Life on Purpose


By believing their lives are meaningless, modern thinkers are failing to act in their own self-interest, as the evidence now shows that people who embrace a spiritual view of a purposeful life (regardless of whether this view is derived from religion or from philosophy) are more likely to be happy and to find fulfillment in their one chance at life (regardless of whether that one chance is given by a Maker or by nature).  – Gregg Easterbrook; The Progress Paradox, How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse

Do you believe there is a reason for your life? 

Better yet, do you live your life on purpose? 

The world is an amazing place and it just keeps getting better.  Today, people are more prosperous, healthier and less likely to get caught in war or violence of any kind than at any other time in history.  Technology continues to make our lives easier, giving us the ability to do more in less time, and with greater accuracy.  Thanks to medical advancements we are living longer with less chronic disease and recovering faster from injuries.  Thanks to advances in international relations and trade we are less likely to be called to serve in our national armies and to die in war or other armed conflicts.  In just about every metric imaginable, on a world-wide scale, life just keeps getting better and better every year. 

Sure, there are some localized issues and climate change is a real concern but the men who died in the trenches of World War I would trade our problems for theirs in a heartbeat.  Just over 100 years ago, if you got called into service in The Great War you were just as likely to contract the Spanish flu as you were to get shot in battle. 

In 1651, philosopher Thomas Hobbes characterized the natural life of the human animal as, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.  That is, without the existence of a benevolent centralized government.  The role of government, according to Hobbes, is to temper mankind’s basest nature and promote a peaceful and prosperous society.  Things obviously haven’t turned out quite the way he predicted but for the most part, Hobbes was right. 

Today however we live in a time when, despite the fact we have built a society as close to Hobbes’ ideal as possible, people are convinced things are getting worse and life is meaningless.  Why is that?  Anyone can see that life today is better than it was yesterday.  Why are we so easily convinced otherwise?

Personally, I think it has something to do with our inability to live on purpose.  We are too easily influenced and manipulated by outside interests and too quick to think the worst when things don’t immediately go our way.  We aren’t strong enough to remain focused and persevere through adversity, no matter how small.  We’ve gone soft.

Gregg Easterbrook, editor of The Atlantic Monthly and The New Republic, hit the nail on the head in his 2003 book quoted above.  People get depressed, and fear the worst, when we lose our sense of purpose. 

With a strong sense of purpose, we can weather just about any storm.  When business is bad, government regulations make it more difficult to compete or get ahead, and family troubles conspire to steal your focus, it’s purpose that helps us rise above. 

So today I want everyone to thing about their purpose.  Why does your business exist?  There are two times in the future when the answer to that question should cause you to alter course.  The first is when you answer, “I don’t know”.  When you no longer know why you’re doing something – stop doing it.  The second is when you answer with something along the lines of “mission accomplished”.  When the reason you’re doing something no longer exists, it’s time to re-evaluate and start something new. 

Many organizations fear “mission accomplished” almost more than failure but this is more of vision problem than it is a purpose problem.  If your stated purpose is to complete a specific project, what do you do when the project reaches a natural conclusion?  Your purpose needs to be bigger than that, or you need to have the courage to shut it down and look for something new.

Here’s to living on purpose.

My Peace Statement


Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Sons of God.- Matthew 5:9

I originally wrote out my Peace Statement in August of 2009.  It was actually the first thing I ever posted on line.  In light of recent events I thought it might be a good idea to revisit and update what I wrote back then.It’s been over 8 years since I started my first blog but so little has changed. 

Through the reading of Naomi Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine”; one of the things that kept coming back to me is a phrase that I coined about 10 years ago while sitting in church and listening to a sermon on peacemaking just after Remembrance Day.

Peace without Justice is Oppression

I grew up Mennonite and was baptized into the community of Nairn Mennonite Church, just north of London ON at the age of 17.  Since the very beginning the Mennonite Church has officially declared itself to be a Peace Church.  But when you make a declaration like that what you are really saying is that you want to protect Justice, otherwise you’re just ignoring and oppressing people with dissenting views.  Peace is not simply the absence of war; it is the presence of justice and the absence of oppression.

Oppression does not have to be overt either.  It can be very subtle.  If we aren’t careful the majority rule or democracy in general can become distorted and look more like – biggest guns rule, elite rule, wealthy rule, or educated rule.

We in the wealthy West, or more accurately the North West are often times inadvertently waging a war of oppression on the developing regions of the world, mostly to the South and East of us.  Over the past 30 years, and most rapidly since the fall of the Berlin Wall, governments, corporations and wealthy individuals have exploited the poor and uneducated in the developing world for their own gain.  They have extracted natural resources and caused unprecedented damage to the environment, corrupted and interfered in local government affairs and generally ignored human rights all in the name of profit.

What are the oppressed people of the world to do?  They do not have the resources to stand up to us economically, nor do they have the education or skills that are useful to the world wide economy, so they strike back in the only way they can.   The world wide drive to globalization and homogenization of cultures through the economic domination of the North West has given rise to terrorism.

One of the things I have learned while exploring this Rabbit Hole is that we cannot continue to fight terrorism with guns.  Greg Mortensen – founder of the Central Asia Institute is the chief driving force behind the building of over 50 schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The schools he has founded equally educate both boys and girls.   At a joint meeting of US congressmen and Pentagon officials Mortensen stated that:

The war on terror should be fought with books, not bombs. – Greg Mortensen (Central Asia Institute)

This has been a recurrent theme in all of a lot of my own research.  When we give the poor access to knowledge we can bring them into fuller participation in the global economy and help to greatly reduce terrorism and increase security.

For more information on the topic of reducing terrorism through education, I highly recommended Mortensen’s book Three Cups of Tea; One Mans Mission to Promote Peace, One School at a Time”  Check it out and let me know what you think.

 

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The Blasphemy of Earthly Government


…but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights. [1 Samuel 8:7-9]

kingonthroneThe first thing we must recognize is that human government is not part of God’s original design. When the Israelites requested a King, “such that all the other nations have” [1 Samuel 8:5] it greatly grieved God. God’s chosen people were to be set apart from all the other nations, not conformed to their ways. God’s design involved priests and temple attendants but not a king. God was and still is the ultimate ruler. In this way the Israelites were to show submission to His rule and act as stewards of His creation. It is clear to me from a careful reading of 1 Samuel 8 that God granted Israel at King reluctantly and not without issuing a strong warning about what that could potentially mean for their future.

As Christ-followers and “new Kingdom” theists part of our mission is to help establish God’s Kingdom on earth. In many ways that would be a return to his original design where God is the King and we are his subjects. But because we are suspended here in the world of “promised but not yet”, how are we to live under the rule of a worldly government that does things we may not agree with, and how are we to influence the decisions of that government in a way that reflects God’s will for our lives and our society?

That’s the million dollar question, the answer to which I have come to call the “two kingdoms” mindset. We live in one kingdom, the worldly government and society we are a part of while serving another kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus said we cannot server two masters, we have to pick one and we should obviously pick his.

But how do we live that out?  It’s certainly not going to be easy.  Part of how we can start to do it is explained in Roman’s 13.

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]

tanksI have to admit, this passage has given me more than one sleepless night. Taken out of context it appears as though Paul is saying that no matter what the governing authorities do they are doing so with God’s tacit approval and any type of civil disobedience or protest is sinful. It also appears as though Paul is giving God’s blessing to all sorts of violence and war mongering and oppression as long it is done by the government, they are his servants after all, right? But nothing could be further from the truth.

Thankfully, because I can count, I know that Romans 13 comes after Romans 12. So if we are reading scripture in its own context this passage follows in the heels of this:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [Romans 12:9-20]

Did you see it? Romans 12: 19, “leave room for God’s wrath, it is mine to avenge; I will repay.” After concluding his thought on what our role is, to live peacefully with everyone, Paul goes on in Romans 13 to talk about how God can use worldly governments and institutions to punish those who do wrong.

feedinghungrypeopleIn short, according to Romans 12, it is the role of the Christ-follower to sincerely Love one another, serve the Lord, share with those in need, bless those who persecute you, be willing to associate with those of low position, be careful to do what is right, live at peace with everyone, serve even your enemy and over-come evil with good. God’s role is to use whatever human construct he has at his disposal to exact punishment on the evil doer, he can even use worldly governments that do not serve him in any meaningful way.

The danger in reading Romans 13 in isolation is that we may begin to think that it is somehow our job to help God by working for or influencing the government for his purposes. Nowhere in Romans 13 does it say that Christ-followers are to be involved in government and serve the earthly kingdom in any way. On the contrary we are to be submitted to it, no matter how evil, because God may decided to use it for his purposes, but if we are doing what is right, as spelled out in Romans 12, we will have more than enough work to do without being involved in the earthly government and nothing to fear from what any evil or neutral government may do. That’s their business and God’s job.

In the end earthly kingdoms are in a sense blasphemy. Setting anyone or any system up as ruler in place of God is nothing more than blasphemy.

Right from the start, God made it clear to the Israelites that by asking for a king they were rejecting Him as their ruler. The first century Christians knew that in order to bring about the promised Kingdom of Heaven, all earthly kingdoms would one day have to pass away. There is no point in working for a dying institution. If you want to influence the world for God’s purposes and the Kingdom of Heaven, you don’t do it from within the early kingdom, you work to establish a new kingdom, a new heaven and a new earth. That’s what the church, at her best is called to be.  And that’s just one more reason why I believe the only true calling of the Christ-follower is the calling to live a life of pacifism.

 

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The Problem of Evil


I wrote this post on Thursday, and was about to post it this afternoon when I heard of the horrible attacks in Paris.  I debated whether or not I should wait and post it later, in honor of the dead but I feel the best way to honor them is to call for an end of violence in the physical realm.  Here is what I wrote.

Usually in any discussion of pacifism, after I’ve laid out my reasoning about the image of God in all of us and our role as care-taker I get my first real objection. It starts out with some crazy scenario about, what I would do if a man had a gun to my wife’s head and said if I didn’t kill him or somebody else he would kill her and then me. What do we do with the truly evil people in the world?

evilhappyfaceIn order to answer that question we first must understand the origins of evil.

Evil entered the world in Genesis 3.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” [Genesis 3:1]

Satan, (Hebrew for The Adversary) represented here as a snake begins by asking questions, seeding doubt and leading astray. So the first thing you must understand about evil is that it lies. The answer to the serpent’s question should quite simply have been no. No, God did not say you couldn’t eat from any tree in the garden, he warned not to eat from a specific tree. And that specific tree is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

It’s the one word and that very important distinction that many people miss. Good and evil exist there is nothing we can do about that. So, why is it that God does not want us to have any knowledge of good and evil?

Because we can’t handle it!

God is Love. He created us out of love. What parent wants their child to know anything other than pure love? To know good and evil is to know pain, shame and judgement. God didn’t want us to know any of that so out of love he forbade it. Satan came along and made it seem like Eve was missing out on some great mystery of life, that by learning about good and evil she would someone be greater and have a fuller life. That was a heinous lie.

Think back to your childhood, before you knew the world could be a harsh and nasty place. Life was a great idyllic utopia of perfection. You were safe in the knowledge that your parents loved you and only wanted the best for you. Then something happened, maybe you discovered a friend who didn’t have the same kind of you life you had, they couldn’t afford the after school program or didn’t have a dad at home. How did that make you feel? Shocked, confused, sad, betrayed somehow? I remember when it happened to me, and those were just some of the emotions I remember feeling.

nofairAs you went through school you eventually learned that life isn’t fair and the sooner you figured out how to deal with that the better off you were. The sooner you learned to play the game, and perpetrate a little evil of you own, the easier it got to live in this often cruel and unfair world of ours. Satan won a great victory the day you accepted his lies and decided that the world was full of evil people that you needed protection from. You started to isolate yourself and build walls to keep the bad people away.

We were created to have no knowledge of good or evil. We were created to know only God and gain our living and being solely from him. When we learned otherwise we lost everything, we lost our life in the garden and nothing has been the same since.

The apostle Paul once said that his goal was to know nothing except Christ. [1 Corinthians 2:2] Dietrich Bonehoeffer said:

Man, at his origin knows only one thing: God. It is only in the unity of his knowledge of God that he knows of other men, of things, and of himself. He knows all things only in God, and God in all things. The knowledge of good and evil shows that he is no longer at one with his origin.

But we do know that evil exists. The genie is out of the bottle. So what are we now to do with this knowledge?

If we accept it at face value Satan wins. We become afraid. Afraid of what could be lurking “out there” in strangers half way around the world or just up the block. We isolate ourselves from people who aren’t just like us we create segregated communities, spend thousands of dollars on security measures and buy guns for production. All because we know about evil.

But what if we didn’t know evil? How can we eradicate the damage it has done to our society? How can we rebuild our lost community with those who are just a little different from us?

Evil cannot exist, where love prevails. God is love and He cannot co-exist with evil.

Fear is mostly fear of the unknown. The best way to combat our knowledge of evil is with knowledge of another kind, knowledge of facts over rumors conjecture and innuendo, knowledge of individuals over people groups, community over cultures, specific teaching over long held and outdated tradition and knowledge of community over isolation.

The problem of evil is a problem of knowledge. What we know and what don’t know and even more sinister, what we think we know that is false.

Therefore a pacifist and a Christ-follower must confront the problem of evil people bent on violence with learning. First learn the truth, and then combat the lies that surround it. In this way we can avoid unnecessary conflict based on nothing more than misunderstanding, misrepresentation and distorted lies.

hijabwomanWhen we see ethnic minorities moving into our communities and influencing our culture don’t be afraid, get educated. Reach out, learn their stories and welcome them into our community. Those people, the ones we might consider evil people are just one conversation away from become our people. At the end of the day, we are all image bearers of God (see part 1).

But what about the really evil people, the ones bent on destruction. Shouldn’t we try to stop them by any means necessary? Yes – and No.

Yes, try to stop them by educating them in a different path, but no do not try to destroy them in kind, you are not fighting physical humans but deceptive practices and the lies of Satan. Satan wants us to destroy one another, that is one of his favourite weapons to use against God. If we kill each other, he wins and when one deceived person dies there are a thousand more ready to take his place. Violence is a no win situation for humanity.

Make no mistake, there is a war going on all around us in the spiritual realm, but we can’t fight it with physical weapons. Some may die; it is a war after all. But dying for a cause is admirable. Killing for one only plays into the enemies hands. Far fewer die when we confront evil with truth than weapons of mass destruction. Pacifists know that and practice it while they actively pursue peace in the physical realm.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and Pacifist Lamentations write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

The Image of God – Pacifist Lamentations


I haven’t written about this for a while but I was recently challenged by a friend to clarify and explain my position. This is going to take a while and require more than one post so I’ve decided to start series that I’m calling Pacifist Lamentations.  Maybe there are other bloggers out there who want to join the conversation.  Comment below or write your own post with the hashtag #pacifistlaments and maybe we can start a healthy conversation about this important issue.

soldierfrombehindThe first thing everyone needs to know about living life as a pacifist is that it is a very difficult path to walk. I came to this position through years of struggle and holding onto it is a constant exercise is submission to what I believe to be the overarching will of God. It’s that point, in part that gives a lot of people fits. Many of the people I have discussed this idea with vehemently disagree with me that pacifism, even in part, could be God’s will. But before I attempt to explain my point here I need to back up a bit.

I was raised in a Mennonite church in Southern Ontario. Mennonites are perhaps the most visible minority group that publicly identifies as pacifist. As a kid I took that position at face value. It wasn’t until the first Gulf War, when I was just 18 years old that I really started to examine what it meant. My best friend at the time decided to join the army reserves as a summer job and as I started my own job search for the summer I said to my mother that as a Mennonite I didn’t have that option. She challenged me on that comment. She said that sometimes she felt that a lot of Mennonite teenagers hide behind the pacifist banner without ever really examining it, they don’t understand why they are pacifists they just used it as a convenient excuse not to make hard choices about what they stand for.

That stung a bit. It stung because it was coming from one of the most important people in my life. And it stung because it was true.

A few days later I told my mother that the reason pacifism made sense to me was that I believe all human life is sacred. That satisfied my mother and I filed it away as a catch all answer for anyone else who would question me on it.

And that worked for about 20 years.

Back in 2007 I moved and joined a new church. For the first time since I was seven years old I started to attend a church that isn’t connected to the Mennonite denomination. The church I now attend is a part of the Brethren in Christ denomination. If the Mennonites are in the minority within the Christian church, the B.I.C. are an even great (smaller?) minority. And I soon discovered that this particular church at least is even more committed to pacifism than my Mennonite brothers and sisters growing up. Once again I was forced to re-examine my position on the matter.

This time I embarked on a journey through scripture that is still unfolding eight years later. The deeper I go the more convinced I become that God’s will is for his people to remain on the side of pacifism and non-violence.

It all starts in Genesis 1.

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. [Genesis 1:27]

Just twenty-seven verses into the word of God it’s that one word “mankind” that brings me up short. It’s inclusive. There is no one, not one person on the face of the earth, in all of history or the future to come who is not, and will not be made in the image of God.

The implications of that realization are infinite.

What does it mean to be made in God’s image?

For one thing it means that you are made in the image of love. “God is Love” [1 John 4:16]. It means you possess within you the potential for infinite love. And it means you are infinitely valuable.

So as a pacifist I lament the loss of this realization in my fellow Christians. We have become isolated from one another and we have forgotten that we are all intended to be family.  The image of God is broken.  War, indeed all violence seeks to dehumanize the “enemy”. But I can’t support that position with scripture.

kidonabusWhen I see pictures and videos of men, women and children committing violence to one another my heart breaks, and I am convinced that it breaks the heart of God. When I see images of refugees wandering in the wilderness, hungry and cold, I see God. When I hear my fellow men and women complain that there are too many of “those” people in our neighborhoods and how we need to protect ourselves from anyone who is different, I mourn the loss of community and connectedness.

We are all image bearers of God. We may be broken and distorted images of Him. Many of us may have forgotten our divine connection to another. But we are all made in the image of love and I for one cannot justify violence toward anyone in whom I see the face of God.  And in case you haven’t been paying attention, that’s everyone.

“To love another person is the see the face of God.” Victor Hugo

For more #pacifistlaments or information on The Meekonomics Project write to:  themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

 

Carefully Taught


You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught! [Oscar Hammerstein; South Pacific]

south pacific

South Pacific first appeared on Broadway in 1949 and ran for 1,925 performances. The Broadway musical and subsequent movie by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein is loosely based on a collection of short stories by James A. Michener called Tales of the South Pacific, published in 1947. I first saw the Broadway version performed at a summer theater in a converted barn near my home town in the 1980s but I was already familiar with many of the songs because my father, who I have mentioned before had been a very progressive Baptist pastor, owned a copy of the movie soundtrack.

Peppered among the upbeat songs and flashy dancing of the musical, one number even features a cross dressing sailor, is a strong and controversial (at least for the 1940s), message on racism.

The story is set on a remote island in the South Pacific during the Second World War and centers on the inter-generational romance between a young American nurse and a middle aged French plantation owner. Tensions arise between the nurse and the plantation owner’s inter-racial children from a previous marriage and she must come to terms with her personal prejudice. The song above is the most poignant moment in the entire play sung, when in a secondary plot, a naval lieutenant by the name of Cable falls in love with a native Tonkinese girl and comes face to face with the prejudices of his American military brethren.

That song has been running through my head all week.

Last Saturday, as I drove in my car I heard the disturbing news that a Japanese citizen had been executed by ISIS followed a few days later with confirmation that a Jordanian pilot had been burned alive by the same terror group. Our immediate response in the face of such brutality is to recoil from the horror and exclaim; “What evil? How could someone do such a thing?” But what Oscar Hammerstein taught us in 1949 and has become painfully clear over the last 70 years is that prejudice, racism and what those fighting terrorism have more recently dubbed ‘evil’ are all manifestations of things each and every one of us have learned from an early age.

A close friend of mine recently exclaimed that the terrorist must know that what they are doing is wrong, that they are making a choice to do it for the shock value and to incite our rage. We have to stamp them out by any means necessary.

While it may be true that they are choosing tactics to get our attention, I believe that the entire notion of choice in this regard has to be re-examined. I no more chose to be born in Canada, son of a progressive Baptist pastor, who taught me to look at the world through Jesus colored glasses as a broken shadow of its potential, than the members of ISIS chose to be born in the time and place they were born and taught to see the world as a corrupted version of their ideal full of infidels.

Children, no matter their nationality or religion are carefully taught to become reflections of the home and society in which they were born.  There is very little in the way of choice presented to any of us until it is too late. The terrorists we see on the nightly news may be making a conscious choice about the way in which they are waging war but their overarching worldview and motivation has been shaped by a lifetime of education at the hands and feet of generations that have gone before them.

So the next time you’re tempted to judge the actions of terrorists on the news or even the dark skinned clerk at your local convenience store remember:

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

Oscar Hammerstein knew as early as 1949 that we will not win the war on prejudice, racism and terror until we wage war on education. Whether you want to admit it or not, we have all been carefully taught.

 

Standing Firm


Okay yesterday I was depressed. Today I’m a bit ticked off and ready to pick a fight but I really shouldn’t do that, here’s why…

The more I’ve thought about what’s gone on over the past few days the more I’m convinced that I’m in the middle of a spiritual war. Satan and his minions don’t like what I’m trying to do so they are opposing me on multiple fronts.  Just to recap over the last 3 days I have; lost a big opportunity at a new account, had a competitor out-right lie to one of my clients and had a significant new sale put on hold because my supply chain partner missed a critical detail in the quote. The more I think and pray about all this, the more I am beginning to think this is more than just a run of bad luck. This is starting to smell demonic in nature. Like it or not I am in the cross fire of a war between God and the Devil.

armour

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. [Ephesians 6:10-18]

I have made no secret of the fact that I am a pacifist. I wrote a whole series of posts early on in my blogging career on pacifism and why I believe taking a non-violent stance is the only way a true Christ-follower can read what Jesus was teaching. If you want feel free to go back and read them here, and here.

I can understand why some of you might read that passage and my current stance as a bit disconnected with the person I am and the message of Meekonomics. But what I read in that passage is not a offensive position at all, I see instructions on how to be strong, and stand firm in the face of adversity but nothing about any offense or any move to “take the fight to the enemy”, that’s God’s job. My job is simply to “stand firm.”

When I read through the list of weapons I noticed that almost all of them are solely for the purpose of defense. The only weapon we have at our disposal that can be used offensively is the sword of the Spirit but Paul is quick to point out another detail that most people miss. The sword of the Spirit he says is the word of God.

And what is the word of God? In a word – Love!

It’s pretty difficult to battle your worldly enemies armed only with Love. How exactly am I supposed to go out and fight for my business with love? Remember, I lost a big sale this week, one of my clients was lied too and people made mistakes that cost me money. Now I’m supposed to go back out in the market place armed only with love? How does that work?

Well, take a look at the beginning of the passage – “our struggle is not against flesh and blood!” The first thing I need to remember is that the people who did these things to me are not the enemy. They were acting in their own self interest and likely had no idea about the implications of their decisions, both for me and ultimately for themselves. But unlike me, they also have no idea that they are in the crossfire of a spiritual war and that their actions are being influenced by the evil one.

So what’s a good soldier to do? My job in all of this is to simply stand firm, take up my defensive position so that the “flaming arrows of the evil one” cannot harm me and let God do the rest. I’m in the middle of a spiritual battle but it’s not my job to fight it. I just need to stay alive long enough to share in the victory. Maybe God will step in and change the minds of the people who are against me, maybe the Devil will retreat and they will see the error of their ways or maybe I just need to forget about these people and move on. That’s not for me to decide, God will make that clear to me later, right now all I need to do is stand firm.

So no matter what you are facing today, stand firm my friends, stand firm…

The Pacifist and the Three Star General


In my day job as a Financial Security Advisor I have the opportunity to meet some extraordinary people.

In actuality, everyone is extraordinary in their own way, from the entrepreneur who discovered a new way to teach kids to love the Arts (my first client) to the 61 year old letter carrier who still works 10 hours a day with a smile on his face and love in his heart and the stay-at-home mom who stopped counting the hours she spends keeping her kids happy healthy and wise after she had her fourth.  I count all my clients not only as extraordinary, but I draw inspiration from them as I go about everything I do.  That’s why the person I met last Friday had such a profound impact on me.

About twice a year our office hosts a full meeting of all the affiliated Financial Advisors in our city.  In any given year there are about 150 of us.  The management gives some basic updates on our performance, recognizes a few of the top players in each product line and lays out some goals for the coming months, then they turn the morning over to a guest speaker.  Usually the guest is a top player from one of our offices in another city or someone sent down from head office with a specific message that corporate thinks we should here.

Ho-hum…

We mark our time, sign the attendance sheet for our Continuing Education credits and get out of there as fast as we can so we do what we get paid for.  But this year was different.  This year we had the opportunity to hear from a truly extraordinary Canadian; General Rick Hillier (retired) of the Canadian Armed Forces.

I’m an unapologetic pacifist.  (That doesn’t mean with you think it means, more on that in previous posts here and here)  So I am a bit skeptical of anything a military man might have to say but if there is one thing that the military can teach everyday civilians, pacifists included, it’s how to practice and cultivate leadership.  And there is no greater leader in the history of the Canadian military than Rick Hillier.

Hillier made his mark on history as the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2004 and as the Chief of Defence Staff, the Canadian equivalent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from 2005 to 2008.

Here is what I, a pacifist, learned from Canada’s top military man on leadership.  Hillier calls it the two step cycle of leadership.  Step one, provide inspiration – tell stories, show the way, take concrete action and give people the tools to do their jobs.  Step two, draw inspiration – listen to their stories, ask them where they want to go, let them take action, ask what they need from you to do their job.  Repeat!

General Hillier spoke to a room of 150 Financial Advisors for an hour and half.  Honestly, it felt like ten minutes and at times there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  He told us a bunch of stories about showing the way, taking action and providing tools, and at the end he quoted another great Canadian to sum up it all up.

“Vision without a plan is just a fantasy and you’re wasting your time.” – Mike Babcock; Head Coach Detroit Red Wings and Canadian Men’s Olympic Team (2010 Gold Medalists)

Meek people can be great leaders.  In fact I am convinced that meekness is an essential trait for true leadership.  The key to Hillier’s two step cycle of leadership is meekness.  You have to be able to step back and allow others to lead you and inspire you in order to provide leadership and inspiration yourself.  You have to release your grasp on power and hold it in an open palm in order for true respect and power to be given to you.  At the end of the day, that’s the definition of true leadership and I’m glad that our military is staffed by men and women who get it.

Book Update…


Chapter Four is on-line!  See above or click here,

Chapter Four – Faire isn’t Fair… The Ruler Mentality Takes Hold

This one took a little over a month to write, I got about half way through it and realized that there were a couple more books I needed to read before I could clarify my toughts and accurately articulate what I needed to say.  Now that hurdle is crossed I hope the next few chapters will flow a bit more quickly but you never know. 

Thanks for your patience and for tracking with me on this journey of discovery….

Lauren

 

 

 

 

Pareto Efficiency, Pareto Improvements and Meekonomics


It’s been a while since I’ve written specifically about economics.  Odd, considering that’s what this blog is supposed to be about but as with anything that has wide ranging implications on how we live our lives,  a discussion of economics must often run off on a tangent or two now and then. 

For those of you who’ve been tracking with me from the beginning you may recall my very first post in which I likened this study to falling down a rabbit hole. [Down The Rabbit Hole] You never know for sure where a particular tangent is going to take you and it might be quite some time before you find your way back to the original point.  As I’ve learned, a study of economics, politics, religion and life in general has a tendency to become just one rabbit hole after another. 

It’s with that in mind that I return to a classical economic theory and how it relates to the theory of Meekonomics.

Pareto Efficiency, named for Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, essentially says that since goods and services are finite, for one person to become better off someone, somewhere must therefore become worse off.  According to this widely held economic theory a true Win-Win within any given economic system simply doesn’t exist.   A Pareto Improvement on the other hand is a situation in which by allowing a less well of individual to gain the overall benefit to society as a whole makes everyone better off.  A rising tide floats all boats; so to speak.  This theory works fine in a closed economic system but one thing Globalization has shown us is that there is no such thing as a closed economy anymore we are all playing in the same ocean and subject to the same tides.

As a society stabilizes, the opportunities for Pareto Improvements become fewer and at the point at which it is no longer possible to initiate a Pareto Improvement a society is said to be Pareto Efficient.  No further improvements can be made without lowering the standard of living of one person in favor of another. 

The terminology used makes it seem like Pareto Efficiency is the most desired outcome of a mature society.  However; I believe that much of what we are seeing today is the result of a society that has come very close to achieving maximum Pareto Efficiency and as the members of the occupy movement and others will readily tell you, that is far from a good thing.

In a Pareto Efficient society, those at the top of the ladder have absolutely no motivation to help those below them, the risk to their own position is too great.  We have been taught all our lives that we are in a Pareto Improving society and that in order to do our part to help raise the tides for everyone we must strive for a better life for our selves, get a better job, buy a bigger house and send our kids to college so that they can get even better jobs and spend even more money.  We are told that the money we spend flows down to the people who made those goods and services there by helping them to raise their standard of living, but that’s not the way it works at all. 

In the last few decades; as we have approached Pareto Efficiency the reality has changed.  Now in order to just hang on to our position we have to work even harder and live on credit or risk slipping backwards and those above us are just as worried about slipping down as we are.   The ugly side of Pareto Efficiency is this; in order for us to maintain our position we have to convince everyone below us that Pareto Improvement is still possible so they keep spending and supporting us.  It’s the opposite of trickle down economics, it’s a pyramid scheme!   

To Pareto Efficiency and Pareto Improvements, Meekonmists say ENOUGH!

Enough is enough.  Stop trying to move up the ladder and stop trying to stay on a position that you know you cannot maintain.  Take a good hard look at the numbers.  A recent study showed that Canadians, who are by nature much more conservative with their spending than our American neighbors, are carrying a debit to income ratio of 153%.  That means that for every dollar we make, we spend $1.53 to maintain our lifestyle, most of it servicing debt.  How do we do that?  By taking on even more debt! 

It doesn’t take a masters degree in economics to know that is just not sustainable.

We are now living in a Pareto Efficient society, the problem is that in order to maintain their position those at the top of the ladder are still trying to convince the rest of us that it’s a Pareto Improving society, while using their power and influence to sabotage our ability to move up the ladder. 

That is one of the main drivers of our politics and has help to fracture our society into left and right, haves and have-nots.  Pareto Efficiency is what has stalled our economy and the continued desire for Pareto Improvement has driven us into an unprecedented crisis of debt.  Until we recognize what is happening and make a conscious decision to allow or society to become Pareto Inefficient (i.e. allow ourselves to have a lower standard of living) there will be no relief. 

We must act now, before it’s too late.  Sooner or later a Pareto Efficient society that continues to behave as though it is a Pareto Improving society will collapse on itself.  That collapse will primarily be economic in nature but it could also lead to violence.  We are already seeing the rumblings of the coming collapse through the civil disobedience of the occupy movement, Tea Party politics and the so called Arab Spring.   How long before these mostly peaceful protests turn violent?   

Enough is enough.