Tag Archive: Living Christ


Dominoes

“I wish your father were a part of our lives,” my mother blurted while playing Dominoes. Since suffering a stroke, my father’s health declined from a self-professed sports addict to being unable to recognize anyone, including my mother. In the wake of Coronavirus, many families are staring at walls, hoping for an idea ‒ or perhaps a miracle ‒ to come through those walls that will return life to the ‘normal’ once known. Such miracles rarely, if ever, occur, and we are remanded to rehashing previous events, hidden wrongs, and unquenched anger.

If the story correct, my grandmother said my father created chaos wherever he went. For our family of four, chaos spared none. Preferring to drink with ‘bar buddies,’ my father was absent for a significant portion of family life. Post-stroke, he disappeared again, shuttled off to assisted-living, left to manage his thoughts alone. Yet, each family member is left to balance inner thoughts, and as walls close inward, secrets begin oozing from the crevices.

Sixty or so years is a long time to carry grudges, but my mother’s pain appears just as raw yesterday as it did 50 years earlier. Like 40 percent of children sleeping in homes where fathers do not reside, my mother bore the responsibility of managing both the household and children. Dark secrets buried nearly half-a-century were suddenly barfed onto the dining room table. I can personally attest to the consequences of a life stuffed into canyons far more profound than anything created.

My father neither saw my brother or I as we were, he saw us only as he wished we were. Being quite adept at sports, my father drew nearer to my older brother as I struggled to find shelter, to hide or fit. To be anything else, I learned, often entailed humiliation. As the years went, I found a way to mingle while never exposing the inner child who desired love. Turning eighteen, I left.

I carried forth my father’s legacy: chaos. At times I skipped school and received poor grades. I committed a crime, but only by God’s grace, I was never prosecuted. I was promiscuous and was foundationally set for poor relationships, including several divorces. Unknowingly, I became my father, and the journey to unwind it has been long.

Being so flawed, I often reflect upon the nature of perfection. Recently, I asked Ms. K. why, out of all the people in heaven, she waits for me. “Because you are always seeking to improve. The danger for you is that you have become focused on shortcomings, that I would judge harshly, unable to accept and forgive your faults. I want someone real, not perfect.” And therein lay the hope for us. Maybe perfection in God’s eyes is the desire to improve. 

I should stress that we should not accept ourselves. By that, I mean that we shouldn’t swallow the notion to “accept ourselves” as a license for complacency. We shouldn’t say, “I’m going to accept myself. Therefore I have no desire to change.” I accept my desire to change. We need patience, kindness, and forgiveness so that we can bring change to our lives. 

To change means bringing more love into your family. And then, ultimately, to you. If we change, you end the repetition of family secrets, children cowering in fear, and unwanted legacies. You are your legacy, and the life you live, by choice or by fate, is the legacy you ultimately leave behind.

On the way to work, a small simple yard sign caught my attention. ‘Don’t Give Up.’ My first snarky reaction was, “Why not? Why shouldn’t I give up? I’ve been through all this crap and am likely to pass rather painfully, so why shouldn’t I?” The fact that this sign was posted in the front lawn of a home estimated to be in the millions didn’t help.

If one made millions from investments, is it fair to proclamate onto others who haven’t to not surrender? Free speech allows an author to erect such messages, but we gain zero context. Maybe that author’s cancer went into remission. So, don’t give up. Then again, what if the resident lost his business during COVID and is saying, “Don’t give up, I’m not.” Or, I beat COVID. I got sick, nearly died, but recovered. Don’t give up. We can celebrate such victories, but the author had not taken time to understand the reader’s pain, me.

Rollen Fredrick Stewart (a.k.a. The Rainbow Man) was known for wearing a rainbow-colored afro-style wig and, later, holding up signs reading “John 3:16” at sporting events. Known as a born-again Christian, he was determined to get the message out that whoever believed in Jesus would not perish. Seeing him in the background a golfer, nothing indicated he knew me or my life’s experiences. No one in my home, or that I knew, ever said “John’s got it down.” I never watched a sports program waiting for Rollen’s message. He never spoke to me and it’s doubtful such messages mean anything for the average everyday ‘Joe.’

Just as ‘May God Bless You’ and ‘Jesus Saves’ litter highway barns, were not specific to me. Prior to March 2019, I neither would have thought ‘Don’t Give Up’ as a divine message targeted solely for me, nor would I ever believe the author thought of me. God probably never told the author that “In July 2020, the Unknown Buddhist will pass your home. Post a yard sign saying ‘Don’t Give Up.’ He’ll know it’s from Me.” Nor do I believe God was messaging when I drove past the ‘Hell is Real’ billboard on Ohio’s I-71 either. Projecting such views quickly fades from the minds of those whizzing by during a daily commute.

Just as television viewers zoom through commercials, travelers quickly dismiss billboard proclamations. They have no recall ability. Do pithy billboard messages buoy one’s mind? Probably not. Walk out of a room during a radio broadcast and ads fail to engage. If the communication were real-if that communication ever came from God- it would never fade.

God’s communication fundamentally changes life. For Churchill, it was “We shall never surrender.” Roosevelt experienced similar awe when speaking “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” during his inaugural address during the Great Depression. Real communication challenges the soul, the very ideas about who are in the world, and provides the intellectual confidence to achieve great accomplishments.

Jesus said, “The Kingdom is like a mustard seed which a man sowed in his field. Mustard is smaller than any other seed but let it grow and it becomes bigger than any garden plant; it is like a tree, big enough for the birds to come and nest among its branches.” 

I envision the mustard seed fully grown, strong enough to bear the nests of birds. I sit before the full-grown tree and communicate with it. We talk about smallness in a universe so large. We discuss discouragement; risk-taking; change; fruitfulness; being of service; and finally, the power of God in life. I then kneel before God and tell him what the mustard seed taught. And I ask if He will teach me as well.

That, my friends, is the power of real communication.

Reclaiming Humanity

I watched PBS’ four-part documentary College Behind Bars. The documentary tells the story of a small group of incarcerated men and women struggling to earn college degrees and turn their lives around in one of the most rigorous and effective prison education programs in the United States – the Bard Prison Initiative.

During the 4th episode, the internal reflection of Rodney Spivey-Jones challenged me to reevaluate my failures. Looking squarely into the camera, Mr. Jones reflected on his shortcomings. “We rarely get a chance to think about how we hurt the victims. And yet, that’s something that’s required of us when we go to the parole board. Once you can empathize with other people, you can realize that you’ve caused a lot of harm. If you can connect your pain to the pain that you’ve caused, there’s a responsibility there. And it’s hard to escape it.”

Over the past eight years, I revisited the concept of ‘making amends,’ a traditional term specifically designed to “correct a mistake that one has made, or a bad situation one has caused.” In May 2013, I wrote of twenty-six (26) severely painful situations that required amends. Seven (7) of the twenty-six (26) refused any communication, eleven (11) forgave, four (4) were never found, and four (4) others were works in progress. March 2019, I reconnected with a woman to whom I wrote 18 letters years prior. Despite those efforts, Mr. Jones caused reflection. Did I do enough?

What is enough? All of us are like Rodney Spivey-Jones. I have many people where I only recently thought of how I hurt them. Only a short-term diagnosis of ‘terminal’ forced me to explore the level of harm I caused? For instance, that woman in the military who I badgered for a date is ok now? Did she have a good life? That company I took quietly accepted over expensed travel reimbursements, could they have used that money to benefit another? And of the woman I married and divorced, did I leave you better, or just me?

The PBS documentary also followed former inmate Dyjuan Tatro, who was serving a 12-year prison sentence during filming. Not only did he pay for his crime, but he also made amends and laid the foundation for a better life post-prison. “It was in prison; through the Bard Prison Initiative, that I was able to turn my life around,” Tatro said. “When you’re in prison, and you don’t have any other opportunity, you have to make the most of the one that’s been given to you.” Tatro is making the most of every day. 

Our lives are a collection of ‘single’ days. As such, throughout much of my life, I embraced little ‘intentionality.’ Did I amend the errors of my past? Have I transitioned through restitution? Was there an apology, changed behavior, compensation, or generosity? Or, did I play the ‘victim’ card like decades earlier? Did I lay the foundation for a better life (whether here or in the next)? 

For so many years, everywhere I went before, I created a lot more damage than good. So much so, that I am unsure whether I could seriously restitute anything for past aggressions. As stated before, and as I state to God, I am accountable. Just as Rodney Spivey-Jones did on national television, the ‘buck’ drops at my shoes, and I must make amends. 

Even though I am down to nine months of a two-year ‘prognosis poor’ diagnosis, I have much to give and much to offer. I will continue to show that I am capable of redemption. God knows my life has value beyond the sum of my errors. One day, I hope God will note that this man was able to reclaim his humanity rather than succumbing to ignorance.

Reclaim yours too.

Only One Song

I’ve been told music is good for the soul and that music therapy may assist those with Parkinson’s and other medical disorders. Listening to music may also be of great assistance, including improvements in balance, singing, voice command.

Harry Chapin is one of my favorite singers. Except for that which is available on YouTube, I’ve never saw him play in concert. Accordingly, a recurring dream is to play a number of his songs on a guitar. Part of this fantasy is an ongoing dream of being a famous singer. Part if it is forgotten time when my soul simply wanted to express itself.

Supposedly, age has nothing to do with learning to play a musical instrument. One could be 15, 30, 40, 50, 60, or 70. I used to play guitar as a teenager, but had neither the time, energy, nor devotion to learn to seriously study. I could read guitar music and play its associated chord, but spent little time learning the meaning behind the music, the words, or even the composer’s heart. 

Years I read Beethoven wrote of about hearing loss. Symptoms and difficulties caused him continual problems, both professionally and socially. An autopsy revealed he had a distended inner ear, which developed lesions over time. Still, regardless of distress, historians claim Beethoven’s hearing loss never  prevented him from composing music. He heard and played music for decades, so he understood how instruments and voices sounded and how they complimented one another. He could always imagine in his mind what his compositions would sound like. 

I took a similar approach when recently acquiring an Ovation classical guitar. I studied how the Applause guitar was manufactured and was overly critical of the small blemish in the binding. But, we’re all imperfect. And such imperfections shouldn’t prevent us from creating our own kind of music.

Therefore, I accepted my Applause as a living soul that will allow me to be creative, express myself and produce harmony at some level. Just as all things are interconnected, each one of us is part composer, part conductor. We shuffle through each day in hopes of creating our own music—to hear it, to play it, and to become inspired through it. 

I believe Chapin hinted at this type of synergy in his lyric “You Are the Only Song.”

“… when you sing from the inside
You hope that something shows
And that it why
Yes you are the only song, the only song I need
You’re my laughter and you’re my lonely song
You’re the harvest and you’re the seed
And you’re my first and my final song
For you own me indeed
Oh yes, oh yes,
Yes, after all is said and done
You’re the one song that I need”

In the end, I will try and create whatever music possibly. I will not become a star. I will not be ‘discovered’ by some record executive. I will study, learn the craft, the meaning, and soul. I do it for God and myself. Why? To reclaim an unfilled calling.

I will play these songs to silence
In empty rooms or crowded halls
I will sing to God in standing room
I’ll sing em’ to the stars

It’s just as God would want playing for the only song—the one song we need.

Almost everything in Buddhism boils down to fear. Suffering is caused by fear, and either panic or freezing stops us from speaking up against injustice and often causes people to leave the path of goodness (i.e., the universal truth). When we get too deep, fear smacks us across the face and says, “This is no longer good.”

In meeting my case manager for the first time since March, I admitted to a host of fears: mainly losing my compass (i.e., the fear of the unknown); that I hadn’t processed my Parkinson’s Diagnosis; the fear of being unable to work; and, (after seeing many COVID-19 patients) the fear of dying a long and painful death (as opposed to quick and easy).

The compass throughout this ordeal was Ms. K. I have been successfully able to communicate clearly and thoughtfully since early 2019. As advancing pain presses, I fall asleep during meditation and fail to seize the opportunity for reflection of world’s events. (Ok. Maybe it’s about my circumstances.) 

“I know she’s still there,” I told my case manager. “. . . but I can’t communicate as clearly as I could before. I want her to know that I miss her and our conversations. However, it seems I’ve misplaced the phone number.”

In M*A*S*Hs’ “Pressure Points” episode, Sidney Freedman claims he’s conducting fact-finding medical research on stress. After making the rounds, Freedman meets Col. Potter. 

Truthfully, Potter called Sidney. Potter shares his feelings that his surgical skills are “. . . a lot less perfect than I can accept.” He’s worried but insists nothing’s wrong and wished to vent. Near the episode’s end, Potter tells Freedman he’s anxious about losing his touch (as a surgeon), and the idea of performing surgery fills him with terror. 

I’ve joked to colleagues and friends how surprised I am that my employee badge still works.

“Hey. How was your weekend?”

“Great,” I noted.

“Anything new or exciting?”

“Well, my badge worked.”

As M*A*S*H’s “Pressure Points” episode concludes, Sidney reminds Potter that someday he will get too old to be a surgeon. At this moment, the fear of failing has taken precedence. Whether or not that affects him is purely under Potter’s control.

My world is not as nuanced as a surgical room, for it is abundantly clear people are unobservant and aren’t paying that much attention. I come and go, and any notation of a trembling hand can quickly be dismissed to a remote COVID shift work or lack of sleep. When my work starts going downhill, I’ll have to recognize that the time has come to discuss the issue. I know that as time goes on, it’s going to get tougher to do the job. However, fear cannot be the driver of that moment.

As noted, there are other issues besides work that require my attention. However, it’s essential to remember Buddhism 101: fear must never be the driver of anything.

~ Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life. ~

Buddhist Teaching

My AAA Map

After posting the ‘AAA’ blog, a reader privately asked if I had a map, “Did I, in fact, ever get my own map?”

Before Google Maps, almost everyone went to AAA. However, my first response came out of nowhere and quoted Ralph Emmerson Walden, “Nah. It’s the journey, not the destination.” Pausing for several minutes, I decided this required a more authentic response. So, I deleted my quick ‘on the fly’ response and tried again.

Looking over the lakefront below, I realize just how overused Walden’s quote is. During my first colonoscopy, my father said, “Remember, it’s about the journey.” The same quote was uttered before February’s tumor surgery. And almost every spiritual guru I read (Chopra, Dyer, Ziglar, and others) used a similar version, somewhere, sometime. In the world of instant selfies and ghoulish cartoon meme’s, overuse has weakened its meaning, and truth has faded from intent.

I knew nothing of the journey upon which I set out. It’s a pilgrimage, not a trail.

My first spiritual teacher claimed my path as “… the intentional act chosen to the unwilled rhythms of the body to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being, and doing.” Elated by the teacher’s description, I told a friend. It turns out my teacher repeated the same to him.

Years later, I learned my map was unique only to me and remains harmonious to the rhythms of my body, and beating of my heart. It’s balanced. It’s a psychiatric highway of redemption, filled with ups and downs, cold and heat, tears and anger, peace, and tranquility. It changes daily. One day is unfamiliar; another, I intuitively know where I’m going.

Similar to the flowers of a garden, the smell of jasmine breathes during Spring. Summer is surrounded by endless wheat fields, and gnarled oak trees. In the Fall, men prepare the harvest. Winter’s frost nips at my lips, and hot coca fills my stomach. Life is an endless path.

Knowing that conquering challenges leads to transformation, I kept moving through the good and bad. There were times of homesickness, days of sadness, feeling lost, and moments of exhaustion. But these moments, these tests and trials, all taught something. The sun will rise again. Just keep walking.

Our map (i.e., your path, my path) cannot be borrowed. And, if it is to be real and personal, it has to be something that lasts through trials and stands through doubts, questions, and worries. The map is about finding meaning in the challenges and feeling joyful regardless of the pain. It’s faith.

If you think about it, someone has gone before us. In the movie The Polar Express, the conductor says: “It doesn’t matter where the train (map) is going. What matters is that you choose to get on.” Most already know their map. The choice is about getting on the train.

My map is the AAA’s version of ‘faith.’

Closing Thought

Desperate for help, the people of the village held a meeting under a huge oak tree in the village  square.

Let us pray,” said an elderly woman. “Only God can save us now.

Since the village had citizens of different faiths, town leaders held their prayer in the open, late that night, under the open sky. Suddenly, two young travelers entered town decided to join the prayer and opened umbrellas above them.

“Why did you bring umbrellas? Can’t you see there is no rain? That’s why we have come to pray?”

“Yes,” chimed the travelers. “We are travelers, and the map used by our forefathers brings us through this town. Therefore, we will pray with you.”

“We don’t know your forefathers. Who were they?”

“Our forefathers come from the family ‘Faith.’ And we’re positive our prayer will be answered. That’s why we have umbrellas.”

So … Who had a better map?

Our forefathers knew the path. They’ve been there before, and they’ll get you home.

AAA

A friend discussed having difficulty getting several associates to get past their anger and fear of the other.

Unable to comprehend how to heal them, I interjected, “It’s not your duty to resolve.

Huh?

Your responsibility is to be triple-A (American Automobile Association). You can only provide a map. You’re not the driver.

Anthony de Mello noted the human condition well.

Most say they want to get out of kindergarten. Don’t believe them! All they want you to do is to mend their broken toys.

“Give me back my wife. Give me back my job. Give me back my money. Give me back my reputation, my success.”

This is what they want: they want their toys replaced. That’s all. Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t want to be cured. What they want is relief, for the cure is painful.

The path (map) before us appears unknown. It may be confusing and complicated, even dangerous. Before us lay potholes, debris, and potential injury. There are many unmarked highways and detours galore. It is all so confusing. Which way shall I go? What road shall I take?

Spiritual instruction has always been taught in bite-sized pieces. “Easy-peasy,” grade school friends would note. Formulaically, if we follow the prescribed set of Spiritual Laws, we’d get from Point A to Point B. Likewise, I had always presumed that the Bible was simple and provided a straightforward evacuation map to get us to heaven. These brief statements captured the essential kernels of Scripture.

I have concluded most Spiritual maps are not intended to be ‘evacuation maps.’ Neither is it an owner’s manual nor a love letter from God. What these Spiritual maps do is transform the traveler by teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. The ‘transformation’ may be messy, and often, you will find yourself wrestling.

There was a passage in the Bible that described Jacob wrestling with God. Jacob wrestled God for a night. If you like me, I’ve found myself ‘wrestling’ for nearly forty years. Some nights, I fought all day and all night, continually asking for a fresh vision of who He is and what He wanted. However, until I had this very personal struggle, my life could not be cemented. I could not call it my own.

What Jacob discovers is that wrestling was a means to grace, a channel for spiritual blessing. The same applies to us. The AAA map my friend should have given is one that begins with struggle but is also filled with blessings and faith. And that faith leads to peace. Traveling the map will change one’s identity and can be a profoundly gracious gift of restoration.

As de Mello noted, “Most people don’t live aware lives. They live mechanical lives, mechanical thoughts — generally somebody else’s — mechanical emotions, mechanical actions, mechanical reactions.

Closing Thought

How do I find myself and the light?” asked a student.

By taking the path that leads to the truth,” the Master replied.

Will you help me walk the path?

I can only point the way. You must walk the path yourself.

Go to AAA and get your map. Awake! Arise and walk!

After nearly a month in social isolation, a man yelled at his wife, saying he had enough of this bulls•••, and was off to work. If he got sick and died, then so be it. Economic livelihood was too big to fail.

Two hours later, the man returned.

“What happened?” asked the wife.

“It wasn’t open.”

Sadly, the offer to sacrifice older Americans’ lives for the good of the U.S. comes has gained traction. The argument presented is that the vast majority of coronavirus fatalities will be “concentrated among the elderly and the already severely sick.” Such folks are likely to die of another cause, if not coronavirus. So, die.

To all like-minded Republicans, Sarah Palin loves you. This GOP economic model rests upon several principles:

  • Profits are more important than people;
  • Human life and existence is a commodity or a financial instrument;
  • Society will reorganize around a “survival of the fittest” mentality; and
  • Those who cannot survive and prosper under a “free market” are to be abandoned.

The rich have long tolerated a dysfunctional health care system because, while it delivers relatively poor results for many, it provides excellent care for the wealthy. In today’s Coronavirus battle, one who is poor and can’t breathe is likely to receive significantly different treatment than if you’re rich and can’t breathe. 

Are we willing to potentially sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives to get back to business as usual? Rest assured, there are GOP members who will, without question. With a plethora of disinformation, our society has systematically programmed this narrative for years.

It’s not just stupid, it’s dangerous. To suggest older Americans are expendable is appalling.

The more dire condition: dressed-up isolation.

An hour later, the man confessed, “Finding work wasn’t open wasn’t as bad the other lesson.

“What lesson?” she queried.

“Well,” he sighed. “During my bus ride, no one said a word, and no one looked each other. We were six-feet apart, but we were miles in humanity.”

“And?”

“So, the ride felt like any other day: boring and exhausting. When we were working six weeks ago, I would get dressed, take the 7:30 AM bus, and ride to work. At 5:00 PM, I took the same bus route home. Only now do I realize it was just ‘dressed-up isolation.’ I eliminated my own humanity and exchanged one form of isolation for another.”

All of us are creating the future. How do we want that to look? Social isolation or something better?

Texture

If one song represented my ‘new normal’ during 2010, it would have to be “Sweet Surrender,” by John Denver. Sweet Surrender is a song of journey, a self-exploration.

Lost and alone on some forgotten highway

Traveled by many, remembered by few

Lookin’ for something that I can believe in

Lookin’ for something that I’d like to do with my life

John Denver’s provided expression, hope, ideal, anger, and frustrations. In essence, his music filled me with texture.

Sweet Surrender is reminiscent of today. As schools, businesses, restaurants, baseball, football, family reunions, Labor Day, and 4th of July celebrations moved online, “Zoom,” “Skype,” “Messenger,” “Facebook,” and “iMessage” have become our ‘new normal.’ 

But while the “new normal” might feel lonely, spirituality, it can hone our craft. Opportunities for growth abound. 

Like the great prophets, we can learn to stand in our deserts. Solitude can provide perspective and sensitivity to things long forgotten. We can find deepening in ways never imagined and strength in moving forward. 

For example, by Good Friday 2010, my cup had overrunneth with arrogance. While I could see the fault of others, I failed to envision the benefit of any such self-reflection. I was fired and found the only job available required relocation to upstate New York. I felt exiled. 

During the subsequent months, I walked the banks of the Hudson River and attempted to interpret, understand, and reinvent myself. There were times when I sat upon Hudson’s riverbank and asked why God placed me there. In essence, I came to a point where there was nothing left, nothing to hide, no means for covering up the negative aspects of my personality. I came with nothing but the ability to surrender everything to the only one who could help.

I learned several lessons during my time in solitude.  

First, leave with vision. In this time of social isolation, take the time to reflect. Reassess and align yourself to a better ’true north.’ Second, celebrate victories, large and small. Don’t over-hype small gains. In baseball, singles, and doubles win more games than home runs. Third, recognize and honor interdependence. Everything is interrelated, including time, space, and our very being. Both religion and science reveal this truth — our spiritual and emotional being interpenetrate and nourish one another.

Closing Thought: Find Texture

Rabbi, now that I am divorced, it is very lonely.”

Tell me. What do you do when you are alone?

Well, I water the plants,” she said, faltering. “I wash a few dishes, call a friend.

The Rabbi listened. 

I sit on the couch for hours and stare at the bare branches out the window. I play over, and over Paul Simon’s album, I never listened to. I read several books I have never read. Lately, I’ve been sitting at my dining-room table and painting. My neighbor says I should be an artist.

The Rabbi interjected, “So, suddenly, your life has texture?

Yes,” she smiled. “Texture.

True Leadership

I once heard a pastor talk of a young woman completing her college application. As she compiled all the required documentation, she began answering questions. Her heart sank upon reading the question that asked, “Are you a leader?” 

Filled with integrity and wanting to be honest, she wrote, “No.” She completed all the application requirements and submitted the information, expecting a rejection. 

About a month later, she received the university’s response:

“Dear Applicant: 

A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.”

Part of being on my company’s Coronavirus Tiger Team means watching all these press briefings. I can’t say my experience equates to Job or to being swallowed by a whale, but I liken it to some form of suffering. 

Over the past several weeks, a common phrase was repeatedly pounded into the audience.

“… likes of which has never been seen before.”

I’m not the only one who noticed. Someone created a Facebook parody. There’s been “… money we’ve never seen before; an economic bubble we’ve never seen before; a state dinner we’ve never seen before; an airport we’ve never seen before; stories (news stories) that will dry up like we’ve never seen before; obliteration (Iran) like you’ve seen before;” and, so on. He will deliver like you’ve never seen before. Truly. Truly.”

And as I watched, I reflected upon the young college applicant. Here’s the question I asked, “What is authentic “leadership?” It seems that the whole notion of “leadership” has been elevated to the level of idolatry.

I pulled out my “NKJV Spirit-Filled Bible.” (Yeah. Yeah. I have one. Ha.) While walking along the road, the disciples argued “as to which one of them would be greatest” in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ response? He stood a little child in their midst.

Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great” (Luke 9:48).

The point is that a reluctant leader is probably the best candidate for the job of being the leader. The person best suited to exercise authority is perhaps the one who wants it least.

I scribbled out several essential leadership qualities. These aren’t absolute, just my perspective. 

Genuine Unselfishness

A person who has greatness refuses to hold tightly to his or her possessions. Such a person is characterized by a willingness to release, open generosity, and selfless motives in making decisions. 

Willingness to Sacrifice

Great people not only release their possessions but also give themselves to others. Greatness steps in and assists others in need—to the point of sacrifice—without waiting to be asked and without the requirement of being endlessly thanked.

Purity of Motive 

We could also call this an absence of greed. A person with greatness doesn’t have a hidden agenda. 

A great person has pure motives. We see this absence of greed in Abram’s life when he tells the king of Sodom, “I will not take so much as a single thread or sandal thong from what belongs to you. Otherwise, you might say, ‘I am the one who made Abram rich’”

Restraint of Power

Great people often have authority, yet they refuse to wield that authority like a sword. They don’t threaten or control people with it. 

Granted, none of these character traits are likely to make headlines. These are not qualities discussed in high places, yet each wears well in life. A life of greatness requires a depth of humility and love. 

So, what do we receive from America’s current leadership? I will summarize with the following story.

A little boy said to his mother, “Can I go outside and help Daddy put snow chains on the car? I know all the words.”


A true leader is not the one with the most followers, but one who creates the most leaders.

~ Neale Donald Walsch ~

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