New Book Release Announcement!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the will of God?

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

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

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

Pre-order today.

New Video – Our Mission


I’m really starting to like this video medium for explaining the various concepts I use in my Financial Coaching practice! I just finished producing my third teaching video and posted it to YouTube, check it out here;

https://youtu.be/cW7TWwwGBsE

I’m still learning the software but I’m getting better every time. I see a whole series based on the concepts I developed in my book and expound upon in my practice daily. You can follow all of my videos as I post them here on the Video Teaching page or by subscribing to my YouTube channel

As always your feedback is always welcome. Thanks – Lauren

LeaderSheep – #HowILead From a Posture of Submission


The following post has been written and inspired in response to the call from LinkedIn Pulse for submission on #HowILead and contains excerpts from my upcoming book project “LeaderSheep; Leading from a posture of submission in Business, Life and The Kingdom of Heaven.”

sheep

“You’re a great worker and a fantastic salesperson but you’re not a very good leader.”

That was how my boss started my performance review back in the fall of 2003.

I was 31 years old. I had started at the company 4 years earlier as a local territory salesperson and risen to the rank of national sales manager. My first big project in my new role had been to oversee advertising sales for a nationally published industry directory. There were two other people on the project with me. After a cursory training in our target demographic and a quick talk about phone etiquette I divided the lead list among the three of us and turned my team loose on the phones.

The campaign lasted two weeks. In that time I sold four times as much as my two other team members combined. When either of them had questions or ran into difficulty I repeated the “training” from the first day and walked back to my desk. Halfway through the campaign one of them simply stopped showing up for work and the other quit shortly after we wrapped it up and paid out the commissions.

In hindsight I realize now that my boss was being kind. While the campaign itself was a success, we sold every square inch of advertising space available and at one point had to convince the publisher to add a few more pages just to satisfy the demand we had created, as a leader I had utterly failed.

Leadership means something different for everyone depending on where you draw your worldview from. While my boss was looking for a strong leader to step up and direct the project, inspiring, teaching and driving to the goal. I was far more interested in my own success and felt that “leading by example” would naturally inspire those around me to follow my work ethic and find their own motivation.

Was I wrong to think that way? Not exactly, but I was wrong to think that everyone else would agree with me and my “one-size-fits-all, just do as I do” approach backfired. My personal success on the project, while the rest of my team struggled, actually served to alienate the team rather than inspire them.   My lead by example style ended up coming across as aloof and arrogant.

When my boss told me that I was a terrible leader I was crushed. I had never considered that my example was anything but inspiring. My reaction to the worker who stopped showing up was to write him off as lazy and the one who quit just didn’t share our future vision for the company. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with me, could it?

When I realized that in reality it had everything to do with me I repented of my arrogance and set out to learn as much as I could about leadership and business. What I found, quite frankly, disturbed me.

Most of the conventional wisdom on leadership espoused a macho version of personal branding and self-help. Too often leadership it seems is seen in terms of a sports or military metaphor.   Indeed some of the best selling business and leadership books of all time have been written by former athletes, coaches and military commanders.

The men who write these books, and they are almost always men, tend to have very little practical business experience. While running a sports team may technically be a business, and there may be some transferable skills learned in a military uniform I can’t help but wonder how any of these celebrities and commanders would fare in the “real world” of business. Or if they would have ever gotten a book deal in the first place if they hadn’t hit .300 for the New York Yankees umpteen years ago?

It’s as if the business press has nothing better to say than macho men know how to get things done and the rest of us just better learn to do it their way or be left behind. “Lead, follow or get out of the way,” as Thomas Paine once said.

Paine is arguably the most influential leader in American history. It was his 1776 pamphlet entitled; “Common Sense” that crystallized the patriot movement and helped to start the revolutionary war. Thomas Paine was a writer, philosopher and a political activist and it is his leadership maxim that has shaped our thinking on the subject for nearly 300 years.

Paine places people into three distinct camps, according to him people are either leaders, followers or a nuisance that must be pushed aside in the name of progress. It sets up a caste system and tends to promote the type of macho arrogance that comes out in almost all of the leadership writings I have seen and of which I was personally accused over a decade ago.

However, Thomas Paine neglected to consider that there are people who can both follow and lead at the same time and sometimes getting in the way of a wrong-headed idea is the only way one can show leadership and affect real change.

As I researched the ideas surrounding contemporary leadership I also went back to my Evangelical Christian roots. As my previous writing on the topics of economics and ethics has shown before I draw any conclusions I always test my thoughts against what the Bible, and most specifically what Jesus has to say.

Jesus, never said anything remotely like; lead, follow or get out of the way. The over arching message of Jesus on the topic of leadership was to serve.

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. [John 13:13-15]

In recent years the term servant leadership has become a buzz word in and of itself. But the over arching message I find there is still the same. A good leader is still in control, he or she may be trying to serve those whom they are leading but they are still overwhelmingly considered to be the ones in charge. In a weird way just because we slap the label “Servant Leadership” on something, we haven’t really changed the message. The servant leader is still afforded a certain amount of macho swagger.

Vary rarely do we see an example of true servant leadership in business today. Especially outside of the church or faith based ministry. Why that is should be fairly obvious. True servant leadership is a contradiction in terms. A servant leader must lead from a posture of submission; submission to another person, to a greater good or to the direction of a collective ideal. For many the whole notion of submission is contradictory to the idea of leadership.

A herd of sheep is a great metaphor for the type of servant leadership I am trying to describe here and why I have coined the term LeaderSheep.

Sheep tend to wander. If left to on their own without a shepherd sheep will put their heads down and simply graze through a field with absolutely no sense of direction. Many people see this as a weakness that must be tamed and brought under the control and direction of a strong outside force like a human shepherd or a dog trained by to keep them inside a restricted area. Shepherds have convinced themselves that they do this for the sheep’s own safety and wellbeing but really they are doing it for no other reason than to protect their asset.   If the sheep were allowed to wander they would get lost and fall into the hands of predators, or so we have been trained to think.

sheepherdBut take a closer look at the wandering sheep and you will begin to notice something. They aren’t wandering aimlessly at all. A herd of sheep functions as a unit, they maintain a collective desire to stay together for protection and to find the best grass to graze on. From time to time one might find a particularly juice patch of grass and lead the herd in that direction. Once the objective is accomplished that particular sheep will disappear back into the ranks allowing another sheep to step into leadership when the opportunity presents itself. This cycle of leadership and submission repeats itself continually as the herd moves about the pasture.

Knowing when to step up and use your gifts to accomplish a goal and then just as importantly knowing when to step down are two of the hallmarks of a good LeaderSheep. If Thomas Paine had understood the difference he might have said something more along the lines of “Lead, follow AND get out of the way.”

Here are what I believe are the marks of a LeaderSheep. First off LeaderSheep have a strong sense of purpose, they work well as part of a team and they are not put off by the size of the task or any apparent inexperience or under-qualification. They understand what must be done and they do it.

Second, LeaderSheep are driven by and conscious of results, they are above reproach and they are respected by their peers. There is no point in leading if you don’t know where you are going or what progress you have made toward your goal. Integrity is key and maintaining the respect of those around you is paramount to holding on to a position of leadership.

Lastly, LeaderSheep understand the limitations of their role. They are not afraid to stop doing things that just aren’t working or even let go of the leadership role when it’s just not their turn. Submission to the will of something greater, be it God or the group is the final act of a great LeaderSheep.

As I said at the outset, I’ve lived a lot of life and learned a lot since my first failure in leadership. In a way this is written as a warning to my 31 year old self. Since I can’t go back and change the past, I can at least make my thoughts, learning and perspective on leadership known. I hope I can teach you as much as I have learned in the process so that no one else has to work for an inept leader like I once was or endure an awkward performance review like mine all those years ago.

For more information on #HowILead and the upcoming book “LeaderSheep; Leading From a Posture of Submisson in Life, Business and The Kingdom of Heaven” or any of my other writing on the subject of Leadership and Behavioural Economics write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or visit www.themeekonomicsproject.com

 

Happy Canada Day – Get out of town 74% of households with a financial plan do each year


Okay socanadaflag I’m copping out a bit today from my regular Wednesday blog. It’s a holiday here in Canada, the celebration of our nation’s independence from England in 1867, so rather than write a big long post I figured I’d pull some stats from the website of one my corporate partners on the value of financial planning advise as it pertains to summer time fun. Check it out and if you want more information on how I can help you have a great summer and still retire happy, shoot me an email at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

Enjoy life on your own terms. Have a financial plan.

  • 72 per cent of Canadian households who receive financial planning advice are satisfied with their current financial situation, versus 53 per cent of non-advised households
  • 74 per cent are able to enjoy an annual vacation, versus 44 per cent with no plan
  • 65 per cent have money left over for the occasional splurge, versus 31 per cent with no plan
  • Advised households also feel better prepared for life’s unexpected challenges, like financial emergencies (60 per cent vs. 28 per cent) and tough economic times (65 per cent vs. 36 per cent).

Plan to retire comfortably

 Don’t leave your retirement plans – or the financial security of your loved ones – to chance.

Canadians who engage in financial planning:

  • Are twice as likely to feel on track to retire when they want, compared to Canadians with no plan (50 per cent vs. 22 per cent)
  • Feel confident they will have enough money to retire comfortably (74 per cent of advised households vs. 52 per cent of non-advised households)
  • Feel confident their loved ones will be looked after financially if something should happen to them (73 per cent vs. 41 per cent of those without a plan)

Plan to maximize your financial potential

 Without a plan, you may be missing valuable opportunities to make your money work for you.

Advised households:

  • Are twice as likely to participate in tax-advantaged solutions such as RRSPs, RRIF, RESPs and TFSAs than non-advised households
  • Have portfolios that are more optimally designed for future performance

Plan to partner with an expert

 Your advisor is a partner for life – an expert who will review your financial security plan on a regular basis and help keep you on track. So plan on taking the first step to living the life you want – today and in the future.

The Prayer of Agur


The Prayer of Who?

agur

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

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

The actual identity of Agur therefore is not important.

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

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

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

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

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

humbepie

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

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

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

6 Encouragements for Insecure Leaders


The following as an excerpt from my current book project, “LeaderSheep; Leading From a Posture of Submission in Business, Ministry and Life”  I just completed the first draft of Chapter 3 “Undaunted”, here is some of what I’ve written so far…

How many times have you had a dream? I’m not talking about a bucket list dream here, like climbing Mount Everest I’m talking about a dream that qualifies as a BHAG. (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)

dreambig

We’ve all had them. Big dreams that we can’t possibly accomplish on our own or as we are. Maybe it’s to grow your business into an international brand or take your ministry on the road. If you’re like most people, the minute you receive that vision you start making excuses about why you couldn’t possibly make the leap and stand on the pinnacle of success.

But reading trough Paul’s letters to Timothy I get a clear sense of how you can fight those feelings. There are at least six characteristics that Paul gives, possibly more, in order to help Timothy combat his own insecurities and depression.

First Paul reminds Timothy of God’s grace. [1 Timothy 1:12-17]. Paul, remember was the man who persecuted the church and carried out capital punishment on followers of The Way long before he became an apostle himself. God’s grace abounds so much that even a man like Paul can become a great leader in the church and pillar of the faith. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” [1 Timothy 1:15]

When you become discouraged by the sheer magnitude of your BHAG and bogged down in the day to day operations of getting things done the first step is to remember God’s grace.   He forgave Paul and even gave him the tools to go out and spread the gospel to parts of the world untouched by its message. How much more will he be able to help you?

Second, you must hold on to your faith and remember why you started on this path in the first place. Doubt causes people to stumble. Grace is part of God’s nature but it is of no use to us if we don’t have faith. “I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well,  holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith” [1 Timothy 1:18-19]

It’s important to note here that faith is a command. Paul has just finished reminding Timothy how graceful God is, even toward a terrible sinner like Paul, and so the only appropriate response is to hold onto your faith. Anything less would be an insult to God’s character. When God has given you a grand vision, something worthy of being called a BHAG, and shown you love and grace in the face of your many failings, to become depressed and discouraged is an affront to the one who called you.   Therefore, being faithful to our calling is not a request, it’s a requirement.

Next Paul reminds Timothy to pray.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. [1 Timothy 2:1-8]

Prayer does many things, among them it helps focus our attention away from our personal bubble of immediate concerns and onto the bigger picture. When things become daunting it is important to step out of ourselves and get a broader focus. Paul tells Timothy that he must first pray for others, those in authority and to whom Timothy’s life is submitted in some way. By praying for the rulers Timothy is really praying that they too will see the headship of God and everyone would become submitted to the one true will of the father.

If your BHAG is truly from God it is by praying, first for others and then for yourself that you will know how the opposition you feel and the depression that comes with it is not from God and through prayer you and the people around you can begin to see clearly. That is how barriers are removed.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, this one written from a prison cell somewhere in Rome, he continues on the theme of encouragement and reminds him of a few more fundamental keys to understanding and becoming undaunted but the focus shifts a bit away from what God can do for you to what is now expected of a LeaderSheep moving forward.

The fourth key to remaining undaunted therefore is a loyal conviction in pursuit of the call.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. [2 Timothy 1:6-8]

You have a mission – God gave it to you – get after it. In the first letter we were reminded that God is graceful, and faithful and that we need to pray about all things for his blessing and direction. Now it’s time to get moving! Don’t be a wimp, if God is truly in it you have His power to get it done. 2 Timothy 1:7 is the battle cry of the insecure LeaderSheep. God’s spirit takes away our insecurities, gives us power, wraps us in love and sends us out to get the job done. I never would have put pen to paper and written a single book, let alone three, if God had not given me his spirit, love and discipline to get it done. If it is truly from God you cannot be ashamed of your calling. As my friend Cary used to say, “Get’er done” – it is God’s gift to the world through you.

But what if there is still opposition to your mission? What if there are people demanding attention that contradicts your mission? Well, it’s time to tap in to that spirit of power we were just talking about and take on the false doctrine of the competing mission. The fifth characteristic of the undaunted LeaderSheep is the ability to stand up to falsehood.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. [2 Timothy 2:16-17]

Gangrene is nasty!

Paul uses a word picture here that is unmistakable. False teaching is like rotting flesh that will kill you from the inside.   Standing up to falsehood in business and leadership is a huge need and great skill. It’s easy for insecure leaders to be seduced by negativity but once you tap into the power of vision and mission negativity has to go. There is still room for course correction but not negativity. And false teaching in an organization is almost always negative.

But false teaching doesn’t have to be just negativity. It can also be things that may seem positive but are just not part of the core ideology of the organization.   Falsehood in this context is anything that pulls you off course and distracts you from your mission. This too can spread like gangrene throughout an organization and kill the vision. It must be stopped in its tracks before it can damage the spirit and moral of those in its path.

So lastly and not to belabor the point, LeaderSheep must remain undaunted and committed to the truth of their mission.

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. [2 Timothy 4:2-4]

There will come a time when your mission is unpopular. Circumstances and sentiment will mount against you but if your mission is truly from God you must persevere in it and “be prepared to correct, rebuke and encourage”.

My personal mission in part is to teach people to live Debt Free. I started on that mission at a time when credit was cheap and saving was unpopular. The watchmen of our economy were working on the assumption that in order to stimulate the economy they had to make it easy for people to spend other people’s money. At the time I said no to that, repeatedly, loudly and at times emotionally.

I still say no to that false sense of wealth today. It is unpopular, a lot of smart people disagree with me. When I first started preaching debt freedom the purveyors of debt ignored me but as I started to gain a following they changed tactics and instead sought to discredit me. To this day I am but a small voice crying in the wilderness but I know I’m right and the truth is that the rich will rule over the poor and borrowers are slaves to the lenders [Proverbs 22:7].

The road to debt freedom and true wealth is long. I get that, but the short cuts just aren’t worth it.

Whatever your truth is, whatever your mission, you will have detractors. They key is to preach “the word”, correcting, rebuking and encouraging, with great patience and careful instruction. No matter what you face. Myths have a way of being found out. When you build you house on shifting sand, as Jesus said, the storms of life have a way of eroding the foundation so that everything comes crashing down. [Matthew 7:26-27].

Remaining undaunted in your mission has a way of attracting the type of followers you want to have as a LeaderSheep. The kind that not only see the vision and share the mission but the kind that can make it their own and the kind that can step up into leadership on their own one day.

The Long Journey Back


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So it’s all about money, or is it?

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

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

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

Number 1 – It’s about hubris.

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

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

Number 2 – It’s about grace.

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

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

I love definitions so here’s another one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And as a bonus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Here’s one last definition just for fun;

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

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

prodigalson
“The Return of the Prodigal Son” – Rembrandt

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

My First VLog


Today I am launching a new feature on The Meekonomics Project! Welcome to my new Video Blog.

I have to admit that I personally have never been much into the whole on-line video thing. I subscribe to TedTalks but I rarely watch them and I usually just click past any videos that are posted by any of the other people I follow on line. The reason is simple, I absorb information more quickly and completely if I read it.

I find videos distracting I spend more time wondering where a person found their cool shirt than thinking about what they are actually saying. As a result the amount of information I actually absorb in a 2 minute video is far less than I could obtain by reading the transcript of their speech.   Not to mention that fact that what it takes the average person 2 minutes to say, takes less than half that to read.

That being said I have found that a lot of people like Video Blogs and Infographics and by not using them I’m limiting my audience.

According to stats posted on YouTube’s own site they have over 1 billion users, ever day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views.  Compare that to WordPress, where this site is hosted, which hosts just 72.4 million sites and sees just 500,000 new posts a day it’s obvious that on-line video has far outpaced text only blogging in just a few years. Only 800,000 of those billions of videos on YouTube, are linked in some way back to WordPress.

Until now one of the things holding me back was technology. The only video camera I have is the one embedded in my iPhone. Granted that’s a pretty good video camera, but the memory is limited and the editing capability almost non-existent. I did briefly consider purchasing a GoPro but I was worried about how I might come off as a “talking head”, you see I tend to do most of my writing early in the morning, pre-shower and nobody needs to see that.

And then I discovered Animaker, a free video animation tool.

Bingo!

I can write a script, create an avatar to “speak” for me, drop in a few props, sound effects and some background music and presto, I am now the proud manager of a Video Blog. Simple, direct and I now have access to the billions of people who prefer to get their information from a video than read a text only blog.

I don’t know how many of these Vlogs I’m going to make. They are time consuming, this two minute video took me about 8 hours to create but I’m just learning the software and I should be able to cut that down considerably with practice. I had a lot of fun doing it though and I have ideas for several more.

So here’s my first ever Vlog Post – I call it “The Elevator Pitch” – It’s about how I got where I am today and why I started writing in the first place, I hope you like it!

The Best Time to Plant a Tree


tree3

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

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

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

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

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

But it’s more than that.

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

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

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

Savings get pushed way down the list.

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

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

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

And remember –

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

The Interest Rate Cycle


Long-Term

In 2008 the United States saw the beginning of the worst recession in a generation. It all started when broke people who had been given mortgages at artificially low rates started to default because they couldn’t pay their bills. In response, governments and lending institutions lowered interest rates to stimulate the economy.

It worked but now we have a new problem. People are so obsessed with low interest rates that they have leveraged themselves to the point where even a modest increase in the cost of borrowing will cripple the economy beyond anything we have ever seen before, or at least in more than 3 generations.

Everyone likes to say that interest rates are at an all time low. But that’s not true. The chart above shows the prime lending rate in the United States all the way back to 1790.  The rates in Canada show a similar pattern.

The prime lending rate set by the bank of Canada back in the early spring is 2.85%. Contrary to popular belief that is not the lowest it has ever been. From February of 1944 to December of 1950 the Bank of Canada held the prime lending rate at 1.5%. For almost 6 years at the end of World War II credit was so cheap even an unemployed returning war veteran could afford to buy a house, and that was kind of the point.

My grandfather returned from the war in 1946 and bought a house in Oshawa Ontario for $3000. His mortgage payment was $36 per month. In 1950 interest rates started a steady climb and peaked in 1981 at 14.14%, mortgages at the time were going for an average of 21%.  Thankfully rates have been on a steady decrease ever since.

There are a lot of reasons why interest rates peaked in the early 80s. They rocketed up quickly in the late 70s due to instability in the Middle East, The Cold War, Jimmy Carter, you name it. But the fact of the matter is the rates had been climbing steadily for 25 years before Carter took office. Why was that?

In a word – Risk.

It’s kind of like the Peter Principle. That’s the management theory in which people are selected for jobs based on their past performance, rising through the ranks until they fail.

thepeterprinciple

Once someone fails in a position however it is very difficult to demote them so people tend to stay working at “the level of their incompetence.” If you apply this principle to interest rates people will tend to borrow money until they are no longer able to make the payments. When that happens they default so in order to keep the economy from stalling the government and lending institutions lower the interest rates and encourage more borrowing. But interest rates cannot go to zero so eventually we have to be okay with a few defaults and let the incompetent borrowers feel some pain, so we start raising the rates. As more people default we continue to raise rates so that the rest of us don’t lose our shirts on the money we have lent them through our retirement accounts and stock portfolios.

That’s what started to happen in 1950. The risk of keeping interest rates low started to catch up as too many people who couldn’t afford to borrow money started to mount up too much debt.  It took the next 30 years before we reached the peak when no one could afford to borrow money. Well it’s been another 30 years and here we are, with interest rates hovering back around 2%. What do you think is going to happen next?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Get out of debt while you still can so that when rates inevitably begin to rise you will be on the receiving end of the increased returns instead of paying more to keep that house you know you can’t afford.