The Right Fit


Finding the right financial advisor can do wonders to help you reach your goals.

tailorHave you ever noticed how many of the biggest goals in life tend to have a financial component? Yes okay, you can learn a foreign language or train for a triathlon (like I am), without making a big financial commitment. But for the really big life events like buying a home, starting a family or helping your kids go to university, not to mention retiring or creating a legacy, without disciplined planning, your goals will just become pipe dreams and slip away.

If you’re like most of my clients, juggling a career and family, you don’t have time to figure it all out for yourself, either. And like most Canadians, you probably feel like you don’t have the knowledge to take on the complexities of financial planning by yourself. That’s when seeking the advice of a professional can give you a huge boost. In fact, getting the right person working on your team can make all the difference in helping meet, or even exceed your goals. According to research by the Investment Funds Institute of Canada (IFIC), the retirement accounts of Canadians who retain the services of a financial advisor significantly outperform those who don’t.

88-1953n

The stakes are high when it comes to talking about something as important and personal as your retirement accounts. Your expectations of your advisor need to be just as high. Like all good advisors my commitment to my clients is to do at least these three things:

  1. Learn about you. This means endeavoring to understand your family’s goals both short- and long-term, not just your finances but also your general hopes and dreams.   Just as importantly, your advisor should help you understand your attitude toward risk. Do you avoid risks at all costs? Do the ups and downs of the markets excite you? Or more commonly, are you want I like to call a Goldilocks investor, not too hot and not too cold.
  2. Build your plan. This is the part where the term Financial “Advisor” gets its name. We’re all about giving advice after-all. As your advisor I will create an actionable plan that contains a number of things that you can do immediately. The plan will also show some milestones to be achieved later. A complete plan will include:
  • Debt management – this should be the first part of every financial plan, if you don’t pay attention to your debt there is no point in going any further.

  • Systematic savings – predetermined and agreed upon amounts to put aside regularly (usually monthly).

  • Investment portfolio – keeping in mind your attitude and tolerance toward risk, a well planned portfolio should both protect and grow your assets.

  • Tax strategy – Ben Franklin was right, there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes, but smart people know how to a least minimize and differ the amount of tax they pay.

  • Risk management – There is nothing any of us can do about death, life, disability and critical illness insurance are integral parts of all financial plans that help to protect your family from the inevitable and the unthinkable.

  • Retirement plan – Everyone at some point will stop working, either by choice or out of necessity. The plan will include projections of when you can expect to retire, and with how much money.

  1. Adjust your plan. Life is never systematic and fixed, change is a given and often unexpected. Your plan must be flexible and reviewed regularly. I contact my clients at least twice a year just to check in and make sure all is well, generally with a phone call on your birthday and a summary report around the anniversary of our setting up your plan. We will also try to have a sit down meeting once a year to check your progress, revisit your goals and, if necessary, reset your course.

 Not just about retirement

notjustretirementA lot of Canadians start thinking about engaging an advisor somewhere in their 40s or 50s, when retirement starts to look like a real possibility. Major life events like buying a home or becoming a parent also tend to trigger a need for a financial reckoning and a bit of outside advice. But you don’t have to wait for big goals to appear either. Maybe you just want to save up for a new car or take a vacation without going deep into debt these are all good reasons to make an appointment with an advisor.

The point is, you call the shots with your advisor we work for you after-all. Anything from helping you to create a comprehensive estate plan to just being an impartial third party sounding board for your own ideas.

Finding the right fit

Every client and every advisor are unique individuals, and each party brings a different set of personal experiences and professional skills to the relationship. And don’t discount that “gut feeling” everyone gets when they first meet someone new either. Personally I know that I work best with people who share some of my core values. They are:

Integrity, Stewardship, Humility, an openness to learning and accepting that you might not even know what you don’t know, and an unwavering commitment to avoid and eliminate debt.

My mission statement says it all:

I am here to teach you to Eliminate Debt, Build Wealth and Leave a Legacy.

If you think you can align with those core values and goals I think we can find a way to work together. Contact me any time at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com and let’s get started.

Mr. Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 20 years.  He is currently a Financial Security Advisor with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He holds dual licenses from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) for Life, Disability and Critical Illnesses Insurance and the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada (MFDA) for personal investments.  He is passionate about helping people to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.   (And he really is a triathlete.)

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

Save

Save

On Faith, Democracy and The Kingdom of Heaven


Last year, during the Canadian federal election campaign I started thinking about my place in the grand scheme of politics and democracy. This week, as the final days and hours of the US election campaign began to point to a Trump presidency those questions started creeping into my conscience again. Of course this time around I didn’t get a vote but as the world’s biggest economy the decisions of the US electorate have a significant impact on us all.

The gospel in just three words is “Jesus is Lord”. I don’t know any Christians who would disagree with that statement. In fact it is as close to a universal statement of faith that exists in the Christian church. No matter your denomination, Catholic, Protestant, Conservative Evangelical or Progressive, we can all agree that Jesus is Lord.

But in our hyper individualized culture this whole concept of lordship is problematic. Wikipedia defines lord as an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power over others acting like a master, a chief, or a ruler.  By making the statement Jesus is Lord, we are simultaneously submitting ourselves to his authority and rejecting all other individuals and institutions that would seek authority over us.

The democratic process is at its core a game of pick your lord. Every four years the American public is given the opportunity to decide who their lord will be but if Jesus is Lord, then your government is not. The question becomes then, what to do when government and social norms do not align with the Lordship of Christ?

Two Kingdoms Doctrine

churchandstate

Martin Luther was one of the first reformers to champion the separation of church and state and so was also one of the first church leaders since Constantine to wrestle with this question. Before Luther the church was the state so any question of lordship was moot. So when faced with difficult questions about how a Christian should behave as a citizen under the lordship of both a secular government and the lordship of Jesus Luther had to make a compromise. Luther’s compromise made it possible for reformers to retain citizenship in their home countries but would eventually prove to be fatal to the true Lordship of Christ.

What Luther said has become known as the doctrine of the two kingdoms. Again, according to Wikipedia the doctrine states that, God rules the worldly or left-hand kingdom through secular government, by means of law [i.e., the sword or compulsion] and in the heavenly or right-hand kingdom through the gospel of grace. The fatal flaw in this argument should be obvious to anyone who has felt the law of the land precludes them from living out their faith. If God rules the world through secular government what happens when that government contradicts your understanding of the Lordship of Christ?

Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms was developed under a feudal government system and worked well for the kings and lords of the middle-ages. They were able to use it to claim divine authority over vast realms of humanity while functioning in ways that directly contradicted gospel teaching. Romans 13 became a favourite passage of the ruling class as a way to remind the peasants of their place in the world and prevented large scale rebellion.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. [Romans 13:1-5]

But Romans 13 was not written as an instruction manual for how the faithful should live under a “Christian” government. The entire book of Romans, and most of the New Testament for that matter, was written from a prison cell and directed to a minority people without any political power or authority. The New Testament gives no advice to Christians on how to hold on to political power. The doctrine of the two kingdoms therefore is flawed from the beginning. Any biblical instruction on ruler ship is found in the Old Testament and under the old covenant that has been made obsolete by the reign of Jesus.

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. [Hebrews 8:13]

To say therefore that God holds authority over the worldly, left-hand kingdom through law and compulsion assumes that the rulers are godly and returns the Christian to the authority of the Old Testament. We know that is simply not the case but as if that weren’t enough to discredit the doctrine of the two kingdoms it completely falls apart when it is applied to a democratic society.

The Authority of God

freewill

In His infinite love for humankind God has given us the ability to say no to Him. It’s called free will and it is the bed rock of God’s relationship with us. For love to exist there must be the possibility of rejection. No one knows this better than God. The entire story of humanity is the story of love and rejection.

Democracy hands the power of ruler ship, through the free will of the people, to whomever appeals to the broadest segment of society. God’s will is therefore lovingly submitted to the will of the people and God’s authority over the worldly kingdom is muted. Humans do as they please and God is pushed to the margins of society. How then is God’s sovereignty manifest in the world?

Hans Beck was a Swiss Brethen Anabaptist who wrote in response to Luther, his own version of two kingdoms doctrine in 1541.

There are two different kingdoms on earth—namely, the kingdom of this world and the peaceful kingdom of Christ. These two kingdoms cannot share or have communion with each other.

While Luther tried to develop the two kingdoms doctrine as a way appease the church as the primary governing authority of the day, Beck immediately saw the flaw in Luther’s logic and destroyed it by saying simply that the two kingdoms could never coexist. Beck went on to state:

The people in the kingdom of this world are born of the flesh, are earthly and carnally minded. The people in the kingdom of Christ are reborn of the Holy Spirit, live according to the Spirit, and are spiritually minded. The people in the kingdom of the world are equipped for fighting with carnal weapons—spear, sword, armor, guns and powder. The people in Christ’s kingdom are equipped with spiritual weapons—the armor of God, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit to fight against the devil, the world, and their own flesh, together with all that arises against God and his Word.

According to Beck, the people of the kingdom of Christ stand apart from the kingdoms of the world. While Luther was trying to appease the authorities in order to retain his German citizenship, Beck was renouncing his Swiss citizenship in order to remain loyal to Christ.

Citizens and Ambassadors

citizensSo the question now is where do Christians fit in a democratic society? Is there a moral obligation for the church to seek political power, or at least attempt to influence those in authority for the good of mankind? Or as Beck would have it, do we write civil society off as inherently evil and withdraw completely?

The apostle Paul wrote a letter to a church that was immersed in a wealthy culture of excess. A culture predicated on power, money and sex.

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]

Paul appears to be saying that the kingdom of heaven can only be achieved through reconciliation with God and His will that this reconciliation comes through Christ. It is therefore the job of the church to be ambassadors of His kingdom in the world. By using the imagery and terminology of ambassadorship Paul at once implies that our citizenship is not of this world. An ambassador is not a citizen of the country or member of the society in which he resides.

When Christ-followers take on the identity of an ambassador the two kingdoms doctrine takes on a new and more plausible meaning for our modern democratic society. As a citizen of Christ’s Kingdom we reside in the world as ambassadors of a spiritual kingdom. The job of an ambassador is to lobby on behalf of their home country, and to a limited degree even participate in without conforming to the culture in which they are placed. This worldly kingdom is not our home, living here is our job.

Jesus laid out the parameters of our job at the end of his time on earth.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

Ambassadors are not part of the society in which they reside they do not make policy and the do not enforce laws. They lobby and promote the interests of their king. As Christ’s ambassadors we are called to lobby on behalf of Jesus and the things he cares about. He opened His earthly ministry by proclaiming “good news for the poor and freedom for the oppressed”. [Luke 4:18].   He preached love for enemies, healed the sick, and gave dignity to foreigners. And then he gave his life in the ultimate act of submission and sacrifice.

Conclusion

On November 8, 2016 the world held its breath while the United States, the world’s largest economy, strongest army and most culturally influential society democratically elected a man and a party whose policies and rhetoric threaten to set social policy back to the 1950s. This man openly opposes immigration, social security, health care, environmental protectionism, and banking regulations aimed at protecting the interests of the working poor. By some accounts four out of five evangelical Christians voted for him. They felt that his stance on certain moral issues like abortion and gay rights was in line enough with their faith that they could look the other way on the ones that clearly aren’t. They felt that to vote for the other candidate would have been to compromise their convictions too much. What they failed to recognize is that as ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven their job is not to make decisions in the worldly kingdom but to lobby for change.

I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have voted, (although that is one option open to ambassadors). The sad fact is that no matter who they voted for they had to make a compromise because as ambassadors we have failed in our duty to lobby on behalf of our king.

Luther’s two kingdoms doctrine fails to translate in a modern democracy. Beck’s version is an isolationist fantasy that only works for the Amish or a survivalist cult. In order to be “in the world but not of the world” [John 17:16] we must become better lobbyists and better ambassadors. We must learn to speak truth to power on behalf of our king. We must influence culture without conforming to it. We cannot be afraid to call our brothers and sisters out on their hypocrisy and their compromise. That is our job as ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven. If Christ-followers do our job well there is no telling how our influence might grow.

Jesus is Lord!

Save

Save

4 Keys to Rock Financial Literacy Month


Financial freedom is available to those who learn about it and work for it. [Robert Kiyosaki]

flm2016So November is Financial Literacy Month in Canada.

To be honest, I’m not sure what that means. Personally I don’t put much stock in setting aside specific months, or days to talk about specific issues. Especially issues of day to day significance, like Financial Literacy.

We need to get better at teaching financial literacy in this country. That much is certain.

In 2009 Statistics Canada in conjunction with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), Finance Canada and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, conducted a broad ranging study known as the Canadian Financial Capital Survey. The survey was conducted to shed light on Canadians knowledge, abilities and behavior concerning financial decision making. In other words, how Canadians understand their financial situation, the financial services available to them and their plans for the future. The results were sobering and as a result the agencies involved decided to sponsor Financial Literacy Month every November since 2011.

thumbsdownHow did we do? Overall, Canadians average 67% on the survey. But lower incomes meant lower scores, highlighting the need for financial education, especially in lower income demographics.  Canadians who earned less than $67,000 per year generally received a score of less than 60%, those with incomes of greater than $95,000 generally received a score of 70% or above. The vast majority of Canadians earn between $67,000 and $95,000 per year, making the scores in the mid 60s the most statistically significant.

In my opinion the fact that even so called wealthy Canadians rarely got better than a B on the survey says something not only about the state of financial education in this country but also our expectations about what constitutes financial literacy.

There are a few fundamentals I think everyone must learn in order to be considered financially literate enough to function in society:

1 – Start a Budget.

Budgeting does need to be fancy or scary. If you prefer, call it a spending plan instead because in essence that’s what it is. Start with figuring out how much money you have, spend it all on paper before the month begins and then stick to it. If you’re on a limited or variable income it helps to triage your money as well, break your expenses down into the 3 main categories – Food, Shelter and Transportation, everything else is luxury anyway.

2 – Pay yourself second.

thinkagainYou read that right. Conventional wisdom says pay yourself first but the conventional wisdom is just plain wrong. Instead, pay your highest interest debts first. By doing that, in a way you are still paying yourself first because every dollar spent on interest is a dollar you can’t spend on anything else. Once your debts are under control then paying yourself first makes sense, until then you’re putting the cart before the horse.

3 – Reduce, reuse, recycle

It’s not just a good slogan for environmental responsibility. In terms of financial literacy it could be rephrased as spend less, keep longer and re-purpose. We live in a throw away society. Not only is it hurting our planet, it’s killing our wallets. When done right, environmental responsibility is very economical. Start small, buy a reusable shopping bag and carry your own insulated travel mug, you’ll save anywhere from 5 to 15 cents every time you shop or go for coffee.

4 – Save, save, save

Save for a rainy day by building an emergency fund of at least 3 months of expenses, preferably 6. Save for retirement.  You’ll need enough to replace 70% of your pre-retirement income if you don’t want to take a major hit in your lifestyle once the pay cheques stop coming. And Save for major purchases like kid’s education, new cars and major repairs.

As part of financial literacy month I put together a little quiz of my own. This one focuses on the types of products and services I offer through my financial practice. Check it out here https://laurensheil.typeform.com/to/uC5wUu Add your email address at the end to be entered in a draw for a $25.00 Tim Horton’s Gift Card.

Happy Financial Literacy Month.

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!

Save

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.

4 Things to Know For Tonight’s Webinar


webinarGood day!

Tonight is the night. My first ever live on-line seminar!

I’m about to spend the next few hours putting the finishing touches on the Power-Point that will go out over the internet for all the world to see. It’s exciting and a bit nerve wracking at the same time. I know this material, and I’ve presented it in small intimate gatherings before. That’s not the issue. I’m just nervous that a) nobody will show up, b) so many people will show up that I will be overwhelmed, c) the technology will somehow fail me, or d) I will be asked a question I can’t answer and the audience will become hostile. Even if some of these fears are unfounded, or worse, all of them come true, I still need to be as prepared as possible so that nothing goes horribly wrong.

If you are planning on joining me, here are a few things you need to know going in.

1 – This is all new to me.

As I said off the top, I’ve done these seminars before but never on-line. The technology looks relatively simple but if something goes wrong technically please don’t hurt me.

2 – I am genuinely passionate about what I do.

I hope it’s already obvious but sometimes I get carried away and even a bit emotionally when I’m presenting. Passion can be a good thing when properly channelled, I hope I can do that and remain and effective presenter.

3 – I am licensed to sell investment and financial risk management products in Ontario, Canada only.

The principles I teach are universal but some of the specific products I mention may or may not be available in your jurisdiction. I apologize in advance if that’s the case.  Feel free to contact a locally licensed representative to help you out. If you don’t know anyone I have lots of contacts all over the world, I’d be happy to help you find someone.

4 – At the end I am going to try and sell you something.

I recognize that there will be some people who will want to go deeper and I am available for one-on-one coaching, for a fee. If there are any of the concepts or programs that I mention that you are interested in, and I am able to help you (see 3 above) I will be more than happy to.

So there you have it. If you would like to join me on-line the seminar starts at 8:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time. Here’s is your log in information….

https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/959869893

Use your microphone and speakers (VoIP) – a headset is recommended. Or, call in using your telephone.

United States: +1 (213) 289-0021

Australia: +61 2 8355 1039

Austria: +43 7 2088 2172

Belgium: +32 (0) 42 68 0180

Canada: +1 (647) 497-9379

Denmark: +45 89 88 05 39

Finland: +358 (0) 931 58 4588

France: +33 (0) 170 950 589

Germany: +49 (0) 692 5736 7301

Ireland: +353 (0) 15 360 757

Italy: +39 0 294 75 15 37

Netherlands: +31 (0) 108 080 116

New Zealand: +64 9 801 0294

Norway: +47 21 51 81 86

Spain: +34 911 23 4248

Sweden: +46 (0) 852 500 516

Switzerland: +41 (0) 435 0824 41

United Kingdom: +44 (0) 330 221 0099

 

Access Code: 959-869-893

Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting

 

Meeting Password: October2015

Meeting ID: 959-869-893

 

Not at your computer? Click the link to join this meeting from your iPhone®, iPad®, Android® or Windows Phone® device via the GoToMeeting app.

See you tonight!

For more information on The Meekonomics Project or if you have any trouble logging into the meeting, write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

Stop Sharing My Videos! – No really stop it…


My second video in the series running up to the release of the rebooted 6 Steps to Financial Freedom Coaching Program is out.

 

I’m following Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula whereby marketers are told to release a series of “teasers” ahead of the official launch of a new product. So far I’ve released two videos in as many weeks. Each time I’ve sent announcements to an email list of about 140 subscribers, posted on twitter to my 3000 plus followers, linked to them on facebook, linkedin and pinterest for about 500 more people and of course blogged about them here.

As a result, according to YouTube I have received a grand total of 0 – count them ZERO views!

(If you go now and look at them the count is actually about 20 views between the two of them but all of those are just me going there to grab the link so that I can tweet it, post it or embed it in emails.)

What gives?

I can understand if you don’t like my videos, or they don’t resonate with where you’re at right now but to have no views at all, after posting to almost 4000 followers across all of my social media accounts? That makes no sense to me.

I’m following all the rules about Social Media Marketing.

  • I’m posting regularly
  • I’m using hashtags
  • And I’m following up on all my retweets and favorites

Actually that last one is the most mind-boggling of all. So far I’ve received about 20 favorites and retweets from people who haven’t even watched the videos themselves! What’s up with that? I even had one guy forward it to a friend with a comment “you should watch this”, how could he know?

There is something very wrong with the way we engage with new products on-line.

Social Media is a relatively new phenomenon when it comes to product marketing. We’ve been taught that the key to a good marketing campaign is the social share, the more people share what you are posting the better. I’m getting shares but the sad fact is sharing is not engagement. In order to sell a product you need people to engage with it, not just say, “hey this looks cool, check it out.”

What’s worse in my case at least, people are saying “check this out” without having checked it out for themselves! How can you endorse something if you haven’t used it? Not only is it killing your credibility it’s damaging my brand in the process!

So, I never thought I’d have to say this but: please stop sharing my videos, unless you’ve actually watched them.

The third and final video in the series will be posted next week. You can watch both of the current ones here – https://youtu.be/olaDR2KhPOE and here – https://youtu.be/FJ8rWYxLTGw

Please watch, then comment, then share if you are so inclined.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and our newly re-launched 6 Steps to Financial Freedom Coaching Program write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

Re-launch of Financial Coaching Service – Part One


“Back in 2005 I was a financial basket case!”

Coming sometime in the last week of October (exact dates haven’t been worked out yet) I am re-launching the “6 Steps to Financial Freedom – Financial Coaching Program”.

About 18 months ago I wrote a series of posts on this blog called “The 6 Steps to Financial Freedom” where I laid out what I believe are the most important things everyone must do if they hope to gain a life of financial security. Out of that series came the e-booklet “6 Steps to Financial Freedom – The Meekonomists Guide to Getting Out Of Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy” and a clear focus on what it is I hope to accomplish with this site, my financial practice and indeed all of my writing.

It was through that blog series that I also began to develop my mission statement.

The Meekonomics Project exists to: Help people reconcile their relationships with God and Money, To Teach people to live Debt Free, Build Wealth and Leave a Legacy.

The animated video above is the first in a series designed to introduce you to the newly revised and re-packaged “6 Steps to Financial Freedom Coaching Program”, go back and watch it now if you haven’t already.

Next week I will release the second video in which I will go into more detail about what each of the 6 Steps are and how you too can live a debt free life while building wealth and planning for a lasting legacy. The following week I will release the final video where I will explain how to join me for some group interactive coaching on-line and possibly become a one-on-one coaching student.

Stay tuned! If you haven’t already done so, please watch the video now and send me a comment either in the comment stream below, on YouTube or directly via email at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

I love comments!  I read and respond to each and every one.

And if you would like your own copy of the 6 Steps e-book put, “E-Book Request” in the subject line of your e-mail and I’ll make sure you get a copy within 24 hours.

See you soon – Lauren!

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.