Dreams and Such and So Forth

dreams

At the beginning of every year people throw around the concept of new year resolutions, and truth be told, hearing it gets a bit old after a while. In reality we can make changes any time we desire, and often do.

Maybe it is different for you, but for me those resolutions somehow taste of previous failures – diets, exercise, changing bad habits, etc. They do not motivate me to really change, but focus on regrets instead.

So this year I want to challenge myself as well as you to focus on dreams.

Yes, I know that dreams without a plan will remain a fantasy. But I do not want to discount the value of dreaming. But I do want to make a distinction. When our dreams are not aligned with God’s guidance, we may end up in pain or discouragement or regret. This is the message of Proverbs 29:18.

Yes, we can have very selfish dreams. But even from those places of selfish desire can come the roots of co-creating with God. When we admit and submit those places of yearning to God, beautiful plans can emerge. Will God modify our plans? Yes, most certainly at times. Will He destroy our dreams? If we are headed for destruction I think He might out of love and care for us. But God loves to give good gifts to His children.

I would submit to you that most regrets that people confess as they grow older are not about the things that they did that they are not proud of, but rather the things they might have done, but didn’t. Those are the stuff of dreams not pursued.

I am not going to confess all my regrets here, but simply encourage you to consider some of the dreams that you have buried or put aside for “later”. Later comes much faster than you can imagine. If you want to learn to play an instrument, start now. If you want to try your hand at writing, write now. If you want to volunteer for something meaningful, make a call and check it out. Whatever is at the back of your mind, bring it forward. Play with it. Journal about it. Share it with another safe person.

Some of these dreams comes as a burden on your heart. You see what isn’t but could be. For others you see something that exists but could be better or bigger or more and want to lend your expertise or energy. A lot depends on your personality, your resources and your skills. When dreaming, optimism is helpful when it stays within the confines of reality. And skepticism is helpful when it keeps us anchored to reality but has broken free from the bonds of fear.

Whenever Nan & I took a huge step towards our future we were scared, but excited. We bought a home. She entered graduate school and changed professions. I quit a job and pursued a music career. I changed careers. We bought a business. We sold a business. We bought a retreat home. Each one started as a dream and felt risky. But each one was worth our effort because our motives were positive, or at least neutral. Evil can also dream and take risks. Even if there is a temporary payoff there is an ultimate cost.

So, what do you want to do about your dreams? Or do you even allow yourself to dream? Or maybe you need to release your dreams to God and see what happens? And lastly maybe you need to pray and ask God to show you possibilities that He sees for you.

Counseling or Coaching? Which Is Best For You?

coaching

Although there are a lot of similarities between counseling and coaching, there are also some distinctions that are important to understand as you seek a counselor or coach.

  • Counseling helps you move through the pain, struggles, or challenges of the past.
  • Coaching is about results – moving forward with growth – realizing your dreams.

Sometimes we are needing both – it requires healing the past to be able to move forward with our goals. Pastor and author Peter Scazerro in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality says that it is impossible to become spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. His advice is that we must go backwards and deal with our past before we can effectively move forward with maturity. For some that might be a priority.

But for others who have already taken an introspective journey, strategizing for the future might be their greatest need. In this case some different tools are required to achieve goals. What’s desired may be defining a clear direction, breaking it down into manageable action steps, and having accountability to follow through with the steps. This is the realm of coaching.

Just like there are general counselors and specialty counselors, there are a diversity of coaches. Do you need a life coach, a business coach, a spiritual coach, a parent coach or some other more specific help? Most coaches can help in a variety of ways without having detailed specifics of a particular field. They can ask great questions and get you thinking on a particular track. But sometimes the assistance you need is very specific. In those cases finding just the right person is invaluable. Have they walked the road you want to walk? Have they been successful?

Coach or Counselor?

Can a counselor also be a coach and a coach be a counselor? Well, yes and no. A counselor can certainly function as a coach, especially if they know that is your primary goal. But a coach is generally restricted to dealing with the present and future. It would not be helpful to assume that they are interchangeable roles. The training for each is different and counselors are often licensed whereas coaches may have various levels of preparation and certification – or not.

Whereas most counseling takes place in person or by video, coaching may not require that kind of connection. Much of some kinds of coaching can be done over the telephone or email. That’s because reading body language and making emotional connections is usually less critical. Coaching requires doing assigned homework and reporting back results. Sessions may not to be as long, but perhaps more frequent.

What may be the most important factor in choosing someone is the person themselves. Do you trust their character as well as their knowledge? Can you be honest with them? Whether being coached or counseled, can you walk with them confidently for a season?

The Problem With Disagreement

One of the perspectives I seek out in counseling is what I call “continuum thinking”.  It is my resistance to all or nothing, either/or, polarized viewpoints.

This morning I was thinking about what annoys me so much about a lot of the discourse that takes place on social media, other public or private settings and with couples on the counseling couch. And it is this: the vehemence with which some people will hold their opinions. I have been guilty of this, and if you are honest, you probably have been too.

The continuum I am referring to in this case is based on the intensity that is exhibited during one of these “discussions”.

Disagreeing ____________________ Argumentative _____________________ Abusive

I would judge the level of maturity as declining from left to right on the above chart.

I have observed that people will often hold their opinion as “Truth or Fact” when it is simply their perspective, or they are repeating someone else’s. There is objective truth, but our emotional connection to certain issues will sometimes confuse or blindside us. We must be very careful that we hold our opinions gently so that we do not create relational distance and chaos.

When it comes to social media, there is a lot of hearsay, as well as sound bites that are taken out of context. We can become victim to these repetitions and become part of the problem if we are not careful. Once we put our words out there, they are hard or impossible to retract. They might follow us around for a long time after our opinion has changed. I would ask you to consider carefully before posting anything in anger or haste.

Nan and I have both experienced people that have not been able to accurately place their behavior on the above chart. I have seen some believe they are disagreeing when they are really being very abusive – and others who will label their partners as abusive when they are really just not agreeing with them. This is one of the reasons why an outside perspective can be so helpful. The way a person sees things can be a huge blindspot. We need others to lovingly confront us at times. And it should be our goal to lovingly present our disagreements to others.

Power and Responsibility

There are those who believe that they have a right to express themselves to others anytime they desire. It may be true that they have the ability or power to do that, but I would suggest that along with that power comes responsibility. That responsibility is to keep the positive goal in mind. It is very unlikely that someone will be convinced by negative, argumentative, defensive or hostile communication. Rather they will probably withdraw or become more resistant. If your need is to be heard, then process your feelings alone until you can present them in a receivable way.

I’m feeling pretty passionate about this right now because I have seen some real relational ruptures lately. Friends turn on one another, people leave the church, and couples split up. When this happens we have not displayed the kind of unity that Christ has called us to as a believing body. We have let politics, social issues and specific theologies divide us from our ultimate purpose. How would you respond?