Video Game Addicts

April 5, 2018

What I’m about to share with you falls under the category of “The Times They are A-Changin.” Otherwise known as; “I sound more and more like my father every day.”  This morning I was watching the sports news on my computer.  There are various articles and videos of major sports happenings… mostly of the sports that are in season.  The Pirates for example are the only major league baseball team still undefeated… 4-0.  That will likely be corrected by the time you read this.  Anyway, in the midst of all the articles came a video about a young woman who is the first female… “first” mind you (that should impress you)… “professional” video game player.  I think the appropriate wording is “gamer.”  The report went to great lengths to discuss her excellence at manipulating the characters on the screen.  Um… Uh…  VIDEO GAME PLAYERS ON A SPORTS CHANNEL?  Seriously?!?!  Video games are not sports… period! The people who are immersed in them are useless couch potatoes who push buttons really well. (Hmmmm… did that sound harsh?)  If she is a professional then she gets paid for pushing buttons.  Pretty soon we will call pool shooters athletes!  “Excuse me, let me move my belly out of the way so I can pocket the 8 ball.”  Don’t get me wrong, video games can be fun.  I have played them myself on occasion.  Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night or when I wake at 2:00 a.m. I’ll play solitaire on my phone… a more simplified form of “gaming.”  But professional button pushers?  I think I’m going to be ill.

And honestly what I just wrote has little to say about the hundreds of thousands of young people and adults who are literally addicted to video games…. Just like alcoholics or drug abusers, or porn addicts. In this case they spend hours and hours of their lives pushing buttons.  It’s bad enough that it’s a monumental waste of time, but it’s a waste of life!  Get that?  A WASTE OF LIFE.  I can’t imagine one person will EVER go to their grave saying “I wish I had spent more time pushing buttons in front of a television screen.”

I asked a friend of mine recently who knows way more about addictions and the treatment of them than I do, “What is an addiction? How does one define it?  I mean, is there a difference between a ‘casual’ beer drinker and an alcoholic?”  I know that we are inclined to say, “Of course there is!”  I agree, but try defining the difference.  Addicts tend to define addiction as “something they are not.”  For example an alcoholic might say:  “An alcoholic is someone who drinks hard liquor not beer like me.”  Or, “An alcoholic drinks earlier in the day than I do.”  Or, “An alcoholic drinks more than a 6 pack a night… I only drink one 6 pack.”  Get it?  We rationalize our addictions by defining them in a way outside of our own behavior.  My friend said (among other things) that an addiction is “the consumption of something that you cannot refrain from consuming.”  “Consuming” does not necessarily mean “taking into one’s body.”  We discussed a friend of his who was “addicted” to exercise.  It controlled his life to the exclusion of other essential things and people important to him.  The difficulty with this definition in terms of bringing clarity to “addiction” is that an addict will say, “Well, I can do without _______.  Just watch me.”  They will give up their addiction for a short while and then say, “See?  I’m not addicted!”  After having made their “point” they are right back at it.

The fastest growing addiction that I am aware of is video game addiction. Video addicts are just like any other.  They rationalize their behavior and define addiction in a way that does not include them.  But truth be told, their addiction consumes their lives.  Even when not pushing buttons, they are thinking of pushing buttons.  They fantasize about strategies that can allow them to be more successful at their game or games of choice.  Meanwhile essential or even non essential activities in their lives go unaddressed.  Relationships become problematic… well unless we are talking about the invisible addicted button pushers on the other side of their endless games.

The other thing that many addicts do is hide their consumption. Do you know someone who plays video games until all hours of the night in a dark room by themselves?  They struggle to get up in the morning for work or school?  Every time you walk into the house they are pushing buttons?  Their weekends or days off are consumed with… you got it… manipulating controllers.  It’s an addiction!  It will not serve them well.

I watched several videos the other day of parents taking their children’s video games away from them or destroying them. The videos were very disturbing!  You’ll get the idea if you can imagine for a moment flushing an addict’s opiods down the toilet, or breaking all of the bottles of whisky, wine or beer in the home of an alcoholic.  You would get similar violent, angry reactions.  Watching 15 year old video addicts reduced to weeping, out of control 3 year olds who just lost their pacifier was sad.

At the end of the day I don’t know what to tell you about all of this. Well maybe one thing.  If you live with an addict… of any kind… DO NOT ENABLE THEM! Do you know what that means?

  • It means you don’t make excuses for their addiction. Let them live with the consequences of their actions.
  • It means you don’t cover for their addiction, i.e., calling your son’s boss to tell them that “Johnnie cannot come into work today because he is not feeling well.” When in fact Johnnie can’t drag himself out of bed because he spent the night playing video games.
  • It means you tell the truth to other people when appropriate, i.e., “My son is a video game addict.”
  • It means you don’t assist them in their addiction. Today ought to be the last day you ever buy a game system or a game for a video addict. If you do then you take some responsibility for their addiction.

Do you know that AA is only one of many organizations who treat Alcoholism? They just happen to be the most successful.  Below are their 12 steps.  How might these apply to a video game addict?

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditations to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Am I over reacting? If you think I am it’s because you have not been around an out of control “button pusher.” Or you are an addict yourself. Most of you know that I am not wrong here.

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Pre-election thoughts

March 13, 2018

I apologize for the sarcasm about to come, but it is clearly intended to express my disgust at and loathing of our election processes. I also write this before the conclusion of our local “special election,” so as to not appear to express sour grapes.  I don’t know who will win and this has little to do with that anyway because ALL are culpable.  So with that in mind… here we go.

Did you know that all Democrats rejoice at the destruction of babies in the womb?  They can’t wait until thousands of living fetuses are ripped apart by abortion doctors.  How do I know that?  Because that’s what the Republican ads imply.  And of course I believe all of those things!  And did you know that all Republicans are eager to put assault weapons into the hands of irresponsible young people so they can murder their classmates in bigger numbers?  Yeah it’s true!  How do I know that?  Because the Democrats’ ads surely imply that.  And honestly they can’t put these things on T.V. if they weren’t true, can they?  Of course not!  And our outstanding politicians wouldn’t say them if they were false, would they?  Heaven forbid!  And to further verify these “facts” we have loads of really smart and discerning people placing even more “facts” on the internet.  Again, if it’s on the internet it must be true, right?  Every day I get loads of helpful and insightful posts from… um… really thoughtful people.  I’m sure they have studied and verified their information before sending it out for who knows how many people to see and embrace.  Yep!  I’m really thankful for all of the preparation that is put into this really helpful information.  And I am particularly proud of my Christian friends who eagerly and angrily sow the seeds of division and hatred.  Thanks, guys.  I’m glad someone other than me has that calling.

In this most recent election I got mail EVERY DAY from the two candidates or from some independent party supporting them.  Some days I got more than one mailing.  You know just in case I forgot what the mail said from the previous day.  And thankfully it all started 2-3 months before the actual election so that I had plenty of time to ponder.  And the phone calls…  I had no idea I was so popular!  Or maybe it’s Ellen?  Yesterday I had at least a dozen phone calls; again to remind me who to vote for in case I forgot about the 4 foot stack of useless mailings.  Ellen got texts too.  I didn’t get any texts!  I think I’m a little miffed; maybe even hurt.

Well enough of that. So, why do these elections filled with falsehoods (a nice way of saying “lies”) exist?  Why does every one of these political popularity contests have to spiral down into mudslinging?  And I get it; it may not be the candidates themselves who are pushing the negative agenda, but it is people who support them.  Well again, why does this happen? BECAUSE IT WORKS! We suck it up!  We hear the lies and we pass them along as “gospel” to help support our candidate.  Is it any wonder why the National Enquirer is so popular!?  Seriously, is it?  We love this stuff.  Falsehoods, lies, gossip!  It makes our day!  We love to see those on the top of the mountain get humbled.  I know you are saying, “Well, maybe others, but not me.”  Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha… whoa almost swallowed my tongue!

When and how are we going to demand higher standards from those who run for office so they can lead us? Yeah, I don’t know either.  But let me tell you what REALLY bothers me in all of this.  What are we teaching our children?  Well, essentially this:  If you want to get into a position of authority and power… lie and step all over people.  Am I being too critical?  Maybe.  But 3 months of this nonsense is enough.  I’ll be glad when 8:00 this evening rolls around and the polls close.  I am ashamed.  I am ashamed for those running for office.  I am ashamed for those who sling mud.  I am ashamed for those “really smart people” who put devisive posts on the internet.  I am ashamed of myself for whatever part I play in all of this.  I am ashamed for all of us.

But… it’s only our children so, keep doing what we have been doing. It can’t be that bad… can it?

Good God

March 12, 2018

For many Christians we would claim that Salvation is dependent in some way on a vital, living relationship with Jesus Christ… Right? In other words, our hope of walking into the Pearly Gates after our last breath is primarily a matter of who we know versus what we know.  I didn’t say that ALL self-proclaimed believers hold to this theology, but I suspect most do.  And yet, when a loved one dies our theology goes the way of bell bottoms, leisure suits and tie died shirts, i.e., it disappears.

Many of us have been in situations where a loved one or friend dies and everyone, including ourselves are proclaiming that “they are in a better place.” Or “they have gone to be reunited with (fill in the blank)” or “they are fishing up in that great trout stream in the sky” or any number of other scenarios that describe a very positive outcome for the deceased.  And yet we know full well that they never, to our knowledge, professed to know Jesus outside of calling out His name when they were angry let alone living a life that might be in any way mistaken for a “Christ follower.”

Of course I know why we do these things. The alternative thoughts are just too dreadful to consider.  I fully understand that.  I have been in those situations myself.  I don’t write this to demoralize us or cause us to think about or feel unspeakable pain.  I write to challenge us in one area.  Whatever our theology is; whatever our thoughts of God might be; whatever we proclaim to the world that we believe.  We must hold to these things in the good times AND in the bad times.  We cannot change our beliefs to suit ourselves depending on whichever way the emotional winds might be blowing.

For example the phrase: “God is always Good.”  I actually believe that.  And I believe it all the time.  It just depends on what one means when that’s proclaimed.  If we mean that God is always good despite our circumstances, then why do we only proclaim this when “good things” happen to us?  Why do we not talk about the “goodness of God” when awful things happen?  I suspect for this reason.  When we talk about the “goodness of God” we are really talking about the “good” things that happen to us.  We are not talking about the essential attribute of “Goodness” that defines God.  The “Goodness of God” does not necessarily apply to or rescue from the circumstances of our lives all the time.  Remember, we live in the midst of Evil.

John 12:31

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.

Ephesians 2:2

in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

We cannot live our lives thinking that things will be “good” for us all the time just because God is Good. As a matter of fact, even God brings about calamity in our lives on occasion and he also disciplines us.

Hebrews 12:My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

I hope you read that. Even a Good God brings about tragedy in our lives.  But in the midst of discipline, it’s hard to see the Goodness of God.  What child praises their parents for disciplining or grounding them?  None that I know of.  At least not until much later.

Do I claim to understand how all of this works? Not for a second.  I just know that sometimes the circumstances of our lives are good and sometimes they are encompassed by Evil.  But in the midst of that, God’s nature is always Good.

All of that to say: Be careful what you mean when you say “God is always Good.”  And be careful where you are and who you are with when you say “God is always Good.”  You may be with someone who has endured indescribable hardship and is not yet prepared to hear about a Good God.  If nothing else our proclamations of theology need to be timely, loving and sensitive.  And at the same time they need to be consistent.  What we believe in the “good” times needs to be upheld in the “bad” times lest our beliefs are… well… not beliefs at all.

Blessings.

Some day….

February 27, 2018

There is a phrase that I heard all too often as a young person; words that frustrated and demoralized me. (Why is it that when we know something is unhealthy or bad, we perpetuate it?! I don’t know either.) I have tragically carried the sentiment of this phrase into my adult years. I don’t necessarily say the words but I sure live my life under their tutelage all too often. The phrase you ask? I can hear my father’s voice as I write this, “One of these days I’m/we’re going to ___________.

Maybe I would have understood this better if he had said, “I have something that I would really like to do. It’s a dream of sorts. I don’t know if I will ever get, take the chance, or be able to afford to do it, but it’s somewhere stored in the back of my mind.” I think I could have taken that without the immense frustration of believing that it was actually going to happen. It’s not unlike my kids asking for something and me saying, “We’ll see.” It doesn’t take long before they realize that’s just another way of saying, “No.” But “we’ll see” gives them just enough hope that I don’t have to argue with them about it and “one of these days” is far enough off in the future that it gives something to look forward to down the road. And it instills optimism that maybe, just maybe, it might get pulled off this time.

Each year I tell a new batch of Pre-school parents this same thing, “Don’t make the mistake I made. Don’t think that you have ‘time’ to get to things. YOU DON’T! Before you blink, these little ones will be finishing elementary school. And then you will blink again and high school is over. One more blink and they are gone to live on their own. You do not have time! If you’re going to do ‘it’ then do ‘it’ now.” I don’t know if anyone listens to me at these gatherings. Well, actually, that’s not true. The grandparents who attend are all nodding in affirmation as I speak the words above. THEY KNOW! They know because they said “one of these days” too many times themselves.

I have certain friends whom I envy. Why? Because it seems to me that they have never heard or uttered the dreaded phrase. They do “it” now. No doubt they will have their share of regrets in their final days, but I doubt it will be because they did not do “it.” I can’t be sure of that.

So where is this leading? Basically I am very concerned for the future of our children. In particular, I am wondering where they will get their moral and religious grounding. To think that they will just “pick it up as they go along” is actually correct. The question is WHERE and from WHOM will they “pick it up?” If you are guessing that it will be values taught to them at home… guess again. If you think it will be in church… um… they and their parents actually have to be involved in a church for that to happen. Let me make that VERY clear… not be “members” of a church but INVOLVED IN A CHURCH. Less than 10% of the young people in Elizabeth Forward have ANY involvement in a church. That means Christmas, Easter, you name it. For many young people their first time in a church is when a family friend gets married. Trust me, they will not pick up their values here.

If you are a parent (or even a grandparent), are you comfortable with your kids learning their life’s values, morals and principles from social media, television or their friends? Because without an intentional effort on the part of parents to teach and expose their kids to Godly values, THEY WILL NOT LEARN OR ADOPT THEM. They will, however, learn about pornography, sexting, broken families, drugs, alcohol…

There is not much in the Bible about Jesus and children. But what’s there says a great deal.

Matthew 18: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

This is not lovey-dovey, lamb on his lap, gentle, flannel graph Jesus. This is “if you hurt or mislead children I will take no prisoners!” Quite honestly not teaching our children Godly values is one form of “causing them to stumble.” We are responsible for them.  We are the reason they grow up the way they do.  God help us if we hurt them or lead them astray… oh wait… God won’t help us if we hurt them! As a matter of fact we will be fitted for a millstone.    

Do not make the mistake of thinking that there is time to teach our children and grandchildren Godly values. Or time to teach them about the love of Jesus Christ.  Or time to instill in them the mercy of God.  THERE IS NO TIME! DO IT NOW!  Trust me, if you wait the consequences might be dire.  They might even be eternal.

Proverbs 22:6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

I need to add one disclaimer. There are surely occasions when even the best of parents “lose” one of their children.  Their sons or daughters succumb to the values of this world and reject family, faith, and those who love them.  Clearly Satan is the Prince of this world and we are in a constant battle against him and his minions.  Tragically, those we love can sometimes be consumed by this spiritual warfare.

News

February 23, 2018

Hello Friends, it’s been a while. Since I last wrote a number of things in our world have occurred; two in particular in the past couple of weeks.  I.  Rev. Billy Graham passed into glory.  2.  Once again, a mad man walked into a school in Florida and murdered over two dozen young people.

I doubt that I have much to add to the Florida massacre that has not already been said but if I can mention a couple of things by way of “de-politicizing” it.

Each time these things happen, the politicians, special interest groups and goofy people come out in full force to voice their opinion and to defend their “side.” I find myself someplace in the middle.  I honestly do not see why the public needs to have access to weapons that can kill loads of people in a short period of time. Call these weapons what you will.  There are clearly lines that need not be crossed.  There is a reason we do not have access to rocket launchers, bazooka’s, grenades, or nuclear weapons, right?  Or are some saying we should have access to those things?  I just don’t see it.  On the other hand no one can be sure that outlawing these “mass killing” guns will solve the problem of these insane people. But I’m willing to take that risk. If it will save the life of one innocent 15 year old, I’m good with that.  But again please keep in mind… no matter how passionate you are for your side, we have no idea how to correct these problems.  None.  Yours is just an opinion, like so many others, including mine.  Don’t misunderstand… I am not in favor of outlawing ALL guns.  I get it… 2nd amendment, hunting… etc.  And by the way, what sort of hunter needs a semi-automatic weapon?!  Have a little pride in yourself!  Filling the woods with lead as quickly as possible is sort of a sissy sport, isn’t it?  If you have never read the short story “Bless the Beasts and Children,” you need todo so.  Semi-automatic weapons that can do what was done in Florida?  I suspect we can do without them.  And arming teachers and administrators… um…  Sadly, when does someone step up and say, “Our society and culture are going to hell in a handbasket?!”  Literally “going to Hell.”

In the end, I believe this wickedness can be traced back to the demise of The Family and the continued shrinking influence of Christianity in our country.  But knowing why these things happen and fixing the problem are two very different things!  I’m not sure if this statistic is still correct, but it’s probably close enough.  The school district in which I am located has approximately 2500 students from K-12.  Any guesses on how many of them are involved in a church or Christian organization on a regular basis?  Best guess… less than 10%.  Less than 250 kids in my community have any exposure to the Gospel or the person of Jesus Christ.  Please do not misunderstand… I clearly implied that the other 90% have NO exposure.  That includes Easter, Christmas etc.  Oh, they have lots of exposure to other things like alcohol, drugs, broken families, adultery, self-centeredness, violent video games, sexting, pornography, sports and other activities on Sunday mornings… but the Gospel… the Good News of Jesus Christ… nope. I see more brokenness down the road, not less… no matter what we do with guns.

On to more glorious things. My grandmother (the only one I knew) died when I was 12.  She was the only person in my life as a youngster who I thought was “spiritual.”  When she passed away my mother came into my room sometime after the funeral and said, “Your grandmother wanted you to have these.”  (Honestly, I have no idea if that was true.  My mother may have just been trying to comfort me.)  So, what did she have for me?  3 books.  One was a Bible commentary.  One was a Bible dictionary.  And one was a book by Billy Graham.  I no longer have them.  Honestly, I was thrilled that I was given something from my grandmother, but REALLY?  No 12 year old is sitting around waiting for those kind of things!  But of all the material effects that are gone from my childhood – my baseball card collection, my comic book collection, my baseball glove that I saved and saved for – nothing would be more precious to me to have than those 3 books.  Not because I can’t go buy them myself.  Actually I have dozens of books that are just as informative.  But those books don’t remind me so much of the impact my grandmother had on me at an early age.  And she was like so many others of her generation… she loved Billy Graham.

If you were not raised in my generation or older it will be hard to have any concept of his impact on our nation and the world. In the end, I suspect that is incalculable.  But I would like to try and correct one thing that is bandied about by the press and others.  “Evangelicals” have gotten a bad name in many circles recently.  You may not know what that means… and that’s just my point.  The word has been used to describe so many Christian groups that it no longer has meaning.  It’s not unlike saying “I’m an American.”  What does that mean?  It may mean something about where you reside, but it says next to nothing about what you believe.  When I was young the word “evangelical” described Billy Graham and others like him.  He crossed all sorts of religious, cultural and political barriers because he exuded the love of Jesus, first and foremost.  He seemed to be able to avoid political affiliation.  But even that was not appreciated by some.  When he came to Pittsburgh for his last crusade a couple of decades ago Pittsburgh Presbytery was the only Denomination or Christian religious group that did not endorse him.  What a bunch of morons!  Whoops, did I say that out loud.  I meant to say, “Oh my, that was unfortunate.”

So, when you hear someone fussing about “evangelicals” or the press writing about them (and honestly who is less qualified to write about Christianity than the pagan press?); please know that the word means little. Until our terms are defined we can hardly use that one.  When I hear “evangelical,” I prefer to think of Billy Graham.  Those of us on this side of glory will never see another like him.  EVER.

Thank you God for bringing servants like Mr. Graham to model the love of Christ for the rest of us!

Blessings.

Things that remind me that I’m not 17 any more

January 23, 2018

I actually have a car. Two of them!  (and one in my garage that I’m working on.)

When I wake up in the morning I don’t jump out of bed. When I do manage to drag myself off of the mattress there are a lot of strange popping sounds.

I don’t need to ask any girls that I don’t know out on dates any more.  I have a built in one now.  Ewwww… I hope Ellen doesn’t read that.

When I totter down my fairly short snow covered driveway it takes me 5 minutes lest I fall and break a hip.

My weekly pill container.

When I gather with friends we begin by discussing the weather and our current physical well-being.

I know what a colonoscopy is.

My faith means more and more as the years go by.

I have my own kids who are much older than 17.

I have another child that begins with the word “grand”.

My parents are gone.

My grandparents are gone.

Most of my aunts and uncles are gone.

I don’t live with or see my extended family very much.

I have my own credit card.

I even have cash in my wallet on occasion.

I have drawn closer to Jesus.

I carry two sets of reading glasses… one for close, one for far. (I know they make things called bi-focals!)

Retirement is a part of my language these days… but not yet.

I care little about clothing styles. You don’t need to comment on that!

I listen to music that is now 50 years old… and I have a growing appreciation for the music my parents listened to.

I have begun to lose friends to death.

I don’t worry about school or homework anymore. Sadly I didn’t worry too much about it back then either.

I don’t go play tackle football with my friends. I could if I wanted to… once… for about 15 seconds.  Then we would be off to Jefferson Hospital.

I’ve had a crush on the same girl for over 45 years. None of that “every week” stuff.

I have become more “set in my ways” as much as I loathe that.

I find myself less patient with 17 year olds.

I care little for the world’s values. Nor do I care to emulate them.

Cancer is more of a reality in the life of my friends than it was when I was a teenager…. So is heart disease, strokes and any number of other dreadful illnesses.

The reality of Jesus becomes greater each day of my life. That doesn’t mean you will see it in me very well, I’m afraid.

I don’t struggle with some of the excessive hormonal things that 17 year olds do… if you know what I mean.

It doesn’t bother me so much to say “I don’t know.”

I’ve had my 45th High School reunion.

I am much more mature and sophisticated… um… yeah.

I couldn’t name you 2 popular contemporary rock bands… not even 2.

I eat quinoa, and even succotash. But NOT LIVER!!!

I ache in places I didn’t know I had places.

My knees hate going up steps… and down steps… and pretty much walking on flat places.

Running… yeah I remember doing that… a long time ago.

I have walked out of my office and forgotten what I was going to do. Truth is… I have forgotten a couple of other things.

I care little for where I am on the social totem pole these days. Frankly, I’m not really sure where the pole is.

I slipped and fell in 6 inches of snow last week… first checked to see if anything was broken… 6 inches of snow. Come on!

I only eat what I like. Why should I submit myself to any torture?  By the way… I like a lot of things.

I have grown to appreciate church people more and more over the years.

I have, on occasion, been more and more frustrated with church people over the years.

Figure those last two out!

I have a sister who will turn 70 this year! (I wonder if she’s reading this?)

I have no more dreams of a 1969 Chevy Chevelle… Or a 1949 Chevy Pick-up for that matter.

I don’t drink Tang any more… or Tab, or Simba… (Look it up)

I don’t wear bell bottoms or shirts with obscenely big collars.

I don’t dream of my hair growing down to my shoulders. I just dream of my hair not departing so quickly.

No one offers me illegal drugs any more.

If I want to drink alcohol (which I don’t), I needn’t worry about getting caught by my father.

I don’t hang out with friends any more… for the most part.

I don’t get an allowance any more… Oh wait… I never did.

I don’t have chores these days… now it’s just “stuff you have to do to maintain your house.”

½ of my favorite rock band died decades ago.

When I say I am a Christian, it means something all together different than when I was 17.

I am on the downside of my life. Some people say 63 is middle aged… Seriously?!  Unless I live to be 126…

I just don’t move as fast as I once did… and trust me I was never a speedster.

Two very different perspectives on being 17:

Sung by Frank Sinatra

When I was seventeen it was a very good year It was a very good year for small town girls and soft summer nights We’d hide from the lights on the village green When I was seventeen

“AT SEVENTEEN”

By Janis Ian

I learned the truth at seventeen That love was meant for beauty queens And high school girls with clear skinned smiles Who married young and then retired The valentines I never knew The Friday night charades of youth Were spent on one more beautiful At seventeen I learned the truth…

And those of us with ravaged faces Lacking in the social graces Desperately remained at home Inventing lovers on the phone Who called to say “come dance with me” And murmured vague obscenities It isn’t all it seems at seventeen…

The unpredictability of youth is hard to explain.

Next year I’ll be singing a different tune… “When I’m 64.”

Blessings.

Words

January 17, 2018

Just so we are clear from the outset… this is not a devotion or a “Christian” writing.

Over 40 years ago now I worked at a drug counseling center while serving in the U.S. Navy. Back then there were too many guys returning from Vietnam who had gotten caught up in serious drug use.  And of course there were many who had not been to Vietnam who also got caught up in the same.  At the center where I worked we did two things:  We evaluated drug users to determine the best treatment plan for them.  And we offered counseling and small groups.  As part of the evaluation process we showed a video called “Chalk Talk” done by a Catholic Priest named Father Martin.  Father Martin was a recovering alcoholic and that’s the subject of the video.  It was very well done for its day.  (You can still find it on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7T5stQQFQg.)  I remember Father Martin going to great lengths to define “Alcoholism.”  Frankly I wouldn’t have thought it that difficult until one tries to put boundaries around a definition.

I didn’t really agree with Father Martin’s definition but I didn’t have a better one. He essentially said, “You are an alcoholic if alcohol has caused you problems in your life.”  He went on to tell a story about a man who got drunk once then had an accident that killed his entire family.  “He is an alcoholic,” said Father Martin.

He also discussed how alcoholics define the word. Basically alcoholism is anything they are not.  “If you drink more than a 6 pack of beer a day, you’re an alcoholic.”  That from those who stop at 6.  “You are an alcoholic if you start drinking in the morning or early afternoon.”  That coming from those who only drink at night.  “You are an alcoholic if you drink hard liquor.”  That from beer or wine drinkers.  And it goes on from there.  The point is that defining our terms is essential to treating and confronting issues.  If we don’t know what we’re talking about how can we progress toward resolution?

Years ago I heard a well-known speaker say this: “If you are white and you were born in the U.S.A. you ARE a racist because it is in the very air we breathe.”  I should add that the speaker was white.  Honestly I don’t necessarily disagree with what he said.  My only question is this: Define “racism.”  I don’t say that in a combative way.  Or even to avoid the issue.  I am seriously asking for a definition so that we all know what we’re talking about.

I had the opportunity to make a few observations for the speaker to address. One was this:  “When we use the term ‘racist’ to define ‘everyone’ from those who are white and born in this country, but are doing all they can to overcome the discrimination and disparity between whites and other minorities to those who wear white sheets and burn crosses in people’s front yards… well, that doesn’t really further the discussion.  What it really does is make people defensive and any reasonable conversation ends there.”  I went on to say that someone needs to invent some new language to help define the boundaries, i.e., a class 1 racist vs. a class 2 racist… Or a chronic racist vs. an “unpremeditated” racist… or whatever.  To my knowledge, no new language has been introduced to help bring clarity to this very serious matter. So we continue to struggle with racial resolution partly because we have no agreed upon words thus we have no idea what we’re talking about.  It’s really not much different than trying to get directions from someone who speaks Russian and only Russian.  They can do a lot of pointing and gesturing but in the end, we will not get where we want to go.

Let me apply this to a REALLY divisive issue.  In recent months President Trump has been accused of being “racist.”  If the speaker I mentioned above is correct, then yes of course he is “racist” because all whites in this country are!  And do you also see how this then doesn’t mean anything?  Those in the press who are calling him a racist are racist themselves.  Those who are opposed to him as president and call him a racist are racist as well.  Those who simply despise him and want him out of office are racist also.  I’m not supporting, defending or accusing anyone of anything other than using language that is meaningless.  I suspect when he is called a racist, it is as a certain type of racist.  But what is it? WE NEED NEW LANGUAGE!

The same idea applies to the recent revelations regarding “sexual harassment.” I agree that many deplorable things have been done to women and that men need to be held accountable for them.  But what things?  Can someone help me by defining what “sexual harassment” is?  Not unlike racism or alcoholism some examples are no brainers.  But what I have heard recently is that on some level sexual harassment is “in the eye of the beholder.”  In other words anyone can define it any way they like.  That doesn’t help!  If we can’t define it we can’t very effectively address it.

Sadly there are few forums where we can discuss these things without fear of being accused of something. I’m not trying to make any political statements or social statements here.  I am simply trying to say that we cannot talk about difficult, sensitive issues if we do not have common language.

Years ago, Ellen and I went on a “Marriage Encounter” weekend. Marriage Encounter teaches a form of communicating for married couples.  Basically, you write letters to each other without assuming the other knows what you mean by the terms you use.  The very first thing they had us do was write to our spouse and define very clearly and specifically what we meant when we said we “loved them,” i.e., what does “love” mean in that context?  It was very difficult and very helpful.

So the next time you hear the words “Alcoholic,” or “Racist,” or “Sexual harassment,” ask yourself this question: “How are they defining or using that term?”  And you may want to ask how you use it as well.