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


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.”




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 –  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.