Harley tough guys

The Harley Davidson motorcycle has become the symbol of freedom and the American dream for so many people. It epitomizes the tough guy image for so many men of all ages. But is the Harley just an extension of their ego and what they would like people to view them as? Has the HD turned into a phalic symbol, look at me how sexy I look. Or I must be tough, after all I’m on a HD.
A few years ago I bought a HD Road King and was immediately impressed with how cheaply it was built. Lots of plastic and thin chrome. Built mostly in China. Apparently with more offshore parts than a Honda! To ride one is an experience. Nothing refined here, it just rumbles and rattles down the road like a gravel truck on 2 wheels. It gives the impression of speed but in reality the specs show it to be quite pedestrian compared to other bikes with even half the displacement. If noise were an attribute it would excel with it’s often copied never equaled deep-throated growl. As if to say look out I’m tough. If that were not enough it’s big. Too big for weaker men and certainly most women to handle. Mastering such a raw brute must certainly be left for only real tough guys. A feeling of power comes over you the moment you fire it up. You look down on mere mortals and are cavalier about mundane traffic laws. The noise and vibrations regularly sets off car alarms. There’s no denying it, there’s something that comes over you when you drive one. You’re cool, you’re tough, your driving a HD! It makes girls cry and inferior men fearful. You’ve also just experienced the spirit of the bike and I’m certain it’s not a good one.
Being cool is everything and your HD must pass the cool test. Black is the color of choice and flat black is even better. Any graphics must have an evil theme. Skulls, flames, death, sex, general toughness. Now you need a few tattoos to compliment the image. Same graphics rules apply here. The cool rules are unwritten but very specific and must be followed closely to be truly cool. Now you’re ready to face the world but wait there’s more. You must personally pass the cool test. The look, the attitude must comply. Like you’re the toughest guy around. Outa my way I’m cool.
HD riders are the biggest posers in the world. Try riding one without projecting the image. Impossible, HD has taken a hundred years to perfect the image and it’s built right into the bike.

P.S.
This blog was inspired by the cartoon character Monty and his encounters with tough guys.

Multi level marketing

I once spoke at a businessmen’s seminar in a large church in Africa where the senior pastor was my interpreter. One of the points I made was that Christians should not be involved in MLM. Some people were particularly annoyed and in the Q & A time asked why. I fumbled for reasons but in retrospect should have deferred to the pastor to explain why a Christian shouldn’t be involved in a marketing scheme based on greed. A few people walked out and the atmosphere was a bit tense. Unbeknown to me, the church was embarking on a MLM program involving the pastor and number of the church members. Months later I found out that God spoke to them though what I said and they didn’t go through with it. I was greatly relieved for it would have ripped the church apart and destroyed a rather significant work of God.
I learned a few things though that experience.
1. If I am not prepared to defend a brash statement, I should keep my mouth shut.
2. Don’t try to fix everything myself. Defer to another’s wisdom.
3. Be better prepared when speaking to intelligent people.
4. God is gracious to me and will even speak through a donkey if need be.
Now about MLM, let me tell you my experience. In 1963, A neighbor invited me to a meeting about a tremendous business opportunity. They were direct distributors for A_ _ _ _. I prefer to call it scamway. I turned up at the most prestigious hotel in town, sceptical that anything would come of this. There was a lineup of Cadillacs at the entrance with the company’s logo on each of them. I later found out they were all rented for the occasion. I think they call it “fake it til you make it.”
The meeting was packed with about 3,000 enthusiastic followers. The speaker gushed with superlatives about the soap as though it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Most of his speech centered around the copious amounts of money he made, how little time each day it took and how everyone could do it. I felt myself being drawn in. Could I really make that much money with such little effort. All I had to do was eat, breath and think A, so that it would be part of everything I did. Soon it would come out of my pores as I immersed myself in the program. Making lots of money would come as a natural outcome. Praise be to A.
Like a lamb led to the slaughter, I forked over $40 and got a plastic attaché case full of products with instructions. I even got a membership card with my name on it. It’s still in the top drawer of my desk to remind me of how stupid and naive I was. With all the enthusiasm of a teenage evangelist, I decided to try out my new found faith on one of my neighbors. When I did the prescribed test, her soap turned out better than my soap. I tried vainly to justify how it was really concentrated and didn’t need to foam as readily. It would eventually outperform hers and cost less in the long run even though it cost more initially. She didn’t buy the BS so I returned, humiliated, to the direct distributor for more ammunition. Make a written list of all your friends, relatives and especially your church members. They are most likely to trust what you have to say. There’s another meeting next Friday. You need to be more excited about the program. The real money is made in signing up converts, not in selling the soap. In the meeting they layed out how to build your dream of untold wealth by first using the list then branching out to everyone you talked to. Everyday you meet people who need our products and you just need to be convinced that they are the best.
Well I wasn’t convinced and I started to smell a rat. Later I found out that the biggest consumers of the products were the distributors themselves.This was the most embarrassing time of my business career as I retreated to more mundane activities to make a living, like physical work.
In order to make it in MLM you must use the people that trust you the most. The product has little merit on it’s own as it is often very over priced. It has to be to pay so many layers of profits. In our society, most business is done on the basis of trust. (More on this in a later blog.) The only way to sell the product is abuse friendships or to appeal to peoples greed of large profits for little work.
Christians are particularly suckers for this type of marketing scheme because of bad theology. God wants the good life for me and it couldn’t be His will that I should have to suffer to obtain it. Work is part of the curse. All things work together for good for those who love God (and money). Doesn’t God want me to prosper financially? I need the money for the ministry. (justification). I can do it part time and use it as a tool to reach others. (more justification.)
Luke 16:13-15. 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.
15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

1Tim.6:10. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Most distribution is done either factory direct to the retailer or through a 2 step marketing system where the manufacturer sells to a distributor who in turn sells to their dealer network. The more people that take a cut along the way, the more expensive the product is to the consumer. It stands to reason that if you want to build a business, get as close to the manufactor as possible, otherwise the goods become over priced.
You are not building your business as they claim but their business. They own your client list. If you leave, all your downstream is lost to the company.
In reality, you are not selling a product, you are selling a concept. An unworkable concept that statistically, only the guys at the top make money. The rest of the drones are left to mislead people into believing in the dream (lie.)
There are many reasons why MLM is not a good business model but my main objection is that you need to deceive people in order to be successful at it.

Vanilla Men

Old fashion ice cream stands used to sell three flavours, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Of course nobody wanted vanilla. It was considered a plain ordinary non flavor.
 Fear of rejection is a very powerfull force and can cause men to go to great lengths to conform. Yesterday I went into a cafeteria for the oil and gas workers on the Alaska hyway. Four men stared at me and did a scathing mental inventory of how tough I was. Men do these things, they can instantly size up a man and tell what he’s made of. I’m sure I came up lacking because my uniform was not up to their standard. They all had on dirty baseball hats, grubby jeans, boots and tough guy T shirts. You know the kind of shirt I mean, Harley Davidson logos, beer brands, any slogan that reflected the wearer’s tough guy image. The colors must be the correct shade to complete the uniform. The unwritten code is strict offering no mercy to violators. An incorrect smile, swagger or attitude would immediately betray you as a non cool person. Reject, back to their conversation. 
 Non conformity is a tough nut to swallow. The rejection we endure can be an unbearable price to pay for not wearing the correct uniform. Now can you imagine what their reaction would be if I attempted to tell them about Jesus Christ? Unthinkable! I like to be a silent witness in these situations.      
 Actually it’s fear of rejection, fear of the face of man. It’s very rare to see a man that is totally different. We all conform to some form of uniform or another. Be it a tough guy image, preppy, college slob, nerd, hippy, grunge, skater, metro man, pick your slot. Your preferred uniform will tell you if you’re in doubt. 
 All are shades of vanilla ordinariness and conformity. The man that is not defined by others opinions is a rare and endangered species. To follow Jesus Christ is to regard pleasing man a thing of your past. It means to consider yourself dead to the tyranny of fashion and all the compromising it requires of us. 
 The mark of a real man is how little he has compromised and how resolute he is to take the path in life less traveled. 
 Lord, help me to be that man. 

The Funeral

Last night I spoke at the funeral of a dear friend. He had given his life to JC and was baptized several years previously. Cancer was discovered in his colon last year and he began the lengthy process of chemo, hospitals, doctors a being constantly sick.  Facing the reality of winding down his life was understandably difficult to take. His faith was challenged as everything  he believed was brought into question. Last week he passed away leaving a young wife and an 8 year old son for our fellowship to care for. Several people spoke at the memorial that were relatives and neighbors. One of our fellowship members spoke then I did the pastoral talk at the end.
There was a stark contrast between the unbelievers and his Christian friends. Some of the 1st group spoke to him directly as though he was still there and could somehow hear them. It was sad and evident that they had no hope beyond the grave.
I thought back to when I saw him in the hospital a week previous. His eyes were open but all life was gone from his body.
If you took the peanut out of the shell, closed it and gave the empty shell to someone,”That’s not a peanut just a shell” they would say back to you.  In that coffin lay the shell of a man. The decay process began as soon as his life left his body. He was instantly transported into the presence of his Lord and Savior. His suffering and pain was finished. He now spends eternity in heaven.
The bible says “the day of your death is more important than the day of your birth”
It’s like a graduation ceremony from high school into real life. Instead of learning about life, he gets to go out and do the real thing, leaving us poor students behind in the classroom.
I hated school. It was like a prison sentence to me. I’ll never forget the last time I closed the door behind me at Templeton High School. It was like I was finally free to experience what I had been learning about for the past 13 years.
If your life is all about aquireing possessions, death will rob you of a lifetime of acquisitions.
If your life is all about friends and family, in a few short years you will be forgotten.
If your life is about being mean to people, stubborn and unforgiving or just willful against God’s will, make no mistake about it, hell is a very real place.
If your life is hid in Christ and His purposes, all eternity in His presence stretches before you.

Business Success

 There are many reasons why a business becomes successful but luck is not one of them. These are some of the deliberate steps we have taken that made a difference. 
1./ honor God in all your descisions. He will in turn honor you. 
2./ remember that any business that makes nothing but money is unsuccessful. 
3./ Employees can make or break any business, so treat them with respect. Job satisfaction has little to do with money. Discover what it has to do with and make sure they get it. 
4./ Always arrange to pay your suppliers immediately. Never use them to finance your contracts by delaying payment. That’s why there are banks, or better yet only take on work that you can pay suppliers up front for.   Your supplier will give you preferential treatment and the best possible price. This policy will pay huge dividends down the road. 
5./ Have a policy to make room in your employment for foreigners and handicapped people. This is like an insurance policy against insolvency. 
 6./  Deliberately leave a little for the gleaners. Pop bottles, scrap metal, old stock, things that you could squeeze a little bit of money out of but for some people it would mean a lot. In this you honor their maker. 
 7./ working a 40 hr.  week is for hired staff. That’s when your work begins. Get used to it. 
8./ innovation and creativity are the keys to cutting edge anything. 
9./ Working hard is for horses and fools. Rather work smart. Use the very best machinery and tools you can buy. You will never regret it. 
10./ It takes at least 3 years to establish a business and 5 to really start making money. Most people quit or sell before 5 years and never see the fruit of their labors. Think long haul as in generational.

Italians

Someone asked me “what is it about Italians that you like?”
Well I guess mainly it’s their exuberance for life. 
 I’ve had my hair cut in east Vancouver by Joe or Mino at Sorrento Barbers for over 40 years now. It’s very entertaining to watch their old customers come in and jibber jabber in Italian. They are so expressive the way they use hand motions and intonations. My sister liked Italians so much she married one. That didn’t last long, he wasn’t fond of monogamy. 
 I drove a black BMW X5 SUV for the last four years. It did everything and did it well. The problem was that it was dead boring. After owning more than 500 vehicles, it succeeded in taking all the zest out of driving. 
 So… last month I jumped out and bought a Fiat 500. It’s Ferrari red with a ratty exhaust, a stick shift and a sun roof. I actually enjoy driving again! No it doesn’t have a hello kitty on the dash and no, it’s not my mobile purse as someone suggested.  
 I love going to Bosa’s for a capachinno. The place is full of life and gusto. They took some effort to make the ambience a real italian experience. 
 Have you lost your zest for life? Is your routine mundane? Instead of changing your wife or your car in search of fulfillment in life, how about some real change?  Jesus said follow me. He challenges us to leave it all behind and follow him. People used to joke about leaving and joining the French Foreign Legion for an adventurous life. Following Jesus has no equal. Repent of your sins and turn to Jesus. Your life will never be the same.  
 Your friends and family may disown you. I know a fellow who’s mother had him forcibly committed to a mental institute upon his conversion. You could lose your job. In parts of China that’s a very real possibility. You could be beaten and physically abused as in some muslim, hindu and buddhist countries. 
 You could have the devil and his host of demons do everything in their power to defeat you but have God in your corner. 
Sound exciting? 
 Radical Christianity is anything but boring. Nothing but total commitment will do. Jesus’s disciples turned the world upside down. This is not your average 4 door Chevy. This is a Ferrari on steroids type faith. Definitely not for the faint of heart. 
 If you’ve been immunized from real Christianity by a watered down politically correct version, if you’ve bought into the “accept Jesus into your heart and everything will be ok” version and you’ve gotten disillusioned because “it didn’t work”, well you’re dead right. It doesn’t work.
  Last week I was talking to an downtown addict and he became indignant with me. “I’m already saved. I accepted Jesus into my heart and I believe that Jesus died for my sins”      “Yea but you forgot to repent! Look at you, you’re living in squalor and have no concept of holiness or who God is.”
 He just added Jesus to his roster of trips that he’s into. Anything short of total commitment to Jesus is a joke, it’s a religious facade that has nothing to do with God. 
 

Sanctification

1Jn.3:9 the ESV bible says:
“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”
 If you notice. It doesn’t say he that sin’s, for we all sin from time to time. It says he that makes a  practice of sinning. To practice means you intentionally repeat doing something with the purpose of improving at it, as you would do when practicing piano. 
 Usually someone doesn’t practice  something they don’t like doing unless they are addicted to it. 
 If you are a Christian and you are addicted to a sin, God can help you with it.
  If our heart is to please the Father, we can ask Him to reveal our inconsistencies so that we can change to be more like Him. He does so in such a gentle way. 
This process is called sanctification and it’s a necessary step for all Christians. 
 Yesterday I went to a party put on by a couple who were not walking closely with God. It was a curious mix of pagans and malcontent Christians. At some point in their Christian walk they had become offended at the church or stalled in the sanctification process. The friends they attracted were all in the same boat, sliding towards their old life. Jesus had become progressively marginalized and the joy of their salvation lost.
  I went with the prayer “Lord I’m available to speak your words of grace to the broken and rebuke to the proud.” 
 The only broken person I met all nite was a homeless bum at the doorway. I ignored him but later thought “Lord I missed my opportunity, give me another chance.” 

 Tonight I help on the soup line again.