Lessons From Rudolph (Our Beloved Red-Nosed Reindeer)

27 11 2013

rudolphtherednosedreindeer01Last night was sacred at our house.  At 8:00, time officially stood still.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer made his annual appearance.  Other things can wait while you enjoy this Christmas classic and others.  There’s always tomorrow….

We’re all kids at heart even if we’re fifty.  Or a hundred.  (My mother still calls every year to remind me when it’s going to be shown.)  The program’s graphic technology—claymation—will never stand up to today’s incredible CGI.  But it’s not supposed to.  Made in 1964 and untweaked, it retains its charm.  Back to a simpler time.

Here’s what Rudolph teaches us:

  • Unique gifts have a purpose.  Rudolph’s shiny nose makes for embarrassment for his career-minded father as well as the butt of jokes from his peers.  But in the end, Rudolph’s gift saves Christmas.
  • Bucks love does (boys love to show off for girls).  “Cuuuuutttttteeeee! She said I’m cute.!”  Our women bring out the best in us and, like Rudolph, help us to fly.
  • Bumbles bounce.  Yukon Cornelius tames the Abominable with the help of Hermie the erstwhile dentist.  Defanged, this bully is reformed and becomes a help to the North Pole community rather than a menace.  There is hope for bullies.  Just ask the Bumble.
  • You can’t run away from your problems.  Rudolph leaves home, fleeing his family, difficulty and his destiny.  After a long journey in far away places, he heads back home to embrace his life, rescuing his family in the process.  Problems are better faced than fled from.
  • There’s a place for us misfits and ragamuffins.  After Rudolph leaves home, he and his friends journey to the Island of Misfit Toys.  A sad place for toys that “don’t quite measure up.”  But when Rudolph saves Christmas by leading Santa’s team, his first stop is to pick up the misfits and find homes for them.  There’s a place for us with all our brokenness, foibles and idiosyncrasies.

Well, enough for now.  Did you watch it?!

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“Remember Who You Are….”

14 07 2013

Rafiki-Simba-(The_Lion_King)This world has always needed leaders.  Men and women aware of both the time and need into which they were born and live.  The grace to lead well is given to some more than others.  Today, in some ways like no other time that has preceded it, the world is looking for leaders.  Individuals who will show the way.  Who will stand up, even while feeling afraid, and give direction, security, competence and solace.

As I have grown older, I find that I am given strength and grace to lead.  I don’t, however,  have grace to cower, shrink away, idle away the hours and live for me.  My agenda.  My plans for a content life without taking those who know me into account.  “My World and Welcome to It” is a fine motto for a ‘60’s TV sitcom.  But it ill becomes a leader, who is supposed to embody–to one degree or another–selflessness.  Sacrifice.  It’s not about me.  Nor about you.

I’ve been struck over and over again by the children’s movie The Lion King.  One scene in particular.  Simba, heir to Mufasa and kingship of the Pride Lands, has run away from his home and sphere after the death of his father.  Afraid.  He takes up a worry-less, footloose-and-fancy-free existence.  Hakuna Matata.  No worries.

But the call of leadership niggles at him.  His father appears to him in a dream and says, “Simba, remember who you are!”  Simba is afraid.  His dad is dead.  His uncle Scar, who killed Mufasa and is now ruling the deteriorating Pride Lands, intimidates him.

With the help of Rafiki, the sage mandrill, Simba gets his mojo back.  He is a leader and has royal blood in him.  He cannot escape the role of destiny except at the peril of those counting on him.

So he returns to the Pride Lands.  There he overthrows the illegitimate ruler, corrupt Uncle Scar.  And assumes his rightful throne upon Pride Rock.

People are counting on you.  And you have what it takes to bring order, peace, direction and security to those who are watching you.  And looking to you.  Remember who you are….

Image Credit





“Remember Who You Are….”

27 04 2012

This world has always needed leaders.  Men and women aware of both the time and need into which they were born and live.  The grace to lead well is given to some more than others.  Today, in some ways like no other time that has preceded it, the world is looking for leaders.  Individuals who will show the way.  Who will stand up, even while feeling afraid, and give direction, security, competence and solace.

As I have grown older, I find that I am given strength and grace to lead.  I don’t, however, have grace to cower, shrink away, idle away the hours and live for me.  My agenda.  My plans for a content life without taking those who know me into account.  “My World and Welcome to It” is a fine motto for a ‘60’s TV sitcom.  But it ill becomes a leader, who is supposed to embody–to one degree or another–selflessness.  Sacrifice.  It’s not about me.  Nor about you.

I’ve been struck over and over again by the children’s movie The Lion King.  One scene in particular.  Simba, heir to Mufasa and kingship of the Pride Lands, has run away from his home and sphere after the death of his father.  Afraid.  He takes up a worry-less, footloose-and-fancy-free existence.  Hakuna Matata.  No worries.

But the call of leadership niggles at him.  His father appears to him in a dream and says, “Simba, remember who you are!”  Simba is afraid.  His dad is dead.  His uncle Scar, who killed Mufasa and is now ruling the deteriorating Pride Lands, intimidates him.

With the help of Rafiki, the sage mandrill, Simba gets his mojo back.  He is a leader and has royal blood in him.  He cannot escape the role of destiny except at the peril of those counting on him.

So he returns to the Pride Lands.  There he overthrows the illegitimate ruler, corrupt Uncle Scar.  And assumes his rightful throne upon Pride Rock.

People are counting on you.  And you have what it takes to bring order, peace, direction and security to those who are watching you.  And looking to you.  Remember who you are….

Image Credit





Lighten Up!

31 03 2012

The best advice I ever received came from an eighty-four year old spitfire named Helen Easterly.  We worked together in the summer of 1987 in northern Ontario near Hudson Bay.  We happened to be part of a team of missionaries bringing the Gospel to a remote region amongst the Cree people.

Grandma Easterly—as she became known to me after she “adopted” me—had terminal cancer at the time.  Yet, she had more energy than gals sixty years her junior as she worked amongst the Cree children.  She had lived an adventurous life ministering all over the world with lots of remarkable ministries.  She was vibrant, humorous and kinetic as she stared death in the face.

Some months later, I was about to get married.  Grandma Easterly sent Kath and I a very nice card with this advice:

“Don’t take yourselves too seriously.  Learn to laugh at yourselves.”

I’ve many besetting sins.  One of them is I tend to be way too serious.  (Kath doesn’t have this problem.) Those who know me well are no doubt chuckling, Wow Christian, you’re just now figuring that out?

Easy now.  Some of us are slow.

And thick.

So I thought I’d pass on a few tips to help my friends who trip over the same banana peel:

  • Listen to jazz.  Really.  Leonard Bernstein once said, “Jazz is real play.”  When I listen to jazz, I chill out. Always. Music affects the mood more than you can imagine.
  • Realize that you alone can’t fix the world.  You’re one in about seven billion inhabitants on this planet.  Do what you can where you can and then let it be.  If everybody just did a little in their own orbits, things would be a lot better in the world.
  • Exercise.  Free and legal high.  Endorphins.  You will feel better.  Trust me on this.
  • Watch films with Robin Williams in it.  For tougher cases, break out the Three Stooges.
  • Read Dilbert.  Just do it.
  • Smile.  It’s proven that deliberately smiling makes you feel better, not just those who look at your mug.

Now lighten up!

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Influences: A Few of Mine

3 03 2012

Me getting influence at Barnes & Noble

I read an interesting article the other day about Viggo Mortensen and his influences.  Viggo is an actor of no mean accomplishment and a Watertown native.  He spent a number of his growing up years here in the North Country.  People who frequent neighboring Clayton see him from time to time as he comes back to visit family.

The article was not so much commentary as it was comprehensive lists.  Being a list junkie, I found it fascinating and invigorating.  You can read about it here.

I heard a wise speaker remark once that we are all a composite of the people who influence our lives, whether directly or through their work.  I resonated with this observation and it helped put to bed the nagging urge to “be an original.”

So I thought I would list some of my own, collected over forty-eight years.  I’d be interested in yours if you choose to comment:

People:  My wife, Kath.  My daughters, Anna and Emily.  My extended family and friends. My teachers, employers and colleagues.

Guitarists:  Phil Keaggy, Eric Clapton, Julian Bream, Christopher Parkening, Jeff Beck, Alvin Lee, David Russell, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Brian May, Chuck Berry, Andres Segovia, John Williams, Earl Klugh, Larry Carlton, Ted Nugent, Paul O’Dette (lute), Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Steve Howe, Joe Fava, Konrad Ragossnig (lute), Tommy Emmanuel, David Gilmour, Rick Foster, Angel Romero, Wes Montgomery, Jacob Moon, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Anthony Phillips.  And many more.

Music and Artists: Dan Fogelberg, Keith Green, Elton John, The Allman Brothers, Paul Clark, The Beatles, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Donovan, Honeytree, Sara Groves, Vineyard Music, Maranatha Music, Hillsong Music, James Taylor, Larry Norman, John Michael Talbot, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Luciano Pavarotti, Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, Jethro Tull, Randy Stonehill, The Eagles, Billy Joel, Kemper Crabb, Lamb, Peter, Paul & Mary, Queen, Simon & Garfunkel, Twila Paris, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Card, Bob Bennett, Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), Brian Doerksen, Debby Boone, Kenny G, Norah Jones, Andrea Bocelli, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Dave Brubeck, Ralph Sharon, Tony Bennett, Neil Young, Jascha Heifetz, Glenn Gould, Malcolm & Alwyn, Phil Ramone.  And many more.

Composers: Johann Sebastian Bach, John Dowland, Gaspar Sanz, Ralph Vaughn Williams, Erik Satie, G.F. Handel, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Jimmy Webb, Francesco Da Milano, Henry Purcell, Pyotr Illich Tchaikovsky, Domenico Scarlatti, Enrique Granados, Isaac Albeniz, Michael Praetorius, Joaquin Rodrigo, Antonin Dvorak, Ennio Morricone, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Rachel Portman, Felix Mendelsohn, James Newton Howard, John Williams, Mychael Danna, Stephen Schwartz, George Gershwin. And many more.

Film: Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Marlon Brando, Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Johnny Depp, Steve McQueen, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Hopkins, Liam Neeson, Sir Laurence Olivier, James Caan, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, Alec Guinness, Steven Spielberg, Gus Van Zandt, Jim Caviezel, Franco Zeffirelli.  And many more.

Writers: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Morris West, Will & Ariel Durant, Viktor Frankl, Chaim Potok, Ralph McInerny, M. Scott Peck, J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael O’Brien, William Manchester, Dan Brown, Daniel Silva, Leo Tolstoy, Randy Alcorn, Joel Rosenberg, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Elie Wiesel, Sol Stein, Mitch Albom, Mortimer Adler, Will Strunk & E.B. White.  And many more.

Leadership and Self-Development:  Jim Rohn, Peter Drucker, Michael Gelb, John Maxwell, J. Oswald Sanders, Jack Canfield, Dean Karnazes, James Allen, Napoleon Hill, Brian Tracy, Anthony Robbins, Stephen Covey, Earl Nightingale, Dale Carnegie, Warren Bennis, David Schwartz, Zig Ziglar, Warren Bennis. And a few more.

Politics and Economics:  George Will, Henry Kissinger, Abba Eban, Ronald Reagan, John Kenneth Galbraith, John F. Kennedy, George Schultz, Thomas Sowell.  And a few more.

Science and Technology:  Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, E.F. Codd, Stephen Hawking.  And a few more.

Enough for now.  Who are your influences?





“Remember Who You Are….”

25 11 2011

This world has always needed leaders.  Men and women aware of both the time and need into which they were born and live.  The grace to lead well is given to some more than others.  Today, in some ways like no other time that has preceded it, the world is looking for leaders.  Individuals who will show the way.  Who will stand up, even while feeling afraid, and give direction, security, competence and solace.

As I have grown older, I find that I am given strength and grace to lead.  I don’t, however,  have grace to cower, shrink away, idle away the hours and live for me.  My agenda.  My plans for a content life without taking those who know me into account.  “My World and Welcome to It” is a fine motto for a ‘60’s TV sitcom.  But it ill becomes a leader, who is supposed to embody–to one degree or another–selflessness.  Sacrifice.  It’s not about me.  Nor about you.

I’ve been struck over and over again by the children’s movie The Lion King.  One scene in particular.  Simba, heir to Mufasa and kingship of the Pride Lands, has run away from his home and sphere after the death of his father.  Afraid.  He takes up a worry-less, footloose-and-fancy-free existence.  Hakuna Matata.  No worries.

But the call of leadership niggles at him.  His father appears to him in a dream and says, “Simba, remember who you are!”  Simba is afraid.  His dad is dead.  His uncle Scar, who killed Mufasa and is now ruling the deteriorating Pride Lands, intimidates him.

With the help of Rafiki, the sage mandrill, Simba gets his mojo back.  He is a leader and has royal blood in him.  He cannot escape the role of destiny except at the peril of those counting on him.

So he returns to the Pride Lands.  There he overthrows the illegitimate ruler, corrupt Uncle Scar.  And assumes his rightful throne upon Pride Rock.

People are counting on you.  And you have what it takes to bring order, peace, direction and security to those who are watching you.  And looking to you.  Remember who you are….





Directors, Dossiers and the Use of Power

24 11 2011

My wife and I love motion pictures. It has become a tradition for us to go to the movies on Thanksgiving.  This year was a quiet holiday, with our children away at school.  So the tradition continues.

J. Edgar is a bio pic about FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover.  Directed by Clint Eastwood with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, the film brings into clear relief this complex man, full of contradictions.

Hoover is seen as a man with a clear, and at times conspiratorial, sense of mission—namely, protecting America from the threat of Communism within and without.  It effectively paints the portrait of a man ruthless in his use of power and information.  Wiretaps and intimidation were tools in his arsenal.

It is interesting how Hoover was seen to be at odds with people who were cut from the same cloth as he, individuals holding high office during the same period that he directed the FBI.  Competent on one hand, but paranoid and opportunistic on the other.  A good deal of the power Hoover held over people came with information he’d secretly, and at times illegally, acquired.  Files.  Dossiers.

Hoover had secrets of his own.  Most of us do.  It’s been said that hypocrisy is the tribute virtue pays to vice.  And this is brought out in the film as well, though understated.

Power is an interesting thing.  When an individual is given power, it usually brings out one of two things in the person.  It either brings to surface the most noble hues of character, intent on serving.  Or it brings out rottenness in the heart.  Power must be handled with great care because it so greatly affects human beings. And it must be gained appropriately, by sheer weight of character, influence and proven ability. Not through intimidation and secrecy.  Thus Lord Acton’s famous dictum: “Power tends to corrupt; and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The film is effective in its portrayal of the use and abuse of power.  I won’t be surprised to see it win Oscars for Best Actor, Director and Picture.