Thursday, December 18, 2008

My 2008 New Year's Resolutions

Nope, that's not a typo. I'm recapping my Resolutions for the year that's about to come to a close. I resolved to do three things coming into 2008:

Take Control of my Financial Planning

I don't mean to brag (which of course means that I do...), but for a good little amount of time now I've been a fantasy baseball savant. Fantasy Baseball is a fun game that makes commodities out of baseball players, whose values rise & fall over the course of seasons. Last fall, a friend in my accountability group asked me a good question: "Why don't you apply all of that to investing?" I'd thought about that before, but I guess I'd never really been shamed into thinking about it so critically.

So I decided to do just that: apply my fantasy baseball acumen to my retirement investing. I devoured a couple of books, and incessantly picked the brain of one of my very loyal blog readers (thanks for being patient with me!).

A year later, I'm about 40% poorer. (g) Nevertheless, I'm excited because I understand what it means to buy low & sell high. And I've learned enough about the financial lay of the land to understand which investments/sectors to engage & which ones to avoid. I am chomping at the bit to get to the new year, pay my taxes, and fund my IRA so that I can get some more money into this undervalued market as soon as possible.

Become More News Aware

There's a well-known quote about preaching attributed to numerous sources (e.g. Karl Barth, Phillips Brooks, etc.) that goes something like this: "Preachers should preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other." The idea is that preachers need to bring a holy & transcendent word, but that it should also be applied to relevant & timely issues. I just had a sense about myself a year ago that I was kind of "Bible saturated." Don't hear me wrong: I wouldn't say I had been reading my Bible too much. But the idea of balance in my reading wasn't there.

So, about a year ago, my buddy Matt taught me about & turned me onto News Aggregators like BlogLines and Google Reader (the one I now prefer). Instead of wearying myself by checking all my favorite web sites (and being overly anxious about perhaps missing something) all my news now comes to me as a sort of "News E-mail Inbox" via the magic of RSS. I get EVERYTHING there -- my friends' blog updates, sports news, political news, money news, EVEN my Bible reading assignment for the day.

And now, a year later, I sense that I'm much more informed & that I'm a better preacher because of the balance that I bring to the pulpit.

And finally...

Make a Discipline out of Blogging

About five years ago, I had the pleasure of listening to the esteemed preacher Fred Craddock present a 3-hour seminar on preaching. For at least one hour of that seminar, he talked about the technical aspects of what makes a better preacher. One of the points that Craddock emphasized was that though not all good writers are good preachers, ALL good preachers are good writers. And that writing is something that needs to be practiced.

Craddock pointed to one book in particular that influenced him: "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. He explained how Lamott asserts that good writers write regularly, and they perfect their craft "bird by bird." What does that mean? Well, Lamott says that when you have a little narrative idea: STOP, pull out a sheet of paper, and write about it. Just a page. Tell the story. Paint it artfully. Then, when you've finished, file it away. Craddock says you'll have a sermon illustration for a dull sermon that needs color that you'll be preparing one day.

If that's not blogging, I don't know what is. Making a discipline out of this has blessed my life in un-numbered ways. Thinking out loud in this forum has helped me make sense out of life in ways that I hadn't even considered. It's made me a better writer. It's made me a better preacher. And I hope to continue the practice.

So there they are: my three fulfilled resolutions of 2008. They were a big part of what made 2008 one of the best years of my life. I've already made my resolutions for 2009, also. And they are even better than the ones I made for '08. I've shared them with the people I need to share them with to hold me accountable. And hopefully, in about 12 months, I'll have a great testimony to share with you about how my 2009 resolutions blessed my life.

I encourage you to make your own resolutions, and to keep them. I give you a solemn promise: it'll do you a world of good.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Good luck with investing. I hope to do that one day as well. My former boss always said that more money is made in a bear market than a bull market. If I had any money, I'd be all over the stock and real estate markets right now.