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