Truth for the Troubled

Truth for the Troubled

When I went to school, I naively thought the idea was simply to memorize many facts for exam time. Little did I realize that an isolated fact is like a stray piece of a puzzle. It’s an object, an article, a fragment of information, a bit of trivia. Truth, on the other hand, is all about meaning. To put it another way, discerning truth is a matter of interpreting the facts.

Facts are obviously an important part of education and learning, but may lack meaning. Truth is more about the application of those facts. Our goal as parents is to have our children love learning and discover truth that will help them navigate life with purpose.

The fact is this: truth has been more impactful in my life than the facts I learned in school. Truth has guided me in a way that facts never could.

Photo by Terry Grimes (Divine Design)

As a professional, I desire the people I work with to discover principles that can guide them in their careers. In most fields of work today, “continuing education” is required because we are not designed to stop learning. Facts can change but truth is constant and becomes the foundation for our lives.

Life can be very difficult at times when we examine the fact of a particular situation that is facing us. We need truth to guide us through these times. I was reminded this past week about how challenging it can be for a person to find direction in life; it can truly be a struggle. Here is some wisdom and advice that has helped me:

  • Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. (Advice from Proverbs 4:25-25 HCSB)
  • God is capable of “making my footsteps firm” (Psalms 40:2) giving us a sense of security for the way forward.
  • God is able to establish us (Psm. 37:23) and keep our feet from slipping (Psm. 66:9).
  • When we find ourselves in a dark place, in the midst of despair, God can rescue us if we cry for help (Psm. 30: 2,3).
  • Sometimes God doesn’t seem to hear us or speak to us and we “become like those who go down to the pit” (Psm. 28:1 NASB). We need communication with God or we can shift to a dark place (down to the pit). There is a sense of despair among this group because they see themselves “as good as dead and completely helpless” (Psm. 88:4 CEV). We are not actually without strength but are made to feel like we have no strength, then we begin to believe we have no strength.
  • We need to pray: “Answer me quickly … or I will become like those who go down” into that dark place (Psm. 143:7 NASB).
  • When it seems there is no one who can help us out of the pit (a dark place), we can still pray: “Don’t stay far off when I am in trouble with no one to help me” (Psm. 22:11 CEV).
  • Remember, “he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help” (Psm. 72:12 NIV).

When we isolate and focus only on the burdensome facts surrounding a situation in life it can lead us to a place of despair. The truth is we have a God who cares even when there seems to be nothing but darkness. The truth of God’s Word gives hope that light can shine in the midst of any darkness and deliver even when no one else can!

Have you ever or are you now in a dark place? Have you ever felt disconnected from God, like He is not hearing your prayers and you are not hearing his voice?

A Favourite Christmas Tradition

A Favourite Christmas Tradition

It’s that time of year again when we get to take some time off and make special memories with family. Our family loves to watch movies during the holiday season and one of my favourites is: “It’s A Wonderful Life.” My son messaged me this week and said, “Dad, it looks like you’re in good company with your favourite Christmas movie choice.” 

He was quoting an article from the BBC News website that stated:

It’s A Wonderful Life is a classic festive feel-good film about a man who has devoted his life to helping others.

But when he tries to take his own life a guardian angel stops him and shows him the value of his life.

A wonderful Life

The reason I like this movie so much is because it reminds me, in some ways, of my own life. Simply put life doesn’t always go the way we might have envisioned, but this movie serves as a great reminder that the impact of our life is usually greater than we realize, especially when life is not necessarily pleasant.

In the movie, Clarence, a guardian angel, shows George Bailey the value of his life by having him see what his community and the lives he knew so well would be like if he had not actually lived. If we had not ever lived, the lives of those we love and care about would not be the same at all. In essence, their lives would be the lesser without us. The movie is a reminder that one life enriches and can change the lives of others without realizing it.

It’s interesting that the very thing that was such a burden (his work and its challenges) became the very thing that brought the greatest level of pleasure and fulfillment in the end. Clarence gave him a different perspective which made all the difference for George Bailey. Sometimes all we need is a fresh perspective – one which causes us to see that even when our lives are messy, broken and not how we would like it to be, there is still an element that is actually wonderful. 

Do you realize that your life adds meaning to those around you? Have you ever thought about your family, your co-workers and friends and wondered what their lives would look like if you were not present? 

Merry Christmas! It’s a Wonderful Life!

The Difference in a Decade

The Difference in a Decade

Facebook has a way of reminding you of what you were doing 10 years ago and of course, encourages you to share those memories.

Do you remember what was happening 10 years ago? Two things are pretty significant because it would affect so many Canadians:

PM Harper at Deer Lake1. There was a federal election in Canada,

2. The stock market was dropping and could not seem to find a bottom.

For me, those times included some of the most dramatic events that led to a major life change. I ran as a Conservative candidate in the 40th Canadian General Election. Whenever people find out about my election run they ask, “How did you do?” My reply usually starts with, “Do you remember Danny Williams, the Premier of Newfoundland Labrador? Remember his ABC campaign (Anybody But Conservative)?” The result: no Conservative was elected in the province in that election, not even those who were favoured!

After the election, I returned to my financial planning practice (10 years ago on this very day, October 15th).  My clients, like others around the world, were seeing their portfolios declining by thousands, especially in the weeks I was campaigning in an election that I had no chance of winning. They were still on an emotional roller coaster wondering if they would ever regain what was lost.

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 10.38.02 AMThis led me to a very dark place, what my wife often refers to as my mid-life crisis. I struggled with the fact that I was not there for my clients when they needed me most; that was a fail. I put my name forward to run in a federal election and felt very much alone, especially after the devastating election night. I felt defeated (in more ways than just the election) and questioned my purpose. If you look at the chart and the shaded area of yellow, the stock market decline seemed to parallel my life at this time. What was my life all about anyway? It was one of my lowest, darkest times.

I needed a change, a new direction, maybe a new career. I needed something to get me out of this dark place. I searched the web every evening after work for opportunities that I felt suited for but came up empty. Or did I? I prayed but those results didn’t appear any better. I did, however, find a new role with a different Credit Union. This did not seem to make much sense though because it meant I would be managing less than 20% of the assets I was managing where I was. That decision just didn’t seem to make sense but I just knew I had to make a change.

What is interesting is that in my job search, I also found a membership organization for Christian financial professionals known as Advisors with Purpose (now known as Kingdom Advisors). I joined as a member and started to participate in the monthly coaching calls. I also did the KA Core Training which helped me understand what it meant to be called to the role of financial planning. I never really felt called to be a financial planner; it was more like just a job for me, but my perspective began to change. As time progressed, I realized more and more that I was “called” to do what I was doing. It was not just a job, but my interaction with clients was indeed an answer to the calling I felt in life for many years.

Fast forward to the fall of 2013 when I am asked to become the National Director of Kingdom Advisors in Canada. This would mean helping other Christian financial professionals understand their own calling; that excited me. It also meant leaving my practice and clients and leaving “the rock” (Newfoundland), where I had lived all my life; that scared me.

In 2015, I left my book of business behind and my wife and I moved to Ontario, just on the outskirts of Ottawa. I ended up in the Ottawa region anyway, not because I was elected as a Member of Parliament, but to fulfill a completely different purpose. Life has taken a very different path than I thought. I can truly say it is a journey of faith that is not without dark moments.

I am reminded of this scripture in Isaiah 45:3 (NIV):

I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel (& Canada), who summons (or calls) you by name.

Have you ever felt like your life is like a chart of the stock market? Has it often resembled that sort of roller coaster ride? Look for the treasures that may be hidden in the dark place, invest your life at that point where opportunity presents itself because the return on the investment of your life can be significant and have eternal rewards!

The Loudest Voice

The Loudest Voice

We live in a world filled with voices and depending on the voice that is loudest, that is what we will hear. Oftentimes, the voice we hear most will actually begin to shape us. One of the ideas expressed by Mark Batterson in his book entitled, Whisper, is that a whisper speaks of intimacy.  In other words, you have to get close in order to hear what is being said and if you don’t get close, you will likely miss it.

My google search resulted in this definition of whisper: speak very softly using one’s breath without one’s vocal cords, especially for the sake of privacy.

In order to hear a whisper, we must be in a quiet place, or lean in towards the whisperer.  During our busy days, we are most often in the midst of many voices and actually have to make a choice as to which voice we will tune our ears to.

Some voices are in our head, previously shaped by what we have already heard or been thinking about and will compete with a current voice we hear with our ears. In the Christmas story, Zacharias heard the voice of Gabriel say he and Elizabeth would have a son and they were to call him John. Unfortunately, that was not the loudest voice in his life at the time. The loudest voice was actually more about his age and how his wife was unable to have a child. Interesting that he was then silenced until his son was born and he only received his ability to speak again once he wrote, “His name shall be John.” It seems it was only after these months of silence that he was finally able to align his thinking and speaking with the voice of the angel he had heard months earlier. In the time of his silence, I am sure he thought a great deal about what he had heard the angel say.

What a relief it must have been for Zacharias to finally to be able “to give voice” fulfilling what he was actually called to do. Here is what I find most interesting: the origin of the word for “calling” comes from the Latin word “vocare” or “to give voice.” The big question as we embark upon another year is, “What are we giving voice to in our lives, our work, our relationships?”

Think about your work-life for a moment: Are you called to do what you do everyday?

Do you have a job, a career or a calling?

– A job can be defined as something you do for money (often temporary and one you can and will change in your life.) My first job was “pumping gas” which is pretty rare to see now-a-days with mostly self-serve stations and options to pay at the pump.

– A career comes from the Latin word “cart” and the French word for “racetrack.” I did move on to a career, or actually changed careers a couple of times.

Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 12.55.38 PM– I have discovered that you can actually fulfill your “calling” in a job or a career but the key is to fulfill your calling, no matter what your hand finds to do. I guess you can say, it’s finding that sweet spot and I think many times that simply means following the voice that is within.

For me, that sweet spot is the overlap of my gifts and passions that enable me to fulfill a kingdom need. That means I am able to help others find and fulfill their individual calling.

You can be in a job and you just desire to get another, a better higher paying job. You may be in a career and feel like you are circling the racetrack, going around in circles and feeling like you are accomplishing so little.  Sounds like a frustrated life, but in the midst of that, you may need to simply quiet yourself and listen because there is a still small voice that desires to move you toward what you were purposed to accomplish in your life. This may not mean a new job, a change in career or retirement. It may simply mean a new perspective because you tuned out the many voices around you and listened to the One voice that really matters.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart!  (Psalm 37:4)

 

Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

Far too often we can let little things slide but recently I read an article titled “Never Walk by a Mistake.” It served as a good reminder of the importance of correcting even what seems like a small thing.

walk-byGeneral Ann Dunwoody was walking down the street when she saw a soldier in uniform walking with his hands in his pockets. Anyone who’s spent time in the military knows that this is a big no-no. Dunwoody could have literally walked by the mistake and not addressed it. It’s something small, it wasn’t impacting anyone at the time, and the kid probably just forgot. It wasn’t anything overtly heinous. As a general, though, she knew that if she didn’t correct the error, she would be, by the sin of omission, setting a new lower standard for that soldier. So rather than letting it slide, she approached him, kindly addressed the problem (rather than yelling at and demeaning the young guy), and reinforced the ideas of discipline and attention to detail.

Here is what intrigues me: by not correcting the error, we are actually setting a lower standard, which is obviously not acceptable.  After reading  an article by Jerry Bowyer entitled “Are Christians Allowed to Get Rich?” I saw that there is a standard set for Christian business owners and there are at least two mistakes that lower that standard:

  1. Not Understanding Your Purpose and Calling
  2. Not Understanding You are a Steward, not the Owner

1. Purpose & Calling

Typically, when we speak of  “calling,” business owners are not the first to come to our mind. We tend to immediately think of those with a more sacred calling, like pastors or missionaries.  David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby is “the son of a pastor, and the brother of a large cohort of pastors, pastor’s wives and missionaries.”  Like many Christian business owners, “David felt that there was something not fully Christian about his passion for running a successful store.” When he would talk excitedly about his business, his saintly mother would ask him, “Yes, but what are you doing for the Lord?” Obviously his mother meant well, but had a limited understanding of God’s calling.

work-is-our-calling-400We usually make the same mistake when we categorize our work (or business) as secular, separating it from the sacred (calling). Rather than sensing the pleasure of God  through our work, we often consider our work less than God’s calling. It seems that David Green felt like a black sheep because the rest of his family were “ministers” while he was in business. However, when we serve others (in our work), we are actually serving the Lord, not just men (Eph. 6:7) and can fulfill the call God has placed on our lives. Here is a great piece of advice: Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord … (Col 3:23).

In time, David Green discovered that God can use a merchant just as well as He can a pastor. It seems that business was his purpose and calling after all and was a means of engaging in the great commission. I love what he said in the interview with Jerry Bowyer: So I believe I have a calling on my life; I think we all can, no matter where we are, be anointed. I sense God’s anointing on my life as a businessman.

2. A Steward, Not an Owner

It would certainly be valuable to listen to the audio interview with David Green as he provides insight on how Hobby Lobby endeavours to incorporate biblical principles into its business. He speaks about the importance of avoiding long term debt and he says, “We go into debt when we think God isn’t moving fast enough,” which identifies our lack of contentment.

DGreenThe part that I found most interesting is the corporate structure of Hobby Lobby, where the shares are owned by a trust rather than by family members. This speaks to the fact that the Green’s are stewards of the company and the corporation is actually held in trust. This means if the company was to be sold, 90% of the value would go to a foundation and subsequently distributed to the Lord’s work. Typically, a business is passed down to the next generation, then the next, but in the case of Hobby Lobby, the family cannot actually touch the assets. Since these assets are seen as under God’s ownership, the corporate structure reflects that and is actually referred to as a “stewardship trust.” 

God owns it all, like Psalm 24:1 clearly states, is a statement Christians agree with in principle but despite this knowledge, we often live like we are the owners.

If you are a Christian business owner or a Christian financial advisor, accountant or lawyer directing business owners, please listen to the audio recording for just 10 minutes (start from 14 minutes to 24 minutes).  It is easy for Christian business owners and Christian financial professionals to be “conformed to the world” when it comes to business structure and advice. What I heard is transformational because it is based on biblical principles.  If we choose to ignore these principles, we are setting a lower standard than has been laid out for us.  Does the legal structure of your business align with your theological structure? Does the corporate structure represent the interest of the steward or the interest of the owner?

 

 

Are You Hearing But Not Understanding?

Are You Hearing But Not Understanding?

Just over two years ago, I had surgery on my shoulder and I now visit a specialist every six months. Recently, I had another visit and I usually take my wife with me to help me understand since the doctor has a very strong French accent. Even though he speaks English, it can be very difficult to grasp the meaning of his words. During the appointment, he asked a question, but we just looked at each other bewildered because neither of us understood a word. He repeated it with the same result. He was saying “Ohh-ta-wah” in such a way that when it was placed in a sentence, we just couldn’t understand. After stating it the third time, we both realized he was asking if my surgery had been done here in Ottawa.

Have you ever heard someone but not understood what they said?

yesbymagnet_1Sometimes, language or dialect can be a barrier to understanding. I recall when we had friends from Ontario visit us in Newfoundland and we had a conversation with some locals. Our friends heard us speaking, but did not understand. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked because the very tone of the common phrase, “Yes b’y,” actually changes its meaning.

The effort required to hear a sound compared to the effort required to process it, is exponential. Understanding is logically the step that follows hearing, unless, of course, it involves a politician.

prime-minister-trudeauPoliticians typically only say what they want us to hear and we have to dig deeper if we desire to get the entire meaning; otherwise our perspective remains limited. For example, the Trudeau government often claims it has cut taxes for middle-class Canadian families. A recent article helped me understand that while it did reduce the second lowest federal income tax rate (from 22 to 20.5 per cent), it also eliminated a number of tax credits, thereby increasing income taxes for Canadians who previously claimed such credits. Result: 81% of middle-class Canadian families with children are paying more in personal income taxes.

The Liberals quickly speak of reduced tax rates, but the elimination of tax credits enlightens our understanding of the issue. What we comprehend about any issue or even a person, depends on what we hear (and read).

perspectiveIf you think about it, the perspective from which you see things can be the very obstacle that prevents you from seeing another point of view.  (Doesn’t this graphic resemble a political debate? It totally depends on which side you are on).

The Bible has some interesting things to say regarding understanding:

  1. One instruction is to not depend on your own understanding. Maybe one of the reasons is that our own understanding limits our ability to understand others.
  2. Also, “By understanding He (The LORD) established the heavens.” What did God understand?  Was it an understanding of the power of sound and what is formed from vibrations? Maybe the reason God spoke was to cause vibrations to form the earth. What did He establish? Heaven represents an eternal dwelling place for believers. If God is an example for us then, the purpose of understanding is to establish something that is eternal and meaningful to others.
  3. Mankind has the capacity to understand the deeper things that are buried within a person. The purpose in a man’s mind is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.  If you think about your work, it may be important to understand others to bring clarity to them. Financial professionals can actually be a key to help clients see their inner purpose, why they have so much, or even why they have faced some troubles in life.
  4. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, so that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. Faith is not the opposite of reason, but actually a higher dimension of understanding. Think about the dreams within a person; they are actually unseen until exposed. If it is a dream of writing a book, it exists only in the mind of the author and only becomes visible when written.

In our work we should:

  1. realize “our own understanding” can be limited and should not always be relied on
  2. know we are called to establish something eternally significant through our lives
  3. understand others to expose the purpose that is often hidden deep within a person
  4. identify that faith can add a higher (or deeper) level of understanding

UnderstandingIn a conversation, an accountant told me he keeps his antennas raised when in discussion with clients. Since mankind is spiritual, our spirits are meant to be active and sensitive, which leads to an understanding of others. It is the spirit in man … that makes him understand. This depth of understanding is the requirement to draw out purpose.

In our efforts to understand others, how often do we simply rely on our own thoughts?  By ignoring our inner person (not having our antennas up), are we missing the greatest opportunities to explore the deep waters (purpose) hidden within others?

 

 

 

What’s The Purpose of Money?

Here is a question I recently googled: “What is money?”  I found a one-sentence answer on Investopedia that intrigued me: “Everyone uses money. We all want it, work for it and think about it. While the creation and growth of money seems somewhat intangible, money is the way we get the things we need and desire.”

We all want it. What is our motivation and drive for money?  Why do we always seem to desire more? I have learned that there are only 5 major uses for money. We can:

  1. Spend it (lifestyle determines our spending decisions)
  2. Pay debt (often an extension of lifestyle)
  3. Pay taxes (normally deducted from our pay and also added to items purchased)
  4. Save it (for short and long term goals)
  5. Give it (often not our top priority)

The reasons we want money then, can be summed up in these five uses alone.

We work for it. These reasons become our motivation to work for it. Think about the five uses and you will notice that the majority is about you or those you love. Your spending, debt and saving are typically focused on self. Even if you think about the different types of tax we pay, much of it is also focused on ourselves. Consider the property tax on our homes, tax on the cars we purchase, or the tax on clothing and food. The more we spend (usually on ourselves), the more we pay in tax. Income tax does form part of our social capital (not so much about us, but others), provided to people through government programs. Have you ever complained about paying so much in tax? We may grumble, but in fact, we should be thankful about paying tax since it means we have had a good income. Sadly, the only use of money geared toward others (giving), is oftentimes, least on our priority list .

We all think about it. Pause for a minute and consider WHY you want money. The reasons may be different in your 20’s, than in your 40’s and may change again in your 60’s. We all have to set our priorities regardless of age, and determine how we will use money.

Setting the boundaries around your financial decisions in each of these areas impacts the other areas. When you consider the amounts you save and even where you save them (like in an RRSP), can reduce the amount of tax owing annually. Think about the giving to registered charities; the amount given reduces the amount of your annual tax bill. Determining to spend less will also reduce the amount going to tax freeing up funds that can go elsewhere. Discipline in saving, spending and giving then will reduce the amount required to go to tax.

What is the purpose of money? Consider this: Money is a tool to help you walk out your calling. This may help to explain why some people who could retire from their job or business, actually choose to continue their work.  In many cases, it is not to save more, because they already have accumulated enough. It is not a desire to spend more because they are happy with their lifestyle and have eliminated debt. Surely no one is working because they enjoy paying more taxes. Can the motivation to continue work simply be to give more?

119293-Warren-Buffett-Quote-Making-money-isn-t-the-backbone-of-ourWarren Buffett brings clarity to the purpose of  money by stating, “making money is a by-product of our guiding purpose.” When you think about your calling and purpose and see money as a tool to complete it, maybe “the making of money” takes on a whole new meaning.