I announced in the Ministry Team meeting that my husband and I were going to Las Vegas to celebrate our anniversary. When most people think of Vegas – they think of gambling and all the other wild activities. I explained that my husband and I are national park type people, and our purpose was to see Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Death Valley National Park, Valley of Fire, Red Rock Canyon and Lake Havasu – with Vegas being a central location to see God’s beautiful creation.
They jokingly said “yeah, right – ha, ha!” Then I remembered, I did get kicked out of a casino once! Pastor Kenny challenged me to write a blog about it. So here it goes. In my twenties, after working a trade show and having a team dinner, our group thought it would be fun to walk the strip and check out some of the casinos. We decided to play blackjack at the Luxor. Now I had never gambled before, so this was far out of my comfort zone. The only time I had played blackjack was with my family as a kid. But I think that purpose was a math lesson! When we played cards as a family, you always picked them up in your hands and held the cards.
So, when the first hand was dealt at the table, I picked up the cards out of habit. Little did I know that was a big NO-NO in Vegas! The dealer sternly warned me not to touch the cards. I profusely apologized explaining I had never played before and didn’t know. For the next few hands I really concentrated to make sure I didn’t touch the cards out of habit. Then, it became a little more laid back, our team laughed, and talked as we played for a bit. After a while, the dealer had to shuffle so there was a break in the action. Sure enough, once we restarted play, I picked up the cards again out of habit. Within seconds, there were two burly security guards at each of my shoulders stating I had to leave the building – NOW! I got kicked out of the casino! They escorted me and my group out. Needless to say, my coworkers laughed about that for quite some time.
What I learned through that experience is that old habits die hard. Research estimates it takes a minimum of 21 days or 3 weeks of taking daily action to form a new habit. I’ve found this to be true in regards to a lot of things, such as exercising or spiritual disciplines. It’s so easy to start a new good habit. But once you skip a day, then skip again, it’s easy to fall out of the good habit. Cultivating good habits takes perseverance and self-control.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Over the years, one of the spiritual disciplines I’ve developed is starting and ending every day in prayer. I remember a study by Bible teacher Beth Moore in which she talked about physically getting down on your knees and surrendering to God in prayer. I was moved and started practicing that by laying face down and starting each morning in prayer. Wow, did my life change! God answered prayers and I felt peace and encouragement from Him like never before. Now that doesn’t mean I won’t face sad, bad or stressful things. But by connecting with God first, my heart and mind are better prepared for the day, and it opens me up to God’s leading. After practicing this habit for about 15 years, I sure notice when I forget and “touch the cards.” When I skip prayer time, my day is thrown off and I feel out of rhythm. Days are always better when you connect and surrender to the Source of Life!
Likewise, I pray in bed before going to sleep. Are you like me and struggle with racing thoughts of to-do lists or decisions that need to be made, as you wind down in the evening? When I take time to reflect and thank the Lord for what He has done, appreciating who He is, it makes all the difference in my soul. I can sleep in peace because I have truly laid all my worries before the Lord and put my trust in Him.
So, I encourage you to ask God to show you what good habits He desires for you to form in your life. Maybe it’s reading daily devotions, prayer, or serving weekly at church? Ask Him to guide you and help you grow in self-discipline to develop a good new habit. The resulting fruit will be so rewarding!
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23a