The Power of Alignment

My early thoughts in this new year seem to center around two concepts; 1. alignment 2. focus. The later is one reason I begin to blog and write again. The first, alignment is a powerful concept that helps me to connect with God, others and my eternal purpose.

As you age you accumulate more life experience and the benefit of perspective those experiences bring to you. A thoughtful person will have to conclude their life is more than a hap-hazard set of circumstantial events. The decisions and events of years past have made a difference in who/where we are today. An example;

In late November 1970 I made a decision to accept an invitation to serve as an escort in the Lee University Parade of Favorites(POF) pageant they have every winter/spring semester. I was assigned to escort a young co-ed from West Virginia by the name of Patricia Shaver. My job was to just accompany her each evening for one week to a series of POF events and then to be with her during the event itself. Forty-five years later I’m still spending most of my waking hours with her, our children and grand-children. Alignment, if properly lived out, puts you in the right place at the right time and will help you discover and accomplish your life-purpose as designed by God. (Psalm 139).

Alignment; I am fearfully and wonderfully made–my choice to stay daily aligned with Him and those He’s called along side will determine the extent I walk in HIs eternal purpose for my life.

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The Wonder & Joy of “Stretchy Pants”

I am in the waning hours of a a rare but wonderful time at home with my family and away from my office. Though I’ve checked my email in-box daily for any emergency info, I’ve definitely allowed myself to slip into a slower, more relaxed mode in which to enjoy the holidays.

Slowing down and disengaging is not always easy for me. In the three months prior to this holiday break I’ve travled over 50,000 miles by plane, boat, car, train, taxi and on foot; attended dozens of meetings and been in face to face meetings with more people than I can count. All the trips and meetings require some level of follow-up communication, reflection and/or contact. Just listing all of that elevatates my heart rate a bit. Back to my topic–stretchy pants.

Some time early in this hiatus of travel Patty and Erika suggested we have a relaxed evening at home. As part of the invitation they said; “let’s don’t dress up let’s just put on our pajamas or stretchy pants and chill.” Thats it, thats the signal that started this real slow-down. I’m not sure what other people mean by comfortable-casual but to me the thought turned immediately to those pair of plaid, flannel, elastic-waistband with a tie in the front ‘stretchy pants’ that were hidden away in the back drawer of my bedroom. They only see the light of day on extremely cold nights, or most commonly, around the Christmas holidays. I was surprised what just the reminder of these pants did for my attitude. I went immediately to dig them out and put them on. My enthsuiasm was only slightly chilled by noting they were not quite as loose-fitting as I remembered them. Let the holidays begin!

On Christmas morning, all three of my sons, my two daughters-in-law, my grandsons, Patty and myself gathered at Jeremy’s to exchange Christmas gifts and, later in the day, a huge Christmas turkey. One of my gifts was a box containing TWO pairs of new and improved stretchy pants. I immediately excused myself to go put them on. I’ve only taken them off to change, bath or, on Sunday, to go to church.

It’s early in this new year and I’m reviewing a book about “Keystone Habits” that affect behavior in multiple areas. Among my plans for altered behavior this year is to keep my stretchy pants close and to wear them more often. What slows you down or otherwise allows you to relax?

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Thoughts of Mom on Mother’s Day

(I extracted the following thoughts from my personal journal dated May 11, 2014)

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I am thinking of my mom this day. She left us in March 2005 in order to accept an invitation to attend a dance with the King and move into her eternal home. I’m increasingly reminded of how her life shaped the man I’ve become. I still can hear her heavily Italian-accented but sweet voice speaking in my head. Sometimes I hear her singing a hymn and loudly join in (usually this is when I’m by myself—it’s not pretty). She AWAYS greeted me with a hug and affirming words. When I began putting on weight she didn’t condemn me but gently mixed warning with encouragement. She’d come behind me to give me a lingering hug. I knew what she was doing—she was measuring me. She’d hold me in this embrace and then would say: “You getta a lil’a bit fat. It’s okay son, you gotta bigga bones.” I smile when I think of this even now. When I would call her she’d always conclude our conversation with; “I talka to you later. I lova you baby.’ I was more than 50 years old when she died and she still called me ‘baby.’ Only a mom understands that—and to a lesser degree, her son.  My determination to love people as they are—even if you had serious disagreements with their beliefs and behavior—was also shaped by my mom. She taught me about love—the unconditional kind; about loyalty, about the joy of eating pasta ‘al dente’ with marinara sauce and the importance of having a green vegetable with every dish of pasta; olive oil, garlic, red wine, strong coffee, artichokes, fried eggplant, zucchini and pannini; about finishing everything on your plate (sorry Mom, I OVER-learned that one!); about sitting up straight and not slumping, about respecting and valuing your family heritage without thinking you are better or less than anyone else. Most of what she taught was by example and not by lecture.

My great love for people of other cultures was clearly instilled by her. She was Italian and very proud of her heritage. She was even more proud that she had become an American citizen. She was an “Italian-American” and gave me a deep appreciation for the greatness of our country because of the millions of our citizens who brought the best of their own culture and melted them into the larger culture of our country. No ethnic culture is better than another but can contribute to the whole if we will lovingly share. It is because of her I chafe when I hear or see public/business services offered in choice of English or Spanish. It’s not a condemnation of the Spanish-speakers but rather a fear we will not get to fully know them and let them shape our culture in the ways my mom helped shape it. She spoke Spanish, Italian, French and a passable German—while raising 5 kids 5000 miles away from her birth-home in Naples (Bacoli) Italy.

One final thing; When I was about 7 years old and began bringing home kids from school to visit our house, my mom always loved on them and fed them. They liked her but they said; “your mom talks funny. Is she an American?” I had never even noticed she had an accent! For a short period I was ashamed of her. (This pains me to say this even to this day.) She began to tell me of my Italian heritage in a way that made me finally become proud of this. She’d point out that she was living in the USA and had become an American”—just as much as anyone else and we were to be proud and thankful for this and to NEVER let anyone make us feel less than this.” (the unspoken message was if you don’t hold your head up and respect your place no one else will either.) She began to tell me that I was one-half Italian and of how special that was. I shouldn’t be embarrassed, I should feel proud. I was a descendent of royalty and if folks were reduced to bragging on their family tree I didn’t need to be ashamed in any group. ( I was later to understand that she was not just speaking figuratively—her family name was Cicerone or Cicero and we were, in fact, distant relatives to the great Roman politician and philosopher Marco Tulio Cicero—or simply Cicero as he became known.) After going on at lengths about our great Italian ancestry she’d remind me that none of this was important as belonging to the King of Kings and the position of being His dear child. No one could intimidate us if we knew who we were in Christ Jesus. If she ever felt intimidated by her accent or small size (she was 5. 1” and 100 lbs her whole adult life) she never let on. She was gregarious in personality and loved to be around people, to love them and feed them and complement and sometimes even to ‘advise’ them. This latter attribute was not always appreciated. 😉 My temperament is opposite but her example and courage helped me overcome my shyness to fulfill my calling. I could write more but just wanted to thank God for “momma” and the gift she was when she was with us. I’m so grateful that I don’t live with regrets. I loved her back and told her so every chance I got. I hope I was a good son—she always told me I was. In fact I was quite certain I was her favorite—a fact that is hotly disputed by every one of my 4 siblings who are equally certain THEY were her favorite. How did she do that anyway??!!

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Reflections on Father’s Day 2014

Reflections on Father’s Day 2014

As you get older you tend to have a greater respect for those life influences you perhaps once took for granted, or at best simply underrated. I’m quite sure I’m guilty of this. I KNOW the man I am today, for good or bad, has been largely shaped by the influence and early guidance of my father Robert Alva Moore Sr. I’ve always loved my dad and was thankful that he was around and helped us during our growing up years. He WAS NOT an absentee father. My love and respect has multiplied with the passing of years. We were’nt rich by USA standards, moved a great deal and only occaisionly were able to see our grandparents and my dad’s siblings. Home was wherever my dad moved us—for whatever reasons—and was made safe by his presence and warm by my mom’s hospitality. My Dad taught us that our actions have consequences and that all of us must be prepared to take responsibility for our actions. We were taught to never feel sorry for ourselves. To be thankful for what we had. To share with others in need. To be quick to forgive and very, very slow to condemn. To believe we were not inferior or superior to anyone else. This coupled with a deep sense of fairness, led to a lack of intimidation but also an intolerance for prejudice. Fruitfulness and success are the rewards of preparation, hard work and persistence. All of this could lead a young man to feel hopelessly overwhelmed if all of the teaching wasn’t encompassed by an incredible atmosphere of love, acceptance and oft-practiced forgiveness.

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I think what I learned most deeply from my Dad, was his calmness under pressure. To be sure, raising a family of 5 strong-willed kids in post-WWII America had it’s share of crisis-some of them literally life or death. My Dad’s demeanor however, was the weather-vane that brought peace and stability to our home environment. I knew wether to be angry, afraid or pleased in the midst of crisis by watching his face. I have a vivid memory of him administering first-aid to my infant brother who had just been horribly burned. Tears ran down his face but he never lost control to focus on doing what needed to be done in that moment. At the hospital he then turned to my mom and to the other children to assure them we’d get thru this. He gave us hope when all looked bleak. Some people quote the St. Francis prayer (God grant us the serenity to…..change the things we can…) but my dad simply practiced it. He could also get impatient with those who would not. He often told folks who were perturbed by his peacefulness in the midst of crisis; “maybe we should all should just sit in a circle and have a worry session. If you think that will help I’m in. If not, then I won’t waste a thimble of energy on worry until we can do something that brings some relief.” To some that sound’s simplistic and to others it’s maddening. To me it always made sense.

Organizational researcher/leadership author Jim Collins says he remains a skeptic when it comes to the ability of a leader to make a quick difference in an organization. He says his research reveals that the ‘quick success’ stories of many organizations cannot really be attributed to great leaders. In fact, his research shows that many of those leaders who we touted as ‘saviors’ really made decisions that led to the long term demise of those same companies. Conversely, the truly effective leader will have a deep and long-term positive effect on the people and organizations they serve while perhaps being under-appreciated during their leadership tenure. My Dad, I believe, is one of those leaders. He didn’t always make us happy with his decisions (though my childhood had many more good memories than bad ones). Today, only a few months short of his 90th birthday, he has the love and appreciation of all of his kids, grandkids, great-grandchildren; sons and daughters-in-law and hundreds of others who have been touched by our lives. I love you Dad. Thanks for just being you. Rob.

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Leadership ain’t what it used to be

Leadership is the ability to motivate the will and actions of a group toward goal attainment.  This implies relationship between leader and follower. Formerly goal-attainment was often synonymous with a directive leader. Changes in our world have helped to alter the relationship between leader and follower. (O’Toole-1995)

Futurist Alvin Toffler describes civilizations as being organized by three major influences or “waves.” Society first structured for agriculture. The second wave, organized for industry, saw the rise of top-down leadership. The third wave he calls the information age. This last period, Toffler says, will be increasingly resistant to hierarchical structures instead people will organize themselves around communities of commitment. “No leader can command or compel change. Change comes about when followers themselves desire it and seek it. Hence the role of the leader is to enlist the participation of others as leaders of the effort.” (page 133)

Leadership, as exemplified by Christ, is characterized by genuine love for the followers who respond to the leader and to each other. Because the leader genuinely cares for the followers he seeks to know and respect them deeply. He also seeks not only the partnership of the follower but their benefit and development as well.

Sources:  James O’Toole, Leading Change; Overcoming the Ideology of Comfort and the Tyranny of Custom (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995)

Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave (New York: Bantam Books, 1984).

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