Would You Like Room for Grace?

I’ve discovered the fountain of youth. I’m not referring to a mythical spring that restores the physical youth of anyone who drinks from it or bathes in its waters, but I am talking about an authentic feeling of youth. Getting old is inevitable, however, feeling old is not. With the proper attitude, we can be young at heart no matter our chronological age.

Every human is designed for excellence. The Bible is filled with ordinary people who lived extraordinary lives because they believed God would work in and through them. That belief is the nucleus of the fountain of youth I’ve discovered. Staying young while growing old begins with your mind.

Here’s how to cultivate the right attitude:

  • See each day as an opportunity to build your relationship with God … moving 1% forward … to trust Him a little more, love Him a little more, and serve others in His name a little more.
  • Never stop learning from Scripture. Crave the Word the way a baby craves milk so you can continuously grow spritually … moving 1% daily.
  • Accept as truth that we become what we think about. Your mind doesn’t care what you plant, but it will return what you plant. Let Godly thinking shape your attitude. Be grateful, positive, and prayerful, not covetous and poisonous.
  • Don’t withdraw into self-absorption. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conciet. Rather, invest your life in others for their spiritual encouragement and growth. Do this for people you like, people who don’t look like you, think like you, and vote like you, and especially for people you dislike.

I must admit. That last one is the hardest. The only way to accomplish it is to leave some room for grace in your relationships with others. Every time I order a coffee, I’m asked, “Would you like room for cream?” What I need … what we all need … is room for grace. The more the better. In fact, some people are EGRs … Extra Grace Required.

Leaving room for grace allows for that space to be filled with self-control. It allows for the discarding of the petty and seeing the other person as another human created in God’s image just like you. It creates a margin for prioritizing likeness over differences and others over self. It leaves room for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and faithfulness, the fruit of the authentic fountain of youth.

Ordinary humans live extraordinary lives when they drink from this fountain of youth. God has proven it and promises it to all those who commit. Here is what this fountain produces:

  • Great Ambition. While many people are content with being ordinary, this fountain allows for proper motives and ambition. Your desire for God to do something significant through you will be granted. God will always honor a worthy request.
  • Growing Faith. You don’t need a special ability or talent. You dont need a certain amount of money or education. This fountain produces a deep trust and belief that God will work through you. You become a common human with an uncommon faith.
  • Genuine Prayer Life. This is the real secret that stretch dreams are made of. Imagine the greatest thing that could possibly happen … and then realize God can stretch it beyond that. Pray for three things:
    1. Ask for a blessing. There’s nothing wrong with that. God wants to bless your life.
    2. Ask for help. As you recieve your blessing, you’ll have greater responsibilities and demands. You don’t have to shoulder it alone. God sends the Holy Spirit as your helper. Ask for His presence along the journey.
    3. Ask for protection. The more successful you are, the more critics you’ll have. The closer you grow to God, the stronger you’ll become in His name, and the more evil forces will oppose you. Ask Him to keep you from harm and free from pain.

Always leave room for grace so that the fruit of the authentic fountain of youth may grow in your mind and heart. Then your life will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in season and whose leaves does not wither. You will prosper at whatever you do.

Let’s Just Agree to Disagree

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday about a controversial local issue in our community. We were both passionate about it, and we both had formed our narratives about it. As we were talking, I could feel his energy and emotion increase. Mine too. As I was listening, I could empathize with his perspective. He did the reciprocal with me. Each had some facts the other did not have. Finally, he said, “Let’s just agree to disagree.” I responded, “You and I can do that. It’s a shame so many others in our community can not.

Neither of us was consumed by being right or proving the other wrong. Neither of us was letting bitterness or hatred about the issue overshadow our friendship or compassion for each other. We placed the health of our relationship above everything else.

The conversation reminded me of a framework we use on my local school board to make decisions. I am its treasurer and a 9-year school director elect. We call the framework DECIDE.

Debate. Engage. Collaborate. Innovate to find solutions. Decide and move on. Elevate people.

The conversation between my friend and me was a microcosm of this governance framework. No matter what side of the decision you may fall, after you have had a chance to weigh in and engage in healthy conflict, a decision is made and you move on. No harboring of anger or bitterness. No disrespect. No sour grapes. No gossip. No slander.

It seems like the majority of adults today are unable to agree to disagree. Often, that rubs off on children too. Gone is the civility of the art of persuasion of minds and hearts. Nonconformity is met with dire consequences. DECIDE offers a much better alternative. Weigh-in and attempt to persuade, but if unsuccessful, be humble, respectful, and loving in defeat. Learn to live to persuade another day. Learn from what worked and did not work, and try again when the opportunity arises. No need to “scorch the earth.” No need to scorch lives, families, communities, and organizations.

Understanding the core of this problem is not possible without understanding what “loving your neighbor” really means. Reconciliation of any kind is too big to be solved by plans that begin in the minds of humans. This is a God-sized problem and is one that can only be solved with help from the Holy Spirit. It requires the quality of love that only God can provide. It reveals the secret thread that forges friendship despite enormous differences in class, temperament, culture, race, sensibility, and personal history. A friendship that is about something. An underlying commonality that builds the most powerful, cohesive team. Our commitment to reconcile is only possible after we love God first with all our mind and heart. It’s conditional and in that order. Love God first. Love your neighbor as yourself second. The latter will happen when the former is done.

Then, and only then, can we agree to agree or agree to disagree in a neighborly loving manner. If you agree with me, I love you. If you disagree with me, I love you. Let’s just move on as brother and sister with the Holy Spirit as our helper.

Play to Your Weakness

We all have strengths and weaknesses. I believe God gives us both, and therefore, I am grateful for both. It’s natural to think of a strength as an asset, but what about a weakness? What if the most valuable asset God has given you to steward is not a strength, but a weakness?

We often think about, invest in, and play to our strengths. No doubt, they are good gifts intended to be used to serve others in love. However, we have a natural tendency to get off track and serve ourselves with selfish motives. That’s why our weaknesses exist. They are a counterbalance to keep us humble and grounded.

Before we go any further, we need to put what I mean by weakness in context, as I do not mean sin. J. I. Packer, in a study on 2 Corinthians, explains it like this:

The idea from first to last is of inadequacy. We talk about physical weakness [including sickness and disability] . . . intellectual weakness . . . personal weakness . . . a weak position when a person lacks needed resources and cannot move situations forward or influence events as desired . . . relational weakness when persons who should be leading and guiding fail to do so — weak parents, weak pastors, and so on.

J. I. Packer in his book Weakness Is the Way, pages 13-14.

Therefore, we are talking about weakness as an inadequacy or limitation caused by something in our life that places us in a weak position. Perhaps we were born with it or perhaps the root cause was a relational failure, meaning someone hurt us or stunted us.

I used to plead to God to take away my weakness because I saw it as a liability. However, as soon as I understood His purpose for it, I saw it in a whole new light: a priceless asset disguised as a liability.

Now, I clearly see my “thorn in the flesh” was given by God so that I may live up to the life which He called me to live. I happily receive my weakness, as well as insults, hardships, and persecutions, as assets gifted to me by Him, of which I need to be a good steward, alongside my strengths.

In the parable of the talents in the Bible, Jesus tells a story about each of us being given “talents” to steward (Matthew 25:14-30). They are assets of value and are different for everyone. Some of us are given more. Some less. No matter what we’re given, we’re to invest in them by doing God’s will according to our ability. That’s what being a good steward means. Some of these talents are our strengths and abilities. Some of them are our weaknesses, i.e., inadequacies and limitations.

Learn to play to your weakness because He has given us them not only to increase the invaluable treasure of humility but also to maximize our return-on-investment of what He values most: The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6b)

Train to be Fordriven

Like professional athletes training for a sport, we have to train to build the skill, endurance, and habits to be successful in life. For my life coaching practice, I have built a system for my “athletes” to experience what it means to operate within the power of the Holy Spirit. We refer to it as The Fordriven System®.

Our best-laid plans won’t survive the first contact with reality. When life punches us in the gut, our actions will default to the level of our training. We need an action system to prevent us from freezing and to keep us moving when adversity strikes. Also, we need a helper, the ultimate Helper, in the Holy Spirit. 

There are two fundamental skills we need for this system to be effective: patience and forgiveness.

Patience

On any given day, we may encounter frustrating people or situations. If our emotions get the better of us, we feel like lashing out. However, we need to stay in control of those emotions. We need to stay calm and patient. Why? Because we sow what we reap. If we respond with anger, then it will only serve to escalate the situation, especially if the other person reciprocates. Then a closed-loop cycle of retaliation continues until something explodes and destroys you and everyone around you.

The Holy Spirit urges us to be tolerant, kind, and bear each other’s burdens. We need to recognize how damaging impatience is. Responding calmly gives people room to confess wrongdoing, explain their attitude, and make changes. That includes ourselves. When we rely on the Holy Spirit, He empowers us to wade through moments of waiting and provocation without becoming agitated. A calm demeanor in times of delay or adversity can be a powerful witness to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

Forgiveness

Those who have been forgiven much should also be ready to forgive freely. The fact of the matter is, whether we acknowledge it or not, we’ve all been forgiven by the Holy Spirit. In return, we must learn to refrain from attacking our opposition or decrying the injustice of their charges against us. Despite the injustice, we need to remain unprovoked and grow in the virtue of forgiveness. This is what fuels our zeal to love everybody.

Bitterness and anger are heavy weights to carry around every day. With the Holy Spirit as our Helper, He will show us how to move forward. This is also why we need patience. He’ll show us, but on His time, nor ours. He will move slower than we want to move. This is a daily tension with which we need to learn to be at peace. He will forgive you of your thoughts of taking revenge and getting even. He will show you how to channel that energy into work that will please Him. This is what it means to “die daily.”

We don’t want our old thoughts. We want to die daily to the old us who harbored anger and hatred. We want to take our anger to the Holy Spirit and forgive those who are doing the mistreating because we have been forgiven much.

We need to move 1% forward every day to be more patient, more forgiving, and more loving people. This is what happens as we train to be fordriven.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 12 – Dan Veitkus

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.

Episode 12 – Dan Veitkus

Marc interviews Dan Veitkus, Chief Marketing Officer at Guadalupe Roastery. Dan 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? Dan tells a “seemingly small” story about Josephine, an elderly woman seemingly shunned by everyone, shares his heart for wanting to spend time with people and help them, and reveals how his personal dream of serving others is aligned with Guadalupe Roastery’s mission of changing the world one cup of coffee at a time.

Neighborly Love, Episode 12 – Dan Veitkus (8-27-21)

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The (New) American Dream

What would the world look like if we traded in our pursuit of the American dream for friendship with God and others?

The American dream is the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. The inherent problem with the dream is that it allows for the temptation to place things above people. Objects over relationships. Wealth over friendships. Freewill is a double-edged sword. It has both positive and negative effects.

As a culture, we’ve misplaced our admiration, love, and reverence. Instead of loving God first, loving other people second, and loving ourselves third, we’ve evolved to rely on the fragile footing of human wisdom, achievement, and pride. These things may look good for a while, but a weak foundation cannot withstand the storms of life. A person, a family, a country built on a foundation of sand, will fall when the rain, floods, and winds beat against it. It seems like the foundation of America is shaking as though it’s built on sand. The flimsiness of the institutions on which we’ve based our hopes is being exposed. It’s a result of our decades’ devolution of misplaced trust. How far we’ve fallen since our founding when it was written:

  • 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, … 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, … (opening of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776)
  • We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, September 17, 1787)

However, it’s not too late. America can still be repaired and redeemed. It is possible, and it’s through biblical friendship.

Dr. John M. Perkins conveys this concept of trading our pursuit of the American dream for biblical friendship. I am captivated by what he eloquently articulates. In 1970, Dr. Perkins was tortured at the hands of the Mississippi police for his leadership in the voting rights movement. His radical forgiveness and tireless pursuit of biblical justice set him on a course where he would counsel six American Presidents, receive 16 honorary doctorates, and bring healing to broken communities around the world. Here’s what he says:

  • In my ninety-one years on this earth, I have come to believe that the purpose of man is to know this awesome God—to love Him, serve Him, and worship Him—and to make Him known. And I believe that God has not only made us for that and commanded us to do that, but in His grace He has also shown us how. He has shown us the way. And it is through friendship. This “having fellowship with one another,” that He makes possible, is the revolution that can heal the centuries’ old hurts and hatreds that divide us. Because we are friends with Him, we do not have to cross these divides alone. We are not meant to. Friendship is the ship we are meant to take along our pilgrim journey, loving one another, and even laying down our lives for one another if necessary.
  • I believe that God models perfectly for us what this kind of biblical friendship looks like. It pursues, even those who are unlikely, unqualified, and unworthy. Biblical friendship goes deep. It doesn’t settle for surface talk. Biblical friendship forgives and does so without limit.
  • Biblical friendship reaches across lines of ethnicity, gender, and social status. Jesus showed us how to do that. He was God in the flesh, yet He came as a helpless child born to a virgin. He came in humility—not at all what you would expect of a king. He was a friend of prostitutes, tax collectors, and lepers. He showed us how to reach across and show love to people who don’t look like us. He modeled true friendship when He gave His life for His friends.

Well said, Dr. Perkins. I’m ready to take that trade.

MindWolves Re-Mind Program

Purpose: To help adults who feel disturbed and drained by the daily onslaught of negativity by starting and ending their days with gratitude and positivity.

Promise: To unlearn what you have learned by renewing your mind 1% every day. To build new habits, passion, and purpose little by little, drip-by-drip.

What is it? The MindWolves Re-Mind program is a free, private, confidential, enrollment-based program to help adults feel successful. After enrollment, the student receives daily reminders at 6 am and 8 pm EST from the teacher, Coach C, using his proprietary training system. Coach C is the Founder & COO of MindWolves.

How does Coach C define success? Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. The second you enroll in The Re-Mind Program you become successful. Why? Because you are committing to becoming more grateful and positive in life, which is a worthy ideal. Success is peace of mind knowing you’re doing your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. The Re-Mind Program will help you do that.

What’s Coach C’s secret to success? The secret to success is relentlessly winning in your mind every single day. It’s acknowledging that “we become what we think about.” It’s being intentional about feeding your Good Wolf. Like fertile soil, your mind doesn’t care what you plant, but it will return what you plant. Plant corn and it will return corn. Plant nightshade and it will return poison. Therefore, the secret to success is learning to plant gratitude, which will return a grateful spirit. Moreover, learning to plant positivity will return positive thoughts.

Re-Mind Morning Message

What does a Re-Mind morning message look like? Here (right) is a sample from this morning. All messages are sent from Coach C to every student at 6 am EST. Students may reply to Coach C (optional) and only Coach C can see their reply. All replies to Coach C are private and confidential between the student and Coach C.

Re-Mind Evening Message

What does a Re-Mind evening message look like? Here (left) is a sample from yesterday evening. All messages are sent from Coach C to every student at 8 pm EST. Students may reply to Coach C (optional) and only Coach C can see their reply. All replies to Coach C are private and confidential between the student and Coach C.

What’s the cost to join The Re-Mind Program? Re-Mind is free. Coach C offers The Re-Mind Program to serve others humbly in love and does not charge for it. The only paying clients of Coach C are the athletes of his MindWolves Life Coaching system. You can be a student of Re-Mind for $0 in perpetuity after you enroll. You may also cancel at any time with no obligation.

Why is The Re-Mind Program free? Coach C offers Re-Mind because God has been so kind to him. And when God gave up His only Son to save him, Coach C wanted to emulate Jesus’ humble obedience, as his eyes were opened to what servant leadership should look like. Coach C offers Re-Mind because he wants to serve God by serving others. Coach C’s heart has been transformed to love others genuinely, and he has been shaped into someone who considers others as better than himself.

How do I enroll in The Re-Mind Program? You can enroll by clicking on this link: Enroll in MindWolves Re-Mind Program.

Rising Early in Dark Days

It’s hard not to wake up to an onslaught of negative news. Sadly, it’s the norm. Traditional media and social media are ladened with hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, immorality, and impurity. These are the fruit of the Flesh. In fact, they make waking up hard to do.

Contrast that with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Now, those are things worth waking up to and rising early for.

Flesh or Spirit? The arena in which they struggle is our life. The field of battle is our mind. The Flesh (our sinful nature) attempts to lure you away from the character of God. The Spirit wants to woo you with the love of Christ. The one whom you yield your mind to will dominate your life.

This is not unlike the Native American story, The Tale of Two Wolves. There is a fight that goes on inside all of us, a terrible fight, and it’s between two wolves that battle in our minds. The Evil Wolf wants to consume us with unhealthy thoughts: anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The Good Wolf wants positive thoughts: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

The key to winning the battle is understanding your mind doesn’t care what you feed it, but it will return what you feed it. Feed anger and it will return anger. Feed love and it will return love. Therefore, if you want to live in the Spirit, feed your Good Wolf. To live in the Flesh, feed your Evil Wolf. Your mind is agnostic, however, you control the outcome. You have free will. You get to choose what you feed it.

What really matters is feeding your Good Wolf. And when something really matters, it’s easy to rise early for it. Have you ever considered what are the things you’re willing to rise early for? Early morning habits that feed your Good Wolf say a lot about your priorities.

Feed your Good Wolf by giving it the first fruits of each day’s time and attention. Learn to give your best energy to what matters most. The Evil Wolf is energized by the onslaught of each day’s negative news and distractions. Don’t allow it to gain a stronghold that compromises your focus and energy.

Our days are dark with evil. But, we can rise early each day, while it is still dark, and win the spiritual battle over our minds. Your Good Wolf, with the Spirit as its helper, will beat your Evil Wolf and the Flesh … all day, every day.

The Hunter, the Farmer, and the Camper

There once was a Hunter, Farmer, and Camper lost deep in the woods. To survive, they had to rely on each other.

The Hunter said, “I’ll venture out at dawn every day so that we have protein to eat. Whatever I kill, we’ll share. I am gifted with a keen eye and fearless determination and that is the best way for me to help us. I’ll commit to bringing back something every day, no matter how long it takes. I’ll find a way.”

The Farmer said, “I’ll also wake up at dawn every day and tend to the land. I’ll find and nurture a suitable plot that can grow fruits and vegetables. I have an intuition for what can grow and a caring touch. It’s the least I could do to serve us. I’ll commit to producing something safe and nourishing for us to eat. I’ll also clean and prepare the animals the Hunter brings back for us.”

The Camper said, “I’ll prepare and keep a site for us to cook, eat, and sleep. However, I’ll only do this between the hours of 8 am to 5 pm. Outside of that window, I’m going to chill, relax, and do what I feel like doing. Who knows how much longer we have to live, right? So I’m going to enjoy what time I have left.”

All three did what they said they would do. However, only the Hunter and Farmer used their gifts, time, and energy wisely. They each had specific morning and evening rituals to clear and calm their minds and spend time with God. They prayed for strength, guidance, and help to do what they needed to do. They prayed that God’s will be done and worked as though they were working for Him. The Hunter’s love for the Farmer and Camper motivated him to do the best he could to serve them. The Farmer’s love for the Hunter and Camper also motivated him to serve.

The Camper, on the other hand, had a different mindset. He only did the bare minimum he had to do, often sleeping in and starting his day late. He also took many breaks throughout the day. He worked as though he did not care about the campsite or the group. He complained often and did what he had to do begrudgingly. He could not wait for 5 pm to roll around, and usually quit working early. As he did each task, he “checked the box.”

The Camper also liked to gossip. When the Hunter was away, he would express to the Farmer that the Hunter was greedy and ego-driven. When the Farmer was out harvesting, he would tell the Hunter the Farmer was skimming some crops for himself. Everything the Camper said seemed to undermine the trust between the Hunter and Farmer.

But, because the Hunter and Farmer were secure in their relationship with God, they did not let the Camper influence them. They trusted God and each other and kept their focus on the meaningful work they were called to do. They did nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, they valued the others above themselves. They were kind, gentle, patient, and forgiving to the Camper and continued to serve him humbly in love.

Who are you? The Hunter, the Farmer, or the Camper?

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 11 – Ron Graziani

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 and Neighborly Love, interviews ordinary people about their heart for God and serving other people for the greater good.

Episode 11 – Ron Graziani

Marc interviews Ron Graziani, Senior Vice President and Manager of Property & Casualty at First National Insurance. Ron 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? Ron tells a story about helping Christian, a recent Penn State University graduate, shares his soft-spot for mentoring inner-city youth which was born out of his childhood on the drug-infested streets of Pittsburgh, and expresses his dream of ending voter apathy and the senselessness of racism.

Neighborly Love, Episode 11 – Ron Graziani (7-30-21)

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