Sunday, March 31, 2013


In my first post I introduced you to Fred. If you will recall, he was the elderly man in the neighborhood whose grass I mowed. This story is about how my mamma and Fred worked together to teach me a lesson about work ethics. I was sixteen years old, and almost at the pinnacle of knowledge and wisdom. In other words, I was a teenage boy who thought he knew everything. You couldn't tell me anything. Being somewhat  of a typical teen, I had developed quite a habit of procrastination.

I had agreed to mow Fred's yard once a week. It was summer time, so the days were pretty long and for the most part care free. About the middle of one week, mamma asked me, "son, are you planning on doing Fred's yard today?" I told her that it was not in my plans for that particular day, and she let it drop. Good. I went along my merry way. But like a gnat usually returns to torment its victim, mamma asked the same question the next day. She got the same response. I thought I detected just a bit of irritation in her voice, but again, she didn't persist on the subject.

This went on for the next two or three days. Same question. Same response. However, with each passing day, I could tell she was getting more and more aggravated with me. You have to understand one thing about  my mamma. She had several non-negotiable rules, and one of them was that you didn't do anything, and I do mean anything, to show disrespect to an elderly person. (This has served me well, being a nursing home administrator.) To mamma, "putting Fred off, " as she called it was on the verge of crossing that line. Once a week, meant once a week. Period.

Saturday comes. Its been one week since the last time I mowed Fred's grass. For those of you who aren't familiar with southeast Texas, it was not uncommon for people to mow more than once a week during the rainy, hot summer time. But, since Fred was relatively content with once a week, so was I. Sure enough, I got up Saturday morning, and the inquisition began anew. However, this time I told her that I was indeed planning on mowing the yard. My plan was to wait until the early evening hours, when it would still be light, but not as hot. 

This is where things go from bad, to a bit worse. After lunch a couple of my buddies showed up unexpectedly and announced they were going to the island to play golf, and did I want to come along. What do you think? Of course I wanted to go. So, I go in the house and tell mamma, "I'm going to Pleasure Island to play golf." Her immediate objection, as you could have predicted, was that I needed to go mow Fred's grass. I explained that we were going to play only the front nine, and I would be home in plenty of time to get the job done before dark.

Her response was brief, but firm. "You are going to mow that yard, TODAY." 

Now we go from bad to really worse. I had a wristwatch that was flopping around bothering me every time I swung the golf club, so I asked one of my trusted friends to put it in his pocket, as I was not so equipped that day. We played nine holes, and I began to tell them I had to get home to do my work. One of them said, "it's still real early," and he showed me my very own watch to prove it. What a little dummy. I fell for it and off we went to play the back nine holes. I do remember thinking that it sure felt like we had been there longer, but I dismissed the notion, until it started getting dark. I think it was 4:30 pm by my watch.

I hit the back door pleading my case. "Mamma, they played a joke on me." 

"Well," she said, "I'm sure sorry about that, but you are going to mow that yard."

"But it's dark outside."

"I'll at least loan you a flashlight. Get the one from the kitchen drawer."

So off I went, in the dark, to mow Fred's grass with a flashlight and a 50 watt light bulb hanging over Fred's garage door. It was miserable. The mosquitoes were out in full force. They all found me. I couldn't swat at them, because I was holding the flashlight with one hand and pushing the lawnmower with the other hand. I tried putting the flashlight in my mouth, but it was too big. I just had to suffer through it. I remember thinking at the time that my mamma had lost her mind.

Today, I understand what she did. She called ahead and told Fred for him not to take pity on me as she was, "teaching that boy a lesson." I'm sure now that they both felt a little sorry for me, but they believed that that life lesson was critical. And to be sure, it was well learned. Today, I never mow the grass after dark without mosquito repellent.

Steve ( )

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I was driving home from San Jacinto College yesterday afternoon, listening to the oldies station. "Smoke on the Water" started playing, and I was immediately transported back in time and started reminiscing about how my best friend and I would play the air guitar when we heard that familiar intro. Come on now, you know it: bum bum buuum, bum bum bum buuum, bum bum buuum, bum buuum. It made me feel good to think about that, so I started to thing about other things, like watching Bonanza with my grandma on Saturday nights and eating Sunday lunch (we called it dinner back then) after church. Since I was in an analytic mode, I thought about why these memories were among my favorites and why were they capable of producing such soothing emotions. 

I came to the following conclusion: We need simplicity in our lives. Each of the above examples, and I could go on with dozens more, represent a time in life when things were much easier and simple. Since I grew up in the TV generation, several old shows came to mind. Can you remember wishing you lived in Mayberry, or Mayfield, or Hooterville? It's because they were safe, predictable places where family and friends actually counted for something. Of course they were just fantasies, but they did serve a purpose, at least for me. 

Here are some of my other old favorite things: home made ice cream, going to a fish fry picnics on Easter, Double Bubble chewing gum, playing dodge ball, junior high dances (which were horribly awkward feeling at the time,) going to Fred Miller's toy store with daddy and my $2 allowance, and on and on and on.

I hope you will take a few minutes and do some reminiscing of your own. Please feel free to share some of your old favorites in the comments section. I'm going cut this one short. I have some daydreaming to catch up on.

See you next time..........Steve ( ) 

Sunday, March 17, 2013


To say that we use the word love to the point of making it cliche, is ironically cliched itself. But, it is true, and it's worth thinking about again. My job here is to convey a fresh perspective on that by getting us to stop and think about what real love is. I love my wife; I love to go out and eat; I love my car; I love football; I love, I love, I love, ad nauseum. We each understand in our everyday usage that the above examples all  use the word "love" in different ways. The only one that truly conveys emotion is "I love my wife." So it would be fair to say that love can be associated with emotions in that case. However, I want to focus on the idea that love is NOT an emotion, at least in its highest form.

It is not my goal to have this blog entry to be an academic treatise in theology, but we do have to start with a bit of it. The Bible tells us, "God is love." It goes on to describe a form of love known in the Greek language as agape. Many hundreds of thousands of writers, most a great deal smarter than me, have written on the subject, so perhaps it is a bit arrogant of me to think I can contribute anything of significance. However, I will just share my thoughts and you the reader can take or leave what you will. Agape love, in my elementary understanding of it, simply means a form of love that is given unconditionally and in a self-sacrificing way.  In other words, it puts your needs before my own, whether you deserve it or not and whether I  "feel" like it or not. Therein lies my premise that love is not an emotion.

The Bible makes several demands on me in terms of love. Some of them are: "Love one another," "Love your neighbor as yourself," "husbands love your wives." Notice that it doesn't say, "husbands love your wives, if you feel like it, " or "husbands love your wives if she's in a good mood." The meaning is more like, "husbands love your wives even if she's in the crankiest mood ever and you had a horrible day at work." When you consider it that way, its easy to see that a warm emotion may be hard to generate at the moment. 

If love isn't an emotion, what must it be then? I maintain agape love is intentionally chosen behaviors. It means I'm called upon to be kind and do something to meet another person's needs. That's not always easy to do, even when it's a person that is usually easy to like. The greater challenge is to behave that way toward a stranger or a quarrelsome neighbor. It doesn't come naturally to us to be that way. But as I understand the instructions Jesus left me, I have to CHOOSE to behave that way toward even my enemies! Hard? Yes. Worth it? It must be, because God uses agape love as the strongest transforming power in the universe.

Have a great week. See you next time........Steve ( )

Sunday, March 10, 2013

     The last time we talked about building walls between people. As promised, here are my thoughts on building bridges between people. In the physical sense, what does a bridge do? It simply allows two areas that have an obstacle between them, such as a river or valley, to be connected and accessible to each other. They have to be made of sturdy material such as steel and iron. Bridges between people allow them to connect and be accessible to each other, just like our real world bridge. What are the building materials of "people bridges?"

     The building materials of our people bridges are actually pretty intuitive, but I suspect we don't spend much time thinking about them. It seems to me that the first and basic one is communication. We talk to people all day. Notice I said "talk to" and not "talk with." There is a big difference. Good communicators learn that almost everyone's favorite subject is himself or herself. They seek to allow that person to talk about themselves and are truly interested in hearing the information. They use what is called reflective listening skills,   meaning they ask questions along the way to insure they are truly understanding, and not just hearing, what the person is saying. At the end of a conversation with a good listener, the person feels they are understood.

     The next "steel beam" on my list is kindness. How many times did our mothers admonish us that if we didn't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all. That's the first basic point of kindness. In our society, we are somewhat geared to think of ourselves first and then the other fellow. It okay to intentionally give up our number one position and put the other person's needs and feelings first. A simple example of this happened to me recently at the grocery store. I ran in just to get a gallon of milk. I arrived at the checkout stand at the same time (or a second or two later) than this man who had a whole basket full of groceries. He saw that I only had the one thing, and graciously allowed me to go ahead of him. I felt blessed and thanked him. He had every right to not do that, but he chose to be kind. It's sort of contagious, because as I was leaving the store, I got to the door at about the same time as someone who had a large load she was struggling with to get to her car. In my moment of largess, just moments before inspired in me, I helped her get her basket to the car. I know that's no big deal, but just used to make a point. One of the shortest, but most profound scriptures in the Bible is, "be ye kind to one another." (Ephesians 4:32) Just as real world bridges need paint to keep from rusting or rotting, people bridges need to be kept painted regularly with kindness.

Some may not agree with me on this, but I think a great bridge material between people is laughter. Its hard to not feel connected to someone when you share a good, hearty belly-laugh with them. Conversely, sharing moments of grief with someone builds strong bridges as well. The Bible puts it like this is Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." We don't always feel as comfortable in sharing sorrow as we do in laughing, but if you practice both, you will have more bridges built that you can imagine.

So that's it for this entry. This by no means is a comprehensive list of bridge building materials, but only a good start. Go get some construction materials of you own, and start building more bridges today! See ya next time............Steve (