Hospitality 101, Neighborly Love

Hospitality is defined as the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. On an elemental level, it’s simply when one person opens their heart to another. It’s when we, as humans, show interest in someone else. It’s when we invest the time and interest to get to know them.

There are many ways to be hospitable. In business, you can treat all customers and prospective customers in a friendly and welcoming manner. You can make them feel valued and special. The most successful businesses figure out how to do this over the long-haul.

On a personal level, you can open your home to people. I have friends that always seem to have company. They have a very welcoming spirit and never seem to turn anyone away. They have meals together and host quality opportunities for fellowship.

The thing about genuine hospitality is that it’s not about you, the host, but it starts with you. It’s really about your guest, and you need to have the awareness and humility to subordinate your interests to those of your guest. You need to have a servant’s mindset.

Personally for me that means serving others in God’s name. One way in which I do that is with the Neighborly Love podcast. The purpose of the podcast is to create a safe space where we can get to know God’s heart and mind through my guest. It’s about them feeling valued and understood. It’s about depositing money in our relational bank. It’s about me serving them so their voice can be heard, which hopefully touches the hearts of the listeners. If only one person is touched by their story, then it’s worth it.

The podcast is one way I attempt to lean into the power of empathy. Like any skill, it can be mastered, and while I have a long way to go to developing it as a superpower, I am committed to it. After all, nothing is more hospitable than empathy.

If you’re interested in subscribing to the Neighborly Love podcast, then I’d be grateful. The first two episodes are published and you can listen to them wherever you enjoy podcasts: Apple iTunes, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify or Google Play.

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Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 2 – Carrie Chappie

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 2 – Carrie Chappie

Marc interviews Carrie Chappie, President of Conway E&S. Carrie answers three thought provoking questions: (1) What would you do for a living if money weren’t and issue?, (2) Tell me about a time when you did something nice for someone?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Carrie’s talks talks about her affection for the JBJ Soul Kitchen restaurant in Red Bank, NJ, caring for her great grandmother at the end of her life, and her new entrepreneurial ministry, FEED (Fueling, Educating, Empowering, Discipling), that serves underprivileged children in the city of Pittsburgh. Carrie has a heart for mentoring young women and serving them as a Godly role model to meet their deepest needs.

Neighborly Love, Episode 2 – Carrie Chappie (11-6-20)

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The USA’s DNA

Not all conflict is good. However, when handled properly, conflict is constructive and healthy. In fact, the ability to build a cohesive team requires it. Without the free expression of opinion, one is unable to feel a sense of ownership and consequently be committed to the cause.

The founders of the United States of America understood this, which is why the bedrock of our great nation is religious liberty and freedom of speech in the context of a humble acknowledgement that we are endowed by our Creator, i.e. Nature’s God. They understood the dangers of a fake tolerance, which says, “We’ll tolerate you as long as your opinion is within our tolerance.” They also had a healthy respect for human depravity and designed the American system of government with that in mind. They wisely devised many forms of accountability in order to mitigate the myriad of ways corruption can occur when humans pursue and possess power. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best system of government ever created in history of humankind.

Team cohesion can only be put to test at the intersection of differing ideas. Whenever honest dialog or a robust discussion about difficult topics can not be done in a civil, peaceful, safe manner, then it’s time for everyone to do some growing up. Team cohesion does not mean everyone agrees, but it does mean everyone trusts and respects each other enough to engage, connect and debate important topics that affect strategy, tactics and unity. Once having arrived at a decision, the team then rallies around it and everyone commits and is held accountable for the results. Even those that disagree, move on with their support because their voice was heard and want to be part of something bigger than themselves. The common good is being served.

What throws a wrench into team cohesion is self-centeredness. A self-centered person is someone who prioritizes themselves over everything else. They want it their way. They will do their own thing. They have to take care of themself first. They don’t have time for others. They are the most important thing. In fact, the root cause of all human relationship problems is self-centeredness. All crime is self-centered. Many social problems are caused by groups of people, such as racists, sexists and chauvinists, who are self-centered and think they are better than other groups of people.

Love of self prevents a person from loving Nature’s God because no one can serve two masters. Either they will hate the one and love the other, or they will be devoted to the one and despise the other. No one can serve both God and self. Therefore, relational harmony and healthy conflict depend on the correct prioritization of love. Being selfless does not mean thinking less of yourself, but it does mean thinking of yourself less. The only way to do that is to love God first.

Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor next. Love yourself third. Not loving in this order is the root of all discord. Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. The only way to establish neighborly love is to love in this order.

John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington all had different religious beliefs, however they were humble and wise enough to respect that Nature’s God needed to be at the center of a sustainable new nation that promoted healthy conflict and unalienable rights. God used these flawed humans to establish the greatest system of government that has ever existed. God used these imperfect men to create a “shining city on a hill” that is rooted in neighborly love. That awareness is worth acknowledging so that healthy conflict is embraced and promoted. Honest dialog and robust discussions about difficult topics can and should be done in a civil, peaceful, safe manner. It’s in the USA’s DNA.

One Team, One Nation, Under God

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I’m grateful we still say this pledge before every school board meeting in my local school district. I serve on the board of directors and also as our treasurer. As I recited it this past Monday evening, something triggered a deeper reflection upon its words.

Is the United States of America a perfect country? Far from it. In fact, we have been imperfect since inception. And throughout our history, we’ve proven time and time again that we are flawed.

Yet, the fact we are “one nation under God” means we are one team. And as with any good, cohesive team, we have a foundation of trust in God. It’s in our DNA. Just look at the back of a $1 bill.

When foundational trust is established, then that means we can have healthy constructive discourse about important matters pertaining to liberty and justice for all. That doesn’t mean we always get it right. We are after all humans, and we’re far from perfect too.

Yet, I keep going back to the phrase “under God”. As long as we’re under God, then He will ensure good will result from all of the mess we create. He can use imperfect people, and our imperfect country, for the good. He has proven good works done with improper motives can still have a positive impact, as long as we are under Him. The only way that works is if we’re willing to acquire a posture of humility.

Humility, a human virtue, requires the willingness to be subordinate to Him. It’s a posture of soul and body and life that acknowledges and embraces the goodness of God and the humanness of self. To the extent our great republic is willing to recognize that, then we will not only survive, but thrive. When we are humble, we can focus on prioritizing our similarities over our differences. When we are humble, we can place the benefit of others over our own. When we are humble, we are aligned with the same foundation, under God.

I pray that each of us may receive the gift of humility so that this great country may continue to pursue liberty and justice for all. Healthy conflict is good conflict. It’s a requirement for the commitment, accountability and results of a cohesive team.

We are one team, one nation, under God.

The Business of Busyness

It seems like an oft asked question at the start of business conversations is, “How are you?” A typical response is, “Busy.” I can’t help to wonder why so many people say that and what it really means. Is it a good busy or bad busy? I know many people who profess to be busy, but aren’t productive. That’s how I define “bad busy”. I also know productive people who never complain about being busy. That’s a “good busy”. Unfortunately, the “bad” seem to out number the “good”. It is apropos that the origin of the word business is taken from the Old English language combination of busy + ness.

As I reflect on this, I can’t help to wonder if we’ve become too busy to be neighborly. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” sounds like a worthy aim, however many of us don’t have the awareness to put it into practice. In the midst of our busyness, a friend in need texts, “Can you talk?” A neighbor asks for help to move a couch. A teammate at work asks for feedback on a project. The driven among us find such “neighborly love” disrupting to our schedules, overturning of our plans, and interrupting to our productivity. It leaves to-do lists unfinished. “Love your neighbor” feels like a frustratingly inconvenient ask, and therefore, excuses are abundant:

  • I’m just too busy
  • I helped last time
  • My work is too pressing
  • They reach out too often

While these defenses may be legitimate, they reveal that we take ourselves and our work too seriously. The only way to interrupt our self-centered natures is to center ourselves on God’s love. Loving God first enables the awareness to subordinate our selfishness, thereby equipping us to offer our time and love to others in the moment. We see them as humans, just like we are, with needs, wants and hurts in need of a balm, a ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, a mind for counsel. I must admit, despite my best efforts, I’m guilty of prioritizing tasks over people and seeing my real work as the kind that can be checked off a list. Such mistakes make me want to lean into God’s love even more so that I can get better at loving others.

That said, there are times when saying “no” is appropriate. However, we must be able to discern the difference between a hasty “not now” and an appropriate “no”. With so many demands and requests, and so much important work to be done, how do we know when to embrace the unexpected and when to stay focused?

The answer is in this rule of thumb:

  1. Lean in to small interruptions and little requests
  2. Lean away from large or ongoing responsibilities by pausing to consider the opportunity costs first

In other words, larger time commitments and responsibilities are worthy of strategic thoughtfulness and prayerfulness. You want to be sure they are part of God’s will for your life and core to your calling before acting. Conversely, small acts of service should be viewed and treated not as interruptions to your calling, but integral to it.

This is how we all can place the business of busyness in the proper context. They next time you’re asked, “Can you talk?” or “Can you help?” or “Do you mind?,” kindly lean in to the minor interruption and prioritize the other person over yourself.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 1 – Deb Balukas

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 1 – Deb Balukas

Marc interviews friend and colleague, Deb Balukas and asks three thought provoking questions: (1) What would you do for a living if money weren’t and issue?, (2) Tell me about a time when you did something nice for someone?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Deb’s answers are amazing and inspiring.

Neighborly Love, Episode 1 – Deb Balukas (10-13-20)

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Endeared to Lead

What makes a person go all out for someone else? What is it about a person that endears him or her to others, so much so they are willing to follow him or her wherever they lead? There are two common characteristics these types of leaders possess:

The Servant-Minded Brain
  1. Empathy – they have compassion for others, are able to feel what others feel and express concern for others sufferings and misfortunes.
  2. Courage – they display integrity and uphold truth at the point of trial.

In other words, if someone feels you genuinely care about them AND witnesses your standing up for what is right to defend them in the middle of adversity, then you will be a person they want to follow. Sure, there are other leadership styles, however this is the only style that is endearing. This is a true servant-minded leader.

I’ve witnessed this type of leadership on all sorts of teams, including families, companies, communities, sports teams, armed forces and organizations of all shapes and sizes. Now, let’s focus on leading a business and the pursuit of excellence in serving customers.

A servant-minded leader treats employees as internal customers and believes when they serve employees well, employees in turn serve external customers well. Servant-minded leaders nurture people and give them tools and training. They understand when you don’t do this and expect people to deliver results, then you’re not running a company, you’re running a slave camp.

People are to be nurtured, not used. Servant-minded leaders help employees realize their full potential as humans because they know employees help drive the business to its full potential. Servant-minded leaders train for skill and character because purpose is found in character.

Servant-minded leaders are endeared to people who want to follow them because they exhibit empathy and courage. They believe that excellence is not achieved by random happenstance, for if it is to be achieved at all, it must be a deliberate pursuit. The standard of excellence must be set for the output and conduct of everyone, including the leader. Employees who are nurtured to develop their competence and character within the context of clear a performance measurement framework willingly adhere to and are motivated to exceed the standard.

Servant-minded leaders know it’s not about them, but it starts with them. They are leaders people want to follow because they care and can be trusted.

The First Domino

To live a full life, we need to properly position the first domino. If we do, then all other subsequent dominoes fall into place. That first domino must be about love, God’s love to be exact. Love God first, others second. The later is not possible without the first.

In conversations, words without love are just noise. If you don’t speak in love, then it doesn’t matter what you say. You can be the most charismatic and articulate conversationalist, but you’ll have wasted your breath.

Empathy is a powerful tool for showing love in a conversation. Empathy has three main parts:

  1. Use your eyes to start the conversation. Look at the other person intently. Give them your full attention. By doing so, you’re saying you love them because attention is love.
  2. Listen to understand how the other person is feeling. This requires being silent. If you’re talking, then you’re not listening because you can’t do both at the same time.
  3. When you do speak, speak in a soft, calm, inquisitive tone. This requires humility.

The key attribute in mastering empathy is subordination. Subordination of self-love to God’s love so that you may understand how to properly love others. Let’s call this a Kingdom-first policy. That’s the properly positioned “first domino.”

If we approach everything this way, He guarantees that the things we need will come as a natural by-product of seeking His love first. Taking a Kingdom-first approach guarantees relational harmony with others. Taking a relational harmony-first approach does not guarantee God’s love will be thrown in. In fact, it significantly raises the risk that self-love will trump the love of others, thereby defeating the purpose of making an attempt at a relationship or conversation.

What’s the number one measure of success for your life? Is it money? Is it status? It is material things? Is it God’s love?

It’s a fair question to ask because no one can serve two masters. You will either hate one and love the other, or you’ll stand by and be devoted to one and and despise and be against the other.

What’s your first domino?

Mind Over Emotions

What is the foundation upon which you live your life? Does your mind rule your emotions or do your emotions rule your mind? Do your daily decisions flow from how you feel, or do they flow from a posture of your heart that is properly aligned with who God says you are and what He wants for and from you?

If you and I were to spend any meaningful time together, you would know my faith guides and drives me. It demands with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength that my love for God and love for other people are at the forefront. This is my #1 personal value to strive toward. It means every second of every minute of every day is spent working for that end. Even though I often fall short, that’s my goal.

Some days are harder than others. Why? Because it seems like I’m swimming against the cultural current. Dominant culture suggests feelings should chart our course. A new religion has been formed centered around us, ourselves and our feelings. That religion is very attractive because it caters to our emotions and egos. It wants to give us full reign to our natural expressions, our authentic selves, to be who we are without constraints or consideration that we are born of God.

Such raw passion, as evidenced as of late, is never so useful as in groups. It turns herds into stampedes used for destruction. When feelings, not thoughts – when our spirits, not His – drives us, mobs soon become monstrous.

Here are some carefully crafted half-truths this new religion uses to stir and incite:

  • Feelings define us. Who we are is how we feel, not what we believe or who we belong to.
  • Emotions happen. Emotions are what happens to us and we cannot actually fight them or train them.
  • Emotions interpret reality. Emotions are the lens through which reality is seen, never vise versa. Therefore, reality is relative to our emotional state.
  • Love is a label. Love is the crown jewel of all feelings and a label to be stamped on what was once highly objectionable.

Living as a contrarian is not easy. Fighting conformity to the pattern of this world feels like running the back half of a marathon in the heat of summer. Nonetheless, I am committed to keep running. I am committed to training my mind to receive my God-given gifts and hopefully influence others to do likewise. It’s all very possible when we intentionally love God first, others second and ourselves third. The order is of the utmost importance, which is why our minds must rule our emotions.

The Three Most Important Values in Your Life

Can you name the three most important values in your life right now? If you can’t, then you certainly can’t live by them. Why is this so important? Because if you don’t decide what’s most important in your life, other people are going to decide for you. They’re going to push you into their mold, and you’ll live your life by their values, not yours.

A picture of the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona near sunset. The chapel appears to rise out of the rock formations characteristic of the area. Picture take by Matthew P. Del Buono (source Wikipedia)

Here are my mine:

  1. Servant Leadership: Always be looking for opportunities to meet the needs of others.
  2. Equip for Excellence: Always be learning, growing, improving with God’s standard as my standard.
  3. Positivity: Always believe the best. Always look for the silver lining when bad things happen. Trust that in all things God works for the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

These are my core values. I live by them day-in, day-out. They are constant reminders and pointers.

They are reminders for the moments when I ask, “Where did the time go?” They keep my eye on what’s important.

They are pointers to the humbling reality that I must learn to number my days so that I may get a heart of wisdom. And with that wisdom, I must love God first, other people second and myself third, in that order.

What are the three most important values in your life right now? Write them down. Reflect on them. Refine them. Live them.

If you’d like to share them with me, then I’d love to hear from you. Email me at marc@mindwolves.com.

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for who you are. Thank you for allowing me to serve you. I am grateful.

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