Posted in Musings and Reflections

Awaiting 2020

last night
after i dropped him off
and made sure he was
comfortable in his room
i returned
through the fog
my world
like his
now smaller
a mass of white
revealed only
bit by bit
by going slow

i missed my turn off
confused by the changes
wrought by the mist
places once familiar
no longer
the lights adding
to my blindness
yet gradually
i found my
way home

i know not what
the new year holds
the next stop
on the journey
hidden within
the fog of
the not yet
faith keeps me
on the road
the answer
found perhaps
in my love for an
aging man
sitting alone
in a small

Posted in Musings and Reflections

The Labors of a Parent

Showing them when they can’t perceive it.
Pushing them when they can’t achieve it.
Crying for them when they can’t grieve it.
Removing it from them when they won’t leave it.
Helping them when they won’t receive it.
Having faith in them when they don’t believe it.

Posted in Longreads and Essays

Swiss Cheese, the Brain, and Alcohol

I am a big fan of Swiss cheese. There is an especially excellent type of baby Swiss that I get when I visit my family in Ohio. I did some research and found out that a gassy bacteria makes the holes in Swiss cheese. Once the bacteria is added to the cheese mixture and warmed, bubbles of carbon dioxide form. These bubbles become holes in the final product. Cheesemakers can control the size of the holes by changing the acidity, temperature, and curing time of the mixture. Now what you may ask does Swiss cheese have to do with drinking alcohol?

A normal healthy brain is smooth with very few ridges. Some ridges appear as we age. However, research shows that heavy drinking (of alcohol) exacerbates this process and creates a significant amount of ridges, valleys, and yes, holes in the brain. This hinders speech, coordination and the brain’s ability to learn.

What constitutes heavy drinking? A male heavy drinker consumes more than 3 drinks per day for 30 days. For women, the number is 2 per day. One drink is usually defined as a serving of spirits, a glass of wine, or a container of beer. A recent study of heavy social drinkers found similar amounts of brain damage and impairment as hospitalized alcoholics.

The effects of alcohol on the brain are even more pronounced for young people. The 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that almost 30% of West Virginia high school students engaged in episodic heavy (or binge) drinking. This is defined as consuming 5 or more drinks on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month. Because their brains are still developing, young people are more vulnerable to incurring severe damage to the brain as a result of heavy drinking. This increases the likelihood of the aforementioned ridges and holes appearing in the brain.

The hippocampus, the part of the brain that affects judgment, is especially vulnerable. As a result, a youth under the influence is more likely to make risky decisions, including engaging in violence, sexual activity or drinking and driving. Alcohol-related fatalities are the leading cause of death among teens, accounting for more than 5000 deaths in the US each year. But it is preventable.

If you are a parent of a teen, talk to them about the dangers of drinking alcohol. If you are a heavy drinker, set an example by reducing your consumption. If you have alcohol in your home, make sure it is not easily accessible to youth. Never provide alcohol to or purchase it for minors. Help protect youth and their beautiful minds from the dangers of alcohol.

Swiss cheese is delicious, but nobody wants one for a brain.

August 25, 2008

(Perhaps you are wondering why an article on alcohol on a peace-oriented blog. Hopefully this stat will help: 60% to 80% of all violent crime is alcohol-related.)


Posted in Longreads and Essays

Witness For Peace

In advocating for more peaceful play among children, especially boys, I realize that I have gotten stuck.

I keep searching for data that backs up my claim that violent play creates violent children, or at least their greater acceptance of violence within our society. Like anyone advocating for societal change, I gather facts to back up my claim. The research is out there but the other side claims they have conflicting data, and then the argument can quickly degenerate into little more than “he said, she said.”

I played such games when I was a boy and look at me. I grew up fine. Heck, I’m writing a Peace blog!

I had bottle rocket wars with my former bully turned friend (see my earlier post). My cousins and I had rubber band gun battles (guns made by my conservative Mennonite grandfather nonetheless – a subject for another post). Another buddy and I would blow up military plane models with firecrackers (though I did gather the pieces, take them home, and try to reassemble them with paint and cardboard). My cousins and I played many marathon games of Risk long into the early hours of day (we did tell our aunts and uncles when they questioned us that we were missionaries spreading the Gospel to the world – another future blog post subject). I played various violent video games, from the early Atari attempts to those on the PC.

While such boyhood war games did not keep me from being the peacemaker that I am trying to be, I do believe that they had an influence on why I am still attracted to violent stories in the newspaper, why I am fascinated by war, why the fires of rage still threaten to rise up from within. I am still far from the peaceful man that I wish to be.

But even if I was the gentlest soul on earth, my actions and insides unaffected by my “just doing what boys do,” I realize now that there is another reason for parents, youth, and children to say no to such play.

It is called being a witness.

This is especially critical for those of us in the Peace Church tradition. With this country engaged in two wars, what does it say to our neighbors when our children play war? When congress is in the midst of budget battles and still refuses to reduce the military budget, what does it say when we purchase military-style toys? When the nation uses drones to kill from a distance, what does it say when our children use a joystick to kill some enemy on a screen? Is it any wonder that children who are traumatized by violence are confused when they see their friends and family shooting each other with Nerf guns and Laser beams?

Numerous religious voices in our society are increasingly asking we Anabaptists to be a louder alternative voice. Our faith history has given us a unique perspective. Speak out! they say. Martyr’s Mirror is a testimony to the many who gave their lives for the Faith rather than kill someone to save themselves or another. And we can’t even tell a child “No,” let alone articulate why we need to be different? This great cloud of witnesses is around us wondering what happened to our witness.

It’s time for Mennonite parents to stop making excuses. It is time for Mennonite youth to stop trying to be like everyone else. It is time for Mennonite churches to stop watering down the peace and justice message under the illusion that it is somehow separate from the Gospel.

Play time is over. Violent play that is.

In twenty years, will the assimilation of the Mennonite church into mainstream Evangelicalism be complete? Or will a new generation have been raised up that is truly at peace with being peacemakers?

I don’t know. I’m just a blogger. But I hope so.

God, I hope so.

“But where you hear of a poor, simple, cast-off little flock, which is despised and rejected by the world, join them.” – Anna of Rotterdam , p. 453-454

 “If you sin by not stepping up and offering yourself as a witness to something you’ve heard or seen in cases of wrongdoing, you’ll be held responsible.” Leviticus 5:1 (The Message)

Posted in The Sunday Driver: Life in the Slow Lane

Walking Dogs. Crucifixion. Parenting.

In the morning soon after I have had an intense conversation with my teenage son I take our two Retrievers on our daily morning walk. At one point I stand my arms outstretched with a leash in each hand and the dogs pulling in opposite directions to sniff or do their business. The sun is behind me and I look down to see my shadow crucified upon the sidewalk. And I think such is the business of responsible parenting.

It is being caught in the middle of the constant pull of two directions – the Yes and the No. Allowing the child to do some things but staying firm on the things that he/she is not allowed to do. And staying firm amid the constant barrage of the ongoing advocacy for a change. It is teaching the child to be content, to wait, in the midst of a consumer society that is based on the premise that we must be discontent otherwise we will not buy the latest product.

The dogs move on. We walk for awhile until the next straining episode. I stand firm because if I do not I could be dragged and hurt. Or if I give up and release the leashes then the dogs run and could be hurt too. So I stand, muscles tense, crucified.

There are no guarantees that my children will make it to the other side of childhood. But I must do all I can even if they complain bitterly and their words feel like nails in my flesh. I do not always know and do what is best but I do try to know and do what is right.

That is enough. Regardless what the future holds there is ample grace for the journey. Resurrection is coming. With that thought the dogs and I make the final turn around the block and head towards home.

Posted in WWJP? What Would Jesus Play?

What Game Console Should I Buy My Child? One Parent’s Answer: None

In my previous post, The New Virtual Babysitter, I mentioned my concern with the arrival of portable game systems and whether parents should be buying such systems for their children. One thing to add here is that at a recent conference I attended a leading expert on children with Attachment Issues stated unequivocally that these children especially should not have portable game systems because it is addictive for them. (I would also caution parents to buy a system that either does not have wifi capability or has major controls to protect children from online predators and porn).

I was also impressed with the following article by a lifelong gamer now parent as he struggles with the decision whether to buy his child a game sytem. Here is the article “Should Kids Play Games?”