Author: Dirk Mullenger (Page 2 of 3)

Boys at Heart

Overheard: ‘Yes, we’re responsible, but we also want to have fun. We’re boys at heart. If you a see a man acting grown-up and mature, he’s faking it.’

How to be a Good Lover

How do you know when someone loves you? No really—think about it. How do you know? 


Reflect for a moment on someone who loves you—who positively loves you,  no sinew of a doubt. Have you been fortunate enough to have someone like that in your life?

I have. My grandmother loved me. We called her Nanny—and up until 2nd grade I honestly believed her real name was Nanny. (When I found out her true name was Borghild, I thought: no wonder she goes by ‘Nanny’). 

My eyes tear up just thinking of her. She was an artist. Two paintings she drew of Mount Rainier hang above my desk; and her never-ending hugs surround my heart still. She loved me, —and sometimes I wonder, ‘Why?’—more musing than mandating an answer, lightly perplexed because whatever it was I ‘brought to the table’ did not seem to merit her larger-than-life exuberance for me. It was a love that made no sense, no reason beyond familial tie—I was her grandson and she loved me. 

(Nanny was plump, her love hugs lasted for everrrrrr. Your neck bent out of shape, your nose got smushed, breath was compressed, shoulders crunched, and sometimes we feared getting lost in her bottomless bosom)

What? You gonna EARN that love? Nah… It just was. Her love was delightful, surprising, encouraging, and redemptive. 

Thinking about her, I reflect on another member of the extended family and wonder, What about him? (unnamed to avoid defamation suit). Did he love me?….hmm.…i think so, but I’m not sure, —odd to be uncertain whether someone loves you or not.

So how do you know when someone loves you? If they love you like Nanny did, here’s how it’s done:

They CELEBRATE you! They delight in you, in your being and your ‘being there’. They light up when they see you, they seem genuinely happier in your presence. 

They are INTERESTED in you, intrigued by you, curious about you. They ask questions & respectfully probe your soul, honoring your thoughts, your presence, your emotions. 

…makes you wonder how many starved souls out there feel ignored & invisible? How many clamor for attention in varied and unruly ways. They seek nourishment for their malnutritioned soul. I think of a woman I once knew, a former workmate. She was a crank, a know-it-all who constantly interrupted her colleagues, forced her opinions down with a slam that demanded acquiescence. Who knows, maybe she was in pursuit of some elusive element her starved heart deeply craved. She was an ‘honor my ideas or be damned’ kind of gal.

How do you know someone loves you? They CARE for you. They observe with concern, and they care for your wellbeing. If your own disregard endangers you, they will engineer your conduct towards a track of betterment and well-being. They might feed you, or question your diet; re-clothe you if you’ve worn the same sweatshirt eight days running; trim a hair, kiss a boo-boo, medicate an ouchy, soothe a hurt feeling, show compassion, shine a light on you.  

How do you know someone loves you? They ESTEEM you. They know you, mistakes and all, and yet they love you, they accept you just the way you are, as if in reverence for your individuality. You are adored you in spite of your shortcomings. 

Many times I misbehaved. Once in junior high school at a dance I drank some vodka straight from the bottle, turned inside out throwing up in the bathroom, tried to explain to the vice-principal who caught me that ‘i had the flu’ (even as I pulled my stomach out of the toilet and shoved it back down my throat); he drove me home, I think—and then I puked all over my bedroom floor. Everyone was mad at me—especially my brother who shared the bedroom—and no one seemed inclined to forgive me, except for Nanny. She did not condone my behavior; but her love for me rose above my nasty deeds. 

So let me ask: do you feel unloved? Do you feel nobody loves you? If so, let me first suggest you are wrong. I know God loves you (though you may not know it yet); and you are likely missing the signals of the people here on earth who love you too. 

But for sake of discussion, let’s say you are unloved. Here then a nugget of advice: You Become a Lover. Love your neighbors. Love your friends. No friends? Then love your acquaintances! (Not in a ‘romantic’ or erotic sense—but in a Nanny kind of way)

How? Take an INTEREST in people. CELEBRATE them. CARE for them. ACCEPT them for who they are (even if they’re ‘different’. You can esteem & accept them without endorsing their behavior or beliefs or whatever it is about them that rubs you wrong). 

You’re not the only one who feels unloved. You’ll be making deposits into love-starved hearts, some of whom will never forget your kindness & compassion…and three things will happen. 

1. You’ll be reminded that it is better to give than to receive.

2. You will ‘lose yourself’ in others, and then you’ll find yourself imbued with joy.

2. You’ll be giving love, and love will be given back to you.

I have a disorganized memory. Once I forgot my own birthday. But I remember October 14, 1986: the day my Nanny died. Thirty years since, my eyes tear up and I miss her still. You know why, don’t you? That’s right: because she loved me. 

Love people, and they’ll cry when you die too.

Grandpa at the Apple Store

Ok, it was not my finest moment. I was traveling in San Jose when my laptop crashed. Apple phone support said I needed in-person work, and directed me to a local Apple store., which unfortunately was totally packed. No tech support appointments were available, the store was crazy busy, I was stressed, –and they kindly said they’d do their best to squeeze me in—sit here, we’ll work with you when we can. Much appreciated. 


Seated across from me was an old Geezer—actually the only thing standing between me & my chance to get the laptop fixed was Gramps. He had lugged in his home desktop computer with two computer speakers. He said he “couldn’t get the dang speakers” to work. 

Sigh. You’re killin me, gramps…. 

The apple kid was 100% kind, respectful, no condescension, a model client care representative. Wished my attitude had been the same. I tried to be polite but my ears were red, my spirit was anxious, and I felt no tolerance for his ignorance.

While we sat there waiting (me seething), Gramps looked at me, somehow deemed me a friendly, and half-chuckled, “Ya know, these speakers have been such a headache. I have tried & tried to get these operational, and they just won’t work.” He paused and said, “I had an easier time hooking up radio comms with the first Shuttle.”


    “Yes, that must be frustrati—wait, what? the shuttle?’


    “The space  shuttle? You worked on the first space shuttle?”

    “Sure did, sonny.”

He had my attention, and noting such, his eyes shone as he monologued into an amused, reflective narration about working on the first shuttle, radio communications, Nasa Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, the thrill of innovation, his days with IBM, the US Airforce… and I was once again humbled by greatness disguised as an ordinary soul (if there is such a thing as an ‘ordinary’ soul), and my foolish propensity to make surface-based assumptions.

In my heart, I’d deemed him ignorant. Why do I judge? Wished I’d been like that Apple boy. 




“I’ve got a lot of critics out there… In my business, I’ve learned that success is 50% plus one; I’ve got a responsibility to advocate what I believe and speak my principles. It’s very important to be part of the debate, that’s what I intend to do. I feel strongly about these issues, I feel the republic is in danger, I have the responsibility to stand up and be heard.”  

Former Vice President Dick Cheney            


All opinions must be valued. Some are worth nothing; heed them accordingly.


Tim was a hugely successful businessman, influential, high visibility, deeply honored, admired. Before business, he had played football for the Miami Dolphins and won two Super Bowl Rings. Anyone invited into his circle got glow from his halo of fame.


Which is why I was thrilled when, while traveling to Denver to hear him speak at a conference, I got word that Tim wanted to meet with me! ME! In an instant, I went from the shadowy perimeter to Inside the Circle, Baby! 


People took photos while we talked; I earnestly dug in with questions, and Tim put his full focus on me. For 20 minutes it was him and me, me & him, riveted, on point. We were focused and intent. At the end of our conversation, infused with enthusiasm, I was forthright in my admiration and told him I looked up to him. He gave me a terse smile and said, “Aim higher.”


We shook hands and went our separate ways. I was exhilarated. The honor of being ‘wanted’, the recipient of his undivided attention, the wisdom he shared and his offer to help me go forward, was invigorating and deeply encouraging. Hope came alive! 


    ‘Thank you God!’, I clapped my hands—and a tiny thought occurred: Had I ever been as excited to meet with God as I had been to meet with Tim? 


“—that’s not fair,” I interrupted, “That’s a stupid thought. You’re just trying to make me feel guilty.” But this just started a debate. My little thought butted back in: 

        “Hey, nothing against Tim. Honor and gratitude to the man, applause for his achievements, and his willingness to help. But remember, when you told him you looked up to him, he said: ‘Aim Higher’. So I ask you again (still the little voice): Have you ever been as excited to meet with God as you were to meet with Tim? Does Tim know anything God doesn’t know? Has he achieved anything God hasn’t enabled him to achieve? Does Tim have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men? Is he superman?” 


        ‘No,’ I replied, ‘but this is stupid. Tim is flesh & blood, here & now, wholly audible, with social cache, whereas God is …intangible.’


The little voice asked: Is God intangible to you?… 


        I sucked air to respond, but the voice said, ‘Pause. Think about your life. Think about the miracle that IS your life. Think about the answered prayers. Think about your son, Casey, who is a physical manifestation of an astoundingly miraculous answer to prayer. Is Casey intangible? Are you perhaps not making the connection to God as the source of your very tangible blessings, thereby relegating Him to the status of intangibility?


        ‘Look, heroes are great. Heroes are wonderful. We need heroes, we need great role models. Seek heroes and be a hero. But here’s the question: Is God your #1 Hero? Is He your mentor? Do you idolize God? Do you love His companionship, hunger for his guidance, His Fatherliness, his ‘so-much-better-than-anything-elseness’, that when you think of him, all else fades to distant second?’


        If your answer is yes: You are worshipping God.

        If your answer is no: Aim higher.


        So how do you ‘aim higher’? 

        Answer: Go deeper. Go deeper in your knowledge and relationship with God.


In a letter to one of his generals, Napoleon Bonaparte wrote, “The Gospel possesses a secret virtue, a mysterious efficacy, a warmth which penetrates and soothes the heart…. The Gospel is not a book; it is a living being, with action, a power, which invades everything that opposes its extension. …Once master of our spirit, the faithful Gospel loves us. God even is our friend, our father, and truly our God. The mother has no greater care for the infant whom she nurses.” 


God is Love. Worship is Love reciprocated; it’s responding to God’s love for You. 


God loves you—do you get that? God Loves YOU—and worship is you receiving his love and loving him back—not out of guilt or obligation, but in awe and delight. It’s an issue of the heart, and it’s a reflex of intimacy, which comes from closeness of hearts and knowledge of each other.


So have heroes, yes; but as Tim said, ‘Aim higher’.

To aim higher: Go deeper.



Pokemon Generosity

“Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’ And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” –2nd Corinthians 9:6-8

Our 9 year old son, Casey, collects Pokemon cards [like baseball trading cards], and he always wants to go to the store & buy some more. And we are trying to teach Casey how to get what he wants: by earning money.

Casey has a checklist of chores, and if he executes those chores with a good attitude, we give him an allowance. If his attitude stinks, well…he still has to do the chores, but he gets no money. 

When he gets the money: 10% is given to church—no choice—and 20% is saved—no choice. The remainder is his to do with as he pleases.


Here’s where it gets good: Casey loves his Pokemon cards. They cost $4.19 for a pack of 10. He buys them, makes a big deal over opening each pack, plays with them, sorts them, ‘knows them’, trades them at school, organizes them into little file folders, etc. He’s INTO it.


So…on Valentine’s Day, our middle daughter Michelle was not feeling good, she was sad, depressed, felt lonely and blue. You know what Casey did? He made a heart out of construction paper, wrote a love note to his sister, CUT UP SOME POKEMON CARDS!! –glued them to the Valentine’s card and gave them to Michelle.


·      How do you think that made me feel?


·      In response to his generosity to his sister—my daughter–what do you think I did?

Answer: I went to the store, spent $20 bucks and bought him a big ol’ tin box full of Pokemon cards!


·      And if my son’s cheerful generosity touched me that way, how do you think God feels when we are generous & love one another?


God loves us, and He wants us to be generous with each other. When we are generous, He promises to cover our needs and expand our capacity to give.


Thank you, God, for your Fatherly love: for teaching us your principles, and for being patient while we foolishly and tepidly tip toe into your truth and ‘try out your principles’ to see if they work’. 

God, help me to be like my son—help me to be like YOUR son. 


Casey at breakfast, sips orange juice & says “hmm! Sip this, it tastes squeezy!”

Violence Control

Two foundational questions to consider in the violence/tyranny/gun control discussion:

1. Do you believe in evil? 

2. If so, how do you contend with it? 

Snared by your deeds

Deeds, not Words. You will be known by your deeds. It’s what you do that illustrates who you are. ‘What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say’–Emerson


This includes your faith.

If someone says “He was a faithful man”, the inquiring mind will want to know: “What did he do?”

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