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My stops and starts

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Reclaiming A Positive & Healthy Discipleship Posture.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
Proverbs 3:1

“You’re always one choice away from changing your life.”
A common maxim

I crack up every time I watch Bob Newhart’s “Stop it!” Youtube video (I included a link in this article’s footnotes). It is both amusing and illuminating. The basic plot is that as the counseling client shares her list of problem behaviours, Dr. Newhart repeatedly tells her to just “Stop it!” Stop doing the unhealthy behaviour. Beneath the hilarious quips is a degree of practical wise counsel many of us need. It draws a person like me into asking, “What unhealthy personal practices do I need to just stop?” 

Speaking of therapy, although I am not a fan of the TV show Dr. Phil, I really like Dr. McGraw’s repeated question when confronting people engaged in unhealthy behaviours: “How’s that working for you?” How many of us need to be asked that very question about the practices in our own life? Full disclosure. I do. The impediment seems to be that making such an inquiry means the very plausible need for a significant change. And, for many, such a life-change may be too daunting.

I have recently done a lot of reading on micro-changes or micro-habits. The basic premise here is that instead of making major changes in one’s life to alter behaviour, a person could make a series of small (micro) changes. The argument is that little changes can result in big outcomes; small changes change everything. I really resonate with this line of thinking. 

With the help of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of Scripture, I am trying to put into practice a series of these behavioural micro-changes. I want to be a healthy and positive disciple of Jesus. The remainder of this article’s space shares ten micro-changes I am striving to make – my stops and starts. Also noted are supplementary inspirational sentiments I have jotted down in my journal over the years. In the past these insightful postulations have served to rally my spirit toward change. 

1. STOP lamenting what you don’t have,
START celebrating what you do.

“You gotta look for the good in the bad, the happy in the sad, the gain in the pain, and what makes you grateful not hateful.”
Karen Salmansohn

“You may have been given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.” Joyce Meyer

2. STOP fixating upon those who are against you,
START collaborating with those who are for you.

Focusing on your detractors – especially trying to appease them – is a recipe for a high degree of frustration and ultimately a failure in your mission.

Naysayers don’t make good team players.

3. STOP venturing down rabbit holes,
START keeping the main thing the main thing.

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Stephen R. Covey

The disciples ‘main thing’ – Great Commission. Greatest Commandment.

4. STOP doubting that your experience has purpose,
START believing God intends it for good.

Faith doesn’t mean I know where I’m going; it means I’m trusting God with wherever He’s leading me.

God is still writing your story. Quit trying to steal the pen. Trust the writer.

5. STOP acting like you can fix the problems of the season,
START inviting God to.

“Pray and let God worry.” Martin Luther

“How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none.” A.W. Tozer

6. STOP focusing on what isn’t working,
START building upon what is.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Socrates

7. STOP dying by a ‘1000 cuts,’
START making necessary ones.

“You cannot thrive without pruning….Pruning is a process of proactive endings.” Henry Cloud

“For the right tomorrow to come, some parts of today may have to come to a necessary ending.” Henry Cloud

8. STOP unmeasured consumption of the doom and gloom on social media, START a routine robust diet of Scripture’s hope and joy.

An entire sea of water cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, the negativity of the world cannot pull you down unless you allow it to get inside you.

“If you look to the world, I will conform to the ways of the world. If I look at the Word, I will conform to the will of God.” A.W. Tozer

9. STOP functioning like you have no limits,
START operating within them.

“I’m sorry to be so brutally clear in making this point, but life is, in many ways, a zero – sum game…Admitting and accepting limits is a sign of maturity. Many of us never get this far. We keep entertaining the fiction that life is elastic, that we can stretch it like spandex…The uncompromising truth is that whenever our lives are full, they are full.” Richard A. Swenson

“What happens when overload collides with faith? Joy is an early casualty.” Richard A. Swenson

10. STOP letting others set your priorities,
START articulating your own.

If you don’t set your calendar, there are many who will.

I can only please one person per day. Today is not your day, tomorrow doesn’t look good either.

As you endeavour to ask the tough questions about your own unhealthy personal practices, may the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of Scripture give you both insight and courage. Living life with stops and starts like those above can be both healthy and life-transforming. I would counsel you to start by engaging in a small number of your own small changes (two or three for example) and achieve victories here before moving on to others. Don’t try the ‘firehose’ approach.

Let me close by sharing a story. With a huge grin on my face, I recall teaching my girlfriend (now wife) how to drive my Honda Civic, a standard. It was an experience. There were moments that I thought all her stops, starts, hops and jerks with my Civic would ruin its clutch. There were bouts of frustration, exasperation, and downright emotional explosions as she tried to master the combination of clutch, gas pedal, and shifter. However, she persisted and eventually mastered driving a standard. I too survived; thanks for asking. The same is true with the stops and starts I mention above. Here too will be bouts of frustration, exasperation, and emotional fireworks. My friends, persevere. Eventually, you’ll be able to shift into your micro-changes smoothly.

“Your life today is a result of your thinking yesterday. Your life tomorrow will be determined by what you do today.” John C. Maxwell


Excerpt adapted from Letters to my Friends: Words of Faith, Hope and Encouragement by Philip A. Gunther provided by Kindred Productions. Copyright 2022. Used by permission.

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