Three Rings

Apple Watch Series 3

Ever since the Apple Watch came out, I have wanted one, but never had a reason to buy one. There was nothing about it that spoke to me enough to be willing to put up the money. Oh sure, it has some cool features and some “neat” things that would be fun to have. But I just saw it as another place to get notifications. And I’m sure you know that the last thing we need is another place to get notifications. Am I right?

Then 2 months ago, I received an Apple Watch as a gift.

I can’t say “OH MY GOD IT CHANGED MY LIFE!”, although I’d love to be able to do that. I’m still growing into it and that the way I use it today will most likely not be the way I will use it tomorrow. I’m still learning what it can and can’t do and how to best fit it into my life.

The biggest thing that having the watch has done for me so far is to make me aware of my activity throughout the day. The activity rings are by far my most used feature. There is just something about seeing those rings close that’s compelling. As an attempt to “gamify” health, I really enjoy it.

Activity Rings

As you can see in the image above, except for the first two days, I’ve made it a point to close the red move and blue stand rings. Up until now I haven’t much cared if I closed the green exercise ring.

But that changes this week.

Part of the purpose of my sabbatical is to start some healthy rhythms for my life. Some habits that I can continue and sustain as I move into 2020. One of the habits that I know I need is regular exercise. This is where I see the Apple Watch and the activity tracker becoming an integral part of my daily life. It already keeps me accountable to moving and standing during the day. Why not use it to help me track exercise as well?

So that’s what I’m going to do.

I started an exercise plan and I will track my workouts on the watch. As this sabbatical month goes by, I plan to start a habit that will stick with me long past the end of the year.

I want to say that I’m going to start out with a perfect week and that’s going to turn into a perfect month right from the start. But that’s pressure I’m not sure I’m ready to put on myself. I do want to make exercise a habit, but maybe that habit starts out as 3 days a week, not 7. I’m still figuring that part out. I do feel that once I start closing all 3 rings on a regular basis I will be very compelled to continue to do so.

So, while I don’t have any goals to have perfect weeks or months yet, who knows? Once you start a streak you don’t want it to break, right? So there could be a perfect week down the road. Then a perfect month.

Let’s take this further. What if I could fill out all the rings for an entire year? If I made it a point to close all three rings every day for 12 full months, how much different would my life look then?

So then what happens if I take this concept and expand it. What if I gameified my life? What if I wrote every day for a year? What if I skipped out on the candy or pop for 12 months? What if I wrote a thank you note every day? How much more healthy and robust would my life be a year from now?

What about you? What would your life look like a year from now if you picked just one new healthy habit and did it every day?

Sabbatical

I’m taking a sabbatical!

I wrote a little about sabbaticals back in June when we were talking about practical ways to rest. Back then we talked about mini-sabbaticals that you could take to help you find rest on a regular basis.

I’m actually taking a little bit longer sabbatical than the ones we discussed there. My employer allows for every employee to get extended time off sometime every 7th year. Now is that time for me.

So starting on Sunday I am off until the beginning of the year! I have an entire month off. In my entire professional career, including time between jobs, I have never had this much time off. I don’t even know what to do with myself … in a good way. I am blessed.

What Are Your Plans?

I don’t have many plans and that’s on purpose.

Sean McCabe says:

The sole purpose of a sabbatical is rest. The one rule of sabbaticals is: do not schedule anything for your sabbatical. It’s not the absence of an event but the presence of margin. This is what makes a sabbatical rejuvenating.

In making plans ahead of time you create obligations and obligations are not restful. If the main purpose of a sabbatical is rest, and you create a lot of plans, then you are creating a lot of un-rest.

Yes, you can do anything you want on sabbatical. Have coffee with that friend, go to that one place you want to go to. Do those things you want to do, but don’t plan them ahead of time.

Sure, if you want to travel on your sabbatical, things might have to look a little different. You’ll have to get hotel rooms and whatnot. But if you can avoid it, don’t plan anything ahead of time. That’s what I’m attempting to do and I have a feeling that I will be more rested because of it.

So You’re Going to do Nothing for a Month?

No. I didn’t say that either.

It isn’t going to be all video games and bingeing Netflix shows for a month. Although, let’s be honest, that might be a great month.

I’ve been spending some time in prayer asking God what He would want my sabbatical to look like. In doing so, I’ve gotten 3 very specific words from Him. They are:

  • Rest
  • Reconnection
  • Rhythms

The first one is easy. The point of the sabbatical is to rest. To do (or not do) those things that I enjoy that bring rejuvenation to my body and soul.

The second, reconnection, hits a little bit deeper in my heart. Over the course of this year, we’ve been pushing hard to get a new app out and into the wild at work (see last weeks post). I’ve spent a lot of time working and not a lot of time connecting with my family, my friends, or even with God. So this word is to remind me that my community is important. This is my chance to reconnect with those people that I love. It is an opportunity to spend time with them, and listen to them. It’s a chance to remember the awesome people God has placed around me. It’s a chance to reestablish my connection with them.

Last, this sabbatical is an opportunity for me to establish new rhythms. Things have gotten out of sync in my life. This is an opportunity to put them back in the right order and places in my life.

Daily habits like quiet time with God, writing, and exercise have all fallen by the wayside. They’ve become casualties of life when I am not being intentional with it. Things like making time to talk with Heather on a daily basis or spending quality time with my kids. These are things that I should do in a regular pattern that I don’t do much anymore. I want to make these things (and others) a part of the rhythm of my life again. This sabbatical will allow me to do that.

Last Sunday while in church, God gave me the theme of my year for 2020. It’s “health.” I don’t have a lot of clarity around that theme quite yet. It will involve my physical health, for sure. I have a feeling it will also involve my financial health, spiritual health, and emotional health as well.

I’ll be 46 years old in January and as I reflect I realize I’ve neglected my overall life health as a category for so long. So as I head into a year of “health” how appropriate is it that I get the opportunity to get rest on the front end? We’ve talked about that before, right? How great is it that I can take the time now to be intentional and set up healthy rhythms for my life going forward? It’s obvious to me that this time of sabbatical is not a mistake or ill-timed, but instead is a gift from God for my life.

I’m looking forward to this sabbatical and what it means for me. I’m excited to find rest, to reconnect with those around me, and to create new, healthy rhythms for my life.

Launching Things

It’s been a long week, friends.

We’re on the verge of launching a new mobile app at NewSpring, and as with most software projects, when it comes down to crunch time, things get hairy. Long days, late nights, and lots of caffeine. Fixing bugs, last minute features, and more than one bout of yelling at my computer about “WHY WON’T YOU JUST WORK?!?!?!”

Hey, I didn’t choose the dev life. The dev life chose me.

For real though, it did. When I was growing up I played a lot of video games. It started out with games like Pong and Pitfall on the Atari. Then it moved on to classics like Duck Hunt and Super Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo.

The first computer I remember us having in our house growing up was a Commodore VIC-20. It was awesome. It had a slot in the back where you could insert cartridges with games and other programs on them. It came with an external cassette tape drive for extra storage. I also remember vividly that we had a book that had programs in it (actual lines of code) that you could type out and run. This was my introduction to programming …

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… and I fell in love. I knew then that I wanted to be a developer.

Being able to make a computer do things (as long as you typed the instructions correctly) was intoxicating. It was creation at it’s finest. It’s more than just lines of code. It’s my craft. It was (and still is) an art form.

That Doesn’t Mean It’s Easy

Far from easy, being a developer is more accessible but seemingly harder to do every year. All the different libraries and frameworks that keep changing all the time. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Things get really hard right around the time that you’re ready to launch a thing. There are a lot of “can we just add this?”, “but I thought it was going to do it this way?”, and “we’re close but I just want to fix this one last thing”.

In talking with my wife the other day about our launch and all the things that needed to happen, she described it in a way that I had never thought of before, but it perfectly defines what we’re going through. She said that launching a product is a lot like preparing Thanksgiving dinner. There are things that are cooking and there are things that don’t need to cook. There are desserts, main courses, and bread. There are the guests, when they will arrive, where they will sit at the table, and “Oh look, someone brought a friend they didn’t tell us about.” There are a lot of moving pieces and it’s your job to make sure that all of them come out and are done and presented at the table (or wherever you set out your food) at the exact same time.

Yes! That’s exactly it. It’s so much more than just the code, right? There are app stores, and databases, and websites. There are other pieces of software that need to get hooked up so you can get data about the app and a ton of other pieces that all have to be ready for that one button push. It’s nerve-wracking good fun. In the end, we all have something that we can share and enjoy with everyone around our table.

Handcrafted

There’s just something great about having created something. Especially something from scratch. To have taken some base materials and crafted it, by hand, into something great. There’s a feeling you get when you know you’ve taken the time (and it does take time) to put together something special.

This app, this thing we’re building, it’s something special. Will it be perfect? Probably not. There will always be bugs and things we need to tweak and new features to add or take away. But think about that one great piece of furniture that’s been handed down through the generations in your family. There’s something special about it, right? There’s something awesome in the way the grain in the wood runs, or the knot you always stick your finger in. There’s a story behind every dent and bump and knick. There’s meaning to it. It’s special.

That’s how I feel about what we’re building with this new app. It’s special. There are stories we could tell about this feature or that color. The decisions we made and why we made them make up the backbone of what you’ll see when it launches. I’m looking forward to the times, even years from now, when we reminisce and tell the “Remember the time we … “ stories.

This app has a purpose. It was created with each of you in mind. I’m so excited that it will be in your hands soon. I seriously can’t wait. I guess you could say I’m “pregnant with anticipation.” It’s Christmas morning and you just know there is a gift under the tree that you’ve been waiting for forever. It’s right there. Thanksgiving dinner is right around the corner. I can almost taste it.

My prayer and expectation for the app is that you use it, and that through it Jesus would change your life.

His Love

God loves you.

I’m not really sure how else to say it.

There is not an easier way I can think of to put in front of you the idea that the Creator of the universe cares for you than those three simple words.

Understanding His Love

His love is deep. His love is wide. His love crosses over every boundary. He loves with a love that lasts forever. His love eliminates everything we’ve ever done wrong. His love is unconditional. His love is great. His love is big enough to cover the entire world yet small enough to impact your heart right where you are.

His love is probably the most important thing I will ever write about. There isn’t a topic more pressing, more interesting, or more in need at any time in our lives than His love for us.

It’s His love for us that sent Jesus to the cross. A love so great that one of the Trinity stepped out of Heaven (which I imagine to be a pretty amazing place) to become exactly like us. He left so that he could experience what we experience, feel what we feel, and then die as the final sacrifice for the sins of everyone in the world … ever.

It took love for God to send Jesus to this earth. It took love for Jesus to die for a people that hated him - a people (that’s us, by the way) that are still hostile toward him. I believe it’s God’s love that keeps Him from just shutting this whole thing down and starting over again.

His love isn’t a respecter of persons either. He doesn’t just love the people who have been pretty good in their lives and haven’t really done anything wrong. He loves everyone regardless of what they’ve done. There is no such thing as “I’ve done too much for God to love me.” There is no difference in the mind of God between the person who has only ever said a swear word once and the murderer. He created both of them. They are both His children and He loves them equally. You don’t love one of your kids more than the other just because one does something worse than the other one do you? You still love them both equally. It’s the same with God. He loves us all no matter what we’ve done.

His love isn’t a one time thing either. He didn’t just love us when He created us. His love didn’t stop when Jesus died on the cross. His love is a love that will last for eternity. It will never end. He loved the people that came before us, He loves us today, and He will love the people that come into this world after us.

An Invitation to Love

So I invite you in. No matter what you’ve done. No matter who you are or where you live. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what color or race you are, or where you come from.

In Romans 10:9, the Bible tells us the only thing that matters:

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

That’s it. It doesn’t say you have to be perfect. It doesn’t say you have to have your act together. It doesn’t say anything about never having done anything wrong in your life.

All it says is that you say out loud (“declaring” is saying something out loud) that Jesus is going to be the Lord of your life and that you believe in your heart that Jesus died for you and came back to life 3 days later. Do that, really mean it and believe it, and you will be saved.

Saved?

What does that even mean?

Does that mean that everything from that point forward will be perfect for you? Nope. You’re probably still going to experience some failures and setbacks. You most likely still won’t win the lottery. It doesn’t mean that your neighborhood will get better overnight, that you’ll get the job or the girl, or that you won’t ever do anything wrong ever again.

What it does mean is that you have a relationship with the Creator of the universe that rescues you from an eternity in Hell. You are now an heir of the King. You have the God of glory on your side. And at the end of days, Jesus will say “I know you. Well done.”

Understanding His Love (Reprise)

God loves us with a love that never runs out. It’s there in the morning when we wake up. It’s there in the middle of the day when we’re struggling at work. It’s there in the evening when we’re handling kids and ball games and ballet and what seems like all the things. It’s even there at night while we’re sleeping.

Through it all, in everything and during every situation, no matter your circumstances, just remember:

God loves you.

Rhythm and Identity

If you haven’t done it in the last 7 days then it’s not who you are; it’s not your identity.

– Jeremy Pryor, Family Teams Workshop

There is a rhythm to life.

The tides come in and the tides go out. In much the same way, your life has ebbs and flows. It has comings and goings. It has times for work and times for rest.

God created the world to work in 7-day cycles. We covered a lot of that in the series we did on rest (which started with this post back in April).

Because of this, our lives work better when we follow a 7-day cycle as well. Who we are and what we do should fall into this 7-day cycle. When you go looking for your identity - for who you are and what’s important to you - look at what you did during the last 7 days.

Sometimes there is the odd thing thrown in there. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pops up, so you take it. You get sick and it throws off your whole week. For the most part though, we are creatures of divine habit and our identity, who we really are, can be found in the patterns we keep week to week.

Saying that, I think it’s important to also note that if you haven’t pursued something that you say you really want to do in the last 7 days then I think it’s safe to say that you don’t actually want that thing to be a part of your identity.

If you say you want to be a writer but you haven’t written in the past 7 days then you probably don’t really want to be a writer.

The same goes for 5-year-old Billy, who dreamed of being a firefighter. If Billy is now 28 and he still dreams of being a firefighter but in the last week hasn’t done some sort of firefighter training, taken a class on how to become a firefighter, or even talked to a firefighter, then being a firefighter is not who Billy is. It’s not part of his identity. It’s a dream. It’s a “wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-I-could-be”.

And this is okay! Not everyone is meant to be a firefighter or a writer. Not everyone is meant to probe the depths of outer space or the depths of the drain under your sink.

What I think is important is that as individuals and as families, it’s up to us to define what we do want our identities to be and then to put effort towards those things on a consistent basis.

For example, I talked about Shabbat in last weeks post. We want, as part of the identity of our family, to all take a break from our busy schedules and, at least once a week, come together for a meal. A meal that’s a source of blessing, reflection, and that ushers in a time of rest for our family. We don’t have to all rest in the same way or even together (although we should make efforts to include each other), but for an hour or two once a week, we feel like part of the identity of our family should be a meal shared together.

This wasn’t the case 4 weeks ago. Meals together were desired, but we didn’t really put forth the effort to make them happen. However, once we decided that the Shabbat meal was going to be something that was a part of who we are as a family, we adjusted our schedules and figured out where to fit it in and are making it happen every week.

We defined what was important to us, what we wanted part of the identity of our family to be (we want to be a family that shares a meal together at least once a week), and then put effort behind making it happen.

You can do the same. Whether it’s for your personal life, your career, or the life of your family and loved ones, you have the power to define what your identity looks like.

Here’s a little exercise for you. Take a look at the last 7 days. What did you do? What kinds of things did you work on? Where did you go? Did you do those things and go those places in the weeks leading up to last week? When you find the common denominators, the things you do consistently week after week, then you’ve found your current identity.

Write that identity down. Take a look at it. How does it make you feel? Is there anything there that you regret? Are you humbled by how you’re currently living your life? Are there things you’d like to change?

This is your chance! Look at your current identity and then write down what you want your identity to be. Once you’ve done that, all that’s left is to put action behind the things that you want to become your identity and to stop putting effort into the things that you don’t.

You can define a new identity. As a Christian, I’d recommend sitting down and praying through this exercise before you start. Ask God what He would say about your identity and about who He wants you to become. He has the best plans for your life. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says:

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Ask God what He dreams for you to become and make those things a part of your identity.

It’s never too late to start over. It’s never to late to become the person that you’re meant to be. You get to define who you are and who you become.

Start today and your tomorrow can be completely different.

Shabbat

I know next to nothing about Jewish customs and traditions. But that’s okay. I don’t have to know all the things about something in order to see when a good idea is a good idea.

During our Family Teams Workshop the other week (that I mentioned here) there were many things that hit home with me about how our family should function and operate. One thing in particular that stood out was the idea of having a weekly meal with your family that ushers in the Sabbath.

When our kids were younger, having dinner together every night was a priority for us. As they have grown and we’ve gotten involved in more things, the opportunities to have this meal have slowly but surely gotten laid by the wayside. We’ve chosen good things to do, but they’ve taken time away from the great thing that is our family. There are many weeks where we may not even have ONE meal together as a family.

The realization of that has been weighing on us for some time now, but it took someone else mentioning it for us to talk about it and then actually do something about it.

For the past 2 weeks now we’ve made time to sit down together as a family and have a meal together. It’s not a traditional Jewish Shabbat, and our current weekends are far from restful, but it is a chance for our family to come and spend some time together. We talk, we catch up on our weeks, and on each others lives. We just enjoy each others company in a way that our weeks currently don’t allow us to.

We’re still figuring this out. We are far from where we ultimately want to be. I mean, we still don’t even really know what we’re doing. We have yet to have our Shabbat meal at the same time or even the same day. Our current schedules were planned way before we knew about Shabbat. But in this busy season we are learning how to schedule time for something like this as a family and making sure we honor that time once it is on our calendar.

I anticipate this meal will change over time. How it looks, what we do, and how we celebrate will all change. As we get past our current busy calendar, this will shift to be more of a tradition that actually does usher in Sabbath for us. I also anticipate opening up our home to others to enjoy in our Shabbat meal as well.

But for now, we’re learning once again what it’s like to sit down together as a family and have a meal together. We’re learning that we actually are a family and we don’t have to exist as individual entities under one roof. I’m learning just how far removed I have gotten from everyone else and I’m using this opportunity to come back and be involved. This meal is becoming a “center” for our family. A much needed time of connection and joy.

I’m so thankful for this. This is a change that our family needed.

What changes does your family need?