It’s 2009. Cope!

It’s good to have goals.  Otherwise, you’re like the fellow in the audience at a Howie Mandel concert, whom Howie asked, “So, what do you do for a living?”

The answer: “Nothing.”

Howie’s response: “How do you know when you’re finished?”

See, I like the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing something.  I even like knowing just how far I’ve gotten through a project — 30% of the way, 50%, 72%, whatever.  It’s a good feeling, knowing that you’ve achieved something concrete, measurable … being able to look at it and say, “See?  I have done this!  I have built this building, sold this product, cooked this soup, read this novel, trimmed this beard!  I am Man, shaper of the earth!”  (Okay, sorry to get all Nietzsche on you.  Where was I?)  And if you don’t have a goal — the grand opening of the building, the end of the novel, facial hair that doesn’t make you look like a molting cat, whatever — you’ll never get to where you want to be.  With anything.

With that in mind, and since it’s 1 January of a new year, I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to accomplish in the next twelve months.  (Notice, please, that I am not using the R-word.  R-words tend to get abandoned because they’re usually less goal than wish.  If I wanted to wish, I’d buy a well.)  I came up with six things.  Starting with the sublime and progressing to the ridiculous:

1. A Congregational Journey. This is something I believe God put on my heart over the last couple of months.  As some of you may know, while I gave my life to Christ over 21 years ago, I have not been attending Sunday congregational services regularly for the past two years.  I’ve got some serious disagreements with how those Sunday services are carried out, and how I believe they are more likely to keep people away from God than draw them to Him, and more likely to keep Christians immature than help them mature.   (For a more in-depth examination of these ideas, click here.)

And yet, at the same time I recognize that God calls all of His people to be in relationship with each other, to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together” as the King James Bible puts it.  So I’ve stayed accountable to some fellow Christians, I’ve fellowshipped via online discussion forums, and I even attempted to start a “house church,” a less rigid, more relationship-oriented church meeting.  (The last hasn’t worked out.  So far.)  All of that hasn’t completely met that need for connection with fellow believers, or the need to help other people in their faith journeys.

So I’m jumping back in the pool.  Over 12 of the next 13 Sundays (I’ll miss one due to travel), I’m going to be visiting 12 different congregations in my hometown of Stockton, California, keeping in mind two things:

a) what is the state of the Church (the whole body of believers) in the city?

b) what open doors are there for me to help in each place with the skills God has given me?

And I expect I’ll be writing up my experiences here as well — both to share what I found and to add an extra level of accountability (if I get too far off-track, someone in Internetland will jam me up about it, I’m sure).  It’s an experiment of sorts, and I’m a little nervous about re-entering this milieu, but I’m also looking forward to it.  Might even be fun …

2. Find a diet plan that works for me. This is not just about weight loss, although that’s a factor.  I currently weigh 240 pounds (109 kg), which is about 50 (23) more than I should.  This, in turn, affects a lot of other things: my stamina, my bad feet, how my wife reacts when I remove my shirt, etc.  “Eat right, eat less and exercise” is good advice — getting those things done is a bit harder.  So one of the things I’m going to be working on is an actual plan to trim off that extra 23 kg.  What will I eat, and how much (or little)?  What won’t I eat, either because I can’t resist a third helping of it or because it ties my GI tract in knots?  What physical activity can I do to remove the excess tonnage that won’t leave me walking like an 80-year-old?  (I have reeeeeeally bad feet …)  This is going to take some exploration.

3. Get published. I mentioned in an earlier post that I have finished (what I hope is) the final draft of a novel.  Now comes the tough part: convincing a publisher that they’ll make oodles of $$$ if they put it out on the shelves.  I don’t know what this will take, especially in that the story itself is kind of odd: a post-apocalyptic semi-religious quasi-medieval interclass romance, with a crime to solve and some meditations on the nature of fear thrown in for “flava.”  Tell me what category that falls in — even harder, tell me a category it DOESN’T fall in.

But my good friend Geralyn is already a published author, and has been talking me up with her publisher, so I have a friend in court there.  (Do click on the link to her blog at right.  Better yet, after you do that, buy her book — it’s excellent!  Far better than mine, frankly, but I love her anyway.)  Even if that doesn’t pan out, I can always play Trolling for Rejection Letters and see what happens.  The way I see it, if William Paul Young can pop out a fairly didactic novel through a self-publishing firm and watch it skyrocket up the New York Times bestseller list based almost entirely on word-of-mouth, who knows, maybe there’s a market for my little story, too.  (Young’s novel is The Shack, and if you haven’t read it yet … what, have you been living under a rock?  Go get a copy.)

4. Get a job. Sha na na na, sha na na na na, ba-oooom … sorry, couldn’t resist.  You’d think this would be higher up the list.  But my wife (hereinafter known as “the Supermodel”) is a school teacher, so she makes fairly good coin.  And we’ve usually been careful with our money, plus avoided debt like it was contagious, so we’re not hurting financially.  I’m even doing a little freelance work for a former supervisor — she liked my writing skills, so when the company we were both at went under, she had me start typing up some stuff for her new job.  But it would be a little more comfy for the fam to have a second full income.  And candidly, I’d like the challenge.  So I plan to keep pounding the virtual pavements with my digitized resume and see if anything turns up.  You never know.

5. A 100-win season. Okay, so I’m in this fairly elite all-time fantasy baseball league called Legends of Baseball (link is also to the right) — a leaugue where you can draft and play players from throughout baseball history.  I’ve even won the championship twice, both times to my shock.  Because both years, I had teams that struggled for much of the season, barely scraped into the playoffs … and for no logical reason, proceeded to catch fire and win the trophy.  Once is a fluke, twice is just plain bizarre.  (If I do it three times, I’m going to call it a system and start selling it.  I’ll be the Steven Covey of fantasy baseball.)

This year, though, I want to catch fire at the start of the season.  My dream is to put together a team that just runs and hides from the rest of the league, one that lets me relax a little come September.  I don’t know if I can do it — we’ve got some really sharp owners in this league, some of whom may read this.  (Oops?)  But I know it can be done, because some of those guys have done it.  I want to rack up a hundred wins in ’09, even if it means I get slammed in the first round of the playoffs.  Just to say I’ve done it.

6. Start a blog. Oh, wait — I’ve already done that, haven’t I?  Great!  One down, five to go …

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10 Responses to It’s 2009. Cope!

  1. John says:

    Please provide a comprehensive list of items which are 72% complete. I’m fascinated by this oxymoronic ability not to complete, but to properly track.

    Oh, and I’ve never dealt with a blog before, so I have no idea what trouble I’m getting myself into. Probably much.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  2. Jacob Wilson says:

    Hi Ray

  3. J. Wilson says:

    Hi Ray. Thanks for sending me an invitation. I for one thing appreciate those expressions of truth that you send out there. Listen One of my rr…rrrrr. rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I cant say it at this time. One of my accomplishments I would like to make this year is to not be so addicted to the internet. And when I am on there I at least want to get something constructive out of it. I have gotten good things out of it but when I stack them up against the time I have squandered It just seems like a waste of time. Recieving this invitation has both helped me to aspire to this accomplishment and given me a place where I anticipate will help me carry it out. The other week or month ago I was silently thinking about telling my Aunt Jan about you. I wanted to tell her or someone like her If you ever needed somenoe who would make a great conservative radio talk show host Ray is your man. Or something like that Seriously. She sells advertising for the patriot in modesto. It has been a while since I have seen you but the gift of gab you have mixed with your sincerity to seek after Gods purpose has drawn my ears to listen when you speak. My dad has been dieting for years and has until recently not been able to get down to where he is now. He told me the other day that he can feel the bones on his pelvis which he hasen’t felt in years. He loves to talk about it. Its a combination of a number of things plus I think him recently falling off a roof ending up in the hospital for a while and God sparing his life not to mention more serious injuries. It’s not fun working on a roof with the man who raised you who showed me many of the ropes. Watching him rumble off the roof and me screaming flying down the ladder craddling his bloddy head while yearing the sirens comming in the distance. Hope to hear form you again. Your friend and Brother in christ Jacob

  4. rwargo says:

    Ray:

    Running away with the league through 100-win seasons is overrated. Its all about the rings.

    Signed:

    The 1906 Chicago Cubs
    The 1954 Cleveland Indians
    The 2001 Seattle Mariners
    The 2006 Borneo Lorii
    The 2008 Borneo Lorii

  5. dhelmer says:

    Ray,

    (1) Glad to hear about goal #2. Good luck.

    (2) Interesting to hear your thoughts behind goal #1. As you know, my spiritual perspective is vastly different from yours; but I do try to make it to church once a year, for Easter (naturally). While I think Christian churches in general often do a good (sometimes great) job at creating a sense of community, my difficulties with going to churches have been, in short: (a) theological, and (b) just being completely bored by the worship service.

    I look forward to reading your unvarnished opinions on these and other topics. (Except for fantasy baseball…I couldn’t care less. :) Good start on your blog, and again, good luck–on everything. Do your best.

    –D.

  6. […] is why I’m nervous about embarking on the “congregational journey” I mentioned in my last post.  I’m about to visit twelve places where the odds are good that all of the things in the […]

  7. Meena says:

    Hey Ray-
    I’d forgotten how much I love to read your writing. Looking forward to catching up with you, if only in “blog” form… Best of luck to you in all your undertakings!!

  8. […] mentioned in my New Year’s day post that I would be going on a Congregational Journey, beginning today.  I stated my reasons why, but […]

  9. […] a month ago, I discussed my plans for the new year and mentioned that one of my goals was “find a diet plan that works for me”.  This has […]

  10. […] my goals for 2009 On January 1, I posted a blog entry about the things I’d like to achieve in 2009.  Since I don’t have any better idea on what to write today — okay, actually I have a […]

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