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)

A Changing Season

If I were an artist I’d love to sketch a comic to describe a small part of how I feel. Bereft of all skill with a pencil, I must ‘use my words’.

As soon as I left the elevator I could hear it. Behind the closed door across the hallway there was heavy breathing. No, not just breathing: a multitude of heavy grunting noises, and the occasional tired sigh. It made me of the effort involved in squeezing into jeans three sizes too small. It was the sound of simultaneous exasperation and desperation.

I approached the wooden door cautiously, expecting it to spring outwards at any moment. As I edged closer I imagined I could see the door bowing in the centre. Surely it was just my imagination? As though in answer to my query the door creaked as though under great stress. The bolt holding the door shut stood firm, for now.

I looked around and could see no in the hallway. A dozen questions filled my mind. Who was in the room? Why had they been locked in? And by whom?

“Hello?” I called, unsure if I would be heard over the grunts. The noise didn’t change. To my ears it lacked the quality of ferociousness. Someone, or something, was trapped.

As a boy, I’d been trapped in a dark, strange place and I hadn’t liked it. I remembered the feeling well, now decades later. Tentatively my hand reached up to the bolt. The outward pressure being applied made it hard work but with great effort I managed to slide it across.

I was ready when it released, and leapt backwards as the door flung open.

Inside was the pitiful display of an elephant crammed into a space too small for it. The elephant could barely move more than blink is eyes, and even as I watched it moved it’s trunk into the hallway with a look of relief at a momentary chance to stretch, even a little bit.

The elephant was well and truly in the room, and no one – even attempting to enter the room could ignore its presence.

Acknowledging the Presence

The elephant in the room is I haven’t written in a while.

I had planned to be revising The Rebel Queen. Well, that’s not happening at all at the moment. Nor am I working on any of the other projects which I had previously been so excited about.

Why am I not writing? I’m not sure to be honest. You could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps I’m in a funk because I’m yet to hear about my submission of Vengeance Will Come. That’s a reasonable assumption, but it’s not true in this case. Even before I submitted a disquiet inside of me was growing.

Something which has haunted me for quite a while were the examples of (the late) Keith Green, musical extraordinaire and Francine Rivers, the successful Christian author. Both of them, at different points in their faith were called to give up their craft (music and writing) for a significant point of time. They had to make sure they were doing ‘it’ for God, and not for their own glory. Their example has always haunted me. Would I be willing to give up my writing? Would I be able to? I could never answer that question. Maybe this is my own season of putting it down – or at least – refocusing it?

I’ve also been feeling more convicted that my time should be spent on things of the eternal – things that will last – not the temporal.

The truth is I’m not sure quite what is happening, but for this season in my life writing is taking a back seat to other priorities. I’m putting more effort into relationships and building up the men’s ministry at my church.

So what have I been doing?

I’ve also been reading a lot. I’ve got more books on the go — too many — at the moment. I’m re-reading Keith Green’s autobiography No Compromise and Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn. I’m also reading How to Build a Life-Changing Men’s Ministry by Steve Sonderman and Living Water by Brother Yun. I had also started (and understandably put-down-for-now) The Book that Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi, The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan and SPQR by Maggie Beard. All this from someone who normally reads one book at a time!

My (lesser) free time has been spent programming.

Will I be Writing?

I’m sure I’ll be writing something. Probably a lot more faith-related material. I might even write some non-fiction, but likely that it will be much smaller size. Writing something smaller takes a lot less time than writing or revising an entire novel.

What does it mean for this blog?

I think it will continue (at this stage). It will broaden: I’ll write about more topics than writing; probably much more on faith and other things which I am passionate about. It probably won’t be every week (as has been my normal rate). Right now, it’s hard to say – because everything feels up in the air.

Bring what you have to the World


Merry Christmas to one and all.

May this be a time of reconnection with family and friends, and making the most of all that we have.

Spare a prayer too, for those who have lost loved ones, or are separated from those they’d like to be with.

Sometimes in life we may feel that we have nothing to offer God, or the world. We might not be as innovative as Steve Jobs, or as compassionate as Mother Teresa.

But the choice we are all faced with is are we going to bring what we have?

Hero Wins Survivor

Survivor is the only show we watch on free-to-air TV these days. It’s a show that the beautiful Mrs Ezard and I both enjoy watching, dissecting and discussing. We’re now approaching our 11th wedding anniversary, and I can remember when debriefing about Survivor helped give us talking points on our phone conversations while dating. (And as the winner of her hand, I am the ultimate survivor. But I digress…)

(As much as I watch it, I’m no superfan so the following post is my opinion, not a record of fact. Don’t eviscerate me if I am forgetting things). 🙂

However, sadly, I must admit to losing some ‘love’ of Survivor in recent years. I was growing increasingly annoyed that a strong player (or, very rarely an alliance of equals) would get to the end, and bring along a so-called ‘goat’ for the ride. It became a situation which felt as though the good players were being eradicated by a pact of the weaker players (especially including Australian Survivor). This is, of course, perfectly sensible gameplay, but it also made for a disappointing ending: there wasn’t many deserving sitting at tribal at the end.

ben.jpgThe most recent season Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers changed that. From the very start Ben Driebergen was my favourite who I wanted to win. And it started with a coconut bursting in the fire, and Ben bolting for the solitude of the water.

Ben is an marine veteran, who came back from war with PTSD. The sudden exploding sound was a trigger and Ben had to get alone to calm himself. It reminded me of Bear Grylls’ The Tribe TV show which I’d describe as Survivor-real, without the politics. On one season there was a gutsy female war vet who was also an amputee. She was knocked out of the challenge, through no cowardice or fault of her own, but by PTSD wreaking havoc during a giant thunderstorm.

We ask an incredible amount of our armed service men and women, and they deserve all the support (and funding) they need to be able to rebuild their lives post-combat. Words are thrown around far too-lightly these days. ‘Hero’ is applied (falsely) to sporting players or celebrities whose 30-second sound bite wins them accolades.

A hero is someone who is willing to risk their lives, or significant injury, for the benefit of others.

And the vast majority of veterans, fit that bill. Whether you agree with the reason why they were sent or not, the fact is that most went along wanting to serve their country and save others.

Ben may have won my loyalty with his courage, but he also gained incredible notoriety through his ability to outwit (or you could call it ‘out-act’), his tenacious idol hunting and his wisdom in keeping a secret.

So in summary: Ben, and all those like him, thank you for your service (even if I’m an Australian). The freedoms that we enjoy are often founded in the past and present shedding of blood. We ask too much of you, and we thank you for being willing to pay it. May you find a growing peace, hope and life in the future.

And to Jeff and CBS, thanks for bringing real-life heroes to our screens.


Tomorrow there will be a blog post on a microstory – a splash of inspiration from every day life.

You know the kind, you’re walking along on your way to work and your mind is trying to convince you that you should really be writing instead of going to this other “day job”. Something minuscule will spark a creative ember, and bam, now your brain is in full creative mode…

But in the mean time, here’s a song that I really like recently. (I admit, you do have to overlook the excessive warbling and be OK with simple lyrics). They are, however, beautiful lyrics backed up by a good melody.

But that’s enough about my listening habits. What songs have been on repeat for you lately?