Category Archives: Personal

Out with Resolutions, In With Goals

As we near the end of January, I would ask you… how are you doing with those resolutions you made back on December 31st or January 1st?

Research tells me that you are probably not doing so well with them. In fact, according to researchers at the University of Scranton, only 8% of people are ultimately successful with their New Year’s resolutions. Furthermore, the average person makes the same resolution ten separate times without success. Then they give up.

How many times have you said, “I will never do that again!” only to do it again and again?

Good news! There is a better way.

It’s called GOALS.

Setting and pursuing goals is far more effective than making resolutions. Research says that you have a 42% greater chance of achieving your goals by this one simple action: WRITE THEM DOWN.

That’s right. There is something powerful about writing down goals.

A couple of years ago I was cleaning out some files and came across a “dream” goals sheet I had filled out when I was eighteen years old. It asked questions about long-range, lifetime goals in various areas of life. I had filled it out, filed it away, and then forgotten about it. I won’t share the details (they are private), but I was absolutely shocked by how much of those dreams had come true in that over quarter century time span, even some dreams that I had considered unrealistic. What is amazing to me is that I did not sit down to actually come up with a strategy to reach those dreams.

So what are some principles for setting and reaching goals?  With a hat tip to Michael Hyatt and the late Zig Ziglar (both have influenced me much on this subject of goals), here is a top ten list I came up with that can help you get started in setting goals:

  1. Pray about your goals. Remember James 4.13-17… “If the Lord wills…”? You want your goals to be aligned with God’s will for your life.
  2. Set an appropriate number of goals and pursue only a few goals simultaneously. A good rule of thumb is to set 7-10 goals per year but only be working on 2-3 of those goals at a time.
  3. Be specific. It is not a good goal to “Get in shape.” A better goal would be: “Run a marathon.” That’s a specific goal that enables you to get in shape.
  4. Set a due date. Using our previous example, you might say, “Run a marathon by October 15th.” If you are setting a habit goal (a goal of doing something everyday until it becomes a habit), Make sure you set your date at least 67 days out. The old saying that it takes 21 days to make a new habit is a complete myth. Research says it takes about 66 days to make a new habit.
  5. Get an accountability partner. Ecclesiastes 4.9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”
  6. Develop an action plan. Break your goal down into manageable steps.
  7. Get started. An experienced author once counseled an aspiring writer, “The hardest sentence of a book to write is the first one.” Stop dreaming and start pursuing. Procrastination is the enemy of progress.
  8. Review your goals daily. There is an old saying, “Out of sight… out of mind.” If you do not keep your goals in front of you regularly, you will not stay focused. Come up with creative ways of keeping your goals in front of you… customized screen savers, notecards, bookmarks, etc.
  9. Eliminate stinking thinking. Proverbs 23.7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” The number obstacle to achieving your goals is your own faulty thinking. Attitude determines your altitude. If you are believing lies about yourself or about God, it will limit your ability to press forward and accomplish your goals. So, identify what Michael Hyatt calls “limiting beliefs” in your life and replace them with “liberating truths.” I like to find a Scripture verse or passage that counteracts each of the limiting beliefs that have taken root in my thinking.
  10. Don’t be afraid to fail and then restart. Don’t give up. Keep trying. In 2009 I set a goal to read 52 books in a year (1 per week). I failed miserably that year, only reading 11. The next year I set the same goal and only read 17. Year after year I set the same goal and year after year I fell short. But on my 8th attempt, in 2016, I finally succeeded and read 53 books that year (including the whole Bible).

 

So, you failed with your resolutions? Take heart… sit down with a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Talk to God about setting some goals… and go for it!

August Update (8/14/17)

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 2.52.59 PM
Enjoying some time with our friends, Chris and Lisa.

August Update

Last week we traveled to Tennessee and Illinois.

On the way to Illinois, we stayed over at my in-laws’ house where we were able to reunite with our seminary friends, Chris and Lisa (picture above). In the kind providence of God, these dear friends, who are missionaries overseas, “just happened” to be furloughing in Lacey’s hometown in Tennessee, even though they are both Texans. We were also thrilled that our friends from Georgia, Steven and Cheryl, drove up one day to join in on the mini-reunion. Chris, Steven, and I all drove school buses for Crowley ISD (Texas) while in seminary together.

As my Mom continues to battle cancer, we faced a major setback in that her oncologist felt it might be necessary to quit the chemo treatments after only 3 of 6 infusions, because she was so frail and weak. This took us by surprise and caused us to storm the gates of Heaven with pleas for her to be healthy enough to continue the chemo regimen. This was the purpose of our trip to Illinois… to encourage and support her, and for Lacey and I to be with her and Dad for the meeting with the oncologist on August 10th, where we would see the PET scan results and decide on whether to continue the chemo (a huge thanks go to our friends, Dave and Lou, for watching the kids for us; our kiddos always going to “Uncle” Dave and “Aunt” Lou’s place). Regarding the Doctor’s office visit… Praise the Lord! By the grace of God, the vast majority of the cancer is gone and the doctor felt she had improved enough in one week to continue her treatments that very day.

In Illinois, in the midst of a very stressful week surrounding my Mom’s health, we were blessed to get away one evening for some fun and fellowship.  Longtime family friends, Mark and Pam, invited us out to their farm where the kids had the time of their lives riding 4-wheelers for the first time. Lacey and I had a little fun on them too! In fact, for me it was like going back in time to 1980-82 when me and the neighbor boys spent our summers on 3-wheelers and motorcycles.  Pam’s sister, Kristi, a friend of mine from high school, and nephew, Bryden, brought their 4-wheeler over to join in the fun. We so appreciated Mark and Pam’s hospitality.

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 3.34.39 PM
Grace trusting Chase, even though it’s his first time driving a 4-wheeler!
Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 3.34.06 PM
Me and my woman… enjoying a ride in the country.
Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 3.57.53 PM
Esther is ready to ride with Daddy.
Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 3.56.57 PM
You’ll never convince me that city kids don’t need more time out in the country.

As is often the case when we make this long trip to both of our “hometowns,” we were thrilled to be able to see many friends.

Of course the greatest part of the trip was seeing our beloved Nonna be able to resume her fight against cancer. We cherish your prayers for her.

Mid-Summer Update (2017)

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 12.46.44 PM

I have slowed down the blogging this year, and significantly cut down on Twitter. Facebook is where I spend most of my social media time. That said, I thought it would be good for me to give a mid-year update here on my blog.

First, I am using a new Bible reading plan this year. It is a simple read through the Bible in one year schedule from Ligonier Ministries. This particular plan divides the Bible into six Old Testament and six New Testament readings per week (M-F and one Weekend reading assignment). I like how this approach gives you one day per week for catch up, because no matter how disciplined a person is, life has a way of causing you to miss a day here and there. The one weekend reading is a little longer than those during the weekdays, especially in the Old Testament.

Second, I wrote earlier this year about how 2016 was the first year in which I reached my goal of reading an average of one book per week. This year I’m a little behind schedule in accomplishing that, but I am not so far behind as to make the goal unreachable. The genre in which I have been reading the most is fiction, and more specifically, westerns. I have been reading an excellent series by Elmer Kelton on the Texas Rangers. His fictional stories are considered to be very accurate when it comes to the history of the western frontier.

One ministry book that I am currently reading that is outstanding is Daniel Henderson’s Old Paths, New Power. Henderson believes that more than anything, churches need to have pastors and leaders who spend much time in the Word and in prayer, based on Acts 6:4. I agree. The challenge is keeping this priority front and center.

Third, I have been doing more traveling than I have done in years. This April my mother was diagnosed with cancer for the third time in her life. I’m basically visiting her (both driving up and flying up) about once every four to six weeks. Add to that our summer vacation with my in-laws at the beach in South Carolina in June and this has turned into the summer of travel!

Returning from one of our visits to Nonna in May, we were able to take a little side trip to Stone Mountain where we made the 40 minute hike to the top. Above is a picture from the summit.

 

 

Back Home: Death in a Coal Mine

I was saddened this week to read about a young man getting killed in an accident at a coal mine in my home county back in southern Illinois. It brought back memories for me. When most people think about coal mines, they usually think about West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. I’ve learned that many people don’t realize that southern Illinois has one of the richest coal mining veins in the United States.

I can remember as a young boy going to spend the night at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house and Grandpa coming home from finishing the 2nd shift. He’d wake me up so I could join him for a midnight snack in the kitchen: Pringles and a bottle of cold Mountain Dew.

My Grandpa is in the middle.
My Grandpa is in the middle. Grandpa would shower before our “midnight snack” in the kitchen.

I also remember in grade school getting news of a classmate’s Dad being killed in the mine. One of my Dad’s best buddies had his face crushed in mine accident. Several surgeries were required to reconstruct his face. One of my best friends spent several weeks in a hospital recuperating after nearly dying in a coal mining accident.

Continue reading Back Home: Death in a Coal Mine

Correcting My Mistake From This Morning

I am very thankful that I serve a forgiving God, who forgives all my sins and provides me with eternal life. I am also very thankful that I serve a forgiving congregation who forgives my many sins and deficiencies and tolerates my many mistakes and shortcomings.

For example, this morning, in the first worship service, I made a mistake. I got confused as to where I was in the Bible and attributed a quote by John the Baptist to the Lord Jesus Christ. Although I realized my error later on and corrected myself in the 2nd worship service, I still owe a significant portion of our congregation a big apology.

Here is the truth… It was John the Baptist, not Jesus Christ, who said to the self-righteous religious leaders of the day… ““You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7)

That said, I still stick by my statement that in a very real sense ALL the words of the Bible are the words of Jesus! So my mistake did not invalidate my main point in that portion of the message: the doctrine of the wrath of God is taught throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, Gospels and Epistles.

Thanks for letting me set the record straight.

My Lovely Valentine

"Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved!" - Song of Solomon 1.15

This is the 18th time I am able to proudly say that the beautiful lady standing beside me is my Valentine. In the summer of 1994 I was home from graduate school, visiting my parents in southern Illinois. After a week of vacation, I said goodbye to my parents and pulled out of the driveway in my little blue Honda CRX for the lonely twelve hour drive back to Fort Worth, Texas. As I drove away my prayer warrior mother cried out in her heart, “Lord, it’s time!” You might be thinking, time for what? Time for her son to meet “the one.” In a matter of weeks her prayers (plural because she had been praying for my future wife for several years) were answered.

Here’s how it happened. The last weekend of August I got a call from a buddy of mine who wanted me to go with him to a singles fellowship that evening at Southwayside Baptist Church. I didn’t really want to go. But Tim was persistent, saying, “Oh, come on man, who knows…you might even meet your future wife there tonight!” Who could walk away from an offer like that! I truly didn’t expect that to happen.

Continue reading My Lovely Valentine