Five Years Free!

Five Years Free!

As I awoke this morning, I thought about where I was 5 years ago on this day, Friday, July 24, 2015. Looking back, I realize that was a year of significant change. I had just stepped away from a 24-year career as a financial planner and was about to leave the province where I was born and had lived in for half a century! What would this next chapter look like?

What most people did not know at this time is that I had a lump on my left shoulder that just would not go away. After a few visits to the doctor, a biopsy, an MRI and CAT scan, I was simply told, “This has to be removed.” I quickly realized I would never be able to pronounce or even remember the term for Cathy, so I asked my doctor if I could take a picture of it. Once home, I explained that I needed surgery and Cathy googled the term: dermatofibrosacoma protuberans –  a rare type of skin cancer!

SURGERY
When the bandage was removed just days after surgery, this is what we saw.

How could this be? Just at a time of leaving my place of security at my work and now this. On this day 5 years ago, I found myself lying face down on an operating table with nurses all around me when the surgeon entered the operating room. I had seen him just a few minutes earlier when he had described the procedure and drew marks on my shoulder where he was going to cut me open. He said, “This is called a ‘Keystone flap‘.” For those who wish to see how this is done, watch the surgery  to get a better understanding (including the drawing that I was obviously unable to see at the time). Thankfully, no chemo or radiation was necessary.  The medical professionals who have looked at my shoulder since then have always commented on the admirable job by my surgeon in Newfoundland.  It helps me wear my scar proudly!

Interesting side note: the church that I co-pastored for 14 years was called Keystone Assembly of God (the years when I also started in my career as a financial advisor). Those years were not easy but now, I have a Keystone carved into my shoulder. It’s almost like the Lord was saying, “Those years were foundational in building your character and preparing you for the future; I’m placing this permanently on your back but at the same time something is being removed.  I’m stretching you so you will trust me more.”

In the past 5 years, my faith in God has definitely been stretched and growing. I never dreamed that regular visits to the Ottawa Cancer Centre and other hospitals would become part of my yearly routine, without “costing me an arm and a leg.” (pun intended) I also never dreamed I would become connected with hundreds of financial professionals, many of whose lives are being transformed through the ministry I’m involved with. The journey has been well worth it, my friends, and I’m happy to be CANCER-FREE today for five years!!

… In Whom I Am Well Pleased

… In Whom I Am Well Pleased

When I woke up yesterday morning, on Father’s Day 2020, I reflected back on a message that I had shared a few years ago. I wrote a blog about it at that time and I really wanted to do a “Father’s Day Reversal” – I wanted to send a very special message to my kids instead of them just wishing me “Happy Father’s Day.”

How can we ever live up to the greatest example of fatherhood? As Dads, we need to express to our children that we are pleased with them. Here’s what I understand from the baptism of Jesus: the Father being pleased with the Son was not based upon what Jesus had accomplished in his life. Yes, Jesus was a great carpenter and was skilled in relationships but I believe that God was pleased simply because Jesus was on the earth. He existed as a man and was positioned to accomplish the Father’s will for His life.

Let’s face it, we tend to be pleased with our children when they accomplish something: they get good grades, they land a great job or get a promotion. That’s when we express our praise, when we have reason to be proud of them. It’s interesting the Father’s expression that He was pleased didn’t come when Jesus had healed the sick, fed the hungry, or turned the water into wine. It came before Jesus had accomplished any of these things.

Father's Day June 15, 97
Father’s Day 1997 No Accomplishment Required!

I have realized as a Dad that there are times when it is important to just tell our children that we are pleased with them simply because they are on the earth. When we base our “being pleased” on behaviour or accomplishments, we are placing conditions on the acceptance of our children.

Yesterday, I shared this with my kids: “I’m pleased with you, not based on what you have accomplished in life, but simply because you are on this earth.” What I realized is that this statement was very freeing for my children because they know they are accepted by me and do not have to earn that acceptance in any way. This is also a process for me as a Dad. I have had to let go of my expectations and what I desire for my children and simply rest in the fact that God is able to direct each of their lives in ways that I can never do. They are free to walk into their futures without sensing the need to gain my approval.

The fact is I don’t always agree with my kids; they have their own opinions that do not align with mine, but in spite of this, our relationship as a family is stronger than ever. I do not need to agree with my children to be happy or satisfied with them! My children are far from perfect, as am I, but thankfully, that’s not what is required to be a strong family. What is required is simply accepting our children … because they are our children.

My prayer today is that more Dads will not only tell their children that they are pleased with them but will also tell them why. Are you satisfied with your children? Have you told your son or daughter that you are pleased with them simply because they are your son or daughter? Isn’t that reason enough?

 

Don’t Waste This Crisis

Don’t Waste This Crisis

In his weekly commentary released on March 23, 2020, Senior Portfolio Manager, Chief Equity Strategist, Bob Doll states:

We think stocks remain in a bottoming process. Bottoming is a process, not an event, meaning this could take some time.

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blog.afraidto trade.com

As a financial advisor in 2008, I, too, experienced the painful process of the market bottoming out. It seemed like the drop in the market was also reflective of my life. In the months (even years) leading up to 2008, I was struggling to understand my purpose and God’s call on my life. That fall, I was asked to put my name forward in the Federal General Election and despite my slim odds of winning, I became a candidate. (The steepest drop on the chart highlighted in yellow represents the bail-out vote failure and also the time period that I was campaigning). My political career was short! After the loss on election night, I was back to facing the reality of significant financial loss in clients’ portfolios and the stress of a more difficult work situation. My emotions paralleled the chart of the stock market crash at that time.

 

This time of crisis caused me to question everything. Through a deep time of soul searching, I began to see what was previously hidden to me. I had imagined my work only to be God’s provision when in fact, it was God’s providence in a much deeper way than I had realized. He had always been part of my life but I had not made Him part of my practice. Through this process of bottoming, my practice became more than just a job; this was a mission, a fulfillment of God’s purpose for me. I was walking with clients through some of the most difficult times in their lives.  I was able to bring focus and provide a perspective that they needed in this financial storm. My life wasn’t to be a search to find God’s call but rather a living out of that call where God had already placed me – in a financial planning career!

There is a spiritual purpose when crisis happens.  I had to run to God, and nowhere else, as a refuge during my ‘perfect storm” of 2008.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are protected. The wealth of the rich is his fortified city; in his imagination it is like a high wall (Proverbs 18:10-11 CSB).

This proverb reveals that the greatest risk of wealth is “spiritual risk.” Most believe the greatest risk is the potential loss in value from our investment choices; that’s investment risk. However, the spiritual risk of trusting the security of money rather than seeing the Lord as our strong fortress is dangerous. We can begin to trust it more than God. Oftentimes, we imagine money to provide more security than is possible. Crisis has a way of refocusing us like nothing else.

Coronavirus is invisible, yet, we see the effects of it in our world today. What if the purpose of this crisis is to cause us to spiritually see the invisible? Dr. Tony Evans said, “If all you see is what you see, you do not see all there is to be seen.”

Maybe a pandemic and economic crisis is meant to open our eyes to the invisible.  Wisdom teaches that instead of imagining money and even our jobs, as our security, we should run to the only true refuge; the name of the Lord.  We must allow the invisible to affect us, especially in crisis. Don’t let this crisis go to waste. If we come through this and are able to see what was previously hidden, then this crisis has an eye-opening, spiritual purpose.

How are you feeling in the midst of this storm? How will you use this crisis ?

Try Trusting

Try Trusting

We are in unprecedented times and honestly, it is very disheartening to listen to the news, yet, we are compelled to do so in order to keep up with things that are changing so quickly. We are told we must self-isolate in order to protect ourselves and the people we love. Governments are having emergency meetings in order to deal with not only the health pandemic but also to provide sufficient stimulus to stabilize stock markets yet, recession seems inevitable. 

There seems to be no easy solutions and we are constantly being bombarded with bad news. Our measure of peace and contentment ultimately depends on what we are trusting in. If our sense of peace comes from the money that’s been accumulated, then it is understandable that you have less peace today than a month ago (because if your investments are connected to the stock market, you have less money than a month ago).

The wisdom of Proverbs (18:11) says,

“The rich think of their wealth as a strong defence; they imagine it to be a high wall of safety.”

This reveals the greatest risk around money – when we accumulate it, we begin to trust it & when we lose it we lose our peace.

“Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.”  Proverbs 23:5

I wonder if it says it “flies toward the heavens” because that is where the wealth came from in the first place? After all, God gives us the power to make wealth (Deut. 8:18).  It’s interesting that the Bible also says, “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from heaven” (John 3:27). Maybe a situation like Covid-19 is meant to redirect us back to the true source of our health and even our wealth – heaven! 

Portfolio loss creates fear naturally. We do not want to see loss and it causes anxiety, but consider this – what if the money is not actually ours in the first place? What if it is just entrusted to us to manage? We may feel like we are not doing a great job in our management roles in the midst of this, but we must understand that what is happening right now is beyond our control. We need to realize that God owns it all and He desires that we be invested (particularly our lives, but also our money). We cannot control what’s happening in our world and we must focus on what we can control, which is how we respond to all that is happening.

Many ask, “Where is God in all this; doesn’t He care?” Interesting that most places of worship are now closed and forced to go online in this crisis. That allowed me to hear a message this past Sunday that I would have otherwise not heard. What was shared was a most familiar story from the Bible when Jesus was asleep in the boat and a vicious storm arose, seemingly out of nowhere. There was a sense of panic in the disciples, likely very similar to what many are feeling during these days. The disciples felt helpless and completely powerless to deal with this situation (after all it was out of their control). Our situation now is beyond our control in a similar manner.

In this story, Jesus is sleeping and the disciples are full of fear. The disciples wake Him up and his response to them is to address their level of fear and speak to the storm to calm it. Let me quote this pastor friend of mine: “We are in unprecedented times and it may be unprecedented for you to even consider calling on Jesus, but we need to wake Him in our lives.” The Bible says that God neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psm. 121:1), but it may seem that He is asleep and not caring for us at times like these.  In many cases, the storm may rage around us but we can have a peace in the midst of that storm. The calm that comes within us allows us to face the storm that is around us.

Realize this: God is someone you can trust, especially in the storm, so look to the heavens. Your faith can sustain you through this pandemic.

 

Have You Hit Bottom Yet?

Have You Hit Bottom Yet?

It is hard to believe what is happening in our world these past few weeks. Conferences, major international sporting events, schools are cancelled and even our country’s borders are being restricted. Provinces have declared states of emergency while most people are now working from home where possible. Many businesses are shut down to guard against infection of Coronavirus which is wreaking havoc on the economy.

Screen Shot 2020-03-19 at 3.37.57 PMThe end of February saw the sharpest 7- day decline in the history of the stock market. Markets go through downturns, corrections and even crashes for many different reasons. In 2008, it was the housing crisis, prior to that, we had the technology bubble and 9-11, so a 30% loss is not really anything new. Ron Blue, the founder of Kingdom Advisors says, “Fear is a normal human response to economic uncertainty.” I have heard it said that “It’s different this time and what we are experiencing now is unprecedented,” but the fact is, “Economic uncertainty is certain.” The reasons for the uncertainty are always different, but the response is the same every time: fear and panic.

The Bible instructs us to “Be anxious for nothing” yet, fear and panic is the typical and natural response. It was even this way in the time of Jesus. Think of the disciples in their boat in the midst of the storm – they were in panic mode, “But Jesus was sleeping!” (Matt. 8:24b). Jesus was in a different place, yet, he was in the same boat as the disciples who were fearful. He was emotionally and spiritually secure, resting despite being tossed by the wind and waves just like the disciples. Jesus said they had “little faith.”

Back to the markets for a minute: Bob Doll, Chief Economic Strategist, said on March 16 in his commentary, “We think stocks are bottoming, but that process will take some time.” I recently heard him say the market making a bottom is not an event, it’s a process. I expect the same is true for us; when we are in the midst of fear and panic, the move from there (place of fear) to faith and confidence is a process, not an event. 

Phil. 4:6-7 instructs us to “bring everything through prayer & petition, with thanksgiving.” I believe this is the process that moves us from being anxious about everything to the peace which surpasses all understanding, where our hearts and minds are guarded and we can sleep in the storm.  Part of that process is thanksgiving. How are we thankful today? If you have suffered a paper loss on your investments in recent days, you may not be happy about it, but you can certainly be thankful that you have those investments (many have no investments and would love to have your losses because it means they at least have investments).

It is easy to quote a Bible verse and feel we get it, but in reality, getting to that place of rest and peace is a process, a journey. Being thankful is part of that process and it seems that crisis is often part of that journey, at least from my experience. 

Please look at this graph below. Where would you graph yourself today?

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Now go back to early February 2020, when things were much more stable, markets were making new highs and there were just whispers of Coronavirus. Would you graph yourself differently?  Our circumstances tend to shift us from faith into fear, then we tend to bottom out and the process of making a bottom (like in the markets) begins. That typically means we bounce from “mostly fearful” to “some fear,” maybe back to “mostly fearful” until some truth enters our hearts and we move to “neutral.” Then more toward “some faith,” maybe back to “neutral” but the more truth enters, the more “faith-filled” we become. That process in the market is very much like the process of shifting us away from “mostly fearful” and closer to that place where “the peace of God which surpasses our understanding will guard our hearts & minds.”

If you are a financial advisor, you have the opportunity to walk with your clients through this process. In the midst of self-isolation, pray for opportunities to strengthen and encourage others to move away from the fear that so easily fills our hearts. Once you get to that place of faith, circumstances tend to have less and less of an impact and we can remain strong. This is what it means to “walk by faith and not by sight,” (or the circumstances around us). Getting to that place is a process!

Where are you in the process? Closer to “mostly fearful” or “faith-filled?”

 

 

Generosity and a Clogged Pipe

Generosity and a Clogged Pipe

Last weekend was a little frustrating at our house since the kitchen sink would not drain. My first instinct was there must be something clogging the pipes directly below the sink. I purchased a 15-foot long snake or auger that I could put into the 1 1/2 inch line. I was feeling confident that this would solve the issue. After using the auger, we ran the water and there was absolutely no change; the sink still did not drain. I plunged the sink several times but with no success. With the pipe being more than 25 feet long,  I reluctantly decided to cut the line, use the 15-foot auger in either direction which would, no doubt, reach the blockage. A joiner could be used to reconnect the line.

I knew this was going to be messy! I cleared the area, put down plastic and had a few buckets on hand. I began the cut knowing the line was filled with water that was bound to spill from where I was cutting. I’m sure a plumber would have been able to do this more efficiently but I was determined to solve this problem myself.  As I cut the line, the water began to squirt out and as the cut went deeper the smell and food particles coming out was absolutely gross.

Sure enough, as I put the auger into the line, I could feel the resistance; the line was clogged right at the very end. The line had a very gradual slope over the last 14 feet which would easily cause debris to build up. Time to rejoin the line and hope for the best! Run the water; how could this be? It still was not draining! After a few plunges and to my great relief, the line opened up and the water began to flow freely.  What a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

That got me to thinking about the purpose of that pipe; it was to have the water from the sink drain flow through it. The clogged line defeated the purpose of the pipe! We are all meant to be like a pipe or conduit where things flow through. In other words, what comes to us like gifts and talents, wealth and resources are meant to flow through rather than be stored up. The more we hold things and keep them for ourselves, the more there is an opportunity to have our pipes become clogged. Just this week, there was a financial need that we became aware of and I thought about that pipe; we could choose to keep the money in our account or we could help someone else by giving.

Think about the Dead Sea and compare it to the Sea of Galilee (which is just North of the Dead Sea).

Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea receive their water from the river Jordan. And yet, they are very, very different. Unlike the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee is pretty, resplendent with rich, colourful marine life. There are lots of plants.  And fish too. In fact, the sea of Galilee is home to over twenty different types of fish.

The river Jordan flows through the Sea of Galilee but the Dead Sea has no outlet!

The Dead Sea takes the same water from river Jordan as the Sea of Galilee; and just holds it. It does not give; and hence, there is no life there at all.

The moral… Life is not just about receiving. It is about receiving and giving.

Randy Alcorn in his book, Money Possessions & Eternity describes the purpose of the church this way:

Whereas the Old Testament temple was a storehouse, the New Testament church was a clearinghouse, a conduit of gifts to help the needy and reach the lost.

It is so easy to focus only on ourselves and think that what comes into our hands is meant only for ourselves (for vacations, pleasure or retirement) and not for others. As I reflect on my clogged pipe, I do not want my life to become clogged where nothing is flowing through.

Money is a blessing, but it is also a burden when we’re given more than we need. Giving produced freedom 100 percent of the time – freedom to be a conduit of blessing to others.

Why did my pipe get clogged? I suspect because there is not a sufficient slope for that length of pipe and the water is not flowing as well as it should.  Compare that to money flowing to us, the question becomes, “How much is flowing through us?”

Canada Helps did a study of giving levels from 2006 to 2016 and determined that higher income earning families saw the sharpest declines in giving (in these 11 years).  It seems that the higher the income, the less the money flows through or there is more likely to be a clog in the line. Here’s what I found interesting from the study:

The lower income families that do make donations have increased the amount of their income spent on donations from 3.3% to 5.5% in the past 11 years. In the meantime, families making $250K or more has consistently given around 2% of their income over the past 11 years.

One of our goals is to increase the percentage of giving each year going forward. The reason, as I reflect on the clogged drain, is to avoid that clog from happening in our personal financial affairs. Author John Piper put it this way:

The issue is not how much a person makes. Big industry and big salaries are a fact of our times, and they are not necessarily evil. The evil is in being deceived into thinking that a $100,000 salary must be accompanied by a $100,000 lifestyle. God has made us to be conduits of his grace.

May I suggest that as your income increases, consider increasing your standard of giving instead of your standard of living.  As Randy Alcorn so aptly put it,  “Giving is the safety valve that releases the excess pressure of wealth.” Are you releasing the build-up that wealth brings?

The Best Christmas Gift Ever!

The Best Christmas Gift Ever!

Entering this Christmas season was probably the most uncertain of any in the past 50 years. The reason: our daughter-in-law was “with child” and due to give birth on Dec 29th, so we were not sure where or when we would have Christmas dinner this year.

Christmas Eve at 1:30 AM (so technically Christmas morning) we received the message that the pains being experienced this time may prove to be labour (not false labour). We got up and made the 50- minute drive to our son’s house to care for our grandson, Ernest.  Eleanor Beatrix was born at 6:55 AM, weighing in at 6 lbs and 15 ounces, on Christmas morning, the day we celebrate the birth of Christ.

Holding that child in my arms gave me such an amazing sense of the miracle of birth. I could feel my little granddaughter breathing as she lay on my chest. She is so tiny and completely dependent on someone else for pretty much everything, except breathing. Lorne w EllieThankfully, she is breathing quite well on her own. As she lay on my shoulder, I could not help but think about Christ who created all things, yet came to the earth as a baby completely dependent on someone else for pretty much everything, much like this baby in my arms. He gave “the breath of life” at creation and is Lord of the earth yet, at Christmas, we celebrate how He came as a baby. The baby Jesus now received the gift of breath that we all take for granted. We breathe without giving it a thought.

In the book, Whisper, Mark Batterson says something very interesting about every breath we take.  Incidentally, a whisper is defined as using one’s breath, rather than one’s vocal chords.

According to Jewish tradition, the name for God, Yahweh, was too sacred to pronounce. But there is another tradition within Judaism, that believes that the name for God, Yahweh without the vowels—Yod, Hei, Vav, Hei—is synonymous with the sound of breathing. So on one hand, the name is too sacred to pronounce. On the other hand, it’s whispered with each and every breath we take. It’s our first word, our last word, and every word in between. We speak the name of God about 23,000 times every day! It’s in Him that we live and move and have our being. He is the breath of life!

What an amazing thought: “We speak the name of God” with every breath we take. Our life has a purpose which is to bring glory to God. My prayer is that my life in 2020 will reflect God’s glory!

My wish for you is that you are grateful for the breath given to you and also that you use it to bring glory to your creator in 2020! Happy New Year!

 

Re-Thinking Retirement

Re-Thinking Retirement

When I consider the many people I know in their retirement years, I can see there are multiple views about retirement. Some who were fortunate enough to have a sufficient pension plan retired at the point of eligibility, while others, despite having enough to retire, have actually continued to work. Even some of those who retired with a pension went back to work, and in many cases, it wasn’t necessarily for the money.  There are many different perspectives about when a person should retire and it is important to consider what shapes that viewpoint.

I recall one conversation with a financial advisor a few years ago now and he spoke to me about how he was challenged in this area. His plan was to retire from work ASAP and after sharing this sentiment a friend asked a significant question, “So you don’t like your work then? (If you want to get away from it ASAP.)”  Let’s face it, our desire to retire is typically determined by our view of our work. If work is stressful, physically challenging or emotionally draining, then retirement obviously looks pretty attractive. However, if one has a sense of fulfillment and pleasure from their work and they have the health and mental capacity to continue, should they retire just because they reach retirement age?

The basic understanding of retirement is ceasing to work. For many, this means retiring as soon as possible and enjoying a life of leisure. I read an article in The Financial Post earlier this month which published the results of a recent survey. Interestingly, the title was “Canadians finding retirement is not all it’s cracked up to be: survey.”

The 2019 Sun Life Barometer, based on an Ipsos online poll, found that many Canadians don’t seem to be financially prepared for retirement, with 23 per cent of retirees describing their lifestyle as a frugal one that involves “following a strict budget and refraining from spending money on non-essential items.”

If that doesn’t sound like much fun, consider the gloomier alternative: almost half of working Canadians (44 per cent) expect they’ll still be employed full-time at age 66. Among the “frugal” retirees still working after the traditional retirement age, 65 per cent say it’s because they need to work for the money rather than because they enjoy it.

The article quoted paints a gloomy picture if you are still working at age 66 but I would like to challenge that paradigm. This perspective assumes that work is burdensome and something you do not enjoy. In my experience, I know many people who are well past age 65 and still working, not because they have to (financially), but because it’s the life they’ve chosen.  If work brings you a significant level of fulfillment then why stop, even if you are past the normal retirement age?

Preparation for something as important as “the rest of your life” (that’s how long retirement typically lasts) must involve more than finances, don’t you think? I turn 55 in a month’s time and I can’t imagine retiring in 2020; I’m just not ready to stop working. To be honest, when I look at some of my peers who are 65+ and are not yet retired, it doesn’t seem to be a gloomy a prospect at all. Continuing to work appeals to me more than ceasing to work because it is an opportunity to fulfill what I see as God’s call on my life.

Culture tells us that retirement should occur at age 65 or earlier, if at all possible. As a follower of Christ, isn’t Scripture meant to be more of a guide than culture? Have we even considered what the Bible teaches about retirement?

The one reference to retirement in the Bible is an instruction from the Lord regarding the Levites who were to serve from age 25, “but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer” (NIV). The next verse clarifies that “After retirement they may assist … but they may not officiate in the service.” (NLT) 

It is difficult to build a case for retirement, especially as culture positions it, based on one verse alone, but you can easily build a case for rest. Strong’s Concordance has a full page of references for the word “rest.” Maybe the biblical approach of rest is a better way to view retirement. In the October 2019 issue of “The Investment Executive,” financial advisor, Sterling Rempel suggested working 24/7, meaning in retirement years, one can work 24 hours per week and 7 months of the year. That’s a neat rhythm of Sabbath rest, don’t you think? If you think about rest, it means resting from something, usually work. I believe incorporating more rest into our work lives may be a better alternative than a complete life of leisure.

This month’s Kingdom Advisors Study Group poses a few questions worth asking when approaching the retirement years of life:

– Do you have a vision for these years? (Without a vision … Prov. 29:18)

– How can your unique skills, talents, or networks be leveraged for greater purpose in these years?

– How can your life experiences benefit others?

Rather than being inherently good, work is often referred to as “a necessary evil” or something we have to do to make ends meet. Maybe we need to view work as an opportunity to fulfill our purpose in life, so that may mean working into what is typically the retirement years. I have been challenged this past month to see work as a means of reflecting the image that I was made in. We all know the creation account of God working and then resting. Maybe we should consider the different seasons of work and rest over a lifetime. Think about that: it means as you age, you will likely work less and rest more but you will continue to find pleasure in both work and leisure.

Time to Take Off the Mask

Time to Take Off the Mask

Today is one day in the year where people dress up, put on a mask and try to look different. I have done this a few times during the year and it usually brings a smile to  the people who see me wearing a mask. They clearly know the face they see is not me. My personality doesn’t change really, but people see a bit of a hidden part of me – the part that enjoys a good laugh.

My wife has dressed up as a Newfoundland fisherman for many years in order to entertain people and not just make them smile, but have them burst into laughter. I am convinced that when she dresses this way for her comedy routine, she changes and becomes a different person. The more I think about it, the more I realize that when she  dresses up this way, it actually allows the lighter side of her personality to be exposed. IMG_0267She is fun-loving and loves to lift the spirits of people. One of her favourite Bible verses states that a merry heart is good like a medicine. Truth is, she doesn’t need a mask to do that; it really is who she is.

How often do we put on a mask hoping it transforms and makes us more acceptable to others? News Flash! Transformation happens from the inside out, not by changing our exterior appearance with a mask or funny costume.

What is the evidence of a changed life? I grew up attending Sunday School and a song we often sang was about this little man named Zacchaeus who climbed a tree to see Jesus. All the people complained that Jesus was going to the house of a sinner until Zach defended himself by saying that he had changed, and was not the same person. He declared that he would “give half of his possessions to the poor” and for those he had cheated (which was typical of the tax collectors of that day), he would pay them back “four times as much” (see Luke 19:8).

True transformation is evidenced when the heart becomes more generous to others.

Jesus confirmed this by saying, “Salvation has come to this house” –  in other words, true change had come.

What I learned about Zacchaeus in Sunday School was that he climbed a tree, but I have since discovered “why” he climbed the tree. It was about true transformation and a changed life. Maybe it’s time we become more like the little man who climbed the tree. Selfishness had shaped him to be a man who was willing to do people wrong financially for his own gain. When change happened to him, he rose to a different level, not by climbing a tree, but by removing the mask of selfishness and greed. He gained a new perspective on money. When you hold your wealth with open hands as he did, you will begin to experience true riches.