2021 – Time to Plant a Tree

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.”

And I would say that the best time to have told your friends and neighbours about Jesus was 20 years ago. The second nest time is now.

When I was first saved and born again there was a move of the Holy Spirit that was setting people and churches on fire for God. Back then (late 1970’s) you would hear things like this:

    • “Be on fire for Jesus!”
    • “Invite all your friends to Church!”
    • “Tell everyone you know about Jesus!”
    • “Change your school with the gospel!”
    • “Make Him know on and off the playing field!”
    • “Be a cry on the hill, different than others!”
    • “Be salt and light in your community!”

Fast forward a few years and you don’t hear those kinds of comments any more. The Great Commission to go into al the world and make disciples” is seldom taught on and few ever hear about it from the pulpit and church classrooms. Today you’ll be hard-pressed to find people in the pews who are sharing the gospel with their neighbours (if they even know them), who are changing their workplace for Christ, and who are using their talents to impact the city.

It seems that the older we get and the longer we have known Jesus, the safer we live. But Jesus never called us to live safe, secure, and comfortable lives. Safe faith isn’t biblical faith! It seems the longer we have known Jesus the less likely we are to tell our neighbours and friends about Him. 

Now, let’s comment on the fact that young people are leaving the Church. Those who are in the age group called the Millennials are leaving the Church in substantial numbers. Stay with me as these two different streams of thought are really one. I will link them up in a minute.

Research has found that 70 percent of young adults leave the church at or about the age of nineteen. I am often asked “why has the younger generation abandoned the Church?” My answer is that I think the older generation has abandoned the mission of reaching the lost. So, the Millennials see a Church that has no purpose and no vision or goal and thus leave it because to them that means the Church is irrelevant. 

Statistics also show that among Millennials the number of them sharing their faith on a regular basis is increasing. They no longer attend Church but they are still in love with Jesus and more determined than the Church to share Him with others.

These studies are basically saying there is a mass exodus of young people from the Church, but they are sharing their faith more than ever once they’re out. It’s as if they’re graduating from the Church but not necessarily abandoning the faith. It seems this younger generation see the need for this dark world to know Christ but does’t see the Church as a viable way to make that happen.

It seems that the young people share because they have nothing to lose. But the older we get the less we share Jesus because we have more to lose – reputation, position, income, wealth, authority, friendships. 

It’s a lot safer to just be a believer and not be a disciple maker. Then you can agree but not do. There’s less risk involved when we just agree with Jesus. We abandon the mission because it costs us too much — our time, our resources, and especially our convenience. 

Have you ever noticed that older people don’t usually have scabs? Think about it. Scabs are what you get when you’re young. You get them on the playground from running too fast, jumping too high, or playing too hard. But as you get older, you don’t attempt anything that could give you scabs. Because our bodies have more to lose if something goes wrong.

Again, it seems that the older you get the safer you live. It seems that this is true of our faith journey also. It seems we have restricted the fun and powerful glory days of our faith to our youth. 

Francis Chan once spoke about his frustration with this notion. Both of his parents passed away in their forties, so it taught him to number his days. He talked about how he never knows if this is his last day before meeting Jesus. But instead of letting this sobering reality paralyze him, he’s allowed it to ignite his faith. He said, “It just doesn’t make sense to me. If you’re close to seeing God, why are we living such a safe life? And what the heck are we saving for? We go backward in the church, where we do crazy things when you’re eighteen, and then we start to live safer and safer every year.”

So, no matter what age you are, consider this: if today truly was your last day, what would you do with it?

I can guarantee that whatever you’d do, it wouldn’t be safe. It would involve meaningful risk. Whether it was restoring a broken relationship, telling that loved one about Jesus, or fulfilling an item on your bucket list, it wouldn’t be safe.

Time to plant a tree … 

2021 – Look Around and Meet a Need

Many years ago I heard a phrase that has stuck with me ever since. The phrase was, “Find a need and meet it.” Good advice then when I first heard it and still good advice today. Often in the Church we see people struggling to determine the calling on their life. What is it that God wants them to do? Of course, they are thinking about being a pastor, an evangelist, a teacher of the Bible… But, they have no idea how to really find out what it is God wants them to be doing. 

Well, it is simple really. Live life to the fullest engaged with others and the real world. As you engage with and embrace life you will find a need and meet it. Then, in the process of helping others, you will sense, feel, and discover what it is that God is calling you to do. That one, unique thing that you were created to do. Often you will find this ‘one thing’ almost by accident as you live life and meet a need.

A true story….

One Sunday afternoon in 1771, a man named Valentin Haüy ducked into a restaurant in Paris for dinner. He sat near the stage, and the show that evening featured blind people in a comedy routine. They were objects of ridicule and cruelty. The act was designed to make fun of their blindness. Deeply offended, Haüy began to develop a burden for the blind.

Sometime later he spotted a sightless street urchin who was begging for coins outside a Parisian church. Giving the boy some money, Haüy was amazed to see the boy feel the raised markings on the coins to distinguish the amounts. That gave Haüy an idea. Why couldn’t books be written with raised letter, like images on coins? Why couldn’t people learn to read with their fingers? Haüy took the boy off the streets, offered him food and shelter, devised a plan with wooden blocks and numbers, and taught the boy to read. In 1784, Haüy started the world’s first school for blind children. It was in Paris, and one of the first teachers was the blind boy rescued from the streets.

But that’s just the beginning.

Several years later, another boy named Louis was born in the village of Coupvray, France. His father was a farmer and harness maker, and as a toddler Louis loved watching his father work with leather tools. But tragedy stuck in 1812 when three-year-old Louis was playing with a leftover strap of leather, trying to punch holes in it. His hand slipped, and the sharp tool punctured and put out his eye. An infection set in that spread to the other eye, and little Louis ended up blind in both eyes for life.

A local minister names Jacques Palluy loved the boy and began visiting him to read to him the Bible. Seeing the boy had a good mind, Father Jacques determined he should receive an education. So at age ten. Louis was enrolled in the school Haüy had established in Paris, where he proved to be a brilliant student.

Eventually Louis began teaching other students in the Paris School for the Blind. He studied Haüy’s method of reading, and he also became aware of a system of military communication developed by a French army captain that allowed soldiers to communicate in the dark by running their fingers over a series of dots and dashes. Though still a teenager, Louis Braille began adapting these systems into a program of his own; in 1829, at age twenty, he published a little book on the Braille method of reading.

The school resided in a damp building by the River Seine. It was cold and unhealthy, and the food and conditions were poor. Louis developed tuberculosis, but he continued working on his system of reading, which began catching on and soon was being exported around the world. As his health failed, Louis said, “I am convinced my mission on earth has been accomplished, I asked God to carry me away from this world.”

Think of the chain reaction of that cascading dream. One man developed a burden for the blind when he saw ridiculed actors on stage and a begger boy on the streets. He was just going about his normal, every day life and was impacted by something he experienced and this led him to seeing a need and meeting it. We call that having a ministry. His burden led him to establish a school and attempt a system of reading. Then a local pastor developed a burden for a blind boy in another village (saw a need and met it) and taught him the Bible and longed to send him to a school. That blind child, Louis Braille, developed a burden to improve and to expand Haüy’s work. The world was changed, and as a result, millions of sightless souls have experienced the joy of reading the Bible and other books for themselves for almost two centuries.  

So, as believers we should simply live life to the fullest and along the way be sensitive to the needs of others. When we spot a need, step in and work to meet it. You will then be ministering in compassion as Jesus did and using your talents and skills to meet the need that you encountered. This is real ministry. 

2021 – Time to Let God Out of the Church – Part Two

God is a wise investor. He is not going to waste His investment on a body or a world that is destined to pass away. His money is on the part that’s going to last forever, the soul, the spirit, the inside person. But as Christians, we turn it around. We spend our time, energy, and resources on the outer person. Think about it. Most of our prayers have to do with our health, our wealth, and our social life. And when we experience a setback or grow impatient, we ask, “God, where are you?”

At the same time, we fail to pray for the things that will benefit us for eternity. If God answered all of our prayers, our character would suffer because in most cases, our prayers center on the removal of the very circumstances He is using to conform us to His image.

A favourite author of mine writes, “When we ignore what’s happening on the inside we lose all power to change what we do on the outside in any meaningful way. We rearrange rather than change, and in so doing, we never become the transformed person God calls us to be.”

Every day, eager investors scope out the trading floor on their national stock exchange looking for tips. In addition to doing their own research, thorough analysts watch certain key people to help determine if a stock’s value will change. Sometimes the least little flinch can cause a flurry of trading. If it looks like someone knows something, its catch’s people’s attention.

In your life and in mine, the Consummate Trader has spoken. God has purchased a million shares of your inner person. That should tell you something. The question you should be asking is not, Why doesn’t God do something? But, What is God up to, and how can I get in on it? If God’s main concern is your character, that should give you a pretty good idea about where to place your focus. After all, God isn’t just going on a hunch. He has insider information.

God wants to transform us … from the inside out. And, the first step to joining Him in His work is to see and understand what He has been up to since the day you were born. Once you see what God has planned for your character — and why — you’ll be more motivated and better equipped to get in on it.

No passage I know summarizes it better than Philippians 2:12-13 (NKJV) “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” 

In this passage the apostle Paul stresses a couple of things. First, he tells his readers that God is working inside them. It doesn’t get much plainer than that! Second, he tells them that this work is going on right now. The verb is in the present tense. It’s happening now. It was happening when Paul wrote it. And it was still going on when his readers finally received the letter. God is at work.

This is noteworthy since Paul wrote to a group of people, many of whom he didn’t know. They might have written back, “Hey, Paul, you don’t even know me … How do you know what God is up to in my life?”

The fact is, God is at work in all believers. That means you. It’s present tense. It’s constant. When you’re tempted, give in to temptation, or tempt someone else, God is still at work. While you’re busy working, juggling your children, or dreaming about your true love, He is still at work. He has purchased His investment at a price, and He is making certain that it goes up in value. He won’t give up. 

So, it is time to tear down the false separation of secular and sacred. It is time to let God out of the Sunday morning box most believers have put Him in. It is time to move past seeing Jesus as Saviour but not accepting Him as Lord of your life. It is time to let God be a part of your every day life and thus not limit Him to what happening in the building we call church. Let God out of the Church and into your life.  

2021 – Time to Let God Out of the Church – Part One

Too often we leave God in the Church and don’t invite Him into our every day life. It’s good to meet with Him and worship Him on Sunday for an hour or so, but we really don’t want to invite Him into our daily lives. In other words, great that He is our Saviour but we have not made Him Lord of our life – our every day life. 

Because of this many Christians can’t make sense of what God is doing or not doing in their lives. He seems absent from the daily details and the grind of life. Because of this they have adopted a worldview known as dualism. In this belief system, life is divided into two categories: the religious and the secular. The religious side includes all situations in which God is perceived to be interested or directly involved, such as charitable activities, acts of service, and benevolences performed in the Name of God.

All the other activities are then lumped into the secular category, which can include work, community, recreation, friendships, and family, to name a few. Secular then becomes the catchall for everything that is not directly related to their religion. It is a place where people put the parts of their lives that they determine are not of interest to God. As far as they’re concerned, He doesn’t want access to them, nor do they concern themselves with surrendering these parts to Him.

A person governed by the philosophy of dualism gives a portion of his or her life to God but maintains control of the rest. He does his part when it comes to religious duties, such as attending church, but he fails to take an active role in conforming his whole life to the image of Christ.

Life does not work that way. God is not satisfied just selling eternal fire insurance. He is actively interested in every aspect of our lives. He wants to transform us from the inside out to reflect the character of His Son. But when a person consciously or unconsciously chooses a dualistic approach to life, he locks God out of portions of his life. As a result, he can never make sense of the circumstances of life. God appears as a distant, uncaring Creator. Life is governed by luck and random chance.

Most people who adopt a dualistic worldview do so by default. Since they can’t see evidence of God in their circumstances, they assume He is not there. Why? Because they’re looking in the wrong place. They’re looking on the outside while He is busy on the inside. That’s not to say He is not active in our circumstances –  the outside, regular, every day world. But generally, His work externally is a means to an internal end.

Let’s face it. It’s a lot easier to focus on career, family, and friends. At least we can see how all that works. We can see when we’re making progress or when something needs attention. But real life begins on the inside, where God is always at work. The danger for you and for me is that we’ll miss out on what He wants to do — all because we measure His love and activity by an external standard that totally ignores the focus of His work. And all along, if we’re believers, He is inside pushing, pulling, working, to create something wonderful from the inside out. 

All of us have wondered at times why God doesn’t do more to fix our problems. But our human eyes often fail to see that God isn’t rushing to change our circumstances because He is concerned with a much more serious problem — our character.

While you struggle with the woes of this world, God’s main occupation is preparing you for the world to come. The focus of what God is doing in your life takes place in you, not around you. And for good reason. 

More next time… 

 

Personal Character in 2021

There has been a shift going on for the last decade or two. It has not always been noticeable but there is a definite shift in the way people today, regardless of the nation they live in, are thinking.

One researcher did a study of American self-help literature covering a 200-year span. He observed that literature written during the first 150 years focused on developing what he called the “character ethic” as the foundation for success in life and in relationships. In essence, success in life was defined according to virtues such as honesty and integrity and the golden rule. In sharp contrast, literature written in the last 50 or so years focuses on what he termed the “personality ethic”; that is, success is defined by a person’s ability to achieve, improve performance, and simply get ahead.

The subtle change in the definition of success caries with it some devastating consequences to our perception of character. If honesty and integrity are no longer highly sought-after values, a shift occurs in our moral and ethical framework. If virtue is no longer the objective, then what you are isn’t nearly as important as what you do. And how you think means nothing compared to how you feel.

Suddenly, the ultimate goals are position and achievement. The first priority is personal fulfillment. So what we’re really saying is that right and wrong are now determined by what helps or hinders our progress. And if we’re totally honest, right is defined in terms of what moves us towards our goal. Wrong is defined as anything that gets in our way.

When achievement takes precedence over character, a new code of ethics has been introduced:

    • If the family stands in the way of someone’s career, then the family is sacrificed.
    • If honesty impedes the accumulation of wealth, then deceit becomes the norm.
    • It’s right to steal if stealing means progress.
    • It’s right to claim another person’s idea as your own.
    • If cheating means winning, then cheating is right.

When personal fulfillment takes precedence over character, a new moral standard is introduced:

    • If it fulfills me, it’s moral.
    • If it doesn’t meet my needs, it’s immoral.
    • Self-control is renamed self-denial and is considered unhealthy.
    • If cheating on my spouse makes me happy, then unfaithfulness is moral.
    • If an unexpected pregnancy threatens my career or social goals, then abortion is not only an option; it is the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, we invent an endless stream of subconscious rhetoric to justify and qualify our actions in our minds:

    • “This isn’t immoral, I need this because….”
    • “How else am I suppose to compete?”
    • “I just can’t seem to stop…”

There was a time in the Church world when men and women made the development of character a top priority. But somewhere along the way, the focus shifted … following the trend that was evident in the secular world. The Church was and still is no longer a counterculture but became a sub-culture of the everyday society and world in which we lived. Almost a mirror-image with a thin ‘Christian’ veneer. We lost our bearings. Christians stopped emphasizing the inner person and began to measure success by what they saw on the outside. So, we experienced this personal war – the inner person against the outer person. And as the outer person has prevailed, the outer person is establishing a new, acceptable way to express the faith which is totally not biblical. 

Choosing in 2021 to take up the pursuit of character – becoming more and more like Jesus – will mean choosing to stand against the prevailing culture. You won’t fit in. Not only won’t you not fit into the society and neighbourhood in which you live. But, you most likely will also not fit into the normal, every day life of the local church. You are simply not going to get much help or even encouragement from the outside. 

But, as you will soon find out, character has rewards that far outweigh anything you may be forced to give up along the way. 

Let’s reclaim “character” in 2021 as something important that we need to focus on and work with so that we truly live life in a manner that is biblical and honours the Lord whom we follow and serve. 

Don’t Quit

We are almost at the middle of the first month of the new year 2021. By now many of your New Year’s resolutions have been long forgotten and tossed out. And, you have regained the rhythm of life that you had at the end of the previous year. The rhythm you were wanting to change which is why you made a few New Year’s resolutions and even set a goal or two in the first place. 

It simply didn’t work out the way you planned it. Things stood in your way. Obstacles needed to be overcome. It was taking more time and effort than you first thought it would. You apparently lack the self-discipline to make it happen. It was simply easier to give in and give up and resume life as you knew it before the Christmas and New Year’s break from daily routine and life. 

But the truth is, it is not to late to pick up your dream of change and the goals you set. Pick them back up and try again. You can do it. It is always too soon to quit. You can break the old patterns. And, you can add some adventure into your daily existence. In fact, you can turn ‘existing’ into ‘living’ and ‘living’ into ‘abundant life. You can live 2021 without regret. It is never too late to pick up some new challenges and changes that will add excitement and enthusiasm to your life. Don’t quit. 

You had a glimpse of what you wanted the new year and the new you to look like. Donn’t give up. Continue to move forward and don’t quit. No one said it was going to be easy. But it will be worthwhile…

The following poem, by an unknown author, could have been penned by me personally. And, in many ways, a number of Bible characters could also relate to it – Peter, Job, Joseph, Paul, Jesus, and many other followers of the Lord since the early days of the Church. It is entitled simply, “Don’t Quit.”

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill.
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit —
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit —
It’s when things go wrong that you mustn’t quit.

As the second week of the new year — January 2021 — comes to a close, Don’t Quit. Remember that with God nothing is impossible and that means all things are possible.

With His help let’s get up and try again. Don’t quit.

Regaining My Life

During the latter part of 2020 and now into the start of 2021 I have been getting my life in order. Oh, in many ways it was not out of order. So, let’s say I have been spending time setting new priorities and adding more balance into a very active and busy life. I have been thinking through what I do and why I do it. Are there more important things I could be investing my time in? Are there things that once were great but are now no longer beneficial or necessary? What needs to change to bring life – both in the inner life as well as the regular daily routines of life – back into balance?

Life out there in the mad world remains what it is, spinning into greater frenzy. As a result I believe I need a series of gentle reminders – signs, symptoms, barometers – that let me know if I am living a sane life, giving my time where God would have me invest my life, taking the time to be healed, be filled, be refreshed, be renewed. This world we live in demands a life saturated with God, and this world is the perfect storm to prevent our souls from having it. We must shepherd our own heart and soul with kindness and compassion so that the springs of life may flow freely, up through the fountain of our being.

Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (ESV)

“So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are.

Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” (TPT)

“Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.” (MSG)

I know I’ve been sucked back into the madness when I flinch at a request for any kind of help: the text of a friend asking for my time, the email seeking some counsel. Or when I don’t even want to look at emails, because I know there are demands waiting for me there. The flinch, wince, long hesitation, unhappy sigh; the avoidance, the inability to enter in — these are symptoms that I am running on fumes again. 

Our capacity for relationship is a wonderful gauge. We are created in the image of a profoundly relational God, created for relationship. Am I available for relationship? Not with everyone all the time of course — I’m not meaning the entire social network with no boundaries whatsoever, not 24/7 access. I’m talking about the people in my life: loved ones, colleagues, neighbours out walking their dogs. If I’ve lost the capacity for, and the enjoyment of relationships, I know that things are deeply off in my soul.

Sugar and caffeine are always warning signs. Have I moved from enjoying them to needing them, relying on them to get me through the rest of my day? What about a simple pause? If I decide to take a break for a few minutes do I feel guilty and on edge, concerned that something important may not get the attention I think it deserves? Or if someone comes in and takes a few minutes out of my day unexpectedly, do I feel irritated and hassled? Do I feel like my day has been disrupted? 

But there are positive barometers, too, wonderful things; these are so much better to watch for. Have I spent time walking my dog and enjoying the outdoors with him? Was I able to pay attention to what my wife was saying this morning? Am I making room for the sunrises and sunsets and the act of simply taking time to love God? Positive signs and reminders are better for us to watch for, because these slip away before you begin to really sink in the mire. If I have reached the point that I don’t want to play with my grandchildren, I’m not well. But way before that happens, I can tell how I’m doing if I’m neglecting the simple practices that bring me healing and inner peace … like daily quiet time, maintaining some personal time and space, and even a simply walk to reconnect with my heart and soul.

The Harvard Business Review published a list of “The Daily Routines of Geniuses.” The author compared the schedules and lifestyles of “161 painters, writers, and composers, as well as philosophers, scientists, and other exceptional thinkers” and discovered they all shared some things in common:

    • A workspace with minimal distractions
    • A daily walk 
    • A clear dividing line between important work and busywork
    • Limited social lives

I know it sounds idyllic — something from a bygone age or era. Maybe. You can’t get out for a walk? You can’t cut back your social life, which in this culture means cutting down your social media and texting? Both are very doable. I like the idea of making your home or apartment a place that feels restorative to your soul. You want your “space,” whatever it is, to be your sanctuary and haven … a place where you can find yourself and get back in touch with the you that is deep inside. A place where your soul feels good to be in. 

It is the start of another year – a year where we are all experiencing a faster and faster pace of life. Maybe at the start of the year – like right now – we need to take a good look at what we are doing and make some changes that will allow us the regain and reclaim our life. 

21 Goals to Set For Yourself to Make 2021 Your Best Year Ever

Guest Blogger – Erin Gobler

If you read this blog regularly, you know how much I love talking about goal setting.

I spent years setting new year’s resolutions for myself, only to forget about them by February. And honestly, this is how so many people approach goal-setting!

When it comes to setting goals for the year, setting the RIGHT goals is half the battle.

In this post, I’m sharing 21 goals to set for yourself this year that can seriously make 2021 your best year ever!

 

21 Goals to Set For Yourself to Make 2021 Your Best Year Ever

Learn a New Skill

One of my favourite things about blogging is that I have learned SO many new skills that I absolutely did not set out to learn.

It’s really helped me to learn how much I love learning new skills and has pushed me to branch out and try learning new skills that are completely separate from my business as well.

There are SO many resources online to help you branch out and try something new.

 

Create a Monthly Budget

 I feel like money-related goals are some of the most common people set for themselves every year, so I definitely had to include some on this list!

If you don’t currently have a budget, that is honestly the first goal from this list that I would tackle.

Money is one of the single biggest stressors for people (especially millennials), and it’s one of the biggest points of conflict in marriages and relationships. So it definitely seems that getting your money under control should be pretty high on the priority list!

I went years of my adult life without creating a monthly budget. Looking back, it’s still crazy to me that I really didn’t know where my money was going every month.

Creating a monthly budget allowed me to get my money under control in a way I honestly couldn’t even have imagined.

 

Read 12 Books

I love to read so much, whether it’s fiction, poetry, or personal development books. But sometimes I just get out of the habit of it and realize I’ve gone months without reading!

I’ve started setting a yearly reading goal for myself and using Goodreads to track how many books I’ve read. This has really helped to motivate me to keep reading.

You can definitely set a goal of reading more than 12 books. I just think that 12 is a good starting point for people who don’t read super often because that gives you an entire month to finish each book.

 

Start a Side Hustle

I’m a huge proponent of having a side hustle. I started this blog back in 2014. At the time it was only meant to be a hobby, but it has definitely turned into a side hustle!

Looking back, I’m so grateful I started the blog when I did! Not only has it allowed me to earn extra money alongside my full-time job, but it has also paved the way for a lot of personal and professional development.

There are SO many options for different side hustles you can start. I recently wrote a blog post where I shared 35+ legit ways you can start making extra money.

If you’re ready to start your side hustle, make sure to check out my in-depth guide on how to start a side hustle!

 

Create a Morning Routine (And Actually Stick To It!)

I’m going to be honest, mornings have been one of my biggest struggles for…basically my entire life. I’ve never been a morning person. But I really took the whole “not a morning person” thing to a whole new level.

But once I graduated from college and started my career, I had to get up early for work every morning. And I needed to actually be awake and functional rather than being a zombie for the first two hours!

Creating a morning routine seriously made ALL the difference for me. I learned to create a routine that actually helps me to wake up and enjoy the morning rather than being miserable and frantically running out the door late every day.

Make sure to check out my guide on creating your own healthy morning routine!

 

Eliminate a Bad Habit

I think it’s safe to say we all have a bad habit or two that we’d like to kick, whether it be excessive drinking, smoking, or chronic lateness.

Let’s be real, this is a lot easier than it sounds. And most of us have probably tried and given up more than a few times. But don’t give up!

Here are some steps that just might help you finally break that bad habit this year.

 

Start a Gratitude Journal

 At some point a couple of years ago it was like a switch was flipped and everyone was talking about gratitude journals. And I promptly ignored that advice and went on with business as usual.

Then last year I was struggling with some pretty severe anxiety and was looking for solutions, and once again the idea of a gratitude journal kept popping up. So I finally broke down.

It turns out everyone was right. It’s amazing how when I’m having a bad day, something as simple as writing down things I’m grateful for can completely turn around my mood.

You can do this first thing in the morning, right before bed, or any time you’re having a rough day and need something to help turn your mindset around.

 

Spend Less Time Online

I have a full-time job where I’m on a computer most of the day, and then I go home and run an online business. So it’s safe to say I’m spending a LOT of my time online. And running a blog means spending a lot of time on social media.

One of my goals for 2021 is definitely to spend less time online. Quite often I don’t have a choice. But in the moments where I’m not working and have the opportunity to spend time with loved ones, I want to make a genuine effort to focus on those around me and get outside more rather than have my phone in front of my face all the time.

 

Eat Healthier

Eating healthier is without a doubt one of the most common goals people set for themselves each year. I’m right there with you! My eating habits are significantly better than they used to be, but they aren’t perfect (and I don’t expect them to ever be perfect).

Rather than push yourself to cut entire food groups or go on really restrictive diets, aim for slow progress and a better diet.

If you love bread and pasta and decide you’re cutting out carbs completely, how long will that really be feasible? What if instead you trade the white bread and pasta for whole grain, and swap in veggie pasta a couple of times per week? That’s not a huge change, but it would still make a difference.

Rather than preventing myself from eating foods I love, I shoot to eat clean 75% of the time, and then I feel better about eating whatever I want the rest of the time!

 

Create a Fitness Routine

Fitness is another goal to set that seems to be pretty universal. And for some people, the idea of creating a fitness routine seems SO daunting.

Here’s the thing though, your fitness routine can look literally however you want it to look.

If you don’t like running, don’t run. In fact, skip the cardio altogether it that’s not what floats your boat.

My favourite exercises are the ones that don’t feel like exercise at all! Brandon and I love biking around the city when the weather is warm. We love checking out bars and restaurants in town, so we just started biking there instead of driving.

I also love hiking, which definitely feels more like a hobby than a workout!

There are also SO many workouts like yoga, pilates, barre, etc. that are a great workout, but low impact.

Finally, your fitness routine can just consist of walking! When the weather is nice, I throw on a podcast and take the dog for an hour long walk. I get my body moving, I get to listen to a favourite podcast, and I feel amazing when I’m done.

 

Travel to a New Place

I love to travel, and I definitely don’t get to do enough of it. In 2019 my husband and I were able to take a vacation to a place we had never been before. Then, in 2020, we traveled the country in our RV. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2021!

If travel is in your budget for this year, I absolutely recommend making it a personal goal for yourself. And rather than visiting the same destinations you’ve visited before, branch out and explore a new place!

There are honestly so many amazing places and things to see, and none of us will be able to see them all.

But whatever your interests when it comes to travel, whether it be hiking, history, or laying on a beach, you can always find a new destination to visit.

 

Declutter Your Home

 Thanks to Marie Kondo and her new Netflix series, it seems like everyone is jumping on the KonMari bandwagon and making it a personal goal to declutter their homes this year.

I’m right there with you, and I’ve been on the declutter train for several years now.

In 2017, I got divorced and moved from a three-bedroom house to a studio apartment. That meant I had to get rid of almost everything I owned.

I thought it would be the most difficult thing ever, but it turned out to be amazing! I was honestly surprised by how much stuff I had that I didn’t need, or even really want.

Since then I’ve continued to keep an eye on how much stuff I accumulate and regularly donate clothing and household items I find I’m not using.

If you’re ready to declutter your home, try asking yourself these questions.

 

Create a Minimalist Wardrobe

While we’re on the subject of decluttering, let’s talk about clothes. You guys, I used to have SO many clothes. Clothes I hadn’t worn in years, and yet still couldn’t bring myself to get rid of.

When I finally decided to really force myself to narrow down my wardrobe, I realized I was wearing the same few pieces and the same few colours over and over again.

I’ve created a minimalist wardrobe for myself by limiting the colours in my wardrobe (95% of my clothes are black, white and gray) and limiting the style of clothes. I’ve really narrowed down what my personal style is, and I really don’t feel the need to experiment with anything outside of that!

Now, a minimalist wardrobe definitely won’t work for some people. If clothes and fashion are your passion, you’re not going to be excited about this. But if fashion isn’t a priority for you, I really recommend challenging yourself to create a minimalist wardrobe this year.

 

Meditate Every Day

I was definitely skeptical a few years ago when I saw SO many people recommending meditation for productivity and personal development.

And even after trying it the first few times, I was still skeptical. But once I really gave it a chance, it totally won me over.

I’ve suffered from my fair share of stress and anxiety, and meditation has helped me reduce these a lot.

I’ve also noticed that it has helped me improve my focus, which has been amazing. I have WAY to much going on in my life to not be focused.

For anyone struggling with anxiety, I think daily meditation should absolutely be on your list of goals to set for yourself this year.

 

Journal Every Day

I’ve been journaling on and off for pretty much my entire life. I hadn’t journaled for years but picked it back up again in an effort to control my anxiety.

Journaling has really helped me to reduce my stress and anxiety, and just learn to better control my emotions.

When I sit down to journal, I focus on identifying the negative emotions I’m feeling and trying to get to the root cause. I also focus on affirmations I know to be true in order to negate the worried thoughts I’m feeling.

If journaling is a goal for your this year but the idea seems daunting to you, I recommend picking up the Five Minute Journal. As the name suggests, it’s literally five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. And even in that short amount of time, I think you’ll see a difference!

 

Drink More Water

It turns out that about 75% of us are living our lives chronically dehydrated. And I know without a doubt that I used to be one of those people.

I’ve had a lot of health-related annoyances in my life. Not to the point where something has been seriously wrong, but just enough so that I’ve always felt…well, just not great.

Once I started making a really solid effort to drink more water, I noticed a big difference. I aim to drink 100 ounces per day, and I track it religiously throughout the day.

I use the Fitbit app to track my water intake, but there are also apps like Plant Nanny that are specifically designed for tracking water.

 

Set a Bedtime For Yourself

I will be the first to admit that I do NOT get enough sleep. There are some nights where my schedule prevents me from getting to bed as early as I would like. There’s unfortunately not much I can do about that.

However, I also find myself staying up WAY too late on the nights that I could be going to bed earlier.

One of my personal goals for 2021 is to get more sleep, which means setting a bedtime for myself and actually sticking to it!

One creative way I’ve heard of accomplishing this is by using a bedtime alarm. I would set mine for about an hour before I actually want to go to sleep. That way I have time to prepare my lunch for the next day, get the coffee maker reader, wash my face, brush my teeth, and spend some time reading in bed.

In case you can’t tell, I like to have as much prepped the night before as possible because I won’t be happy having to do it the next morning!

 

Build an Emergency Fund

 You guys already know you need to have an emergency fund. But since I’m guessing a lot of you either don’t have one or aren’t putting money in regularly, I’m adding this as a goal to set for yourself this year!

Statistics show that most Americans have less than $1,000 dollars in savings, and nearly half have less than $400. Those numbers are pretty alarming, considering something as simple as unexpected car repairs could easily take out your entire savings account.

I struggled for a long time to build my emergency fund. Finally, I decided that rather than save whatever money I had left at the end of the month, I would pay myself first.

On the first day of every month, an automatic transfer takes money out of my checking account and puts it into my emergency fund.

If you’ve struggled to save, trying paying yourself first and really prioritizing your emergency fund.

Related Article: 25 Creative Ways to Save Money

 

Reconnect With Old Friends

I’m pretty lucky in that I have had the same close group of friends since I was about 16. We were a close-knit group in high school. And then many of us ended up going to the same colleges, so it was easy for us all to stay in touch and we got together pretty regularly.

After college, as I’m sure happens to a lot of friend groups, we all moved away and started our careers, and definitely didn’t spend as much time together.

Over the past year or so we’ve really made an effort to see each other more often. We’re lucky to all live in the same state where the travel isn’t too difficult. We’ve been able to make it a pretty regular thing.

I’m so glad we all reconnected! If you have a close friend or group of friends that you’ve drifted apart from or haven’t seen in a while, reach out and try to reconnect. You’ll be so glad you did!

 

Revisit Your Career Goals

When was the last time you took some time to really reevaluate your career goals?

I’m a big proponent of five-year goals for things like career and finances. But let’s be real, five years is a long time. And things can definitely change. My career goals have absolutely changed in the six years since I graduated from college!

Make it a goal for this year to spend some time thinking about your career. Consider your short-term and long-term career goals. Think about the company you work for and whether you see a future there.

In some cases, your career goals may have changed so much that you have transitioned (or want to transition) to a totally different industry.

 

Make Time for Self Care

Self-care is so important, and most of us are NOT making enough time for it!

Self-care isn’t just about pampering yourself. It’s about making time for sleep, mental health, and physical health.

Not only is self-care essential for your mental and physical health, but it’s also amazing for boosting your productivity!

If it isn’t on your list of goals to set for this year, it totally should be!

 

Final Thoughts

Goal-setting can be super overwhelming for some people. Setting the right goals is half the battle!

There’s still plenty of time to reach your goals and make 2021 an amazing year. When you’re thinking of what goals to set for yourself, make sure to include a few from this list to make your year awesome!

 

 

A New Year – A New Church?

At the end of the first week of 2021 I am thinking of all the new things we will be facing in the next 12 months. Things can change so quickly. I mean, who would have thought that we would be living through a worldwide pandemic in 2020? And, who could imagine how the pandemic would change our daily lives? And, did anyone think that we would still be living within the confines of the pandemic almost 12 months later?

2020 was not an easy year. 2021 has started with major restrictions because of the pandemic. And now we have been hearing of new strains of Covid that spread more rapidly and are moving from country to country around the world. We are living in uncertain times.

God’s people have often lived in uncertain times where the familiar was gone and their way of life was changing. In one such time God spoke through the prophet Isaiah (43:19) and said,

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (NLT)

Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. (MSG)

I am doing something brand new, something unheard of. Even now it sprouts and grows and matures. Don’t you perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and open up flowing streams in the desert. (TPT)

I believe that God is taking this opportunity to bring massive changes to His Church. And, let’s admit it, the Church needs to change. A church built upon programs and personality is no longer working. If, in fact, it ever did work. A church that is simply a powerless sub-culture of the prevailing culture is not the church. God created the Church to be a counter-culture and to powerfully impact the culture like leaven in the loaf. So, in a season when we have been forced to “do Church” differently I believe God is bringing massive change to His Church if (and that is a big if) we will listen for His voice and watch for what He has already begun to do.

As The Message Version states… “Be alert, be present…” We need to be aware that change is already happening even if we don’t fully understand what is happening and how it is happening. And we need to be living in the present with an eye to the future and not living in the past, anchored to traditions.

As The Passion Translation states… “something brand new, something unheard of…” What God is doing right now – here and now – in His Church is something brand new. It is not an old idea recycled. It is not the same old, same old. It is something we have not heard of in the past. Something new (to us), better, exciting, challenging, dynamic, powerful, and of God.

And the question is valid: “Don’t you see it?” “Don’t you perceive it?” And the answer is ‘no’ if you are wanting the status quo. If you are safe, comfortable, and secure and want it to remain that way then you will not perceive it. You will not see it. But others who are dissatisfied with what is; those who have a holy discontent on the inside; those who ask “Is this all there is? Will perceive it and eventually see it. Because, as an older version states, “Behold” It’s here. It’s now. It’s real. Just let go of what you know as Church and grab hold of what Jesus is now doing. He is doing a new thing and many (including this author) have been speaking and writing about it for over a decade. But, it is happening now – in the midst of a continuing pandemic when so many things have changed … the Church is changing. Behold! Don’t miss it.

God is making a way where there is no way. He is showing us the way in the midst of a spiritually desolate time. A time when the Church has been wandering around in the wilderness having lost her way over the past hundred or so years.  Especially over the past 12 months. And many in the Church today will miss what He is planning and already doing because they are not looking for change, a challenge. They are comfortable and apparently feel secure in what is and don’t want to stretch for what could be.

But for those who are hungry and who are willing to step out in faith risking the familiar and the comfortable…. “Behold!  I am doing something brand new and totally different. Grab hold of it as it is a new and better way. My way. And you will be refreshed and will be refreshing like a stream or a river in the desert place.”

I for one am very excited. It is a tremendous time to be alive and a believer.

2021 – Living What You Believe – Part Three

We are looking at how we, as believers, can determine if we are living with integrity in 2021. In the past two days we have examined four elements of our life that need to be regularly examined and front and center in daily life if we are going to live life in a manner that lines up with what we believe as Christians. It would be good for you to examine your own lifestyle to see if your priorities are set within biblical parameters; to see if your focus is truly on the Kingdom. Remember, Jesus did say, “Seek first the Kingdom…”

1> Practice what you believe (Leaders: Practice what you preach)

2> Intimacy with Jesus is foundational and a serious priority

3> Love for the lost is essential

4> Passionate prayer unleashes power

Continuing on…

5> Biblical conviction keeps our vision clear

One of the quickest ways for a believer to see their integrity wane is to begin compromising their biblical beliefs. When a disciple of Jesus no longer holds to the Scriptures as the absolute truth of God’s Kingdom vision dies.

Nonbelievers will often disagree with Biblical Christians, but most will maintain a level of respect if we hold our convictions with grace-filled confidence. When born again believers are quick to apologize for the Bible, sand off the sharp edges of our doctrine, and adjust the teaching of the Word of God to accommodate the ever-changing norms of our culture, our integrity goes out the window. 

Jesus was clear that following Him would not be easy. If our goal is to fit in, get along and seem normal in this world, we are walking the wrong path. Integrity in the life of a believer means knowing, loving, and following the teachings of the Bible, even when it is awkward or downright painful.

6> Invite accountability and seek wise mentors

We all have blind spots. It is easy to deceive ourselves and get off track. When we have godly, strong, honest people in our lives who speak the truth (even when it hurts), we have a much greater chance of maintaining a life of integrity. 

Every believer should have a mentor and every believer should be mentoring or discipling a younger believer. In other words, every Timothy needs a Paul and every Paul needs a Timothy. Since just after I was born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit I was blessed with a powerful man of God as my mentor. He lived in the state of New York and I lived in Central Canada but we stayed in touch. This was pre-internet and email but he wrote letters almost on a weekly basis (remember snail mail?). And, during each calendar year he spent two different two week periods of time in my city during which we spent time together daily. This went on for 30 years. When he died I felt like an orphan. I immediately went searching for another man of integrity and experience who might be willing to mentor me and speak into my life. I found him and he is still speaking into both my personal life and my ministry.

Throughout my ministry I have always mentored (discipled) younger believers and those with a similar call of God on their life as exists on my life. Some of these young men have even travelled overseas with me over the past 20 years. 

In a world where integrity can seem old-fashioned and believers live life on the surface – often an inch deep and a mile wide – Christians are wise to look closely at their heart and lifestyle. Anything and everything we can do that leads to greater integrity will forward the work of the Gospel and bring honour to our Saviour.