Holding Hands

Recently the beautiful Mrs Ezard and I attended a 1 day marriage workshop by Canadian author and popular blogger, Sheila Wray-Gregoire and her hilarious husband Keith. We attend such courses not because something is wrong in our marriage but so that nothing goes wrong. Consider it preventative maintenance on the most important investment in our lives.

It was a great day, filled with honesty, a lot of humour and some helpful tips for improving your marriage.

otters-holding-handsSheila explained that drifting apart from each other is a natural phenomenon. You don’t need to do anything to drift, but you do need to take action to prevent the drift. Otherwise it will happen. She mentioned how otters (who sleep on their back in the water) hold hands to prevent drifting apart. Couples likewise need to find ways to metaphorically “hold hands”.

She encouraged us to write a list of things that we would appreciate and share them with our spouse. (The rules were: a) non-sexual b) 2-3 minutes time investment c) low-or-no cost). Everyone, no matter how busy life is, should be able to do at least two per-day for their spouse, and thus, show love and consideration.

As everyone knows, sometimes there can be hard conversations in marriage. Really hard conversations. One way she suggested you could broach those conversations was to ask each other “where do we want to be in five years time?” That question, can help tease out some of the things you’d like to change, without it being quite so confrontational. Not to mention, it’s a good question to be asking yourselves… and then planning the actions steps you need to take to get there).

Marriage should be treated like a marathon, not a sprint… make it last 🙂

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Relationships

Sometimes relationships complicate things.

That’s how I look at it anyway, in my very male problem-oriented perspective. If it wasn’t for relationship considerations I could solve some problems a lot easier by being direct – and less mindful of not hurting feelings.

I was born with the male ability to switch off outside considerations and be brutally objective, blunt as a brick. Complete the mission, regardless of the cost. (On occasion those same qualities could accurately be described as foolish and ignorant).

But I’m glad that’s not where my thinking ends. A little more time, and I realise the relationship is of too much value to cast it aside or allow it to be collateral damage.

The key is to find the solution to problem working in relationship, if at all possible.

An Inspiring Gift

Want to give Someone you Love a Card, and a Stranger, Hope, at the same time?

I’m pleased to join in the announcement the Australian social enterprise, Noteworthy Cards, has officially launched.

The idea behind Noteworthy Cards is simple: buy cards from them and 100% of the profits are donated as life-changing gifts for those in poverty.

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“Our mission is to inspire people to love generously through words of encouragement while funding life-changing gifts for people suffering in poverty.” Noteworthy Cards

Knowing the founders of the company, I can attest to their genuine desire to provide the poor with a much needed and life-building hand-up. Just as important is their intention in helping others to express love and gratitude through the giving of cards.

Starting a company to 100% benefit others is an incredible commitment of time, and I commend them for all the hard work.

Are you a ‘creative’? Good with words or drawing, and happy to give donate some of your work? If so, I know they would love to hear from you. I’ve made a submission or two and plan to make more in the future.

Until Friday 13 April there is a launch special of free shipping. Coupon details on the website. (Delivery is only within Australia at this time).

Read more about how Noteworthy Cards came about…

Who do you care know, who could use or deserves to know that someone is thinking of them?

(p.s. later today or tomorrow I hope to be releasing my latest short story, Dreamer).

Can’t always Bank on Integrity

The other day I watched a documentary I highly recommend. A warning however: it might get you (righteously) angry. It was episode 4 of the Netflix show, Dirty Money.

The episode recounts how global banking giant HSBC (US division) was grossly negligent in applying laws to prevent money laundering. In fact, they purposely manipulated systems to avoid the controls. This was almost certainly with the knowledge and implicit approval of headquarters (London). This allowed criminals like Mexican cartels and ISIS to move money around the world.

The bank admitted to this fact, pleading guilty.

Any reasonable person, when confronted with the evidence would expect stiff penalties. If it were me, and seeing they had systematically and intentionally flaunted the law, I would have metaphorically burned HSBC to the ground. I would revoke their business licenses within the US, I would jail anyone whom knew of it and remained silent. I would have seized funds and assets, so neither the organization nor individuals profited.

US Attorney Lynch said,

“…HSBC’s willful flouting of U.S. sanctions laws and regulations resulted in the processing of hundreds of millions of dollars in OFAC-prohibited transactions. Today’s historic agreement, which imposes the largest penalty in any BSA prosecution to date, makes it clear that all corporate citizens, no matter how large, must be held accountable for their actions.” (source)

There was some talk of HSBC being “too big to fail”. I would do what justice demands. Yes, it may have put thousands out of work – and yes, many of them might be completely innocent of all wrong doing. But it would also have sent a message: obey the law or the consequences will be dire. I’d be willing to bet that criminals would have found banks a lot less malleable the next day, had that occurred.

Those complicit within HSBC betrayed the world. They demonstrated gross indifference toward the law, and perpetuated the suffering of victims of the cartels and terrorism. What is more startling is the failure of the Justice system to hold them to account. HSBC was fined the equivalent of a mere five weeks profit, and management forfeited a portion of their bonuses. No one lost their job, no one went to jail. In December 2017 the US Department Of Justice announced it would dismiss all criminal charges against HSBC.

LadyJusticeImageA key aspect of a healthy civilization is a justice system which doesn’t see the perpetrator – the rich should be punished equally to the poor. In this instance the Justice system, and those charged to administer it, appeared to fail. I hope there’s a good reason we just aren’t privy too, because otherwise it is… lacking in transparency and justice.

I believe in a free market, but maybe if organisations are becoming “too big to fail” then we should start looking at ways to prevent them from growing further, at the very least. The bigger an organisation is the more oversight they should have… after all – we don’t want the economy to fail – but we also don’t want to make them unaccountable either.

It may be that those responsible will never appropriately be held to account on this earth, but I believe they’ll one-day face a Judge to whom they’ll answer. And if they aren’t repentant beforehand the punishment will be eternal.

The Cost and Value of Integrity

A few months ago US Vice President Mike Pence was attacked by much of the US media and commentary for what has become known as “The Pence Rule”.

During his 12 years in Congress, Pence had rules to avoid any infidelity temptations, or even rumors of impropriety. Those included requiring that any aide who had to work late to assist him be male, never dining alone with a woman other than his wife, and not attending an event where alcohol is served unless Karen was there.

In a 2002 interview with The Hill, Pence called it, “building a zone around your marriage.”

Source: The Washington Post.

For this comment Mike Pence faced a chorus of howling complaints (and a few cheers).

Mike Pence should be honoured by the fact that the media took to calling it the “Pence rule”. I suspect it fit the desired narrative for the attackers to target Pence than someone whose character was less impeachableFrom The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham,

“We all knew evangelists who had fallen into immorality while separated from their families by travel,” Billy wrote. “We pledged among ourselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. From that day on, I did not travel, meet, or eat alone with a woman other than my wife…”

It may seem quaint and impractical in this day of casual relationships between the sexes to be so rigid about meeting with someone of the opposite sex – but it worked for Billy and his team. They eliminated any suspicion of problems. While on the road, the team travelled together and occupied adjoining hotel rooms, or at least rooms in close proximity. By not travelling along, they minimized temptations. And each team member committed to never being alone with a woman who was not his wife. (page 55).

Plenty of people were willing to attack Pence, not so many Graham… I wonder why?

There’s a few points I’d like to make:

This is Mike Pence’s personal rule. Let me repeat that: personal. Though I know of others who follow it (or variants), no one is trying to make it law (at least not in Western countries). It’s a decision that he’s made to protect himself, his wife and his marriage. Not to mention all the women potentially involved, their children, spouses, wider families and their friends.

It’s a smart rule. I think it is a smart rule for anyone. For a politician, in the public and never-blinking eye, I’m willing to say it’s dumb not to embrace some pretty strict rules. Yes, technically before a court of law you’re innocent until proven guilty, but for a politician where perception is reality, everyone has a camera and can tweet their unverified rumours and get a thousand re-tweets within seconds… can anyone really argue it’s not a smart move?

There’s a reason. Men know the kind of thoughts that run through their brains. Very few women truly understand this; we are just so different. The very first glimmer of sexual attraction often starts visually for men. It doesn’t matter if we’ve never talked to you, or your values and views are polar-opposites to ours. If you’re attractive, we are likely to notice.

That doesn’t mean bad behaviour on our part is acceptable or unavoidable. It is possible for us to reign in our thoughts and control our eyes so we aren’t just a bunch of drooling neanderthals. However, that self-control means sometimes we’re going to implement rules for ourselves which you just can’t comprehend or see the need for. You need to understand: this thing is on a hair-trigger.

But the rule isn’t there because, “if I dine alone with a woman an affair is a certainty.” That isn’t the case, but as acknowledged by Willard Harley in “His Needs, Her Needs – Building an Affair-Proof Marriage” affairs often start out as “just being friends”. As Pence said, it’s a “zone around his marriage”. Think of it like a fire-break. You build and maintain the fire-break to protect what you have in the event of a fire.

As blogger Tim Challies notes,

The Billy Graham Rule is not a universal law mandated by the Bible, but a personal rule mandated by conscience. It is not a biblical law but an attempt to flesh out a biblical principle (sexual purity and/or being seen as above reproach). Many will follow the Rule according to their best understanding of how to ensure they are honoring God. In so doing they will be heeding their conscience…

Some complained that it disadvantaged women, because they would be excluded from important informal times at work. Yes, sadly that’s a likely effect. But the rule does cuts both ways (even if, disproportionally) – men can’t have lunches with their female bosses. But if we were going to make things entirely fair, should we also put a stop to the smoking circle? What about those who play sport or run together, doesn’t that disadvantage the disabled?

The world isn’t fair and people don’t get treated equally. Not every player wins a prize and sometimes your skills won’t be acknowledged. That’s life. It’s unfair that we can read and some in the world can’t, should we stop reading?

Besides, it’s not an insurmountable problem. The wise boss would make time to invest in all his staff. Meetings could be one-on-one, but in a public place, or behind closed doors, with the blinds open. The application of a boundary doesn’t mean that men and women aren’t going to talk to each other any more.

There is a cost of integrity. In some parts of the world that cost is death but for us in the West it is more often just ridicule. Mike Pence felt it and so do others. They look strange. They are accused of things which are untrue and unfair. They pay the cost, because they know the value. Pence is protecting his integrity, his wife and the marriage they have built together. He made a commitment to her and is doing whatever it takes to keep that commitment.

You remember ‘commitment’ right? Doctors doing no harm, journos reporting the truth and politicians serving the people? If only we had more of it.

RIH, Billy Graham

Rest in Heaven, Billy Graham.

In this world of all-too-often compromised values and fallen ‘heroes’, Billy Graham stood remarkably unscathed by controversy. How many people have successfully navigated the treacherous waters of fame and public opinion and not met with failure or tragedy? Not many.

He was consistent, faithful and trusted.

I’ve read before that if Graham had his life ‘over’ he would do as Jesus did and invest in a small number of people instead of his evangelistic crusades. Would he have made a greater impact on the world had he done so? Possibly; only God knows. But what we do know is that he made a huge difference in millions of people’s lives.

Some who accepted Jesus at a crusade would have had the seeds of truth stolen by the challenges and opposition which came, but I know of several (and there would be innumerable more) who had that seed planted in deep, rich soil. From that seed of truth and hope a great tree of salvation has grown. Many thousands more have found shelter, and in time – their own salvation – under the shade of those trees. Faith is a journey. Sometimes Graham planted the seed, other times he watered it, and for many, he harvested it.

May his family and friends rejoice in the legacy and the man who was Billy Graham. Though their pain of loss remains, there must be great joy in knowing Billy now sits adoringly at the feet of the one he loved and gave his life for.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)