Monday, January 18, 2010

Too Many Candles!!!

Last week, January 12th, was my birthday. I know there were more important news - Mark McGwire admitting to taking steroids when he was hitting home runs like King Kong and Lane Kiffin leaving the University of Tennessee to get his dream job at USC as head football coach. The terrible tragedy in Haiti stands foremost in my mind and in my prayers. In fact, the economic news is still more important. But still, a birthday is a birthday.

Actually, I don't remember my birthday. I am told I cried. No doubt because it was cold in the hospital and a man in a white mask slapped my bottom. I am also told that my parents, both Polish born war camp survivors, were extremely proud that they had delivered me as a native-born American.

Being 55 doesn't qualify you for much except discounts at some restaurants. But being 55 makes you realize that there is more to reflect upon than time to anticipate in your future. I find myself realizing how little I know about life, but the things that I am sure about - I am more confident they are true! For example:

1. I know that the most important relationships are with family! Spouse, children, and grandchildren are the most important relationships you will ever have and it is worth investing in them. My youngest son is 22, my middle son is 30, and my oldest son is 34. I know I was a better parent for my youngest than I was for my oldest. I was there more for my youngest. My oldest son was getting less of me because of academic pursuits and endless attempts to be respected by strangers. I am eternally grateful that my oldest has forgiven me for the genuine lapses in my priorities.

2. I know that the least effective emotion to change others is anger. I could have said it more positively, "the most important emotion is love." But love is not really an emotion. Love is a verb - a demonstrated action designed for the sake of another. Unfortunately, anger is definitely narcissistic. Anger is used to invoke our power over another. Anger hurts deeply, creates great wounds, and eventually, the wound starts hurting others through anger. Men often are anger experts. After all, anger seems to be culturally acceptable for men. Women generally turn their anger upon themselves and suffer various degrees of depression. Both males and females use sarcasm, put-downs, rumors, gossip, and rumors to veil their anger. Sometimes they use food, drink, sex, or drugs.

3. I know that the most important book ever published is the Bible. Hands down, this book has changed more lives than any other book in the entire world. It speaks more honestly of our hopes and hurts, our story and God's story, and about our choices of life and death than any other book ever written. No other book has been prohibited as much as the Bible has in some countries, and no other book has been so highly craved. Why? It speaks of truth, peace, life, liberty, redemption, grace, and about Our Creator who loves us so deeply.

Yep, I am looking more and more like my father. It is my prayer that my Father in Heaven is seeing me look more and more like His Son!
Blessings, Tony+

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Beginnings

I look forward to January. The pages of the previous year are now done. New pages come into focus - unblemished and full of hope. Every year at this time Bobbi and I make a list of goals we would like to accomplish. We have done this for the last eleven years. We break them down into sections - spiritual formation goals, savings goal, home improvement goals, physical health goals, vacation goals, and ministry goals. It is fun to see what we have done over the years with God's grace. It is not as fun to see some of the yearly goals over and over again.

Bobbi and I know that life happens. I mean, who would have thought at the beginning of 2009 that I would accept a new calling at the Servant Leadership Institute and leave a wonderful 7 1/2 year ministry at St. Anne's? Not me, nor Bobbi. So 2010 will bring us many surprises in the midst of our planning. Are we ready to trust Our Lord when life happens? Here is what I am learning:

1. That we are able to receive God's gift when we learn to surrender to the moment. The spiritual key is to "surrender" and permit God to enter into the circumstances fully.
2. That we are able to receive God's gift when we pay attention to those folks God has put around us. Our discontent only inhibits our spiritual growth. Our gratitude only enhances our spiritual growth. Who are the people God has placed before you? It is from them you will receive God's gift.
3. That we are able to receive God's gift when we decide to take responsibility for our life. Blaming others for our attitude, problems, and circumstances only helps take your eyes off of God and His grace. Taking responsibility (it does not mean demeaning or blaming yourself) for life will allow you to live in God's reality and not your illusions.

I am looking forward to this year. My youngest son, Alex, will be getting married to a wonderful lady of faith and beauty. Bobbi and I are looking forward in seeing more of Sofia and Michael Anthony, our grandchildren. We are also looking forward in serving our LORD through the writing of books, teaching, and starting a new church ministry for His kingdom. But Lord, not my will, thine be done!

Have a happy new year. May this new decade be filled with God's grace, peace, and love. - Tony+

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Five Secrets of Celebrating Christmas

I love Christmas. I know that our consumer and secular age has put the "hum-bug" on recognizing that December 25th has been the traditional celebration of the birth of Our Savior. But I've learned the secularist have little to offer in this life or the next. So I love Christmas because it is a celebration of the greatest gift the earth has ever received: the Christ Child. Let me share with you five secrets you must discover before this season is over to really enjoy Christmas:

1. Go to Church on Christmas Eve. Enjoy the atmosphere, breathe in the holy moment, see the Christ Candle lit, sing songs of praise and adoration.
2. Spend time with your family and friends. This is the time to enjoy and not judge. To be kind, not hurtful. To see hope, not doubt. To touch and hold, not withdraw.
3. Eat and laugh a lot. Yes, enjoy the food and the fellowship. Put that scale away. Don't eat until you hurt, but eat until your sleepy. I hope my wife is reading this blog!
4. Give your time, talent, or treasure to someone that cannot pay you back. You will be enriched by the experience!
5. Be in Wonder as Once Were as a Child. Look around you and see this wonderful world, look at the colors, the trees, the smiles, and a God who cares.

Have a Merry Christmas! God bless my friends,

Tony Baron, Ph.D.
President, Servant Leadeship Institute

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What is God Saying to You?

Oswald Chambers is a follower of Jesus and a servant-leader among men. He writes, "God never speaks to us in startling ways, but in ways that are easy to understand, and we say, 'I wonder if that is God's voice? . . . Get into the habit of saying, 'Speak Lord', and life will become a romance. Every time circumstances press you say, 'Speak Lord' and make time to listen.

It is amazing how blind we can be in not seeing what God sees and not hearing what God hears. God is committed to truth, reality, honesty, and authenticity. He sees us as we truly are and loves us to see what we can truly be. But are we willing to surrender to the moment? Are we willing to hear the whispers from our Father in Heaven? Or do we react without listening, pausing, and praying? The Kingdom of God, according to Jesus, is at hand. It is fully present if we are willing to step into His kingdom. But we have to be intentional to enter His Kingdom and the only way that happens is to "repent." That is, change the way we think about ourselves, about others, about God, and about our life. If not, we simply drift automatically toward being a victim of life instead of taking responsibility for our lives.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Honest to God

This past weekend, during an important seminar, I noticed how many times I wanted to look good, feel good, be right, or be in control during my external conversations with others and the internal conversations with myself. It reminds me how the noted psychiatrist, Dr. William Glasser, described the lack of insight concerning our human condition. He said that there were only two kinds of people in this world: those that have an inflated view of themselves; and those who are totally delusional! Transformation is difficult work for anyone and it never can be done without complete honesty about ourselves. It is hard work because we are more invested in short term gain even if it means long term pain. We see it with corporate leaders interested in quarterly earnings more than the long term health of an organization. We see it in churches producing a consumer type of Christianity not doing the hard work of genuine discipleship. I want to stop, but how? Here is one suggestion for those who truly desire to be a servant leader?
1. The Biblical teaching about "Reaping and Sowing" is a universal truth that everyone must understand and apply to have a successful life (Job 4:8; 2 Cor. 9:6; Gal. 6:7). If you would use corporate language, you would call this the "Contribution and Results" law of life. Everything (yes, everything) you think, feel, and do determines your future. It means that your internal conversations drive your beliefs, provokes your feelings, and orchestrates your behavior. In other words, we do nothing by accident. Or put it another way, everything we do has an intent by it even if we are not consciously aware of it. God created us in his image. That image means "choice." But so many of us live lying to ourselves, trying to feel good, look good, being in control, or being right that we cannot be open to the truth. Yet, Jesus said, "The truth will set us free." So we live imprisoned, many in despair, and others simply willing to settle. Living safe simply means surviving, not thriving. And God wants us to live fully! Over the next several blogs, I will share some of the things I learned about myself during the Conference on Christian Character Development.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Part 1: The Problem of Leadership in the Church:
Embracing the Sword and the Shield

Chapter One: Adopting Secular Symbols of Leadership
(Excerpts from Chapter One)

I am a first generation American. My parents were Polish prisoners of war; Mom was held in a Siberian gulag and Dad in a German war camp. They didn’t know each other in Poland but they certainly had in common the pain and heartache of lost family and friends. When Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin made an agreement to evenly partition Poland in 1939, everyone in that wonderful historic country feared for their lives. My Jewish mother, twenty years of age and newly married, awakened one morning to the sound of barrage of rifles banging on the front door for entry. My mother, all 4’11” of her, opened the door to six Soviet soldiers screaming obscenities at her and wanting to find her husband. Before she could answer, they knocked her down and began their search through the farm house. Not finding her husband at home, the soldiers divided into groups; some stayed to interrogate my mother, others searched the barn and fields.

Beaten and violated, Maria Klimczuk honestly did not know where her husband was hiding. Their marriage had been arranged. Josef Klimczuk, twice my mom’s age and a widower, was not inclined to share his business or schedule with her. Confident that my mother knew nothing, the Russian soldiers left her body bruised and spirit broken. Her tear-stained face was only one symbol of the humiliation that she suffered that morning.

Josef was a wealthy landowner and a person of influence in the tiny village surrounding Torczyn. Within minutes of the Russian soldiers leaving their home, my mother heard screams. The shouting was first in Polish, then in Russian; and then, there was silence. My mother was barely able to lift herself to the window to see her husband leave in the custody of the Soviet soldiers. She would never see him again. One week later, there came another knock on the front door by the Soviets soldiers. This time, it was my mother that they seized; they gave her a one-way cattle train ticket to Siberia.


The two symbols of Soviet leadership were similar to those of the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus - the sword and the shield. They acquired power (the sword) through the brutal means of their military might and protected their power (the shield) through their Gestapo equivalent, the NKVD. In between the acquiring and the protecting of power, the propaganda of the Soviet regime under Joseph Stalin was in full force to justify their actions. Stalin used his governmental internal security, the NKVD, to eliminate all the real and perceived enemies in Poland. The Soviets arrested, deported, and executed hundreds of thousands of Poles simply because they had the power to do so. The sword and the shield always come with false promises of peace and safety. The Roman Empire promised the first century Palestinian PAX ROMANA if they complied; the Soviets justified their actions with a summons and a statement to the Polish Ambassador to the U.S.S.R.
On September 17, 1939, at 2:15 a.m., Ambassador Waclaw Grzybowski was told by Kremlin officials that they believed the Polish government had disintegrated due to the Nazi invasion of western Poland sixteen days earlier. In essence, according to the Russians, the Polish government no longer existed. According to the Soviets, the Polish people were without leadership and they, the Soviets, were there to help them live a peaceful life (Polish White Book, pp. 189-190). The Polish government and their people saw it as a betrayal of the non-aggression pact between the Soviet Republic and Poland that was made in 1932 (ibid, -. 187). Over the course of the War, the bloodiest battles were held in eastern Poland between the two aggressors. Using a sharper sword and a stronger shield, Nazi Germany eventually made significant inroads into the Soviet held territory of Poland. The Nazi “acts of protection and words of peace” killed three million Polish Jews and tens of thousands more Catholics by the end of World War II.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Difference between the Sword/Shield & the Cross/Towel in Leadership

I was asked recently what is the difference between the Sword and the Shield & the Cross and the Towel in leadership. This was my simple reply.

  • The Sword and the Shield: Positional power; For the Sake of Self; Followers follow out of fear; Deeds of Flesh used to manipulate results; End justifies the means; Insiders and Outsiders; Kingdoms of this world; Leaders who serve; and Entitlement.
  • The Cross and the Towel: Personhood power; For the Sake of Others; Followers follow out of love; Fruit of Spirit to Model; Means as important as the End; Love Neighbor as Yourself; Kingdom of God; Servants Who Lead; Humility

The Cross and the Towel is a leadership style that reflects our Lord and Savior and results in abundant living (zoe) for us. The Sword and the Shield reflects our willfulness and results in survival living (bios) and eventual self-destruction.