Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Journey Begins...

God miraculously delivered the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt. He powerfully lead them through the Red Sea. But, this was only the beginning of a long soul-searching journey through the desert. As we explore Israel’s journeys in the desert, the places they went, the lessons they learned, we discover that there is so much we can gleam for our own lives today. 

Three weeks ago, we kicked off the series, The Journey Begins and I have to say it has been exciting... As I've spent hours simply reflecting on Israel's journey and how God interacted with them, I'm amazed at how similar our own journey with God is. No wonder the Apostle Paul said, "For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact...that these things happened to them as examples and were written down as instruction for us (1 Corinthians 10:1-14).

Friday, January 07, 2011


Recently I picked up Chip and Dan Heath's new book Switch: How to Change things When change is Hard. I really enjoyed their previous book Made to Stick, so I've been looking forward to reading Switch.

Switch is all about change. How companies change, or don't. How people change, or don't. What factors contribute to a person/organization becoming successful in actually changing. The God of the Bible is a God of change. As Christ-followers, we are to be continuously experience ongoing change and transformation into the image of Christ (see Romans 8:29, Galatians 4:19, etc). There is a component of human change that can only come from the power of the Spirit of God. Yet, at the same time, there are practical elements of intentionality that we can engage that better posture us to experience such personal transformation and growth. Below are a few summary points by the Heath brothers regarding change from their book Switch.

1. Don't be ambitious. When change is hard, aim low. A friend of ours, the editor of a wellness magazine, has a "1-Song Workout" that she does on days when she doesn't feel like working out. She tells herself, "All I have to do is work out for one song," but of course she often gets in a groove and finishes a full workout. So don't set an ambitious New Year's resolution like "I'll work out four times a week." Instead, plan to do "1-Song Workouts" on Monday and Thursday. Leave yourself room to overachieve -- that feeling of "nailing it" is what will keep you hooked.

2. Watch for bright spots. If you're trying to eat healthier, for instance, don't obsess about all the times that you slip and eat an Oreo. Instead, keep a constant watch on what does work. If you ate healthy food all day yesterday, how did you get away with it? Was it because you had healthy "heat & eat" food that was easy to fix? Was it because you never let yourself get so hungry that you'd crave fatty foods? Did you avoid the office lunch at the Mexican place? If you can understand what allowed you to succeed, you can do more of it. That's bright-spots thinking. (Need a refresher on "bright spots"?)

3. Make simple tweaks in your environment. If you're trying to increase your savings, pay with cash and leave your cards at home. If you're trying to diet, carry around a Ziploc of apple slices. If you're trying to jog, lay out your clothes the night before. If you're trying to stop oversleeping, set up a double (or triple?) alarm system. (Or buy a Clocky with your Xmas gift cards!) This stuff sounds insignificant, but it will make a big difference.

4. Rely on planning, not willpower.
Your Resolution calls for a new way of behaving. And that's a challenge because you've been practicing the old way of behaving for a long time. The old way is well-paved and familiar and comfortable. So you can't just bet on willpower or good intentions to ensure your success. Use your planning skills. Get yourself on the hook for something! Don't plan to "learn Spanish." Register for a Spanish course at your local community college. Do it right now -- you're already online. Or don't "try hard" to go to the gym in the morning. Email your friend, right now, and tell 'em to come get you at 7am on January 3.

5. Publicize your resolution.
We all know peer pressure works. So use it on yourself.  Tell everybody you know what your resolution is. They'll bug you about it, and you won't want to disappoint them. Just knowing that they know will make you more likely to succeed.

Reflection Precedes Resolutions...

Why do people make New Year's Resolutions? What fuels such "solutions" that are often seeming infused with very little resolve. In fact, according to most studies and surveys, only about 8 percent of Americans successfully achieve and follow-through on their New Year's resolutions. An overwhelming (or rather 'underwhelming') 45 percent fail by the end of January!

Regardless of all the sub lining reasons to this, I think part of the dilemma is that we start looking at the new year from the wrong vantage point. Often the best way to move forward is to look backwards. As the saying goes, Life is best understood backwards, but it can only be lived forward. In other words, reflection should precede resolutions...

Of all the things Americans make time for, reflection is very rarely one of them. The reasons for this and the consequences thereof could be the subject of numerous posts. In short, the word reflect comes from two Latin words: re, meaning "back," and flectere, meaning "to bend."

"To reflect, then, is to bend back something, like the way a mirror bends back an image, providing an opportunity for a closer look." (Ken Gire in The Reflective Life).
Personally, I have found the practice of reflection to be significant in my life with-God. Reflection(s) captured can serve as points of orientation and direction for the future. Several times a year I get away for a day or two on a personal retreat. One of the things that is always integrated into these times is extended periods of prayerful-listening-reflection.

One of the questions I reflect on is:
  • God, what are the main things You’ve been trying to teach and form within me lately…?
As simple and potentially insightful as this is, I've found that very few people ever take a few moments to ask God this question.

I/we can make any grand resolution of what we will do in the future, it is imperative that we gain an understanding of what God has been endeavoring to produce within us in the recent-present.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Listening to Past to Look to the Future

In a world enchanted by facile slogans and fast food appetites, we are in need of something sacred.
In a time of exponential hurriedness, we are in need of a new sense of rhythm.

 In our journey to explore human transformation and spiritual practices that will help us to engage God, expand our everyday lives and master the art of living in slow motion, we will need to be intentional about our life rhythms.

Several times a year I get away by myself. One of things I do during this time is look at what my life rhythms have looked like over the past several months. The things I've been learning. The places I've been exerting effort, energy and creativity. I reflect on what my thoughts and emotions and perspective on life, family, ministry, etc have been.

I look back in my journal to the things I captured during my last time away. I look back at the things I felt at that time God was directing me into or saying to me regarding the upcoming season. I then reflect how those 'things' played out. How have I engaged the things I sensed Him directing me in? What have my personal practices, disciplines and rhythms looked like?

Additionally, the majority of this time is spent listening, waiting, sensing and capturing what God is saying to me in retrospect of the past, the present and the emerging future.

I jot down
the things I sense He's leading me into, bringing before me, desiring to teach and form within me. I also begin to sketch out what patterns and practices will be vital to my personal rhythm of life. These times are insightful, informative, directive and strengthening...

Exploring Personal Rhythms is a tool that can be used as a means of reflection and awareness into our current patterns and practices. This can be pretty beneficial in beginning to reflect and converse with God regarding the season in your journey.
Once you have completed the Exploring Personal Rhythms worksheet, work through the next part,
Developing Personal Rhythms.

As we move into the new year, there will be additional resources posted on developing personal rhythms, as well as other resources to assist in your journey with God.