Sabbatical 2019 #4: A New Direction, an MOA Shift

Note: This is the fourth installment of my 2019 Sabbatical series. This reflection rises out of the wonderful counseling we received at Marble Retreat Center (

As we step into a new year with all of its promises and challenges, I am reminded of something Dr. Mike MacKenzie said during our initial group counseling session in Colorado: “If we are going to get somewhere different, we have to do something different.” In a later session, Dr. Keri, Mike’s wife, spoke of making a “two-degree change,” a minor change that can have a long-range impact. I chose those words intentionally.

Few people know this, but in my previous occupation, I served as a tactical marksman for our department. This means I needed to know something about long-range “impact”. In the world of long-range marksmanship, the measure of accuracy is not a degree, but a minute, one-sixtieth of a degree. The accuracy of a rifle is often measured in MOA (Minute of Angle, not Mall of America!), which reflects the size of a target group down range: One MOA equals a target group about one inch across at one hundred yards, about the size of a quarter, and about two inches across at two hundred yards, the height of a business card. In tactical marksmanship, that level of accuracy was essential and potentially lifesaving.  I mention this to stress the point that even a small change at the start can have a big impact down range.

We are starting a new year, and many will dive into new year’s resolutions that are anything but resolute. Few make it to February, often because they are too big, too grand, or lacking in sufficient motivation. May I suggest something different: a minor course correction, an MOA shift?

Think about those things in your life that are troubling. It may be a sin issue, it may be a heart issue, it may be a boundary issue.  Then think of a small change you can make in a positive direction: something simple, repeatable, and manageable. It might be training yourself to speak grace to yourself, defusing self-criticism. It might be stopping to really consider your words before you open your mouth to avoid people-pleasing. It might be examining your heart attitude toward your work to kill perfectionism. Maybe it is learning to say “No” when you want to and rest when you need to—trusting in God and waiting on Him more than yourself with a healthy set of boundaries in place. I could go on, but I will stop here. I think you get the point. The key is to start small but aim long.

The start of a new year is a good place to make new beginnings, but it is essential that we make those beginnings wisely. If we start off in a big, bold direction and fail, we will often have expended so much time and energy that we actually end up behind where we started and then struggle to catch up. As with tactical marksmanship, we may not get a second shot, so we need to make the first one a good one.

If this is something NCD Pastoral Care can help with, just give us a call. We are here to help you stay.


In Humble Service to the King and the Kingdom,

Kelley Johnson, NCD Pastoral Care