Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Years ago while watching a televised baseball game I saw the Dodger pitcher, Oral Hershiser, hit a batter with a wild pitch. The cameraman focused up close on Hershiser and I could see him mouthing the words, "I'm sorry." The batter nodded to him, ran to first base, and the game went on. It was a non-event. The announcer did not even take note of it. If a fight had ensued, it would have been part of the game highlights and the subject of much conversation. But the courtesies such as "I'm sorry" and forgiveness was not noteworthy. But watching this exchange made me feel good about Hershiser, the batter, the game, and life. After all these years I still remember it.

What the world needs is more courtesy- and its blood relatives: kindness, empathy, consideration, and appreciation. These seem like little things, but they are very important and they are in short supply. Common courtesy does more than anything else I can think of to foster harmony and social cohesion.

So the next time you make an error, apologize. And the next time someone does something against you, let it go

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Depend on one another

Not long ago I was driving on a lonely, rural, Texas two-line highway. It was near dusk. A car approached coming in the opposite direction. Both of us were traveling somewhere near the speed limit-about 55 miles an hour. As we passed I caught the other driver's eye for a brief second.

For the next few minutes I thought about how dependent we had been on each other as our vehicles passed. We never spoke a word but we nevertheless had an agreement. We counted on one another to stay on our own side of the road. If either one of us had been unwilling to keep this bargain one or both of our lives would have ended.

That is the way the world works. Multiplied millions of times every day transactions like that take place. At some level we all depend on one another. We count on others to do the right thing, to behave cooperatively, to exercise good judgment. We dare not let our brothers and sisters down. Both of our lives could depend on it.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Giving is the secret to life. You only have what you give. It is by spending yourself that you become rich.

What is the purpose of having experience, knowledge, or talent if we don't give it away? What is the purpose of having memories if we hoard them and do not tell them to other people? What is purpose of wealth if we do not share it? We don't intend to be cremated with any of these things, do we?

It is in giving that we experience community, discover important things about who we really are, and connect with the divine. It is in giving that we receive.

If you want to find joy in life, be more of a giver than a taker, more of a lifter than a leaner.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


For better and for worse, things happen that change our lives quickly- and permanently.

Most of you can remember what airplane flights were like before September 11, 2001. In 1970 I walked on to numerous airplanes from Athens, Greece to Atlanta, Georgia with a large, antique Turkish sword. No one questioned me about it or tried to take it away from me. Gone are the days. Those nine 9/11/01 hijackers changed commercial aviation forever.

Chances are you have been part of some organization where a leader has made some positive, permanent, transformational change. If not, think of the changes that took place in America through things like Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, or the Social Security Act of 1935, or the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Each of these changed America forever.

The good news is that we are in charge of our lives. And most of us could choose to make one change that would produce a 33% permanent improvement in our lives. What change would that be for you? Are you willing to make this change?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Honest Doubters

Can I make a confession? I am not always certain about matters of faith. Early in my life I was a skeptic. There are few things I believe today that I have not at some juncture of life doubted. I no longer live full-time in skepticism, but I still revisit this domain periodically. To put it plainly, there are many questions for which I have no answers.

We live in an era and a part of the nation where honest doubters are often portrayed as unstable wobblers, almost as atheists. This lust for certainty makes me nervous. It isn't fun for these people to stand in no-man's land, yearning to be won over by one of the opposing arguments, but instead only seeing degrees of merit in both sides.

Life is messy and issues do not always sort themselves out cleanly. There is usually merit in both sides of an argument. Often truth is found in paradox, in some blend of the two extremes.

Contrary to popular opinion, spiritual faith is not the same as certainty. Real faith cannot be proven. It's just faith. As a matter of fact, none of the things of ultimate importance in life can be proven.

If you know honest doubters, be kind to them. Better yet, demonstrate love to them. It will help them understand faith.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Being Present

Folks are always asking me what to say to people who are going through a crisis. They ask, "What do you say to someone who has received a bad diagnosis, or some profound loss- of a job or a marriage or a loved one."

I always tell them the same thing: "Don't say anything; just show up. Your presence, not your words, are what your friend needs."

In moments of crisis it is tempting to believe that we must do something helpful or say something brilliant, but nothing could be farther from the truth. There is more healing power in simply being fully present than in anything we could possibly say or do. Simply being present sometimes changes our sisters and brothers who are going through a hard time, and it always changes us.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


When I was in college I had an opportunity to observe an autopsy. I did not know the deceased. He lay nude, under a sheet, on a stainless steel table. His skin was a waxy yellow- sunken- almost plastic looking. His mouth was gaped. The man's death had been mysterious. The pathologist was charged with the responsibility of determining the cause of death. I saw the physician carefully open up the decease's body cavities- the lungs, the heart, the stomach, the intestines. As I watched it occurred to me that these body parts didn't explain the dead man's fears or lusts, ambitions or loves. There wasn't an organ we could probe to explore the man's kindness or lack of it, human power or lack of it. We saw inside the man's cranium. Somehow this gray nerve tissue failed to explain who this man had been- his needs, longings, hopes, and desires. He was more than mere chemical reactions and electric impulses. That was the day I started to second-guess my atheism.

That was the day belief in God started to be born in me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


A few years ago I was engaged in discussion with a man about a subject about which I had a good bit of knowledge. He insisted that I was wrong and he was right. He was so sure of his misinformation that he bet me $20 that he was right. Normally I do not bet, but I decided to play along with him. We shook hands on the bet.

I proceeded to prove him wrong. I googled the correct information in his presence. I quickly produced a book to prove my point. None of this convinced him. He protested that all these resources were biased and wrong. Finally in frustration we dropped the discussion and let him keep his $20. How do you convince someone that they are wrong when they view their opinions as infallible?

I bet you know someone just like that man- self-assured and dead wrong.

Someone has said it is not the things you don't know that hurt you in life. It is the things you know for sure that aren't so that hurt you. I wholeheartedly agree.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Have you noticed that people who are happy seldom admit it. The folks who are unhappy are far more communicative. The unhappy ones are eager to recite what is wrong with the world- or at least with their circumstances. Isn't it interesting that pessimism has so many spokespersons and hope so few?

Are you happy? If so, I challenge you to announce it. Spread the cheer of it everywhere you go. Tell people, "I am a happy person."

You have so many reasons to be happy- friends, loved ones, health, enough-ness. Sure, things could be better. You have suffered disappointments, losses, and concerns. All of us have. But these misfortunes tell less than half the story. Speaking about life only in terms the negatives is like describing a tree only as it looks in winter, barren of leaves. This is part of the story, but far less than half.

Life is imperfect because we are imperfect, but life is largely good. Each of us has abundant reason to be happy. And if we are happy, we should tell others about it.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Every now and then I hear someone say,"You can't legislate morality." What on earth could these people possibly mean? What an illogical statement! What else are our civil laws except the legislation of morality? Wouldn't you consider our laws against stealing, breach of contract, and murder worth preserving? Yet are they not the legislation of morality?

When people argue that you can't legislate morality they are usually objecting to legislatures passing laws that are against their personal self-interest. Every time some new vice is discussed before the legislature we hear again the "You can't legislate morality" argument. What they mean is "We don't want society to create laws that make it illegal to do something they want to do."

Let's be honest: all laws are about legislating morality. The only question is, what should be our standard of morality.

So the next time someone suggests that we can't legislate morality, invite them to think about it more deeply.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Sometimes outrage is appropriate.

Not long ago I was at a restaurant in another city with two friends. One of these friends was an African American man. We were laughing and having fun when the owner of the eating establishment dropped by our table to visit. My African American friend and I were engrossed in a personal conversation. The third person at our table carried on a brief conversation with the restaurant owner.

After we left the restaurant I found out that the owner had used the "N" word in the presence of our group. Thankfully my African American friend did not hear it. Neither did I. Frankly I wish I had heard him say it. If I had I would have expressed outrage and left the restaurant immediately without paying. As a matter of fact, I am thinking seriously about driving back to the town and having a talk with the restaurant owner.

There ought to be some things in life that are so outrageous that we feel duty-bound to express outrage.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


People are forever asking me who goes to heaven- and who ends up in hell. How silly they are to think I know. Only the Almighty is able to judge people'e hearts.

Jesus told a story about the last judgment. In his story the people who went to heaven were surprised, and the folks who ended up in perdition were surprised. In other words, the Creator has a way of reversing human judgments about such things.

Do you get the point? Our opinion about who goes to heaven and hell doesn't matter. We don't get a vote on people's spiritual destiny.

When people ask me my opinion about who goes to heaven and hell I tell them, "God put me in charge of promotion. The Almighty is in charge of quality control in heaven."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pretty Well

We live in a 50/50 world. Life is rarely "all good" or "all bad" for any of us. So we have to decide how to tell the story. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? We could legitimately tell the story either way.

May I make a recommendation: when you have opportunity describe your life as half-full. When people ask you how it's going why not put a positive spin on the story?

Here is a secret your friends will not tell you: no one likes to hang around negative people.

A long time ago I learned this from my Uncle Charlie. He told me, "If you want to be a leader, make sure you say ten positive things for every negative comment you make. If you don't, people will begin to write you off. Every time you speak they think, 'There he goes again.'"

So when people ask you, "How's it going?" answer, "Pretty well." After all, isn't that true? Your life is going pretty well.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Faith in Tomorrow

I have lived through a bunch of bad stuff- wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq; segregation; the birth of new diseases, like AIDS. Based on these and other historical facts, it would be easy for me to say that things are getting worse, that the next generation will have fewer opportunities than our generation has had. From there it is pretty easy to prophesy future disasters. Lots of futurists predict things like nuclear holocaust, world-wide depression, famine and natural disasters due to global warming. But couldn't we just as easily take a positive view and predict a positive future- a cure for cancer, peace in the Middle East, and the Astros winning the World Series. After all, I have also lived to see things that would have once seemed unimaginable: space travel, computer technology, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

My grandparents taught my parents that tomorrow will be a better day. My parents likewise taught me to anticipate a brighter tomorrow. Why should I not pass along to my children and my children's children the same word of hope? After all, what we believe about the future often determines our destiny. They become self-fulfilling prophesies.

Don't let the negative voices around you steal your faith in tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Always go To Funerals

Always go to the funeral.

I know, I one likes funerals. Most funerals vary somewhere between bad and horrible. The music can be awful and the spoken words can be embarrassing. But funerals are not entertainment. They are about two things: showing respect for the deceased and saying "I care" to the family.

Funeral attendance has fallen upon hard times. We are all busy. We don't want to be inconvenienced. We don't like downers. Often attending costs us both time and money. But showing up at a funeral means the world to the family of the deceased.

A few years ago my mother died at age 91. She had been out of circulation with Alzheimer's Disease for nine years. Even worse she lived in a remote town in South Georgia. I pleaded with my friends not to attend. Yet many came anyway. I will never be able to communicate how humbling it was to see them or how comforting it was to be embraced by them.

Always go to the funeral.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine Day!

Happy Valentine day!

On Valentine's Day we are suppose to say kind and loving things to people, aren't we? Here are some cutting remarks I suggest you not make:

* You never have anything to say and you say it often.
* If your I.Q. slips any lower we'll have to water you twice a day.
* You suffer from delusions of adequacy.
* I knew you before you were a virgin.
* You don't have a single redeeming defect.
* You have the backbone of a chocolate eclair.
* Try to imagine how little I care.

Here are a few better things to say:
* You are a special person.
* The angels sang on the day you were born.
* And, I love you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sometimes When Men Say Things...

Sometimes when men say things to their wives, their wives hear something entirely different.

For example, when a man says, "It's a guy thing," what the wife hears is, " There is no rational explanation for it."

When a husband says, "Can I help with dinner?" his wife hears, "What else needs to be put on the table?"

When a man says, "It would take too long to explain," what he means is, "I have no idea how it works"

When a man says, "Take a break, honey, you are working too hard," this being translated means, "I can't hear the tv because of the vacuum cleaner."

When a man says, "It's a good movie, " it means there are guns, fist fights, fast cars, and sexy women.

When a man says, "I have my reasons for what I'm doing," he means "I hope I think of a good reason very soon."

And when a man asks, "What did I do this time?" he means, "What did you catch me doing this time?"

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Being Alone

In our busy, crowded and loud world, it is increasingly difficult for us to be alone.

Being alone does not mean being lonely. It is choosing to set ourselves off from the external, superficial noises of life and seeking instead the quiet strength which is found best in solitude.

You don't have to be a monk or a mystic to spend time alone. It can be as simple as a cup of coffee in the backyard at dawn, a neighborhood walk alone at dusk, or an idle lunch hour or a park bench. None of us is too busy for moments like these, and solitude gives us rich rewards. It restores our perspective and sanity.

Most of us fear being alone because we think the demons of memory will rise from the bottom of our guts to haunt us. We fear our aloneness will be more punishment than pleasure. Don't be afraid to be alone. Solitude will give you serenity.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


A few years ago, I went through a dark night of the soul. The most powerful, influential person in the city where I was living left my church because he did not like me. I felt horrible. I could not sleep at night. I was depressed. I thought about leaving the church, even leaving the ministry.

I was engulfed in darkness for months. My emotional situation went from bad to worse. I never talked to anyone about what I was feeling. I was too ashamed.

Then, one day, a large group of friends showed up in my office. They told me that they had sensed my pain over the city's hero leaving our church. They spent the next thirty minutes telling me that they loved me and believed in me. These words of encouragement and support literally saved my ministry.

Who do you need to encourage today?

Friday, February 10, 2012


Experts say that Americans are becoming addicted to gambling. It's everywhere. It's at the convenience store, the golf course, and the office. You can even gamble online in the convenience of your home.

The largest growth area is gambling on sporting events. That has never made sense to me. I subscribe to the adage that anyone who gambles on what a nineteen year old will do on Saturday afternoon is an idiot.

Contrary to popular opinion, none of the holy books of any of the world's religions forbids gambling. Gambling is like all of the other addictions. There is nothing inherently wrong with things like food, alcohol or work. The problem is in us.

How do you know if you have a gambling addictive disorder?

Here's the principle. If it is a problem, it's a problem.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Abraham Lincoln was murdered by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. He was buried in his hometown, Springfield, Illinois.

Believe it or not, his body was exhumed twice, both twenty-two years and thirty-six years after his death. Why in the world was his coffin pried open? For the same reason both times; rumors were spreading that Mr. Lincoln was not in the casket.

Rumors are powerful things. Lacking authoritative facts, rumors implant unrest and doubt in people's minds.

Those who feed rumor mills are busybodies. They find satisfaction in trafficking in suspicious information. They major in phrases like, "They say", "Have you heard?" and, "I understand."

Here is how to silence rumor mongers. Ask for sources. Ask if you can quote them on what they are saying. Tell them you don't want to hear about it. That will shut them up every time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Breaking Habits

We are creatures of habit. Every time we think or act in a certain way, a habit is forming. Like a groove that is being furrowed deeper and deeper, each repetition adds depth to the habit and makes it harder to break.

Our habits rule us. They dictate our actions and reactions. We think we are making choices, but in truth much of our life is predetermined by our habits.

The older we get the more set in our ways we get, so it becomes less and less likely we will change our speech and behavior patterns.

If you have habits that you are not proud of, deal with them now. It will be harder and harder to break bad habits as time passes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Advantages of Growing Older

I told you yesterday that I was getting old. Now let me tell you the advantages of growing older:

  • Everyone you meet reminds you of someone you used to know.
  • Your knees buckle, your belt won't buckle, and you don't care.
  • No one is asking the questions you know the answers to, so you are able to stay quiet more.
  • You get to build your weekly schedule around your doctors' appointments.
  • There is nothing left to learn the hard way.
  • You never wear out your new purchases.
  • You consider health insurance one of your best investments.
  • Your dreams are all reruns.
  • You get to stay away from health food because you need all the preservatives you can get.
  • You realize that the things you once thought were important, aren't.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Old Man

I'm now what most of you would call "an old man." If I didn't know my date of birth, I'd think I was still young. I feel young in the inside, but the truth is I'm old enough to be a grandfather to most of you.

I've been thinking about what I would do if I could be your age again.

I think I would make more mistakes. I'd be less serious. I'd be in less of a hurry. I'd waste more time and play more hooky. I think I'd take more trips, climb more mountains, and raft more rivers. I'd do a better job of noticing the world of nature - the change of the seasons and the coming and going of birds. I'd worry less and probably work less. I'd read more novels and listen to more music. I'd focus less on doing and more on being. I'd spend more time with family and friends.

Come to think of it, maybe I should do more of those things now.

Old Man

I'm now what most of you would call "an old man." If I didn't know my date of birth, I'd think I was still young. I feel young in the inside, but the truth is I'm old enough to be a grandfather to most of you.

I've been thinking about what I would do if I could be your age again.

I think I would make more mistakes. I'd be less serious. I'd be in less of a hurry. I'd waste more time and play more hooky. I think I'd take more trips, climb more mountains, and raft more rivers. I'd do a better job of noticing the world of nature - the change of the seasons and the coming and going of birds. I'd worry less and probably work less. I'd read more novels and listen to more music. I'd focus less on doing and more on being. I'd spend more time with family and friends.

Come to think of it, maybe I should do more of those things now.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Social scientists say that the average person says fifty thousand words a day to themselves that no one hears. They call it "self-talk." Sadly, 80% of our self-talk is negative, destructive, and hurtful.

How do you stop the river of negative self-talk that flows in our brains?

I like the story of the woman with a baby who was walking around the grocery store saying things like, "Be calm, Elizabeth. You are a sweet girl, Elizabeth. I love you, Elizabeth."

A woman who overheard her said, "I heard the things you were saying to your child. You are a very good mother."

"No," replied the woman, "I'm Elizabeth."

When you hear yourself criticizing yourself, talk back to the negative internal voice.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


When I was a junior in high school I dated a girl named Nell for a little while. The first night I went to pick her up, she wasn't dressed so I sat in the living room with her dad for a few minutes waiting for her. He said, "Son, I've always liked you. In fact, I've always secretly hoped you and Nell would date."

Suddenly the ground shifted as he said, "There is only one thing I want you to know. I feel responsible for Nell. I'm responsible for her physically, emotionally, spiritually, even legally, and when she is with you, you are responsible to me for everything that happens to her. Do you understand that, son?"

I answered, "Yes, sir." But, I should have said, "No one has ever explained it to me so clearly."

Trust me, I would have thrown myself in front of a loaded truck and let it hit me before I would have let anything bad happen to that girl. I was responsible to her dad for her.

Friday, February 3, 2012


The other day I was with a fellow that I have known for ten years. When I first met him I decided that I didn't like him. I wrote him off as a jerk.

Yet, when I was with him the other day I saw him in a new light. I decided I had been wrong. He wasn't a jerk. He was a nice guy.

Had I changed? Had he changed? I guess either of those is possible, but there is a third possibility. Maybe I misjudged him.

Do you realize that your first impression judgments of people can be faulty?

I married a couple the other day who were repulsed by one another when they first met. As they got to know each other further, they discovered attractive things they had missed on first glance.

I've seen it work the other way, too. Sometimes when people fall in love quickly, time helps them to see deal breakers which lie below the surface.

Maybe we would be better off withholding judgment for a while.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


In 2002 Aron Ralston abandoned a promising career to move to Colorado. He wanted to pursue his passion for mountain climbing.

So, in April, 2003, he went on a spur of the moment solo trip to the Canyon National Park in Utah. While climbing in Bluejohn Canyon his arm became trapped by an eight hundred pound boulder.

For six days Aron suffered dehydration, hunger and sleeplessness. Convinced that he was going to die, he used his camcorder to record a final good-bye to his parents and younger sister.

Then on day six he received an epiphany. He could use his mini tool to saw through the skin, muscles and tendons of his forearm and then using his body for leverage, snap the bone, thus freeing himself. He did it and then walked six miles until he found help.

That is what you call courage.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Winston Churchill

As a young man Winston Churchill was thought to be mentally slow. He did not do well in school, but he got into good schools and gained positions because he was the son of an English Lord.

After his military service in World War I, he held a series of Cabinet posts. He then engaged in politics by running for the House of Commons. Sometimes he won; sometimes he lost. In short, he had an undistinguished political career.

As Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany, Churchill became a vocal opponent of England's appeasement policy. He warned about the looming German threat. (Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was determined to pacify the German dictator. He feared opposing Hitler would bring England to the brink of war.) At first Churchill's views were unpopular, but by 1940 he was elected Prime Minister.

It was Winston Churchill, the not too smart school boy, more than any other factor that held Great Britain together during World War II.