Neighborly Love, Launched!

This book reveals the secret thread that forges friendship despite enormous differences in class, temperament, culture, race, sensibility, and personal history. Friendship that is about something. An underlying commonality that builds the most powerful, cohesive team. Our commitment to express neighborly love is only possible AFTER we love God first with all our heart and mind. 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. It’s that simple.

Neighborly Love now available at Amazon

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 7 – Matt Turk

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 7 – Matt Turk

Marc interviews Matt Turk, Sr. Vice President and Regional Executive at First National Insurance. Matt 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 and issue?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Matt describes how he taught his daughters what “pay it forward” means and reveals his heart for the youth in small town America. Matt’s a Christian crusader serving God, family, and community.

Neighborly Love, Episode 7 – Matt Turk (3-19-21)

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Net Worth

Any student of finance can describe the concept of net worth. Net worth is a measure of wealth. Net worth is the sum of all assets owned by a person, minus any obligations or liabilities. It’s an attempt to assign value to your life, and we often fall into the trap of believing that our worth is tied to our net worth.

That’s a lie. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Your worth is intrinsically linked to your spiritual identity. That is the single-thread that weaves your life together and has extrinsic value to the greater good of the world.

You are uniquely designed vessel for the Holy Spirit in this world, and you are given spiritual gifts to use with others to “fight the good fight” against evil forces at work. By fighting for what the Spirit wants you to fight for, you will be successful professionally and personally. When the Spirit gets the glory, He enables His work to be done through you.

Your worth is a function of your stewardship of those spiritual gifts. God’s desire for you and me is to know and use His loving Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Success is the progressive realization of that worthy ideal. Your worth grows as you progressively mature by using your talents as God has apportioned them to you. Everyone is designed differently, so don’t be consumed with envy and jealousy for what someone else has, but you don’t. Simply be grateful for what you’ve been given, no matter what you’ve been given. The human race is designed to be a cohesive team, with the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Dysfunction and discord ensues when we are selfish.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Laws of Nature that should be followed for the common good; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same Nature’s God who empowers them in everyone. We are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable gifts to pursue life, liberty and happiness.

That pursuit is a process whereby we must coexist with other humans who are also empowered by the same Spirit, who apportions gifts to each of us as He wills. To maximize our individual worth, the challenge is to progressively transform and align our will with His will, while resisting temptations to derail our progress along the way. There is an ultimate societal benefit to maximizing our individual worth in this manner. That is, we become the cohesive team we were meant to be.

A World Without Forgiveness

Did you ever pause to think about a world without forgiveness? To forgive is stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw or mistake. Such bitterness fuels improper motives, hurtful results and inequity in society. To live unforgivingly is to live unlovingly, for love and anger cannot coexist in a human heart. The only way to purge the anger is to forgive. Therefore, the only way to genuinely love people is to forgive, because no human is without the capacity to mentally, emotionally or physically hurt another human being. We all have both good and evil tendencies within us.

Any religion that does not promote love, forgiveness and redemption from sin is bad for the world, yet many exist. In this context, I’m using the word religion to mean a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance. It includes religions that believe in and worship a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. But it also includes secular religions that claim the moral superiority of one group of people over another. Each religion attempts to answer three fundamental questions for the individual?

  1. Who am I?
  2. Why am I here?
  3. Why is there evil in the world?

Every human has an innate desire for identity and purpose, however it’s the last question that speaks to the capacity to forgive. Even if we can understand why bad things happen, it still hurts. Bad things cause pain. Evil causes and thrives on discord.

Any religion that does not offer atonement for sin in perpetuity does not serve diversity, equity or inclusion. It doesn’t offer hope or redemption from sin. It seeks to divide and pit one group against the other. It believes not all people are created equal and some groups deserve to be discriminated against because of their color and gender.

The only world worth living in is the one that teaches and promotes forgiveness of sin for all people. Forgiveness is the key to unlock the door to the natural rights available to any soul, heart and mind. It is empowers the pursuit of a meaningful purpose and true happiness. It enables a life worthy of the calling we’ve received. The call is to love God and the people around us while we live the most authentic version of ourselves, while forgiving those same people as we do.

One Thing in Common

All humans have something in common. We have a deep, inconsolable longing to feel hope, joy, meaning and love. No matter where you were born, where you are now, or where you’re going, we all share this yearning. Why is this?

It’s because are all created equal and are endowed by our Creator with “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” All humans are entitled to these rights because they come from the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, September 17, 1787

No matter one’s gender, race, color or creed, we all have secret allies in our hearts that know this. That does not mean we all admit it, recognize it to the same degree, or explain it the same way, but it is all part of the universal human experience. God has implanted such longing in the hearts of every person.

This motivates me to step into the awkwardness of healthy conversations in a kind, gentle, compassionate and loving way with others. It inspires me to ask empathetic questions, listen carefully and pray for the Holly Spirit to help me identify allies in each conversation. These secret allies are deep-seated intuitions and longings that can help a person recognize the truth. I can engage these allies in pursuit of that person’s ultimate joy.

This also compels me to overcome the fear that the “ground is not level” when it feels like I occupy the less defendable ground because the other person is likely to judge my beliefs as foolish or weak. In truth, the ground is not level, but not in the way I might fear.

I often have the advantage because I have the unseen allies residing in the heart of the other person on my side. If I listen carefully and prayerfully to what they are saying, then the Holy Spirit will show me how to use those allies. I simply need to care more about the other person than protecting my reputation or demonstrating how right I am. I need to prioritize our likenesses over our differences.

We all have this one thing in common. Let’s kindly, gently, compassionately and lovingly step into the awkwardness.

A Teacher at Heart

According to the Myers-Briggs assessment, I have an ENFJ personality. If you’re unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs, it is an introspective self-report questionnaire indicating differing psychological preferences in how you perceive the world and make decisions. The test attempts to assign four categories: introversion or extraversion (I or E), sensing or intuition (S or N), thinking or feeling (T or F), judging or perceiving (J or P). You can read more about it and take a free version of the test here.

ENFJ’s are teachers at heart. We are the benevolent pedagogues of humanity. According to the Myers-Briggs type, we possess the following personality:

  • We have tremendous charisma by which many are drawn into our nurturant tutelage.
  • We have tremendous power to manipulate others with our phenomenal interpersonal skills and unique salesmanship, but it’s usually not meant as manipulation because we generally believe in our dreams, and see ourselves as helpers and enablers, which we usually are.
  • We are global learners and see the big picture. Many of us have tremendous entrepreneurial ability.
  • We are organized in the arena of interpersonal affairs. Our offices may or may not be cluttered (mine is cluttered, yet orderly).
  • We know and appreciate people.

I offer this insight to raise awareness about the importance of knowing yourself. How you’re made. How your wired. With increased self-awareness, you can start to understand why you’re here and build habits that allow you to experience passion and purpose. Such purpose ultimately yields clarity of calling, i.e. how you deliver your purpose to the world.

Understanding that I have the personality of teacher, enables and empowers me to focus on that gift in all that I do. Good teaching requires kindness, gentleness and patience. Being able to teach indicates an inward, temperamental aspect to compliment the external effectiveness with others. And being entrusted with such ability means being a good steward of the talent on loan from God.

It’s one thing to be a teacher in practice and another to be a teacher at heart. Good teachers see possibilities in people. They are hopeful that others can learn and grow. They don’t assume people are what they are and will never change. Rather, good teachers want to influence, to shape, to guide. They want to inform, present facts and provide motivation. They want to teach and through words change people, not simply judge them for where they are.

Good teachers are called to a kind of patience that is forgiving, a type of forgiveness that hears someone say or do something wrong and doesn’t give up on them. Rather, we take a deep breath pray for patience, and begin the hard work of teaching. We make our case and without being patronizing, we teach. We just keep teaching and teaching and teaching.

For those of us with teaching personality-types, let’s cultivate the heart and approach of a good teacher. Let’s give the space and provide the gracious teaching that forgiveness makes possible. Let’s hope for change, and pray for change, and under God, let’s seek to change people through careful patient, teaching.

Jesus Christ is the single greatest teacher the world has ever known, and it’s no accident. God gave Jesus his heart and his Spirit to teach because God loves to teach.

God is a teacher at heart.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 6 – Marty Muchnok

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 6 – Marty Muchnok

Marc interviews Marty Muchnok, President of First National Insurance Agency. Marty 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 and issue?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Marty describes how he proactively planned for helping homeless people on the streets of Pittsburgh, how he hopes to minister to others in retirement and how he has a dream goal that is a work in progress.

Neighborly Love, Episode 6 – Marty Muchnok (2-19-21)

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Co-Laboring

Men have their choice in this world. They can be angels, or they can be demons. In the apocalyptic vision, John describes a war in heaven. You have only to strip that vision of its gorgeous Oriental drapery, divest it of its shining and celestial ornaments, clothe it in the simple and familiar language of common sense, and you will have before you the eternal conflict between right and wrong, good and evil, liberty and slavery, truth and falsehood, the glorious light of love, and the appalling darkness of human selfishness and sin. The human heart is a seat of constant war. … Just what takes place in individual hearts, often takes place between nations, and between individuals of the same nation. Such is the struggle going on in the United States. The slaveholders had rather reign in hell than serve in heaven.

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879 (National Archives Gift Collection)

Frederick Douglass delivered that message in a speech at Zion Church in Rochester, New York on June 16, 1861. He also published it in Douglass’ Monthly in July 1861. Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, be they white, black, female, Native American, or immigrants. He also believed the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, American’s founding documents, provided the proper framework for the establishment of the liberty and justice of the slaves in the country at the time.

Both Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln were on the right side of history. And like Lincoln, Douglass was a member of the Republican (big “R”) party and championed the participation of all people in republican (small “r”) self-government. Douglass wanted all slaves to be free and to be treated like everyone else. He did not want free blacks to be treated differently, but rather wanted whites to just get out of the way. In What the Black Man Wants in 1865 he wrote, “What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. … Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us!

Douglass continues, “I am for the ‘immediate, unconditional, and universal’ enfranchisement of the black man, in every State in the Union. Without this, his liberty is a mockery; without this, you might as well almost retain the old name of slavery for his condition; for, in fact, if he is not the slave of the individual master, he is the slave of society, and holds his liberty as a privilege, not as a right. He is at the mercy of the mob, and has not means of protecting himself.” I can’t help but to reflect on the statement, “… He is the slave of society, and holds his liberty as a privilege, not as a right.

Slave owners were tyrants. In fact, all slave masters are tyrants. Always were and always will be. This holds true for the “slave masters of society” who seek to place themselves above the law. Douglass said it best, “The tyrant wants no law above his own will, no associates but men of his own stamp of baseness. He is willing to administer the laws where he can bend them to his will, but he will break them when he can no longer bend them. … Where labor is performed under the lash, justice will be administered under the bowie knife. The south is in this respect just what slavery has made her. She has been breeding thieves, rebels and traitors, and this stupendous conflict is a result.

Does this remind you of anything today? I can’t help but to think about our political oligarchy. Our political class acts like and feels like a modern day aristocracy, modern day tyrants. What Frederick Douglass said about black slave owners in 1861, could be said today of them. “Just what takes place in individual hearts, often takes place between nations, and between individuals of the same nation. Such is the struggle going on in the United States. The slaveholders had rather reign in hell than serve in heaven.

What does he mean by “serve in heaven.” Let’s unpack that.

It means to humble yourself before God and allow Him to work in and through you. Then you will begin to bear the very fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. Fredrick Douglass allowed that to happen, as did Abraham Lincoln. Many people in American history fighting the good fight “between right and wrong, good and evil, liberty and slavery, truth and falsehood, the glorious light of love, and the appalling darkness of human selfishness and sin” allowed this to happen. It is only by co-laboring with the Holy Spirit that ordinary people accomplish good and extraordinary things on earth and learn what its like to “serve in heaven.”

In 1865, President Lincoln concluded his Second Inaugural Address with these words, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God give us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Amen President Lincoln. Amen Mr. Douglass. I pray we learn from your example of co-laboring with the Holy Spirit to attempt to draw America back to increased fidelity to it’s founding principles. For we must be reconciled one to another on the basis of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” That is the basis of “a new birth of freedom.”

PS: Happy Birthday to Frederick Douglass. He was born on February 14, 1818.

Game On

The following are statements from two influential people in American history. Try to guess who they are and when they said them.

Statement #1:

“An informed patriotism is what we want. Are we doing a good job of teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly what it means to be American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family, you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that American was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-sixties.

But now, … some things have changed. Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of American is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer in style. … We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.

So, we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important – why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. You know, four years ago on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, I read a letter from a young woman writing to her late father, who’d fought on Omaha Beach. … She said, ‘we will always remember, we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did.‘ Well, let’s help her keep her word. If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.”

Statement #2

“Fame is a four letter word. And like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it. I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job (is), we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen, day and night. The conductor of the orchestra at The Hollywood Bowl, grew up in a family who had little interest in music, but he often tells people he found his early inspiration from the fine musicians on television.

Last month, a 13-year old boy abducted an 8-year old girl. And when people ask him why, he said he ‘learned about it on TV. Something different to try. … Life’s cheap. What does it matter?‘ Well life isn’t cheap. It’s the greatest mystery of any millennium. And television needs to do all it can to broadcast that. To show and tell what the good in life is all about.

But how do we make goodness attractive? By doing whatever we can to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own. By treating our neighbor, at least as well as we treat ourselves. And allowing that to inform everything that we produce.

Who in your life has been such a servant to you? Who has helped you love the good that grows within you? Let’s just take 10 seconds to think of some of those people who have loved us and wanted what was best for us in life. Those of us who have encouraged us to become who we are tonight. Just 10 seconds of silence. I’ll watch the time. (10 second pause)

No matter where they are, either here or in Heaven, imagine how pleased those people must be to know that you thought of them right now. We all have only one life to live on Earth, and through television, we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways.”

Old Glory

Statement #1 was said by Ronald Regan toward the end of his Farewell Address as President in January 1989. Statement #2 was said by Mister Rogers during his acceptance speech at his Television Academy Hall of Fame induction in 1999. Fast forward to 2021. Why does it feel like we didn’t heed their wisdom?

Both Ronald Regan and Fred Rogers were humble servant-leaders and key influencers in politics, education, business, media and arts & entertainment. They wielded their influence in a kind, gentle and attractive manner with different audiences. They were able to integrate their interests and aptitudes into a coherent whole that gave a special power to their lives and influence. They were careful not to use that influence carelessly. They did not often endorse viewpoints or tell others how to live. Instead they led—as the best leaders do—through example.

I pray that new leaders emerge with the same spirit, grit and influence as Ronald Regan and Fred Rogers. Make no mistake. We are in a war for the heart and soul of America. It is a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of our good people. At risk is what Ronald Regan so eloquently warned, an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.

That is what is at stake in the fight we are in. We can see today the totalitarian impulse among powerful forces in our politics and culture. We can see it in the rise and imposition of doublethink, and we can see it in the increasing attempts to rewrite our American history.

President Regan, Mister Rogers, I’m sorry I’m a little late to the game, but I am ready to fight the good fight, just as you did, in a humble, gentle, neighborly, servant-minded manner. I’m suited up, have my helmet on and chin strap tight.

Game on.

Leadership: The Chicken or The Dog?

Honey the Frenchie of BlueCairo Frenchies

Leadership is essentially the stewarding of influence, and a leader must account for the use of the influence that their leadership position offers them. A leader must aim to build a relationship with their team that transcends performance metrics. They must aim to inspire, train, mentor and be a blessing to their team.

To illustrate that point, let’s use an analogy of two completely different mindsets: (1) a poultry breeder and (2) a dog breeder. Poultry is bred strictly for its ability to lay eggs or provide protein. Dogs, on the other hand, are bred for their friendship and help. While the dog is treated like a member of the family, chickens usually end up in a pot. Team leadership can be approached with similar mindsets. One leader may treat their team as cogs of production and another may view them as humans and friends.

By Stephen Ausmus, USDA ARS – This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, with the ID D004-1 (next)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3823953

Leaders who are humbly aware and acknowledge that they are temporary stewards of their influence, are like a nightlight in a dark room. Their light shines in the darkness, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, as though the darkness cannot overpower it.

Reflect on that for a moment. The. Light. Shines. On.

In reality, none of us really own anything. Our life, our talent, our gifts, our leadership is on loan from God. We are merely lessees. God is the lessor. We are stewards of everything we have been given.

We can choose to be nightlights in a very dark world. Or we can choose to snuff the light out. Both options are available to us. It’s very similar to the choice we have to treat and lead people.

Chickens or dogs? Cogs or friends?

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