What is money?

A helpful perspective

As money is such an integral part of our lives that can seem like a  ridiculous question to ask. Money can occupy so much of our thinking. It can also be the source of so much emotion, both negative and positive.

But what is it? Put most simply money is simply a tool to facilitate deferred bartering.
Of itself money is just a piece of paper. But what that paper has come to represent is access to products, possessions and ultimately dreams. The 2 minute video below captures some of these sentiments:

Money is so more than just paper, or plastic, or metal or numbers on a screen. It is an amplifier of who we are and the impact we can have on the world we live in. If we are basically living selfishly then money increases the opportunities to be more selfish. And if we want to live lives of generosity then money can increase the potential to do that in so many more ways. The simple equation is:

A tribute to my uncle Mohinder Singh Sukheja

01.01.1932 - 26.12.2017

Mohinder Singh Sukheja was the husband of my Dad’s second cousin. Over the years and  living in England he became a dear uncle to me. He sadly passed away at the end of 2017. This is a tribute to my Uncle and the fond memories I had of him.

Mohinder Singh Sukheja was officially born on 1 January 1932 in Kamalia that is now a part of the Punjab part of Pakistan. He was the second child of a family of seven with 4 sisters and 1 younger brother.

At the age of 15 with the horrors of Partition he had to flee with his family to India. Along the way he became separated from his family and lost. I remember him telling me how in the intense heat, with all the walking he had to do, he became very tired and dehydrated. He literally thought he was going to die. He told me how he desperately prayed to God to rescue him. He was later on picked up by an army truck and reunited with his family. He never forgot how God had been merciful to him.

He settled in Kapurthala in Punjab. He graduated with an MA in History from Chandigarh University. He did teacher training and eventually progressed to becoming a deputy head. In July 1964 he married Daleep. He was encouraged by a colleague to apply to teach in England and so arrived on his own in September 1965. By the second day of arriving he was working in a factory in Shepherds Bush. His landlord did not allow him to cook so for a number of days he laughingly told me he lived on a diet of just bananas! He then spent 5 years working in a post office.

His wife Daleep joined him in March 1966. They had two daughters Baljit Daisy and Prabhjot Lily. By 1968 they had bought and settled in their home in Southall.

Uncle kept his strong desire to teach. So eventually he started a teacher training course in Coventry for 9 months, staying up there for the week and coming home at weekends. He spent 6 years at Thomas Buxton Junior School in Tower Hamlets, East London before coming to North Primary School in Southall where he was a multilingual teacher until he retired in 1997.

What are my memories of Uncle Sukheja?…..

Why being thankful is not just for Christmas

Have you done your Christmas shopping? Are you still wondering what to get for your loved ones? While this 2 minute video is somewhat a little bit too cheesy for some people, I think it does illustrate an important point about giving and gratitude that is so easy to overlook. While the characters may for some of us have over-exaggerated emotions, the sentiments they convey are so easy to take for granted.

The point is that it is incredibly easy to take for granted other people and all the things we enjoy and have access to around us. They appear ordinary and commonplace. With that sense of ordinariness comes a sense of entitlement and subconsciously feeling or thinking we somehow deserve or have earned everything we have. The reality is that most of the basic details of our existence, from the family we were born in, to the place, time and circumstances of our birth are completely out of our control. We had no say or choice in any of these fundamental things about who we are. But what if we could look at everything around us as a gift?

Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology in the United States, has spent many years researching the link between gratitude and wellbeing. He has been able to show from research that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. He has also highlighted how when you practice gratitude you are less likely to feel stressed, envious or negative. Gratitude also has the effect of enabling you to be able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments without feeling resentful that they have something you don’t.

According to Professor Robert Emmons for gratitude to be effective it needs to cover 3 key areas:….

The other Christmas gift

4 surprising consequences

All over the world Christmas is very much the time for giving and receiving presents. The following 3 minute video is of children from the Metro Atlanta Boys and Girls Club in the United States. 83% of these children come from low income families, some of which are not able to afford even a Christmas tree. In the 3 minute video they are faced with a tough choice.  Just to warn you, the video may make you cry,  but it’s well worth watching! 

What makes the video so fascinating for me is it also illustrates the true satisfaction that comes from giving rather than receiving. The simple decision of the children to choose to give rather than receive reminds me of Jesus’ own words, “It is more blessed to give rather than receive.” (Acts 20:35)

As we approach Christmas, I am also reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 8:9:

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”

In that single sentence we have the meaning of Christmas beautifully encapsulated. The Bible explains how although Jesus Christ is equal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, He chose to leave the security of this perfect relationship to come to earth for you and me. He who had all the riches of heaven should choose to humble Himself and come to earth as a baby.

Here are 4 surprising consequences of this decision:…..

Podcast #035: What is life really all about?

A frank conversation with Rico Tice

Rico Tice is a senior minister at the church my family and I attend at All Souls, Langham Place in Central London. Rico is married to Lucy and they have three children. He is a Bible teacher and founder of the Christianity Explored course. This is a seven week study through the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament. At any one time there are 10,000 courses running around the world in over 100 countries with 122 official translations.

More recently Rico has helped to develop two further courses, Discipleship Explored which looks through the New Testament book of Philippians what it means to find joy in Christ and Life Explored which is an overview of the Bible as a whole.

 

On this podcast Rico and I explore:

Why being responsible for evangelism at All Soul’s Church is much more than a job role, but something he is deeply passionate about.

His formative experiences growing up, including how the death of his godfather in 1982 had a profound impact on Rico’s life.

Continual reminders of the brevity of life.

The importance of crossing the pain line when talking to others of the important issues around death and judgement.

In a world of different religions why it is not arrogant to say Jesus is the only way to God.

The importance of reading the Bible for yourself and doing so in community with others.

How Christ’s death rescues us from the penalty, power and the presence of sin.

How the qualification to be a Christian disciple is not are you good enough, but are you bad enough.

The importance of a right understanding of hell and judgement.

Lessons in life Rico has learnt from his failures and mistakes.

Two books that have profoundly influenced Rico’s life.

Why he also has a collection of over 300 books on rugby!

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #029: The literal end of the world?

Podcast #017: The last taboo subject?

Podcast #007: Religion

A tribute to my dear friend Abhishek Banerjee (12 October 1981 -17 March 2014)

How does our conversation speak into your own life?

 

What are the signs of a truly spiritual person?

Living in a world of such a variety of religious beliefs and persuasions it can be incredibly difficult to discern what it means to live a life that is in the most positive sense truly spiritual. Add to that the pressure to be productive, busy and active  and it becomes harder and harder to define. Is spirituality defined by what we do are by who we are of a combination of both? We also live in a world where centuries old values of right and wrong in such fundamental areas as lifestyle and sexuality are being questioned and systematically dismantled. Under the guise of secularism (which really is another form of religious belief that lacks the self-awareness to recognise a higher value) another set of values is confidently espoused.

In many ways this is nothing new. Here is how the apostle Paul writing in the first century described an unspiritual and empty life. The English translation is from a paraphrase called The Message:

“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.”

That was written 2000 years ago, but it could not be more up to date!

That is a pretty depressing description of human nature and yet in may ways it does illustrate some of the characteristics of modern life presented through much of the media and culture around us.

So what does a truly spiritual person look like?

The best explanation I have come across again is that from the apostle Paul. He talks about this in terms of ‘the fruit of the Spirit’. In Galatians 5:22-23 of his letter , the New International Version of the original Greek, states:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.”

Here is how the Message translation paraphrases each of these different qualities:….

How to grow through your imagination

Meaningful growth and development does not come automatically. To grow means to create a future that is greater and in some way better than your past. Growth is a sign of health. It is a sign of life. All living things grow.

Creating a future that is greater than your past is essentially an act of your imagination. You have to be willing to go there. That for most people is easier said than done. If growth is about creating a future greater than your past, then the first step is having the faith to believe a greater future is possible. You don’t need to see the whole path, but you can have faith to take the next step. And the next step. And the one after that again and again. (Also see The Law of Process).

 

Creating that vision of the future is an act of faith, drawing on your imagination.

In other words then it is in the quality not the quantity of our thinking in our information saturated world that all future potential lies.

As Einstein put it, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” So to create a better future we have through our imagination to change the quality of our thinking.

I’ve been struck how the opening verses of Genesis in the Old Testament imply this with the story of creation. God spoke – or, put it another way, He expressed a thought – and it was so from light to the heavens to dry land to the celestial bodies to the fish of the sea and animals. While you and I are certainly not God, we are God-like in that we are created in His image. Even with all our weaknesses and failings, it is staggering what we are capable of through the quality of our thinking.

Everything is created twice – first in the mind and then in the physical world. As human beings made in the image of God we see the outworking of that everywhere around us. Just look around the room you are sitting in right now. Everything, apart from the people and plants in your room was once a thought in the mind of another human being – from the chair you are sitting on to the paper clip on your desk to the computer you are reading this from.

On one level so obvious, but on another level quite amazing. Changing the quality of our thinking can have astounding results in our lives and in the world around us. The quality of our lives is intimately woven into the quality of our thinking.

Here is how the writer C. S. Lewis puts it:……..

Podcast #033: Practical ways to find joy through disappointment

Disappointment. We all experience it. We all know what if feels like. We have all at some time or other said and done things when disappointed with our circumstances or other people that we have later regretted. But what are healthy ways to handle disappointment in our lives?

On this podcast I continue my conversation with the author John Hindley on his book, “Dealing With Disappointment: How To Know Joy When Life Doesn’t Feel Great. (Our earlier conversation at Podcast #032 is here).

Disappointment can so easily come to dominate life – the nagging thought in the back of our minds and the constant “yes, but…” colouring all our pleasures.

Do join us as we discuss practical ways to find joy through disappointment. In particular we discuss:

  • Disappointment with my circumstances.
    The power of a different perspective rather than relying on the stoicism that we tend to default to.
    Or, in other words, how to defeat those painful things that are true by looking at things that are more true.
    Finding a balance between working too much or too little.
  • Disappointment with people.
    How do I decide if it is something I should forgive and move on from or something I should forgive and then talk with the person concerned about?
    For more on this also see: Podcast #025 Is There A Difficult Person In Your Life?
  • Disappointment with my success.
    John and I confess personal examples of how easy it is to tie up our meaning and identity with things that are actually quite trivial.
    How the good things of life are a signpost to a far greater work and person we should be enamoured by.
    How “the fuel for living a truly successful life is to know that you will one day live it perfectly, and with perfect satisfaction.”
    For more on this also see Podcast #002 Success.
  • Disappointment with myself.
    How facing up to the painful reality that I am not the person I wish was can be not the last word in our lives, but part of our story to greater wholeness.
    The freedom that comes from understanding, as John writes, “Your purpose in life is not to be perfect. Your purpose in life is to showcase God’s grace to the imperfect.”
    Balancing in my life God’s gift of forgiveness with the gift of integrity.
  • Disappointment with God.
    For people of faith, this is probably the hardest disappointment to face up to. As John says, “If God is in control – and He is- then behind all your disappointments with your relationships, your circumstances, your ministry and yourself must lie disappointment with God……God could have, should have, might have….and didn’t. So often, in so many small and serious ways, it feels as if God doesn’t come through.”
    For more on this also see Podcast #028 The God I Don’t Understand.

 

If your life isn’t perfect….. you need to listen to this podcast!

How a higher perspective empowers you to handle disappointment

One important way to get a handle on disappointment in our lives is to be able to take a higher perspective. Somebody who understood this well was the author C. S. Lewis. In 1942 he wrote the book The Screwtape Letters that has since then been continuously in print. It has been adapted into plays, made into a comic book, and recorded as an audio drama by the actor John Cleese. The Hollywood Film company Fox owns the film rights, and Ralph Winter, best known for blockbusters like “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four,” has said he will produce it.

The novel is a fictional account of a series of imaginary letters from a senior demon called Screwtape to a junior demon, Wormwood. It is a powerful perspective on the real life challenges of faith in God and handling disappointment. In the novel, God is the enemy. We eavesdrop on the schemes and strategy of  two devils in the mind of a human being, described as ‘the patient’. While being fiction, it provides piercing insight into the challenges we face in day-to-day life while pointing us to a higher spiritual perspective.

Modern 21st century secular thinking tends to have no place for the realm of a higher order of evil let alone for the existence of God. However, it is worth reflecting on that most of mankind has believed in the supernatural power of evil for much of history. There is also little else available to explain the power and rise of evil regimes and forces during the course of human history from the rise of Nazi Germany to the current horrors of North Korea.

The following short excerpt provides a powerful insight into disappointment:

Is ego getting in your way?

I don’t know who originally said it, but I’ve often laughed at the saying “If I could kick the person who has caused me the greatest amount of headache and heartache in my life then I wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week!”

Marshall Goldsmith is arguably one of the most insightful and successful business coaches in the world. In this short 4 minute video he touches on the important subject of ego and how it can get in the way of us living truly satisfying and fulfilling lives. It is short, punchy and profound.

His provocative point is that everyday we make ego and pride (putting myself and my desires ahead of anyone or anything else) more important than our health, our safety and even more than the people we claim to love.  In many ways pride is the ultimate form of selfishness. That selfishness is the worst part of our human nature, or as Tim Keller has vividly described it, ” a ruthless sleepless unsmiling concentration on the self.” This is no small or trivial issue. It is a blind spot that affects all of us in some way or another. It has destroyed individuals, families and even nations.

From the video, taking the example of surgeons not allowing nurses to ask a series of simple questions such as ‘Did you wash your hands?”  and  simply systematising this into a simple checklist has, according to Dr Atul Gawande, contributed to more deaths than the Vietnam War, Afghan War and Iraqi War combined!

The positive way forward advocated in the video is to appeal to enlightened self-interest. So in the case of a pilot it is seeing that being asked simple questions from a checklist by a junior such as “How much fuel do you have?” is vital to prevent not just needless passenger deaths, but also the death of the pilot himself. When I let my ego win, ultimately I and everyone else loses.

The vast majority of us are not surgeons or pilots, but how can we be better armed against the dangerous self-sabotaging effects of our egos? Perhaps the best way is to recognise and be aware of the early warning signs before they cause irreparable and lasting damage. Here are four to consider: