’s Organic Life

Genetics. We can’t get away from them. Pretty much everything we eat, unless you are a strict geophagist, has a genetic component. And what constitutes a genetically modified organism? People have been modifying the genomes of plants and animals for millennia. Just look at all of the varieties of apples we have, or man’s best friend.

It seems that the term, GMO, is reserved for creatures whose genome has been altered by means that are beyond natural cross-breeding; alterations that would never happen in nature, by any stretch of the imagination.

And what about our genomes? We are finding that things people once thought were simple choices, like alcoholism, lesbianism, being socially insensitive most of the time (now known as autism) have very strong genetic components.

I, of course, struggle with autism, and I am certain I could very easily become an alcoholic, which is why I am very careful about how much and when I drink.

So why does God tell me through the Bible,

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)?

God does not say I shouldn’t drink alcohol at all, but I shouldn’t let it take me over, instead, I should let Him take me over. But for someone who is a candidate for alcoholism, I can understand how that would be a very tough statement for someone who actually does struggle with alcoholism.

And why, when God knows it is extremely difficult for me to think of the perspective of others (actually it is impossible, on my own, without a lot of coaching, first), does he say this in Philippians 2:1-4:

(1) Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, (2) then make my joy complete by being of one mind, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose.

(3) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. (4) Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

As I was talking with a friend about this the other day, suddenly the following flowed out of our conversation. Now, keep in mind that I have a biology minor, so I am somewhat well-versed in the scientific perspective of biology in general, and genetics in particular. But as we were talking, God seemed to pour this through us:

Yes, we are all genetically predisposed to various things, be it singing, stealing, dancing, dealing, cooking, cheating, making things, murder, smiling, smoldering, you get the picture. It is impossible for us, on our own power, to follow what the Bible says, to even want to follow what the Bible says, without this:

(5Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. (6Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. (7)So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ (8The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you it is with people born of the Spirit.” (John 3: 5-8)

So, Jesus is saying that to be part of His kingdom, I need to be genetically modified. I need to be unnaturally changed by the supernatural to even be interested in living life to the fullest.

Does God actually change our physical genome, or does he just give us the supernatural power to overcome our genome, I don’t know.  I just know that I want that!

Jesus, later in that chapter tells us how we can experience being born again:

(16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16 -17)

Believe in Jesus, and God will genetically modify you by giving you his Holy Spirit to help you do the impossible.

Wow! I want to be the ultimate GMO! How about you?

If You Give a Boy an Allowance…

When my son and daughter were toddlers I did some research on whether or not I should give them an allowance when they got older. Some sources said that you shouldn’t give kids money unless they do work way above and beyond the normal running of the household. They need to learn to be a part of a family and contribute without expecting to be paid, was the reasoning. Others said that an allowance should be tied to their age and not have anything to do with what they do around the house. As they argued, an allowance is an, “allowance,” after all, and not a wage.

The piece of information that tipped the scale for me was that young men with autism, who are high-functioning enough to have jobs, often did not see the point in working. They did not understand the connection between putting in effort on something that maybe isn’t as fascinating as a video game, and receiving pay for that effort. Many also didn’t understand the value of money – that you can buy new video games with it!

So when my kids were in early elementary I started giving them an allowance. Well, really it is more of a wage. But I call it an allowance, simply because that is what most other parents call it. Thankfully, since my kids are only 15.5 months apart and since my older child is the one with autism, that brings their maturity level to, well, the younger one being only slightly older. So I am able to expect the same amount of effort out of both of them and can, therefore, pay them both the same amount of money. Thanks be to God for that! I don’t envy those of you who have to continually explain to the younger ones why they get less money or to the older ones why they have to do more for the same amount of money, depending upon how you work it.

I wasn’t sure how much to give them, so I wrote down everything I expected of them, from getting dressed and brushing their teeth, to cleaning the cat litter and emptying the dishwasher. Then I decided to assign $.05 to each task, since most of them could be completed quite quickly. All told, their allowance added up to $3.50 a week. I required them to tithe at least 10% to our church and required that they save some in a long-term savings account. I will let them have the money when they go to college. I want them to see the benefit of saving a little bit of money over a long time so that they are prepared to save for retirement. Because those of us with autism aren’t big on changing our routines, I realized that the more I could make this allowance experience like an adult’s paycheck experience, the better. So in the end, they had $2.50 to spend every week.

I tried that for a couple of weeks, but found that wasn’t enough money to be meaningful, to my son, in particular. There isn’t much that you can buy for $2.50 these days. At least, not any Lego sets – which is all my son with autism ever wants to buy, unless it is a Lego video game. So I doubled the amount so that they had $5/week to spend.

Now in two to three weeks time, a really cool toy can be saved for. At first I didn’t require them to save for the tax, but by the time they were in upper elementary, they needed to plan for that, too. And I generally do not bail them out at all, even if they are just a penny short. They need to learn that you may not buy something unless you actually have all of the money to buy it, especially when it is something that you don’t actually need. Every once in awhile I will let them make extra money by doing extra jobs around the house. But lately I seldom do that. Both of them will probably end up with a salaried job, and we all know that you don’t get extra pay for extra work when you are salaried. At least not usually. So I want them to learn how to budget and save within that framework.

The two things I love the most about giving them an allowance is that I can say, “Sure you can have that item, if you want to spend your own money on it,” and, “You will not be getting your allowance if you don’t get your chores done.”

Just last year I found another very good use for the allowance. My son, in particular, was having a hard time finding a reason to study enough to get the grades he is capable of getting. So I told him that I wasn’t going to be paying for poor grades. After all, school is his work, and you don’t get paid well at work if you are sloughing off. Our teachers update the electronic grade book weekly, so that the parents can see what their students have been doing. So every week I check the grade book. If there are grades below a B, because my kids truly are capable of A and B work, then allowance money disappears. Generally I take away $1 for a C and $2 for a D or F. That seemed to really get my sons attention, so he is now taking his studying more seriously. It has been keeping him motivated this year, too. He lost a couple bucks last week because he put computer time before study time, but he is back to being motivated to put in the time on his homework this week. Yeah!

So allowance may not be the right thing for every kid, but it has been working for us, so far. Though there are a few other things I would like to use it to teach them as they get older. Like, you can’t spend all of your money on toys – you need to eat, too. I’m not sure how to do that, yet…

Thank God, I’m terrible!

For some months now, my son’s piano teacher has been asking him to learn to play Christian worship songs using just chord sheets. My husband and I didn’t push him over the summer – he got the summer off from lessons (Actually, I got the summer off from listening to him complain that he needed to do something other than playing on the computer!).

He started lessons again last week, and was asked again to pick one song to work on. Later this morning, he started picking on his sister, so I suggested that he must be bored, so why not practise piano (he truly loves to play, so I wasn’t trying to be mean, just trying to help him stay out of trouble). He noodled around a bit, and then I remembered that he had yet to tackle a worship song. So I told him he needed to pick a song.

Let the excuses and procrstination start!

son: I don’t know any of the songs my teacher gave me.

daughter, looking through his sheet music: I know you know this one.

son: I don’t know what the notes are supposed to be.

me: You have an incredible ear (he actually has a perfect ear – but being from Minnesota, “perfect,” is culturally difficult to accept, “incredible,” is already pushing it!), so I am sure you will be able to figure it out. But you don’t even need to do that, just figure out the chords listed on the sheet.

son: stalling, stalling stalling…

me: Where is the chord sheet your teacher gave you? Get that out. That will make it easier.

son: rolling head on couch, still stalling

me, getting out his chord sheet and placing it on the piano next to the song sheet: Come on, you can do this.

son: No, I don’t want to. You can’t make me, etc, etc.

me pulling out all of the stops: You will not get to play on the computer tonight until you try to play this.

son, pouting as he sits down on the piano bench: Help me, mom!

me: OK, where’s the A chord? OK, so this is what you do (playing the chords listed on the sheet, painfully slowly, and with many an error).

daughter: Mom, please stop! Please let my brother try it!

son, also all too happy to have me stop: Ok, I think I get it.

Next commences 15 or so minutes of perfect chords. He then switched to almost perfectly plunking out the melody.

Thank God I know just enough piano to be painful to listen to!

Why does God want to be my friend?

God wants to be your friend because He likes you. It makes Him happy to be your friend. Another reason that He wants to be your friend is because He wants to help you be happy. He wants to help you with your probems and he wants to give you interesting things to do that will make you feel joyful and at peace.

Do you have a pet that you like? If so, why do you like that pet? Is it because that pet makes you feel happy. Do you enjoy making your pet happy, too by taking care of it and finding fun things for it to do? Then you understand just a little bit about how God feels about you.

Or maybe you really enjoy playing computer games. Why do you like them? Is it because playing them makes you feel happy? Well, that is how God feels about being your friend.

“He will take great delight in you.” Zephaniah 3:17

Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.

I remember singing that song just about every Sunday when I was in elementary school, and when my mom wanted to remind us how we ought to behave, she would sing a bar or two. It even would pop into my head as an adult, while trying to decide how to spend my time.

Now that I have two elementary schoolers myself, I am trying to teach them the same concept – that what you see, hear and think about will affect you, so be careful. They don’t sing that song, so they will have to settle for my lectures running through their heads!

My son loves Lego.  There are some awesome sets out there. There are also some really cool sets that are a bit too dark for my tastes. For months he has been obsessed with several sets that I have repeatedly told him I didn’t think were good for his psyche. He would insist that he was just pretending with them, that he knew that they were just toys and wasn’t going to let them affect him negatively. Meanwhile, he was constantly in trouble at school for fighting, or goofing off.

About two weeks ago he finally took my advice and started obsessing (that’s part of being autistic – something is either an obsession, or isn’t even on the radar), about sets that were cool, but not so dark. And guess what?

The first week he was only in trouble at school a few times, and the second week he had excellent behavior. He was also more pleasant to be with at home. This then translated into him having more time to do what he liked – computer, and less time spent doing extra jobs.

God’s word proves true, yet again: )

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.