Forgive. Learn. Labor.

I have learned three keys to staying young and free for as long as I live. They are not rocket science, however they are hard to truly understand.

First, keep forgiving. The only person that unforgiveness hurts is you. Sure, it’s difficult to let go of resentment towards someone who has hurt you, however unforgiveness causes stress and unhappiness that eventually creeps into relationships with other people. When you chose to forgive, you find freedom. If you have bitterness in your heart, then here’s what to do:

  • Assume responsibility for your unforgiving spirit. The other person is responsible for your pain, but you are responsible for harboring bitterness.
  • Confess honestly. It’s ok to admit you’re bitter. It’s ok to want justice. But an unforgiving spirit will return unless you can let go of your anger.
  • Pray for the perpetrator. Ask God to release you from the prison of bitterness. This is the best way to break the hold it has on you.
  • Express gratitude that you have, indeed, forgiven. Such an attitude of gratitude helps to resist the temptation to rehash the past.

Second, keep learning. Treat every opportunity to forgive as an opportunity to learn and grow. In fact, there is no growth without tension. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is a natural law so use it to your advantage. Learning is the perpetual process of planting seeds that will germinate and bear fruit. Never stop planting seeds. The day you stop planting is the day you stop learning.

Lastly, keep laboring. Even when you choose to retire from your career, you should never stop working. This is why I’m a big fan of treating a career as a ministry, which means serving others in God’s name. This is why I’m a life coach. Whatever your age, look for opportunities to serve others. Understand your purpose, seek clarity for your calling, identify a big dream and transform your career into a ministry. You’ll stay young at heart for all of your days.

If you can truly understand these concepts, then you’ll have a new lease on life. You’ll understand that freedom is an opportunity to serve one another through love. This is what it means to be a neighbor. This kind of love means surrendering our selfish motives, but that doesn’t mean we lose freedom. In fact, the opposite is true. We’re liberated to do exactly what God has called us to do.

Keep forgiving. Keep learning. Keep laboring.

143

Sadly, Joanne Rogers, the wife of Fred Rogers, the creator and host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” died on Thursday at her home in Pittsburgh. Mrs. Rogers said in a TEDx Talk in 2018, “So much a part of me was Fred. One of the things he talked about was making goodness attractive, and I think that’s something that we can try to do, and it’s quite an assignment.

Joanne Rogers with her husband, Fred, on an episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” during the 1970s. She spread his message of kindness after his death in 2003. (Credit: Photofest)

Fred Rogers considered the number “143” to be a very special number. According to The 143 Club, an organization that provides financial support to the Fred Rogers Center, he once said, “It takes one letter to say I and four letters to say love and three letters to say you. One hundred and forty-three.” In fact, he liked the number so much that he maintained the weight of 143 pounds for the last 30 years of his life.

The level of will that Mr. Rogers had, both physically and mentally, was understated. But nothing manifested his will better than the number 143. And nothing captures the spirit and strength of his character than the May 9, 1969 episode of “Mister. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” In that episode, Mr. Rogers made a statement about how ridiculous it was for white people to not want black people to swim in the same swimming pool in pools around the country. He took a stand against racial inequality when he invited Officer Clemmons, a black policeman, to join him in a small pool on a hot summer day. They both took off their shoes and socks, cuffed their pants and had a friendly conversation while wading their feet in a small plastic children’s pool.

Fifty years later, we’re still fighting racial inequality, unfortunately. The more things change, the more they stay the same. While our culture has dramatically changed, there is still a feeling of inequality. If you do a root cause analysis of why people still feel that way, I believe the answer points to their inability to embrace 143. They simply can’t universally say “I love you” to others, no matter their color, gender or ethnicity. It’s a matter of the heart. Whether a white person doesn’t want a black person in their pool, or a black “diversity, equity and inclusion” executive labels God-fearing white patriotic Americans as “white supremacist,” neither viewpoint is constructive or helps the conversation.

To truly unify our society, we need bold leaders, like Fred Rogers, to enter worldly arenas with a kind, gentle, compassionate and forgiving heart AND an indomitable spirit determined to influence minds and hearts to usher in God’s Kingdom on Earth. We need to nurture these types of “neighborhoods” of influence.

We all need to make 143 our favorite number, just like Mr. Rogers. Then it will truly be a beautiful day in our neighborhood.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 5 – Leslie Humes

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 5 – Leslie Humes

Marc interviews Leslie Humes, Team Lead and Learning Coordinator at FNB Insurance. Leslie 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? Leslie reveals her “acts of service” love language, touchingly describes how she cared for her mother-in-law, conveys her passion for gardening and dream of opening an “old-time” general store that is fed by a world-class greenhouse operation and feeds a built-in restaurant and café. For Leslie, it’s a manifestation of her ministry to serve people by sharing the secrets of gardening and planting to build deeper roots in life. She was inspired by the book, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Neighborly Love, Episode 5 – Leslie Humes (1-15-21)

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Life is a Series of Projects

My life has been a series of projects. The first project spanned 17 years, and it prepared me to enter the world as an adult. My mother and father were the “project managers,” and I am grateful for their stewardship.

The next project formally equipped me as a problem-solver and ran 5.5 years. When I exited the world of higher-education from Penn State University, I had credentials (BSME & MSME) and credibility for the arena of commerce.

Project #3 entailed engineering work in process control & automation of manufacturing systems. During that project, I was mentored and groomed as a sales & business development professional. It lasted 5 years.

For Project #4, I was fascinated with this new thing called the Internet and decided to acquire skills to help me navigate it’s emergence. To accomplish that, I helped startup an information security company, one of the first of its kind, while going for additional higher-education and another credential (MBA) at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. That project ran 7 years.

Venn diagram of Greek, Latin and Russian Cyrillic upper case graphemes

For Project #5, I reluctantly entered the world of big insurance. I say reluctantly because I did not like the industry’s stereotype. However, I took the leap of faith because of a good friend who sold me on the opportunity to transform the industry. 15 years later, the project is ongoing, however we’ve made significant progress. Little did I know my prior solutions, connections and experiences with projects #3 and #4 would intersect with #5 like a Venn diagram. Looking back, I see they actually built upon each other.

As I look forward to the rest of my life, I can’t help but to see it as a sequence of more projects. With each one, I am navigating closer to something that is very meaningful. Even when the project doesn’t work, when it’s perceived as a failure, the learning experience increases my chances for the next one to work. I simply need to be patient and persist.

When done with a generous heart and cohesive team, projects are even more fulfilling. In fact, others root for you to succeed. Here’s to the progressive realization of worthy projects based on worthy ideals. A worthy ideal is the thing you never give up pursuing regardless of how many times you fall down or fail trying.

What does your life’s project portfolio look like? Are you playing it safe and conforming to what others say you should do? Are you being selfish and greedy and too risky? Neither extreme is healthy.

A healthy, balanced, generous mindset entails being driven by good habits, passion and purpose. Your “daily bread” should be comprised of doing things and serving others that have a high success rate and produce many small positive outcomes. These are the fundamental building blocks by which successful projects are accomplished. When you see your moment to take a shot at a big positive outcome that has a low chance of success, take it. Dream big and act on faith. In fact, if you can do it on your own power, then the dream is not big enough. The Dream Project is the one you need God’s help to complete.

Planting Seeds in a Pandemic

What does a farmer do before she plants seeds? She tills the soil. Tilling is actually a form of deep cultivation that is necessary when preparing a new garden bed or when adding large amounts of organic material. Tilling will cultivate the soil 8-10 inches deep, perhaps even more if you are creating a new garden bed in an area where the soil is very poor.

Ridge Plough Photo by everythingmotoring.com

What if this pandemic is the equivalent of tilling the world’s soil? I believe it is, especially in the USA. I believe God is using it to till our soil, and He wants those of us who are faithful to plant seeds in faith. All throughout history, those believers who planted in faith received a “Well done my good and faithful servant.” They pushed through their comfort zone and did things that were viewed as contrarian to current culture.

“It was by faith Abraham obeyed God’s call to go to another place God promised to give him. He left his own country, not knowing where he was to go.” (Hebrews 11:8) What would you do? Abraham was in the last phase of his life, just about to “retire.” Then God said, “No, don’t get comfortable. Get ready for the greatest journey of your life.” When you live by faith, it involves going to places you were never planning to go.

Are you waiting for this pandemic to be over and for things to go back to “normal”? Well, I think you’ll be waiting a very long time.

Rather than wishing and waiting, embrace and plant. Embrace what’s new and different as opportunities to plant seeds in freshly tilled soil. I would encourage you to see it that way. Of course, that’s what coaches are supposed to do, encourage their athletes to push through and past their comfort zones. For those who don’t know me. I’m a coach. That’s how God made me.

A coach inspires. A coach motivates. A coach teaches. A coach pushes their students into uncomfortable territory and creates learning moments so they can grow physically, mentally, emotionally, intuitionally and spiritually.

Also, I am a coach of faith, pushing myself and my athletes into uncomfortable, worldly arenas to compete for hearts, minds and influence. My aim is to help form good habits, passion and purpose and to forge a joyful diligence, which feels like hard work (no pain), and humble desperation, which feels like you’re working for God, not yourself (no gain). Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit’s passion and purpose that fuels us.

We don’t have to be perfect in our diligence and desperation. We only have to be steadfastly resolute. The root word of steadfast is steady, and the Hebrew word for steady is a verb meaning upheld. Therefore, to be steadfastly resolute in faith is to be upheld by God, i.e. to be dependent on the upholder. To have a steady heart in an unsteady world, among unsteady people, during unsteady days, we need to know that and by whom we are upheld.

Being upheld allows one to be gracious when others are harsh and unkind. Being upheld empowers one to be merciful when others are cold and unforgiving. Being upheld emboldens one to be righteous when others indulge and rebel.

Being upheld dissolves fears and becomes a kiln for courage and boldness in an unsteady time. Being upheld enables us to faithfully plant the seeds He wants us to plant today.

Making Everyone Happy

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “You can’t make everyone happy.” Someone said that to me this week, and it triggered my reflection about their motive for making that statement. You see, it was pretty evident they were hungry for approval. Their quest to please others was really a reflection of their need for love and affirmation. Their striving to be people-pleaser came from a feeling of emptiness and a desire to be served, not to serve.

If we’re honest, everyone has a little people-pleaser in them. Some have more than others. A good question to ask in response to a people-pleasing tendency is “How concerned am I with me?

Is my striving to please, at its deepest level, a striving to please myself? Am I attempting to garner some praise, make myself look superior, put someone in my debt, or simply to be loved? Would I still freely serve the other person if I got nothing in return?

If the answers to the above questions are yes, yes and no, then we have to unlearn what we have learned. There is a way to make everyone happy, but it’s not by trying to please them for your benefit.

To unwind worldly people-pleasing, you have to shift your focus from pleasing yourself to pleasing God. God-honoring people pleasing is about glory. Ask yourself these questions instead:

  • Am I content to get out of the way?
  • Who get’s the glory?

If your answers are yes and God, then you’re on the right track to unlearning what you’ve learned. To the degree we are seeking His glory, our people-pleasing becomes faithful, beautiful and liberating. We are called by God to please everyone in everything we do, and it is possible, as long as we do what we do in God’s name and humbly give Him the credit.

This is what I mean by being content to get out of the way. My aim is to give no offense to anyone, specifically an offense that might get in the way of them knowing God. They may be offended by Him, because of what he says, who he claims to be and what he demands, but not with me. As far as I’m concerned, I will go great lengths to say what I say and do what I do so that they will be pleased with me. I will be kind, calm, grateful, gentle, joyful, patient, respectful, caring and loving. In my experience, that is the only way to make everyone happy.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 4 – Arlene Weichert (Christmas Special Episode)

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 4 – Arlene Weichert

Marc interviews Arlene Weichert, Executive Vice President of Sales at Automated Control Concepts. Arlene 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? Arlene reveals her affection for her local woman’s club and working through them to help a diverse spectrum of people in need, including families at risk of losing their homes and young, pregnant, homeless, women who need Godly women in their lives. She also describes her passion for her profession and her love for her teammates. Her dream of serving others entails creating some bandwidth and confronting a fear of being bold in her faith.

Neighborly Love, Episode 4 – Arlene Weichert (12-22-20) – Christmas Special

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The Parable of the Good American

A man was walking to his car which was parked on the street, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A Orthodox priest happened to be going down the same street, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Protestant minister, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But an American, as she was driving, came where the man was; and when she saw him, she took pity on him. She stopped her car, put him in and drove him to the local emergency room. She waited as the doctors treated him and once he was doing better, she took him to a hotel to heal and rest, and she cared for him that night as he slept. The next morning, she gave the hotel manager her credit card, instructed them to provide anything else the wounded man may need as he recovers and offered to pay for any additional expenses.

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? Correct, the one who had mercy on him.

The American woman in this story allowed her day to be disrupted to help a fellow human. We don’t know where she was going or what she was doing, but it did not matter to her. Consciously or subconsciously, she prioritized her likeness, over differences, with the man and put his interests above her own.

What if the key to being brave and defying the divides that have formed with our families, friends, neighborhoods, communities and governments has something to do with forgetting ourselves? What if we hold our own stories with confidence and tenderness, appreciating what we’ve learned, but don’t consider them or our values the most important thing?

This American’s act of mercy symbolizes the journey of human-kindness: knowing and loving ourselves fully, honoring the hand life has dealt us, emptying ourselves for others, seeing joy and hurt and pain in every interaction, yet choosing to serve other people with humility, selflessness and kindness.

This is true neighborly love, a unity that rallies us together and calls us to pursue relational healing with a higher purpose, anchored by the freeing power of the good news of God’s grace. Please join me in the Neighborly Love Rewards Program where we can earn points by:

The Neighborly Love Rewards Program Card
  • Denying ourselves
  • Showing compassion to the needy
  • Treating our enemies kindly
  • Giving generously
  • Enduring difficult circumstances while trusting God
  • Persevering under persecution
  • Extending hospitality to the poor

At the end of our lives, the points earned can be redeemed for a, “Well done, good and faithful servant.

Your Neighborhood Sphere

We all need a safe space where we can explore what lies beyond our brokenness and limitations. Even if that space is available for only moments at a time, if it’s truly a safe space, it’s sacred because it also points us to the safe people who love and care about us.

I am grateful for my own broken journey. Through it I’ve discovered my passion, purpose and identity as a coach to serve others in God’s name by creating a safe space to know the mind of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the opportunity to remind my “athletes-in-training” that their dignity is theirs for the taking. I am thankful for the ability to establish vulnerability-based trust with them so I can call them out and up, to catch them when they have nothing left, and to lift them when they’re ready to be strong.

Together, we gain unity of mind and spirit because I seek to stand in their shoes to learn about their experiences, aim to get in their mind to understand their viewpoint, and strive to put myself in their place to imagine what they’re feeling. In these safe spaces, they find their feet and freedom and are transformed to be a safe space for someone else. My teacher is Jesus. His humanity allowed Him to have human experiences, which in turn, gave Him the ability to empathize. With practice, we all can learn to lead like Jesus, the ultimate Leader.

In these safe spaces where they practice, transition occurs. Transition is a phase where some things are ending that they’re not going to go back to and new things are beginning that they’re going to permanently change. Things such as how they think, feel and identify themselves as well as the sphere of influence they’re going to impact. Transition is the process of convergence of their ideal alignment with their ultimate calling. Transition is the process through which they end one season of life and become equipped to enter a fresh season. Through this transition, the leadership style of Jesus is manifested through them, and they are placed in position of influence within a smallest viable audience. We call this audience their neighborhood sphere.

Everybody has a neighborhood sphere of influence, but unfortunately, not everyone discovers it. Everybody has equal opportunity to seek it, but not everyone finds it. I am called to hold the hand of those who want to embark on their quest. Eventually they will be able to see and say, “For this reason, I was born. For this cause, I came into the world.

The moment someone chooses to seek their neighborhood sphere they are a success, no matter what happens. Why? Because success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal and because they are attempting something in faith for the glory of God, they continually progress to that end and cannot be considered a failure. All they needed was a safe space in which to experiment.

Sent. In Love.

What if everywhere you went this week, physically as well as virtually, you imagined you were sent, in love? Your mission, your purpose for being there was to touch someone’s heart in the moment. To reach them at a very human level because of something you noticed, felt, heard them say.

Imagine for every conversation, every meeting, you prepared not by practicing what you’re going to say, present or argue, but by how you’ll listen. What questions will you ask out of genuine curiosity about the other person? Imagine your goal is to understand what the other person feels or needs, not what you want.

Imagine everything you say is said with a kind, compassionate, caring tone. Imagine every word you chose is chosen to elicit an calm, honest, transparent response. Imagine creating a safe space for the other person to feel comfortable being vulnerable with you.

If you tap into this super power, then you’ll get a glimpse of why you’re hear on Earth. You see, we’re all here to love and be loved. Unfortunately, soon after we exit the womb, worldly forces start to influence our minds such that we learn to believe the lie that the world revolves around us. We are taught that we’ll be happy if we pursue our own self-interests. The paradox is the only way for humans to experience true happiness and pure joy is to serve others in love, not ourselves. That’s how we’re designed.

The good news is that it’s never too late to unlearn what the world has taught us. We simply have to stop believing the lie. This is accomplished by building new habits that recalibrate our minds. Recalibration results in a renewing of the mind that produces a new spirit that yields the fruit of that spirit. The first fruit is love.

Do you want to achieve great things? The greatest among us will learn to humble themselves and become leaders that act like servants who are sent, in love.

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