You Can’t Microwave Life

What did we do before microwave ovens? How was popcorn made? How long did it take to reheat leftovers? Were leftovers even a thing?

The countertop microwave oven was introduced in 1967 by the Amana Corporation. After microwave ovens became affordable for residential use in the late 1970s, their use spread into commercial and residential kitchens around the world, and prices fell rapidly during the 1980s. Since then, our kitchens and expectations have been forever changed.

It seems like we expect everything to happen fast these days, not just the heating of our leftovers. However, not everything tastes as good when you cook with a microwave. Have you noticed that? Have you ever wondered why? It’s because the boiling-range temperatures of a microwave oven do not produce the flavorful chemical reactions that frying, browning, or baking at higher temperatures produce.

This is why we shouldn’t microwave life. Life is meant to be flavorful and savored. Life is designed for our senses to experience all it has to offer, both the good and the bad. In fact, when we run into problems in life, “microwaving them” makes us miss important lessons. Trials are good for us because they correct improper motives. When we simply fast forward through them, we don’t learn character-forming lessons. Problems and painful situations are good for us because in them, we can learn to be patient and patience develops strength of character. As with food, our character is not fully-baked when we microwave it.

In my 53 years on earth, I’ve learned three important lessons.

  • I’m here for a reason.
  • It’s not about me.
  • I become what I think about.

These, in fact, are universal truths. You have the choice to not believe them, but it doesn’t make them untrue. Choosing not to believe them is like microwaving life.

I am created to be lovable and good because I am created in God’s image. I believe you also are created in God’s image, which makes you lovable and good too. However, because we’re human, we’re imperfect. We’ll make mistakes and hurt each other because of our selfish ambitions. Daily temptations abound to place ourselves above God and others, and those daily choices cause relational discord, which is the root cause of our problems.

God is far more interested in our character than our comfort. He is working to perfect each of us, not pamper us. His goal is not to make us comfortable. His goal is to help us grow up. He uses problems in our lives to grow our character, which is why we need to stop microwaving them.

Ok, so how do we apply this principle? The next time you have a problem, don’t ask, “Why is this happening to me?” Rather ask, “What do you want me to learn from this, God? What are you trying to teach me? What is my blind spot? What character issue do I need to work on?”

The City of Neighborly Love

As I listened to my daughter, Jarah, sing The National Anthem yesterday at the Duquesne University women’s basketball game, not only was it a “proud father” moment, it was a “proud American” moment. Jarah’s voice is angelic and it stirs up my deep love for this country and all those who have sacrificed so much so that “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” could live in the freest country the world has ever known.

Jarah at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse at Duquesne University, 12-10-2022

That experience followed my guest appearance the day before on a TV show out of Philadelphia, whose name means City of Brotherly Love. Sadly in 2022, Philly is not living up to that name as homicides and vehicle theft are up, overall violent crime is surging, and robberies have more than doubled compared to this time in 2021, according to city data. As of September, the city reported 388 homicides, up slightly from 384 at the same time in 2021, when Philly set a record with 562 homicides. Overall shootings have increased by 3%. Overall violent crime is up 7%. Robberies in which perpetrators used guns are up 60%. Property crimes are up more than 30%, with businesses getting hit hard as commercial burglaries have risen a staggering 50%. However, there is light in the midst of the darkness, Joe Watkins and his show, State of Independence, which is a program on Lighthouse TV.

Joe Watkins also makes me proud to be an American and a Pennsylvanian. Joe has had an extraordinary life. From his early years in the projects of Queens to an office inside President George H. W. Bush’s White House, his story is inspirational. The work Joe is doing to find dignity and value in our fellow man is redeeming Philly as the City of Brotherly Love.

Let go of the past.

That’s one of the things we have to learn to do as adults to move forward. If we harbor any anger, bitterness, among other things, it’s just not healthy.

We cannot have constructive conversations, healthy debates without the ability to forgive.

Marc Casciani on Joe Watkins’ State of Independence, December 9, 2022

When you approach these conversations … approach it as neighbors to neighbors.

And you don’t leave your faith as a public school board member at the door. It helps inform your decisions.

Your not consulting scripture at a school board meeting, but who you are, your DNA, what you believe about life and people and how they should be treated is going to come from a place … and in his case its coming from a very deep well.

Jeff Coleman, Producer of State of Independence, December 9, 2022

Thank you, Jarah. Thank you, Joe. Thank you, Jeff. I am humbled by the experiences you blessed me with this past week, and I am honored to call you my daughter, my brother, and my neighbor, respectively.

In 1787, the year The Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, Pennsylvania was given the nickname “The Keystone State,” due to the crucial role it played in the formation of America and its centrality, figuratively and geographically, to the thirteen colonies. A keystone is a term referring to the central stone at the summit of an arch, locking the whole together, which serves as a metaphor for Pennsylvania’s importance to this country. With Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, in the east, and Pittsburgh, which I claim as the City of Neighborly Love, in the west, I pray Pennsylvania continues to serve as the keystone of America’s future as “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

State of Independence, Grace and the School Board Episode, December 9, 2022

Do This One Thing Today (and Every Day)

There is only one thing evil cannot stand and that is forgiveness. Yes, it’s only that one little word, forgive. Why is that?

Evil loves anything that breaks apart human relationships and creates discord. Think about all the things people have done to hurt you, and in turn, all those things you’ve done to others to hurt them. That’s the funny thing about humans, no one is immune to being either the perpetrator or the victim. We all have the capacity to hurt and be hurt in thought, word, and deed.

Are you tired of that? If not, then I’m sorry you’re not there yet. If so, then join me in committing to do this one thing today and every day: forgive. Forgive yourself and forgive others. If you do, then every day overflows with opportunity and possibility. Somebody must model this behavior, so it may as well be me and you.

Warning: We won’t be perfect. We’ll make mistakes, which is why it must become a daily practice, for the longer we do it, the more likely it will become a habit. In fact, evil would love for us to stop, to give up because it’s too hard, and to fail. It’s so much easier to retaliate than forgive. The thought of getting even seems much more appealing and rewarding. Nothing could be further from the truth so don’t fall for that lie.

Forgiveness is like fertilizer for your heart. It enables good thoughts to grow and flow from it. It creates the foundation for good thoughts and behaviors. It sets the tone for civility and dignity and unleashes us to become the best version of ourselves on earth. It empowers us to live with passion and purpose. It frees us to live up to the life we’re called to live, which is why evil can’t stand it.

It seems like we have so many problems in America. If we honestly do a root cause analysis of all of our problems, including the lack of unity, it would reveal one source: the hypocrisy of the heart. We have a heart problem, America, for out of the heart comes evil thoughts. If someone doesn’t align with your beliefs or politics, it doesn’t make them evil, and it certainly doesn’t make you better than them.

So what’s the solution? Forgiveness. Let’s commit to modeling this behavior so that eventually all those that are elected and selected in our executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, at all levels, also reflect the heart posture of forgiveness. Let’s hold up that goal as the destination who which our culture will eventually arrive.

Accuser or Advocate? The First Domino.

There is a fight that goes on inside all of us, a terrible fight, and it’s between two wolves that battle in our minds. One wolf is evil. The other is good. The wolf that wins is the one you feed.

The evil wolf is an accuser. It will do anything to make you feel as bad as you possibly can about yourself because if you feel horrible about who you are, then you will certainly look with evil eyes on your neighbor and believe the worst about them. Evil travels. It creates a domino effect. Accuse yourself. Accuse your neighbor. Get your neighbor to accuse someone else, and the evil dominos keep falling.

The good wolf is an advocate. It tells us we are lovable and good because we are God’s creation. The evil wolf wants us to not believe we are because they are a liar. The good wolf reminds us that we are God’s, which means we are good, which means our neighbor, who is also God’s, is also good and lovable. Good can spread and thrive like dominos too.

The accuser wants us to think the worst about who we are, so we will look at our neighbor and see the worst in them. The advocate wants us to see the best of who we are so we will look at our neighbor and see the best in them. You can be an accuser or an advocate. You get to choose. Feed your evil wolf and you’ll be an accuser. Feed your good wolf and you’ll be an advocate.

Rejecting the accuser’s message and embracing the advocate’s assurance leads inevitably to our neighbor. If we are lovable and acceptable then our neighbor is also lovable and acceptable because we are both loved by the Person who created us in a unique way.

Therefore, we are all called to do the work of loving and accepting. May that be the first domino that falls.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 27 – Mike Colella

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.

Mike Colella

Marc interviews Mike Colella, Senior Vice President at TriState Capital Bank. Mike 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? Mike tells how he and his wife support the Light of Life Rescue Mission in Pittsburgh, PA and City Rescue Mission in New Castle, PA, describes the need to create a company that promotes the dignity of work, and shares his heart for helping the city and people of New Castle, his home town.

Neighborly Love, Episode 27 – Mike Colella (11-21-22)

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One Another

Dozer and Honey Casciani

Dogs are pack animals by nature. A pack is a group of animals that live together to thrive and survive. In dog packs, there is always an alpha dog that is considered the top of the pack. The pack looks to that individual member for leadership, structure, and protection. Dogs are not meant to be alone.

Humans also are not meant to be alone. We’re not designed to go through life isolated, trying to do everything by ourselves. Success happens when we work alongside others.

We need one another. We’re to love one another, help one another, serve one another, and bear one another’s burdens. Maybe you are struggling to accomplish your goals because you’ve been going at it alone. You were never meant to live without community. The work you are called to do will always be accomplished in partnership with others. This is what it means to have team spirit.

When great leaders have a dream, they build a team. That’s what great leadership is all about. Great things happen when people are united with words of affirmation and opportunities to succeed in something they’ve always wanted to accomplish … together with one another.

Not everyone will want to be part of your God-given purpose and plan. That’s ok. Love everyone, but focus your time and energy on those who want your help and those who want to help you. Invest in the willing and don’t spend much time responding to critics. No plan is accomplished without friction and opposition. If all you did was respond to what other people think of you, you’d never get anything done. Instead, reply with love and forgiveness and simply move on.

Most importantly, focus on your community, i.e. your pack, who can help you build a dream. Anything significant you do in life will require help from others. God intentionally wired us to need one another so we will learn how to work together.

Life is a Binary System

Life is pretty simple when you think about it. We tend to make it complex. It’s about our choices. We choose to “do” or “do not”. It’s a string of 1’s and 0’s. In general, a binary system is any system that allows only two choices. Life is a binary system. The string of 1’s and 0’s we individually execute comprise our life’s work. They tell our story.

Our mind is the computer that makes our choices. Within each choice, there is either belief or unbelief. Trying is essentially unbelief. When you say, “I’ll try”, you are not committed. When you say, “I’ll do it”, you are putting a stake in the ground and making a promise you will get it done no matter what gets in your way. It takes guts, persistence, and stamina.

The right decision depends on the choice we need to make. Sometimes, a “do” or a 1 is the right answer. Other times, a “do not” or a 0 is. We don’t always get it right on the first attempt, however, we will always get another attempt if we are contrite, humble, forgive ourselves and others, learn from the mistake and have the strength to endure.

Eventually getting it right is the definition of success. It does not matter how many times it took. You did it. You did the right thing. And doing the right thing over and over, overcoming your hurts, hangups, and bad habits makes you a successful person. Every prosperous person fails and overcomes. Every failure lets fear, guilt, resentment, or pride inhibit them.

Success or failure. Belief or unbelief. “Do” or “do not”. 1 or 0. It’s that simple.

This post was originally published on June 18, 2017, and was republished on November 13, 2022.

Active Patience

Good things happen when we’re patient, but only if we remain active. What? Active patience? That’s an oxymoron.

Not an “empty” active where you’re just doing things to stay busy. Rather, an “intentional” active where you’re meaningfully serving others. Carve out daily quiet time for yourself to reflect on who and how you can serve. Your acts of service will directly benefit others and also shape your character.

Your purpose in life will be revealed in waiting and serving. Even when you’re doubting, and it’s seemingly taking forever, keep serving. This is faithfulness. This is active patience.

Being patient does not mean just sitting around waiting for something to happen. It’s not a passive quality. True patience is thinking, acting, serving, and learning in a trial-and-error fashion.

Being actively patient is to be meek, not weak. Many people equate meekness with weakness. Meekness is strength under control. Think of a wild stallion that has been tamed. They are just as powerful as when they were wild but are now under control. Meekness and weakness are 180 degrees out of phase.

There is strength in humility, power in gentleness, great force in kindness, and beauty in meekness. To be meek is to possess active patience.

Late 7th century BC, near the time of the transition from the Assyrian to the Babylonia empires, the prophet Habakkuk engaged in a profound dialogue with Israel’s God. Habakkuk begins by asking how long God will allow evil to triumph. God’s reply is that He is raising up the Babylonians as His tool of correction. When the dialog concludes, Habakkuk celebrates God’s dramatic intervention for Israel in the past and prays that He will do it again. Habakkuk resolves to be actively patient for God’s coming.

1I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.

3This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

Habakkuk 2:1 & 3 (NLT)

Wanting to speed up God’s plan has always been a challenge. Part of His plan may include a slower timetable than what you or anyone else wants. One reason God moves slowly is that He knows delays make you stronger. God knows you will benefit when things happen slowly.

So, remember, there’s no need to rush to make your life go the way you want it to go. Instead, be actively patient as you completely trust God’s plan for your life.

This post was originally published on August 19, 2018, and was republished on November 6, 2022, with the addition of a story about the prophet Habakkuk to the ending.

An Invitation

Everybody everywhere was born to do something. The first challenge is believing that statement. The second challenge is understanding what it means. The third challenge is fulfilling it. “What should I do with my life?” is the question to which we all want an answer.

Here’s a hint to finding the answer: it’s not about you. The secret to discovering what you were born to do is about believing there’s Someone (yes, that’s a capital S) bigger than you at work in the universe who loves you and created you for a purpose. That Person (yes, that’s a capital P) wants to have a relationship with you so that you can grow to understand your unique gifts and how to use them to serve other people, not your own ambition. Fulfilling what you were born to do is an others-focused, life-long quest about learning to subordinate your will to His (yes, that’s a capital H).

So, the question, “What should I do with my life?” is really an invitation. God commands only what He empowers. He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who comes to dwell in us and be our Advocate in life. We simply need to accept that gift of advocacy. If we do, then the Holy Spirit is always with us to help our discernment in the ebb and flow of our days. If we don’t, then we will go wherever life’s current takes us, which may feel good at certain moments, but in the big picture will be fleeting and leave you feeling empty.

For many years, I didn’t open my envelope. When I finally did and RSVP’d “YES” it transformed my life. No longer do I walk alone. Through the good times, I have a friend who keeps me grateful and humble. Through the bad times, I have a friend who keeps me grateful and hopeful. Either way, I am grateful because I know that in all things God works for my good because I love Him and am called to fulfill His purpose for my life.

I too hope you will RSVP “YES,” and may the Holy Spirit be with you.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 26 – Jeff Coleman

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.

Jeff Coleman

Marc interviews Jeff Coleman, Founder & Principle of Churchill Strategies and author of With All Due Respect. Jeff 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? Jeff tells how he doesn’t view surprise encounters as accidental or incidental, shares his gratitude and passion for doing exactly what he is doing today, and reveals his heart to minister to people in public life and their families, a vision he shares with his wife, Rebecca.

Neighborly Love, Episode 26 – Jeff Coleman (10-28-22)

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