Change your environment

If you’ve heard the message of Jesus to change because the kingdom of God has come near, you may find that some changes are fairly easy. Other changes are difficult. Some habits are tough to break.

James Clear gives some great advice on how to change in his book Atomic Habits.

One thing that will help is to make changes to your environment that support the change you want.  Researchers have found that even stubborn addictions can disappear if one’s environment changes.

If you replace all the junk food in your house with easy-to-grab healthy snacks, it will be easier make the switch.

What are some changes you could make to your environment that would support the changes you’d like to make in your life?

God, thank you that you help us to change. Thanks that when it looks like we’re stuck, you can help us to see a way out. We praise you. Amen.

A good reason to change!

When John the Baptist started his ministry, he had one main message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:2)

Repenting is changing your mind. Turning around. Doing something new.

When John was arrested and could no longer proclaim his message in public, Jesus picked up John’s message. (Matthew 4:12, 17) Then Jesus taught his disciples to carry the message to the towns where Jesus sent them. (Matthew 10:7)

Instead of just one voice, now there were many voices saying the same thing: Turn around! Change what you’re doing! Be at your best! The kingdom of heaven has come near!

This week we’ll look at some helpful ideas on how to change. But the best advice is simple: Keep at it. You won’t be able to make all the changes you want to make in an instant. In an instant, what you can do is start.

If your goal is to be more loving and one day you aren’t, don’t give up on the goal. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start over.

Every day is a good day to hear the message of John the Baptist and Jesus.  Change your mind! Act differently! The kingdom of God has come near!

But once you start, keep at it. Don’t quit. We become better with practice, and it may take several attempts before the change is noticeable to ourselves or others.

Keep at it. The kingdom of God has come near!

God, thank you that your kingdom has come near. Help us to live like it! And when we don’t, help us to start over. Thank you. We praise you. Amen.

What you remember matters

Remembering is important. But it’s not only important that we remember, it’s also important what we remember.

Last week I stopped at an inexpensive motel on my way across the desert.

In the morning I was going to do a bit of work at the desk before finishing the drive. So I turned on the lamp. It didn’t work. I looked at it and discovered it had no bulb. So about 5:40 or 6 in the morning I went to the front desk to get a new one.

The man at the front desk told me he couldn’t help me because he didn’t have any bulbs at the desk.

I was a little surprised. I guess I’m used to nicer hotels where they would never tell a guest, “No, I can’t help you.”

But I accepted that he couldn’t help and asked if I could get a bulb from the cleaning staff.

“No. They’re not here. They don’t show up till 9.”

Probably the main thing I’m not reporting was his tone of voice.  Someone could have delivered his line with compassion. He chose something that sounded more like defiance and anger.

I tried again. “Okay,” I said. “Can you point me to the nearest grocery store where I can buy a light bulb?”

His response shocked me so much I’m not sure I can get it verbatim. It was something like, “Oh no, sir. You cannot do that. You cannot do that. You cannot destroy this hotel like that.”

I know. You probably don’t believe he could have said that either.

I’m not sure I remember his exact words. But he very clearly accused me of taking willful destructive action against the motel if I bought them a light bulb.

At that point, I realized there was no way this conversation was going to get any better if I persisted.

I walked away from it.

I thought about buying them a light bulb anyway. But I decided to shake it off and get back to work.

So here’s the question.

In a year, what will I choose to remember about that stay? Because 99% of the room worked. The TV worked, the cable worked, the bed worked, the shower worked, the hot and cold water worked, the AC worked, the heat worked, there were towels and sheets and carpet and a desk and a chair and a fridge and. . . . I could go on and on and on. Everything in that room worked. There was only thing that was broken. (Two, if you count the guy at the front desk.) So what will I choose to remember?

Most of us face some version of this question with our lives.

What will we choose to remember?

Will we remember the few things that don’t work?
Or the many things we take for granted that are such a blessing?

Will we remember the times that were genuinely hard? Or the mercy of God that God us through?

Will we remember the setbacks? Or the accomplishments that they inspired?

God, help us to remember the good things that surround us. Thank you so much for your generosity. Amen.

 

Philippians 4:8 (NRSV)

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.