Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Leaders and Character

Leaders do not elicit trust unless one has confidence in their values and competence [including judgment] and unless they have a sustaining spirit [entheos] that will support the tenacious pursuit of a goal. Not much happens without a dream.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Thinking About .... Prostitution

It's been a while since the Government of Canada struck down the law on prostitution effectively leaving our nation without a clear legal position.  Since then a number of groups have sprung advocating a variety of positions on the issue.  Some say we should legalize.  Some want to adopt the 'Nordic Model'.  Others share variations on a theme.  Still others want to go back to punishing women who participate in the sex trade.

It seems to me that women who are involved in the sex trade aren't there because they enjoy selling their bodies to strangers.  Most are there because there is no viable option for them. They are caught in a trap of exploitation, abuse and oppression. We need to rethink our approach to the entire issue.

Consider this... in many cases the only option these women have to feed themselves and their children is to sell their bodies.  If our approach is simply to punish buyers or sellers to the point where they can no longer do business, what happens to these women?  How do they provide for themselves and for those who depend on them?  

We need to talk about the WHY behind prostitution.  In most cases the WHY has nothing to do with sex.  Sex is simply a commodity that is being sold to address another issue.  Most women who are involved in the sex trade are impoverished.  For a variety of reasons, they are trapped in the prison of poverty.  Those reasons can be anything from a lack of education, to a lack of opportunity, to physical/mental health issues, to exploitation, to addiction and the list goes on....  The real issue in prostitution is POVERTY.

If we are serious about ending prostitution in our country, we need to get serious about ending systemic poverty.  In most cases, our approach to poverty is to provide charity. I'm not against charity, but I will never forget the wise words of a friend who told me that a money problem generally can't be solved with money.  Overcoming poverty requires us to address the root issues.  Ultimately, poverty is connected to a combination of mindset, a lack of support, education and finally opportunity.

What we think about ourselves profoundly affects what we believe about who we are.  If someone believes that poverty is as good as it gets for them, then poverty will be all they ever know.  Changing the way people enslaved in poverty think about themselves and their world is the first step to lifting them out of poverty.  Because I am a Christian, I default to the words of Jesus and the scriptures when I look for solutions to issues around me.  The bible teaches me that I am transformed by the renewing of my mind.  In other words, as I reshape my thinking, I see my life and world transformed.  For me, that shift in thinking is directly connected to embracing the words and teaching of Jesus.  For others, they will embrace someone else's teaching and hope for the same results. Sometimes they see them.  Sometimes they don't.

There are people in poverty who have changed their thinking.  They just need support as they struggle to break free.  Here too, the scriptures are clear.  We need to support those who are in poverty, not just with our charity, but through supporting the efforts of those who are seeking to break free.  It's impossible, in my mind at least to claim to be a Christ follower and not be willing to support those who are seeking to break free of poverty.  Jesus is in the people-lifting business and so are we!

Education is a key in breaking the cycle of poverty.  Education includes everything from the most basic people and life skills through to skills training and post-secondary education if necessary.  Think about this for minute...  if you had no education, no marketable skills to enable you to earn a living wage, your options would be severely limited.  Your education affords you opportunities and advantages that people who haven't had that opportunity are without.  Women who are seeking a way out of systemic poverty and the sex trade need every educational resource we can provide so that they can establish a better and brighter course for themselves and their children. Some may say that the cost of education is too high but it pales in comparison to the costs that systemic poverty creates for our society.

Finally, women seeking to break free from the sex trade need an opportunity to transition to meaningful, gainful employment.  While those opportunities may come through the private sector, it's more likely that a fresh start will require some creative partnerships between government, the private sector and the not-for-profit world.  

The Church could and should have a significant role in what I am describing.  Governments will do what is politically expedient and palatable.  The Church is duty bound to fulfil it's mandate to care for the poor, the oppressed and disadvantaged.  While we need to preach the life changing power of the gospel, we have a moral obligation to break the chains of those who are oppressed and enslaved in systemic poverty.

So... before you sign a petition asking the government to 'do something' about the current situation, perhaps it's time to prayerfully consider YOUR PART in a proactive response to the worlds oldest profession.  Signing a petition is easy.  Intentionally supporting a woman who wants to break free of the sex trade is messy and difficult, but it's more likely what Jesus would do.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Definition of a King

I will tell His Majesty what a king is. A king does not abide within his tent while his men bleed and die upon the field. A king does not dine while his men go hungry, nor sleep when they stand a watch upon the wall. A king does not command his men’s loyalty through fear nor purchase it with gold; he earns their love by the sweat of his own back and the pains he endures for their sake. That which comprises the harshest burden, a king lifts first and sets down last. A king does not require service of those he leads but provides it to them. He serves them, not they him. (…)

That is a king, Your Majesty. A king does not expend his substance to enslave men, but by his conduct and example makes them free…I set down my life with gladness, and would do it again a hundred times, for (a bunch of the characters in the book). I and every man there were never more free than when we gave freely obedience to those harsh laws which take life and give it back again.

Pressfield - Gates of Fire

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Lessons from my Marathon

Several years ago, my best friend turned to me and said.... 'I'm fat! You're fat!  We should do something about that.'  Then he proposed a competition. He would find some other 'fattys' and challenge us all to a weight loss competition.  We each put in $100 and the first one to lose 10% of their body weight, would take the prize.  There were 7 of us that each put our money in.  I didn't win the pool, but I won something better.  After years of being a 'desk potato', I discovered that I really enjoyed running.  I started with walking and decided that I could burn more calories quicker if I began to run.  Like Forest Gump, I've been running ever since.  I've run 5 half marathons (21.1kms) and decided after the last one that I wanted more of a challenge.  My only option was to run a full marathon.  I signed up for the training program and began my marathon journey in January... in the dark... and in the rain!  Over the past few months, I increased my distances, strength and general health. On May 4, I ran my first marathon.  

I arrived at Queen Elizabeth Park early and huddled with the other runners under trees and building overhangs in a vain attempt to stay warm and dry.  By the time the gun went off, 'dry' was a memory and warm was only going to happen if I kept running for the next 4 plus hours.  I learned a lot about life on Sunday morning. Here are some highlights.

1) Sharing the journey makes it easier.  I had done all of my training runs alone.  On the morning of the race, I decided to talk with people as I ran instead of listening to music.  I asked questions, I laughed at jokes.  I bantered with people.  I listened, learned and I ran!  

2) 'I get by with a little help from my friends!'  I am blessed with good friends who took time to call and wish me well in the week coming up to the race and on the night before.  It meant a lot.  One even called during the race.  (I'd only take a call from a good friend or my wife during the race...)  His call at 38kms gave me a huge boost and I ran faster from that point on.  He helped me finish well!  

3) Encouragement is powerful!  At different spots along the race, people stood along the side walk and called out the names of runners as they went by.  There's nothing like hearing your name called by a random stranger when your muscles are tired and your legs are cramping!  A 'keep it going', 'you look strong' and 'you're almost there', kept me going when I wasn't having a lot of fun!  The high fives from kids and adults alike made the journey that much easier! Takeaway #3 - 'Be an encourager!'

4) Listen to the Music!  There were great bands playing along the way. At one point, we had just climbed a long hill and turned the corner to face another.  Right on the corner a drum line was working hard and providing us with a fantastic rhythm to power us up the hill.  It made a huge difference on the final climb and it was a lot of fun to listen to.  

5) Share the love.  In the last few kms, I decided that I would do my best to help other people finish.  I cheered, encouraged, nudged and did whatever else I could to help others finish well. A positive outlook is contagious!