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Let’s Start an “I Love You” Culture!

I grew up in a household where the “I love you’s” were very common. I didn’t realize how important that was until I was all grown up. As a matter of fact, I don’t guess I really came to the stark realization of just how important that was until I began to encounter person after person who didn’t have the same luxury as me. It has been a bit of an eye-opener of how many people my age never heard their dad say, “I love you.”. From experience, I’d say that moms are traditionally a lot better to say it than dads. But, saying it is important……and more important than you might imagine.

In my part of the world, I’ve been in the Texas Panhandle or Western Oklahoma all my life, it seems to have been part of the culture. Not sure if the same would go for other parts of the USA or the rest of the world for that matter but it wouldn’t surprise me. Fact is there are myriads of people out there who didn’t hear “I love you” in their home, from their parents or their people and as a result, they don’t say it either. It makes an incredible difference to hear it. I can’t number the times I’ve sat in my office with people of all ages with one after the other recanting their heartbreak over wondering if they were loved at all. Of course, in most if not nearly all cases they were loved, ……just not told.

I’m free with the term and I’ve found out that if you tell other people you love ’em in a little bit they’ll return the favor. For many who are not free with it, it may feel very awkward and unnatural at first but as time goes by it’ll start to feel like second-nature. My best example is one of my close friends; he grew up in one of those homes where he was loved but it wasn’t said. He caught the significance of what I’m talking about and started the process with his grown sons. It caught on! Now I’ll walk through our offices and hear him on the phone with one of his boys and they’ll finish the call with, “Love Ya”. It blesses me to hear that! It’s doable and you can do it too!

Now, here’s something serious to think about. If we didn’t hear it from our parents and if we believe we weren’t loved, when we start to connect with God, who is a Father, it’s extremely hard for us to believe that He can love us either. It profoundly affects the most important relationship you’ll ever have! The more you trust the Father, …..the more fulfilling your life will be! ………we need to fix this!

Tell me about your own experience. Is it easy for you or not? What difference have you seen with your people upon being told, “I love you”? Let me hear your stories.

So, here’s my proposition. I’m startin’ an “I love you” culture! It might even turn into a revolution. Wouldn’t that be something?!

Who’s with me?

 

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There’s a Better Way to Do It Than Cold Calls & Contracts

You know what I’m talkin’ about but let me clarify;

Cold Call – Unsolicited calls on (someone), by telephone or in person, in an attempt to sell goods or services.

Contract – Contract killing is a form of murder in which one party hires another party (often called a hitman) to kill a target individual or group of people.

Now, for starters, ….I ain’t specifically talking about either of those topics in the strictest sense. But those are the things that come to mind when I get asked by someone to go and talk to their friend or family member about the Lord. That’s what I call, putting out a contract on ’em. Their friend may be going through a rough patch in their life or they may be having problems that really do need the input of someone representing the Lord. The folks asking are nearly always well-meaning and clean hearted about it but I start to put on the brakes when I feel the conversation moving that way. It really makes me uncomfortable, especially if I don’t know the person having troubles, and I think it’s the Holy Spirit that makes me feel that way.

In all fairness, because I do what I do, people somewhat inaccurately believe that I should do this any time I’m requested to. I did it a few times back in the day before I learned better….and I’d have to say that my win/loss record was way less than impressive if you know what I mean! If you stop and think about it, it’s disrespectful to that person to ask someone to talk to them if they don’t know about it! Put your own self in their shoes. Nobody likes being ‘blindsided’! People just don’t like that! On the other hand, there are those out there who have been put under condemnation by their church or church friends telling them they need to get out there and tell everyone they know about Jesus, a method that I’m wholeheartedly against. Those guys will still probably do it for ya.

Here’s what changes everything. If your friend has given you permission to ask someone to visit with them then it’s OK. In fact, I’ll be one of the first ones to show up and help. Or, and this is a big one, if you ask me and I believe the Holy Spirit has directed me to do it (He does those kinds of things!) then, by all means, I’m going to! The Father will take care of the rest! But the best case scenario is that YOU talk to your friend about the Lord. You can tell real quick if he’s open to it or not. If not, don’t get pushy! Sometimes it’s just a matter of timing. If he knows you can be trusted he’ll likely ask you about it later.

If you’ve put a contract out on someone before don’t get all twisted up about it. You cared about your friend and that’s a good thing but learn from the situation, keep caring about people and move on.

But, if you plan on putting a contract out on someone and don’t have your friend’s permission and he’s not expecting it, ……..I’m probably not your guy!

 

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Don’t Bring Me Down

The Electric Light OrchestraELOis an English rock band formed in 1970 by songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lynne. Their music was characterized by the use of instruments not commonly associated with rock music such as violins, cellos, oboes, clarinets, French horns and bassoons. Thus the ‘orchestra’ designation in their name. With the use of those instruments, you can accurately surmise that they had a very unique, but appealing sound. The band had a number of very popular songs. Interestingly enough, my favorite ELO song, “Don’t Bring Me Down”, (click on link for video) recorded in 1979 was their very first song not to include a string section. It was ELO’s highest charting song in the US, peaking at #3.

As an avid music lover, I’ve found that just about every song has a title, line, phrase or sometimes even just one word that, with a little imagination, can reveal some content that makes for some good spiritual conversation. This song is such a one. “Don’t Bring Me Down”. We have incredible potential with our attitudes and words spoken to those around us to do one of two things….lift them up, or…..bring them down. Looking back over my life I remember those who had a kind, encouraging, uplifting word for me. Those kinds of folks will do more for ya than you can imagine. Encouraging words lift us to another place. They help us believe in ourselves. I mean, if someone else believes in me then I must be OK, right?! Uplifting words have a healing effect on the human psyche. You’ll find yourself gravitating to those who have a kind word for you. And, it’s exactly the opposite for that other bunch that doesn’t have any good thing to say about anyone. Chances are that person was surrounded by parents, friends or peers who couldn’t say anything positive to them. And, it has become the norm; it’s contagious. I read recently that it takes 40 positive, affirming words to counter just one negative, condemning or cruel critical comment toward someone.

I may miss the mark. I may not always say the right thing. I may not handle every single situation perfectly. I might even do something that is just plain dumb. But, say something that lifts me up. Give me some encouragement! Speak life into me! Tell me something that’ll help me.

But, ……don’t bring me down!

Try these:

“Critics, There’s One on Every Corner”

“Sticks and Stones”

 

 

 

 

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The Lessons I Learned from Jeff

The last year we lived on the ranch in the Texas Panhandle I had the responsibility of taking care of 2500 head of cattle. About 1800 of those were close to 40 miles away north of Canadian, Texas on the expansive Urschel Ranch. I’d go up about three times a week and spend the day horseback checking the cattle; getting a decent count on them, making sure they had water, making sure none of them were out of the pastures they were supposed to be in. It’d make for a long day but it was enjoyable to me.

I was about three years into my walk with the Lord. Didn’t know much but I was learning a lot. I had given my testimony a couple of times and was already feeling the call for ministry…even though I had no idea what all that might mean. A friend and I had a cowboy church service (years before anyone ever heard that term!) at the Hemphill County Expo Center in Canadian and I preached the message. That was a first! I have no idea what I preached about but I do remember that one of my friends since childhood (a few years older than me) got saved that day. Let’s just call him, Jeff.

Jeff was a cowboy and had been in some of the very worst combat fights in Vietnam. In three different battles there were over a hundred US troops under fire….and all three times less than fifteen came out alive. Jeff was one of the ones each time. But, it had left an indelible mark on him. He struggled with deep depression, was separated from his wife, had trouble sleeping and agonized over the things he was ordered to do in Vietnam. Jeff was a scary looking guy, well actually if you weren’t friends with him….he just didn’t look scary….he really was scary. He’d done plenty of crazy things and the locals weren’t sure what he might do next! He hair was cut short on the top but long in the back…..way down past his collar. He had about 6 top front teeth totally gone! He wore denim shirts with the sleeves cut out of them and he had lots of tattoos; something not that common in those days. He spent a lot of his spare time at the gym pumping iron and was quite a specimen of a man.

Part of my regular routine the times when I’d go up to check cattle was to make it back to the Dairy Queen on my way home and catch Jeff after he got off work. I made it a point. I was doing my best to encourage him and give him good, sound advice. I’d pray with him every time before I headed home. One particular time we were in the DQ when a Greyhound bus made its stop there. The place was completely full of people. Jeff got there before I did and saved me a spot. His intimidating look had the attention of just about every person in there. Bear in mind that when he talked, Jeff talked really really loud; maybe louder than anyone you’ve ever known! I asked him that day, as I always did, “Jeff, how are you doing?” He replied in his loud voice, “Andy, I’m doing really good!”. I knew that I needed to press in a little more. “But, Jeff, …..how are you really doing?” And in a voice a lot louder than you need to be talking in Dairy Queen he said, “Yep, Andy, …….I’m doing so good I got rid of all my plastic explosives yesterday!!” You could’ve heard a pin drop! Every eye in the house was on us! It was funny, ….in a crazy kind of way; all those people started gathering up their food without saying a word and getting out the door as fast, but as inconspicuous as they could. It was like they didn’t totally believe him. I bet some of them are still telling that story today!

I learned a lot in my experiences with Jeff. I made it a mission of mine to help him. I wanted him to be OK; I wanted him to be well. Julie and I had planned a little vacation and were planning on being gone for about a week. I got real worried that if I wasn’t there to check on Jeff that he wouldn’t be alright. I even told Julie as much. I was actually afraid to go on vacation fearing he would implode. But, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that point and said, “It’s Ok, Andy, …..you’re not the one that’s taking care of him anyway.” That put it in perspective for me. God always knows the right thing to say, and always at just the right time.

I wish this story had a happy ending….but it doesn’t. Several years later Jeff was living downstate in Texas and took his own life. I can’t help but believe that the Lord has lots and lots of grace for people like Jeff. 

I’ll never forget the things I learned…and I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.

Try these:

“It’s Not Your Job to Fix Them!”

Identity Theft

The Thing About Unconditional Love

Double Check Your “Invitation List”!!

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“Hug-A-Thug”

Over a year ago I got involved with the Beckham County Drug Court. I guess you could say I’m an unofficial member of the DC team. Drug Court is a pretty amazing thing if you ask me. (Click here FMI) I have developed some great friendships with a lot of the participants that are in the program. It’s one of the highlights of everything I do these days to see these folks overcome their addictions and become productive members of society. I can’t speak for all the Drug Court programs in Oklahoma but I can definitely vouch for ours’! The success rate for these men and women to ‘get well’ is pretty darn good. I believe that can be attributed to the entire Drug Court Team, which includes the Sheriff, DA, County Judge…as well as others. But what seems to be the shining star of the whole program is the support that the DC participants give to one another. It’s pretty amazing. Very often all it takes is just someone who’ll love you and believe in you. More often than not….that makes the difference.

The Drug Court program is not without it’s criticizers, though. There are plenty of people who don’t much care about it’s success. Seems a little bit crazy to me. There are those out there who’d rather see these people go straight to prison and I guess I can kinda see where they’re coming from. But, I’d always like to see someone get another chance. And if they blow it in Drug Court….prison it is!

Some of the detractors like to mockingly refer to Drug Court as the Hug-a-thug program. I cringe a little bit if I hear that but you know what they say, “haters gonna hate”! I was thinking about their little moniker (hug-a-thug) a few days ago and I came to a conclusion or two. What if a hug for these people really did make a difference?! What if, maybe for the first time in their life, they could actually believe that someone cared?

I don’t have to sit long in DC to realize how good I’ve had it. I’ve never had to wonder if my Mom & Dad loved me. I didn’t have to grow up with them being the ones who introduced me to, and gave me drugs. I never was kicked around from family to family because no one really wanted me. So, yeah….I’ve had it good. Doesn’t take too long for me to start having a heart to see these folks do good. I’m a fan! …..and if I can help… I will!

Back to that hugging thing; I come from a long line of huggers. It’s something we’ve always done in our household. Probably came from my Mom’s side of the family. You see them….they’re gonna give you a hug…like it or not. I guess it’s contagious. But there really is something about a hug, something profound, something real and something, I think, that could really be important! There’s even scientific evidence that hugs are healthy for us….both physically and emotionally!

Here’s some scientific evidence of what a hug can do: *(thank you David Clark!)

A. Activates antitoxin hormone that can fill us with joy
B. Allows for more patience
C. Remedy against stress and anxiety
D. Strengthens self-esteem especially in children.
E. Releases the dopamine hormone responsible for good motivation
F. Helps alleviate pain or a bad moment
G. Communicates emotions without saying a single word
H. Helps preserve immune system
I. Helps balance central nervous system
J. Is an example of love, affection and unity

So there’s the evidence!

What’re we waitin’ for…….”Let’s hug some people!!”

You’ll want to read these too:

It Feels Good To Be “Believed In”!!

Drug Court

Prison Prayer Project

Party at the Prison!

VIP #7 – Rick Hudson

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“Sticks n’ Stones”

“Sticks n’ stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I can remember my Mom & Dad teaching me that little thing when I was just a kid. Kids can be cruel with their words. Sometimes it overlaps into adulthood, too. This is just a little rhyme that teaches us to not let those words spoken against us land in our heart…and take root. It was first recorded in 1862. I don’t know who, initially, came up with it but my guess is that it was someone who was forced to deal with some kind of negative barrage of words or criticism from someone else.

It’s good advice, no doubt about it, and if we can learn to appropriate it into our life we’ll be a lot better off for it. But the truth is that words can…..and do hurt. In fact they can cause tremendous damage to young and old alike. Words have extreme potential on both the negative and positive side. The Bible even talks about the importance of words more than a few times.

If we, as victims of those negative words, don’t find a good, positive way to navigate through them and not let them have their effect on us we can easily end up falling prey to their power. I know a lot of people who have allowed those critical and mean-spirited words spoken over them define their entire lives.

So, I think the little rhyme has merit and value for each of us if we’ll just ascribe to it. If we can make the determination within each of us that we won’t let those words hurt us, we’ll be OK. It’s a fact of life; we’re going to have plenty of cruel words hurled our way….but in all reality, they can only hurt us if we let ’em.

It should also be a good reminder to each of us to watch our own words…and not to carelessly throw them out there where they can do damage to someone else!

 

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Fail Forward

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing in life, missing the mark is always a possibility. In fact it’s inevitable that we’re going to fail at something. Whether it’s not making the 5th grade basketball team or coming up short for class president. Most of us experienced the heartbreak of not doing quite good enough early on in life. You know, if it’d just stop there it wouldn’t be too bad. We could surely overcome that class president thing and move on wih life. But, challengingly enough, it doesn’t stop there.

Every single thing we do in life the possibility of failure is staring us square in the face. It can be distracting and downright intimidating. Get yourself two or three of those heartbreaks in a row, which is not hard, and it makes for a really tough patch of life. It would be easy for anyone to get stuck in that same old pattern and let it set the course of their entire life. It’s happened all too many times.

But it doesn’t have to happen that way. Actually, failure has some profound potential if we just don’t allow it get the best of us. Failures provide some amazing learning opportunities and they can give us some incredible perspective if we’ll just let it.

Peter was one of those guys that failed. He didn’t just fail a little….he failed BIG! At the time Jesus needed him most he folded like a cheap lawn chair. Three times he denied that he even knew Jesus, once to a little 12 year old girl. You may have had some major blunders in your life but I’m bettin’ you haven’t had one that big. It would have been easy for that failure to define the rest of Peter’s life. But he had an encounter with Jesus after the resurrection and something miraculous happened; something so miraculous, in fact, that for the next 25 years he was the most important man of the planet as it related to the plan of God! That should be a source of great encouragement to people like us.

Failure is a strong word; and, just because you failed at something doesn’t mean you’re a failure! We shouldn’t allow our failures to define us. We should use them as a stepping stone to greatness. Learn your lesson, get back up and get going again, use your bad experience to help someone else. 

You’re gonna miss the mark; you’re gonna fall short, you’re gonna fail occasionally. But when you fail, …….fail forward! Failure is not final…..unless you let it be!

Oh, and don’t forget what really made the difference for Peter! That encounter with Jesus is the ‘clincher’!

It’ll work for you, too!

Here’s a couple more you might like:

Critics……..There’s One On Every Corner

“Nothing I Can Do About it Now”

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