Saturday, March 1, 2014

Trying to Quit…

I spotted a small folded piece of paper on my seven year old son’s bedroom dresser and was in the process of picking it up to throw it in the waste basket, but curiosity made me unfold it to see what it was.   The paper was so wrinkled… it must have been folded, opened and refolded 100 times.   As I opened it I was shocked to see a scantily clad young woman’s picture, a centerfold picture from an “adult” magazine.  

My son had spent the night with a young friend earlier in the week and upon discussing this with my son I learned the boys had found some of the dad’s "adult" magazines and he tore out this page.

As I showed him the picture and talked about how it looked like it had been folded and  
refolded many times, I asked him if he had been looking at that picture a lot.  He said, “Yes Dad, but I am trying to quit.”   Those sad eyes looking up at me, that regret at doing what he knew was not something he was proud of, that self-disappointment showing on his little face, made my heart melt.

As I looked within myself at that moment, I thought, ‘ 'Yes, my boy, Dad knows that sinking feeling of guilt and disappointment,' not a necessarily a sneak peek at racy pictures but the awareness of doing something, maybe a lot of things that I was ashamed of, or not happy to have as part of my character, longing to quit, to change for the better.

Haven’t many of us been in that situation?  Maybe experiencing disappointment with ourselves for not “measuring up”, for doing things we regret, painfully aware that what we are doing is inappropriate, unwise, impure, perhaps not necessarily hurtful or really bad, but something beneath our standards.    But we continue to be powerless to resist the attraction to the wrong actions.  We are Trying to Quit!

It seems fashionable today to “Go to Rehab”, that mecca where an endless stream of celebrities, elected officials and maybe even the person next door go for a miracle cure.  So many wonderful people seemingly chained to bad habits of drugs, alcohol, sex addiction, abuse or maybe just being excessively critical, hurtful, “slightly dishonest", or just falling short of the mark we have set for ourselves.    They are “Trying to Quit”.

The Bible, that historical record of mankind’s efforts to rise higher in spirituality and to escape the downward pull of materiality has many examples showing this is not a new phenomenon.  Even for those whose life mission was to follow the teachings of Christ Jesus, sin was still a struggle. A Bible quote from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans  reflects his struggle where he writes:  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” *  He was “Trying to Quit.”  

Anyone who has tried to quit smoking or the use of alcohol and drugs knows that Quitting is difficult!! But maybe Quitting is not the answer after all, and perhaps Starting is a better solution. Instead of trying to extract the unwelcome and undesirable habits and activities, filling their place with good ones is easier and more profitable. After all, in our schools we don't try to pull out ignorance, we pour in "learning"!

Recently while cleaning our duck pond I remembered how in the past I had used every method in the book to get the dirty water out of the pond including  a pump, suction
devices, a shovel and anything at hand.  Getting the sludge, feathers and dirty water out was a real chore.    This time  I began filling the pond with clean water which eventually forced out the dirty sludge, replacing it with clean, sparkling water.   How much easier it was to let the clean water do the work of purging the impure contents rather than spending hours dredging out the unwanted dirty water. And, the added benefit was that the dirty water fertilized the land around the pond.  Best of all,  when I had used the old method of emptying and draining I only ended up with an empty vessel. By filling with clean water the end result was a clean and sparkling pool, delightful to the eye and welcoming to the ducks.

In the Holy Bible we see where Christ Jesus shared a story** with his followers that held the key to our freedom.  He described how a  farmer had planted good seed in a field but someone had overnight planted some bad seed in that same field.  That "someone" described as an “enemy”, perhaps was the same enemy that plants those bad ideas in our thinking, those temptations, selfish ideas, greed, sensuality, insensitivity which cause such pain, distress and discouragement.   Jesus told how the landowner advised against pulling up the weeds, but instead nurturing the good seed,  faithfully cultivating and encouraging the good until the bad could be rooted out at harvest.

Religious pioneer Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, counseled that "The way to extract error from mortal mind is to pour in truth through flood-tides of Love. Christian perfection is won on no other basis."***

Each of us can decide how best to "Stop Quitting and Start Starting"!!!  But for me, the straightforward lesson in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, contained in what are termed the Beatitudes, provides an excellent starting point.   This is a daily challenge,  but the results are surely worth it. 

For starters I am going to practice living these initial steps, several Beatitudes paraphrased from the King James version of the Bible and the Message translation:
·       Blessed are those who are gentle. 
·       Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God’s approval.
·       Blessed are those who show mercy.
·       Blessed are those whose thoughts are pure.
   Blessed are those who make peace.

This is a start, and the rest of the list can be found in Matthew, chapter 5. 

So,if we become discouraged  “Trying to Quit”, to leave behind some unwanted habit, personality trait, or hurtful way of thinking, we need not despair nor wrestle endlessly in a futile effort to extract the bad qualities. Rest assured that diligent and sincere efforts to pour in love, meekness, purity and other good qualities will soon clear out the “dirty water” of our lives.  And, best of all, we will not end up an “empty vessel”, but will reflect more of God's goodness and float more peacefully on life's waters. 

*    Romans 7:18
**    Matthew 13:13-24
***   Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy 

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Lucy COME! Come here Lucy! Come on girl!

In those sincere brown eyes looking directly into mine from 30 feet away, I could see the stubbornness, the resistance, the implied statement that “I love you Daddy but I’m not coming.”  I suppose there’s nothing more stubborn than a Corgi, a sweet little dog whose main purpose in life seems to be to stubbornly refuse to do anything she is asked to do! It was time for me to call on my most very effective expression: Lucy, Come here… RIGHT… THIS… MINUTE!

And… slowly, I could see her eyes drop down, the resistance fading as she started taking the first steps to come into the house, those serious brown eyes staring up at me seeming to say, “Daddy is serious this time. Better do what he says”.   *1

Many of us have felt that drag, the resistance to doing what needs to be done, to procrastinate or move along sluggishly hoping the need for action will somehow pass us by, or maybe convincing ourselves that sometime in the future will be better. But in my experience those “take action” times seem to keep drifting just out of our reach, into the next moment, the next day, week or year, and we are only fooling ourselves by thinking that in the future we will somehow feel better, have more money, more time, more patience, be more mature, more ready, more, more, more. But always at a later time.

It is one thing when it involves just putting off painting the front porch,changing a light bulb or washing the car. Much more serious is postponing important things like considering our life purpose, where we are going spiritually, what are our life goals, or seriously addressing situations where our life and happiness or the happiness and well being of another are concerned.

Ironically, it often seems much easier to accept the dismal prospect of being sick or sinful, even being dissatisfied with ourselves, or delaying loving acts of kindness and consideration for others, resisting or delaying forgiveness, promising ourselves that in some future time we will do the right thing, maybe later we will apologize for some hurt or offense, be more helpful to others.  We convince ourselves that we will pray at some time in the future for better understanding of God’s love and its influence in our life. I have too often followed the reasoning of Felix, as described in the book of Acts in the Bible. When the Apostle Paul came to him to discuss the teachings of Jesus, “Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. *2

I am fascinated by the lessons taught by Christ Jesus, who knew that we don’t have to wait to see God’s promise, to begin to see through earth’s sometimes dreary outlook and to grasp the perfect spiritual state which is ours to claim at this very moment. He encountered many “postponers” as he made his way through the countryside teaching his followers about Life and Love, how to understand God and how to live a pure life. And he roused them to action!!!

In one memorable scene Jesus came upon a man who had an infirmity for thirty eight years and couldn’t walk. As The Bible has it: “
When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” *3

It seems that the belief was that an Angel would come periodically and “trouble the water” and whoever first entered the water would be healed. Now this man had waited thirty eight years for a material solution, someone to help him get into the water, but Jesus said it was time to get up and move. Jesus saw through the claim of material disability and recognized the man’s spiritual identity as a child of God, not needing a material remedy but a better understanding of his spiritual perfection… and right that minute. He told the man to get up and take up his bed and go home. No waiting. No recuperation period. Jesus didn’t even touch him, he just uplifted the man’s thought by seeing him as a wholly complete and healthy idea of God.

A friend told me last month that she had been plagued with problems in the past several years and she said she decided to refuse to “drag across the timeline of the New Year the baggage of problems that she had been carrying.” WOW!!! I decided that I, too, can refuse to carry over problems from the past and to start now, immediately, RIGHT THIS MINUTE, to accept gratefully my true inheritance as an innocent child of God. It is high time to stop being burdened by worry, all of the concerns that seem to flow around us every day, and to begin loving more, caring more for others, concentrating on expressing my spiritual qualities instead of being lulled by the temptation to “do it later”, waiting on the “waters to move”. 

Those experiences with Lucy have left me with a better understanding of Right This Minute and I begin to understand John’s assertion that “NOW are we the sons of God.” *4

And, Right This Minute I am telling apathy and resistance to get lost. I have things to do!! And so I leave you with the words of one of my favorite hymns:

Make haste, O man, to do
Whatever must be done;
Thou hast no time to lose in sloth,
When all to Truth must come.

The useful and the great,
The thing that never dies,
The silent toil that is not lost,—
Set these before thine eyes.

Up, face the task and work;
Fling ease and self away;
This is no time for thee to sleep;
Up, watch, and work, and pray.   *5

Thanks Lucy, my little angel.

*1        I am not actually Lucy's daddy.  She was a stray and we adopted her and she was a precious daughter.
*2       Acts 2:24
*3       John 5
*4       I John 3:2
*5      Christian Science Hymnal  183

Saturday, February 1, 2014


When I first saw him through the family room window he was feeding at the deer feeder in the back yard.  He looked normal enough, a big buck, with a full rack of antlers, standing stately and proud.  But then, as he stepped away from the feeder and turned to move down the hill it appeared that he had stumbled. I watched intently as he lifted himself back up and I realized it was not a stumble but a severe limp. This big boy had apparently lost over half of his left  foreleg in some type of unfortunate incident, perhaps a trap or another animal had caused it. He moved slowly but steadily, regained his balance and moved on down the hill. That was over a year ago and I’ve often wondered what happened to him.

When I was walking through the house today, I glanced out the window and saw him again.  This time he was trying to bend down to drink from the fish pond. He was bent over, awkwardly, and I waved at him through the window. Then I thought, is that a silly thing to do, waving at a deer??  But at least I had his attention.  I so wanted to communicate with him, tell him how thrilled I was to see him, to find that he was alive and well, how much I loved his presence, the beautiful image he made up against the trees in the woods behind my house.  But, instead of letting well enough alone, I quietly slipped out onto the back deck were he could see me plainly thinking that  I could better communicate with him. But, alas, it frightened him and he gracefully fled down the hill with no apparent loss of agility due to the shortened leg.

I think I learned a lesson this afternoon.   I had so wanted to be part of his world, to let him know that we were feeding him and the eight or nine doe that are usually close by because we welcomed them, and to indicate forgiveness that they had managed to knock over a couple of rows of corn stalks so they could lie comfortably while eating my sweet corn last summer!!!    Actually, we see them constantly in the backyard,  in the garden in the summer or at the feeder, maybe eating apples from the trees in the fall or acorns or the crimson clover that we planted for them in the winter.     But due to my overzealous approach, I frightened him off.  

It made me wonder why I couldn’t just enjoy him through the window. I certainly had no intent of frightening him, but wanted to share a lovely crisp winter afternoon with him, just watching and admiring him. Then I wondered how many people I may have turned away over the years  due to an overzealous attempt to be friendly or to share things that I hold to be important, but awkwardly like a "bull in a china shop"!!    I started thinking that it is high time for me to approach life more gently, to appreciate things where they are, and as they are and not be so forward, so intent on forcing a relationship, so overzealous in sharing the things I have learned about life, God’s love and the sustaining power of spirit.  

Maybe, after so many years of trying to be “In Control” of things,  I am finally learning  to follow to some degree the counsel offered in the Book of Proverbs in the Bible:   “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”  

When we are listening to the spiritual intuitions that come to us as divine ideas, we learn to move as God directs, not too soon, not too aggressively, but patiently, lovingly, intelligently.   I all of a sudden thought about Jesus, a man who had so very much to share, so much love to give, such a compassionate and loving heart.  When he was sharing, he did travel to different locations but usually he went to a place and people came to him when they were ready.   He didn't wave at them, run after them, tackle them and hold them down to share his thoughts!!! OK, waving may be okay.  

As God, who is Life,  unfolds the petals of a rose at just the right time, in just the right place, even amidst the thorns, his “angel whisperings” lead us to do the right thing, the loving thing, the intelligent thing, when and as we should.

I am hoping that beautiful old Buck will forgive me for my exuberance and give me another opportunity to love him from a distance, and to enjoy that deep love of life which is proof of God’s presence.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Calm on my Lake of Life

Considering the contention, confusion, anger and hatred that seems to permeate our world, I have found these cautions to be great for smoothing out the ripples and waves in my little "lake of life"....


From the Bible:
“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”

“Leave off contention, before it be meddled with.”

“A soft answer turneth away wrath.”

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

Although it is often a struggle for me, I have discovered that the world will survive without our anger, without self-righteousness and righteous indignation, without judgment, without our fear that "things are going down the tube fast"!!! 

A day filled with love, love for every turning leaf, every dog tail wag, every moment of affection, every inspired thought... and even harder, love and respect for every angry driver that is doing something wrong, every one who jumps in line in front of you at the grocery, every politician who obviously doesn't understand how to understand the constituents, every foreign or national leader who seems to betray the people's trust... even for them, working to see them in the purest light of LOVE, will make your day.

A favorite poem helps me each day... especially when my eyes are seeing what my heart doesn't want to see:

Speak gently, it is better far
To rule by love than fear;
Speak gently, let no harsh word mar
The good we may do here.

Speak gently to the erring ones,
They must have toiled in vain;
Perchance unkindness made them so;
O win them back again.

Speak gently, ’tis a little thing,
Dropped in the heart’s deep well;
The good, the joy that it may bring,
Eternity shall tell.

Christian Science Hymnal ....
Music from A Students’ Hymnal (Hymns of the Kingdom)
By permission of the Oxford University Press

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Teacup One and Envy

“Tower, this is Teacup One, F-104 on the ramp,  for taxi and takeoff instructions.”... a familiar voice came over the primary tower frequency.

Looking down from the control tower I could see the F-104 Starfighter preparing to taxi to the active runway.   That would be “The Major” in the cockpit.  He was the commander of the small Flight Test group at our base, their “call signs" were Teacup One through Five and we knew each one through near daily contact.  

I had seen the Major walking across the ramp towards the aircraft in that flying suit that high performance aircraft pilots wear, maybe he wasn’t actually swaggering, but I would have been.  The difference between a pro and a “want-to-be”!!

I gave Teacup "the nod to leave the sod"  and, cleared to go, he began the takeoff roll. As Teacup One rocketed down the runway and rotated to go vertically, climbing straight up,  I requested he call off his altitude at 5,000 foot levels.   There was no real need for that, I was just thrilled at the speed at which that aircraft was rocketing upward, the F104 climb capability rated at 48,000 feet per minute and a top straight and level speed of over 1,300 miles per hour. A near rocket with 7 foot stubby wings.. all power plant!!! I nearly shivered with envy as he called each altitude level... he was smokin'!!!!!  

 With all my heart  I had wished I was behind the controls of that marvelous bird.   I felt that deep distress of envy.  I realized at that moment that glory days of being an Air Force  pilot were not going to happen for this intrepid airman, no supersonic flights, no high speed climbs to altitude, no glamorous adventures, no coveted pilot’s wings, no jumping into a high performance jet and doing victory rolls for me.   :::sigh:::

Now envy is not a new phenomenon.  It preceded the internet, personal computer, television and even the iPhone and CHEERIOS!  The Bible records envy as far back as the allegory of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden contained in the book of Genesis.  Therein recorded is the story of the how Cain, one of their sons was envious of his brother Abel, and killed him. Envy ruined both of their lives.  

Eve was tempted to eat the “forbidden fruit”, a form of envying that she and Adam couldn’t have everything they wanted.   Envy ruined both of their lives.

Envy, defined in our dictionary as a “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage” and it ruins lives. Related words describe some of the many costumes envy may be wearing, words such as: covetousness, animosity, enmity, hatred, ill will; malice, maliciousness.  

But is Envy really about others?  Isn’t envy just feeling dissatisfied with ourselves, unhappy with our own status, our place in life, in our community or our family?  

Envy has appeared in my personal experience as:  “Why did they choose that guy for the job?  I am more qualified.”  Or, even worse, “Her prayers always seem to be effective and God doesn’t seem to hear mine!!” If envy wore a Tee shirt with a red ENVY written on it, we would know it, shun it, give it wide berth.

In a statement in her Miscellaneous Writings, Theologian Mary Baker Eddy writes: “If a man is jealous, envious, or revengeful, he will seek occasion to balloon an atom of another man’s indiscretion, inflate it, and send it into the atmosphere of mortal mindfor other green eyes to gaze on: he will always find somebody in his way, and try to push him aside; will see somebody’s faults to magnify under the lens that he never turns on himself. *   “WOW!  Now that’s putting it right out there!!!

At one of my more "silly thoughts" moments, while questioning whether some recent actions and comments were based on envy, I pondered, “I wonder if the number 5 is envious of the number 100.   I could almost envision a Number 5 saying… “Gee, that 100 has 3 digits.  It looks really good with that rounded end number, so symmetrical, and it is such big a number, WOW, to be One Hundred!!!   He must know someone higher up!!  What must it be like… here, I am… a little 5.  I wish, I wish, I wish…”.

But, what would the Number Set be without 5!!  It is famous for its role
in “five fingers”, “five toes”, “five dollar bill”, or in England “five pence”!!!  In Spanish, Cinco; In Arabic, Khamsa;  In German, Funf;   It has a name in every language.  How important is that???  And, likewise,  what would eternity be without one of its most wonderful ideas...YOU?

As with all problems we face, our solution is not extracting envy via mental surgery or pumping it out into a bucket for disposal, but it is removed by filling our thought with gratitude for who we are as vital, irreplaceable ideas of God, by realizing our inseparability from the Mind that created us, that mind characterized by the Apostle Paul as  “in whom we live and move and have our being” **.  

As we begin to more fully appreciate ourselves, our unique, individual, one of a kind, irreplaceable selves,  we can begin to see others in a clearer view, appreciate them for their contribution, cherishing them as individual ideas of the Creator instead of jealously fault-finding.   When envy looms in my thought I sometimes practice by trying to see some small good quality in the person or thing that I envy, looking for even just one thing in them to appreciate and love. And I can always find loads of good when I do that.

Rest assured that we all, even the most humble of God’s ideas, have a place, a non-negotiable, permanent, forever, for all time place.  There will always be a five and there will always be a you, and me, and each individual instance of God’s thought, reflecting our own individual goodness and being.  

As Jesus so wisely prescribed:  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” ***

 *      Miscellaneous Writings Mis 129   
**     Acts 17:28
***  Matthew 5:48

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lucky, the Prodigal dog

I can hear one of the dogs barking, way down the hill by the creek in the lower 2 acres.   I just know which one it is, it is Lucky.  We have a house full of animals, including our two Dachshunds, Lucky and Bo-Bo,  and our lives are filled with the joy of the different personalities of these little four-legged blessings, and I always know which one is misbehaving!!  

Our Lucky is a “party animal”, a very adventurous sort.   He
has never found something he didn’t like to chase, eat,  sniff, lick or bark at.   Bo-Bo on the other hand, enjoys a few minutes of barking and chasing but then prefers to spend his time curled up beside my desk or close by on the couch.  He asserts his position every day as an "INSIDE DOG” who barks at outside noises, as opposed to Lucky who loves his “personal” freedom, freedom to roam and investigate,  who barks OUTSIDE at all noises!.   They are both dachshunds and it would seem they would have similar personality types, but they don’t.

It may sound funny but animals, more than people, often bring to mind and help me to understand  stories that I have read in the Bible, stories of how problems were addressed in those days centuries ago compared with how we in this age address them.  I suppose it is because dogs are more logical and consistent than people!!   

In that light, I like to compare my doggies to the boys described in Jesus’ story of the “prodigal son” (Luke 15:11-32), and they help me to understand more about that story, and about the dogs.    In the Bible account, the younger son in a family, apparently stretching for his own personal freedom and desire to experience the “outside world”, asked his dad for his portion of any inheritance and he then moved on down the road. He went to a far country to live, apparently thinking that being separated from the family would free him to roam and to enjoy a life of freedom. That would be my Lucky.  “Give me some bacon treats and I am out of here to go down the hill, get into the brambles, get covered with mud, chase that herd of deer and a wild turkey, get a few sticks caught in my hair, maybe a tick or two… really living!!! “   

His brother Bo-Bo, is like the older brother in
the story who stayed home with his father and faithfully served him during the years of his brother’s absence.  Bo-Bo never goes far, he’s always faithful and stays very close.

Now in the Bible story, you may recall that the younger son soon ran out of money, was forced to herd swine and eat the food the swine ate.   He soon decided to return home, even though he would be returning in disgrace.  He came home humbly, tail between his legs, so to speak.  To his surprise, his father met him in the way, rejoicing and warmly welcoming him, clothed him with best garments and prepared a welcome home party. 

The older son was very hurt and disappointed.    He had
remained faithful all along and now the “party animal” was not being punished, but treated royally by his father.  My Bo-Bo is the same way. He jealously runs over and jumps up on me when Lucky returns home as if to say, “Pet Me, Pet Me,  I have faithfully stayed at home and been your good doggie.  Can’t you see that Lucky was a bad doggie?“ 

I love both of these little guys, one for his free spirit and adventurous, unlimited nature; the other for his faithfulness and for his obedience, staying by my side. Reading that story as told by Jesus, I can see how each of the individuals felt.  But as a father myself, I also understand that love eventually cuts through the fear, negativity, jealousy, criticism, hurt feelings and provides the balm that heals.   We love because it is the inherent nature of God's creation to reflect Love. 

I have talked to a number of fathers who have been disappointed by their children. BUT, almost every one, no matter that their sons or daughters might have acted thoughtlessly, or selfishly, abandoned home or family values,  perhaps having taken a pathway that was hurtful or disappointing to the family, those same fathers are eager to forgive.   They have shared just how warmly they would receive and forgive those errant offspring, give them unbounded love and affection, accept them as “brand new”.   I also know many of children, young adults,  who have been the “party animals”, have separated from the family and have “gone to a far country” to live, so to speak, for any number of reasons.   I understand and have heard clearly from them how they long for that love and comfort of family, how they want to return to that feeling of belonging, acceptance and forgiveness.

Jesus told that story of the prodigal son for a reason.  He was really sharing how God, characterized in the Bible as Love, Mind and Truth, our Father, awaits the return of His loved ideas, their awakening to their inseparability from their spiritual source.  No matter how deep into the “far country” they may have wandered, their pathway home is at hand.

In life, in our relationship to God, a collective name for the Creator, the infinite Mind in whom we live, and move and have our being as certain of your own prophets have said, For we are also His offspring.” (Acts 17:28), there is no distinction between those who stay home and those who may wander and then eventually come home, because in Truth, we can never really be separated from God, Spirit, who is our Life.   

The lesson I have learned is that both Father/Mother God and son/daughter, long to be together in that place back home, in divine Consciousness, secure in Love’s embrace and are ready to forgive and be forgiven, for such is the nature of Love.

May all of life’s prodigals and ever faithful children understand that God, Love is never ending, and receive and rejoice in understanding God as their patient, true, forgiving Father/Mother, and receive the blessing of love and peace.

Thanks Lucky and Bo-Bo for the lessons in Love and Forgiveness we have shared. I love you both.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Laughing with Larry

I heard someone yelling DUMB!! DUMB!!! DUMB!!   as I stopped the car.   That would, of course, be my neighbor and business partner, Larry.

Larry had called on the phone  a few minutes earlier and told me to get moving!!  He had  just gotten through to a plant manager and made an appointment for us to make a sales presentation at a chemical plant south of Houston and we needed to leave immediately. I told him I would drive, and I grabbed my briefcase and ran out the door.    Larry, who conveniently  lived next door, was coming across the lawn as I jumped in the car and backed out of the garage. But there was one tiny problem. I had forgotten to open the garage door so I backed out through the garage door. That may have justified Larry’s screaming comments.

It wasn’t the first time or last  that he had said I was dumb. But I didn’t mind because my partner  was capable of the same kinds of dumb tricks and we had a sort of Dumb and Dumber contest going on. 

Pat Collins and Larry Rolfe - National Information Services Corp.

Our partnership in our little business and our deep friendship were a bond made in heaven.   What a pair we were, two older guys on the wrong side of “middle age’ trying to worm our way back into the world of industry and commerce.   Larry a retired Senior Vice President of a New York Stock Exchange listed corporation and me, a recently laid off Director of Advanced Technology for large engineering company, back on the street toting a sales case, starting over so to speak, not down or discouraged but reflecting all of the spark and vigor of two young entrepreneurs!

It must have been a sight to see,  two older, overweight guys who would’ve seemed more appropriately placed sitting on a park bench feeding the pigeons, trudging up flights of stairs in process industry plants, lugging computer equipment to make our sales demonstrations on those hot summer days in south Texas and Louisiana.   Picture a lot of arguing about whose turn it was to carry the computer equipment.  Larry insisted that he would lug the heavy stuff, I think to prove that he “still had it” in spite of his recent lung transplant.  I, of course, insisted that I would carry the weight since I was  2 years younger and in tip top shape!!  Then we both laughed!!!

To give you an idea of the challenges I faced working with this guy, I relate the following... Larry was a guy who loved cowboy boots. Celebrating a large sale multi-million dollar sale in his previous employment, Larry and several of the sales team took a short holiday and ended up on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. Larry found a shop that sold expensive cowboy boots and he found one particular pair, a beautiful blue lizard skin boot  that he just had to have. The shop owner wanted $3,000 for the pair and Larry had only $2000 with him. He paid the $2,000 and the owner agreed to give him one of the boots to take home and he would hold the other until Larry returned with the rest of the money. Larry did return about three weeks later with the rest of the money, only to find that the shopkeeper, apparently tempted by bigger money sold the remaining boot to a one legged man for $2,000.   I still don’t know if I believe that, but, knowing Larry…. anything is possible.

Our sales trips were filled with stories of this nature and we laughed from the time we left home until we returned.

I remember one day when we were driving along the deserted back roads of east Texas.  I noticed that the crows feeding along the road always flew to the south side of the highway as we approached.   I observed this for a number of miles, and each time they flew just to the south, which captured my analytical curiosity.    Then, even knowing that Larry would think it was a "dumb" observation, I shared this finding with him.  Once again, that "look", the raised eyebrow, the unbelieving shake of the head… just knowing he was thinking 'What a Dummie!!'    We both burst out laughing!!

Then, when we finally reached our appointment at a chemical plant in Louisiana, things went downhill. As we drove towards the gate of the plant we saw hundreds of 50 gallon barrels of manufactured product stacked in front of the plant and a line of flatbed trucks, engines running, waiting to be loaded with the flammable products. 

We were excited about the possibility of a big sale and as we approached the plant we could see the Plant Manager and the Process Safety Manager, whom we were to meet, standing out in the parking lot to observe the loading of the trucks. As we drove through the gate in Larry's Mercury Marquee, as if on cue, we noticed smoke and flames coming out of the hood of our car. As we drove in towards the trucks where the barrels were being loaded  all of the people began screaming and waving us away.  Skilled pilot that he was,  Larry pulled into a parking place. He turned to me and shouted, "Get out and put that fire out"!  I replied  indignantly, "Wait, it's YOUR car".   But I did get out and Larry popped the hood.  I was greeted by leaping flames and smoke apparently coming from a power steering leak hitting the engine block and flaming up. My fire fighting tools were one white handkerchief.

By that time some of the truck drivers had grabbed fire extinguishers from their trucks and were running towards us. We managed to get the fire out without burning down the plant or exploding the hundreds of barrels of catalyst. Larry then told me to go ask the Plant Manager where we were to meet. 
In speaking with the Manager he felt that, in light of recent events,  the meeting should probably be cancelled and that we should get "that piece of hazardous junk" off his property and some references to our next meeting being when conditions in hell were frozen, or words to that effect.  I was so fascinated by how red his face was and how his voice was shaking and his eyes were sort of popping out of his head that I can't remember the exact words, but I did get the sentiment. 

We didn’t laugh immediately, but after a little while we did.  If you are a Laugher... you laugh!!!

On our sales calls and while doing business, we were like a trained team of Clydesdales pulling together,  but before and after, and especially during our travels, it was a hilarious give and take!   When people talk of love they often refer to a romantic relationship between two individuals, but real love is more far reaching.  Love can be that connection between friends, a deep feeling of respect, admiration, tenderness, support and affection. Sometimes that love is even more lasting and more deep than between two individuals whose sexual attraction may be a substitute for a real love.  

Author Mary Baker Eddy describes love this way:  
Love is not something put upon a shelf, to be taken  down on rare occasions with sugar-tongs and laid on arose-leaf. I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results. Unless these appear, I cast aside the word as a sham and counterfeit, having no ring of the true metal. Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power. As a human quality, the glorious significance of affection is more than words: it is the tender, unselfish deed done in secret; the silent, ceaseless prayer; the self-forgetful heart that overflows; the veiled form stealing on an errand of mercy, out of aside door; the little feet tripping along the sidewalk; the gentle hand opening the door that turns toward want and woe, sickness and sorrow, and thus lighting the dark places of earth. *

Last week I was having lunch with some of my old friends here in North Georgia.  I’ve written about this little group in an article last year... The Old Men's Club- click here.  During this delightful lunch I was once again reminded of how love crosses the boundaries of age, gender, race, religion, nationality and brings us all into that harmony of love and affection that buoys our spirits and brings a warmth and glow to our lives.

I love this quote:
Love never loses sight of loveliness. Its halo rests upon its object. One marvels that a friend can ever seem less than beautiful. **

On days like this, I remember Larry.  Thanks Larry for being my friend... and for the Laughter..

* Miscellaneous Writings - Mary Baker Eddy  (250)
**Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Mary Baker Eddy (247)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


The announcement over the corporate campus-wide speaker system blared… ALL NON-ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL LEAVE THE BUILDINGS IMMEDIATELY. We had heard the sirens screaming as the fire equipment raced into the office complex where our headquarters were located. 

Working for a very large international company, our headquarters spread out over a number of acres, I had received a quick phone call alert from Security a few moments earlier. The fire was on the roof of a building hundreds of yards away, a safe distance from our building where my staff was housed and I knew there was no danger. But as I heard the employees filing out of the building, I did wander out into the parking lot to see which of my staff felt that they were non-essential. I wanted to ask them why they felt unimportant.

This week I was reminded of that scene from the past when the U.S. government decided that, due to Congressional deadlock, non-essential personnel would not be coming to work next week. It brought back memories of how, since that earlier time, I had often thought about the difference between being essential in life and non-essential.

In fact, in life… EVERYONE is essential. Every one of God’s beautiful ideas has a purpose, a place, a mission, a joyous duty to be the reflection, the image and likeness of God’s love. It is good to remember the old Arab Proverb: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

I’ve noticed, especially in our older population, that many folks, after they’ve retired, start to think of themselves as

non-essential. They seem to feel unneeded, content to sit on the sidelines no longer feeling part of the game. Others may sometimes feel that their job is not an important one, that they are continually passed by or ignored by others, maybe experiencing a seeming physical or mental disability or distressed financial situation leaving them stranded, or perhaps a failed relationship has rendered them sad, lonely, disappointed… “feeling worthless”! I believe it is because they may have lost sight of what is really ESSENTIAL!

Many of us have seen a television show called Antiques

Roadshow. This program features relics of the past, antiques that have been hidden away, possibly for years. Many of the fine jewelry, furniture or crystal pieces, made by the finest artists, are clearly valuable.   But some, the rusty, cracked old items, worn, stained, bruised perhaps, seemingly useless, when scrutinized by the Auction Experts show a stamp, a maker’s mark or unique features indicating they are extremely rare, or were made by a
master craftsman and therefore very valuable.

What a lesson for us, a clue as to how we should recognize the value in ourselves and others. If we look deep within ourselves we will each find that "maker's mark" of the
Maker's Mark - Craftsman Identification
Craftsman, that Creator who makes perfect ideas of timeless value, each individual a creation of usefulness, something to be taken off the display shelf and demonstrated every day for its beauty, charm, inspiration and usefulness.  
 We each were built for an eternity of giving and not with a short shelf life. 

Christ Jesus showed us just how essential everyone is by way of the Beatitudes given in his Sermon on the Mount.* And, the beautiful lesson of the Beatitudes, the dictionary describes beatitude as “a state of utmost bliss”, shows HOW we can reflect the Essential Qualities of life, which bring those blessings to us and others. 

Each Beatitude starts with Blessed, which according to Webster means “having a sacred nature: connected with God.” The Beatitudes include: Blessed are those who are gentle, who hunger and thirst for God’s approval, who show mercy, whose thoughts are pure,  who make peace. There are others (Matthew 5) but these few serve as a great starting point for me towards seeing them as Essential. 

We may not be a prominent government office holder, a captain of industry, an important educator, doctor or theologian… but every one of us, no matter our human status, is vital in God’s plan. Just as the number set is not complete without every number, reaching to infinity, we all have a place.  Oh how the world needs every one of these qualities.
We can begin to see ourselves as the very presence of meekness and love, an outgoing ray from God, in fact, the evidence of God’s presence... right here and now. Embracing the world with tenderness, purity and peace, we will bloom and blossom and fill our rightful place in God’s plan.  

A favorite little hymn verse conveys the thought:

What if the little rain should say,  **
“So small a drop as I
Can ne’er refresh those thirsty fields,
I’ll tarry in the sky;”

Does not each raindrop help to form
The cool, refreshing show’r?
And every ray of light to warm
And beautify the flow’r?

Will you join me in my quest to be an “Essential Raindrop”? 

*   The Holy Bible   Matthew 5
** Attributed to Jerome McCauley  1911

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Back some years when you boarded a commercial aircraft you could peek into the cockpit and have a gander at all the instruments the flight controls and it was suitably impressive. As a former U.S. Air force air traffic controller, frequent international business flyer and private pilot student I am still fascinated by all things aircraft. Years ago,  boarding a commercial airlines  Lockheed Electra 188 on a business trip, I took a gaze at the complex instrumentation and equipment within the cockpit, and smiled admiringly with just a touch of envy.

On this particular day I took a comfortable seat close to the back of the aircraft and relaxed for a three-hour flight.   A lot of things have changed since those days in terms of procedures and protocols and everything is now much more terse and governed by procedure, regulation and strict enforcement.  But on this day, the flight deck guys became talkative and addressed the passengers over the intercom as we taxied to the runway. 

 It went something like this;  “Well Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Eastern Flight 182,  We have a nice day for our flight.   Our aircraft today is a Lockheed Electra which holds 100 passengers and a crew of 5. “  As we rolled onto the runway and began the takeoff roll the commentary continued “This big old girl has 4 Allison turbo-prop engines driving 4 blade, constant speed, propellers.   She is 106 feet long with a wingspan of 99 feet, all made of heavy metal, carrying 5500 gallons of fuel.  Overall she weighs weighs about 116,000 pounds.  Undoubtedly getting this monster off the ground with all this weight would be a real MIRACLE, but we are going to try!!”    

Then, as the speed increased and the runway 1,000 foot markers flew by, the aircraft rotated, nose wheel lifted and we were airborne accompanied by a big sigh of relief and applause from the passengers and the crew member shouted "HOORAY, It’s a MIRACLE!!!"

Thinking back, it provided me with food for thought about Miracles.  While lifting that big aircraft off the ground looks daunting on the surface, and hearing the facts about the size, the bulk, the weight, trying to lift that huge beast off the ground using only invisible, seemingly substance-less air, sounds impossible, but it is actually all well within the laws of gravity and aerodynamics.   

And, thus, the MIRACLE was not really a miracle!!   Helpful here, maybe, is a definition of Miracle from Webster's dictionary:

mir·a·cle     1.) noun \ˈmir-i-kəl\: an unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by
 1 :  an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
3:  Christian Science :  a divinely natural phenomenon experienced humanly as the fulfillment of spiritual law.
You can see that the dictionary definition of Miracle from #3, a Christian Science  spiritual view, is somewhat different from the #1 material view. 
I will tell you why…

We often see so-called Miracles in our daily lives.  Without understanding the underlying principles, we often believe them to be just that.  Miracles seem to somehow represent a momentary setting  aside of fixed principles, foundational rules and laws to benefit someone or something.  Folks often think that God, the Creator, the divine Intelligence of the Universe, the Establisher of Rules, sets aside those rules based on a partiality to some sweet, deserving person; an answer to a worthy prayer; a “giving in” due to much crying by the petitioner; the soulful pleading of a church congregation' or, the humble searching of a lonesome pilgrim in the depth of despair.

As I have begun to better understand the teachings of the Prophets in the Bible, and particularly the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, I have started to see that occurrences that SEEM to be Miracles are really just the unfolding of natural law, law based on Spirit and not matter. Our prayers don’t change God or spiritual reality, but they bring us into harmony with, and the understanding of, those laws that were ALWAYS there. God is unchanging Love.

Mary Baker Eddy, in her Bible companion book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures defines miracles this way:   

“Miracle.  That which is divinely natural, but must be learned humanly; a phenomenon of Science. “  (2.).

“The belief that the universe, including man, is governed in general by material laws, but that occasionally Spirit sets aside these laws,this belief belittles omnipotent wisdom, and gives to matter the precedence over Spirit.       (3.)    

Just as with the “seeming miracle” of the Lockheed lifting off into “thin air”, Jesus healed a plethora of diseases, giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, restoring a clean character to a woman taken in adultery, even raising several people from death... all in accordance with established laws, spiritual laws. 

Jesus did not set aside the fundamental laws of the universe to help and
heal, just as that pilot did not disregard the law of gravity or invoke some “special law” of aerodynamics just to get me to a business meeting.  

Who could possibly believe that Christ Jesus, the beloved son of God, the obedient servant, would heal someone that God had made ill, or that God had intended to suffer?  He understood that God never made his children to suffer!!   As a matter of fact, in explaining his healing acts, he averred, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. “ (4)    In his loving acts, he saw through the material belief of mortality’s limiting view, the blinders imposed by human belief, and opened the eyes of the beholders to the reality of God’s perfect presence. 

 Jesus of Nazareth, characterized in Science and Health as    “the most scientific man that ever trod the globe. He plunged beneath the material  surface of things, and found the spiritual cause."  (5)

Miracles?  Yes, to human sense.  But not to Jesus, or his disciples.   His yearning hope was that his message of God and Life as Spirit, overcoming the material would be picked up on and continued by his followers was reflected in his words:   "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (6)
And,  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. (7)   If ye love me, keep my commandments.  (8)

So.. Cleared for takeoff… No Miracle Required!!  Climb to and maintain altitude of spiritual thought, and have a great trip!!  Refreshments will be served en-route!

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures  591
SH 83
John 8
SH 313
John 8:32
John 14:12
John 14:15