Monday, April 18, 2016

Assessing My First Quarter Successes and Failures

Reader Beware: The following blog post measures my progress for the goals I set at the beginning of 2016.* Some of my goals had plans; some did not. And not all plans are created equal. So do not be surprised if the tone of my self-assessment is mostly negative.

Fortunately, the year is just beginning. Birds have started to sing. Flowers have started to bloom. And I smell success in the air.

Before scrolling down (or clicking something more interesting), please note that my self-assessment, albeit boring, may have something to offer you, including:
  • a witty turn of phrase or two
  • examples of gracious failure
  • one boast that will likely make America great again
Goal: Run a Half Marathon in 1:25:00
After a brilliant month of running in January, my training stumbled. My Achilles tendon flared up. I researched the problem on the Internet. I started cancer treatments and learned a few new stretches.** After resting most of March, I began running again last week. Every morning my left heel screams for the first thirty minutes of the day. A half marathon seems miles away (13.1 to be exact).

Goal: Give Away $5000
I'd tell you how generous I am, but my right hand (that types) can't remember what my left hand (that gives) put in the offering basket. And the rest of our charitable donations are online and automated.

Goal: Read 27 books
I've been reading like a ravenous beast. I can't get enough. Authors' ideas fill my brain and belly. Their words are stuck between my teeth. Twelve books and counting. If learners are leaders, write me in for president. Good options are currently lacking.

Goal: Finish Two Manuscripts
Work on my manuscripts has suffered since I lost my computer. Well, technically, the airline lost it... and then found it... in Ethiopia. It awaits me. Moreover, my manuscripts are saved in the cloud, so I could get at them if I wanted to. But I don't. My backup computer is noisy and several of the keys stiiiiiiiiiiick. SEeeeeeeeeeeeee.***

Goal: Raise Blog Readership 75
Going to Ethiopia and adopting a child did wonders for my blog readership. This post, however, will likely fail miserably. (Are you still reading?) People like personal stories  and self-help tips, not church talk and introspective drivel. So for good measure, I'll throw in a picture of me and Sensi and tell you to improve your sleep by turning screens off thirty minutes before bedtime. Classic bait and switch!

On a humbling note, my wife's Ethiopia entries crushed mine. After encouraging her to blog to help her "work through" her anxiety, she's causing me to "work through" my envy.

Goal: Take My Wife on 10 "Real" Dates
See previous post to see why I haven't taken her out. Envious husbands are not gracious dinner companions. Our first getaway is this weekend.

Goal: Take My Daughters on 4 Dates Each
I took each of my daughters on a date. Margot and I saw a play and ate candy; Claire and I dined at Steak 'n Shake. I also took the girls across the Atlantic Ocean, but they didn't eat anything there.

Goal: Read the Whole Bible
Although I'm not using a systematic approach this year, I've covered much ground. Between preaching through Paul's letters and studying the Old Testament with men in my church, I have had few weeks without a significant amount of reading. More importantly, I'm reflecting on the Scriptures by keeping a journal and bringing God's word into conversations.

Goal: Empower Others to Preach 10 Sundays
I missed Easter while in Ethiopia. John Lillis preached about the resurrection. In the coming two weeks, Herb Bateman will preach through Philippians. This summer, I have Branden Pahl slated for two weeks. I'm also leaving room in the fall for a professor, some poets, and a parakeet to preach.

Goal: Reduce Sermon Time to 35-40 minutes
My sermons continue to run wild. I've tried to tame them with various countdown clocks and timers. I've altered my deliver style - cutting quotes, adding props, slowing speech, dancing a jig. I even started rehearsing outside of my morning commute. But nothing seems to help me land in the target time (35-40 minutes). In truth, this time frame is arbitrary. Hebrew numerology or studies in listening comprehension do not motivate me. Mastery does. I want to master the content and clock. And then take over the world (see Reading Goal above).

Goal: Adopt My Son from Ethiopia
Legally, Sensi is a member of our family. Formally, we await his homecoming. Once we receive his birth certificate and passport, I can schedule my flight to receive him. My arms are open.

Goal: Share My Faith 10x
I've torn a few pieces off the crust and distributed them, but I've not yet given out a loaf of bread.

Goal: Expand
My theme word for 2016 is expand. I wrote about the concept in an earlier post. Until last week, I had given prayerful attention to expand. As I worked through the passage (2 Cor. 10:7-18), I discerned the following prayer points:
  • Remember I am "in Christ" (v. 7)
  • Let me be free of SHAME (v. 8)
  • Lee me serve with INTEGRITY (vv. 9-11)
  • Guard me from COMPARISONS (v. 12)
  • Guard me from OVEREXTENDING (vv. 13-14)
  • Let my influence ENRICH others' faith (v. 15a)
  • Let my influence EXPAND (vv. 15b-16)
  • Let me BOAST only "in the Lord" (vv. 17-18)
* I recently read about the value of quarterly reviews on the Internet, and I practice everything I read on the Internet.

** The last footnote is not true. Neither are my "cancer treatments." Cancer is not a joke, but self-diagnosing our health problems with the Internet is a joke. It always leads to cancer. (This caveat was added after I was called with a question about my cancer treatments. Thanks for caring!)

*** On a positive note, I had an article published in the Grace Connect Magazine, several newsletters for the Equipping Church network, and one post on the Cyber-Center for Biblical Studies "Pastor's Perspective" series, which I edit. So, yes, I'm doing some writing.

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