Sunday, November 28, 2010


This blog, 12 Steps And A Winding Road, is intended to be about "life, love, and addiction issues".

I think this subject of "Cutting" falls into this category in a big way....

My pastor's daughter, Laura Rink, did a presentation at our church regarding the issue of people who cut themselves. She was exposed to this after spending time this past summer at a camp for troubled teens.... as a counselor,... not a troubled teen. (Thought I should clear that up before I had to backtrack and undo some damage there)... :-)

God bless Laura for having a heart to be a counselor. It's a tough struggle. Most folks don't want to be "counseled".... thus, the challenge with the entire concept....

When I was getting my degree in drug and alcohol counseling, this issue of "cutting" never came up. It was never on the radar, but I think it falls right in there with all "addiction" issues and the underlying problems, along with the solutions, share much similarity.

If you have teenagers, or are around any teenagers, more than likely there is a connection to this issue of cutting. It's becoming more and more prevalent in this post-modern era.

Laura's source of information, besides the experience at the camp, is taken from a book by Nancy Alcorn, published in 2007.

If this is a problem for you or someone in your immediate family or circle of friends, I would recommend that you rush out and get a copy of the book!....

In my next couple of blogs I will try to loosely cover some of the salient aspects of this disturbing phenomenon...

"Cutting".... defined as doing "self-harm".... a deliberate, impulsive harming of the body, mostly done in secret and often hard to detect. Most cutters cut themselves in areas of their bodies that aren't likely to be exposed... to friends... parents... teachers.... the public.

Can also be symptomized by:

1. The cutting itself

2. A constant scratching as a response to psychic pressure or unexpected circumstances which cause stress. Also, picking at scabs and preventing the healing process from taking place.

3. Burning the skin on a regular basis with erasers, fire, or small heat-conducting objects.

4. Punching the body, including beating the head against walls or other inanimate objects.

5. Biting the inside of the mouth or the skin of the arms, hands or legs.

6. Pulling hair out.. including eyelashes and eyebrows.

7. Breaking bones or severely bruising the body.

What's behind this type of behavior?

Destructive emotions


Past or present abuse

Family dysfunction



Many of you might notice that these are some of the same issues that drive drug addiction and alcoholism, even sexual addiction.

Why do some people.... drink excessively..... take drugs....Involve themselves in destructive sexual behaviors...... "cut themselves"...... ?

The answer is: (drum roll please).......Because it feels good.

To most people this may seems like an incongruent answer, but it is an accurate one nonetheless.

As I stated in a previous blog... the human condition can be defined fairly simply... to "pursue" pleasure.... and to "avoid" pain.

The key in understanding addiction is to understand that there is more than just one type of pain. There's the "physical" pain we're all familiar with. Then, there is the "emotional" pain that we all go through on some level. Most of us who aren't addicts have better coping mechanisms to deal with psychic pain. Live is always painful on some front, in varying degrees of severity.

To the person who cuts themselves, the physical pain of mutilating the body is actually a release from a deeper, "psychic" pain, ... perhaps a pain that is so deep that it can't be "felt", (at least in the normal way we think about feelings), it has to come out in some other way other than a typical way of coping, the way life is dealt with by most people.

Just as the addict or alcoholic is using drugs and/or alcohol, the act of "cutting" actually feels better than the internal pain. Over time, this release of emotion becomes a continual thing, leading to addiction.

I've had heroin addicts tell me that part of the joy of getting "high" is actually the use of the needle. Most folks shudder at the thought of getting a shot, where the drug addict has taken the feeling of the poke of the needle on the skin and deeply associated it with the high of the drug. Addiction is indeed, cunning and baffling...

This is a pretty heavy issue. I will continue to try and convey some more information about this issue in my next blog.

In the meantime, like I said at the beginning,... IF you know someone who is experiencing this, or you are experiencing it yourself,... run, don't walk... and get a copy of the book "CUT" by Nancy Alcorn. You will need this information to move forward in getting help for yourself, a friend, or a loved-one.....

Thanks Laura, for bringing this issue to my attention and allowing me to make use of some of your material to convey this message to my readers...

You can find websites for the book by doing a search on Google and putting in the words "CUT' and "Nancy Alcorn"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Confession Booth Part 2

"I like your Christ. I don't not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

The statement above has been attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.

I don't know for sure whether he said it or not... but I'm sure it's been said somewhere, at some time, or at least the sentiment expressed by more than just a handful of people.

Last week I talked about my experience at one of the performing rights organizations. If you aren't familiar with it you should leap back a week and read it.

It's too easy for me to judge someone based on one single, isolated experience. Everyone has their bad days. It seems some folks, myself included have their share of bad days, .. even bad weeks.
There is an old bumper sticker that says, "I'm not perfect,... just forgiven".

Personally, I never liked that sentiment, for I think it is a backhanded way of making an excuse for the way we live and act and treat other people. I know that when I am offended by someone, having them tell me, "Hey, I'm not perfect.... I'm just forgiven"... just makes me want to slap them around.
"I'm so happy that GOD has forgiven you!.... Now, maybe He'll forgive me for the way I'm about to dance on the top of your head!".....

I picked up a copy of a book written by Donald Miller. The book is called, "Blue Like Jazz". I bought it because I really liked the title. My brother was a great Jazz musician and played the saxophone. He was amazing.
Anyway, the forward to the book reads:

"I never liked Jazz music because Jazz music doesn't "resolve". But I was outside the Baghdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.
After that, I liked Jazz.
Sometimes you have to watch someone love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.
I used to not like God because God didn't "resolve." But that was before any of this happened.".....

Donald Miller was a Christian who decided that, instead of taking the familiar Bible College route to education, he was going to attend one of the most secular universities in the U.S.
Each year at this college they shut down the campus for a weekend so that the students can party... get drunk, get stoned, get naked... whatever. (Now, some of you are saying, "Where IS this college... I want to go there!")....

Anyway,... while Don was at this college he was part of a small group of Christians who were trying to be a good witness for Jesus Christ.
So... on this particular weekend, when everything was so crazy, and the folks were partying hard,... the Christians set up a "Confession Booth." They built this little wooden booth with a partition in it so folks could "confess" and get right with God.

Nope. Not really....

You see, the Christians sort of "turned the table" on the whole concept of "confession".

When one of the students could stumble into the booth, they would sit in a chair and say something like, "O.K. What do you want me to confess?"....
Then, the "Christian student would say, "No I don't want YOU to confess. I want you to hear MY confession."
"Really?... That's really weird. But, O.K..... go ahead,... I'm listening."

Then the Christian student would "confess" .....that they hadn't really always been a good witness for Christ,... that often they would be totally self-centered, selfish, inconsiderate of other people's feelings.
"I'm really sorry that I've dragged the name of Jesus through the mud by my actions, comments, negativity, self-righteous attitude.....
Would you be willing to forgive me for that?. I don't want anything in return... just that you would forgive me for the times I've been so UN-Christ-like."...

Most of the time the secular student would say something like.... "Well, yea, I guess so. I mean, we ALL act stupid sometimes, say things that we should, that we wish we wouldn't have, have done things we wish we could take back..... So.... yes, I forgive you."

Then, they might stumble back out of the Confession Booth and go on back and party-on....

But, it might make them think.
It made ME think.....

I don't know about the lady at the performing rights organization. I can't judge her. That's between her and her God.
All I know is that there have been days in my life, as a Christian, I would make her look like a saint by my words, my negativity, by my actions.
For all the times I've dragged the good name of Jesus through the mud of my own life... I'm sorry.

I hope you'll forgive me....

A friend of mine once said, "Jesus didn't come into our lives so we could be like Him. He came because He knew we couldn't."....

I like that. Because it's so.... true.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Confession Booth (part 1)

"Why did I make an appointment with you?"......

She said, again, ....for about the third time in the last 15 minutes.

Me: "I don't know. Maybe because you're a moron and you should never have been given this position in the first place?"....

O.K. I didn't actually SAY that.... but I THOUGHT it... and would have liked to have been able to say it....

So goes my experience with one of the leading performing rights societies. There are three of them... B.M.I. (Broadcast Music Inc.),... ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers).. and SESAC ( Society of European Singers, Actors, and Composers)....

If you are a songwriter you are often told to make an appointment to see someone at one of the performing rights societies and have them listen to some of your songs. If they like what they hear, then they will refer you to a reputable publisher.... and, hopefully, you can move on up the proverbial "ladder" to the next step in your career.

I had made my appointment weeks earlier with this particular one and had made the 12-hour drive to Nashville to keep the appointment and get some of my songs listened to and evaluated.
The woman who met me in the lobby had made this statement upon my arrival. "Who are you, and why did I make an appointment to see you today?".....

This didn't bode well for our meeting. Nope, not a good sign.

I explained that I had indeed scheduled this appointment for "today" and would she please listen to some of my songs?......
Begrudgingly she had me follow her to a small office. She said, "I don't have much time... what have you got?"
I pulled out several songs and she stuck the first one into the CD player..... listened to about the first 20 seconds, stopped it, gave it back to me.... "What else?".... I gave her another song... Same response...
This went on for about 3 or 4 minutes. I could tell she didn't really want to listen to the songs. I could tell she was perturbed by my taking up her precious, valuable time.

Finally, she simply said, .. "I don't know why I made this appointment for today. I'm really busy right now getting ready for the Christian Music Awards.

In case you didn't catch that the first time: .... The CHRISTIAN Music Awards.!!!

Wow. She was busy working on the CHRISTIAN Music Awards..... and that was the reason she was being a real .... a real... well, you know.... a real....(It rhymes with "witch"...).....

She threw me totally off-guard with this remark. Actually, I didn't know what to say,.. or think, or do,....right at the moment...

So I simply said, "Well, thanks for your time.... maybe I can come back at a later date and, .. perhaps,... you could listen to some of my songs then."

"Fine, she said. I gotta go."...

I felt like she had done everything short of having Security throw me out the door. I should have been glad she didn't have a Pit-Bull handy to take a few bites out of a leg... or worse.

I packed up my little bag of songs and shuffled off towards the main entrance, feeling totally like an idiot... feeling totally dejected, rejected, ... discombobulated.... (fill in your own words)...
It was a looooong 12-hour drive back home..... and about $500 poorer for my time, gas, food, hotel stay....etc.

I never went back. At least I never want back to THAT performing rights organization. (I'm sure they're feeling really bad about it).. (sarcasm)....

That was years ago, and since then I have found a terrific publisher on my own,.... thank you very much...
But, the experience stayed with me.
Perhaps there was a lesson to be learned here. Maybe God was trying to tell me something... and it was up to me to listen and learn....
I'm still trying....

And, in the meantime, I happened upon something that sort of put it in perspective for me...

(to be continued).....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Real Men Don't Cry?

Keep having this dream about my old man
I'm ten years old and he's holding my hand
We're talking on the front porch watching the sun go down
But it was just a dream, he was a slave to his job and he couldn't be around
There's so many things I'd like to say to him
But I just place a rose on his grave and I talk to the wind

I don't know why they say grown men don't cry
I don't know why they say grown men don't cry

I'm sitting here with my wife and kids
And everything I hold dear in my life
We say grace and thank the Lord
Got so much to be thankful for
Then it's up the stairs and off to bed and my little girl says
"I haven't had my story yet"

And everything weighing on my mind disappears just like that
When she lifts her head off her pillow and says
"I love you dad"...

And I don't know why they say grown men don't cry
And I don't know why they say grown men don't cry

(From the song: "Grown Men Don't Cry" by Tim McGraw)

Tim McGraw is the epitome of one of the "Good Old Boys"
Songs about rugged Country Life, being the ultimate "Cowboy"...

One of the first songs of his career was called, "Don't Take The Girl"
The first time I heard it I had to pull the car over because... well,,, because... it's hard to drive and cry at the same time.... An extremely moving song...

Recently there have been some folks on T.V. talking about men who cry. Right now John Boehner is all over the news because he sort of had a "perclempt" moment while talking about his political career.
Glenn Beck gets hammered a lot because he has a tendency to get teary-eyed when he talks about America, America's Founders, ..... his family.... God.....

I know I'm a very emotional guy. My wife says it makes me a good songwriter. I don't know about that, I just know that things effect me deeply and my emotions usually present themselves with salty tears. I try to hide it the best I can.
"I just got something in my eye"..... "darn Kansas sand storms!"....

I also realize that tears can be deceptive. I think about when Jimmy Swaggert was on t.v., crying big-time over his dalliances with prostitutes. Was he sorry?....Or sorry that he got caught?... Sorry that he betrayed the trust of his friends and family and church, or sorry that his multi-million-dollar "ministry" just took a huge financial hit?..... I don't know...
I do know that he was unwilling to follow good counsel and step down "for a season" to get help with the issues in his life. To me, that means that his tears were pretty much a sham. That's just my opinion, ......based on some good evidence. I saw him on t.v. recently... they didn't "pan" the audience.... for good reason.... there weren't many of them to pan... (You can have tears without real repentance..... and you can have real repentance without tears).

Tears. Do "Real Men" cry?

There are some "evolutionary scientists" who say that it's a sign of being on "top of the evolutionary chain"....that humans are the only "animals" with the ability to cry.
I don't know if that's true or not. Since I don't believe in evolution anyway, it's probably a moot point. I think my cat cried the other day when I accidentally stepped on his tail. They might have been tears of anger since I have a habit of doing that quite often. I do know that cats can cuss. Where that puts them on the "evolutionary chain"... God only knows....

Anyway, for all those who like to engage in arguments over whether it's manly or "sissified" for a guy to shed tears once in awhile..... I have only two words to say.........

It's the shortest verse in the Bible... but it speaks volumes...

John 11: 35

Jesus Wept.