SOMETIMES I LOSE MY FOCUS

A true story …

The Maestro was born in the northern city of Modena. His mother was a cigar factory worker, his father was a baker and amateur tenor. It was the amateur tenor part that most touched young Luciano Pavarotti. He loved hearing his dad sing, and he spent hours listening to the family’s collection of recordings of great tenors. Father and son sang along with the records at full volume. Mr. Pavarotti wouldn’t sing in public due to stage fright, but he did sing in the church choir. At age nine, Luciano joined him. The boy loved to sing — and people loved hearing him.

“Your voice touches me whenever you sing,” his mother said.

But the question of a career was vexing. In those days just after World War II, a musical career was risky. His mother suggested Luciano become an athletic instructor, while his father encouraged him to continue developing his voice. “But you will have to study very hard, Luciano,” he said. “Practice harder, and then maybe.”

Luciano continued his musical studies and also enrolled in a teacher’s college. After graduation, he asked his father, “Shall I be a teacher or a singer?” Read more

Risk-Taker

Most of us think of risk as a negative situation we should avoid. But risk is a part of life, and it’s a big part of faith. Not every risk is worth taking, but if you’re too overwhelmed by fear to correctly assess a situation, you’ll miss many opportunities for growth, increased strength, deeper faith, and success.

Have you been playing it safe? Too safe? If forward is the direction you choose in your journey of faith, be prepared to take some faith-based risks. Being a follower and disciple of Christ in today’s world its not safe. And it isn’t intended to be.

In his 2002 book, Seizing Your Divine Moment, Erwin McManus wrote, “I want to reiterate the fact that the center of God’s will in not a safe place, but the most dangerous place in the world. God fears nothing and no one. God moves with intentionality and power. To live outside God’s will puts us in danger, but to live in His will makes us dangerous.”

Think of the people in Scripture who took great risks.

    • Moses wasn’t playing it safe when he returned to Egypt to confront Pharaoh – Exodus 5:1
    • Gideon wasn’t playing it safe then he dismissed most of his army – Judges 7:7
    • David wasn’t playing it safe when he strode up to Goliath – 1 Samuel 17:31
    • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego weren’t playing it safe when they refused to bow to the image Nebuchadnezzar had erected in the Babylonian plains – Daniel 3:16-18
    • Esther wasn’t playing it safe when she put her life on the line to save her people, telling Mordecai, “If I perish, I perish” – Esther 4:1
    • Peter wasn’t playing it safe when he stepped out of the fishing boat to walk across the water to Jesus – Matthew 14:29
    • Paul wasn’t playing it safe when he preached to Governor Felix about “righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” – Acts 24:25
    • The apostle John wasn’t playing it safe in his old age when he sent a book from Patmos filled with images of dragons, beasts, and coming days of wrath and judgment.

You can’t play it safe either. Not if you want to seize tomorrow and accomplish the dreams God places in your heart. You will need to be a risk taker.

The best example of a risk-taker in my mind is Caleb. We were speaking about him yesterday. Many people don’t know a great deal about Caleb, because he only occupies thirty verses in the Bible. But what verses they are! What a man of faith! He is a powerful and wonderful example of risk-taking, future-grabbing grace.

In the book of Numbers, Moses sent twelve men – Joshua, Caleb, and ten others — as an advance party to reconnoiter the Promised Land. These men left the safety of their encampment, forded the Jordon River, and slipped into Canaan. Their mission: to make notes of the land, observe the enemy, study the fortification, estimate the population, and bring back enough intelligence to aid Moses in planning the coming invasion of the land God had promised the Israelites. 

The Bible tells the story this way: “So they went up and explored the land from the wilderness of Zin … Going north, they passed through the Negev and arrived at Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai—all descendants of Anak—lived” (Numbers 13:21-22 NLT)

The city of Hebron had been the ancestral home of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but now it was inhabited by an evil tribe of huge warriors known as the descendants of Anak. The sight of these warriors terrified some of the scouts.

The scouts quickly harvested some pomegranates and figs from the orchards of Canaan, and two of them lugged back an enormous cluster of grapes, carrying it on a pole between them. Imagine the excitement when the spies returned to Kadesh Barnea! Their mission had taken forty days, during which no one knew if they had survived or perished. Day after day, sentries on Israel’s parameters watched for them. Now that were back — all of them safe and sound.

But they were not united. Ten of the twelve had the fear of failure. The were not risk-takers.

Have you ever heard these names: Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel? No? These are the names of the ten spies who risked their lives on an espionage mission only to lose heart, doubt God’s power, and miss Good’s will (Numbers 13:4-15). They came back so discouraged they disheartened the people of Israel. And God determined that because they were not risk-takers and would not believe Him that they would not enter the Promised Land. In fact, they would all need to die in the wilderness before their decendants could cross the Jordan and take Canaan. All must die except Caleb and Joshua. 

Two of the spies had risked their lives to go into Canaan and report to the people what they had seen and encountered. Joshua and Caleb gave a positive report because they believed God when He said to Israel that this would be their land and they would defeat those who currently occupied the land. The other ten saw the same things but from a perspective of fear and not risk-taking and faith. 

Remember, Paul wrote to young Timothy and said, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

To be a risk-taker, stepping out in faith, we must remember that we do not need to fear. That God has given to us everything we need to fulfill His will for our lives. That we walk in Power, love, and have self-discipline. No matter what our age we need to overcome our hesitancy and defeat fear so we can carry on and fulfill the plan and purpose of God for our life.

He calls everyone of us to be risk-takers.  

A Display of Raw Power

There is nothing quite as awe-inspiring as a display of raw power. If you have witnessed any of the following, especially in person, you know what I’m talking about:

    • With a deafening roar and a gush of flames, two rocket boosters release more than six million pounds of thrust, defying gravity and hurtling the space shuttle into orbit.
    • Muscles rippling and hooves flying, a thoroughbred horse sprints away from the pack in the homestretch to win the Kentucky Derby by three lengths.
    • A symphony orchestra charges through the pulse-pounding climax of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” complete with cannon fire and a sky full of fireworks.
    • Tons of strategically placed explosives detonate with such precision that a forty-story skyscraper of concrete and steel is reduced to rubble in seconds 

Breathless at sights and sounds of power like this, all we can utter is “wow!”

But our awe is short-lived, isn’t it. In less than two minutes, the flaming rocket boosters are spent and jettisoned. Crossing the finish line, the thoroughbred slows to a gallop then to a harmless trot. And once the condemned building collapses into a cloud of dust, the spectators go home. That’s the way it is: Most explosions of power cannot be maintained indefinitely. Other forces at work, such as gravity, friction, limited capacity, fatigue, etc., eventually tame the outburst, quiet the thunder, and cool the flames.

Sir Issac Newton, the famous seventeenth-century mathematician and physicist, discovered a law of motion that helps explain some of these realities. It’s called Newton’s first law of motion. The second part of this law states: “An object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

In other words, It it were not for fatigue, last year’s Kentucky Derby champion might be still racing around the track and Lance Armstrong could race his bike through the Alps twenty-four hours a day. The point is this: There are a lot of forces at work that can diminish, dissipate, deflect, detour, discourage, or destroy unleashed power.

Any forward motion will encounter resistance — including your forward motion. There simply haven’t been any great causes in history that didn’t struggle against opposition. They would not have been great movements otherwise.

So, today would be a good day to take stock….

      • Is there a real passion in your heart – a fire in your bones – for the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of that Kingdom?
      • Have you discovered God’s purpose for your life? The specific and unique purpose He has for you which, we must remember is built upon the generic purpose of all believers to “follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”?
      • Have you accepted that call upon your life to follow Him and do what He has called you to do regardless of the cost or the inconvenience?
      • Have you received His two promises made to all His disciples – His presence and His power?
        • If you have a deep, daily walk with Jesus where your level of intimacy is good and getting better … then you are experiencing His presence
        • If you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and have chosen to move in the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit … then you are experiencing and walking in His power

Good. Then now all you need is the boldness and courage to go on. To move forward as an irresistible force in life and ministry. Take the first step. Step out in faith. You don’t need to understand all the ins and outs of what the Lord is asking you to do. You need to simply trust Him and take that first step in the direction He has called you to go. Leave the details to Him. If you will stand up and step out then He will show up and show off.

Mark 16:20 “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”

There you see it … the disciples have just been told to take the world for Jesus — spread the Kingdom to every corner of the known world. They really had little to no clue how they were going to accomplish that. They were short on the details. And, now Jesus has ascended into Heaven and even He will no longer be available to help them or answer their many questions. But they stepped our in faith and He showed up – His presence and His power were there and event in their everyday lives. 

In spite of the circumstances and situations we are to trust Him, stand up and step out in faith. He will show up (presence) and back up His Word with miracles, signs, and wonders (power).

What is stopping you? It is time for true believers to stand up and step out and experience His presence and His lower. 

 

Guard Your Heart

In this last entry for January 2021 and a look at life as we enter February 2021 tomorrow,  I want to chat about “Loving Who? And Why?”

Life (and particularly Covid-19) has a way of eroding our confidence in the goodness of God. After all, where was God when Covid-19 hit and took away someone we loved or someone we knew – a friend or someone we work with? Where is God now almost a year later? So, we could — and maybe should — question and wrestle with this whole concept of the goodness of God. And, in the process take an honest look at why circumstances and situations beyond our control cause our hearts to question God’s love and care. In other words, work through what we really think and believe about suffering and chronic disappointments of every day life. Both of which can cause us to pull away from God. Not so far as to abandon the faith … but still creating emotional distance between us and God, the Father, as we question (doubt) his goodness towards us in particular.

Life is a savage assault, striking at random, poisoning our heart’s assurance that God is good, or at least good towards us. This makes it so hard to find more of God, to receive Him in fresh and wonderful ways into our being and daily life. So it’s here we must seek healing within our intimate relationship with the Living God.

Allow me to explain an essential dynamic to the soul’s relationship with God. More of God comes to us as we love God. The more that we love God, the more we are able to experience Him. Part of this has to do with the nature of God, and part of it has to do with our own human nature.

You understand from your own relationships, your story of life, love, and relationships, that you don’t give your heart away to just anyone. You don’t give access to the deeper places in your soul to just any idle acquaintance — certainly not to someone who is at the same time keeping themselves distant from you. We know from your own experiences that when someone loves us, we are much more ready to make ourselves available and vulnerable to them. What we keep forgetting is that God feels the same way.

2 Chronicles 16:9 NIV “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

Psalm 91:14 NLT “The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.’

John 16:27a NIV “… the Father himself loves you because you have loved me…”

I’m really surprised that the human race expects God to pour Himself and His blessings into their lives when He is not even the slightest priority, let alone a close and dear friend. Would you give the best of your life to people who couldn’t care less whether or not you exist? God’s outpouring of Himself is conditional. I know, I know — we’ve all been told all about the unconditional love of God. Absolutely — his grace is unconditional; His forgiveness sis available to all. However, intimacy with Him, the treasures of His presence, the outpouring of His vibrant being into our thirsty souls — that’s for those who love Him. Even in the best friendship, the act of giving and receiving love ebbs and flows with the willingness of the two involved to make it a priority, to invest themselves. God’s heart is very much like yours in this way, for your heart is made in His image.

Now on our side of the exchange, loving God opens our soul up to the presence of God and the gifts that He has for us. Remember — your soul is the vessel He fills. So, we need, as in any friendship, to position our souls into the place whereby we might receive so much more of God. There’s no practice that facilitates the opening of capacity to perceive Him, and receive Him, like the turning of our hearts and souls toward God in repentance and love. Active loving — love as a verb, not a noun. This is what we’re made for, and the soul knows it, even if it’s long been unused. We know it even through we’ve pulled back in sorrow or disappointment. 

So, we need as we continue into month two of the new year to examine our hearts and open them wide open so that we can receive His love and forgiveness and find a time of refreshing in the presence of the Lord.

I love how our wildflowers track to course of the sun through the sky, slowly turning to face the warm, passing brightness from east to west in such a sweet act of humble adoration. Many flowers fold their petals inward come evening, through the chilly nights at seven thousand feet, then open again with the rising of the sun and turn its direction. “Hearts unfold like flowers before thee,” goes the great “Hymn of Joy,” “opening to the sun above.”

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;

Drive the dark of doubt away.

Giver of immortal gladness,

Fill us with the light of day!”

That’s it — we need the clouds of sin and sadness melted away; we need the dark of our doubts driven off like night flees before dawn. We need our heart free of clutter. So that the Giver of immortal gladness might fill us.

Remember: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (proverbs 4;23).

2021 – Focus on God’s Purpose

Bob Weighton celebrated his 112th birthday during the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, which meant he wasn’t able to have a party or be with friends. That’s a shame, because on that day Bob became the oldest living man on earth. The Guinness World Records organization sent him a certificate, and newspapers hailed him in heroic terms. Friends sang “Happy Birthday” from a distance while Weighton, a former missionary school teacher, listened on his balcony.

“I can’t say I am pleased to hear that the previous record holder has died, but I am pleased that I’ve been able to live so long and make so many friends,” he said.

When asked about the virus, he said, “It’s bizarre. I’ve never experienced anything like coronavirus before. I’m a bit frustrated, but then again I’ve been in situations where you just had to accept what was happening.”

Then he summed up the wisdom of a 112-year-old: “There is nothing we can do about it so you might as well do what you can. Never mind about the things that you can’t.”

That’s the key. Focus on what you can do. There’s plenty you can’t do, but there’s one thing we can all do: we can follow God’s deep desire for us to grow into the image of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “I press on. That I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).

That is God’s ultimate purpose for you and for all of us. Of course, He also has an individual plan for your life and for mine. But seriously, consider God’s ultimate purpose for your life — that you may become more and more like His Son, Jesus Christ. Romans 8:29 says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”

John Bray was Dean of Chapel at Indiana Wesleyan University. He and his wife were popular with students, and his chapel messages were full of life and truth. Then Bray was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The onset of symptoms led him to resign his position, but he simply continued looking ahead. He continued moving forward.

“Everyone gets a diagnosis of some kind sometime in their life,” Bray told the campus newspaper. “There’s no reason I shouldn’t.”

He told his students he is not asking why. “I can’t change what’s happened to me, so why is not a pivotal question in my life. Now, ‘how will I glorify God in the midst of all this?’ That’s at the heart of almost every major decision a Christ-follower needs to make.”

Speaking of his disability, Bray said, “Even this, that I don’t like, is designed to shape me more like Christ.”

That is the voice of someone who has grasped onto God’s purpose for his life, and no matter what comes at him, he will not let go.

Matt Mooney is a professional basketball player who, like every athlete, tries to excel at his sport, with its victories and setbacks. He’s also a dedicated follower of Jesus. “I know God has a great plan for me. I trust in Him. His purpose for me is to glorify Him playing the game.” 

He said, “I can’t take the game of basketball with me to eternity. The only thing that is eternal is God and Jesus. I realized that years ago. When I started really focusing on my faith, I realized no matter how I played, good or bad, God still loved me and I still had my salvation intact.”

Pastor Rick Warren wrote, “Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won’t be complete here on earth. It will only be finished when you get to heaven or when Jesus returns.”

When God looks at you and evaluates you, He wants you to become more and more like Jesus, to follow Him closely and to emulate His life so that Christ is seen in you more and more. That only happens as you put your focus on Him. 

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.

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!

 

 

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. 

2021 – Living What You Believe – Part Two

Let’s continue with our look at living a life of integrity in 2021 as believers and followers of Jesus Christ. We saw last time:

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

2> Intimacy with Jesus is foundational and a serious priority

Too many leaders and followers in the church have become religious hypocrites. They go through the motions, doing only what is required of them by their local assembly – the bare essentials. They know the right words. But they have forsaken their first love (Revelation 2:4). Leaders can teach about Jesus but spend little time at His feet. And, people can call themselves believers and also spend little to no time with Him and yet claim to follow Him. We can tell others to follow Jesus while we wander away from Him.

For Christians, modelling integrity means we hunger to be in the presence of our Saviour. We long to become more like Jesus and live in ways that grow our faith. Every believer should pause and do a heart check: Am I really following Jesus and becoming more like Him – enjoying time in His presence and experiencing His peace – or am I simply doing my thing and covering a non-biblical lifestyle with a thin outer coating of “Christian”? 

If you are a church leader and on staff with a church or ministry you should also do a heart check: Have I become a church staff professional doing my job with no passion behind my ministry?

Everyone should ask themselves: Am I propelled into each day with a love for Jesus that guides and moves me?

When we love Jesus and it shows, people are drawn to Him. To live with integrity we need intimacy with the Lord on a daily basis.

3> Love the lost is essential

Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). The religious leaders in His day were upset that sinners liked Jesus and He seemed to like them. Church leaders and believers in Jesus (disciples of Jesus) who avoid nonbelievers and spend all of their time with church folks can’t fulfill Jesus’ call to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).  

Living with integrity calls us to live like Jesus, and sometimes that will mean making new friends and spending less time at church or fellowshipping with other believers. Christians understandably tend to gather with others who believe the same way that they do. However, we can then become narrow in our focus and neglect those who do not yet know Jesus as Lord and Saviour. And, we can also end up with a “we” and “they” mentality. This is simply not healthy. We need to find a place where we can hang out with nonbelievers and frequent it often so as to stay in touch with the real world out there and build relationships with those who live without hope. A gym, the baseball diamond, a hockey rink, a weekly card game…

4> Passionate prayer unleashes power

Systems, programs, and tricks of the trade will never bring lost sheep home to the Good Shepherd. The best worship services with the finest music and the most articulate gospel presentation are powerless if the Spirit of God is not present and at work. Only when God moves will people surrender their hearts to Jesus.

This is true as well in the life of a believer. If we are not praying passionately for the lost then we will not influence or impact the lost. We can befriend them without prayer but we cannot see them come into the Kingdom if our prayer is weak and inconsistent. And, if we simply neglect praying for those we know who are lost. Working to influence and win the lost without praying for the lost from a heart for the lost sucks and seriously lacks integrity. 

True power resides in the prayers of believers and the prayers of the corporate church when we weep for the lost and seek God’s face on behalf of those who are in spiritual darkness. We need to ask God for His heart for the lost. That prayer, when answered, will transform your life and witness and help you to live a life of integrity.

Prayer and the power of God are central to living lives that bear witness to the nonbeliever. And, as we live with a heart for the lost then we will obey Jesus and live with biblical integrity. 

2021 – Living What You Believe – Part One

As we enter the first full week of the New Year 2021 my thoughts turn to behaviour and lifestyle. 

As a leader I realize that I can’t lead what I don’t live. In other words, my actions can speak louder than my words and nullify what I am saying. As a leader I can’t ask my people to do what I am not willing to first do myself. 

As believers we should take the start of a new year to examine what is it we believe as Christ-followers and then see if how we live lines up with what we say we hold to be the truth. Again, often the way we live, the way we speak, and the way we behave can speak louder than what we say we believe deep in our hearts. One contradicting the other. Our talk and our walk must line up. What we believe on the inside must effect and even transform how we live on the outside – in our family, at work, in the community, and even in the church fellowship itself. 

This is a question of integrity. Living what we say that we believe. Leading in a way that shows what we truly believe. 

We are flawed, weak and broken people being put back together by the grace of Jesus. That is all our God has to work with. Even the apostle Paul, after being transformed by the grace of Jesus, was still in awe that God would use “the worst of sinners to accomplish heavenly purposes” (1 Timothy 1:15).

So, how do we live (and lead) with integrity when we are broken vessels?

I have been a follower of Jesus and a leader in the Church and ministry now for45 years and have some thoughts that help me to navigate this journey with Jesus that we are all on. Life as a believer can be complex, complicated, and often challenging. As I walk with Jesus year after year I have become stronger in my faith. But, I have also become more aware of my personal weaknesses. I am humbled to be called a child of God, and amazed that the Lord would use me as an instrument to expand His Kingdom and even lead His Church. There is a tremendous obligation on each of our lives to live and relate in such a way as to impact those who do not know Jesus and to share the Gospel of the Kingdom with the lost, the least, and the last. Maybe you feel the same way. To fulfill this mandate we must be people of integrity.

Here are some reflections on growing to be more like Jesus and thus living with integrity in our hearts and lives. These ideas apply to every aspect of life and ministry.

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

We believe that there is no other way into Heaven other than by being born again and receiving the gift of eternal life which by biblical definition is to have a personal and intimate love relationship with the Lord and with His heavenly Father (see John 17:3). 

We believe that the Lord has called each one of us, as believers and followers, to take this message out into our personal world – where we live and work and play. And then even to the whole world. We call this The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and commands us to work with him and complete this task. 

Do we live what we believe?

In my experience most church leaders do very little to reach the lost outside of the formal church services and programs. It is not a way of life for them. The same is true for those who attend church services on a regular basis and are thus “active Christians.” 

To lead and to live with integrity is to align our lifestyle with the things the Bible teaches and what Jesus expects from us as followers. Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). He expects us to fish – to seek the lost, the least, and the last – and not to rest until every people group in every nation (including where we live) have heard the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14). I once heard a preacher say, “If you are not fishing, you are not following. You are simply deceiving yourself that things are good between you and God.”

This will mean learning how to share our faith in a natural and organic way. We need to be praying for the lost, building deep and decent friendships with people who are far from God, and regularly having spiritual conversations with people in our lives. This alignment of words, actions, and beliefs is a powerful witness.