Why Words Matter

We live in a strange time where written word has surged again in importance. Communication has looped from spoken word to historical scriptures to public lectures to the printing press, newspapers and periodicals to radio, TV, the Internet, email, and text messaging. Some days, (perhaps most for some of us), we communicate more with typed text than we do with spoken word.

Words are just as important as ever.

Jokes don’t come through as clearly in text, tone is uncertain, and ambiguity reigns, especially if you try to communicate without the use of parenthetical emotional explanation or a few emoji.

I’ve experienced the frustration of not having the right word frequently lately. When you’re trying to explain something in a new language, your ability to communicate is greatly hindered by your lack of vocabulary. Stories aren’t quite as funny without the right word. Meaning is muddled without the same accuracy as before. Polished statements are nearly impossible and poignancy is checked at the door of a fresh non-native tongue.

I’ve been percolating on the importance of words for a while, and, well, I think, with some help, I’ve finally got a clearer picture of why these arrangements of letters are so critical.

Words carry meaning > meaning forms thoughts > thoughts determine belief > belief leads to action. Here’s what I mean.

… 

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5 Keys to Sticking to a Budget for the Long Haul

Sticking to a plan is hard for me. I don’t like to be boxed in or have limited options. But one thing I’ve successfully stuck to in the last three and a half years is a budget. Three years isn’t exactly a “long haul” but in terms of budgeting, that’s just shy of an eternity.

Last year I highlighted my favorite app for budgeting, YNAB. I can’t imagine not using it, and I wouldn’t dream of switching to anything else at this point. It’s a perfect blend of ease, features, and delight. I still whole-heartedly recommend it as the hands-down-best-budgeting app.

Sticky-BudgetSticking to a budget. Bad, I know.

But a fancy app does not a budget make. You can have the best app in the world, but if you don’t have the desire and discipline to take control of your cash, it’s not going to happen.

Here are my five keys to sticking with a budget over the long haul. … 

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When You Can’t Have It Both Ways

As a committed member of the Millennial Generation, I love to keep my options open.

Finality, conclusiveness, and decisiveness when better opportunities could arise make it difficult to commit.

As my wife and I prepare for the arrival of tiny human numero uno, we’ve done some rearranging in our city apartment. We converted our former guest room/office into a guest room/nursery, which meant my massive desk got the boot in favor of a changing table.

The mStand for my Macbook is the only thing redeeming the entire situation, because it allows me to still use my computer while I stand at my desk, but writing with a prehistoric utensil (like a pen) while standing is absolutely out of the questions unless I want to write at a 90° angle.

The mStand for my Macbook is the only thing redeeming the entire situation, because it allows me to still use my computer while I stand at my desk, but writing with a prehistoric utensil (like a pen) while standing is absolutely out of the questions unless I want to write at a 90° angle.

We chose the cheap but solid NORBERG fold-down table to function as my new desk stationary desk from our Swedish friends at IKEA. It fits nicely in our laundry room / office, which is, as those in real estate say of small places, quite cozy. I also thought I’d hop onto the standing desk bandwagon. However, as a true millennial I knew I wanted to have a standing desk that I could also occasionally sit at.

The thing about stationary desks is that they are either the proper height for standing or for sitting, but, as I recently discovered, can most certainly not be both. If you don’t choose one or the other and try to keep your desk options open, you end up with a surface that performs poorly in both ways.

Now that I’ve drilled half a dozen holes into the wall, I have a desk that’s a little too high for writing and a little too low for standing. A standing desk or sitting desk would have been just fine, but a sitting desk at my upper chest and a standing desk at my lower hip are less than fulfilling.

Often, you can’t have some things both ways. Many (most?) things in life are mutually exclusive, even two good things. You can’t pursue two goals that demand the majority of your time.

So, choose. Today, make a choice to let a dream die in favor of a better one. Don’t try to jam together two puzzle pieces that aren’t quite right.

It’s nice to have options, but it’s better to choose one option, definitively, when the gap is too wide to split the difference.

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The High Cost of Owning Nice Things

In light of a certain company creating some new products and preparing to unleash them to the hungry, coveting masses, it seems an especially good time to consider the high cost of owning nice things.

Let’s start off with this assumption: Nice things are nice.1 I suppose that could go without saying, but one major reason we buy things that are better quality than the run-of-the-mill products is because we don’t want to be tempted to swear and chuck that piece of junk out the window when it doesn’t work, breaks, or dies in the middle of an important project.

nice-things

Along with a higher price tag, which is pretty standard for nicer things, there are other costs worth considering.

Initial Price

“You get what you pay for,” is the catch phrase of those pursuing the American Dream. It’s the de facto slogan of rationalization, and it’s such a good justifier I hardly ever disagree with it.

There’s no doubt it contains truth. I hardly expect a cheap plastic spoon I bought for a nickel to last as long as a metal spoon that might last the rest of my life, if I don’t lose it in a move somewhere along the way.

But is a gold-plated spoon better? Is it necessary? Will paying $300 for a spoon actually serve me more effectively than a normal piece of silverware?

That’s where we have to stop and ask questions. I think it’s wise to buy things that don’t inherently invite death and destruction (a la Smart Cars getting hit by Hummers or semis on the highway) but “YGWYPF” only extends so far.  … 

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  1. It’s those insights that keep you reading here, no?

Martin Luther’s Meditation Recipe

My mornings are often the strongest indicator of how successfully1 my day will turn out. If I start by wasting time, it’s hard for me to recover, and I might as well go back to bed before lunch and hope to start fresh tomorrow.

I’m currently making my way through Timothy Keller’s excellent book Prayer. One idea that I’ve already put into practice comes from our Reforming friend Martin Luther.

Note: I'm pretty sure this isn't Marty in a coffee shop, but I bet this guy is meditating on the Word.

Note: I’m pretty sure this isn’t Marty in a coffee shop, but I bet this guy is meditating on the Word.

I’m a pretty weak meditator. That’s my own fault, as it is difficult to meditate if you don’t create gaps of silence in your life. It feels like I’m reading, thinking about tasks, listening, or speaking nearly constantly, but rarely deeply contemplating or wrestling with big ideas.

I have a morning manifesto, ideas for a new morning routine, and ways I’ve been trying to meditate. But, I don’t do what I want to do. I’m a good doctor and a horrible patient. I can prescribe the lights out but fail to pop the necessary pills or take the appropriate measures to become well.

So, with the help of the Poster Boy of the Reformation, I’ve started doing (a tiny bit) more work to prepare the day before, so that when I wander out to our living room in the morning, well-rested but still groggy, I’m ready to dive into time with the Lord.

It’s better to start my morning in a half-stupor of prayer and meditation than to wake up over the course of an hour having wasted time on things that won’t matter 10 minutes from now. Reading tweets doesn’t wake me up. It puts me on a high-speed slide toward dawdling and distraction.

Luther’s Recipe for starting your day with prayer:  … 

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  1. Whatever that means. For me, mostly that I didn’t waste (too much) time and I did the major things I needed to do for that day.