Let me make a confession. I talk to myself. A lot. When I’m alone in the car, late at night while closing up Branches, working out at the farm, I have great, lengthy, impassioned conversations with…well, ME. And yes, to answer your question, I talk back to me. To be truthful, some of the most insightful responses to deeply troubling inquiries I’ve ever received have come from…well, ME again. That could be a sign of complete schizophrenia and an complete break from reality. It could be a hint of dissociative identity disorder. Or it could be that I am a person who thinks out loud. I do my best processing orally.
Sometimes, my best talking to myself is not talking at all. It is writing. Journalling. Posting on FaceBook. A lot of what I put down on paper is really just me talking to myself, making plans, articulating new thoughts, just hearing what I have to think about what I am thinking. I am never sure there is an audience on the other end of my writing. And the good news is, that’s okay. I’m only writing to me anyway.
So, here at the beginning of 2019, I am having a good long conversation with myself. (And to be honest, sometimes I just fascinate me.) Here is mainly what I am thinking about:
First, 2019 is going to be a year of transition. This is not a “written in stone” announcement, but it seems this is the right time to begin to pass the mantle of leadership for Branches over to some younger, far more capable people. I have already told our leadership team that everything I do this year I want one of them to do with me. I’ll do it. They will watch. Then next year, they will do it and I will watch. Then, I’m headed to the farm to do a lot more talking to myself.
Second, 2019 is a year of preparation. If this is the right time for me to be less active at Branches, it is NOT the time for me to be less active. I have no desire to rust away. I fully plan to burn up, using the last bit of energy I have trying to make a difference for the Kingdom. So, this is the year to prepare for the NEXT season of life, the next chapter. This is the year to, as Judy Jacobs says, “Get ready, get ready, get ready.” I am pretty sure that God doesn’t have a retirement plan, just a retooling plan. I want to use this year to get better, deeper, stronger, wiser, kinder, and more like Jesus.
Finally, 2019 is a year of discipline. I am not being maudlin here but let’s be honest, I don’t have all that long left. I bought a new garage door this week and the guy offered me a 30 year warranty. Are you kidding me? I don’t think, when I’m 95 that my garage door is going to be high on my concern list. And so, if time is short, or at least shorter, then I want to be as disciplined as possible in order to accomplish as much as possible in the most effective way possible for the One who can do the Impossible. I want to improve my devotional life, my accountability, my service and walk. Discipline.
Here I go, talking to myself again. I am using 2019 to develop a 2020 vision. On January 1, 2020, I want to be exactly where God wants me to be so that I can do exactly what He wants me to do. I am so excited about the next phase of ministry that I want to make sure I have nothing hindering me when the time comes. Here are some verses that come to mind.
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
All of those verses call me to 2020 vision, to looking ahead and preparing for the thing or things that God has laid out for me to do. Get ready, get ready, get ready.
So here is my plan. It takes anywhere from 21 days to 4 months to form a new habit or break an old one. I’m a little slow so I’m going for about 3 months. I plan to add or improve a new discipline in my life every three months in 2019. At the end of the year I should be better in at least 4 new areas of life. And speaking of habits, there are, what coaches and counselors call, “keystone” habits, those behaviors that are foundational to all other behaviors. When I put a few keystone habits in place, many other better behaviors come more easily. For example, I want to develop a healthier lifestyle. I can start an exercise program. I can go on a 30 day cleanse. I can join a yoga class. All good things. All helpful. But if I develop the keystone habit of eating nutritionally, those other things will be more helpful and come along more readily.
Here’s another one. I want to be in better place financially at the end of the year. I could take on a part-time job. I could start cutting out coupons. Good things. But what if I first develop the keystone habit of monthly budgeting? The other things will make more sense. I’ll see the benefit. I’ll be more motivated. It reminds me a little of Jesus’s words in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the Kingdom of God (that’s a keystone habit), and all these other things will be added to you as well.
So, 2019, four keystone habits. I will spend 3 months focusing on each one of those and putting some of the other, important but more peripheral things in place. And at the end of this year my heart will be prepared for the vision that God has planned for me in 2020. Sound good? Yes, it does. (Talking to myself)
Well, just in case I am not talking completely to myself, just in case there are a few that would like a little encouragement to make 2019 the take off year, I’m going to post regularly the things that I am working on. Feel free to join in, make comments, or just talk to yourself. Once a month I will post a little video discussion, probably with someone more expert that me on the discipline area we are working on. Once a week I’ll write a blog about the habit that is our focus and the scripture we are reading. (Oh, did I forget to mention there will be daily devotions involved?) And once a day, or thereabouts, I will post a word of encouragement to keep us on the right track. You can find all of these things at branchesblog.com. I’ll post a reminder on FaceBook but part of the discipline is being willing to go look for it.
The keystone habits will be in the areas of spiritual development, physical health, financial improvement, and healthy relationships. One area each quarter but we will start the year with a little challenge in each area. These 4 things I challenge you (or me if I’m talking to myself) to begin today:
1. Daily Bible reading. Begin today reading the Gospel of Mark. Read Mark 1, a few verses. Each Friday we will do a brief Bible study on 1 chapter. 16 chapters. 16 weeks.
2. Get a notebook and, for 1 month, keep track of all of your expenses. Just write down a couple of times a day, what you have spent. Starbucks $3, Electric bill $145, Groceries $37.
3. Make a list of 3-4 people that you would like to have a healthier relationship this year, a father you need to forgive, a friend you need to reconnect with, and pray for those people each day.
4. Finally, start a food journal. For 1 month just write down what you eat. Again, a couple of times a day stop and just write in a notebook (maybe the finance one) what you have eaten.
I’m starting (or continuing) all of these things today. I’ll put a post on branchesblog.com later today with a little more detail. If you’re listening to me talk to myself, feel free to join in. And if you’re not listening, well……..
Happy New Year and 2020vision.