Monday, October 31, 2011

Worst Funeral Experience

The worst funeral experience I ever had was for a woman I didn't know. The old lady had suffered from dementia and been relocated to an out of town nursing home many years before. They brought her back to town to bury her. I was asked to do the honors.

Since I didn't know the lady I met with her daughter to find out something about her. "Tell me some good memories you have of your mother," I asked the daughter.
Her response surprised me."I can’t think of anything. She was a mean lady and a bad mother. I hated her."

I pressed her. After all, even Hitler probably helped a little old lady across the street when he was a boy. No one is completely bad. But she didn't break. She told abusive, neglective stories about her mother.

I’ve thought about that daughter a lot through the years. And do you know what? I think it was the daughter who was mean.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My First Funeral in Houston

My first funeral in Houston was a memorable experience. The deceased requested a New Orleans jazz band at the graveside. It was cool. I really liked it.

When it came time for the service to begin the band became quiet and I started to talk. I don’t remember anything I said. All I can remember is how muggy and how hot it was on that July day. The mosquitoes were out in full force. They had declared war on us.

The mother-in-law of the deceased decided to put an end to the mosquitoes. She reached into her purse and pulled out the "Off". She sprayed it on her legs; she sprayed it on the legs of the people around her; she sprayed it in the air. But it wasn’t mosquito repellent, it was mace. Talk about scattering the crowd!

Leave it to your mother-in-law to have the last word.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


When many family members go to funerals they wonder what they may inherit: money, furniture, and jewelry. I do a lot of funerals and sometimes I can close my eyes and see buzzards circling overhead waiting to see what is available to devour.

When my grandmother died it was different. My grandmother was poor. She didn't have any money and few possessions so all the grandchildren brought a checkbook to the services. We pooled our resources and paid for the funeral.

I didn't inherit any physical assets from my grandmother's estate, but I will be indebted to her for as long as I live. Most of what I know and believe I got from her. And, one of the great joys of my life was helping to pay for her funeral.

Friday, October 28, 2011


I love the story about the man who was anxious and nervous all the time. One day a friend saw him and he was completely transformed. He was calm and serene.

The friend asked, "What has come over you? You seem so tranquil. How did you overcome your nervousness?"

The man responded, "It's an interesting story. I read an ad in the newspaper about a man you could hire to do all your worrying for you. So I hired him and now I do not worry about anything. It has made a huge difference."

"That's wonderful," the friend said in amazement. "How much does he charge you?"

"$10,000 a day," answered the man.

"How can you afford $10,000 a day?" asked the friend. "That's a lot of money!"
To which the man replied, "That's his worry."

Believe it or not, the Bible says we have a Creator who knows us and loves us. He has invited us to cast all our worries upon Him because He cares about us.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Bobby Jones was one of the early founders of American golf. He built the Augusta National where the Masters Tournament is played. He was also a man of great integrity.

One day Bobby was addressing a ball in the rough. His club touched a twig which caused his ball to move ever so slightly. He turned to his caddy and said, "That will cost me one stroke." The caddy responded, "That will not be necessary. I did not see the ball move and I'm sure no one else saw it move either." Mr. Jones answered, "But I saw it move and I have to live with me."

That's the best reason to live in integrity and to always do the right thing that I've ever heard: because you know what the right thing to do is and you have to live with you.
Never violate your own integrity. It doesn't matter whether anybody else knows about it or not. You know about it and you have to live with you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Stress does terrible things to us, doesn't it? You know, we start the day determined to get our eating under control and as the day progresses we eat more and more. Nervous eating, we call it.

For breakfast we have half of a grapefruit, a bowl of low-fat, low-carb cereal with skim milk, and a cup of coffee with non-fat creamer.

For lunch we have a four ounce chicken breast, one cup of steamed zucchini, one Oreo cookie, and a cup of herb tea.

For a mid afternoon snack we have six Oreos and a diet Coke.

For supper we have six pieces of pizza, a Greek salad, two beers, and a triple dip of ice cream.

Then late at night we eat the rest of the package of Oreos, the rest of the pizza, a peanut butter sandwich, half of a gallon of butter pecan ice cream, and three wine coolers.

Stress is deadly.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Miserable People

How would you like to become a miserable person?

No doubt some of you would. If so, just follow my simple, seven-step formula and I guarantee you, you'll be miserable:

1. Think about yourself all the time.
2. Talk about yourself all the time.
3. Never forgive people's slights or criticisms.
4. Always expect to be recognized and appreciated, and, if you don't get it, respond with resentment.
5. Be envious of those who have more and get breaks that don't come your way.
6. Do as little as possible for others and expect as much as possible for yourself.
7. Believe and act as if the whole world revolves around you.

The truth is that the more self-centered you are, the more likely you are to be perfectly miserable.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Greatest Disappointment

My greatest disappointment about people is that their memories are so short-lived. No matter how much you have done for them in the past, they tend to see you only in terms of the issue at hand. The past slate, which involves their indebtedness to you, is wiped clean and you find yourself indebted to them.

Their attitude is not, "But I remember what you have done for me in the past." It is, "What have you done for me lately?"

When someone does something you do not appreciate or approve of, before you write them off or condemn them, ask yourself two questions:

     • Has this person done anything good for me in the past that I need to take into consideration?
     • How would I want to be treated if the situation was reversed?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chadds Ford

The famous artist N.C. Wyeth lived in a rural Pennsylvania village called Chadds Ford. It was there that he illustrated some of the books I read as a child: Treasure Island, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Yearling.

Recently I toured his home and studio. The tour guide told us the tragic story of Wyeth's death. He and his grandson were in a car that stalled out at a railroad crossing. Rather than removing his grandson from the car and running for his life, leaving the car to be destroyed, N.C. Wyeth tried to push the car to safety. The result was that Wyeth and his grandson were both killed and the car was obliterated.

Sometimes in life you have to choose between people and things. If you choose things, people are often destroyed as an unintended consequence. Always choose people.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Goofy Theories

People come up with some pretty goofy theories.

I have a single friend who won't date anyone who doesn't have long earlobes. She says that successful men all have long earlobes.

Not long ago a Canadian psychologist announced that men with index fingers which are short compared with their ring fingers have problems with anger.

When I was a boy, many folks believed that the size of your forehead determined how smart you were.

Silly statements like these are how prejudices are formed. People are all different - the length of your earlobes, your forehead, and your index fingers not withstanding.

If we could spend as much time embracing people with unconditional love as we do categorizing, differentiating and branding people, we'd be a lot better off.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Key To Life

Have you ever heard the name Edgar Bergen? He was perhaps the greatest ventriloquist to have ever lived. Ventriloquism is the art of training one's voice so as to make it sound like it is coming from a non-human object.

Here is the way Edgar Bergen found his vocation. As a youngster he ordered a book on photography. The mail order company sent the wrong book; they sent a book on ventriloquism. Edgar Bergen couldn't afford to send the book back, so he kept it and read it.

Bergen became fascinated with ventriloquism. He made a wooden dummy and called it "Charlie McCarthy." The rest is history. Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy became a world-class entertainment duo.

The key to life is taking what life gives you and using it for something good.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Diplomatic Banquet

There is a story about a diplomatic banquet that was held in London in about 1850. Queen Victoria was hosting a dinner in honor of a visiting African Chieftain.

The evening was going well. The food was good. The table conversation was interesting. But after the meal was over the waiters brought a finger bowl and placed it in front of every one of the diners. They were supposed to politely make sure that their hands were unsoiled.

The Chieftain, bless his heart, had never seen a finger bowl and didn't know what to do with it. So he looked at it, took it with both hands, put it to his lips and drank the water in it.

Well, every one of those high society, dignified Brits were aghast. It was a scandal. The whispering began until Queen Victoria picked up her finger bowl and downed its contents. Slowly each guest followed her lead.

It is more important to make people feel at home than it is to practice proper etiquette.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lie Detectors

Do you know how lie detectors work? They measure your heart rate, breathing, and other indicators from your nervous system to determine whether or not you are telling the truth in response to a series of questions you are asked.

Evidently our bodies are biased toward truth and honesty and when we violate our own integrity, our bodies respond in kind. When we lie, our bodies telegraph "that is not the truth."

Do you know why this is so? It is because we are created in the image of the One who is integrity, truth, and fidelity.

Do not violate your nature. Tell the truth even if it gets you in trouble.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

People Are Watching

Isak Dinesen's book Out of Africa tells the story about a Kenyan tribesman appearing at the door of the book's heroine in Nairobi to ask for employment. She said, "Yes" and he turned out to be a marvelous servant.

After three months of employment he came and asked for a letter of recommendation saying he wanted to go to Mombassa to wait for a Muslim sheik. Upset that she was losing him as an employee, she offered him higher wages.

He said, "No." That he had taken a job with her because she was a Christian. Now he wanted to work for a Muslim for three months. After observing a person of each religion for three months, he wanted to decide for himself which was the true religion.

The heroine was aghast. She said, "I wish you would have told me why you were here. I would have tried to treat you better."

People are watching.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Scott Wesley Brown has a poem I like. It is called Things.

Things on the mantle,
Things on every shelf,
Things that others gave me,
Things I gave myself,
Things I've stored in boxes That don't mean much anymore,
Old magazines and memories Behind the attic door,
Things on hooks and hangers,
Things on ropes and rings,
Things I have that blind me
To the pettiness of things.
For discarded in the junkyard
And rusting in the rain
Are the things that took
The finest years of a lifetime to obtain.
And whistling through the tombstones
The hollow breezes sing
A song of dreams surrendered
To the tyranny of things.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Human Relationships

Let me teach you a little trick about human relationships. When you first meet a person, it is our natural tendency to be negative - to see the person's flaws, shortcomings, and idiosyncrasies. We get defensive, compare them to ourselves, and do our best to come to a positive conclusion about ourselves.

But then after we have known them a while and we see them less as a threat, we start seeing the good things about them - their strengths, their abilities, the special things about them that make them unique.

Here's the trick: when you are in a critical mood, keep your mouth shut. Do not say anything negative to them or about them. Wait for it to pass and for positive thoughts to come. And then speak to them and about them with these admirable qualities in mind.

This is important because what you say about others both reveals who you are and shapes what you become.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"the wisdom of Pooh"

The other day a friend died. She was only fifty-two years old, but she had suffered her entire lifetime. She contracted polio when she was two and spent her entire life in a wheelchair. She had every disease you have ever heard of – cancer, heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure. You name it and she had it. Yet she was patient, bright, upbeat, non-complaining and grateful.

My friend's secret was that she did not compare her situation with the life of the people around her. She practiced what she called "the wisdom of Pooh."

My friend had two dogs - a small dog and a large dog. The small dog’s name was "Pooh." She was always impressed that Pooh did not compare her food portion with the portion given the larger dog. Pooh simply savored the food she was given, eating it slowly and enjoying every morsel.

My friend practiced "the wisdom of Pooh." So should we all.

Friday, October 14, 2011


When I was a little boy, many shoe stores had an unusual machine called a fluoroscope. It was designed to help customers see whether or not the shoe fit.

The problem was that the fluoroscope was actually an x-ray machine. You see, in those days we did not know that x-rays were dangerous and that the human body can only receive a limited amount of x-rays in a lifetime.

If you have ever received an x-ray, you know that the technicians hide behind lead-filled walls. That means being a shoe salesman in the 1950's was a high risk vocation!
You can see one of those old fluoroscope machines on display at the Children's Museum here in the Museum District of Houston.

I suspect there are things we take for granted as normal and good today that one day we will see was hurtful and destructive. What do you reckon they are?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Homes of Famous Persons

One of my favorite activities is to visit the homes of famous persons. Once we visited the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. It was built by William Randolph Hearst, who was a publishing magnate from the 1920s - 1940s.

The house is located in a lovely spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean, but it feels gaudy and chaotic. It is a concrete grandiosity. One of the questions I ask when I visit famous houses is, "Were the people who lived here happy?" The answer is usually, "No."

If you have ever seen the classic movie Citizen Kane, you know that William Randolph Hearst was a rich, miserable guy.

When it comes down to it, I'd rather live in a house and have a happy life with my wife and children by my side than to live a lonely, friendless life in a castle.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Little League Baseball

Not long ago I witnessed a little league baseball game. The kids were all decked out in beautiful uniforms. They had expensive, name-brand equipment. Parents and grandparents were out in numbers to cheer and support.

The only problem was that most of the kids were not very good. At least I didn't see any of them that looked like future major league prospects.

So why would children with mediocre baseball talent want to play on a baseball team? I meditated on that question for a long time and I think I have the answer. It is the uniform. People who participate on the team get a uniform that they get to keep. And that uniform signifies that they belong, they’re part of the team.

The bottom line is that we all need to know we belong. And after all, better a baseball team than a gang.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Conversation at the gym

A fellow walked up to me at the gym the other day and asked, "Hey, are you really a preacher?" I assumed he meant the question as a compliment, that I did not look like a clergy-type, so I answered, "Yep, I'm a preacher."

"Wow," he sighed, "Does that mean like you marry people?"

I drew another conclusion-that he was looking for someone to tie the knot for him. Reluctantly I said, "Yes, I do."

And he surprised me. He asked, "Well, what’s your track record? How many of the folks you marry end up getting divorced?"

I was stunned. No one had ever asked me that question. Finally I said, "I don’t keep statistics on it, but I don’t suspect it’s a record to be proud of."

I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since. I sure am glad that the One I worship and adore grades on the curve.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Guiding Principles

About fifteen years ago a friend lovingly confronted me with the possibility that maybe I did not believe everything I said I believed. His words pierced my heart. I asked myself, "Could he be right?" After all, I do not want to be afraid of the truth.

Beginning that day I began to revisit my stated belief system. I made two major discoveries.

First, I found out that my friend was right. A lust for certainty had driven me to embrace answers to questions that were not mine. I did not really believe everything I said I believed.

Secondly, I came to the freeing conclusion that I did not have to have an answer to every question.

I am less sure of my positions on controversial issues than I was many years ago. But I feel better about it than I once did, because I’m being more honest.

Hear the good news! You do not have to have an answer to every question.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Guiding Principles

Today and tomorrow I'd like to share two guiding principles that have shaped my adult life.
The first principle is that you do not ever have to be afraid of the truth.

I know people who are defensive about their belief systems. They hold to their stated beliefs with tenacity. They refuse to doubt or to question. They avoid people who call their beliefs into question. When information that contradicts their view is presented, they call the sincerity of the presenter into question. They are like children putting fingers in their ears, refusing to listen.

But being afraid of the truth is a dangerous posture.

I'm not afraid of people losing their faith. I'm afraid of people having a faith that is infantile and undeveloped.

Never be afraid of the truth.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


The only thing constant in life is change.
Most of us operate on the illusion that things are going to stay the same – that what we build: our businesses, our homes, our relationships, and our savings, will endure.

Accompanying this illusion is the false hope that there are things we can do which will cause us to gain control of our future. If we work hard, save our money, and get to know the right folks, then our future will be a smooth, trouble-free existence.

But, my experience is that life never works out the way we drew it up in the playbook. It presents us with problems and ambiguities that we did not anticipate.

Regardless of how much planning we do, we always end up having to call a lot of audibles.

Therefore, the attribute we need most in life is wisdom.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Your Secert Self

If you feel an aversion to someone, chances are it is because you are repulsed by something you see in them that is also within you.

Also, the criticisms that hurt us the most are the ones which echo our own self-condemnation.

Consequently, if you want to understand yourself better, look carefully at two things:
  • the qualities in others that irritate you;
  • and the comments others make that cause you to become defensive.
These two things will tell you a lot about your secret self.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


The reason we get so upset when we have to wait is because we think the only thing that counts in life is the destination. We want to arrive at our destination quickly, with as few interruptions as possible.

But life is not about destinations. It is about the trip, the process, the going - including the interruptions.

Life is not about finishing the degree so that you can earn a living. It is about learning.

Life is not about hurrying through your dating life so you can find the right person to get married to. It is about getting to know a variety of people and enjoying being with them.

Life is not about hurrying down the highway so you can be the first to arrive. It is about enjoying the trip and being at peace with yourself as you travel.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What Kind of Listener Are You?

President Franklin Roosevelt once became aware that the people around him were not really listening to him. So, he decided to try an experiment. As people came through the receiving line to greet him, he smiled and said calmly, "I just murdered my grandmother."

"Good for you," "I'm glad to hear it." Excellent, keep it up." "We are proud of you," came the responses.

Only one person coming through the line appeared to hear what President Roosevelt had said. It was the Prime Minister of Bolivia. His response was, "I'm sure she deserved it."

Do you pay attention to what the people around you are saying? What kind of listener are you?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Problem Free"

The thing that separates us from people that we want to be near is the desire to appear to have no problems. We do not want people to find out that we are:
  • weak,
  • immature,
  • strange,
  • stupid,
  • undeveloped, or
  • broken.
So we construct a false self – a facade of normalcy.
Once we have established a false self, we have to maintain the secret. Then we start believing that our false "problem free" self is our real self.

Dating is often two false selves trying to be intimate. It is obviously impossible. Sooner or later our sham becomes exposed. The alternatives are then estrangement or maintaining a dysfunctional relationship.

If we could only get comfortable with being who we are and being honest in how we represent ourselves, then we would have a chance at intimacy.

Monday, October 3, 2011

One Thing Life Has Taught Me

If you determine the value of who you are or what you do by the results of your effort, you doom yourself to the fear of failure.

If there is one thing life has taught me, it is that results are unpredictable. Results have everything to do with circumstances, context, and timing - things beyond our control. I have seen people do virtually everything right and get a negative result. Conversely, I have seen people do almost everything wrong and get a positive result. Go figure.

Rather than worrying about results, we should focus on process. If you do your best and your effort is an expression of your true self, you are a success regardless of the outcome. We should be rewarded "in" our actions, not only "by" them.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

More Random Thoughts

Here are a few more random thoughts:
  • Making demands and giving ultimatums creates pressure on people and people crumble under pressure; more important, it's unloving.
  • If you are in a relationship with someone who is opposite from you in almost every respect; you've got the right person; we unconsciously choose partners who are a reposit of our weaknesses.
  • Love is not the same thing as affection; it is how we choose to act regardless of how others act toward us.
  • Charlie Brown was right: "Friends come and friends go, but enemies accumulate."
  • When we are bored, the discontent originates inside us.
  • Each of us carries in our heart the capacity to commit the crimes we read about in the newspaper, provided the right opportunities exist.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

More Random Thoughts

Here are a few more random thoughts:
  • The idea that money can protect you is an illusion.
  • The key to effective parenting is in saying "yes" as often as possible and saying "no" as infrequently as possibly; but, there must be a few things, based on values, that you say "no" to consistently.
  • Sexual compatibility is not a weather vane of the health of a relationship.
  • The way to have good friendships is to enjoy your friends.
  • Here is a well kept secret: generosity is more satisfying and fun than greed.
  • One of ten biggest troubles in our world is that stupid people are sure and smart folks have doubts.
  • What you value and consider most important ends up determining who you are.
  • We Westerners are the only ones who think we have so much stuff now that another world is unnecessary.