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English: An aerial view of Mount Everest.

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One of my favourite stories from my Senior Minister Mark Conner is the story of a church youth group leader who wants to encourage his youth group to read the bible more.

He starts by challenging each of them to touch their bible once a day for a week.

“But don’t open it, or you’ll be kicked out of this youth group,” he warns.

Of course, to touch their bible, they need to know where it is, a challenge for most teenagers, especially considering the state of their rooms.

The following week, he issues an additional challenge.

“Now I want you to open your bibles every day.  But don’t read a word, or you’ll be kicked out of the youth group!” he sternly says.

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In her book, Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott tells a story about her brother, whose task it was to rid the backyard of moles.

He tried everything.

He tried filling in their holes, smoking them out with fire and even blowing them up with dynamite.

But it didn’t matter what he tried, they kept coming back.

One day, the brother was at the local store and he saw a man wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words “Mole Exterminator” on the back.

So he introduced himself and asked what the secret was to killing moles.

The mole exterminator smiled and surprised the brother with his response.

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Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

As a Christian and parent of young children (one soon to be 6 year old and 3 year old twins), I feel challenged to teach my children to establish a habit of praying regularly.

I know that they are young, but as with good manners and eating habits, it’s never too early to start laying the foundations for later in life.

As such, here is the strategy that I’ve put in place to teach my kids how to pray.

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It happens every year.

Great intentions, great goals, great start, terrible follow-through.

January’s a great month to get started on your goals as there are not too many conflicting priorities, but when life starts up again in February, it can get too hard and we often fall back into old habits.

It may be that you were aiming to save more, exercise more, pray more, read more or spend more time with your family this year.  Whatever it is, what can you do to help you get back on track and start building momentum again?

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Cluster of barnacles on Right Beach, near Home...

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Barnacles are small molluscs that attach themselves to large ships.

One barnacle doesn’t make any difference to how a ship moves, neither does two.

I’m not sure what the tipping point is, but at some stage, there are so many barnacles that they start to have a negative impact.

Seaweed and other debris starts to get caught and the ship doesn’t move with as much efficiency as it used to.

And then it’s time for the owner of the ship to have the barnacles scraped from the hull.

The same is true for us as well.

There are things that can encroach upon our ability to meet our goals in life.  They may be small and one or two may not have much of an impact, if any, but over time if we don’t deal with them, we will be dramatically slowed down in our aims, perhaps even sunk.

What could these barnacles be for us?

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As a sports fan, I am conscious of how easy it can be for an athlete to fall out of form and how challenging it can be to fire on all cylinders again.

A few times this year, I have also been conscious that there are occasionally areas of my life when I’ve been out of form.  It may be in my role as a husband, parent, leader or christian, but I can sometimes get in a bad rut that can be a challenge to break out of.

Form slumps are normal and most of the all-time greats have experienced them at some stage of their careers, so it’s only natural that we will go periods of time when we’re not performing at our best.

So how can you break out of a form slump?

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On his blog, John C. Maxwell recently showed a video clip for a message that he was delivering.  He started to tell this story (or at least a derivative of it) when his own attitude was tested with humourous consequences. 

He never got to finish the original story, so I searched for it and found this version on Kent Crockett’s site.

Two construction workers had taken a lunch break and opened up their lunch boxes.

One of them looked inside his box and said, “Not baloney sandwiches again! I can’t believe it. I hate baloney.  This is the third time this week I’ve had baloney. I can’t stand baloney!”

The other one said, “Why don’t you just ask your wife to make you something different?”

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Common Raven (Corvus corax), Kugluktuk, Nunavu...

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I was driving along a quiet road next to a national park the other day and saw three ravens on the road in front of me.

Instead of flying away, they hopped across to the other side of the road as I approached.  At first I thought that they were at risk, then I remembered that ravens are reasonably intelligent birds and must know what they are doing.

As I drove on another car came the other way, so I looked in my rear view mirror to see what the birds would do.

Two of them comfortably moved to one side, but the other one took too long and ended up being hit by the other car.

As I drove off, surprised by what I had seen, I realised that many people are like that raven, taking unnecessary risks that can jeopardise their future and have significant, avoidable implications.

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As I was writing this post, it was a day of celebration in Chile as the first of the 33 miners who were trapped underground for the past 69 days started their gradual ascent to freedom.

It was a long process for them, as the miners could only be released one by one, so the process took a couple of days.

As I reflected on this event, I was reminded of Viktor Frankl’s words when he said, “The last of one’s true freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

As sad as it is that these men were trapped underground in such scary circumstances, it’s even sadder when I come across people who are trapped, not by their physical circumstances, but by their mindsets and attitudes.

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There are times when we make mistakes.

There are times when we let ourselves down.

There are times when we break our diet, break a promise that we made or say something that we regret.

There are times when we feel guilty and ashamed.

At these times, we have a couple of choices:  Read the rest of this entry »

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