Saturday, March 31, 2012


In an age of PDA's (personal digital assistant), laptops, and cell phones, it's hard to distinguish between a workaholic and a good employee. But there are times when work becomes an unhealthy, destructive obsession.

Here are three common traits of workaholics:

First, workaholics are unable to turn off work. They work at home, on their days off, even on vacation. They check their PDA's before going to bed, and as soon as they wake up. Work dominates the conversations of workaholics in social settings. When they are unable to work, they experience withdrawal symptoms such as tension and depression.

Second, they have poor social relationships. The reason is obvious: they put work before family and friendship.

And third, workaholics are hypersensitive about their addiction. When someone confronts them about their obsession, they react with defensiveness and anger.

Are you a workaholic?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Soar Like an Eagle

How would you like to improve your productivity at work? There is one sure-fire way to do it: Get more rest at night.

It is impossible to be creative, efficient, or effective when you are tired. Fatigue makes it hard to concentrate; it reduces performance; it shortens our frustration fuse. It makes us a less functional, less productive worker than we would be otherwise.

One of the big problems employers face is called presenteeism, not absenteeism. People actually show up for work, but they are not present mentally because they are so tired.

If you want to get ahead at work, get more sleep at night. It's hard to hang out with the night owls and soar like an eagle the next morning.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


How much time do you spend goofing off on the job? According to a recent poll, the average worker loafs almost two hours during the work day. The time wasters have changed a great deal in recent years. The old time wasters were things like socializing with co-workers, making personal calls, drinking coffee, looking busy when you were actually spaced out, arriving late, or leaving early. But the internet has added new and potent time wasters: returning personal emails, reading jokes and other junk e-mail, shopping via the web, and even applying for other jobs on-line.

Granted, employers assume a certain amount of loafing when setting an employee's pay. Most companies figure employees will waste about an hour a day while on the clock. And granted, sometimes squandering time gives us a break and makes us more productive in the long run.

But at some point, loafing on the job becomes theft.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Generous Spirit

Here is some advice for those of you who are considering matrimony: Do not marry anyone who is not generous with their words and deeds.

Whether you realize it or not, the person you are dating will never treat you better than they do right now. You are seeing the best side of them you will ever see.

If they are withholding words you need to hear - words of appreciation, affirmation, and encouragement - supportive, complimentary words - my advice is to walk away now. Trust me, no matter what he or she promises, it is not going to get better. Their words are likely to become harsher, more critical, and more severe from time to time.

The same is true for their deeds. They may have more money to buy things later, but they are not likely to become a more generous person.

Don't make your life hard by hooking up with a person who does not have a generous spirit.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How We Talk

It was Easter Sunday and the church was packed with worshippers.

The pastor asked the children to come to the front of the Sanctuary, for a time of interactive ministry with him. A beautiful little girl came forward wearing a new dress. The dress was one of those garments that really stand out. It had a petticoat under it that was starched and carefully ironed. It was a beautiful dress and she looked stunning in it.

The pastor singled her out saying, "My, what a beautiful dress."

Without hesitation, the girl agreed adding, "Yes, and my momma says it's a bitch to iron."

Can't you just see that poor, embarrassed mother slinking down in her pew!

Maybe we should be a little more careful about how we talk in front of little children.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Right Thing

Did you hear about the three folks who were taking the F.B.I. entry exam? Two of the applicants were men and one was a woman.

They had already passed the academic and physical fitness tests. Only one test remained: the obedience test. The applicants were told to take a gun, go into a room where their spouse was seated, and kill their spouse.

The first man picked up his gun, walked into the room, spoke to his spouse, hesitated, and walked out of the room saying, "I just can't do it. If that is what it takes, I can't be an F.B.I. agent." The second man did the same thing.

The female candidate walked into the room. There was silence for a moment, then six shots were fired, and a huge commotion followed. A few moments later the woman walked out and said to the horrified supervising agents: "That gun had blanks in it, so I beat him to death with a chair."

Sometimes the right thing to do is to disobey orders.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Feed the Right Wolf

There is an old story about a Native American chief who was training his grandson to be a warrior. He told the young man, "In every person there are two wolves constantly at war. There is a bad wolf that is full of jealousy, envy, deception, hatred, and strife. There is also a good wolf which is full of integrity, compassion, trustworthiness, honor, and peace. These two wolves constantly fight for the person's soul and destiny."

The grandson asked, "But which wolf finally wins?"

The wise chief replied, "The one that you feed."

The old grandfather had his finger on a nerve, didn't he? If you want to be a good person, you must practice being honest, caring, trustworthy, forgiving, and kind. Feed the right wolf.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

City Dwellers

If you asked most Americans where they are from, they would give you the name of a city that has a population over 100,000 people. We tend to think that it was always that way, that Americans were always urban. But that is not true. The truth is that there has been a tremendous growth of urbanization in the modern era.

When George Washington took the oath of office as President of the United States in 1790, ninety percent of Americans lived in rural areas. The largest cities in the United States were:

  • New York City - 26,000
  • Philadelphia - 24,000
  • Boston - 16,000
  • Charleston, South Carolina - 12,000
  • Newport, Rhode Island - 11,000

By 1900 the world's largest cities were in Europe or North America. By 2025, the largest cities in the world will be in Asia, Latin and South America, and Africa.

More and more we are city dwellers - so get used to the traffic.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Someone once said, "We are all actors on the stage of life." Let's think about that analogy for a moment.

If we are actors on the stage of life, then the people who we work around and live around are the audience. All the audience sees is a neat, orderly performance. They do not see what is backstage. Have you ever been backstage at a play? What you see is disorder, chaos, and a bunch of false fronts. Things are not as they appear to the audience.

Most of us have a "backstage" view of ourselves, which produces shows. But we want others to have a "front stage" view of us. We do not want our audience to see our faults, weaknesses, immaturities or lack of development. So we erect facades and become actors, hypocrites - someone else altogether.

What a strange, hollow, lonely, inauthentic way to live.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What is the Answer?

Have you noticed all the violence in our world? Every day we read and hear stories about people who commit murder over ethnic and religious differences - things that these people did not choose but inherited.

When these murderers are asked, "Why do you hate people over differences they can do nothing about?" their answers are to tell you stories about how this group committed violence against their ethnic and religious ancestors. So, the violence perpetuates itself.

Well, which group is right and which is wrong? It is according to when you start counting time. If you start from one point in history, one group is right; they are the victims. But if you start at another historical moment, the other group is the victim. You see, both groups are right and both are wrong.

Then what is the answer?


Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Have you ever thought about it? Most traumas we face are because of too little of something or too much of something.

If you have too little rain, it is a drought. If there is too much rain, it is a flood.

If you have too much spare time, it is boredom. If you have too little time, it is stress.

If your blood pressure is too high, it is a problem. If it's too low, it's a different problem.

If you have too little money, you obsess about it. If you have a lot of money, you obsess about it.

Happiness in life is about living in the gap between too little and too much. The problem is that most of us don't know how much enough is. No matter how much we have, we complain that it is not enough. It's called ingratitude.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Unconscious Eating

A man went to see an elderly friend in the nursing home. As he sat there visiting with the old lady, he saw a jar of peanuts sitting on her bedside table. Without asking her, he reached for the peanuts, twisted the jar open, and started eating the nuts. Before he knew it, lost in conversation, he had emptied the container.

Feeling somewhat guilty, he said to her, "I'm so sorry for eating all your peanuts. As soon as I leave, I'll drop by the store and buy you another jar of nuts."

"No, sonny," answered the old lady, "I've done sucked all the chocolate off of them."

Watch out for that unconscious eating.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Values That Will Endure

Did you know September 11, 2001, was not the first time a plane flew into a Skyscraper in New York City? On July 28, 1945, a B-25 bomber that was lost in fog smashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building. The plane tore through the building and killed 14 people, but the Empire State Building did not experience meltdown.

Experts say that if the plane that hit the World Trade Center had flown into the Empire State Building instead, it would have stood the test. Why? Because the foundation is firmly planted in bedrock, its stairwells are encased in thick concrete, and its steel interior is braced to its limestone cladding in ways untypical of the newer towers.

When the storms of life come (and they will come) whether or not you stand is dependent on whether your life is firmly planted in, and made up of, values that will endure.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Old Engine Block

Two men were travelling through South Georgia and lost the muffler off their car. They went to a junkyard to find a replacement. The owner said, "Look around, and if you can find one that fits your car, I'll sell it to you for $10. There are just two things I want to warn you about as you look around my junkyard. There is a bottomless pit out there and there is a Rottweiler dog out there."

The men found the bottomless pit. They threw rocks into it, and sure enough, it appeared to be bottomless. To find out how deep it was they pushed an old engine block into the hole. Just then, the Rottweiler appeared with fangs bared, foaming at the mouth, snarling like a wolf. But like a flash the dog shot past them and disappeared into the pit.

The men reported what had happened to the owner. They described their discovery of the pit and that the dog had jumped into the pit to his death.

"Not likely," the owner said, "I had the Rottweiler chained to an old engine block."

Get someone to explain it to you.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I like psychology, but sometimes psychologists say some weird things. Here are some examples from recent newspaper articles.

One said that how you handle your e-mail inbox says a lot about your mental health. If your inbox is tidy, your mental health is good. If it is full of junk, your mental processes are not working well.

Another article suggested that your tennis game reveals whether you are angry, sad, narcissistic or neutral.

These maybe true, but I grow weary of psychologists who want us to turn everything we say and do into a revelation of our inner life. Introspection is good, but it is not the only thing in life.

So I set you free to handle your e-mail inbox however you choose, and when you play tennis, just have fun.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Focus Ahead

My car not only has a rear view mirror, but it also has mirrors on either side. All three of these mirrors are designed to help me see what I have just passed or what is coming up behind me. I find it helpful to use these mirrors as I drive.

However, if all you do when you drive is look behind you, sooner or later you are going to have a wreck. Most of our attention needs to be spent looking forward, out the front windshield.

So it is with life. We need to spend the necessary time to reflect on the  past, so that we can learn from our mistakes. After all, those who do not learn the lessons from the past are doomed to repeat them. Our main focus should be on the future - our hopes, our dreams, our aspirations and what it is going to take to see them through.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

In Jesus' Name

There is a big controversy in the Christian community about whether public prayers need to be concluded with the words, "in Jesus' name." Some Christians say, if you don't say those words, you are disobeying the teachings of Scripture and you are denying Jesus.

Folks that take this position often pray "in Jesus' name" before gathered audiences that include Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and atheists. Naturally, the non-Christians are offended, and folks like me feel really uncomfortable.

Let me let you in on a secret: while the New Testament does teach praying in Jesus' name, not a single prayer in the New Testament includes the words "in Jesus' name." Obviously praying in Jesus' name is not about using the words.

Don't let anyone tell you it is necessary to end prayer with those words in public gatherings.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Everyone You Meet

I grew up in a racist southern culture. Some of the religious folk I knew as a boy, had a huge blind spot in their spirituality.

I remember people questioning whether African Americans were fully human. I remember people saying they believed in racial separatism in places such as schools, swimming pools, and water fountains. At the movie theatres, persons of color entered separately and sat in the balcony. Doctors' offices had separate waiting rooms. Most public universities were all white.

When you read about, or experience, the anger of African Americans, please know that there is a story behind their strong feelings. If you had come from that person's family of origin, you'd probably be angry, too. Strive to be understanding, patient, respectful, and kind to everyone you meet, regardless of how they look.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Anyone who has lived in Houston long, has contended with roadblocks. Roadblocks do not mean you cannot reach your destination. They simply mean you cannot get there by using the route you intended, and it is going to take you longer than you thought. Roadblocks just mean there will be a detour, but sooner or later you will get where you want to go.

Anyone who has ever had a dream they wanted to accomplish and has achieved it, has dealt with roadblocks. No one sees the fulfillment of their vision without having to overcome obstacles and take detours.

So when life puts a roadblock in your path, don't despair. Have patience, faith, and determination, and in time you will see the fulfillment of your dream.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Balcony or Basement

Everyone has what a writer calls "balcony people" and "basement people" in their lives. Balcony people are those who have spoken to us words of encouragement and support. They have been our life-givers. Basement people are the folks whose words have knocked the breath out of us. Their words have brought discouragement, self-doubt, and despair in our lives.

Not all of our balcony people and basement people are still living. Even though these folks are not around, their words still echo in our brains.

So who are your balcony people? And who are your basement people?

The trick is to listen to your balcony people. Marinade in the words they have spoken into your life and choose to let the word of your basement people evaporate.

Let the amount of your balcony people be multiplied. Let the amount of your basement people be divided.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Quotes Part 2

Consider the quotes on the importance of finding a purpose for your life:

"I have brought myself, by long meditation, to the conviction that a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and that nothing can resist a will which will stake even existence upon its fulfillment." Benjamin Disraeli

"To give life a meaning, one must have a purpose larger than one's self, and more enduring than one's life." Will Durant

"We need not only a purpose in life to give meaning to our existence but also something to give meaning to our suffering. We need as much something to suffer for as something to live for." Eric Hoffer

"More than anything else, what keeps a person going in the midst of adversity is having a sense of purpose. It is the fuel that powers persistence." John Maxwell

"Figure out who you are then do it on purpose." Dolly Parton

"This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one." George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quotes Part I

Here are a few of quotes about the meaning of life:

"It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth- and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up- that we will begin to live each day to the fullest." Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

"Just as you drifted through an entire day without a plan and accomplished nothing, some people drift through their entire lives. They do it one day at a time, one week at a time, and one month at a time. The months run into years and span a life. It happens so gradually that they are unaware of how their lives are slipping by them until it's too late." Mary Kay Ash

"Life begins when a person first realizes how soon it ends." Marcelene Cox

"Alas for those who never sing, but die with all their music in them!" Oliver Wendell Holmes

"Fear not that life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning." John Henry Newman

"Don't fear your mortality, because it is this very mortality that gives meaning and depth and poignancy to all the days that will be granted to you." Paul Tsongas

Friday, March 9, 2012

World War II

I would like to offer one explanation for Hitler and World War II that you have probably never heard..

In 1918, near the end of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson, offered the combined Austrian-German armies favorable terms if they surrendered immediately. The idea was for everyone to go home and act as if the war that killed 11 million people never happened. By the time the Austro-German treaty representatives came to the peace table ten months later the treaty terms had changed. They were required to sign a document assuming full responsibility for the war and to pay financial restitution.

After World War I the Austro-German nations were told that the Allies had broken their promise. The anger of the Austro-German people about this "bait and switch" was one of the direct causes of World War II. But the propaganda the Austro-German people were told was a lie. The offer of President Wilson had a time limit on it. Rather than laying down their arms the Austro-German generals ignored the offer, hoping to win the war. When they came to peace negotiations ten months later, the offer had long since been withdrawn.

The moral of the story is- don't believe everything you hear or read.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Poor House

All my life I have heard people say, "If you do that you will end up in the poor house."

Well, sure enough there was such a thing as a "poor house." I picked up a book on the history of LaGrange, Texas, and there was a picture of a "poor house." Established in 1881 for Fayette County indigents, it was a lovely white house on several acres of land, located two miles outside LaGrange. Citizens volunteered to assist their poorer neighbors by providing a garden. The city and county provided a staff and all the ham, biscuits, and molasses the residents could eat- which probably meant that they were the fattest naked people in Fayette County!

All this made me wonder why Houston and Harris County doesn't have a "poor house." I see indigent people on many street corners. I challenge you to drive downtown one day and see all the human beings stacked up like cord wood. Look on the side streets near where Interstate 45 and US 59 come together. If the milk of human kindness is in you, it will break your heart. Sure, there are faith-based benevolent agencies in the downtown area that do the best they can, but every night there are 40,000 people that sleep on our Houston streets.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I heard a Russian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, speak recently. He told the story about a famous scientist who kept a horse shoe over the front door of his house. In Russia and in many other places people put horse shoes over their door to ward off evil spirits.

"Do you have the horseshoe over your door because you believe it will ward off evil spirits?" a visiting friend asked.

"Absolutely not," he answered, "I am a scientist. I do not believe in such foolishness. But someone told me it works whether you believe in it or not."

Belief systems are powerful in our lives whether we say we believe in them or not. I know many people who claim not to be people of faith, but when the chips are down they find themselves longing to believe.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lost Dog

We lost our beloved dog, Nell, the other day. Susan and I scoured the community on foot and in cars. We asked everyone we met if they had seen her and we told them how to get in touch with us if they saw her. We examined the side of the roads nearby to see if her wounded or dead body was lying there. We contacted the Constable and asked him to put a description of Nell in his neighborhood watch email. Our frantic search went on for three hours, but it was fruitless. Our beloved border collie was lost.

Then Susan opened the pantry door and there Nell was. We had somehow closed the door locking her inside. She heard us calling for her, but she was non-responsive because she was locked in with her treats! Smart dog!

For days everyone in the neighborhood expressed their concern about our dog. Talk about embarrassing!

Most of the time our problems are of our own making, and our solutions are under our nose.

Monday, March 5, 2012


I have a friend who lives in Colorado named Denny. He is one of the most unusual people I know.

Denny has a college degree. He was once a professional softball player. He has done advanced training in several forms of marshall arts. Most important, Denny is a plain-talking philosopher who lives consistently by what he believes. Denny believes in hard work, discipline, honesty, loyalty, courage, and simplicity, and he demonstrates these qualities on a daily basis.

Take simplicity for example. Denny lives in a small trailer on borrowed land. He chooses to make a living doing manual labor. He does just fine financially but he gives most of his money away. He believes people should live simply and be generous to those less fortunate, so he lives that way.

Whenever I am with Denny I remember these word from the Good Book: "Let your goal in life be to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Make Today Count

I'm not a golfer, but I like the game. Golf has many parallels to life.

The best thing about golf is when you make a bad shot, you can make it up with the next shot. The same is true in life. Every morning when the sun comes up we get another shot at life. What we did yesterday, for good or for evil, counts, but our bad decision does not end the game. And if we choose to continue in the path of "doing the next right thing" one day our misstep will be only a distant memory.

I know plenty of people who have made serious errors and used them for good. I have a friend who went to prison and later received a pardon, went to law school, and is now a criminal defense attorney specializing in helping young men like himself. No matter how badly we have messed up we can still make decisions that will alter the ultimate outcome of our lives.

So do yourself a favor- make today count for good.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Most people claim to hate politics. We tell jokes about politicians: "Did you hear the one about the politician who...?" Unfortunately many politicians are worthy of these verbal jibes.

But politics is unavoidable. I like to say, "When two or more are gathered together there will always be politics." If we could do away with politics and politicians, do you know what would replace it? Totalitarianism! That is not a very appealing alternative.

Politics is how conflicts are peaceably resolved between legitimate competing interests in a free society. Sure, it's messy- like making sausage. And it's imperfect- justice is not always done and the most qualified candidates are not always elected.

I admire the people who run for public office. They set themselves up for the kind of microscopic scrutiny and public harassment that most of us would go to great lengths to avoid. People who do not know them are forever impugning their motives. It takes courage and self-esteem to endure these attacks.

So let's go easier on politicians. Let's hope that good people who can wisely govern our city, county, state, and nation will willingly undergo the rigors of the electoral process. And most important, let's all vote.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Physical Beauty

There is an old saying about Eleanor, the homely wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It seems that she got on an elevator with a man who was inebriated. Eleanor said, "Young man, you are drunk." The fellow looked at Mrs. Roosevelt and replied, "Yep, and you are ugly. And, do you know what? I'll sober up tomorrow but you'll still be stuck with your face."

Well, Eleanor Roosevelt may have been ugly, but she accomplished incredible things in her lifetime. She labored tirelessly to improve the plight of the poor. She became the spokesperson for her paralyzed husband. She championed worthy causes like the Red Cross and the League of Women Voters. She wrote a daily newspaper column. She was a U.S. delegate to the United Nations.

When Mrs. Roosevelt died in 1962, she had been voted the most admired woman in America for eleven years in a row.

There are things more important than physical beauty.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

List Maker

Some wag once said, "There are two kinds of people: those who believe there are two kinds of people and those who don't." Well, put me in the category of those who believe their are two kinds of people in this world: list makers and non-list makers. Count me as a list maker.

Evidently I am in good company: Martin Luther had 95 Theses; Ben Franklin listed 13 Virtues; Alcoholic Anonymous has 12 Steps; Dave Letterman has a nightly "Top Ten List;" even the Almighty has 10 Commandments.

If you made a list of your ten deepest held values, what would they be? Go ahead and make a list. Do it today