Virtuous Character True

Nun, Cosplay, Cross, Vera, Religion

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Where shall we find forgiveness

For the lives that we live –

The decisions we make

And the excuses that we give?

 

I trust – with full-heart

That the good Lord “above”

Will overlook my failings

Through Jesus’ blood and love

 

But what of the others

In this “here below?”

Will they be so understanding –

Pardon to me show?

 

It is here that I must

Now earnestly resolve

To live a better life

My behaviour to evolve

 

For if I become a person

Of virtuous character true

I hope that I will never need

Require forgiveness from you

 

Padre

 

 

 

 

Beyond The Comfort Zone

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Sister Cheryl brought us a challenging message this week on stepping beyond our comfort zones, and expanding our horizons in God’s service. For many of us the temptation is to stay with what is familiar to us, and to play it safe.  There are several scriptures that address this including the parable of the talents (Matthew 25). And while  the diligent servant in Luke 12:42-43, is rewarded for carrying out his master’s business,  there nonetheless remains a call for further growth.

Okay, growth sounds good.  But moving out of the comfort zone isn’t always easy.  We each have our own points of resistance.  It may be shyness.  It may be time constraints. It may be ego. But these require change to overcome.  Luke 22 gives an example of this,

“A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.  You are those who have stood by me in my trials.  And I confer on you a kingdom,just as my Father conferred one on me,  so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (vs 24-30).”

Here we see ego as a hindrance to growth.  Jesus quickly nips it in the bud by turning the idea of greatness of its head.  He says that if they are to be all they can be, they need to give up even the status they presently have.  They are to become like children, and humble themselves.

Jesus then turns the focus onto the process of change. He notes that it is like a threshing,  as He tells Peter what the future holds, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (vs 31-32).” This is a loaded statement.  It notes that Peter will fail (expanded on in verses 33-34), but that he will in turn, be returned, and in the process of sifting, become a strength to others.  Threshing and sifting (beating and being tossed about) are not pleasant propositions, but in prevailing through such tests and trials, growth is achieved.

As we grow, we find new comfort zones. Our horizons are expanded.  And do we rest then? No, we grow again! It may not be easy, but it is rewarding. Paul writes,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us . . . . In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8: 18-30).

Our testings will lead to growth.  Growth in turn will lead to glory.  And what is the point we seek?  To be conformed to the image of Christ.  Now there is a comfort zone to rest in!

Padre

 

Speaker in Focus – Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)

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Cesar Chavez from Biography.com

It has been some time since I made a public speaking post. Some of my past ones focused on great speakers (such as Lincoln and Churchill) and how their oratory could help aspiring speakers, teachers, and ministers to become more effective.  Today I will bring our focus onto the trade unionist and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.

Cesar Chavez was born to a labouring family in the Southwest of the United States. His family faced racism, and economic exploitation and lost their farm to unscrupulous businessmen.  He left school after the eighth grade, and joined his mother as a migrant farm worker.  Despite this harsh start to life he became a union organiser, political activist, and powerful orator.

Chavez’s speeches were direct, and in the language of the people.  This latter point is important.  It was not only that he spoke in Spanish and English as his audience dictated, but that he used the idioms and images which his hearers understood. He was once asked why his audiences admired him so much.  Smiling he responded, “because the feeling is mutual.”

In his speeches and leadership style more generally, he promoted education and self-improvement, but not as ends in themselves. Rather, he called on people to be better human beings and connected with them in aspiration.

He said “Real education should consist of drawing the goodness and the best out of our own students. What better books can there be than the book of humanity?”  And, “Students must have initiative; they should not be mere imitators. They must learn to think and act for themselves – and be free.”

The words he used had power.  He called on others to use their words powerfully as well. “Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.”  Your identity is in your words!  Whether English, Spanish, in the end it is the choice of your words that reflect your nature.

So what can we learn from Chavez? First speak to your audience, adjust and mould to their needs and expectations. Speak not just to make “your” point, but to help your hearers to find their voice as well.  Thirdly, let your words be true reflections of who you are.

Padre

Of Youthful Fervour and Mature Wisdom

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I have been teaching young people ever since I was technically one myself. I have seen amazing things from the young.  There is an enthusiasm in youth which those of us of less tender years can marvel at.  There are some drawbacks to this fervour as well, such as the tendencies to see things only as “black and whites” with little understanding of nuance, and the zeal which makes them at times rush in less than prepared.

There is an interesting case-study of this in John 8: 3-9.  The crowd was in an uproar.  Both old and young, were full of “righteous indignation.”  “ The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.” 

Jesus’ charge to have the one without sin cast the first stone, called for reflection.  Jesus’ meaning was therefore picked up upon by those with the most experience first. They could see and understand their own shortcomings.  They could when using their own conduct as the measure, see beyond the “black and white.”

The Apostle Paul seems to have grown in wisdom during his ministry.  He a man a zeal in the early chapters of Acts, was full of his youthful, culturally based “truths” as well.  He persecuted the church because it was “the right thing to do.”  But the Damascus experience turned him in a new direction.  But not without diminishing his fervour (or self-view).  His, maturing is road-mapped in his own writings.

In Galatians 1: 1 (written circa 53 AD), he refers to himself as, “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.”  Paul and his office are introduced.  Yet, within a year, he addresses himself as “the least of the apostles” 1 Corinthians 15:9 (circa 53-54 AD).  This gradual diminishing of his self and elevation of “Him crucified” continues in Ephesians 3:8, “I am the least of all the saints…” (circa 62 AD).  Here no longer least of the apostles, but of all Christians.  His journey of Paul chief of sinners 1 Timothy 1:15 (placed by many as circa 64-65)

This should not be surprising.  Job 12:12 reflects, ” Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” This said though, we need to give youthful zeal its do. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (I Timothy 4:12).”  Even the young can show maturity (in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” It was evident in Timothy and in David as Psalm 71:5 “For You are my hope; O Lord GOD, You are my confidence from my youth.”

Such maturity is not always easy (not even for many of advanced years), but Peter offers a starting point to this attitude of wisdom, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).”  This was the lesson Paul seemed to learn between Galatians and I Timothy.

These musings call each of us to examine our walks.  For the young – are you seeking wisdom and guidance? It is not the place here to seek a dig at “youthful folly” (Proverbs 7:7 and others) but to encourage as Paul and Peter did, the attitudes of maturity that the young are so remarkable in achieving. For those of us who are older (and we pray wiser), do we still hold on to the vision and zeal of our youth (either physically or spiritually)?  And do we show the humility of an aging Paul?  Do we offer our wisdom in a spirit humility with the goal of lifting others and not ourselves?  May God give each of us balance.

Padre

 

 

 

Tips for Public Speakers (Mark Twain Style)

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Mark Twain [Samuel Clemens 1835 – 1910] was man of experience, he had been a soldier (and deserter), journalist, and traveller.  He dabbled in technology, and he was an outstanding public speaker. His knack was for bringing his experiences and insights together and presenting them in an “unpolished” natural way.

Herein lies one of his first speaking “tips” practice to seem unpractised.  Kraid Ashbaugh has said that Twain’s diction and public presentation was cultivated to seem natural.  He worked at being familiar and turning catchy “home spun” phrases.

This was seen in his Missouri drawl as well.  He practiced and accentuated his image of the homely local wit.  He used his regional accent as an asset, rather than trying to cover it up to become “staged articulate.”

In his humorous speeches, he focused on getting the audience to laugh at itself.  He did this in a simple unthreatening way which endeared rather than alienated.  He famously gave a speech in German in Vienna entitled, “The Horrors of the German Language.”

So what can we get from Sam C?  First speak about the things you know.  Use your experiences and interests as the basis of what you share.

Secondly, be or at least seem natural.  Don’t be too formal (unless you are the formal type), but be yourself.  Audiences prefer the “real.”

Use your weaknesses as strengths.  If nervous, go with it.  If your voice is unusual, maximise it.  It can make you memorable.

Have fun with having fun.  It’s okay to point out the humour in things including in yourself, and your listeners.

Padre

A Speaker in Focus: Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) was one of the great speakers of the Nineteenth Century.  This self-educated man was an avid reader, a lawyer, and eventually president of the United States. While humble in his background he offers modern orators much to consider and emulate.

His speaking voice is said to have been unimpressive. One account noted, “Lincoln’s voice was, when he first began speaking, shrill, squeaking, piping, unpleasant; [and his appearance was no better as] his general look, his form, his pose, the color of his flesh, wrinkled and dry, his sensitiveness, and his momentary diffidence, everything seemed to be against him, but he soon recovered.”(William H. Herndon.) Lincoln more than compensated for this with his appeal to the interests and aspirations of his auditors. He was quick to insert anecdotes, “homesy” witticisms, and tales with a twist. It was style over presentation.

Lincoln was in his formal addresses often concise and to the point, but when winning an audience over, or trying to make a key point – took his audience on a verbal journey. He was also a master of using tools such as alliteration, turn of phrase, and rhythm to draw his hearers in.

So what can we take from this gangly country boy who would come to lead a nation? 1. Speak to your audience, 2. Punctuate your addresses with stories to illustrate your points, 3. Be brief (with the boring bits), 4. Use words that give colour.

As a side in developing these – read.  Reading widely opens a wealth of material to your repertoire.

Padre

Perfect People Need Not Read This

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I will assume if you are reading this, that you like myself are flawed.  I personally have imperfection down to an art form. But the good news is that means we can improve.

Helmut Schmidt, the former West German Chancellor put it well when he remarked, “The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.”  Most of us have loads of potential, and with opportunity and encouragement, growth is not only possible, but probable.  If I did not believe this I would be neither a teacher or minister.  My entire professional life is based on encouraging others to do better, to grow, and to come one step closer to “perfection.”  Okay, I did have the one school prefect that reversed the letters on her badge to read “PERFECT,” but most are still making their way there.

It is our failures and setbacks in life that show us the way.  If we were convinced of our perfection then we would have no motivation to try new things, or to face challenges. After all, it you are perfect, nothing would ever be a challenge. Right? Benjamin Franklin put it thus, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

So flawed individual, how shall we proceed today?  May I suggest taking on one small challenge.  If we master it, grand.  If not, use it as the measuring rod of what to achieve next.

Padre