May 28, 2017

Running the Race to Win!

It is race day here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. Yes, it is May 28, the last Sunday of the month, and that means that in my home it is “race day.” Traditionally, the Indianapolis 500 is run on the last Sunday in May (except for rainouts, which occur on Monday), and the race and festivities start off our Memorial Day celebration. Race Day for my Dad is a “church sick day,” and as such, the family typically takes the day off from Sunday services to observe this “ahem” solemn event. Well, not really. My Dad usually stays home, but since Mom no longer drives, she stays home as well.

I grew up watching the race on “race day,” and it simply has become a family tradition. I don’t pay much attention to the racers anymore, but in the early years (80s), I was partial to certain well-known racers, most of whom have retired or sadly, passed away. My Dad, however, keeps up with the racers and their wins, but since the show takes place in Indiana (my Dad’s home state), I really think the whole race has more to do with his roots than with his love of Indy car racing. Sigh!

Nonetheless, we are home today. All of us — except for my son — who works on Sundays out at Central Christian Church. He is faithful, that boy of mine, and he gets up and out of bed by 5:30 so he can be on the road and make early morning rehearsal at 7 a.m. I am so proud of that boy, really proud of him. He has done so well managing his school and work schedule. Furthermore, he has handled leadership well, and as such, he has come to experience some of the challenges of managing personalities and people. He has grown as a man, and he has a good head on his shoulders. I know God has a great plan for His life, and that his life — as it is now — is just the beginning of the awesome “show” the Lord has in store for him.

Creating Goals for the Next Big Hurrah

With this said, I am sitting here at my desk, sipping my coffee and eating a cinnamon roll (another race day tradition). It is a good day to be home. I am well-rested, feeling well, and despite my not sleeping soundly at night, I am in good form. I do not feel tired at all, and my energy reserve seems to be running fairly high right now. I am in good spirits, and I feel really, really well. This isn’t to say that I don’t have any pain or discomfort, because in fact, I do. I have had lingering pain in my shoulder, and neck area, but overall, the pain is minimal. I have the normal cricks and cracks, but Lord willing, I am able to get up and do everything I need to do each day. Granted my day takes me from the bed to my desk chair, just a short walk away, and most of my day is spent online (teaching/grading), but I am able to sit all day and do my work. Praise be to God, I can do my work!

I was thinking this morning how blessed I am to have this life. I mean, I have everything I could possibly want, and while it is not perfect, it is a good life. I have a job I love to do, and I have my studies (my ongoing studies). I have purpose, focus, drive, ambition, and thanks to God, I have a plan that seems to be directed toward accomplishing His specific will for my life. I feel empowered, engaged, and I am enthusiastically interested in the details of my life. I feel confident that in a short time, I will have that mystery job. I feel confident that in a short time, the uncertainty about my home life will finally be resolved. More so, I feel confident that in a short time, all the unknowns at present will be made clear to me, and with that clarity, I will create a new 5-year plan. I will have goals, tasks, and achievements to managed, and with a new plan laid out, I will have a good way to go. I need a plan, I need to have goals, and I need to have directed studies — directed steps — in order to feel accomplished, purposed, and as though my life matters (if only to me).

You see, completing my PhD was the highest accomplishment that I could imagine, and it took me nearly 25 years to do it. It was what you call a long term goal. Now that I have graduated, I look to the future, and I need a new long term goal to focus my attention. I’ve thought about making my goal my career, and while that makes sense, in higher education there is only so much movement to be had, so once you are hired as full-time tenure track faculty, the requirement is on scholarship, leadership (committees and such) as well as bringing in research dollars to your university. I don’t plan on doing much, other than scholarship, but the fact is that since I teach online, there is not a lot of opportunity to move up (nor do I want to do so at this point in time). For me, therefore, the focus needs to be on something else, some other tangible goals that will help me stay busy, keep my mind working hard, and so forth.

School is my go-to for intellectual stimulation, but since I just graduated, I am not ready to step back onto that mouse wheel at this point in time. However, next year, perhaps I will feel different. Perhaps I will want to pursue another masters degree, I am not sure. I have talked about studying linguistics, and that seems the most likely path for me to pursue. It aligns well with my English background, and it would give me extra instruction in the area of second-language acquisition in the classroom. I could definitely benefit from studying applied linguistics. Another possibility is to continue my studies in literature. I have my masters in literature, but another PhD (Lord, help me!) would open up doors. I just don’t think I can invest time and money in that pursuit. I don’t think I have the stamina at this time or state of life. We will see what the Lord desires for me to do, so for now, I am content to rest. I am content to rest, relax, and let the Lord recharge my batteries, so to speak.

One of the things I have learned is that short term goals are good for must-needs. These are the type of goals that net “things” in life. So for example, getting a bachelors degree may net a career path. Getting a promotion at work may net a bigger pay check. Saving enough money over the course of a year may net a vacation or a new car. Short term goals — good for getting things — or for changing directions and setting new paths. Long term goals, on the other hand, are for future scenarios. Long term goals net an environmental shift. What I mean is a long term goal such as retirement planning may net a better quality of life during one’s golden years. Long term goals such as diet and fitness may net a better quality of life overall (less pain, sickness, or disease). Thus, short term goals are great for quick fixes or for taking small steps to maneuver into a better position for growth. Long term goals are the ones that effect the most change because they are realized many years down the road. They take careful planning, diligence and discipline, and when considered seriously and faithfully, can make big differences in one’s overall quality of life.

I completed my biggest short term goal of my life and that was to get my PhD. I had started on this path some 25 years ago, but life intervened, and I never was able to complete the goal. It sat on the back-burner, and when the time was right (praise be to God), I was able to complete the work and graduate. Now, I am positioned well in higher education. I am a professor, and I love my life and career. But, what do I do next? What is the next short and long term goal for my life?

Short Term Goals

I blog about my short term goals all the time, but suffice it to say, my short term goals are pretty realistic and rational.

  • Full-time faculty job at a university
  • New car for my son
  • Student loan debt forgiven/paid
  • Credit card debt zeroed out
  • House purchase
These goals are all about things, and while some of these will produce a better quality of life down the road, for the most part, they are simply a means to an end. For example, my son needs his own car, which means I will get my car back! Praise God! A full-time position for me will bring me benefits not tied to Obama/Trumpcare and a 401k to help build retirement security. Student loans and credit cards reduced or zeroed out simply means that I will have more income in my pocket, less payments to make, and generally an overall better managed financial life. Lastly, a home purchase is the best financial move possible. Paying rent is like tossing good money down the drain. It accounts for nothing, nets you nothing, and while it works for temporary housing (if you plan to move a lot), in the end, it is better to be paying toward real property than lining someone else’s pocket with your hard earned cash. Therefore, all of these goals are really good ones, and they will produce some long term benefit for me. Long term goals, conversely, will require more effort and will naturally take more time to complete.

Long Term Goals

My long term goals include things like building a financial investment portfolio, buying secondary property, managing my tax burden, and yes, retirement. In addition, they include developing a ministry, attending school again (down the road) for said ministry, and generally, developing my skills and abilities as an orator, media specialist, and of course, producing a legacy in scholarship. All of these “things” require time, lots of time, and in order to complete them, I have to setup short and mid range goals that will move me closer and closer to each goal post. I have to have a long range plan that factors in short, mid and long term goals, and then once my plan is set out, I can develop a strategy that will net me each accomplishment. 

Goal planning is probably one of the things I love to do most, and I am really good at it, to boot. I love to plan, to scheme, to imagine scenarios, and in this way, I love to dream about possibilities and future outcomes. I guess you could say that I enjoy the strategy involved in realizing a plan, seeing it come to pass, and finally achieving the end result. This is what fuels me, challenges me, and most of all, provides the “get up and out of bed” attitude I need each day to be productive. Without some plan of action, I will turn into a puddle of jello. I will become fat and lazy, and I will be bored beyond measure. I need goals, lots of them, and I need high hurdles, hills, and yes, mountains to climb just so I can feel like I am doing something, anything, that is worthwhile. Goals are my friends, and my to-do list, is my constant companion. I love the order, the synchronicity, and the power that I feel as I move through my checklist and accomplish everything I have set out to do each day.

God knows me well, and He knows that while I need to rest, I also need plenty of work to do. I am not content to do just one thing only. I am not content to work at one job — no — I need three jobs. I am not content to have one degree — no — I need multiple degrees. I am not doing the work to prove to others I am worthy (no, not any more), but I am doing the work to demonstrate my own abilities to my self, to show that I can discipline my life to such an extent that I can achieve whatever the Lord desires for me to achieve. This means that I live my life to score another point, to scale another mountain, to stop at nothing short of His best in every single area of my life. I long to hear Him say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” and in this way, I will know that I have run the race set before me to win. I will have done what He has asked me to do, and I will have finished the race of faith with every fiber of my body, my being. It is all my best for His best. It is all for His way, His work, and His will, and may the Lord be praised as a result of my hard work, diligence, and obedience in walking out my faith.
In Conclusion

As I blog today, I am thinking about all the possibilities that exist for me in my next 10-20 or even 30 years. I have so much to do, and I have many things I desire to accomplish. I am not content to retire yet, and I am not content to make retirement my end goal. Nope, not at all. In fact, I hope to keep on working right up to the day I die. I want to be found busy in the Lord’s vineyard when He returns or when He calls me home. I plan to be busy, really busy, and the Lord knows that I will not work in vain. It will all be for His name, His praise, and to bring my Father honor. I will work heartily unto the Lord all the days of my life so that when I do finally rest, it will be with the blessed rest of eternity as my reward.

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