I'm naturally a worrier. I wish that said "warrior" but it doesn't. I'm a natural born worrier. My mind worries about everything. If I ever get to a place where I start to feel comfortable that everything is okay, my mind will quickly become very uncomfortable in that state. My mind naturally drifts to a place where it can find something about which to worry. I'm not exaggerating here. If I get to a place where I'm okay about my own personal situation in life, I will start to worry about the outside world falling apart. If I get to a place where I'm okay that I haven't offended anyone or said anything stupid in a while, I will start to worry about something I said or did 10 years ago... that somehow, it's going to pop back into someone else's mind the way it just did with mine and they will be upset with me or think I'm stupid, or mean, or deserving of their scorn, or whatever negative implication I can fathom.
I know that worry is a sin. I just don't know how to stop.
Given my natural predisposition to worry, you can now try to imagine how things have been for me over the last couple of years, and especially the last couple of months. As the Holy Spirit pointed out to me this morning, I worry about so many things:
"But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." - Luke 10:41-42, ESV
Most other translations make the distinction that "only" one thing is necessary. So I am asking the Lord, "What is the one thing?" What is the one thing with which I need to be concerned? Well, it's obviously not oil prices. It's not natural gas prices. It's not coal prices. It's not mergers or earnings or bankruptcy filings. It must be something spiritual.
But that still doesn't tell me what it is. So, what is it? Is it to know the Lord? Well, that's definitely the one thing we need to be concerned with above all else. That's generally true for all of us, even those who consider themselves to be good Christians. The Bible tells us to examine ourselves to see whether we are in faith. I believe that I've done that. I believe that my faith is genuine because I am a new creation, because I am sealed with the Holy Spirit, and because I experience God's discipline and correction when I go astray (I will likely have a personal blog post up soon about that topic). So, what is the one thing? Is it to make sure I've done what the Lord has told me to do regarding this situation? No. That's not it. I know that because I already know that I've done what he has told me to do. I don't have to go back and scrutinize every detail of my own actions along the way to see where I might have messed up. The Lord has guided me all along the way. I have not been anything close to perfect. But he alerts me when I make mistakes and then leads me to do what I can to correct them. He leads me to repentance. I know that on the whole, I have done what he has told me to do and that I am where he wants me to be. So, what is the one thing? It's actually found in the same passage of Luke, in verse 39:
"And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching." - Luke 10:39, ESV
What is the Lord teaching me right now? Am I going to go through this trial focusing on and worrying about and concerning myself with everything except the one necessary thing? Well, that's definitely what I do a lot of the time. I'm not really sure why I do that. I know it's wrong. Paul's conundrum comes to mind as I write this. All I can do is confess it, repent of it, and ask for forgiveness. So, I am confessing it today. I worry. Worry is a sin. I sin pretty much every single day by worrying. Lord, will you please forgive me for that?
Lord, what are you teaching me in this situation? I want to sit at the feet of the master and learn! Please teach me!
Okay, so I also have some portfolio updates to mention. On Friday, it was announced that LeapFrog's board had entered into an agreement to sell the company for $1 per share. The shareholders don't have to approve the deal of course, but with the Milken issue there I just sort of assumed it would get approved. So, on Friday, I did what seemed to me like the best faith-based move I could make. I sold the shares for $.97 and rotated the money into energy stocks. I prayed about it and didn't get any clear direction one way or another. Looking back, maybe I should have waited for clear direction. But then that's one of those things I'm not going to worry about right now. If the Lord wants to teach me something through that particular situation, he will make it clear to me when he sees fit. He knows what was in my heart. I believe what was in my heart was that even though I was still hoping for a turnaround in that company, and was therefore disappointed, frustrated, and saddened by the announcement, I tried my best to accept the situation and do what I thought would please him. I did my best to act out of faith, rather than fear, doubt, or frustration. I took the proceeds and bought more PACD and MDR.
As I mentioned in an email to readers on Friday, the primary reason for choosing those two stocks was the low total amount invested in them prior to Friday's trades, relative to other energy stocks. I have a risk limit that is based on Ecclesiastes 11:2, which says:
"Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land." - Ecclesiastes 11:2, NIV
The Lord made it clear to me early on that I was supposed to apply this by placing no more than 1/7th of the portfolio into a single stock. Still, the application of it can be a little tricky. If I were a day or swing trader, the application would be very straightforward. You just hold no more than 1/7th of the portfolio in a single stock based on current values for both. However, I am only concerned with the total amount invested in a single stock, not the current market value. But I am concerned with the current value of the total portfolio itself. So, the most conservative way I know to apply the limit in my situation is to take the full amount invested in a single stock divided by the current value of the portfolio. If that number comes out to be greater than 14.28%, then I don't put more into that stock. There are issues with that method of setting a risk limit and I could go round and round about those. However, it's one of those things I'm not going to worry about right now. That's the way I'm applying it and the Lord will show me if he wants me to do something different.
Based on that method, I really only had room to add to PACD and MDR. I purchased 1,825 shares of PACD for $748.64 including commission, which means my all in cost was around $.41/share. I purchased 665 shares of MDR for $1,862.23 including commission, which means my cost for that trade was $2.80/share. Both stocks are currently trading lower than what I paid on Friday. But I'm not going to worry about that.
If I were going to worry, it would be about companies like PACD, BTU, EXXI, et al., declaring bankruptcy. I confess I have worried plenty about that. Of course, as the case of LeapFrog demonstrates clearly, it does not take a bankruptcy to lose most of one's investment in a stock. So, there are plenty of other things I could find to worry about. I had asked the Lord from the beginning to protect me from bankruptcies in the portfolio. I believed that he would. But he did not see fit to answer that prayer... at least not in the way that I had hoped. I was hoping that he would move and somehow keep any of the portfolio companies from declaring bankruptcy.
But Alpha Natural Resources filed for bankruptcy back in August. I had a very difficult time with that. I thought the Lord had even shown me that he would protect me from bankruptcy, and I questioned him about that. When I questioned him about that, do you know what he did? He reminded me that he is the God who raises the dead to life. Nothing is too hard for him!
Obviously Arch Coal has since filed for bankruptcy and others in the portfolio appear to be on the brink. I suppose I could choose to keep worrying about that. But it's really not necessary. I want to choose the good portion! I want to choose to sit at the feet of the master and learn from him! If more of the portfolio companies file for bankruptcy protection or get taken out at low prices, my only concern should be what the Lord wants me to learn from it!
I really don't have anything to fear. I fear the Lord. That means I don't have to fear anything else.
Last, I will note again that I don't claim to know exactly what God is going to do in my situation. I don't have a detailed map of the future. What I have instead are his many promises to all believers, in addition to some specific ones he has made to me. In other words, I have the word of a faithful God. That is all I need!
In Christ's Name,