The Good of Good Friday

by Robert Kenneth Jones

“Christmas and Easter can be subjects for poetry, but Good Friday, like Auschwitz, cannot. The reality is so horrible it is not surprising that people should have found it a stumbling block to faith.”  ~ W.H. Auden”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen answered W.H. Auden’s view on Good Friday with the simple statement that without Good Friday in our lives, there can be no Easter Sunday.

It is a painful truth that most of us would like to avoid. It is horrific to think about the heart-wrenching events of Good Friday.

Yet, despite them, followers of Christ have held the day sacred and holy for two millennia. Somehow, goodness comes from evil. Salvation comes from obliteration.

The most terrible things that have happened always yield to something transforming. I think about The Holocaust with its ghastly images and unimaginable misery. The devastation cannot be undone.

But from the ashes of horror came a homeland for Israel, a bond of friendship among nations. There have been the awakening gifts of inhumanity from Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, Viktor Frankl, and so many others.

We have been challenged to change. I think about the people who have terminal diseases that could suffer in silence, but rather, rise up to give a voice to cures and better treatment. They give us hope when we would be hopeless.

Good Friday is only good when it carries us to an empty tomb.

“This is a day of reflection and acceptance. Let me be open to goodness.”

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About the Author
In a career spanning over four decades, Robert Kenneth Jones has been an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse. His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration, and meditation.

Links
Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin
Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

Is it time we embrace ‘digital volunteerism’ in a disaster?

Despite highly specialized and capable emergency management systems, ordinary citizens are usually first on the scene in an emergency or disaster and remain long after official services have ceased.

However, in most developed countries, emergency and disaster management often views outsiders as a nuisance or liability, and their efforts are often undervalued.
Given increasing disaster risk worldwide, it is likely that ‘informal’ volunteers will provide much of the additional surge capacity required to respond to more frequent emergencies and disasters in the future.

This excellent resource from the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction considers the role of informal volunteers in emergency and disaster management.

Download

Servant Leadership: Developing Powerful Co-reliant Communities

Twenty-seven years ago I was trying to figure out where my faith journey was going and what I would do about living differently.

Brevard, NC was the place I was calling home at the time.  As a faith formation coordinator in my church, I was coming into contact with several other middle-aged folks from different religions that were hungry for some kind of renewal.  A group of us began gathering on a regular basis in each other’s homes for study, prayer, and conversation.  We soon discovered that people were meeting in nearby Hendersonville under the direction of Bennett J Sims, a retired Episcopal Bishop. Bennett and his wife Mary had moved their Institute for Servant Leadership from Atlanta in 1988. We joined with the Hendersonville group and began classes to prepare ourselves for servant leadership.

Robert K. Greenleaf began the modern day Servant leadership movement in a 1970 essay The Servant as Leader.  It has become “a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.” His concepts, ideas, and writings were seen as controversial, lofty and unrealistic at first.  But soon, the religious and secular worlds began to embrace these principals.  Many have found that Servant Leadership has the power to transform human experience.  Greenleaf’s work and Bennett Sims direction led the twelve of us from Brevard to attend two resident workshops at The School of Servant Leadership at the Festival Center in Washington, DC, and ministries of The Church of The Savior.  The teaching and experiential group processes under the gentle mentorship of Gordon Cosby changed each of us in profound ways.

The Wisdom of Gordon Cosby

I will never forget Gordon’s words to us when we first met.  We had filed into a room where he was reclining in a chair.  When we were seated he met each one of us in an intentional loving gaze.  In a few minutes he said; “Welcome to the Festival Center and to your Nation’s Capital.  We have been waiting for you…for a long, long time. All of eternity has conspired to bring you here right now.”

Gordon Cosby’s greeting sums up the message of Servant Leadership for me.  Though it is certainly a philosophy which has generally prescribed practices, the welcoming of this well known, great man expressed its essence in the language of unconditional love.  He shared his vision of Christ who serves the poor in community while empowering each other.  He taught that power comes from the bottom up rather than top down.  He proposed that each of us find a passion which might lead to conquering and healing poverty, racism, addiction, and disease.

Servant Leadership Goes Mainstream

Servant Leadership is the future of our future according to Anthony Perez.  It has been expressed in many ways and applied in many contexts. Some of the most well-known advocates include Joyce Hollyday, William C. Pollard, Jim Wallis, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Peter Senge, M. Scott Peck, Ian Fuhr, Margaret Wheatley, Ann McGee-Cooper, Larry Spears, and Kent Keith.  Servant Leadership Institutes have been established across the entire country in community-based programs from Greensboro, NC to Austin, TX to Carlsbad, CA and are attended by thousands of people from all walks of life. The bottom line is that satisfaction and great results come with the applications of servant leadership.

Larry Spears 10 Core Characteristics of Servant Leadership

  1. Listening ~ Servant leadership requires leaders to listen to other people, not just be good at communication and decision-making. Listening is about focusing on what is being said and using this information for guiding the group towards objectives. An effective leader should also identify the things that are left unsaid, as well as the inner voices.
  2. Empathy ~ Listening increases the ability to empathize. Since the focus of servant leadership is to serve others it necessitates an ability to accept and recognize the individual values and feelings people have. A servant leader should be able to love and understand others without prejudice.
  3. Healing ~ Servant leadership emphasizes the emotional health of an individual, together with mental and physical wellbeing. A servant leader should focus on his or her potential to heal one’s own self and others creating a greater possibility of achieving wholeness.
  4. Awareness ~ Servant leadership requires awareness, both in terms of general awareness and self-awareness. Self-awareness, in particular, requires the leader to see their emotions and behaviors in the context of how it affects the rest of the community or group. Through self-awareness, you become better at noticing what the people around you are doing and fix problems quicker.
  5. Persuasion ~ Servant leadership doesn’t rely on authority to get things done. Instead, the concept uses persuasion in order to make a decision. The servant leader seeks for consensus rather than compliance, which is perhaps the biggest difference to traditional authoritarian models. Personal relationships are developed rather than exerting positions of power.
  6. Conceptualization ~ A servant leader is able to conceive solutions to problems, which are not presently there. This kind of conceptualization, therefore, requires the leader to look beyond simple day-to-day realities. In a traditional leadership model, the leader’s focus is often on short-term operational objectives. But a servant leader must look beyond these and conceptualize issues that might not even be on the horizon.
  7. Foresight ~ Another relating point to conceptualization is the concept of foresight. Servant leadership requires the ability to foresee likely outcomes through the understanding of the past. There are three key points to foresight in leadership:
  • The ability to learn from past experiences
  • The ability to identify what is currently happening
  • The ability to understand the consequences of specific decisions
  1. Stewardship ~ Stewardship in servant leadership relates to taking responsibility for your actions and those of the community, group or team. The main assumption is to commit to serving the needs of others first. Not only is the organization holding its trust in the leader, but the whole organization is also to serve the wider community. It’s not about controlling the actions, but to rather allow yourself to be accountable.
  2. Commitment to the growth of people ~ Servant leadership model focuses on the intrinsic value people offer. Therefore, the aim of a servant leader is to help people realize their potential beyond just the ability to perform well. Servant leadership requires the commitment to help people realize their potential, as well as to support it.
  3. Building community ~ Servant leadership relies on the creation of a community and a sense of togetherness within the organization. Greenleaf wrote in his essay, the best way to achieve community might stem from smaller groups. He said, “Achieving many small-scale communities, under the shelter that is best given by bigness, may be the secret of synergy in large institutions”.

Chaplain Programs Embrace Servant Leadership

In January of 2018, The Annual Law Enforcement Management Conference included a session called The Positive Power of Servant Leadership. It was recognized that the Chaplain program is an example of Servant Leadership in action.  Those who serve, often without monetary compensation, offer comfort and counsel in the most painful of circumstances.  Their acts of mercy and kindness relieve LEO’s of dealing with crisis intervention, death notices, and hospital or home visitations (to mention only a few of their duties).  They provide the human face of police departments. That humanity allows the Chaplain to build trusting relationships which nobody else can do.  When Chaplains are given the opportunity to receive Servant Leadership training, their empowering work takes on deeper dimensions of humility and vulnerability.  They become more comfortable in making mistakes and more easily accept setbacks. The qualities of a good servant leader are the ones most often applied to Chaplains.  They are as follow;

  • Open-mindedness
  • Trustworthiness
  • Helpfulness
  • Selflessness
  • Awareness
  • Accountability

Chaplain Harold Elliott’s long-standing Servant Leadership program has been widely acclaimed as a model for other departments. The Greenleaf Center has an ongoing program for Chaplain training in Atlanta.

Servant Leaders One and All

Whether we are chaplains, LEO’s, human service providers, educators, corporate executives or anyone else for that matter, we are called to some kind of leadership in our families, workplaces, and communities. When we recognize our role of service in that context, incredible changes take place. Lives are enriched through the building of relationships with both those being served and those who are serving. I have come to believe that servant leadership is a powerful movement which humbly embraces powerlessness. This is an epiphany which can shape and transform every relationship in our lives.

The Wisdom of Tigger

by Robert Kenneth Jones

“Tiggers never go on being Sad,” explained Rabbit.” ~ A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

I have always been a Tigger person.  His bounce and exuberance can be both wonderful and annoying.  But more than anything, Tigger continually revels in his uniqueness.  “The most wonderful thing about Tiggers is I’m the only one!” He thoroughly knows his character assets (cuddly, awfully sweet, a wonderful chap, loaded with vim and vigor and of course…fun).

He constantly explores the things that others do well and always fails in his attempts to emulate or duplicate.  Then, Tigger does the most wonderful thing, he accepts and then embraces who he is.  Finally, he continues to celebrate.

There is a happy philosopher and mystic in our Tigger. The Persian poet Hafez tells us that God only knows four words; “Come dance with me.” Tigger only knows four words; “Come bounce with me.” He embodies the wisdom of ‘thisness’ as described by Duns Scotus who said the absolute freedom of God allows God to create, or not to create, each creature.

Its existence means God has positively chosen that creature, precisely as it is. In other words, each and every one of God’s creation is unique, one of a kind and specifically chosen to exist.  The mold was broken at your birth as demonstrated by your DNA.  There has never been and will never be another one who is just like you…and me…and Tigger.

As Holy Week comes, pointing our way to Easter perhaps we might hope, dance and bounce our way along. I believe that God has a dream for us to live life fully with an ever-expanding joy.  God loves for us to be wonderful (wonder-filled) things…Tiggers one and all.

“Human beings are most fully human when they realize that they are creatures and give joyful response to the Creator. All that we are and all that we have comes from God; we are part of God’s dream for a good creation using our freedom to do God’s will.” ~ Verna Dozier

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About the Author
In a career spanning over four decades, Robert Kenneth Jones has been an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse. His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration, and meditation.

Links
Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin
Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

Photo by Dimitar Belchev on Unsplash

The Coming of Spring

by Robert Kenneth Jones

“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!” ~ Chief Sitting Bull

The Vernal Equinox 2018 in Northern Hemisphere arrived at 11:15 AM Central time yesterday, Tuesday, March 20. Spring has sprung and the weather-people are already predicting what the season will bring and what kind of summer will follow.

What we know is that the long winter is over. 

Though some cold, snow and ice may show up in the next few days and weeks, the end of their reign is done.  Only a few months ago we welcomed the first falling flakes in anticipation of holidays with gatherings of friends and family.  Then, after being homebound, scooping too many driveways, being stuck at the side of the road, we moaned at the thought of more winter.  When would it ever end!?  Well, now is the time.

Winter yields to Spring (photos and collage by Bob Jones)

We have been blessed by spring’s arrival and turned the wintry corner onto the path of new beginnings. Even in the midst of long-suffering there appear daffodils, crocus and tulips.  Even when we are ready to cash in and give up, there the reminder that though hard times may come, they will also leave.

Springtime is all about renewal of life, renewal of joy and renewal of faith.  The season reminds us that we are not condemned to death. Indeed, life is both good and filled with wonder.  Happy, Happy Spring!

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature…the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson

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About the Author

In a career spanning over four decades, Robert Kenneth Jones has been an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse. His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Links

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

Enjoy The Ride

“Life can be great…but not when you can’t see it. So, open your eyes to life: to see it in the vivid colors that God gave us as a precious gift to His children, to enjoy life to the fullest, and to make it count. Say yes to your life.” ~ Nancy Reagan

I propose that the best option we have is to enjoy life with every fiber of our being.  The alternatives are bleak really, but the choice is ours to make. My personal credo for the past decade has been this; Life is a celebration. You just have to decide whether you are coming to the party or not.

There is nothing in the past that can sneak back into the present and drag you into its’ distant murky caves.  There is nothing in the future that can lift you to its’ sunny shores either.  Say ‘Yes’ to this morning.  Say ‘Yes’ to this afternoon.  Say ‘Yes’ to this evening.  Say ‘Yes’ to Life. Then loosen your tight grip and let go.  It’s your chance to embrace the moment. What are you waiting for?

“Live! Live! Live! Life is a banquet and most of you suckers are starving to death” ~ From the movie Aunie Mame

This is how I learned about loosening my grip on life.  Several years ago I was asked to go with my best friend Steve and his nephew Greg to an old, rather run down amusement park in the Smokey Mountains. It was not what I had in mind, but the kid really wanted to ride the rides. One of them was an ancient wooden roller-coaster.  It reeked of danger. But, like a good sport, I got in the seat and was buckled in.  I was holding on to the safety bar with all my might before the thing ever took flight. When Greg saw my grip he asked why I was so freaked out while just sitting there.  I was embarrassed and let go.  He said that his Uncle Steve always told him to hold his hands up in the air during the ride and that I should try it.  Not wanting to appear a chicken, I took his suggestion. It turned out to be the best roller coaster experience of my life.

So let’s all hop in…let go…and enjoy the ride! Why not? Life is Good.

Try A Little Nudge; How to change habits and manage life using simple positive influence

by Robert Kenneth Jones

Can we parents, family members, friends, supervisors, teachers, pastors or human service providers get the people in our sphere of influence to do things that are good for them when they seem to be going in the wrong direction or even on a collision course with disaster?

Read moreTry A Little Nudge; How to change habits and manage life using simple positive influence

How Blessed Are The Peacemakers

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope.”
~ Prayer of St. Francis

I was at the Vietnam Wall in our nation’s capital for a lighted monument tour not long ago. Experiencing the memorial at night is even more somber than during the day.

The monument was dimly lit to maintain its dignity and in an effort to project the mission of remembrance. Whenever I visit this place I make it a point to stand and reflect beneath the name of Ron Hoffman, my Danville, Illinois childhood friend who was killed in the conflict at age twenty. My sixty-plus-year-old eyes were not doing so well locating his name and place on the wall and I was struggling. Suddenly I was surrounded by a small group of eighth-grade kids who were from Ohio on a school field trip.  

They asked what I was doing.  The vision of my old bent over body with squinting eyes (using an i-phone flashlight for guidance) must have inspired some concern. These good and selfless youngsters spent quite a bit of time helping me look for Ron’s name.  They touched my shoulder, asked for my story and listened intently.  A boy found him for me and began to shout; “Here he is.  I found Specialist Hoffman!”

One of them hugged me. Tears were rolling down my cheeks in gratitude and love. They became peacemakers at a war memorial and restored my faith in their generation.  They inspired me to set aside my anger and resentment about the conflict which took (and continues to take) so many from my own generation. They helped me escape my fifty-year ‘kingdom of the night’ in about twenty minutes.

“No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of the night.” ~ Elie Wiesel

Now come the children of Parkland, Florida who are emerging from their own kingdom of the night.  Rather than living in resentment while tending their wounds, these young people have raised their voices in protest.  They will not tolerate any more cruelty and violence.  They are taking action and challenging the adults who make rules and laws. They have an incredible amount of hope and faith.  They seem to fully comprehend that becoming instruments of peace can change everything.

What does it mean to be an instrument of peace?  The challenge and petition of St. Francis is compelling.  It is not a sweet sentiment but rather a course setting directive.  It is action oriented.  If I am to become an instrument of peace, I must be willing to set aside prejudice, judgment, misgivings and long-held beliefs that my way is the right way.  I have to become open to conversation and dialogue in uncomfortable situations.  I offer myself as a listener and a co-operator.  I will refuse to compromise what is right, good and just for what is popular, accepted or convenient.  I will stand my ground with compassionate caring rather than with aggressive threats.

Today, like these young people, I will have the courage be a peacemaker.

Note: Ron’s name appears near the top of the picture in this post. He is buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Danville.