it has to end.

It was the tail end of a month long adventure and I had just finished exploring Bangkok with my friend Beth. Since she has lived in the city for nearly a year while working for an international high school, Beth’s logistical knowledge and broken Thai helped me flag down a taxi driver who knew enough English to take me to the Millennium Hilton.

Armed with turn-by-turn directions written in English and the roadways written in Thai, I parted from Beth and was left at the mercy of a cab driver I was barely capable of being conversational with.

After roughly thirty minutes, I found myself in front of the wrong hotel. Fortunately, I have always been good at charades. And after fifteen minutes of gesturing, he finally understood where I needed to be. He confirmed his understanding with his broken English, “Ah, five star hotel. On riverfront. Very tall!”

As he turned the car around, I prayed a prayer of thankfulness that I had not been dropped off on the roadside in Bangkok. However, my prayer was interrupted as the taxi driver asked me a question. At first I didn’t understand. I thought he was muttering something in Thai. So I pretended to laugh and nod my head. Then he repeated himself a second time. This time I heard him: “You want boom boom?”

Immediately, my eyes turned from my iPhone to the sidewalk. We were apparently driving through one of Bangkok’s red light districts. The street was lined with women willing to satisfy any man’s desires if he is willing to pay a few baht.

After a moment of shock and understanding, a string of “no’s” sprang from my mouth.

Apparently my assertion was comprehended by the taxi driver as if I did not believe the women to be pretty enough for my taste. So he proceeded to bring me to girl after girl until finally my “no” resounded powerfully and aggressively enough. So he gave up and brought me directly to the Hilton.

Once to my room, I was able to reflect and process more appropriately on my brief experience in the red light district. It is no secret that South East Asia is plagued with brothels, prostitutes and sex trafficking. I just never had personal exposure to the oppressive, degrading, and heartless industry. And it was this occurrence that has challenged me to become better educated on the issue of worldwide tyrannical reign as it relates to the horrendous treatment of women.

So I have partnered with two friends who are as enraged about the cause as I have become. We have decided to begin the educational process by reading, “Half the Sky,” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It has proved thus far to be a heavy and sobering read based on the personal stories of women who have been involved in the sex trade industry.

To get an idea, just a vague picture of this hell, I give to you an excerpt as to how millions of young girls are treated after they have been kidnapped with the intention of selling them as sex toys:

“An essential part of the brothel business model is to break the spirit of girls, through humiliation, rape, threats, and violence. We met a fifteen-year-old Thai girl whose initiation consisted of being forced to eat dog droppings so as to shatter her self-esteem. Once a girl is broken and terrified, all hope of escape squeezed out of her, force may no longer be necessary to control her. She may smile and laugh at passerby, and try to grab them and tug them into the brothel. Many a foreigner would assume that she is there voluntarily. But in that situation, complying with the will of the brothel owner does not signify consent.”

This is an exact picture of the horror I was introduced to in Bangkok. The harsh and unfair realities have broken my heart. Certainly this is not the world that God created.

So it is my hope, with this brief introduction, to become conscious of the oppression facing women worldwide and determine what kind of impact a layperson such as myself can have to end this hellish slavery. I plan to share what I learn and I hope a dialog can be started with those of you who are just as infuriated about how women, such as the aforementioned fifteen-year-old, are treated.

It has to end.

let that be enough.

My excuse for ignoring this blog is that my life has been consumed with grad school. Now all that remains before graduation is one measly paper. But in an effort to ignore my remaining responsibilities, I return to this blog.  

To be honest, I should have continued blogging regularly, especially during this last month. It was not but a few days ago that I returned from another trip abroad. In summary, I traveled to 5 countries (bringing my official international tally to 31 countries visited), I was on 14 flights (for a total of 75 hours in the air), and I changed time zones 10 times (my body still hates me). Though I rarely slept, the journey was incredible. Between the people, the culture, and the challenges it was an adventure for the senses, and also for the soul. 

But tonight I have no desire to detail my experiences abroad. Instead I want to express a heart of discouragement, a heart asking the question of Psalm 42:11,  “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”

There are many apparent responses I could give as to why it has been a discouraging period in life. For example, there has been a friend in my life who has been making poor decisions that are having hurtful and negative affects. Despite any advice or love I offer, or any consequences they face, I continue to witness a hardening heart.

Another example would be watching a friend struggle through major medical issues, which are a direct consequence of a former eating disorder. Months of my life were once dominated with hospital visits in support of this person I loved. Now life is hanging on a string.

Beyond these challenges, work has been a bit overwhelming. I have long consumed my life with what I do. Maybe partly to ignore shadows in my past, but mostly because I give everything within me to the commitments I make. I have certainly been increasingly successful, and my superiors would echo that sentiment with enthusiasm, but I am yet disheartened because the fruits of my labor have not been as ripe as I anticipated.

Though I could continue to bullet point item after item that is weighing on my soul, I feel that I am most disheartened by the lack of people around me continuing to follow Jesus and seeking righteousness. Don’t misunderstand me. I know that none of us is perfect. I know that I am far from perfection. And I think there is something beautiful about Jesus taking our imperfections and loving us still, loving me despite all of my inadequacies. But today the emotion overwhelmed me. I feel utterly saddened by a world so lost, by a world filling their empty void with girl after boy, a world that spits in the face of anything good. 

Though I do not have answers yet to the emotion welling inside me, I am thankful that Psalm 42:11 does not end with a question. Instead it concludes with a certainty: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Let that be enough.

“He awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day his heart would descend from his chest into his stomach. By early afternoon he was overcome by the feeling that nothing was right, or nothing was right for him, and by the desire to be alone. By evening he was fulfilled: alone in the magnitude of his grief, alone in his aimless guilt, alone even in his loneliness. I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over, I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others–the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. I am not sad. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room. He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all. And each morning he would wake with it again in the cupboard of his rib cage, having become a little heavier, a little weaker, but still pumping. And by the midafternoon he was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else. I am not sad.
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated

the supreme court.

I have been following the Hollingsworth v. Perry and US v. Windsor cases moderately. I haven’t been the good and informed Republican that I used to be though! But as the Supreme Court gets ready to rule on each case, and with the wild-card Justices, I feel like their rulings will not end up satisfying anyone.

My hope is that in the case of Prop 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry), the Justices will uphold the will of the people as they chose to amend California’s state law. But my sneaky premonition is that Justices will interpret the 14th Amendment more liberally and find some minuscule reason to negate an official ruling, laying the ground for the state to ignore the popular vote and will of the people. However, I don’t foresee their ruling affecting other states per se.

I think the second case could go in a similar direction – meaning the court could weasel out of actually making a decision. But if they did decide to create precedence, I imagine that there would be some national impact as the High Court would leave the definition of marriage to be defined by each individual state. In doing so, the federal government would technically be recognizing same-sex marriage since would be an allowed (endorsed) lifestyle choice within the United States. 
 
Whatever the court decides, there are going to be some upset people. I just hope the Justices do what is Constitutionally honorable. And I suppose the Justices will weigh their decisions and outcomes, but hopefully their decision is not based on politics.
 
We shall await the Supreme Court’s decisions. 

the threat of nationalization.

Notorious for having one of the most liberally socialistic economies in the developed world, France is once again swinging its iron fist. ArcelorMittal is the world’s largest Steel producer and is headquartered in Luxembourg. Currently, company operations in France employ nearly 20,000 individuals at manufacturing and steel complex sites. With the weakening demand in Europe, ArcelorMittal had planned to eliminate usage of two blast furnaces in Eastern France. While there would be collateral damage, in terms of potential layoffs, it would bolster the viability of company success for ArcelorMittal by allowing them to remain economically and financially stable. But instead of moving forward with operative plans, the French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault intervened with a politically expedient motivation and blackmailed ArcelorMittal into keeping all French sites in service at full capacity. Essentially the Prime Minister offered an ultimatum to the firm: either keep operations at full capacity or face the nationalization of your company. ArcelorMittal could have chosen to sell the facilities to a competitor, but no company would dare risk such an investment. Opting to refrain from government control, ArcelorMittal vowed to invest $233.6 million into the facilities to keep facilities functioning.

The actions of the French government towards ArcelorMittal were not only despicable, but they were unethical and an assault on the principles of capitalism. The threat of nationalizing a foreign entity raises real concerns in the international business community. If France could successfully bully one company into accepting the nation’s politically motivated desires, what would stop the government from forcibly controlling other entities? Therein lays the dogma of the socialist agenda and its antagonistic approach towards free trade. Effectually government control stifles competition, falsifies monetary value, and inflates unsubstantiated job creation. To illustrate, recall the nationalized coal industry in the UK, which at one point employed 70,000 workers. The bureaucratic industry was a dichotic failure as 75% of coal companies were losing money on a yearly basis. The only reason any coal company remained operational was because the UK government poured nearly $3.0 billion into the industry every year. Fortunately, Margaret Thatcher was elected as Prime Minister. She successfully battled the industry and privatized coal. As a result the bloated commerce was reduced to what was necessary to remain economically viable, including a reduction of employees to 3,000 individuals, and garnered success within the free market.

While France was unsuccessful in commandeering ArcelorMittal in the sense of nationalization, it has, in another sense, bound the company’s freedom by forcibly inciting the company to operate as if it were a bureaucratic entity by pouring funds into a weaning venture. Subsequently, ArcelorMittal will have to redevelop its supply chain. This may include closing operations in other countries where it has substantial capital investments so that it can streamline and facilitate a financially successful future.

Arguably, developing a stable and financially successful future is the ethically responsible priority of any firm. Biblically, this point is echoed in the parable of the talents that Jesus narrates. In this story, three servants were entrusted a portion of the master’s wealth and commanded to invest the moneys. Two of the servants went heartedly to work and doubled the investment .The third servant, however, buried the investment and later had nothing to show for what he was given. This servant was rebuked and what he had was taken away from him (Matthew 25:13-30, ESV). Similarly, government intervention and regulation of business is likened to wasting investment. It impacts global business as it discourages companies to operate in a financially responsible way. Thus companies struggle with resulting consequences of inefficiencies and unfounded expectancies. The recent closure of Hostess is an excellent example. Between government regulation of the industry and the selfish demands of governmentally permissible unions, the company was faced with meeting ludicrous demands or facing closure. Unfortunately, though Hostess sought to meet the demands and produce a financially and ethically principled plan, the organization was forced into closure and as a result many individuals, some quite deservingly, lost their jobs. Now it is ArcelorMittal that strives to meet the demands of the French government and its socialistic regulatory policy. And likely enough, it may only prolong their inevitable fate unless the steel market can regain strength.

Overall I am not surprised with the actions of the French government and their abuse of power. Politics and supremacy, this day in age, seem to trump ethically responsible judgments that would benefit society as a whole, through free market extremities. Their socialistic agenda is a noxious pollutant to businesses globally as growth is stifled by discouraging incentive with the unreasonable excuse and falsely defined doctrine and notion of demanded fairness.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324205404578151383591045230.html?mod=WSJ_business_whatsNews#printMode

the heART of leadership.

When I was in high school, my friend Penny introduced me to her grandfather. As I shook his hand, I remember his scent of musty peppermint filling my nostrils. It was a pleasant smell. The way grandfathers should smell. He was an eloquent and intriguing man. His eyes shimmered with purpose, his movements were graceful, and he had a soft whistle that would roll off his tongue every time he would verbalize a word that ended with the letter “s.”

It wasn’t until a couple years after our initial introduction that I sat with Penny’s grandfather for supper and tapped his treasure chest of wisdom and business experience. One statement he shared introduced me to the notion of servant leadership. His voice lowered as it acquired a rhythmic intensity salted with sincerity. I took a purposeful breath as he said, “If you desire to find success, be a man of character and integrity; live your life as a servant of Jesus.”

The paradigm clicked. I am not to find success in order to bring glory to God; I am to bring glory to God to find fulfillment, which reframes the definition of success. And what better way to bring Him an offering of worship, to bring glory to Him, than to follow Christ’s ultimate illustration? To the world, this philosophy is mistakenly identified as bondage, but to the Christ-follower, it is accepted as freedom.

This attitude of servant leadership is relevant not only within the life of an individual but also in regards to the administrative techniques of a business. A servant leader is a person of wisdom. He is an astute steward of his organization’s human, fiscal, and physical capital. His leadership style is compassionate, yet firm. And he defines success not merely in terms of monetary gain or results, but places an equal emphasis on the importance of value-added relationship building to create long-term success.

This combined concentration of results and relationships are a rejuvenating force in today’s global marketplace, cultivating an environment of sustainability. Employees are encouraged and challenged to share the same vision of success. In doing so, a bond of unity is fashioned. Employees begin to feel like family, not just co-workers. They find enjoyment in their job. They stumble upon happiness. And as a result, companies like Chick-fil-A have recorded “an annual retention rate of 97 percent,” (Blanchard & Miller, 2007).

When employees feel as if they are a part of something greater than themselves, they will imitate the sentiments of their leader, which ushers in the law of reflection. In physics 101, a professor will teach his students that when a ray of light strikes an average mirror, the light ray will reflect off the mirror. Reflection involves a change in direction of that light ray. This concept is true of business and taught by Christ. What materializes internally is reflected externally. If an employee feels valued by his organization, he will make a customer feel valued by the organization. And it is this perceived value that arguably entices customer loyalty, which in turn has the authority to transform the marketplace locally, nationally, and globally.

I know now that servant leadership has become the distinction between two firms selling the exact same product. As a firm’s vitality has become more than just the sale of a product or service, it has become the sale of an emotional attachment built on the doctrines of integrity and trustworthiness. Perhaps this is the secret to success harnessed by some of the world’s greatest servant leaders.


was i for you? i’m still for you. all for you.

The other night I randomly resolved to re-read a few books that I have gathered inspiration and creativity from. These are books that have challenged me intellectually, books that have encouraged me spiritually, and books that have captivated me intrinsically.

One of these books is “Blue Like Jazz,” by Donald Miller. Likely you have read it. The brilliance of the book is its authenticity. There is simplicity in the realistic situations woven into the narrative. And what I find so beautiful is that this conversation, this shared honesty provides a window into what true Christianity actually looks like.

“My life had become something to hide; there were secrets in it. My thoughts, my sharp tongue a weapon to protect the ugly me. I would lock myself in my room, isolating myself from my sister and mother, not often to do any sort of sinning, but simply because I had become a creature of secrecy,” (Blue Like Jazz, Page 8).

No smoke and mirrors. There is a constant battle between our humanity and our redemptive nature. We are beings that are fully redeemed but we will not realize the full potential or understanding of that redemption until we are together with our great God.

wisdom.

“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart,” (Psalm 51:6).

Just a short post tonight. I learned something about a friend who I deeply care about and only want to see the best for. My heart honestly aches for this friend and the poor choices that have been made. And since this discovery I have been convicted to pray for this friend. I have never had to deal with something of this magnitude and I am seeking and asking for wisdom to approach this friend in a loving, non-judgmental way. I know I am writing in vague terms, but it is important that I protect my friend as well. If you think about it, will you say a quick prayer for me so that I may have the words to share and that healing may be found? I would appreciate that spiritual support.

i want to punch you in the kidney.

Wow. I need to take a major chill pill.

Do you ever have one of those days when everything is delightful, you are in a crazy awesome mood and then someone takes their terribly pissy mood out on you?

I realize that I just need to step back and not allow something so trivial to frustrate me. So I figure I will share the situation with you as some sort of therapeutic expression of emotion. Because really, I want to act un-Christian-like and punch these two people in their kidneys. But I wont.

To set the scene, a co-worker and I were wrapping up our sales presentation – an account that could be worth literally millions of dollars. Yeah. We were sitting in a lounge and the group was becoming talkative. Nothing out of the ordinary. There is a reception desk near the lounge. Two individuals motioned to me that they were angry that the group was “loud.” Granted, these two people are not typically very friendly. I half should have expected this encounter. They motioned me over and told me they were having difficulty answering their phones. I could understand their complaint (though the noise was not that excessive – they just wanted to have something to complain about) and I said, “the group is about to leave, they are about done, so have patience as they prepare to leave.” They responded to me by mouthing, “I can’t hear you” and “what did you say?” Of course they could hear me perfectly, they were just being childish. And these department “operators” (as we will call them) are probably age 33 and 72 (I’m judging how they look).

What’s worse is that I would expect a little grace within a Christian organization. But there was no grace from this department. I repeated myself that we would appreciate patience from them as we were transitioning. And right before we were preparing to leave, one of these cronies came and kicked the group out. Not the best way to end a presentation or close a sale.

Now I know that this is so silly and that it shouldn’t upset me. Something like this shouldn’t bother me at all. Maybe there is something else under the surface that has also been bothering me? I am trying to figure that out. But I didn’t by any means lose my temper, but I did feel jaded by these two individuals. I just had to remind myself that “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” (Charles Swindoll). My life quote.

Needless to say, my punching bag is going to take the beating of it’s life tonight as I punch-dance my rage out!

my anchor is love.

“Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him” (Job 13:15).

I will not doubt, though all my ships at sea
Come drifting home with broken masts and sails;
I will believe the Hand which never fails,
From seeming evil worketh good for me.
And though I weep because those sails are tattered,
Still will I cry, while my best hopes lie shattered:
“I trust in Thee.”

I will not doubt, though all my prayers return
Unanswered from the still, white realm above;
I will believe it is an all-wise love
Which has refused these things for which I yearn;
And though at times I cannot keep from grieving,
Yet the pure ardor of my fixed believing
Undimmed shall burn.

I will not doubt, though sorrows fall like rain,
And troubles swarm like bees about a hive.
I will believe the heights for which I strive
Are only reached by anguish and by pain;
And though I groan and writhe beneath my crosses.
I yet shall see through my severest losses
The greater gain.

I will not doubt. Well anchored in this faith,
Like some staunch ship, my soul braves every gale;
So strange its courage that it will not quail
To breast the mighty unknown sea of death.
Oh, may I cry, though body parts with spirit,
“I do not doubt,” so listening worlds may hear it,
With my last breath.

-Richard Fuller

These words rupture joy in my soul every time I read them. They are a reminder that when I am facing a fiery trail, God’s timing, His answer to prayer will come when He sees fit. And I have learned to be content with that.

I understand that the Creator of the universe has an infinite amount of knowledge and any insignificant wisdom that I may hold was given to me by Him. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be times of struggle. That doesn’t mean there wont be times of hurt or pain. And that doesn’t mean there won’t be times of weeping. But despite any difficult situation or circumstance I face, I am assured that He is faithful.

Over these last few years I have struggled with a circumstance, a cross I have carried. I have continued to pray and, even at times, plead for the circumstances to change. But despite years of unanswered prayer, I clutch to His truth and I hold to His promises. I am confident in His abounding grace and mercy. And it His love, which will continue to be my anchor.