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…

Time to Grow and Change – Part One

As I age and look forward to another year of life and ministry in 2020 I am rededicating my life to continuing to grow, expand my knowledge and understanding, and move forward with greater capacity for life and ministry than ever before. It has been said that personal growth increases your capacity. And, as the old Nike commercial once stated, “There is no finish line.”

Have you maxed out your capacity? Have you reached your full potential as a person? Hopefully, like me, you can say a resounding “no.” I believe that if you are still breathing and you are of sound mind, then you have the potential to keep increasing your capacity. In the book, “If It Ain’t Broke … Break It! the authors write, “We don’t have a clue as to what people’s limits are. All the tests, stopwatches, and finish lines in the world can’t measure human potential. When someone is pursuing their dream, they’ll go far beyond what seems to be their limitations. The potential that exits within us is limitless and largely untapped … when you think of limits, you create them.”

How do you push towards your potential and keep increasing your capacity? How can you live without placing limits upon yourself? The only way to increase your capacity internally is to change the way you approach personal growth. Learning more information isn’t enough. You must change how you think and you must change your actions. 

I have read that most experts believe people typically use only 10 percent of their true potential. That statement is truly staggering! If that is true, then the average person has huge capacity for improvement. It’s as if we possess hundreds of acres of possibilities but keep only half an acre under cultivation. So how do we tap into the unused 90 percent? The answer is found in changing how we think and what we do. 

How do we need to think?

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

Ask most people how they increase their capacity and they’ll tell you be working more. There’s a problem with that solution. More work will not necessarily increase your capacity. More of the same usually results in more of the same, when what we actually want is better than what we have.

Most people work hard and keep at it for long hours. This is especially true of people in ministry. We need to realize that we are often valuing effort over effectiveness. In my life I discovered that I was doing a lot of things instead of the right things. My to-do list kept getting longer, but my impact was not increasing. I realized that I had to change my thinking. So, I am currently looking at everything I am doing and everything I am involved in and I am asking, “What works?” and “What is giving me a good return for my efforts?”

That’s what I recommend you do. Figure out what works best for you. To do that, ask yourself the following three questions:

      • What am I required to do?
      • What gives the greatest return?
      • What gives me the greatest reward?

These questions will help you to focus your attention on what you must do, what you ought to do, and what you really want to do.

      • What am I required to do? – What you must do
      • What gives the greatest return? – What you ought to do
      • What gives me the greatest reward? – What you really want to do

You will be seriously amazed at what you discover and instantly recognize some basic things that need to change in the way you think and approach life – personal and professional life, home and work life. 

More next time…

I Want To Keep Growing

At the start of this month, 50 years ago, I preached my first sermon. And, during those 50 years I have continued to read and learn hopefully growing wiser each year. Throughout those years I have been very aware of what areas I need to be growing in and how to improve in those areas. So, my skill set has grown and improved, being constantly sharpened and increased. And, I study in a wide variety of areas so I can teach and live life with a wider perspective. As a result I have a tremendous store of information both in books and in computerized notes and teachings and even stored in my mind and heart. 

Knowing ‘what’ to improve and ‘how’ to improve are critical to consistency in personal growth. But so is knowing ‘why’. The ‘how’ and ‘what’ will take you only so far. The ‘why’ is what keeps you motivated long after the first rush of energy and enthusiasm wears off. It can carry you through when willpower isn’t enough. Think of it as why-power.

I love the story of the salesman who looked out the window of the hotel restaurant at a blinding snowstorm. He asked his waiter, “Do you think the roads will be clear enough in the morning to travel?”

The waiter replied, “Depends on if you’re on salary or commission.”

Having a strong ‘why’ will help you keep going when the discipline of learning becomes difficult, discouraging, and tedious. If your growth is connected to your values, dreams, and purpose, you’ll know ‘why’ you’re doing it. And you will be more likely to follow through.

One of the ways to judge whether you have tapped into your ‘whys’ is to take what is called the “Why Test.” Your answers to the following questions seven questions will let you know if your ‘why’ is solid enough to motivate you to consistently grow:

      • Question 1: Do you constantly procrastinate on important tasks?
      • Question 2: Do you require coaxing to do small chores?
      • Question 3: Do you perform duties just to get by?
      • Question 4: Do you constantly talk negatively about your work?
      • Question 5: Do efforts of friends to encourage you irritate you instead?
      • Question 6: Do you start small projects and abandon them?
      • Question 7: Do you avoid self-improvement opportunities?

If you answer yes to many of these questions, you haven’t tapped into a strong enough or big enough ‘why’ to keep you growing.

There is a relationship between motivation – the ‘why’ – and discipline. If you think about it, you can see that discipline and motivation are two sides of the same coin. If you have the motivation you need, discipline is no problem. If you lack motivation (the ‘why’), discipline is always a problem. 

You have to give yourself more and bigger ‘whys’ so you can keep wanting to put in the effort to grow. The greater number of reasons you give yourself to grow, the more likely you will be to follow through. Of course, in certain circumstances one really compelling ‘why’ can also be enough, as Kenyan world-class runner Bernard “Kip” Lagat demonstrated when he was interviewed during the Sydney Olympics. He was asked how his country was able to produce so many great distant runners. His answer: “It’s the road signs: ‘Beware the Lions.’”

When you make the right choices – however small – and do it consistently over time, it can make a huge difference in your life. If you remember ‘why’ you are making those choices, it becomes easier. But to continue to reach your goals and have a life that has meaning and purpose you must continue to learn and to grow. It must be a constant in your life. 

Doing What God Has Called You To Do 

My spiritual life and personal walk with God is in a season for massive change. As a result, my ministry is in a season of flux as the things He is asking me to do are new and different than in the past. And those things that seem to be remaining the same – such as teaching and prophesying – are being done differently. So, I have been thinking deeply about change in this season of change.

To move from what you are doing now to what you want to do is a process. No matter if you are in ministry, in the business world, an academic, or simply someone who is sensing change in your spiritual life – there is a process you are becoming involved in. Here is what I am discovering and learning…

Awareness

Darren Hardy, the publisher of SUCCESS magazine, says, “Picture where you are in [any] area, right now. Now picture where you want to be: richer, thinner, happier, you name it. The first step toward change is awareness. If you want to get from where you are to where you want to be, you have to start by becoming aware of the choices that lead you away from your desired destination. Become very conscious of every choice you make today so you can begin to make smarter choices moving forward.”

You cannot change direction if you aren’t aware that you’re not headed where you want to go. That probably sounds obvious. But have you taken the time to look at where your current choices and activities are taking you? Spend some time really thinking about where you’re presently headed. If it’s not where you want to go, then write out what steps you need to take to go where you desire to go, to do what you want to do. Make them as tangible and practical as possible. 

Will they definitely be the right steps? Maybe, maybe not. But you won’t know for sure until you start moving forward. As I have always said, “God can steer a moving car better than a parked one.”

Action

You cannot win if you don’t begin! The people who get ahead in the world are the ones who look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them. That means taking initiative. If means doing something specific every day that will take you another step closer to your desired goal. It means continuing to do it every day. Nearly all successes are the fruit of initiative. And, no step or change is too small. You don’t succeed by making major decisions resulting in major change. Solid, good, productive change takes place one small step, one small decision, one small change at a time. 

Accountability

Few things prompt a person to follow through like accountability. One of the ways you can do that is to make your goals public. When you tell others about what you intend to do, it puts pressure on you to keep working on it. You can request that specific individuals ask you about your progress. It’s similar to having a deadline to keep you moving. You can even write things down as a form of accountability. That’s what Darren hardy suggests. He says that you should track every action that pertains to an area where you want to see improvement and change, whether it relates to finances, health, career, or relationships. “Simply carry around a small notebook, something you’ll keep in your pocket or purse at all times, and a writing instrument,” says Hardy. “You’re going to write it all down. Every day. Without fail. No excuses, no exceptions. As if Big Brother’s watching you. Doesn’t sound like much fun, I know – writing things down on a little piece of paper. But tracking my progress and missteps is one of the reasons I’ve accumulated the success I have. The process forces you to be conscious of your decisions.”

Attraction

If you become aware of the steps you must take to do what you want to do, take action, and become accountable for following through, you will begin to produce the behaviour you desire and you will start getting closer to doing what you want to do. And that will start to result in a positive side effect: You start attracting like-minded people. 

John Maxwell taught me that “Who you are is who you attract.” That is true in every aspect of life. As your mother used to say, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

If you want to be around growing people, become a growing person. If you’re committed, you attract others who are committed. If you’re growing, you attract others who are growing. This puts you in a position to begin building a community of like-minded people who can help one another succeed. 

So, God has called me to make some changes in what I do and how I do things. These are the four steps I have been working through to move from here to there. To move from what I have been doing to fulfill God’s plan for my life to doing new things and even some old things in new ways thus moving slowly towards the fullness of God’s changing call on my life. 

I have been taking time to review where I am at in my life and looking at where I know God wants me to be. And, as Jesus said, I’m counting the cost. But, now I am ready to make daily and consistent changes to bring me to this new place in my own life and in the ministry.