Belief Beyond Boundaries
Improve Your Mood with Gratitude
It is well document that practicing gratitude rewires the brain in several ways. One is that gratitude creates more instances of positive feeling throughout the day, which raises dopamine and other natural feel-good chemicals in the brain. It also has side-effects like increasing the likelihood of producing more positive interactions with others as well as increased feelings of forgiveness. Gratitude also helps you become more cognizant of the blessings you've received. That is why I ascribe to regularly writing down what I feel grateful for in a gratitude journal.
Activity: Create a notebook or document to use as your Gratitude Journal. Write the following prompts on the first page. Use these prompts to help you think of a theme for each day:
Monday - List 3 things you are grateful for and why you appreciate them.
Tuesday - Identify 3 people you appreciate and the reason why.
Wednesday - Name 3 things you normally take for granted, but actually appreciate and the reasons why.
Thursday - Name 3 people at work or school you appreciate and the reasons why.
Friday - Pick a person and think about 3 things that you appreciate about them and why. Write down on paper as a “thank you.” Send it to them if you wish.
Saturday - Name 3 things you appreciate about your health and the reasons why today.
Sunday - Send a “thank you” prayer up to Heaven about something that recently happened for you and why you appreciate it.
If you find you are having a hard time feeling God's presence or feelings of depression, documenting gratitude can set off a positive chain reaction to help you out of that state and get you back into an attitude of gratitude! I urge you to try this for a couple weeks and see how it affects your mood throughout the day. If you stop journaling, likewise, see how stopping affects your mood as well.
Have you ever kept a gratitude journal? How did it work for you?
Achieving Financial Freedom
Talk to anyone and they'll tell you that the secret to achievement is self discipline. As I discussed in The Process of Transformation, "Balance" is the key. All things we do must be in balance in order to keep the teeter totter of life at an even keel. To be healthy, we may look at our eating habits, to be spiritually well, we may look within and assess our spiritual diet as well. To be mentally well, we must clear negativity from our space, but no matter how much we want to steer clear of material reliance, unfortunately, to reach some goals, sometimes we have to make and spend some money.
Whether it is to buy supplies for a project we are working on or buying nutritious food, money is the necessary vehicle to obtain what we need most of the time. As such, we are required to be wise stewards of our money so we are getting what we need, but also ensuring we have some leftover for the necessities of life. Today I want to share with you how I paid off a lot of debt and experience less stress when it comes to my finances. I call it the envelope technique - with a digital twist.
The classic envelope technique involves writing labels on envelopes such as "Groceries" or "Auto Repair" and gradually putting money in each envelope over time. I have to give credit to my sister for this method. I was 16 when she taught me this nifty trick. I evolved this method in helping me to save money for goals and life maintenance as well. Let's use my friend, Paul, as an example on how to do this:
1. First, Paul calculates how much money he needs to have in order to cover his bills and absolute necessities on a weekly basis. He determine each week he needs $500. This doesn't need to be exact, however, even if some of your bills are monthly, simply divide them out to get an approximate weekly amount.
2. Paul then observes that his regular take-home pay from his job is around $750 a week.
3. Paul subtracts the bills he pays of $500 from $750 to get a difference of $250, meaning this is how much he could potentially save. Paul would like to have a bit leftover for fun, so he decides he will save $150 per week toward his goals.
4. Paul sets up an auto transfer on his bank's website to have $150 get transferred from his checking account to his savings account every Friday.
5. Paul then sets up a table on Microsoft Excel (or Google Sheets) and lists out all of his goals along with some long term responsibilities such as:
He then makes a column for several entries after each item that includes the Goal Amount, Saved Amount, and Owed Amount. Once this is done, he does some fancy footwork with his document so it does some smooth calculations such as automatic calculations on his entries.
6. Each week on Monday, Paul sits down and figures out which goal he would like to allocate his money to (the $150). In this case, he wants to have an emergency fund of $1500 to go toward unexpected surprises, just in case, and makes that his top priority. After 10 weeks, he has saved up his emergency fund and then moves on to maintenance expenses so he has money for car repairs if they come up.
After 10 weeks, Paul realizes he isn't feeling like his savings are adding up as fast as he would like. He makes it a goal this week to come up with a list of a few ideas on how he can save faster. Here is what he comes up with:
Paul makes it a goal the following week to ask for a raise. Luckily, Paul's boss feels like he really does deserves one and gives him a fifty cent raise. Paul now makes $20 bucks more per week! He can now save $170 per week.
Next Paul realizes he has been paying for an internet streaming service he seldom uses that is costing him $8 per month. He also switches from one security alarm company to another saving him $20 per month. That's $7 per week (approximately $5 plus $2). He now saves $177 per week.
Once Paul reaches his "Maintenance Expense" goal of $1,000. If a car repair comes up now, he now enjoys that he can pay it with a lot less stress and worry. Feeling even better about his savings, He realizes now how much more he could save per week if he paid off the $3,000 he owes toward his vehicle. He now pays $400 per month on that loan. In only a few months he could pay off his vehicle if he puts the $177 he saves per week toward the payment.
After a few months of extra payments, he pays off his vehicle, which had a loan payment of approximately $100 per week ($400 per month). He now has $277 per week he can save.
Now, after so many months of saving, Paul feels like he has been sacrificing a lot and would like some more money to spend, feeling good about how much he is saving. He decides to pick up 4 hours of overtime each week and now delivers for Door Dash. He uses this as his fun money to do more fun things since he is putting the extra effort toward making some more money. A hundred or two-hundred bucks a week means he can go to a concert once a month, eat out a few times, and even see a movie.
As this illustrates, gaining control of your finances doesn't happen overnight. It is an ongoing effort of determining the trade-offs of spending and saving. Once you get used to it, it can become a very comfortable way of gaining control of your money if you don't mind making small sacrifices often. With money being one of the biggest stressors in life, it is important to make your financial health a priority so you can focus your attention on the things that truly bring you joy.
Have you or anyone you know ever used a method similar to this? If so, let me know in the comments.
You Are the Light of the World
Take a moment today and think about what gifts and talents you've been given. What are you truly good at? Remember, those gifts were given to you freely and it is okay to give them away just as freely. You may be feeling downhearted at times, because you are not always recognized in your work for all you are capable of, but do you recognize those same talents in yourself?
When I was much younger than I am now, I enjoyed helping out some young guys with their rock band. They called me their manager, but I truly enjoyed just being a part of things. I didn't really make any money unless they got paid for a show, but most of the time I was just giving them tips and helping find shows for them. One of the key values I tried to instill in them was not being afraid to play for free if it was for a good cause.
The opportunity finally came around when someone requested they play at a benefit concert for a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer. I told them how awesome it was to have an opportunity to help someone who had been suffering. Being just out of high school, these young guys didn't always quite understand where I was coming from, but they quickly learned a huge life lesson about giving.
After agreeing to do the free show, someone in the audience was impressed by them. They mentioned they had a friend who was going to music recording school and needed a band for a recording project. Soon after, they found themselves in a professional multi-million dollar recording studio recording some of their songs! Not only that, they met others who shared their passionate interest for music that day.
If you haven't thought about it lately, start thinking of some ways you can start using some of those talents you've been given to bring joy into your life and also help other people. It is when we serve others that we experience true joy and purpose. Show the world your light!
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” - Matthew 5:14-15
Foundation is Key
In Matthew 5:16 Jesus says, “No one sews a patch of unshrunk [new] cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.”
If you truly want to change your life, you must start with a solid foundation. As in the patch discussed above, you must first shrink the patch so that it matches the material on the coat, because when the garment is washed, the new patch will shrink and cause tears in the old fabric.
Let's take a look at Matthew 9:17 where Jesus says the same thing in a different way: "Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Once again, if the foundation (the wineskin) isn't proper, the wine cannot be poured into it.
Imagine you are a Nuclear Physicist. You walk up to a police officer, a person who is educated in criminology, and decide you will begin discussing all the intricacies of how fusion and nuclear reactions work on a molecular level. He may look at you with a strange look on his face. This is because there is a mismatch in the information given with the foundation of the police officer's education.
The only way the police officer will be able to truly understand what the physicist is saying would be to not only research nuclear physics, but also understand the scientific method as a whole through practice and finding others who are familiar with this information as well.
The same can be said for your current lifestyle. Does that lifestyle match what you're trying to accomplish? If you're trying to become a fitness coach, would you sit around and watch tv most of the time, or would you start exercising? Would you emulate someone who has already done what you are trying to do? Perhaps you'd even provide free fitness coaching to start practicing.
Providing yourself with safety and stability, a healthy diet, limiting toxic interactions with others, and creating great habits provides a great initial foundation in which to start any goal, providing fertile ground to plant the seeds of success so to speak. This is why the first degree in the 8 Degrees of Transformation is self-reflection. It illustrates how we must first look within ourselves, be honest, and accept what truly needs to change. It is through our weekly goal work that we create ongoing change to maintain the foundation we've set.
Example goals and habits to help provide a great foundation:
I hope this helps, friends! Please feel free to reach out and let me know how my material has helped you along your path. I would love to hear from you!
The Process of Transformation
What does true spirituality look like and what does true happiness look like? In short, the answer to both questions is "balance." Surely, this has been said before, but what does "balance" truly look like?
Scripture describes many ways in which we can achieve balance and it is when we achieve balance, we begin to find a sense of purpose. It is in our purpose we begin to feel a sense of hope. Of course when we feel a sense of hope, happiness has no choice but to exude itself throughout our life and actions. We then begin to see the worth and potential in ourselves as well others.
I have found that balance must be spread over what I have termed "The 8 Degrees of Transformation. " I have managed to bring copious amounts of meaning and purpose into my life simply by spreading out my time over these areas. I am not seeking to be a master over them all, however, with attention and intention in each area, one can become better one step at a time in each discipline with practice.
Let's look at what the 8 Degrees are and what they mean:
In transformation, it is imperative that we seek that which is in ourselves. What motivates you? What drives you? What are your weaknesses and issues that must be dealt with? Through self reflection, counseling, research, and prayer while listening to the feedback of others, we can begin to repair all that is broken. Spirituality must start with each of us being willing to confront our "demons" and overcome them on an ongoing basis.
Separation of Self
Separation of Self refers to the discipline it takes to voluntarily remove yourself from worldly thoughts that threaten your happiness, health, spiritual life, and behavior. It is being willing to commit yourself to the actions that it takes to consistently become a better version of yourself than you were yesterday. When you find something is taking you away from your responsibilites to God, your family, and your self-improvement program, you must separate yourself from it. As Jesus says in Matthew 30, "If something causes you to sin, it is better to cut off your hand than to lose your whole body to Hell."
In forgiveness, therapy, and strengthening your body as well as your spirit, we must provide a solid foundation for holiness to dwell. It is more difficult for love to come from an angry person. A physically and mentally strong person, however, can use his strength to help many. Your body is your temple and it is important to take care of it.
As a creative, wonderful, and beautiful being, you were designed to express yourself creatively through your skills in some way. Through creating and developing the natural talents you were given, you will be better equipped to serve the Kingdom.
You were born with a plethora of talent, whether you realize it or not. Just as money can be tithed, your creativity, skill, and time can mean a huge difference. Churches, organizations, and groups all need talented people to do the things that money can't buy or that which would be too expensive for the organization to provide. As members of the Kingdom, it is essential that we give our time to help our community and others.
Righteous, non-boastful, conduct is something that can be a struggle for most people time and again. But working on showing love, kindness, and courtesy in all your actions, this shows others that you live an honorable, spirit-led life. It sends a message that your actions do not contradict the spiritual message you wish to send and undermine all the hard work you've done in your transformation and contributions to the Kingdom. This involves showing a kind, caring attitude at all times, even when your own life has its own struggles to contend with.
Through prayer and meditation, we are able to make our intentions clear and concise. Without taking the time for praise, thanksgiving, and making our requests known to our Creator, we are left only to the worldly messages that are bombarding us through advertisements, the news, and behaviors or attitudes of others.
This is the pinnacle and purpose of our interaction with the Divine Creator. Some see signs, many of us dreams, visions, coincidences, and even prophetic information communicated to us resulting in the right words spoken at just the right time. It is through vigilance and discernment that we interpret and understand what the Lord is telling us. Many times, this works as a form of dialogue between God and ourselves such as with our initial prayer, a response from God such as a dream, and then our follow up for help in discernment when we need more information to fully understand.
So how does one begin to balance all this out when there are so many priorities in life and so little time? It comes with practice and creating small, achievable goals. Make a goal to pray at least once each day, read a Bible chapter each day, create silent time for prayer and meditation, or dedicate your skills to God. It doesn't matter how little you do, but only that you get started right away. Write down your goal, establish a time within your routine you will be working on the goal and then establish a time to review it and the other goals you've set each week. That's it! Transformation may be hard, but getting started is easy. Stay faithful dear friends.
Let Your Light Shine
Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world. "A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Friends, we have kept our lamps dim for too long! It is time to be joyful. It is time to bring the good news of God to the whole world, not to judge, but to celebrate. In prayer, I once asked God what is the message we truly need to know in these times we live. His answer? "Go into the streets and just love everyone. Everyone you see. The whole world needs to know what real love is all about." I call this loving foolishly - overcoming our fear of what others may think.
It's time to love bigger, laugh harder, and become confident in your role here in the Kingdom, because when the Kingdom is within you, you have fulfilled the purpose of your life.
The Core of Success - Goal Setting
Goal setting. For some, achieving goals is natural and comes very easily. For some of us, however, the idea of reaching goals can actually bring on a sense of anxiety, because in a world where there is always a need for more time, adding more to your plate can seem difficult. The answer is so simple however, taking very little time and actually making the little time you do have more productive.
Goal setting is as simple as stating what you want and writing it on paper. Don't worry about how you'll get there. Just get it on paper! That alone is the most important step you can take. Some people prescribe the "SMART" acronym for achieving goals, which stands for Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound. Though this works for some, I say setting a goal works all this out on its own, so no need to worry about making it complicated. If it is important to you, you will find a way. If it is not, you will come up with excuses. Let me show you how easy setting goals are.
Once you write down what you want to achieve, it's time to make a list. ALWAYS make a list. In this case, our goal is to become a world renown football player. As you can imagine, this is not simple, measurable, or necessarily even relevant. But let's get started on that list of things we can do. It's this simple:
Now ask, is all this worth it? If you can say yes, then congrats! You've taken a simple, but huge step.
As you can see, we have 5 great goals now. It's time to plan for college. Make a list!
Don't worry, goals can change. This is just to help you get started. In the end, you'll never run out of things to add to your lists, however, you are doing something many people never do and that is keeping yourself what I call a "road map to success." This is why it is important to review your list every day.
Each day, I go through my list so I know what I need to be working on when I am free. This helps me tune out distractions a bit easier. Each week, go through your list, review what you've accomplished, and focus on what new goals need to be added.
There are some things that need to happen daily, weekly, or monthly that don't always make good goals. These are called habits. In the example above, this would be something like working out three times a week. In this case, my goal could be to achieve a specific body-mass index and a weekly goal, or habit, of working out three times a week. I will then sit down each week to determine if I successfully completed what I set out to do that week.
For my own goal setting, I assign a point system to all my habits. A 10 minute work out could be worth a point. Reading 20 minutes could be a point. At the end of each week, I count how many points I received and give myself a percentage grade, effectively competing against myself, allowing me to see my time management and performance effectiveness from week to week.
Another advanced trick, since I have a bit more time, is to fill out a questionnaire, writing down each habit I did not achieve and asking myself what actions I can take next week to more easily achieve what I am setting out to do. Sometimes weekly habits become pointless, in which I then simply delete them off the list and devote time to better serving habits or goals.
There you have it! Goal setting is easy and can be tailored to fit your own schedule. A little research here, a task there, and maybe a few minutes between life's busy activities and you too can be a master of productivity. Good luck!
Being Led Back
Sometimes in life we have to wait and see. This has been one of those moments in the history of Searchlight. What seemed like nothing happening to those who visited the Searchlight page was actually a time of revitalization and growth, doing my best to try to envision what the next chapter of Searchlight would look like. In that time, I've started and stopped a book, read many books by other authors, wrote about 4 different game plans, made lists of ideas, stayed in scripture, experienced success and failure alike, but in the end, one must press on when there is a greater vision even if it is a simple plan: Sharing what I learn about living a purpose driven and fulfilled life being directed by the Holy Spirit. This is my mustard seed. I pray it is fruitful.