Develop an Active Imagination

I remember watching two preschoolers, a brother and sister, playing next to me as I was watching a floor hockey game in college. I was fascinated at their imagination. They had no toys, no digital devices, just the bleachers and their imagination. They played for a long time, together imagining all that was happening around them.

Too many of us have lost our ability to imagine. We are so caught up in the moment and in what is right in front of us that we no longer know how to use our imagination. There could be a number of reasons for that. Maybe our imagination was stifled as a child when a parent or teacher told us to quit daydreaming. Daydreaming is the fertile ground imagination grows in! Some of us had an active imagination until someone made fun of our ideas. For whatever reason, we have stopped imagining.

Have you ever wondered why some people are so good at coming up with ideas? It’s because they have an active imagination. They are not afraid to dream up something new. And they are not afraid to try out their ideas. We don’t know how many ideas these people imagined that went nowhere, before they found the ones that were great.

We can develop an active imagination. For instance, give yourself freedom to daydream. Find some time when you have no other distractions and no requirements of yourself and just imagine things. Find your time you can claim as your own. Dream. Make up a story in your mind. It could be that you have a problem at work. Whatever your work is, whether dealing with people or machines, if there is a problem, your imagination can help you solve it. So start imagining all kinds of possibilities.

In your daydreaming, don’t put up fences. Don’t start evaluating and discarding an idea too quickly. Sometimes good ideas need time to work their way to a solution. Some of us are quick to say: “That won’t work.” We even think that way in our daydreaming and discard ideas before they are fully developed. Remove that fence. Remove any fence that puts limitations on your imagining. Don’t discard an idea too soon because it takes more money than you have, or more volunteers than your organization has, or whatever it is that tempts you to short-circuit your dreaming.

Imagination is enhanced by other ideas. Sometimes as you read and watch and listen, ideas come to you through other people or situations around you.  A while back my one of my daughters gave me a book on trees. I would not have chosen to read a book like that, but it was amazing to read the insights of someone who had spent years working with trees and understanding them. There were points in the book that got me thinking about how to work with small groups and how people interact.

Another book I recently read outside of my normal reading selections was Atomic Habits, by James Clear. While the book was about habits, it sparked all kinds of ideas that made me want to apply the teaching to the process of discipleship. As we read and learn from others, we add fertilizer to the fertile ground of our imagination.

Someone once said that we should “beg, borrow, and steal” as we look for good ideas. There have been many times that my good ideas came out of ideas that others had worked on. I was able to build on and adapt those ideas to programs I was working on or ministries I was running.

I have been part of churches that planned wonderful Easter Celebrations complete with a breakfast, fun and games, a worship service, and an Easter Egg hunt. One of the aspects of the morning that went over really well was to bring in a professional photographer to take family photos. Many people dress up for Easter so it was a great time to offer people a free family photo. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I know it came from someone else’s ideas and I was able to adapt it to my setting.

One author who wrote about planning creative worship services suggested always having some children’s toys at hand. The idea was, if you have fun thing near you, in your environment and in your hand, your creativity will be enhanced. So, surround yourself with weird and wonderful objects, collect fun sayings and give yourself an environment that will be conducive to good imagining.

I don’t know if you have found this to be true, but some people think they imagine and think creatively better by being in a certain place, or a certain chair, or taking time to daydream at a certain time of day. If you want to be intentional about improving your creativity and your imagination, this might be an idea to try. Find a comfortable spot and see if the creativity ideas start flowing. It may take a bit of trial and error to find the right spot, but sometimes the habit of that certain spot or certain time can help unlock creative ideas.

Then, at a certain point, you have to look to putting your ideas into action. When you have ideas, start writing them down. Writing down ideas requires you to express the idea in a concrete way. The imagination has to become reality at some point. Writing it down helps you put that idea together.

If the written idea still seems like a good one, try it out. Share it with someone. You might want to make sure you share it with someone you trust, or someone who won’t shut you down too quickly. If you can verbalize it in a way that makes sense to the person listening, you are heading in the direction of your ideas becoming reality.

When you think you are ready, try out your idea. See if it solves the problem you were working on. If it does, great! Your imagination helped you. If it does not work, then keep looking for another idea.

Continue to cultivate an active imagination. Just think of how many good ideas you will have if you allow yourself to stop and daydream!

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


AN HOUR ON SUNDAY – By Nancy Beach

In An Hour On Sunday: Creating Moments of Transformation and Wonder, Nancy Beach draws on her years of experience creating great worship services. She covers many aspects of how to create meaningful experiences for church congregations, focusing on the arts and artists involved in making these experiences moments of “transcendence”. She writes, “Our aim should be to create services so compelling, so meaningful, and so unexpected, that the time sails by and attenders leave with an enthusiastic desire to talk about their experience as well as the content of the service.” Her chapter on creativity is one of the best. This book is a great encouragement to do our best to create services that impact people in meaningful ways.

The Transition Pastor’s Process

More and more churches are choosing to hire a Transition Pastor to help them as they say goodbye to one pastor and look to hire the next. If you are curious about how this transition process works, then you are at the right place. (This post builds on a previous post: Do We Need a Transition Pastor?)

The process begins with the transition pastor getting to know the congregation and the way the church functions. They complete various assessments and evaluations to get a clear picture of what is really going on in the church. This is a helpful step whether the church is healthy or unhealthy, and whether the pastor left on good terms or not. These assessments are done with the whole congregation as well as the leadership and various ministry leaders. Often there are interviews of staff and members of the congregation to get a clear understanding of how things are going and what areas may need to be addressed. It is important to take some time to look back to make sure there are no issues that have just been “swept under the rug”, but adequately faced and dealt with. Unforgiveness for past mistakes will make it difficult to move ahead in a meaningful way.

The assessments can help the pastor know what to preach on. He can address current issues facing the church from scripture.

The first issue to acknowledge and address is often grief. The assessments and interviews will determine the level of grief, as the church is often mourning the loss of the pastor and his family. Often the preacher will focus sermons on the “one another” passages in scripture. These can help build on or restore much needed unity in the church.

After taking some time to look at the past and then getting a clear picture of the present situation, the pastor can move the church to start looking ahead to establish a clear vision for the church. This may include understanding the demographics of the church as well as the community it serves. It will include having vision meetings with both the elders and the church as a whole. My belief is that the vision a church develops usually does not vary much from where they have been in the past. The value of this practice is not so much in coming up with something unique for the next part or the journey, but in being able to clearly articulate their vision together.

This process is bathed in prayer, and builds on the assessments and understanding of the community the church feels called to reach. The vision guides the church moving ahead. Often, when a church goes through the process of hiring a new pastor, they do not have a clear vision and so the newly hired pastor moves the church in the direction of his own vision. This is not a bad thing, except each new pastor may go in a different direction. If the church can clearly identify a vision before they hire their next pastor, then they can hire a pastor that fits that vision.

For pastors looking for a position in a church, it helps to know what the church’s vision is so he can tell if he will fit there or not. I have taken a position in a church only to learn two years later that my vision and theirs were very different, opposite even. It is helpful to both the church and the pastor to be clear on this before being hired. It will prevent some pain in the future.

The completed assessments and articulated vision help the church know exactly what kind of pastor they are looking for. The transition pastor can help guide them up to this point and help them through the search process as well. One valuable tool the transition pastor can help the church with is developing their Pastoral Profile. All the other assessments and processes the transition pastor leads the church through really culminate in the clarifying their vision and determining what kind of pastor is needed to help them accomplish that vision. Without all the work leading up to this point, a church may not have a clear idea who will best fit their church. Too often there is just a pendulum swing where one teaching pastor with no shepherding skills is replaced with a shepherd with no teaching skills. A Pastoral Profile is built on all the work produced during the transition process so the church knows how to truly evaluate a candidate against their real needs.

The Transition pastor concludes their time with that church before the next pastor is hired.

If a church is between pastors, hiring a transition pastor will be of great benefit. Those months, up to two years, of a transition pastor leading a church through a transition process will be extremely beneficial in planning well for the next step of the journey for the church.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. I hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.

THE POWER OF WRITING IT DOWN – by Allison Fallon

Allison Fallon is a writer who helps others write. Her book walks through a number of tips on how to keep writing, whether for publishing or for personal purposes. She draws a number of parallels to life and has a number of examples of how encouraging people to write about their life has actually helped them through tough times in their life. So if you like to write, anything from journaling to writing a novel, you could benefit from this book. If you are not a writer, but would like to try something new to help you deal with circumstances in your life, this might be the book for you.

The Hard Work of Thinking

A while back I was trying to find a church to attend. We were new to the area and had no specific ties to any church, so we tried a few. There was one church that I really liked. They had a number values and practices similar to my own. This church seemed like a great option for us, but there was one aspect of their theology in practice that I did not agree with.

So what could I do?

I decided to spend time thinking and praying about it. For the next few weeks, maybe even months, every time I prayed and every time I read the Bible, I had this one question on my mind. I needed clarity from God. I wanted to have an answer that would change my thinking so I could feel comfortable attending this church. I thought about it throughout the day. Finally, I just couldn’t find peace about attending that church, but at least I had spent some time seriously thinking through what was right for me and my wife.

Praise generally goes to the “doer,” while the “thinker” is often considered lazy. We have been taught from a young age that there is great value in getting things done. We are told, “Quit daydreaming! Get back to work.” What if thinking about something for a long time was getting things done? Is it possible that thinking about something for a long time can be beneficial?

My desire is to help people pursue their God-given dreams. Some of this involves taking time to think, to meditate or contemplate.

Most definitions for both words include something like this: “thinking seriously about something for a long time.” Whether you are meditating, or contemplating, there are times when it is of great value to slow down, and just think.

Do you know what God wants you to do with your life? Do you know what the next step of the journey is? Before you make a big decision, take some time to think. Seriously consider your situation and what God might have in mind next. Allow God to interrupt your thinking time. Read scripture. Pray. And think.

You may need to block out some time just for thinking. Maybe stay up after everyone else has gone to bed, so you can focus on your thinking, or get up before everyone else does so you can think in peace and quiet.

Have you ever read a scripture and just couldn’t get it out of your mind? I mean, it just kept ringing around in your mind. It may be that God was teaching you something, and he didn’t want you to forget what you had read. You thought about it all day. You thought about it in the shower, and when you were commuting, and when you were supposed to be working. Sure, you did your job like usual, but in the back of your mind you were still thinking about that verse.

We would all benefit from taking time to think on scripture more often. I read my Bible almost every day, but I don’t often stop to just think about what I read, or what God wanted me to hear from Him that day.

It’s too easy to see Bible Reading and Prayer as part of a to-do list to conquer and check off, rather than time to slow down and allow God to soak His words into our minds.

When is the last time you actually just stopped everything to think? To think about something for an extended period of time? Is there an issue in your life that needs to be resolved? Is there a question you would like answered? Why not book off some time, and take a mini-retreat for yourself to purposefully think? Find a place or time where you can have peace and quiet, where all distractions are removed if possible, and think on the issues facing you. You might want to begin with reading some scripture, with a time of prayer, and then just think. If you are like me, and benefit from writing thing down, then write it down. If you are someone who has to think out loud, then think out loud.

You may be meditating, or you may be contemplating, either way, take time to seriously think about something for an extended period of time. See if that doesn’t help you get some perspective on your present issue. Do the hard work of thinking.

Keep looking up

Andy

Who Do You Want to Become?

Who are you? I mean, if friends were to describe you, what words and phrases would they mention?

As we transition into a new year, we are often asked about our resolutions. I prefer setting goals rather than making resolutions.

Some of us might want to rethink goals just a bit. I tend to set goals to accomplish something. For example, I want to read the whole Bible this year, using the Chronological reading plan that puts things in the order they probably happened. I also want to finish writing a book. But should I be setting some different goals?

How about goals that affect who we are? Should we be setting some goals in areas that would impact who we are, what our personality is, or how we face life?

If you want to be seen as a generous person, you could make your goal to be more generous this year. However, vague goals like that are less effective than those with more specific or concrete descriptors. Maybe we could write a list of what a “generous person” is like or what they do and how they interact with others. Perhaps you view generosity as being freer with your resources and time, for example, such as lending your tools or giving food to the food bank. Or your focus could be on buying meaningful things for people you care about or inviting more people to your home for a meal. You could do some research and find a worthwhile cause to support, financially or by volunteering, being generous with money and generous with your time. You might choose to lend your books to a friend after you read them. It’s your goal, so make it yours. You could consider reading some books or taking a course on generosity.

If being generous doesn’t resonate with you, consider a few other character goals. Think about your own life and moments of personal frustration or struggle to identify where you might want to focus your personal growth.

1. Do you want to be more forgiving? You realize you are quick to judge, quick to get angry and offended, and slow to forgive. You want to forgive more freely. Then set a character goal of becoming more forgiving.

2. You might desire to be more patient. You struggle with having to wait for anything. You could set a goal to deliberately always take the longest line in the grocery store, or when buying gas. You could find ways of thinking about other things while waiting. You could memorize scripture…so every time you wait in line you bring up the verses you are learning and go over them. Now the slow line becomes productive for you, and you are being more patient.

3. Would you like to be more creative? You could read books and take courses. You could find ways of trying new things that require creativity. Maybe you schedule in some “day-dreaming” into your day so that you can focus on your creativity.

4. Maybe you want to be more at peace and worry less. You could memorize scripture verses on not worrying. You could pray, even ask others to pray with you, that God would help you have peace in your life.

5. Maybe you want to be more considerate of other people. This is one I have to work on. I have set a goal for me to connect with at least two people who are not in my immediate family or part of the church. Personally, I want to text or visit or connect in a meaningful way with others that are outside of my immediate thought process. These are people I care about, but they may not realize it because I rarely connect with them.

I’m sure that if you ask yourself: “What is one area in my life where I would like to improve?” you will quickly come up with an answer.

Now, before we leave this, I want to suggest that some of these self-improvement goals may need some outside help. Maybe you connect with a coach, or book a few sessions with a counselor. Maybe you meet with your pastor, or a good friend. And you ask for others to speak into your life and help you think of how to improve in your area you want to grow in.

I’m thinking that a number of us probably have people in our life who are really good at the area we want to improve. At least for me, my lack shows up when I see others who are doing so well in this area. My wife is one who is great at noticing others and connecting and loving – and that is why I recognize I have some improving to do. Take time to talk with those in your life who exemplify the area you want to work on. Maybe you are doing well in an area they want to work on and you can help each other.

I encourage you to set some risk-taking goals for the year: tasks to complete as well as areas of personal character growth. Put a plan into place, to learn and grow in these areas.

I wish you all the best for 2022. May it be a life-changing year for you!!

Keep looking up!

Andy

Goodbye 2021 – Some of my Remarkable Wins!

As I look back I am incredibly grateful for the great God that we serve. Here are a few of my highlights of 2021:

1. We were able to buy a house after having to rent for a few years! God did some amazing miracles to work out the finances and get us a great house and a reasonable price.

2. I got a new job. I get to, once again, work in the areas I am passionate about and gifted in. God arranged for me to start as a Transition Pastor at Valleyview Alliance Church, Valleyview, Alberta. I am enjoying the process of preparing this great church family for their next pastor.

3. I started a new business. I was able to get some training on becoming a church consultant and read a lot on coaching. That, coupled with my 30 or so years of pastoral ministry, prepared me to begin Elevate Coaching & Consulting, with the purpose of “helping you achieve your God-given dreams”. I am primarily working with pastors and church leaders, as most of my experience has been in that field. And being a Transition Pastor fits into this as I help Valleyview Alliance Church work toward their God-given dreams.

And another great year with this amazing lady! Thanks Lynnette! I love you more every day!

I love to read, and did much of that this past year, focusing in on reading about the Holy Spirit and his filling and power in the last few months of 2021.

I was able to have a number of great conversations with pastors and church leaders, and had the opportunity to encourage them.

I hope you can look back on the past year and remember some great answers to prayer, and some remarkable wins and accomplishments. Hopefully your positives overwhelm your negatives, and that you can look back over the year with a grateful heart and thankfulness to God.

Goodbye 2021!

Happy New Year

Keep looking up!

Andy

*Please share some of your wins and positive experiences with me in the comment section.

Lower Your Expectations For Christmas

Lynnette and I were married in October 1990. I have done many weddings as a pastor, and attended many as a friend or family member. And yet, I haven’t heard of a wedding that met all the expectations that the bride had for the special day. At our wedding, we had a miscommunication with some family members and my little sister wasn’t able to perform a specific role we had planned for her. We even started the wedding before Lynnette got to the church. I thought meant she was there and ready to go. She did get there in time to walk in at the right time. With all the months of planning things still go wrong.

Christmas is a magical time in many of our minds. We have expectations of how we think it should go. We hope our kids will be home for Christmas, or that Grandma and Grandpa will come join us. We have a certain gift we have been hinting toward for six months, and we don’t get it. We want a perfect dinner and somehow the turkey isn’t quite done in time.

Everyone needs to have goals and plans and dreams. They give us hope. But we have to realize that they don’t always work out. When it comes to Christmas, we might do well to lower our expectations a little this year.

Family Expectations

Some of us have expectations that others do not even know about. I remember a seminar years ago that clearly taught that we cannot set goals for other people. This really impacted me. Some of our frustrations and even anger at people is that we have set certain expectations and never told them. We just expect them to know that “we will be opening presents on Christmas Eve, no matter who of the family is there or not.” Lower your expectations – especially the ones no one even knows you have.

We might do well to lower our expectations of what gifts we will receive. Even if you hinted to your mom for six months, she may not have understood. Or maybe the person wanted to get you that gift, but they couldn’t find it or they thought they found a much better one instead. Enjoy the gifts you do receive, and enjoy the time you have with those who gave it.

Lower your expectations about how your family Christmas will go. Again, I’m not suggesting you plan on it being a wreck, but plan on being okay if things don’t happen exactly as you wish. Be prepared that not everything will go as you hope. If one of your children and their family can’t show up till Boxing Day, don’t be mad at them but just enjoy the time you have when they do arrive.

Expectations Around Grief

Many of us forget that there are families who are grieving at Christmas time. This may be the first Christmas without that one special person. Roles in family traditions will need to change and there may be an empty place at the dinner table.

If you are suffering loss and facing this Christmas in grief, I hope you have a really good and encouraging Christmas. The reality is that you may have expectations that will not be met. There will be people, even friends, who are so consumed with their own families they forget about you and your pain. You may wish that you had some people around to share their comfort, and the realities are that unless you reach out, that comfort may not be there. What could you do? Why not reach out? Friends and family are so focused on their own activities that it may feel as though they are ignoring your experience this year. Reach out. Invite someone for tea on Christmas Eve, or take them some cookies on Christmas afternoon. Do something to connect with people, and you might be amazed at how a simple act like this reminds them of your grief and motivates them to pour out some love on you.

If you are having family events and are missing that one person, take time to grieve as a family. Share some stories and memories of this family member. Don’t ignore the loss. And don’t expect that everything will go so well you won’t remember the pain.

When the pain comes, acknowledge it, share it with someone near you, and then move on.

If you are one experiencing loss this Christmas, please don’t expect things from others and be disappointed. Look for ways to connect. On the other hand, if you know of someone experiencing loss, reach out to them and encourage them.

Pastors

I have heard of pastors who do not like Christmas: “I don’t have anything new to say after 15 years of preaching the Christmas story,” “I am not creative enough to make it exciting for people.” Yes, the Christmas story is the same story it has been for two thousand years. Yes, people know the story. I’m wondering if pastors may do well to lower their expectations a little.

Do not expect that you will be able to preach something new to your congregation. Instead, walk through the story again. Maybe you can think of the new believers in your congregation who have only recently come to know the story. Maybe you can think of the eight and nine-ear-olds who have only experienced a few Christmases they remember. Think of the incredible story again, and just faithfully walk through the story in your service. For some it will be the thirtieth or fortieth time, but for some in the congregation it may actually be the first time they hear it.

Instead of comparing your sermons and services to other churches that have live animals, choirs, and symphonies, do the best with what you have. Prepare people ahead of time, and practice whatever you do have for your Christmas service. Allow the traditions and the story to speak. And do the best you can.

Lower Your Expectations

Last year was, of course, a COVID Christmas. With all the concerns and the regulations imposed on us, our family was unable to have Christmas in our home with both our daughters present. While that is what we would have usually expected, I had to let go of those expectations, and we tried something else. We were able to meet up as a family, and exchange gifts and spend a little time together, even though it was at a different venue. Lowering expectations may allow for some creative options instead.

I hope you have a great and wonderful Christmas. We all have expectations, but unfortunately they will not all be achieved. Lower your expectations and make them more realistic. Don’t let the hype and the commercialism make you think it has to be the most wonderful time of the year when it may not be.

Have your hopes. Make your plans, but be willing to be okay if they are not completely fulfilled. You will be happier in the end.

Keep looking up

Andy

Embrace the New Year With Purpose

The New Year always brings questions about resolutions. “What are your New Year’s Resolutions? Do you have New Year’s Resolutions?” In a New York Post article, Shireen Khalil (Dec. 21, 2018) wrote, “Research conducted by Strava, the social network for athletes, has discovered that Saturday, Jan. 12, is the fateful day of New Year’s resolutions.” This was based on analyzing 31 million global online activities.

I still like the idea of marking January 1st as a new start. Make it a day where you both, look back and look ahead. Celebrate your past year, then look ahead to what is next. Instead of resolutions that often don’t make it to the end of the month, make January 1, or shortly thereafter, a day when you set goals. Resolutions can be broken quickly, and then your resolve disappears with it. Goals, instead, give you something to strive for. Instead of saying you won’t eat any apple fritters from Tim Hortons for the next year, set a goal of losing weight. If you happen to have a fritter, you would have broken your resolution, but you haven’t ruined your goal. Just consider it an infrequent event that has not destroyed your whole goal. You still have the rest of the year to keep working on it.

Goals help you to live with purpose. So what do you want to do on purpose this year?

I want to continue to grow in my relationship with God. If I make a resolution to read my Bible every day, as soon as I miss one day, I have broken that resolution and broken resolutions usually makes us quit pursuing what we were going to do. A goal to read the Bible in a year encourages me to just pick up my Bible again the next day, even if I happen to miss one.

SET A FEW GOALS

What goals would help you live your life with purpose? What are some things that will enhance your life and the lives of others around you? People often suggest setting goals in areas of personal health, or social connections, or something regarding your career or further education. If you want to accomplish a certain project – building your own canoe, or writing a book – then set that as a goal. You might want to set goals in your spiritual life. If there is something you have been struggling with and you want to overcome, design a goal around that. Don’t be afraid to set a goal that may seem out of reach, Identify sub-goals that help you get there, like planning to meet with a counselor at least three times this year to work on that habit I want to break. Choose goals that help you become who you want to be, who you believe God wants you to be.

Do not set ridiculous goals. If you weigh 350 pounds, and are struggling doing stairs, it may not be a good idea to set a goal of climbing Everest this year. But you could set that as a goal in a few years! Set a realistic goal for this year that will help you to move toward the bigger goal. Set a goal of working out regularly at a gym, and another of losing a certain amount of weight. Maybe a third goal would be to start putting aside the necessary money that trip might cost. Set a goal of getting as informed about Everest and mountain climbing as you can – maybe read a book along that theme every month.

Set goals that are realistic, but also a little risky. Maybe you can’t climb Everest this year, but you can plan on doing a 10 K run. It will give you a goal to work towards that will help you tackle Everest later.

If what you want to achieve is too big for one year, then set the timeline 2-3 years from now. Then set short-term goals for this year that will move you toward that goal.

WRITE THEM DOWN

Thinking about goals is one thing. Writing them down is a completely different thing. Writing them down means you have thought about it enough to actually verbalize it, on paper at least. Feel free to do some rough drafts. Write down things you would like to do or experience or accomplish. You may have to weed them out a bit to get down to about five goals to work on for the year. One tool that has been a great help to me is the Full Focus Planner. Look it up at FullFocusPlanner.com. It helps you plan goals for the year, and then breaks them down into quarters, three months at a time. Each quarter you write down goals that will move you toward the larger goal. And then it even helps you break it down more to work on the goals weekly. It has been a huge help to me.

Writing them down gives you something to refer back to. Post them somewhere that you will see them every day. Put them in you journal, or day planner, on your phone or the fridge, or all of these. When you see what you wrote down, you remind yourself regularly what you are working towards. You are now beginning to live your life with purpose.

SHARE THEM

Often, we need others to help us in life. The same is true when it comes to setting goals and working towards them. Share them with someone you think will encourage you in them. If you have a goal of working out at the gym regularly, you would do better to share that with a friend who is doing the same thing, rather than a friend who thinks a workout is carrying in the groceries from the car. If your goal is to write a book, share this goal with someone who thinks you can do it, and who will encourage you to do it. Sharing a goal, speaking it out loud, helps reinforce your determination to do it. Sharing it with someone who will hold you accountable to it, reinforces your goals again.

With some goals, you may even ask someone to check in with you regularly to see how you are doing. Maybe you have a friend who you can encourage toward their goal as they encourage you towards yours.

You might consider getting a coach who can help you toward certain goals. Maybe a trainer at the gym, or a life coach who can help you think through what is holding you back. Maybe you are hoping to improve your leadership or pastoral abilities as you pastor a church. Let me make a shameless plug here for Elevate Coaching & Consulting, and invite you to reach out to me for some coaching to help you live your life with purpose.

REMOVE DISTRACTIONS

Writing down your goals and sharing your goals with a friend are powerful steps to help you reach your goals. Yet sometimes there are too many other things that distract us from living with purpose as we planned.

Remove distractions. If you have goals regarding health, you may do well to remove the unhealthy items from your cupboard. If you have a goal of reading your Bible every day, you may want to get up thirty minutes earlier than everyone in your house so you can focus without others demanding your attention. You may need to remove certain events or activities from your schedule to make time for the purposeful steps you are taking. For example, you might quit your bowling league to make time to work out at the gym. You know what might distract you. You will figure out how to remove those things.

I encourage you to take some time to set some goals in the next week so you can live your life with purpose.

Keep looking up,

Andy

Enjoy a Fresh Start Everyday

I am usually the first person up in the morning at my house. I am often one of the first people up in my neighborhood. There is something special about the beginning of a new day. The “early bird gets the worm” they say. Many successful leaders are up by 5 or 6 am, to start their morning routine. More important than rising early, is the fresh start that each new day brings.

Every sunrise you an opportunity to start your day over. This is not reliving the same day like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. We get to start over by starting at the beginning of another day. It is a fresh slate. There is something really freeing about a not-yet-lived day. You haven’t made any mistakes yet.

A Sin-free Day

Some of us may need the following prayer: “Dear Lord, so far today, I am doing alright. I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent. I have not whined and complained. But I am getting out of bed soon, and I will really need your help.”

Each new day is a day when we have not yet sinned. You know the things that happened yesterday, but today you get to start over. You know where you failed, and you know what you need to improve. If you want to, you can make a renewed effort to avoid the sins of yesterday. If you have repented and confessed the sins of yesterday, God has forgiven you. You have the privilege of relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to make it a day that honours God.

If there is a “sin that so easily entangles” you, you can make a concerted effort to avoid it. “Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). Begin your day with prayer, maybe one with a little more sincerity than the one above. Talk with your heavenly Father about your desire to be holy as he is holy. Take deliberate steps to remove anything, or stay away from anything or anyone that tempts you to sin.

A Discouragement-free Day

Some days are much harder than others. Sometimes we have more of those difficult days than we would like. There are days we wish we could forget. The benefit of a new day is no one has said anything bad to you yet. Nothing has happened to discourage you. So far, nothing has gone wrong. Oh, some of us are quick to come up with potential problems, but they have not yet happened. So don’t bring on trouble that is not yours.

I like how Jesus teaches about worry in Matthew 6:34: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Or we could say, don’t worry about today, since you haven’t lived it yet. Leave yesterday’s troubles to yesterday. Don’t worry about tomorrow. And focus on the moment and the start of a fresh, worry-free day.

So far you have nothing to feel guilty about. You haven’t brought on discouragement by falling short of a goal you had or a standard you wanted to meet. At the start of the day, you are free to enjoy a clean slate.

Maybe yesterday was not a good day. You gave in to temptations. You had things go wrong. Someone was mad at you. We could think of all kinds of things that made yesterday bad. Okay. Get up again, try again. It’s a new day. Yes, you messed up terribly yesterday. Yes, life threw everything at you that it could yesterday. Get up with a renewed spirit, a renewed energy. I like that God has given us seven restarts each week.

Daily Rituals

Start your day with good, daily rituals. Do the things you know will help you start on the right foot. This is one of the reasons I get up earlier than everyone else. I do not like missing my rituals because if I don’t do them first thing, I will not do them later in the day. I actually have some evening rituals that set up my morning rituals.

I lay out my clothes for the next day so that I will not wake up my wife by turning on the light or digging through drawers looking for matching socks.

As soon as I’m showered and dressed, I sit down in my big chair in the living room. I reach for my Bible and journal. I start with prayer journaling a conversation with God, which then leads to my daily Bible reading, and a prayerful response to what God is saying to me. Next, I open my daily planner to review how I did with yesterday’s goals and set the goals for today. Mondays I set goals for the week.

These rituals help me to start the day with the things I believe are important to me. You can develop your own rituals that work for you. Getting up early helps ensure I will do what I think is important.

Fresh Orders

One of my morning rituals is to plan the day. I do not approach this lightly. After spending time with God in prayer and Bible reading first, I want to make sure these are not my goals, but fresh orders from God for the day. Sometimes there are things that come up in my time with God that it seems God is telling me what he wants me to do this day.

Getting up early to pray is following the example of Jesus. “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went to an isolated place to pray” (Mark 1:35). If Jesus needed to check in with the Father first thing in the morning, then that is probably not a bad idea for me.

Not only does each new day mean nothing bad has happened yet, it also means nothing good has happened yet. So I want to plan I will avoid sin and discouragement, and I also want to plan to do good and right. As I check in with my Father I get some idea of what I need to do this day.

You may not like to get up early. You don’t have to. But I want to encourage you to cherish each new day as a fresh start and an opportunity to check in with the Master for fresh orders for the day.

It’s a new day. Treasure the opportunity to start with a clean slate. May God help you fill in the day with wonderful moments where you see God at work in and through you.

Enjoy a fresh start every day.

Keep looking up

Andy