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People sometimes think they can make it alone. But it’s not so. Human beings are first, last, and always social creatures.

In the extreme, people who think they can do it alone end up freaky weird. Think Howard Hughes, Bobby Fischer, or the Unabomber.

People need interaction, certainly for emotional wellbeing but also for achievement. Sure, there are great works of art or literature that are the products of one genius. But even they didn’t spring forth fully formed and fully able to produce. They had to learn, to be nurtured, to grow and to grow up. Someone, more often, some many, invested in them.

God created us for communion with him. Then he created others for our companionship and community. First Adam, then Eve, then the family, and then the human race.

Cultures vary. There’s the individualistic West and the communal or collective East, and there’s strengths and weaknesses to both. But even in the West’s frontier-forged independence we still needed each other then and now. Even our legends, Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, had sidekicks. Even our heroes like Teddy Roosevelt didn’t charge up San Juan Hill alone. Nor did the Greatest Generation, with more than it’s share of heroes, win WWII one at a time.

Scripture says, “For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:7-8). We belong to the Lord and are positioned as regents in his creation.

So despite Simon and Garfunkel’s pithy phrase, “I am a rock, I am an island,” we’re really not. Even their final poignant lyric doesn’t fit human beings and human experience: “And a rock feels no pain; And an island never cries.” We’re neither rocks nor islands. We do feel pain and we do cry.

So going it alone in some kind of macho misperception is an enormous mistake. People only go it alone when greed, pride, hurt, or arrogance overcome them.

Even the Lone Ranger didn’t go it alone. He had has faithful Tonto.

One can be lonely in a crowd, I know. This is a by-product of modernity. People live amongst millions in relative angst and alienation. It’s a sad life because it is not a “normal” life.

If one is a Christian he or she need never be alone. Indeed Christians are not and cannot be alone for the Holy Spirit of God indwells us (1 Corinthians 3:16). Yet many believers seem to act as if they are alone. This too is a sad life.

Friendship, relationships, companionship, a good marriage, fellowship, these are powerful enabling concepts. They are gifts of God. Seek such things. Nurture them. They make life livable, enjoyable, and fruitful.

I don’t want to be a rock. I don’t want to be an island. I don’t even want to be the Lone Ranger. I want us, not just me.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Drinking too much has been around as long as, well, “drinking.” This is particularly true for young people under the legal drinking age of 21 years.

But there’s a new development afoot that’s causing more concern than too much beer on the weekend ever did. It’s called extreme drinking, which is sometimes assumed synonymous with binge drinking and sometimes presented as another notch beyond that. Extreme drinking is increasing rapidly and dangerously among high school and college age students.

Extreme drinking is often built upon drinks like Jungle Juice, a mixture of hard liquor, fruit juices, and, sometimes, high caffeine energy drinks. It makes adolescents drunk quicker and cheaper, which is part of its youthful appeal.

Researchers have demonstrated that teens don’t drink like adults, which means they don’t drink a glass over a meal or social drink at a party. Instead, 90% of all teen drinking is binge drinking. Four beers for women and five for men consumed within an hour is the standard definition of binge drinking, a both-gender issue.

Caffeine in alcoholic drinks apparently makes them more dangerous because the caffeine can keep a person awake and drinking long after the drinker might typically have fallen asleep. And hard liquor is being used more often than beer in drinking games like beer pong.

The problem with underage extreme drinking: more injuries, more fatalities, more sexual aggression by the drinker or sexual abuse of the drinker, and a 40-60% higher likelihood the underage drinker, beginning early, will become an alcoholic in later years.

I don’t consider drinking a sin, as some of my conservative Christian friends do. But I don’t drink as a matter of choice, as more and more of my Christian friends are doing—in fact, I’d say the number that don’t drink has dropped precipitously and rapidly in the past thirty years. But that’s another subject.

Binge or extreme drinking is something else again. The attraction is anyone’s guess, though youth who participate talk about getting drunk without having to taste the drink—an odd thought to me—and about their perception of fun, which they indicate can’t happen without senses-deadening, ear-splitting noise and getting hammered. Psychologists talk about a sense of belonging for which people search during youth or a sense of alienation from the world with its concomitant desire for escape, even if for just a few hours.

I think recent increases in extreme drinking are not about kids just being kids or young ones sowing wild oats. This is a danger sign and a warning. For all their lack of innocence, youth today are still naïve about the long-term consequences of what in 2008 candidate Barack Obama called “youthful indiscretions.”

Youth have always been youth, meaning they get into trouble experimenting their way to adulthood. But the trouble they can get into today is exponentially more dangerous than it used to be. Indiscretions used to give youth hangovers and from time to time a pregnancy. Now indiscretions can leave youth with lifetime addictions or serious maladies like STDs. Or worse still, indiscretions can kill them outright. Extreme drinking brings all these probabilities with it.

Drinking education programs in schools can help but aren’t the real answer. We need something more powerful and we have it.

For all their presumed and postured rebellion against adults, youth still largely take their cues from adults. It seems youth want adult supervision, that’s part of the "belonging," even when they reject it. Until youth see adults sharing different attitudes about alcohol use and abuse and until adults use alcohol more wisely, I don’t think much will change in youth drinking patterns. So what the kids need are grownups in the group, adults who are mature in attitudes and behaviors.

It’s a tough world out there. Time for grownups to grow up, take charge, model good behavior, and don’t be afraid to set boundaries, stay engaged, and tough love kids into adulthood, especially in terms of alcohol abuse. The risks and rewards are high. Not doing this could mean youth never see adulthood. Adults getting involved with kids in terms of extreme drinking can mean kids live long and prosper.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Hong Kong Kitchen!~!

Years ago, I mean really early in our marriage, The Good Wife and I went out to eat at a restaurant serving Chinese. At the time I was still a “meat and potatoes” kid not too far from Smalltown, USA with its nearby farm. Beef, mashed potatoes, or hamburgers and fries, or Midwest “normal food.”

I didn’t grow up eating Chinese, so oriental fare wasn’t on my list of culinary delights. Consequently, I wasn’t sure what I was doing in a foreign restaurant. Parochial, I know, but that was me.

This was also about the time other professionals began to invite me to various places for lunch or dinner as part of my work. Invariably I’d end up in some restaurant serving food I thought was suspicious at best. What could I order and eat if I didn’t like anything in the restaurant?

Then The Good Wife rescued me. When we went out to eat that time, someplace she wanted to go that made me uncomfortable—but of course I went to please her—she said, “You should identify one type of meal you like in each kind of restaurant. Then, if you get invited to that kind of restaurant you’ll always know there’s one thing you can order that you like and you’ll enjoy yourself.”

Man, why didn’t I think of that? But I didn’t. Which goes to show you why the Lord said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Since that day long ago I have learned to like many different kinds of food. I even like Chinese. Though I am still not an adventurous eater, much less a “foody.”

But whatever, no matter where I go I know by now that there’s at least one type of meal in that restaurant that I can order, eat, and like.

This may not seem like much. But it protected me from something else I’ve seen: being inflexible and possibly rude in terms of food and eating.

I’ve been in groups where most people suggested going to a certain kind of restaurant, only to have one person announce they won’t go there—because they “don’t like” that restaurant or “won’t go in” that restaurant. To which I am tempted to say, “So what? What about all the others who want to go there?”

This is not a big deal and adults can generally handle the situation. But I’m still amazed sometimes when I hear people weigh-in with their exclusive preference, seemingly utterly oblivious of everyone else. Oh well, that’s their problem.

The Good Wife taught me how to avoid at least one potential and unnecessary problem in my life, for which I salute her. My manners and etiquette are the better for her advice.

Want to go out for Chinese?

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Who doesn’t think the Japanese are an amazing people and culture? You have to hand it to them. Here’s a people whose history includes Hiroshima and Nagasaki and now Sendai and Fukushimaearthquake, tsunami. And with it has come missing persons, nuclear radiation, food and housing shortages, economic upheaval, not to mention destruction, devastation, disease, and death. Still, the Japanese soldier on.

“Ganbarimasu”—in Japanese it means “We must give it our best,” or something close to that. This word has become their quiet and dignified mantra. They work, they reach out, they don’t complain, and they don’t loot. They don’t loot? Amazing. Nuclear power plant workers have rightly become international heroes, a new set of first responders who are continuing to respond with long hours in what are likely suicidal conditions. These men do their duty, but they will not reach old age. Ganbarimasu.

The Japanese have always been known for the strength of their kinship culture. They are about community much more than the highly individualized and individualistic West. Sure, their culture isn’t perfect. There are some genuine concerns: issues like women’s place in family and society, underground sexuality, religious fatalism.

But the West has its problems too. Negatives shouldn’t cause us not to appreciate or admire positives. The Japanese are an industrious, frugal, incredibly hard working, educated, and honorable people. They’re proving it time and again in the face of crisis.

Ganbarimasu is something the West could stand to rediscover. Ours is a culture often captured by materialism, relativism, and narcissism. These aren’t good "Isms.” They weaken us individually and collectively. Certainly “The Greatest Generation,” ironically a generation that met the Japanese in World War, understood how to give it their best. But I don’t think subsequent generations, including the Baby Boomers to which I belong, can claim we’ve always given our best.

I wish the Japanese well. I pray for their culture, country, and individual characters. I hope they can cap the Fukushima nuclear radiation threat soon, and I hope they can rebuild with strength and optimism.

I wish and pray the same for the West in general and America specifically. I hope we learn by watching the Japanese. I hope we experience a resurrection of Ganbarimasu.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Some people are born encouragers.  But the rest of us have to learn how to be encouraging to others. In the Bible, the word "encouragement" comes from a military term meaning "to strengthen, harden, or uplift." Encouragement means to meet people where they are and help them along to where they want to be or ought to be.

Usually we think of encouraging people who are "down." Friends who are experiencing some difficulty like financial pressures, interpersonal relationship problems, a mid-life crisis, or maybe family troubles. These kinds of problems are what the Apostle James called "divers temptations."

People need encouragement when they're going through tough times, but people also need encouragement when things are seemingly going very well. If you think not many people call or write when things are going poorly, just think how few call or write when everything appears to be on a roll.

The Book of Acts tells us about Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, who the apostles called "Barnabas," which means "Son of Encouragement." Later we read that Barnabas encouraged the Christians at Antioch, and he's described as "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith" (Acts 11:24). Later still, when Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement, it's Barnabas who stands by the young Mark, who Paul thought spiritually weak but in whom Barnabas saw some good. Barnabas lived up to his name.

I’d like to develop my Barnabas-skills, and I’d encourage each of you to be a Barnabas. Give someone today what I call the "Barnabas Salute." That can be a call, a note, a pat on the back. You can salute people you know or even people you don't know who are standing for biblical ideals.

Giving people a Barnabas Salute is an encouragement to them. But guess what, it's an encouragement to you too.

 

"The Barnabas Salute," #109 from the Making a Difference program. Originally recorded April 25, 1994.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.