Me & Daddy – Side by Side

(Originally written in 1996)

Nine years ago my Daddy went home to Heaven.  At 21 years of age, it was very difficult to say my Good-Bye’s and to let him go, but I suspect God must have had a special job for a very special man.  A man that could brighten any room with his smile and the twinkle in his eyes.  A man that was a hard worker all of his life and always treated others with honesty, respect and compassion – regardless of whether they were a banker, doctor, or a ditch-digger.  A man that loved his family dearly and made time in his busy schedule to show and express his love.

The past nine years have provided me an opportunity to reflect often on the memories I hold of my Daddy.  Memories are the only lasting impression we have once a loved one is gone, and I am blessed with an abundance of sweet memories of my Dad.  Growing up in a small Texas town out in the country, there was always a lot of work to be done – most of which was done by my Father and me.  It seems like only yesterday that my Dad put me behind the wheel of a 1963 Ford pickup at the ripe old age of 12 and said “Keep her between the ditches!”  He also taught me to operate our tractor and to back a trailer as straight as an arrow.  He did this by making me back a 16 foot trailer up and down the long narrow lanes of our peach orchard (much to his amusement!).  After I finished, he pointed out that my tire tracks looked like the prints of two giant snakes that had wriggled their way up the lane!  But he didn’t give up on me and eventually I got it right.

And it seemed as if there were always miles of fence to be mended.  I remember the preacher coming out to visit one Saturday afternoon while we were out mending fence.  He went on and on about how special it was to drive up and see a father and a son out working side by side.  He was right, it was very special.  We worked side by side on many projects including mowing pastures, clearing brush, cutting firewood, feeding and working cows, picking peaches, pruning the orchard, building barns and corrals, working our garden, tinkering with truck engines, and whatever else needed doing.  One of my favorite memories is that, at the end of a long hard day, we would walk down a few hundred yards to our stock pond and feed the catfish.  We would sit and relax and sip on some on Mamma’s ice cold sweet tea as we watched the sun slowly sink and fade into the horizon.

In addition to his agricultural pursuits, my father was also a successful businessman.  He and my mother owned a Sears catalog store.  My Dad began taking me with him to make his deliveries at a very young age.  I helped him install everything from washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, ranges, air conditioners, garage door openers, riding lawn mowers and anything else that the customer asked to have delivered.  All the while, my Dad was teaching me about the products so that, when I was ready, I could begin working in the family business.  I learned many valuable lessons about business and more importantly, life, by working with my father.

As I reflect back, I can now see that most of the “work” I was required to do was really to teach me a lesson of some sort.  One lesson that I will never ever forget is the lesson of the “electric fly”.  We had just finished stringing up an electric fence around our hay to keep the cows out.  Standing back and admiring our work, I noticed a fly sitting on the electric wire.  I pointed at the fly with the pair of metal pliers I was holding and asked my Dad why the fly was not being shocked.  He told me to gently give the fly a little nudge with my pliers.  As I got the metal pliers close to the fly, the electric current arced through the fly and gave me quite a jolt!  When he quite laughing, he explained that the fly was not being shocked because he wasn’t grounded.  But when I got my pliers close enough, I was grounded and thus the electricity had no problem flowing through me!  Needless to say, the fly didn’t survive that little lesson.

While my Daddy and I did work hard, we also took time out to play and enjoy ourselves.  One of our favorite activities was to go for a long motorcycle ride on Sunday afternoons.  We must have explored every little single lane road in the county.  We also enjoyed watching the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoons even though we could never agree on who the best player was and whether or not Tom Landry had called the right play!  In addition to motorcycles and football, we loved stock car racing (before it was cool).  We watched our fair share on television, but the most exciting times were when Daddy would take me to the races.  Afterwards, we would walk the pit area and he would tell me everything there was to know about each of the cars.

Whether in work or in play, my Daddy and I were often seen side by side – partners through thick and thin.  He always told everybody that I was his A#1 helper and I’ve always said that he was and still is my greatest hero.  As Father’s Day is nearing, I suspect I will replay many of the fond memories in my head and at least once during the day lift my eyes toward Heaven and whisper to him how much I love him.  And finally, I will slip down to the old country cemetery and spend a few moments underneath the huge shade tree where he is buried and give thanks to my Heavenly Father for the wonderful earthly Father that He gave me.

Days of the Week…or…Daze of the Weak?

Boxer

Life is a grind.  Then you die.  The end.

Does it ever feel like that to you?  Yeah, me too.  If we’re not careful we can allow our lives to become mind numbingly monotonous as we simply grind out one day after the next.  Wake up.  Work.  Go to bed.  Rinse and repeat.

In the fast paced society we live in, it becomes very easy to get caught up on life’s treadmill with tigers and lions nipping relentlessly at our heels!  One day fades obliviously into the next until we look up and it’s Sunday night and time to start all over again.

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”     – Psalm 90:12 NIV

So how do we ensure we are experiencing joy filled and meaningful “Days” instead of living out a zombie horror movie and stumbling around in a “Daze”?

Here are a few ideas you might want to experiment with:

  • Have a “Big Why”: Finding your “Big Why” is the first step to climbing out of the haze of the daily grind and into your purpose.  Your “Big Why” or your purpose should absolutely rip you out of bed in the morning.  It will fuel your tank with energy all day long and when the going gets tough it will keep you from putting it on auto-pilot.  It’s your reason for being and why you were created.
  • Number Your Days: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12 NIV.  Life is brief and it’s a wise person that takes into account this brevity and works to make each and every day count.  The life expectancy for men is 27,740 days and 29,565 days for women.  I am 52 which according to the charts, means I have about 8760 days left.  I intend to make every one of them count!
  • Be Fully Present: This is the micro version of “Number Your Days”.  Quick quiz.  How much of each 24 hour day are you fully alive and present?  Are you just going through motions or are you 100% engaged and focused during your waking hours?  Are you eyeball to eyeball with your young children providing them your full attention when they ask you the same question for the zillionth time?  How about your spouse or co-workers?  No “phoning it in” allowed.
  • Get Some Peeps: Everyone needs a community or a tribe to belong to.  My wife and I have 3 other couples that we “do life” with.  Every Sunday night we get together at one of our homes, share a meal together, and spend time enjoying each other’s company.  When I’m hurting, this is the group I turn to.  When I’m coasting through life, they are the ones that encourage me to get back on track – or even provide a swift kick in the butt if that’s what is needed.  When I have a victory to celebrate, they are there to congratulate me and celebrate with me.  No man (or woman) is an island.  We were created for relationships.  If you don’t have peeps, get some.

You were not placed on this earth by chance and you certainly weren’t placed here to stumble through life in a daze.  Find your people, learn your purpose and commit to being present and alive throughout the rest of your life.

 

“Sticks and Stones” is a Big Fat Lie!

HELP Pic

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Was this loving little rhyme shared with you by your parents or another authority figure when you were a child?  Yeah?  Me too.  But over time, I’ve learned that it’s simply not true.  Words hurt.  A lot.

Words Matter

If you look back over world history – or even the history of your own life, almost all heartache, pain, strife, wars, etc. were first started with…Words!  Likewise, as you reflect on your past, I bet there are many memories you can recall where others spoke positive words into your life.  It’s easy to see that words have a profound effect on our lives.  These words eventually led to outcomes in your life that were either positive (good feelings) or negative (hurt feelings).

You have the power to speak life into those that are around you, but you also have the power to speak death and destruction into them.  Scripture says that while the “tongue is a small part of the body” (James 3:5), it “has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).  That’s incredible if you think about it.  One of the smallest parts of our body has this massive power to bring either love, healing, and affirmation or hatred, poison, and death.  The choice is up to us…and it has major consequences.

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

-Proverbs 12:18

One of Many Times I’ve Blown It…

Recently, I was having a really bad day.  And at the end of this long disastrous day, my teenage daughter made a request of me that just didn’t sit right – it hit a nerve.  It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and sadly I unleashed my entire days’ worth of hurt and frustration on her.  I could quickly see that I crushed her spirit, which was certainly not my intention.  After taking some time to cool off, I asked her if she would ride with me to grab a coffee so that we could talk and clear the air.  I humbled myself and apologized to her.  And while she did extend her forgiveness and we made things right between us, I know there are still consequences.  I spoke words that can never be “unspoken” and sadly she heard words that will most likely never be “unheard”.  Words matter.  A lot.

Choose to Bring Life!

So the question begs, how can we use our words to bring life and not death?  I wish I could give you a magical formula, but I can’t.  Have you ever noticed how the so-called magical formulas never work anyway?  But what I can offer, are some truths I’ve gained through my own struggles of taming the tongue as well as those of others.

  • Daily Self Awareness: Take time to check in with yourself throughout the day.  This one takes some discipline on your part.  It’s okay to feel the emotions of anger and hurt, but realize when you are in this state and choose your words and conversations very carefully.  Had I done this with my daughter, I might have avoided the pain I caused her.
  • Guard Your Heart: Scripture tells us “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).  This means that all of the words flowing out of your mouth – both beautiful and ugly – are based on the condition of your heart.
  • Choose Love: Love truly does conquer all. Often times those we hurt the most are also those we love the most.  In anger, it’s easy to lash out against our spouse and attack their weak spots.  The same holds true with relationships with our friends, family, work, and even compete strangers.  Choosing love over hate is often difficult, but it produces beautiful consequences in both the giver and receiver.
  • Surround Yourself with Loving People: As much as possible, fill your life with loving people that truly have your best interest at heart.  We all know people that suck the air right out of the room when they enter due to their negativity.  If it’s possible, avoid toxic people.  And if it’s not possible, refer to number 3 above.  J
  • Admit When You Have Blown It: We are human and at times our emotions will get the best of us regardless of how hard we try for that not to happen.  So when you blow it, admit it and seek forgiveness.  Speaking words of humility can go a long way to restoring a relationship and easing the pain.

So while sticks and stones may break our bones, words also have the ability to both break the bones and crush the spirit.  Because words matter.  A lot.

Lincoln Thinking

Angry Man

Have you ever sent an email in anger and had instant remorse the second after you hit send?  Yeah?  Me too.  It usually doesn’t end well.  Early in my career as an over-zealous telecom salesman, I had a big sale on the line and I was very excited.  However, not only did I have to sell the prospect, I also had to sell the Accounting Manager that this prospects credit rating was worth the risk.

I felt like the Accounting Manager was dragging her feet and in my haste and anger, I sent her a message letting her know this in no uncertain terms.  Well, my little message eventually made it to the CEO/Owner of the company and I was quickly summoned to the principles’ office where I received a well-deserved attitude adjustment!

A year or so after this event, I was reading a book about my all-time favorite U.S. President…Abraham Lincoln.  One of the interesting things I learned about Lincoln is that he often became very upset with those under his command.  As a result of this, he would frequently write them scathing letters…and then stick them in his desk drawer never to be mailed.  It was only upon his death that many of these letters were discovered.  Apparently he was able to resolve his anger by writing the letter, but never mailing it.

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

-Abraham Lincoln 

I have since adopted a similar practice and I call it “Lincoln Thinking”.  If I’m angry – especially in business – I will write a blistering email letting all of my anger and emotion drain out of my body onto the page.  I then carefully put that email in my drafts folder where it remains unsent for at least 24 hours.  I then revisit the email after 24 hours and I am often appalled at what I’ve written – and very relieved I didn’t send the email!  Typically I delete the draft and if I still have issues that must be resolved, I can now do so in a more relaxed and tactful method.

So the next time someone has you all riled up, go ahead and write that draft email and let them have it!  Give them all you’ve got and get it all out of your system!  Then carefully place the email in your drafts folder to be reviewed at a later time.  One note of caution – DO NOT put their email address on the email just in case you accidentally hit send!  And if you are worried about a computer security leak, you might be better served writing an old fashioned letter with pen and paper that can then be shredded or burned.  Either way, I hope you choose to exercise “Lincoln Thinking” the next time someone works you into a twist!

Example or Warning – Which Are You?

Angel Devil Pic

Does the way you live matter?  There’s an old adage that says that as long as I’m not hurting anyone else, the way I live is my business.  I disagree.  Unless a person is living on a remote island by themselves, the way they live impacts others.  We are all either an “Example” or a “Warning”.

Think for a moment about the people closest to you…friends, family, co-workers, etc.  As you mentally sift through those relationships, I suspect you can pretty quickly categorize them into either the Example column or the Warning column.  Ironically enough, both are valuable.  The Examples are obviously people we want to learn from and emulate and the Warnings are those we want to learn what NOT to do.

It’s easy to criticize sports heroes and celebrities for being Warnings of what NOT to do.  Due to their celebrity status, they have the ability to reach many more as either a Shining Example or Horrific Warning.  But let’s step back and dial it in a little closer to home.  Just because our reach is not as wide as that of a celebrity, do we have any less responsibility to be a positive Example to the world?

As the parent of 2 teenage daughters and 1 teenage stepson (pray for me),  it’s become painfully clear that I have been both the Example and the Warning.  If you’re a parent and want to know if you are an Example or a Warning, just study your children and that truth will smack you right between the eyes!  In the extreme, it’s so sad to see parents with significant behavioral issues (lying, drug use, cheating, etc.) that don’t understand why their child is also a chronic liar, drug user, and cheater.

But what if you are single and don’t have children?  Do you have friends?  How about co-workers?  Perhaps you manage people?  Siblings?  Parents?  The point is we are all influencing others on a daily basis by the way we live our lives.  If you could step out of your body and view your life for a day from the outside, would you be an Example or a Warning?  Would you want to be your friend?

In his wonderful book, “Integrity”, Dr. Henry Cloud states that, just like a boat, we all leave a wake in our path.  The question is, what kind of wake are we leaving?  Is it something of use and of beauty that leaves the world a better place?  As others view your wake do they admire and respect the path you are leaving behind?  Or is your wake ugly and destructive and a dire warning to the world around you?  From my observation, we are both Examples and Warnings at various times throughout our lives.

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to get better at being an Example instead of a Warning:

  • Journal and reflect on each day. Honestly assess how you lived your life that day.
  • Ask! If you are fortunate enough to have friends that will give you the hard truth, ask them.  Ask your spouse or significant other.
  • If you lead or manage others, provide them the opportunity to give feedback anonymously.
  • Spend time in prayer asking God to show you areas of your life that.
  • Forgive yourself when you fail and are a Warning instead of an Example. Commit to doing better the next day.
  • Notice if there are trends or areas of continuous challenges and seek professional help.