Coloring in Pontiac Michigan

I met a new friend today. Her name is Nadia. (Not really. You will discover in a moment that I’ve had to change the names in this article.)

Nadia is four and a half years old. Her mother, Talia, was born in Russia. The father is… well, nowhere to be found. He abused Talia to the point where she was hospitalized, ran away with Nadial to a women’s shelter. Ultimately they found their way to a place called Lighthouse in Pontiac, MI.

Although her mother is Russian, Nadia was born here and is an American citizen. After her mother fled her abusive relationship, she could not find work because she was not an American citizen. Soon Talia and Nadia had nowhere else to turn but Lighthouse. They arrived almost a year ago with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. They were given an “apartment” that is approximately 300 square feet. It has a kitchenette with 40 year old appliances and no table to eat at. There is a tiny bathroom and an 8′ x 9′ bedroom they share. Talia has decorated it all in pink for her little girl. The main room, where I met my new friends, is small, dark and has a few pieces of donated furniture. Nadia spends part of her day in the Montessori school on the lower level of the building. When she is done for the day she does her favorite thing in the world: coloring with crayons. She draws pictures of princesses, horses, green fields and smiling people. Dreams of a life she’s never known. Her mom tapes every one on the inside of the door. (The 40 year old refrigerator is too small.)

The staff at lighthouse helped Talia get her green card so she could work legally. One of their great strengths is removing barriers to people working. Talia has found a job and now saved enough to get a used car. She and Nadia intend to be at Lighthouse another year. In that time she will take classes to learn about budgeting and parenting. She will role play with staff members to help her interview to get an even better job. By the time she and her daughter leave Lighthouse they will be self-sufficient and on the path to a safe and productive life.

For those who are interested in the math on all of this…

The average cost for families like Talia’s to stay at Lighthouse is $13,000. This includes everything. Once they are out and on their own, a study done at the University of Michigan found that that $13,000 was “paid back” to the community on average within 18 months of families leaving Lighthouse. This is actual productivity and taxes paid and does not even include the dollars saved by taking the family off public assistance and welfare. Further, Lighthouse boasts a 91% success rate for families in their Lighthouse PATH program. This works.

On Wednesday night President Obama and Governor Romney are going to debate the important issues facing our country. And in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a conservative Christian who typically (but not always) votes Republican. When the conversation tomorrow night drifts to sound bites about “the 47%” and the “entitlement class”, etc., I hope that, no matter what your political leaning, you will not consider the conversation to be abstract or hypothetical. Because it isn’t. It isn’t about economic theories or political platforms. It isn’t about winning the news cycle or “appealing to the base.”

It’s about real people in real places.

It’s about a little girl coloring with crayons in a tiny apartment in Pontiac, Michigan and a mom who needed a little help to get her and her daughter on the right PATH. In a country of 308 million people there are many many, more like them. I pray there are Lighthouse-like programs in their area. And I pray we never turn our backs on these people and those in service to them.

James 1:26-27 sums it up well.

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

 

More about Lighthouse

The good folks at Lighthouse have extraordinary programs that are aggressively (and impressively) addressing poverty in America. Lighthouse Emergency Services offer emergency food, utility assistance, medical assistance and other crisis support. Lighthouse PATH provides women (typically single mothers who have been abused or have had other crisis) up to two full years of transitional housing in a safe and structured environment and an opportunity to rebuild their lives. Family counseling, daycare, child educational services, and other services are offered. Lighthouse Community Development literally is rebuilding impoverished areas with affordable housing units that clients can take ownership of and pride in. The Center for Working Families provides financial counseling, employment assistance, classes in how to get a job and coaching on how to use a family budget and live within means. They specifically treat root causes for poverty, removing barriers to people connecting with jobs, self-sufficiency and a hopeful life.

I Am the 86%

Tomorrow night the opening ceremony for the Olympics will play out on TV. It is expected that more than a billion people will be watching – 14% of the world’s population – as 10,000 performers, 900 children, and nearly 100 farm animals (seriously) will engage in what amounts to the Orange Bowl halftime show on steroids.

Women (or at least the two women that I’ve been married to) seem to love the Big Show. Men – not so much. We’ll watch the Big Show if we have to but mostly to make fun of it. Women on the other hand seem to be genuinely entertained by these spectacles. This baffles me. Like anyone, I’m impressed by the enormity of the Big Show. I mean… it’s Big! Okay. But beyond that, it reminds me very much of the shows we used to put on in our garage when we were kids. We’d get every kid in the neighborhood, put on that Elton John/Kiki Dee classic “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart”, and we’d all gyrate around barely dancing, barely together, and mouth the words of the song.

I will grant you that the Big Shows have much better costumes and lights but…

I started watching Big Shows back in the 70s. It was there, as a young lad, when I first saw the “Up With People” version of the Big Show. This served as a specific delineating moment in my adolescence: I did not like Up With People, therefore I could be assured, I was heterosexual. (If you think I am exaggerating, put on your bell bottoms and check out this link: Up With People Halftime at the Silverdome)

Later, the halftime shows tried to get edgier. They hired Mickey Rooney, George Burns and The Grambling State Marching Band to lip sync the song “What a Feelin’” from Flashdance. This was followed by a year of n”Sync/Aerosmith/Britney Spears. Comedian Lewis Black called the sound they made, “It wasn’t music… it was the sound of chaos. The sound of pigs being slaughtered, women weeping and men gnashing their teeth! Sounds so horrible that if I were to repeat them for you now you would run screaming from this place.”

Of course soon the organizers of The Big Shows of the world got really hip. They started to invite MTV to produce their shows and book stars like Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson. (I contend that not only was that infamous “wardrobe malfunction” pre-planned, it was set up by the makers of TIVO. Think about it.)

Now there have been a few worthwhile Big Shows. Well, one. The Super Bowl halftime in 2002. This was mere months after 9/11 and the world was still very much in shock. The Super Bowl was one of the first really big public spectacles since the attacks and people were uneasy. Watch what U2 did with the moment and tell me that, even ten years later, it doesn’t still bring chills. (U2 Super Bowl Halftime Show)

There was one other really great moment in the world of Big Shows. This was the opening piece done by NBC for the Beijing Olympics. Great visuals, great script, perfect voice… When it was presented live it ended dramatically, perfectly, on the word “Now!” at the 4:23 mark. However, they couldn’t just leave it be. They had to make it “Big-er” They actually added American Idol winner David Cook singing “This is the Time of My Life” to a montage at the end. (Here’s the link: NBC Beijing Olympics Opening)

Let’s hear it. Were you among the 14% of the world watching this year’s Big Show? What did you think?

Leave your comment below.

Colorado… and guns… again.

coloradoshooting

The events that unfolded late last night are, once again, beyond comprehension.

Another crowd, another angry man with a gun, another body count.

We shake our heads. We say our prayers. We hug our kids a little tighter. And then we go back to normal.

Could it have been prevented? Hard to say. Likely not. JFK was once asked about the prospect of assasination. He said, “If someone is willing to trade their life for mine, I supposed in the end they probably can.”

It is mostly probable that this crazy man from San Diego would have killed a bunch of people no matter what. Yet a thought lingers…

Police now tell us that he was carrying 6,000 rounds of ammunition. That’s 6,000 bullets. 6,000.

They also inform us that the gun he was using in the Theater 9 was outfitted with a 100 round magazine. This is a mechanism that holds the bullets and automatically feeds them into the chamber so that they can be fired rapidly without reloading.

An angry man enters a crowded theater with an automatic weapon and 6,000 bullets that he can fire 100 at a time in less than 90 seconds without reloading.

Is this really what James Madison had in mind? Mmm.

There are of course legislative bills that have been introduced in an effort to reduce the number of bullets an individual can buy within a given period of time. There are bills that are awaiting votes right now that would limit the size of magazines, so that no one could simply fire 100 rounds at a time without stopping to reload. The current leadership of the House of Representatives will not let these bills come up for a vote. The NRA is one of the most influential lobbying groups in Washington and they don’t want the bills to become law.

When asked about this, the NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandum said, “Members of the public should be allowed access to high-capacity magazines to protect themselves from attacks by armed mobs. When someone is being attacked by multiple people, it is only reasonable that they are given as much opportunity to defend themselves as they need.”

Attacks by armed mobs. Wow.

The thought that lingers, the one that just nags is this: How many people would have been saved last night if say after 10 shots, this maniac had to look down and reload, and maybe – just maybe – someone would’ve tackled him and stopped him? Or, at the very least, how many would’ve made it out the door? How many of those people would be at home right now instead of the morgue or the intensive care unit?

That’s gonna linger for a while.

It’s About the Gun

The country has been riveted by the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case in Florida. Zimmerman, it was announced today, now faces 2nd degree murder charges and the possibility of life in prison. Trayvon Martin… well everyone now knows his fate.

Two families ripped apart in the course of six minutes behind some condos in Sanford Florida. Because Martin was black and Zimmerman was not (he is of mixed race background) there are many who make this to be all about racism. It’s not.

It’s about the gun.

What happens to a man when he carries a gun with him and goes looking for trouble in his neighborhood? Does he behave differently than if he was unarmed? The answer, according to psychologists James Brockmole (Notre Dame) and Jessica Witt (Purdue) is a resounding “Yes!”

In their study (published in an upcoming Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance) Brockmole and Witt cite the tragic 1999 case of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed black man who was shot 41 times by New York City police when they mistook the wallet he was trying to show them for a gun. But the study’s findings also seem relevant in the wake of Trayvon Martin shooting. The man who shot him, Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, had been patrolling Sanford’s suburban streets with a handgun.

With a gun in his hand, was Zimmerman more likely to assume — as this new study suggests — that Martin was also armed? And if everything is more likely to look like a gun when you’re carrying one, shouldn’t we be rethinking our permissive concealed weapons laws?

“The familiar saying goes that when you hold a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” says Brockmole. “The apparent harmlessness of this expression fades when one considers what happens when a person holds a gun.”

Brockmole, who specializes in human cognition and how the visual world guides behavior, said he and Witt chose guns for this latest study because they offer a dramatic example of how the presence of an object may not only alter the way we see and perceive information, but also our behavior.

“A gun certainly changes what action choices you make,” said Brockmole.

But only, interestingly, if the gun is in someone’s hand. When the gun was simply nearby but not in the hands of the subjects, the subjetcs were not more likely to jump to the conclusion that the people in the images were armed.

This study also found that the race of the people in the images did not play a significant role in how the students’ responded, but that finding may have been because race was not central to the study’s investigation. “It’s clear [from other research] that race does matter,” said Brockmole.

I believe that the gun was responsible for George Zimmerman having the courage to get out of his truck and confront Martin. What happened next is irrelevant to me, because it was precipitated by Zimmerman getting out of his truck.

For those who think that this is a personal attack on their second Amendment right to bear arms, it isn’t. It is a reasonable conclusion drawn from common sense and published scientific research that says when we have a gun in our hands we act differently. That difference cost Trayvon Martin his life. The question remains: should we consider this before creating new laws that allow more people to walk around more places with more guns in their pockets?

What do you think?

________________________________________________

A Post Script:
Here are a couple of media clips to listen to and watch. The first two are two audio clips from our radio show (Your Family Matters). They are two halves of a 17 minute conversation about this very issue from March 31 and include a well-known pastor in Detroit’s inner city Christian community, Pastor Emory Moss.

YourFamilyMatters TrayvonMartin 1

YourFamilyMatters TrayvonMartin 2

The second is a clip from a recent Meet The Press where Bill Cosby puts a more folksy charm to the same point…

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Sweet Home, Chicago

Today marks the 175th anniversary of the founding of the city of Chicago, or it’s “Dodransbicentennial”.

In honor of that milestone, I submit the following glossary of terms, a Chicago to English translation…

1. Grachki (grach’-key): Chicagoese for “garage
key” as in, “Yo, Theresa, waja do wit da grachki?
Howmy supposta cut da grass if I don’t git intada
grach?”

2. Sammich: Chicagoese for sandwich. When made
with sausage, it’s a sassage sammich; when made
with marinated beef, it’s an Italian Beef sammich,
a local delicacy consisting of piles of almost absurdly
delicious meat in a perilously soggy bun (also known
as simply “a beef-” and available “dry” as well-
meaning with a less soggy bun- REW)

3. Da: The definite article, a key part of Chicago
speech, as in “Da Bears” or “Da Mare” — the latter
denoting the Hon. Richard M. Daley, or Richie, as he’s
often called.

4. Jewels: Not family heirlooms or a tender body
region, but a popular name for one of the region’s
dominant grocery store chains. “I’m goin’ to Jewels
to pick up some sassage.”

5. Field’s: Marshall Field, a prominent Chicago
department store. Carson Pirie Scott, another
major department store chain, is simply called
“Carson’s.”

6. Tree: The number between two and four. “We
were lucky dat we only got tree inches of snow da
udder night.”

7. Over by dere: Translates to “over by there,” a
way of indicating a site presumed familiar to the
listener, as in, “I got the sassage at Jewels down on
Kedzie, over by dere.” (“By” is a term meaning, “In
the vicinity of,” or merely, “In a location associated
with,” as in, “I’m going over by Jim’s”–REW).

8. Kaminski Park: The mispronounced name of the
ballpark where the Chicago White Sox (da Sox) play
baseball. Comiskey Park was recently renamed U.S.
Cellular Field (da Cell).

9. Frontroom: It’s not the “parlor.” It’s not the
“living room.”In the land of the bungalow, it’s the
“frontroom”.

10. Use: Not the verb, but the plural pronoun ‘you!’
“Where use goin’?”

11. Downtown: Anywhere near The Lake, south of The
Zoo (Lincoln Park Zoo) and north of Soldier Field.

12. The Lake: Lake Michigan. (What other lake is
there?) It’s often used by local weathermen, “cooler
by The Lake.”

14. Braht: Short for Bratwurst. “Gimme a braht wit
kraut.”

15. Goes: Past or present tense of the verb “say.”
For example,”Den he goes, ‘I like this place’!”

16. Guys: Used when addressing two or more people,
regardless of each individual’s gender.

17. Pop: A soft drink. Don’t say “soda” in this town.
“Do ya wanna canna pop?”

18. Sliders: Nickname for hamburgers from White
Castle, a popular burger chain. Virtually bite-sized
burgers- fried on only one side, since five holes in
each slice of a pre-formed ground beef loaf permit
hot grease mixed with chopped onions to cook
both sides at once- and much favored by truckers,
having an aftertaste reputed to last from Chicago
to Columbus, northern Wisconsin, Cape Girardeau,
or Sioux City, depending on direction. Belches
emitted after consuming sliders have been known
to sustain starving human beings for days.
Curiously addictive, sliders are at the same time
known to possess strange laxative properties: “Dose
sliders I had last night gave me da runs.”

19. The Taste: The Taste of Chicago Festival, a
huge extravaganza in Grant Park featuring samples
of Chicagoland cuisine which takes place each year
around the Fourth of July holiday.

20. “Jeetyet? Translates to, “Did you eat yet?”
(Sometimes contracted to simply, “Jeet?”
-REW).

21. Winter and Construction: Punch line to the
joke, “What are the two seasons in Chicago?”

22. Cuppa Too-Tree: is Chicagoese for “a couple,
two, three” which really means “a few.” For
example,”Hey Mike, dere any beerz left in da
cooler over by dere?” “Yeh, a cuppa too-tree.”

23. 588-2300: Everyone in Chicago knows this
commercial jingle and the carpet company you’ll
get if you call that number — Empire!

24. Junk Dror: You will usually find the ‘junk
drawer’ in the kitchen filled to the brim with
miscellaneous, but very important, junk.

25. Southern Illinois: Anything south of I-80.

26. Expressways: The Interstates in the
immediate Chicagoland area are usually known
just by their names. and not their Interstate numbers:
the Dan Ryan (“da Ryan”), the Stevenson, the Kennedy
(da”Kennedy”), the Eisenhower (da “Ike”), and the
Edens (just “Edens,” but “Da Edens” is acceptable).

27. Gym Shoes: The rest of the country may
refer to them as sneakers or running shoes.
But Chicagoans will always call them “gym
shoes!”

28. Hunnerd: Referring to the addresses on the
blocks, as in, “What hunnerd nort do use live?”

 

Here are some of my favorite quotes about the town I love:

“It’s a 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes; it’s dark out and we’re wearing sun glasses. Hit it!” The Blues Brothers

Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.” Carl Sandburg

“It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago-she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.” Mark Twain

I think that’s how Chicago got started. A bunch of people in New York said, “Gee, I’m enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn’t cold enough. Let’s go west.” Richard Jeni

“I still dream of the Lake of Peacefulness, and warm summer breeze. Where my life was so much simpler then… Street corners and Tastee Freeze.” Chicago

 

For anyone inclined, here are links to other great Chicago poems, saying and songs. Enjoy! (Pay the alderman on the way out!)

Carl Sandburg’s Famous Poem

A Dying Cub’s Fan Last Request

Lake Shore Drive: The Song

Your Family Matters with Michael & Gina Original Air date: January 28, 2012

PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER

Former President Jimmy Carter joined our broadcast for an interview about his new book, Through the Year with Jimmy Carter, available from Amazon and bookstores everywhere. The conversation quickly turned to politics and the role that faith plays in a president’s life.

We asked President Carter about how his faith lead him to embrace a “liberal” brand of politics as opposed to many Christians who consider themselves conservative. His answer was a simple one: “I worship the Prince of Peace. As president we never dropped bombs on people or missiles… As I look around at the GOP debates going on right now, so many are ready to go back to war. I consider that against the teachings of Christ.”

This is an interesting perspective. A literal following of Christ. When it came to his role as president he found himself oath-bound to protect and defend. In specific situations, obviously the Iran Hostage Crisis comes first to mind, he chose to try and negotiate through back channels and not send in the military. (Until finally ordering the ill-fated rescue attempt months later.)

Can a president be president and still follow the teachings of Christ to the letter?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

[LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE]

_____________________________________________________________________

JEFF CARTER

Author of the award-wining blog, PointsAndFigures, Jeff offers expert analysis of the economic and political landscape in America today.

Jeff had much to offer this week – some of it controversial as he made the case that America was not founded on Judeo-Christian values but rather on Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (as well as Greek and Roman Republics). Jeff blogged extensively about it here.

For more from Jeff carter visit his Web site here.

_____________________________________________________________________

KARL GALIK

Pastor Karl offers his weekly feature “The Good Word for the Day”. Today he talks about St. Paul’s reaction to authority.

For more from Karl Galik visit his Web site and blog here.

_____________________________________________________________________

NEXT WEEK ON YOUR FAMILY MATTERS…

Author Rick Johnson discuss his new book, “That’s My Girl” and the topic of Dads and Daughters. Plus your phone calls!

Thankful For Loss

Below is the first post I ever submitted to the Huffington Post. To my surprise, it was rather controversial. I’d love to know what you think.

A little insider info about the title. When I submitted the article, I asked the editor for an opinion about whether or not to use a question mark at the end of the title “Thankful for Loss? Or, Thankful for Loss.” My question was never answered and the title was printed as submitted. I thought this was funny! Now that I’ve seen the responses to the article, I know what the title should have been.

At the end of the article I have attached a link that will allow you read the nearly 150 comments online about this article. I’d love to know what you think here, so please chime in!

 

THANKFUL FOR LOSS (Huffington Post Religion) by Gina Kell Spehn

Whenever an actor, athlete or musician glorifies God in the wake of their victory cynicism rears its ugly head with the collective eye roll of skeptics everywhere. They love to point out that Christians never seem to give thanks to God when we lose.

Or do we?

My husband, Michael and I have learned that being thankful in our losses is not only possible but also necessary. The deaths of our first spouses to cancer taught us what it truly means to be thankful for the blessings found not only in the victories this life offers but also the losses.

When my first husband Matt was diagnosed with cancer he wasn’t triumphantly praising God for his diagnosis. He was, however, quietly reflecting gratitude for everything in his life that wasn’t cancer. I watched Matt, a dying man, celebrate life and serve others in the midst of his suffering. There is perhaps nothing more humbling. He also gave cynics something new to consider when he called his cancer battle a “win-win” situation. He believed that a cure is a win and heaven is a win.

With a young family and a successful career it was easy to admire Matt’s life from a distance. Yet, oddly, even after he was facing a terminal diagnosis many of us closest to him found ourselves admiring him more than ever before, but not for the reasons one might think.

Matt’s courage wasn’t found in his determination to beat cancer (though he was certainly determined to do just that), rather, it was his unwavering commitment to trust in the unseen, eternal promises of a God who could use even a devastating, evil disease like cancer for good purposes.

Let the world take note, no red carpet or trophy can compare to a life of genuine gratitude and faith.

Certainly cancer is not enviable, but for Matt to believe there is victory in cancer is remarkable. It is undoubtedly a gift when a dying man learns to appreciate his life and resolve to fight for it, but Matt also recognized and believed that cancer, through him, could be used for triumphant purposes as well. He wrote:

“As a believer, the prospects of untimely death should not break me. I can be a better witness through death at age 35 than I could ever be living a blessed life into my 80′s. In a perverse way, dying with grace, dignity and hope and joy is a great gift.”

God let’s nothing go to waste. If we are open to receiving his grace, he will use anything for his purposes. Our job is to be aware of God’s presence in all circumstances, even suffering and loss.

Imagine an athlete or movie star using a defeat (nowhere comparable to death) as a platform for helping others or giving thanks. Seems contrary to our culture to esteem a loser, yet life’s greatest lessons are often born out of losses.

Growing up I recall overhearing adults talk about the alcoholic who hit rock bottom or the criminal who got caught and suddenly they found Jesus. They were considered weak and in need of the “Jesus crutch.” At the time I bought into it. However, I’ve since come to know Jesus. He specializes in meeting people in their place of need. The drunks, criminals, diseased and lonely are all alike to him. When you strike out on three pitches, or “the Oscar goes to…” someone else, or God forbid, a doctor in a white lab coat calls you in to a 10 x 10 room to give you that evil diagnosis… no matter what dark place we find ourselves, Jesus brings the light with the presence of his grace and mercy.

I believe it was fitting that Matt died on Christmas Day, the most celebrated day of the year. It’s a beautiful metaphor for his life and a constant reminder that despite our losses, we must simultaneously celebrate the life we are given and receive the gifts of faith that are being delivered to us, even in our darkest hours.

The spotlights of this world fade and award winning moments pass, but a life focused on the eternal promises of God is a life fulfilled, even in cancer; even in our losses; even in death.

To read the Huff Post comments, please click HERE. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page to read the comments.

Say it ain’t so, Greg…

Time was, when you disgraced the game of baseball, and were convicted of a felony, you were not invited back to coach children on how to play the game.

This was true during the infamous Black Sox scandal when one of the greatest players of his time, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson admitted to participating in the fixing of the 1919 World Series. (Jackson is portrayed in countless movie classics such as “Eight Men Out”, “Field of Dreams” and “The Natural” among others.) Legend has it that Jackson was leaving the courthouse in custody when a a young man stepped out of the crowd waiting to catch a glimpse of their hero and pleaded, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.” Jackson, functionally illiterate but generally an honest guy responded with a simple, “I’m afraid it is, kid”.

Keep in mind, this was no run of the mill baseball player. Still to this day, his career batting average (.356) is the third highest in history. He still ranks #35 on the list of all-time greatest baseball players, and he continues to hold team records on the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox (for most triples and highest career batting average) some 90 years after he played the game. Babe Ruth claimed to have modeled his hitting style after Jacksons and he was voted the 12th best outfielder in the history of the game. Shoeless Joe had some game.

Although there are varying accounts of his involvement in the fixing of the games, the Commissioner of Baseball ruled that he cheated. Jackson was banned from baseball for life and remains ineligible for the Hall of Fame to this day. He and his wife returned to his native South Carolina and opened a dry cleaners and then a liquor store, which he operated until his death in 1951.

What’s my point? There used to be consequences for people, even those connected to professional sports, when they broke the rules.

Used to be.

I read yesterday in the New York Times that Greg Anderson has a new job. If you don’t know the name, Greg Anderson served prison time for conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering (to which he pleaded guilty) as well as contempt of court for refusing to testify before a grand jury. The people to whom he was distributing steroids? Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, among others. You may recognize those names – they are star major league baseball players.

How is Mr. Anderson spending his days? He’s coaching baseball to 12 and 13 year olds in California. Let that sink in a little before we go on… Don’t believe me? Read this… [NY Times Article]

I’m sure you’re thinking, well now that the New York Times has outed him, parents must be outraged. They are not. In fact, one mom had this to say. “The kids like him, and he’s a real friendly guy, so my husband and I don’t question it. Really, it’s kind of fun to have a celebrity coaching the team.”

Another parent said this. “My son said it was ‘cool’ to see his coach on TV.” Of course he left out the minor detail that the the reason guy was “on TV” was because he had been convicted on a felony! And for disgracing the very game this parent was now allowing him to teach his child!

The next time you hear someone bemoan “kids these days…” I hope you will correct them. It really isn’t kids these days – it’s parents. It’s parents who think it’s “fun” to have convicted felons…er, I mean”celebrities” coach their children. It’s the parents who think it’s “cool” to see your coach on a perp walk… as long as it’s on TV. It’s the parents (noun) abdicating their responsibility to actually parent (verb), and I hope you’ll remind them.

I also hope that, if you’re ever in California and you run into Greg Anderson, you’ll ask him a question for me. “Aren’t you supposed to be running a dry cleaners somewhere in South Carolina?”

Sex Talk

Can we please stop being so weird about sex?! For the sake of our kids we really need to get over it because the challenge of talking candidly with our kids today is significantly easier than dealing with the consequences of tomorrow.

I came across an article titled, “One-Third of Tween Clothes are Sexy, Study Finds” with the subtitle, “Adolescent Girls Dressed in Skimpy Outfits Seen as Less Intelligent, Less Moral”. This comes on the heels of Abercrombie Kids latest, “Cute Butt” sweatpants for 7 year-olds. Just sayin’! The world is talking to our kids all day long about sex. We live in a sexual culture surrounded by all things sexy. Everything we watch, wear, read and hear in the course of a day has some element of sexuality tied to it. Even our favorite cartoon characters are trying to get some. Case in point: Pepe LaPew!

We need to talk to our kids more often and more loudly than the world. We don’t have to look far for opportunities to engage our kids in conversation. Just go to the mall! Ask questions. Listen. Then speak. Yes, they will roll their eyes. But don’t let that little annoyance set you back. Respect their “boundaries” but don’t be intimidated by them. They might be taller than you or have a deeper voice, but they are still kids trying to figure it all out. And you know more!

We’ve got some wisdom and our kids need to know a few things. I’m not talking about the “how to’s” of sex, although if your kids ask, I say start talking! What I am talking about is teaching our kids the lessons of our sexual experiences, the good, bad and ugly, as well as teaching the new risks of sex that didn’t exist when we were teens. The physical and emotional costs are too high to let this go.

Teens like to think they know it all, but they still don’t want to know that their parents are sexual beings. We are their parents for heavens sake! Yes, we had sex in order to get them here, so they must have some idea that we might know a few things! Our job is to get comfortable talking about sex (if we could, I think a few marriages could be saved, but this is a topic for another day). In other words, start getting real with your kids. Let them know you understand their language by speaking it.

The space between our textbook knowledge and our bedroom experience is exactly where the conversation with our teens should take place. Be clinically wise, but street smart. Use real words that don’t sound like they are coming from a text book, but don’t make your kid run for the door by getting too personal. We know that sex, out of its proper, God-given context can have life-long, detrimental consequences. We simply know too much not to share it with them over and over again.

What I find funny is that adults think about sex, do it, talk about it, read about it, and quietly click on it when they think no-one is watching (I mean, c’mon, someone is fueling the multi-billion dollar porn industry!), but the minute we contemplate a conversation with our children it’s like we become asexual. Have you forgotten about all those questions you had when you were a teen but were too afraid to ask? Don’t wait for them to ask. Sex talk isn’t taboo! It’s part of who we are and what we do. The conversation is necessary and it’s our responsibility to keep it consistent, ongoing and age appropriate.

If your life experience isn’t enough, or if you can’t quite shake off your own insecurity, embarrassment or discomfort with the topic, then find some resources to help you. Last night I took my fifteen year-old daughter to hear Pam Stenzel speak about the advantages of abstinence and the fact that sex still has a price tag. The auditorium was packed with parents and teens, and the presentation was loud, raw and honest. I even learned a few things about STD’s that I didn’t know. What a nightmare that is! We gotta know and we gotta teach our kids. Their lives depend on it. When a 6’8″ high school senior told Pam Stenzel that he gets teased for being a virgin, she told him to say this, “Any day, even tonight, I could choose to be like you. But you will never again be like me.” I like that!

We can’t make choices for our kids, but we can equip them. If you have some good advice about talking to teens about sex, share it here! We’d love to know what’s working, and even what isn’t.

Ear Regardless

If you’ve ever used a word processing program in the last decade you are aware of that little red line that magically appears under words you have misspelled. If you are a user of the program Word,, you will also be familiar with the little green line that indicates you have used improper grammar. These tools have become indispensable in our workplace lives and have saved many of us from making fouls of ourselves… er, I mean, fools of ourselves.

Wouldn’t it be great if that little red line could somehow work its magic as we speak as well? Can you imagine that app?! Just before our brains let the thought out of our mouths, the little red line appears to tells us, “There’s no such word as the one you’re about to use.”

Misuse of words is one of my pet peeves. We all know someone who butchers the language, while at the same time, believing that he is actually impressing those around him with his intellect. Within the last few weeks I have heard college educated people use the words “Alumnis”, “Conversate”, “Worshipful”, “Intensive purposes” and of course the classic, “Irregardless”. Makes me want to go out and by these people Rosetta Stone English!

There is one person in my life right now who uses the word “lifes”. Not lives. Lifes. As in, “Our lifes will be shaped by the decisions we make…” Every time I hear this, I become distracted. I wince and tilt my head like a dog that has just heard a screeching noise. I struggle with whether I should say something to him. He is actually a public speaker, someone who commands a great deal of respect. Surely I can’t be the only one who hears this. Should I tell him, or should I let it go? Which is “better”, which is more Christian, more loving, more proper…?

Your assistance is much appreciativated!