Get Your Mind Right

DETROIT – FEBRUARY 05: Willie Parker #39 of the Pittsburgh Steelers, runs for a Super Bowl record 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL at Ford Field on February 5, 2006, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

When you hear the name Willie Parker, what do you think of? If you’re an occasional watcher of NFL football, perhaps that kind that only really watches Super Bowls, you probably think of Willie’s run in Super Bowl XL, the longest run in Super Bowl history. If you’re an avid Pittsburgh Steelers Fan, then you have fond memories of Willie’s 6-year NFL career with the Steelers. If you’re my 17-year old son, then you only know Willie from the stories your dad told you and what Willie told you himself live and in person at his football camp, which is this weekend in Pittsburgh.

As my son and I listened to Willie open the camp with a pep talk, he said something profound, something that I teach as part of my MindWolves coaching, which is why it resonated. I expected Willie to talk about working hard, learning from mistakes, overcoming doubters, and doing the little things right. Also, he talked about how his mom and dad made him do things he didn’t want to do growing up, like making his bed, taking out the trash, and cutting the grass, to teach him a sense of accomplishment. But what I didn’t expect him to say is that he was not truly successful until he “got his mind right.” He said, “Y’all can do anything, but you gotta get your mind right first. And that means getting it right with God.” Amen, Willie. Preach!

It’s always nice when the positive impression you have about a person’s character is affirmed when you meet them in person the first time. Thank you Willie for modeling gratitude, humility, hard work, perseverance, and faith. It was such a pleasure to meet you.

Reflecting on what Willie said affirmed what I’ve also learned in my life. In the real world, our efforts and determination often fall short. Only by walking in the power of the Holy Spirit can we live a life that is joyful and meaningful, a life worthy of the calling we have received from God. However, living a joyful life doesn’t mean living a pain-free life. Being loved by God doesn’t mean being coddled. Our comfort is not His primary interest, just as Willie’s parents’ primary interest wasn’t his comfort in making him do chores.

As an apple farmer prunes an apple tree to get a bountiful harvest, so does God allow pain in order to bring forth greater spiritual growth and character. He gets out His pruning knife and removes anything that hinders us from becoming the person He designed us to be. The process is often painful, but His pruning results in us becoming a more accurate reflection of His character and yielding the Fruit of the Spirit in our character: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control.

Getting your mind right means letting go of the pain of the past. God wants to use it for your good, so let Him. He will ensure all things in your imperfect past will be used for the good of your future if you love Him and let Him … just like Willie Parker does.

Your past will either make you bitter or better. What sustains you is not becoming bitter about your past, nor bitter about your circumstances, but practicing radical grace. Radical grace empowers you to become better. Radical grace extends positive favor to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Radical grace is forgiving someone who hurt you. Radical grace liberates you from wanting to settle the score. Radical grace is free and unmerited favor offered to someone regardless of who they are and what they’ve done.

Radical grace helps get your mind right for your good and the common good. Let’s all buckle up, put our mouthpieces in and get our minds right. Thank you, Willie, for the inspiration.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 18 – Kevin Brighton

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 18 – Kevin Brighton

Marc interviews Kevin Brighton, Risk Management Advisor with FNB Insurance. Kevin 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? Kevin tells about his decision to give a kidney to someone, his aspiration to own a get-a-way destination bed & breakfast in Colorado to “give experiences” to families who have trouble getting away, and his dream to create a ministry that serves a family’s need to model and demonstrate love to their children, with a special interest in divorce care.

Neighborly Love, Episode 18 – Kevin Brighton (2-24-22)

Never miss an episode

Subscribe wherever you enjoy podcasts:

Walk the (Good) Talk

The human tongue is the most dangerous weapon in the world. So small, yet so powerful. A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem insignificant, but it can accomplish nearly anything – or destroy it! A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech, we can ruin the world, turn harmony into chaos, throw mud on a reputation, and send the whole world up in smoke.

This is nothing new. It may seem like it’s worse than ever, however, it’s been true since the dawn of humankind. Social media and the Internet simply make it easier to reveal what’s on a person’s heart for many to witness. What comes out in someone’s speech reveals what’s really going on in their heart. Whatever is in their heart is going to spill out when they’re under stress and pressure.

When stressed, kind people become kinder, patient people become more patient, and caring people become more compassionate. When pressed, mean people become meaner, angry people become angrier, bitter people express more hatred, and opinionated people become more obnoxious. Therefore, the only way you can control what you say is to manage what’s going on in your heart.

So if that’s the diagnosis, what’s the prescription? How do you manage what’s going on in your heart? You need to learn to walk by the Spirit. When you walk by the Holy Spirit, your heart has a Mentor and your mind has a skilled Captain to control its rudder, i.e. its tongue. That’s the healthiest and best way to walk the talk, for yourself, for others, and for the common good.

What exactly does it mean to walk by the Spirit? It means that our daily habits, routines, and plans are rooted in a relationship with God. It refers to our daily awareness that God’s Spirit is walking by our side as our Helper, always with us, equipping us to live a life that honors Him and encourages others. It means we have access to the Holy Spirit at all times and that living a Spirit-filled life involves intentionally seeking God every day.

When we allow God’s Spirit to convict, challenge, and change us, He transforms the ways we think and act. That’s when we’re able to walk the (good) talk.

I’m a Gracist American

Having a mother who is 100% Syrian, and a grandfather who immigrated from Damascus, Syria, I knew there was a high probability my dominant ethnicity would originate from the Arab world. My father, who has a very Italian last name, would certainly contribute some Italian to my DNA makeup too. Well, the verdict is in. reports that my DNA looks most like DNA from these world regions:

  • Northern Lebanon & Northwest Syria (51%)
  • England, Nortwestern Europe, & Scotland (24%)
  • Northern Italy (13%)
  • France (12%)

Add them all up and you get 100%. Pretty clean. It begs the questions … should I be referred to as an Arab-British-Italian-French American? When I’m asked about my ethnicity on surveys, why isn’t there a box for Arab-British-Italian-French American? The closest category is usually “non-Hispanic white.” Why am I forced into that group? Who gets to decide that?

Would it be a bad idea to simply have a box for “American?” All Americans are multiracial, anyway, so what’s the point to put us all in groups based on race and ethnicity? Did you know that by 2050, 50 percent of the American population will be made up of current racial and ethnic minorities? Arab Americans are considered one of those minority groups. So given my ancestry, am I a minority, or am I in the non-Hispanic white majority?

All of a sudden, I’m confused. Thank you

But wait, no worries. I’m good. The book, Gracism, by author and pastor David A. Anderson, has helped reconcile my newfound confusion with God’s love and hope for the human race. God is a Gracist. Pastor Anderson is a Gracist. And now, I’m a Gracist. The more Gracist Americans we have, the less racial and ethnic tension we’ll have in America. Won’t you join me in becoming a Gracist American? Here’s a sample of the book. I encourage you to buy it and read it.

This book, Gracism, tugs on my heart and compels me to want to teach its message. We pass by people of all colors, classes, and cultures we don’t know every day. We’re often tempted to overlook the average or marginalized person because we don’t want to be inconvenienced, or we don’t think we can make a difference.

Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was once asked this question, “If you had one final broadcast, one final opportunity to address your television neighbors, and you could tell them the single most important lesson of your life, what would you say?

Well, I would want [those] who were listening somehow to know that they had unique value, that there isn’t anybody in the whole world exactly like them and that there never has been and there never will be. And that they are loved by the Person who created them in a unique way.

If they could know that and really know it and have that behind their eyes, they could look with those eyes on their neighbor and realize, “My neighbor has unique value too; there’s never been anybody in the whole world like my neighbor, and there never will be.” If they could value that person – if they could love that person – in ways that we know that the Eternal love us, then I would be very grateful.

– Fred Rogers

It sounds like Mister Rogers was a Gracist American too. I’m in good company. Won’t you join Mister Rogers and me?

Teaching & Learning

“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

The Parable of the Sower in the Bible, Mark 4:3-8

Teaching is like planting seeds, and learning is like what’s produced. It’s a function of the soil and conditions in which the seed is planted. True acceptance of the teaching requires the student to:

  • not let it lie only on the surface of their mind (i.e., along the path for birds to eat)
  • refrain from being satisfied only to have it penetrate a little deeper and take root in their emotions (i.e., on rocky, shallow soil to get scorched)
  • let the worries of life, deceitfulness of wealth, and competing desires go unchecked (i.e., among the thorns to be choked)
  • cherish the teaching deep in their heart, guarding it against enemies and letting it mold their character and conduct to its principles (i.e., in good soil producing a fruitful crop)

Learning requires a teacher (sower), knowledge (seed), and student (soil). Yet, true learning will only result when the student opens their heart to receive the teaching and steadfastly nurtures it. Moreover, not all learning will be equal, but according to the student’s faithfulness and diligence. In other words, the learning will be different for everyone according to their talents, habits, and faith.

For the teacher, patience and favor are required for the seed to take root. Why both? Because there are different levels of patience depending on the type of student, and favor is showering extra grace on a student while having love for every student. In this context, I’m referring to grace as the free and unmerited favor of God. Please don’t confuse favor with favoritism. They are extremely different. Favor originates from God. Favoritism is from humans. It’s possible to extend favor without engaging in favoritism. It’s possible to extend favor and still be fair.

Levels of Patience

Students (soil) come in all shapes and sizes. Patience is like water for the knowledge (seed) that is planted in their heart. Some need more patience and some less.

  • Tenacious Patience. Some students are weak and in need. They need more than just short-term help. They need long-term help which requires patience. This type of patience is tenacious and clings to the student even after days, months, or years of inconvenience or sacrifice.
  • Enduring Patience. Some students get easily discouraged. They are “glass is half empty” types and often struggle to see how they will ever learn. Regularly encouraging them is especially taxing over time and requires an enduring patience.
  • Correcting Patience. Some students could do more and contribute more, but are content with doing just enough to get by. They refuse to take responsibility and initiative and need loving correction. This type of patience needs to actively admonish them to warn them, exhort them, and wake them up.
Favor vs. Favoritism

Every student (soil) needs to feel favor, not favoritism, for true learning. Favor is like nutrients for the knowledge (seed) to grow. Favor cultivates a receptive heart whereby they feel valued and loved. It enables and empowers them to nurture the knowledge that is planted.

  • Favoritism is granting favor because of a special status, superiority, or commonality. It manifests itself with special favors based on some fraternal code or elitist attitude. Favoritism intentionally neglects the needs of many to accomodate the greeds of a few. Favoritism is exclusionary.
  • Favor is granting grace to a few out of a love for everyone, i.e. your neighbors. Favor prioritizes the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Favor is inclusionary.

We can learn from The Parable of the Sower, which is a story for you, me, and everyone. We have a Good Teacher who freely gives us patience and favor. Won’t you join me in becoming a good student? Won’t you help me grow neighborly love?

Won’t You Help Me Grow Neighborly Love?

The late, great Fred Rogers treated everyone like a neighbor. When Mister Rogers extended the invitation, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” he was genuinely humanizing each of us and modeling the behavior of a loving neighbor. It was the same model of love the Good Samaritan offered in the Bible. This standard of behavior is hard. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

– Fred Rogers

I have an affection for the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In the parable, we learn the answer to the question, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells a story about three men who passed a fellow man beaten, bloody, and half-dead on the side of a road. The first two were Jewish religious types, a priest and Levite, that just passed the man by. They didn’t even stop to check to see if he was alive. The third was a Samaritan, a person from a group of people who were half-Jew and half-Gentile and who had very strained relations with the Jewish people. In fact, they hated each other. Nevertheless, the Samaritan did not think twice about who the injured person was and took pity on him. He bandaged his wounds, placed him on his donkey, and took him to an inn to care for him. The next morning, he paid the innkeeper to look after him until he returned. Mister Rogers might say, “He saw the need and responded.

The parable concludes with a question, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the injured man?” The answer is the Samaritan, “The one who had mercy on him.” That is what it means to be a neighbor. And then Jesus gives a command, “Go and do likewise.

That story tugs on my heart and makes me want to teach what it means to love like a neighbor. It motivates me to “go and do likewise.” And it begs my question to you, “Won’t you help me grow neighborly love?” We can be the people Mister Rogers referred to as his heroes, those who see the need and respond.

If you choose to accept this assignment, know it is a front-line assignment. It won’t be easy. We need to represent God (and Mister Rogers) well. We need to lead and serve with enthusiasm and not grumble. Grumbling is always toxic. It is God’s will to be thankful. Therefore, we shall execute this “neighborly love” assignment with an attitude of gratitude.

The job description of the assignment is this: Co-worker with God to labor together in the joyful business of serving our neighbors with care, compassion, and love and to share in the responsibility and say, “It is my problem.

In America, we believe “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.” The trap of the pursuit of happiness, however, is to think that happiness will arrive with the pursuit of more: more toys, more money, a bigger house, an expensive car. The answer to true happiness is not bigger and better, but simpler and more grateful. By not coveting what our neighbor has, we are freed from pride and envy to freely see a need and respond to a neighbor in love.

The secret to happiness is to want what you already have. Then you are free to pursue the one worthy quest that unlocks the key to neighborly love in your heart, the pursuit to go deeper in your relationship with God.

One Little Word: Forgiveness

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.

The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” translated by Frederick H. Hedge

There’s one little word that can shatter all discord, anger, and hate in relationships and among people: forgiveness.

It’s possible to see the best in our neighbors because of one thing: forgiveness.

It’s possible to solve problems of diversity, equity, and inclusion with one thing: forgiveness.

It’s possible to heal the wounds and pain from sexual, physical, and mental abuse with one thing: forgiveness.

It’s possible to bridge rifts caused by false accusations and lies with one thing: forgiveness.

It’s possible to save America with one thing: forgiveness.

The amazing thing about this one little word is that it turns out to be a gift to you, not so much the gift to the person your forgiving. It’s one of the hardest things in the world to do when someone has hurt you, but if you can find within yourself the strength to begin the process of forgiveness, it’s the greatest gift to yourself you can give.

It’s also one little word the prince of darkness hates to hear. It’s the one thing evil cannot stand. Why? Because evil loves discord. Evil loves when we harbor anger, bitterness, revenge, and envy in our hearts because it distances and distracts us from a relationship with our Creator. And when that relationship is non-existent or dysfunctional, all other relationships become dysfunctional. Forgiveness unlocks our ability to order the loves of our life correctly. Love God. Love people. Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, first. Love our neighbor as ourselves, second. The father of lies loses power and control over us when we chose to forgive. Then we are free to live up to the life which God called us.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 17 – Greg DiTullio

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 17 – Greg DiTullio

Marc interviews Greg DiTullio, District Manager of Kroff Chemical Company and Pine-Richland School Board President. Greg 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? Greg tells a story about “paying it forward” to a family in need, shares his passion for the outdoors and to find a cure for cerebral palsy, and reveals a dream he and his wife have to serve the parents of special needs children.

Neighborly Love, Episode 17 – Greg DiTullio (1-22-22)

Never miss an episode

Subscribe wherever you enjoy podcasts:

Self-Control is Really the Only Control We Have

If you’re like me, then you’ve learned attempting to control external circumstances is futile. Even if you kid yourself into believing you’re in control, eventually you’ll find out you’re not. That “eventually” could be a very long time, even years. And that “eventually” could be a big wake-up call. You can figuratively (and perhaps literally) wake up one morning and realize you’re lost in a dark wilderness. You feel like a person who survived their own shipwreck.

Now, what do you do? Would you mind if I prescribed the first step?

Learn to manage your mind. To manage something, you must be in control of it. To control it, you must be able to measure it. If can learn to measure, control, and manage your mind, then you’ve mastered the art of self-control because your thoughts control your life.

Measure. Carve out 15 minutes of quiet time in the morning and evening of every day. That’s only 30 minutes out of 1,440 daily minutes, or just 2% of your day. Spend that time in silence and fit it into your daily rhythms. Use The Family Wins devotional as a guide to help build the habit. Incorporate these specific questions into each time slot.

Control. Your mind is the battleground on which the war for your emotions, purpose, effectiveness, and fullness of life is won or lost. To ignore the war being waged around you is to lose the war. One of the reasons you get mentally fatigued is because there’s a battle in your brain 24 hours a day. And the enemy (the world’s value system) loves when you become complacent against its attacks. Modern society rarely encourages self-control, but that’s the only control we really have.

So how do you get control of your mind? By setting your mind on the wonderful character of the living God and your identity in Him and using just 2% of your day, every day. When you control the way you direct your thoughts, you will experience less stress, peace, and tranquility. The negative thoughts and insecurities you face daily will flee and in their place will rest the glorious light of God’s truth.

Manage. Now that you are measuring, with intentionality, your quiet time with God, and are controlling the way you direct your thoughts, you’re able to manage your mind. An unmanaged mind leads to tension, but a managed mind leads to serenity. An unmanaged mind leads to conflict, but a managed mind leads to confidence. An unmanaged mind produces much stress and anxiety, but a managed mind leads to strength and security.

The sin of self-reliance breeds pride and more sin. The Fruit of the Spirit of self-control breeds humility and reliance on God. Quiet time keeps us close to God and aware of Him. A scarcity of quiet nudges Him to the margins of our hearts, making room for the world to plant lies within us.

A lack of quiet time with God makes us vulnerable to irrational fear. You will slowly be controlled and oppressed by irrational fears (One word … COVID-19 … need I say more?). Fears swell and flourish as long as God stays on the periphery. Quiet time with Him scatters those fears by enlarging and inflaming our thoughts about His promises and purpose for our life.

Self-control can be summed up like this. Embrace quiet time and trust God. In quietness and trust will be our blessing. In busyness and pride will be our downfall.

The Gift of Silence

How do you handle silence? Do you like it? Do you crave it? Do you find it so awkward that you’re always reaching for your smartphone to distract yourself from it?

I cherish it. In fact, I hold silence so dear that I believe it’s the greatest gift we have. I am called to teach how to unleash its life-freeing powers to anyone who will listen.

The opposite of silence is not noise, but distraction. When you’re distracted, you’re unable to focus on what’s important. Silence enables focus.

To me, the modern-day symbol of distraction is Apple’s logo, which has a deep meaning – it symbolizes knowledge. This symbol is one of the oldest and most important in Western culture. In the Bible, Adam and Eve were tempted and took a bite of an apple, which was their first taste of knowledge. After that they were ashamed, and as a result, this first taste represents the fall of man.

So as I hold my iPhone in my hand, I’m not lost in the irony. This device, which places all knowledge at my fingertips, is the single greatest threat to my growth in wisdom. It tempts me. It distracts me from what’s important. It injects noise into my days and deprives me of the gift of silence.

Having said that, I’m not suggesting an iPhone, or any smartphone is inherently evil. Rather, how we use it determines if it’s good or bad for us. Let’s not deny is it the single greatest threat to our growth in wisdom. Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. It is the foundation of a righteous life and a civil, just society.

Humans are far more tree-like than computer-like. Information becomes wisdom only as fast as water becomes fruit on the branch. Water cannot travel into roots and up trunks and through limbs in a moment. It takes time and requires the painfully slow process of prayer and meditation, which requires silence and focus. An abundance of information processed rapidly makes for distracted, superficial souls. A limited amount of information processed slowly makes for discerning, wise souls.

Learning how to cherish and utilize the gift of silence is something I am called to teach. It gives me passion and purpose. It’s like shining a nightlight in a dark room. Shine a light into an already lit room, you have changed nothing. Shine that same light into a dark corner, and you have shattered the darkness.

That “darkroom” may be as near as our neighborhood, school, workplace, or the palm of our hand. Let’s learn not to be led into temptation, nor into distractions, but mastery of the gift of silence and growth in wisdom and righteousness.

%d bloggers like this: