Am I a Mistake?

I turned a youthful 52 years of age on October 8th. If anything, I’ve always treated my birthday as a special day of reflection on my life … how far I’ve come, and how much more there is left to do, God willing. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the ability to accept and expect mistakes and deal with the disappointment they bring. It’s a belief that Mister Rogers held dear and taught on his children’s program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. As a child, I grew up watching Mister Rogers.

As an adult, I’m going back and rewatching many of the episodes and scenes I watched as a kid. I am grateful his show is as much alive today and it was when I was a kid, even though Mister Rogers died on February 27, 2003. It’s as though Mister Rogers is teaching me elementary truths all over again. I am committed to lifelong learning and feel like Mister Rogers is helping me take my growth to another level.

Lady Aberlin and Daniel Tiger Talk and Sing About Mistakes

My birthday reflection landed on this wonderful duet by Lady Aberlin and Daniel Tiger where they talk and sing about mistakes. Mister Rogers understood there is a deeper level to understanding who you are and that’s it’s not easy to quiet a doubt. Here is some of the conversation:

  • Daniel Tiger
    • Sometimes I wonder if I’m a mistake
    • Somtimes I dream I’m just a fake
    • I’m not like anyone else I know
      • The way I look
      • The way I talk
      • The way I love
  • Lady Aberlin
    • You’re no mistake
    • You’re not a fake
    • You’re fine exactly the way you are
      • The way you look
      • They way you talk
      • The way you love. Especially that.

I didn’t always have clarity and confidence in who I am. It seems like life has a way of conditioning self-doubt. I often felt like I wasn’t good enough … in school, in football, as a son, as a brother, as a husband, as a father, as a professional. I often felt like I was a mistake. As Mister Rogers so eloquently said during an interview, “I think that those who would try to make you feel less than who you are … I think that’s the greatest evil.” Indeed, Mister Rogers. That is the greatest evil. Thank you for being such a beautiful counterbalance.

I am not a mistake. Neither are you. Now that I know God wired me to be a coach, I am motivated to teach what I’m (re)learning from Mister Rogers.

God is not unjust. He will not forget our work and the love we have shown him as we help our “neighbors.” He wants each of us to show this same diligence to the very end so that what we hope for may be fully realized. He does not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherited what has been promised, just as Mister Rogers did.

To Change the World, Take Care of You

Changing the world for the better is a noble aspiration. We all think we need to do things outwardly in order to change the world. I think the best way to change the world is to take care of yourself. Take care of your body. Take care of where you put your time and energy. Take care of your mind.

Your mind is not a source of information. It’s a receiver of information, and what you tune in to is going to take over your life. What your mind receives is what you’re going to think about, and we become what we think about.

If you want good things, then tune in to good things. The accumulation of good conscious choices does more good than bad. If it’s good, do more. If it’s not good, do less. Let’s tune in to things that will enable us all to succeed because we’re all connected. Building bridges of connection starts with the commitment to take care of your body and mind.

So if we want to make the world a better place, then we need to treat ourselves the right way. We need to love and be kind to ourselves, which enables us to love and be kind to our “neighbors,” the people in our lives. That’s the best way to leave a mark on the world in a very positive way.

Weed Killer for the Mind

I was reading something this past week, and I came across the word avarice. I did not know what it meant so I looked it up. It means extreme greed for wealth or material gain. Simply said, it’s the love of money. It is when money is your first love and your motive behind everything you do.

Having money is not the problem, of course. We all need it to exist. The problem is the attitude toward money. When money is the main variable in decisions, the outcome is greed. In the most extreme cases, it’s avarice. It dries up the compassion of the soul. It lowers the bar for decisions about what’s right and what’s wrong. It is the inspiration for immorality. It is the root of all kinds of evil.

Envy is one kind of evil. The fruit it produces is covetousness, which is often powerfully present in people who lack money and wealth. Envy fuels the political tension and economic antagonism that exists between rich and poor.

Loving money is like a weed. When you want to kill a weed, you have to kill the root. To kill the root, you need to spray it with weed killer designed to attack the root. The weed killer for an improper attitude toward money is God’s word. When you “spray your mind” with God’s word every day, it penetrates your heart, kills the love of money, and changes your attitude.

Life does not consist of an abundance of possessions. Regardless of your net worth, God wants you to be rich in the assets of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. The value of these assets isn’t decreased by a sell-off in the stock market, nor can it be destroyed by inflation.

Love God, not gold. There’s only one letter separating the two words, but a wealth of difference in meaning between them.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 13 – Kristen Justus, Ph.D.

Ordinary People. Extraordinary Conversations.

If “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” collided at an intersection, then the Neighborly Love podcast would be the result. It features casual conversations over coffee in a “virtual coffee shop” that lean into the power of empathy. It’s about feeling heard, valued and understood. It’s about serving others. It’s about depositing money in our relational banks.

Neighborly Love is an original podcast by MindWolves. Host Marc Casciani, author of Craft Your Calling, interviews ordinary people about their heart for God and serving other people for the greater good.

Episode 13 – Dr. Kristen Justus

Marc interviews Dr. Kristen Justus, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education & Curriculum at Pine-Richland School District. Kristen 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? Kristen shares her heart for mentoring people, giving them an optimistic voice and hope. She also reveals the harmony she feels between her heart to serve and her current career path and paints a vision of something even greater. As her “stretch dream” gains clarity, I have no doubt it will be transformative for education in the United States and abroad.

Neighborly Love, Episode 13 – Kristen Justus (9-21-21)

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Would You Like Room for Grace?

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

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

Here’s how to cultivate the right attitude:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Just Agree to Disagree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Play to Your Weakness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Train to be Fordriven

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

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

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

Patience

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

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

Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 12 – Dan Veitkus

Ordinary People. Extraordinary Conversations.

If “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” collided at an intersection, then the Neighborly Love podcast would be the result. It features casual conversations over coffee in a “virtual coffee shop” that lean into the power of empathy. It’s about feeling heard, valued and understood. It’s about serving others. It’s about depositing money in our relational banks.

Neighborly Love is an original podcast by MindWolves. Host Marc Casciani, author of Craft Your Calling, interviews ordinary people about their heart for God and serving other people for the greater good.

Episode 12 – Dan Veitkus

Marc interviews Dan Veitkus, Chief Marketing Officer at Guadalupe Roastery. Dan answers three thought-provoking questions: (1) Tell me about a time when you did something nice for someone?, (2) What would you do for a living if money weren’t an issue?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Dan tells a “seemingly small” story about Josephine, an elderly woman seemingly shunned by everyone, shares his heart for wanting to spend time with people and help them, and reveals how his personal dream of serving others is aligned with Guadalupe Roastery’s mission of changing the world one cup of coffee at a time.

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

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The (New) American Dream

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

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

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

  • When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, … We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, … (opening of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776)
  • We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, September 17, 1787)

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

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

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

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

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