Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Notes - Remembering Who We Are

First, my congratulations and best wishes to our good friend Dr. Brett, who announced while I was gone that he'll be ending both his blogging and part-time trading efforts to focus on the growth of other traders in a private environment, and in turn, further growth in himself. 

Brett is one of the good guys in this industry, and I wish him well as he goes off the grid.  I can personally relate to the challenge of balancing various interests, including the tremendous time and effort it takes to blog in a no-B.S. manner for the trading community in a free forum, and I wish him Godspeed on his new journey.

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Now, for what I consider one of my more difficult posts -- in terms of what to say -- on the heels of three days and four nights of full spiritual immersion and intense reflection.

Frankly, I've thought long and hard about what I'd publicly say about this past weekend, including seeking counsel from those with whom I spent considerable time over the last 72 hours before I hit the post button. 

One reason for my apprehension, is that I'm aware that there are many risks in "speaking" after a personal emotional or spiritual event, including coming across as holier-than-thou, better-than-the-rest, acting in snap-judgment fashion, or having the words and thoughts misinterpreted as a way to try to market one's business or sell services.

I'm also aware that the vast number of onlookers who visit these virtual pages follow various faiths.

So I considered several options, ranging from saying nothing to saying everything, before settling on something in-between ... although it's probably the longest post I've ever done.

Is this the right approach?  I don't know. But I do believe that saying nothing would have clearly been the wrong choice and defeated much of the weekend's intent, so I'll simply speak from the heart and let it be what it is.

And as you read the following thoughts, I ask that you forget for the moment that I have a trading education business.  Similarly, at this end, I've purposely refrained from adding any of the usual cute graphics, pictures, or linked text, and have turned off the comments for this one post so we don't turn this personal diary entry into the "great faith debate".

So with that said, here are the highlights of my story:

As I've hinted in the last few entries, parts of the last few weeks have been difficult from a personal and energy perspective, with the events of my family being blocked from reconnecting in London three times -- by of all things, a volcano in Iceland -- resulting in tears and cursing on both sides of the Atlantic.  No one certainly died or was sick, yet the series of events was still extremely frustrating ... especially on the heels of other personal issues.

I've also been bored and restless at times, which I'm sure has also been reflected in various diary entries referencing block trading goals, continued dissatisfaction with trading education in general, starting a formal trading university, etc.

At the same time, I've been tangling (a nice way to say "fighting") with God.  Arm-wrestling would be polite ... picture spiritual kick-boxing.  And while I won't go into all of the details, we all know who wins those battles.

And then, while certainly not a calamity, after having traded successfully Thursday morning and purposely shutting down at 2pm so as not to know how the market closed (to keep any opening trading sequence thoughts completely out of my head on Friday), my weekend sponsor's car radio -- which was only on to get the traffic report as we were in a one-hour back-up to get off Cape Cod due to bridge construction -- happened to announce the closing Dow figure.

Of course the minute I heard it, I knew that it meant that the day had ended in a strong trend fashion off the early lows, which would in turn set up several classic MATD (Morning after Trend Day) sequences for Friday's Europe and U.S. sessions.  Call it a very likely monthly income-producing trading bonanza.  And for a few moments, I felt like asking Bob to turn the car around, and run back for my Vaio.  After all, I'd have time to at least trade the Europe session and still not miss any of the key Friday morning events.

But the weekend rules were clear. No PCs, internet access, cell phones, or watches.  For this was to be a rare opportunity to participate in a wonderful program offered only twice a year to help people reconnect with God and rededicate one's life to Christ, and my only job was to do whatever I could to simply shut down my small portion of the world for three days.  And here I was struggling with even doing just that.

Not a great start.

I said little as I continued to sit in the back of my sponsor's Jeep Cherokee ... feeling completely frustrated and helpless. Sitting in traffic. And more traffic.  (Ever try to sit in the back of  Jeep for two hours with a bad back?)  And then the skies opened up.  It poured.  Buckets. And the jeep just crawled along as walkers -- yes walkers -- were passing us.  Frankly, this impatient Type A would have felt more comfortable in the dentist's chair.

I felt, well ... "caged" would be a pretty good description.

Yet I continued to proceed on faith that recent events were "leading" me to where we were headed.

What I didn't know would be the impact the next 72 hours would have on me.

For as we turned onto the highway leading to the retreat center, the rains ended and out popped ... you can't make this stuff up ... the largest rainbow I've ever seen that looked infinitely better than Plasma or HDTV.  Vibrant colors and both ends.  Further, as we looked more closely, it wasn't just a single bow.  For next to it, was a second fainter one.  It was sort of like that classic Ocean's 13 scene where George Clooney and Brad Pitt were brought to tears while watching Oprah.

And while I know it wasn't there "just for me", I did have a sense of peace come over me that -- over the next 72 hours -- would become a personal flood beyond anything I have ever experienced.

As I mentioned, the event was called "Walk to Emmaus", which is taken from the biblical journey Jesus took with two of His disciples after He had been crucified.  The "walks" reflect spiritual reconnection weekends that are periodically held throughout the world.  And while you can search the web for more info, words will never be able to describe the incredible depth and breadth of God's love that four people in southern New England and hundreds of people throughout the world -- backed by literally thousands of prayers -- experienced this weekend.

At this end, of all the many lessons, light bulbs, and other powerful reminders we received during the three days, perhaps the greatest one was provided by our table leader -- a wonderful older tough-as-nails Christian man (Bill) who had spent years in the Navy and as a commercial fisherman. (btw, he gave me enough fishing/trading analogies for the next year!)  For he explained one time he was also in a major battle with God before he had his prayers answered far beyond his limited human expectations.

As he told the story, the end result was God reminding him, "Remember you're Bill and I'm God.  And please never get the two confused again."

Lesson tucked away for this impatient, control driven Type A.

At the end of the effort, we all had a chance to speak during the closing service.  Now I've spoken before hundreds of audiences over the years, including on highly emotional or energized issues to various legislative bodies, commissions, state regulatory agencies, town meetings, trading audiences ... you name it.  And I've never "lost it".

Well, that evening I lost it ... at least for a few minutes before composing myself enough to share the full extent of my weekend experience.  For I was both humbled and overwhelmed by the combination of grace, power, and love that God had shared with us -- and through absolutely no doing of my own.

And while I could go on for days, I guess I'll leave it at that in terms of details and will close with the following.

I went into the weekend seeking a brief rest.  Instead, I was renewed and refreshed beyond understanding.

I missed a short-term income producing opportunity.  Instead I was rewarded with riches beyond measure.

And I certainly didn't expect a rainbow. Instead, the grace of God provided two.

Yet this isn't the end of the story.  Nor is it the end of the task.

It's just a renewed beginning.

As always, it's how we share the gifts that's important.

It also helps to remember that we're who we are, and God is God.

We should never overestimate our own power or strength.

And certainly never underestimate His.

They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
they will soar as with Eagles' wings.
  -- Isiah 40:31

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;

where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

  -- Excerpt from Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

As always, this 49 year old's journey remains a work in progress.

And so much work remains.