Good thinks and encouraging thoughts. We all need them. A little boost to get us through the day. A happy image to motivate our drive to the finish line. Maybe it’s a moment of thankfulness, a meditative afternoon on the lakeshore, or hell, even the cat picture you keep taped inside your dashboard. The current of life flows a little easier when we take time to remind ourselves of why we’re working so hard and of what it’s all for. Of what makes it all worth it.

Let’s be honest. This can be one hell of a rough world we find ourselves in. Now I don’t know about you, but if you find yourself like all the other humans out there (you are!), then you need to season your hours and days with a little encouragement just to stay sane. Some of us are undergoing huge life transitions, especially the post-faith pastors in our midst who are trying to navigate challenges in virtually every facet of life. Our sanity demands we regularly take time to breath deep and find something to be thankful for. Something to be encouraged by. Something to stretch a smile across our faces and inject a little joy into our hearts.

A Good Thinks Exercise

I have an exercise I like to do every so often, ideally once every week or so. This past Sunday was my first day off from my steakhouse job since two Thursdays prior. Feeling kinda tuckered and more than a little burned out, I needed some outdoor time. So I decided to go for a walk to help get my mind right. Along the way I decided to do this little exercise to help get my ambitions grounded.

Time spent on this Lincoln Park walking path near my home on Lake Michigan helps me think good thinks.

So here’s how it works.

Pretty simple really. I go for a walk and enjoy the greenery, soak up some of the cool summer breeze rolling off Lake Michigan, and I tell myself I’m not allowed to quit walking until l’ve thought up five encouraging things that have taken place in my life over the last 48 hours.  Honestly, sometimes it can be kind of a challenge to pull this off. Especially if life’s been kinda crummy lately. Or if your loss of faith has killed your emotions. But that’s when we especially need this kind of exercise because it helps ground our thoughts into the little things that matter most. They help remind us as to what matters. And they help us seize opportunities to celebrate successes we’d most likely gloss over otherwise.

Now you might not live on the Lake Michigan shoreline. You might not live near any greenery at all. It’s incredibly possible you might be confined in a way that doesn’t even let you go for a walk. But all of that aside, each of us (yourself included!) can force ourselves to pause and draw up a list of five encouraging thoughts. We can all do this. We all need this.

Unless your life is already so perfect that you’re always feeling a constant surge of internally delightful encouragement. But you don’t. Your life’s not that perfect. None of ours is. If you actually said that it is, you’re the worst kind of bullshitter, and you probably need it more than all of us.

Trust me. We all need this exercise.

This is me beginning my walk to think good thinks.

Starting off on my good-thinks walk, the marks on the side of my face bear testimony to the fact that I had just awoken from one hell of an afternoon nap.

My Five Good Thinks

For whatever it’s worth, here’s my list of 5 encouraging thoughts from Sunday. May they likewise encourage you and spur on good thinks in your own life.

Good Think #1: Daughter Love

True, this one was easy. But sometimes the easy ones are so obvious we forget to include them. And Sunday morning I was able to get in a phone call with one of my kids. And as always it made my day. Spending these months five hundred miles from my teenage wonders has been so unbelievably hard. We do what we can to make it work, and I’m amazed at how close we’ve been able to remain from so far away. But still. I look forward to my move back to Minnesota, so we can make up for lost time.

Good Think #2: Credit Card Fixes

This marks another in a series of hard-won victories to restore my financial stability following my deconversion and the loss of my pastoral career. After paying off a loan 15 months early last month, this week I submitted a whopping $1,299.56 payment to close out yet another once-maxed-out credit card.

This good think could not have been possible without my work in the steakhouse. I have a series of posts I’m planning about career and income options for former pastors. Waiting on tables is never glamorous, but the money can be better than anything else that our now-worthless degrees can throw our way. One key that I’ve discovered is to pair the rigors (and income positives) of the hospitality industry with the creation of automated income streams online. No, Pastor Sam, your career options are NOT limited to either a minimum-wage job or faking faith from the pulpit for the rest of your life. You DO have other choices that can open up a lot of exciting possibilities! 

Good Think #3: Affiliate Coaching Call

Speaking of helping former pastors with automated income streams. Another former pastor and humanist author had reached out to me a couple days prior to ask about affiliate partnership options for his website. He hadn’t used anything like this before and was curious for more info. Of course I was glad to help him out! So this afternoon he and I jumped on a call together as I walked him through the basics and provided a few first steps.

I think you all know by now that this good think is exactly where my heart is at! To be able to help a fellow human journey this life in practical ways encourages me more than anything. Besides, it was also just a great opportunity to connect with this dear brother in the secular community. A breath of proverbial fresh air, I would eagerly fill the fullness of each day with conversations like these!!

Good Think #4: Getting Tested

This might sound funny. And it’ll certainly catch some of you unprepared. But as I mention regularly, it’s important for us humanists to create sex-positive environments where we can talk openly and responsibly about sex. (See for instance my previous post on creating such environments for our kids!) The more we talk, the more we break down the stigma over talking about it. And the more we break down the stigma, the more freely people have access to information and resources that will help them make healthy choices. This is true for everything in life. But especially when it comes to sex.

So yes, one of my Five Good Thinks is that as part of my normal healthy-human routine, I got tested for STDs last week. Again, when we hear this we run to all kinds of questions and assumptions about why someone would get tested, but in reality all sexually active humans should be getting tested on the regular. As part of your regular routine. As part of being responsible. So yes, I got tested :) And yes, just like one-hundred-percent of all the tests I’ve had before, it came back one-hundred-percent clean. Largely due to safe sex practices. Three cheers for safe sex!!

If you’re sexually active—and for humansake, I hope you are!—please make sure you’re getting tested regularly. For your own health and for that of your partners. Here’s how you can get tested. Yes, this is a link to a Planned Parenthood page, and yes, Planned Parenthood also offers services for men. 

Good Think #5: Responsibility Quote

Mark Manson's book "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck," which helps us think good thinks. Being reminded to take responsibility might not sound encouraging at first. But when it revs up your motivation and propels you to taking greater action, well, that is a very good and positive and encouraging thing.

Here’s what I had read that afternoon prior to my walk in the park. From kickass master Mark Manson:

We all love to take responsibility for success and happiness. Hell, we often fight over who gets to be responsible for success and happiness. But taking responsibility for our problems is far more important, because that’s where the real learning comes from. That’s where the real-life improvement comes from. To simply blame others is only to hurt yourself.

— Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Buy this book and read this book. In here is a gold mine of transformative, motivational wisdom packed in a box irreverence and wit.

BONUS Good Thinks: A New Little Bekius ! ! !

As I settled in at home Sunday evening, anticipations were running high. Why? Because a new little Bekius was preparing to enter our world! My brother and his wife were in the hospital getting all dolled up and sending pics of the two of them bright and smiling. And wouldn’t you know it, by noon the following day, they’d be sending pics of the three of them. I’m so unbelievably excited for this new little Bekius!! Congrats to Rachel and Mike! Time to break out the cigars!!! 

Thinking Your Thinks

Well, hopefully my encouraging thinks have helped stimulate some of your own. I wish you well on the endeavor. As I said at the beginning, this world is full of wasteland worries, and we will do well to combat those troubles by working into our routine the regular taking of time out to pause and breath deep as we innumerate some positive and encouraging thoughts to keep us sane and move us forward. I’d love to hear some of your own below. Here’s to the journey!

Your fellow post-faith journeyman,