Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 25 – Dave Foster

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.

Dave Foster

Marc interviews Dave Foster, ex-Pastor turned Counterterrorism Specialist at the U.S. Department of Justice. Dave 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? Dave tells a story about helping a young man cope with an extortion attempt from someone with access to compromising photos of the young man, describes his love for creating and building healthy spaces for others who can’t afford it, and articulates a dream that blends his passion for mission work for neighbors with his love for teaching. Dave’s vision is to build and maintain communities that are rich and inviting, but also have standards and boundaries that are so important to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Neighborly Love, Episode 25 – Dave Foster (9-28-22)

Never miss an episode

Subscribe wherever you enjoy podcasts:

Diversity, Dignity, and Inclusion

We celebrated our daughter’s 15th birthday yesterday. Jarah is such a blessing. She displays an innate quality that is much needed today, dignity. Dignity is the state or quality of being worthy of honor and respect. Jarah treats everyone with dignity. Her name is a gender-neutral name of Arabic origin that means boldness, bravery. She loves that about her name. Dignity + Boldness + Bravery = Jarah.

Jarah Hanna’s 15th Birthday Cake

Her middle name is taken from my mother’s maiden name, Hanna. Our family is of Syrian descent and my maternal grandfather, Makeul (Essey) Hanna, immigrated to the U.S. from Damascus, Syria via at Ellis Island on September 20, 1920, at the age of 22. I was only two months old when he died and I regret never having the opportunity to speak with him. My mom tells stories about my jiddu (Syrian for grandfather) that affirm the type of man he was. After settling in Donora, PA, he became a washing machine repair man and opened up a Maytag store on Main Street. He was a hard worker and no work was beneath him. He would go out of his way to help people and make them feel valued, honored, and respected. It seems like Jarah takes after her great jiddu.

Dignity is what’s missing in today’s conversation about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. If we talk about the dignity of every human being, then racism is clearly evil. It’s clearly a sin. I thought we knew this and it didn’t have to be said. I was wrong.

It has to be said because every person you and I have ever met is made in God’s image and likeness, whether they’re a good person or a bad person. Because everyone is made in God’s image and likeness, I don’t need the details of someone’s life to know that they’re worth loving and that they deserve dignity.

To quote C.S. Lewis, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

In other words, any person you meet, no matter old or young, no matter what sex they are, no matter what race they are, ethnicity, socioeconomic class … we conduct all of our dealings with one another like this … every friendship, every love, every play, every politics … there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. It is with immortals that we joke. It is with immortals that we work. It is an immortal person that you marry, or that you snub, or that you exploit, or we just pass by and don’t treat like they are made in God’s image and likeness. Or, it is an immortal person that we just simply allow to be exploited or treated in a way that violates who they truly are.

This begs the question … how do we heal racial divides?

If I’m made in God’s image and likeness then that shapes the way I see myself and changes the way I see other people because they are made in His image and likeness too. I don’t need to know the details of their lives to know they are worth loving and deserve dignity.

I didn’t enslave someone, but if I can help them out of slavery, then that’s my duty. I didn’t do anything to oppress anyone, but if I see someone oppressed, then I need to do something about it. Why? Because that’s my job. I’m made in God’s image and likeness and they’re made in God’s image and likeness.

If I see injustice (sin), then I may not be the cause of their injustice (sin), but if I can do something about it, then I have to because I’m made in God’s image and likeness and I have to love even if it’s not my fault. This imperative applies to people of all color, class, or culture.

Would it be a bad idea to incorporate the word Dignity into our conversation?

Opposite George

One of my favorite episodes of “Seinfeld” is The Opposite (S5:E22 – May 19, 1994). In the episode, George Costanza decides to turn his life around by doing the exact opposite of what he would usually do.

George: Every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everthing I want it to be. Every instinct I have in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat, it’s all been wrong.

Jerry: If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

George: Yes, I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing and regret it for the rest of the day. So now I will do the opposite, and I will do something.

“Seinfeld”, The Opposite, S5:E22, May 19, 1994

What would happen if we could all do the opposite of our initial instincts? What if we could view situations that we are placed in as opportunities to grow in character qualities that are virtuous? What if we had the awareness and self-control to say what we ought to say, not what we want to say? Like Opposite George, I believe we all could live a life of true joy, purpose, and harmony with others if we commit to it.

We’ve all spent a lot of time trying to determine what we want to do in life. For my brothers and sisters who believe there is a God, trust me when I say that He is far more interested in who you are than what you do. You’re not taking your career to heaven. You’re taking your character.

And He has given us the Role Model to follow and strive to be like. He calls those character qualities to which we should aspire the Fruit of the Spirit. He defines them as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

So how does God produce this kind of fruit in your life? He puts you in situations that are opposite of the fruit He’s growing in you.

  • It’s easy to love people who are lovely. He will teach you how to love by putting you around unlovely people.
  • During periods of grief, you’ll learn joy.
  • When someone is instigating a fight, you’ll learn peace.
  • When you’re patience is tested, you’ll learn how to be patient.
  • When someone mistreats you, you’ll learn to reciprocate with kindness.
  • When you’re tempted to do something bad, He’ll give you a way out to do good.
  • He’ll place delicate things in your life to learn gentleness.
  • He allows you to experience hardship and pain to learn faithfulness.
  • When people verbally attack you, you will learn self-control and never attack in return.

God wants to build your character to reflect His character. You may want the process to be quick and easy, but nothing worthwhile is. God works the opposite way, slow and sometimes difficult. However, over a lifetime, it will build strong character in you.

Here’s to getting a “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” the opposite way.

One Pack. Your Story.

In a wolf pack, there is an underlying premise by which members of the pack operate. Nothing in life is free and nothing is free of consequences. Wolves believe that everything must be earned and are social beings with an extraordinary ability to compromise, win, lose, and still get the best out of every situation.

A pack is established when individual wolves need each other and thereby support each other in the performance of vital daily functions. Some of these functions are migrating, hunting, and caring for puppies. They learn familiarity with each other through daily routines and they also create exclusive rituals specific to their pack. These routines and rituals are very important in maintaining stability and relationships in the pack.

Does any of this sound dissimilar to the way human organizations function? Healthy families, teams, businesses, and organizations of all types operate as a pack. Each member has a unique identity, purpose, and role, and is accountable to the other members.

However, what makes humans distinct from wolves? Is there anything that makes us different? There are two things.

  1. Humans are made in the image of our Creator, which is different from anything else He made. The Declaration of Independence of the United States acknowledges, “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.
  2. Like wolves and all animals, humans were formed by God’s words, but we also had another ingredient, His breath of life, the Holy Spirit. He took extra care in creating us and gave us unique responsibilities in caring for the rest of creation, including each other. The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States declares, “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.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, the PA State Capitol building is filled with evidence of history and heritage rooted in humble recognition of human creation. I am grateful for William Penn’s own vision and statement of establishing a Holy Experiment upon which Pennsylvania and the United States of America are founded.

I kindly offer this as a reminder to my brothers and sisters who compete daily in life’s arenas. It’s easy to forget why we are here and what really matters. We need reminders to bring life back to what’s important.

Too often we become distracted by “shiny objects” and other temptations that cause problems for ourselves and others. The root causes of many of these distractions are pride, ego, or envy. That was not part of our original design, however, we’ve been allowing ourselves to become distracted since the original temptation. Such distractions cause discord in our human pack and distortion in the clarity of our calling on earth, which is found in serving other members of the pack.

Therefore, it’s on my heart to share a daily operating framework that will allow us to live within the power of the Holy Spirit, a framework that respects we are all part of one pack, yet have a unique story to write.

  • Those members of the pack that seem to be weaker and less honorable, we treat as indispensable and with special honor.
  • Those members of the pack that are unpresentable, we treat with special modesty.
  • Presentable members of the pack need no special treatment.
  • God has put the pack together, giving greater honor to the members that lack it, so that there should be no division in the pack.
  • All members of the pack should have equal concern for each other.
  • If one member of the pack suffers, every member suffers with it; if one member is honored, every member rejoices with it.

There are simple daily habits that can be formed to learn how to live this way. They are simple, but not easy. They are hard, but worth it.

Nothing in life is free and nothing is free of consequences. Wolves believe that everything must be earned and are social beings with an extraordinary ability to compromise, win, lose, and still get the best out of every situation.

If wolves can do it, so can humans.

Life’s Arenas

Athletes train to compete in their sport. Usually, this is a complement of physical and mental activities and routines that prepare their bodies and minds to give themselves the best possible chance at success. For those of us who were or are athletes, have we ported those habits to daily life? Do we prepare for our engagement in life’s arenas with the same zeal as the athletic venues in which we competed? Are we mentally and physically fit to achieve success at home, at work, or in the communities in which we live?

If the answers to these questions are all “no,” then I kindly submit to you that changes are needed to convert the answers to all “yes.” To live a joyful and meaningful life, you must prepare to compete in life’s arenas and bring life back to what’s important. Otherwise, you will conform to what the world wants you to be, and the forces in the world don’t have your best interests at heart. Those forces seek to distract you from your true purpose, i.e. why you’re here and what you’re called to do.

WARNING … the type of preparation I’m suggesting does not result in glory for yourself. Yes, you have a responsibility to train and compete and that burden rests squarely upon you. However, the moment of triumph is no doing of yours. We are not great. Everything we earn and have is a gift from God. Therefore, we ought to receive it and be thankful. This is the humility that keeps us grounded. It keeps our backs from being broken by the weight of our glorified egos.

Certainly, many reject this notion. That’s ok. It’s not for everyone. But to those who humbly accept it, we are liberated to be peacemakers in life’s arenas. As we compete, we do so by operating with these four principles in mind:

  1. Never rely on yourself in anything.
  2. Bear always in your heart a perfect and all-daring trust in God alone.
  3. Strive without ceasing.
  4. Remain constantly in prayer.

Here are the practical applications of these principles in daily life:

  1. No matter how well-intentioned we are, we have blind spots about others. Therefore, we will unintentionally hurt people in situations and graciously welcome feedback and seek forgiveness.
  2. We know we all stand in need of repentance and rely on God to help us grow in humility, non-covetousness, freedom from anger, and self-control.
  3. We persist in striving for our whole lives, knowing that the work of relational healing is ongoing.
  4. We pray for this without despair or giving up hope.

Serious athletes don’t complain about being tired because getting tired is a necessary component of a well-fought game, which has ebbs and flows. Life is the same way. There will be moments of distress and discord along with comfort and harmony. It’s up to each of us to decide to prepare for all moments we will encounter in life’s arenas so that we may maintain proper perspective and serve as peacemakers.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 24 – Andrew Chiapusio

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.

Andrew Chiapusio

Marc interviews Andrew Chiapusio, Vice President, Private Banking Group at F.N.B. Corporation. Andrew 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? Andrew tells about volunteering with United Way to pack school supplies for children in need, shares his passion for helping others with their personal finances, and reveals his dream for helping the less fortunate in society.

Neighborly Love, Episode 24 -Andrew Chiapusio (8-31-22)

Never miss an episode

Subscribe wherever you enjoy podcasts:

Do You Have This Superpower?

How do you find your legs each day? Whether in business, in the home, or in the community, how do you get your bearings before you start feeling the day’s tug? Where do you find the stability you need to live well for the long haul, including today?

Do you give your first and best moments to feeding your mind on the word of God? Do you let his voice be the first you hear? I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about a relationship with our supernatural Creator, with whom if it’s developed nurtures a superpower in you.

When humans design something, it’s designed for a purpose. It’s designed to perform an action or excel in a specific area. If you want to pound in a nail, then that’s the purpose of a hammer. If you want to screw in a screw, then your best choice is a screwdriver.

It’s the same for people. God has designed each person to be different from all the others. When you expect everyone to fit into the same mold, the result is frustration, discord, discouragement, mediocrity, and failure. You were created to be you. You have unique abilities to be used the way they were intended. These are your superpowers, and the only way to discover them is in a relationship with our Designer.

Through your superpowers, God has equipped you to do His will. As you use them, you will start to see how He produces every good thing in your life. That does not mean everything that happens to you will be good. Humans are flawed creatures. Humans hurt each other every day. However, God has promised to make good from all the bad stuff that happens to us, as long as we love Him and are called to the purpose He gave us. That promise can be found in Romans 8:28.

God has called us to a service far beyond anything we can imagine, and that service involves serving other people. In fact, when you serve others in any way, you are actually serving God. Having a servant spirit is a byproduct of finding your legs each day by giving your first and best moments to feeding your mind on the word of God.

Another byproduct is a calm, confident, patient energy that fuels a relentless pursuit of excellence in every trial. No matter what happens, you always remember the Romans 8:28 promise. You’ll live each day joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.

It’s never too late to learn the art of service or to recognize that God’s plan is perfect. It’s never too late to develop your superpowers. Moreover, it’s never too late to help someone else discover these things.

Bringing It Back to What’s Important

This week Hillsdale College granted me early access to a new free online course they are offering, “Supply-Side Economics and American Prosperity with Arthur Laffer.” I am a member of their Liberty & Learning Society, and the offer was extended to me by them in gratitude for my partnership in supporting Hillsdale’s educational mission to create an informed citizenry.

This morning they asked me to extend the offer to my friends and family, i.e. my “neighbors.” Dear neighbor, won’t you join me in taking the course? The word college comes from the Latin word collegium, which means partnership. Knowledge is best pursued in a community of learners, and the joys of learning are greater when shared with a friend. You may accept this invitation to enroll by clicking here. Together, we will learn fundamental questions about taxation, regulation, money, government spending, and trade. We will learn how Americans can restore economic freedom and prosperity.

Starting this course coincided with training a few MindWolves athletes this week. While seemingly disparate things, they are actually quite relatable. Economic freedom and prosperity are intrinsically linked to personal freedom and prosperity and both are beautifully expressed in America’s Declaration of Independence.

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.

Opening of the second paragraph of The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

To endow is to provide with a quality, ability, or asset. In other words, we are all created by God with unique qualities, abilities, and talents. We are to use these gifts to live a purposeful and meaningful life. These rights are entitlements that can not be taken away from us. Recognition of these facts is the basis of economic and personal freedom. Moreover, to secure these rights, governments are instituted by humans, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, their fellow humans.

The intersection of taking this Hillsdale course and training MindWolves athletes was an affirming revelation for me. It affirms my purpose and calling to teach and counsel those that love God and America. It confirms the audience I seek to serve:

  • People who attend formal worship services at a church or synagogue (corporate worship)
  • People who invest personal study, prayer, and time with God (personal worship)
  • People who make their living in corporate America and want something to bring it back to what’s important.

If that is you, then I welcome a connection or conversation. Either simply connect with me on LinkedIn or kindly schedule some time to huddle up with me.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I am grateful for you,

The One Thing

My Myers-Briggs personality type is INFJ, which is labeled as “the counselor.” For those Star Wars fans, that means I have the same personality as Obi-Wan Kenobi. For years, I thought I was an ENFJ (“the teacher”), but as I became more vulnerable, I realized that I am often mistaken for an extrovert because I appear so outgoing and am so genuinely interested in people. On the contrary, I am a true introvert, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among my long-term friends, family, or obvious “soul mates.” This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for me, providing both the time to rebuild my depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which I am so susceptible as an inherent “giver.” It is perhaps the most confusing aspect of my character to others, and hence often misunderstood, particularly by those who have little experience with this rare type of personality.

I share this with you in the spirit of vulnerability. Over the past 5 years, my comfort level with being vulnerable has exponentially grown, and it has been very helpful in building relationships and teams, as vulnerability-based trust is the foundation for each. How does one become comfortable with vulnerability?

There is one thing we all can do, the one thing over which we have control. Frankly, it’s really the only thing that matters and everything else flows from it. It’s very hard to do, however it’s very worth doing. To do it, we must examine the state of our heart.

Humans are designed for relationships with one another. However, we all bring baggage, emotional scars, and difficult experiences to the table that hinder healthy relationship forming. This friction makes it hard to learn how to love each other in a healthy way. There is not a lot we can do about the state of someone else’s heart, but we can take responsibility for our own. Where do we begin?

If we genuinely want to improve our relationships, we must be willing to face the truth about our inner life and own what’s ours to address. That requires being vulnerable and honest with ourselves first. We need someone with whom we can trust and open up. We need to form a habit of spending time with them. We need to start each and every day with a routine of transforming the state of our heart. That someone is God, and that routine is answering these questions before you do anything else.

In a quiet, comfortable space and in a calm, peaceful state of mind, pray this prayer: “Search me, God, and know my heart; put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.

Questions to reflect upon and answer:

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • What do I look forward to today and/or what am I excited about?
  • How can I move 1% forward today with something purposeful?
  • Who will I go out of my way to thank and serve today?

This simple routine takes only 5-15 minutes each day and over time will transform your mind and heart. It’s the one thing we all can do to learn how to love ourselves and each other in a healthy way.

“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.

%d bloggers like this: