The Only Thing That There’s Just Too Little Of


In the spring of 1965 singer Jackie De Shannon released the single “What the World Needs Now is Love.”  By mid-July the song, written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, had worked its way up the Billboard Hot 100 to peak at number seven in the US and number one in Canada.  Written during the Vietnam War it is a folk anthem originally intended to bring people together regardless of their political views.

The song popped into my head recently while I was flipping through some journal notes.   A few months back I wrote, “every community of love can love more”.  As I read those words, quite unbidding into my head popped the lyric:

It’s the only thing, that there’s just too little of.

We live in anxious times.  Back in February I heard that over a quarter of Canadians surveyed said they would be fearful of being around someone with a serious mental illness.  I get it, mental illness has a unique capacity to make us all feel helpless.  If you have ever spent time with someone suffering from anxiety or depression you know that it doesn’t take long before you are feeling completely inadequate to help.  At that point it’s just easier to walk away and leave the afflicted to the “professionals” but the fact is that people suffering from mental illness need community more than they need clinical intervention.

And that was also before COVID, before we all started dealing with enough severe stress and anxiety to be classified as mentally ill ourselves.

It’s true that perfect love drives out fear, but repeated exposure just desensitizes us.  So the best way to manage fear and anxiety is to suck the drama out of it and just admit that it is part of being human.  Draw together, do not run in fear from one another.  We are designed to bring healing and wholeness through one another.

In addition to love at times like this we could also use a bit more justice and a bit more hope.

“Lady Justice” – there is a reason she’s always blindfolded

Justice has been a big topic lately, ever since race relations successfully bumped COVID19 off the front pages of newspapers around the world.  But we don’t want just any justice, we want the kind that puts people and things into right relationships with one another and justice that doesn’t add burdens to the already over-burdened.

And we need hope, the kind that is tied up with honesty.  We need the kind of hope that says we believe things can get better while acknowledging that things aren’t right at the present moment.

So, I guess there is more than one thing that there is just too little of, Love, Justice and Hope to name a few.  But that wouldn’t make for a very good song.

 

 

 

 

The Age of Nonsensical Nonsense and Unfalsifiable Fallacies


I never understood wind.  – Donald J Trump

Wait a minute.  Alternative facts?  Alternative facts are not facts, they are falsehoods! – Chuck Todd, Television Host, “Meet The Press”

That is not only not right; it is not even wrong. – Wolfgang Pauli, Theoretical Physicist

We are living in bizarre times.

In recent history, the last 80-100 years or so, society has made some incredible advancements in the fields of science and medicine.  We have split the atom, escaped gravity and broken the sound barrier.  Everyday at hospitals all over the world we trade our organs for new ones and implant tiny machines inside our bodies to keep them operating long after our ancestors would have simply passed away or lived with chronic annoyances.

We have the technological know how to produce clean energy for billions of people and drive enough agricultural output to feed every human on earth, extend life and maintain the planet.  A journey from one corner of the world to another that used to take several weeks, even months, is now over in a matter of hours.  It seems as though, there is no country or region that is too remote, no physical reality too complex and no disease too mysterious.

Dolly, the first genetic clone of a mammal. “Born” 1996.

I graduated high school in 1991.  Before the internet, biological cloning, electric cars or the construction of the international space station.  Our coat of arms contained a Latin phrase;

Scientia Vincit Omnia – Knowledge Conquers All

Almost 30 years later, it seems to me that the people of my generation, with the help of those that have gone before and are coming after us, have brought humanity to the verge of conquering all that there is to know.

We live in the greatest time is history.

Yet.

Billions live in poverty and die too young for lack of access.  Our climate is changing rapidly and threatening the lives and livelihoods of the most economically vulnerable of our population.  And the president of the United States openly admits that he doesn’t understand wind.

Now to be fair that last bit was said as his way of explaining his views on wind powered electricity but it’s still just strange and indicative of a larger problem.

That larger problem is this.

Modern windmill, according to Donald Trump, probably manufactured in China

We now have the raw knowledge to solve just about all the world’s physical problems, what we lack is the ability to recognize and prioritize their severity and the moral fortitude to humble our own self-interest in the interest of humanity as a whole.  Our political discourse has been reduced to constant bickering over the validity of proven facts.  When we pitch our rhetorical tent on the wrong side of an easily provable position we are not dealing in “alternative facts”, as some have tried to assert, we are dealing in delusion.  When we argue against clean energy because windmills are made in China but pretend it’s because they kill birds, (which is what the president went on to say when he talked about not understanding wind), we are speaking nonsense that is so far from reality and so impossible to prove that it can’t even be proven wrong, as Wolfgang Pauli so famously stated way back in the 1950s.

It’s 2020.  We are standing at the dawn of a new decade with a new generation ready to step on the stage.  My grandparent’s generation defeated fascism and started the world on the path to human rights.  My parent’s generation defeated communism and pushed capitalism and self-determination to the forefront.  My generation invented the internet and brought human understanding of the physical world to unimaginable heights.  It will be the job of this next generation to tackle the moral and ethical questions brought about by the promises made possible by those that have gone before.

The Berlin Wall – The iconic symbol of institutionalize communism came down in 1989 symbolising the end of the cold war and ushering in what George Bush called “a new world order.”

The tools we used to defeat fascists and communist won’t work in this fight.  In fact, they could just as easily backfire.  The tools we used to build physical knowledge won’t work either.  We need a new paradigm, a new way of looking at the world and a new way of talking to one another.

I don’t know what the solution is.  But I think it needs to start with this whole idea of “otherness”.  Us vs Them, we are right therefore they must be wrong, my interests are more important than your interests, everything is a competition, cooperation is weakness; that is the old paradigm.

Donald Trump, his coked out frat boy meets Bond Villain rhetoric aside, tilts at windmills because they are made in China.  China, not wind or clean energy or even a concern for the well being of birds, represent “the other”.  And it’s that sense of otherness that must be conquered.  Mr. Trump’s supporters point to the strength of the U.S. economy as reason enough for him to remain in power.  They are all too prepared to gloss over and ignore his many moral and ethical failings, and the damage he has done to “other people”, even when they would personally crucify anyone else if the results didn’t serve their self-interest.

The age of self-determination; championed by my parent’s generation and which helped fuel the expansion of technology driven by my generation must now come to an end in order to allow true human equity, and economic sustainability to reign.  We must be willing to submit our self-interest for the good of the whole.

Or because now I’m thinking about Latin and my generation invented Google Translate;

Plus Paucorum Necessitatibus Plurimis Necessitatibus

Equality vs equity – Sometimes self sacrifice makes all the difference.

We have all the physical knowledge we need; we cannot allow that knowledge to conquer us.  We must begin to use it to conquer inequality, inequity, bigotry, arrogance and selfish ambition.  Otherwise we are no better that the fascists and communists that came before and the fight will start all over again, this time with better weapons and everything we have gained on the line.

Another Latin phrase comes to mind;

Amor Vincit Omnia – Love Conquers All

We’ve reached the point in human evolution where anything less, is worthless noise.

 

 

Love is “Something” if you Give it Away!


Love is something if you give it away

Give it away, give it away

Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more…

 

That is an excerpt from a song I learned when I was about 8 years old attending Sunday School in the musty basement of the Nairn Mennonite Church.  My dad, at 79 years old, is the pastor there today and I bet the Sunday School kids are still singing that song.

That little ditty goes on to compare love to something magical, like a penny that increases in value and volume the more you give it away.

You’ll have so many – they’ll roll over the floor!

It came back to me recently during a discussion of gratitude with one of my mentors.  I also wrote about it in my first book “Meekonomics”.

Love, like gratitude isn’t really a thing until you give it to someone.

I didn’t get it when I was 8, in the basement of the church but as the song says – Love is only something if you give it away.

Now, there’s lots of different kinds of love but the three we are most familiar with are

Eros – The physical attraction that sometimes leads to a life long commitment between two people to do life together.

Philia – Brotherly love, the expression of mutual respect and deep friendship that grows out of community.

And

Agape – The all encompassing love of “the other” which is the underpinning of a society based on law and social justice.

But none of these types of love are anything unless you freely give them to someone.

For the purposes of business and ministry Agape and Philia are the two that really drive us forward.   A sense of community, brotherhood (or sisterhood) and openness are required to really move people.

Last year one of my mentors retired.  At his retirement party he quoted Scottish Journalist, Alexander Chalmers who said:

“The grand essentials of life are:  Something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for”

He went on to say that he hoped that throughout his career he had been able to convey and sense of love in all that he did for his team and the hope that he had for our future.

Love is a funny thing.  And talking about it here and in this way might seem a bit odd.  But I firmly believe that cultivating a sense of Agape and Philia in all that we do is the only way to truly move people forward.

So freely give Love – it’s only a thing when you give it away.

A Tale of Two Financial Advisors


Once upon a time there were a lot of people who bought Life Insurance and opened Small Investment Accounts from an independent financial advisor.  Unfortunately, this advisor never stayed in touch once the policy was delivered and the premium cheques were cashed.

Every day, these people wondered what had happened to the friendly advisor who seemed to genuinely care about their needs one minute and had disappeared from their lives the next.  As their life circumstances changed and their needs evolved, they wondered if they had done the right thing, if they were adequately protected, and if they would ever be able to retire.

One day they decided to take matters into their own hands, but they didn’t know where to turn, who to trust, or what questions to ask.

Because of that, they felt confused, let down, worried and distrustful of independent experts.

Because of that, they gravitated toward simple and easy solutions offered by banks and store-front brokers that gave limited advice and parked their money in simple, low risk and low return investments.

Until finally their greatest fears came true, they realized they hadn’t saved enough for retirement or someone died prematurely without adequate life insurance and it was too late to change anything.

As a result, these people had to make radical decisions just to survive.  They delayed retirement until they could no longer physically do their jobs, remortgaged or sold their homes and used the money to live on.  They lived out their golden years in a general state of stress and eventually died leaving behind little to no legacy for their loved ones.

But…

On the other side of town their lived another financial advisor who valued customer service above everything else.

Every day, he called a subset of his clients to ask if anything in their lives had changed since the last time they’d talked.  Everyone got a call at least twice a year, once on their birthday and once again throughout the year.  As their life circumstanced changed and their needs evolved, these clients knew that their advisor would make sure that they were adequately protected and were putting enough money away to eventually retire.

One day these clients decided to see if they were getting close to being able to retire and they knew exactly who to call because they trusted their advisor to always take their best interests to heart while he answered their questions and made recommendations.

Because of that, they took his advice and felt confident, calm and cared for.

Because of that, they invested their money wisely, made strong returns over a long time and carried just a little bit more Life Insurance in-case something bad and unexpected happened.

Until finally their dreams came true, they were able to retire with confidence and not worry about what might happen if someone died too soon.

As a result, these clients retired on their own terms and had the energy and time to live out their golden years in stress free comfort.  They too eventually died but they left behind a significant monetary legacy for their loved ones and many sweet memories of a life well lived.

Which advisor’s client would you like to be?  Reach out in the comments below for a no obligation consultation…

Core Messaging


I recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with an old friend and colleague.

Paul was a financial advisor in the same office where I work but about a year ago, he moved on and started a consulting firm for tech start-ups and embarked on a professional speaking carrier.  Because I write a lot and produce short videos I wanted to meet up with Paul and pick his brain on how to get more exposure and start booking speaking gigs myself.

Our conversation was wide ranging, but Paul’s advise could be boiled down to just one key point.

  • “Get super clear about your core message and repeat it over again every chance you get.”

What’s my core message?  I’ll get to that in a minute.

Bruxy Cavey, another mentor of mine broke his core message down into three separate statements, each one more succinct than the one before.  In doing so he was able to clarify his message and use each of the statements in different contexts.  The longer statements are good for writing and speaking when there is adequate time to express the nuances of the message while the shorter statements are better as conversation starters or when brevity is required.  Bruxy’s core message can be easily stated in one word, three words and thirty words.

The other thing Paul encouraged me to do is to claim a title for myself, something that clearly states who and what I am and aligns cleanly with my core messaging.  The title itself should say as much as possible without the need for further explanation.

So here it is, taking a page each from Bruxy and Paul my core message broken down into a five-word title, and then clearly stated in five letters, five words and five paragraphs.

**************************************************************************

I am an Ambassador of Peace and Justice.

My core message in five letters is: Let go.

My core message in five words is:  Peace without Justice is Oppression.

My core message in five paragraphs is:

God is Love.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and made mankind both ruler and caretaker over all that He had created.  There was only love.  There was no war, no violence of any kind, no injustice and no oppression.

Mankind was deceived into thinking that God was holding something back and rebelled.  We set up systems and institutions to try and take control of that which belongs to God and which He was freely sharing with us.

As a result, the world is broken.   All man-made systems and institutions (including our government and the church) are broken.

But God is still Love and wants nothing more than to reconcile with His creation.  Mankind is still in rebellion and cannot let go of the control we have taken for ourselves.  Reconciliation with God is the only cure for our broken world.  That reconciliation begins with mankind letting go and taking a posture of surrender, gratitude and other-centredness.

That is my core message.

Further to the message I have chosen the word “meekness” to describe the mindset that mankind needs to ascribe to in order to achieve reconciliation with God.  Meekness is not weakness, it is the willing submission of personal power, entitlement and ego, a form of surrender and laying down in the presence of God’s pure love.

The meek shall inherit the earth but only through letting go.  Peace shall be achieved but only through justice.  And God’s creation shall be restored but only through surrender.

Praise – Part 1


The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book and training series "Prayer School" For more information or to book a Prayer School training seminar write to the Matthew 5:5 Society here and subscribe to the blog for regular updates and release dates as they become available.
Prayer School – Part Three

hallowed be your name. [Matthew 6:9b]

Prayer is an act of worship.

The Lord’s Prayer is a praise sandwich.  It begins and ends in worship.

Here in the very first verse of the prayer, after acknowledging God’s position as head of the family we begin with praise.

When we pray we are in conversation with “Ultimate Reality”.  The personal deity that took on flesh and walked among us.  It would be disrespectful for us to begin a conversation with the creator of the universe, the most all powerful, God, Love incarnate without at least acknowledging that fact.

Praise, therefore is an essential part of prayer.

Jesus taught that when we pray we are to begin by addressing God as nothing less than our holy father.  God’s very name is holy and worthy of praise.

Dictionary.com defines holy, among other things as being “entitled to worship or veneration.”

Therefore, when we pray we must remember to praise God. After having worked through the rest of our prayer we will return to praise in chapter 8.  By that point our praise will have taken on deeper meaning and carry additional weight in the context of what we have just prayed but for now our praise is focused on the personal essence of God.

As I have already stated God is Love incarnate.  But this is a concept that I have found a lot of people have trouble articulating at first.  Therefore, to praise God we must work through what this means and how to address him.

Addressing the Person of Love

When you love someone, you want to be with them, you want to spend time with them and you want to converse with them.  Being in the presence of love should never feel awkward or forced.  Conversation among intimate partners is different.  It’s usually slower, quieter and less pointed than conversations with people who are not your partner.

While it may take time to develop this kind of a relationship with God, your prayer language should reflect this loving relationship.  Take your time with it, approach God like you would a loving life partner because in many ways that’s what He is.

Acceptance

God loves you just the way you are.  There is nothing we need to do to gain His approval.  Safe in the knowledge of our eternal acceptance we can approach God in complete security and submission.

Whenever I think of God’s acceptance of me I remember the parable of the Lost Son, [Luke 15;11-32].  God, the loving father, is so overjoyed at the presence of his lost son that he doesn’t even let him speak before showering him with full acceptance and love.

That’s what it means to be accepted by God.  All we have to do is receive it, we can’t add anything to what God has already done for us.  [Luke 12:29-34]

Thanksgiving

It’s human nature though to want to give something back.  In this case, the only thing God wants is your love and thanks in return.  The story of the bible is in many ways a story of mankind’s attempts to set up rules and rituals designed to curry favor from and give back to God.  But God wants none of it, he simply wants your love and your thanks. [Micah 6:8]

When we say, “hallowed by thy name”, we are coming to God in reverence, accepting his love and thanking him for every blessing that He is continually pouring out over us and the entire world.  The only appropriate response to all this blessing is praise and then to get down on our hands and knees and drink it up like a deer at an ever-flowing stream.  [Psalm 42:1]

If God is For Us…


Pacifist Lamentations Volume 4

It’s been a while since I wrote a Pacifist Lament.  This one has been on my mind for a few weeks.  I stems from some bad preaching I heard recently on Romans 8:31.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Taken out of context, as this verse often is, it could seem that Paul is saying that with God on our side we are invincible.  And while that may be true, it leads to a violent interpretation of what we are capable of when God is “for” us.  Sadly, Romans 8:31 has been mis-quoted in this way from the barricades of revolution and war for hundreds of years.

“God is on our side!  Therefore; let us go and slay our enemies!”

But taken in context of the entirety of Romans 8, we begin to form a very different picture of what it means to have God “for” us.

In the first half of Romans 8, Paul lays out a detailed analysis of what happens to us when we believe that Jesus dwells in us and is transforming us from the inside out. Put simply, we have become so deeply like Jesus that we have become children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus himself and co-heirs to the kingdom.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. [Romans 8:16-17]

Provided we suffer with him, not provided we go out and fight for him!  Paul goes on to talk about how all believers will be treated and “glorified” with Christ.  We will suffer in this world, but we can count it all as nothing in comparison to what awaits us.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. [Romans 8:18-19]

And then we get to the big question that is so often taken out of context – If God is for us, who can be against us?

God for us is an expression of love.  Deepest, most profound and all-encompassing LOVE.

If God is for us.  If God, who in his very nature is love, expresses that love toward us.  If God has made us part of his family.  Who can do or say anything that will negate or make any negative impact on that?

No one can stand against that!

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8:37-39]

More than a conqueror!  This is not a violent image.  This is not about dominance.  This is about transcendence.

We can remain above and outside of violence!  Nothing that is done too us can have any impact on our salvation.  We therefore transcend violence and remain passive, continuing to love our enemies and work toward reconciliation even in the face of our own death.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  God is for us!

L C Sheil writes regularly about, spirituality, life and business coaching.  He is the founder and director of The Matthew 5:5 Society (formerly The Meekonomics Project) where he coaches ministry and business leaders to Live Life to the Fullest in Complete Submission to the Will of God. 

Mr. Sheil has authored two books and is available for public speaking and one on one coaching in the areas of work life balance,  finding and living your core values  and financial literacy.  Write to The Matthew 5:5 Society here for more information or follow L C Sheil on twitter and instagram.  

 

Brotherhood – a reflection on formation of spiritual family


The following is an excerpt from my current book-length project tentatively titled “Prometheus Rising:  Philanthropy, Altruism and Self-Interest in a Socially Connected World”.  I’m currently working on the first draft of this work and have no projected release date.  In the past book projects have taken about 2 years to complete so stay tuned but expect a release sometime in late 2019 or early 2020.

I never had a brother.  I have two older sisters but no brothers so understanding the nature of brotherhood has been a bit of a journey for me.  And it’s only really been in the last few years that I’ve come to embrace the whole concept of Christian Brotherhood.  My friend Jeff has been a tremendous teacher for me here.

In the fall of 2013 about 18 months after having uprooted my entire life and moved to Ottawa from suburban Toronto so that we could help take care of my wife’s aging family, I was at the end of my rope.

Dealing with aging parents is one thing, doing it while your spouse is going through a major bout of depression and anxiety, your brother-in-law is dealing with the situation through anger and your mother-in-law is just needy and can’t express herself without making demands is quite another.  Add to all that the fact that I was trying to start a new business, I was constantly running on empty.

I’m a people-pleaser by nature.  I want everyone around me to be happy all the time.  I’m also very task oriented so if there is any kind of physical work to be done I am the first person to pick up a mop or offer to drive you to an appointment.  But there was just so much to do and neither my wife nor my brother-in-law seemed capable of putting aside their own anxieties and stepping up to get it done, as a result most of the “heavy lifting” fell to me.

The stress of keeping it all together while my wife fell apart eventually got to be too much to handle.  Oh, and in case you missed it, the sick and aging parents aren’t even mine.

One night, in a fit of anxiety of my own I reached out our church for help.

Two days later I was introduced to Jeff.  Jeff is a few years my junior but in many ways, he is far more mature than myself in dealing with the stresses of being a caregiver to the sick and needy.  Although not a professional psychologist by any stretch Jeff quickly diagnosed my situation as a textbook case of caregiver fatigue.  He was able to do so because he too was a caregiver to an anxious and depressed spouse.  A few years before, his wife had gone through a similar breakdown to the one my wife was experiencing.  As a result he could relate to me in a way no other person could.

Jeff was able to come along side me in my time of need and guide me down a pathway he had traveled himself not so long ago.

I like to describe my relationship with Jeff as similar to two men who find themselves mired in a swamp.  Many people had tried show me the way out of that particular swamp before, but they had flown by in helicopters high above the muck and the mire, or sped by in boats.  These people had pointed in a direction that I should go and then sped off leaving me alone to figure it out for myself.  Jeff on the other hand showed up deep in the muck himself, wearing hip waders and said; “come with me, I know the way.”

The Christian propensity to call each other brother and sister had, until I met Jeff, always seemed hollow and forced.  But in him I found a true brother, someone who demonstrated philia (brotherly love) in a way I had never before experienced.

Over the course of several months we would meet for coffee in a quite downtown shop, slightly off the beaten path and talk about our experience.  As often as not we would sit shoulder to shoulder at the bar, rather than face to face at a table.  Jeff would say that men tend to be more willing to speak honestly when we didn’t have to look directly at each other. He said it had something to do with centuries of evolution working side by side in the forests and the fields rather than face to face in the home that had made it easier for men to forge bonds “shoulder to shoulder”.

Whatever, I didn’t care, all I cared about was that I finally found someone who could not only listen to my struggles but with whom I could share an experience without wondering if he was silently judging me.  What I learned from Jeff and how my wife and I started to put our lives back together while forging a new path isn’t the subject of this book.  But the compassion that I felt while living through some of those darkest days has helped form the basis of my research into philanthropy.

We get the word philanthropy from philia – brotherly love.  It is a recognition of the fact that we are all in is together.  Your burdens are my burdens.  As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians;

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. [Galatians 6:2]

I never would have learned that lesson if I hadn’t found a brother in Jeff.

 

The First Christmas Carol


The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. [Colossians 1:15-20]

The early church didn’t celebrate Christmas.  At least not as a special feast day or as the modern-day retail orgy of capitalistic idolatry that we call Christ’s birthday today.  But the early church did recognize that the event of Christ’s birth was a significant event in human history and they celebrated it regularly with the reverent awe and jubilation that it deserves.

Last week, as I was getting ready to celebrate Christmas I had a chance encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness co-worker of mine.  The office Holiday Luncheon as we call it so as not to offend anyone, was held at the restaurant across the street and after I’d had my fill and stayed a respectful amount of time I decided to return to the office to finish up a bit of work before heading home for the night.  As I came back in I noticed that this individual was sitting at the reception desk.  It’s not unusually to see certain admin staff taking a turn at reception when the regular people are away, and I immediately recognized that she must be covering while most of us were at lunch.  As I walked past I casually asked if she had had a chance to get out and enjoy a bit of time with the rest of us.

“I don’t celebrate Christmas”, was her immediate and matter of fact response.

In this day and age, it is not uncommon to encounter people who do not celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ.  We live in a multi-cultural society.  At the last census only 67.3% Canadians self- identified as Christians with less than half of those attending services more than 3 times per month.  But a large percentage of people who do not identify as Christians still celebrate Christmas in one form or another.  My next-door neighbour is a Hindu, born and raised in India.  His seven-year-old son knows all about Santa Claus and was all too happy to explain to my wife in detail everything he had put into his letter to the North Pole.  Apparently, Santa doesn’t care if you know anything about Jesus, only if you’re good.

Christmas isn’t just for Christians anymore and hasn’t been for quite some time.

So, when my co-worker, who is descended from Irish protestants and married to a man French Roman Catholic origin stated flatly that she doesn’t celebrate Christmas I was a bit taken aback.  But then I remembered why.  Jehovah’s Witnesses and a few other pseudo-Christian groups do not celebrate Christmas on December 25 because there is no historically credible way of pinpointing the exact moment of Christ’s birth.

December 25 was chosen as the date by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 336 A.D. in part, to combat the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.  Prior to Constantine some Christians had estimated the date to fall any where between December 6 and January 6 (the day many Coptic and Orthodox Christians still recognize today), citing historical records of the Roman census and, the reason why Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem in the first place.

Still others, notably the Jehovah’s Witness and a few other fringe groups, contend that the day was more likely in the spring or summer since Shepherds would not have been tending flocks out in the fields in the winter.  Personally, I think that argument is weak, winter in the middle east is still warm enough to tend flocks outside even if it might have been rare.

Anyway, the fact is, whether you celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th, January 6th or some other time the historical event is still the fulcrum on which history turns.  The earliest Christians knew that and celebrated it just as much as we do today.

Which brings me back to the earliest Christmas Carol.

Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse opens with a poem that could have easily been set to music.  To our modern eyes it might not look much like a poem because when it is translated to English it loses much of it’s poetic feeling, but I assure you was originally a poem and likely a song.

This poem tells us four things about the birth of Jesus.  What it accomplished and how it changes history.

1 – Jesus brings God to us

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [Colossians 1:15]

He is God incarnate!  If you want to see God and understand what he is like look to Jesus.  If you want to follow God and do his will do what Jesus taught.  Everything up to this point, all the laws and the prophets are mere shadows of what has been revealed to us in the person of Jesus.  Put another way, if the Old Testament conflicts with anything Jesus taught, throw it out, Jesus is the true image of God.

Jesus brings us to life

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. [Colossians 1:16]

All things were created through him.  We exist because he made us for himself and all things were created through him.  The law brings death and condemnation.  We have life because of Jesus.

Jesus brings life to us

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [Colossians 1:17]

He sustains us.  He breaths life into us.  There is a popular contemporary Gospel song that I hear on the radio from time to time that repeats the refrain, “It’s your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.”

Jesus brings us to God

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. [Colossians 1:19-20]

The ministry of reconciliation brings us back into perfect unity with God.  This unity is a common theme in Paul’s writing.  It comes up again in 2 Corinthians 5 where he says,

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. [2 Corinthians 5:18-20]

Ever since Genesis 3 and the so called, fall of man the path of history is a story of mankind’s failed attempts through rules and regulations to reconcile with God.  It wasn’t until God came in human form and showed us his love for us, a father’s unfailing love, that reconciliation became possible.

It is a Christmas, or when ever you choose to acknowledge the historical reality of Christ’s birth, that we can truly celebrate that Jesus came to bring God to us, bring us to life, bring life to us and to bring us to God.  That is the gospel, and that is what we acknowledge when we celebrate Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

We’ve Got To Do Better


I recently took about a week and binged watched the Netflix Series “13 Reasons Why”.  I was enthralled by it and ended up averaging 2 episodes a night for a week until I was done.  My schedule wouldn’t allow me to watch any more than that and to be honest I’m not sure I would have been able to handle it anyway, the acting and storytelling are superb but the subject matter is pretty intense and most episodes struck a chord and stayed with me.

“13 Reasons Why” is the story of a teenage girl, Hannah Baker, who after a series of desperate attempts to fit in, becomes a victim of cyber bullying and rape.  In the end she kills herself but not before recording a serious of audio tapes detailing how all the people in her life had a hand in her feeling isolated and worthless to the point of her decision to take her own life.  The program has been both praised and criticized for its portrayal of teenage angst and graphic depictions of rape and suicide.

One psychologist I saw aptly stated that revenge is a supremely bad reason to commit suicide, and expressed concern that the program would give too many depressed teens too much information on how to carry out such a bad plan.  After having watched the show, I can’t say I disagree with him but I still think it is a well produced program with a valuable message to teens and their families.

Norh Middlesex District High School, class of ’91. I’m back row, third from right.

High-school for me was nearly 30 years ago but while watching “13 Reasons Why” memories of how I felt during that time came back intensely.  I knew Hannah Bakers, I knew every one of those kids, and in some ways I was every one of those kids, (except the entitle rich kid who raped Hannah of course).

After watching “13 Reasons Why”, I also took a few days and read the critically acclaimed business and marketing book “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek.  Sinek’s thesis is that in order to develop an effective following you need to start by communicating a compelling reason behind your “how” and your “what”.  In my business there are literally thousands of other Financial Advisors who do what I do.  There are fewer but still hundreds who do it in a similar way.  So in order to differentiate myself I need to get super clear on why I do it and lead all of my client communication with my unique why.

Why did Hannah Baker kill herself?  I think part of the answer lies in the fact that she felt worthless, somehow “less than”, within her high school culture.  Why do I do the things I do in my financial practice?  Because I firmly believe that every human on earth has infinite value. 

That value each of us has means that you deserve the very best service I can provide.  How I do that is through a customized personal and highly relational approach to what I do – Financial Planning.

In the very last episode of “13 Reasons Why”, Hannah’s friend Clay confronts the high school’s guidance counselor about how he and everyone else had failed to really see Hannah’s struggle to find value in herself.  As he walked out of the guidance counselor’s office he paused and said “It has to get better.  We’ve all got to do better.”

Do you believe you have infinite value?  When you begin to doubt your value check these out and call me… It has to get better.

Genesis 1:27

Act 17:28

Romans 9:22-26

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

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