Friday, August 31, 2007

What Do You Think???

In the last post I wrote some pretty provocative materials. Now it is your turn.
I have been talking with several persons about these issues and we all find the research very interesting, but fairly confusing. Can you write in and explain your insights about what is happening here?
Maybe the story about Mother Teresa also fits in here as a parallel. Do you think her life is illustrative of the research by the Willow Creek team or is it a separate issue? Mother Teresa was obviously one of the most pious Christians in modern history and she faithfully served The Church and God but was without joy most of the time.
Do you all have an explanation for either of these stories?
I really hope to hear from those who have worked hard to lead people. Do you find this data credible? Are they off base or on target? What is happening in modern churches? Do you think we need to do some things differently?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Seasoned Believers are Disgruntled

Over 11,000 church members were asked to fill out a questionairre about attendance and their spiritual attitudes. Here is what the researchers discovered. I was shocked by the results. Most everyone I tell is stunned. How do you feel about it? (Click graph for an enlarged view.)

It was bound to happen. (1. Chart of Unmet Expectations; Leaders who thought believers would grow spiritually just by sitting in church and giving money. 2. Growth and involvement correlation.3. Stages of Maturity)

The churches that grew through marketing, entertainment and pizazz have hit the wall. Here is the wall:

Those members who have known and served God in the big churches the longest and most fervently are dropping out.

The guys from Willow Creek did a survey. It was shocking to them. People are unhappy with the same old three ring circuses that titillated them as young believers. They want something more substantial now that they have lived for a couple of decades with God as a guide. The authors of the book that describes the survey and its results, Reveal, are embarrassingly honest about their former lack of knowledge of how people grow spiritually and how badly they missed the mark in fostering discipleship.

I have been shocked by the pedagogical ignorance of Christian leaders for a long time. I am an educator and counselor by training and have known for forty years that people learn best by a combination of Theory and Practice. Lectures, especially for adults, are terrible training venues.

Despite this knowledge, almost all "leadership seminars" stress new and exciting ways to deliver a lecture. How can we delude ourselves so greatly year after year? How can brilliant men and women be shocked at the fact that the most mature of their flocks are dissatisfied?

Can they recover? I am not sure if the current crop of leaders can change from their obsession with lectures, entertainment and infor-mericals called church for young people. Will they be able to reach out to Seasoned Believers? These folks have served up skim milk for so long because it sells to youth. There is a strong bias against older believers who demand more meat. (Or at least a little mush.)

Anyone who really thought that discipleship and spiritual growth could be facilitated by sermons to large groups of passive people is in deep trouble. Many are probably still clinging to skim or 1% milk served up with some cool new talks and new videos.

Can we do a better job? I do not know. However, our new Launch of a ministry to the people in stages 3 and 4 will minister to a large group of people. (Some people estimate that there are over 50 million Seasoned Believers in the USA alone with millions more in Europe.) Seasoned Saints are normally ignored except when it comes to financial support and serving on committees.

Our first Seasoned Believer Gathering is planned for October 13 at Winton Woods Golf Course Conference Center. Contact me if you are interested. In being with grown ups with adult discussions. Are you interested in Finishing Well?

Unconscious Communication

I was reading a blog about military dogs this morning and saw a comment I found interesting. (See

The post was all about training the dogs to go into battle in Iraq and calmly return to their helicopter in a harness even after surviving attacks by the bad guys. Here is a summary of the comment that touched me deeply. "The feelings of the dog are transferred up the leash to the handler and from the handler down the leash to the dog. As long as I am calm my dog will stay calm."

This is a perfect parable to describe what happens in a family, church or an organization. The people at the top automatically transfer their feelings down the chain of command to the people. If a boss is anxious the workers will pick it up. If Mom and Dad are uptight the kids feel their pain.

The Bible says this clearly in I CO 12 about the family of God as well as the biological family. "When one member hurts we all hurt and when one member is joyful we all share the joy."

I have been reading a tiny bit about the proceedings at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. The over riding emphasis seems to be on the awesome genius of leaders. Leaders must be, it seems, most of all, great marketers, smart cookies and savvy communicators.

But so very little is written about the things scripture points out as the most important. That is the "Fruit of the Spirit" listed by St. Paul as "love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, meekness and patience." Just as military dogs feel the peace or anxiety of their handlers, members feel the fruit of their appointed leaders.

The Willow Creek folks also seem to make a big deal, a really big deal about the gap between leaders and followers. But my experience has been radically different. The "Leaders are Geniuses" position is what I call the "medical or priestly model" that originated several hundred years after the resurrection of Jesus. Before that, the key was not the size of the leader, e.g. his education, brilliance and savvy, but the size of the Spirit within the leader.

Just 300 years after the resurrection of Jesus and Pentecost the Middle East was alive with Christians whose inner spirits were alive and powerful. The medical/priestly model points to a few extraordinary leaders and experts to do all the real ministry while the Biblical Model points to an extraordinary God invading ordinary people at Pentecost.

As long as the expert handlers of the church have an attitude of superiority toward their people and call them such derogatory names as "volunteers" while they are called "leaders" the most mature Christians will drift away from Christian organizations. In fact, the research of Willow Creek has discovered that some 26% of their members are dissatisfied and dropping out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mountain Top Economic Summit

One of the most interesting and exciting types of Christian creativity being done in our region is sponsored by Pastor Jim Vickers and the Valley Learning Center. In an attempt to promote Economic Entrepreneurial, Rev Vickers annually brings together local, regional and national entrepreneurs to share how they have been able to create new opportunities, new jobs and new excitement about our region. Cincinnati has one of the best and strongest foundations for economic and religious cooperation in the nation.
I was able to attend the Summit last year and experienced first hand the wide ranging expertise of people from the government, local companies, education, religious groups and individual entrepreneurs. The line up for 2007 looks even more interesting so I hope you can join with me and meet the great line up they have coming to Sharonville this year.
Here is a copy of an ad that will be appearing in the Citizen USA Christian Newspaper and other media outlets soon listing just "a few" of the speakers that will be at the Summit this year.
That's not all! Look forward to more information about the inspirationally explosive worship service that will kick the Summit off this year on Wed. Sept. 26 at the Lincoln Heights Missionary Baptist Church where Dr. Elliott and Virgina Cuff will act as host and hostess.
We will be blessed by guest Psalmist Minister P. Ann Everson Price and Pastor Billie Price, Bishop Bobbie Hilton from Word of Deliverance in Cincinnati, Oh., Bishop Tow Owens from Cleveland, Oh., Transformation Cincinnati, our friends from the CBN-USA, other Guest Preachers and dignitaries and the SUMMIT CHOIR.We look forward to seeing you September 26 - 29, 2007!!!

Rev. J. Vickers, Jr.
Call Valley Learning Center at (513) 771-1973 to receive more information and to register.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Misunderstandings Are Rampant

I have a personality trait that is hard wired in my brain to make certain untrue and irrational assumptions. Oh, I know you also have similar DNA in your brain but mine continually interfere with my desire to communicate clearly and accurately. My assumptions cause me trouble almost every day and I do not like it.

Here is the crux of the problem. I assume that the people to whom I speak will understand exactly what I mean no matter how well or how poorly I say or do not say things. And, when people misunderstand me, I get ticked, frustrated and irritated.

Why can't these people understand me? I am communicating so well, so clearly and so simply that any human should understand me. How do I know that? Because I understand what I mean or thought I meant to say.

Sometimes I can see from the frown or puzzled looks that they do not understand and so I, with great patience, try to say it again, but slowly with great emphasis on key words. For example, "I said, "I--am NOT going to the store."

And, over the years, I have discovered that I will do it in such a way that the person who was trying to understand me is made to look foolish, deaf, blind or all of these. Steve Griebling and I were locked in an old Communist era elevator in Moscow one winter morning and we both saw our tendency to exaggeratedly emphasize our words if we were being misunderstood.

The woman who answered the bell we rang to ask for help spoke only Russian and we spoke only English. When we carefully said to her, "We are stuck in the elevator" she came back with some unintelligible question in Russian. After three or four interactions, she became louder and louder and more animated and so did we.

Finally it occurred to us that the woman was not deaf so shouting was no real answer. The problem lay in the language we and she spoke. Finally, the woman who was taking us to the seminar came along and translated for us and we were rescued.

I have been counseling couples for thirty years and see this same kind of interaction all the time. He tries to communicate some important idea and she does not understand. He tries again but speaks slowly and loudly as though she had suddenly lost her hearing. He insults her and she insults him back. Before long they are into a big time boxing match fit for the Madison Square Garden and he wonders why.

The key to harmony is listening. Talking slower, better, clearer or with better words does not usually work. But listening carefully, lovingly and respectfully will sometimes break the cycle of conflict. Get our book called Listening for Heaven's Sake. It can save your marriage and save your mind at the same time.

My graduate school prof said I needed to talk better but I learned most people wanted to talk and me to listen. Then I learned that most people got better faster if I listened better. I am still learning to listen but it beats talking most every time.

Christians Fare Better than Non-Believers

Despite what we may read in the papers about the glaring dysfunctions of some very high profile Christians, there are many health and welfare benefits of living a Christian lifef or a couple and their offspring . Folks who profess to be Christians but do not attend services regularly or practice a Christian life style may even be less healthy than those who have no faith.

Where can a couple turn to find assistance for their marital problems? Does God and His church care for the couples who are in conflict and pain? And, if so can they do anything about it? The answers are all a resounding, YES!

God loves distressed people and calls us to help people with marital difficulties. Research conclusively shows the value of faith in the development of healthy family life. Christians fondly discuss family values but we what about the value of a Christian family? Some important statistics are seemingly secret in evangelism and church-growth.

David Larson, M.D. did research for years on the benefits and pitfalls of faith and family life. He concluded that:

· Religious commitment is associated with positive mental, emotional and relational benefits about 80% of the time.

· Church attend are four times less likely to commit suicide. Church attendance predicts suicide risks more accurately than any other factor.

· Patients with strong religious commitment were less depressed and recovered more quickly from hip replacement surgery.

· Religious commitment is negatively correlated with teen substance abuse. Religious people drink less and abuse alcohol less. The only exceptions are teens from homes where religion is talked but not walked. When hypocrisy rules alcohol consumption rises.

· Church attendees have less sex out of wedlock.

· Teens from homes where a parent is unavailable during the day are more likely to have sex. However, even these teens have less sex outside of marriage if they attend church.

· Church going couples experience divorce about 18% of the time while nonbelievers do so at twice (36%) that rate.

· Couples who are committed to Christ have greater life satisfaction, greater marital satisfaction and greater sexual satisfaction.

Perhaps we need to advertise these benefits to the world as a way of showing that not following God actually has many profound implications for our children. We need to count the cost of sleeping in on Sunday mornings. Parents spend a lot of money to try to get the best in educational and psychological benefits for their children when simply taking them to church has a much greater benefit than other supposedly positive experiences.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Conflict in Couples

I recently posted a new item on my other blog about the news I read about a famous TV Preacher and traveling evangelist who got into an argument that soon led to a fist fight and wrestling match. The fight broke out when the couple met in a five star hotel for a "session of reconciliation". Such sessions can be dangerous unless led by a good counselor because Humpty and Mrs. Dumpty are having lots of problems in their relationships. This one was very dangerous.

Before long, the session of making up turned sour and the man and his wife started yelling at each other and accusing each other of having bad and evil character traits. Contempt begats more contempt and that soon led to "Emotional Flooding". In an effort to cool down the man walked away from the fight and true to form the wife went after him to demand "closure" to the disagreement.

Her desire for additional intimacy turned into a brawl. Here they were, two famous Christian preachers, known around Atlanta, on TV and in the venues of Pastor Jakes rolling around the parking lot of a five star hotel yelling and screaming of each other. At the end the doorman of the hotel had to separate the two prophets by pulling the man of God away from the woman he had married just a few years ago and had pledged his undying love to under the laws of God.
How embarrassing they must be. A mighty man of God and a mighty woman of the Spirit rolling around on the asphalt in front of the hired help does not exactly communicate the love, truth and power of God. But here is the lesson or at least one of the lessons from that event. All of us, no matter how rich, famous or powerful in the pulpit, tend to deal with conflict in a similarly dysfunctional manner.

But help is on the way. We know how to stop the dysfunction by dealing with differences and conflict in a biblical manner. I am often working with Christian leaders who are stuck in the same kinds of dysfunctional patterns that brought that famous Atlanta couple to humiliation on the hotel asphalt. In most cases we can help couples stop their dysfunctional dance and learn to dance to a new tune.

The main problem is this: we are not even aware of how our dance is negatively influencing our mates, kids and friends. But when I point out the dysfunctional patterns, most folks can see what is wrong and how to change it. But change is hard and takes some time so patterns tend to persist. This is why St. Paul exhorted us to be careful lest we "Grow weary in well doing."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Depression and Mother Teresa

I just finished reading an article in Time Magazine about the life long struggle with depression, emotional pain spiritual suffering of Mother Teresa. This was a woman who was celebrated internationally by governments and religious leaders. However, her own"dark night of the soul" began with her working with the poor and lasted for the entire time of her world famous ministry.,8599,1655415,00.html

I will not try to assess Mother Teresa's situation too deeply but it seems that I have counseled hundreds if not thousands of Christians just like her. These hard working believers have labored intensely for the Lord while rarely experiencing the grace and presence of the Spirit. Her mental, emotional and spiritual condition is quite commons among Christians of all denominations.

In my experience the common denominator is a works righteous approach to God. The emphasis is always upon what I must do to bring salvation, healing and relief to others. The basis foundational assumption is that the work of Jesus is too little and it is up to us to finish His redemptive work.

Such a works-righteous approach demands that I live a sinless life and there is the rub. The more I do to make up for the "failures" of the work of Jesus the more perfect I am; the more perfect I am the more I know I am good. This leads me to conclude that I have much to offer. I of course recognize my abilities and is considered to be pride. All pride is wrong so I am in sin. The guilt of my sin demands punishment contrition, repentance and suffering.

This kind of theology can only lead to mental torture for I can only be satisfied when I am perfectly sinless. That means I am aware of my "sainthood" and the recognition means that I am not perfect after all. This is the classic "Double Bind" or "Catch 22" situation where to obey the law of God I must perfectly obey, have no pride and show 100% self denial.

If I can actually "die to self" it is I who has self control. But, if I am in control, Jesus is not in control. Thus, I am sinning. But, I must work hard to be sinless and that is what a works righteousness requires. So, I am damned if I do work hard to be perfect and damned if I do not work hard to be perfect. The only way I can obey God is to dis-obey Him.

I have posted several papers on my web called "Double Binds" that are helpful to enable folks to stop trying to be perfect.

Mother Teresa and other pious Roman Catholics are no more likely to fall into this trap than we Protestants who claim to live by faith not works. Each of us can stop our "stinking thinking" and allow Jesus to be the perfect redeemer whose finished works were all that was needed to save the world from sin and guilt.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Friends of Gary

Because we have recently changed our name and it seemed prudent to have some of our friends and clients write about their experiences with us. This one is from Happy Leman, a very successful and dynamic Pastor in Illinois with whom I have interacted for years.

I've known Gary Sweeten for over 20 years. Of all the people who've impacted our church over the last 30 years, Gary Sweeten ranks in the top 3. His teaching on Learning to Listen, Speaking the Truth in Love and Rational Christian Thinking have revolutionized our church of 2500 people. To this day, we still refer to those as the foundation classes in helping us minister in the Holy Spirit to other people.

Gary has been an outstanding friend and consultant about helping us think through how we do church life. His material has been one pillar in our foundation that has made us who we are today. We highly recommend Gary and believe that what he has to offer is essential for any size church in any denomination anywhere in the world.

Happy Leman,
Vineyard Regional Overseer

Senior Pastor
Champaign Urbana, Illinois

The August 2007 Al Gore Award

In honor of the current visit from Jens-Petter and Oystein Jorgensen from Oslo Norway, I am giving the August Al Gore Global Warming Chicken Little Award to scientists in that pristine and beautiful land of the fjords. The following news story will tell you why.

"Norway is concerned that its national animal, the moose, is harming the climate by emitting an estimated 2,100 kilos [4,630 pounds] of carbon dioxide a year through its belching and farting," reports Der Spiegel:

Norwegian newspapers, citing research from Norway's technical university, said a motorist would have to drive 13,000 kilometers in a car to emit as much CO2 as a moose does in a year.

So not only do humans and their evil machines but animals cause global warming. Are the Norske scientists suggesting that the only way to preserve life on earth is to wipe out all life on earth?

I have a better idea: Start a campaign against animal belching and farting. We could call it: Fathers Against Regurgitating Together. The international symbol could be the Moose and annual benefits and awards given to animals that reduce their gas emissions.

(PS. It is actually encouraging to see that we Christians are not the only people who are gripped by angst and fears over the end of the world. Global Warming fanatics remind me of the "Jesus is coming soon" preachers of my childhood who had "Gog and Magog" identified as Russia along with charts showing the exact dates and times when the world would come to a bloody end. Maybe Hal Lindsey has gone to work for Al Gore.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Friends and Fellow Workers

Top picture is Oystein and Joyce Linder; then Dale Linder and Gary

Tink, Jens-Petter & great food

Steve & Tink Linder, Oystein & Jens

The first time Jens-Petter and his wife Astrid came to the USA some 22 years ago he was working on a doctorate at Fuller Seminary on the West Coast. Astrid was very pregnant with their daughter Marie Theresa.

They managed to get to Cincinnati after driving from L.A. to Minnesota. From there they came to Cincinnati where they were hosted by Tink and Gus Linder, dear friends from College Hill Presbyterian Church.

It was a very busy time for the Linder family but Tink has the gift of hospitality and she said, "OK, send them over to my house." That was a divine appointment for the Linders have been the American parents and gracious hosts to Jens-Petter, Astrid and their children for over twenty years. Although Gus passed away last year Tink continues to pour out her love and care on her Norwegian brood every time they come to town to visit us.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Norwegian Visitors

Jens-Petter Jorgensen with a Bishop of the African Inland Church at the Leaders' Conference in 1983
We are very blessed to have Jens-Petter Jorgensen and Oystein Jorgensen with us from Oslo, Norway in Cincinnati this week. Jens-Petter has been a leading figure in the Holy Spirit's revival since the Eighties. He, and several friends, led The OASE (Oasis) Movement that took Scandinavia by storm for three decades.

Jens-Petter was the Daily Leader of the OASE Movement when met in Kenya at a "Leader of Leaders Conference" in 1983. I went to Africa as a result of hearing the Lord call the organization I headed to "Foster a Second Reformation" that unleashed the works of God into the world. I fully expected God to connect me with a group of African leaders and call me to minister in that huge continent.

Was I ever wrong! Jens-Petter and I became friends and discovered that we both shared many of the same spiritual, psychological and relational convictions. One early morning I met Jens-Petter at breakfast and he announced to me that, "I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me last night."

"Wow!" I answered. "What did he say to you?"

He answered with a shocking statement that changed my life.

"He said 'You are God's man for renewing Norway.'"

I was stunned and protested but I soon discovered that God was right. I have had the privilege of ministering there since 1987 and have had many dramatic experiences, made numerous friends and developed a new approach to Christian care and counseling Scandinavia.

Last year I invited Jens-Petter to join our ministry board, making it truly international in scope. He is a wise and insightful friend who is helping guide the next steps of Sweeten Life Systems as we move into the Fourth Great Awakening.
Jens-Petter is a friend, as well as a man of wisdom and insight. Pray for his ministry in Scandinavia and Europe.

Names and Places

In my last post I mentioned that we have a new name for the Tax Deductible Charity. We have changed from Life Way Ministries, Incorporated to Sweeten Life Systems. However, the name of the counseling center that I founded in 1989 remains the same, at least for the present.

I have co-founded several different organizations over the past thirty years. There are so many I am often confused myself. In 1989 four of us founded an In Patient Psychiatric Hospital that occupied twelve beds in the East Wing of Emerson North Hospital. It was on Hamilton Avenue about a block from College Hill Presbyterian Church where I worked. We called it, Life Way Counseling Centers for it included a Clinical Counseling office located in Sharonville.

Life Way Counseling Centers continues to offer clinical and medical psychotherapy in several offices around Cincinnati. Go to or call 513-769-4600 for more information.

I am retired from providing therapy as a Licensed Counselor but I remain Chairman of the Board for Life Way Counseling Centers. We still offer high quality counseling to people in need. The name Life Way remains so do not get it confused with the ministry that has a new name, Sweeten Life Systems.

My primary call today is offering pro bono care, counsel and coaching to Christian leaders. I also train Christian care givers around the world through Sweeten Life Systems, a tax deductible, faith based charity. We are dependent upon your financial support.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The New Name is Official

Karen and I returned from a brief vacation to the cooler climes of Michigan last night and it was good to be home again. For about ten years I was on the road several months each year in Asia, Russia, Scandinavia and the USA. It was exciting, stimulating and spiritually demanding but at my age those long flights were taking a toll on my body. Now I am happy avoid some of the long flights.

Several weeks ago we sent a letter to the Secretary of State asking for permission to change the name of our ministry from Life Way Inc to Sweeten Life Systems. Because we mistakenly checked a wrong box the request was returned and we had to send another letter to Columbus. PTL! upon our return from Michigan the letter of permission was in our mail box!!!

We are officially:

Sweeten Life Systems
P.O. Box 498455
Cincinnati, Ohio 45249

All donations made out to Life Way Inc will still be accepted because out tax I.D. number is the same, but we are making everyone aware of the changes and asking you to make checks out to Sweeten Life Systems.

Sweeten Life Systems will continue to COACH, CONSULT and COUNSEL Pastors, Elders and Ministry Leaders in the USA. Our opportunities are growing by leaps and bounds as the word is spread that we provide pro bono, confidential care for hurting leaders. We are praying for $100,000.00 to continue this critical work with hurting leaders.

The Russian work is growing and becoming a real force among Christian leaders all over the former USSR. Pray for Galina and her team. Please consider supporting that very important work.

We are also Launching a new ministry focus to Seasoned Believers. People who have faithfully served the Lord for decades but are confused about what is the next step in God's plan. Few churches have any significant ministry to those who have successfully ministered for decades. We are leading the way in devising a support system for some of the most spiritually alert people in the world. As Bob Robinson calls them, "The next Greatest Generation".
We need $100,000.00 to kick this new phase off.

Stay tuned for a series of exciting gatherings, classes and meetings. (Pencil in Saturday October 13 for a GATHERING!)

Heart and Soul of America

Peggy Noonan is one of America's best writers. Her insights and conclusions are keen and well written. Peggy can say a lot in just a few sentences.

Ms. Noonan writes regularly for the Wall Street Journal and I get an electronic sample six days a week. My cup runs over with great writing that causes me to sin regularly because I covet her ability to communicate.

In a recent article about the report written by New York's Police Department about the reasons and processes of Jihadism in America Peggy is at her best at both summarizing the NYPD's analysis and calling the serious minded citizens in the USA to do something about it. Here is her most powerful statement. (See )

So that's the latest report on young men and how they become drawn to terrorism. It's also the latest on what terror networks are up to, and how they're planning to move. The only thing I'd add is that all modern young people come from two environments. The first is the immediate family, which is human and therefore by definition imperfect, sometimes to a serious and destructive degree. The other is the broader culture in which we all live, and which includes everything from schools to the neighborhood to the media. It's not a new thing to say but it's still true that the latter, which is more powerful than ever, is wholly devoted to the material. People are money winners or luxury item enjoyers. They just want stuff. It is soulless.

Because I am bent upon Unleashing Seasoned Believers to love and enjoy God her comment has struck me deeply. Seasoned Believers are Americans with souls and soul. Her assessment of the problem and its implied answer are right up our alley. The an answer is something that we Seasoned Saints have in our hearts and histories.

According to Dr. Robert Fogel, the Nobel Prize winning economist who writes and teaches about the Revivals and Awakenings of American history and how they impact economics, the current Fourth Great Awakening that began in the Sixties and has matured into an Awakening today, is one that is destined to touch men and women spiritually not just materially.

Read Ms. Noonan's last sentences again. Memorize them. Think about them. Americans have become soul-less. Any nation without a soul is doomed to the ash heap of history. Has God chosen the Seasoned Saints to redeem this nation from the disaster of sex, materialism and Jihad?

What can save us? Certainly not the stock market or more sex or designer drugs. It has been but a few short years since two famous women died. Princess Diana and Mother Teresa both met their Maker in the same week but the American media is obsessed with just one of these women. One of them is going through the laborious process of seeing if she can be considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church while the other has already achieved "sainthood" in the eyes of the least discerning people on earth; the media.

The Princess was rich, beautiful, sexually promiscuous and hedonistic as well as narcissistic.
She had everything modern America loves so they automatically sanctified her along with Brittany and Paris.

Mother Teresa was poor, plain, pious and powerfully spiritual so she was kept at a distance by the Hollywood crowd. Her soul was large and welcoming. We need more people like her.

Seasoned Believers can provide the heart and soul to revive the nation's soul.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ministry Launch

Above are Alice Petersen and Tricia Herman, on the left is Karen Sweeten and above right are Bob and Carlene Robinson.

We recently had a couple of Launches to kick off the announcement of the New Ministry and name. Part of the festivities included a Red's Game celebration in the Sky Box of Mike Ellison's Company.
It was a grand time for people who have been working hard to let the world know what God is doing and people know how to support us financially and spiritually.

Larry and Ellen's "Last Lecture" at the Vineyard NW

Many new and old friends came to cheer Larry and Ellen on to their new location in Florida. These photos show Karen and myself along with Rich Halter and Larry, Ada Halter and Ellen. On the dais are Larry, Ellen and Ps Van Cochrane.

The tradition of having a "Last Lecture" is long and honored in colleges, churches and groups. It does not mean the people speaking will stop teaching and preaching but it signals a time of transition from one venue to another. I gave my "Last Lecture" at the University of Cincinnati in the Spring of 1973 and have given thousands of talks since then.
Larry and Ellen spoke yesterday the last time as formal members of the Vineyard NW staff. I hope and pray it will be just one more in a long line of additional talks about their Savior.

Poster Children for Seasoned Believers

Have you reached the stage of Christian growth where you are asking, "Is that all there is for me? Does God want me to take another look at what it means to serve Him? I have been a Sunday school teacher, an Elder, served as a Trustee or on the Altar Guild but I want something more substantial in serving."

That is the situation in many cases. Over the years I have Coached several individuals and couples how to transition from serving in a minor church role to taking a more assertive or lead role in a ministry. The results have been dramatic.

Larry and Ellen Chrouch were fairly young in the Lord's work when Karen and I met them in 1970. We had experienced the rejection of church leaders in the denomination of our family and were "Wandering around Cincinnati" looking for a church or group where we could find roots, fellowship and a place to serve Christ. We had found a small group led by a defrocked Presbyterian Minister and he was mentoring us in the scripture and practice of First Century Christianity, but we wanted more.

Larry and Ellen were in a similar boat and we met at a gathering at The Church of the Advent, an Episcopal Congregation led by Murray and Alixe Hastings. Murray was a wonderful Spirit filled Minister who fostered great love and peace to thousands as God was surprising them with His blessings. That meeting was part of the plan God had to merge two families who would minister together for thirty years.

After Karen and I joined the team of leaders at College Hill Presbyterian Church we were blessed to see Larry and Ellen return to Cincinnati and join with us. The result was an explosion of Spirit led innovation in care, counsel and healing. Together with them and others we formed the Teleios Ministry to "Equip Christians to do the work of ministry" and that organization in turn developed the Equipping Ministries International that today is found in some fifty countries.

Yesterday Larry and Ellen gave their "last lecture" at the Vineyard North West. Karen and I attended and affirmed them as true poster children of God's plan to use " Seasoned Believers" to change the world. This couple has traveled for almost three decades to known and unknown groups spreading the good news of Jesus and His healing love . They have Christian "sons and daughters" of almost every race and culture. Only in heaven shall we know the extent of their influence.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Seasoned Believers

The more I chat with friends and fellow Ministers about what is happening in the current "Age Wave" passing through the world I am seeing more and more implications for us in the The Fourth Great Awakening. Great Awakenings are national and international events that occur some thirty to forty years after a "Great Revival". They usher in a new era of Christian values and influence in society in general.

The First Great Awakening began with the Great Revivals of Whitfield and Edwards and matured into social, political upheavals that insisted upon more equality among the people. The Revival/Awakening culminated in the American Revolution and ended the English Monarchy in the Colonies. This led to a huge leap forward in economic, political and spiritual equality.

One of the least understood and most powerful results was religious and spiritual equality. The Colonies before the Revival/Awakening/Revolution was a place of great spiritual darkness. It was one of the least spiritual times in American history. According to marriage records, some 1/3 of all marriages included a pregnant bride and many of the women had babies out of wedlock.

Few of the Colonists attended church and most of the citizens were wild and unfettered males whose drinking, carousing and sexual exploits were legion. The Colonies carried on the English tradition of State Run Church groups. Anglicans and Congregationalists had tax supported clergy and tax supported church buildings. After the revival brought forth hundreds of new groups supported and led by the members, the tax supported well trained clergy warned that such religion would wither and die without government support.

In retrospect we can see that the opposite happened. The Great Revivals of the 1700's caused a colonies' wide upheaval in that scenario. Baptist and Methodist groups sprouted up in homes, taverns and under shade trees all led by fresh believers who had met the Lord personally and began to preach and teach the Bible unfettered by a seminary education. The population of the Colonies was exploding but the new formed, free churches grew even faster and Pastors were called to evangelize and nurture the new flocks.

Presbyterian churches withe their Scot inspired fierce independence from state control, grew right along with the revival and the population growth. They were the only church with European parentage that did grow. The state controlled and tax supported Anglican and Congregational churches fell behind since they refused to allow revival meetings in their buildings and their clergy preached against the new religious "enthusiasm".

The final blow occurred, of course, when the new nation build into its Constitution a prohibition of tax support for clergy and religion. Europe still supports clergy and churches taxes and is as dead today as it was in 1750. However, as I wrote in a former post, revival is occurring in Europe and before long all the state controlled denominations will be gone and revival will sweep over the continent. ( Read Roger Finke and Rodney Stark's book The Churching of America.)

The Age Wave of men and women who came to faith some thirty to forty years ago and have been nurtured in that faith for many years are poised to take their wisdom, convictions and spiritual energy into the market place of ideas. The Fourth Great Awakening is upon us so get ready for new forms of spiritual expression. Every other Awakening has emphasized economic and political change but this one is different and the focus will be on spiritual/emotional and relational inequalities. (See Nobel Prize winner in Economics Robert Fogel's book, The Fourth Great Awakening for more information.)

I am looking for Seasoned Believers who want to lead the New Spiritual Revolution and the Fourth Great Awakening.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Age and Work

As you may know I have started a new ministry thrust to that group of people I call Seasoned Believers. This consists of men and women who are forty and above who have served the Lord faithfully for two or three decades.

The following article tells about how this group's leaving the workforce will affect us all.

The Graying Before the Boomer Exodus

Thursday, August 02, 2007 2:26 PM/EST
The Graying Before the Boomer Exodus

Nary a day goes by that a press release doesn't cross eWEEK inboxes about the aging of the IT work force, and the potential havoc that will be wrecked upon the workplace when Baby Boomers retire, taking their substantial business knowledge and bulging head count with them.
A Forrester study released this week further investigated this conundrum, laying out steps that CIOs should be taking now to prepare for a wave of retirements set to begin around 2015.
Or will they?

While there is little doubt that Baby Boomers will indeed retire at some point in the future, and the numbers of younger IT professionals entering the field have little chance of compensating for the voluminous loss, there are other sociological trends that are whittling away at the once-unwavering notion that all U.S. workers retire at 65.

By the year 2020, there will be more workers over age 55 grinding away than at any other time in U.S. history, according to an article on MSNBC Aug. 1. The U.S. workplace will be transformed by an explosion of flexible work schedules and a host of technologies that make work life easier, leading to a swath of Boomers spending their golden years at work.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the number of workers age 65 or older will double to almost 10 million within 10 years, and will account for 6.4 percent of the total working population. And—hold your hats—the number of individuals toiling away past the age of 75 will account for 1.2 percent of the work force, or 2 million workers.

In 2005, 24 million, or 17 percent of all U.S. workers were over 55 and this is projected to surge to 38 million, or 24 percent of workers by the year 2017.

The positive aspects of a graying work force stand to include more flexible schedules, job sharing, telecommuting and less overtime, things working moms and dads have been requesting for years, but the real tipping point could be an aging work force.

An aging work force might also have other potential impact: videoconferencing could boom, as older workers find it harder to travel for business trips, as could a need for large screen computers and large-lettered keyboards to accommodate diminished eyesight.

Yet, IT—and in particular skilled software engineers—stands to be especially hard hit by impending labor shortages, as will aerospace, defense, the power industry and health care.
Furthermore, intergenerational conflicts in the workplace are expected to hit a fever pitch, as 69 percent of Baby Boomers anticipate working past retirement age, according to the AARP. Older workers may resent that they still can't afford to retire while younger workers may feel that they are being taken less seriously because of their age.

"It's like a train wreck in slow motion," Tamara Erickson, co-author of the "Work force Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent," told MSNBC about the impending shortage of workers and the challenges employers will face

How do we Christian leaders respond to the huge age wave? Close our eyes? Panic?

Nope, we need to join with others to creatively look at options and alternatives to a boring retirement or an exhausting new career.

Good News from Dr. K

My heart doctor is very conservative and I am very happy that he is. When I mentioned to him that I had experienced some tightness in my chest while exercising Dr. K iwas concerned. He mmediately told his assistant Mona to make an appointment for me to have another stress test with the nuclear camera.

I went under the chemicals last Wednesday and made it fine despite the discomfort. The last time my pumping heart rate was 52% and that is normal so I was hoping and praying for another good report. When the call came I was still in the good range at 50% and she affirmed me for passing the test. Praise the Lord!

I am extremely thankful for modern medicine and its attenuating technologies. Thanks to the men and women who have dedicated their lives to save lives and invent marvellous machines that aid them.

While lying on my back motionless for only 16 minutes that seemed like an hour under the million dollar nuclear camera that was examining my heart from so many different angles, I prayerfully thanked the nameless scientists and technicians who worked day and night to develop a machine to save the lives of millions of people, including mine.

I also thanked Dr. K and his team of docs and nurses, technicians and aides who smilingly dig through the data and fight the insurance companies to deliver me personally the very best health care in the world. I have been sick in Asia, Russia and Scandinavia and the care was good. But, as my cardiologist in Singapore said, "I will send you back to Ohio for the best care."

And, I thank God I can get care here in America. In many countries like England, Scandinavia, Canada and other countries with government sponsored medicine I would have had to wait six months or a year for care and even then may have been turned down because it was not considered to be serious enough to warrant a test.

And, I thank God for my Christian friends who petitioned heaven for a good report. They were successful.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The World is a Village

I have been overseas almost too many time to remember and I am amazed at the ways Americans still try to insulate themselves from the world. The USA has the largest and most healthy economy in the history of the planet. Our people are the richest and most blessed people ever to populate the world and we dominate every dimension of economics, education and creativity in the world.

Despite these facts I hear people continually bad mouth America and the opportunities it offers for us to succeed. We are at the beginning of the silly season called "the election cycle" in American politics so I know that crazy ideas intended to scare us are mouthed hypocritical and callous candidates every day. I am not shocked that many Americans are confused about the realities of our nation. However, even in the midst of all the political exaggerations, lies, rumors and nutty ideas one would expect the public to know a few basic truths about how things work.

I partly blame what we call "news reporters". I am not upset or surprised that many reporters have long ago thrown away any pretence of objectivity when discussing issues. Let's face it, what is called "the new school of journalism" has decided to place editorial comments into the middle of every "news report".

I do not mind that for I can smell the partisanship coming through and reject it. However, what I do detest is the ignorance of the media figure heads. Is there no reporter that understands Economics 101? Is there no media person that understands how capitalism and the free market operate? Have every single media talking head in the United States of America forgotten what harm Socialism did to Russia, Europe and the Eastern Bloc to say nothing of Cuba?

The review of Michael Moore's film, Sicko has a lot to commend it for the health care system in the USA is wobbly. The insurance system is set up to punish doctors and other health care workers as well as patients and to grossly reward the heads of insurance companies. Humana recently cut reimbursements over 20% while paying its President $15 Million Dollars. Al Capone could have learned from these guys.

But Sicko implies that health care in England and Europe is "free". No good or service anywhere on the planet is free . Now here is a place where any reporter that stayed awake in Econ 101 could do a great service to the readers or viewers. They could say, "How do you reckon that a service that costs patients a major part of their total income in taxes is free?" But the reporters lap up Moore's Cool Aid as if basic Economic principles had been made obsolete.

As a Christian citizen I try to stay alert to current events and educate myself about the principles that govern our universe. Economics has such principles and I do my best to understand those that are basic to life.

Scripture says that "God will not give us a big job until we prove we can handle a small job. Many of the current politicians obviously have never really done anything practical in their lives except go to school and play politics so how can they govern the nation?

Blogger Problems

Blogger told us all that we could add a poll to our blogs but it does not work. This means I am left with an ugly and misleading scar in the left hand corner of my posts with no way to take it off. I simply get an error message that says something like, "We know there is a problem but we do not know what to do about it.

That is not good news, so try to ignore the announcement about reasons why people divorce.

I am also trying to figure out how to upload bitmap photos but have not been successful so far. I want to post some pictures of my former bearded life.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Looking at the Past

A group of us from Dwelling Place Fellowship went to see the movie Hairspray this afternoon and it was a walk down memory lane to 1962.
Here I am on the left side with Karen and on the right side are brother Maury with his wife Angela in about 1962. Looking at those skinny ties and tight pants I can see Hairspray all over again. Man we were young back then. Just take a look at my dark hair!
Karen and I were married in 1961 and I graduated with a Master's Degree in 67.
We moved to Cincinnati in 67 a few weeks after our daughter was born on April 28. A lot was happening in our lives back then.
I attended a conference on Basic Encounter Groups with Dr. Carl Rogers at the Urbana Campus of the University of Illinois in 1969 and made a decision that changed my life: I grew a beard. I kept the beard for 16 years.

I will upload some pics with a beard as soon as it will work better.

A Note of Great Blessing

One of our "daughters" in Asia writes about the ways God is using her commitment to witness to others. She is the mother of two special needs children and the wife of a Pastor. Ask God to bless her and the family.

We started visiting ___ uncle soon after we heard that he was suffering from liver cancer. In the process of visiting him and his aged wife, we shared the gospel with them. Their response was "wait a little while more." Meantime, the Lord convicted me to call him every day to pray with him over the phone - in Cantonese - and speak the presence of God into his life. This was something I have done before, with another dying man last year, who spoke only Teochew, so it wasn't too difficult for me. Therefore I obeyed.

After a few weeks into praying with him over the phone, he started to utter "Praise the name of Jesus...Thank you Jesus." Still, he wasn't ready to receive Christ. Some weeks later, he was taken to the hospital because his cancer has worsened and he was in pain. Doctors said there is no more treatment, and his days are numbered. I again tried to ask him for his decision about Christ, he was still not ready, and his wife was strong against it, but both were wiling for us to pray with them.

In God's sovereign ways, He brought a lady, who happens to be the wife of a pastor in my previous church, into their path. She visited him two times and on the second visit, led him to make a decision for the Lordship of Christ. I was overjoyed! All those times of sowing has finally bore fruit!

The next day, we went to visit him and got to baptise him in front of his wife. We were amazed at how strong his faith was in the Lord. He was very certain of the decision he has made and he knows where he will be going when he dies.

I believe he has truly counted his cost before he decides to give his life to Jesus. We have been visiting him at the hospice and praying with him. I taught him to pray Ps 23. Recently, I asked him which is his favourite verse so that we can put that in the tablet to remember him. He chose v6 - "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!" Wow! He understands that the Lord is with him and to be with Him is the best thing. He told me he has no more worries because all things are in God's hands and he is prepared to meet the Lord. There is such a peaceful countenance in him despite his pain.

For his faith to come to this stage can only be credited to the work of God. This is a poor couple, whose only son has not honor them and is nowhere to be found. He bore such pain of not having his son with him in his dying days, but he told me he has a bigger family now - brothers and sisters in Christ (like us) whom he can call upon.

Pray for us that the Lord will take him home soon as he is all ready to meet the Lord. He is fed with very strong pain killer 24 hours a day. Pray that God will be merciful to him. I want to be around for his wake and funeral before we leave for our sabbatical. His wife has asked us to manage it as she and his siblings will have no idea how to run a Christian funeral. Pray with us that it will be a glorious time of seeing God's work in the lives of non-believing relatives.

I am impressed with this woman's commitment and strong follow through with her relatives. I have learned a lot from her and my other Chinese friends about the need to persevere in witnessing.

Staring at Mortality

Over the last two weeks I was given the gift of facing my own mortality, again. Several years ago I took a very hard look at my mortality after experiencing severe chest pains while on a flight to Singapore through Japan.

The short story about "flying the unfriendly skies to Asia" covers my having to return from Asia and get a thorough exam by Dr. Kereiakes at the Ohio Heart Center at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati. While lying uncomfortably on a very narrow steel table in the cath lab Dr. K and his minions shot some radio isotopes into my blood stream and then took xrays of my heart and arteries while I looked on from below the monitor.

It is a strange thing to look into a computer screen and see one's heart pumping away over 70 times each minute while a Physician is pointing to the areas of danger called blockages that can cause instant death if they break away and hit the heart. It may be routine to the doctor but not to the patient.

That ended in a stent inserted into one of my arteries and the pronouncement that I had lost about 1/3 of my heart muscle to some former unexplainable event. The docs all agree that once a muscle is damaged there are no medical cures only supernatural ones. I have regularly applied prayer to the hopeless region and found significant relief but more prayers are needed.

One of the blockages was in such a tight spot that a stent could not be applied. I take a daily pill to keep the arteries spread wider than nature intended so the blood can move around the dam caused by excess hamburgers. I take another pill to reduce future damming and exercise to keep the parts of my heart that are still healthy ticking strongly.

But recently I began experiencing some tightness in my chest and when I told Dr. K he immediately prescribed another nuclear stress test. More on those results later, but it was a great opportunity to face my mortality and my need for self care, again.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Pat Sikora: Another Generation of Teachers

Many years ago I had a training center on the west coast located in the San Mateo Presbyterian Church. During the several years we held LIFE Seminars at San Mateo many people came from all around the Western USA and learned about Listening, Renewed Thinking and Breaking Free From the Past. It was a wonderful few years filled with fun, fellowship and faithful followers of Jesus.

One of my favorite students was a mother and wife named Pat Sikora. She eagerly lapped up the knowledge and skills we offered and before long Pat was teaching others in California. Now Pat is a well known author and teacher with a speciality on small groups. Just go on Google and type in Pat Sikora and buy her books.

Mighty Oaks Ministry is one of her many ways to influence people. In a recent newsletter Pat mentions the things she learned at San Mateo.

Communicating with Empathy

Communication. It's the stuff of relationships, whether in the family, the church, your small group, or the workplace. It's also essential in helping people grow into the men and women God created them to be.

Unfortunately, as our society gets busier and the niceties of former days seem passe, communication can often be an obstacle to relationships rather than an asset. How can you develop the ability to be a more effective interpersonal communicator?

There are three core communication skills in healing relationships. I learned these many years ago from Gary Sweeten in a wonderful class that was then called Apples of Gold. He discusses it in the book, Listening For Heaven's Sake. These basic skills include empathy, warmth, and respect, which are essential before we can move into any form of helping relationship or any degree of intimacy.

We'll look at empathy in this issue, and warmth and respect in the next issue.

Empathy communicates an accurate understanding of the other person's needs, feelings, or ideas and is essential in interpersonal communication. Empathy shows our care and compassion for the other person, but it also helps them move toward health. Sympathy, on the other hand, simply brings the listener into the speaker's pity party.

Empathy does not say, "I know exactly how you feel." That's impossible. Even if we've experienced the same event, it's been screened through our own unique grid of emotions, personal history, and coping mechanisms. Rather, empathy says, "I understand what the issue is, and I believe I understand (or I want to) how you're feeling about it." An empathic response communicates an accurate perception of both the content of the issue and the speaker's feelings about that issue.

For example, your friend is ranting about not getting a coveted promotion at work. A strongly empathic response might be, "It sounds as if you're feeling angry because your boss passed you over for the promotion." The content is what happened--you were passed over for the promotion. The feelings are the person's response to the event--anger.

Read the rest Online

A Great Article on my Other Blog

Take a quick gander at the article by Time Magazine on rearing boys. Just click the link on Committed Couples and read away. If you have male children or grand children I think you will like it.

Karen and I had all three grand kids with us over the weekend and it was grand. As I read the Times story I was inspired to think of ways to support the development of strong males. (Don't worry about the girls. They are already strong.) Then we played putt putt yesterday and had a ball.

Next, we are getting a lot of feedback about our link to Love Deb Smith. Make sure you click on the link and get ready to be inspired. Michael Cristian, an old friend and student from the Jesus Movement, has put up a terrific blog that honors Tom and Deb and is giving us a model for 21st Century Ministry and Fellowship.

Michael and wife Linda are celebrating the arrival of their first grand child. WOW! Life will never be the same.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Not Everyone Affirms Seasoned Citizens

Over the past few years the Holy Spirit has been directing me to emphasize facilitating the healthy lives and work of Seasoned Citizens. I admit that it was a bit of a shock to read the "Letters to the Editor" section of the New York Times and discover that some folks think we who have lived for five or more decades should just shut up and die.

Take a look at the views of one Times' reader's attitude toward what he thinks of Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corps, the group that just bought Dow Jones.

July 31st,20074:42 am Murdoch may be “clever” in the business sense, but as a human being he’s both mentally deficient and morally deficient. He’s in the closing years of his life.

What on earth is the point of wasting precious time & energy grabbing more & more? After all, we’ll all be in the next world in the blink of an eye. What a waste, when he could be appreciating the magic of this extraordinary existence we’ve been given, Why, he could even be doing something that makes him feel like a human being, creating better conditions for those less fortunate.

By my book he’s really stupid, really thick. What a waste of an incarnation.— Posted by David Lewiston

Obviously Mr. Lewiston does not consider running a company that employs thousands of people and delivers the news to billions is not a worthy life nor is providing a salary and benefits to people really a good thing.

I do not know this gentleman, of course, but he seems to advocate a kind of socialist point of view that says only giving hand outs is doing something for the "less fortunate". I, on the other hand, am in awe of men and women whose creative minds and instincts are able to produce great institutions and organizations.

I strongly disagree with the notion that when one passes forty he or she should quit thinking and creating and quietly run off to a corner and die. Perhaps in the near future I will run a series on great things that people have done after what is generally considered their "prime".

Leaders Leave Legacies

Bill Walsh, a football coach best known for his leadership of the San Francisco Forty Niners, recently passed away. He leaves quite a legacy for innovation and creativity among football fans. However, as the Wall Street Journal notes, he showed Christians how important it is to follow Jesus' method of making disciples and not simply filling seats.

It was as a teacher, though, that Mr. Walsh had his greatest and most lasting influence on football. Unlike Lombardi, who left worshippers but no disciples, Mr. Walsh spawned an entire generation of acolytes. His defensive coordinator George Seifert won two Super Bowls with San Francisco; his offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren won one with Green Bay. Mr. Seifert's pupil Mike Shanahan, schooled in Mr. Walsh's methods, won two more with Denver.

Mr. Walsh's influence on football today is so pervasive that nearly 20 years after his final game, the Super Bowl has practically become an annual showcase for his adherents. This past February, Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy, a former player under Mr. Walsh, squared off against the Chicago Bears' Lovie Smith, who trained as an assistant to Dennis Green, once a Walsh receiver's coach.

That Messrs. Dungy and Smith were the first African-American coaches to reach the Super Bowl highlights perhaps Mr. Walsh's greatest legacy: In 1987, he helped create the Minority Coaching Fellowship Program. "I can tell you this," says Mr. Dungy, "his life was about much more than just X's and O's."

Mr. Barra writes about sports for The Wall Street Journal.

In today's church world we hear an awful lot about the importance of being big. Big churches, big conferences and big men on the church campuses. Mr. Walsh was a big man in his world who filled a lot of seats in football stadiums but as we see in the article above, he was much more.

Jesus' model of leadership was one of equipping and multiplication. If you are not raising up and rewarding men and women who are more gifted and experienced than you then you are not leading like Jesus no matter how many times you have read the book by that name.

Now is the time for Seasoned Believers to multiply there wisdom and influence.

The Most Dangerous Drugs

For the past forty years we have heard about the dangers of street drugs like cocaine, heroin and meth. There is no doubt that these drugs are both illegal and dangerous. However, alcohol still remains the most dangerous drug in the world.

A recent series on HBO covered the rather complex issues surrounding addictions and had this to say about treatment.

Which Treatment Should I Pursue?
A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D.

I am not sure I have a substance use problem Perhaps you have found yourself drinking or using more than you intended, or you have had an accident or social problem associated with your alcohol or drug use, or you have friends or family who have been worried about your use.

Option 1

Try to reduce or quit yourself. Experts have set guidelines that can help you determine if you have a problem. In the case of alcohol, drinking more than four drinks in a day, 14 in a week is considered "heavy drinking" for men.

Women who have more than three drinks in a day, 11 in a week fall into this category. If many of your friends drink this much, it may be difficult for you to drink less and still be around them.

Try drink-reducing strategies such as having a drink of water or soda between alcoholic drinks; or taking only the amount of cash that you wish to spend at a bar and not using credit cards. Other strategies include making a contract with yourself for use only at planned days and time periods. The Internet offers many other reduction strategies. Regardless of your strategy, keep the alcohol guidelines in mind - and be honest. If you find you cannot keep within these guidelines it may mean you need additional help.

Many people think if they drink only beer and do not drink what we call "hard liquor" they cannot have a drinking problem. That is not true. Beer is as dangerous as whiskey.

It is especially important for parents to be careful when they drink. Many accidents are the result of a couple of beers and kids also pick up the habit of seeing alcohol as an answer to stress.

For several years I struggled with a drinking problem. I finally quit when God touched my life. However, I was still deeply addicted to smoking. I could not quit until the Lord used the birth of my daughter Julia to convince me that seeing her grow up was more important than a drag of nicotine. I immediately stopped doing that drug as well as alcohol and I am much better off for it as are my kids.

If a family member or friend has warned you to stop or reduce your drinking, you have a problem. If you have failed at managing it yourself, find some place to get help. AA is a good place to begin.

If you are married to a problem drinker, go to Al Anon. Get help for your self.

Stop being a slave to drugs. Alcohol and nicotine are drugs.