I had a philosophical discussion with a friend this week. My friend had read a text which proclaimed that children are born pure.
It is easy to contradict such a statement. Not only from the standpoint of Christianity which proclaims that we are born in sin, but also from the standpoint of a parent. Having raised 6 children, I have noticed that they have to be taught to do the right thing, the loving thing, the unselfish thing. To do the wrong thing such as hitting, forcefully taking, lying to protect themselves comes naturally to children. We have to teach them to answer “yes!” but “no!” is a word we never have to teach them.
Where does this purity come from then?
I guess we have to review the meaning of the word “pure.” I felt that the writer did not mean to use pure as “sinless” or “faultless,” but rather as “not reacting according to a hidden agenda,” as “What you see is what you get!” Perhaps “innocent” would be a better word. This would make more sense.
On a personal note, I personally believe that each one of us is born with the pure flame of the Spirit of our Creator. We are like some of these gas appliances that require a pilot flame to be on at all times. That pilot flame is then fed by some some sort of combustible gas which allows it to grow and bring heat to the whole household.
Each human being is born with that pure flame inside of him. As life goes on, we tend to cover that flame with all sorts of walls, facades that we use to hide it, that we use to pretend to be what we are not in order to play the game we feel we are supposed to play, good or bad. We naturally subconsciously do that in order to protect that flame. A good friend, a good leader of men will know this. He will know this and not get deterred by the smokescreens, by the protecting facades of pretenses that we raise in front of us.
A good leader of men or even a good friend will go behind the walls of brick. He will search till he finds that flame of goodness. When he finds it, he will feed it. And as he feeds it, it will burn the walls of meanness around it and propagate itself. Who can stop such a fire that is constantly fed?
It is by feeding that pure original flame within our friends, colleagues, parents, children and neighbours that we make the world a better place!
I was talking with a friend about true strength. I was trying to explain that there is a difference between true strength and mere power. That whereas mere power just tries to overcome something or someone by sheer will or physical aptitude, true strength also denotes a moral fortitude that allows one to give in at one’s own cost if and when needed.
Anyone can challenge, debate, combat, and fight but sometimes the fight is won by letting go and giving in at the cost of pride and appearing weak. Leo Tolstoy reminds us of that in his poignant account of History in War and Peace.
When the Russians saw that they could not withstand an attack by Napoleon, the Russian General understood that his responsibility was to the people, not to the city. He also knew when to fight and when not to so under the protests of the wealthy generals and proud politicians, he ordered an complete evacuation of the city. Napoleon came and found an empty Moscow with no-one to fight and noone to humbly give him the keys to the city. In frustration, Napoleon ordered the city to be burned before returning to Western Europe.
The proud Emperor did not take account of the approaching winter . As his army faced the unfamiliar and impossible conditions of the Russian winter, the Muscovites attacked them from the rear. The rest is history.
Macho power as we imagine it in movies such as Rambo and Terminator looks more dramatic and seems more glorious. But there are others who can show strength through their power of surrender, by giving in. Such displays of fortitude comes from humility, meekness, and the trust that we admire in other types heroes such as Moses and King David.
Sometimes the battle is won by fighting, sometimes it is won by giving in. May we learn the difference!
“Strength comes not from physical capacity, but from an indomitable will!” Mahatma Gandhi.
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? While both attitudes seem opposite, both truly are needed in this world. Proof? The optimist invents the airplane, the pessimist invents the parachute.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Both types seem to misinterpret each other. The extrovert might think that the introvert is aloof, distant, and maybe even proud, but is it so? On the other hand the introvert might almost fear this extrovert who seems to have little or no respect for people's time and space, and mostly for the virtue of silent communication.(If you don't understand the idea of silent communication, you might be an extrovert, and need to ask an introvert about it.) One of the big differences is that the extroverts finds strength through fellowshipping with others while the introvert thrives on times of solitude in order to refill his batteries. The introvert may sometimes look at the extrovert as a sort of energy vampire constantly draining him. As a result, while the exuberant extrovert is just being his happy normal self, the introvert suffocates gasping for air.
But as in the case of the optimist and the pessimist, God in His great wisdom has created both. He did so because the world needs both. While introverts are usually deep thinkers, extroverts have the ability to easily express these deep beautiful thoughts the introverts find so difficult to express. What a great teamwork these two types of people make once they learn to respect each other for who they and can start working together.
Here is an awesome TED talk about it.
Judging character is a very complicated matter and when things are complicated we like to simplify them. How therefore do we simplify judging character?
Some like to paraphrase Jesus saying that, “We shouldn’t judge people.” While there may be truth in the fact that we should not finalise judgment on people as really only God can do that effectively, we are responsible for areas of our lives that require us to have discernment about our relationships, employees, colleagues, business partners, our children’s friends, etc. Until we live in a world where evil does not exist, we are required to judge character. We actually sub-consciously automatically do it.
Others like to simplify the issue by saying, “It’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do!” There is also truth in the idea that deeds speak louder than words. But we live in a world where “good deeds” have become ploys for religious proselytization, political propaganda, as well outward shows of good will which are often used as smokescreen to hide the real person behind it all. Religious and political leaders often fool their target audiences with such stratagems.
My wife and I are teachers. We also lead a religious congregation. This requires us to often do character judging. My wife and I were talking about it one time. We were watching the news, hearing about all these good religious and political people who on the outside do the right thing as well as pronounce the right statements, but whose general attitude and persona reveal a totally different individual from the one presented by the deeds and words. My wife then uttered her sporadic occasional great wisdom and said, “It’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are!”
That was brilliant!
While in Colorado springs I visited with my friend Mike. Mike took me to visit places he thought would interest me. We went to see the Glen Eyrie castle, then a vegetable market. We also did some shopping at Walmart where, to my surprise, we saw a man selling a horse on the parking lot. It is Colorado, after all.
On our way back, a storm hit and it started hailing. Mike was very concerned for his car as it isn’t uncommon to get hail damage in this area. I was a little ambivalent about it because whereas many people pray against this hail that destroys their vehicles, I have several friends who work in the hail damage repair and who pray for hail. For my part, I try to stay out of the line of fire and let God decide. After all, doesn't He know best?
The hail that started as dimes soon became nickels, then quarters, then the size of ping pong balls. Mike was growing more concerned. We tried to take refuge at a nearby gas station but it was already full. We finally took refuge under a row of trees. It was not perfect but at least the trees would slow the fall of the hail. During the whole time Mike was on Facebook live blogging. When it slowed down, Mike asked me, “That was crazy! Weren't you scared?” To which I answered haltingly “It was a little.. uncomfortable!” He laughed as he said, “Uncomfortable? Wow, what faith!”
It's not that I always have such great faith. I have simply seen much in my life which provides me with a certain perspective in the face of possible disaster. It could be compared to a rookie firefighter fretting at a fire situation that a veteran could take more calmly. It is indeed experience that lets us know the “sky” is not “falling” when we see ping pong size hail.
In the recent months two of my children moved away from Portland with their wives. Christina and I took time during our travels to visit them in their new locations. This gave us time to reconnect, share news, and reminisce about the past.
One of our sons shared with us concerning what he saw as an injustice when he was in school. One of the more rowdy kids spat spit-wads on the ceiling of the bathroom. Each day one of the teachers would have to clean it up. When we faced the classroom of about 15 children within the age range of 8 till 10 about the issue, no-one would say a thing. Yet it was evident that someone from that group left spit-wads on the ceiling of the bathroom. I must mention here that we are not talking about public, but a homeschool co-op. School was held in a house. I must also snicker here at the benignity of this crime when compared with what public school go through today. Faced with this situation the teacher in charge decided that all the kids in this class should be punished.
Our son hadn’t kept strong bitterness about it but he still felt it was wrong. He then proceeded to tell us that there was a “don’t tattle-tell” culture in the class. This culture was very strong and the pupils were actually afraid to tell on their wayward classmates. My son felt felt that the guilty got away with it and the others were punished while no lesson was learned.
I thought about this a bit later. It made me think about the gang mentality we see in the heart of some of our American inner cities, especially these days in Chicago. People complain about crime but they give in to fear and do not report. As such, like an abused woman often does, they protect the guilty and crime continues. But the law actually says that he who is witness to a crime but doesn’t report it becomes an accomplice to that crime, therefore the teacher in my previous story was right to punish all those kids who knew the guilty party but did not report.
This culture does not only exist in school or with inner-city gangs. I have witnessed organisations, groups, companies, societies, associations, churches who also have a culture of division between the managerial branch and the rest of the associates; a culture of presenting a good front to the “boss,” but where the mice play as soon as the cat is away. Either side could be to blame for that, but it is certainly unhealthy and goes against growth, maturation, and efficiency.
Our lives are made up of tests about truth, honesty, and integrity. The quicker we learn to not respond to the fear imposed by bullies, face the wrong and stand for the right no matter what the cost, the better off we’ll be. The first test about these things could be about spit-wads on a bathroom ceiling.
As we travel my wife and enjoy looking around the scenery God has so generously endowed upon America. As the miles turn on our speedometer and as we change times zones, we travel from from urban zone to urban zone as well as from rural, to rural, and to more rural. The urbans zones seem to change from wood based building and houses to cinder block or red bricks. We notice that much has to do with the environment, whether we are in a tornado zone or not.
The rural zones also change as well cross America. We went from timber in the Northwest, to canola fields, then soy fields, to corn fields, to more soy, and more corn,... and more corn … and then some more corn.
We also discover different plant life everywhere we go. From tall firs or the smaller live oak trees to cacti and prairie grasses. Mid texas does not have much flora but we have observed a strange desert plant: the Petroleum Plant.
There is much talk, good and bad about this plant. Maybe it’s because it grows where ranchers used to raise their cattle. But really, it has been such a great financial asset to this area. It seems that everyone here has a hand in its care. People travel from around the country if not the world to oversee the production of its black sap that they use to make all kinds if things. I don’t know too much about the politics of the area so I leave it to them to work out. Anyways, that’s all about the plants you find in the Texas desert.
Recently we've had the privilege to talk with two very interesting men. They are both from very different backgrounds but their stories resonate the same. Both of their lives led them to addiction; both ended up in jail; and both were helped by the love of a good caring woman. Other traits these men share are gentleness, meekness, gratefulness, kindness, and generosity.
Is there a lesson in this? Could it be that the turning and twisting of someone's life serves to create in them these elegant virtues?
My wife and I published a song recently called, The Ancient Olive Tree. We make mention in this song about the twisting and turning knots of an old olive tree. It almost hurts to look at it but this tree brings the fruit whose crushing produces some of the healthiest oil one can use. In ancient times olive oil not just used for cooking or salads, it was also used for ointments, cleaning, and medicine. Olive oil was also used for the sacred rituals of anointing Kings, prophets, and priests.
Thus, from the twisting, turning, and knotting of the olive tree we can learn that the troubles that seem to plague our lives are to help us develop virtue and character. It seems that the two men I was talking about benefited from their crushing experiences.
It is by crushing flowers that we obtain perfume and by squeezing honey combs that we produce honey. May the crushing and squeezing of our lives also produce sweet perfume for others to be built by.
While on the road my wife and I spend a lot of time talking with folks. Perhaps some people seem to find it easier to share their heart with a stranger passing through knowing that they are not going to be faced with that person again anytime soon.
We meet all sorts of people and we become first-hand witnesses to many of their life experiences. Especially in the midwest, many of these people have some religious background and see themselves at various levels of religious adherence.
From talking with people, it seems that those who are able to devote themselves to spiritual activities such as prayer or going to church consider themselves religious, while those who are more involved in the practical aspects of life seem to think that they are not as religious as they should be.
This always bothers me because I happen to think that the person who works everyday as a carpenter or mechanic to faithfully provide for their family is doing as much of a religious work as the one serving sandwiches at the local mission or leading a prayer meeting. In fact, true religious spirituality is as much if not more about civic duty, giving hospitality, taking care of our responsibilities, altruism, and personal integrity in business than just about prayer and going to church. I can't help but think about all the people we meet and those who think of themselves as the least religious but who actually have hearts of gold as they take others under their wings of care. In my book, anyone who of his own volition volunteers to be a help to others, even sometimes at the risk of life or limb acts as a representative of God whether they know it or not.
In conclusion, it takes both to make a functionning world: those who pray and those who do, and one should not boast against the other.
This week Christina and I were privileged to be hosted by friends of ours who own a big farm in Iowa. They grow corn, soybeans, and raise sheep. For dinner we were served the first fruit of their corn and potato harvest.
One morning I got up to help Gary with deworming the sheep. Gary has 750 sheep that need a deworming injection. The process requires to gather the sheep into a chute were they pass by one by one while Garry injects them. My job was to let the injected ones out. It may sound simple, but these sheep kept pushing their way out and it was all I could do to not let uninjected ones escape.
I watched the sheep as Gary was manoeuvering them through the chute. They fought like crazy. I guess just like kids, they don’t like shots. They were giving Gary a real hard time and even the other helper was having difficulty herding them towards the chute. As a Bible reader I could not escape the analogy. God compares us to sheep. Do we give him such a hard time? At the table that night Gary’s wife told me that being compared to sheep is not complimentary. Sheep are poor problem solvers.
I noticed that Gary would lead certain sheep enticing them with grain. “This is one of my lead sheep!” he said. “I’ve got to be nice to it. It’s part of their training.”
Sheep do not follow the shepherd; they follow the lead sheep. The shepherd therefore has to develop a close relationship with the lead sheep so it obeys him. To do that the shepherd gives it extra care and food. If the lead sheep is well taken care of it will follow him and lead the others.
Does this principle apply to human behavior? Every company, society, church, family, group with a leadership structure needs its pillars who lead the people, and these pillars are groomed through the establishment of good personal relationships with leadership.
t was December 1931. Ted and Dorothy had just bought the only drugstore in a small town on the edge of the South Dakota Badlands, a town of 326 poor farmers wiped out by either the Great Depression or the drought
Ted and Dorothy gave themselves 5 years to make the business grow, after that they would leave. By the time the summer of 1936 came around, business hadn't grown much at all. Their five-year trial would be up in December. What would they do then? Along with nine-year-old Billy, Dorothy and Ted now had a one-month-old daughter, Mary Elizabeth.
One hot Sunday in July, though, a great change swept us up. It started quietly, in the deadening heat of an early afternoon, when Dorothy said to Ted, "You don't need me here, Ted. I'm going to put Billy and the baby down for a nap and maybe take one myself." Ted minded the empty store swatting flies with a rolled-up newspaper.
An hour later Dorothy came back. "Too hot to sleep?" Ted asked. "No, it wasn't the heat that kept me awake," Dorothy said. "It was all the cars going by on Route 16A. "That's too bad," Ted said. Dorothy replied, "No, because you know what, Ted? I think I finally saw how we can get all those travelers to come to our store." "And how's that?" ted asked. "Well, now what is it that those travelers really want after driving across that hot prairie? They're thirsty. They want water. Ice cold water! Now we've got plenty of ice and water. Why don't we put up signs on the highway telling people to come here for free ice water? Listen, I even made up a few lines for the sign: "Get a soda . . . Get a root beer . . . turn next corner . . . Just as near . . . To Highway 16 & 14. . . Free Ice Water. . . "
The next weekend Ted and the boy went out to the highway and put up signs for free ice water. By the time I got back to the store, people had already begun showing up for their ice water. Dorothy was running all around to keep up. "Five glasses of ice water, please," a father called out. "May I have a glass for Grandma?" a boy asked. "She's in the car." "Say, good sir," one traveler said in a Scottish brogue, "we're going all the way to Yellowstone Park. Would you mind filling this jug with your water?" "Hey this free ice water is a great idea," said a salesman, sidling up onto a stool. "How about selling me an ice cream cone?"
For hours they poured gallons of ice water, made ice cream cones and gave highway directions. When the travelers started on their way again, refreshed and ready for new adventures, they gave Ted and Dorothy hearty thanks.
When the day was done, Ted and Dorothy were pooped. They sat in front of the store, watching the sunset, feeling a cool breeze come in off the prairie. The next summer they had to hire eight girls to help them, and now that the store is in the good hands of their son. Today the store draws 20.000 thousand people on a good summer day.
Here is a great lesson. No matter where you live, you can succeed, because wherever you are, you can reach out to other people with something that they need, even something that is free!
What was the full name of the man? Ted Hustead
Founder of Wall Drug Store in Wall South Dakota
A friend of mine shared an interesting video with me. It was about a man who created and built a backward bicycle. When the rider turned the handlebars to the right, the front wheel went to the left and vice versa. The inventor’s goal was to see if people could ride this bicycle and adjust to the change simply by knowing how it worked. He mounted the bike and discovered he could not ride it. As he lectured across the US, he challenged people to try to ride this bike offering a $200 reward to anyone who could. Many were sure they could do this, but failed miserably.
After eight months the creator finally conquered the skill and oddly enough, his six year old son acquired the same skill after only two weeks!
Later this man hopped on a regular bicycle and discovered that he was unable to ride. He had to re-learn how to ride the normal bike.
These things touch a lot on how the neuro pathways in the brain work. I am not a neurologist so I cannot comment on this. However what I can deduce is that knowing something does not necessarily mean understanding, hence the need for practice and drill of the things that we know are good and proper.
Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFzDaBzBlL0
Whenever decisions need to be made in a democratic fashion, while all parties sincerely desire to arrive at the same goal, several divergent opinions arise as to how to get there. There are particular dynamics behind these divergences of methods. Two of them I would coin as the “saw,” and the “scalpel.”
Cutting out a blemish in the wood with a saw does the job quickly and effectively while creating much waste in the form of wood tearing and dust. Making an incision in a human body with a scalpel requires skill, patience, but cuts exactly what needs to be cut out, no more, no less.
It is easy to want to adopt the “saw” approach. It cuts right through the issue. Using a scalpel requires us taking the time to really measure each argument to the fraction of millimeter so we do not create waste in the form of ignoring people power. This has the potential to also take us on a never-ending merry-go-around that can stalemate our decision-making process.
When making decisions then it is first important to decide what it is that we are “cutting.” Is it something we don’t mind to waste or precious material that we don’t want to hurt or lose? In the case of wood, we don’t really care about the wood dust, but when it comes to humans, we have to be very precise.
Of course, in the case of decision-making we are talking about people, and people who are honest, willing, devoted, and dedicated, are the most important commodity of all. Retention and participation is much higher when people feel included as a part of the decision-making process and that their opinion matters.
So which is it? The saw or the scalpel? Both have a cost. One in time, the other in people. Maybe that’s a new twist on the concept of, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost ...,?” (Luke 14:28)
During a philosophical discussion I once had with my high-school class, I suggested that when 2 people argue together, both relying on solid proof-text and undeniable evidence and/or documentation, the argument will never end, and that is because they probably both are right. They are both right but looking at the situation through a different lens, a different angle, a different need. This happens in families, at work, or any kind of group that works through democratic consensus. How do you then solve the issue and come to an agreement?
Since the opponent is also correct in his position, the wise person will humbly acknowledge it and even use that extra information to better his own point. It doesn’t necessarily mean to budge from our own position, but it does mean to incorporate the position of the other person into our own.
These issues often happen in parenting or leadership. How do we maintain control, order, and respect of protocols? Do we exercise the blind and unbending full measure of the letter of the law, or do we try to “temper the wind” to the point of anarchy or enablement? How many a parent have had this discussion concerning the raising of their children.
For a boat to go forward, both the right and left oar must work together at the same time. If either the right or the left stands to go it alone, the boat will continually travel in circles, going nowhere.
We see then that both are needed. King Solomon of the Bible said, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.” (Ecc 8:11) Yet while that may be true, King David, his father, credited his own success greatness not to God’s unwavering punishing hand but to His gentleness, “...your gentleness made me great.” (Psa 18:35)
The truth is that both are right. Justice, or the cold application of the letter of the law, and mercy, the principle of governing with the heart, are like two sides of the same coin. To govern justly one must uphold justice while exerting mercy. It is a difficult act to perform but one every good leader must learn. That is why again, wise King Solomon said, “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged:” “Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy.” (Pro 16:6; 20:28)
I read a leadership course one time that taught that leaders must at all times appear stoic, self-assured, and unmovable to their people, especially when they don’t really know what they are doing or are flying by the seat of their pants.This type of leadership may no doubt have its place and time, but should it really be our M.O for everyday relationships and business?
Former First lady Rosalynn Carter aid,”A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” So to me, the real question is, “Does this philosophy of leadership really help me to bring people where they ought to be? Does it make people want to endorse the vision I am trying to impart to them as much as would simple honesty, truthfulness, and humility?”
Everybody loves a hero, until they find out that their hero has , like them, feet of clay, so why not be honest right away. This type of honesty will not only inspire trust but give hope to others that they discover they also can be leaders for the cause. Lawyer Ralph Nader said one day that, “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” The world has enough followers who just contribute the minimum they can. Let’s produce leaders who will give their all to the good cause and worthy cause they believe in Here is a story to illustrate that last point.
A conversation is said to have taken place between a hen and a hog when they passed a church and observed the subject of the pastor's sermon: "How Can We Help the Poor?" After a moment's reflection, the hen said, "I know what we can do. We can give them a ham-and-egg breakfast!" The hog protested, saying, "The breakfast would be only a contribution for you, but for me it would mean total commitment!"
“How do you eat an elephant?” is the question. “One bite at a time!” is the answer.
Life sometimes faces us with seemingly insurmountable problems and issues. We don’t know where the head is and much less the tail. We look at what’s in front of us and want to scream. It can be compared to arriving at a disaster scene. One has to keep his calm, assess the situation and come up with a plan.
The worst thing to do in time of disaster is to let ourselves get overwhelmed by every little detail. This would cause us to get confused and discouraged, which in turn would keep us from any positive decisive action.
To properly assess a disaster or a bad situation one must keep his cool; take one, if not several steps back as this helps to see the full spectrum of things and not get distracted with minute details. Once we have done this, we plan our work and work our plan, one “bite” at a time.
Sometime we may feel like we are too small; that as one person there is nothing we can do to solve the problems of the world. I, for one, remember the story of a shepherd who single-handedly reforested a whole area of southern France by planting trees. One seed at a time, he restored life to an area that had been deserted because of over-logging.
There is an interesting African folk tale about a hummingbird. When he saw a forest-fire, while all the other animals fled or witnessed the devastation in despair, with his tiny beak and tiny wings, he went to try to put out the fire. We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once!
Here is another good example of what the power of one can do
When we travel around the country my wife and I like to stop at thrift and second hand stores. We find it especially interesting when in very small agricultural or historical towns. It is in such a place this week that I saw a wooden sign saying, “The extra mile is never crowded.”
This statement came to me in sharp contrast with the crowded Los Angeles beaches we saw as we drove on the Pacific Highway. I personally wondered, “Where is the pleasure and the rest from sitting on a crowded beach?” But I digress. Let's go back to that wooden sign.
I read a poem one time describing the world as a marathon race. In a marathon you generally have three groups. First you have the front runners; those who push to win the race. Then you have the pack; the place where lies the majority of the runners. Then you have the straddlers at the end, those who lag behind everybody.
Of all the places in the race, the front one is the least crowded. Indeed, those who push extra hard, those who go the extra mile to push the concept are few and far between. They are sometimes viewed as obsessed, imbalanced, even irrational. But could it be that they simply are dedicated and without reservation about their commitment? And is that bad?
I dare proclaim that the world is in need of some more of these “imbalanced” folks, of people who are without reservation; who are determined to push for integrity, honesty, for the values of humanity. If one wants to find rest and peace away from the pack of the indifferent “beach goers”, that is the place to go to, the place of those who run the extra mile.
Perhaps you have a heard about this young shoe salesman in the first half of the 20th century who was sent to Africa. He must have landed in a place outside the city because he wrote a very discouraged letter to his boss asking to bring him back home. He said in the letter, “It’s impossible to work here; nobody wears shoes.”The young shoe salesman was sent back home but his place was taken by another who couldn’t get the shoes to come fast enough as he wrote to the company saying, “Send me more; everybody here NEEDS shoes!”
Some of us look at difficult situations as impossibilities, but others look at the same situations as opportunities. The situation is the same; the difference is in us and in how we look at it.
What we have to do sometimes is change the perspective, the angle from which we look at the situation. We can complain of the dishes or thank God that we had something to eat. We can complain of our colleagues or appreciate that we have a job. We can complain about our work and shores or thank God every morning that have something to do which must be done whether we like it or not, because being forced to work and forced to do our best, breeds in us temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and contentment, and a hundred other virtues which the idle never know.
I heard it said, “If you don’t like the conversation, change the narrative!” But our lives are what they are. Sometimes we can change them but more often than not we can’t, or at least not without ignoring major ethical concerns. One thing is possible though, while we may not be able to change the narrative of our lives but we can certainly change the conversation about it.
I remember the story of a little boy who was swimming one day in a lake when suddenly he suffered some type of physical difficulty and could swim no farther. The boy struggled for his life. He had gone under twice, when he felt the strong arm of a man lifting him. The man had seen the little boy's desperate plight and had swum out to save him. The man took the boy safely to shore and, after making certain that everything was well, turned to leave. The little boy said, "Thank you, sir, for saving my life." The man replied, "You're welcome, son. See to it that you are worth saving."
Whoever we are, we all had a mother, a father, or someone who took care of us during our most vulnerable time of childhood. It may seem natural for them to do so, but each person’s sacrifice that helped us survive one of the most vulnerable period of our life equates to saving our life.
Even the the course of our adult lives may have not gone so smoothly. Though disease or accidents, we may have come so near to death that we felt its chill on our skin but someone, be it kin or stranger, may have been there to save us.
Thus we ought to ask ourselves, “Was I worth saving?”; “Is my life a testament to those who took care of me, those who sacrificed in order to keep me going?” Thus to serve, help, and rescue may be our reasonable service in paying it forward.
By the way, the boy in the story above has never forgotten those challenging words by a man whom he did not even know. Neither should we forget those who care for us in the most vulnerable seasons of our lives and daily ask ourselves, “Were we worth saving?”
The difference between a received or rejected advice or idea seems to be in the wording of its presentation. That is why promoters are paid a lot of money. They learn how to present things in a way that it makes it desirable to others. Using lighting and psychology in presentations skills, store owners learn how to set things on a shelf in an attracting way. The food industry has developed a scientific recognition of smells that will make people come to their restaurants. When it comes to business, it does feel like an eerie form of manipulation, but the principle remains. Even God uses it. Encouraging us to healthy, moral, and ethical living He tells us that His commands will keep us spiritually, and sometime physically alive, while we may spiritually, and sometimes physically die if we choose to disobey them. (Deu 30:19)
A good leader has to learn how to present his ideas so that his crew feels that they are part of a great program. On the other hand, a crew member needs to learn how to present his objections without hitting at the ego of his commander. A lot of it is done through semantics and a humble attitude.
In the movie Anna and the King, Jody Foster plays an English teacher who had come to teach the numerous children of the King of Siam (now Thailand). One day she is approached by one of the queen‘s wives. “Please, we need to tell the king that he should not go to war. He will listen to you!”. “I will tell him!” responds the teacher. The wife then says, “Oh no; not like that. You must tell him in a way that he thinks it is his own idea!”
Here is another story to illustrate the point.
Once a king dreamed that all his teeth had fallen out. Immediately he sent for one of his soothsayers to interpret the meaning of the vision. With a sad countenance & mournful voice, the soothsayer told the monarch that the dream meant that all his relatives would die & that he would be left alone. This angered the king & he drove the servant from his presence.
Another was called & the king told him of the dream. At this, the wise man smiled, & replied, "Rejoice, O King; the dream means that you will live yet many years. In fact you will outlive all your relatives." This pleased the king a great deal, & in his joy he gave the interpreter a rich reward. The two men had said, in different ways, the same thing.
A story is told that once the passengers of a vessel steaming along the St. Lawrence River were very angry because, in spite of the fact that heavy fog was encircling the boat, full speed ahead was maintained. At last one of them approached the first mate, & complained. "Oh, don't be afraid!" the mate replied with a smile. "The fog lies low, & the captain is high above it, & can see where we are going."
As any military or paramilitary organisation knows, obedience to leadership is imperative to elevate the odds of any safe and successful mission. A man one time told me that he had no problem yielding to authority except when he didn’t agree. Well, that is the point, obedience doesn’t require us to agree. Situated way “above” everybody else, the captain has a perspective unequaled to anyone else's. What obedience requires is not agreement but trust, and trust is something leaders have to cultivate with their subordinates.
As a captain, the person in charge has much more vested in making the right decision than anyone else on the team. He has a higher responsibility. If thing go well, he receives praise; but if anything goes awry, he will be the one whose not only the conscience, but the law and public opinion will blame. Having received more more training and gained more experience, much more is expected of him.
We may not necessarily like the captain. It is good if we do, but we are not required to. What we respect is the uniform and the responsible command it represents.
As a believer in God, I do appreciate that the Captain of my soul sits way up high and that he has a perspective on my life like no-one else’s. Like my earthly “captains,” He receives the praise for the good things in my life and doesn’t shirk from the blame for the things that go wrong. It is the Damocles’ Sword that comes as the price of leadership and obtaining responsibility.
She who was called, “America’s Grandmother” died this week at the young age of 92. Seeing all the articles about Barbara Bush on TV I grew more interested in her life. As First Lady, she seemed to have had very definite opinions about things, but was also wise enough to say that she “just could not make that choice for someone else.” About some of the issues that divide this nation today, she also said that,"... personal things should be left out of, in my opinion, platforms and conventions."
She is known to have fought for literacy in America. As I listened to the many reports about her life and accomplishments, one particular saying of hers attracted my attention. During George W Bush presidency she saw the downward spiraling of the political conversation and said,“I hate the fact that people think 'compromise' is a dirty word.”
Is “compromise” a dirty word? What is a compromise anyways? It is a word coming from the Latin and means, “A Mutual promise”. According to the dictionary, a compromise is: “an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.”; "an ability to listen to two sides in a dispute, and devise a compromise acceptable to both."
This year I have been teaching my class of teenagers about the American Constitution. As I studied it myself, I stumbled into a study of the Constitutional Convention. I read many of the debates, disputations, and argumentation of the people that were present at that history changing convention. At the end, I realised that the American constitution was signed by people who each had to give a little in order to come to an agreement. Like Barbara Bush, they did not believe that “compromise”, or the “ability to listen to two sides in a dispute, and devise a compromise acceptable to both”, was a dirty word.
And neither should we!
Everyday in the news we hear about another leader or social role model falling from grace. Their fall is always due to certain indiscretions, either of a sexual, financial, or ethical nature.
It is true that in any type of group, society, political, or religious movement, leaders are under a greater scrutiny than the rest of the people. It may seem unfair, but it is nevertheless the Damocles’ sword that comes with leadership. Maybe this is what James of the Bible meant as he warned, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”(James 3:1)
Human nature is such that we tend to copy and emulate those leaders we admire. We also tend to scrutinise and oppose those leaders which we despise. In any case, for good or bad, whether we like it or not, they influence us.
Like children, we also tend to follow the actions of a our leaders rather than their good words of advice. We are like the children of whom the parents complained, “No matter how much we try to teach them good manners, they consistently follow our bad sample.”
This should stand as a warning to any of us who operate in leadership. The people who love us, will not only emulate us, but often take our words and sample much further than we would have ever anticipated. I often compare leadership to a whip. Only a tiny movement of the wrist is needed to have it go its full length at the other end. In the same manner, a little off-color remark, a little bending of the rules, a little disrespect can trickle down the ranks and bring down the high standards we have worked so hard to establish. Even the appearance of impropriety is dangerous. The leader’s motto should be, “Others may, but I can’t!”
It isn’t necessary to have a title to be a leader. ? A leader is someone who does everything with “leadership” meaning like everything depends on it, because it does! He shows dedication, integrity, and altruism. He does not count the hour nor the money. In everything he does his motto is, “I may just be a little daisy, but l’ll be the best daisy there ever was!”
No one is an island. We all have influence be it on our spouses, friends, co-workers, children, colleagues, etc … and that makes us all leaders.
THE LAST JEDI, EASTERN PHILOSOPHY, AND TODAY.
In The Last Jedi Kylo Ren tells Luke Skywalker: I'll destroy her. And you. And all of it. Luke Skywalker answers: No. Strike me down in anger and I'll always be with you. Just like your father.
This reminded me of episode V when Luke Skywalker’s saw himself becoming like his father, Darth Vader, as he tried to kill him. While this idea is part of Eastern philosophical concepts such as Hinduism, oh , what basic truth it contains!
Case in point. This week, someone from England sent a letter around calling for “Punish a Muslim Week” on the 3rd of April. The letter was sent to many people in many countries and even made its way to America. Part of the letter was a reward point system for hurtful things done to Muslims or to the Muslim community at large on that day.
When I saw that I thought, “How odd; fundamentalist Muslims themselves teach the idea of heavenly rewards for the killing of certain people, mainly Jews or Americans. It also reminded me about Haman the Persian who decided that on a certain day of the year, all Persians should go and kill their Jewish neighbors.
Like in the Last jedi, hatred and murder, in the spirit of anger and vengeance make us become those we hate and kill. We often see it. In trying to obtain justice and vengeance, someone wronged will often resort to the same actions, thought patterns and philosophy as the one who wronged him. The God who created us knew that, and this is why He teaches us to resist anger, hatred, and hateful murder while leaving Him with the job of avenging us, if not in this age, in the Age to come.
Patrick Lumbroso is a teacher, writer, musician and part time Chaplain for the Estacada Fire Department. This site has been created to share different lessons and thoughts from his experiences as a Chaplain for Estacada Fire #69