Saturday, February 23, 2013

Coming Out of the Closet … with Charlie

Funny how some of the things that seem so terrible at the time, maybe humiliating and embarrassing moments, turn out to be life’s most wonderful and beneficial lessons. The key is getting over it, learning from it and moving on.

Some years ago working in North Carolina, living back in the woods, down a dirt road that ran through a tobacco field outside of Greensboro, I was employed by a very small division of a large textile corporation.

A tremendous opportunity arose for our small start up division when a prospective client showed interested in the services of our fledgling company to support their national advertising campaign, .

Excited at the prospect of “hitting the big time”, my boss Charlie and I worked up a presentation to sell our services.

Now, I was feeling pretty important at this point. It was looking like I had “arrived”. Just a few years earlier, as a young, mid-twenties, computer operations specialist I was far from being a consultant. Now look at me, flying on the company plane to New York City to make an important client presentation, “hitting the BIG TIME”.

When the limousine pulled up under the wing of the corporate plane at Teeterboro airport, my eyes glazed over at the feeling of being “Executive Material”… a most important young man. Amazing how quickly one can get stars in their eyes!!!


We were whisked by limousine down to Madison Avenue. The Ad agency offices where we were to meet the client were right out of a Hollywood set, expensive furniture and luxurious brilliant red carpet covered the floor and then continued right up the walls. A few pictures on the walls broke up the sea of red, and there were several gold door knobs adorning the carpeted walls, indicating doors leading to the inside office corridor and conference rooms. 

Warmly welcomed by the Ad Agency staff, we made our way into a conference room filled with client representatives and Ad agency executives, and we made our presentation. 

Then, feeling the glow that comes with a successful sales presentation and with my own visions of rapid growth into top management ranks becoming more realistic, Charlie and I confidently left the room. Most of the client group followed us out into the reception area, exchanging wishes for safe travel.

Then, the unthinkable happened. I reached for the gold doorknob, the one prominently sticking out of that sea of red carpet. As I opened the door and walked out of the offices, both Charlie and I looked back to say one more "Thank You". As the door closed behind us, it became very dark. With sinking heart I realized what had happened. I had gone through the wrong door and we were in the coat closet. Charlie nudged me and said, "We have to come out of the closet."

My worst fears were realized as we emerged from the closet and saw the entire group, customers, ad agency executives, receptionist all laughing so hard that tears were streaming down their faces. My visions of “self-importance” shattered, no more Mr. Big Shot. Completely humiliated, I reached for another of those treacherous gold door knobs and this time, thankfully, it was the exit door.

Charlie never said a word. He is just a little my senior, a Vice President in our company, very mature, very smart, and much more conservative. Like, he knows the difference between a closet and a corridor.

When we had traveled down about 20 floors in the high speed elevator Charlie, breaking the deafening silence, said softly, “Well Collini (a nickname he gave me), do you think they guessed we were small town North Carolina boys?”

Well, in spite of having the "ego stuffing" knocked out of me, with the tension lifted and the air cleared I started laughing, and we laughed all the way to the ground floor, out into the street, into a taxi, and actually we have been laughing about it ever since.

I learned two very valuable lessons that day. First, humor heals. Charlie’s own humility, his ability to overlook an act that made us both look silly, and pretty darn "country", and his kind support of an employee/friend made a lasting impression. That wonderful example of forgiveness, overcoming embarrassment, being able to laugh at life was surely a cure for self-importance. Recently, still remembering that experience after all of the years, Charlie sent me the cartoon below:

                CHARLIE and COLLINI in the BIG CITY 

Friendship means forgiveness, patience, not holding a grudge, overlooking faults. It means encouraging, building up, supporting.

So many times since that day I have laughed during the most tense and serious moments, remembering that “Coming out of the Closet” experience, being reminded that human experience is like a dream, that we can change things by our attitude, we can “improve the dream”, we can survive the mistakes, the wrong moves, the sometimes poorly made decisions.

The second and very important lesson was that pride and a feeling of self-importance are NOT OUR FRIENDS.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to the hungry hearts of the people of his day, included a simple formula for success and happiness. In the book of Matthew, he counseled,
“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Far from being a sign of weakness, meekness opens our eyes to see who we REALLY are as God's children.

A wonderful rendering of this same verse as recorded in The Message translation by Bible Scholar Eugene H. Peterson, from the original languages, brings it close to home to me:
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”

When we tear away the false “this world” concept of success and happiness, the “race to the top”, pursuing wealth, fame, the need to be "the greatest" or to be admired for our wonderful achievements, we come to better understand the things of true worth and value. We become open to understanding our heritage as spiritual beings, as heirs of God. We begin see the true joy and happiness which is ours as we express the real and lasting qualities of love; tenderness; faithfulness; loyalty; honesty; selflessness. The temptation to be "someone else" fades away, replaced by a priceless sense of the wonder of life itself.

Experience shows that we could interpret the verse about "meekness" to say, "stay out of the fickle closet of arrogance and ego", and keep your eyes open to be sure you enter the right door, the door to unselfishness, humility and love.

Take my word for it.... It’s dark in that closet!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Looking to the Present

Well, it’s a beautiful day for my first flying lesson. As I strapped myself in and got settled behind the controls, I guess through reflex I looked up to adjust the rear view mirror as I would in a car. 

 But, there was no rear view mirror. That loud, cruel laughter you hear is from the young, cocky flight instructor as he assured me that in this plane were not going to fly backwards. “It’s all going to be Forward and Upward,” says he!

I guess that wasn’t the first time I had fallen for the temptation to look back. So many times I have caught myself ruminating over things that have happened in The Past… hastily made poor decisions, impulsive acts, moving too quickly or not fast enough, hurting someone’s feelings through insensitive actions, saying the wrong or hurtful thing, disappointing someone, disappointing myself.

Analyzing, regretting or longing for the past is a total waste of time, I know. On one occasion I went back to my hometown remembering how wonderful my childhood was, but the city wasn’t the same, nothing was the way I remembered it.

I guess you can say that
I’ve given up all hope of seeing a better past!

And truly, that is the good news. The past is unchangeable and irrelevant. We have only Today. Yesterday is gone, Tomorrow isn’t here yet, and we have this wonderful Today to enjoy. Regretting or even longing to return to the Past is like awakening from a really interesting dream, and then trying to quickly slip back to sleep to see how it will turn out. Silly, I know.

The Bible points us in the right direction with assertions such as
”Beloved, now are we the sons of God” * andBehold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation."** Not last year or even yesterday… but NOW.

Even if our memories of the past are happy, warm and comfortable, we can certainly enjoy the afterglow, but to dwell on the past, to linger, to pine, to feel guilt or sorrow and let it control our present is futile and an obstacle to forward movement. As the stockbrokers always say,
“Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

Maybe like me, you have heard older folks say “Well in my day” followed by some commentary, usually painting a picture of what they remember as better times pulled from their memory, many times forgetting the bad parts and recalling only the wonderful moments. 

A wonderful blog that I enjoy, “Listen Up and Lighten Up, written by Laura Moliter, recently featured this wonderful description of Today’s promise:  
"Accept today’s glorious and loving renewal. Looking over our shoulder with regret or carrying fears forth into a day that is full of perfecting protection and affection, is an unnecessary burden. The former things, the old thinking that never did us any favors, can be left in last year without a backward glance. You are not your history. You are not even your future. You are this moment’s child, new born through grace, innocent and ready and loved by God.**

A proclamation of promise contained in Science and Health says: “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.”**

So, back in our Cessna, as we become airborne, leaving the runway and Yesterday behind, we bank to the left, make one last pass over the Field of the Past, and still climbing Forward and Upward, continue heading into the Present…. Today.

(Click links to go to source)
* I John 3:2 ** II Corinthians 6:2                             

Friday, February 8, 2013


WHAT has happened to us, the human race???…  It didn’t come suddenly, but with stealth, the arrival of NOISE.  "Turn off the TV,  will you please, Dear,  those commercials are so loud I can’t think."   Oh, it wasn’t the commercials?  It was several political analysts arguing over some obscure meaningless  point, almost shouting,  talking over each other and getting louder and louder

That’s better, no wait,  what’s that noise?  Oh, it’s the ear shattering blast of a huge truck gearing down on the hill across the river, or is it a group of motorcyclists?  Somebody’s really proud of those  loud exhaust pipes, I know.  Then there are the cars passing by with the stereo blasting,  factories clanging, train engines passing nearby with their horns shrieking, iPod, CD players, cell phones, ring tones…STOP!!!!

Where has all the silence gone? 

Here’s a test.  Have you ever been deep in the woods, or the middle of a lake, or in a desert place, or some other REALLY quiet spot where there were no sounds, except maybe the whisper of the wind, or the song of a bird, or the ripple of water over the rocks in a stream?   Or even as I have, in the middle of my corn patch with the bees buzzing loudly around the corn, doing their work?   A place where there were no other sounds to distract,  where no voices rang out with human opinions, where it was possible, and oh so very enjoyable, to shut down the physical senses and just… yes… listen.  Jesus called it “entering into a closet”, a quiet place where you are alone with your thoughts from God.

Is there a conspiracy to keep us from listening to the quiet things?  Has loud noise stolen our ability to Listen to the sweet, soft sounds?  Is noise an escape, a diversion so that we don’t have to think, or listen to the sounds of our mental voice whispering?   Or to avoid what  I call the built-in GPS,  the God Positioning System.
You can hear silence, you know.  And in that silence, there are Angels.

Now Angels, to me, are not winged creatures that fly down from heaven.  My concept of angels is captured perfectly in her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.  She describes ANGELS as  “God's thoughts passing to man; spiritual  intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness,  purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality."  

Angel thoughts are those pure, loving, inspiring thoughts that pop up spontaneously and we wonder where in the world they came from.  Now God’s “angel thoughts” don’t REQUIRE silence, I have heard them in the midst of frightening situations , or when the crowd was roaring at a baseball game, or even over the screech of brakes in a tight driving situation.   But..Oh.. the beauty of the still small voice that whispers in velvet tones in the stillness of the “closet”, where all extraneous noises are shut out and focus is totally on listening.  This is where the uplifting thought, the enlightening ideas, the inspired solution to a problem over which we may have been struggling arrives, the light that shines in thought to dispel the darkness of confusion and uncertainty, to reveal a wonderful opportunity.

A quote from Mary Baker Eddy shares this thought:
Father, teach me how to still
The clamoring of sense, and fill
My place as listener,

That I may hear Thy voice 
and grow To understand Thy Word, 
and so Become Thy messenger.

Then teach me how to banish pride 
And stubborn will that I may be Thy representative –
With no false sense of human zeal, 
That every word may bless and heal, 
When I Thy message give.  
 (Grekel, Doris, The Forever Leader, p.222)  

Will you Listen with me?  The Divine Mind, God is talking… Shhhh......

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Who thought it was a good idea to sit here in the front row? My stomach feels like a thousand butterflies are fighting to get out. I had a feeling that this was going to happen when I was standing in line. 

 When I was young I had heard about the Leap-The-Dips, a roller coaster built in 1902 at Lakemont Park in Altoona,  Pennsylvania and it sounded like such great fun, I had always wanted to experience that. But after standing in line for some time at this newer, higher, more modern roller coaster in Ohio, seeing how high the structure was, my resolve was starting to weaken. Now, in a front row seat, looking ahead at the tracks climbing skyward, reaching almost to the puffy clouds overhead it seemed, I wished that I could jump out of the car and run back to the ice cream stand that we had just passed.
I consoled myself that the Leap-The-Dips had survived for many years and I hadn't heard of anyone getting hurt badly. Before I could ruminate and build the level of fear any further, the car had filled and we started to roll slowly, clank, clank,…. clack, clack… and my heart was echoing that rhythm, beat, beat,... beat beat... inching our way up above the midway, the entire amusement park appearing below. Just when I wondered if the car would make the summit, suddenly the bottom dropped out and we rocketed down the other side of the coaster, going faster and faster, ears filled with screams of those on board, the funny, queasy feeling in the stomach, me not knowing whether to laugh, scream or cry and with a wrenching jerk we bottomed out and started up the next hill, heading towards another adventurous descent and a sharp curve at the bottom.

Thinking back, I am glad that I experienced that ride and a few other similar rides in following years. It was a great preparation for life. It’s funny how similar many of life’s experiences can be to those roller coaster rides, the ups and downs the fear and exhilaration, the moments of expectation and anticipation sometimes followed by fear and regret, that we face as we go through life.

Many of us can relate to that roller coaster ride. There are so many examples of the ups and downs that we face every day... the abrupt stock market fluctuations, perhaps our personal finances, strained relationships among countries in the world, our relationships with family and friends, or seemingly serious health situations involving our loved ones. Just as a roller coaster works because of gravity, a force that pulls things down, most often just when they are at the height of their climb, there is a sudden downward pull which frightens, discourages and at the least causes abrupt and sometimes extreme changes in our circumstances, our relationships and general quality of life.

At one time as I was working in an automotive manufacturing company.  The plant where my data center was located was an automotive stamping plant and this particular plant manager was being honored by the Corporation for excellent profitability, productivity and safety numbers.   Sitting in his office that day I congratulated him for the recognition and he told me, “Pat, in this business, when things look really good on paper they’re not as good as they look. And when our plant looks bad on paper it’s not really as bad as it looks.” And isn’t life like that?!!

That to me was helpful and I think of that often. That roller coaster, that juxtaposition of happiness and sorrow, of exhilaration and fear, of confidence and doubt are extremes which should be smoothed out by a calmer sense of what’s really going on in life. 

As I go back to my Personal User Manual, the Bible, I find such calming examples of how others in history have actually been able to smooth out the bumps and see life in a more spiritual context, see that relying on a spiritual view of life, as opposed to the discouraging and disappointing views that matter gives us, can solve our problems in practical ways. 

Christ Jesus was a great calming influence to his disciples and to others who were with him. In the midst of a storm at sea, the height of fear, when his disciples were sure that tragedy was imminent and Jesus was asleep, they awakened him and he immediately calmed the storm. To me, his action calmed their thoughts, removed their fear, as when a young child is fearful during the night and the father or mother goes into the bedroom to reassure them that all is well and that they are safe. 

In instance after instance, Jesus demonstrated in practical examples that the roller coaster of events in life can be smoothed out by reliance on God, our spiritual source, to provide food, drink, health, sanity, life where their opposites appeared to be. His greeting was usually, “Peace be unto you.” 

Another Biblical example was an occasion when the King of Syria was very upset with the prophet Elijah and sent a great number of men, horses and chariots to find Elijah and bring him back to the king. Elijah’s servant was very afraid as he awakened to see that they were surrounded by the king’s army. But, Elijah, a prophet that trusted in God’s care and protection reassured his servant. “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."    II Kings 6: 14

I am sure many have prayed to understand, as I have, 'What can I do to place myself on a more even keel? How can I experience more consistency, more harmony, less upheaval?'     Now we may not be surrounded by chariots and horses, but what if we could see the serene, calm picture of spiritual thought,  could see that the storm we are facing can be stilled, the multitudes of our needs can be fed, the illness healed, the tears turned to laughter, the turbulence smoothed by the calm abiding? How can we be a “God listener?"   See through the fog?  

Recent events in my own personal experience have reinforced the conviction that we can indeed slow down the coaster, quiet the fear, feel confidence and trust by turning to God for guidance. My solution is to turn to the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, a Bible companion used by people of many religions.

One of my favorite Bible “calmers” is found in Psalms 91.

"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday."        I like to add here, “Nor for the roller coaster of emotion”!!!

When our thought is safely cloistered within that “secret place” where we are listening to God’s thoughts for us, quietly contemplating our oneness with God, our eternal Father, Creator, the source of all being, we can relax, get off of the coaster.

Mary Baker Eddy, an influential American author, teacher, and religious leader, noted for her groundbreaking ideas about spirituality and health, which she named Christian Science, counseled this: "Man is not a pendulum, swinging between evil and good, joy and sorrow, sickness and health, life and death."      "Stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously." * 

We can turn the roller coaster into a gentle carousel, smooth the ups and downs, listen to the calliope playing a cheerful melody as we feel God’s calming reassurance.