Doing Life Together

entrance-3187259_1920Maybe you’ve heard a friend or a college student talk about a night of binge drinking. They tell you they started to party and threw down a number of drinks within an hour or two. And this behavior can lead a person to risky sexual behavior, violence and even car accidents. Episodic binge drinking is a problem that approximately 20% of all U.S. adults do according to data reported in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

For men, a binge consistes of 5 or more drinks. For women, the number is 4 or more. Both occur within a 2-hour span. The gender differences have to do with how men and women metabolize alcohol differently. The common age of binge drinkers is between 18- 34 years old. But the 35+ age group accounts for more than half of all binge drinkers. And as you might guess, this behavior may indicate an alcohol problem even though many people think it is a normal part of  partying behavior. In reality, binge drinkers have been associated with alcohol-related problems and legal, medical and social problems as well. When this type of drinking becomes a pattern over time, it is serious.

So how can someone tempted by binge drinking prevent this?

  1. Slow down and drink water to rehydrate. Order a non-alcoholic drink if you are with partiers. This also slows down absorption of alcohol. And eating food along with the drinks also helps.
  2. Assess the amount you are drinking. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports these sizes as a standard drink: Beer -12oz; Wine -5 oz; distilled spirits -1.5 oz. So if you are a partier who drinks 3-16oz pints of beer, you have binged (same as 4 beers). The amount of alcohol in the drink matters.
  3. Some people think they can drink an energy drink to help lower the effects of the alcohol, but this doesn’t work. The caffeine will keep you awake longer but you are still drunk!
  4. Best advice: Don’t engage in this behavior. You can still have fun with people without becoming intoxicated. If you can’t, it is a wake up call to work on your social skills. This isn’t harmless fun–too risky in terms of consequences and health.

man-2734073_1280Our relationships with chronic pain –how we think about it and engage with it–can be healthy or unhealthy, just like our relationship with people. We may not be able to completely stop pain, but we can learn to relate to it in ways that reduce it.

Chronic, or what we call persistent pain, is ongoing or recurrent. It lasts beyond the usual course of acute illness or injury healing, more than the usual 3 to 6 months that it might take an acute pain to heal. And because it is persistent, it affects your well-being. Think of chronic pain as pain that continues when it should not.

To help us think about chronic pain, the American Chronic Pain Association has a great visual. Chronic pain can feel like a car with four flat tires. It feels like you are going nowhere. When medical treatment is used alone, it may only inflate one of those tires. We need all 4 tires to be inflated so our car can run smoothly. Much can be done to get your car moving again– to manage pain and lead a productive, satisfying, and happy life.  A combination of therapies and interventions is usually needed. Then once we fill the tires and get our car moving again, the car needs to keep moving down the road of life.

While all of us would probably opt to eliminate chronic pain, the goal for pain management is not complete absence of pain—the goal is to realize you will have less pain, still feel some, but can learn to manage it in a way that allows you to live and do what you need to do. The goal of pain management is to increase function, improve quality of life and reduce your sense of suffering. Because we are not promised a pain free life on this side of eternity, we may have to learn ways to reduce pain. And there are many ways to reduce the volume of pain that I will discuss in another blog.

It may not seem like our suffering matters to God, but He is acquainted with our suffering via his death on the cross. We can see in the Bible that Christ Himself had a boundless compassion for those who suffered and healed multitudes of ill people. He healed everyone he touched, but he didn’t touch everyone. I find that so interesting and yet so mysterious. Jesus had to know people were in pain around him. Yet he didn’t heal everyone on earth who suffered—He only did what the Father willed him to do. I don’t pretend to understand that at all. The take away for me is that in our world, there will be pain and suffering and we won’t always understand it.

Suffering can grow our faith if we approach it in an honest way with God. When people suffer, there can be a deepening in their walk and a new  intimacy with God.  That is the story of Job (Job 42:5).! He knew God in an intimate way after all his suffering.  When we suffer, there seems to be an opening of our soul and a cry for God’s help in our lives. We tend to experience God at a deeper level.

Pain and suffering have a way of bringing our strengths and weaknesses to the surface. God often purifies and refines us to be His radiant bride through suffering. Pain can produce growth and maturity in our Christian walk if we trust God even when it hurts. Thomas Merton noted that when God seems absent, we don’t realize His presence. Those difficult moments of darkness in our souls can lead us to depend on God’s power, not our own.

Living with pain in our fallen world isn’t easy. We can know the biblical truth that God has not left us or forsaken us, but have to trust Him in order to avoid hopelessness and anger. And we need to encourage each other in that truth. We suffer after the cross, not before it, which means we participate in the suffering of Christ. The way of Christ is suffering, but then glory. One day all pain will be gone and we will see him face to face. In the meantime, fight the good fight, pray for strength and do what you can to lessen your pain.


portrait-3174985_1280Parents, stay up to date. There is a new device called the Juul that doesn’t look like an e-cigarette but is. It is a vaping device. You might see it and not know that it is not a USB drive for your teen’s computer. The device looks like a USB drive, is easy to use without being detected because the vapor can be hidden and the smell is not like cigarettes. You can plug it in to a laptop to recharge. Students are using it in bathrooms, the library and under their desk in class. The problem has become so big in some schools that USB drives have been banned. On line, look for #doit4juul.

When polled, many teens are not aware they are using nicotine when they juul because of the sweet flavors. This is not a harmless device as it contains a pod of nicotine juice that is favored in a fruit or other flavor like creme brûlée. The device heats the nicotine to be vaped. The company claims it was developed to help adult smokers quit.

You must be 21 to buy it, but it is showing up in high schools across America. Why, because like cigarettes, teens can use those fake IDs, get it from a friend or buy it at a gas station where the attendant isn’t paying attention. But because it contains nicotine, it can lead to addiction. It is attracting users because the of the flavor of the vape and the hit in your head that feels good from the nicotine. However,  eventually this leads to tolerance and needing more. Just like a cigarettes smoker, the teen needs more which leads to addiction.  And as a point of information–each pod contains the same as a pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs, meaning this is more than double of most vaping products. The FDA says it is just as harmful as cigarettes.

The teenage brain is underdeveloped and vulnerable to addiction and can have long term impacts on memory and learning. We know that if a teen is exposed to nicotine before adulthood, the chances of becoming a smoker are greatly increased. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. it is a difficult addiction to kick. And regarding respiratory health, here is what the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care has to say. Teens who vape are more likely to have persistent cough, bronchitis, congestion and phlegm than nonsmokers.

Here are a few signs to look for:

  • Increased thirst
  • Nosebleeds
  • New sensitivity to caffeine

Talk to your teens and let them know this is another device that can lead to addiction and mess up their teen brain and respiratory health. The lure of this being a cool thing to do comes with a price of possible addiction. And the flavors of the vape make it more appealing than cigarette smoke but the affect is just as harmful and a tempting way to get teens hooked on nicotine.


school-417612_1280I was fascinated with a recent documentary series in which the producers followed 7 adults, ages 21 to 26, as they posed as students at Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kansas, during the spring 2017 semester. The series aired on A &E and was entitled, Under Cover High. The idea was to know and document what high school is really like today. Is it that different than say 5-10 years ago? The under cover students said, “Yes.”

Here are six important findings that came out of filming documentary. Some may surprise you.

  1. Cell phone use is rampant and teens are constantly connected. Social media has become a game changer in high school. It pressures and distracts teens from the real task of learning. Even though school policies are to not be on cell phones, students disregarded the policies and teachers had difficulty enforcing cell phone use. Clearly, school administrators must provide guidelines and expectations to students and parents regarding cell phone use. They must enforce them consistently.
  2. Bullying and cyberbullying remain a huge problem and are difficult to manage. Here is what one of the under cover students said, “Now it can be one person has an issue with one person and everybody else chimes in, and by the time it gets to the next day someone wants to fight, someone’s not going to school, someone is threatening suicide. It took something singular, granular even, and it’s just ballooned over night until it becomes a major issue.”
  3. Girls are constantly pressured to share sexual pictures of themselves. And then they wait for a social media rating on their photos. This is the one that surprised me. The sexual pressures put on girls are enormous. One of the under cover students was an attractive Hispanic girl. The first day of school, she received social media messages from boys wanting to have sex with her. So parents, talk to your girls and boys about boundaries, responding to sexual messages and posting. What they share is permanent and can’t be retrieved. And they need help resisting this type of peer pressure.
  4. Students struggle with depression in record numbers. Part of this is related to social media use and defining who they are though image and peer-based reactions. Add to this the pressure to wear the right clothes and look a certain way with the normal angst of teen living  — all of this pressure can lead to depression. Bullying, as mentioned above, is a factor in this as well. When students don’t feel they live up to social media images, they can develop depression.
  5. Teen pregnancy doesn’t have the stigma it once did and is much more supported in high school. The under cover agents noticed an openness about having children out of wedlock and more school services to support those moms who chose to have their babies. The reality of “safe sex” is that it is not always safe. But supporting a teen through a pregnancy  helps the young woman finish her education.
  6. The need for human connection is missing. Despite all the cyber connections to people, real time relationships have been lost. Teens want adults to understand them and see what they are facing. Teens need our guidance. But we have to tune into their world and take the time to listen.

High school has rapidly changed given the use of technology and new pressures that our teens face. Talk to your teen about the unique stress and pressures they face. Help them mold their identity with your influence and relationship connection. Parents remain the most important influence in a teen’s life.