Annual Thanksgiving Day Reflections – 2014

This should be one of the easiest Thanksgiving Day reflections I have ever written, for the very simple reason that I am staring at the handiwork of God as I type, and I have the added inspiration of that handiwork being my backyard view here at our house in the desert. I should just get this part out of the way now – I don’t mean to say, “I am thankful because I have a house in the desert”, or “look at me, our view is awesome”. I take the risk of it coming off that way in setting up my piece as I am, so I want to crush that to the best of my ability. Yes, I am thrilled to have this respite home in Rancho Mirage, and certainly the morning view is stunning. BUT I am mentioning it and sharing it NOT to say, “look what I have” – I swear. I am starting off this year’s reflections this way because I want to say , “look what God has done”. The double meaning here is that He created this, AND He has blessed me with the ability to see it. Seeing it as I draft these reflections requires me to share it. I hope that’s all clear enough.

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The truth is that the material blessings in my life are a very small part of what I most feel grateful for this particular Thanksgiving morning. I look at out at these mountains across the fairway and lake and so forth and can only see a God who is big, and it reminds me that I am small. Maybe I am getting old and maybe God has changed my priorities, but I cannot believe how many blessings exist in our lives that we do not have to pay for, that are readily available for us to enjoy, if we just open our eyes. Sure, my backyard looks out at this view, but I don’t own the view – anyone can see what I am seeing, and all of us have eyes on a world that is utterly remarkable for how it was made. Oceans, mountains, lakes, waterfalls – pick your poison – there is creative evidence of the creativity of God right in front of our faces, no matter where we live. I am thankful for this.

I spent years of my life not seeing what was in front of me. Dealing with my own issues or wrestling my own demons or just being too plain self-absorbed, I couldn’t see the mountains because I was too focused on affording the house. Today, if I could afford 100 more of these houses, but didn’t have open eyes to the awe and power of God, it wouldn’t be remotely worth it. I mean that. I am thankful for this perspective.

There has never been a moment I was not thankful for my kids since the day they were born. I don’t really like even thinking about what kind of person I would be if they had not been born. I have always thought they were precious, adorable, and utterly special. But today I am thankful for their unique, personal, total individuality. They think a certain way, act a certain way, dream a certain way, and will become a certain person, because God made them with souls, image-bearers of Him, for whom He has a plan. As a parent this reality has not been real enough to me, and over the last year it has become more real. For this, I am thankful.

Speaking of not wanting to think about what kind of person I would be, my wife and soulmate, Joleen, is the embodiment of my Thanksgiving in so many ways. She is her own person, with her own personality, driven by what she is driven for, and simultaneously she is my partner, at my side, a total part of my life. She is a model of sacrifice and love for others, and she is determined, industrious, productive, and amazing. We have passed 13 years of married life together, and I am grateful for all 8,087 days we have had together.

I worry that people think I talk too much about my career, my clients, my love of portfolio management, etc. So I won’t pile on here. I am thankful for this moment this year, which was a symbolic summary of gratitude felt up and down my professional life.

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There has been a lot that has happened in my life over the last 523 days, but there has been a lot that has happened in my life the last 6,930 days as well. The former number may seem random but the latter number is how long it has been since my father died. In a lot of ways adulthood started that day, though I had been pretty well prepped for it (by him) beforehand. I could never explain the nature of the journey I have been on since my dad died, both to find myself, to find God, to find peace, and to find success. That journey continues today, albeit with a lot of progress made and a lot of clarity. That progress and clarity I reference are things for which I am thankful.

2014 has enabled a long-time dream of mine to come to fruition, and that is the birth of a faith-based, rigorous private high school in my hometown of Newport Beach, CA. Fall 2015 will see doors open with the inaugural class, but the work we have done over the last year to make this dream a reality has been a blessing. I have incredible partners in this dream-actualizing – Keith, David, Mike, Scott, Matt, Luis, and Ben – and countless others who are joining the team to create a multi-generational institution for liberal arts learning, and more importantly, life preparation. For these men and this opportunity, I am thankful.

There is nothing I am more thankful for this year than the enhanced serenity God has given me, even when I have least deserved it. I live life at a fast pace, and i am at peace with the fact that that is who God made me. But people like me are at risk of a severe “miss” in their lives if they are not careful – missing the mountains in the backyard, missing the funny things their four-year old says, missing their wife’s smile when they head off to work, missing those “moments” in one’s life where the greatest joy and satisfaction can be found. I have a certain symbol of the success God has given me here at this house and in this backyard. But I swear to you this beautiful Thanksgiving morning, that what I most have, is a symbol of moments I never want to miss. And yes, for this, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gifts of God] should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens… to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
– Abraham Lincoln

Annual Thanksgiving Reflections 2013

I am going to do this year’s reflections a bit differently than I have in past years. I sincerely hope that anyone reading my reflections, especially those who have read past years worth, know that I am extremely thankful for all I have in my life. I have an unbelievable wife whom I love dearly. I have three children who mean the entire world to me. I have countless blessings in my life including health and prosperity. Each day I work in a career I find deeply fulfilling and rewarding. I am beyond thankful for a plethora of friends – the kind of friends one will have for a lifetime (is there any other kind?). It is not that any of these things ought to be glossed over. My wife, my children, my friends, and my vocational calling are the essence of my life – meaning, the essence of what God has given me to find meaning and dignity and purpose in my life. They are that in which I am most blessed and most fulfilled. I know how many people in the world do not enjoy the prosperity I do, let alone the richness of family and friends, and I am humbled by that. So of course, as is always the case, I give thanks for my friends, my family, my career, and the blessings in my life I take for granted day by day.

But this year, I also thank God for the miracle of life. I thank God for the opportunity to be engaged in life on a daily basis. I thank God that he takes the years locusts have eaten away and restores them. I thank God that we can have an abundant life, even when so often we fight against it. I picked up some groceries for my wife this morning at 6:00 in the morning. I arrived a little early and waited until the store opened with a few other people sitting in their cars or standing outside the door of the store. Two individuals raced to the liquor section upon the doors opening at 6:00. One seemed homeless – disheveled – down and out. The other did not. He was in a very nice, new white truck. He reeked of booze. They both bought their bottle of booze and got out of the store. They seemed like they had marched through the desert sands for days to get to this sip of water. It was just heart=wrenching to watch. I do not have an ounce of judgment in my body for them. I have hope. I believe that God can bring them out of death and into life. That is what God does. He delivers people from a path of incomprehensible misery to a life of unfathomable blessing. And I am so, so thankful that in my life, with a lot of things over the years that I suppose ought to be called challenging, God has given me the abundant life I describe in my top paragraph.

It does not matter what one’s particular enslavement may be – I believe we have a God who can bring people from mourning into dancing, from ashes into beauty, from death into life. This is the God worthy of our Thanksgiving. This is the miracle of life. These two guys at the grocery store are not pitiful, pathetic examples. They are the norm. And they may not ever get to taste the miracle of God’s redemptive work, but for those who do – for those who get on the side of joy and peace instead of misery and angst – we have no right to be anything other than thankful. I am not suggesting that people do not have a responsibility to make better decisions in their lives; of course they do. What I am suggesting is that those who do make that decision make it at the prodding of a God who cares, and a God who empowers them to see it through. The issues in people’s lives that keep them from finding peace and joy will be all over the map – only a limited number of people could relate to the desperate need for a bottle of vodka at 6:00 in the morning. For many it is an utter loneliness, a deep-seeded anger, a self-pity, a propensity to violence, a self-loathing resulting in tragic sexual behavior – there is sadly too long a list of the items that keep us in the miry clay. But for those who have a lifestyle of joy and peace, we have no other option but to have a lifestyle of Thanksgiving.

And this year, I do not merely mean a Thanksgiving for Joleen, Mitchell, Graham, and Sadie. I do not merely mean Thanksgiving for Tom, Brian, Aaron, Eric, Luis, Mike, John, Andrew, Bob, Rich, Paul, Brian, and my brothers. I do not merely mean Thanksgiving for my small group, my church, Roger, and my spiritual mentors. I do not merely mean Thanksgiving for my team, my clients, my business, and my career. I do not merely mean Thanksgiving for USC, the desert, Palmilla, Le Bernardin, the sunset, and the morning. I do not merely mean Thanksgiving for C.S. Lewis, Larry Kudlow, Bill Buckley, Greg Bahnsen, Tim Keller, Andrew Sandlin, NT Wright, Marvin Olasky, Brian Wesbury, Father Sirico, James Hunter, Mark Steyn, Charles Krauthammer, Gresham Machen, Abraham Kuyper, FA Hayek, and John Calvin. Believe me – I mean all of that, and more. But what I really mean above all of that is that this year I have a heart of Thanksgiving for the source of all those things – the source who gives us not just friends and family, but hope and purpose. That one is God; may we all find Him now.

Happy Thanksgiving …

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gifts of God] should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens… to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

– Abraham Lincoln

Annual Thanksgiving Day Reflection

Once again I have forgotten how many years I have been doing this, but once again we come to one of my favorite days of the year (perhaps my actual favorite itself) – the blessed day of Thanksgiving. Not a day goes by that I am not more and more aware of how much I have to be thankful for, and Thanksgiving provides the perfect opportunity to pull all of those day’s thoughts together and reflect on the blessings and mercies we live in and with on a daily basis.

I believe all of us have abundant reasons to be thankful, but I can not make your list for you – I can only articulate what is on my list and in my heart. But I do know this – no one living in the United States of America has any justification for omitting our great coountry from their list. A year like this year where so many people expressed their desire (either explicitly or implicitly) to see a different America than the one our forefathers intended, and a different America from the one that glorifies and exalts prosperity and industry, is an easy year to forget the blessings we have in this nation. But as much as I detest the Presidency of Barack Obama, I will say that he came into office without machine guns and tanks, and he will leave office without machine guns and tanks. The list of countries on earth that can not even say this would take up a page. Yes, Barack Obama and the 50.1% of people in our country voting with no regard for principle or country do discourage me, but their right to be the way they are is not one I would trade away (though they might). We live in a country that has problems, and those problems can be fixed, and for that I am grateful.

In a man’s work is often found his calling, and in his calling is found the essence of his existential drive. I am blessed beyond words for clarity in who God called me to be, and what He wants me doing in my professional life. My business is in a lot of ways my life, meaning that God intended it to be a primary source of my identity and ambition. The joy I derive from working as a Wealth Manager is not something I take for granted, and neither is the blessing I have in my actual clients. I love the capital markets because I love capitalism, and every day of my life I get to juxtapose the capital markets with real life people who have real life dreams and goals. This is the finest business in the world and somehow God saw fit not just for me to be in it, but to make me love it, and even, I dare say, to make me good at it. Thanksgiving abounds.

I talk about friends every year and I mean it every year. Whether it be my long-time book club friends, Eric and Aaron, or my Wednesday morning crew, Brian, Mike, and Luis, or my small group family, Rich & Kelly, Rob & Leslie, John and Michelle, and Scott & Brenda, or my work buddies, Tom & Mark, or my closest client friends, Mark, Tracy, Jim, and Karen, or my Vegas buddies, Gary, Neltz, Merv, and Bobby, or my CCL friends, Andrew, Brian, Jeff, and others, or my NY Morrell’s friends, Paul and Brian, or so many other groups and walks of life, I am a man rich with friends, rich with memories, and rich with quality people.

I am thankful for my brothers, Mike Dogg and JB, who have now been my friends for about 20 years in addition to being my brothers, and who BOTH joined me on my annual Vegas jaunt this year.

I am thankful for The Ritz, Orange County’s finest restaurant, and I am thankful for Pancake House on 17th Street, because they still allow my kids to walk through the door every Saturday morning. I am thankful for Cut inside the Palazzo in Las Vegas. I am thankful for the mutton chop at Keen’s Steakhouse in the city. I am especially thankful for San Pietro’s at 54th and Madison. Frankly, I am thankful for food, period, but particularly for the extraordinary dining experiences I get to enjoy throughout the year.

I am thankful this year that after two surgeries on both eyes I am able to see better than I have my entire life, and that God has seen fit to preserve these highly troubled corneas for now (and maybe forever). Had I been born in a different era, I would be completely blind, and that enough is reason for Thanksgiving. Being born in the 1970’s surely was better than being born in the 1870’s (or 1960’s for that matter) when it comes to modern day optical health. Thank you Dr. Cies, thank you Dr. Boxer-Wachler, and thank you God.

I am thankful for my two and a half year old son, Graham Andrew, who is the embodiment of all that is cute and precious in the whole world, all the while being a very “loud” and “active” little bundle of love. I am thankful for his future NFL or NBA career (well, at least some kids’s sports activities), and thankful that Joleen and I received this little guy when we did. He is a treasure.

I am thankful for my five and a half year old daughter, Sadie Patricia, who I may have to stop calling my “baby girl” one of these days (I will advise when I am ready). I am thankful for every single one of her 100+ freckles, and I am thankful for her cuddles, loves, and smiles. They do not come more precious.

And I am thankful for my firstborn, the almost eight years old Mitchell Gregory. I am thankful that he can teach most adults I know whatever they need to know about the history of the U.S Presidents, and I am thankful that he understands technology better than Joleen and I do. I am thankful for the spreadsheet he created me last month outlining his plans for a hedge fund, and I am thankful that he has such a truly sweet, tender heart.

But there is no Mitchell, Sadie, and Graham without the love of my life, my best friend, my helpmate, and my partner for life, Joleen. She is a remarkable spouse, partner, wife, and friend, and I thank God more than anything I have for the fact He gave me her. I am thankful for each of the 11 (soon to be 12) Thanksgiving holidays we have spent together, and I can not wait for the next 12, then the next 12, etc.

I am thankful to be a Trojan, especially in a year like this one. People who don’t understand how I could say something like that need not worry about it. You’re never going to get it. Fight on, Troy.

I am thankful for books, for authors, and for the ideas that have been penned into books by good authors. I am thankful that I have no risk of ever being bored in my life, for I have no chance of ever reading all I want to read.

I am thankful that Scottsdale, AZ is so close to Newport Beach, CA, and that the good citizens of Arizona would riot in the streets before they would pass an atrocity like Proposition 30.

I am thankful for the memories of my late dad, who I continue to miss and love each and every day. Truly.

I am thankful for the turkey I am going to make today, but I think I already said enough about food.

I am thankful for the peace I have in my soul, and the continually increasing peace God is granting me that I have always longed for. One can have all the blessings in their life they have always dreamed to have, yet have no peace. God has not failed to deliver in meeting the needs of my heart, and granting me increasing serenity year-by-year. I have a blessed life, with extraordinary friends and a special family. I am a sinner saved by grace, and I am a thankful member of God’s project to redeem this earth to Himself. I thank you all for reading my annual reflections, and I thank Abraham Lincoln for uttering these words, as special today as when he first penned them …

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gifts of God] should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens… to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

The New Bahnsen Viewpoint

Welcome to the new and improved Bahnsen Viewpoint blog (well, at least I think so)!  The site has been re-done from both a visual and functional standpoint, and we also have added a fun little silo for me to do restaurant reviews (nothing goes together like politics, economics, book reviews, USC football, and fine dining).  I hope you will enjoy the new site and the renewed commitment to more frequent content, especially throughout the election season.  Please share with your friends if you think they would be interested, and feel free to share any feedback you’d like, any time.  Follow Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.  Sign up on the right side of the page for my free Weekly Market Commentary (sent only via email).  And thank you for taking the time to read my random musings on life …  I have but one objective with this blog: To share some of my own outlook on the things I care about most.  It is fun to do.  Fight on.  Oh, and Beat Obama!

Annual Thanksgiving Day Reflections 2011

I left the room I am sleeping in at the cabin I am staying in up at Lake Tahoe at 4:00 am to have some coffee, do a little work, and draft these annual reflections, and ultimately to get some reading done before the calvary awakens at 6:00 or 6:30. I confess part of me was also motivated to escape the torture of a 17-month old baby’s ongoing “expressions of emotion”. But if this isn’t Thanksgiving I don’t know what is: Within five minutes of me leaving the noise chamber of the cabin where little Graham was putting on his vocal show, a little 4-year old pumpkin named Sadie appeared, dressed in her Gobble-Gobble Thanksgiving jammies, needing some loves from daddy after a bad dream about someone named “Ursula”. I now type on the couch in the den with my little baby girl cuddled up next to me fast asleep, and I wonder if I even have to type anything else. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

Sadie is just 1/4 of the joy I live with each day, the other members being the aforementioned baby boy, Graham, my almost seven-year old first-grader, Mitchell, and the mother of all three, Joleen. I am aware of how cliche it is to focus your gratitude each year on your wife and kids, but if the shoe fits, wear it. These four people are the most special people in my life, and I could not be more grateful to have them in particular as my family. I do not merely mean that I am blessed to have three children, or even three healthy children, or even three healthy beautiful children; I mean even more specifically that I am blessed to have Mitchell, Sadie, and Graham. I never could have dreamed that little munchkins could possess such individuality, creativity, and heart. They are more blessing than one guy can take, and usually more work than one guy can take too, which is why the fact that my wife is the world’s greatest mother comes in pretty handy (she does that as a double-shift with being an extremely devoted and committed wife). I hit the immediate family lottery, and I hope they all know how much they have blessed my life.

I am thankful to be spending Thanksgiving this year in Lake Tahoe with some extended family as well (aunt, uncle, and cousin and her husband and two kiddos). This is my first time in Lake Tahoe since the summer of 2000, though I came twice per year from 1994 until 2000. It is a special place, if for no other reason than the fact that any idiot could sit and stare at it for hours on end – it is that breathtakingly beautiful (the backdrop of the mountains it is set in really prime the pump). It also is a special place for me personally, having enjoyed a plethora of trips here with my dad, with the church of my childhood, with old friends, with siblings, etc. We get our moments in life at particular venues, and for me Tahoe is an especially meaningful venue. I am blessed to now have so many of these momentous venues that I could walk around every day filming a Lifetime movie or something, but in all seriousness, God is good. Otherwise He wouldn’t have made Lake Tahoe.

Nobody likes reading how much I love my work, and I already told my clients yesterday in my weekly market commentary how thankful I am for all of them, as well as for the management team in my company, as well as for all my partners and team members that have made The Bahnsen Group what it is. I don’t know why people are so averse to hearing about the joys of someone else’s career (calling), but I will be sensitive to it. I get to do well in my life by doing good, and I get to do it in an era where the need for those who will be a purveyor of financial wisdom and sanity is greater than it has ever been. It is impossible to see the state of the economy, the job market, and what a generations’s worth of atrocious ideology has done to the concept of contentment in the marketplace, and NOT be overwhelmed with Thanksgiving. And so I am.

Well everyone is thankful for their family and career (well, at least for some of their family and for someone’s career). But what else makes the list in 2011 which is unique and special to my life?

– I am thankful for my weekly men’s group (Brian, Mike, Luis, and Kirt) who are dear friends, mentors, sports fans, and fellow co-laborers with me in the cause of figuring out this thing called life.

– I am thankful for St. Andrews Presbyterian Church and Pastor Rich Kannwischer. The church had the good sense to be built in a gorgeous neighborhood back when suburban communities still thought churches belonged in neighborhoods. Six decades later I had the good sense to move into that neighborhood, and now I get to see it modeled how a church is supposed to minister to the community in which it resides. I did not know it was possible.

– I am thankful to be a part of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, where I do serve and work and contribute, but where I also have been blessed to meet some of my dearest friends, if by friends you mean, “passionate people who give a damn about this country and the direction it is headed”. It is a treat to be a part of it, and I look forward to decades more of involvement with this fine group of patriots.

– I am thankful that I live just 90 minutes away from Palm Springs/Palm Desert/Rancho Mirage/La Quinta, as it gives me that special getaway venue where decompression is a reality, not a mere concept.

– I am thankful for Coach Lane Kiffin and the spirit of Troy which says in no unbridled terms, “you can persecute us in this most obscene and intellectually unfathomable ways possible, but you can not keep us from winning, and maintaining our spot atop the college football universe”. Coach Lane Kiffin.

– I am thankful for the restaurants in New York City, where I go almost as much to feed my soul as I do my never-ending appetite.

– I am thankful for books, even the 53 that are in a pile at my home library right now for immediate reading. I know I will get caught up some day.

– I am thankful for friends. I may be an introverted person, and I may sometimes be a cranky person, and maybe I shouldn’t refer to so many people out there as “God’s little clowns”, but I am thankful for the dear friends in my life. We don’t see each other very much any more, but they are out there, and I hit the friend lottery.

– I am thankful for Bob, Alex, and Randy, without whom I do not know where I would be. Bill has helped too. We are a lucky band of brothers.

– And I am thankful for the God who made me, loved me, saved me, and redeemed me, and who now works in me each and every day to make me the man He wants me to be. I am undeserving of His interest in my life, and I am a grateful recipient of His love. I do not have to wonder if He is faithful to me because I am faithful to Him, for I know that would have crumbled many moons ago. I live, and type, and soak in the life I have, because of His faithfulness.

Thank you all for bearing with another annual edition. I could have said so much more. We all can. But somewhere in between all the items on a list, and all the moments I choose to dwell on, there does exist adequate Thanksgiving for the bounty that we enjoy. Living in these moments, and finding that Thanksgiving, is the joy of my life. Happy Thanksgiving.