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Green-Lights, Yellow Lights, and Red Lights

We all know how to maintain a health lifestyle—it’s common knowledge. Eat right. Sleep right. Exercise right. Sabbath right.

So then why am I eating another slice of pizza on the go? Or going to bed later than my family? Or vowing to exercise “tomorrow?” Or taking church phone calls on my day off?

I do these things not because “I’m human,” but because somehow I doubt what God says is best for me. Eating right isn’t just a diet thing—it’s a respect for a “Temple of God” thing. Going to bed when my wife turns in isn’t just a marriage-tip thing—it’s a respect for Paul’s challenge to husbands: “Love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” Exercise isn’t just a healthy physical discipline—it’s a respect for the strength and stamina God knows I need to serve others as a man, husband, dad, friend, and pastor. Sabbath is not just a honoring tradition—it’s a respect for a habit pattern Jesus commanded and practiced.

We don’t downshift as a natural response to our margin-less life. Perhaps the slipstream of a new year can be the impetus we need to claim a better rhythm. Sure, you’re in the thick of your ministry’s “busy time,” but when isn’t ministry busy? Here are some new habits I’m “green-lighting” in my life, along with some yellow “caution” lights and some red “stop” lights I’m watching out for…

Green Lights

  • Food: One piece of wisdom I stole from The Daniel Plan is to pursue food that’s grown on a plant, and to be cautious about food made in a plant. I’ve also heard that a healthy portion size for an entree is about the size of your fist. If I’m living with respect for these truths, and I’m avoiding those sneaky calorie-bomb extras on my salads,  then I’m moving in a good direction. The real green light for me is when I see my kids living out the habits I hope to see in my own life.
  • Sleep: I’ve always been a night owl, so it’s inherently hard for me to be on the same schedule as my early-morning wife. So my green light here is simple—I head to bed at the same time she does at least four out of seven days a week.
  • Exercise: I want to be at the gym every day, but when I can’t get there I often simply do nothing. So my green light is a commitment to do something active for at least 15 minutes a day. Johnson and Johnson has a great 7 minute workout app that I use, too.
  • Sabbath: I’ve set my phone to turn off all notifications except for texts and phone calls. I don’t want the intrusion of email on my day off. So if I’m nailing that, and offering my full attention to Jesus and my family, I might actually spend a whole day restoring myself every week. That sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

Yellow Lights

  • Food: When I travel, I like to indulge in new foods. When I watch a movie, I enjoy a root beer float with my kids. But you know how it goes—soon an indulgence becomes a habit. So that’s my yellow light here: When is a treat becoming an entitlement?
  • Sleep: I don’t normally use profanity, but if I did it would be directed at my alarm clock. When I’m on the verge of putting it in its place, I know my sleep patterns are off.
  • Exercise: I walked up a hill the other day and felt winded. That tells me what I already know—I’m behind on simple cardio habits. It’s time to start using my FitBit logging system again.
  • Sabbath: Beyond my full-time job, I have other things I work on—writing, speaking, and so on. When I sneak in some work on these “side hustles” or use my day off as a mini-workday, something needs to change.

Red Lights

  • Food: This is obvious—we all know the difference between ordering what we want versus pausing and inviting Jesus to guide our choices. Yes, I’ve actually stared at a fast-food menu and said, “Jesus, what should I get?” Unfortunately, I’ve more often asked, “Tony, what sounds good to you?”
  • Sleep: When I’m up working late and one of my kids sees me after getting up to use the bathroom, I feel like I’ve sinned. I’m not saying it is a sin, but I feel like it is. That’s a big red light for me that something needs to change.
  • Exercise: Personal confession—when I spend 10 minutes cropping a photo so I don’t look out of shape, I know I’m in a bad place, especially when I could’ve used those 10 minutes to do something active.
  • Sabbath: Do you, like me, sometimes skip your Sabbath habits so often that you start believing it’s okay? I’ve been there, and I don’t want to be there again.

Honestly, I’m still figuring this out. I’d love to know what you’re trying that would help all of us—just leave your ideas in the comments section below.

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Green-Lights, Yellow Lights, and Red ...

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