“It pays to worry; most of the things you worry about never happen!”
This statement I heard one day may sound sarcastic, but when we take stock of the things we worry about, we realize that it is true. Most of the time, the things we worry about do not happen. Why do we worry then?
The ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) says that of 18% of Americans over 18 suffer from worry and anxiety so it you are a worry wart, you are not alone.
One of the problems is that people who worry like the company of other “worri-ers”. It makes them feel understood when actually, those people who make mountains out of molehills need the company of those who know how to make molehills out of mountains.
A renowned psychologist whose books are part of my reading diet and copious library one day used the a story from the Bible and said, “Patience decreases worry.” He came to that conclusion as he read about some of the first problems the Children of Israel had to face as they left Egypt. After leaving Egypt in such a hurry that they didn't even have the time to finish preparing bread for the journey, the first source of water the 3,000.000 + people came to was bitter. By the way, test that moment to tell a mother with a hot, sweaty, fussy, hungry, and thirsty 2-year-old in her arms that she needs to trust God!
As they arrived at the springs of March, they of course did what any other people would do.They turned against their leader. The leader had a solution in mind but they only stayed one day in that place. Then, they left for the springs of Eilim where they had an abundance of sweet water. They stayed there awhile to recoup from everything that had happened over the past few days. In a sense, they worried that they were all going to die but it never happened. So as I quoted before, “It pays to worry; most of the things you worry about never happen!”
We are often quick to worry and fret when things don't go right, but worrying has bad effects for us. It is like ingesting poison in our system. I have found out that time is the greatest healer of bad situation. Not in every case, but most of the time things work themselves out so as my psychologist friend says, “Patience decreases worry.”
I recently facilitated a leadership class for first-responders using as a platform SEAL Jocko Willink’s book, Dichotomy of Leadership. The title of Chapter 4 is, “When to Mentor, When to Fire.”
The chapter explains how a SEAL team leader had invested much time and training in a team member who just didn’t seem to have it in him to meet the SEAL standards. The substandard SEAL was starting to negatively affect the missions and the other team members felt that their team leader spent an inordinate amount of time with one person at the cost of team training. A decision had to be made about either continuing to invest in that one member or admit that he would not make it.
Any responsible leader wants to see each member of his team make it. A true leader will always feel a sense of failure when a trainee does not make the cut. There is a time though when we need to cut our losses and move on. After all, SEAL philosophy holds that the needs of the team trump the needs of the individual.
That point about the other team members feeling neglected at the cost of one member made me think about a family I know. They have several children and as with all big families, you get all sorts. Some of the children were easy to deal with while others were more difficult. This family had one in particular that could not flow with anything. There was always trouble. For this reason, the parents spent what seemed to the other children an inordinate amount of time with that one.
The parents never knew it but recently as both parents and children, now grown adults, reminisced on old times, the children mentioned that they had been jealous of that one brother of theirs. They equated the extra time spent, albeit on disciplinary issues, as a preferential status. Of course, as opposed to SEAL team leaders, parents do not have the option of sending the problem child away, but the situation is not all that unsimilar.
There is one thing though that is very similar in all ages. It is not an abundance of things or gifts, but time and personal attention that we equate with love.
At the volunteer meeting this week we talked about decision-making. We talked about making data driven calculated rational decisions beneficial to the mission, without sacrificing the emotional elements wherein lies the passion for the mission. A corporation, or an association are by definition called “bodies,” and bodies are made of biological and spiritual matter both working together.
As human beings, for example, we have our visible physical nature which I will call here the “body,” but we also have an emotional unseen side which I will call here the “spirit.” The needs of our body are rational. If we don't take care of it the right way we may become sick, disabled, or even die. The physical defines success rationally by achieved goals, financial prosperity, … but the spirit doesn't measure success in the same way, so the things our spirit may lead us to do are often irrational, outright dangerous, and even financially ruinous. That is a problem. How do we get both to work together?
Without a spirit to animate us, we are nothing more than lifeless biological elements. Also, without a physical body to act out its desires, the spirit cannot accomplish anything. It is when the two are joined together that we are alive. That causes our existence to be run by a dichotomy.
But dichotomies are good. Dichotomies are good because they push two extremes towards the just and fair middle of the road where wisdom is found. As long as the two sides keep pushing against each other, there is hope of a wiser outcome, but the two must continue wise-ing the other up as when the spirit alone leads the body suffers, and when the body alone leads, what a cold calculated road it travels. It is therefore better that they keep working together by pushing against each other.
It takes time to make well balanced decisions. It takes time to come to the right solution, which frustrates those of an impatient nature, but the alternative can be devastating to the mission. Let's hope that the “body” doesn't “shut-down” by lack of reaching the decision that balances the dichotomy!
We find our place in time by setting calendar landmarks. The Gregorian Calendar year is such a landmark that helps measure time. As 2019 ends, we will be ending such a landmark and right away begin a new one.
Many of us have the habit of making new resolutions for the new year. It is a healthy habit as goals create landmarks that motivate us towards progress, and progress gives us a sense of fulfillment.
We may have set goals at the beginning of 2019; have we fulfilled them? Maybe life had different plans for us last year so if we have not fulfilled our set goals, what other accomplishments constitute our 2019 legacy? Was it a year lived? Was it a year endured? Did we make good with the time allotted us? What kind of goals should we set for 2020?
We can make goals to lose weight, pay off our credit card debt, to save money for a certain item or project, but time goes by so fast, (or so t seems as it has always gone at the same speed), and none of us knows when is the road ends. I recently saw a short film where they reported the findings of interviews that they had had with the dying. “What is your biggest regret?” they asked. Each replied and surprisingly, the majority of people expressed that their biggest regret was not what they had done wrong or the mistakes they had made, but their biggest regret was all the things that they hadn’t done but wished they had, especially concerning their relationship with loved-ones. If we knew we were to die before the end of 2020 what would be our goal then? Would it be to make sure to spend quality time with our loved ones? To restore broken relationships?
Another thing to think about. We decide what we put in focus or what we decide to blur, so may we be wise as to what we decide to blur or to focus on in our new years’ goals. Let's blur the things that cause division and issues and 20/20 focus our attention on the things that really matter: our relationship with others.
The old adage says, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”
A family is like a body. It’s made up of many parts, some that we are proud of and others that we’d rather either hide or disguise. But whatever the makeup of our family, and whether we are religious or not, we are now approaching the time when families get together.
This causes old demons to reappear, and old family issues that we tried to ignore all year long and prefer that they would remain quiet under the nicely decorated table are again exposed.This forces us to deal with these issues that do not go away just because we choose to ignore them.
Setting aside all calendrical, theological, and historical controversies about this story, next week people will be getting together for a meal around the idea that about 2,000 years ago a special child was born. A child who, due to indifferent ignorance had to be born in some sort of animal shelter or cave and whose first bed was an animal trough. While this child had little or no value to the local hostelry and whose death was sought by the local government, the poor and the destitute came to honor his birth. He later was known as He who receives the rejected, and opens His kingdom to the dejected.
May we honor Him on that day by warmly receiving the rejected and opening our arms to the dejected ones of our own families.
At least once a year I dedicate time to the study of the story of Joseph the son of Jacob in the Bible. Joseph’s life seemed to follow Murphy’s law, “If anything can go wrong, it will!”
What I like the most about this story is Joseph’s attitude. While his jealous brothers sold him to slavery, when the time came that he could exercise full revenge, Joseph instead comforted their fears. His trouble never provoked anger or cynicism. He instead saw that everything that happened to him was part of a grand divine plan.
When life becomes difficult and complicated, when we are hit with problems and injustice, many of us worry, get angry, seek retribution, validation, or even vengeance. We feel very justified in these feelings but do they help? Do they help bring us peace? Does vengeful retribution restore our lives to its previous conditions?
Being bitter or vengeful is like taking the poison, and hoping that the other person dies.
Whether one believes in a divine destiny or not, is an issue of its own, but it must be said that Joseph’s attitude provided him with a peace that eludes most of us when life seems to deal us a cruel, unmerciful, and unjust hand.
I am reminded of the movie Bridge of Spies where a man faces the death penalty under accusations of being a spy.
From Bridge of Spies.
The philosophical adage, “Post hoc ergo propter hoc”(Latin: "after this, therefore because of this") is a logical fallacy. It states that, "Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X." It is often shortened simply to post hoc fallacy. A simple example of it is "The rooster crows immediately before sunrise; therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise."
The Post Hoc Fallacy is a crude simplification of facts according to their chronology, in order to come to an easy causation verdict. Prosecutors often use its seeming logic but defense attorneys are usually quick to refute it with the statement, “Correlation does not imply causation!”
The problem with the post hoc logic is the same as with all formulas or truth: It becomes wrong or false when taken to an extreme. A person can go out while forgetting an open candle in their room and come back to their home on fire. It seems logical to assume that the fire was due to the abandoned candle, but unless it was actually visibly witnessed, there is always the possibility of an unknown factor X that would want to make authorities believe that the fire happened because of one person’s inattention.
It is easy to make negative judgments about people’s lives by using the post hoc logical deduction, but are we always right? Isn’t there a factor X in their lives that we are not aware of? The thing is that it is as easy to assume the positive as it is to assume the negative, and at the end of the day, we might be wrong either way, so why not rather assume the positive?
A conversation is said to have taken place between a hen and a hog. As they passed the town hall, they saw the subject on which the mayor was speaking that night, "How Can We Help the Poor in Our City?" 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!"
As hoggish as he may be, the hog saw right through the hypocrisy of the hen who would so voluntarily give of her abundance, while suggesting her friend gives of his very livelihood..
We all benefit from what is given to us. We all owe our peace and quiet to the civil servants, soldiers, firefighters, policemen, EMTs and doctors, around us. We owe it even to our neighbors who, out of a simple sense of community, would warn us if something fishy was happening in our house while we were gone. That’s why we live in communities for support, strength, and security. We are in a sense indebted to the society around us so that when we give, we only repay what has been laid at our feet for free.
When we give, we are really just give back of what has been extended to us. Real giving goes beyond that. I heard it said one time, “It doesn’t count till it hurts!” Indeed, it is when it hurts that we start really giving and investing in others. That’s when we go beyond and give more than has been given to us.
I love JFK’s words, “Seek not what your country can do for you, but rather seek what you can do for your country!” and we do so through our giving to the community. The thing is, do we give like the hen or like the hog? The measure of our giving is not in the gift, but in what we’ve got left after we’re done giving!
At our last leadership enhancement class at the station we broached the subject of micro-management vs hands-off leadership. It was enlightening to partake of Joko's analysis of the flaws in these opposite leadership styles. The conversation that platformed from it was also quite interesting. The deduction we came to was that micro-management eventually provoked the collapse of the leader, while the over hands-off approach provoked the collapse of the team.
At the end of the day though at least one question remains. Why is it that it is so difficult for us as humans to keep a proper balance between these two types of unproductive leadership?
I'd like to propose a possible answer: Fear.
I heard a counselor one time giving advice to the spouse of someone who had an inordinate tendency to control everything in their home. That particular person seemed to have the same issue with their employees at work. The counsellor advised that we should feel sorry for such people because they are plagued with fear. That made a lot of sense to me. Whether it is fear of failure, fear of displeasing, fear of the optics concerning their actions or fear of the opinion of others, it is the same animal she suggested. This type of fear causes us to lose confidence in others so we over manage. That same fear can also cause us to disengage, and that under a cloak of trust and overconfidence.
What is the solution then? As a possible answer, I'd like to offer parts of one one of my favorite poem, a poem that ponders on the dichotomies of everyday life: “If”, by Rudyard Kipling.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
As former President Franklin D Roosevelt said, “The only thing to fear, is fear itself.”
The recent attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh opened some old wounds in the Jewish community. Can the specter of ancient prejudices ever go away? Jews have never been openly persecuted in the United States but there was a time in the 50’s when Jews were not allowed within the upper echelon of society.
The ACLU (Anti-Defamation League), a century-old advocacy group for Jews and other people targeted by discrimination, found that 2017 saw a nearly 60 percent surge in reported anti-Semitic incidents in the United States—which came on top of a 35 percent increase the year before.
Throughout the millennia, Jews have made efforts to assimilate in whatever country they have lived in. Today there are Jews all around the world. They are black, white, brown, and there are even blond hair blue-eyed Jews, but wherever they are persecuted, it is not because of the color of their skin, but because of their appurtenance to the Jewish community. Even Christian-Jews who remain culturally Jewish, are sometimes prejudiced from the general Christian community as has recently happened to me in Estacada OR, the town where I live. The irony is that a Christian Jew is often also rejected by the Jewish community, as I have also experienced. Since it is therefore not a question of skin color nor of cultural groups, what is it then that causes these ancient prejudices to resurge?
Is it one’s personal philosophical worldview? Is it pride or a penchant towards hatred? Is it an extension of nationalism or patriotism? Is it Religion? I am a God-believing and God-fearing man. I have learned from History that religion has the power to make us love the “unlovely” but also to make us hate those different from us. I am not saying that religion is bad, but I am saying that when one’s religion or theology translates into prejudices against certain people groups who differ from his, it is a testament to how little of God that person owns.
If God is God, He is the God of all human beings made in His image and those of us who claim to represent Him need to do a better job at it. It is sad that today, we cannot promise that crimes related to religious-hatred will not happen again. May we ponder on these things during our celebration of Thanksgiving, a time when the survival of a small community came thanks to a people different than them, who accepted and helped them.
Every other week we get together at the station to discuss principles of leadership. We platform from a book written by former SEAL Jocko Willink called “THE DICHOTOMY OF LEADERSHIP”
Last Monday we were able to wrap-up our session with one of the quotes at the end of the first chapter. The quote lists certain dichotomies that leaders, at least wise leaders, face. He mentions that a leader must know when to lead and when to follow; that he must be confident without being cocky; that he might sometimes need to be aggressive in his style, while still remaining cautious. What we seem to get from that is that the essence of wisdom comes from the balance conceived in the fight between two extremes.
Even the founding fathers of America have created a system of government where every branch checks the other out. None can work without the input and the agreement of the other. The founding fathers of America adopted this system of check and balances in order to limit anyone’s power by forcing them to work with opposing factions. They did that in full historical knowledge of man’s temptation to always push the boundaries of his permitted leadership.
Taking the imagery of opposing forces bringing balance, our own physiology has much to teach us. We as humans tire to always stand upward. We tire in that position because the earth’s gravity always pulls us down. We have to fight and consume energy in order just to stand but this very fight is what strengthens our muscles. Thus the fight against opposing forces strengthens us.
Life is a constant struggle. We struggle with finances and with health, but we also struggle trying to bring our dreams to pass, as well as our projects and our work. In these, we might feel that we always fight against opposing forces, but as we do, may we remember that these opposing forces are our “friendly foes”, so to speak, enemies that make us stronger and wiser.
I was trying to explain to one of my Bible students the principle behind the following statement by Paul, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Rom 7:15) I then remembered the story of two wolves that I had heard in the movie, The Matrix. The story is actually an old Cherokee Indian tale.
We all want to the right thing, the altruistic thing, the loving thing, and the caring thing, but our natural selfish and egocentric nature seems to always get in the way. In order to explain this principle, I described what the old Cherokee said in the story when a child asked him, “Why do people fight?” The old Indian answered, “We all have two wolves inside us, There is a white wolf and a black wolf. These wolves are constantly fighting each other. The black wolf is filled with fear, anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance. The white wolf is filled with peace, love, hope, courage, humility, compassion, and faith. They battle constantly”. The child then asked, “But which wolf wins?”. The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one that we feed.”
There is another twist to the story. The black wolf may sometimes deceive us into feeding him by pretending he is a white wolf. He might even convince us that white is black and black is white. With time, we may tend to believe it. As Thomas Paine said, “A long habit of not thinking something is wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right!”
And what is the moral of the story? It is important for us to know who we feed in us. Do we feed our natural animalistic instinct that leads us towards a spirit of fear, anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance? Or do we feed our God-given ability to promote peace, love, hope, courage, humility, compassion, and faith?
We are the ones who hold the key because we are the ones who hold the food box through our media intake, our inner thoughts, and the company we keep. These two wolves do eat different food and we need to make sure to feed the right one as it is the strongest of the two who will rule over our lives.
It seems that life is a constant balancing act. Sometimes we have to lead, sometimes we have to follow. We must at times take authority, while at other times we must defer that authority.
My wife and I raised 6 children: five boys, 1 girl. There was nothing we could do to get one of my boys to do our bidding. No screaming, shouting, cajoling or bribing worked. We had another boy though that would start crying if we slightly raised our voices. It was a constant balancing act. We had to ‘zig-zag’ our pedagogic style and make sure we didn’t ‘zig’ when we should ‘zag’, and not ‘zag’ when we should ‘zig.’
The same applies to money. There is a time when in order to economize we must save money, but at other times economizing comes by spending money such as repairing a needed part of the home or car. As they say, “A stitch in time saves nine!”.
A great king once summed it all up with, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecc 3:1-8) A sixties’ band beautifully put this to music:
Another dichotomy of life is: “Accept that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue!”
Leadership is often looked upon as a position of superiority, loftiness, and authority. These things may have their place but what makes a good leader? He who commands or he who listens? He who dominates or he who associates? He who leads or he who follows?
I heard it said one time, “A good leader is first a good follower.” English Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said, “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?” Whereas these ideas seem to be the epitome of dichotomy, it all depends on the way we see the role of leader.
I like to compare a leader to a doctor. It would be difficult to trust a doctor who would write a prescription as soon as you enter his office without asking you a single question. To know how to lead the doctor must first acknowledge to himself that he doesn’t know anything about our condition. He must listen, ask questions, and it is according to these answers to specific questions that he will be able to give his advice. Not only does he listen to us, but he listens to his years of studies.
Listening is not just the act of paying attention to what someone is saying to us while they are saying it. Listening is an attitude; it is an attitude that encourages people to talk. A good listener makes you feel comfortable to talk to them.
As leaders, the information we get from the people who talk to us is worth gold. It helps us shape our leadership style and program. But he who defines the style and program of his leadership without listening to people is doomed. Listening is not just the act of paying attention to what is being said to us while they are saying it. Listening is an attitude, an attitude shaped in the crucible of humility. The ability to listen makes all the difference in a leader.
Biology shows that our blood flow changes when we become embarrassed. That's why we blush or, in certain instances, become pale. On the subject, psychologist Zelig Pliskin says. “When you embarrass someone you cause him much pain. This suffering can be even much worse than that felt from a physical wound. … When you humiliate someone you lower his self-esteem...The ramifications of this are awesome!”
The modern phenomenon of cyberbullying is a testament to that statement. Embarrassing and shaming others can, in some cases, lead to suicide which can be construed as “Murder by Shame.” It doesn't only happen in schools. Our present mean, proud, and arrogant modern society is rife with those who think it is their right, if not their duty to expose others, and in so doing, attemp to elevate themselves by putting down those around them. But do they really elevate themselves?
Do we really elevate ourselves by putting others down? Does our candle shine any brighter when we blow out that of others? The answer of course is no. I heard it said one time that the quality of a true leader is to make others feel great, building others up instead of bringing them down.
I read an interesting take on the old story of Noah this week. We all remember that after coming out of the ark Noah planted and vine and got drunk. Without lingering on the details, the Bible tells us that one of Noah’s son, Ham, found his father in his tent in a compromising situation. Right away Ham went and publicized the issue to his brothers. Shem and Japeth, the two brothers immediately took a garment, and walking backward so as not to see him, covered their father. The commentator I read from brought out the fact that while Ham was quick to expose and thus disrespect his father, Shem and Japeth instead covered his indiscretions.
I think that is an excellent example of what we should do for each other. Instead of exposing each others’ shame, we should do what Shem and Japeth did which King Solomon later again expressed when he said, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9 ESV)
Patrick G. Lumbroso
Estacada Rural Fire District No. 69
Station Phone: 503.630.7712
A laborer was asked one day, perhaps on a rainy day, “How are things going?” "I'm getting older and I feel so weak," the man replied. "My children constantly study and don't have time to help me out. I have to support my in-laws, and find the financial obligations a real burden. My wife is so sickly, and I feel like I'm falling apart." On another day, maybe a sunny day, the same man was asked the same question. With a big smile, he replied "I am so grateful to God for all of His kindness. Even though I am old, I am not only able to support myself, but I am even able to support the my children’s and in-laws’ studies. My wife is wonderful to me; with great sacrifice she makes me so happy."
We constantly choose how to view our life situation; even though nothing external has changed, we can still view our life in very positive ways.
I appreciated what Levi said last night at the volunteer meeting. When he spoke of the vetting that troubles provoke and of the tempering of friendship that difficulties create, he chose to take a positive outlook on the apparent troubles at his station.
Strong bonds between people are forged in the crucible of a fiery furnace.and there are times in our lives when projects, as well as relationships, need the strengthening and tempering that the “fire” of difficulties bring. It does makes all the difference in our outlook on life when we understand the problems that we face, not as a fire that would destroy us, but as a fire that strengthens our resolve.
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.
If you appreciate these articles, support their upcoming publication in a book called, "REFLECTIONS OF A FIRE CHAPLAIN"