Don’t You Just Love a Good Symphony?


10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” [Psalm 46:10a]

The view from my back deck 0615 this morning

A funny thing has happened to me over the last few days.

Well, not all that funny if you know me well.  You see, I’ve been craving silence.

Sometimes it seems as though I need silence like other people need air.  It feeds me and fills me with a kind of strength and peace that is simply unattainable any other way.  In the silence I hear God.

Don’t get me wrong, God doesn’t speak to me audibly like some other worldly and disembodied voice from upon high.  He doesn’t make bold pronouncements like “build an ark” or “let my people go”.  I’ve often lamented that I wish he would speak to me that way, the way he spoke to Moses through the burning bush or how he woke a young Samuel from a deep sleep.  But then again that would likely be terrifying so I guess I’ll pass.

No, God speaks to me in those thoughts that come in the quiet moments of the day.  He brings to mind people to pray for and reach out to, he plants the seeds of action and progress for my life, ministry and business but more often than not he just says:  “hey there – I’m here with you, I’m on your side, I’ve got this, relax I love you.”

Some days I tend to be a bit of a striver.  I run hard after things, like an athlete going for gold.  I remember the first time I read 1 Corinthians 9:24, I said; “Yup that’s me, I want to be that guy.”

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. [1 Corinthians 9:24, 25]

I work hard, sometimes too hard.

In my business we use a personality matrix to help us understand ourselves better so that we can direct our efforts toward the kind of prospects that respond best to our personal styles.  I’m sure you’ve seen similar things in whatever business you spend your time in.  They’ve been a staple of popular management psychology for at least the last 30 years.  The one we use the most breaks people down into 4 categories; analytical, driver, amiable and expressive.

Through a series of question and response tests you can place yourself on a quadrant diagram in one of the four areas and presto, this is who you are and how you work best.  Problem is that every time I do one of these tests, if I take my time and am honest with myself I land so close to the middle of the diagram that they tell me I must not have been honest.  Apparently nobody can be so balanced in their responses as to be nearly equal in all four traits.  Except me that is, but I digress.

On days when I tend to be a striver, (I prefer the term to driver because to my mind it better depicts a goal that you are reaching for, I’m pretty sure you can be a driver and still lack direction.) I sometimes run off ahead of God.  And when I get ahead of God things start to fall apart, deals fall through, relationships get strained and I start to crave silence so I can stop for a minute and listen to God.

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately so I tried for some quite time yesterday.  Saturdays are usually a good day to unplug from the world and sit in silence for a while but there were too many things to do, too many errands to run and too many people to visit.  I started to feel myself getting angry so I calmed myself down by resolving to get up early this morning and sit in the silence.

I began with some deep breathing exercises and an “Our Father.”  And then it happened.  The birds started it.  Not just one or two but a veritable symphony!

I was annoyed, how’s a guy supposed to hear God with all this damn chirping?  But that wasn’t all; a car with a bad muffler started up in the distance, then my neighbor’s air conditioner kicked in, a dog started barking and an airplane took off.  Did I mention I live just a few kilometers from the airport?

But just as I was about to get really upset and give up in frustration I heard it.  God whispering to me through the noise; “Don’t you just love a good symphony?”

I took another deep breath and started over; “Our Father, who art in heaven… listen to the symphony of praise your creation has brought this fine morning!

Hallowed be thy name….”

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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From Selma to Mumbai, and Death in a Concentration Camp


Private, reflexive, ventilated rage is often justified today as a proper attack on “oppression”. The problem with that is that, once it has drawn attention to a grievance, it does not do much to change anything. Change, over the long haul, requires organization, patience, good humor, and the ability to negotiate and compromise; all of which may be energized by anger or killed by it. – Carol Tavris; Anger, the Misunderstood Emotion

selma

I used to be a very angry person. I went through a period in my life when everything seemed to go wrong. In the course of just a few years, I lost everything, my business, my house, the respect of my peers, my social circle, my pride and to large extent my sense of self. And it ticked me off to no end.

I realized I was headed for disaster one evening, after a particularly hard day when I opened my pantry and reached for the vodka bottle, not because I was thirsty, and not because I was particularly interested in enjoying the taste of an expertly mixed martini but because I wanted to relax and forget the failures of the day and the looming pressures of the coming week. I’m happy to say that I stopped myself from pouring that drink and have never attempted to use alcohol to self-medicate my depression since.

It was around that time, about 10 years ago now, that I started to research all the things that make up this blog and my personal journey from financial basket case to coach, author and trainer in personal finance and behavioral economics.

In looking at the world of macro-economics, against a backdrop of geopolitics one of the first thesis statements I coined was that “Peace without Justice is Oppression”. (Read the post I wrote about it way back in 2009 here) Lately, as I’ve been working through the implications of Anger and Self-Control (see my last two posts here – and here), I also had the opportunity to watch Selma, last year’s Academy Award Winning portrayal of the civil rights march from Selma Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery which took place in the summer of 1965.

If peace without justice is oppression, as I originally theorized in 2006, then oppression can and should be met with resistance but as Carol Tavris so aptly points out in her excellent exploration of the emotion of Anger, quoted above, it does little to create lasting change.  Change requires organization, and patience. Martin Luther King led a non-violent movement that demanded the attention of the political leaders of his day through organization, and patience. In the film portrayal of the events at Selma it is interesting to note that then President Lyndon Johnson was willing to work with King, meeting with him on several occasions both publicly and privately to negotiate a settlement. Johnson was willing to work with King as opposed to his contemporary Malcolm X because of his stance on non-violent protest. When the march in Selma turned violent, caught on film by the news media, it was clear that the police had initiated an attack on unarmed civilians. In that moment the Civil Rights movement became a movement of peaceful citizens, versus oppressive and violent government and although it still took some time, the  battle was won (or lost depending on how you look at it) the day police charged the marchers on horseback with tear gas and billy clubs.

The same thing happened in Mumbai and the surrounding Indian country side when Ghandi stood up to British rule during the 1930s and 40s. It happened again in Finkenwalde Germany when Dietrich Bonheoffer stood up to the Nazi control of the Lutheran Church.

All of these men have at least three things in common. First off, they were angry. They saw the injustice and the oppression and said, “This is not peace” and they couldn’t stand by while innocent people were oppressed. Second, they organized a non-violent movement to unsettle and unseat their oppressors. And thirdly, although they were all ultimately successful in their bids to rid the world of the oppressive practices that they were against they were all assassinated by those who sought to maintain the status quo.

Oppressive regimes are ultimately not interested in justice and they will seek to vilify and discredit anyone who points that out to them. In the end, they will fail, justice always wins in the end, but when your hold on power is built on violent oppression, the last gasp of the oppressor is always violent, it’s all you know. As the pacifist, non-violent movement gains power the oppressor becomes like a cornered animal and in a last ditch effort to regain control he will lash out with the only tool he knows how to use.   But by then it’s too late, the tide has turned and by killing the leader of the movement to unseat them they only confirm what everyone has already come to know.

Peace without Justice is Oppression and justice leads to equality, mercy, non-violence and grace. That is true peace, and that is what King, Ghandi and Bonheoffer all sought through their work.

Is anyone oppressing you in their quest for peace? How can you organize to non-violently oppose it? More uncomfortably, are you oppressing anyone in your own quest for peace?

Gut check time! Are you ready to march on your own private Selma?

What’s Your Attitude Toward Peacemaking?


 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God. [Matthew 5:9]

As if verse 8 wasn’t radical enough, Jesus ups the ante yet again by telling his listeners that it’s not only possible to see God face to face, you can also be His child.  This is huge! If his audience thought he was crazy before…

In the Jewish culture, and many other ancient cultures for that matter, people were defined by their family line.  Genealogy was important.  It was how people were recognized, how it was determined the kind of work they would do and even where they could live.  For the first 30 or so years of his life Jesus was known as the son of Joseph a carpenter who lived in Nazareth.  That family line determined who he was, what he could do and were he could go.  But the gospel writers are also quick to point out that a little further back Jesus also came from the line of the great King David and therefore was afforded a certain amount of respect among the temple elite.   Now he’s telling his listeners that if you align yourself with the way of peacemaking you will become a family member with the creator of the universe.       

That’s just nuts! What does that even mean?!?

Here in Canada we are proud of our military heritage as peacekeepers.  The first United Nations peacekeeping mission sent to defuse the Suez Crisis in 1956 was the brainchild of Lester B Pearson.   At the time Pearson was Canada’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to the United Nations.  For his efforts in creating UN Peacekeeping and the structure of the UN Security Council Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 and is viewed as hero in Canada.  It was enough to get an airport named after him and to be elected Prime Minister. 

But it’s easy to confuse peacekeeping with peacemaking.  They are not the same; peacekeeping assumes a starting point from a state of peace that is in danger of eroding while peacemaking assumes a starting point from a state of conflict toward a state of peace.  Peacemaking is actively trying to make things better while peacekeeping is passively protecting the status quo.

 It’s clear that Jesus is not calling us to protect that status quo he’s calling us to something better.  But what’s better than peace?

With righteousness he will judge the needy;
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. [Isaiah 11:4a]

 Jesus is calling us to a special kind of peace that is more than just the absence of conflict.  I’ve said it on this page before but it’s worth repeating; I firmly believe that peace without justice is nothing more than oppression and just by removing open hostilities from a situation you have not achieved a real, lasting peace.  The kind of peace Jesus is talking about is much bigger than just the absence of conflict.  It is holistic and just.

Blessed are those who work for complete justice in the face of conflict, for they will be welcome in God’s family. 

So what’s your attitude toward peacemaking?