Ultimate Success

As I walked out of the Pine-Richland Athletic Hall of Fame banquet last evening, I noticed something painted on the wall as I exited the cafeteria. It was something I had never noticed before, a quote from Mister Rogers.

There are three ways to ultimate success:
The first way is to be kind.
The second way is to be kind.
The third way is to be kind.

– Fred Rogers

So simple. So wise. Thank you, Mister Rogers.

Upon reflection, as I listened to each inductee give thanks and testify to who and what made the honor possible, there was a common thread in each story: other people went out of their way to be kind to them. Someone … a parent, a sibling, a grandparent, a coach, a teacher, a friend … did something they didn’t have to do to help them. Each five-minute autobiography was a narrative about kindness.

Going a little deeper in my reflection revealed the root cause of each story’s common denominator: each inductee had to decide what to focus on in their speech, what to rehash, and what not to worry about. Their life story could have been told in many ways, yet the way they told it would reveal what the audience remembers. Each finished product was a case study about kindness.

We write our own autobiography each day by deciding what to focus on, what to rehash, what to forget, what to forgive, what to learn from, who to give grace to, and who to love. Our life story can be told in many ways, and the way we tell it changes who we are and who we become. We are in control of that narrative, however, we have to be good editors of our own story. Ultimate success in life is owning it.

Who’s editing your story?


The Moses is a sculpture by the Italian Renaissance artist, Michelangelo Buonarroti, housed in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome.

How did the word “retirement” creep into America’s culture? The dictionary defines it as the action of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work. Leaving one’s job, ok, that is not too far-fetched. People leave their jobs every day. Ceasing to work, well, is another story. Ceasing to work is like ceasing to live, at least if you define work like the Bible defines work.

Biblically speaking, everything we do is “work.” People confuse employment with work. There is a difference.

Employment is a contract where we are paid a certain compensation in exchange for the work we do. Employment includes work, but not all work is employment. Not all work earns compensation. God in his infinite wisdom planned that some vocations will receive financial compensation and some won’t.

Parenting is work. Volunteering on my school board is work. My job is work. However, I only earn money via my job. Why then should I do the other two? Because being a parent and serving my local community are callings. God has called me to them according to His purpose for me. My reward for them is bigger than getting paid. Think of it as an inheritance rather than compensation. This is why in everything I do, I work as though I am working for the Lord, not for human masters.

Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses is a powerful depiction of God’s servant, someone who is working for the Lord, not for human masters. Moses is presented as a figure of massive proportions and strong stone, carrying the wisdom of God beneath his arm. But how did he start out in life? As a baby set adrift in a river. A child raised by an adoptive family. A young man who was very conflicted. However, from that fractured life, God raised up a leader who united His people and freed them from slavery. That’s what Moses was called to do. He didn’t receive compensation for it, but he did receive an inheritance.

You can retire from your job, but you can’t retire from what God calls you to do. You can try, but God has a way of never leaving you or forsaking you. No matter what sets you back or makes you feel unworthy, you will never lose dignity in God’s eyes. You were made in His image, He has a purpose for you, and He wants you to believe and see it.

Retirement? It’s a beginning, not an end. Finally, you can live up to the life you were called to live.

The Better Angels of Our Nature

Humility is the fulcrum of a virtuous and civil society. At the far left is envy. At the far right is pride. Envy produces feelings of discontentment or resentfulness where one longs for someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck. Pride produces feelings of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, qualities, or possessions that are widely admired. Neither extreme is healthy nor productive for the common good. Humility lies at the center and provides balanced feelings of contented ambition and perpetual gratitude regardless of circumstances.

As I reflect on this quality of humility, my favorite U.S. president comes to mind, our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln lived his life at the fulcrum of humility. As I reflect on the last five years of his life, it’s hard to deny he was prepared for that moment in history. His purpose, and God’s will for his life, were fulfilled.

To honor him, I wanted to share key milestones in those final five years of his life, as well as his closing remarks of his First Inaugural Address and the full text of his Second Inaugural Address. Thank you President Lincoln for who you were and what you did for this country.

  • March 4, 1861 – First Inaugural Address

  • April 12, 1961 – America’s Civil War Starts

  • November 19, 1863 – Gettysburg Address

  • March 4, 1865 – Second Inaugural Address

  • April 14, 1865 – Assassination by John Wilkes Booth

  • May 26, 1965 – America’s Civil War Ends

Closing of His First Inaugural Address

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Full Text of His Second Inaugural Address

At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it — all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war — seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!” If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond — man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether”

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Right vs. Ability

Response attributed to Benjamin Franklin at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation.

In America, we have the right to a free country, but we may not always have the ability to maintain it. It depends on who lives here, what our attitudes are, and how good our leadership is. Benjamin Franklin famously answered a question upon leaving the Constitutional Convention in 1787, “A Republic if you can keep it.” In more ways than one, seems like that’s more true than ever.

America is founded upon the principle of natural rights, that is no one has the right to dominate anybody else without their consent. In other words, nobody has the right to rule another without the consent of the governed. It is the essence of human equality. It is the essence of human dignity, the quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

To create the United States of America, our founding fathers had to make compromises in the ratified documents. Neither they nor the documents were perfect. After all, they were human and all humans are flawed. Nonetheless, the foundation was set for the freest country in humankind’s existence. Over our nearly 250-year history, we’ve attempted to address the flaws in those documents by fighting a civil war, engaging in nonviolent civil rights movements, and peacefully securing new protections in federal law for the civil rights of all Americans.

All this hard work affirms a moral claim that our natural rights arise from the notion that not only are we born equal, but we also deserve to live equally free. And that comes from the idea of the natural right to liberty from which all other rights can be derived.

  • If you have the right to be free, then you have the right to not be assaulted.
  • If you have the right to be free, then you have the right to not be killed by another.
  • If you have the right to use your own mind and body to acquire property, then you have the right to property.
  • If you have the right not to be dominated in the way you worship God, then you have the freedom to practice your religion.

Human equality is a moral claim in two ways:

  1. Moral rights and obligations of human beings to each other.
  2. Right to rule, born equally free and independent (not born into a slave or subordinate relationship – except for children who are under the temporary wardship of their parents as a preparation for the freedom of adult life.)

The only way to maintain these rights is to live under a social compact, an agreement we all have with each other to form a government and accept the rules of that government, which is for us and our rights.

Having rights is not the same as being able to keep them. For the sake of future generations of Americans, I pray we find a way to do so.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 25 – Dave Foster

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.

Dave Foster

Marc interviews Dave Foster, ex-Pastor turned Counterterrorism Specialist at the U.S. Department of Justice. Dave 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? Dave tells a story about helping a young man cope with an extortion attempt from someone with access to compromising photos of the young man, describes his love for creating and building healthy spaces for others who can’t afford it, and articulates a dream that blends his passion for mission work for neighbors with his love for teaching. Dave’s vision is to build and maintain communities that are rich and inviting, but also have standards and boundaries that are so important to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Neighborly Love, Episode 25 – Dave Foster (9-28-22)

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Diversity, Dignity, and Inclusion

We celebrated our daughter’s 15th birthday yesterday. Jarah is such a blessing. She displays an innate quality that is much needed today, dignity. Dignity is the state or quality of being worthy of honor and respect. Jarah treats everyone with dignity. Her name is a gender-neutral name of Arabic origin that means boldness, bravery. She loves that about her name. Dignity + Boldness + Bravery = Jarah.

Jarah Hanna’s 15th Birthday Cake

Her middle name is taken from my mother’s maiden name, Hanna. Our family is of Syrian descent and my maternal grandfather, Makeul (Essey) Hanna, immigrated to the U.S. from Damascus, Syria via at Ellis Island on September 20, 1920, at the age of 22. I was only two months old when he died and I regret never having the opportunity to speak with him. My mom tells stories about my jiddu (Syrian for grandfather) that affirm the type of man he was. After settling in Donora, PA, he became a washing machine repair man and opened up a Maytag store on Main Street. He was a hard worker and no work was beneath him. He would go out of his way to help people and make them feel valued, honored, and respected. It seems like Jarah takes after her great jiddu.

Dignity is what’s missing in today’s conversation about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. If we talk about the dignity of every human being, then racism is clearly evil. It’s clearly a sin. I thought we knew this and it didn’t have to be said. I was wrong.

It has to be said because every person you and I have ever met is made in God’s image and likeness, whether they’re a good person or a bad person. Because everyone is made in God’s image and likeness, I don’t need the details of someone’s life to know that they’re worth loving and that they deserve dignity.

To quote C.S. Lewis, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

In other words, any person you meet, no matter old or young, no matter what sex they are, no matter what race they are, ethnicity, socioeconomic class … we conduct all of our dealings with one another like this … every friendship, every love, every play, every politics … there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. It is with immortals that we joke. It is with immortals that we work. It is an immortal person that you marry, or that you snub, or that you exploit, or we just pass by and don’t treat like they are made in God’s image and likeness. Or, it is an immortal person that we just simply allow to be exploited or treated in a way that violates who they truly are.

This begs the question … how do we heal racial divides?

If I’m made in God’s image and likeness then that shapes the way I see myself and changes the way I see other people because they are made in His image and likeness too. I don’t need to know the details of their lives to know they are worth loving and deserve dignity.

I didn’t enslave someone, but if I can help them out of slavery, then that’s my duty. I didn’t do anything to oppress anyone, but if I see someone oppressed, then I need to do something about it. Why? Because that’s my job. I’m made in God’s image and likeness and they’re made in God’s image and likeness.

If I see injustice (sin), then I may not be the cause of their injustice (sin), but if I can do something about it, then I have to because I’m made in God’s image and likeness and I have to love even if it’s not my fault. This imperative applies to people of all color, class, or culture.

Would it be a bad idea to incorporate the word Dignity into our conversation?

Opposite George

One of my favorite episodes of “Seinfeld” is The Opposite (S5:E22 – May 19, 1994). In the episode, George Costanza decides to turn his life around by doing the exact opposite of what he would usually do.

George: Every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everthing I want it to be. Every instinct I have in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat, it’s all been wrong.

Jerry: If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

George: Yes, I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing and regret it for the rest of the day. So now I will do the opposite, and I will do something.

“Seinfeld”, The Opposite, S5:E22, May 19, 1994

What would happen if we could all do the opposite of our initial instincts? What if we could view situations that we are placed in as opportunities to grow in character qualities that are virtuous? What if we had the awareness and self-control to say what we ought to say, not what we want to say? Like Opposite George, I believe we all could live a life of true joy, purpose, and harmony with others if we commit to it.

We’ve all spent a lot of time trying to determine what we want to do in life. For my brothers and sisters who believe there is a God, trust me when I say that He is far more interested in who you are than what you do. You’re not taking your career to heaven. You’re taking your character.

And He has given us the Role Model to follow and strive to be like. He calls those character qualities to which we should aspire the Fruit of the Spirit. He defines them as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

So how does God produce this kind of fruit in your life? He puts you in situations that are opposite of the fruit He’s growing in you.

  • It’s easy to love people who are lovely. He will teach you how to love by putting you around unlovely people.
  • During periods of grief, you’ll learn joy.
  • When someone is instigating a fight, you’ll learn peace.
  • When you’re patience is tested, you’ll learn how to be patient.
  • When someone mistreats you, you’ll learn to reciprocate with kindness.
  • When you’re tempted to do something bad, He’ll give you a way out to do good.
  • He’ll place delicate things in your life to learn gentleness.
  • He allows you to experience hardship and pain to learn faithfulness.
  • When people verbally attack you, you will learn self-control and never attack in return.

God wants to build your character to reflect His character. You may want the process to be quick and easy, but nothing worthwhile is. God works the opposite way, slow and sometimes difficult. However, over a lifetime, it will build strong character in you.

Here’s to getting a “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” the opposite way.

One Pack. Your Story.

In a wolf pack, there is an underlying premise by which members of the pack operate. Nothing in life is free and nothing is free of consequences. Wolves believe that everything must be earned and are social beings with an extraordinary ability to compromise, win, lose, and still get the best out of every situation.

A pack is established when individual wolves need each other and thereby support each other in the performance of vital daily functions. Some of these functions are migrating, hunting, and caring for puppies. They learn familiarity with each other through daily routines and they also create exclusive rituals specific to their pack. These routines and rituals are very important in maintaining stability and relationships in the pack.

Does any of this sound dissimilar to the way human organizations function? Healthy families, teams, businesses, and organizations of all types operate as a pack. Each member has a unique identity, purpose, and role, and is accountable to the other members.

However, what makes humans distinct from wolves? Is there anything that makes us different? There are two things.

  1. Humans are made in the image of our Creator, which is different from anything else He made. The Declaration of Independence of the United States acknowledges, “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.
  2. Like wolves and all animals, humans were formed by God’s words, but we also had another ingredient, His breath of life, the Holy Spirit. He took extra care in creating us and gave us unique responsibilities in caring for the rest of creation, including each other. The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States declares, “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.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, the PA State Capitol building is filled with evidence of history and heritage rooted in humble recognition of human creation. I am grateful for William Penn’s own vision and statement of establishing a Holy Experiment upon which Pennsylvania and the United States of America are founded.

I kindly offer this as a reminder to my brothers and sisters who compete daily in life’s arenas. It’s easy to forget why we are here and what really matters. We need reminders to bring life back to what’s important.

Too often we become distracted by “shiny objects” and other temptations that cause problems for ourselves and others. The root causes of many of these distractions are pride, ego, or envy. That was not part of our original design, however, we’ve been allowing ourselves to become distracted since the original temptation. Such distractions cause discord in our human pack and distortion in the clarity of our calling on earth, which is found in serving other members of the pack.

Therefore, it’s on my heart to share a daily operating framework that will allow us to live within the power of the Holy Spirit, a framework that respects we are all part of one pack, yet have a unique story to write.

  • Those members of the pack that seem to be weaker and less honorable, we treat as indispensable and with special honor.
  • Those members of the pack that are unpresentable, we treat with special modesty.
  • Presentable members of the pack need no special treatment.
  • God has put the pack together, giving greater honor to the members that lack it, so that there should be no division in the pack.
  • All members of the pack should have equal concern for each other.
  • If one member of the pack suffers, every member suffers with it; if one member is honored, every member rejoices with it.

There are simple daily habits that can be formed to learn how to live this way. They are simple, but not easy. They are hard, but worth it.

Nothing in life is free and nothing is free of consequences. Wolves believe that everything must be earned and are social beings with an extraordinary ability to compromise, win, lose, and still get the best out of every situation.

If wolves can do it, so can humans.

Life’s Arenas

Athletes train to compete in their sport. Usually, this is a complement of physical and mental activities and routines that prepare their bodies and minds to give themselves the best possible chance at success. For those of us who were or are athletes, have we ported those habits to daily life? Do we prepare for our engagement in life’s arenas with the same zeal as the athletic venues in which we competed? Are we mentally and physically fit to achieve success at home, at work, or in the communities in which we live?

If the answers to these questions are all “no,” then I kindly submit to you that changes are needed to convert the answers to all “yes.” To live a joyful and meaningful life, you must prepare to compete in life’s arenas and bring life back to what’s important. Otherwise, you will conform to what the world wants you to be, and the forces in the world don’t have your best interests at heart. Those forces seek to distract you from your true purpose, i.e. why you’re here and what you’re called to do.

WARNING … the type of preparation I’m suggesting does not result in glory for yourself. Yes, you have a responsibility to train and compete and that burden rests squarely upon you. However, the moment of triumph is no doing of yours. We are not great. Everything we earn and have is a gift from God. Therefore, we ought to receive it and be thankful. This is the humility that keeps us grounded. It keeps our backs from being broken by the weight of our glorified egos.

Certainly, many reject this notion. That’s ok. It’s not for everyone. But to those who humbly accept it, we are liberated to be peacemakers in life’s arenas. As we compete, we do so by operating with these four principles in mind:

  1. Never rely on yourself in anything.
  2. Bear always in your heart a perfect and all-daring trust in God alone.
  3. Strive without ceasing.
  4. Remain constantly in prayer.

Here are the practical applications of these principles in daily life:

  1. No matter how well-intentioned we are, we have blind spots about others. Therefore, we will unintentionally hurt people in situations and graciously welcome feedback and seek forgiveness.
  2. We know we all stand in need of repentance and rely on God to help us grow in humility, non-covetousness, freedom from anger, and self-control.
  3. We persist in striving for our whole lives, knowing that the work of relational healing is ongoing.
  4. We pray for this without despair or giving up hope.

Serious athletes don’t complain about being tired because getting tired is a necessary component of a well-fought game, which has ebbs and flows. Life is the same way. There will be moments of distress and discord along with comfort and harmony. It’s up to each of us to decide to prepare for all moments we will encounter in life’s arenas so that we may maintain proper perspective and serve as peacemakers.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 24 – Andrew Chiapusio

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.

Andrew Chiapusio

Marc interviews Andrew Chiapusio, Vice President, Private Banking Group at F.N.B. Corporation. Andrew 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? Andrew tells about volunteering with United Way to pack school supplies for children in need, shares his passion for helping others with their personal finances, and reveals his dream for helping the less fortunate in society.

Neighborly Love, Episode 24 -Andrew Chiapusio (8-31-22)

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