As Continents Burn


A Semi-Poetic Reflection on the Nature of Reality

Half a world away,
A crisis is unfolding.

 

Some say the crisis has been here a long time,
we are just now noticing.
Some say it is not really a crisis at all.
Others say that how we respond will define humanity for generations.
Still others say it is already too late,
The choices before us are about adaptation and a new normal.

 

Some blame our governments.
Some blame the corporations.
Some blame each other.
Some just wish we would all shut up about and go hang out at the mall.

 

What is this crisis?

 

Some say it is climate change.
Some say it is the economy.
Some say our way of life is under attack.
Some say we must impose our values on others for the sake of “love” and “order”.

 

We all say a lot of things,
But is anybody listening?
Is anybody doing?

 

Australia is burning.
But it could just as easily be the Amazon,
Or the Serengeti,
Or cousin Ed’s house down the road.

 

An entire continent could be lost.
We can’t even agree on what’s happening,
Or how,
Or why.

 

Will reducing waste solve it?
Travelling less, taking public transit more?
Eating less meat, carrying reusable water bottles?
Will recycling and buying local solve it?

 

“Conflict arises at the point of perception vs reality.”
I read that in a book once.
Or at least I got the idea from a book, it is not an exact quote.
The author was talking about personal turmoil.
I think it applies here too.
How we perceive impacts how we interact.
What we value impacts the pieces we choose to ignore.
If we perceive incorrectly and reality disagrees, conflict.

 

Reality always wins in the end.
We can ignore it,
We can try to fight against it,
Objective, scientific, physical reality cannot be willed into non-existence.

 

To be anti-science, is to be anti-reality.
You can question science.
You can continue to collect data and test theories,
but at some point, you are going to have to accept what the results tell you.

 

The crisis we current face is multifaceted.
It is not just about climate change,
or economics,
or values.
It is all these things and none of them at the same time.
It is truly a crisis of perception vs reality.

 

Until we agree on the parameters that define reality,
We will continue to argue about perception.

 

As continents burn.

Quote of the Day – 12/30/2016


The countries that are likely to be more attractive and gain soft power in the information age are those with multiple channels of communication that help to frames issues; whose dominant culture and ideas are closer to prevailing global norms (which now emphasize liberalism, pluralism, and autonomy); and whose credibility is enhanced by their domestic and international values and policies… To the extent that official policies at home and abroad are consistent with democracy, human rights, openness, and respect for the opinions of others, America will benefit from the trends of this global information age. But there is a danger that the United States may obscure the deeper message of its values through arrogance. – Joseph S. Nye Jr; Soft Power, The Means to Success in World Politics

Mission, Vision and Values


For the last few weeks, in my spare time (which isn’t nearly enough) I’ve been working on my business plan for 2015. As part of that process I thought it was high time I wrote out a formal mission, vision and values statement to help guide the rest of my planning. I’ve posted my mission statement in this space before but one or two lines without a lot of explanation and reasoning behind them can fall flat so here is the complete document that explains everything and makes up a part of my overall business plan.

Let me know what you think.

mission

Mission Statement

 

To help people reconcile their relationships with God and Money through Education and Empowerment. To teach people to live Debt Free, Build Wealth and Leave a Legacy.

 

Embedded within this statement are 4 main points.

 

1 – Reconcile Relationships with God and Money.

Few things conjure up as much emotion and generate more personal reflection and debate than questions about theology and finance. Jesus himself said that you cannot serve two masters; “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” [Matthew 6:24]

You can only serve one master and that master should be God but the fact of the matter is that you must learn to live with money if you are to function in society. Through my published writings, public and private seminars and one on one counseling I educate people on the proper place of money in their lives and empower them to treat money with the reverence and respect it deserves without letting it rule them. Even if you do not share my faith, the principles I teach are time honored proven and effective methods that will work for anyone.

2 – Teach People to Live Debt Free

Financial freedom begins and ends with freedom from debts. King Solomon, the 3rd King of ancient Israel, widely regarded as one of the wisest men in history is believed to have said; “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” [Proverbs 22:7]

Being deeply in debt is a lot like being in bondage to a master. When a large percentage of your income is already earmarked to make payments on money you have already spent it can feel a lot like indentured servitude or slavery. Achieving debt freedom is a lot like being released from prison. Your money is finally yours to do with what you like. But getting to that point is hard work. Our society tells us to buy now and pay later. Living debt free is counter cultural but it is the best, fastest and easiest way to become wealthy.

3 – Build Wealth

Building wealth is not a sin. Wealth is freedom, plain and simple. We should not worship wealth but money is a means to an end and in order to be effective in life and in ministry we need some freedom from the demands of the marketplace.

King Solomon is also said to have stated; “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” [Proverbs 13:11] If you build wealth as part of a meticulously planned process with honesty and integrity it will be blessed and it will grow. That’s a fact.

4 – Leave a Legacy

Why build wealth? So that you can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle of course but there is so much more that can be done with money than simply spending it on yourself. It is my considered opinion that the real purpose of wealth is to bestow a blessing on others.

Jesus said; “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [Matthew 6:19-21]

You can’t take it with you, so you may as well use what you need and give the rest away. Legacy planning or Philanthropy is all about tax effective life and estate planning that seeks to bless others with our accumulated wealth now and in the future.

 

Vision

I want to be the financial planner of choice for –

  • Individuals with big dreams and bigger hearts but who are saddled with debt and struggle to make their dreams a reality.

  • Locally Owned Small and Medium Sized businesses with a strong commitment to family values and engagement with their employees, suppliers and local communities.

  • Philanthropists, both big and small looking for tax-effective ways to leave a legacy now and long into the future.

  • Non-profit, Charitable organizations and Ministries that want to be better stewards of their financial resources and the trust that has been bestowed on them by the communities they serve.

Each point above brings with it a specific clientele with specific needs in terms of product and services. In order of priority I offer a different suite of products to each sub-group of clients, all in keeping with my primary mission.

1 – Individuals will be looking primarily for financial coaching, credit counseling, risk management and investment products.

2 – Businesses will be looking for HR consulting, group benefits, risk management, investment, marketing/branding assistance and some financial coaching and credit counseling.

3 – Philanthropists will be looking for investment and tax advice with some risk management and financial coaching requirements.

4 – Non-profits will be looking for tax advice, investment advice, marketing/branding assistance, HR consulting, group benefits and risk management products.

Values

Faith above all, Integrity, Compassion, and Stewardship.

Faith – “A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16]

It is who I am, there is no point trying to hide it. My faith informs and guides everything I do. I am not perfect; I am a sinner saved by grace. I must acknowledge my failings, praise God for his forgiveness and impart grace to all whom He puts in my path.

Integrity – “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”[Titus 2:7-8]

It should almost go without saying that a financial services professional should have integrity. In dealing with something as precious as people’s money to act without integrity is beyond deplorable. But as a person of faith there is even more at stake, acting without integrity damages not only my reputation but the reputation of the entire faith community. Jesus said; “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” [Matthew 12:36-37].

Compassion – “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,  compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and,  if one has a complaint against another,  forgiving each other;  as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” [Colossians 3:12-13]

The word, compassion is derived from two Latin words; Com – together and Pati – to suffer. Feeling compassion or being compassionate is to walk with my clients in their darkest days. Suffering under the burden of debt and the bitter sweet feelings associated with risk management and estate planning can be difficult for a lot of people. A heart of compassion is called for in all client dealings, especially for individuals struggling with debt and loss. I was bankrupt in 2005, I know first-hand the pain and embarrassment associated with that particular failure. Among my fellow financial planners I am uniquely experienced to show compassion as a result of my past need for compassion of my own.

Stewardship – “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth who will trust you with true riches?  And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” [Luke 16:10-12]

Overseeing the management of other people’s affairs, particular as they pertain to finances, is the very definition of stewardship. As a Christ-follower the term takes on added meaning in that I acknowledge that I am not only a steward for my client’s but also a steward for the Kingdom of Heaven. Everything I have is His. I am merely a steward of the things God has given me. As such I place a high value on giving back, both to my church and to my community.

So that’s it, what do you think?

If that resonates with you I would love to do business with you.  Contact me any time. If it doesn’t that’s okay we can probably still be friends and do some business but we won’t likely click on all cylinders and as a result we won’t be getting the most out of our relationship with one another.

Do you have a personal mission statement? What is it? How does it inform the way you work and live out your daily life?

 

The Second Half – pt 2 (Whosoever)


If you go to heaven alone, wrapped in your private worthiness, it is by definition not heaven.  If your notion of heaven is based on exclusion of anybody else, then it is by definition not heaven.  The more you exclude the more hellish and lonely your existence always is.  – Richard Rohr; Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

When I was a younger man I spent a lot of time building a container for my life.  I was preoccupied with figuring out what didn’t belong and would therefore not be a part of who I was.  I experimented with a few things but ultimately rejected certain behaviors like smoking and gambling and certain other activities and attitudes that I don’t care to list.  Without writing it down I essentially created a manifesto of what it meant to be me.

box

This process was obviously exclusionary.  By figuring out what I wanted in my container of life I had to, at the same time, decide what didn’t belong.  Through the process I convinced myself that this was the right thing to do.  I clung to verses in scripture about righteousness and being set apart for a higher purpose.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled. [Matthew 5:6]

I was very dualistic in my thinking.  Certain things were allowed in, but more often than not other things were rejected as worldly or sinful.  But then about 3 or 4 years ago something happened to me that I was totally unprepared for.  I started to notice that in building this container I had excluded things as a matter of principle without really thinking about the consequences.  While some of things I claimed to value were relationships I had inadvertently prevented a number of people from getting too close because of some arbitrary rule I had created surrounding a certain behavior or aspect of their person-hood that I had rejected.  The more I thought about this, the more I noticed it and the more it disturbed me.

When I was a teenager I had a youth pastor who insisted on preaching from The King James Bible, ever since then certain passages of scripture have always sounded best in my head in old English, none more so than John 3:16.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

It’s that one word right in the middle of the verse that has, in recent years, convicted me of my dualistic thinking; “whosoever”.

God does not exclude anyone from his offer of salvation.  It is open to “whosoever” believes in him.  The implications of that one word are massive.  It means that you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to be righteous, you don’t even have to be the right race, vocation or even sexual orientation, all you need to do is believe.  If you need to make any changes in your life beyond that God will work with you on your own time.   It is not my job to fix you and make you fit within my container.  My container is not God.  It is my job to work with you through relationship to live outside my container and embrace the whole world, just as God has done.  It’s the ultimate in outside the box thinking.

Living this way is messy.  It requires a certain level of comfort with tension.  Some would call it wisdom, or even grace.  And that my friends is what life is all about.