Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Evangelist

You don’t just approach people about religion in a parking lot and expect some miraculous transitional commitment based on your own evangelical state of mind. This is how cults began.

Charismatic spiritual advocates soliciting their brand of faith had a “hay day” from the 50s through the 70s. Spirituality crossed over into counter culture and got twisted to the point the top movie and song “Jesus Christ Superstar” was heralded by hippies and conservatives alike. There was a whole genre of rock music with a Christian slant that flew of the shelves.

We all are probably familiar with the “Manson Crew”, the Jones “Koolaide” fiasco, and the “Davidian” destruction. These are just a few of the worst occurrences. There were thousands of charismatic Christians across those decades who twisted Jesus to fit their narcissistic new age religious rants.

The promise of Salvation does not come from man. Man cannot determine an individuals salvation, not even their own. This part time evangelical approach leaves folks sitting in vehicles with the air conditioning thinking “If that man/woman only knew.”You never know who your talking to. You probably don’t have the time to listen to someone’s fears and hopes so you probably end up asking them if they have a church and give them the information for yours, this is the “Blind Handoff”.

This approach validates the 40s and 50s sales approach that guys with names like Zeigler or Caffee used. “Get them in the door” and the rest is history. The hand off!!!

Evangelizing is tough. Folks take your enthusiasm and twist it around. They complain about hypocrisy, judgement, or tithing as a defense for not being what you think a Christian should be. But remember, other people are the devil to strangers and you put yourself in that situation when you approach someone you don’t know. No matter how friendly your smile or how engaging your hook, as they walk or drive away your pitch dissolves and suspicion creeps in from the back of their brain like a scrim being lowered on a stage.

The “Great Commission”, (Mathew 28: 18-20) gives us our charge. Just remember that those disciples left what they knew and developed followings. I’m certain that the man who approached me with all the vigor of a 1st century evangelist didn’t want me to go get my wife and 3 very hyper kids and follow him home.

So, if we’ve compromised, (or modified) the definition of evangelism due to society and the multitude of examples that went horribly wrong it’s ok, God knows our heart. That was the one thought I had as I drove away and prayed you really understood what you were doing. Even though you thought I was lost I honestly drive that road everyday.

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The Babysitters

I remember the nights my Mom and Dad went out and didn’t take us. I would stare at the “Charles Chips” can in the corner next to the brown console TV with the record player on the top in anticipation of delight. After dinner we would get a bath and put our pajama’s on, then I would return to the closest seat to the brown mottled can of salty delight waiting on my parents to leave. I would even volunteer to help clean up so they would leave faster.

Any other time one, or both, of my parents would leave I would continue whatever I was doing and not even notice the screen door slam shut. But on “Babysitting night” I would escort them to the door and send them off with my best goodbye; then run to the sofa and wait with my hands in my lap. I waited because kids didn’t get into food bags, cans, or containers. An adult did that. I assume today that was because after a day of picking every orifice on our body it wasn’t biologically safe for me to handle food. That would sort of spoil the thought for adults. So I would wait on my bowl of delight and my glass of soda.

We also had to wait on the TV. We didn’t have remotes. There was a dial that thunked through the 3 channels we had reception on. Later “Cable” came and the dial really thunked around the 360 degrees. The only time I remember changing the channel is when my dad told me when to change the channel and what channel to change it to. Kids didn’t play with the TV either, nor did it get turned on until the TV Guide was perused for the show to be watched. We only knew how to surf at the beach.

So after Mom and Dad were gone the Babysitter would fill up the bowls, turn on the TV and sit with us watching the show. Our babysitters didn’t have cell phones and nobody but Mom and Dad used the “house phone” unless there was an emergency. Mom would call halfway through her night out, just around bedtime, just to make sure we didn’t turn into heathens in their absence. When the show was over and the snacks were gone, it was off to bed. The babysitter would put us in our bed, say goodnight, and head downstairs to clean up. I know this because when I got older I was allowed to stay up a half hour later than my younger siblings. So I got to help clean up and put myself to bed. I was “older” now!

Once in a while I would wake up and hear my Mom and Dad come in, usually around midnight I think. I would pretend I was asleep. I didn’t want to risk losing the next night of “Charles Chips” and “Soda”. Not to mention a bad report meant a bad experience when I woke up. My parents were patient on occasion with their discipline. Keeping the babysitter happy was essential.

There were many teachable moments, learning opportunities, and latent understandings in the “babysitting” experience back then. They all involved a person, expectations, and consequences. I’m not sure technology can accomplish those things and society today has me thinking I’m right about that. I am positive technology can’t accomplish those goals without an adult and some structure. So don’t be surprised when you’re “gifted” child who uses a computerized device at 2 years old, reaches unheard of levels of completion on computerized activities at age four, and can read a prompt for a popular characters game sight at age five without assistance. Also don’t be surprised when they wear T shirts to bed, you have to tell them things more than once, or they can’t go to sleep with a TV on.

Times change and the world provides many new distractions for bored parents and kids. I don’t know if playing the latest shooting game in silence with your child constitutes interaction. I’m not sure sitting eating dinner together or watching a “Reality Show” together while your 11 year old competes with you on texting skills is really quality time. I am sure that the person who sits with a child and listens, goes outside with a child and directs an activity, or interacts with a child with a toy in their hand, not a phone; they will be the person that child respects down the road for taking the time. Surround your child with family and friends and put the devices in their place. There are millions of real memories awaiting you just outside the computerized world.

Middle Ground

Waiting silently in the diagnosis is a bottle filled with bad memories and scientific intentions that will lead you on a path of destruction. A bottle filled with sorrow and pain that will send you shivering into places you can’t possibly understand. Your trust will be destroyed by the bitter pills you have to swallow.

You never thought for a minute a trip to the pharmacy would send you on an “Alice in Wonderland” adventure. We have not yet acknowledged that our view of the addict is so misconstrued that we don’t recognize the signs for fear of the truth. The truth that the dealer hands you death as a cure in the form of a prescription. The middleman hides behind the counter of a store filled with supplements, lotions, and 12 packs of Coke at 3 for $12.00. The addict rushes through the “Dive Thru” window in order to get back to work or not drag the 3 kids out of their car seats and listen to them beg for candy while waiting on the hand off. All the while we just see the spiral of destruction called healthcare in action.

Waiting anxiously for relief by the mg. the bitter taste of dependence sends anxiety flowing through your body like an electric charge. Heightened emotions snap at unnoticeable normalities. Criticism runs like a “Ticker Tape” across the stock exchange billboard. Fear runs like ice water to you stomach and the temporary reality of needing something physically entrenches you mentally. How? Why? When will it end;when you’re desperate and all you’ve lived for is gone. When the dealer no longer will see you and the middleman can’t be your “Good Neighbor”.

There are limits to what a Dr. Can do for you. A Pharmacy can’t supply you without a pass from the Dr. Eventually you’re on your own to figure out how to “Fix” yourself. Chronic pain, anxiety, depression are slippery slopes. Real conditions with real consequences. The cure can kill you. At the very least they can send you on a path of destruction that will leave you sitting in places and situations you only read in books or saw on TV. I promise you the dealer and the middleman won’t be there to help you; they won’t even acknowledge you in books or on TV.

Waiting desperately for anything to take away the pain, the fear, the anxiety. Hiding in places you know aren’t safe. Meeting people you know benefit from your pain and smiling. Leaving embarrassment behind for desire and disfunction. Putting all you cared for, loved, and respected in a box with the memories and fears. Now you’ve sealed your fate.

Now years have past. Family and friends have faded to memories and obstacles. You have no one to tell. No one to call. No one to help. The people you reach out to have one hand in yours and the other in your pain. There’s nowhere to turn, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. You look to God and feel the judgement. You look to family and feel the shame. You see friends and feel the distrust. You’re lucky; because you still feel and this is the point of no return.

From here you either move to death or move to life. This middle ground isn’t bottom for you. You can continue down further along the road to destruction or turn up hill towards healing. From here it’s easy. Because every step closer to destruction leaves you numb. You throw off your humanity and strip yourself of dignity all in the name of addiction. Your not physically dead, your emotionally dead. And for many this is the point of no return

For the lucky it’s an awakening. They cling to their humanity and grasp what dignity they have left and seek help along the way. They Find those people who won’t let them fall, who won’t give up. Then step by step they unravel the mystery of addiction. The complex understanding that drugs weren’t the problem. Life, chance, and a system that doesn’t understand it’s own definition propelled them towards a dysfunctional existence where there were no coherent clues. Just some entrepreneurial medicine men perpetuating pills to find a cure for, and you were in the control group that didn’t get the placebo.

The Closet

The Closet
Every once in a while I walk by the closet in the quiet of the morning and memories flood each step I take to the coffee pot. Sometimes I pull out an old trophy when everyone’s still asleep. I just sit it on the table while I pour a cup and then i’ll sit there and drink my coffee and reminisce.

Eventually life begins and I have to put that trophy away and get on with my day. The memories will follow me for a bit, then they’ll fade just after I remember that I owe much of my success in life to the experiences that trophy represents.

While visiting my Grandma at the nursing home one day it dawned on me that Grandma’s life in an Assisted Living Home was much the same from my perspective. Yeah, she has acquaintances that she can talk about the latest TV show or breaking news story. Of course the nurses and aides listen to her; but her family treats her pretty much like a trophy.

They (I) stop along our way, open the door to the Assisted Living home, and sit her in a chair and reminisce. Then we put her back in her closet and go about life with an occasional memory till the next time the closet calls.

I understand that some cases warrant moving Grandma out of her 2000 square foot home with enough memories to fill a stadium. I also understand that although there are caring people in these arrangements, it’s a business. As a business it’s marketed. So there are people out there convincing everyone that Assisted Living should be the norm. You come into this country in an institution, you go out of the world in an institution.

It’s not like that in every country, or family. Some of the poorest cultures in the world you would be born at home. When you were elderly and a little, (or alot) slower, you would live with relatives till you pass. So it seems to me money isn’t the issue.

That doesn’t even make sense as a reason from “jump street! How can it be a financial decision for our family. Your gonna liquidate Grandma’s assets and turn her benefits and her entitlements over to a medical group so you can pull her out of the closet once in a while. Why not just keep her at home and organize the family so everyone gets to spend time with her, instead of paying someone to have to visit. She certainly looked after many folks in her day!

I understand if it is a situation where you’re not ready to “send her off” and it’s medically impossible to keep her at home. We would, as a nation, naturally feel better about keeping Grandma alive in an Assisted Living closet on ventilators and I V drips than letting her pass in her bed surrounded by family. Grandma’s last chance to participate in the economy!
The problem I see. Grandma ain’t on a respirator, doesn’t need an IV drip, and is stubborn as hell! Yeah, she has trouble moving around, forgets stuff once in a while, or sits alone a little to often; but the only reason she went to Assisted Living is cause her family wouldn’t assist!

If that statement touches a nerve, go get Grandma and bring her home. If it doesn’t, you either were one if those folks who are really into the economy, or it was medically impossible for Grandma to stay at home and you weren’t ready to let her go.
I’m very aware of how my life is marketed by the economy. I know that marketing has turned this issue upside down and backwards to the point we believe that Assisted Living is the norm for end of life care. They have the “stones” to even show commercials with neatly dressed elderly folks smiling and walking around conversing with other healthy looking elderly folks. Makes no sense to me why they ain’t walking around their living room with family and smiling.

It also occurred to me that maybe all the while the industry is a conspiracy by the elderly to get away from some condescending child or grandchild and finally have some peace in their lives. The elderly make up for intelligence in some cases by their experiences. That’s one of the values they can pass on at home. Maybe they just put up with us once a week and put on a show. Then when we leave and the closet becomes a party like its 1969!!!

Poor Man’s meal.

It’s hell being poor.
I always thought that being poor was about not having stuff. You know how it is; you see the person with the nice clothes, or the new car and your wish list grows by the minute.

Even if you grew up with a little money you probably experienced at least a temporary poverty. Like the college student scrounging under the seat of the clunker for change to buy gas. Or maybe the young person fresh out of high school who was “just starting out” and money was tight. We all seem to experience a time when money was something other folks had.

I’ve come to realize that the impact of poverty and health is the real concern with money, or lack there of! Everyone is most likely familiar with the image of college students eating pizza, or the struggling family “scraping together money” to make the next meal. The quality of food available to “poor folks” is terrible.

We won’t even get into the preparation and portion issue.
We all know that processed food is convenient when time for meals interferes with time for making a dollar. “Grab it and go” is the way to go when you’re chasing a dollar.

Everyone who has had money but needed to hustle to keep it going probably cruised down the highway eating a Hot Dog and drinking a Coke dropping fries on the floorboard for later.

Supply doesn’t seem to be the problem when it comes to food and poverty in America. Demand is definitely there by the looks of things. It’s the type of food and how it’s prepared. We’re fooled into packaged convenient meals that are skillfully labeled to confuse the guy rushing through the grocery store grabbing the cheapest box in the freezer. Or the other dude that never sets foot in a grocery store except to pick up a woman. He’d rather “drive thru” and go ! Both guys are paying big bucks for plaque on installments as the percentage rate goes up.

Portions in freezer boxes will leave a working man gaunt. You have to eat three boxes if you have ever worked outdoors laboring for 4 hours at a stretch. Even the hungry man size meal would do good to feed an office worker on a good day. This is a marketing strategy. Someone makes more money if you buy more meals, and you will buy more meals.

The opposite is true of fast food. There portions are designed for big boys. The kids meal is probably the standard for portion size for adults. We may scoff at that idea, but our disdain is not based on science, it’s based on marketing and the triple size portion that’s only $1.19 more. That’s a deal!!!

The issue is so complex that their are several industries researching psychological assumptions of demographic values and belief systems to capitalize on every dollar you have or want.

The foods we ate, as a nation, in early years were good foods. They are inexpensive and fueled us towards longevity and quality of life that was comfortable. However, those folks who had a work ethic that would put us to shame are long gone. Labor wasn’t just for the poor back then.

The serving size of a 19th century citizen vs the 21st century citizen is definitely not the same spoonful. The preparation technique and time has been reduced from hours to seconds. So nowadays we have the twisted version of a meal that can sit on a shelf for another century and someone could put it in a box that will shoot microwaves through it, then a minute later the 22nd century man will have an antique meal. Although, he’ll probably say “yuck” and spit it out. Then he’ll go into his undersized cabinet and get a tube of steak and potatoes. Or he’ll drive to the local fast food joint and order a meal that resembles something from the 20th cartoon The Flintstones.

“The Family Meal” has been reduced to dinner. So I was thinking if you’re poor and don’t have to run around everywhere chasing a dream that’s really a fantasy, you could get back some of those meals and time by buying groceries and cooking them on a stove.

Then you could talk and eat breakfast, share stories at a lunch that was prepared, and relax at dinner discussing your day. This sounds absurd to those chasing the “American Fantasy”, I mean dream!

Or you could continue down the road talking or texting while eating out of cardboard of paper sack chasing the “Jone’s”. Just remember dreams don’t come true and being poor can be healthy!

The Couch

The Couch
My Dad always told me “You’re never gonna get anything done lying around.” He would tell me this often on Saturday mornings when I was planning on sleeping in. Of course my dad was ready to work on a car or do something in the yard. I would groan, and get up, then think to myself, “What’s wrong with a little Saturday morning Siesta.

He Also told me “Boy, it’s no wonder you never get nothin done, you’re always running your mouth.” You know how kids are. We never really leave the “Why” stage. We just keep asking questions and guessing at things until our Dad turns around and give us that, “Did I really father that boy.” look.

And when I made a mistake building the dog house he said, “Boy, if you stopped runnin your mouth for a minute you might learn something!” This was his saying for me when I was at that phase where I couldn’t work and talk at the same time. We could be working on the car and I would think about my bike. Then I would start talking about the newest “Sissy Bar ” that was on sale. Unbeknownst to me I would stop working in all my excitement, and then the “Did I father him.” look again!”

Well I have found later in life that Dad wasn’t exactly right about that. I followed his 20th century advice into the 21st century and imploded. I found myself in therapy breaking all my Dad’s rules about laying around and running my mouth, and learning more about myself and how to be successful everyday.

So now I lay on my therapist couch and run my mouth for an hour straight thinking, “If Dad could see me now.” I don’t really listen to my therapist, it’s her job to listen. So I just go on and on about every injustice in my life. And all the while she tells me I’m making progress, I love her. Then I think to myself, “Man, where was she twenty years ago when I needed her!” She could have helped with our paternity issues!

The Doctor and the Dealers

The doctor and the dealers spread a silent epidemic fueling the capitalist dream on the backs of the innocent, the unaware. No one is out of their reach.

Wether your hanging out in an office listening to classical music surrounded by neatly dressed professionals, or standing on a street corner listening to the latest track surrounded by short dresses and saggy pants; you’re in danger.

All of these characters deal death and destruction. This epidemic we call addiction is perpetrated on two fronts. Pain clinics and struggling medical groups have no incentive to send you away with advice, that’s economic suicide.

The dealer leaves no stone unturned. He knows you. He knows that the doctor will only supply you to his medical limit, so he waits. He knows your friend will come see him for you till the need overcomes the embarrassment, but he won’t judge you. He has lots of options.

And all the while the “Good Neighbor Pharmacist” is making money hand over fist as shit flies out windows and doors at an alarming rate. Not everyone needs a number and a seat to wait on their script to be rung up and handed over the counter. There are “delivery drivers”, assistants with financial needs, and other licensed pharmacist to lend their license when the “Good Neighbor” turns suspicious.

If your into the whole “Professional American” culture thing you’re probably thinking I’m just some silly activist type, which I’m not. It’s so clearly obvious that any idiot with an internet connection can look up the statistics on prescription drugs and overdose, but it’s easier to blame the addict. Those pills came from a pharmacy in your neighborhood, the addict isn’t the problem.

The doctor created the market that the pharmacist supplies, or the pharmacist decides to freelance and sell individual pills, or refill prescriptions before the date. They can raise prices on drugs they know are in demand. Look around you and I’m sure there’s a “Pain Management Clinic” near you. You can go there and report a particular pain level, (1-10) and come out with a prescription, the pharmacist knows what’s up. There are lists out there of doctors under investigation for the number of scripts they write. It’s obvious to the pharmacist that the prescription process is being abused by the doctor and the patient, but here we are again at the economic suicide point.

Don’t think these guys are any less resourceful than the dealer on the street who gets popped or pressured and moves to a new neighborhood. They aren’t any less resourceful when it comes to maintaining their economic status. If you’re a Doctor who has lost his license you can open a clinic, hire new Doctors to run it, and make more money than you did before. If your the pharmacist with a suspended license you can hire another pharmacist and use his license to continue doing business. Then just raise the price of OxyContin, Oxycodone, and Vicodin to offset the cost of another pharmacist. I don’t know this from professional research; I know this from the street dealer who doesn’t worry about his supply drying up when the Doctor of the people he pays to get prescription gets popped.

There is really no separation between the Doctors, Pharmacists, and the street dealer. They all are guilty, but only one goes to prison. It’s ok though, cause the folks doing the drugs and the guy handing him a bag of Xanax know it’s the cost of doing business. And like the Doctors and Pharmacists, they think it’s worth the risk. They don’t care about people, they focus on profit.

They don’t go to the funerals of their patents and hug the devastated families of the addicts they supply. They go to the bank and drive right past the widow to make a deposit or withdraw and head to the Caribbean for a much deserved vacation while someone you know mourns a loss!