“Fuzzy Dependency”

The 23rd episode of the Neighborly Love Podcast featured a special guest, Yenner Karto. If you have not yet had the opportunity to listen to it, please do. Twenty-nine years ago, Yenner came to America from Africa to go to college. On the podcast, he testifies how the first act of kindness he received deeply affected him, shares his heart to serve others far and near, and tells how he’s called to build relationships that lead to service, especially with people from different backgrounds and circumstances. I’ve reflected over the past week on Yenner’s calling. He made beautiful statements that warrant a deeper dive into building relationships that lead to service. Specifically, I’d like to focus on what I’ll label his “fuzzy dependency.”

Yenner has a dream and a vision, however, he can’t see it with clarity yet. That’s ok with him because it forces him to depend on God. He contrasts his vision with a map of a mall. When you go to a mall and are unsure where a certain store is, you look for the mall map. It tells you what direction to go. However, in life, a calling is fuzzy. You can understand what it is, however you’re unsure of the direction. There’s a fuzziness to it, and that fuzziness forces one to depend on God. It’s fuzzy from our perspective, but not God’s. Yenner states he needs dependency because if he had a map, then he would go too fast and trip over himself. Plus, he would think he did it on his own power and give himself the credit, neither of which God wants. God sees it crystal clear and Yenner needs to depend on Him.

This “fuzzy dependency” is a process by which we become sanctified, i.e. set apart for God’s purpose. It is a lifelong process. As the Word of God and the Holy Spirit work in our life, we are being santified. In other words, we’re progressively maturing in our faith and God’s call for our life. The Holy Spirit is our Helper and Advocate on this journey, and He works through God’s Word to renew our mind. However, to complete the journey, we must cooperate in the process by being dependent on filling our mind with Scripture.

None of us will be perfect this side of heaven, but God shows us how to think and act so we can lead a successful life worthy of our calling. Yenner is well on his way, and I’m grateful to have a relationship with him. We share a “fuzzy dependency” that yokes us to the same Advocate, who ensures in all things He will work for our good because we love Him and are called according to His purpose for us.

In this context, success is the progressive realization of our purpose. This means we are here on earth not to chase after pleasure and personal gain, but to love and serve God by building healthy relationships with others.

Your Letter to the World

Imagine something for a second. Imagine you’re writing a letter that will be public someday. Everyone can read it. That letter is your life. Every detail. What message would the letter convey? What personality and character would the main character of that letter have?

Would people see a patient, meek, loving, and compassionate person? As you interact with others in the letter, do they see something different in you that makes them curious and desirous for it themselves? Do they say, “There’s something about them I really like, and I wish I knew something of it in my own life.”

Whether you realize it or not, your life is a letter to the world. Live as though it will be published someday. At the end of your life, will it be a letter to be proud of? Will it be worthy of a, “Well done.”

Your life can be an open book for all to see the love of God in you – a love letter to the world. The markings will be there: Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Self-Control.

Life is a laboratory of learning how to love. It’s the most important thing in life because God is love, and He wants you to become like Him. He wants to build your character. He’s more concerned about your character than your comfort.

The main tools that God uses to build your character are relationships with other people. Every day you get hundreds of opportunities to think about the other person instead of yourself. Those opportunities are the stories in your letter to the world.

Only you can determine the content of your letter and what it will reveal to those that read it. Like any good story, the main character is flawed but can be reconciled and redeemed.

The question is … will they be? If so, that will make it worth the read and maybe even a best seller.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 23 – Yenner Karto

Ordinary People. Extraordinary Conversations.

If “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” collided at an intersection, then the Neighborly Love podcast would be the result. It features casual conversations over coffee in a “virtual coffee shop” that lean into the power of empathy. It’s about feeling heard, valued, and understood. It’s about serving others. It’s about depositing money in our relational banks.

Neighborly Love is an original podcast by MindWolves. Host Marc Casciani, author of Craft Your Calling, interviews ordinary people about their heart for God and serving other people for the greater good.

Yenner Karto

Marc interviews Yenner Karto, Managing Director/Head of International Banking & Foreign Exchange at F.N.B. Corporation. Yenner answers three thought-provoking questions: (1) Tell me about a time when you did something nice for someone?, (2) What would you do for a living if money weren’t an issue?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Yenner testifies how the first act of kindness he received upon immigrating to America deeply affected him, shares his heart to serve others far and near, and tells how he’s called to build relationships that lead to service, especially with people from different backgrounds and circumstances.

Neighborly Love, Episode 23 -Yenner Karto (7-29-22)

Never miss an episode

Subscribe wherever you enjoy podcasts:

Rugged Neighborhoodism

Rugged individualism is a term that indicates that an individual is self-reliant and independent from outside assistance. The term was coined by United States president Herbert Hoover in his 1928 campaign speech.

In late 1921, then secretary of commerce Hoover decided to distill from his experiences a coherent understanding of the American experiment he cherished. The result was the 1922 book, American Individualism. In it, Hoover expounded what has come to be called American exceptionalism: the set of beliefs and values that still makes America unique. He argued that America can make steady, sure progress if we preserve our individualism, preserve and stimulate the initiative of our people, insist on and maintain the safeguards to equality of opportunity, and honor service as a part of our national character. American Individualism asserts that the practical, intellectual, and spiritual talent of each individual could spur progress in society.

While I respect President Hoover and agree with the tenets of American exceptionalism, I’d like to expound a new term, rugged neighborhoodism. It hones in on the part of American exceptionalism that encompasses honoring service as part of our national character.

Rugged individualism has its origins in the American frontier experience. Throughout its evolution, the American frontier was generally sparsely populated and had little infrastructure in place. Under such conditions, individuals had to provide for themselves to survive. This kind of environment forced people to work in isolation from a larger community and may have altered attitudes at the frontier in favor of individualistic thought over community. It seems like key elements of this individualistic attitude, such as self-interest, sense of duty, material success, and moral responsibility, have permeated the American economy ever since. Along the way, it has overshadowed the importance of service to others and our need for community.

Independence may be a prized attribute in American culture, but not in the Bible. Nowhere in Scripture will you find the erroneous quote, “God helps those who help themselves.” He did not create humans for self-sufficiency or isolation. We are meant to exist in community with other people. We need relationships with others. We need to rely on a close friend or confidante for support. It’s healthy to be vulnerable and admit you’re dependent upon loving companions and partnerships with people you trust. This is what rugged neighborhoodism means.

We are to love one another, have mercy on one another, bear each other’s burdens, and provide mutual encouragement to each other. This means we are to give ourselves away to others and receive from them in return. This is what it means to do to others as you would have them do to you. This is the Golden Rule.

Rugged individualism can coexist with rugged neighborhoodism. We actually need a healthy balance of both in America. For every new frontier, we need rugged individualists to pioneer the way. However, we also need those who see someone else’s need, someone else’s pain, and someone else’s struggle to stop and care for them.

That’s what it means to be a neighbor. Stop and bandage their wounds. Stop and give them shelter. Stop and give them something to eat. Stop and give them a shoulder to cry on. Stop and simply be present with them. Stop and have mercy on them.

That’s what a rugged neighborhoodism is, and America needs it more than ever. Neighbor, would you mind joining me?

Entrepreneurial Love

Today, it seems like our culture has twisted the meaning of love 180 degrees. “I love” means “I want” or “I desire.” However, I suggest love is what you give, not what you get. Love should be entrepreneurial. Love should take risks by giving to those that deserve it and especially to those that don’t. The latter is the kind of love that needs to be structurally reinforced with rebar because it’s extremely hard to give. Both types need to be given with all humility and gentleness.

How you give love doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, expect it to not be. You’ll make mistakes, just like any entrepreneurial venture does. The key is how you learn from and respond to those mistakes. Also, don’t expect to be able to do it alone. You need help, and more specifically, a Helper. Think of this Helper as an angel investor, someone who genuinely loves you and your purpose, and calls you to love Him first, as an act of obedience, and others second, as an act of humility. His currency is love, and He expects you to execute His business plan by investing love in others. With a passion to obey and a spirit of humility, you will develop a servant’s heart, which enables and empowers you to execute that plan.

Execution of that plan is not easy. You will need to adapt. You’ll need to be “audible ready.” That’s a football term where the quarterback changes the initial play called because of what the opposition is doing. Be willing to change the play by being joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. With a positive attitude, patience, and prayer, the Helper will lead you and work for your good in all things. In other words, He promises good results as long as you keep loving Him loving others no matter what happens to you.

Here’s a simple story from my past week to illustrate. I called a colleague to discuss something. When they answered the phone I asked, “Is now a bad time for a 5-minute conversation?

They answered, “No, it’s a good time. How’s everything, Marc?” In a positive tone, my reply was, “Well, thank you for asking. I’ve learned to be grateful no matter what is happening. I’m going through a rough patch, but I’m grateful for it. I just need to be patient through the ebbs and flows.

They replied, “That’s right. That’s a good way to look at it.” We continued our conversation about the purpose of my call, which was about wanting to know if I could help him with something.

Now, I could have started the conversation in a completely different way. I could have lied and said, “Everything’s great,” and proceeded to my reason for calling. I didn’t have to ask if it was a bad time, but I wanted to be respectful and empathetic that I may be interrupting something he was in the middle of.

Rather, I wanted to be vulnerable and genuine to convey trustworthiness. I wanted to create a safe space so that he would feel comfortable giving me his honest answer. I wanted him to feel a loving tone and expression about the motivation for my call. My call was rooted in a loving purpose of wanting to help, and because I am grounded in love by my Helper, I am free to be entrepreneurial and take risks by extending that same love to others.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:1-13

Workaholism vs. Neighborholism

The dictionary defines workaholism as a compulsion to work excessively hard and long hours. On the spectrum of work, it lies at the extreme right where work is an obsession. Your passion for work is greater than everything else in your life, and it gets prioritized above everything else. Effectively, you worship work as an idol. It is your god. At the opposite end of the spectrum lies indifference. That’s when work feels like drudgery. You’re just going through the motions and really don’t care about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Indifference kicks in when our idols fail us or disappoint us. Both idolatry and indifference are opposite expressions of working out of the selfish-zone. The key to perpetual unhappiness is working in the selfish-zone.

The opposite of the selfish-zone is the neighbor-zone. If you learn to work in the neighbor-zone, you become a neighborholic. The key to perpetual happiness is working in the neighbor-zone. In other words, we are happiest when we are serving other people with our work efforts. In this context, happiness is not something we chase after, but rather something that is caught when we pause to recognize God’s goodness in it. That is how God created and wired humans for happiness. True joy is found in fellowship with others.

Simply stated, idolatry is when we replace God with work. Indifference is when we reject God’s call to work. Both are rooted in selfishness. Rather, we must work as though we are working for God by putting Him as the center of our work. Such a motive is a call against idolatry. Furthermore, we must rise above indifference by working diligently and entrepreneurially with all the skills and talents God has given us. When we’re able to align our motives and priorities in this manner, we become neighborholics. We place God first, others second, and ourselves third.

To live our lives this way requires training. Just as athletes train to compete in the arena of their sport, we must discipline our minds and bodies to master the skills needed to compete in the arena of life. We must master moderation and self-control to learn how to work in the neighbor-zone. It won’t just happen. We need to intentionally forge new daily habits that produce neighborholism. Not every desire which seems good should be followed, nor every unpleasant desire avoided. It is sometimes necessary to use restraint even with good endeavors so that they don’t become distractions. Also, it is necessary to push yourself through difficult and unpleasant things, especially when you don’t feel like it, because without those challenges, you will never learn the skills needed to be a neighborholic.

How much you eat, sleep, exercise, relax … all these are part of learning self-mastery so that you may be strong and ready for the neighbor-zone. You have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial, or helpful. Freewill is a double-edged sword. Workaholism vs. neighborholism. You get to choose.

Would you mind joining me in the neighbor-zone?

Interceding for a Nation

Happy birthday, America. Even though you are showing your age and there’s cancer growing from within, your prognosis is hopeful. The Spirit that brought you into the world is still alive. Its pulse is strong, and for that, I am grateful.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

JULY 4, 1776 – THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF THE THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

As in 1776, the forecast of victory over what ails us today seems daunting. The strongholds within our institutions are too great. The enemy is too ubiquitous. And yet, the majority of Americans still love America and its founding principles.

Like the relentless love of a faithful husband, we are devoted to Our Bride. We chose Her. We sought Her. We love Her. Because of our devotion, we will uphold America as a symbol of light in the darkness. We will make Her an emblem of mercy and our future with Her a miracle of grace.

This faithfulness, this countercultural love, is rooted in God’s love, for we are One Nation Under God, and In God We Trust. This love will shine the brightest when our “marriage” is hardest, just as it feels like today.

The challenging aspects of our present time, as in 1776, can become the greatest stage for true love. Displaying what it means to be chosen, forgiven, and treasured by God is the glory of our founding declaration. Our beams of light are strongest when they shine through our weaknesses and struggles.

Would you mind praying for America with me? Kindly pray for all who are in authority, in order to lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. Pray that all people are saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. God can use the prayers of His people to accomplish His will and turn America back to Himself.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 22 – Butch Kriger

Ordinary People. Extraordinary Conversations.

If “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” collided at an intersection, then the Neighborly Love podcast would be the result. It features casual conversations over coffee in a “virtual coffee shop” that lean into the power of empathy. It’s about feeling heard, valued, and understood. It’s about serving others. It’s about depositing money in our relational banks.

Neighborly Love is an original podcast by MindWolves. Host Marc Casciani, author of Craft Your Calling, interviews ordinary people about their heart for God and serving other people for the greater good.

Butch Kriger

Marc interviews Butch Kriger, Mid-Atlantic Regional Insurance Director at F.N.B. Corporation. Butch answers three thought-provoking questions: (1) Tell me about a time when you did something nice for someone?, (2) What would you do for a living if money weren’t an issue?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Butch tells a story about helping a 13-year-old young man through his involvement with Junior Achievement, shares his interest in bringing joy to others as a Caribbean boat tour captain, and reveals his dream to give young people hope no matter where they come from and their present circumstances.

Neighborly Love, Episode 22 -Butch Kriger (6-29-22)

Never miss an episode

Subscribe wherever you enjoy podcasts:

Key Lime Pie

Aerial View Approaching Pittsburgh International Airport (6/24/2022)

It was a great travel week. The type I haven’t had in a while. Two years to be exact. Pre-COVID, I would travel about twice a month somewhere in our operational footprint of PA, OH, MD, WV, NC, SC, VA, and Washington DC. It enabled me to serve my teammates and clients with excellence as well as maintain a healthy balance with my commitments to my family and community. It’s nice to have a convenient virtual option to meet nowadays, however, nothing beats an in-person conversation and connection. I am so grateful that life is “opening up” again. There’s a lot to like about the “new normal.”

Two of my meetings this week were dinners with insurance colleagues. Like me, they are sensitive to time away from family in the evenings. Like my wife, their wives decided to place their professional careers on hold to raise the kids. The first dinner involved a party of six. The second dinner involved a party of two.

During the first dinner, a thought crossed my mind to allow my insurance teammate to order a dessert for his wife to take home. My wife and daughter always appreciate it when I surprise them with dessert. However, there were four other guests at the table, and I decided against it because I would want to extend the offer to everyone at the table and that would be excessive. In hindsight, I wish I would have made the offer.

I felt bad about my “dessert decision” the previous evening, and I wanted to learn from it. During the second dinner, it was on my mind. If the opportunity presented itself, I would extend the offer. This dinner was with a new sales recruit, and I didn’t really know much about him. During the course of the conversation, I learned while he was enjoying a nice dinner, his wife was at home watching their 2-year-old and was also 5-months into a difficult pregnancy. As we were wrapping up our meals, our server asked, “Do you have room for dessert?” Both of us declined, but that was the moment I was waiting for. “Do you think your wife would like a dessert? My wife and daughter always love when I bring them something home.”

He paused before replying, “Well, she probably would, but that’s not necessary. I appreciate the offer, however.

I know it’s not necessary, but I’ve learned not to take moments like these for granted. It will let her know you thought of her and care about her. It will say you love her louder than any words can say. What does she like?

Key lime pie,” he answered. I turned to the server and said, “We’ll have a key lime pie to go.

As I’ve matured in life, I’ve learned what really matters. Once I thought certain things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless. Before I met Jesus Christ and forged a relationship with Him, my career and making money were the most important things. Now they are worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Him.

Here’s a good question to ask when you’re distracted by worthless things: How much will this matter in 100 years? Many things won’t matter tomorrow, much less for eternity.

In this instance, the key lime pie was an expression of love. We all owe a debt to love one another for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. That matters today, tomorrow, and forever.

PS: To my other insurance teammate to whom I failed to extend the offer, I’ll make it up to you. I promise.

Swiss Stewardship

The more and more I reflect on my recent trip to Switzerland, I realize how much the country, culture, and people touched me. It’s now in my top 3 places to retire.

I spent most of my time in Montreux, a town on the shoreline of Lake Geneva at the foot of the Alps. It’s about a 75-minute drive from Geneva, Switzerland’s most international city. Geneva holds the European seat of the United Nations and is the launch pad for the International Red Cross’ humanitarian campaigns. Montreux is home to The Montreux Jazz Festival in early July, which is the second-largest annual jazz festival in the world after Canada’s Montreal International Jazz Festival.

I would describe the Swiss’ core cultural attribute as “good stewardship.” They take care of what they have been given: nature, material things, and each other. They value happiness, friendliness, cleanliness, peacefulness, and humanity. There is almost no crime and no poverty. At first, the skeptical American in me thought it was all an act, but the more time I spent there, I realized it was genuine. In every town, the experience was the same … Geneva, Montreux, Vevey, Bern, Les Diablerets. The Swiss have seemed to master the “love thy neighbor as yourself” concept. In my humble opinion, Americans could learn a lesson from the Swiss on this front.

The Swiss Constitution is modeled after the US Constitution. Here’s its Preamble.

In the name of Almighty God!


The Swiss People and the Cantons, mindful of their responsibility towards creation, resolved to renew their alliance so as to strengthen liberty, democracy, independence and peace in a spirit of solidarity and openness towards the world, determined to live together with mutual consideration and respect for their diversity, conscious of their common achievements and their responsibility towards future generations, and in the knowledge that only those who use their freedom remain free, and that the strength of a people is measured by the well-being of its weakest members;

adopt the following Constitution:

Preamble of the Swiss Federal Constitution

At the Geneva airport, these were the top 3 sustainable development goals:

  1. No Poverty
  2. No Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being

All 17 are listed in the image to the right. All are noble goals. Each should be adopted by every country in the world.

In short, thank you Switzerland for modeling the behavior that we are asked to model by our Creator. As with America, you are not perfect, however, you set the bar very high for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. You are a beacon to the way out of the selfish zone and into the neighbor zone. You model how to give other people the respect and courtesy that everyone created in God’s image deserves.

You are model stewards.

View from my hotel room at Fairmont Le Montreux Palace
View from the Peak Walk at Glacier 3000
Statue of Freddie Mercury in Montreux. Queen’s four musicians (Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, and Roger Taylor) were regular visitors to Montreux.
%d bloggers like this: