Stay at Home or Go Home

A lot is going on even though most of the world is on lockdown due to the Coronavirus. This COVID-19 pandemic has required that we face our apparent mortality.

Eternity, they say, is in our hearts. We are both conscious and subconscious; agents and witnesses of a sliver of this era. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have dreams, time-travel in our minds, and use words like forever & infinity. If our weight remains the same before and after death, what part of us left the “building”? And where did it go? Our essence and spirit will never die. If one has faith in what is beyond, death just becomes the portal.

So while the world is being assailed by this Coronavirus, and there’s the debate about if we should save lives or the economy; and if we should stay home or go home (die), here are reasons why I’m not ready to completely die:

  • I am not a dove (Thanks, Itumi Maduagwu for your Noah’s ark analogy)
  • I am human—a speaking spirit, bodily-bound to the earth.
  • My essence/spirit needs this body prepared for me, and without my Earth suit, I’m donezo, expelled, transported.

Except you are a dove or a raven, be careful out there. I’m staying at home because I’m not ready to vacate the Earth permanently. I’m not scared of the unknown; I’ve got faith. I’m scared of dying before my assignment here is done. If I knew my end date, I would be writing about going home. 💫

Stay at home. Stay alive.

Image Credit: Krzysztof Sujkowski. Pixabay

The Servant Leader – Becoming a Solutionary P.1

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The Servant Leader – Becoming a “Solutionary” Part 1

What is a servant’s heart? To most people, the quintessential servant’s heart is – Mother Teresa and her team of sisters in blue-piped white saris *washing the feet of the poor and sickly in Calcutta, India. An important fact is that on a train ride in 1946, she answered the “call within the call” to give up her role as Principal of Saint Mary’s to work in the slums with the poorest and sickest in Calcutta without a perfect seven-point plan on how to make that happen. Two years later, with official permission granted and basic medical training, she walked into the streets and her life’s work.

Having accessed what was needed on the ground, she founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 with a small team of former teachers and students. By the time of her death in 1997, she oversaw a leper colony, a home for those affected by HIV/AIDs, mobile clinics, nursing homes, a center for special-needs children in Kochi, and so much more. Were there hard, gut-wrenching times? Undoubtedly. But the servant’s heart does not strive for perfection but stays focused on being a solution as long as there is an entrenched need. She garnered some criticisms but also accolades, donations, and humanitarian awards including the 1979 Nobel peace prize. Canonized in 2016 as St. Teresa of Calcutta, today, the revered servant’s humanitarian work has expanded to an international, multi-million dollar charity with 5150 sisters actively working in more than 758 missions across 139 countries.**

Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

Two things recently got me thinking about servant leaders and the servant’s heart. First, team members were asked to take up supervisory positions and more responsibilities for a special ministry at church. Everyone took some time to consider our request. Some needed to hear from God and others needed to consult their families before committing. Of course, one must always consider the impact of serving on the family. Is hearing from God seeking an audible confirmation? Is that trying to make a distinction between what’s generally good and what’s specifically good for me? As believers, we have the Word, His peace, and His Spirit to guide us and these do. While we can’t accept every assignment, I think if it calls you up higher and beyond yourself, if it seems challenging and taunts any sense of inadequacy, it is so worth trying. But lean on God and like a miner, dig deep within for strengths and abilities that would otherwise remain dormant. A stagnant life is like the Dead Sea. Living things and beings need to grow. My breakthrough moments have always happened when I challenged myself to take the scary, unusual, and unexpected path.

Secondly, I came across Dr. Angela Lauria (Author’s Incubator) ideas on the servant’s heart.
Dr. Lauria states that “being in a place to serve has a lot to do with building your leadership muscle…becoming an object in motion…a forward-moving being.” Thus a servant’s heart is not passively idling till directions are given. Robert K. Greenleaf originally coined the term ‘servant leader’ in the publication of his classic 1970 essay, ‘The Servant as Leader‘  which launched the modern servant-leadership movement. The best leaders with an enduring impact like St. Teresa, whose maxim “I thirst…”  reminds us of the words and sufferings of Christ, adjure us to do as they have done. They are active catalysts for change, upturning the status quo, being and urging others to become “solutionaries.” Their work seeks a higher purpose to better humanity and transcends the individual. According to Greenleaf, their philosophy and practices seek to create “a more just and caring world.” A true servant detests inertia. One’s usefulness expires when they can no longer move forward. There are always new goals and challenges to tackle if we resist the paralyzing need to be 100% certain of success. 

Now, even though I know that our greatest lessons come from failures, I am just as guilty of research overload, calculating, and planning every step, making sure all the data and algorithms are just right, but then guess what happens? Nothing. Nothing but analysis-paralysis, because once we seek a no-fail process, we create an artificial biosphere, one so perfect that it has no place in reality and we lose the fun and adventure of fully living as we try to avoid (at all costs) the tension between what is and what could be. St. Teresa of Calcutta would have probably died as an excellent school principal if she had over-analyzed the extent of her assignment and in fear, refused to step out.

Okay, back to the church request – not everyone accepted the higher call but we truly love and appreciate every member of our team because in their own ways they actively serve and care for the most vulnerable amongst our children.
Servants are actually leaders who roll up their sleeves’ and “get action.” (Theodore Roosevelt) But if everyone leads, who will follow? Some people will never step up and then others who are “leader-first” are selfishly motivated by the quest for power, fame, or wealth. “Servant-first” people who make a “conscious choice to lead” then take deliberate action are in the people business. Greenleaf states that we can test a servant leader’s effectiveness by accessing if our collective humanity is better for it. Therefore, I’m convinced that we can both selectively follow and consciously lead. Our leadership and genius manifest in our specific assignments and we can learn from others in the arena.

So, take the instinct, volunteer, fan the flames of natural tendencies and build with commitment. Servant leaders act and recognize excuses for what they are – stumbling blocks to one’s true calling. Examples of servant leaders abound like Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, St. Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Moses, Albert Schweitzer, Jack Ma, Herb Kelleher, etc. This world can be hard and full of pain-points, but servant leaders are altruistic and the real heroes of our time. They have answered the call to be solutionaries and to an adventure – imperfect, unpredictable, and scary…but so worth it!

Ama.
#Becoming

References & Notes:

(1)The command or *mandatum in St. John’s gospel has become a religious rite observed in Islam and Christianity. Maundy Thursday during the Holy Week imitates the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus as a lesson in humility and service to each other. In Islam, the Wudu is a partial ablution or purifying activity before salat (formal prayers) and handling the Qur’an.

(2) Data of Active Contemplative Sisters (2015) The Order of the Missionaries of Charity. https://www.motherteresa.org/missionaries-of-charity.html website accessed 1/21/2020

(3) Mother Teresa (1910-1997) https://www.biography.com/religious-figure/mother-teresa. updd. 08/26/19

(4) Dr. Angela E. Lauria, 2016. “The Incubated Author – 10 Steps to Start a Movement With Your Message.” KPP eBook

(5) Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. 1970. ‘The Servant as Leader’ https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/  website accessed 1/21/2020

(6)”Solutionary” is the word used by my brother, Hon. Idopise Essien to describe his life work as a compassionate, solution-driven entrepreneur seeking to address the problems of entrenched rural communities. His company, Seteiye Integrated Services, takes solar-powered lighting to off-grid villages in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. I’ll explore his journey in the upcoming “A Servant’s Heart – Part 2.”

Image Credits: Google & Pixabay

The Foolishness of Nature Worship

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The Foolishness of Nature Worship by King Solomon.
(Reflections of a royal philosopher)

For all people who were ignorant
of God were foolish by nature; and
they were unable from the good things
that are seen to know the one who exists,
nor did they recognize the artisan but his works.

They supposed that either fire or
wind or the circle of the stars, or
turbulent water or the luminaries of
heaven were the gods that rule the world.

If through delight in the beauty of these
things, people assumed them to be gods, let
them know how much better than these is their
Lord, for the author of beauty created them.

And if people were amazed at their power
and working, let them perceive how much
more powerful is the one who formed them.
For from the greatness and beauty of
created things comes a corresponding
perception of their Creator.

Can we blame them? Perhaps they go astray
while seeking God and desiring to find him.
For while they live among his works,
they keep searching, and they trust in
what they can see, because the things
that are seen are beautiful.

Yet again, not even they are to be excused;
for if they had the power to know so much
that they could investigate the world,
how did they fail to find sooner the
Lord of these things?

Credits:
Text – Paraphrased from The Book of Wisdom (Chapter 13) – NRSV Edition
Image – Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

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Selfies, Fleshly Cuffs – Much Ado About IT

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Credit: Pixabay Images

This is the way a certain man’s *story ends:
He had John beheaded in the dungeon. And John’s head, ratty with matted dreadlocks and a thick, scruffy beard, was placed on a gleaming silver platter and given to the girl, who served it to her mother, Herodias. Then his followers came, took away the decapitated body and buried it…
The it stopped me cold. Why didn’t the story say buried him?

In our self-obsessed culture, we tend to place people with the It-Factor on ivory pedestals, gawk at their sculptured (airbrushed) perfection in glossy prints and agree that they are entitled to a form of rarefied air and lifestyle. Somehow the image, this physical part of us has become our highest hope. We obsess about body image, contour, nip and tuck our angles and curves. In this selfie-crazed world, what chance does the soul, the spirit have to thrive?

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.” Luke 12:4

I live in LA, the most cynical city in the world and as Andy Warhol’s  Interview Magazine promotes their “The #ME Issue” an issue dedicated to the art of the celebrity selfie featuring eight covers profiling the “Instagang” – Victoria Beckham, Selena Gomez, Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Mert Alas, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Zayn Malik et al., I wonder if there’s a place for higher-level introspection, for God, for selflessness in our dizzy urban kaleidoscope.

Really??!

Really?!

It sucks, but at some point, everyone’s story will come to an end. What’s left behind becomes it and lest the decaying, decomposing carcass constitute a health hazard, it is buried in the original organic matter to bond with grave robbers, maggots and critters. For some, their real essence, (the genderless soul) will be shocked to find that beyond our fleshy cuffs, this shell of flesh, this body of death, what you look like doesn’t matter after all.

Neither does what you do or who you are. The most important attribute is who you believed in. Here’s wishing us all a selfless life and a happy ending.

*story @ Matthew 14 (paraphrased)

Living Out The Plan

Living out the plan

There’s got to be one. A plan that is  – for my life and yours, otherwise why are we still occupying precious space on this crazy earth, breathing without effort. If there was a Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve, a head-strong mother and a wicker basket set among the reeds in the crocodile-ridden Nile river for Moses, and the *Magi who fascinated by a lone star in the sky, travelled thousands of miles laden with gifts for a baby boy born in a filthy manger, surely God designed a unique destiny for each of us before we showed up wrinkled, loud and cranky.

Some have retained those loud and cranky traits because sometimes, life simply sucks! On a conscious level we acknowledge the strain of our journey but it helps to go deeper and not stay at the level of frustration when our carefully crafted plans crumble. There is this inner gnawing, an acute distress and emptiness when we are not living out the plan. God has a good plan, for each person as unique and distinct as our fingerprints to bring us out into a wealthy place. (Psalm 66:12)

Living out the plan

My loving mother was always ahead of the times. In elementary  school, she got us monogrammed tee-shirts. This was the eighties, so it was a big deal. I don’t know if any of my four siblings remember that afternoon surprise, but the message on my shirt – Future Hope  –  stuck with me. Mom was inspired by the promise that God’s plan for us are good and leads us to an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Remember that as God’s children we are not left to figure out or do life on our own – that helps put our successes and even failures in the right perspective. We can live out His plan for us if we:

  • Connect with the Source of our life-plan – time spent with God either in prayer, worship or meditation is never a waste. Looking back I wonder how much pain I could have avoided if I just sought His way and ideas first (Matthew 6:33). God should not be our last resort.
  • Build up faith by considering His word and promises – the game of life is won or lost not based on the events themselves but on our interpretation of them. Whose opinion or report will you believe?
  • Trust and obey – sometimes like Moses, we’ll be instructed by God to grab a proverbial snake by the tail. God’s ways are unusual, mysterious, creative but always in line with His word.

living out the plan

God leads by revelation and illumination, we learn by experience.  We’ll sometimes fail but are not left to pick up the pieces alone.  In living out the plan, there’s more than at stake than what we see or perceive – it’s about changing  the world.  Someone on assignment is the one making a difference.
For more resources about living out the plan for your life, check out Rick Warren’s books – “The Purpose Driven Life” and “What On Earth Am I Here For?” Shalom.

*Magi – the “wise men” from the East who brought gifts to the infant Jesus (Matt. 2:1), said in later tradition to be kings named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Images: Pixabay/Google.