Friday, February 22, 2013


Mindy McCready is gone.

It is foolish to hold Dr. Drew responsible, but her death forces us to again question the wisdom of getting sober on television.

Mindy McCready (1975 - 2013)
Malinda Gayle McCready grew up singing in her Pentecostal church in Florida since she was a toddler and, soon after high school, left for Nashville to become a highly successful country music artist. But after a very public battle with alcohol and prescription drugs, and just weeks after her boyfriend committed suicide, the beautiful and talented singer with a megawatt smile killed herself. She left behind two young children.

Mindy was on Dr. Drew Pinsky's "Celebrity Rehab" TV show in 2009. Dr. Drew (as he likes to be called) is a licensed physician and nationally certified addiction specialist. He has treated alcoholics and addicts for over twenty years. Ordinarily, any addict would be so lucky to get a treatment specialist with his experience and credentials. But televised treatment is not so ordinary.

Like others, I naively assumed the whole rationale behind putting strung-out celebs on television was to create a weekly, hour-long public service announcement on the nightmares of addiction. Now I see the obvious. There's a lot of money in public pain.

Grocery store tabloids and gossipy TV shows have capitalized on celebrity suffering for years, but they're not physicians. We don't expect them to have the best interests of celebrities in mind because public humiliation is their job. We do, however, expect more from doctors.

Yes – Dr. Drew's famous (and infamous) clients all have managers who have given their nod, but can sinking stars really depend on agents and managers who've discovered another way to squeeze more out of their clients' failing careers?

Yes – these celebrity clients are paid well to be on the show, they're treated in a luxurious facility, and (we assume) they get another shot at rebooting their careers. But at what cost? All these perks are in exchange for the very public display of their failures, insanity, ineptitude, confusion, self-centeredness and self-imposed slavery.

Does rehab really work in a televised fishbowl?

Dr. Drew Pinsky
Public suffering has been on the TV menu since the 1950s. In what was likely the first "reality TV" show, the genial Jack Bailey regularly crowned one woman "Queen for a Day" when the audience voted her life story as the most pitifully heart-wrenching story compared to all the other female contestants who also had crippled children, leaky roofs, foreclosed mortgages and terminal illnesses.

Unlike the strung-out, fidgety clients on "Celebrity Rehab," the women on "Queen for a Day" had the luxury of fading into obscurity when their day was over. The whole premise of that show was to give post-war American housewives some feel-good escapism by watching real-life Cinderella stories.

Dr. Drew, however, targets a different kind of viewer.

"Celebrity Rehab" draws voyeuristic audiences who enjoy watching the self-destruction of the rich and famous through their wide-screen, hi-def keyholes with a fascination not unlike those who are captivated by the slow death of once powerful bulls by a matador's spears.

This is not entertainment. It is not education. It is public pain for profit.

Dr. Drew should know better.

Click here to find drug and alcohol treatment in your area.
Click here to find support groups in your area.
Click here for Mindy's website.
Click here for Mindy's music on

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I saw my friend, Audye, at the Plum Ridge care center this afternoon. Audye is an aging Baptist preacher who has no less than eleven stents in his heart, carefully and lovingly placed there over several years, to allow vital blood flow – or else he'd be gone long ago.

This afternoon Audye was sitting up in his wheelchair. He was perkier and pinker than a few days ago when he was bedridden with a scruffy short beard and mussed hair, mumbling one word answers to me and the nutritionist. But today he was clean shaven with his thick, well-groomed hair (I always envied his hair). I asked who gave him a shave, and I loved his answer.

His eyes widened and his smiled broadened and he began to go on about "this nice Christian Mexican girl. She was just amazing," Audye said.

Donna called while I was there, and he went on to tell his wife about the "tremendous" shave he received from the young lady. After a loving, dewy-eyed goodbye, he handed me the phone and told me how much he appreciated that young woman, and the bit of fellowship they had as she combed his unruly locks and gave him a good clean shave.

And this is the part I really love. "It was like Thanksgivin'," he said, in his deep Texan drawl (with his emphasis on "thanks").

After reading scripture to him from the sermon on the mount (Matt 6:25-34), and saying a prayer, I spoke to a cluster of nurses and CNAs in the hall, telling them how much Audye appreciated the young woman who gave him a shave. "Oh," said nurse Amanda. "That was Carla." They all smiled. "She's really nice. We'll be sure and tell her."

Somewhere in Klamath Falls, Oregon there's a Hispanic nursing home employee named Carla who made a shave feel like Thanksgiving to my friend Audye.

Thank you, Carla!

Saturday, February 9, 2013


The house is quiet. Here at the table, pounding keys, reading digitized biblical commentaries, our border collie curls about my feet as I write something I hope is worthy to share Sunday morning. A hot mug (sweet and creamy) sits before me, steam tickling my face.

The sun cuts through the chill outside, blazing through every window. I'll have to get take the dogs out for a walk later. But don't say "walk" in front of them – yet.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Though I cannot say I am deep into the land of recovery, I will say, however, that more than once I have casually entered bookstores just to hold the books in my hands, to feel their glossy covers and the soft breeze upon my cheek of pages flitting by, breathing in their subtle pulpy essence, and I have done all this without buying even a one of them. Yes, I understand that such close proximity is discouraged for those early on in recovery, but if I ever find myself truly weakening, my able sponsor (several years sober) is always as near as my cell phone.


Thomas Frognall Dibdin, D.D., Bibliomania; or Book-Madness: A Bibliographical Romance (London: Chatto & Windus, Piccadilly, 1809).

Nicholas A. Basbanes, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995).

"Bibliomania", Wikipedia.

Powell's City of Books



After careful review and consideration, I hereby announce that the overall winner of the national annual Super Bowl commercial competition (in my home) is the Dodge Ram commercial.

The commercial's award-winning features include:

1. The moving short essay, "So God Made a Farmer," written by the late American journalistic hero, Paul Harvey.

2. The use of Paul Harvey's own recorded reading of his essay, with his unmistakably resonate and commanding voice.

3.The powerfully beautiful images, whose color, composition and emotional impact were enough to effectively seize viewers' attention with still photography (albeit, digitally enhanced), and this in an age where computer animation can make us believe that a man with elephant legs is walking down a crowded sidewalk.

4. Perhaps most significantly, in one of the most American of shared experiences, the commercial evokes the American spirit of independence, self-reliance and the ethic of hard work, with it's earned reward of self-satisfaction for a job well done.

5. Moreover, for all those who feel far outside farming culture (which is most of America), the ad warmly (and ingeniously) welcomes everyone into the spirit of that culture with the closing statement, "to the farmer in all of us," giving viewers the sense that they can legitimately taste that hardscrabble, rural American culture for the small fee of 30 - $40,000.

Congratulations, Chrysler Corporation! And with a growing national anti-religious sentiment, Chrysler also deserves praise for not being afraid to acknowledge the deep religious values of American culture.

And I'm pleased that NPR and many others agree with my humble opinion.

Oh – and the Oreo commercial came in as a close second for its humor, which was based upon its library setting. If something involves either books or cheesecake, I'm in!

Saturday, February 2, 2013


"For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in" (Matt 25:42-43).

Our little youth group in Lakeview was studying these verses on a warm Sunday evening in September on our back porch. "Who do you think are hungry and thirsty for friendship?" I asked. "Do you know anyone at school you can reach out to, offering the love of Christ?"

Four or five kids then rolled past our backyard on scooters. We paused to watch them squeak by, some with bare feet, laughing and giggling on the quiet street, little girls with golden hair happily flying in autumn breeze. We smiled and continued our discussion.

As Christians, I said, we had a responsibility not only to feed the hungry, but also the spiritually hungry.

An angry man burst from his drab house across the street. Hateful, angry words spilled out at the children as they rolled along. He stood in the middle of the street, screaming and shaking his fist at the children, now half a block away, giggling and blissfully oblivious to his raving.

"Shut up, I said! Shut your mouths!" he yelled. We stopped, eyes wide, our Bibles still open, listening to the rage of a drunken neighbor. The teens and I couldn't help but stare in silence. "Stop all this noise," he yelled at the children, "or I'm calling the cops!"

He turned about to see us staring. "You too!" he yelled, pointing a bony finger at us. "I'm calling the cops on you! Right now!" Stunned, we all watched as he ran back inside.

We gathered our thoughts as best we could, and returned to our discussion about reaching out to friendless kids at school. Then the police arrived.

Uniformed officers entered the angry neighbor's home, and came out again a few minutes later. Officer Sam Goss strolled over to my backyard. "What's goin' on?" he asked from the other side of the fence. I explained that we were having a quiet church group meeting on our deck.

He could easily tell we were not the problem. I said I didn't understand how so much loud, drunken profanity could come from a man who claims to hate noise. "I know," he said. "We've dealt with him many times before. Call me if there's anymore trouble." They got into their patrol cars and left.

I was angry that in tiny Lakeview, as a result of having a backyard Bible study, the police came to my home to question me. I was angry that our church kids were forced to see and hear such a bitter, drunken man. I was angry that the words of Jesus were drowned out by the loud curses of a man who could not tolerate the noise of happy children at play.

Then Amanda spoke up. "Maybe you need to be his friend."

My heart sank. She was right. Ray did not need my anger; he had enough of his own. What he needed was friendship. The mental image of my neighbor pointing his accusing finger at me – that image  stuck.

There are people who are hungry and thirsty for Christ's love and don't know it. Some are drunken neighbors. That doesn't make their spiritual need any less important.

There's no question that people are in desperate spiritual need. The questions is – will we find the courage and compassion to fill it?

"For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat," Jesus said. "I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink."