06/16/09

Once a stock trader – The Value of Garbage is Still Zero (Part 4)

Twitter notified me of a new message. “Paring back some of the trading long rentals to be safe in here, volume wanting but action the world’s fair.” The cryptic message from a fellow stock trader launched me into a burst of anxious action.

I was a stock trader. Every morning at 6am my eyes popped open, and I would check futures to see where the market was headed. I would keep the trading platform open all day on my laptop, even during classes. Last thing before bed, I was watching market trading recap videos- from various guru traders- with my eyes set on the following day.

My fiercely competitive personality bred an anxiety that bled me of joy and peace. My emotions followed the ticker tape. Account up $750 today? I’m soaring into the clouds of bliss, though they are tinged grey on the underbelly with the discontented wish for $1,000. Slipped $800 into the red? I’ll harbor a poisonous defeated feeling that will seep out as irritability in relationships throughout the day. A particularly draining series of down days released anger to ricochet through my heart with an unwelcome sting, flashing a glaring warning signal I was slow to investigate. My heart was blindly whoring after an idol that devoured all of my time and controlled all of my emotions.

“…If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” Those words are true. My conscience would not leave me alone, and the Spirit spoke through the scriptures often. I fought back. Why was it such a problem? Why couldn’t I earn a living in stock trading world? Couldn’t it be akin to tent-making? There are other Christian stock traders, why can’t I be one? Why did I feel like I had to justify this to God in the first place?

The justifications barricaded my heart when the Spirit spoke through the word. The justifications were most ardent when the Spirit called for me to count all as loss in order to know Christ. Not that investing is evil in itself, yet it was keeping my heart from pursuing Christ. There was no need to justify my passion for the stock market when my heart was comfortably lukewarm. A lukewarm heart and the stock market were perfectly compatible, and fed off of each other. Yet when my hunger for God was roused, it could never be satisfied because I had no room to study and meditate on the Word and commune with God when stock charts filled my head every spare moment of the day. I admired one stock trader who said something to the effect of, “Don’t trade stocks on Fridays, because then you will be distracted all weekend while the market is closed, wondering if you were right to buy the stock. Save the weekend for church and family.” My admiration for that man revealed my heart attitude. “God, you can have my weekends. The rest is mine. I’ll honor the Sabbath, but worship other gods the rest of the week.” I thought it was a noble thing to be so devoted to God as to clear the weekend for Him.

I continued to wander in the desert. I found enough time for God only to know that I was missing more than I could imagine. Could I afford to continue to pay that price? What if I did gain the whole world, or even just a home-run stock pick? Was it worth starving myself spiritually and losing communion with my God? I didn’t want to answer those questions. God’s Word was abundantly clear: if anything in my life rises above God, whether it is intrinsically evil or not, it is an idol and it is rubbish. A close friend, after hearing me spill my heart out on the matter, could see I was torn between two loves. “I don’t see why you are still doing it if what you say is true and it is taking God’s place.” The words were blunt and I had no good response. God was speaking to me personally in His Word, and speaking to me through a friend who could see the low place God had fallen to in my life, even though I was blind.

Then I was broken. Christ took the throne of my heart one night as I cried out in prayer for hours. God, take me. All of me. I won’t hide from the pain or clutch at the rubbish anymore, tear it away, plow my fallow ground and prepare my heart for Your rain of righteousness.

The following morning, I liquidated my stock holdings. I feared that if I delayed a minute, black and white might turn to grey again and I might remain ensnared. I wanted out. Now. My longing heart was desperate for the quiet waters of the Lord. Let me be clear: I do not believe investing is evil in itself, and I do believe anything can take God’s place and become an idol. The problem was that I had given my life over to the markets, dethroning God. When an activity dethrones God and sabotages my relationships with God and man, it is a toxic lie that has deceived me into sacrificing joy Christ died to bring me for bondage Christ paid to release me from. And if such an activity has to be utterly abandoned to restore communion with God, so be it. Some things can not be abandoned and must be restored to a proper place in subjection to Christ. Yet others, as in my particular case, must be cut off.

For the first week after ceasing to day trade, I still woke up at 6am. Strong habits did not fade over night, and neither did the strange aimless feeling that followed suddenly giving up what once consumed my life. All of the short-cut buttons on my web browsers were links to stock trading websites. My computer desktop was covered in trading files. I cleaned and prayed. “Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.”

God is faithful. He opens the eyes of the blind, He pursues the hearts of the wandering. He gives wisdom to those that ask for the right reasons. He works through the body of Christ to bring words of insight and discernment to those who are lost. His grace is poured out for His own name’s sake. Glory to His name, His surpassing worth floods my heart with a joy and satisfaction that could never be found in the all-consuming world of day trading.

Recounting the story feels like trying to sort through a jumble. But it is a story that ends with a thankful heart. There is one who has paid our ransom, purchased our bodies so that we are not our own. We do not have a life to call our own, to spend as we please on rubbish. And the One who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it, just as a shepherd pulls a wandering lamb back. God, rescue us from the rubbish heap.

Do you have a similar experience? Has God brought something to your mind that is costing you more than you can afford to pay?



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02/21/09

What effect has the economy had on you? Time to rethink what we thought we knew

 What effect has the economy had on you? Time to rethink what we thought we knewThis was written by a fellow blogger, and it hit home with me. With his permission, I am posting this because I think brings up an important point dealing with the economy and where our trust is.

Ben writes,
“I don’t remember being this busy in years… College and the part time job I have at the local grocery store is just eating up all of my time but I am fulfilled and moving on in life. Because of this tight schedule I have not been able to post anything lately. Even as I type this, I am just back from work and find myself extremely tired and sleepy. I am writing this post so that I don’t have to feel bad about not posting anything. Every day at work I see a lot of interesting people ranging from good old grandmas to hip youngsters. Today, however I saw a very touching scene as a couple was unable to pay for all the stuff they bought. The guy was mightily embarrassed when he found out that he was well short of the total. He then had to return some items and go out with only the bare necessities… this sight made me feel really bad inside. It just hit me that lots and lots of people are struggling out there to make both ends meet. All of us who are pretty well off should stop complaining about all the little things and be thankful to God.. If you are also feeling the effects of our pathetic economy.. there is only one thing to do. Take it one day at a time and move on. You will see that God is more than enough to take care of you and your family. The one thing I have learned in my life is that God can give me anything, anywhere and at anytime. All we need to do is have faith in Him. He who takes care of the birds of the sky knows how to take care of you too. God does not need a stimulus package to save you… Our Father owns the whole world. This is the time for us to stop trusting in man (Government) and start trusting in God again.”

The economic impacts are very real and impacting very real people. In the midst of it all, our Fortress and Rock is as present as ever, and proving more faithful and trustworthy than the financial “rocks” we thought we could stand securely on. Glory to the Father, who is holy, set apart from this feeble world by His action and character.



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02/17/09

"Lots of bosses say they value their employees. Some even mean it."

At a time when most bank CEOs are vilified, I think it is worth looking at a man who did right. This man said he had long dreamed of a way to give back to his employees. How much did he give? $60 million to 399 employees, some no longer even working for the bank. Read the rest of the story here: http://bit.ly/ZFSiJ

It offers a refreshing example of looking out for the interest of others in an arena of life where few do.



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