The Vision of Leaders

A vision of leadership calls for having a spirit of collegiality.  Good leaders know how to delegate and exercise legitimate power in the church.  Inevitably they will summon their troops to pursue the church’s plans.  By so doing they will envision the relationships of the different committees they are supervising.  This insight tells them how best to foster the actualization of their followers.  Through their direction believers will prosper, and be filled with inspiration to do their respective jobs.  By their example they will be able to generate the commitment by transforming the environment.  A businessman Bo Bennett (b. 1972) said, “Those who improve with age embrace the power of personal growth and personal achievement and begin to replace youth and wisdom, innocence and understanding, and lack of purpose with self-actualization.”  Effective leaders will grow and guide their flock in wisdom.

Ethical Leadership

Ethical leaders don’t strive to control the group’s creativity.  They avoid the manipulation of people to get things done.  Decisions aren’t leader-centered, but worker-centered.  It’s for them to be sure that the parishioners understand how their instructions ought to be carried out.  Their leadership isn’t dominant, but they set the example by their management style.  Their noteworthy quality is being humble in serving others to work in unison with them.  Their very demeanor should show their ability to rally the work force.

A preeminent leader of India’s Independence Movement Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) wrote, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  This is the quality of what’s expected of leaders.  Pope Francis (b. 1936), the head of the Catholic Church said, “Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better?  Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’  If you don’t ask these questions, your governance will not be good.”  These are questions leaders ought to ask themselves to be accountable to their followers.

Peer Pressure

Leaders must resist psychological coercion.  Their aim is to strive for authentic fulfillment.  Their approach with workers must not be lukewarm or heavy handed.  At all cost they must avoid manipulating them in order to have the upper hand in decision making.  All workers must be respected and honored for who they are.  Everyone must be treated like a colleague.  Benjamin Carson (b. 1951), an author, and politician wrote, “No matter how good you are at planning, the pressure never goes away.  So I don’t fight it.  I feed off it.  I turn pressure into motivation to do my best.”  This must be a model of leaders who want to counter stress in a work environment.

 Effective Communication

Leaders must be quick to listen.  They should never consider themselves as desirous of increasing their status for personal gratification.  Their foremost goal is to be a pacifier of conflicts with their workers.   They should practice authenticity, and treat their colleagues with the utmost respect and dignity.  It’s for them to follow the guidelines about leadership of their community.  Their role should be an exercise in spiritual growth by motivating others to higher levels of accomplishment.  And at no time must they give the appearance of being authoritarian.  Such an approach will only damage their relationship with workers.  Quincy Adams (1767–1848), the sixth US president and statesman said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  This must be the vision of successful leaders.

 

 

The Utmost

The utmost is the Christian God who abhors sin, and fully practices the rule of justice.  People ought to plead with him to have their iniquities forgiven.  It doesn’t matter if these iniquities are large or small.  To be truly liberated people should do so through his grace.  Only then will they find joy, peace, courage, and hope in life.  God is most compassionate and truly understands us.  So be blessed in all these riches by him.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968), a Baptist minister, activist, humanitarian, and leader of the Civil Rights Movement said, “Human progress is neither automatic or inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”  Sins not only have to be confessed by our leaders, but they have to set the example of how to live a Christ-centered life.  .

When people think about youthfulness they reflect on the chronological age of the young.  Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), a German philosopher envisioned youth differently when he wrote, “Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.”  To Schopenhauer youthful living takes different forms in the life of the Supreme Being.

Temporal Enjoyment

Temporal enjoyment might well lead to provocation, God’s punishment, and hardening of our hearts.  Alphonsus Liquori (1696–1787), an Italian Catholic bishop, spiritual writer, and theologian said, “What grieves me more in my past offenses, O my loving God, is not so much the punishment I have deserved, as the displeasure I have given You, Who are worthy of infinite love.”  Liquori regretted his offenses in not loving God as he should.

Why would people allow themselves to descend so low that there’s no hope of God’s mercy?  In Christian teaching to be eternally damned is a dreadful curse that could happen to a soul.  Still there are those who prefer to do evil instead of honoring God.  Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), a politician, diplomat, and First Lady of the United States wrote, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”  Roosevelt clearly gives us a reason for living successfully by using light as a symbol.

Christianity believes that non-believers ought to repent of their sins, come to know the one true living God, love his fellowmen and women, and serve God faithfully.  This apparently is what lighted candles mean to Christians.  Light dispels darkness that threatens to tarnish souls.  And forgiveness is a free gift, so why don’t we seek it?  But people must do so with repentant hearts, and walk victoriously in Christ’s ways.

Trusting God

So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.  Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”  So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

–Gal 3:6-9

God is always at work in our lives.  Situations come and go, but God directs our paths.  Joel Osteen (b. 1963), pastor and televangelist said, “I believe if you keep your faith, you keep your trust, you keep the right attitude, if you’re grateful, you’ll see God open up new doors.”  Jeremiah 11:1-5 urges us to obey the terms of God’s covenant and be his people.  Of this nature is the love of God.  1 Peter 2:1-5 tells us to rid ourselves of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.  For those who have tasted the Lord is good.  On the theme of love, Desmond Tutu (b. 1931), a retired South African Anglican bishop and social rights activist reminded us: “You don’t choose your family.  They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”  We therefore have to accept – not some, but all of our family members, even when it seems they have problems.

God’s View of Us

God loves us all.  In the world some give the impression that they have a special place with him.  These individuals could be self-righteous.  Albert Einstein (1879–1955), a German-born theoretical physicist wrote, “Before God we are equally wise – and equally foolish.”   But we could enhance who we are if we heed the advice of Voltaire (1694–1778), French Enlightenment writer, who said: “God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”

It ought to be remembered that our talent is God’s gift to us.  We have to recognize God is wiser than humans, and his weakness is stronger than ours (1 Cor 1:25-26).  That’s why believers should speak the Word of God with the strength he provides (1 Pet 4:11-12), and they will be blessed.

Be a Blessing

The Lord is always with us and we should have no fear (Isa 41:10).  It’s him who gives us strength and power (Isa 40:28-31).  Joel Osteen said, “When you focus on being a blessing, God makes sure that you are always blessed in abundance.”  But should believers pursue these blessings?  Saint Teresa of Calcutta (1910–1997), an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun wrote, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is in the friend of silence.  See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence … we need silence to be able to touch souls.”  Trusting and loving God is a process that takes time.  The Word of God is right, true, and faithful (Ps 33:4-6).  With dedication to God’s Word believers could say like Joyce Meyer (b. 1943), a Christian author and speaker: “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be.”

Islam in Brief

Islam (1.6 billion) – monotheistic with Allah as God, considers itself the true religion with Muhammad as its Prophet.  Muslim beliefs are in the Five Pillars – repeating the creed, reciting prayers in Arabic, giving to the poor, fasting from sunrise to sunset, and making a pilgrimage (hajj) in one’s lifetime to Mecca.

Muhammad (570–632) was born in Mecca in Western Saudi Arabia.  So Mecca is the site of the Great Mosque and in its courtyard lies the most sacred shrine called Ka’aba- a stone building that contains a Black Stone that Muslims believe was sent from Heaven, by Allah.  When Muslims pray five times a day they face the Ka’aba, and declare the “shahada,” the Islam Creed –  “I bear witness that there is no god but (the One) God (Allah), and I bear witness that Muhammad is God’s messenger.”  Muslims profess there is one transcendent, supreme being Allah.  The Qur’an Muslims’ holy book is arranged in 114 sections called “suras” which literally  means word of God.

Shia Muslims

Shia Muslims account for approximately 15 percent of the total Muslim population in the world. Shiaism has the greatest influence in the contemporary world in Iran where nearly 90 percent of Muslims are Shiite, but Shia are also the majority in Iraq, Bahrain, and Yemen. The division between the Shia and Sunni is rooted in disputes over the proper succession of leadership after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 C.E. The Shia maintain that the rightful successor of the Prophet was his cousin and son-in-law, Ali. Shia especially revere a succession of scholars (called Imams).

Sunni Muslims

The followers of Sunni Islam … make up approximately 80 percent of the Muslim population in the world. The Sunni are the majority in most Islamic countries outside of Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and Bahrain. Sunna—translated variously as the “trodden path,” “the way,” “example,” or “habitual practice”—refers to the example or path of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers….The Sunni maintain that the Muslim community was to select the Prophet’s successor (caliph) to lead…Sunni are typically seen as putting more emphasis on the power of God and his determination of human fate, and are often understood to be more inclusive in their definition of what it means to be a Muslim. The Sunni tradition has placed great emphasis on the role of religion in public and political life, with great weight placed on the Shariah (Islamic law) as the standard of a broad range of social issues—marriage, divorce, inheritance, commerce, and so on.

The Islamic interpretation of the Bible overlaps in many cases with those of Judaism and Christianity, and some accounts in the Qur’an are almost similar to those  in the Bible.

Reference

Library of World Religions and Faith Traditions

https://www.patheos.com/library

 

 

Christianity in Brief

Christianity (2.2 billion) – Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  God the Father and Holy Spirit complete the Trinity.  This religion major problem is “sin.”  Christ came to earth, died, and resurrected to save mankind.

Christians learned in the New Testament that the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary telling her that she would give birth of a son, who would be called Jesus.  Joseph to whom Mary was betrothed was about to put her way privately since he never had a relationship with her.  But an angel appeared in a dream telling him he should not do so because Mary’s pregnancy was by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph obeyed this advice and continued to be with Mary.  Jesus entered the world by being born in a manger of a stable, for there was no room at the inn in Bethlehem.  While at the stable Three Wise Men followed a star in the east to his birth place bringing him gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh.  But they didn’t return to Herod because they too were warned not to do so.  Since Herod wanted to slay this new born child whom he saw as a threat to his kingdom, so they fled to Egypt.

Not much more is known about Jesus’ early life.  Later his parents brought him to Bethlehem for the census. As a young child of twelve at Passover they went to Temple. Unknown to his family he was left for three days behind.  Joseph and Mary discovered he was missing, and returned to the Temple to find him disputing with Doctors, who were alarmed at his knowledge for such a young child.  There’s little else known about how he was raised.  But Christians were again introduced to him at 30 – the start of his ministry, when he was baptized by his cousin John the Baptist in the River Jordan and the sky opened and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove.

Jesus chose Twelve Disciples to follow him. He was an iterant preacher who went around preaching the coming of God, forgiveness of sins, healing the sick, raising the dead, and refuting the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  He was met with opposition from the Roman officials and leaders of the Temple because his teachings undermined the status quo of the society.  Jesus was deemed an outcast, arrested by governmental officials, tried, and crucified during the reign of Pontius Pilate.  He is believed to have risen from the dead.  And this is the foundation on which the Christian faith is based.  Christianity therefore teaches about the perils of sin, judgement, resurrection, and salvation.  Roman Catholics believe in purgatory, heaven for those saved, and hell for sinners whose sins aren’t forgiven by God.

Jesus is viewed as the Son of God.  He is said to have instituted the Eucharistic rite during the Last Supper with his disciples at an Upper Room in Jerusalem – the night before he was betrayed by a kiss from Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples.  He built the Church on Peter, another leading disciple and apostle.  The beginning of the Christian Church is said to be on the Day of Pentecost – 50 days after Easter, when there was the gushing of a mighty wind and tongues of fire as the disciples were huddled together in one place.  This outpouring was interpreted to be the descent of the Holy Spirit on believers to continue the Christian ministry in the world.

Limitations of Prayer

Prayer isn’t magic.

Much of life is predetermined.

The longest living land animals the bowhead whale can live for 200 years.

While the Mayfly only live for 24 hours.

The oldest birds can live to 60 odd years.

These are parrots, vultures, albatrosses, and eagles.

With conservation efforts trees will live for thousands of years.

These are trees like Prometheus, Unnamed Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, and the Jurupa Oak.

Another long lasting tree is the Sequoia of northern California and Oregon that can live up to 2700 years.

Prayer can’t change the lifespans of flora and fauna.

 

Other conditions are daunting concerning how species live.

Many species rarely approach their maximum age.

Some animals and birds die because of a high infant mortality rate.

Others die because of diseases, predators, and bad weather.

Many lifespans are cut short because of habitat destruction

And competition for food and shelter

 

Religious believers must therefore know how and for what to pray.

There are known conditions that can’t change that come and go like the seasons.

But they can pray to their deity or deities knowing that some conditions in life are the way they are.

Yes, we can pray for relief from the hazards that impact all living things.

Eternal Spirit, give us the insight concerning how to pray, and grant us relief from the hazards of earthly living.

Amen

Legacy of American Indians

The first Americans have the distinction of being a people of diversity.  They consisted of more than 500 tribes ranging from the Arctic Circle across the Great Plains to the Eastern Seaboard and known as the Lakota, Cherokee, Navajo, Haida, and other groups.  In the Northeast alone, there were dozens of tribes originating from three main mother groups – Algonquian, Iroquoian, or Siouan.  Around 12,000 to 20,000 years ago Indians came to the Western Hemisphere after having crossed the Bering Strait ice bridge that linked Asia to the Americas.  So, Native Americans are indigenous to the Americas.

The Indians displayed vibrant languages, cultural forms, and their political empowerment varied between tribes.  Some tribes boasted a sophisticated clan system with unique spiritual traditions, music, songs and chants.  Not all adopted to the horse as a primary tool of hunting, but they fished – catching salmon, trout, and sturgeon; farmed – raising indigenous plants, roots, berries, and nuts; hunted – catching deer, elk, bison, antelope, moose, and even caribou; inventing agricultural methods with flourishing crops of corn (maize), beans, and squash.

Tribal architecture flourished.  They made ceramics from clay tempered with sand, potted ceremonial objects, rugs, jewelry, bead works, and baskets of all sorts.  Their trading networks were spread across the whole American continent, and their sovereign authority was invested in cultural and linguistic patterns.

The American Dream

In their own way the Native Americans were living the American dream.  Marco Rubio (b. 1971), a senator from Florida said, “The American Dream is a term that is often used but also often misunderstood.  It isn’t really about becoming rich and famous.  It is about things much simpler and more fundamental than that.”  Early Indian tribes exemplified what the American dream was all about by having a diverse culture blessed with simplicity.  Billy Graham (1918–2018), an evangelical Christian evangelist wrote, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”  Our first Americans exemplified this legacy and faith while living off the land.

Joe Baca (b. 1947), a U.S. representative in California said, “Native Americans are the original inhabitants of the land that now constitutes the United States.  They have helped developed the fundamental principles of freedom of speech and separation of powers that form the foundation of the United States government.”   These first Americans were instrumental in proposing fundamental ways of governing by how they were living.

A Legacy Impacted

European diseases – small pox, measles and influenza devastated many Native American communities.  These natives became victims of brutal massacres, murder, and rape that dampened the American spirit.  Native Indians though continued to have rights, and the American government had no authority on Indian land without an act of Congress.  The 19th century witnessed the impounding of Indians to reservations.  Philipp Meyer (b. 1974), an American fiction writer wrote, “When you start to look at the native American history, you realize that very far from being peaceful, morally superior people, Native Americans were not that different from the Europeans.”  Meyer must have been thinking about the atrocities and broken promises committed by America on the American Indians.  Alberto Gonzales (b. 1955), an attorney general of the United States wrote, “I will be the first to admit I am not perfect and I make mistakes.”  The Europeans who settled America were imperfect men and women, and although some critics felt their actions against the American Indians were motivated by power, greed, and religious zeal they surely committed big mistakes.  Despite these atrocities the American Indian culture still exists, and adds to the spiritual richness of the nation.

Thanksgiving for Creation

A pediatric surgeon Bernie Siegel (b. 1932) said, “God wants us to know that life is a series of beginnings, not endings.  Just as graduations are not terminations, but commencements.  Creation is an ongoing process, and when we create a perfect world where love and compassion are shared by all, suffering will cease.”  Inevitably Siegel was putting his trust in mankind to create a perfect world.  But our world is broken because of sin.  Christians believe it will only be transformed when Jesus Christ comes again.  This has been alluded to time and time again in the Old and New Testaments.

How should people navigate this this perfect world?  We have to use our imagination and ask God to guide us to it.  George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), an Irish playwright and critic wrote, “Imagination is the beginning of creation.  You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”  Believers come to know their God by meditating on his Word.  They are touched by God’s divinity, and realize they must seek his forgiveness.

People’s Perception

An actor and producer James Cromwell (b. 1940) said, “Often we are recreating what we think we’re supposed to be as human beings.  What we’ve been told we’re supposed to be, instead of who we authentically are.  The key about creation of full self-expression is to be authentically who you are, to project that.”  Such gift comes by faith.  With this knowledge people walk in godly ways by doing what’s right.

Wise men and women have pondered the role of nature in God’s creative process.  Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936), an Italian dramatist and novelist wrote, “Nature uses human imagination to lift her work of creation to even higher levels.”  With the glorious displays of trees, mountains, and streams in our environment we reflect on the grandiose nature of a loving God.  Our minds and hearts leap in the sublimity of these gracious blessings first imagined in the Garden of Eden.

Testament of Life

Nevertheless life is such a powerful testament of the gifts of God.  An attorney and Freemason Albert Pike (1809–1891) said, “One man is equivalent to all Creation.  One man is a World in miniature.”  People see this phenomenon in God who is all in all.  According to scripture people were born in his image and are spiritually like him.

How can we make a difference in the world?  There might be some confusion about our life’s mission.  A French poet and novelist Victor Hugo (1802–1885) wrote, “One is not idle because one is absorbed.  There is both visible and invisible labor.  To contemplate is to toil, to think is to do.  The crossed arms work, the clasped hands act.  The eyes upturned to Heaven are an act of creation.”  It’s good to remember that everyone works differently.  How could we determine who is working the most?  How do we see the role of contemplation to that of hard labor?  Yet contemplative meditation is necessary for fostering justice, dignity, and peace in our world.

How do you view creation?  Who is ultimately responsible?  Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869–1942), a second president of the incorporated Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania said, “Jehovah created the earth and therefore it is his by right of creation.”  Every aspect of life which exists is God’s gift to us.  He controls everything, and is the greatest gift of all living, and non-living beings.  We have to always give thanks for his creation.

The Sacred Elephant

For thousands of years

A majestic giant has graced our lands

It’s the gigantic elephant known to all peoples

We find its symbol in India, China, Africa,

And even America, as the Republican Party

 

In India the elephant is known to Buddhists

And Hindus as the god Ganesha –

defender and maintainer of good fortune

China, this symbol brings good luck, protection, and fertility

And in Africa the elephant is the mighty one

Because of its strength and power

 

But this gentle giant that exists in mythology – is patient,

responsible, wise, clever, and smart

In the wild it cares for the herd and offspring

And nestles its young in loving ways

 

Let’s elevate this admirable giant

To a greater place of prominence in our world

For this animal’s symbol continues to grace the earth

With divine, pure, and secular gifts

Depicted in artworks, sculptures, and paintings

 

Indians pay their elephant-god Ganesha homage with gifts

The Chinese sing praises with its happiness

Africans see the elephant like a fortress in the jungle

And Americans embrace this symbol as a political party

By the cartoonist Thomas Nast of Harper’s Weekly magazine

 

 

 

St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897)

St. Thérèse of Lisieux in her autobiography Story of a Soul translated by John Clarke, taught believers “the little way” of trust and absolute surrender to God.  The first 15 years of her life was spent as a devout Catholic and for nine years she lived a cloistered life as a Carmelite nun.  She wrote the story of her brief life in ink with no thought that it would ever be published.  On Good Friday, April 13, 1896 she suffered her first hemoptysis (coughing up blood due to a lung hemorrhage).

The facsimile edition of her manuscript was difficult to read because of capitalizations, underlined words, size, position of slant letters, with occasional corrections.  Students of hers were still able to locate texts in the original manuscript.  The translated version however offered clear themes of love, abandonment to God’s mercy, and mission in the church.  She saw the way of spiritual childhood as the path which led to eternal life.

Manuscript & Readers

In fits and starts, St. Thérèse wrote in her spare time while she was ill.  The manuscript first published in 1898 in a highly edited version was praised by its readers.  It became a spiritual classic, read by millions, and was translated from French into other languages.  For over 20 years, it was a best seller.  Story of a Soul was originally the collection of three different manuscripts addressed to different persons in 1895, 1896, and 1897.

St. Thérèse’s legacy to the world was her personal message about being like “little ones.”  Her teachings came out of human experiences.  To accomplish these tasks she ascended to the summit of heroic virtue – what she described as “my vocation is love.”  She believed we must be like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and viewed God as the keeper of “little ones.”

Beatification & Canonization

During the process of beatification and canonization Pope Benedict XV, and Pius X1 endorsed her beliefs.  They hoped her teachings would be brought to the attention of the world.  St. Thérèse, who was considered the greatest saint of modern times frequently meditated on the Gospels and the Old Testament.  Her work has remained a source of deep religious inspiration, and believers think it came about through Divine Providence.  The centennial celebration of her death was in 1996 – 1997.  Story of a Soul’s translator, John Clarke, was a devotee to this “Little Flower.”