By Betsy Stalcup, founder and executive director of Healing Center International
At the start of each year, Sam and I take a few days off to rest, journal, quiet and listen to God. We read our journals from the previous year and talk to God about our dreams. The break in our normal routine gives us perspective on how we have been living and makes us long to be more whole.
If you are like me, you want to keep growing as long as you have breath. You want to all of your relationships to become more joyful, and you want to grow ever closer to God. These are lofty goals, but where do we start?
It can be hard to know where to begin! But just remember the saying: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Every radical life change begins with one small step. Depending on where you are in life, your step could look quite different from the person next to you, but the principle remains. Here are five steps, each of which might be the one that begins your fresh journey to wholeness.
1. Do a simple Life Model exercise each day.
It doesn’t have to be anything hard! Quiet and think about something you appreciate for a few minutes every day. This activates the front of your brain (the identity center) and helps you to remember who you are and what’s important to you. It also builds your capacity, so that you can act like yourself even when the going gets tough.
Doing these exercises every day will result in a virtuous cycle. This is a term typically used in banking to describe the process of saving, in which you save a little nest egg, that earns interest, and then you earn interest on that interest. In the same way, as you build your joy through these exercises, you increase your capacity and become more resilient, and then you are more joyful. As you face hard situations well, you begin to mature, and that builds even more joy. Little changes today can make a huge difference to your future.
So even if you only have the bandwidth to do one thing, quiet by breathing deeply and slowly, yawn and focus on something you are grateful for just five minutes a day. Watch and see what a difference it can make!
2. Read a book
Are you always on the lookout for a good book? Maybe perusing one of these titles is your next step to living with joy.
- The all new Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You by James Wilder and James Friesen lays out the basics. You can get it here.
- Rare Leadership, by Jim Wilder and Marcus Warner, talks about leading through relationship and community rather than being productive. Get it here.
- For a more complex book, Joy Starts Here: The Transformation Zone by Chris Coursey, James Wilder, Ed Khouri and Shelia Sutton talks about the lack of joy in our world and how to start joy in your community. Get it here.
- In a relationship? Get 30 Days of Joy for Busy Married Couples, by Chris Coursey and Jennifer Coursey. It’s available here.
3. Take a class.
A class is surefire way to catapult yourself into transformation because you learn concepts and take time in class to practice exercises that train your brain to be more joyful. You can view and register for our upcoming classes here. There are lots of options to suit your interests and schedule.
4. Teach a class.
If you’ve taken a few classes from us and know the basics, consider teaching Forming to a group of friends or your small group. This class is a great place to start for any group of people who believe in God. We’ve had many people teach Forming from Ireland to Ohio! You will practice spiritual exercises that will revitalize your spiritual life during class time. You can get Forming here. You can also join our network, be part of our leadership development groups, and get free mentoring, the loan of free resources, and an opportunity to connect with other leaders who are running classes.
5. Start interacting with God about everything.
I love Jim Wilder’s story in Joy Starts Here where he describes a time in his life when he wanted to give up on Christianity. He decided to start again from square one, reading the Bible, and discovered three essential ideas: do nothing from fear, love people deeply and interact with God about everything.
A straightforward way to do this is practicing Immanuel—God with us. Here are two ways to get started:
- Download the Immanuel worksheet here.
- Buy an Immanuel DVD, which leads you through the process of oral Immanuel, here.
We have heard many testimonies from people who found that as they practiced connecting to God through Immanuel exercises, they realized that they could connect to God and hear his voice. As they practiced more, they began to hear God speaking to them throughout their day, even when they weren’t consciously tuning in to him. This is what we want for everyone!