Quote of the Day – 12/11/2016


For ever so long, each year millions of children painfully died on our planet. Second, and unlike just a century ago, now most of the horror can be readily prevented. But, third, a great deal of what’s so preventable isn’t prevented. Finally, for years to come, this sad situation will continue. So, it may be usefully fair to say that, in our era, at least, this is a perennially rotten world. – Peter Unger; Living High and Letting Die

 

Democracy and Wealth


brandeis-quote

Louis Dembitz Brandeis was an American lawyer and associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939. He graduated Harvard Law School in 1876 with the highest grade in the school’s history, a record that would stand for 80 years. After graduation he settled in Boston and opened his own firm. Although, like all businesses it has undergone a number of evolutionary changes, Brandeis’ firm is still practicing today under the moniker of Nutter McLennan & Fish.

Beginning somewhere in the early 1890s Brandeis began to make a name for himself as a champion of progressive social causes. In an article he wrote for the Harvard Law Review entitled “Right to Privacy” he all but created the notion of privacy now so enshrined in the laws of nearly every democratic nation. In 1914 he would publish the book “Other People’s Money and How The Bankers Use It.” The book was an exposé on how banks use investment funds to promote and consolidate various businesses and industries at the expense of smaller corporations and sole proprietorships to prevent competition. He harshly criticized investment bankers who controlled large amounts of money deposited by middle class customers and used it build monopolies like Rail Roads and large industrial manufacturers that prevented those same middle class business owners from rising too high up the economic ladder.

By 1916 Brandeis’ work had caught the eye of then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson who nominated him to the Supreme Court. For the next 23 years Brandeis would preside over human rights complaints, break-up monopolies and tirelessly work to maintain the democracy of wealth in America. Although appointed by a Progressive Democrat, Brandeis was not a social activist in the way we think of them today. He would be more accurately described as a free market stalwart who believed in open opportunity and sought to limit the power of corporations and the concentration of wealth.

Trickle Down Economics

eattherichIn the 1980s Ronald Reagan popularized the term “Trickle Down Economics.” It is the theory that says benefits for the wealthy trickle down to everyone else. These benefits are usually tax breaks for businesses and other high-income earners. In theory these people use the cash from these tax breaks to expand business growth and thus benefit the rest of society.

At least that’s the theory.

In practice Trickle Down Economics serves to increase economic inequality and concentrate wealth in the hands of a lucky few. In a social welfare state, like America and just about every other democracy worldwide, Trickle Down Economics places too much of the burden for funding government social programs on the middle and lower classes. By giving tax breaks to the wealthy, without cutting social programs the cost must be borne by the very people the programs claim to support. So when you give people free access to universal health care, to use one example, and then increase their taxes to pay for it, any gains they receive through so called Trickle Down economics are cancelled out. The middle-class are no further ahead, the poor feel the pinch and the rich, who could afford to pay for their own health care anyway, laugh all the way to the bank.

The Winner Takes All

The problem lies in the very nature of democracy itself. When the majority of people want free health care, they vote for it and the government is forced to provide it. But then everyone also wants to vote for lower taxes. This is where the power of wealth skews society and serves the real purpose of Trickle Down Economics.

americandreamEveryone is an optimist. The American dream is built on the premise that if I work hard enough, I too can become wealthy one day. The proponents of Trickle Down Economics know this so they wrap it in a form of patriotism saying that by offering tax breaks to the wealthy the government is actually promoting a form of national pride, motivating people to take risks, start businesses and build the economy. “It’s the American way.”

In 1995, economists Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook published the book “The Winner Take All Society” The sub-title of the book is a succinct description of their main thesis: “How More and More Americans Compete for Ever Fewer and Bigger Prizes, Encouraging Economic Waste, Income Inequality, and an Impoverished Cultural Life”. The practice of Trickle Down economics has created the winner take all society. Democracy has become nothing more than a selfish pursuit of personal gain that resembles a snake eating its own tail.

The society that Louis Brandeis envisioned in the 1930s has come to fruition. We no longer have democracy in the way it was originally intended in its place we now have something far more sinister even than a dictatorship. What we have now is a pseudo-democracy that serves the interests of wealth, not even wealthy people, just wealth. The human element has been completely removed. In the interests of self promotion, people have voted themselves out of the system. Now it’s all about money, my money, your money and most importantly, other people’s money, and how it can serve me.

Brandeis was right. But it’s not too late. The question now is what kind of society do we want to live in?

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The Prayer of Jabez


Buried away in the white pages of your Bible is a perhaps one of the most powerful prayers and testimonies ever recorded. It is an obscure prayer, by an obscure figure which had such a profound impact on the man who prayed it and the people who knew him that in the middle of a long genealogy of the Israelite patriarchs the author saw fit to break in and give a quick testimony and reminder of just who this man was.

bookandcandle1 & 2 Chronicles contain some of the least read passages in the entire Bible. That’s why I call them the white pages. Most people, even those who study the Bible diligently will gloss over large sections of Chronicles because, quite honestly, nothing seems to be happening. So the pages remain white and pristine, there are no dog ears, no scribbled notes in the margins and nothing is highlighted.   The first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles consist of list after list of the various families that made up the nation of Israel.

B-O-R-I-N-G!

So it is any wonder why, tucked away in the middle of chapter 4, while the author is listing the sons of Judah, this powerful prayer is so easy to miss? By the time you get to chapter 4 most people have given up and are just skimming the pages waiting for something to happen.

The story and testimony of Jabez is just two verses and then the author is right back to the list of men “begetting” away.

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.”  Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. [1 Chronicles 4:9-10]

That’s it! That’s all we know about Jabez. None of his brothers, forefathers or descendants get more than a mention in the long list of the sons of Judah. Why Jabez? What made the author or Chronicles decide to stop and say in essence, “there is something you need to know about this guy Jabez. He was more honorable than his brothers because he prayed this prayer and God liked it so much He granted everything Jabez asked for, and more.”

This side of heaven we will never know the answer. But in looking at the powerful prayer that Jabez made we can get a glimpse of why God might have looked so favourably upon him and why the author of Chronicles made sure we knew about it.

First off, Jabez had an unfortunate name. In Hebrew it means literally “pain”. He gave his mother great pain in childbirth and rather than try to forget that and take joy in the birth of a son she decided to remember that pain every time she called his name. In Hebrew culture names mean something and are considered a part of both your destiny and your legacy so all throughout his life Jabez was a representative of pain. It would have made for a difficult kind of life. People would have treated him according to the connotations of his name. So when Jabez cried out to God it would likely have come from a place of pain and frustration. “Oh God, Bless me, increase my influence, be with me, keep me from harm and away from pain!”

I’ve prayed Jabez prayers before. Usually when my bank account is empty and my faith is stretched but his prayer seems different than mine. While my prayers sound to my own ears like I’m begging God for something I don’t deserve, his prayer is bold yet humble, it is expectant and trusting, submissive and demanding. And most importantly – God loved it! God loved this prayer so much that he granted Jabez everything he asked for, and more.

In studying this prayer I have found that there are four points here that are worth pondering and implementing into your own prayer life if you want to blessed like Jabez.

  • Oh God Bless me. First off Jabez asked God for His blessing. That’s huge. God wants to bless his people, show them favor and give them what they ask for. Jesus tells us to ask and it will be granted, seek and we will find, knock and the door will be open to us. [Matthew 7:7] But it’s important to ask. God won’t necessarily withhold the things we need but the greater blessings must be asked for in part so that we don’t forget where they came from. By asking we are giving the glory back to God. God likes to be asked.
  • Enlarge my territory, or in other translations and more modern language, increase my influence. In the older translations the blessing that Jabez is asking for can be seen solely in monetary terms but really the territory or influence that is being asked for here is not only financial, although financial resources are often required. It can be anything that moves The Kingdom of heaven forward, by remaining humble and submissive in our stance when we make a prayer like this God can move in our lives and the lives around us in many different ways.
  • Let your hand be with me. Don’t run ahead of God. He will often give you a vision as a challenge for you to grow into and then wait for the right time to make it come to pass. When we pray for blessing and increased influence we often receive grand plans and visions that we can’t possibly implement on our own, we need God to stay with us and work through us in order to make them come true. It can be frustrating to receive these visions from God without the resources to implement them. I get that just don’t forget to pray for His hand in all you do.
  • And keep me from harm. We are at war. When you start doing great things for God Satan won’t like it and he will try to oppose you. When you ask God to bless you, increase your influence and help you out in the process, be prepared to have to fight for it too. God will never leave you or forsake you but Satan will do everything he can to make you lose hope and abandon your mission.   The last point of the Jabez prayer is crucial, as your influence grows you will need God’s protection more and more so don’t forget to ask for it and expect God to grant it.

 

And there you have it. Jabez asked for God’s blessing and increased influence, submitted to God’s direction and sought His protection. God liked his prayer so much that he granted everything he asked for and more. So much so that the author of Chronicles took time out of a long list of obscure men and gave us this testimony of a life that God favored. Maybe there is something to this prayer.

Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain!

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The Problem of Evil


I wrote this post on Thursday, and was about to post it this afternoon when I heard of the horrible attacks in Paris.  I debated whether or not I should wait and post it later, in honor of the dead but I feel the best way to honor them is to call for an end of violence in the physical realm.  Here is what I wrote.

Usually in any discussion of pacifism, after I’ve laid out my reasoning about the image of God in all of us and our role as care-taker I get my first real objection. It starts out with some crazy scenario about, what I would do if a man had a gun to my wife’s head and said if I didn’t kill him or somebody else he would kill her and then me. What do we do with the truly evil people in the world?

evilhappyfaceIn order to answer that question we first must understand the origins of evil.

Evil entered the world in Genesis 3.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” [Genesis 3:1]

Satan, (Hebrew for The Adversary) represented here as a snake begins by asking questions, seeding doubt and leading astray. So the first thing you must understand about evil is that it lies. The answer to the serpent’s question should quite simply have been no. No, God did not say you couldn’t eat from any tree in the garden, he warned not to eat from a specific tree. And that specific tree is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

It’s the one word and that very important distinction that many people miss. Good and evil exist there is nothing we can do about that. So, why is it that God does not want us to have any knowledge of good and evil?

Because we can’t handle it!

God is Love. He created us out of love. What parent wants their child to know anything other than pure love? To know good and evil is to know pain, shame and judgement. God didn’t want us to know any of that so out of love he forbade it. Satan came along and made it seem like Eve was missing out on some great mystery of life, that by learning about good and evil she would someone be greater and have a fuller life. That was a heinous lie.

Think back to your childhood, before you knew the world could be a harsh and nasty place. Life was a great idyllic utopia of perfection. You were safe in the knowledge that your parents loved you and only wanted the best for you. Then something happened, maybe you discovered a friend who didn’t have the same kind of you life you had, they couldn’t afford the after school program or didn’t have a dad at home. How did that make you feel? Shocked, confused, sad, betrayed somehow? I remember when it happened to me, and those were just some of the emotions I remember feeling.

nofairAs you went through school you eventually learned that life isn’t fair and the sooner you figured out how to deal with that the better off you were. The sooner you learned to play the game, and perpetrate a little evil of you own, the easier it got to live in this often cruel and unfair world of ours. Satan won a great victory the day you accepted his lies and decided that the world was full of evil people that you needed protection from. You started to isolate yourself and build walls to keep the bad people away.

We were created to have no knowledge of good or evil. We were created to know only God and gain our living and being solely from him. When we learned otherwise we lost everything, we lost our life in the garden and nothing has been the same since.

The apostle Paul once said that his goal was to know nothing except Christ. [1 Corinthians 2:2] Dietrich Bonehoeffer said:

Man, at his origin knows only one thing: God. It is only in the unity of his knowledge of God that he knows of other men, of things, and of himself. He knows all things only in God, and God in all things. The knowledge of good and evil shows that he is no longer at one with his origin.

But we do know that evil exists. The genie is out of the bottle. So what are we now to do with this knowledge?

If we accept it at face value Satan wins. We become afraid. Afraid of what could be lurking “out there” in strangers half way around the world or just up the block. We isolate ourselves from people who aren’t just like us we create segregated communities, spend thousands of dollars on security measures and buy guns for production. All because we know about evil.

But what if we didn’t know evil? How can we eradicate the damage it has done to our society? How can we rebuild our lost community with those who are just a little different from us?

Evil cannot exist, where love prevails. God is love and He cannot co-exist with evil.

Fear is mostly fear of the unknown. The best way to combat our knowledge of evil is with knowledge of another kind, knowledge of facts over rumors conjecture and innuendo, knowledge of individuals over people groups, community over cultures, specific teaching over long held and outdated tradition and knowledge of community over isolation.

The problem of evil is a problem of knowledge. What we know and what don’t know and even more sinister, what we think we know that is false.

Therefore a pacifist and a Christ-follower must confront the problem of evil people bent on violence with learning. First learn the truth, and then combat the lies that surround it. In this way we can avoid unnecessary conflict based on nothing more than misunderstanding, misrepresentation and distorted lies.

hijabwomanWhen we see ethnic minorities moving into our communities and influencing our culture don’t be afraid, get educated. Reach out, learn their stories and welcome them into our community. Those people, the ones we might consider evil people are just one conversation away from become our people. At the end of the day, we are all image bearers of God (see part 1).

But what about the really evil people, the ones bent on destruction. Shouldn’t we try to stop them by any means necessary? Yes – and No.

Yes, try to stop them by educating them in a different path, but no do not try to destroy them in kind, you are not fighting physical humans but deceptive practices and the lies of Satan. Satan wants us to destroy one another, that is one of his favourite weapons to use against God. If we kill each other, he wins and when one deceived person dies there are a thousand more ready to take his place. Violence is a no win situation for humanity.

Make no mistake, there is a war going on all around us in the spiritual realm, but we can’t fight it with physical weapons. Some may die; it is a war after all. But dying for a cause is admirable. Killing for one only plays into the enemies hands. Far fewer die when we confront evil with truth than weapons of mass destruction. Pacifists know that and practice it while they actively pursue peace in the physical realm.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and Pacifist Lamentations write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

Mercy, Mercy Me, (The Ecology) – Pacifist Lamentations Part 2


Woo ah, mercy mercy me
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no
Where did all the blue skies go?
Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east
Woo mercy, mercy me, mercy father
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no [Marvin Gaye, 1971]

earthonfireWhat is the role of mankind upon the earth?

According to Genesis Chapter one, mankind was made in the image of God. That’s all of us as I wrote about last week in the first installment of this series on why I am a pacifist and why I believe pacifism is the true calling of the Christ-Follower.

Continuing from where I left off in the scriptures we read this:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” [Genesis 1:28]

If we stop there it becomes fairly easy to justify all of the ways in which mankind has been raping and pillaging the earth for the last hundred or so years. This is the mindset that is prevalent among most climate change deniers on the so called “Christian” right and the mindset that has permeated the corporate world, politics and average humans since the 1960s.

When Rachel Carson, an employee of the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife, first published her research into the disappearance of certain bird species in the book Silent Spring no one had even heard of Global Warming. That was 1962 but Carson had been studying bird populations in the US Mid-West for over a decade at that point.

The book documented the detrimental effects on the environment, caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides and accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation about the safety of their products. Not surprisingly the book drew fierce criticism from corporate America, specifically companies like DOW Chemical and Monsanto. But as a result of Carson’s undaunted pursuit of the truth and meticulous documentation she was eventually credited with starting the debate that resulted in the North America wide banning of DDT and many other similar pesticides.

But the work Rachel Carson started more than 50 years ago is far from done. And the naysayers have been far from silenced.

In 2013 it was widely reported that 97.2 percent of scientists believe that humans are playing a major role in climate change. Another way to say that is that is if you put 100 scientists in a room together, 97 of them would think the remaining 3 are idiots! But if that’s what the experts say then why is it that only 33 percent of people in the general public believe them?

smokestackAs a Christ-follower and a pacifist, I believe that part of the blame lies with our incomplete and misdirected understanding of the creation story from Genesis.  We have been taught that the role of mankind on the earth is to “rule over” and “subdue” our environment. In so doing we have inadvertently and irrevocably changed it. As Marvin Gaye sang so eloquently in 1971, a result of our ruler ship, “things ain’t what they used to be.” And we continually refuse to see the evidence that is right in front of our eyes. We caused this. And if we continue on this path we will continue to cause ever increasingly severe and irrevocable damage to our domain.

But there is another way to look at creation. You don’t even really have to read between the lines or change your interpretation of Genesis 1:28, you just have to keep reading and see what else God says about mankind’s role in creation.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. [Genesis 2:15]

Do you see it?

“Take care” of it!

Ruler ship from the perspective of a caretaker is very different from ruler ship from the perspective of a master. If mankind is the master of this world then we have no one to answer to but ourselves and there are no consequences for our actions. Many climate change deniers, when backed into a corner and forced to acknowledge the evidence will use as a last line of defense some variation of the notion that sure maybe there is something going on that we have caused but it will take so long for the ice caps to melt that we won’t be around to see it and future generations will have time to evolved and adapt.

This is not only rude and callus, it’s just wrong on several fronts!

sewingseedsThe fact is there is a master and He is not us. We are merely caretakers of His creation. Caretakers have to take responsibility for their actions, maintain balance and submit to the authority of the master. They have to do their jobs and then hand over the garden to the next generation in as good or better shape than they found it. It’s not ours we don’t have the authority to alter it irrevocably. We are merely caretakers.

As a Christ-follower and a pacifist my role in all of this is to remain conscious and consciences about how I am altering the environment. And make no mistake; I am altering it, that’s unavoidable. I must be aware of the amounts of carbon and methane that I personally cause to be released into the air and do my part to control and mitigate the damage that I do. If I do my job well I can hand over the reins to my replacement, the next generation, without saddling them with an unmanageable problem that I caused.

God created me to rule over His creation, not as the ultimate master but in submission to His will and His design. God created me to be a caretaker for Him. And that is what I believe is the only proper response of a Christ-follower on questions of environmentalism and climate change.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and my Pacifist Lamentations write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or go to Twitter and follow the hashtag #pacifistlaments.  Stay tuned to this space for the next installment of Pacifist Lamentations where I plan to discuss the problem of evil from the perspective of pacifism.

Houston – You Have A Problem!


houstonLet me say it again – You have a problem!

Everyone who has ever lived, currently living and will ever live has the same problem.

There is no solution to this problem.

But there is a way to make it seem a little less scary and a little less painful for the people around you, the people you love and the people who depend on you to solve the problem.

What is this unsolvable, 100% unavoidable problem?

 

 

You’re going to die!

Probably not today and probably not tomorrow, hopefully maybe not for a very long time, but the probability that you will die is 100%. There is no cure coming for the end of your life. There are no research labs, no doctors and no scientists working on a cure for death. Sure they are trying to figure out ways to combat certain diseases and we are all living longer but that just creates another problem, the problem of outliving your money.

But one problem at a time.

Everybody dies. That’s a fact.

I cannot solve this problem. No one can. But we can make it a little less painful for you and the people you love.

How?

Insurance!

Life Insurance to be exact. But let’s be clear, you actually don’t need life insurance. You don’t need it because it’s not about you. Simply put Life Insurance is money for your loved ones when they need it the most.

Money when they are hurting, your income suddenly stops, your debts come due and you are no longer there to do all the things you do to keep your family safe and secure.

coupleattableLet’s be honest, money can’t replace everything you bring to this world. It can’t hold your partner’s hand and tell them everything is going to be all right. It can’t drive your kids to hockey practice, give them dating and career advice or make a toast at their wedding. But it can make sure your family gets as close to a normal life as possible if the unthinkable happens.

Money can ensure a measure of stability, help your kids get an education, find happiness and have families of their own.  And that’s the ultimate goal right?

So I’ll say it one last time – You have a problem!

There is no real solution to your problem. But you can at least make it a little less painful for the people you love.

My name is Lauren C. Sheil. I’m a Financial Security Advisor. And my mission is to help you solve your money problems. I want to help you live life to the fullest, even though all good things must come to an end, and to teach you live debt free, build wealth and leave a legacy.

Call or text me today for a FREE, no obligation consultation: 613-295-4141

Let’s solve some problems.

The Image of God – Pacifist Lamentations


I haven’t written about this for a while but I was recently challenged by a friend to clarify and explain my position. This is going to take a while and require more than one post so I’ve decided to start series that I’m calling Pacifist Lamentations.  Maybe there are other bloggers out there who want to join the conversation.  Comment below or write your own post with the hashtag #pacifistlaments and maybe we can start a healthy conversation about this important issue.

soldierfrombehindThe first thing everyone needs to know about living life as a pacifist is that it is a very difficult path to walk. I came to this position through years of struggle and holding onto it is a constant exercise is submission to what I believe to be the overarching will of God. It’s that point, in part that gives a lot of people fits. Many of the people I have discussed this idea with vehemently disagree with me that pacifism, even in part, could be God’s will. But before I attempt to explain my point here I need to back up a bit.

I was raised in a Mennonite church in Southern Ontario. Mennonites are perhaps the most visible minority group that publicly identifies as pacifist. As a kid I took that position at face value. It wasn’t until the first Gulf War, when I was just 18 years old that I really started to examine what it meant. My best friend at the time decided to join the army reserves as a summer job and as I started my own job search for the summer I said to my mother that as a Mennonite I didn’t have that option. She challenged me on that comment. She said that sometimes she felt that a lot of Mennonite teenagers hide behind the pacifist banner without ever really examining it, they don’t understand why they are pacifists they just used it as a convenient excuse not to make hard choices about what they stand for.

That stung a bit. It stung because it was coming from one of the most important people in my life. And it stung because it was true.

A few days later I told my mother that the reason pacifism made sense to me was that I believe all human life is sacred. That satisfied my mother and I filed it away as a catch all answer for anyone else who would question me on it.

And that worked for about 20 years.

Back in 2007 I moved and joined a new church. For the first time since I was seven years old I started to attend a church that isn’t connected to the Mennonite denomination. The church I now attend is a part of the Brethren in Christ denomination. If the Mennonites are in the minority within the Christian church, the B.I.C. are an even great (smaller?) minority. And I soon discovered that this particular church at least is even more committed to pacifism than my Mennonite brothers and sisters growing up. Once again I was forced to re-examine my position on the matter.

This time I embarked on a journey through scripture that is still unfolding eight years later. The deeper I go the more convinced I become that God’s will is for his people to remain on the side of pacifism and non-violence.

It all starts in Genesis 1.

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. [Genesis 1:27]

Just twenty-seven verses into the word of God it’s that one word “mankind” that brings me up short. It’s inclusive. There is no one, not one person on the face of the earth, in all of history or the future to come who is not, and will not be made in the image of God.

The implications of that realization are infinite.

What does it mean to be made in God’s image?

For one thing it means that you are made in the image of love. “God is Love” [1 John 4:16]. It means you possess within you the potential for infinite love. And it means you are infinitely valuable.

So as a pacifist I lament the loss of this realization in my fellow Christians. We have become isolated from one another and we have forgotten that we are all intended to be family.  The image of God is broken.  War, indeed all violence seeks to dehumanize the “enemy”. But I can’t support that position with scripture.

kidonabusWhen I see pictures and videos of men, women and children committing violence to one another my heart breaks, and I am convinced that it breaks the heart of God. When I see images of refugees wandering in the wilderness, hungry and cold, I see God. When I hear my fellow men and women complain that there are too many of “those” people in our neighborhoods and how we need to protect ourselves from anyone who is different, I mourn the loss of community and connectedness.

We are all image bearers of God. We may be broken and distorted images of Him. Many of us may have forgotten our divine connection to another. But we are all made in the image of love and I for one cannot justify violence toward anyone in whom I see the face of God.  And in case you haven’t been paying attention, that’s everyone.

“To love another person is the see the face of God.” Victor Hugo

For more #pacifistlaments or information on The Meekonomics Project write to:  themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

 

Giving, what’s your motivation?


“I can see the words hanging in front of me and I can’t reach them and I don’t know who I am and I don’t know what I’m going to lose next.” – Dr. Alice Howland, Sill Alice

alzhiemers

My father-in-law has Alzheimer’s Disease. It was discovered four years ago in 2011 but to be honest many in the family has suspected it for a long time before that. Forgetting where you put your keys is one thing, insisting that the city must have moved the airport, as he once did, is a bit more serious.

He was always, in my opinion at least, a bit eccentric.  He was slow to make decisions, a bit of a hoarder, always worried that he would throw something away that he would later find a use for, etc. But that behavior is not really associated with Alzheimer’s, that’s just a fact of life when you grow up without a lot of money and learned to recycle and reuse things long before it was politically correct to do so. The real signs of the disease started appearing around 2007. The incident where he couldn’t find the airport happened in 2009.

Today he lives in a long term care facility and my wife and I visit him on Wednesday afternoons. He’s not the same.

Last week I watched two different takes on the progression of the disease. The first was a TED Talk about exciting new research into a potential cure. Watch it [here]. The other was the Oscar award winning film Still Alice about a Columbia University professor who develops an early onset version of the disease. Both left me with the feeling that Alzheimer’s Disease is an unjustly cruel way to die.

Dying of Alzheimer’s Disease is in a way the death of your mental capacity cognitive ability and personality while your body remains functional. In the early stages at least, it’s almost as if you are watching yourself become a zombie. I later stages you are a zombie, completely unable to make sense of the world you inhabit.

Why am I telling you all of this on a personal finance blog?

treemoney

Well because I’m sitting here this morning looking at a donation request from the Alzheimer Society and debating how much money I can afford to give them this year. I want to give a lot, out of respect and support for the man my father-in-law once was but I also have limited resources. So I’m asking myself the hard questions about what is the responsible amount to give?

Philanthropy is one of my personal favorite topics. I love the idea of “loving humanity” with my resources. (The Greek form of the word Philanthropist means lover of humanity.) But when does philanthropy shift from a loving expression to selfish ambition, from altruism to egotism?

The government doesn’t help. In Ontario, where I live, you receive a tax credit of 46% on every dollar, over a non-refundable annual minimum of $200, donated to a recognized charity. That means that to give away $1000 over the course of the year reduces your taxable income by $460. Which begs the question, when does philanthropy become more of a tax strategy than an act of kindness?

And let’s not forget what God has to say about supporting your own household and keeping food on the table:

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. [1 Timothy 5:8]

So when does philanthropy stop being an act of love and turn into an act of hatred toward those closest to you?

It’s all very confusing and difficult to reconcile. I’m sorry I haven’t given a lot of answers. At the end of the day philanthropy is a noble pursuit provided that you:

  1. Can afford it
  2. Understand the tax implications
  3. Do it out of genuine compassion – and
  4. Give to a reputable agency that won’t squander your hard earned money.

For more information on philanthropy and how best to leave a legacy write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

PayDay Lenders – essential service or legalized loan sharks?


paydayloansYou see them on practically every street corner in lower class neighbourhoods across every city in the country. They promise cheque cashing services and “low cost” short term loans to people who fall through the cracks of the traditional banking system, people without bank accounts, new immigrants and social welfare recipients. Come January some will also offer tax preparation for these same, lower middles class “working poor”.

Over the last decade or so they have begun to creep into middle-class neighbourhoods as well with their slick contemporary designed outlets, prepaid credit cards, international wire transfer services and even more enticements to borrow now and pay next week.

Ask anyone who works at one of these outlets and they will tell you that they provide an essential service. They are the only place a lot of people without bank accounts can go to have cheques cashed and receive emergency funds. Most traditional banks will not provide service to people without an account and in order to get a bank account in most cases you must have either a Social Insurance Number, a job, Citizenship or other form of permanent residency status, in some cases all of the above. That puts a lot of people, refugees, new immigrants and social welfare recipients in particular, outside the traditional banking system and in need of financial services. I get that, but the fact of the matter is that these Cheque Cashing services and PayDay lenders don’t make their huge profits from cashing cheques for immigrants; they make their money by charging upwards of 500% annual interest on short term loans to the working poor!

loansharkThere was a time in my life when I fell into their trap. I was living beyond my means in a 1700 square foot town-house that I couldn’t afford but rather than take the necessary steps to reduce my expenses I sought the help of a payday lender. At one point I was playing two different outlets off of one another to the tune of over $700 every two weeks! I even bounced a repayment cheque to one of them and when I finally was able to repay it I was told “that’s okay, you’re one of our best customers”.

Ouch – that was the final straw, I knew at that point that I needed help and even though they thought they were giving me a compliment, I was insulted and never went back.   I shudder to think just how much I really paid interest and what they really thought of me.

Of course they don’t call it interest they call it a “convenience fee” and bury the true interest rate in the fine print. One PayDay Lender I used to deal with advertises “$300 for $20” but let’s take a look at what they really means in terms of the interest rate charged.

According to Ontario law payday loans must be paid in full every two weeks.   That means that the $300 you borrow, plus the $20 is due no more than 14 days from when you took it out. If you roll that over and take out another $300, plus $20 for another two weeks you will have paid $40 in fees on the same principle of $300 in a month, you haven’t actually made any progress on your debt, you’ve just paid the fee. But wait, that $300 for $20 deal is only good for your first loan, after that the actual rate is $100 for $20 so if you roll it over you are now paying $60 every two weeks to keep your $300 principle balance. Keep doing that and over the course of a year you will pay $1460 is “fees” on a principle balance of $300, which is an effective annual interest rate of 438%!

And those are the “reputable” guys, I’m sure you’ve seen their ads on billboards and television with their cute mascot and catchy jingle. They are a national brand owned by Multinational Corporation that trades on the TSX. But there are literally hundreds of other small players in the market with less than stellar reputations to protect. Do you really think these companies honestly believe they are providing an essential service to the working poor? It blows my mind how they can keep a straight face, and tell you that 438% interest is really just a convenience fee and an essential service for unbanked and working poor!

It’s no secret. I hate PayDay Lenders. They are nothing more than legalized loan sharks. We as a society need to find a better way to help the unbanked population. Cheque cashing services for immigrants, refugees and social welfare recipients is one thing but we don’t need to offer short term, high interest loans to anyone.

For more information on how I got out from under the PayDay Lender and my proven system for getting out of debt, building wealth and leaving a legacy – “6 Steps to Financial Freedom” write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com