Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part four

We were chatting about Mr. Rogers and his desire to be revolutionary and a radical. His radicalness was to allow silence when he was engaging with people… (see yesterday’s blog)

Again from a great book that I have recently read …

One year he was invited to the White House for a conference on children’s education and television, where he met with Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and the highest-level executives of PBS. And how do you think he started that meeting with some of the most powerful people in the world? With sixty seconds of silence during which they were told to think of someone who had an impact on them.

He did the same thing when he accepted his Lifetime Achievement award at the 1997 Emmys. In the middle of his speech, he took off his watch, told the audience he’d keep the time, and led them in the very same exercise. He was leading not just the audience in the theatre, but also 18,744,000 people watching all over the country in the very same moment. And it was clear from the first second or two, when a few in the audience laughed or howled, that they thought that he was just joking.

But he was serious.

It was the Emmys and millions were watching. One second of silence could easily lose those millions of viewers.

I particularly love Esquire’s account of the moment:

And he lifted his wrist, and looked at the audience, and looked at his watch, and said softly, “I’ll watch the time,” and there was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked … and so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds … and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier, and Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said, “May God be with you” to all his vanquished children.

I wonder how many that night truly experienced their first minute of intentional, deliberate silence.

To watch this special time go to: https://youtu.be/Upm9LnuCBUM

Here’s the truth we have to reckon with: slow or silent space doesn’t mean wasted space – no matter how much our world tells us it does.

Empty space does not need to always, inherently, be filled.

It just can be. 

What would it look like if we were people who reclaimed spaces of silence as an act of resistance in our daily lives?

For another amazing video … Mister Rogers was reunited with Jeff Erlanger, a quadriplegic man in a wheelchair who had been on his show decades before as a kid. Mr. Roger’s gentleness and tenderness in that moment is honestly one of the most real and beautiful moments I’ve ever seen on TV. It’s when Mr. Rogers showed himself to be a resister and rebel all over again. 

Link:  https://youtu.be/MRaq11KiARM  

Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part Three

We need a “quiet revolution.” There is simply too much noise too often everywhere we go. The other day coming back from Eastern Canada to my home out west there was music playing on the plane as we loaded ourselves and our bags into the small space we purchased by obtaining a ticket. When we landed the same music came back on as soon as we came to a stop. Now listen (pun intended), we were not paying any attention to the music. We were busy squeezing ourselves into the small space we rented and then trying to get ourselves and our carry-ons out of the small space and off the plane as quickly as possible. 

My point: there is noise everywhere even when no one is wanting it or it is just adding to the noise and commotion of life in general. We need a quiet revolution.

Recently I read the following in a great book I took time to read as I drank great coffee in the stillness and solitude of my study – in an oversized, comfortable chair that has been my friend for 30 years. (I’ll leave the quotation marks out – anything in brackets I have added)

When we think of famous rebels or revolutionaries or resisters from history, we tend to think about noise and violence, about warfare and a small band of militia fighters trying to take down an empire. (You know, for example, Star Wars!)

Not me. I think about Fred Rogers.

Yes, Mister Rogers.

Of course, there’s the urban legend he was a Navy SEAL and wore those awesome cardigan sweaters to cover up full-length arm sleeve tattoos. But I don’t mean in that regard.

Mister Rogers was a rebel and a revolutionary because of how different he was on television. I remember watching him as a kid and gravitating towards his peace and calm and secure quietness – maybe because I always had such a tough time with those exact things.

Looking back now, it’s astonishing to think about what he did. How he predicated his show on calm, slow, methodical, and pointed talking. Yet silence and slowness are now treated like diseases to be eradicated. Television inherently calls for more noise and stimulation. The cuts and pace and music are intentionally nothing like real life…In fact, especially during Mister Roger’s era, I remember cartoons growing in noise, speed, and stimulation. Today most animated shows are an assault on the senses, causing violence to our more sensitive awareness. Attempting to entertain and stimulate via a metaphorical shock that ends up frying the more fragile parts of us.

Rogers knew that, and he knew it was creating a culture of buzz and anxiety. So he fought for the opposite.

Think of the boardroom fight that must have happened at least once or twice. Fred, you can’t be silent for ten seconds and say or do absolutely nothing on TV. That’s the equivalent of a year in television time! People will immediately turn it off.”

But Rogers knew the difference. The media’s culture of noise is like giving someone meth or cocaine. It overstimulates, lies to your senses, and then something in you weirdly craves it again – even though before you experienced it you never realized you desired it.

The only way to fight something like that is with the anchored, deep, slow presence of silence.

Silence today is rare, so undervalued, that it is an act of resistance.

Rogers would use that silence strategically. “Silence is the greatest gift we have,” he once said. And he fought for that silence everywhere.  

He even had a ritual in which every meeting, spanning across decades, had to start with silence. He’d instruct his staff and team to take one minute at the beginning of the meeting to think of a person who had a positive impact on their life. And he’d watch the time and tell them when the minute was up.

More of this story next time ….   In Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part Four

Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part Two

When we first think of silence and solitude, we may not care much about it, or we may think it sounds religiously sexy and hipster, cool, and trendy.

Until we try it.

And then we are shocked and maybe terrified by it.

Because in silence we feel exposed and naked, and weirdly we become noisy. Not outwardly but inside our heads. So we quickly dismiss it. “Nah, I’m good.”

But here’s the unsexy and unpolished truth: our aversion to that nakedness and the awkwardness and ugliness we feel are actually why we need to do it. We need silence and solitude. If we never experience it, we are continually buzzing, always anxious, wired, and on edge, empty and spiritually thin and malnourished. 

This, of course, is what we see in the Church and the lives of individual believers today. A lack of spiritual life and vitality. People going through the ‘Christian motions’ without the emotions. Going through the traditional, religious, daily habits of prayer and Bible reading and yet not experiencing life. Just existing. Or, already spiritually dead and not knowing it. As Paul reminded Timothy, these are people “who hold to the outward form of our religion but deny the power thereof.”

And here’s the worse part: This feeling of nakedness, ugliness, and awkwardness is just the beginning. If we stay in the desert (solitude with silence) longer and push through it, up bubbles a myriad of distractions, random ideas, images, and thoughts that feel so uncomfortable we wonder, “Do I really have these thoughts? Where is this coming from?”

But to stay put in the quiet place is to stay put in the desert. A place we can’t survive on our own, where mirages of our false self pop up again and again. And we are desperate for someone to save us and meet us there. Thirsty for just a drop of water.

And that’s where these words of Henri Nouwen speak to us over and over again as a beautiful reminder.

“The wisdom of the desert is that the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Silence and solitude are like a graveyard for all the worst in you and your false self. Dare we say, your religious self.

And, if we want to live into our true selves, the ones Jesus created us to be, we have to enter through the graveyard. We have to take ourselves to the desert. There we will finally discover the real person that God created. Burying the person that we have allowed others and our culture and society to form. The one that religion has approved even though your life was lived on the surface and you were spiritually thin or maybe even dead. 

Silence and solitude hurt. So, we naturally work hard to avoid it. We want to avoid the silence and the solitude because we don’t like what happens and what we see when in the silence. And, we have been fed this non-biblical idea that time alone with Jesus (our morning devotions)  was therapeutic, beautiful, serene, and peaceful. Just not true. Being in His presence is life changing. And, it means facing who we are so that we can become who He created us to be. That is difficult and can even be seriously messy and painful.

So, it seems we have two options. We can go around my true self and stay within the noise. Or we can go through to our true self within the silence and the solitude.

The beautiful part is that even though it’s messy and painful and glaring, we aren’t alone.

Jesus meets us there. He was waiting for us. In silence. In our pain. And let’s be honest; sometimes it feels like He doesn’t show up. But when we keep showing up – again and again – He doesn’t leave us out in the cold alone.

As the prophet Isaiah said, Jesus gives us “streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19). He meets us in the place of death with sustaining life. He won’t take us out of that place, but He will sustain us in it.

In fact, when we see His face in those moments, it’s almost as if we’re not waiting for Him; it’s as if He’s been waiting for us. In that mundane, everyday ordinariness, we see Him. Face to face. Eye to eye. And we start to hear something different.

Not noise, but His voice. And He says, “This is your true self. The one I saw when I died for you. I’ve been here the whole time, waiting for you to get here.” 

Intentional Deliberate Silence – Part One

Well, Christmas and New Year’s Eve have come and gone. They are often noisy events. More noise on top of what is already a noisy existence in our world. Have you noticed? It is noisy out there in the world – in restaurants, stores, shopping malls, theatres, everywhere. And, it is noisy in our homes with the television going, kids on iPads, iPhones, Spotify, SiriusXM, and numerous other ways to get our ‘noise fix’ for the day.

I took one of my daughters out for lunch just before Christmas. I arrived early so I could relax and read for a few minutes. But, the music was playing so loud it hurt my ears. And, the staff were over the other side of the restaurant talking to each other. Well, really they were literally yelling at each other. They had to yell to be heard. Sad. When my daughter came and the lunch crowd began to arrive – they turned the “noise” up. First and last time I will spend my time and money there.

During the holidays I was having a great night’s sleep when all of a sudden I woke up. Something was different. Now, I live in a fairly quiet house. And, my office and study are upstairs and away from normal life and people traffic. So, I am use to quiet even when working. But, that night I woke up and knew something was different. It was creepy silent. The power had gone out in my region of the city. And, all the white noise that is normally there was all of a sudden quiet, gone, still. The noise went from quiet – I would say silent – to creepy silent. The noise dropped from silent to terrifying. The dozens of devices that are usually receiving electricity – the clock, the iPhone charging, the computer (which is never turned off), the fridge in my study (you know, Coke Zero), the freezer, the modem, the fan. They were no longer buzzing. That was true silence. And I realized that I had not really “heard it” for ages.

I think we have just become use to the constant noise that is in our world. Dare I call it noise pollution. Our minds block out a lot of the noise and so we don’t pay any attention to it – thus it does not even register that it is out there. So, even a quiet place – like Starbucks where I sometimes go to read and write – is not really quiet. I have just learned to block out most of the noise – the coffee machines grinding coffee, the steam being let out of the milk warmers, the music they play, the ice box lid sliding back into place, the scooping and rattling of the ice for a drink, cups and lids snapping, names being called out when an order is ready, doors opening, the drive-thru window opening, and people talking at the next table.  It is amazing how noisy it  really is for a “quiet place” that many people use for work – and how good we have gotten at being numb to the noise. 

Noise distracts. Numbs. And we are surrounded by white noise even though we often fail to hear it or recognize the influence it is having on us. The damage it is doing. As a society, we have normalized insane levels of noise. It is difficult today to find the quiet that we need – as humans, as believers who are in a personal relationship with Jesus.

Here is what I have discovered…

Silence is quiet. But it also roars,

Noise distracts. Numbs.

And while the white noise all around us is certainly not ideal, I don’t think we realize how quickly “normal” noise crosses into damaging noise. This is especially true when it comes to our spiritual life and our spirit’s connection with God’s Holy Spirit. 

So, during the Christmas and New Year’s break from active ministry I have worked diligently to keep family activities at a minimal so that I could have some serious quiet – Intense silence. I have worked hard to carve out time for ‘Intentional Deliberate Silence.’ Add to this being alone for an extended period of time – it called “solitude” and it is a receipt for renewal and discovery.

Henri Nouwen, a powerful Christian writer and activist, said about his experience with silence and solitude: “Solitude is not a private therapeutic place. Rather, it is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born.”

In other words, it is not a therapeutic place. It is a place where you go to die. 

He went on to say that silence is such a force because it is truly one of the only places we are laid bare. Completely naked.

No calls to make. No meetings to attend. No tasks to accomplish. No music to listen to. 

It’s complete nothingness. He goes on to say, “A nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.”

More next time… 

Loosening the Grip of Being Available

I work with people and relationships are important to me. I enjoy talking with people one-on-one over a good cup of coffee. I am connected with people via Viber, WhatsAp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, and the list, as you well know, can keep going. Add to this old-fashioned emails and just a regular phone call – you remember, that’s what phones were initially designed for – and you can quickly become overwhelmed.

Of course, as an introvert, I deeply value my personal space and personal time. Time to think, pray, journal, and read my Bible. Time to just be myself and by myself. At times, due to the busyness and involvement of ministry it becomes time to ‘find myself’. Ministry can be overwhelming and all-consuming at times. 

So, I have been on a journey to reclaim my life in what has become an overworked, overspent, and over-connected world. It has not been easy. It has had some blow back. Some people are not happy with me. Others are wondering what has happened as I am no longer instantly available. Some are genuinely concerned and wondering if I am not well or if I am having a struggle mentally, spiritually… It seems I am swimming upstream. I remind myself frequently that dead fish float downstream. Only live ones swim upstream. That helps. 

I have set my iPhone on silent from 9:30p to 9:30a. I am not available during those hours. That allows me time to read in the evening and adequate time for “devotions” in the morning (adequate being several hours). 

I watch a lot less television in the evenings. I am working to keep it at a maximum of 90 minutes which includes watching some news. 

I work on emails for an hour a day. When the hour is over the remainder of the emails wait. I don’t read or answer emails From Friday night to Monday morning. Weekends are free of emails. And, when on the road ministering I only answer emails connected to the ministry I am doing while away from the office.

I no longer automatically say “yes” to a coffee with someone when asked. I would first like to know the purpose of the coffee time to determine if it something I need to be involved in. In other words, is it a good investment of my time. Is it something the Lord wants me involved in or should someone else handle it? Or is it just someone who wants to simply have coffee and chat, you know, spend some time with the pastor, leader, apostle. And you would be amazed at how many people really have no set purpose for a coffee except to touch base and visit. Not against ‘just visiting’ but I am working to “Loosen the grip of being available” whenever and for whoever. This allows me to be “totally there” for the people I do have coffee with and invest my time more wisely and on purpose.

I no longer say “yes” to every offer that comes in to minister. The first reason for that is simply there are too many offers to be able to accommodate all of them. Secondly, often they are wanting me to speak on something that is not within my list of topics that I feel called to teach on. Thirdly, they are often looking for a pastor or a teacher and I am now ministering full-time as an apostle. That’s my calling. That the role I play within the Kingdom and the Church. And the fourth reason is that those who invite me are not looking for a long-term relationship. And, I am not looking for a once-only engagement. I want to build long-term relationships with the people that I minister to.

I don’t answer phone calls unless they are in my contact list. And, even then, I prefer to let the message system pick up all calls so that I can then sit down as my work day is coming to an end and return all the calls at the same time. That way my day’s activities and events are not being constantly put on hold or interpreted for a one or two minute phone call. Same for instant messages and texts. I group them and answer them all at the same time – usually daily, but not always. And, not on the weekends or evenings. I open my snail mail once a week when I have time to deal with it immediately. 

So, I am not disconnecting from the electronic world in which we now live. I have decided that I own the phone and the computer and they don’t own me. I am reclaiming my life and pacing my days to enjoy the time I have been given by the Lord. It’s not “stop the world I want to get off.” I enjoy being very engaged in today’s world and various cultures and the strong issues of the day. I simply no longer want to be involved in the rat race. Remember, if you win you simply become #1 rat. Not a goal I want to achieve.

This past weekend after lunch with my youngest daughter we did Starbucks and the bookstore. It’s a long-standing Christmas tradition between her and I. I found a book while drinking great coffee and simply browsing with no agenda. It confirmed what I am working to accomplish in my daily schedule. I am only part way through the book but it is good and confirming… as well as giving me more fuel for my fire and some new ideas. It is called “To Hell With the Hustle” by Jefferson Bethke. He is a Christian author.

Two Words That Change Everything

Often, as believers and followers of Jesus, we can feel defeated. We pray, we stand in faith, we believe, and then victory seems to be no where in sight. You may pray for and share the gospel with someone countless times, and it may look as though they will never, ever give their heart to Jesus. It may be tempting to throw in the towel. To give up hope.

But God.

No, that’s not a typo.

Repeat after me, “But God.”

Oftentimes in the Bible we see these two short words preceding a great victory. This little phrase, “but God,” occurs 60 times in the New International Version of the Bible. The late pastor and tremendous Bible teacher Ray C. Stedman once wrote regarding this. He said,

“If you want a wonderful experience, take your New Testament and use a concordance to look up the two little words. “but God.” See how many times human resources have been brought to an utter end; despair has gripped the heart and pessimism and gloom has settled upon a people; and there is nothing that can be done. Then see how the Spirit of God writes in luminous letters, but God, and the whole situation changes into victory.”

So, one of the instances of this phrase is in Psalm 74:8-13. The psalmist spoke of a terrible time in Israel’s history where their enemies were seemingly victorious over them. He wrote that these enemies of God burned His sanctuary to the ground – in fact, “every place where God was worshipped in the land” was burned, according to verse 8. Sadly, God’s people were given no signs from Him, and there were no prophets left. No one knew how long this trial would last, how how long their foes would mock and revile God.

“But God is my King from long ago; He brings salvation on the earth.” (Psalm 74:12)

The psalmist then told of God’s awesome power to save. However powerful their foes may have seemed, the psalmist acknowledged that God was the One who split the sea and crushed the head of Leviathan (a monstrous sea creature) and opened up streams and rivers. The day and night belong to Him. He “set all the boundaries of the earth” (verse 17). The psalmist asked God to remember His covenant and appealed to His great mercy, and we know from reading the Old Testament that the Lord was merciful to His people and showed up mightily on their behalf time and time again.

Another place that “but God” appears in the Bible is in Acts 2:22-24. At the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon a group of believers who were gathered in Jerusalem. As a result, they began speaking in tongues, and some of the God-fearing Jews among them thought they were drunk. Then Peter stood up with the other eleven disciples and addressed the crowd. He said,

Acts 2:22-24 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (NIV)

Light came into the world (John 3:19), and people tried to stomp out that Light. It almost looked as though they were successful, but God had a different plan. But God stepped in. But God raised Jesus from the dead, and through that extraordinary miracle, He made a way for everyone who believes in His Son to also be raised from the dead and have everlasting life.

That same power brings salvation to the world. Even in the most hopeless situations, the Lord God Almighty can make a way when there seems to be no way.

Remember the two words that change everything in an instant: “but God.”

Time to Grow and Change – Part Five

If you want to expand your potential and therefore your capacity, you must first change your thinking. However, if you change only your thinking and you neglect to change your actions, you will fall short of your potential. To start expanding your capacity, take the following three steps:

1> Stop doing only those things you have done before and start doing those things you could and should do

2> Stop doing what is expected and start doing more than expected 

We live in a culture that awards trophies to people for simply showing up, regardless of their contribution. Because of that, many people think they are doing well if they just do what is expected of them. I don’t believe that helps people reach their potential or expand their capacity. To do that, a person has to do more. 

Let’s call this “getting out of the pile.” To distinguish yourself, get noticed, and advance your career, you do to do and be more. You have to rise above average. You can do this by asking more of yourself than others ask, expecting more from yourself than others expect, believing more in yourself than others believe, doing more than others think you should have to do, giving more than others think you should give, and helping more than others think you should help.

Boxer Jack Johnson describes it as: “Going far beyond that call of duty, doing more than others expect, this is what excellence is all about! And it comes from striving, maintaining the highest standards. Looking after the smallest detail, and going the extra mile. Excellence means doing your very best. In everything! In every way.”

Doing more than is expected does more than just separate you from your colleagues by earning you a reputation for performance. It also trains you to develop a habit of excellence. And that compounds over time. Continued excellence expands your capabilities and your potential.

3> Stop doing important things occasionally and start doing important things daily

Have you ever heard the expression “Life is a great big canvas and you should throw all the paint on it that you can”? I like the intent and exuberance of those words, but I don’t think that advice is very good – unless you want a mess. A better thought is to make your life a masterpiece, which requires much thought, a clear idea, and selection when it comes to what paint you put on the canvas. How do you do that? By doing the important things every day.

Writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; and he will live with the license of a higher order of being.”

I believe advancing confidently in the direction of one’s dreams means doing what is important every day. To do what’s not important every day does nothing for you. It merely uses up your time. To do the right thing only occasionally does not lead to consistent growth and the expansion of your life. Both components are necessary. Continual daily growth leads to personal expansion. Growth always increases your capacity.

This quality is present in all lifelong learners. And for that reason their capacity keeps on expanding. It’s said that when Pablo Casals was ninety-five years old, a young reporter asked, “Mr. Casals, you are ninety-five and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?” Mr. Casal’s answer was telling: “Because I think I’m making progress.”

You have potential to keep making progress until the day you die – if you have the right attitude about growth. You need to believe what Rabbi Samuel M. Silver did. “The greatest of all miracles is that we need not be tomorrow what we are today, and we can improve if we make use of the potentials implanted in us by God.”

So, it is your move. Your choice. 

Time to Grow and Change – Part Four

If you want to expand your potential and therefore your capacity, you must first change your thinking. However, if you change only your thinking and you neglect to change your actions, you will fall short of your potential. To start expanding your capacity, take the following three steps:

1> Stop doing only those things you have done before and start doing those things you could and should do

The first step toward success and fulfilling your God-given destiny is become good at what you  know how to do. But the more that you do what you know, the more you discover additional worthy things you could do. When this occurs, you have a decision to make. Will you continue doing what you have always done, or will you make the leap and try new things? 

Doing new things leads to innovation and new discoveries, and among those discoveries is the realization of things you should do on a consistent basis. If you do those, you will continue to grow and expand your potential. If you don’t, you will plateau. 

In the book “Aspire” the writer recalls a discussion that he had with one of his mentors. The mentor was describing the growth of a tradesman from apprentice to master. He recalls the conversation:

A master doesn’t become a master overnight, he explained. There was a process. First, one must become an apprentice, then a journeyman, and finally a master.

Apprentice. Journeyman. Master. These three words illustrate the importance of going through fundamental and necessary steps to acquire the kind of humility that is commensurate with true leadership,

The mentor then shared: “Do you know that ‘apprentice’ means ‘learner?’ The word comes from the French ‘appendre,’ which means to learn.

In earlier times, apprentice was the name for someone who would select a trade, then find a master in his village to teach him the skills necessary for his chosen vocation. After learning all he could from the local master, the apprentice would then travel elsewhere to broaden his education. Launching forward on such a journey turned an apprentice into a journeyman. A journeyman would often travel long distances for the privilege of working under the master who could best help him further hone his craft. Over time, a journeyman could eventually become a master himself – and be in a position to start the cycle all over again.”

The price of expanding one’s potential is ongoing. It ebbs and flows. Opportunities come and go. The standards we must set for ourselves are constantly changing. What we could do changes as we develop. What we should do also evokes. We must leave behind some old things to take on new things. It can be difficult work, but if we are willing, our lives are changed. 

Often you will feel ‘in over your head.’ You will, at times, have a steep learning curve. Most days you might feel like Pablo Picasso when he said, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order to learn how to do it.”

The process of adaption and expansion, once started, will continue for a lifetime. So, you never want to stop learning. You want to keep enlarging yourself, expanding your potential, improving on what you already do well; never stopping until you depart this world in death. 

Norman Vincent Peale, a pastor and author, said, “Ask the God who made you to keep remaking you.”

More next time…

Time to Grow and Change – Part Three

As we continue our look at continuing to grow and expand our influence and impact regardless of age and circumstances we have seen that the first step in continuing to grow and change is to change the way we think. The book of Provers states, “As a person thinks, so they become.” So true! We have seen that we need to think differently about ourselves.

How should we think?

1> Stop thinking ‘more work’ and start thinking ‘what works?’ 

2> Stop thinking ‘Can I?’ and start thinking ‘How can I?’

3> Stop thinking one door and start thinking many doors

When it comes to growth, you don’t want to stake your future on one “door.” It may not open! It’s much better to consider many possibilities and look for multiple answers to all of your questions. Think in terms of options.

Often we look for a ‘success formula.’ One way others have built a great organization or church. One door. We try copying what they have done. Sometimes it works but most times it does not. And, if it works you end up with a copy of someone else’s dream or vision and not the realization of your own potential and destiny. So, it is better to act on your own dream even if you are not sure of anything but the first small step. You formulate and discover the details of further steps and future growth and change as you go. Mobility is critical to progress, and strategy will begin to evolve out of your journey of discovery.

One of my favourite words is “options.” Anyone who is going to grow and change and reach their full potential will need to make sure they are never ‘fenced in.’ There must never be just one door. When you work with multiple options you avoid mental claustrophobia. And, you will increase your desire to increase your capacity. The more time goes by, the more you will want to explore creative options and the less you will want to rely on someone else’s system and approach.

As I have learned to think “many doors” and explore options for life and ministry, here is what I have learned:

        • There is more than one way to do something successfully and well
        • The odds of arriving somewhere increased with creativity and adaptability
        • Movement with intentionality creates possibilities
        • Failures and setbacks can be great tools for learning and growing
        • Knowing the future is difficult; controlling the future is impossible
        • Knowing today is essential; controlling today is possible
        • Success (progress) is a result of continued action filled with continual adjustments

The greatest challenge you will ever face is that of expanding your mind. It’s like crossing the great frontier. You must be willing to be a pioneer, to enter uncharted territory, to face the unknown, to conquer your own doubts and fears. But here’s the good news. If you can change your thinking, you can change your life. As Oliver Wendell Holmes remarker, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” 

If you want to expand your capacity in what God has called you to accomplish for Him, the first place to start is always in your own mind. You will need to change the way you think.

We have looked at the first of two moves we need to make to continue to grow and change and increase our influence and impact on our world. We have looked at “How to increase your thinking capacity.” We have seen:

1> Stop thinking ‘more work’ and start thinking ‘what works?’ 

2> Stop thinking ‘can I?’ and start thinking ‘How can I?’

3> Start thinking one door and start thinking many doors

Now, for the second step, “How to increase your capacity for action.” Changes in the way you think should always result in changing the way you live life and interact with those around you. 

More next time…

Time to Grow and Change – Part Two

We are looking at removing the finish line and running to race that God has put before us. To continue to run the race and move forward in what we are doing in life and in our work we must be dedicated to growing and changing. We saw last time that the first thing we need to change is the way we think because all growth begins on the inside of us. So, we are looking at how we should be thinking…

How do we need to think?

1> Stop thinking more work and start thinking what works? 

2> Stop thinking ‘can I?’ and start thinking ‘How can I?’

At first glass, the questions ‘Can I?’ and ‘How can I?’ may appear to be very similar. However, the reality is that they are worlds apart in terms of results. ‘Can I?’ is a question filled with hesitation and doubt. It is a question that imposes limitations. If that is the question you regularly ask yourself, you’re undermining your efforts before you even begin. How many people could have accomplished much in life but failed to try because they doubted and answered ‘no’ to the question ‘Can I?’

When you ask yourself ‘How can I?’ you give yourself a fighting chance to achieve something. The most common reason people don’t overcome the odds is that they don’t challenge them enough. They don’t test their limits. They don’t push their capacity. ‘How can I?’ assumes there is a way. You just need to find it. 

A mentor once asked me, “What would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail?” The answer for most people would be fairly obvious. A lot more than you are currently attempting! To do so, you will need to think outside the box. You will need to take more risks. You will need to push your boundaries. You will need to test your own limits. You and I need to realize that most of our limitations are based not on lack of ability, but lack of belief.

Sharon Wood, the first North American woman to climb Mount Everest, said of her experience, “I discovered it wasn’t a matter of physical strength, but a matter of psychological strength. The conquest lay within my own mind to penetrate those barriers of self-imposed limitations and get to the good stuff – the stuff called potential, 90 percent of which we barely use.” If you want to tap into that unused 90 percent, ask “How can I?” Do that and greater achievement becomes a matter of when and how, not if.

In Price Pritchett’s book “You” the author writes, “Your skepticism, which you presume is based on rational thinking and an objective assessment of factual data about yourself, is rooted in mental junk. Your doubts are not the product of accurate thinking, but habitual thinking. Years ago you accepted flawed conclusions as correct, began to live your life as if those warped ideas about your potential were true, and ceased the bold experiment in living that brought you many breakthrough behaviours as a child. Now it’s time for you to find that faith you had in yourself before.”

If you have spent time in a negative environment or you have experienced abuse in your life, you may find this thinking transition to be very difficult. If that describes you, then let me take a moment to encourage you and explain something. I’m asking you to shift from ‘Can I?’ to ‘How can I?’ I believe that deep down inside you already believe that you can achieve things. I believe you can do it. I believe that God has put in every person the potential to grow, expand, and achieve. The first step in doing that is believing that you can. 

The second step is perseverance. As you get started, it may not look like you’re making progress. That doesn’t matter. Don’t give up. Pritchett says in his book that everything looks like a failure in the middle. He writes, “You can’t bake a cake without getting the kitchen messy. Halfway through surgery it looks like there’s been a murder in the operating room. If you sent a rocket to the moon, about ninety percent of the time it’s off course – it ‘fails’ its way to the moon by continually making mistakes and correcting them.”

You can change your thinking. You can believe in your potential. You can use failure as a resource to help you find the edge of your capacities. As psychiatrist Fritz Perls observed, “Learning is discovering that something is possible.” So, we need to believe in ourselves and the potential God has placed inside each one of us and continue learning, growing, and increasing our capacity. 

More next time…