5 Ways to Make New Year’s Resolutions You Will Actually Keep

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Sometimes I call them challenges, because people resist the phrase resolutions, but I believe you can make resolutions and actually keep them.

Here’s the thing. I love a fresh start.

Perhaps it’s because grace is the doctrine I’ve needed so much, but there’s something about a clean slate, which motivates me towards achievement.

I’m like this with my desk at the office. I create stacks. Magazines to be read. Notes to be written. Lists to be completed. Bulletins from other churches. (I am always looking for better ideas.) Stacks, stacks, and more stacks. When the stacks are at capacity – I call it organized chaos.

Then one day I’ve had enough of the stacks and I go on a cleaning spree. I sort, file and trash until the top of my desk shows far more wood than paper. And I’m inspired to work again.

I love a fresh start.

I think this may be why I’m one of the people who appreciates New Year’s resolutions. It’s like a line on the calendar, which screams to me: FRESH START!

But, as much as I appreciate the value in them – beginning new things, stretching myself, making my life better – I’m like everyone else. I find it easier to make resolutions than to keep them.

How do we make resolutions we will actually keep?

Because resolutions – even the strongest ones – aren’t going to improve anything if you don’t follow through with them. In fact, they probably just make you more frustrated than before you made them. Who needs more frustration?

So, what can you do? Let me try to help. 

First, write them down. This is huge. I’ve heard people say you are twice as likely to keep a written resolution than one you simply state in your mind.

Second, try not to have too many. You will be overwhelmed and give up before you start.

And, then, here are some ways to make the type of resolutions which you can keep. This help me.

5 ways to make resolutions you can actually keep:

Reasonable

Another word might be attainable. The resolution must make sense for you to actually be able to do this year. Saying you want to read 50 books in a year – because you heard someone else does it – and, yet you didn’t read any this past year is probably going to be a stretch. You might be able to do it, but it likely isn’t a reasonable goal.

Don’t be afraid of small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). The key is you’re trying to achieve something, which makes your life better. If you’re successful this year you can set a higher goal next year.

Measurable

To be successful in keeping a resolution you need some way to monitor success towards it – certainly a way to know when you’ve achieved it. If your resolution is simply to lose weight you won’t be as motivated as if you say you want to lose a pound a week. You can track that goal and see your progress.

Obviously it will still require discipline, but there is something about a measurable goal which – for most of us – drives us to meet it.

Sustainable

This one doesn’t apply for every resolution, but does in many. Ultimately I have found I’m more motivated to reach goals, which change my life for the better over a longer period of time. It’s great to meet those milestone, once in a lifetime type of achievements – such as running a marathon, or writing a book.

And we should have those type goals in our life – and maybe a milestone resolution is reasonable for you this year. The problem I have seen is if we get off track on reaching them it’s easy to simply give up – maybe even write it off as an unreasonable goal. We feel defeated and so we quit making any resolutions.

In making New Year’s resolutions, I find I’m more successful if it’s something which I possibly adopt as a new lifestyle. Some examples would be changing my eating habits, beginning to exercise more often, Bible-reading, journaling, etc – again reasonable and measurable – but something I will sustain beyond the New Year.

Accountable

This is key. Weight Watchers is a great example here of this principle. There is something about their system, which works, and part of it is the reporting portion – where you have to be accountable to others for your progress.

If you don’t build in a system of accountability – whether it’s with other people or some visible reminder of your resolution and progress – it’s easy to give up when the New Year euphoria begins to fade.

Reward-able

This may be the most important and the least practiced. One secret to actually achieving your resolution may be to find the “carrot”, which will continually motivate you to stretch for the finish line.

If losing weight is a goal it could be a new suit or dress when you reach a pre-determined number. Running a marathon is your goal? If this is a reasonable resolution for you this year it could be you run the marathon in some destination city you can’t wait to visit. If it’s reading your Bible through in a year – promise yourself a new Bible at the end of the year.

The reward should fit the degree of stretching and effort it took to accomplish the resolution. This often serves as a good incentive to helping you reach your goals – especially during the times you are tempting to quit trying.

I hope this will help. It does for me.

I have some daily disciplines in my life now, which started as New Year’s resolutions. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found resolutions can help me start the year with fresh goals, and the discipline towards achieving them helps me have more discipline in other areas of my life.

Here’s to a great New Year! God bless!

12 Suggestions to Challenge the New Year And Make Your Life Better

By | Change, Christians, Encouragement, Family, Life Plan | One Comment

The verdict appears mixed among the people I know of whether of not they make resolutions for a new year. And I understand. Many have tried before – it didn’t work – and so now they are like “why bother?”. But I believe we should all think of ways we can challenge ourselves to improve in each new year.

I believe there are probably some principles in place as to whether or not a resolution succeeds. For example, is it reasonable? Is it measurable and sustainable? Do you have accountability in place?

Plus, I wonder if the term itself is a problem for some people. RESOLUTION. I hereby resolve! Sounds kind of formal, almost intimidating, doesn’t it? I hate to say I’m resolving to do something where chances are good I won’t.

However, I strongly believe we should work towards continual improvement in our life, whether this begins at the first of the year or in the middle doesn’t matter as much. But, the new year does provide a nice, clear place to start.

So, I like to offer a spin on the old resolution tradition and offer a new word.

Challenge.

How does that word resonate? Do you ever challenge yourself to do better? It’s easier than saying I resolve to do this. You’re not saying you will – you may not even be able to – it will be a challenge, but you’re willing to give it a try.

Let me give you some examples, some which may be challenges for you want to consider. I guarantee if you meet just a few of these challenges your world will be better. You won’t need to meet all of them, just the ones most “challenging” to you. But you’ll have to trust me in this – meeting them or even improving upon them – will brighten your life.

12 ways to challenge the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else

God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake. The more you live the you He intended the more you’ll enjoy the benefits and blessing. There’s something you can offer this world no one else can. Comparison only leads to disappointment.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens

And the challenge here for you may be to quit trying to carry everyone else’s burden. God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you can do it anymore – and ask for help. In your weakness He is strong, but you’ll have to admit your weakness before He usually allows His strength to kick into full gear.

Start embracing today

You can keep hoping your life improves – that this would happen or that would happen. The Apostle Paul said he had learned “the secret of being content”. I’ve personally defined contentment in my life as “being satisfied with where God has allowed me to be in life – right now.” When you begin to find contentment TODAY becomes a great day – in spite of the challenges it holds. Perhaps your greatest challenge in the new year will be embracing where God has you now and waiting more patiently for what He will bring in the fullness of time.

Let the past go

As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3, “Wherever the tree falls, there it lies.”. So simple, yet so profound! It speaks volumes to me. If the tree fell there it lays. You can’t do anything about it now. It’s done. Finished. On the ground. All you can control now is your response to the tree which fell.

If grief is holding you back by all means grieve. It is healthy to mourn a loss. (Get help if needed.) But at some point you will need to move forward. If it’s regret then reconcile the loss. When guilt, or disappointment, or anger – whatever “it” is from your past deal with it now. Admit the tree fell. It hurt. It stinks. You probably wish it hadn’t happened, but, I challenge you to move forward in the new year.

Accept God’s grace

It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it. Is the guilt of your past keeping you from enjoying all the blessings of being a child of God? Has there never been a time you received the gift of salvation?

Have you been living more like a prodigal in exile than a child of the King? If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. If the Son has set you free you are free indeed! I challenge you to embrace grace in the new year.

Live free of grudges and bitterness

The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness. Someone reading this is holding on to a grudge, some bitterness, maybe anger – and it’s keeping you from fully enjoying life. Every time you hear a person’s name or see them you are reminded of the injury they caused. The reality is it is hurting you more than it is them. Chances are they’ve moved on and you’re still struggling. Isn’t it time to let it go? (Let it go could be a “Frozen” song you need to sing to yourself.)

Remember other people exist

Don’t be selfish or always command your way. People, even the best people, will never perform to all of your standards. Honestly, is it even fair to expect it from them? They may not even agree with you as to what is important. You cannot hold people to unrealistic expectations and not be disappointed often.

And here’s a note to those of us disappointed with the things of this world. As followers of Christ, we can’t expect that everyone sees the world as we do. Of course, there are biblical principles through which we view the world and live, but can we really expect people who aren’t believers to embrace them?

Admit mistakes readily

Sincere humility is an attractive quality and it helps to free you from future regrets or guilt. We all can have “perfectionist” tendencies, yet none of us is perfect. If you want to live with less self-induced stress this year, admit you don’t have all the answers and sometimes you have none.

Give generously

Giving opens the heart to joy and contentment. Something happens when we give to others which causes us, though we have less, to feel like we have more. And, there are many needs around us. I challenge you to give more in the new year and see how it makes your life better!

Protect your heart

“Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also. Most likely there are activities, or people, or places where your heart is most easily injured. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can be aware so you can “guard your heart”. And when you are aware you may be injured you will build guardrails to lessen the damage.

Take a new risk

The adrenaline of attempting something you’ve never done before fuels you for future success. It could be something you’ve always wanted to try or something you know God wants you to do, but, for whatever reason, you’ve resisted. Especially if it’s God-honoring, not sinful, will make your life or other’s life better, then what are you waiting for? Don’t let fear or thoughts of your inadequacies be your chief motivators in the new year. I challenge you – GO FOR IT!

Think and act eternally

There is more to this life than the world we know today. Thankfully, I might add. Jesus said to “store up treasures in heaven”. Whenever possible, I challenge you to consider the eternal consequences of the decisions, investments, and actions of your life.

Jesus said to live in this world, but not be of this world. How are you making a difference in the world to come by your world today? The more intentional you are the more treasures you build for a future reward.

Which challenge for the new year are you willing to accept?

10 Ways to Deal with the Emotions of Loss at Christmas

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Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year“. But Christmas can be a time of loss – where people face the reality of what they do not have – or have any more. Losing a loved one, the end of a significant relationship, or even a loss of income or health, can be another reminder of what someone no longer has.

If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.

Several years ago, I consulted two professional Christian counselors in our church. With the help of Jennifer Degler and Elizabeth Ellis I put together some practical ways to deal with a sense of Christmas loss and shared them in a sermon.

Ideally, Christ is the answer. Apart from Christ there is no Christmas peace. These suggestions are not designed to take the place of truth, but to give some practical tips to help you deal with loss at Christmas.

10 ways to deal with the emotions of Christmas loss:

List your losses.

Death, divorce, injury, finances, children moved out this year – whatever they are – write them down. I’ve personally found journaling to be helpful. It can be therapeutic to admit where you are hurting.

Share your pain with others.

Certainly you should share with God, but maybe also with a close friend or with people who have experience dealing with your specific loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.

Grieve the loss. 

Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some people falsely believe they can just pick up the pieces and move on without really grieving. It’s okay to be human. (I share some tips on grieving HERE.)

Resist falling into a sense of total despair.

This is where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring the hurts.

Take care of yourself physically.

Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It is more important during a sense of loss.

Be aware of negative thinking.

Catch negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.

Do something for someone else. 

There are many opportunities during the holidays to help people. Helping other people reminds us loss is universal and other people are struggling with you. Plus, something about giving fuels positive emotions.

Force yourself to participate in social activities. 

Obviously, that is more difficult in 2020 – and you may not even feel like it. But social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. Be safe and wise, but find ways to interact with others. Even a phone call to a friend is better than falling further into despair.

Avoid the comparison game. 

Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And it’s dangerous.

Honor your losses with new traditions. 

Begin new rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced prior to your loss or will help you remember happier days to come.

In my Christmas message, I shared one more suggestion –

I believe this might be the most powerful of all.

We have to learn to worship in tears.

We must learn to worship even in pain. Many Psalms were written during someone’s painful story. When we realize God is good – even when it doesn’t seem that life is good – we are better equipped to face uncertainty and loss.

Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.

5 Suggestions for Experiencing Great Joy at Christmas

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But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11

As I read the Scriptures, the ability to have joy is a gift. We may not always be “happy” with our circumstances, but we can have joy. Joy is a condition of our heart beyond the situations life may bring. It was “good news of great joy” the angels announced at the birth of Christ.

For many, however, living in the reality of joy at Christmas is harder than other times of the year. Memories of loved ones, financial struggles, health issues, and relationship woes often make for a very difficult celebration. And have you spent much time watching the news recently? It’s enough to depress anyone.

Do you ever wonder why everyone else seems to find it, but you’ve been left out when it comes to “good news of great joy”?

How do we find the joy of Christmas?

Here are five suggestions to great joy at Christmas:

Lower expectations of others

We falsely expect others to respond as we want them to respond – or think we would. It could be the way they do not react the way we expect of them to our gift as we felt when we bought it for them. We thought they’d remember us and they didn’t. Or, we sent a card – they didn’t. Maybe we worked hard to to be nice – and still they weren’t so nice.

We shouldn’t hold others to an expectation we set for them.

People, even the best of people, will disappoint us. And people are different from us. We aren’t responsible for the reactions of others. Instead, we are only responsible for our actions. We’ve been called to love others – and, that call doesn’t come with a list of stipulations for others to meet before we love them.

Increase your investment in others

If we aren’t careful, Christmas can become so commercialized, even within our own families, we unintentionally become selfish towards others.

Something supernatural happens when we share with people. Giving has an intrinsic value, which can’t be duplicated in any other way.

By the way, I believe this includes extending grace, as it was given to us – this includes granting forgiveness to those who disappointed us.

Giving frees our heart of selfishness and self-centered tendencies we all have at times. And Jesus said we give with one hand without the other hand knowing we gave. (paraphrase). So, we give expecting nothing in return. We give simply to be a blessing – and in turn we receive the blessing.

Examine your life and address known sin

We can’t experience complete joy with a holy God if we are living contrary to His desires for your life. Where does your life need a realignment with God’s purposes and plan for you? Chances are good you already know. Is it an unforgiving spirit? Are you holding on to anger? Do you have continued, repetitive sin in your life?

Christmas is a great time to make new commitments, and re-dedicate our life to Christ. Then you have a whole year to strive in this area of personal growth. Could a revival of soul be what’s missing for you to have a merrier Christmas?

Change your perspective

Choosing to be joyful is not based on circumstances, but often comes by perspective. Where we stand always determines what we see. Stand in pity or resentment and we will see the world in bitterness and disappointment. But stand in faith and we will see the world from a more positive viewpoint. We will see hope and possibilities.

The Apostle Paul wrote one of his most joy-filled letters – Philippians- while chained in a jail cell. (Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8)

The fact is – joy is a gift – not based on what we have done or could do, but on God’s amazing grace towards us. It’s based on the hope of the righteous, not the reality of the moment.

Because of who God is and our relationship with Him we can choose joy, even in the midst of life’s struggles. And then choose joy again. Then gain. And then again.

Set your eyes on the prize

If you’re struggling to find joy in life, set your eyes on Jesus – the author and perfecter of your faith. (If indeed He is your Savior – if not choose His grace by faith now.) Set your sight on the glory to be revealed through your trials and circumstances. (Hebrews 12:2, Romans 8:18)

God will write the final chapter of your story – and He’s not finished yet! You can trust Him. Look again at the manger – Jesus, the One who existed before time began, set the stars in place, lowered Himself in the form of a baby and was placed on a feeding trough, so He may give us access (through the Cross and resurrection) to a Holy God! I can find joy in this fact! Can you?

Nate and I have finished our fall semester at the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. New episodes will begin in early 2021. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

3 Biblical Steps to Being a More Thankful Person

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Ever wonder the secret to being a more thankful person?

I believe the secret to being thankful is in learning to be more content.

We give thanks out of a heart overflowing with gratefulness. A full heart naturally produces gratitude. When we are content with where God has allowed us to be our heart will be more thankful.

How do we do that?

The Apostle Paul told us he had learned the secret to being content.

I think Paul gave us some clues earlier in his letter to the Philippians.

Here was Paul’s remedy:

(He says he’s going to tell us one thing — then he gives us three — typical Paul.)

Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. (‭Philippians‬ ‭3‬:‭13-14‬)

Here is Paul’s remedy to being more content – and ultimately more thankful:

1. Forgetting what is behind.

Have you made some mistakes? That day is gone. It’s over. The question now is what are you going to do about it? Are you going to live in the past? Hold on to guilt? Refuse the grace of God in your life? Refuse to forgive? Hold a grudge?

One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.

The reality is you can let what has happened – the tree fell. It may have been your fault or beyond your control. But you can let it control you or you can move forward. But you cannot do both. Which will you choose?

2. Remembering what is ahead.

Life moves forward. This too shall pass. And the best days are ahead if you’re a child of God. He’s writing a story with a happy ending, where all things work for an ultimate good.

Right now we have more questions than answers. Some day God will provide for His children a Sabbath rest. Have you ever seen a sunset which took your breath away or marveled at the beauty of a mountain reaching into a clouded sky? Well, just wait. “No eye has seen” what God has prepared. If Christ is in you – you have a present Helper and a future reward. It’s all working for His glory.

3. Pursue worthy goals.

In the middle of leaving our past behind and anticipating a glorious future, we are to pursue Christ. We are to honor Him with our life. That means we obey His commands – to love God and love one another.

It means we pray for our enemies. And we do good expecting nothing in return. As we do, He will fill our heart with more joy, more contentment — and ultimately more thanksgiving.

Later in Philippians, Paul shares that the “peace of God” will guard our hearts. We will be filled with contentment.

And, we will find ourselves being a more thankful person.

12 Ideas to Help Young Families Endure the Lockdown of COVID-19

By | Children, Christians, Church, Encouragement, Family, Parenting | One Comment

Our boys are grown. Cheryl and I enjoy empty-nesting. I remember a few times when the boys were little that we were stuck at the house and couldn’t go anywhere for a period of days. 

There was an ice storm. Times when we had no electricity in our town. And there were a number of times one of the boys was too sick to get out of the house. 

We had to improvise to find fun things to entertain the boys – and us. 

I have a suspicion there are many families in this scenario with the COVID-19 crisis. Who knows how long many will be stuck in their home? 

I see my role as a pastor to help families. I spent some time brainstorming things families could do together – especially families with younger children who have a harder time entertaining themselves. 

Here are 12  ideas you can do at home to hopefully pass the time and enjoy each other. 

Get out all your old picture albums. Discuss when the pictures were taken and tell stories you remember about those times. 

Build a life map for every member of the family. Include critical moments, spiritual markers, funny stories and hard times. This may especially be good for elementary students, but I think high school students could even enjoy it.  This could be a great way for parents to share their legacy with children. 

Play a FaceTime game with grandparents or elderly people in the church. You may have to coach them through it on the phone, but this would be a way to spend quality time with people you miss and love. 

Write and make an original movie with your phone camera as a family. Dress in costumes. Share it online. Who knows? It might become a hit and go viral. It could also be entertainment for the rest of us waiting out this crisis. 

 Make a collage of things you want to do when this is over. Find pictures in old magazines or just draw them. Do you want to go to your favorite restaurant, to the beach, or even on a cruise? 

Spend time dreaming about the future. Where Do you hope to travel someday? What would be a dream vacation? Let children share what they would want to do vocationally someday? Where would they want to live? What will their family be like? 

Discuss your family’s genealogy. Talk about relatives they may have never met. What are unique stories about your family? How is the father’s family different than the mother’s family? 

Parents, tell stories from your childhood. Share some funny things you did. When is a time you got into trouble? Who was your favorite teacher? What was your favorite class and why? Share what you liked to play and talk about some of your best friends. 

Trace the story of the Bible. Google if you need to, but cover the major highlights from the Creation to the coming of Christ. (This one may require some research on your part, but it would be a learning experience for the whole family.) 

Decorate the house for Christmas. Why not? You might be inside a while. You could watch Christmas movies and sing carols. Let it remind you of fun times to come. 

Do an Easter Egg Hunt. It’s almost Easter. If you don’t have eggs – improvise. You could even just do a scavenger hunt. Hide items in the house and have fun looking for them. Be sure to share the real story of Easter.

Build a tent. You can build inside or, if weather allows outside. Pretend you are campaign out. Maybe even pack a picnic. Let everyone plan their own meal. 

Bonus: Plant something outside and watch it grow over the next few weeks. Take pictures or a video every few days to compare the progress.

Feel free to share some of your own ideas in the comments. I may add some of them to this post. 

Let’s get through this together! God bless you. 

5 Actions that May Combat Worry and Anxiety

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Worry is like a plague to our body. It attacks our mind, then our heart, and over time, it can consume our overall health. Continuous worry leads to a state of anxiety, where you rarely have periods of the day when you aren’t worried.

Wouldn’t it be great to never worry again?

I’m not sure this is humanly possible – although Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.” How good are you at obeying that verse?

I can’t imagine either why Jesus would give a command He wouldn’t fully allow us to obey. But He commanded a lot of other things I’m not perfect at either.

So, I’m still much a work in progress when it comes to eliminated worry and anxiety from my life.

I know this, however, part of maturing as believers should mean we begin to worry less.

Let me share a few things I’ve learned, which may help.

Here are 5 actions to combat worry and anxiety:

Pray more.

It’s a trade-off. You can pray or you can worry, but you can never really do both at the same time. Which would you rather do?

Seems to be a reasonable trade. How amazing is it the Creator of sunsets wants to have a conversation with me? Worry seems to be a cheap substitute in this regard.

Do wise things.

As a believer, sin is always going to cause my inner conscience to feel guilty – which usually translates quickly into other emotions, such as doubt, worry and eventually anxiety. When I know I’m doing the best I can to be obedient to God’s commands the relationship with Him is stronger and my heart is freed of needless worry.

But this also involves taking care of ourselves physically, socially and emotionally. It means we need to eat right, exercise, and limit exposure to negative influences – which might include people who are constantly negative. Our environment helps determine our attitude. If the actions we are taking are leading to more anxiety then it makes sense that we need to change our actions. Sometimes the best thing I can do when I start to worry is go for a walk, pray, and clear my mind.

By the way, one wise thing may be asking for help when you need it.

Fill our minds carefully.

Of course, I’d recommend reading the Bible. I think followers of Christ should read it everyday. It’s where we find the hope, faith and trust spelled out for us by God Himself. But there are others things, which bring encouragement. It could be a good novel or something humorous.

For some people this may mean turning off the news and shutting down social media. It’s not that television or social media is necessarily bad, but I just don’t seem to find much which really encourages me these days.

The point is when we fill our minds with good things it crowds out some of the bad things.

Choose our thoughts strategically.

The Apostle Paul said to think about these things – “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8) It isn’t even enough what we fill our minds with if we don’t carefully place our thoughts in the right directions.

I always ask myself: Why worry about what I can’t control? And why worry about what might happen when I can choose to think about good things which are happening? Lots of good things occur everyday – when I choose to think about them.

Trust more.

This is the key to worrying less and ultimately having less anxiety. The more I trust the less I worry. This is true in so many scenarios. It could be flying in a car, riding in a car with someone, or taking a doctor’s advice. The more I trust the less I worry.

As a believer, I can step up my faith, because I know God is on His throne. He has a plan and He will do what is best. Every time! And the key to trusting Him more is simple. I have to spend more time with Him And get to know Him better. Like any healthy relationship it grows stronger with time and effort. The more you know God the more you will love and trust Him. 

This is not a script or a recipe to rid your life of worry or anxiety. I think it will help. But there are times we all need professional help. Don’t be afraid to seek it when you do. In my experience, these five things help me combat much of my worries if I will practice them daily.

7 Personal Disciplines: A 90 Day Challenge

By | Culture, Devotional, Encouragement, Life Plan, Prayer | 27 Comments

I’ve always been considered a fairly disciplined person. There are certain disciplines that have made me who I am today.

In especially busy or stressful times of life, however, I do not always feel as disciplined in each area of my life. I may excel in one area, but not in another.

The only solution I know to remedy a lack of discipline is to add discipline. I also know that if I repeat a discipline long enough, it becomes a habit – part of the DNA of my daily life. This process has worked for me before. With that in mind, I’m adding some discipline to my life. I’ve done this before and it forms healthy habits I carry on throughout the year.

For the next 90 days, I’m attempting to improve in seven areas of discipline.

For the next 90 days, I plan to add these 7 personal disciplines:

Eat – I am what I eat many times. When I over-eat or eat the wrong foods I gain unnecessary weight and don’t feel as well as I should. My goal here is to average eating between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day and to monitor the type foods I eat.

Pray – I know prayer is a life source. I’ve seen the results of prayer. Prayer doesn’t always change things the way I’d want them to be, but prayer always changes me. It gives me strength, comfort and confidence. Why don’t I pray more? My goal is to pray throughout my day, recognizing God is with me always.

Read – I need to be regularly reading my Bible and supplementing it with Christian and leadership books. I can be legalistic about Bible reading, but the discipline I need is to read it for relationship (with God), not just for education. Part of being discipled by others happens as I read other work. My goal here is to always be reading through a Bible book I’m not preaching about, journal about my Bible reading and to read at least one chapter of another book every day.

Write – I’m introverted, so I process information many times by writing. I’m fairly disciplined with my blog, but I have some larger projects I should be working on. My goal here is to average one hour extra writing time per weekday. I may do that in a couple days per week, but want to maintain that as a total hours each week to write.

Exercise – I know this is a secret to my productivity. My goal here is to do cardio 4 days per week minimum and exercise with weights 2 days per week.

Sleep – Through my life I haven’t usually needed a ton of sleep, but that has changed as I have gotten older. My goal here is lights out by 10:15 and to take short power naps as needed – and not feel guilty about them.

Pause – Anyone who knows me well knows I have a hard time staying still long. I do take a “Sabbath” and believe everyone “rests” in their own way, but this is a discipline to have some time during the week where I do absolutely nothing. My goal here is to have a 2 to 3 hour time each week when I pause from all activities. (I can assure you this will be the hardest discipline to complete.)

I’m excited about living a more disciplined life.

Do you want to join me? Would you commit to disciplining yourself in each of these areas over the next 90 days?

You can change the details of each discipline, you may need more calories or less, you may choose a different exercise, etc. (For example, the graphic I used is from when I did this several years ago. I no longer run like I did then. I’ll likely do this time on the elliptical or with fast walking.)

The key is to be disciplined in 7 critical areas of your life.

And don’t be legalistic about it either. This is not meant to bring another burden to your life. It is meant to help you be relieved from some – eventually. If you mess up one day just begin again the next.

Who is with me?

Which of this will be hardest for you to do?

Help For the Husband: Gift Suggestions for Your Wife

By | Christians, Encouragement, Leadership | 2 Comments

Maybe you’ve thought about Christmas for your wife, but you still have no clue what to get her. It’s the same problem every year. Gift card may be what you’re thinking. Cash perhaps. Let your daughter pick something up if she’s old enough.

No sweat. I understand. I’m here to help this year.

7 gift ideas for your wife this Christmas:

Make a coupon book

A date night a week – or a month – or make up 12 random dates. A movie. (One she picks.) A walk in the park on a sunny, Spring day. Dance lessons. A cooking class. Print a coupon for each. Then give her access to your calendar and let her claim them as needed.

Break a bad habit

She cares about you and who you are and what you do impact her. Perhaps you need to lose weight, so she worries about you. You need to quit smoking. Or, maybe it is the way you talk to her. Perhaps you are super critical of her or you talk down to her sometimes. You know its a bad habit, but you have just never improved. It may be as simple as never picking up your clothes from the bathroom floor. Whatever it is she may have subtly – or not so subtly – tried to suggest a change in you. You agree with the change, but haven’t made it. Just make it. Merry Christmas to you and her. (Habits stick when repeated 4-6 weeks I am told.)

Give her the gift of you

To make any relationship strong takes time and commitment, but we all get distracted by life. Make a commitment to speak less and listen more in the new year. Perhaps you symbolize this with a token of some sorts. Wrap up the remote and give it to her. Would that do the trick? Maybe it is a golf club – one of yours – symbolizing you will give her more of your free time. Maybe it is access to the calendar on your phone. You know the distractions in your marriage. Give her the gift of time with you in the new year.

Open a savings account

Put $100 or $50 – whatever you can afford, into a savings account. Label it “future investment in us!” Is there a family trip she’s dreamed about? Perhaps there is somewhere you always promised to take her. Take the first step this Christmas to make it happen someday. A great way to build relationships is to have something to dream about together.

One night in a nice Bed and Breakfast

Many men shy away from these, and many women do also, but for Cheryl and me, some of our most romantic moments were one night trips to a bed and breakfast. Make sure you get a private bath. A comfortable bed and a room with a view is great. If you plan ahead you will spend less than a really great hotel and the experience of reconnecting can be amazing for both of you.

Plan a gift together.

This is not for everyone. You know your wife. Some women have to have something to unwrap on Christmas. For Cheryl, she is just as satisfied if we are planning our Christmas giving together. We jointly agree to take a trip together as our Christmas gift to each other. We agree on something we want to buy for the house. This works for us. It might for you.

A trip away – in May

This is one of my best gift ideas. And, it does not have to be in May – just sometime later in the year. This isn’t as needed for us now, because we are empty-nesters and can travel when we want, but this was the rockstar gift when our boys were home. This is brilliant on several points. It builds positive emotions leading up to the trip. When she was having an exceptionally stressful day she could remember – at least we were getting away tougher soon.

In addition, we could plan the trip at Christmas, but pay for most or all of it later – which helped stretch our Christmas budget. (To do this I would often ordered brochures from a place I know we have thought about going and wrapped them in a pretty package. Sometimes I made reservations, sometimes I just picked the place. Either way, it is your responsibility to handle the necessary arrangements to make it happen.)

The Reality

Do you get the idea that these are more about time than even money? I’m convinced it’s what most women want from their husbands. I realize some will say their wife once did, but doesn’t now. If that’s true, it’s probably an indication of a bigger problem. It may even be because she wanted you then and you weren’t there. Maybe the answer is to give her more time now.

Now I should also encourage you to be responsible. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Many of these are very low cost ideas. Some you can budget for and pay later. Chances are good you are going to get her something and I’m guessing some of these might be better than a dress shop gift certificate or another pair of those ugly pajama bottoms.

Your marriage and your wife is worth the extra effort. This year, think through your gift. Be purposeful. The woman you love is worth the effort.

What gift ideas can you add to the list?

5 Qualities in Joseph’s Heart Every Leader Should Seek

By | Church, Encouragement, Leadership | 6 Comments

In this post I’d love to consider the heart of a leader.

Someone asked me recently what I primarily look for in the hiring of a staff position. I said, without reservation, first and foremost, I look for the heart. I want a heart which honors Christ more than self, one which desires to grow and learn, and one which is willing to sacrifice personal privilege for benevolent purpose of others.

The heart of a leader is more important than any other characteristic.

Consider, for example, the life of a Bible character by the name of Joseph. Joseph’s story runs from Genesis 37-50. It’s an amazing story of God’s sovereignty and grace. Joseph is a standard bearer for character in the Old Testament. Some say he’s in many ways an Old Testament example of Christ – not sinless, as Christ was, but certainly a God-fearing man.

I submit his heart we see in Joseph is representative of the kind of heart all leaders should seek to have.

Here are 5 qualities to seek in the heart of a leader:

Imagination

Joseph was a dreamer. It caused him some problems, but he was able to see what others couldn’t see. He saw the big picture. Of course, this came from God, but I believe God has equipped all of us with the ability to dream. It may not be prophetic in nature, but we can seek and find the big picture if we are looking for it.

Integrity

When tempted by Potiphar’s wife and when an opportunity for revenge against his brothers presented itself, Joseph resisted temptation. The leader’s heart must continually seek what is right and good. People are watching and even the perception of evil can ruin a good leader. The heart of a leader must be above reproach.

Investment in Others

Joseph helped the men in prison, he helped the Pharaoh and he even helped his brothers who had hurt him most. Joseph obviously believed the principle that helping others helps yourself. The heart of a leader must be willing to sacrifice his or her own agenda for the agenda of others.

Intentionality

Joseph was diligent during the famine, during the days of prison, even when he had the opportunity to get even with his brothers, but didn’t. Joseph was confident God had a plan for his life, so he refused to be distracted by things of lesser value.

Innovation

Joseph devised an ingenious plan to save the nations from desolation. Using godly wisdom, Joseph conserved the resources he had to accommodate the days of plenty and the days of few.

The ultimate hope of this post is you (and I) would reflect on your own leadership – consider your own heart as a leader.

What could you learn from the heart of Joseph?