Breaking The Rules


Every time God forgives us, God is saying that God’s own rules do not matter as much as the relationship that God wants to create with us. – Richard Rohr; Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

nofishingjpg I recently published my second book. “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Get’s Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough”.

For too long living a spiritual life, in submission to a religious system has been fraught with rules. “Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign” to quote the Five Man Electrical Band.

When living a spiritual life there are two types of rules. There are the rules that God himself has established and written down, things like the 10 Commandments and the teachings of Jesus. And there are the rules that religious institutions have created in order to “help” us better understand various version of god. Too often, although we are clearly taught that God made mankind in His image, religious institutions have in turn remade their own god in their own image.

The fact of the matter is that the only rules that matter are God’s; man’s rules aren’t worth spit when it comes to the will of the one who made us. When God breaks his own rules, as he has done over and over again throughout history and scripture it must therefore point to a greater truth. Not that the rules don’t matter, they do, they have a purpose. But in a lot of cases the rules have served their purpose and no longer apply, in other cases they may still have a purpose for day to day living but they can be, and often are, superseded by something else.

Life is messy and the rules, far from having no meaning, just aren’t enough when it comes to understanding the will of God.

What is the will of God? Well that’s complicated but it begins and ends with one fact, God is Love [1 John 4:16] and sometimes love needs to break the rules.

The following exert from Meekoethics talks about the love of God manifest in the actions of a few historical figures and martyrs for the faith. Life is messy and sometimes it leads us to do things that are counter-intuitive for the cause of love.

God IS Love! Full stop…

There is no malice in Him. There is no vengeance and no violence of any kind. God created mankind in his own image. We are all infinitely valuable image bearers of the divine. Therefore the only opinion we are allowed to have of our fellow human beings is that they too are worthy of just as much love and respect as we are.

What does enemy love look like?

It looks like Henry Dunant. After witnessing the Battle of Solferino in 1859, in which more than 40,000 wounded soldiers on both sides were abandoned and left to die alone on the battlefield, he closed his business and founded the International Red Cross to care for those wounded in war, regardless of nationality or participation in combat.

Today, the International Foundation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is one of the world’s most recognized and respected independent humanitarian aid agencies. It has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize three times and carries on operations in warzones throughout the world through the work of local chapters in over 140 countries.

Enemy love looks like Ron Sider who in 1984 issued a challenge to all Christ-followers:

“Unless we . . . are ready to start to die by the thousands in dramatic vigorous new exploits for peace and justice, we should sadly confess that we never really meant what we said, and we dare never whisper another word about pacifism to our sisters and brothers in those desperate lands filled with injustice. Unless we are ready to die developing new nonviolent attempts to reduce conflict, we should confess that we never really meant that the cross was an alternative to the sword . . .”

That speech, given by Mr. Sider on a summer day in the south of France sparked a non-violent movement for peace and justice the world over. Today Christian Peacemaker teams are deployed in six regions of racial violence and oppression throughout the world including Iraq, Palestine and North American Aboriginal Communities.   They carry no weapons and seek simply to “get in the way” of violence. They stand with the oppressed and the oppressor and force the issue by refusing to ignore the divine image in everyone. They have faced hardship for the cause, many have been arrested and some of their people have died in the service of enemy love.

But perhaps the most shining example of enemy love ever recorded was that of Dirk Willems.

In the early spring of 1569 Willems was arrested by the authorities for the crime of being an Anabaptist, a radical church reformer who believed, among other things, in adult baptism and pacifism. Willems was sentenced to die but he escaped prison and ran across a frozen moat. One of the prison guards noticed him running away and gave chase. The guard was a heavier man, carrying a heavy sword and wearing heavy winter clothing. He fell through the ice. When Willems noticed that the man chasing him was about to drown, he turned back and helped him out of the ice cold water. He was promptly re-arrested and, despite this act of compassion for his enemy, Dirk Willems was burned at the stake as a heretic on May 16, 1569.

All three of these examples are stories about counter-intuitive, counter-cultural expressions of love and the will of God. They are examples of what tends to happen when truly engaged Christ-followers discover that life is messy and the rules aren’t enough.

For more information on my latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Get’s Messy and The Rules Aren’t Enough?” visit www.themeekonomicsproject.com/products or write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and The Rules Aren’t Enough? – Book Release!


MeekoethicsCoverAfter almost a year of writing and editing my second full length book hit the virtual shelves last week! Get yours today here or directly from me here.

I think this is my best book yet!  But of course I am biased.

I originally started writing it as an extended tangent to my first book “Meekonomics”. I thought I was writing a commentary on the current state of the North American Church. But as often happens when I write, what I set out to do and what the final product ultimately becomes are two completely different things. This time was no different.  Instead of writing about the church I ended up on a journey of discovery around the intersection of faith, culture and the will of God. At times it got messy, as the sub-title of the book suggests but at other times the way in which I see the world, and indeed the way in which I understand God’s role in it, achieved a startling clarity.

Here is an excerpt from the book on that type of understanding:

 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. [Revelation 22:13]

Christianity came to prominence in the west under the guidance of a Hellenistic world view. Greek philosophers have always been obsessed with essence. How far can we boil a concept down before we get at the core of the teaching? For centuries, that line of thinking has driven our understanding of God.

Don’t get me wrong. By trying to find the essence of Christianity and of God in this way, we have to a large degree discovered some profoundly beautiful truths about him.

God is Love, [1 John 4:8] was the main point on which I based my last book and remains a major theme of all my writing. We have been taught, through centuries of Hellenic thinking, that this is the essence of God. But in getting at His essence, we have missed the beauty that also lives on the outer edges of our understanding.

The word “understand” was not originally a word that meant we had all the answers. “To understand” is better described as to stand under something, to stand in submission to a truth that you don’t fully grasp. I stand under and submit to the truth that God is Love but I wrestle daily with how that resonates throughout society and touches my life. I stand under it but I don’t understand it, so to speak.

Even though our society has now largely taken on the Hellenic worldview of essence and perfection, the Bible was not written primarily by Greeks who lived out of a worldview of essence. It was written by Hebrews who live out of a completely different worldview. The Hebrew worldview is one that seeks to define the edges of the target instead of the centre of the bull’s-eye. Understood from a Hebraic point of view we read passages like Revelation 22 in a completely different way.

What God is saying to John at the end of Revelation is not “this is my essence.“ No, what he is saying is “This is what I encompass”. Any discussion of ethics therefore needs to be a discussion of the circumference of the target. God is defined by the edges, but life happens in between.

And as I have discovered, life is messy.

For more information on “life in between”, the Meekonomics Project or any of my writing and work in the area of Christian-ethics and financial planning write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com and save the date for our official book launch and Financial Seminar on Oct 7, 2015.

New Book Release Announcement!


Pre-orders are now open for my second full length book!

Meekoethics:  What Happens When Life Gets Messy and The Rules Aren’t Enough?  Pre-Order Here!

snoopywritingThe final product should be ready to ship within a week and I am planning a book launch event for early October, more to come on that as details are confirmed.

Here is the synopsis I put on the book jacket.  Order yours today and save the date, Wednesday, October 7, 2015.

What is ethics? What makes Christian ethics different from, or the same as, any other worldview? Is the Christian worldview still relevant in our Post-Christian society? What about the old-testament law? In short: What happens when life gets messy and the rules aren’t enough?

These are some of the questions L C Sheil explores in this latest book – Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and The Rules Aren’t Enough?

Building on the foundation of his first book, “Meekonomics: How to Inherit the Earth and Live Life to the Fullest in God’s Economy”. Here, Mr. Sheil goes beyond questions of personal finance and economics and dares to ask an utterly different question:

What is the will of God?

Meekoethics is not an attempt at finding a definitive answer. Rather it is an honest exploration of the questions behind the question and a call to all Christ-followers to sit in submission to the answers they find, get comfortable with discomfort and let God be God.

L C Sheil is a Financial Coach, Corporate Strategist and Author based in Ottawa, Canada. His mission is to help people reconcile their relationships with God and money, to teach them to live debt free, build wealth and leave a legacy.

Meekoethics is, first and foremost a book about God and your relationship with His will for your life and the world we all inhabit.

Pre-order today.

Carry Each Others Burdens


moving

So last week I had the opportunity to experience first-hand one of the things I preach about on a regular basis here on this blog. Namely – the world is a better place when humanity comes together…

As I’ve mentioned here a number of times, back in 20011 I was faced with a profoundly difficult decision. My business was struggling and my father-in-law had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, my wife strongly felt we needed to be closer to her family and I was worried about what the future held for my career.

It was on July 1, 2011, while walking through a quite park, with the celebratory Canada Day fireworks going off in the back ground that I came to the conclusion that my life was at a cross-roads, I could clearly see both paths laid out before me, both led to uncertain futures, one involved staying put and dealing with reinventing my business for a new generation of consumers, the other involved moving 500 km away and starting over in an entirely new city away from everyone and everything I had spend nearly 20 years building.

I chose to move.

In a word, that move was hell. There were several promises made, plans started and assurances given that never materialized. The new career was slow to gain traction and my father-in-laws condition deteriorated faster than anticipated. We were forced to live in a basement, surrounded boxes containing all of our worldly possessions, without windows or proper ventilation for almost four years.

As my sister has often said; “We plan while God laughs.” But He also puts in place a better alternative if we just have to patience to wait for it. Within weeks of moving I had found a great community of Christ-followers motivated by mutual respect, compassion and a sense of family. God’s plan was in motion.

The word compassion comes from Latin “compati” which means “to suffer with” or “to suffer along-side”.  Compassion leads to a community focused understanding and coming together to work with people in need, find solutions to problems and alleviate suffering. But it’s more than that, it’s also a willingness to get down in the dirt and experience the suffering first hand in order to understand it before trying to fix anything.

That’s what my new church family did with me.

While my wife and I struggled to help my father-in-law, deal with the consequences of the broken promises and slow growth in my new career our friends never once tried to “fix” us with platitudes or superficial band-aids. They instead came along side us, joined in our pain and provided support in ways that showed understanding, respect and love far more deeply than any quick fix or pat on the back could ever have accomplished.

And then, after almost four years of broken promises and delayed dreams we were finally able to move into our new home. That’s when the real coming together happened. No fewer than 8 members of our new church family stepped up to help. It was the smoothest, least stressful move of my entire life. In less than 3 hours we had loaded the truck, driven to the new place and unloaded.

I’m still a bit sore from all the heavy lifting and we still have a number of boxes to open and go through but the bulk of the work is done and I personally only lifted a fraction of my own possessions. Because that’s what a compassionate community does. They come along-side, suffer with and in my case quite literally carry each others burdens.

While all this was going on one friend of mine couldn’t help because he was on his way to Africa to be part of a learning team. Their mission is to see how best we can come along-side our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe fighting AIDS and poverty in the sub-Sahara region. My personal example of community compassion seems trivial when compared to the suffering of so many world-wide. But it stems from the same place. The apostle Paul said it best;

Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.  Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. [Galatians 6:2-6]

The law of Christ is simply to love God, and love your neighbor. It doesn’t matter if your neighbor lives next door, up the street or on the other side of the world. Love is compassion and compassion is coming along-side and bearing each others burdens.

Whose burden can you carry today?

The Prayer of Agur


The Prayer of Who?

agur

Agur ben Jakeh is widely reputed to be the author of Proverbs, chapter 30, sometimes also referred to as the book of Agur. Although most of the book of Proverbs is said to have been compiled by King Solomon, toward the end of the book other authors start to creep in. Or at least the names of other people start showing up.

Not much is known about the character of Agur, he only appears this one time in all of scripture and does not have any mention in any other Hebrew Chronicles of the same time period. This is perhaps because the name itself could just be Solomon again trying to disguise his identity. Agur in Hebrew literally means “the compiler” while Jakeh means the one who “spat out the word of God”. So Agur ben Jakeh in Hebrew means “The Compiler, Son of He Who Spat out The Word of God”.

The actual identity of Agur therefore is not important.

The so called Prayer of Agur has over the years become a personal mantra of mine. For a time, when I was going through serious financial difficulty I taped it to the inside of my wallet and it became one of the starting points for my first book; “Meekonomics; How to Inherit the Earth and Live Life to the Fullest in God’s Economy.” It reads;

Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God. [Proverbs 30:7-9]

I am sorry to say that over the years I have done the exact opposite of what this prayer requests. I have lied, I have been both poor and somewhat wealthy, I have arrogantly disowned and subjugated my faith in the Lord and I have committed fraud in an attempt to maintain my position and lifestyle. I discovered this prayer when I was at my absolute worst. God brought me to a point where I could cling to nothing I had created or developed without Him. I distinctly remember waking up in the middle of the night, debts mounting, bill collectors calling and my mortgage company threatening repossession and literally praying for death.

It was during this dark time that, through a Sunday Sermon on generosity, I first heard the prayer of Agur. I read it again this past week as I came to the end of a two month study on Proverbs. Life has changed for me since I first embraced this prayer. I am no longer on the verge of losing everything. I’ve been through “the valley of the shadow of death” and emerged on the other side a stronger, more practical, and more generous man. I no longer carry these words with me everywhere I go but I realized as I read them again for the first time in a couple of years that I still need them. From time to time I still need to be reminded of their message and their power.

Everyone has a tendency to bend the truth and seek after extravagant and disproportionate wealth. We all tend to put too much stock in our own ability and so deny the power of God working in our lives. We all tend to try and keep up with the Jones’ by any means necessary. The Prayer of Agur reminds us not to do those things. He reminds us that God is God and we are not and he reminds us that everything we have is ultimately a gift from the one who made us.

humbepie

The Prayer of Agur can be summed up in one line –

Lord keep me humble, so that I don’t become arrogant and forget about you.

The world would be a much better please if we all tried to remember that.  Let’s do it, shall we?

The Long Journey Back


the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. [Luke 15: 13]

youngwildandfreeThe story of the prodigal son is one of the most widely read parables in all of Jesus teaching. In a nutshell, there was a man who had two sons, one day the younger son came to his father and asked for his inheritance early. The father agreed and the son set off to make his own way in the world. He failed, lost it all and ended up crawling back to beg forgiveness and a second chance. The father, being a gracious man agreed and restored his son’s position in the family. – The End.

At least, that’s how I understood the story when I was younger, before I became somewhat of a prodigal son myself.

I don’t need to into the details of my story here. I’ve touched on various aspects of my past several times on this blog before. The highlights are that I went into the music business at the wizened old age of 19, traveled the world and achieved a mediocre level of success before losing it all as a result of bad planning, arrogance and a failure to see that my life was a house of cards built on cheap credit and short-sighted selfishness. Couple that with the rise of audio downloading and the stress of a family illness and by the time I was 40 I found myself a recovering bankrupt, living in my in-law’s basement and starting a whole new career.

I never forsook my family but I did a lot of the other things the prodigal son is said to have done and I paid the price. Recently I’ve come back to this story to help me understand some other things that are going on in my life and so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned with you today.

To truly understand the meaning of this story though we need to dissect it a little; first off that word – prodigal. It never actually appears anywhere in the story, it’s a label that has been placed on the story itself to help give it meaning, so what exactly where the original commentators trying to say when they used that word to describe the son?

Prodigal [adjective] 1. spending money and resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.  2.having or giving something on a lavish scale

[noun] 1. a person who spends money in a recklessly extravagant way

So it’s all about money, or is it?

True the son spent all of his money. But in recent years other commentators have preferred to refer to this story as the story of the lost son or the story of the two lost brothers.

Why lost? Why mention the older brother at all? In my early understanding of the story the older brother didn’t even enter into it, he’s not important is he? One commentator I’ve read on this parable even refers to it as the story of the prodigal father, what did he do the be considered prodigal? Surely it’s not about what the father did is it?

The truth is this story has so many layers it might as well be an onion and the story of how the younger son spent all is money and eventually came home is just the husk. Throughout my own prodigal journey I have learned at least three things about this story that I continue to carry with me.

Number 1 – It’s about hubris.

The younger son was proud, arrogant and impatient. He wanted it all, and he wanted it all right now. But more than that he was quite simply a bad seed, in an ancient Hebrew context the fact that the son asked his dad for his inheritance early was the equivalent of wishing his father were dead. This is not the kind of thing that got you what you asked for; it was the kind of thing that brought shame on you and your family and got you killed.

Whenever I catch myself making decisions out of pride, arrogance and impatience I try to remember this story. I’ve never done anything that would bring shame on my family or risked my life (I don’t think) but I have hurt people and I can see the potential to do a lot more damage when I continue on the path.

Number 2 – It’s about grace.

When the younger son returns home his father doesn’t kill him. When this story is told in certain Middle Eastern Muslim cultures today the reaction is shock and disgust. The moment of greatest offense to these cultures is not when the young son leaves home but when he returns and the father welcomes him with open arms. The amount of shame, and hurt brought on the family by the younger son’s actions warrants nothing less than immediate execution.

Remember, the current Middle Eastern culture is the one that has introduced the term “Honor Killing” to the world. The Middle Eastern Muslim culture of today is very similar to the ancient Hebrew culture in which this story was originally told so the reaction of Jesus original followers would have been the same. That is why popular theologian Tim Keller has referred to this story as the parable of the prodigal father. It is the father, not the son who is the most extravagant and lavish with his wealth here.

I love definitions so here’s another one.

Grace [noun] the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

Free and unmerited! According to law and cultural tradition the young son should have been stoned to death before he even set foot on his father’s property. The fact that he was instead restored to his previous position, completely free of all need to repay what he had lost and completely unencumbered by a requirement to earn his was back in is the very definition of grace. This is what God’s love looks like.

Number 3 – Given the right circumstances I have just as much tendency to be both the younger or older son.

Grace is awesome when it’s directed at me but not so great when I have to watch someone else receive it. We live in an imperfect meritocracy. Imperfect because obviously the best and most deserving don’t always win but they win often enough that we can still consider our society to be largely based on merit and justice. The so called Protestant Work Ethic that has guided and built our society for the past 500 or so years depends on it.

Work hard and play by the rules and you will have just as much opportunity to reach your goals and achieve your dreams as the next guy.  That’s what the Protestant Work Ethic says in a nutshell but we all know it’s not exactly true. The game is rigged and some people are just born with more opportunity than others.

As a white, middle-class male, from Canada, I was born with more opportunity to make something of myself than over 90 percent of the world population. But more than that, when someone takes advantage of these “merits” at the expense of others they can be seen as bullies. If someone from a lower class begins to threaten my position it sometimes feels like they are cheating and my immediate reaction is to use my power and influence to “keep them in their place”.

It can be even worse when people get ahead through nothing more than the help of others, they did nothing to deserve their position, they had everything handed to them and they somehow don’t deserve it. Grace is not fair, and that is scandalous, especially to those of us who play by the rules, like the older brother.

And as a bonus,

Number 4 – Sometimes the only thing you can do is sit on the porch.

What do you do when someone insults you, takes something of value from you, turns their back on you and walks away? What’s more, what do you do when they squander what they’ve taken from you and come crawling back for more? The father in this story resisted the urge to run after his son, to reason with him or to bring him home by force. While I am sure he was deeply hurt by his son’s actions he remained calm and did not resist or retaliate in any way. For the entire time his son was gone he simply sat and waited for his return.

It is obvious to me that this man represents God in this story. He has calmly let us do things he knows are going to hurt us, and bring shame on our family. Rather than pursue us and bring us back by force he leaves the door open and patiently waits on the porch for us to return. But we don’t have to make the entire journey on our own, nor do we have to do any penance for our crimes of arrogance when we decide to come home.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. [Luke 15:20]

The image I get in my mind when I read this is of a man far off in the distance, but somehow you can tell, by the way he moves and the shape of his body, who it is. The father has been sitting on his porch, waiting, hoping and praying for this day for months, years, maybe even decades. When it finally happens he JUMPS up and RUNS to his son!

That is love, joy, grace and compassion all rolled into one glorious package. And that is quite simply how God loves each and every one of us.

 

The journey back can be a long and lonely road. But we don’t have to do it alone, God will see us and he will be overcome with joy enough to run out and meet us.

Here’s one last definition just for fun;

Repent (verb) from the Greek, meaning to turn and go in a different direction.

Repentance doesn’t have anything to with penance or restitution or remorse, it is simply the act of turning from one path to another. When the young son “came to his senses” (v 17) he turned around and headed home. All he had to do was repent, change direction, his father (God) met him on the road and did the rest.

prodigalson
“The Return of the Prodigal Son” – Rembrandt

There has been a lot going on in my life lately, as I already alluded to. Some of it requires repentance, both mine and from others and some of it needs to be met with grace. But for a lot of it I just need to sit on the porch and wait. Waiting for other people to repent and start their journey home is hard. I take comfort in the fact that the real work, the restoration, and the restitution, that’s God job and he’ll do it as only he can, in his own time.

And when that time finally comes – oh what a party!

Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. [Luke 15:23-24]

 

 

 

 

From Selma to Mumbai, and Death in a Concentration Camp


Private, reflexive, ventilated rage is often justified today as a proper attack on “oppression”. The problem with that is that, once it has drawn attention to a grievance, it does not do much to change anything. Change, over the long haul, requires organization, patience, good humor, and the ability to negotiate and compromise; all of which may be energized by anger or killed by it. – Carol Tavris; Anger, the Misunderstood Emotion

selma

I used to be a very angry person. I went through a period in my life when everything seemed to go wrong. In the course of just a few years, I lost everything, my business, my house, the respect of my peers, my social circle, my pride and to large extent my sense of self. And it ticked me off to no end.

I realized I was headed for disaster one evening, after a particularly hard day when I opened my pantry and reached for the vodka bottle, not because I was thirsty, and not because I was particularly interested in enjoying the taste of an expertly mixed martini but because I wanted to relax and forget the failures of the day and the looming pressures of the coming week. I’m happy to say that I stopped myself from pouring that drink and have never attempted to use alcohol to self-medicate my depression since.

It was around that time, about 10 years ago now, that I started to research all the things that make up this blog and my personal journey from financial basket case to coach, author and trainer in personal finance and behavioral economics.

In looking at the world of macro-economics, against a backdrop of geopolitics one of the first thesis statements I coined was that “Peace without Justice is Oppression”. (Read the post I wrote about it way back in 2009 here) Lately, as I’ve been working through the implications of Anger and Self-Control (see my last two posts here – and here), I also had the opportunity to watch Selma, last year’s Academy Award Winning portrayal of the civil rights march from Selma Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery which took place in the summer of 1965.

If peace without justice is oppression, as I originally theorized in 2006, then oppression can and should be met with resistance but as Carol Tavris so aptly points out in her excellent exploration of the emotion of Anger, quoted above, it does little to create lasting change.  Change requires organization, and patience. Martin Luther King led a non-violent movement that demanded the attention of the political leaders of his day through organization, and patience. In the film portrayal of the events at Selma it is interesting to note that then President Lyndon Johnson was willing to work with King, meeting with him on several occasions both publicly and privately to negotiate a settlement. Johnson was willing to work with King as opposed to his contemporary Malcolm X because of his stance on non-violent protest. When the march in Selma turned violent, caught on film by the news media, it was clear that the police had initiated an attack on unarmed civilians. In that moment the Civil Rights movement became a movement of peaceful citizens, versus oppressive and violent government and although it still took some time, the  battle was won (or lost depending on how you look at it) the day police charged the marchers on horseback with tear gas and billy clubs.

The same thing happened in Mumbai and the surrounding Indian country side when Ghandi stood up to British rule during the 1930s and 40s. It happened again in Finkenwalde Germany when Dietrich Bonheoffer stood up to the Nazi control of the Lutheran Church.

All of these men have at least three things in common. First off, they were angry. They saw the injustice and the oppression and said, “This is not peace” and they couldn’t stand by while innocent people were oppressed. Second, they organized a non-violent movement to unsettle and unseat their oppressors. And thirdly, although they were all ultimately successful in their bids to rid the world of the oppressive practices that they were against they were all assassinated by those who sought to maintain the status quo.

Oppressive regimes are ultimately not interested in justice and they will seek to vilify and discredit anyone who points that out to them. In the end, they will fail, justice always wins in the end, but when your hold on power is built on violent oppression, the last gasp of the oppressor is always violent, it’s all you know. As the pacifist, non-violent movement gains power the oppressor becomes like a cornered animal and in a last ditch effort to regain control he will lash out with the only tool he knows how to use.   But by then it’s too late, the tide has turned and by killing the leader of the movement to unseat them they only confirm what everyone has already come to know.

Peace without Justice is Oppression and justice leads to equality, mercy, non-violence and grace. That is true peace, and that is what King, Ghandi and Bonheoffer all sought through their work.

Is anyone oppressing you in their quest for peace? How can you organize to non-violently oppose it? More uncomfortably, are you oppressing anyone in your own quest for peace?

Gut check time! Are you ready to march on your own private Selma?

The Best Time to Plant a Tree


tree3

To abstain from the enjoyment which is in our power, or to seek distant rather than immediate results, are among the most powerful exertions of the human will. N. W. Senior 1836

Nassau William Senior, was an English lawyer who also became well known as an economist. His area of legal practice was in what, at the time was known as conveyance. That is the legal transfer of title and property between parties through the granting of an encumbrance such as a mortgage or a lien. In other words Senior was a real-estate lawyer who worked mostly on behalf of banks and other wealthy individuals. It was his job to help those wealthy folks, and their representatives control the flow of property, protect their assets and build wealth by collateralizing physical property and loaning money to others. It was through this work that Senior saw firsthand how difficult it is for some people to control their desires, and delay gratification in order to build wealth and how easy it is for others to exploit those same desires to their own ends.

Senior would have had an intimate understanding of what the writer of Proverbs meant when he wrote;

The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender. [Proverbs 22:7]

What Nassau Senior knew to be true in the 19th century was true thousands of years before him and is still true today. What we are talking about here is the ability to display self-discipline.

But it’s more than that.

It’s the inability of some people to put the needs of their future self ahead of their present self. When our present desires trump our future needs we are essentially dealing with a failure of belief in the future and imagination for what that future may hold. When we put our faith in immediate desires we allow others to control our destiny. We borrow money to finance our present and enslave our future selves.

As a financial advisor I see the results of this failure in belief and imagination play out every day. It is my job to help you envision the future.

Consider this – In 2012 the average household income in Ontario was $75,000 per year. After taxes that translates into a take home pay of about $48,000, give or take. In addition the average Canadian carries $27,000 in consumer debt and about $100,000 in mortgage debt. Put in terms of monthly cash-flow that translates to about $4000 a month, $1000 goes to mortgage payments and $650 a month to consumer debt servicing, leaving just $2500 per month for things like, food, household supplies, utilities, insurance and any number of things you can think of.

Savings get pushed way down the list.

In other words the average Canadian has mortgaged their future to pay for the present. Now what if we didn’t have that consumer in debt? $650 a month invested at 8% for 35 years turns into $1.4 million! But since most of us have debt let’s look at it another way: What if we lowered our standard of living by just 10% and invested that? What would $400 per month turn into? Answer: $860,000. Under current legislation that gives our future self an income of $54,000 per year from all sources (Canada Pension Plan, provincial plans and investment income). Can our present self do without 10% to ensure that our future self has enough to live on? I sure hope so.

All this was inspired by my recent viewing of a TED Talk on the relationship between our present and future self by cognitive psychologist, Daniel Goldstein. Check it out here:

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/daniel_goldstein_the_battle_between_your_present_and_future_self.html

And remember –

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best time is now. [African Proverb]

Will You or Won’t You?


Whenever I sit down with a new client and start to build out the file there is a question that get’s asked that always draws a few quizzical looks.

I always start with a new client by explaining my mission:

I am here to help you reconcile your relationship with God (your values) and Money (the value store) through Education and Empowerment. To teach you to live Debt Free, Build Wealth and Leave a Legacy.

I then say that in order for me to do that you first have to educate me about where things stand for you right now and what brought you to my conference room or the kitchen table in the first place. We then play a game of 20 questions (it’s actually a lot more than that depending on the answers) and question number 5 (or somewhere in the first few questions at least) is; Do you have a Will?

will

I’ve been doing this for a long time and I am continually shocked by the number of people, especially young people with debt out their ears and young families who say no. But the statistics don’t lie and they don’t discriminate across ages either. Money Magazine, a publication of Time Magazine, recently published the results of a survey which showed that over half of Americans between ages 55 and 64; the last ten years before traditional retirement age STILL haven’t made a will!

Although those are American numbers, statistics in Canada aren’t much different. With recent changes to the Ontario Probate system (and the continuing aging of our population) it has never been more critical for people to have a legal and enforceable will.

Most people don’t want to think about getting a will. I get it, it’s the same reason most people don’t want to think about buying Life Insurance; nobody wants to talk about death. But I am here to pour a little bit of cold water on your life and tell you flat out, you have too. Dyeing without a legal will, that everyone involved knows about and understands, is just rude! You’re not doing anyone any favors and the last memories people will have of you won’t be about love and honor or respect, they will be about how much work it was and how much it cost to clean up the mess you left behind.

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For instance, In Ontario if you die intestate (i.e. without a will) the government will appoint a trustee to administer your estate. That trustee will usually be a law firm that specialized in this type of thing and charges the estate a hefty fee, all assets will be collected into an estate account, a large portion will be lost to tax, another large portion will be lost to legal fees and what is left, if anything will then be divided among your heirs as the judges and lawyers see fit. If your estate is quite small, or very large, this may not be a big deal but what about the care of your minor children? Or giving to your favorite charity?  Do you really want to leave those decisions to a lawyer you have never met?

I’m not a lawyer. I am not qualified to give any advice on how to go about setting up a will or even on what to put in it. But it is my mission to educate and empower you to do the right thing when it comes to your estate.

So here it is, my best advice for anyone with any kind of debt, assets or family to protect.  (And that is everyone if you’re paying attention.)

Ready?  Here goes –

Everybody dies – get used to and get a will!

It’s the only way you can ensure that the legacy you are building will even happen, let alone last beyond your time on this earth.

 

Let’s be Rad!


Remember when to call something “Rad” was hip slang? Back in the early 90s, when I was in senior high-school just about everything we said or did was met in some way with the assertion of being “rad”.

“Let’s skip school and go to the beach.” “That’ll be so Rad!”

spongebobletsgotothebeach

We declared things “rad” so much that the term lost almost all meaning.

“Are you ready for the math test?”, “Yah it’ll be Rad!”

Today on his blog (here) Seth Godin reminded his readers of the need to (re)Radical their lives. He’s talking about institutions and companies that used to stand for something but are now so mainstream that they have lost almost all of their cultural influence. Godin is calling his readers to remember their radical roots.

It used to be that to be called Radical meant something.

Webster defines Radical as an adjective meaning:

  • Very new and different from what is traditional and ordinary
  • Very basic and important
  • Having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people

 

I hate to break it to my 17 year old self but skipping school to go the beach with your buddies might be rebellious but it’s not in the least bit “rad”.

Radical thinking is new, it’s different, it is usually quite simple while at the time carrying significant weight. Being radical means going against the grain and influencing change. But radical thinking has also been confused with anarchy which I must be quick to point out – it is not.

The first Christians were radicals. So were the first Protestants and the first Reformationists. Democracy was at one time radical. So was electricity, indoor plumbing and the horseless carriage. The internet, while in many ways has become mainstream, in many other ways it is still radical.

Peace, social-justice and pacifism in the face of violence and oppression? Now that’s radical!

peaceful protest

Radicals change the world. Not just because their views are different or extreme but because they are basic and of great importance.

Radicals build tribes of like minded followers and then something shifts. What was once radical becomes common place. As Godin puts it:

“The question each of us has to answer about the institution we care about is: Does this place exist to maintain and perpetuate the status quo, or am I here to do the work that the radical founder had in mind when we started?”

One of my favorite radicals was a man named Saul Alinsky. Alinsky is widely recognized as the founder of the modern community organization. Throughout the 1950s and 60s he lead the organization of grass roots movements to improve the lives of the inner city poor in his home town of Chicago and then moved on to Los Angeles, Detroit and New York City. Alinsky was a radical in every sense of the term. His ideas were new and different, to some they were extreme but most importantly they were simple and they addressed the important issues of the day.

In 1971, one year before he died, Saul Alinsky published what has become a manifesto of sorts for those of us who wish to change the world. The opening lines of “Rules for Radicals” reads:

What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.

But my favorite line from that book is far more subtle and speaks of a different kind of radical, the quite humble kind that I promote and strive to be.

The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right, while those who believe in complete certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain, and injustice.

 

You see, radicals don’t have to be arrogant, violent, loud or even certain. Doubt in the mind of the radical leads to humility and openness. It leads to democracy and eventually change.

 

If you want to change the world you must be radical, but also humble and hold your vision of a better future in an open hand so that others can come along side you a help shape it, direct it and when the time is right, even take it from you and make it better than anything you could have ever imagined.

 

A world run by people like that sounds pretty Rad if you ask me.