The Rewards of Reading


Lose yourself in a good book and boost your overall well-being

I’m an author. I’ve written 2 full length books with a 3rd in the works and several more in the concept stage. There is also a work book related to my day job and all these blog posts. I write about 500 words a day and I endeavor to read about 1 book a week.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that I consider reading to be an essential part of everyday life.  It’s basic to communication, via email or text message, paying bills and even navigating traffic. But did you know that reading for personal enjoyment and learning is not only a good form of low-cost entertainment, but it also brings with it a whole host of other benefits? Here are some ways reading can have a positive impact on your life.

It sharpens the mind

Regardless of your age, the more you expose your brain to information the better it can learn and remember. Research by Live Science.com, has shown that neurons in the brain have the ability to change structurally in response to new experiences. Reading ranks as the number one activity we can do to promote ongoing improvement in our knowledge, vocabulary and intelligence. Keeping our brains active engages our mental pathways, potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline in old age and could even prevent dementia. In fact, a recent study from Prevention.com found individuals who frequently participated in intellectual pastimes over the course of their lifetimes had an approximately 32 percent slower late-life cognitive decline than those who didn’t.

It reduces stress and improves well-being

In the constantly connected and always on world of today, finding an effective way to slow down is highly important. Enter reading. A summary report from Canada’s National Reading Campaign notes that among traditional relaxation strategies, reading ranks as number one. Curling up with a good book has been proven to reduce stress levels by as much as 68 per cent. And it doesn’t take a lot of time either. According to the report, it only takes six minutes of reading to effectively slow your heart rate and ease tension in your muscles.

Reading has been linked to other positive physical and social effects as well. Book readers are 28 per cent more likely than non-readers to report very good or excellent health, and 15 per cent more likely to report a very strong satisfaction with life.

Social benefits exist for fiction lovers as well. There is evidence that reading fiction helps to promote empathy, boost self-esteem and improve social skills. When you identify with the emotions of a novel’s characters you are activating the same areas of the brain that light up when you experience real-life issues.

It helps children succeed in life

Parents who read to their children positively influence how much their kids like to read. Reading for fun enhances comprehension, vocabulary and attention span, and increases children’s confidence and their motivation to read throughout their lives.

Reading levels among youth are also a key indicator of future success in both education and life. A report by Statistics Canada found that those in the top reading levels in junior high school are up to 20 times more likely to attend university than those in lower reading levels. A similar study indicated that children with higher reading skills went on to have higher incomes and more professional roles in adulthood.

So, why not pop in to your local library or bookstore and see what catches your interest. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover a page-turner that you just can’t put down – plus a rewarding endeavor that is oh so good for you!

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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Why I Write This Stuff


The following is a excerpt from the introduction to my first book – Meekonomics, How To Inherit The Earth and Live Life to the Fullest in God’s Economy. 

I’m not sure why, I think it might have something to do with the current political climate around the world, but there has been a recent up tick in interest in my writing.  So I’m going to start republishing portions of my work on a semi-regular basis here.  Questions and Comments are always welcome, and feel free to click the link above to purchase a copy of the book…

I realize that it is an act of sheer hubris to attempt to write a book called Meekonomics. The meek don’t write books do they? Especially Mennonite kids from Southern Ontario with no formal education in either economics or theology.

I grew up in a small town surrounded by family farms and working class individuals. When I graduated from High School I wanted to be a record producer so I spent 19 years in the music business. In my mid 30s I read two books that unlocked my love of economics and theology; The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein and Simply Christian by NT Wright.  

There followed nearly 8 years of prayer, research and reflection on two things that have driven me for almost as long as I can remember; God and Money.

Although I have always held a strong faith my relationship with money has been an extreme roller-coaster from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. I’m an entrepreneur. I started my first business at the ripe old age of the age of 10, I had an opportunity to become a millionaire before my 26th birthday only to fall victim to an unscrupulous fraudster and ended up bankrupt at 33.

My drive to understand money and reconcile economics with my faith started to take root in the fall of 2005 not long after I first filed my bankruptcy proposal. What I soon realized is that reconciliation of the God and Money issue is not just a personal question, although personal finance is a big part of it, it’s really required on both a micro and macro-economic scale if our society is to survive.

Call it what you will; estate or retirement planning, investments, pension plans etc. It all comes down to the storing up of treasures on earth just as Jesus warned us not to do.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. [Matthew 6:19-24]

What you will find in the pages that follow is a journal of sorts. After my bankruptcy I set out to learn all I could about how this whole God and Money thing works. Anyone who has ever gone through something like that knows how devastating it can be. I was wounded, I needed healing and so I used the study of God and Money as the start of my healing process.

As I studied I took notes, those notes became a blog and that blog became this book. Most authors will tell you that they write for a specific audience, my friend Tim Day, author of “God Enters Stage Left” told me he first started writing for his kids as a way to help explain his faith in case he passed away before he had a chance to teach them in person. If I’m being honest I write just for myself, it’s a way to frame my thinking so that I can move forward in life secure and grounded in what I know to be true.

I first published the blog as a way to share what I was learning with my closest friends and family around the world, I never dreamed anyone else would be interested in what I had to say but I soon had over 100 readers on-line encouraging me to go deeper and publish more. The idea for the book came out of that interaction with the on-line community.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

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The Blasphemy of Earthy Government – Pacifist Lamentations Part 4


Okay, last time I told you there were going to be 5 installments in this series. I was wrong, I missed one. Next time will be about Just War Theory followed by the final week on the big “What About?” questions.

In this installment I will attempt to lay out the pacifist position on the role of government and the Christ-follower’s role within society.

…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.

 

The Image of God – Pacifist Lamentations Part 1


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

 

4 Things to Know For Tonight’s Webinar


webinarGood day!

Tonight is the night. My first ever live on-line seminar!

I’m about to spend the next few hours putting the finishing touches on the Power-Point that will go out over the internet for all the world to see. It’s exciting and a bit nerve wracking at the same time. I know this material, and I’ve presented it in small intimate gatherings before. That’s not the issue. I’m just nervous that a) nobody will show up, b) so many people will show up that I will be overwhelmed, c) the technology will somehow fail me, or d) I will be asked a question I can’t answer and the audience will become hostile. Even if some of these fears are unfounded, or worse, all of them come true, I still need to be as prepared as possible so that nothing goes horribly wrong.

If you are planning on joining me, here are a few things you need to know going in.

1 – This is all new to me.

As I said off the top, I’ve done these seminars before but never on-line. The technology looks relatively simple but if something goes wrong technically please don’t hurt me.

2 – I am genuinely passionate about what I do.

I hope it’s already obvious but sometimes I get carried away and even a bit emotionally when I’m presenting. Passion can be a good thing when properly channelled, I hope I can do that and remain and effective presenter.

3 – I am licensed to sell investment and financial risk management products in Ontario, Canada only.

The principles I teach are universal but some of the specific products I mention may or may not be available in your jurisdiction. I apologize in advance if that’s the case.  Feel free to contact a locally licensed representative to help you out. If you don’t know anyone I have lots of contacts all over the world, I’d be happy to help you find someone.

4 – At the end I am going to try and sell you something.

I recognize that there will be some people who will want to go deeper and I am available for one-on-one coaching, for a fee. If there are any of the concepts or programs that I mention that you are interested in, and I am able to help you (see 3 above) I will be more than happy to.

So there you have it. If you would like to join me on-line the seminar starts at 8:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time. Here’s is your log in information….

https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/959869893

Use your microphone and speakers (VoIP) – a headset is recommended. Or, call in using your telephone.

United States: +1 (213) 289-0021

Australia: +61 2 8355 1039

Austria: +43 7 2088 2172

Belgium: +32 (0) 42 68 0180

Canada: +1 (647) 497-9379

Denmark: +45 89 88 05 39

Finland: +358 (0) 931 58 4588

France: +33 (0) 170 950 589

Germany: +49 (0) 692 5736 7301

Ireland: +353 (0) 15 360 757

Italy: +39 0 294 75 15 37

Netherlands: +31 (0) 108 080 116

New Zealand: +64 9 801 0294

Norway: +47 21 51 81 86

Spain: +34 911 23 4248

Sweden: +46 (0) 852 500 516

Switzerland: +41 (0) 435 0824 41

United Kingdom: +44 (0) 330 221 0099

 

Access Code: 959-869-893

Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting

 

Meeting Password: October2015

Meeting ID: 959-869-893

 

Not at your computer? Click the link to join this meeting from your iPhone®, iPad®, Android® or Windows Phone® device via the GoToMeeting app.

See you tonight!

For more information on The Meekonomics Project or if you have any trouble logging into the meeting, write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

Stop Sharing My Videos! – No really stop it…


My second video in the series running up to the release of the rebooted 6 Steps to Financial Freedom Coaching Program is out.

 

I’m following Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula whereby marketers are told to release a series of “teasers” ahead of the official launch of a new product. So far I’ve released two videos in as many weeks. Each time I’ve sent announcements to an email list of about 140 subscribers, posted on twitter to my 3000 plus followers, linked to them on facebook, linkedin and pinterest for about 500 more people and of course blogged about them here.

As a result, according to YouTube I have received a grand total of 0 – count them ZERO views!

(If you go now and look at them the count is actually about 20 views between the two of them but all of those are just me going there to grab the link so that I can tweet it, post it or embed it in emails.)

What gives?

I can understand if you don’t like my videos, or they don’t resonate with where you’re at right now but to have no views at all, after posting to almost 4000 followers across all of my social media accounts? That makes no sense to me.

I’m following all the rules about Social Media Marketing.

  • I’m posting regularly
  • I’m using hashtags
  • And I’m following up on all my retweets and favorites

Actually that last one is the most mind-boggling of all. So far I’ve received about 20 favorites and retweets from people who haven’t even watched the videos themselves! What’s up with that? I even had one guy forward it to a friend with a comment “you should watch this”, how could he know?

There is something very wrong with the way we engage with new products on-line.

Social Media is a relatively new phenomenon when it comes to product marketing. We’ve been taught that the key to a good marketing campaign is the social share, the more people share what you are posting the better. I’m getting shares but the sad fact is sharing is not engagement. In order to sell a product you need people to engage with it, not just say, “hey this looks cool, check it out.”

What’s worse in my case at least, people are saying “check this out” without having checked it out for themselves! How can you endorse something if you haven’t used it? Not only is it killing your credibility it’s damaging my brand in the process!

So, I never thought I’d have to say this but: please stop sharing my videos, unless you’ve actually watched them.

The third and final video in the series will be posted next week. You can watch both of the current ones here – https://youtu.be/olaDR2KhPOE and here – https://youtu.be/FJ8rWYxLTGw

Please watch, then comment, then share if you are so inclined.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and our newly re-launched 6 Steps to Financial Freedom Coaching Program write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

Giving, what’s your motivation?


“I can see the words hanging in front of me and I can’t reach them and I don’t know who I am and I don’t know what I’m going to lose next.” – Dr. Alice Howland, Sill Alice

alzhiemers

My father-in-law has Alzheimer’s Disease. It was discovered four years ago in 2011 but to be honest many in the family has suspected it for a long time before that. Forgetting where you put your keys is one thing, insisting that the city must have moved the airport, as he once did, is a bit more serious.

He was always, in my opinion at least, a bit eccentric.  He was slow to make decisions, a bit of a hoarder, always worried that he would throw something away that he would later find a use for, etc. But that behavior is not really associated with Alzheimer’s, that’s just a fact of life when you grow up without a lot of money and learned to recycle and reuse things long before it was politically correct to do so. The real signs of the disease started appearing around 2007. The incident where he couldn’t find the airport happened in 2009.

Today he lives in a long term care facility and my wife and I visit him on Wednesday afternoons. He’s not the same.

Last week I watched two different takes on the progression of the disease. The first was a TED Talk about exciting new research into a potential cure. Watch it [here]. The other was the Oscar award winning film Still Alice about a Columbia University professor who develops an early onset version of the disease. Both left me with the feeling that Alzheimer’s Disease is an unjustly cruel way to die.

Dying of Alzheimer’s Disease is in a way the death of your mental capacity cognitive ability and personality while your body remains functional. In the early stages at least, it’s almost as if you are watching yourself become a zombie. I later stages you are a zombie, completely unable to make sense of the world you inhabit.

Why am I telling you all of this on a personal finance blog?

treemoney

Well because I’m sitting here this morning looking at a donation request from the Alzheimer Society and debating how much money I can afford to give them this year. I want to give a lot, out of respect and support for the man my father-in-law once was but I also have limited resources. So I’m asking myself the hard questions about what is the responsible amount to give?

Philanthropy is one of my personal favorite topics. I love the idea of “loving humanity” with my resources. (The Greek form of the word Philanthropist means lover of humanity.) But when does philanthropy shift from a loving expression to selfish ambition, from altruism to egotism?

The government doesn’t help. In Ontario, where I live, you receive a tax credit of 46% on every dollar, over a non-refundable annual minimum of $200, donated to a recognized charity. That means that to give away $1000 over the course of the year reduces your taxable income by $460. Which begs the question, when does philanthropy become more of a tax strategy than an act of kindness?

And let’s not forget what God has to say about supporting your own household and keeping food on the table:

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. [1 Timothy 5:8]

So when does philanthropy stop being an act of love and turn into an act of hatred toward those closest to you?

It’s all very confusing and difficult to reconcile. I’m sorry I haven’t given a lot of answers. At the end of the day philanthropy is a noble pursuit provided that you:

  1. Can afford it
  2. Understand the tax implications
  3. Do it out of genuine compassion – and
  4. Give to a reputable agency that won’t squander your hard earned money.

For more information on philanthropy and how best to leave a legacy write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com