Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Finishing What I've Started

The email came in on May 7, 2012. I was at an off-site meeting for my secular job in Scottsdale, AZ. I remember this trip well because I flew out on my birthday and celebrated alone in the hotel restaurant. They were kind and gave me a free dessert to make the moment a little less sad. Anyway, the email was short and concise. It was from Missionaries John & Dina Mussachio and it went as follows:

Hey, Guys.

How are you doing? How was your weekend?
Maybe you've read it, but if not, I want to invite you to download a free book on ibooks: George Müller - Answers to Prayer.

We love you guys,
John & Dina

That's right, a simple email...a book recommendation. I love reading and am always looking for a good book. I used to read suspense novels and true crime books but I had given those up on account of them being a waste of my time ultimately. But this seemed like an awesome suggestion. We were just beginning our journey of itineration and fund-raising, so it was great timing. I had my iPad with me at the meeting so I downloaded it and began reading. Of course, I got distracted with work and other things so I didn't really read a whole lot. Then I did as I always seem to do: I forgot about it. I apparently remembered about it on June 3, 2012 because that's when I downloaded it to my Kindle app. Apparently I had also forgotten that I had downloaded it on iBooks. I'm sure I read a little more. Then, again, I forgot about it. I bought other books and started reading them. Of course, I'm not sure I finished any of them either. I am notoriously bad at finishing books.

If you were to look at my bookshelf, you're likely to see a number of partially-read, bookmark-sticking-out-of-them-somewhere books. It's not that I've never finished a book...it's that I rarely finish books. Why? Honestly, I'm not sure. Sometimes I don't like the book, but that's not usually the case. I think I just get easily distracted and lack motivation at times. I bring a book to work nearly every day. And nearly every day I don't crack it open once.

My secular job gave me the week of Christmas off paid. With the extra time off, we decided to spend extra time visiting with Polly's family. I packed my iPad and some books into my briefcase. We were already about an hour away from home when I realized that my briefcase was still on our couch. As Genevieve would say, "Oh no." So now we were going to be at Polly's parents' house for 5 days and I had no reading materials. This was not good. I mean, I love spending time with family, but not all day long. Relief finally came on Christmas day when Polly's parents gave us a Kindle. I know, we're slow to move on getting this stuff. I never really wanted one before but decided that it would be a good way to read books while in Costa Rica. Of course, I didn't know I was actually getting one, so I was incredibly happen when I saw it. After opening all of Genevieve's toys and putting things together, I finally sat down and set up the Kindle. I was going to try to find a book in the Kindle Store to read when I saw it... Answers to Prayer by George Müller was already on my account from when I had downloaded it for my app. I decided to pick up reading from there.

I didn't end up getting a whole lot of this pretty short book read during the rest of our stay. In fact, I was about 33% done with it (couldn't tell you in pages) when we left. Why? Well, we spent the next day watching movies which took up a lot of our free time. So once again I put it down. Then came that time of year that everyone looks forward to: New Year's!

Why do people like New Year's? Because they like the feeling of a fresh start, a clean slate. It's a time many people make New Year's Resolutions (the #1 resolution each year is weight loss). I loosely make resolutions each year. I use it as a reflection time to think through positive changes I should make. I mean, don't get me wrong...if I determine a positive change I need in my life during the middle of the year I don't wait to enact it. I'm just more likely to think of those changes when I take time to reflect and I'm more apt to take time to reflect around New Year's.

During my time of reflection I thought of a number of personal improvements I could afford to instill in my life. One of them: to read more. And the best place to start for me: to finish where I left off...in the books I've already started. Here's my goal:

I want to read at least 1 book a month this year. And the first book of each month much be a book that I've already started and have yet to finish. So if I want to start a new book, I must first finish one I've already invested some time in.

One week into the new year, I can happily say that I'm starting well. I've already finished Answers to Prayer. It was a great book to read. Simple, yet powerful! John & Dina were right. I highlighted a number of things throughout the book, but let me share my favorite thing which came from an appendix and agrees with my philosophy in reading (this seemed appropriate given the topic here):

"If any believers read this, who practically prefer other books to the Holy Scriptures, and who enjoy the writings of men much more than the word of God, may the be warned by my loss. I shall consider this book to have been the means of doing much good, should it please the Lord, through its instrumentality, to lead some of His people no longer to neglect the Holy Scriptures, but to give them that preference, which they have hitherto bestowed on the writings of men. My dislike to increase the number of books would have been sufficient to deter me from writing these pages, had I not been convinced, that this is the only way in which the brethren at large may be benefited through my mistakes and errors, and been influenced by the hope, that in answer to my prayers, the reading of my experience may be the means of leading them to value the Scriptures more highly, and to make them the rule of all their actions." (Page 119)

I encourage you all to read, but first to make a habit of reading the Bible. And then to read things that are beneficial.

Well, reading one book doesn't satisfy my resolution. So next on the docket to finish: The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. As I said, I have started well. But real success in this quest will be measured not by how well I've started; it will be measured by how well I finish what I've started!

In Christ,