Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The John Deere mower cranked up with a bang and a roar.   My son Kevin bought me this great mower a couple of years ago.  I think he felt that mowing my lawn with a tractor and bush hog was a little overkill so he bought me the  John Deere.  I love it.

We just have a couple of acres of grass to mow, the rest of the property is in garden and woods.   I am under considerable pressure to keep the lawn trimmed as we have a neighbor, Smokey, who manicures his lawn to a “T” and there is never a weed or an errant blade of grass out of place.

Gail's Concept of a Perfect Lawn- Not Ours!!

Now I have a slight difference of opinion with my wife.  She likes the way that Smokey mows, neat, trim, consistent, a beautiful lawn.  She sometimes gets exasperated with me and my foibles,  as in, "Why did you leave those weeds in little patches all over the lawn?    Why can’t our lawn look like Smokey’s???"   She is very loving and understanding, but neat, orderly, and loves symmetry.  

Well, I am a softie I guess.    It seems that in my lawn there are always little patches of wild flowers, popping up in random places across the lawn.   Mowing around the wild flowers has become a normal routine for me, I just can't mow them down. 

These aren’t major “brush fires” in the marriage, just a little difference of opinion. 

She is probably right of course, she is my wife!!!  BUT, I see a different view.  I love the little wild flowers, the hearty little individuals, not planted certainly, but  poking their spunky little yellow daisy faces up through the grass as if to say, “Hey, look at me, a gift from God! We’re having fun out here aren’t we?  We are God’s ideas, enjoying this glorious day, basking in the sunshine.   Don’t mow us down, Pat.”

A little impertinent maybe, cocky little startups, but confidently  making their offering of beauty to the world,  showing up even though uninvited!!   

Now, in all honesty, these little wild flowers, Gail calls them weeds, aren’t Shasta Daisy’s, or any special species of plant  with important papers proving their pedigree;  not famous flower “rock stars” with pictures displayed  in the best seed catalogs; they are  just THERE, on their own, content to be  humble representatives of God’s beauty, a gift for me to see and appreciate as I mow the lawn in the heat of the day.  I even talk to them.

I suppose I relate to those little wildfowers, can feel their joy of living, their brashness,… growing where their little “seed feet” found themselves, serendipity,  because of life experiences.   Who am I to say they shouldn’t be there.    Who am I to decide where  and when life should be seen and felt?  Can I just enjoy, not thinking MY WILL BE DONE but instead, exercising a look, live and love philosophy.  

The lesson for me has come over time when I have seen not just flowers, but people, in situations where I felt judgmental, … who do they think they are, what are they doing there, why are they doing that?   Perhaps someone who appeared to be different, maybe an unfamiliar culture; contrasting  life philosophy; physically unattractive, at least to me; maybe rude, indifferent, any number of red flags that would bring up the old judgmental attitude.  When I think of the wildflowers, I remember that I should “mow around them”, appreciate any good I see in them, don’t see them as weeds, different from me, but see the good, even when it may be difficult. 

I have a friend who is a poet and author.  Her web site featuring a selection of her inspiring books is www.suchbeautysurroundsus.com.  What a wonderful name for the site, and how  truly our life improves by seeing and acknowledging that “such beauty does surround us”.   

It is said that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”  and I have known very few people that didn’t see the beauty in almost any situation when they were looking for it, when their hearts were filled with love, even if it was just a momentary glimpse.  

I love the the wonderful promise of the quote:  “Love never loses sight of loveliness”.**    I cling to that thought when some really unattractive scenes come before my eyes.  I realize that when I see ugliness it is a reflection of my own thinking.  When love fills our hearts and minds, we can see everything as lovely, and beautiful. 

My favorite author wrote of beauty, the beauty that expresses God’s Love, in the following:
Beauty is a thing of life, which dwells forever in the eternal Mind and reflects the charms of His goodness in expression, form, outline, and color.

It is Love which paints the petal with myriad hues, glances in the warm sunbeam, arches the cloud with the bow of beauty, blazons the night with starry gems, and covers earth with loveliness.**

As for the little daisy wildflowers,  grow where you are little guys. Your beauty does not go unnoticed. I’ll still mow around you.  And I’ll hug my dear wife and she will understand!!

See you tomorrow!!!

** Science and Health with key to the Scriptures   Mary Baker Eddy

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Old Men’s Club

You can see them everywhere.  What I call the Old Men’s Clubs.   At McDonalds, Starbucks, coffee shops,  especially at donut shops, 3 or more older men, spending the morning talking, sharing profound thoughts, talking sports, exaggerating,  eating those donuts and drinking coffee.

You can usually spot them sitting in a corner at a booth or table.  You can be sure they will be wearing casual clothes, almost always all wearing hats,  some John Deere Tractor caps, favorite baseball team caps, western or cowboy hats, Harley Davidson motorcycle hats, though most don't have the cycle, but you have to have a hat.  UNLESS, of course  you are really old and then the rules are off.  Baldness is acceptable.  The other exception is if it is a Senior Men’s Bible Study group and they usually wear dress shirts, some with ties but definitely no hats. 

So many times over the years I have encountered them, this strange phenomena, small groups conversing quietly, sometimes more vocal and even, though infrequently, loud assertions and forceful utterances, although never profane or insulting.  I have seen these clubs all over the world, in the Middle East, Europe and the Far East,  The Old Men’s Club.

But for me, tightly bound into endless work days of long hours, busy schedules, critical phone calls, mandatory meetings, planes to board, cars to rent, hotels to book, important sales calls or high level management meetings, these clubs were something far from my comprehension.    BUT, no matter where I went, as soon as I entered one of the favored venues for these Clubs, I would see them.  Some men looked like farmers, some smiling, some frowning, at the ends of the spectrum there was usually one that had the best or most urgently felt  opinions and one that didn’t say much, all drinking and eating.   What was the fascination, I wondered?

How wonderful life is!!!  The calendar flips, the years pass by and I now know the "secret", the attraction of the Old Man’s Club.  

Actually there are two secrets.  The First Secret is… shhh… don’t tell… they aren’t just Old Men!!  They are people, mostly good people, wonderful people actually , who have paddled their canoes through the rough waters of life, through the eddies and calm waters, paddling rapidly when the whirlpools of rushing rivers met still waters causing whirlpools that could have upset their canoes.  Pressing on bravely year after year, laughing, crying, worrying, enjoying, praying and feeling prayer answered, and now, enjoying being docked together with friends.  They have acquired wisdom, understanding, and a wonderful perspective on life.

My own  Club consists of several wonderful guys.  Tom, the Butcher, whom I met and became friends with when I first visited his butcher shop some years back.  A thirty year veteran of the United States Marine Corps with a fascinating background, a vast store of stories and tales, most of which are true, or so he says!!  Then there is Brent, retired FBI agent, intriguing experiences with the Bureau and tales of the rigors of teaching school which preceded his FBI service.  David is a successful businessman, Princeton graduate, wordsmith, punster and possesses a vivid imagination.  Then there is a newer member Jim, a good friend and a fellow Ohio State Buckeye.  He will be joining us for coffee soon.   

There I was, under heavy fire.... 
And now for the Second Secret: In the Old Man’s Club, you aren’t OLD, you are FREE.  You are free to share openly and honesty, to drop any pretenses of importance, rank or status.  Free to let your guard down and be yourself. No one cares about who you were or what you did over the years, unless you have some really great stories!!  But they do care about the touching experiences you may have had, the lessons you learned along the way, the fears you were able to overcome, and perhaps the progress you have made towards seeing that the goals you may have had as a young man have been replaced by the understanding that love is more important than all of the gold you could accumulate.   They care about your problems and share healing and helpful thoughts.   

Life isn’t about being OLD.   A Quote from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures** assures us:  Life is eternal.   We should find this out, and begin the demonstration thereof.  Life and goodness are immortal.

Let us then shape our views of existence into loveliness, freshness, and continuity, rather  than into age and blight. Men and women of riper years and larger lessons ought to ripen into health and immortality, instead of lapsing into darkness or gloom.

I am not sure about all of the clubs, but I know that in our club, we aren’t OLD, and we can each tell the others freely that we love them and admire them without feeling awkward, and often give each other a “man hug”.   And then, just maybe, we will  entertain one or two stores about how handsome each of us used to be and just how fiercely that big fish fought that we "almost" landed last week.

** For those who have inquired about my quotes from Science and Health, here is some additional information.   Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, written by Mary Baker Eddy, is used as a research source and companion to the Bible by members of many religions. First published in 1875, Science and Health has sold over 10 million copies and is a best-seller today. 2000-2001 yielded the book’s highest annual sales ever. It has also been cited by the Women’s National Book Association as “one of the 75 books by women whose words have changed the world.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

“Playing Dress Up”

Have you ever heard the expression, “It seemed like a good idea at the time” ?  Well, let me tell you.

It seems as though little girls love to play “Dress Up” . That is a game where young girls go to their mother’s,  sister’s or grandmother’s closet and pull out all manner of dresses, pants, underwear high-heeled shoes, hosiery, jewelry and hats. They can spend an entire afternoon trying on different clothes, woefully long dresses that are many sizes too big in every dimension,  and shoes that could only be stepped into and not worn on those tiny feet. 

Topped with ridiculous feathered hats these young maidens strut around, to the best of their ability, on shaky legs in spike heels thinking for all the world that they look just like their mothers or some other lady of the house or glamorous movie star.

Now what’s a small boy to do when his loving older sister, Carolyn, his guide, counselor and mentor, a frequent trusted co-conspirator and  always faithful companion, decides to play “dress-up”. This unsuspecting lad, too young to understand the trouble he would get into, agreed to go along for the ride.

What started out to be an innocent game, going through Mom’s and Carolyn’s clothes looking for just the right thing eventually ended up with me wearing a white blouse, a red and black plaid skirt and some kind of ladies shoes, in other words…the mistake of the century. Little knowing or even realizing the fall out this would bring, there I was, standing in the back of our house on the old lift-up wooden door that led to the cellar, fearlessly displaying my chosen finery as my parents’ camera clicked away, capturing the humiliating moment for posterity.

The dawn began to break when people who saw the picture started calling me Sister Pat.  Protest was futile.  I was done for.

Now that’s not the only time I played dress up, of course.   As the years passed I also dressed up as a cowboy with cowboy hat and strap on pistols, dashed around the neighborhood as Lash Larue or one of the Three Musketeers,  sometimes a World War II soldier, playing war games in the afternoons, and wearing other dress-up outfits which were in vogue “back in the day”.

I found out a very early age that dress-up is not so unusual after all. In all the years since that first ladies outfit I have continued to participate in the “Dress Up” game and have seen so many others play it too.  

So many times the “Dress Up” seems to be an attempt to portray ourselves as something that is not really US!!!   Acting out a role that isn't ours to play.  Or, as my old friend used to say, to Be Somebody!!    

Often more serious than dressing up as a cowboy or Superman,  it involves living beyond our means to impress others, perhaps with an expensive house or the most luxurious car or huge boat.    Others play up their own importance at their place of work or in social settings, sometimes arrogant, intimidating, hurtful to others. There are so many ways to dress-up but it never really hides the person underneath. 

Nice house!!!

Now this certainly isn't an accusation, or my trying to be judgmental, just an observation from someone who has been tricked into the game and understood about “Dress Up” from an early age.  And, it doesn't go away easily!!!  Most of us still face the temptation to stretch our own importance, to impress, to love the applause, to go beyond what we have demonstrated in life, to Be Somebody.   

Even Jesus was tempted by satanic thoughts… thoughts that came to him as he meditated in the mountains,  suggestions that he could rule the world, that he could turn rocks into bread, could throw himself off a cliff and live, if he accepted those temptations to Be Somebody!!.   (Matthew 4:3-10)   So, we are in good company when we are tempted this way.

Ironically, Jesus' idea of Being Somebody was to wash his disciples’ feet, to demonstrate humility, gentleness, love.   His example is there for us, an example that has stood the test of 2,000 years, and still is a bright light for our path.  No self importance, no fancy outfit, no need for material props.

One of my favorite reminders about “Dressing Up is in the second chapter of Genesis.  In the first chapter God had created the spiritual universe, and it was very good.  Perfect, complete.  The second chapter is an allegory of a material creation, where Adam and Eve were doing fine until they sinned, Dressed Up as disobeying God's request.  I have always felt so bad for Adam who, realizing that his Dress Up game was over, told God “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."   
And God said, "Who told thee that thou wast naked?"    Adam was embarrassed, humiliated, his Dress Up cover was gone.  He had realized his error.

How often we find ourselves naked, cowering in embarrassment, seeming like the whole world has a camera to take that humiliating shot.  Or, just in the privacy of our own thoughts, we realize how dressing up has once again gotten us to the point of self examination, self doubt or self criticism.   All because we Dressed Up as something we aren't.

Religious pioneer and author, Mary Baker Eddy, writes, “What is the material ego, but the counterfeit of the spiritual?” *    And, regarding our Dress Up role as a sinning mortal, “A material, sinful mortal is but the counterfeit of immortal man.”  **

The Apostle Paul, who made an amazing transition from a role as a persecutor of Jesus followers to being a faithful follower himself, could see through the Dress Up game and longed to be clothed in immortal garments:  
“For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked."***

Mrs. Eddy knew that we didn’t need to wear a costume to look good when she said :  “Man is God's reflection, needing no cultivation, but ever beautiful and complete.” ****  

 *  Miscellaneous Writings - MB Eddy 373
**    No and Yes – MB Eddy  page 25
***  II Corinthians  5
****Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures  MB Eddy   527:4

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lesson from a Baby Brownie

I guess the days of the film camera are about gone.   I remember the neat camera Mom and Dad had in the mid 1940s, it looked complex, when you opened it up it looked like an accordion.  I wasn't allowed near it!!   When the Baby Brownie came out, a lot of kids got them for Christmas.  You could really feel important if you had the Baby Brownie. People would stop smile, pose, giggle and boys would almost invariably put two fingers behind their friend’s head to make the friend  look like he had horns.  Young boys are so clever!  Everyone wanted their picture taken.

One of the problems was that you had to buy film. And that can get pretty expensive. And then sometimes you forgot to take the film out and open the camera later and wonder what in the world was on the film.  And, worse, not knowing if the film was blank or actually had pictures.   Matter of fact, I have had a roll of film on my desk, a  35mm in the little metal canister, for a very long time and I don’t know if it’s unused or exposed.  I have no idea when the pictures were taken, if any were taken.  I  sure hate to pay money to have blank film developed. So I guess it just stays on my desk.

With progress, and the "electronic age of all things miraculous", the film thing is nearly gone.  What a shame since the whole idea of film and developing pictures provides such lessons about life, about positive and negative, and developing the Positive From the Negative.   So many of us can benefit from that simple lesson, in our careers, our personal lives, with relationships and just being a productive, energetic, results oriented person.  And NO sales person should ever open that first prospect’s door without the "Lesson From a Camera".  

With the film camera, when you take a picture, the image as light is transferred onto the film.   The film is then taken to a developing step where chemical solutions bathe the negative and it turns positive, producing a picture image that we can see.

Now if you have any experience with the “old” technology of film cameras, you will know that a negative is not of much practical use after you have made the positive.  Negative, by its very definition, means “ characterized by the absence rather than the presence of distinguishing features.”

The negative is very dark, the picture is not clear, you must hold the negative up to a very bright light just to see the picture in shadows.  All of the light images are dark.  For the negative to be of any practical use  whatsoever we have to turn it into a positive,  that clear picture that we can see, enjoy, put on our desk to show off our family.  And the film of thought works the same way.

As with the film, the “Negative” attitude in thought, in the human experience, is characterized by the absence rather than the presence of distinguishing features.  The shapes are fuzzy, unclear, no definition, dismal and dark.   Thought expresses denial, disagreement, or refusal.  Sometimes angry, maybe feeling disrespected, unloving or unloved, always doubting, shying away and maybe fearing the good, looking for the dark, and FINDING IT!!!!.     

Contrast that thinking with the “Positive” attitude, the 
dictionary definition of Positive being “a good, affirmative, or constructive quality or attribute,   characterized by or displaying certainty, acceptance, or affirmation.”  Have you known someone, certainly not yourself, whose tendency was to embrace some negative traits… “The weather is going to be lousy today”;  I don’t feel well today and I am sure I will feel worse as the day goes on.”;  and, the favorite, “Well in this economy we can’t expect much to improve”? 

In a lifetime career of sales and management I have learned how important it is to see the good, to expect the best, to see how the negative is a spoiler, a de-motivator, a route to failure, actually seeing bad where good exists.  Nobody wants to be around a Negative!

Perhaps we have seen athletes demonstrate the power of  “The Positive”.  So many times I have seen a sports team, apparently losing the game or match in the final minutes, rise to the strength of the Positive and come from behind to win.  In professional football there is even a term for The Positive. It is a Two Minute Drill.  That  is the mode the teams go into when they are behind or very close to losing the game.  The last two minutes turn into a Positive Blitz where the teams defy the negative and push towards victory.  Inspiring.  

We’ve probably all heard the saying, “Seeing is believing”.  But even more true is “Believing is seeing”, for we “See what we believe as certainly as we believe what we see.”   We can MAKE IT HAPPEN.   

In life we form our own experience in thought, so it is imperative to see through eyes filled with love, truth, intelligence, confidence.   When we expect bad things we often find them. When we look for and expect the good, it magically appears.   

In the Bible, Job, having a horrible time, said:   “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.   Job 3.    Even when things look dark, our faithful persistence will soon discover a ray of light shining in the darkness, and it will light our  path.

A wonderful friend, bandleader Kay Kyser recorded a Hit Parade song by Johnny Mercer years ago that is a wonderful theme song.  In part is says:

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium's
Liable to walk upon the scene

 So today, I invite you to join me while I ACCENTUATE the POSITIVE!!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Life's Symphony

Sitting in the large theater some rows back from the stage, we were thrilled to be present for the music we were about to hear.   As the program began, we could hear the orchestra playing.  It was somewhat muted as the curtain had not yet opened.  It was perhaps an unusual way to start a concert but strangely cozy and comforting, listening to the music while the giant red curtain blocked our view of the orchestra.  

Then, almost imperceptibly at first, the curtain began to open.  As it opened, ever so slowly,  the conductor came into view,  behind him the podium the violas were visible, then the first violins and the cellos, the orchestra members dressed crisply in black and white, such a beautiful scene.   As the opening widened the rest of the strings, the woodwinds and horns came into view.  The music seemed to swell to a crescendo as the entire orchestra became visible.    The magnificence of a symphony, playing a beautifully arranged composition, written by Mozart who at even age 7 displayed a talent unreachable by most composers in their advanced years, made chills run up the spine.

How symbolic was that experience to me, a participant in life’s symphony, as we all are, with dual roles as audience and members of the orchestra.     In my moments of deepest thought and meditation,  I have realized that the grand symphony of eternal life has already been written, the score complete, and that as the curtain of life opens, it is revealed, effortlessly to each of us.

I was reminded of a time, some years earlier when my daughter Melanie, at age 13 or thereabouts, wanted to move on musically, beyond the piano.   She spoke with the school music director and they decided a violin would be just the thing.  And off she went!

Melanie began practicing at home, using the old violin that had been my Great Grandfather's and had been passed on down to my Dad and to me and now Mel.   With all of the expected squeaks and screeches, practice sessions became a good time for Dad to find a project in the garage.  Very shortly thereafter she told us that the orchestra was performing the next week.  I was shocked.  How talented my little darling must be.  

On the night of the performance I sat, a nervous Dad, excitedly waiting while the orchestra tuned up.  Then, right in front of my eyes the music began and my little girl with only a few weeks practice was “fiddling” furiously, the rest of the orchestra seemingly racing to keep up.  I was so proud of my genius; she was so obviously my daughter, inheriting the rich legacy of my own musical prowess.   I even notice the conductor nodding in her direction several times, probably acknowledging her skill and tone.

After the show was over I hugged her tightly and asked how she had progressed so rapidly and if that particular piece the orchestra was playing was difficult.  She looked at me and said, "Oh, I don’t know Dad.  I only played the "G" note through the whole piece. I have only learned "G" so far.   GASP!  No wonder the conductor was glaring at her!!  Shock turned to uncontrollable laughter.

That mental picture I held of life’s stage being like the orchestral performance, the curtain opening slowly to reveal the various stages of our experience, has helped me to better understand life’s journey.   So many times I have been like my dear daughter, maybe playing only "G" while the world around me was in harmony, in full orchestra.  But like her, I fiddled away the best I could.  There were certainly better “life musicians” out there, more experienced, more qualified, more talented members of this orchestra of humanity.    But, in doing what I could I reflected to some degree Shakespeare’s line, “If music be the food of life, play on”.

As the years have passed I can see more clearly that analogy of life as a symphony. As our human experience begins, we as small children are waiting in the audience of life, eagerly awaiting the first notes from the orchestra, our first experiences in this human sphere.   Our expectations are high; excitement and the promise of wonderful things fill our senses.   As we progress through our days on earth and the curtain opens more widely, the music becomes clearer, more meaningful.  The various instruments play together in harmony, supporting and complementing each other, all being directed by the Conductor, the divine intelligence, God.

The Bible, that work that reflects man’s search for truth throughout the ages, sets the scene for the Symphony of the universe. This beautiful story in the Book of Genesis, depicting the creation of the entire universe, shows the Creator’s symphony score to be finished, waiting to be played before the eternal audience. It says: “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. ...Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. “* Finished. Completed. Awaiting the orchestra.

That curtain on life may be opening slowly, or rapidly, for each of us.  It may not open completely for a long period of time, we may only be playing the “G” note at some points, but our daily practice, our desire to improve, our diligence to play that "G" the best it can be played, and to join in the harmony of life, is all we need do.

As each of us tunes up our violin today, we can know that God has written the score.  There are, in the spiritual reality, no sour notes, there is no discordant theme,  no missing notes.  The Grand Composer has finished his work.  It is ours to enjoy.

In I Corinthians Paul said:  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

When we know the Composer, the Creator, become familiar with His works, listen for the true sound, when we are confident and have faith in His ability to write the perfect score, we can sit back, close our eyes, listen to the music of life, and enjoy.

Welcome to Symphony Hall.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lesson from Lucy……

Now some folks are really afraid of dogs. They may carry around a mental image of sharp teeth, sneering face and loud barking. This view is spread abroad, mainly by people who are afraid of dogs.
But my view of dogs is completely different. They are, as has been said, “man’s best friend”, and serve as companions, faithful sidekicks, bringers of joy and laughter with their cute antics. Many dogs provide a protecting, guarding presence when danger lurks, often are rescuers from fire and smoke and sometimes the first responder when someone is in need. 

When my wife and I were first married she was afraid of dogs. When she was young her family had a large dog and Gail felt very intimidated, maybe having even suffered a tongue lashing from this beast. Unknown to her, a dog giving you a lot of tongue licks is the highest compliment they can offer, and rarely painful.

Some years back when we moved to the beautiful mountains near Blue Ridge, Georgia and bought our little Hilltop Farm, I could only dream of having a dog. There was no probability of us having one of those monsters anywhere near because of her fear.

But then, one day, one glorious day, with just a glimmer of hope, one moment of possible answered prayer, I saw a small face peeking out of the woods. It was a little brown face sporting huge ears that look like radar antennae. It was a dog.

This little girl was apparently a young Corgi, an abandoned dog, living off of small game and creek water. Even after she saw me watching her she continued to peek out from the trees, then, suddenly she disappeared. For a few weeks after that I would catch sight of her, first here, then over there, elusive, usually peeking out from the cover of some brush or trees, obviously shy but curious. I just wanted to go down and hug that sweet creature but she kept her distance.

After some time she came out of the woods more frequently. She came closer each time but maintained a safe distance. Then one day when my oldest daughter was visiting, the dog came up and let Melanie pet her. It was ironic that I, who really wanted the dog to come to me, was probably the last one to get to pet her. But I do confess that, with unrealistic high hopes but an ever optimistic salesman's outlook, I had already named her Lucy!

As time worked its magic and eased Lucy's fear and shyness I was finally able to get her up onto the front porch and even into the house. Then, Gail agreed to touch her, to gently rest her hand on the dog’s head. Gail was very tentative, still harboring fear of that little dog, but she did it, AND IT WAS PAINLESS, and she smiled.

Then, for the next step, the crucial test, Gail cautiously held out a small cookie. My little angel, (the dog, not the wife!!) graciously accepted it. With a touch as gentle as I assume the Queen of England would use selecting a scone from a silver platter, Lucy ever so prim and well mannered for a homeless girl, gently took the snack in her mouth, with a motion like a floating feather. Good Girl!! 

Lucy, Lucky , Gail and Pat - Christmas Photo
My wife’s fear was almost completely eliminated by that simple act of gentle acceptance, and Lucy continued to display that gentle presence. Now the neighbors might tell you of instances where she stood her ground against neighborhood dogs, but to us she was always gentle. 

Gentle Lucy - "Guarding the Nestlings"
The lesson of how that simple experience broke down the barriers, converted Gail’s fear to love, and at the same time earned Lucy a top spot in the household with many more snacks, vacation trips, adoring “oohs and aahs” from our family over the years has been with me ever since. 

I have heard that for the most part human emotions can be boiled down to just two, Love and Fear. At the very root of our daily experience, we are either loving or fearing. And the Bible points out that "Perfect love casts out fear."* Here was a living demonstration of that truth, love and gentleness casting out fear.

Maybe dogs are mans’ best friend because of the lessons they teach. Lessons of love certainly, but also of faithfulness, devotion, loyalty, selflessness, forgiveness, and yes, gentleness.

Well over 100 years ago a famous religious leader, Mary Baker Eddy, discoverer and founder of Christian Science, wrote a poem which captures the gentle nature of God’s relationship with His children. The first verse is:

O gentle presence, peace and joy and power; 
O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour; 
Thou Love that guards the nestling's faltering flight! 
Keep Thou my child on upward wing to-night.**

I really have to work on the concept of Gentleness. During my business career, and even most recently during the political debate taking place over the past year in the United States, I have gotten into discussions where harshness, criticism and self justification trumped the gentle nature that belongs to all of us as God’s ideas. In those times, sadly after the fact, I have returned to the healing message of that poem, realizing that I have not reflected that gentleness, that love, peace and joy that is my heritage from the Creator. 

Some folks seem to think that Gentleness is a sign of weakness, but
 I have seen the effects of wear and tear when Gentleness loses out to anger and disrespect.  In raising children I have proved to myself that gentleness, kindness and humility are the most powerful child raising tools there are. 

Another poem that has helped me so much in dealing with situations where my first inclination would be harsh evaluation and reaction, particularly in correcting my children, is: 

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. ***

I can guarantee, based on some years of practice, that this poem will bless both parent and child.

How gentle God is...  How gentle Jesus was…  If we can only continue that spirit of kindness and gentleness that is our TRUE nature as our children grow, as we encounter various people in our daily life, we will uplift them all.  

Our wonderful Lucy left us some months ago. Her beautiful lesson of Gentleness still blesses us. As often experienced on our walks, Lucy would run on ahead of us, stop and look back to make certain we were coming.

I know that she lives still, She just ran on ahead.

* I John 4:18
** Poems ... Mary Baker Eddy
*** Christian Science Hymnal #207