Monday, October 07, 2013

The Best Time to Change

I have been pondering the experience of Saul/Paul from the New Testament. I find his story both fascinating and inspiring. As I have studied change for the past 10 years or so, his story is one in the scriptures that has repeatedly captured my attention. As I re-pondered this story tonight and discussed it with my wife, I came to a powerful realization (at least it was for me). Here is what I learned...

In the book of Acts in the New Testament, chapter 9, it tells of the conversion of the man known as Saul:

1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
 3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
 6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Amazing experience! Can you imagine it? Here was Saul, one of the most powerful men in Jerusalem, who in the previous chapter it mentions had been wrecking “havoc” on the church. I won’t go much into what we may know or understand about him prior to this – other than to say that this was a highly convicted person who was passionate and driven to do what he was tasked to do. And his task was to essentially be a bounty hunter, hunting down Christians, jailing them, and I’m sure much worse.

My favorite part of this story is verse 6. Immediately after realizing who it was he was talking to, he asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me do?”

First, he immediately calls Jesus, Lord. Minutes before, Saul considered Jesus a heretic and a blasphemer – one worthy of the death He had suffered. And now he calls Him, Lord. Second, he wants to know what to do. Without hesitation. I find it remarkable. Saul is moved 180 degrees in his conviction so quickly! Of course, it helps that he has this kind of experience, but I think Saul deserves immense credit for his reaction.

How is Saul able to do so? In such a moment, he gave up everything. He had to of been wealthy, powerful, respected, and had great relationships. And then all that was given up. He loses everything, including ultimately his life.

My belief? That Saul was already a great man. Maybe misguided and deceived, but a great man. He was probably full of integrity and conviction toward what all his learning (not a little learning) had taught him to believe. He was obviously diligent and willing. We see these same characteristics in Saul (now Paul), as he preaches for Christ. His focus was just adjusted. His perspective was changed.

So, one of the most powerful lessons for me in this story is…that the best time to change is IMMEDIATELY – the minute, the very second you know you need to. If you can stop your momentum in the wrong direction and put it right away into the right direction, why wouldn’t you?! And this doesn’t mean that you just recognize the truth immediately (as Saul did by recognizing that Jesus is the Lord), but that you act on it – Lord, what would you have me do!?!

Most of us are great people too, just like Saul - but sometimes we are blinded by our learning, our natural man, traditions, or many other distractions. I know that I recognize my wrong far ahead of my apology or my change sometimes. My first goal for the week is…to try and learn to be quick to act when I realize that I have erred and to not procrastinate change that I know needs to be made.

How blest I am to have the scriptures and the stories and examples of amazing men like Paul to learn from and to be inspired by.

To conclude here, just a thought...

What does it look like when we don’t do this? There is another Saul in the Bible – in the Old Testament. His story is the tragic side of the story.  I hope to be the kind of Saul who becomes Paul.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Let's Party Like it's December 1773

The Boston Tea Party. It is was a reaction to one of the biggest catalysts for the revolutionary war in America. As I've been thinking about the bailout a few years back, new healthcare bill,s and other recent legislation in our country, this event in December of 1773 kept coming to mind. Do you know why that event transpired? It wasn't because it created new taxes.

The Tea Act of 1773 was passed by the British Parliament to save the East India Company who was about to go out of business. Why were they about to go out of business? Because Americans were getting their tea cheaper through smuggling, which wasn't being taxed. So the East India Company was left with huge surpluses of tea and no buyers. Parliament thought they could accomplish multiple wins at once with this act. They were wrong, of course.

Parliament had huge resistance from the colonies on other taxation and were having a hard time getting them to accept taxation of any kind. The Tea Act would essentially lower the tax on tea and make it cheaper to buy. So why would the colonies revolt? Because they realized the ploy.

The Tea Act would create a monopoly on tea for the East India Company by lowering the real taxes on their tea by circumventing the London Tea Auction, for instance, and help them get around another law (the Townshend tax) which would eliminate the need for many merchants, who were acting as middlemen in the importing of tea. Also, by getting the colonists to accept the act, would make them comply with taxation simply because they had to and had no choice but to pay it if they wanted the tea.

So, a group of colonists went out and dumped more than today's equivalent of $1,000,000 or more of tea into the harbor. This was not a passive act. This also didn't just happen on that night. It spread to other places and much of the tea entering the colonies met a similar fate.

So how did this led to a revolution - I mean, this is not an essential good. Today this would be like having a revolt over coffee taxation. Plus, the tax was being lowered. Sounds like a bunch of complaining idiots crying over a small tax on tea.

So really, what is so interesting about this? What is the lesson for today?

1. The issue was that back then, people took action because of what an act like this meant to their freedom - it meant no representation for taxation.

2. It threatened businesses and real jobs and livelihoods for people by undercutting them and going around them. It was unfair subsidization of a large company to create unfair competition - and to really eliminate it.

This kind of work led to a war where real people fought and died. It led to a revolution and a constitution that was designed to protect the people from this same kind of act again. It wasn't that they just shut down the government for a few days or weeks. They didn't just argue on the TV and on Facebook. They bled and died.

Yet, here we are 240 years later and we are mad because some people in congress want to throw an act into the harbor - an act of taxation (let's be honest) that regardless of the intentions, does not fit within the ideals that this country began on. Think about it - the bailout feels a lot like helping out the East India Company. The healthcare bill feels a lot like taxation without representation - and let me explain this last one.

I know we have "representation" in congress. However, it doesn't feel anymore representative of me anymore than parliament would have felt for the colonists. I'm sorry, but we are moving toward a government monopoly on healthcare and at great expense. Instead of fixing the market and returning control back to consumers, we are closing the market down and giving it to the government (because, as we can see by the whole shutdown, they can certainly run things better, right?!).

Look, I know it feels great to provide healthcare and to help people get access. But this is not the best way - it's not even a good way - and it is not the solution that fits what makes our country work well.

I get it, I know - people need help. My family has no health care, being an entrepreneur in a startup, it costs too much for me right now. And I'm about to get a nice fat hospital bill for being in a San Francisco emergency room for a 3 hour stay for a kidney stone. It is going to be hard to deal with. But I don't want this healthcare bill. I care too much about my country and its future to want it. I have to put aside my personal feelings and circumstances and think about the future - the one I will leave my children. I cannot support it - not now, at least. There has to be another way.

People have died trying to defend our rights - rights that were so sacred and important, that even a simple tax on tea was worth revolting about. So, hooray for congressmen and people who will still revolt, who still throw even good things that they like into the harbor in favor of what is right first. I still believe right is worth fighting for. No one is asking for a war - just a better dialogue, better ideas, and for a solution that doesn't return us to being colonies of a new Washington based parliament.

Maybe I'll start a kickstarter to fund a group to create a think tank that will figure out a way. Anyone want in?