Friday, September 23, 2011


As a Christian, I used to belong to a non-denominational gathering that was big on "encouragement."  Some folks there really understood what it meant and when to use it, and others had no idea and used something else they called encouragement that wasn't at all.  In this post, I will consider what I think encouragement is and when to use it. defines "encourage" in three ways:
  1. to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence: His coach encouraged him throughout the marathon race to keep on running.
  2. to stimulate by assistance, approval, etc.: One of the chief duties of a teacher is to encourage students.
  3. to promote, advance, or foster: Poverty often encourages crime.
So then, to encourage someone is a positive thing.  Or that's what it should be.  Let me talk a little bit about what encouragement is NOT, and this is very important to the consideration.  Encouragement is NOT hostile confrontation.  In fact, the word "confront" does not occur in the New Testament in either the King James Version or any other modern translation that I checked.  (Side note:  There is a time and a place to confront an individual about an issue in their life.  It should not be hostile, and you shouldn't call it encouragement.  This would be better defined as "rebuke" or "exhort," both perfectly good English words that have recently fallen out of favour.)  Confrontation does occur in the Scriptures, however.  Jesus confronted demons, Pharisees and Saducees, politicians of the day, and  other naysayers all the time.  He never did this to a follower unless they were under some external influence (like when he said to Peter, "Get thee behind Me, Satan.")  With those who needed it, he was the master encourager.
An example from my past that may be relevent follows.  Many of you know I didn't have the easiest childhood or home life growing up.  Without laying blame, it would be fair to say that as I reached adulthood, I was not the most confident of people, and there were some people that could read that and exploited it for all it was worth for a period of time.  Over a number of years, I found my footing, and my confidence (in Christ), and got on with my life.  Last December, the company I worked for was bought by its main competitor and about 90 percent of us were laid off on December 6, 2010.  For about a week, I was tooling around trying to figure out what to do with my life.  I decided to take December off to figure it out, and basically avoid the rejection that goes with looking for a job.  When you grow up like I did, rejection is a big show stopper if you let it be.
In January, I spent about 1 week looking for work, and came across an opportunity to begin my own financial planning practice.  I met with the fellow that would become my Division Director at Investors Group, and he was encouraging.  He inspired confidence and boldness in me to a point.  However, there was a part of me that was still a scared little boy, still raw from all the hurt put on me by an abusive father.  During my childhood, I never heard phrases like, "I love you, son, and I'm proud of you."  It was more like, "Get up, you stupid little bastard!" after my dad had hit me hard enough to knock the sense out of me.  People say that doesn't leave scars.  I would like to inform those people that they are most definitely and decidedly wrong.
Towards the end of January, as I was putting some of the stuff I needed into place (like licensing) to begin my career in financial planning, I had this overwhelming desire to get back in touch with my father.  We hadn't spoken in 20 years.  I had to face this man who was my father, who I now understood wasn't really a monster, he was doing the best he could with what he knew.  I sent him an email, and we were talking on the phone within 5 minutes.  I got to say everything I needed to say - and my dad took responsibility for his acts and apologized!  I really wasn't expecting that, but you can imagine how I felt!
Later in the spring (late May I think), my dad came to visit me.  I told him what I was up to, and then he told me that he was proud of me, and that he had no doubt that I could do this, and even offered to get my uncle (a financial planner for 25 years or more) involved if I needed help.  Now THAT was ENCOURAGING.  That is to say, it inspired me with courage and boldness for my new chosen profession.
Contrast this to a brother who was attempting to "encourage" someone in their job search.  "Brother, I don't think you're looking hard enough for work.  I think you should be looking harder, and for any old job that will pay the bills.  After all, if a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat."  So...was that what you would want to hear, just having graduated university, with enough funding to get you through a 6-month period and access to more if you needed it, and looking for about 6 solid hours a day by phone and by foot already?  I know it wasn't what I was ready to hear.  Interestingly, the statement that was made had the same resulting action.  I was motivated to get out there and look harder.  But by what?
Encouragement should inspire courage and action.  There is another source that can inspire to action - fear and/or guilt.  Now given the choice, which would you respond to with a better outlook?
Since my dad died about a month ago, I have made it one of my missions to try to be an encouraging man, as opposed to someone that inspires fear and guilt.  I'm not all the way there yet, but I have seen some improvements, especially in my kids' attitudes. 
Lord, help me be an encourager, with the right word at the right time to inspire courage and hope in their hearts.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Matthew 14:14 says. "When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick." Compassion was clearly something that drove Jesus in His service to mankind. (The religious term for that is "ministry," so if I slip and use the word you'll know what I'm talking about.) But what is compassion? defines compassion as "a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering." Let's think about that for a moment. Deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune. That describes almost everyone I know in some way or another. I have a friend that has a worse back than I do (and that's hard for me to imagine). I have a close relative that nearly went off the deep end when my father passed away. Naturally I sympathized with them - but is that enough? I don't think it meets the entire definition.

There is a whole other half to the definition of compassion, and that is the strong desire to alleviate that suffering. I can feel sorry for a street person and keep right on walking, thinking to myself, what a pity someone doesn't stop to help. Someone should! Someone can. Me.

The best example of this happened to me a little over 10 years ago. I was down in our city's market area with a friend and we happened by a lady in a doorway that was clearly suffering. Her clothes were dirty, her hair was stringy, she smelled badly, and the look on her face was one of total dejection. Both my friend and I were moved and wanted to alleviate her suffering to the extent we could, so we stopped, and my friend asked the lady if she was okay. I asked if there was anything we could do. The lady politely declined our offer of help, and my friend and I went on our way sadly. The next day, my friend and I were downtown again, this time as part of a formal church outreach, and we came across that same lady. I have to pause here, because I'm becoming emotional at the visceral memories this evokes.

The lady my friend and I had met the day previously was obviously the worse for wear. She had obviously been beaten badly. She was wearing the same clothes, but they were spattered with blood (I assume her own). She was lying on the street, in an out-of-sight corner. The blood had dried, so I assume her attacker was long gone, but she was in obvious medical distress, with congealed blood on the ground beneath her. She was conscious, and - get this - still didn't want help! I can say that the two of us that found her were nonplussed. We also weren't taking no for an answer this time. My friend ran off to find a phone to call for an ambulance, and when she got back, I had gotten out of the lady that she was hungry (in fact she hadn't eaten in a couple of days), and I ran off to a McDonalds to get some food. We HAD to do SOMETHING! It was an OVERPOWERING desire to alleviate her suffering. I got back before the ambulance, and we waited with her until they came, and they took her to the hospital. In all that excitement, I forgot one very important detail - to ask for her name!

I still don't think I'm all that compassionate, but I know for certain I did what I was supposed to do, because that what Jesus did in Matthew 14:14. The Bible instructs us to have compassion on others, to feel deep sympathy and sorrow with those afflicted with suffering, and then to have a strong desire to help alleviate that suffering. May we be His servants and follow His example.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Just the facts...

Remember this guy? That was one of his tag lines: "Just the facts, ma'am..."

There are no end of gags related to Seargent Joe Friday (the best one is the movie Dragnet with Dan Akyroid and Tom Hanks!) and that line. I used to work for a company called MyFax, and we had our own gags! Just the fax, man...just the fax. (I even participated in a joke like and the fellow in the cubicle next to me dressed up for Halloween as cowboys, and we strung up a banner between our cubicles that said "BrokeFax Mountain." We won best costume!) But have you ever thought about what that means? Just the facts?

What it does NOT mean is the facts according to (fill in your own name here). Everyone on Earth has a set of rosy-coloured glasses that they filter everything through. Don't believe me? Look at Dr. Phil's interview with Casey Anthony's mom. Everything she says is to somehow try to make sense of what her daughter did and absolve her of responsibility. Contrast George, her dad. He thinks Casey is guilty and should pay for it. My point isn't to pick on Casey herself (she gets enough of that on HLN), but to show how we all view things and come up with our own version of reality. And that so-called reality can be influenced! Originally, the jury acquitted Casey. After about 4 hours of outraged public opinion, they changed their tune, and fast...only too late to actually do justice.

The really interesting thing about the filters that I'm refering to is that you can, with a conscious decision on your part, set them aside and look at the facts by themselves. Eastern philosophy says to let everything be equal. Then sift through the facts and see what you come up with. Facts found in this way are singularly unique and without filter. We have a specific term we use to describe it: Truth.

One of the biggest obstacles I have found to seeing the facts as they are is emotionalism. I know, it isn't kosher for a man of 44 to start talking about how emotional he is, but it's the best example I can think of, and it's certainly the one I'm most familiar with. I'm still learning to set aside how I feel about an issue before I look at the facts, but that's the way I can see the situation the clearest. I see it too in my financial planning practice. When dealing with investments, you really have to remove emotion from the table, or you can make bad decisions.

Remember - don't make decisions in the middle of emotions. Calm down first. Many sales guys appeal to the emotion (I know, I are one), and that gets the prospect excited and ready to buy. I've never liked that as a sales strategy. I would rather present all the options - all the facts - and let the buyer make their own decision. It is true that I sell less with this practice - but I have a lot less redemptions and very happy clients.

Keep your stick on the ice!

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Where shall I find rest?

Have you ever been faces with a situation where there is no clear path to take, and all roads seem impossible, impassable, or impractical? As much as I like to take the attitude of "I go where I need to go and don't worry about the difficulty," I am subject to discouragement along the way. Sometimes, the road IS too hard. Sometimes the load IS too heavy. Yet, because of our circumstances, we are unable to set it down and take a break. (In my business, you do that, you starve. And what if you have a wife and/or children?) A line from Frodo Baggins from Lord of the Rings seems appropriate: "Where shall I find rest?!?"

You may recall the circumstances under which Frodo uttered those words. After a period of time (at least a couple of years after the big adventure), the wound he received from dark forces ached mercilessly. If you've ever suffered any kind of pain over time, you may know how he felt. He was unable to sleep, unable to escape the pain of his wounds. It seems like such a pitiful reward for essentially saving the world. Yet there he was. It is my observation and experience that says we have all been wounded in some way. And like Frodo, they are not always visible - but they are there just the same, and they can be as hurtful after years as they were when they were freshly received. Maybe you utter those words yourself: "Where shall I find rest?"

People try to find rest in many different places. For some, they sleep a lot, thinking sleep is rest. For others, they try to kill the pain with substance abuse. I can tell you first hand that neither of those work. Sleeping a lot just makes you more tired, believe it or not. And it wastes valuable time. Alcohol or drugs may numb the pain for a while, but in my heavy drinking days, I learned that the pain always came back after the binge, and now I had a hangover to deal with at the same time. I know a few former addicts, and they tell me of similar experiences with their narcotic of choice. It's called withdrawal, and it's similar to the DTs you get while you're drying out from what I can get from their descriptions. Some people try to fill the ache with relationships. Right idea, but usually it's a bad application that creates either a codependent situation (unhealthy for both people) or a broken relationship (unhealthy again for both people). Some people try to solve the problem with sex. That's just another addiction, and a powerful one. Then because of shame, or because of sexually transmitted diseases, they just add to the problem. There is no rest in any of these addictive solutions.

Still others try to find this rest in activity with service organizations. While their efforts can be applauded, it's still not really a lasting cure. All you are really getting with this is a distraction at best, because there are good feelings that come from helping or serving others. However, these feelings only deal with the symptoms, not the essential problem. The most dangerous of these service organizations in this context are religious in nature, many are set up and run by what society in general calls "church" (which isn't really, the church isn't the building, it's the people in it, and that has a very specific meaning). However, being involved with the work of social or service organizations doesn't provide the true rest we seek. Nor does involvement with the church for the same reason. It's a distraction and anesthetic at best, and in the latter case, it is putting the cart before the horse. Again I ask: "Where shall I find rest?"

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30,
"28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.
30 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

This man talks about true rest for our souls! True peace of mind! Anyone that has ever talked with any doctor or psychologist can tell you (and I minored in psychology as some of you may know), there is a mind-body connection, so this has physical health implications also! But what does He mean when He says to come to Him?

Jesus said in Revelation 3:20, " Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me."

There are two groups of people reading this (ever notice that? There are always 2 groups of people!), Christians and non-Christians. I want to address the non-Christian first. To come to Jesus is very easy. You can do it right now in the comfort of your own computer chair. He's already standing at the door of your heart and knocking. All you need to do is open the door! Imagine for a moment if you will someone at the door of your home. They knock, and you answer. What is the first thing you do? Invite them in! This is no different, only the door is a spiritual door to your life. Invite Him in! He will come in and dine with you! The action of a close friend - and he brings the food! I did this in 1985, and I have never regretted it. I won't say I've never had a hard time, I've had more than my share, but in Christ, I find the resources I need to deal with it, and still maintain that rest spoken of in Matthew 11.

Now I need to address my Christian brothers and sisters. Did you know that verse, Revelation 3:20, was actually written to the church at Laodicea? It was written to believers! What?!? Gerry, do you mean it's possible for a believer to need rest like you've described above?!? That's exactly what I mean. I need that rest every day! It's no coincidence that the church at Laodicea was the lukewarm church either. People hadn't necessarily fallen away from Christ, but they had certainly grown complacent in their place in Christ. This led to a laissez-faire attitude toward spiritual things. You want some advice from someone whose been there? The quickest way to lose your peace is to get spiritually lazy. You stop praying, you stop working, you stop caring - about all the important things. I need deliverance from myself every single day on this topic. And before you go quoting me Matthew 7:1a which says, "do not judge or you will be judged," finish reading the verse. Matthew 7b says, "for the standard by which you judge, you will also be judged." It doesn't say don't judge, it says judge with a righteous standard because that is how you yourself will be judged. (Matthew 7:1a is known as the backslider's favorite verse, and it really isn't saying what they want it to be saying.)

So what does the Christian need to do? Well, the same thing really - open the door of your heart to Jesus and let Him come in. Let Him stir you! Let Him change you! Let Him lead you to rest for your soul. He will, because He promised. And I'll add His promise to us here: " 'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (Revelation 3:21) How's that for a reward? To sit on the same throne as the King of the Universe! Don't let another minute go by before finding rest in Him.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rock and a hard place - the way out...

Sometimes I can find myself between the proverbial rock and hard place; At the end of my resources, nothing left in the bank, nothing left in the tank. I find myself asking things like, "now what?" I imagine this is what the Psalmist asked when he penned the first verse of Psalm 121: "I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come?"

Fortunately for the Psalmist, and for the rest of us, he penned verse 2 next: "My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth." I understand that for some, this is a matter of what you believe about the world. Others do not believe in this Lord spoken of in the Bible. Although I understand those thoughts (better than you may think, I wasn't always a Christian), I must disagree with those who say he does not exist, or "that's what you believe." Verse 3 explains why: "He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber." The Psalmist is explaining that this Lord of Heaven and Earth actually exists and is not some impersonal force. He is active in not allowing your footing to slip, and he will not fall asleep at the switch. Verse 4 strengthens that idea: "Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep."

In fact, God, it says, is your "keeper" in verse 5: "The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand." That translation is my own favorite, the New American Standard Bible, but perhaps you prefer the translation of the New International Version: "The LORD watches over you--the LORD is your shade at your right hand;" The sense of Keeper is that of shepherd of the sheep (the Bible refers to us as sheep on many occasions, and it's a very apt reference for a lot of different reasons). The sense of Shade is shade from the sun, or protection from the heat of the day, the situation you are in. Verse 6 confirms that - "The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night."

In fact, God would be your Keeper in much more than just the heat of the day or the dark of night. Verse 7 says: "The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul." God wants to be intimately involved in your life, and keep you from evil, and be the shepherd of your soul. I take that to mean that he not only wants the best for us, but he wants to be in relationship with us. Verse 8 confirms that: "The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever." God wants to be with us, guiding us in the way we should go, instead of that other road, the way we normally go and wish for all the world we could get off, the one that leads to the spot between a rock and a hard place.

Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3:20) Notice a few things here: You don't have to go on some immense spiritual quest for this nebulous concept called "inner peace." The Son of God Himself came looking for you! AND he FOUND you! Right where you are, with your needs and issues...and he loves you anyway. And He is knocking on the door of your heart, asking to HELP. However, it's up to you - will you heed His knocking, and open the door, to receive His friendship, kindness, and provision? Twenty-six years ago, that was what I did. And then HE did. I won't say I've never had a hard time or problems, I've had plenty. But Jesus Christ has always been there as a source of comfort, support, friendship, and rescue.

What about you? Do you sense your need of something else? Are you caught between a rock and a hard place looking for a way out or through? Call on Jesus. He is waiting for you to open the door...

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Friday, September 02, 2011

A day in the life...

Today started just like any other day for my friend Luc. He woke up next to his wife, a little pain in his leg, but not bad. Things went downhill fast when he couldn't move and get out of bed.

His wife called the paramedics, and they came, and Luc's vitals were good, but his leg was starting to hurt more. They decided to take him to the hospital...just in case.

After a cursory wait in Admitting, the brought him into cubicles. By the time the doctor got there (not long from what I understand, he was having trouble being lucid, and his speech was getting worse.

His wife was there all along, and saw the downhill run. Finally, he opened his eyes and gazed at her, and smiled. Then his eyes closed for the last time. Luc was gone.

I was his financial advisor, but in a very short space of time, we had become friends. We even had a golf date for the following Thursday. I found out that our tee time was cancelled when his wife called me at 4:00 a.m. the next morning.

It was a day in the life. For my friend, who did not suffer, the very last one. For his widow, it was the first one of many more without Luc. For me, it was another day in the life of a financial planner.

Rest in peace, my friend. We got the details covered.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Location:Carling Ave,Ottawa,Canada

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Over the last week, I have had both cause and opportunity to examine the meaning of the word courage. What is it? Do I have any? What does it mean to be courageous? Is it the absence of fear? Is it the ability to defend yourself physically or verbally? Or is it something else altogether? defines courage as the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. Further, it gives an example of its use as a current idiom: To have the courage of one's convictions, that is to act in accordance with one's beliefs, especially in spite of criticism.

I'm not sure either definition is complete, to be honest. Mark 15:43 says, "Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus." (NASB) It's something Joseph of Arimathea had to "gather up," or stir up within himself. He had to dig for it inside himself. He had to put it on like clothing, perhaps. Does that mean it is to be fearless? I think not. To be fearless is sometimes to be foolish. Lack of fear can be responsible for downfall under the wrong conditions.

I think something else. Courage is a choice. An example would be the brave men who volunteered to fight in the second world war. Once they were in the middle of the action, it would have been easy to be filled with the fear of death, what with it hailing lead from multiple directions. It would have been easy to run away, or to duck and cover until the shooting stopped. And yet, these men went on to win the war. From talking to my Grandfather, a tail gunner whose plane was shot down (he was the sole survivor of the crash), I learned from his own admission that he was afraid all the time. Yet he acted. He made a choice to move forward in spite of fear, in spite of lethal consequences if he failed.

My dad made a choice like that. Faced with stage 3 throat cancer, he decided to fight. The radiation treatments caused a heart attack that took his life. He faced down his fear and made a choice to fight.

I could go on with many examples, but my point is that courage isn't the absence of fear, its moving forward in spite of fear. To have the courage of one's convictions is to act in accordance with one's beliefs, especially in the face of critisism. That implies a choice to speak or act despite misgivings, despite negative consequences.

I have met a few people that have been intimidating verbally and physically in my life, and they used their advantage to attempt to bully people around them. What I have experienced is this - despite my fear, when I chose to stand my ground, they turned out to be cowards, physically, morally, or both. The next time someone crosses your path and tries to inimidate you mentally, physically, spiritually, or otherwise, make the choice to act and stand in spite of your fear. You will find out that most often, the real coward is the one using the inimidation tactics.

The courageous die once, the cowardly die a thousand deaths.

Keep your stick on the ice.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)