Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Making a Change: Part 5 in a 5-Part Series

This is the last in a series from Christian author and blogger Michael Warden.  Enjoy!

5 of 5 Essentials for Change: You Need Love

"If not have love, I gain nothing." ~ 1 Corinthians 13:3b
In his book, No Perfect People Allowed, my friend John Burke offers a beautiful metaphor for understanding what it's like to be a human being. We are, each one of us, a unique and beautiful masterpiece, says John, a glorious work of art crafted by God for his pleasure and our delight. But, he adds, we are masterpieces splattered with mud...mud that hides some of our God-given beauty and distracts us from the beauty beneath.

If you came upon a masterwork of art—say, a Picasso or Van Gogh—coated in mud, you wouldn’t judge it harshly or scrape haphazardly at the unsightly mud in disgust, would you? Of course not…because it is a masterpiece. You would treat it with care. You would treat it with love. You would be careful. You would be gentle. You would know that the thing you are holding is priceless, and the mud does nothing to diminish that fact.

And yet, many people try to change, not because they love the masterpiece of who they are, but because they hate the mud. This is a self-destructive fuel for change, and though it may produce some results, they rarely last, and the damage wreaked on their soul is far greater than any external benefit that may be gained. You cannot change the world by hating the world. You cannot change yourself by hating yourself. For real and lasting change to come, whether in your life or in the world, love is only fuel that matters.

Love sees the masterpiece beneath the mud. And this is what drives it to act. There is no greater power than this. There is no more effective means of change.
“Love…always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:7-8
Love is inexhaustible.

We’ve covered in previous posts the other elements you need for change: Anger, A Crystal Clear Dream, Faith, A Solid Plan. But for change to truly come, love must cover it all. Love for yourself. Love for the world. Even love for the mud you are working to remove. Love, above all other things, is key to change. Because there is no obstacle, there is no weapon, there is no pain or injury or injustice in the world, that Love cannot overcome.
There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer;
no disease that enough love will not heal;
no door that enough love will not open;
no gulf that enough love will not bridge;
no wall that enough love will not throw down;
no sin that enough love will not redeem . . .
It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble;
how hopeless the outlook;
how muddled the tangle;
how great the mistake.
A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.
If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world…
Emmet Fox
So let love lead the way. When in doubt of the path, or lost in the competing motives at war in your soul, ask: What would love have me do? And do that.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Change Continued: The 4th in a Series About Moving Forward

From visiting blogger Michael Warden.  For more on this series and Michael himself, visit

4 of 5 Essentials for Change: You Need a Solid Plan

"If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten." ~ Author Unknown
I loved watching reruns of the old TV show "Get Smart" when I was a kid. The series highlighted the adventures (read that: slipshod shenanigans) of Secret Agent 86, Maxwell Smart. Talk about a man without a plan! Max wouldn't know a good plan if it called him on his shoe phone. He wouldn't know a good plan if it screamed at him under the Cone of Silence. He wouldn't know a...okay, I'll stop. The point is, what made that show funny was that most of the time, Max didn't have the slightest clue what he was doing, but he did it anyway, and so went bumbling into every situation with the bravado and confidence of a complete boob. It was his faithful partner, Agent 99, who generally won the day and kept Max from danger, but because she had a thing for the guy, she always let him take the glory.

Of course what makes for funny TV is not nearly so fun in real life. Not having a plan, or worse yet, having a plan that doesn’t work but trying to follow it over and over again anyway is absolutely no fun at all. Yet all too often, that’s what we do when we try to make change real. Like Sisyphus we push against that boulder again and again thinking, This should work. This really should work! And that’s the problem, because it should. Or rather, it could.

See, that’s the thing about plans: There are lots and lots of them out there that could theoretically work. I mean, some are ridiculous of course, but most are…well, pretty feasible. They make sense. They could work. Whether you’re looking for a plan to grow your business, get out of debt, find the love of your life, change careers or get in the best shape of your life, you are, right at this moment, one Google search away from finding a dizzying array of pretty reasonable, fairly believable strategic plans to help get you there. So what’s the problem?

In my experience, there are two reasons most plans fail us. We think the plan is all we need and neglect the other essentials of anger, having a crystal clear dream, engaging our faith, and letting love lead the way (which I’ll talk about next week). But the other reason is this: To really make a significant change real in the world, you need a plan that does more than simply make it possible for you to succeed; you need a plan that makes it difficult for you to fail. And that sort of plan is much rarer…not because it’s harder to create, but because it takes a lot more courage to do (and thus, it’s harder to sell).

So, here you go, time for some truth telling. If you want a plan for change that’s actually going to work, it needs to be built on a foundation of SMART Goals. Each step in the plan needs to include ALL of the following elements:
  • SSpecific: Not, “To lose weight” but “To go biking 5 times a week for 1-hour at a time, and practice healthier eating habits by eating vegetables or fruit at every meal and recording everything I eat every day until I drop drop 10 lbs of fat.”
  • MMeasurable: If you’re goal is specific enough, it will be measurable. But basically, you need to be able to answer the question, “How will I know that I’ve reached my goal?”
  • AAccountable: Without question, this is the most important element of a successful plan, and the hardest for most people to employ. You need to make yourself accountable to at least two other people, and your accountability needs to have real rewards for success and (possibly, if it works for you) real costs for falling short of your goal. Some of my clients reward themselves with a professional massage each week or month they meet their goals, and pay their accountability partners a chunk of money each week or month they don’t reach their goals. (The partners generally pass the money on to a charity of their choosing.)
  • RRealistic: You have to do your homework. Research how long a change like the one you’re proposing actually takes. Avoid magical thinking. If you’re going to err, err on the side of giving yourself more time than you think you’ll need. Set yourself up for success, not failure. Make each step easily achievable, and let them build on each other gradually over time. Realistic also means you need to get some honest feedback about whether your dream is really feasible. You may want to be a professional singer, but before enacting a plan to get there, you need to get some honest professional feedback about whether you genuinely have the level of talent required for that job.
  • TTime Bound: In other words, you need deadlines. You need goal dates. You need actual mile-markers on an actual calendar that give you something specific to aim for and tell you that you’re actually making progress. For those who prefer to “feel” your way intuitively through a process of change, okay, go ahead. But know that it will take you three to five times longer to reach your goal than it will those who employ accountable deadlines, if you ever reach your goal at all. Honestly, I find that most people who say they work better without deadlines are really just trying to avoid the risk of failing.
To make change real, you need a solid plan. And that plan needs to be SMART, not DUMB. SMART plans are not harder to set up, but they are harder to do, because they commit you to change. They make it difficult for you to bail or fail. But isn’t that what, deep down, you actually want?
“You see, idealism detached from action is just a dream. But idealism allied with pragmatism, with rolling up your sleeves and making the world bend a bit, is very exciting. It’s very real. It’s very strong, and it’s very present.” ~ Bono

Monday, December 27, 2010

Parachurch & Parenting

Let me begin with a caveat: I used to be obsessed.  I would find every one I could, making sure to be familiar with the latest and greatest.  I would devour every morsel of knowledge and teaching.  I would quote them to friends and recommend them left and right.  I'm talking about parachurch teachings, in the form of books, lectures, conferences. 

I would latch on to a particular teacher and immerse myself in his or her perspective on what it means to follow Christ.  The teachers varied in background and focus and included Neil Anderson, C. Peter Wagner (and his wife, Doris), T.D. Jakes, Floyd McClung, and John Dawson, among others.

I sought out these sources of leadership when I was still a baby Christian.  Young in my faith and years, I was hungry to grow and looking for help to do so.  Unfortunately, I was at a place in my life (college) where I had no stable local church influence and, therefore, no regular source for pastoral covering, leadership and teaching.  I now believe I used these teachers and their books to fill that void.

Let me be clear: I have nothing against parachurch teachers or organization or Christian authors in general.  On the contrary, I know first-hand that they serve a valuable purpose and often stir up the Church in ways that bear excellent fruit.  My problem with the parachurch world is two-fold: I do not think it a Biblical or effective substitute for the local church; and, I, personally, experienced pain when I did what I see many young believers doing around me today. 

I tried to learn about God from books other than the Bible.

I know that sounds over-simplified, but it's the bluntest way to explain what I did.  I was at a time, as a young Christian, when I was laying the foundation for my new life in Christ.  I spent more time in other words rather than in The Word.  As a result, I often became over-zealous, hyper-religious, confused, and stalled on the journey to true faith - a faith that is utterly and completely God-centric (versus angel-and-demon-centric, warfare-focused, evangelistic-obsessed, or any other version that would fit when we put fruit before the Fruit Giver & gifts before the Gift Giver).

I tend to have an excitable personality.  As my mother-in-law pointed out (an observation which I greatly appreciated): I'm one of those people who hears about something and immediately wants to try it.  I invest resources into whatever the new thing is (sewing, quilting, scrapbooking, etc) and become obsessed with it.  For about a day, that is, and then I'm on to the next thing.  This relates to the hyper-emotionalism I wrote about in an earlier post.  I know this about myself, so I know that I have to be careful before I swing in the direction of the next, big thing, even if the next, big thing is legitmately valuable.  Therefore, I actively put my energies into things that last: Jesus, Scripture, relationships and activities/interests that feel solid to me, not easily blown about by the wind.

(Incidentally, it was so hard to remember the names of the teachers I used to obsess over that I actually had to do some research to make sure I was remembering accurately.  As I did, I ran a Google search on "books on spiritual warfare", which used to be a particular interest of mine.  All of the authors of the latest and greatest books were names I did not recognize, save one: Neil Anderson, author of The Bondage Breaker.  It's funny that he's the one who is still around, fifteen years after my obsessive years, for, in my life, his teachings are the ones that bore the most lasting fruit, while many of the others served to merely stir me up emotionally and distract me from the point: Jesus Himself.)

(On another side note: I may not remember the names of the authors and parachurch leaders, but I remember every pastor and priest, every small group leader, every youth minister, college leader, or young adult's minister.  But that's probably a discussion for another time!)

My point?  I'm going to recommend two books, and I wanted you to know that I do not do so lightly.  I don't know that I agree with everything that's said in either, but I think they raise important enough points that they should be read by parents and discussed in light of Biblical Truth.  The books are: Bringing Up Boys & Bringing Up Girls by Dr. James Dobson.

I have come late to the SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) world.  Most of my SAHM friends have been doing it from day one.  I, on the other hand, gained the privilege of staying at home with my children when Gunnar was two-and-a-half and Lilian was eleven months old.  As such, I cherish every second with them.  I feel called to be their primary caregiver; I firmly believe it's the most important job that any mom out there has (and dad as well, but I'm speaking from my own experience). 

How does all of this relate?  It's slightly disjointed, I know, but I'm tieing these things together in this way: when I experienced a headship vacuum I became a little lost along the way.  How much more so when our children are left to fend for themselves, to try to understand Truth without the covering God has given them.  It's our job, not society's, not our culture's, to raise them.  Both of these books have helped me (and my husband) to think through ways to intentionally and proactively raise our children, and to be aware of the world in which we are raising them.  There are many other ways to engage that process, of course.  This is just one I have found immensely provocative and helpful, so I wanted to pass it on.  If you've read either of them or start them in the weeks to come, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

One last thought before I conclude: the impetus for this post comes from something I read in Bringing Up Girls today. 

"Children are a gift from God, ans we are stewards of their welfare.  Training up our daughters in this sense implies helping them to navigate the cultural mindfields that lie in their paths - teaching them eternal values, talents, and perspectives.  It means instilling within them an appreciation for truthfulness, trustworthiness, self-discipline, self-control, gneerosity, and sweetness of spirit." (Chapter I)

When I came across the words "self-discipline" and "self-control" I said a quick, silent prayer: "oh Lord Jesus, please help me teach my son these things" (my daughter too, of course, but I was particularly thinking about my ants-in-his-pants son).  I prayed it out of exasperation and with little faith, not really believing he could actually learn not to touch everything in sight (he's a tinkerer). 

As I prayed, I saw a picture of my own heart.  I realized that my desire was for him to learn these things once; I had the attitude (hidden to me until that moment) that if I could just get these character traits instilled in him, I'd be done.  I could let out a big "whew" and move on.  When I realized that that was actually want I wanted, what I was secretly hoping for, I laughed at myself.  As if, I wanted to say.  Parenting is not that simple, I'm learning, and we humans aren't wired that way.  We have to learn things over and over again.  That's why "love is patient"; that's why God is the best parenting model.  He never gives up on us and kindly re-teaches us lessons we've learned a thousand times before.

So, to bring us back to my original point: I'm thankful that there are parenting books out there to help us for the long haul; but I know that the most important parenting book is the Bible, and the most important model is God Himself.  Lord, have mercy on us all!

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria today.  So glad to be back.  Check out the links of the ladies who contribute - you won't be sorry!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Root Cause

This is my update on the fast:

For three and a half weeks it was going really well.  I didn’t even feel tempted to go to that grumbly, angry, negative place.  Then, Christmas traffic happened.

I was in my car at the stop sign at the end of my road one night.  My street T’s into a very busy thoroughfare.  As I waited for an opening in traffic, the person behind me honked.  I was surprised because there really was no opening for me to merge into, but I dutifully sat up straighter and inched forward – so this person could see that I was paying attention even though she had just seen me dial a phone number on my cell.  Five seconds passes.  Still no opening.  Honk.  REALLY?  I gesture in exasperation, look in the rearview mirror, and tell her to hold on.  She honks again.  I put it in park and fold my arms over my chest, staring her down all the while.  I almost got out and told her what I thought: “Seriously?  Don’t you know it’s Christmas?  What in the world could have you in so much of a hurry?”  After several seconds of making her wait while I sat there in park, I shifted into drive and finally turned off my street.

“Hmmm,” I thought.  “I’m pretty sure I just broke my fast.”

Then yesterday, swimming happened.  I swim laps regularly at my 24 Hour Fitness.  I’ve complained to management twice about this (before I started the fast, of course), but it happened again yesterday: a non-lap swimmer was taking up a full lane doing exercise jogging.  Let me explain: there are only three lanes for swimming at the pool – lanes which are always full; the other half of the pool is occupied by open space for non-lap swimmers to exercise.  I asked the woman if I could use the lane for lap-swim.  She graciously said, “sure” and then proceeded to slide over.  In other words, she kept up her exercise routine, simply confining it to one-half of the lane rather than moving out of the lanes entirely.  I was steaming.  I couldn’t concentrate during my swim (a time that usually allows me to clear my head of junk like this).  I fixated on how annoying this woman was and how I was going straight to management as soon as I finished my swim.

“Hmmm,” I thought.  “That would be breaking my fast.”  My whininess rebelled: “but, someone has to tell; I mean, she’s breaking the rules and causing inefficiency.”  (There were many other, less coherent thoughts in there, but that about sums it up.)

I did not go tattle on her to management, though part of me still wants to.

So, where do I stand?  Much to my disappointment, I’m not yet purged of my go-to, fleshy place of bitchiness.  I definitely still have it in me to whine about all the things I see as unjust (anything I view as rule-breaking is tantamount among them) and make sure the people in charge know how I feel. 

Predictable, understandable order makes me feel safe.  Therein lies the rub.  If I know the rules, I know what to expect, how to make sure I’m not upsetting or disappointing others, and simultaneously how to not be rejected and to not have to submit myself to the whims of other people’s perspectives, judgment, understanding of right and wrong.  Your understanding of how to treat others doesn’t matter if the rules are followed.  There’s no wishy-washy understanding; there simply is.  I can live in a world with brick walls, but a world with tent flaps and rickety poles, where the wind can shift the boundaries around me at any moment, terrifying.

Where am I going with this?  I think I’m realizing the root of my urge to complain.  Ultimately, the root is fear.  I use structure, order, efficiency as a way to keep myself safe.  When people step outside of those boundaries I become impatient and angry because I feel out of control.  It’s similar to watching a two-year-old throw a temper tantrum.  I’m not mature enough to respond to the chaos in a way that gives me time to adjust; instead, I let my emotions dictate my response (see Simmering).

Unfortunately for my flesh, “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).  Yes, I serve the God of Truth, who created a world in which every part adheres to a know-able order.  Yes, I serve the God of Wrath, who judges man and deserves our awe, where justice will prevail (note the distinction between justice and judgment).  But I also serve the God of Mercy, who sent His Son to live among us and take His wrath upon Himself. 

The woman in the swimming lane may have deserved to be told off and forced to move.  The woman behind me in the car may have deserved to be forced to wait because of her impatience.  But it would have been better to gift them with things they did not deserve in that moment: mercy in the form of graciousness for the swimmer and patience for the driver.  There lies the way of life-giving Truth.  I do not find life in rules; I find life in love.  I have experienced that truth over and over again during this fast.

That’s what this fast is about – about transforming my flesh into more of His likeness, about living abundant life in Him and not a shadow-life in rules.  I want to “love for the day is near” but I’m, ultimately, horrible at it (Romans 13: 8-14).  I need His grace daily.  I need His Spirit to be at work in me constantly.  In short, I need Immanuel, God with us. 

This Christmas season, may He come again and again.  And may I come before Him as the Wise Men did, bowing before Him in his own rule-breaking humility: a King in a manger born to make a way for redemption.  Amen, come Christ Jesus, come.

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria today.  Be sure to stop by and read what these awesome women have to say!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I have longed for many things in my life, and each of them has threatened to consume me. 

I am the kind of person whose enthusiasm is infectious.  I get excited about something, and I make sure everyone around me knows about it.  I stir things up - people, hearts.  Or, at least, I used to.

In my younger years I was all over the map in this respect.  A starter - that's a good way to describe me.  I'd see a need, feel passionately that it needed to be met, and whip myself and others into a frenzy to get something done.  Examples abound:
  • I started a dance program at my private high school (a place that supposedly emphasized a classical education but had no space for dance - gasp);
  • I started a community service program at said high school (again, this is an Episcopal school focused on liberal education for well-to-do kids with no focus on giving back...nope, this was unacceptable to me so I did something about it);
  • I helped found the first-ever Protestant student group at a Jesuit university in Mexico City (all Christian campus organizations up to that point were Catholic only);
  • as a college student I lobbied Congress on behalf of student Pell Grant funding and found myself at the head of a procession of thousands of students nationwide (literally thousands). 
I could go on.  If I felt a rent in the fabric of how things should be, I simply had to do something about it.  (Who was I to know how things should be?  Excellent question, but one that doesn't precisely pertain to this day's rants.) 

I do NOT share these things to toot my own horn.  On the contrary, I don't look back and think "wow, I'm pretty awesome."  Instead, I look back and constantly struggle that I did not, have not, do not do enough.  I only start things, you see - I rarely finish them.

For many years I was fueled by emotion.  If I felt something, I acted on it.  Until a very wise, dear friend challenged me with this: "Jenny, I think you've made feelings an idol in your life.  You need to repent."

My response?  Unabashed, intense anger.  Furor, actually.  I wanted to cuss this sweet fifty-something-year-old woman up, down and sideways.  That's when I thought: "hmm, maybe she has a point."  I got on my knees.

Not knowing what I was doing, I simply confessed to God that I often served my feelings rather than Him, looking to them to guide me, to tell me what was right or wrong, to show me how to act.  I remember the night like it was yesterday.  My body trembled as the anger that someone could dare tell me I feel too much coursed through my body.  I could barely get it under control enough to steady my breathing.

That night changed my life.  It was the beginning of a process of turning things upside down.  Things that had once been paramount, occupying a pinacle-space, would now become subjugated to my true Head, the all-knowing, all-wise, trustworthy King of kings.  I was a practicing Christian before this point - this was not a salvation moment.  This was a repentance moment.  This was one in a long series of choices I have made and will make as a Christian: Jesus first; me last.

Today I operate much differently.  Instead of flying off the handle the minute I feel passionately about something, I simply acknowledge my feelings, validate them, and take note.  I let them sit there and simmer.  By so doing I learn if something - some One - more concrete than emotions is behind my passion, if there's really something to build on.  Once I've simmered for a good, long while only then do I begin to ponder a course of action. 

I must say I like this way of living much more.  It's less exhausting and more fulfilling.

I'm writing about this today (perhaps it is obvious) because I'm in a process of simmering.  I have felt the Holy Spirit tug me in the direction of a manuscript that, quite frankly, frightens me.  It will require a lot of me to write.  I will need skills that I feel incredibly weak in.  In short, I will have to wholeheartedly rely on Him to get me through.  The simmering phase is over.  It's time to start writing.  I will begin Thursday.  Lord Jesus, have mercy.

I'm linking up with Soli Deo Gloria today.  Check it out!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dancing on the edge

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for...." (Hebrews 11:1)

My faith is being tested.  I could dwell on all the ways I'm FREAKING OUT, on all the things that are going wrong, on all the fears I have about how it's not going to work out.  However, I'm fasting (in case you missed it, check out this post:  Part of my fast is refraining from complaining; the other part is choosing to dwell on the good gifts God has given me.

So, I choose to dwell on the promise.  I choose to focus on what I have to look forward to, what I am hoping for.  For He has given me specific things to hope for in this season...promises I know He is working out.  But...

"Hope is fragile.  It has been said that hope 'dances on the edge of wishing.'"  This from last Sunday's Advent sermon at St. Michael's.  It struck me.  I have been carrying it around inside ever since.

If hope is fragile, then what am I clinging to?  God has given me hope, yes, but He has called me to something greater.

I've been carrying something else around inside of me for a little over a week now.  It is this excerpt from my friend Michael Warden's blog series about addressing a need for change in your life: "Faith is not hope. Hope says, 'It’s possible.' Faith says, 'It’s inevitable. No maybe about it. It will happen.'"

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for...."  Or, in the New Living Translation: "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see."  (Hebrews 11:1)  Faith is hope taken to the next level.

God has spoken to me and my family very specifically during this season.  He has led us into new places and asked us to have faith that He will provide.  The crux?  The place He has led us to is a place we have hoped to be all our lives.  Now, we are living in hope through faith.

Our priest said something else during Sunday's sermon that stuck to my insides.  (I'm paraphrasing here...) "It's okay to need evidence."  She was talking about how the early Christians looked back at their Jewish heritage - at things God had already done - to remind themselves that He will act.  Another example from Scripture: God's rainbow (Genesis 9). 

"I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures for all generations to come.  I have placed my rainbow in the clouds.  It is the sign...." (Genesis 9: 12-13, NLT)

God knows us so well.  He knows our faith will falter.  He knows that sometimes we will slip back into hope alone or even simple wishing.  During those times He's there to remind us, to give us a sign, to help us remember ( bring together, to make this instance, to draw me back to Him, to Truth). 

By His grace and with His help, I believe that what He has spoken to me, to my family will come to pass.  Not just believe but act as though it is already so.  Even on the days when I'm totally, completely, hopelessly freaking out.

Amen, Christ Jesus, let it be.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Making Change: third in a series from visiting blogger Michael Warden

3 of 5 Essentials for Change: You Need Faith

"Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right." ~ Henry Ford
This was one of my earliest drawings. I sketched it the year I started university. At the time I was obsessed with sailboats and sailing, as I thought they presented an elegant metaphor for what it really means to live by faith. (I still do!) The symbolism goes something like this:

  • the sailor = you
  • the sailboat = your journey through life
  • the rudder = your goal, your dream, the direction or place you want to go (the rudder, at times, can also represent The Truth)
  • the wind = the Spirit of God
  • the sail = your faith
This simple metaphor made the whole experience of a faith-filled life easier for me to understand. To move my life, all I need to do is point my rudder toward my dream (or the deep truth I am choosing to pursue), deploy my faith and catch the wind of God’s Spirit to carry me forward. Now if you’ve ever sailed, you know that the art is a little more complicated than that, but the principle still holds. There can be tons of Wind at my back. I can even have my boat pointed in the right direction. But if I don’t raise my sails, I still won’t move. No faith, no go.
The best definition of faith I’ve ever heard comes from the Bible, in the book of Hebrews:
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” ~ Hebrews 11:1
One big distinction I draw from this is one I find a lot of people overlook: Faith is not hope. Hope says, “It’s possible.” Faith says, “It’s inevitable. No maybe about it. It will happen.”
Sometimes, when people go after a big change in their life (or in the world), they rely solely on hope to get them there. They look at their Crystal Clear Dream and say, “I really hope it can be so.” No mistake, hope can take you a long way. People do a lot of things, take a lot of risks, based on nothing but their hope. But when it comes to making change happen, faith is better. Faith is confidence. Faith is assurance. Faith is knowing you will eventually, inevitably, reach your goal. Faith is so confident that the thing you are after will happen that it kinda already feels like a “done deal.” Success is assumed. It’s a given. It’s just a matter of time.
I’m not talking about wishcraft or some ridiculous “name it and claim it” nonsense. We’re assuming here that your dream is not a fantasy, that it is grounded in the Truth and Reality of your actual life, in what could quite reasonably happen. I can have all the faith in the world that I will breathe underwater just like Aquaman, but that won’t keep me from drowning if I ever really give it a go. But assuming your dream, your New Reality, is genuinely possible, if you don’t believe it will actually happen, then what are you fighting for?
Faith is simple, but it is far from easy. It’s both a choice, and a muscle you have to keep working to make stronger. Here are a few workouts that have helped me and my clients step more fully into faith around a Crystal Clear Dream:
  • Stop trying to believe, and just decide: When it comes to your dream, will you believe, or merely hope? Either way, be resolved about it. Never underestimate the power of a sincere, authentic decision, made from the heart.
  • Pray all the time. But when you do, don’t ask God to “do” your dream for you. Instead, tell God what you are going to do, and ask Him to give you the courage to do it.
  • Create a short, one-line affirmation of faith, and say it out loud every time you think about your Crystal Clear Dream. One I especially like is, “It’s inevitable. It will happen. It’s just a matter of time.”
  • Feed your faith with stories of others who have traveled the same (or a similar) path and succeeded.
  • No wallowing! When you fail or have a setback, get up, dust yourself off and get back on the path. Negative self-talk will not serve you here. Instead, reconnect to your dream, and if necessary, your anger.
  • Be ready for weak days. Some days it’s hard to find that internal assurance that you’ll reach your ultimate dream. When that happens, focus on this day—right here, right now. Do you believe that you can move closer to your dream today? Then act on that. If you don’t have faith for the journey, have faith for today.
  • Though it sounds counter-intuitive, don’t ignore your doubts or try to stuff them into the shadows. Doubt and faith are intimate partners in the journey of believing, so when you have doubts, engage them with curiosity and not with fear. What is your doubt trying to get you to notice? What is the question your doubts are pushing you to ask about your dream? about yourself? about God? Don’t be afraid to wrestle it out.
    “Belief and confusion are not mutually exclusive; I believe that belief gives you a direction in the confusion. But you don’t see the full picture. That’s the point. That’s what faith is. You can’t see it. It comes back to instinct. Faith is just up the street. Faith and instinct, you can’t just rely on them. You have to beat them up. You have to pummel them to make sure they can withstand it, to make sure they can be trusted.”  ~  Bono, of U2
    Note: This post is part of a series. To go to the first entry of the series, just click here. And if you find this series helpful, please forward it to a friend or post a link to the blog on your Facebook page. I’d appreciate it!