29 March 2014

My Gratitude

Today I was observing a man with what is called down syndrome.  Seeing him made me reflect on the many people like that whom I've seen in the past.  I've always wondered why they seemed so happy and content.  Almost every time I've seen someone like that, I've seen them with a smile on their face and seemingly at peace going about their day. 

As I began to ponder this, I began to reflect on my own life and about the experiences and things which God has granted me to have and those experiences and things which He has removed from my life.  I began to count the ways in which I was grateful for having what I have today and for the things I don't have.

I began to think about the time I was losing things; having to move due to the decisions others made and not being prepared for a move, having to sell some material possessions to raise cash and to limit my baggage, having a pet of mine given away in my absence, asking near strangers for a place to stay when some folks at church were asking for rent that I couldn't afford or just saying "I'm praying for you."  I looked past their perspective for I saw God teaching me to look beyond the physical and material, but I would be lying if I said I didn't struggle and wrestled with my faith at that point in time.  But even in this, I realized God was teaching me a greater perspective and was systematically removing me from certain circles for a greater purpose... and was calling me to stand on His Word regardless if others were not.  I'm grateful God reminds me of His Word when I am challenged to doubt it when looking at other believers.

Growing pains are never firmly understood as they are occurring, but the result from the growth supersedes the memory of the pains, the disappointments and the discomforts.

I recall God providing for me at every turn, and many times it was at the final hour!  These instances were teaching me to see God working through all things and all people, to do my part and let God do His part.  These lessons were teaching me to see past those whom I thought I knew or trusted and instead to see that God's children come in many forms, not just the ones I expected or recognized.  I am sure some reading this can attest that although sometimes we can't see His help at first instance, surely later we can identify the manner and ways He worked us through it all.

Thinking about that man and others with down syndrome, could it be that their pure hearts grant them opportunity to experience peace, joy and love?  Could it be they are spared what most call the 'complications' of life?  Could it be they are not capable of taking on what people call 'complications?'  They seem to be free from the mental dilemmas many are caught up with.  I wonder if they are happy because they are not chasing after 'things' but are simply grateful when they have a meal, a laugh, are spending time with their relatives or happen to see something beautiful.  I know I became happier when I finally began to control my appetite for material possessions and the desire to keep up with my peers in their consumerist approach to life.  I began to be happier with less and less things, not because I believe I was coming to grips with my situation, but because I don't think many things make anyone happy.  I've bought new cars, and the first new car's 'happiness' lasted a few weeks... the second lasted a few days, then it was just another thing I used to get around. 

For me personally, there were things I didn't want to throw away when I had to move ( I've moved as many times in as many years ), but I knew I simply couldn't keep every single thing that sparked a memory for me.  Some people think they lose a part of themselves if they lose some parts or all of their possessions, but we know rationally this isn't so.  I know I didn't want to be a slave to a monthly bill of keeping useless things in a storage facility somewhere... or having a garage space where a car should be parked piled to the ceiling with things that only hold a value in my mind but not in actuality.  I'm glad I don't have so much stuff to keep track of accumulating dust.

When I decided to sell the most recent car in my quest to downsize, the choice to do so wasn't at that point because of financial hardship.  The choice was because somehow along the way God had taught me to be grateful for the things He's given me directly and not the material things I and most people the world over use as a crutch for happiness.  There wasn't a need for that car.  As God was removing things, either by method or by circumstance, I began to see more of not only my life, but the lives of others.  I began to 'see' so much further and deeper than before.

I am grateful for the vision I've received from His willful purpose in my life!

Years previously I had sold my motorcycle to put that money / value to better use, and although I still miss riding around on occasion, there has been another part of life I've been missing.  There is something about taking a walk in the neighborhood / city / space you live in.  There is an experience that cannot be had whizzing by at 35, 55 or 85 miles per hour that can only be enjoyed at two miles per hour while on foot.  You really get to see where you are.  Even just the other day when I rode a bicycle to the beach to fly my foam remote controlled plane ( the only 'toy' I currently own ), I missed much more than I did while I was walking the day prior.  There's a whole world of people I have been missing... or purposefully ignoring.  There's also something about taking public transportation that wakens you up to the plight and reality of other human beings you share the planet space with.  Although my 'work' doesn't take me on a daily hustle and battle on the freeways to some job or business location, I realized how I've been given a rare gift: to earn my bread in an unusual way.  I am so grateful to God for helping me see past so much.

The choice of getting rid of my cell phone ( and monthly bill ) was a tough one to contemplate, for I feared I wouldn't be able to get in touch with someone in the case of an emergency... but more so it was the social pressure of not being up to date with my contemporaries.  Yet today I couldn't be happier not being tied to an electronic leash or following silly trends and cultural acceptance.  Besides, I get free phone, free texting and all the same stuff when I'm at a computer... and when I'm not at a computer, I'm not available ( leave a message, lol ).  I'm glad a cultural ideal doesn't have a sway on me.

I am glad I am realizing that the closer I get to God the less and less material pursuits mean for me... and the less I am thinking about what others think about me or whether or not I am complying with popular expectations.  Not to say it is bad to want to have nice things or the newest thing, but all in its proper measure for a reasonable purpose.  I think if people have or attain financial wealth and they do good with that wealth, then not only was that income a blessing, they in turn are a blessing for others.

I firmly believe any good talent / gift / value we have is to be used for good and for good only, otherwise what was perceived to be a blessing turns into a curse ( I too have experienced and lived this out as well ).  Many people, religious preachers included, think the more money they make at something is a clear sign of God blessing their efforts or pursuits.  That is a false pretense, but to a spiritually blind person, they don't see the difference.  I am glad God has given me a vision to see past the falsehood of what I just stated, and I praise Him for this, for this is a gift of hindsight as well as foresight.

I am grateful I don't rate my self or that term 'success' by the amount of money I have, or what ( if anything ) I have in the garage, or by the brand of shoes I wear, or by the cost of a watch on my wrist, or by the amount of people around me and their job titles or their pursuits in life.  I am grateful for the love God has for me, how He shows me the magnitude of His love and His will in my life on a daily basis, the depth of the love He has placed in my wife's heart for me, the quality time He has allowed for us to share together and all the little things I have and enjoy.

I am grateful for the value the Lord has placed on me, His creation, His son.

You reading this should also be grateful for the value the Lord has placed on you!  We are the most valued and wonderfully made 'things' on the face of the planet... and to the Lord, we are worth so much!!

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

- Psalm 139:13-14

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Him who gives me strength."

- Philippians 4:11-13

26 March 2014

What Is Today's Revolution?

I officially entered the revolution when I began trading the stock market in 2008.  I just happened to catch the second day of a triple digit sell off on the news… watching and laughing as those called ‘leaders’ in what is called congress ( some would call them hired hands ) were running back and forth with money men in backroom deals to stave off system collapse.  I read opportunity among the large red numbers on the teevee news and having some cash on-hand but no stock market experience; I figured it couldn’t be too difficult, eh?  I was about to find out the hard way.  The price of arrogance is quite high.  My first revolutionary battles were bloody and left me in the red, sweaty palms and all. 

So I went headlong into the abyss of ignorance despite my arrogance… and lost quite a bit of money in penny stocks, turning a blind eye and ear to the advise to not even get involved with them if I didn’t know exactly what I was doing.  I figured it couldn’t be that difficult.  I had a button where I can press ‘buy’ and later ‘sell’ and what happens in between would be just as I imagined it.  I could fire off several rounds of buying low to later fire off one big round of selling high.  How childlike we can be sometimes… as innocent and clueless as a child.  Such are those who perish in a revolutionary war or any war for that matter.

I did make some money every now and again trading Citigroup and some others.  Looking back I am sure it was the wrong time for a newbie to learn a new industry.  The volatility was ridiculous, but I didn’t have any experience to gauge it by.  I was in the heat of battle with unseen foes, all striving to win their battle at their virtual helm while hopefully not losing all their gun powder in the process.  

As I would listen ever closely to what government employees would say publicly and how the market would react instantaneously and quite violently, I quickly learned how there was no free market and logic played no part in this particular game.  I had entered this particular revolution ill prepared and believing platitudes and phony promises.  I was on the frontline without a helmet of knowledge.  And just like any other war before, only the most vigilant would live to see tomorrow and write down a memoir.  

When I thought I had witnessed the bottom several times in late 2008, I was soberly corrected, for I had no clue as to the numerical significance of the actual bottom on 03/06/09 and the S&P’s bottom of $666.  That was enough to creep some people out, but it actually spurred my desire to game this unfathomable new venture of mine.  I saw it not as coincidence but a purposeful act of manipulation.  All I knew at that time was that I desired to now trade my time and that phony fiat for more fiat ( a means to an end some would call it )… in order to buy me more leisure time for myself and my worldly aspirations… and hopefully dominate my fear of the unknown “invisible hand” of the market.

After blowing the first few wire deposits to my stock broker ( what I thought I would easily double or triple in a few week’s time ), I figured I should just wait until I read a bit more about this new venture I was taking.  I had just come from the real estate world where although you had to act fast for some things, the market was not as fast as this virtual game of chance called the stock market.  

I continued my study and writing of what money was and what it was not.  I desired to look beyond the physical manifestation of money, of markets and what it truly meant to have debt, have money, be ‘rich’ and what property ownership really was all about.  I would later find out that money is debt ( a note ) and some other mind boggling facts which sound like fiction when spoken out loud.

I continued working my little bread and butter online business and enjoying my weekly Harley Davidson rides with my buddies every so often, using terms such as “I’m short on ___ stock today” to sound sophisticated, but I was really just crossing my fingers my hunch would prove true.  What I really desired was to go beyond the physical business world and somehow capitalize on the virtual… I wanted to be an expert trader, amassing a virtual fortune and living frugally off the quarterly dividends or managing my portfolio a few minutes in the early morning hours in my pajamas with sleep still in my eyes.  I had no clue what I was getting myself into.  I don’t like to quit and I don’t like to lose… unless it is an argument which I know I am right and for the sake of the other person or listeners present, to simply concede the debate with a smile ( only to continue the debate it in my mind while preparing the winning points for a rebuttal at a later time…  you know, the definition of pride ).

I must say: it’s a funny thing when you have and hold a losing trade ( I know this funny feeling and all the related emotions all too well )… you begin to pay more attention to not only the security ( what a misnomer, a “security” ) you are holding but you read everything about it.  You also begin what should have been your due diligence before pulling the trigger and entering a position.  I still occasionally jump in the pool before checking how hot or cold the water is… sometimes forgetting to also check if it is deep enough for a jackknife or a belly flop.  Yet my discipline is catching up with my ego… I’m sure. 

My foray into the revolutionary economic war is still evidenced by my ditching the blue collar world and going from employee with a musket and some loose powder to a sergeant with a virtual army of soldiers dressed as digital numbers in my trading platform account.  

Today my weapons of choice are renewable energies and endeavors which resemble the Tom's Shoes phenomenon.  I love taking the chance to short those too big to fail conglomerates when they are overbought and obviously over bloated.  I utilize my vocal sword and take to the virtual social networks to induce the good will conscience or endure debilitating guilt.  I call upon my arsenal of digital fiat soldiers and deploy them in key option positions.  I prepare for the continued economic revolution which will succeed in producing a more equitable environment for both the market participants and those clueless who would rather watch on the sidelines and ask for a job.  I am a career soldier in this economic revolution.  

Many have failed, many have fallen… many are in fear and many more are furious… but this man is finally at ease with his decision to take the road less traveled.