Double Dividends of Gratitude

Last night I committed two cardinal sins that effected me greatly. One, I had a cup of coffee at 6:30 pm as I prepared to have a Zoom Meeting with our Board of Elders. Two, I watched CNN at 11:00 pm.

The coffee and the Elder Board meeting was a sure-fire cocktail to guarantee I would not be going to bed early or fall asleep fast. I am always energized by the Elder meetings and that gets my brain going and coffee is never a good idea for a fifty-something year old after 4:00 pm.

Then you throw in the weight of the international news so late at night and I knew that I was ready to fight to fall asleep. But I was pleasantly surprised last night.

I have recently begun to incorporate a nesting set of Tiny Habits with my bedtime routine. Let me explain. For years I have had the habit of quoting Psalm 139: 23-24 when I get into bed, after Joanne and I pray together.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

This scripture always helps settle my spirit, and I will quote it in my head as many times as I need to calm myself. Now enter the Tiny Habits. Dr. B.J. Fogg is a person that I have followed for a number of years and he has developed a simple way to create strong and lasting habits. He does this through the use of Tiny Habits.

Simply put a Tiny Habit is something you can do in 30-60 seconds and that is tied to something you already do habitually. It is a proven method to help people develop healthy and lasting habits.

So, for me, when I sit on the edge of my bed at night and set my alarm on my phone the next morning, as soon as I set my phone down, I take three deep breaths to relax my body before I lay down. Then I lay down and quote Psalm 139. So I have nested two Tiny Habits together.

Those two Tiny Habits usually do the trick to get me to relax, but over this last few weeks, with a bit of extra anxiety from all that is happening in our world, I have chosen to nest in one more Tiny Habit to this routine.

Now, immediately after I pray Psalm 139, I list two or three things I am grateful for. It has been proven that gratitude has very positive implications for our mental wellbeing. As I have gotten in the habit of doing this, I have found that usually as soon as I practice gratitude my thoughts usually turn more positive and creative, rather than negative and fearful.

If you struggle with fear or anxiety, you may wish to try something similar with Tiny Habits and especially gratitude. It can have a huge impact on our mood and our resiliency.

Do you want to get even more out of the habit of gratitude? Would you love to not only help yourself feel better, but spread that feeling to someone else? Then I encourage you to add one more habit, that may not be so tiny but have a huge impact on you and others.

Every time you acknowledge gratitude for another person, chose to reach out to that person within 24 hours to express that appreciation to them. You will be amazed at how much better you will feel, and you know how good it will make the other person feel as well.

Want to hear more and be more motivate? Then watch the following video!

Community Building and Covid-19

The information I am sharing here is from the good folks at the Tamarack Institute. The Tamarack Institute develops and supports collaborative strategies that engage citizens and institutions to solve major community issues across Canada and beyond.

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We Can Still Connect!

Here are five community building stories and ideas sent in by Tamarack Institute members in response to COVID-19.

  1. How Cochrane is Fostering Community through Technology – Communities in Cochrane are creating fun and easy ways to connect through technology.
  2. Woodstock’s Virtual Storytimes – A Community Librarian in Ingersoll started Virtual Storytimes so children and their parents or caregivers could feel like they were still at their local library.
  3. Edmonton Stays Connected with Community Postcards – A woman in Edmonton has created printable postcards as people are self-isolating showing just how easy it is to spread kindness during these uncertain times.
  4. Hamilton Caremongering Campaign Supports Local Community – A Facebook group, CareMongering-HamOnt, has popped up in Hamilton as a community response to COVID-19.
  5. Waterloo’s Window Walks - Waterloo is encouraging neighbours to participate in fun and easy Neighbourhood Window Walks to encourage staying connected.

Search Me o God…..Please!

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

I have never been a consistent blogger, nor have I ever felt that I should be. This week made me rethink that. As I write this we have just come through the first of maybe many interesting weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As I wrestled all week to know how to manage leadership and shepherding within our community of faith at Leduc Fellowship Church, I felt that I wanted to reach out to those who wanted to be reached, but I did not want to bother those who felt I had already sent out too many emails.

This blog seemed like the right tool to use. I have used it on and off in the past, but never did I see it as a necessity. Now I do.

It has been one heck of a week with one unusual change after another. Starting with students being told to not attend school for who knows how long, and then that worship gatherings and family events including weddings and funerals were to be no larger than 50 attendees.

What a scramble for parents to find daycare when all have been closed, many churches to figure out the technological side of doing virtual church, brides and grooms cutting their guests lists and families not being able to honour the life and legacy of their departed loved ones. All of these scenarios were part of life for me this week and for so many.

I must admit, this week has caused me some anxiety and stress. Despite this strain, I must say I have seen much good. I have seen neighbour reach out to neighbour, I have seen people turn to prayer and worship over dispair, I have seen teamwork that is off the charts, I have seen an outpouring of love and grace, and I have seen people slowing down to care and share life together.

Over the next days, weeks or months, I hope to use this space to share the good and the great that I see. There may be moments of the difficult, but I believe there will be more moments of greatness.

Keep checking back!

Gospel Storytelling–Part 8–Release Your Story

Well, this will be the final post in this initial series on Gospel Storytelling.  Now that you have developed your personal Gospel Story and you are ready to naturally give testimony of the Gospel’s impact on your life, the only thing left is to begin to pray that the Lord will give you an opportunity to share it.

Simply pray that the Lord will show you the opportunities that already exist in the natural path and pace of your life.  You really do not need to create chances to share, they most likely already exist, you just need to open your eyes to the relationships that God has prepared for you and from love share your story as opportunity arises.

Just remember two simple rules.  First, don’t force the sharing of your story, just let it happen naturally.  Be ready at any time to share your story.  Secondly, remember to never make people a project.  Simply be ready to share with them out of love and concern for them.  Be patient, the chances will come if you are ready!

Enjoy the chances you are given to share God’s love for you!

Gospel Storytelling-Part 7–Begin Sharing Your

Over the last number of weeks, we have been working through the process of discovering, recording and writing down our Gospel Stories. If you have not been following along on this project check out the previous posts on Gospel Storytelling.  

If you have been following along, we are getting very close to the end. Next week will be our final installment of this series.  

Putting Your Story to Work:  This week I want to encourage you to begin to put feet to your story.  You hopefully have had a chance to write your story down according to the framework laid out last week, and hopefully have read it daily since then as you were encouraged to do.

Now, I want you to find one or two people to share your story with.  I want these to be Christian friends or family.  Please inform them that you have been working on learning to be a Gospel Storyteller and that you would like to share your BRIEF story with them.  Try and tell your story following the way you have written it, but tell it without reading it from the paper.  

It is ok if you mess up a bit, just don’t get frustrated.  This is just for practice and to get some experience telling your story.  Make sure to not take off down any “rabbit trails”.  Stick to the script as much as possible.  

When you are done with your story, allow your listener to ask any questions they may have.  Also, ask your listener if there were any parts that were not clear, or not spoken well.  Take their advice to heart and then adjust your story later if needed.  

One last encouragement: don’t think that you can’t share your story with your family, your wife and children specifically .  You may think they know your story, but they may never have heard it communicated in such a clear and concise method.  They might truly enjoy hearing it!

Gospel Storytelling–Part 6–Refining Your Personal Story

In the last episode of this series, you were encouraged to record your personal Gospel Story in writing. Taking the notes from the previous number of weeks you were invited to put on paper the history of God Breaking Into your life, God Breaking Through the sin, shame and hurts of your life, and God Breaking Out on mission through your redeemed life.

If you haven’t had the time to read through each of these articles and spend some time reflecting on how God is working in your life, feel free to get caught up this week. Click this link for all the articles to this point.  GospelStorytelling.pdf

Hopefully, your had the opportunity to pencil out a rough draft of your story.  If you did not, stop and work on that now.  If you did, now we begin the process of refining that story into a short form that would be appropriate to share with a friend, teammate, neighbour or co-worker when an opportunity arises.

First off, let me state that we want to make sure all of this work is not to be used on people that we make into our projects.  We simply are doing this so we will have the confidence to naturally give testimony of the Gospel’s impact in our lives when opportunities arise and trust me opportunities will emerge when we are tuned in and looking for them.

Refining Your Personal Gospel Story: Set aside a period of time (30-60) minutes to transform your rough draft story into a more concise and clearly presented document.

Make sure you will be able to unplug and remove yourself from anything that will distract you.

As you begin your time of reflection, pray that God would remove any distractions so you might hear clearly from the Lord.

The goal of this exercise is to refine your Personal Gospel Story down to a 3-5 minute informal conversation you can have with a friend.  This week we will seek to get the written form down to what you can share in 3-5 minutes, then next week we will talk about creating opportunities to share the story.

Now your aim will be to get your story to a two-page document. To make this happen we will follow the basic layout of a 3 point essay.  This layout will consist of the following points:

Introduction Paragraph: This paragraph will tell the reader/hearer what you will be telling them.  For this purpose, you should tell people about how important the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus has been to your life.

Breaking In Section:  This will be one or two paragraphs telling the short version of how God got ahold of you and broke into your life.

Breaking Through Section:  This will be one or two paragraphs telling the short version of how God Broke Through the shame, sin and hurts of your life.

Breaking Out Section:  This will be one or two paragraphs telling the short version of how God is now allowing you to partner with Him on his mission to redeem all things to Himself.

Conclusion Paragraph:  This paragraph will summarize what you have already told them and to remind them of how important the Gospel is to your life.

Once you are done with refining your story please set it aside and read it once a day until next week.

Gospel Storytelling -Part 5-Your Story Has Been Written, Now Discover It

If you have been following this set of articles over the last few weeks you have
hopefully taken the time to consider God Breaking In(to) your life (BI), God
Breaking Through (BT) your hurt, sin and shame and God Breaking Out (BO) on
mission through your redeemed life.

If you are like me, a good time of reflection always teaches me something. I
hope through the exercises of the last three weeks, that you have been able to
see how God has been active in your life for longer than you might have realized.

This is what I mean by the idea that your story is already written. Gospel
Storytelling has nothing to do with writing your own story but rather recording it.
The exercise this week is to simply record your story that the Lord has been

Recording Your Story Exercise: Set aside a period of time (30-60 minutes)
to begin to record “Your Gospel Story” that God has written.

Make sure you will be able to unplug and remove yourself from anything that will
distract you.

As you begin your time of reflection, pray that God would remove any distractions
so you might hear clearly from the Lord.

Pull out the notes you have tucked away over the last three weeks and review
what you have written. Now begin to write a rough draft of your story starting
with God Breaking Into your life, then covering how God has Broken Through
your sin and shame, hurts and struggles, then ending with how you see God
using you for His mission and His glory. Eventually, you will want to have this
down to a page or two but for now, write as much as you need to. Next week we
will talk more about simplifying your story.

If you are a verbal processor like me, it might help to record yourself telling your
story and then writing it down.

Enjoy this process and don’t stress about it. It should be fun to see how God has
been and is working in your life.

Gospel Storytelling-Part Four

Over the last few weeks, we have been addressing the three-fold act of Gospel-
Storytelling. That being, developing the ability to give witness to God Breaking
In(to) our lives (BI), God Breaking Through (BT) our hurt, sin and shame and
God Breaking Out (BO) on mission through our redeemed lives.

We have looked at the idea of “God Breaking Into Our Lives”, and “God Breaking
Through” the junk in our lives.

This week we turn our attention to the idea of “God Breaking Out On Mission”
through our redeemed lives. We need to be consistently reminded that we were
not saved simply to cleanse us from our sins. Jesus’ death on the cross and his
free gift of grace do allow us to walk in a reclaimed state with our creator God,
but we were also redeemed that we might be involved in God’s active mission of
bringing saving hope to others.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, JesusChrist, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Titus 2:11-14

Breaking Out Exercise: Set aside a period of time (30-60 minutes) to focus
on how God has uniquely gifted and called you to make a difference for His name

Make sure you will be able to unplug and remove yourself from anything that will
distract you.

As you begin your time of reflection, pray that God would remove any distractions
so you might hear clearly from the Lord.

Then ask the Lord to bring to mind ways in which God has gifted you with unique
skills, passions, and desires. Reflect on how God has allowed you to be used for
His Kingdom sake in the past and how you sense He is planning to use you in the
future. List doors that God has opened for you. List times when people have told
you that they see God at work in your lives. As you listen to God, make sure to
list every time you have seen God call you to partner with him on his mission. Do
not overlook the small opportunities as well as the large ones.

Once you have listed these things, keep them safely tucked away in a safe spot
until next week!

Creating Your Own Gospel Story-Part Three

Last week we began to address the three-fold act of Gospel-Storytelling.  That being, developing the ability to give witness to God Breaking In(to) our lives (BI), God Breaking Through (BT) our hurt, sin and shame and God Breaking Out (BO) on mission through our redeemed lives.

GST Red Banner Trans2

You were asked to take 30-60 minutes of reflection to focus on the ways in which God has broken into your life.  I hope you were able to do that.  IF you were not, please take some time to do that exercise before you move on to the exercise for this week.

This week we want to move on the idea of God breaking through the crud and crap of our lives.  Some may feel that we have more crud than others or more than anyone else, but the simple fact is that we do not walk alone in having problems we must deal with.  

Everybody has problems, bad habits, addictions, hurts, shame, secrets, stumbling blocks and a myriad of other things that we wish we did not have, or at least we wish nobody would ever find out about.  

Breaking Through Exercise:  Set aside a period of time (30-60 minutes) to focus on how God has broken through the not so nice stuff of your life. Make sure you will be able to unplug and remove yourself from anything that will distract you.

As you begin your time of reflection, pray that God would remove any distractions so you might hear clearly from the Lord.

Then ask the Lord to bring to mind the ways that he broke through the muck your life.  These BT moments may be sins overcome, habits broken, hurts healed, rough edges rounded off, doubts dispelled, relationships restored or ended, etc.  Make sure to try to list anything God has done or is in the process of doing that is making you more into the person that he desires you to be.  Make sure not to rush this process.  It may take a bit of time for the memories to come to mind.

Make a list of the times and ways that God has Broke Through.  Once you have listed these things, keep them safely tucked away in a safe spot until next week!