I don’t enjoy structure for the sake of structure.
Thankfully, others came along and shared how the structure that helps some people grow spiritually doesn’t always work for others. One person explained, “Don’t let anyone impose their habits on you. The main goal is to nurture your relationship with God somehow. Have fun figuring that out.”
So I have had fun figuring that out.
Discovering how you grow with God best can be a creative, fun process.
While everyone is pushing for a definitive plan on how they will grow in this new year, I’d offer a 40-day journey that is full of more questions and prompts than a prescription that will work for everyone.
Want to amp it up? Do this with others around you who are just like you, or reach out to a teenager and let this be an inter-generational thing.
Maybe share it as a group-wide challenge?
Don’t want to do 40 days? No problem. Do 30. Or 20. Or six. Pick a number. You don’t even have to do this challenge in order. If you feel compelled to try Day 17 on Day 2, go for it! This is your anti-plan for 2016.
Behold…your anti-plan for the New Year:
- Day 1: Write three things that happened to you last year that had the biggest impact on your relationship with Jesus.
- Day 2: Go back to yesterday’s list. Ask Jesus to show you a common thread among those three things. Then ask him: “What are you trying to show me?” Listen.
- Day 3: Pay better attention to every person you talk to today. Notice something about their appearance you never noticed before. Most people never as follow-up questions. Ask at least one. Look at that person more fully, paying attention to him/her versus what you’re merely talking about. Let this deepen that friendship, even if only one step further.
- Day 4: Ask somebody about their physical fitness or nutrition goals for the year. Choose one of those ideas and do it for the next three days.
- Day 5: Ask somebody their opinion on a current event (i.e. politics, sports, terrorism). After the person has shared, ask if you could pray together about that current event.
- Day 6: Think about the chore you dislike the most. You’re cringing already. Next time you do that chore, sing or hum a favorite worship song the entire time you’re doing it. Now, how do you feel?
- Day 7: Review the past week. Create a “next-step” from anything in days 1 – 6, making sure you articulate when you will specifically take action on this.
- Day 8: Evaluate your spiritual habits over the past month. Has time with Jesus been more about convenience or have you pushed past your own desires and comfort to really give God what’s “right” and not what’s “left?” Note any feelings or defensiveness that rises up in you on this, and create an action step.
- Day 9: Think about the last time you took a genuine stand for something you believe in or listened to the perspective on something you disagreed with. Note how easy it is to either care too much or too little about certain topics. Chew on this for the next 24 hours, inviting Jesus to speak into it.
- Day 10: Stand up for something important today (regardless of your fears), and let someone share what is important to him or her (regardless of your stance).
- Day 11: Fight for a relationship that seems to be dissolving. Do this with gentleness and respect, and yet with boldness and unshakable commitment.
- Day 12: Make a simple vision statement of where you think you’re heading into this next year. If you get stuck, write down three to five of the greatest breakthroughs you imagine might happen in the months ahead. Share it with someone.
- Day 13: Take a look at your calendar or habits, noting where you spend your time most days of the week. Ask yourself, “How is my presence in those places more than chance, but perhaps something intentional from God?”
- Day 14: Hone in on a goal from the past two weeks. Simplify it somehow so you gain traction in reaching your goal.
- Day 15: Add to your personal book or music library.
- Day 16: Share some praises (perhaps with others in your home) of how you see Jesus at work lately. Take it to the next level by considering how each of those blessings are meant to be shared with others.
- Day 17: Tell a cashier that you’re looking for a good candy bar and ask for a recommendation. Buy it, but then gift the cashier with that candy bar.
- Day 18: Give yourself permission to be sad about something or someone. Take time to grieve over things you tend to skip over.
- Day 19: Ask a few people around you to teach you something new. Set up a time for this to happen.
- Day 20: Come up with a way to rest appropriately over the next three days.
- Day 21: Own up to something from your past where you “stopped short” somehow, such as avoiding a situation or person by sneaking away or not giving your best somehow. Go back and make things right, even if it’s merely to apologize.
- Day 22: Get together with someone who’s doing well in a skill or area of life you’d like to grow in. Ask questions about what they’ve learned along the way so you can apply it into your own life.
- Day 23: Mark down any progress you feel you’ve made over the past few weeks, whether you do it privately or publicly. Do this every few weeks to recognize your growth.
- Day 24: Make plans to not use technology for anything but emergencies tomorrow.
- Day 25: Take note of the good and bad “anchors” in your life: the people and habits that either help you grow into who God is growing you to be.
- Day 26: Determine what might be a good book to read in the next month. Ask others for ideas in a particular genre you’d enjoy getting into.
- Day 27: Eat a food that you normally wouldn’t eat. Try to find a way to enjoy it.
- Day 28: Create a mix of music for your next week, like your own personal soundtrack for whatever is ahead.
- Day 29: Pray a simple prayer for every person in your cell phone contact list. The only requirement? Don’t generalize – personalize a prayer for each person by name.
- Day 30: Give yourself and others some slack where you have been more tempted to give critique. Likewise, seek and offer some helpful accountability for yourself and others where you have been tempted to be hands off.
- Day 31: Buy a gift card for a local ice cream parlor or coffee shop, and give it to someone in your life who needs encouragement.
- Day 32: Visit YouTube to search for and watch any archived message from Billy Graham that is in black-and-white.
- Day 33: Re-examine your financial habits. What if you lived on 80% of what you make instead of 100% (or going into debt beyond what you make)? Aim for this – use the first 10% that you make to bless movements trying to serve the world, and bank the next 10% as savings.
- Day 34: Do an exercise you enjoy for at least 20 minutes.
- Day 35: Tell someone today that God loves them and is trying to get their attention. If they ask you how you know this, share a verse like Romans 1:20 or Job 33:14…or tell your own story of how God has spoken to you.
- Day 36: Boldly invite someone to join you for church this weekend. Let Jesus guide you in this, but definitely take that step.
- Day 37: Find a set of candy dispensers in a local store and place quarters into each mechanism’s coin area so the next person who comes by can get something for free.
- Day 38: Make sure everyone in your household and extended family knows you love them. Say it in a way that they will understand.
- Day 39: Make a meal for a busy neighbor.
- Day 40: Challenge someone else to go through this list (and perhaps go through it again with him or her).
- BONUS: Specifically invite other people to show you a blind spot or emotional trigger in your life that you may not be fully aware of.
- BONUS: Invert something you’re worried about by facing it through larger perspective found in Scripture or worship music.
See any use for this?
What would you add or subtract?
– Tony / @tonymyles