The Psychiatrist and the Bartender . . .

A troubled man schedules an appointment with a psychiatrist. When the hour arrived, he was called back by the lady at the window; he was escorted back to the doctor’s office. He was hesitant, yet he took the chair offered and waited to see what would happen.  After a brief wait, the doc looked him in the eye and asks, “How may I help you, today?”

The fellow cleared his throat and said, “Doc, I have a serious problem and need help.”  The doc asked him to explain his problem, and the man continued, “I simply cannot sleep and I am exhausted.  Every night I get into bed and just as I begin to doze off I am overwhelmed with the thought that someone is hiding under my bed waiting for me to fall asleep so that he can murder me.  I instantly jump out of bed, fall on my knees to confront the intruder; but, of course, no one is under the bed.  I get back into bed, and just I doze off again, the same thing happens all over . . . and I spend the entire night like that.  Up and down!”

The doc thinks about it for a brief minute, and announces, “I am confident that I can help you, and I propose that you come here to meet with me every week at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday afternoons, for one year and let’s work on the problem.”

The man smiles and asks, “How much will that cost?”  The doc smiles back and says, “$125 per hour.”  The man says, “Wow, I will need to check my budget and I will get back with you” and makes his exit.

About a month later the Psychiatrist is in the sporting goods section of Walmart and encounters the man with the sleep issue.  The doc says, “Actually, I was under the impression that you were going to call me and that we were going to work on your problem.”  The fellow smiled and said, “Well I thought that I was, too, but a bartender healed me for $18.00, and I am all well!”

The Psychiatrist was flabbergasted and asks how on earth a bartender was able to perform such a feat?  The fellow smiled and said, “Well, when I left your office, I stopped at the bar around the corner from your office. I went in, sat at the bar, and ordered a drink.

 

As I sipped on the drink, I used my calculator trying to figure up how much your treatment was going to cost me over the next year. The bartender asked me what I was working on, so I told him about your proposition. He laughed and said, ‘Order another drink and I will tell you how to correct that problem.’  So I order another drink and waited to see what the bartender came up with.  He brought the drink and asked me about what sort of bed I had so I told him. He told me to go to Ace Hardware a couple of blocks away, buy a hand saw, go home and saw the legs off of my bed!

I did that very thing . . . and it worked like a charm. $6.00 for the two drinks and $12.00 for the handsaw! I used the other $6,482.00 and bought myself a used truck!”

It seems to me . . . that sometimes it really is much simpler than our complicated world tends to make it. There really is much to be said for old-fashioned common sense!

The Righting Moment . . .

I love boats and I taught my family to love boats. Boats are an important part of my life.  Boats are an important part of my family’s life.  Every time the kids come home to visit, they come knowing that an outing is a certainty . . . Chris: to fish . . . Courtney: to do her photography . . . Ali and Abi: to just ride on one of the boats, wear their sunglasses to look good, and just have some fun (and enjoy some special snacks prepared just for them by Nana).  They are the subjects on many photos.

The truth is that it is actually something of an oddity that I love boats so much. I grew up at scattered locations across West Texas and New Mexico and never set foot in a boat until I was 22 years old. Yet, when I did it, I had a radical transformation and within a week of that first-time experience, I bought my first boat! Actually, there has never been a day since then that I have not owned a boat and most of that time I have had at least 2 boats. There have been times when I owned more, but 4 boats at one time is all I am willing to confess to owning (and only because Sandy knew about those 4).  I have learned a great deal about life from my boating experiences and studies. A few examples are:

. . . It is critical that one has an anchor that will hold in a storm . . . and a storm is always coming;

. . . It is essential that a vessel be sea-worthy;

. . . A small problem on land can become a huge problem at sea;

. . . There are about five seconds between “a glorious day at sea” and “a crisis situation”;

. . . Regardless of what “feels right,” the compass is always accurate and should be what is used in decision making;

. . . Celestial navigation is fun, if we have properly identified the “correct” North Star;

. . . As you move from deep water into shallow water, it becomes rougher and more dangerous;

. . . You lose the horizon at 12 miles off-shore and you are then dependent upon a compass or GPS;

. . . The deeper the water, the prettier and clearer it becomes (it is amazing what happens upon crossing over the intercontinental shelf under the Gulf of Mexico);

. . . If you lose power, you are tossed about at sea . . . without direction . . . with no control . . . and in danger of crashing upon the rocks, or being pulled out to sea, with no way back;

. . . It can be hard to get the anchor to set upon arrival . . . and ever harder to get it free when ready to move; and

. . . A means of communication is a very important link.

Soon after purchasing that first boat, I launched it at Lake Meredith (in the Texas Panhandle) on a bright and pretty Saturday morning. It was in the middle of the afternoon that the wind seriously kicked up and I experienced my first emergency on the water.  I was green as grass, but somehow managed to get the half-full boat and my water-logged passengers safely back to shore. I learned a number of important things that day . . . a couple of them are:

. . . A good, bilge-pump in working order is a most basic and necessary piece of equipment, but a plastic bucket and a willing worker are handy; and

. . . There are a few places where it is okay to save money, but the quality of life jackets on your vessel is not one of those places.

As I reflected on that experience I realized that I had much to learn and was duty-bound to do so if I was going to own and operate a boat and be responsible for other folk’s safety.  So, I set out on what has proven to be a life-long learning process.  I have read many books, manuals, and boating magazine articles written by expert seamen; I have spent many hours at sea, much of which was with skilled sailors, and I have done extensive research on my own.  I am a member of the local Power Squadron of the Coast Guard auxiliary and have reluctantly taken a few classes and earned various certifications (sadly, those classes are very poor quality and taught by poor quality instructors). 

My family’s love of boating and fishing has greatly influenced our vacations.  We have spent time at some wonderful ports such as Rio de Janeiro, Cancun and Cozumel on the upper Yucatan Peninsula, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas on the Gulf of California (where we fished the Sea of Cortez), and all up and down the Gulf of Mexico coastline including New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida (including Key West), Galveston, Port O’Conner, Brownsville, Port Mansfield, and Port Isabel/South Padre Island.   We have taken every cruise available out of Galveston.  Sandy and I have also visited Alaska several times, and I have fished there each time, in a number of different places and for different species.  I think my favorite is fishing for Halibut in the Bering Sea (an amazing experience in that there is a 30’ tide exchange!!)

I have had the privilege of operating vessels ranging in size from that first ugly little 15’ orange and white boat up to a 54’ Bertram; which, in my opinion is the greatest sports vessel ever built. That boat was named “The Wildcatter” and was owned by an O & G firm, of which my friend was attorney and had use of the vessel. To read about Aftermath, my current boat, go to:

http://ships.findthedata.org/l/55557/Aftermath-in-Rockport-Texas 

To Sandy’s frustration, several walls of our home boasts a number of fish mounts from a 27” Redfish up to a 550-pound black Marlin and a number of others in between caught by Chris and me both.  Chris’ house also boasts some such fish.

This morning as I opened AOL to check my e-mail, my attention was instantly captured by a news flash that read, “85-foot yacht sinks at launching in Washington.”  The vessel was new and cost $10 million. That is the sort of headline that grabs my attention.  As I read the story in shock, I learned that it capsized as the yacht manufacturer set it into the water for its maiden voyage.  Instantly, in the water and released from the straps, it rolled over and sank! The vessel has been raised and the Coast Guard is investigating what happened.

One of the nautical terms and principles I learned in my studies of vessels and seamanship is a nautical term known as “The Righting Moment.”  Every vessel has a righting moment . . . that item and timing of physics which occurs from the interaction of forces and laws of nature . . . those being buoyancy, weight, and gravity as the vessel heels and then corrects itself to its normal, upright floating position.  At sea, a vessel puts these physical laws into perpetual war as the battle rages to either pull the vessel to the earth’s surface (weight and gravity) or to restore the vessel to its upright position (buoyancy).   

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/righting%20moment

Tragically, as this vessel was being launched these forces were never put to war . . . something happened instantly that precluded buoyancy from ever coming into play . . . and gravity instantly prevailed!

As I pondered this disaster, it causes me to wonder about another “Righting Moment” I fear must be made in Washington . . . that moment where we as a nation must make the necessary correction(s) that will return us to the upright position (adherence to the Constitution and the Biblical principles upon which we were founded) . . . and our failure to do so might very well result in our rolling over . . .

It Seems to me . . . that the One . . .

 . . . who scooped out vast sections of the earth and filled those places with water and marine life, and then called them the sea and the oceans

 . . .  who then hung the stars, sun, and moon in space and commanded them to do his bidding (to provide warmth, light, energy, and gravitational pull between each of them which is necessary to control the tides and hold His creation in place . . . and then declared they were to continue doing that until He told them to do something different . . .  

 . . . who is the Master of the universe . . . the One who controls all physical laws . . . and will one day judge the entire human race . . .

 . . .  who also promised, “If my People . . . who are called by My name, will humble themselves . . . “

 Each of the points which I identified above that I (along with every sailor worth his salt) have learned over the years . . . also has a historical application to our nation . . . can you connect those dots?

 A troubling question . . . The Righting Moment . . . is it still out in front of us . . . or has it come and gone and did we miss it?

 

 

We are living in a goofy time . . .

It seems like that our culture is absolutely committed to doing things in as peculiar of a manner as can be imagined . . . seemingly, always destined and committed to choosing the dumbest and most thick-headed position upon which to stand.  The most recent example is the Rutledge faculty’s protest of Condoleeza Rice’s selection as commencement speaker for this year’s graduation.

Selection of a flaming communist as commencement speaker is just fine, but the selection of this brilliant lady of such great accomplishment is somehow offensive?  I am wondering just how stupid one must be to fall into that group of protesters.

If you know anything of this amazing woman’s story, then you understand.  If you don’t, then please allow me to share a bit of her story.  She was born into a poor, southern family just outside of Birmingham, Alabama, at a time when the South was racially segregated and with racial tensions.  Her parents were honest, decent, hard-working folks who believed in America and the American dream.  Her dad, John Wesley Rice, was a high school counselor and a minister, while her mom, Angelena, was a high school science, music and oratory teacher.  They taught their brilliant little girl some amazing truths about life . . . and were responsible enough to help her learn to implement them day-by-day. Those truths were:

. . . that regardless of the color of one’s skin, there was opportunity because we were created in God’s image;

. . . that one’s beginning point in life does not have to limit one’s potential throughout life;

. . . that this is the USA and one can become whatever one is willing to aim for and work to achieve;

. . . that education is the great equalizer . . . and a wonderful way of leveling the playing field; and

. . . that one should always take pride in oneself . . . and personal integrity is more valuable than wealth.

And that beautiful young girl took her parent’s instruction to heart and applied them to her life and she became a shooting star . . . in spite of the odds, prejudices, and biases that were prevalent in that era.  In fact, she began to learn French, music, and figure-skating at age three. At 15, she began playing the piano and continues playing to this day.  She actually accompanied cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing Brahm’s Violin Sonata in D Minor at Constitution Hall on April, 2002, for the National Medal of Arts Award.

At the tender age of 19, she was inducted into the honor society Phi Beta Kappa, and was awarded a B. A., cum laude, in political science by the University of Denver.  She received her Master’s in political science from Notre Dame in 1975, then studied Russian at the Moscow State University, and ultimately earned her Ph.D. in political science from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at 26 years of age.

From then, she has served in an wide assortment of positions in various presidential administrations, and she served with distinction and great honor; served in a variety of other roles, including that of a Senior Fellow of the Institute of International Studies; Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution; a seat on the Board of Chevron, who later named a 129,000 ton super tanker as SS Condoleeza Rice in her honor.

She was serving as provost at her alma mater, Stanford University (which simply means the senior academic administrator), when in 2000 she took a leave-of-absence to work on the Committee to Elect Presidential candidate George W. Bush.  After Bush’s election, she would serve as National Security Advisor, and later as the Secretary of State.  She would be only the second Black and second woman to serve in that high office.

But hey, this lady of great integrity, honor and wisdom, will not be distracted by these idiots . . . She has been dealing with them for her entire life . . .

. . . as a young lady ushered to a department  store storage room, rather than being permitted to use a public dressing room;

. . . as a young lady living under the injustices of Alabama’s discriminatory laws, statutes, and attitudes;

. . . as a little girl being denied entrance to the circus because of her race;

. . . being denied hotel rooms;

. . . being served bad food in restaurants because of her color; and

. . . being forced to miss many days of school at her segregated school due to bomb threats.

But she remembered her parents instruction to: “walk proudly” and “use the facilities in her own home rather than subjecting herself to the indignity of using the colored facilities in town”  . . . and their admonition to “refuse to allow the limits and injustices of the times . . . to limit her horizons.”

She certainly took that wise counsel to heart and has displayed a nobility those crackers of the Rutledge faculty can’t even begin to comprehend!  

Condy Rice . . . what an amazing woman!  She is absolutely one of my favorite public figures in history, and I have great respect and admiration for her, for her life, and her public service.  It seems that I am not alone as she has appeared four times on the Times 100, Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.  In fact, she is only one of nine people in the entire world to have made the list so frequently.

So, bring it on Rutledge faculty . . . remind us again why academia is becoming more and more corrupt and filled with ignorant, small-minded socialists. But you should exercise some caution in attempting to publicly heckle or antagonize this great lady . . . she has been making idiots like you look ignorant for the majority of her life . . . but what is amazing is how classy she looks while doing that very thing!


 

Two smart guys . . . but in totally different and in conflicting ways!

Sometimes I am pretty much able to laugh at myself, and this morning provided an ample opportunity to do that very thing.  As summer approaches, I have been thinking about setting up a cool music system for the pool area.  I had been thinking about having Josh crawl through the attic, run wires out of the attic in the garage area, install speakers in the soffits, and hook them up to my cool Bose system in the office (a gift from Courtney and Chris).  Then, I learned last week about a guy who does such work, so I sent him a message.  He came by this morning and after looking at the situation and what I was wanting, he said there was no need to go into the attic, or to purchase anything except a couple of portable wireless speakers and said the music could come through my smart phone.  I told the guy that I thought that was wrong and said my smart phone had never played any music.  He looked at me in a really weird manner (I want to just go on record that I completely expect that sort of behavior from the techie guys . . . they are just strange people . . . and I hasten to add that they begin every sentence by saying “Dude . . . “).  He shook his head and said, “Dude, Let me see your phone.”  I handed it over.  He looked at it for a couple of minutes and said, “Dude, this thing is in serious need of an update.”  I said that I didn’t think so.  He smirked and said, “Dude, a normal update is like from 6.0 to 6.1 and this thing needs to go from like 6.0 to like 7.9” . . . the danged smart-aleck!  After a while he said, “Ok, we can use Bluetooth from your phone as the source.”  I knew I had the guy now, I rolled my eyes at him and said, “Duh, the Bluetooth is in my car . . . not my phone.”  He actually rolled his eyes back at me!!  Good grief . . . where do these people come from?  He said he would e-mail me a list of stuff to buy online . . . I didn’t tell him that I do not buy things on-line, and never have . . . I just get Sandy to do that sort of thing for me.  That is simply none of his business.

As he was leaving, I admitted to him that I wasn’t too cool with new technology and said that I had let a salesman sell me a complex home theater system that I struggled to operate. He lit up like a Roman candle and asked to see it.  When I took him in the house, he was in love.  The guy asked, “May I fix it for you?”  I said, heck I would be glad for him to . . . as long as he didn’t mess it up where I could not watch the NBA Finals . . . he was highly offended at the mere suggestion.  I excused myself and went back to the office to work.

I totally forgot about him, and about four hours later he came to the office . . . totally excited, and exclaimed, “Dude, what a great system; you are going to love what I did to it.”  I get real weary of these young guys looking at me with that look that says . . . “Why do you get to have something this cool; no way you deserve it . . . you are too old to even enjoy it.”  (I get that look often when I drive the ‘Vette).

We entered the house, and he was absolutely correct!  What an amazing system . . . what an amazing picture.  I don’t know what I had done to it punching on several different remotes over the past couple of years . . . but I had that thing so messed up I didn’t even recognize it now.

He knew what he was doing . . . and he is certainly good at what he does . . . but, I am pretty good at what I do, too, and I have been doing it successfully for a long time . . . and the truth is that folks have been paying me ridiculous amounts of money to teach them how I do it . . . but you would never convince the techie of any of that . . . I bet he thinks my wife earned the money and bought all of this junk.  He is likely drinking a couple of Bud light’s right now, wondering how she manages to put up with me! LOL 

Actually, I have been wondering that very thing myself . . . and I have for a number of years . . . actually, even before the techie dude was even born.

It Seems to me . . . the proof of how smart the dude actually is will be determined by what he tells me to buy on-line (well, you know what I mean) . . . and if it really works with my phone as he claims!

 Actually, the TV thing could have simply been some sort of miracle.

MY WIFE …. MY WOMAN ……… MY SWEETHEART

Mother’s day is drawing near,

Of course, that makes me think of you, my Dear.

And as I think of you, my attention is turned to Proverbs Thirty-one,

Wherein the Creator painted a picture of a woman who was like what you have become.

As I read God’s portrait of what a woman should and ought to be,

I am humbled as I realize that is exactly what God has given to me.

My partner in life ….. you, my adorable wife.

It is a lovely passage about truth, honor, and grace,

All of which I see reflected in your lovely face.

It is a portrait of a wonderful mother and wife,

One who honors God in every area of life.

A summary of sterling character, integrity , love and devotion,

And a glimpse of one who always seems to be in perpetual motion.

Forever busy with her overwhelming responsibility,

and meeting it with her amazing capability, dependability and ingenuity.

The husband in God’s portrait was a man of good reputation,

But there was clearly a stipulation.

His good name was greatly and forever enhanced,

By her character, impressive skills, gracious heart ……her life stance.

Thank you for allowing God to use you to influence my walk,

Gently nudging me along life’s path ……. quietly and lovingly influencing my talk.

Skillfully helping me maintain perspective, as I tend to focus on the hereafter,

you remind me of the here and now, without embarrassing me with too much laughter.

The years have passed, and the kids are grown and have gone away,

But, we now have new babies to love, enjoy and over which we pray.

I sometimes think that we seem to be nearing life’s setting sun,

But then I watch you in your quest for PhD and realize you are far from being done

You are now and have always been my inspiration …….

And your winning attitude has inspired my perspiration and removed my hesitation.

Your complete and total love, commitment and dedication…….

Have enabled us to enjoy our daily celebration.

  Thank you so very much ……. And Happy Mother’s Day

The best advice I’ve heard in a long time . . .

Charlie, Jerry, and I were walking laps in the pool and Charlie was breaking the news to us that he and Deva had decided to “just be friends.”  He finally got around to the “why of it all,” and said he wanted to date other girls and asked our advice about his decision and action.  I told him that I really didn’t have much advice on the matter except to say that Deva was a lovely lady and he ought to abide by whatever wishes she might have expressed.  Then the conversation went stone-cold silent.

Personally, I have never thought of Jerry as being a particularly philosophical sort of guy, but after he listened to me tell Charlie what I thought, he said, “I have some really good advice for you, Charlie, and here it is: WHEN YOU GO TO WALMART BUY A BOX OF TIDE! DUDE, YOU ARE ABOUT TO START WASHING YOUR OWN CLOTHES AGAIN! YOU SCREWED UP, BIG TIME!!”

I can’t tell you how profound I found Jerry’s advice.  I was totally unprepared for it.  I am still laughing about the expression on Charlie’s face as the reality of his error in judgment slowly soaked into his hard head and he saw himself in front of a coin-operated Maytag holding a box of Tide.

It Seems to me . . . that my friend, Jerry, is a philosophical sort of guy after all.  That was short and simple – yet also profound, and clearly the best advice I have heard in a long time.  It also Seems to me . . . that if Charlie minds his manners (which is not very likely), Jerry just might allow him to accompany him to the laundromat and remind him how to use that Tide and wash his own clothes. 


 

Provided with one-size-fits-all materials; yet, struggling to adjust its application

One of my favorite privileges of all times is teaching my Sunday school class.  What a terrific group of people they are . . . what a great class.  They are part of the group that has recently and rightfully been assigned the title, “The Greatest Generation.”  The Church calls the class “The 56– Up Co-Ed Class.”  I have written about the class in earlier blogs.

This morning I am a bit frustrated and challenged.  As Southern Baptists, we follow a curriculum published by Lifeway.  For the most part it is quite good, and creates lesson series by quarters, with one quarter in the Old Testament, and then the following quarter in the New Testament.  The objective is that it works through the complete Bible in a 10-year period.  As I said, it is actually quite good and I like it; however, there are times when it creates a struggle for me and I am sure for others who teach this age group.  This is just such a time, and here are a few examples:

SITUATION: Currently we are in a study series entitled, “Learn, Live, and Love” . . . taken from the Proverbs and the Song of Solomon.  The books are wonderful . . . as is every book in the Bible.  However, with Proverbs, it is clearly wonderful instruction from parent to child about how to live.  The book contains wisdom . . . Godly wisdom . . . in seven areas: Speech . . . Work . . . Finances . . . Friendships . . . Alcohol and Drug (ABUSE) . . . and Moral Purity!

DILEMMA: I agree that each one of these areas is important and they are each topics the Church needs to teach in today’s troubled and confused culture.  I also agree that the truths set forth therein are God’s truths for His created order.  However, I find it difficult for me personally to lecture older, successful, and mature people about having a glass of wine with dinner.  For many years I did that very thing, but my great hero, Billy Graham, wrote a book a few years back wherein he announced to the world that he and Ruth enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner!  Who am I to argue with that?  These are wise, successful people who have done a fine job of raising their families and living lives of honor and integrity.

Please understand, I have no hesitation in going to Charlie’s Place and talking to those broken and struggling kids about the evils of alcohol . . . but that is another kettle of fish altogether!  That is a group that failed to manage “a glass of wine with dinner” . . . and instead allowed it to become a damaging and destructive element in their lives. They, tragically, are a pitiful group that alcohol has controlled and almost destroyed (it certainly has destroyed many of their relationships).  These hurting folks desperately need to hear God’s truth on the subject.  Of course, Solomon’s instruction to his son did not apply to the situation with older, wiser people. It was directed to younger folks and centered on “keeping your focus” and “not allowing drink to make you become a brawler or a person who is unable to control himself.”

Actually, I didn’t have much trouble teaching on the subject of “Speech,” because we all need to be reminded to be careful in what we say and how we say it.  Plus, there is the age-old truth that as we get older, we tend to become less thoughtful about our words, so some reminders to exercise caution are good.  I didn’t have any struggle on the lesson about “Work.”  The truth is we all can and should do more to help others and make our Church and community better and more caring.

SITUATION: Once each year near the anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision by the Supreme Court, we as Southern Baptist set aside a Sunday we identify as “Right-to-Life Sunday” and our lesson for the day is the tragedy of abortion.  I am in complete agreement with the Baptist view of abortion, and I support that lesson being taught in our Churches on that, or any other Sunday. However, I do not teach it to my class!

DILEMMA: The class is large and includes many women who were professionals.  Just knowing the number of abortions that have occurred since Roe vs Wade and the range of ages in my group, any reasonably intelligent use of statistics and law-of-averages would suggest that in such a group there could be a woman who had an abortion.  It is my firm belief that any woman who made such a choice at an earlier time in her life, most likely lives with enough grief and guilt and does not need the likes of me adding to it.  What that lady would desperately need is to be reminded that God loves us her, and she has been forgiven.  My lesson on that day is always on grace and mercy . . . forgiveness and restoration.  A few of my favorite things . . .

SITUATION: The lesson this past Sunday . . . “Living in Moral Purity” . . .

DILEMMA:  Exactly how do I walk into a room of 100+ people ranging between the ages of 60 and 95 years and deliver Solomon’s instruction to his son about sexual purity?  In this situation, I suspect it would be much akin to rushing to close up a gate, after the mule has long been gone.

I know myself well enough to know that such talk in that setting would embarrass me as the speaker.  It would also trouble me for my sweet mommy to set in such a missed-class discussion.

CONCLUSION: I think Lifeway needs to offer alternate lessons for our age group.  Perhaps, I need to be a bit more creative in developing alternate lesson plans on my own, and let Lifeway do its own deal!! 


 

Relationships and Communication

An important part of life is developing relationships.  A critical element in any relationship is communication, and it happens at all levels and stages of the life process!  Like most other things in life . . . sometimes it is good, other times not so good, sometimes folks are made to feel good, sometime someone walks away scarred.

Over recent days I have been involved in a number of conversations . . . some pleasant, some not so much; I have also observed others in conversations; I have also talked with one person in a fractured relationship where all conversation has ceased and there is now anger, doubt, distrust, and pain.  I ache for her . . . I want to find a way to help her and her family.

One evening last week the phone rang . . . it was Ali and Abi . . . wanting to Face Time!  I delighted in the fellowship with them (honestly, I always delight in them). They both love and enjoy the attention and love, and consequently ended up squabbling bit over air time and Mom had to step in and settle it down; she did it well.  After we finally said our goodbyes, I thought about relationships and how important communication is . . . and I prayed for these beautiful little sisters as they grow up to become dearest friends.  As I thought about it all, I scribbled some notes as I thought about it all:

The Three A’s ……. They make us better:

Acknowledgement

Acceptance

Appreciation

These three A’s are like high-octane gasoline that makes the human spirit run at optimum capacity! They are the essential ingredients that convey love from one person to another.  In fact, when they are absent, a person tends to become defensive . . . and tries not to let anyone in. Here is what each one look like:

 Acknowledgement: Being willing to accept and agree that the other person is having the experience they say they are having.  If the person says that he or she is not feeling well, then you must acknowledge it.  In fact, the more you acknowledge and validate it . . . the more they will trust you!  Everyone wants someone to understand how they feel. Yet, oftentimes when we try to explain or express how we feel, we get advice . . . and all we really wanted and needed was simple acknowledgement. 

Acceptance:  We all need to learn to simply accept each other . . . just the way we are . . . not the way we want or hope they will be.  We must accept each other: warts, wigs, worries, wants, and weeds.  The Bible assures us that God loves each of us . . . and that He loves us just the way we are!  It also testifies that He loves us too much to leave us the way we are!  But changing us is His business . . . our business is to acknowledge and accept each other as we are . . . and then accept it as He changes us over time!  We all get a makeover . . . with God!  It Seems to me . . . when one feels accepted . . . he is motivated to do his best!  Yet, how often do we affirm the very behavior we don’t want to see, while neglecting the behavior we do want to see?  We talk about what they are doing wrong and neglect to talk about what they are doing right.

Appreciation:  The art of expressing to the other person what you like about him or her. “I really like how you do that!”  Do it often . . . Do it sincerely . . . Do it as a compliment . . . Do it in an encouraging fashion . . . Do it in a positive and genuine manner.  Build others up . . . remember, there are plenty of others busy trying to tear them down.

For further reading .  . . another’s viewpoint regarding the Three A’s:

http://drmccall.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/the-three-as-for-a-successful-relationship-with-men-listen-with-acknowledgement-appreciation-and-acceptance/

There are 5 levels of conversation; and considering these three A’s, think about how they play into relationships.

Level One: Frivolous Level . . . It happens like this: “The Cowboys won” . . . “The Texans Lost” and “It looks like rain.”  Simple, everyday conversation that does little for anyone.

Level Two: Factual Level . . . It happens like this: Simply the sharing of information, like a newscaster does. Not talking about who got beat, but talking about how badly they got beat. It uses lots of facts, stats, and technical items

Level Three: Fellowship Level . . . That place where we are willing to talk about our ideas, beliefs, and philosophy.  This is the level where we begin intellectual intimacy . . . where we risk sharing our thoughts, without first knowing how the other person will respond

Level Four: Feeling Level . . . We begin to feel emotional intimacy by talking about what we believe, our hopes, fears, insecurities, dreams, and aspirations.  We only share these things with people we believe can accept and appreciate how we feel.

Level Five: Freedom Level . . . Two people who have grown to the point where they can completely and comfortably share their deepest needs, feelings, and concerns . . . all the while knowing that they will be respected, affirmed, and received.

Communication . . . it is critical . . . but it is certainly a challenge!

Relationships . . . are important; but, they take work, respect, and wisdom!

A Sad and Similar Situation . . but it’s quite different . . . and it is different because of attitude!

I once did back-to-back annual meetings for a large firm at a fancy resort on the coast in Washington State.  They were actually my seminars designed for that firm’s annual meetings. The President of the company had attended one of my seminars in Chicago and we quickly become friends and she made it known that she really liked my program.  Not too long afterwards, she engaged me to come up and spend a few days with her folks in Washington.  I really liked the group, the company, as well as the President and her family. The employees seemed to like my jokes, bought into my program, and made me feel like part of the family.  I felt I had made some friends.  Then, a few months later, the President called and asked me to come up again. She explained that there had been something of a power struggle within the company and some folks had left and there was still some friction and resentments.  She wanted me to try to help soothe some wounds and help folks feel better about it all. I vowed to try.  This group used a great deal of pomp and ceremony in their annual meetings. I recall that as I was reintroduced to the former employees and introduced to the new folks and as I walked to the podium in that banquet hall to their warm welcome, I looked out, surveyed the room, smiled and said, “Look around the room . . . there are about as many folks here as there were last year, but I can see that some folks have moved on . . . and that is probably a good thing for the company; but, I don’t know if it was for them!”  A hushed silence fell over the room . . . and I smiled and said, “An important part of the life experience involves new beginnings and that is a good thing! It was a new beginning when we learned to walk, when we learned to talk, when we started to school, when we finished school, when we got married, when we had children . . . each one of those life stages involved a new beginning.  Life is about growing and developing . . . and that often involves moving on.  As you look around the room, you will recall some folks who were here last year, but are not here today . . . and they are not here because some things worked out and they moved ahead and are doing well . . . and that is a good thing!  Yet, as you look around, you will remember some others that are not here today . . . and tragically their absence here today is not because of any improvement . . . they are gone because of their attitude . . . and that is not a good thing.  Here is a great truth of life: things change . . . and we can’t control that, but we can control our attitude. I assure you that anything in life is better with a good attitude than it is with a bad attitude! I suspect if their attitude was a problem here, it is probably a problem wherever they are today.”  The tension broke, they gave a robust applause and we rolled up our shirt sleeves and got to work on facilitating change in the work-place and developing good attitudes about life.  I think of that good experience from time to time. The past week has sure been such a time.

I met this pilgrim the early part of last week and he asked if I had any work he might do to make a little money.  He was a young guy, but showed some signs of being pretty beat up by life.  At the same time, it seemed obvious that some of it was likely self-inflicted, but hey, I try to give everyone a shot!  He explained that he had brought his girlfriend down to visit his grandmother and while they were here she went into labor and had a baby . . . two months premature.  The baby was still in the hospital.  Wow . . . I felt really bad for him and remembered a time when Courtney was a baby . . . and she was so sick; we were so afraid.  She was in the hospital 60 miles away. I had a flash-back . . . and saw myself in time.  I was so ready to help this guy . . . and I am in a position that I could really help him too!

As we talked he said his name was Jason and he was from Burnet; hey, my family has been around Burnet forever!  In the conversation I discovered that our families had been somewhat connected for several generations.  My family had gone to church with his great-grandparents, and his uncles had been in my youth group.  Dorothy, my mom, and some of their friends had prepared and served a family meal for his family when his great grandmother passed away.  I really felt a kinship with the guy and desperately wanted—and needed—to help him out. As we talked, it was obvious that he had limited job skills, but seemed basically teachable, and that was all okay.  I had quite a bit of grace for the guy and I was so ready to help him!  I clearly saw myself at a hard and troubled time in my younger years.

I had him start on some yard-work to see how he handled it.  Day one, he worked about 4 hours (@ $7.50 = $30.00) and came to the office and said he needed to go to the hospital and see the baby, but he needed $50 for gas and food.  I understood and gladly gave him the $50 with blessings.

The next day, he showed up at 2:00 p.m., and I let him wash the cars . . . flat rate $25 on the Suburban;  $25 on the BMW, and $20 on the ‘Vette (I have a pal named Eric White who is amazing at cleaning up cars and that is what he charges, so I believe it was fair).  He worked just under 3 hours and then said he had to leave, but he needed $70.00 to buy a car-seat for the baby. I gladly gave him $70.00, again with blessings.

He didn’t come around or call Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.  He called about 10:30 Monday morning and asked if I had any work he could do.  I was busy and really had no time to go find something for him to do, but I really wanted to help the guy!  I took him to the back yard and showed him the pool net and said, “You can net the pool out, rake leaves, and sweep off the pool deck.”  He was less than excited, which I certainly understand.  But, hey, a dude with a baby and a girlfriend to feed needs to work where and when he can.  The truth is there could and would have been something much better if he had just hung on.

I want to be fair here and say that 50 coastal oak trees around a large pool on the coast in the spring is just a plain mess!  The wind really blows here this time of the year and it serves several purposes (e.g. blows water from the Gulf of Mexico back into the bay system) and it cleans the junk out of the oak trees (which lose their leaves along with a messy, webby like stuff full of green pollen) every spring.  I have battled it every year for almost 30 years.

I went back into the office.  He called in about 30 minutes and said that he needed to go get something to eat.  I said ok, and “Let me know when you get back.”  In an hour or so, he texted that he was back on the job.  Then about an hour later he called and said that he was going home for the day and announced that the wind was making the task difficult.  The dude actually suggested that we just cut all of the trees down!

He left and in about half an hour texted me and asked if he could get paid today and said he was out of cigarettes . . . I did the calculation . . . I had advanced him $120 . . . and with great charity involved, I determined that he has “earned” $130.00. I told him to come on by the office and I would have a check for him. I will give the dude $100 and will wish him well and . . . sadly, I guess I am done with him.

I was once there myself . . . I was indeed . . . and I do remember it, vividly!  But I also remember that I completely understood that no one owed me anything, but that I was blessed with a good brain and a strong back and I could work . . . and work I did!  I never slacked off, made excuses, or ran away from any honest work.  In fact, when I was at the same place as this pilgrim is today, I owed a little country bank in Bertram so much stinking money on Courtney and her medical bills that I had to clean up that bank every day and mow the yard every week just to pay my debt (and they really had a bunch of really big oak trees, and you know I did not have a riding mower with a bagger system).  But I will tell you what I did have . . . I had a great wife who stood by me day in and day out, who encouraged me every step of the way, making me believe that I would one day be very successful!  I also had drive, determination, and ambition . . . and every minute I was doing that low-level work at that bank, I was thinking, planning, and figuring how I would one day own that bank!  LOL . . . The truth is that I never did own that bank or any part of it . . . but a few years later I did own part of another and considerably larger bank down south . . . and today my kids even own a piece of it, too!!  It Seem to me . . . It is all about attitude!  A good attitude coupled with a healthy work ethic can take one a long ways up the road . . . the Lord has been faithful and blessed my work . . . and it sure has been a good formula for me.  Then again, on the flip side, a poor attitude, coupled with a touch of lazy and selfishness . . . has put (kept) lots of folks in the poor house!

It makes me sad, but I am thinking that is likely poor old Jason’s future . . . and the tragedy is that puts that sweet little baby boy right there, too . . . but then, again, perhaps only for a few years . . . history testifies that many a person has risen above poverty to find success and break the cycle . . . it just comes down to attitude and work ethic . . . (and I believe a faithfulness to return God’s part back to Him, too)!