Choosing Change #10: Blueprints and Building Change

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” – Matthew 7:24-25

Thank you for reading…

  1. The Introductory post about Choosing Change,
  2. Choosing Change #1: Safe People, Safe Places and Safe Processes
  3. Choosing Change #2: So what’s my reasonable contribution to your change process? (Part 1 of 2)
  4.  Choosing Change #3: So what’s my reasonable contribution to your change process? (Part 2 of 2)
  5. Choosing Change #4: Gardening with Intention
  6. Choosing Change #5: Traveling with Intention
  7. Choosing Change #6: Schemas, Defenses, Distortions and Resolution (Part 1 of 3)
  8. Choosing Change #7: Schemas, Defenses, Distortions and Resolution (Part 2 of 3)
  9. Choosing Change #8: Schemas, Defenses, Distortions and Resolution (Part 3 of 3)
  10. Choosing Change #9: The A-C-T-I-V-E Model by Dr. Ken McGill

As you begin to read Choosing Change #10 please know that you’re in the home stretch with only a few more posts to go in the Choosing Change series!

It’s been my hope that as a result of saturating yourself with these suggestions about change, you’ve been able to create, achieve and experience some positive and constructive outcomes for yourself and for your relationships as you’ve applied the material from the previous nine Choosing Change posts.

By now you’ve realized that creating healthy change for yourself is difficult but not impossible, and is a necessity if you’d like to improve the overall quality of your life, given the specific areas that we’ve looked at in the previous posts. Now, let me share with you what we’ll cover in the remaining posts as we close out this series.

In light of any personal discoveries that you either have changed or would like to change in your life, in Choosing Change #10: Blueprints and Building Change, I’ll ask you to remain in and continue your process of “living an examined life.” As you engage in this activity, I’ll ask you to reflect upon, envision, then begin to create a set of “blueprints” for yourself. The purpose of these blueprints is that they’ll serve as plans for you to convert into concrete behaviors to answer the question posed to us by Dr. Francis Schaeffer,How shall I live?”  

In addition to this, we’ll take a look at the “I – V – E” part of the “A-C-T-I-V-E” model to focus on “foundational” characteristics, values, virtues, disciplines and behaviors, which I envision to be the sturdy and quality “building materials” that you’ll incorporate into your life on a daily basis. Incorporating and practicing these behaviors and principles into your life positions you to build a quality home that is permeated and supported by life-giving behavior, of which you’ll be pleased with in the end.

So stated simply…

  1. …Your blueprints will determine and layout for all to see the person you want to become,
  2. …Your building materials will determine the quality of your work and,
  3.  …Your building process will determine your effort and commitment toward realizing…
  4. …Your overall goal of creating, building and becoming a person who is safe, life-giving, “inhabitable” and one who is able to withstand unexpected catastrophes in his or her life.

By this end of the post, it’s my hope that you’ll step into and develop your role as an Architect in your own change process. The word Architect comes from a compound Greek word (“Arkhi” + “tekton”) which means “leading builder.” As the Lead Builder in your change process, its your job to envision and create plans for yourself (your “blueprints”), to incorporate quality “building materials” (your chosen virtues, values and other resources) into your life to become the solid person (a “building”) that you and others around you have dreamed about you becoming (a “dream home”).

Dream home 3 panel

In Choosing Change #11 – 13: Building Character and Building People (1 of 3; 2 of 3, and 3 of 3) we’ll further explore your role and your building process, as inferred in the meaning of the Greek word “Oikeodomeo.” This word carries a three-fold meaning, where you’re the “Builder,” who actively engages in a “Building” processin order to not only achieve constructive outcomes and measurable progress in your life but as a result of your process, you “Build up” yourself and others in your life.

In these posts we’ll identify specific values, virtues, processes, and behaviors from the fields of psychology, theology, neurobiology, trauma, addiction, sports and then some, to equip you as you engage in Oikodomeo, that is, in the building up of the people in your home and others close to you.

It’s been my personal and professional experience that the incorporation of these building materials (virtues and values) into your daily practice results in the building of solid character, functional behavior and productive outcomes not only in your life but in the lives of others who will dwell with you in the house you’re creating.

Another goal in Choosing Change #11 is to identify what it will take to “convert a house into a home,” where people not only reside, but due to your behavioral contributions, they’re able to breathe, thrive, live and become all that you and your Higher Power are hoping for them to become due to your daily or frequent deposits into their life.

So I have a few questions for you:

  1. When you think about converting a house into a home, what have you heard from your family members that they’ve needed and wanted from you?
  2. What healthy values would you like to incorporate into your home that was present in your family of origin?
  3. What healthy values would you like to develop for the well-being of your current family?
  4. What constructive behaviors have your Pastor, Priest, Rabbi, Therapist, Sponsor, Spiritual Advisor, good friend, great insight or internal hunger taught you that these are the virtues to focus on and live by?

It’s been my experience that when you identify then endeavor to live by your identified values and virtues, they’ll serve you well in your effort to convert a house into a functional, thriving, warm and livable home.

By the end of this post, it’s my hope that you’ll have a thorough knowledge of what it’ll take to convert your thoughts, ideas and processes into specific and measurable outcomes that evidence you’re building and becoming the changed person you’ve envisioned, from your “design process” with your blueprints to the completion of your building process where you’ll be placing keys in the door after you’ve received your certificate of occupancy!

Finally, in Choosing Change #14: Living and Leaving A Legacy, I’ll suggest practical and well-researched values and virtues for you to consider integrating into your life and into the lives of others to withstand any unexpected “torrential rain, rising streams and tempest winds” that could impact you (i.e., addictions, unfaithfulness, complicated loss and grief, divorce, death of a child, etc.).

In addition, we’ll drive home the points regarding how the practice of your values not only helps you to build up others as you provide a functional and loving home but will also improve your ability to leave a legacy where maturation and goodwill, again, per your blueprints, reflect the values you’ve chosen to live by.

All of this is a tall order, but when you’re talking about building or rebuilding a house, then converting your house into a home, where people feel loved, safe, warm, supported and are given sustenance is no small feat!

I hope these posts generate excitement, hope and confidence as you consider creating and working toward changes in your life and in your relationships where in your role as the Architect, you get to imagine and create plans that you’ll follow so that the end result of your activity is something that is strong, solid, constructive, purposeful, therapeutic, useful and edifying for all involved!

Don’t worry about doing this alone. As with the building of any home, you’ll want and need to incorporate “specialists” who you’ll consult and collaborate with on your design and construction processes in order to make sure you get the best return on your investment.

So I have a few more questions for you…

  1. Are you ready to begin your work? What initial thoughts and feelings come to mind as you consider where we’re going with these three posts?
  2. What ideas about who you wish (or need) to become are beginning to percolate in your mind?
  3. What building materials (values and virtues) are a “must have” to build a quality dream home that you’ll inhabit, especially if you’re rebuilding after a personal or relational catastrophe?
  4. What specialists would you need to consult and work with to achieve your goals of building of a solid foundation, in addition to a solid home?
  5. What consistent, positive and functional processes, behaviors and rituals will you incorporate into your life because their development and inclusion will facilitate and yield concrete and measurable change for the better?
  6. When completed, what daily behaviors do you see yourself producing to deliver warmth, growth, health, and love to the people who dwell with you?
  7. Finally, what memories and legacy would you want to leave behind to those who’ll remember encountering, visiting or living with you in your home? Are you ready?

Let’s begin!

Blueprints that envision and demonstrate how you wish to “(L)-I-V-E”

As we begin, I’d like to offer to you a visual image that’s connected to the biblical passage written about at the beginning of this post: You’re at a point in your life where you have the opportunity to build and inhabit your dream house, so what will your dream house look like? What will it include? How will you design it? What is the plan, purpose, and function for each room? What plans do you have for yourself and for all who will live with you? 

Said simply, how do the blueprints (located in your mind and heart) reflect and reveal the vision that you have for yourself and how you wish to build then live your life? 

To me, thinking about what you’ll build for yourself and others is very encouraging, empowering and edifying, which are all descriptors of the “Building up” tasks we’re inspired to engage in and experience, per the Greek word “Oikodomeo.” 

Think about it…you get to dream, envision, identify, consult, decide, design, create, build, furnish, inhabit, occupy and impact others in the most valuable “living space” there is (yourself), with the best possible building materials (your values and virtues) to give your life and the inhabitants of your house (family and friends) meaning, purpose, support, nurturance and love. Are you ready to examine and change your philosophy (philos” = lover + “sophia” = wisdom) regarding how you do life so that your life reflects and results in a building based on Wisdom, which means “becoming skilled at living?”

So as we begin to talk about your “Blueprints,” that is, what you’d like to develop and incorporate in your heart, let’s quickly revisit what the “I-V-E” part of the “A-C-T-I-V-E” model means. Revisiting these three areas are crucial, especially since we’re talking about laying a foundation upon which all other values, virtues, behaviors, and actions will be built.

The “I-V-E” part of the “A-C-T-I-V-E” model is:

IINVESTIGATE what Adult Values and Virtues make sense to us and are reasonable for us to develop and incorporate into our lives on a daily basis (especially to counterbalance our maladaptive schemas and maladaptive schema modes). Identifying values that help to protect, affirm, nurture and breathe life into us while also guiding us to develop loving, meaningful and mature relationships is what our Healthy Adult mode (and our Higher Power) is capable of giving to us.

Once these “very valuable values” are identified, we afford ourselves with the opportunity to reap and benefit from living a value-filled, value-focused and empowered life! But investigating and identifying the values is only the first step. After this, we’ll want to…

VVALIDATE ourselves by consistently living according to values, virtues, and ideas that are sensible, reasonable and functional for us and others. On the surface, this seems like an easy choice to make. However, when the “Tyranny of the Shoulds, Musts, and Oughts” resurface, they try to hijack us from functional and intentional living because our schemas and schema modes tend to trigger emotional regression, which facilitate immature and child-like reactions.

Daily practice of our Values provides us with empowering reminders that we have choices, opportunities, and abilities as Adults to make informed and responsible decisions to protect, love, nurture and guide us in our efforts to become Wise or “skilled at living.” Finally, what makes being “A-C-T-I-V-E” a success is being in a continual mindset to…

EEVALUATE if our choices and behaviors are helping us to achieve the outcomes that we want and are working toward. The English word “Evaluation” comes from the French word “Evaluer,” which means “to find the value of.” What this means is that most of the choices that we make based on practicing our values will yield very productive outcomes for us.

However, when our choices cease to provide the optimum changes that are good for us and others, we evaluate then recalibrate to make any necessary changes to stimulate productive growth outcomes per our values for ourselves and others.

Living in the Healthy Adult mode means we enjoy the fruit of our labor by practicing, extracting and enjoying the benefits that come from choosing to live by our values!

Thanks for revisiting the “I-V-E” portion of the “A-C-T-I-V-E” model.

In summation, when you think about your design process where you draw up blueprints regarding what you wish to build, which essentially determines how you’re going to live, you’re…

  1. Investigating what Values and Virtues you’ll incorporate into your home
  2. Validating yourself and others by living according to your Values and Virtues
  3. Evaluating your life to determine if you’re accomplishing your short-term and long-term objectives in your (re)building process and in your home.

So that’s it in a nutshell. However, as you probably noticed a bit earlier, I’ve added a “(L)” to the “I-V-E” part to drive home the point that this is how we’re encouraged to “L-I-V-E.”

When you think about how you’ll decide to live your life, I’d like to suggest the addition of three “L” components into your blueprints (Living to Learn, Love and Live). When these vital values are integrated into your foundation, we know they’ll always be there and when present, they should positively impact any person who you’ll encounter. Here’s a bit more about the 3 L’s to L-I-V-E by:

The 3 L’s to L-I-V-E by: Living to Learn, Love and Live

1) Living to Learn: Learning simply means you’ll probably want and need to learn new ways of viewing people and situations differently, learn new methods to operate by and more than likely, learn and develop new skills and competencies as you endeavor to build a new life for yourself. Remember, the definition of Wisdom (the Greek word Sophia) means that we “become skilled at living,” of which learning and committing to new ways of functioning will be a part of our life process.

It’s been my experience as I’ve worked toward building positive and functional outcomes in my life that I’ve had to learn to view people, situations and processes much differently with the passage of time. Learning then incorporating values that have helped me to be mindful, patient, kind and considerate when those skills needed to be demonstrated was part of my learning curve.

I’m thankful and proud to say that I’ve loved learning about human behavior over the course of my lifetime. I’m 56 years old, and if my brain continues to function effectively, then regardless of my personality, I know I can learn how to be a better man, husband, dad, counselor, citizen, or how to constructively operate in any role that I step into where hopefully I’ll leave a positive impression. My hope is that you’ll live to learn and effectively apply what you learn also.

2) Living to Love: Love has been an indispensable part of all of my life, however, I can truly say that I’ve learned the value of love during the second half of my life. Perhaps like me, when you were younger, you thought you knew what love was and how to demonstrate it appropriately to achieve effective outcomes personally and relationally – wrong!

Living to Love means I’ve not only learned what the word means but, on a daily basis, I’m become wiser regarding when and how to apply the core components of Love so that therapeutic and functional outcomes are delivered by me to others. As I practice values such as generosity, concern, and helpfulness with others, I know that my life and their lives tend to be much better when we depart than when we met.

Living to Love also means that I’ve learned (and will continue to learn) to focus my behavior so that I accomplish these behavioral outcomes quicker, more efficiently and with margin. Practically, this means in more occasions than not that I’m going to “speak my truth in love” (versus with manipulation) and eliminate unsafe practices and behaviors so others not only feel safe in my presence but will hopefully implement any behavior seen in me that could serve as a model to be emulated. Again, my hope is that you’ll also live to experience and demonstrate the essence of love!

3) Living to Live: Finally, the last crucial ingredient I encourage you to add to your core and foundational processes is to live a passionate life that is vibrant, contagious, strategic, recreational and above all is intentional!

We only get one life to live and hopefully, you’re making decisions that reflect vision, deliberation, purpose, mission, intent, direction, and results, no matter how insignificant the encounter with another human being may seem (because the seemingly insignificant really is significant!).

Like you, I want my life to count for something and I’ve realized for that to occur then I’ll need to seize upon opportunities that I’m given and not take them for granted, nor assume that I’ll get a second chance to make a first impression. Living with intention and knowing my purpose provides me with clarity and determination that shapes my choices and my behavior.

Thanks for allowing me to offer a few points on the 3 L’s to live by. It’s my hope that you’ll incorporate these “L’s” into your “I-V-E” blueprint process so that your life is marked by learning, loving and living exceptionally!

So before we look at some suggested virtues and values for you to consider in your blueprints, allow me to pass along a few preceding thoughts:

  1. First, what excavating work remains to be done? Although we don’t want to build on the sand, we don’t want to build on moist, toxic, shifting nor compromised soils either. E-x-a-m-i-n-e yourself. Are there any glaring personal issues that need to be addressed and dealt with prior to commencing your work? How are they accounted for in your architectural drawings? As the Architect, your overall success with what you’re endeavoring to build depends upon what you’re willing to address and commit to removing. You get the benefits or the consequences of your inspection. Building on the solid ground begins with your willingness to remove any personal impediments that may compromise your growth and the person you wish to become. Remember the first three letters of the “A-C-T-I-V-E” model, and what you’re encouraged to act upon and remove. After you’ve identified and worked to remove glaring problems in the soil of your heart (by engaging in Medical, Psychological and Trauma assessments, etc.) please proceed with contemplation and determination!
  2. Second, formulate good blueprints! In a moment we’ll talk about specific virtues and values that you’ll want to consider incorporating into the foundation of your heart as you build or rebuild who you are. When your selection is complete, we know that whatever characteristics you settle upon will be core principles that will provide guidance and stability for years to come. These identified values will reflect and contain the ingredients of your foundation and will be the bedrock upon which you’ll build your life! As you create your blueprints, what crucial and necessary values will you select to build into your life, so that you’ll accomplish your overall goals in life, in light of your past, your present and your future?
  3. Third, make sure you have high quality and sound building materials, versus substandard materials and resources. This was never more evident than when we lived in Mississippi during 2005 and survived being hit by Hurricane Katrina. We were fortunate as our home didn’t lose a shingle, largely because the quality of the construction and the building materials used therein withstood the devastating wind and rain connected to the storm. After experiencing and surviving a natural catastrophe like that, I so value the decision that was made to incorporate quality materials and expert craftsmanship into the building process of our home! As you proceed with building the person you wish to become, what values, virtues, practices, processes and resources, human or otherwise, will you incorporate into your life so that you and your family are prepared to weather or survive the unexpected natural or “man-made” catastrophes of life? 
  4. Fourth, carefully consider what will go into your foundation. I have a few questions for you to consider: What values would you consider to be “rock solid” upon which you’ll build? What value serves as the cornerstone in your life, as it will determine how all the other values upon which you’ll build will be aligned, supported and utilized? What values support critical areas of your house, like your bedroom, your children’s bedroom, your office and any work that you’ll do, your prayer closet, your game room and of course, your living room? In the scripture above I think Jesus not only wants us to consider the solid foundation upon which we’ll build our lives, but to also think about the specific areas where we’ll place and distribute our values, as the intentional placement and demonstration of our values may determine our short-term and long-term success in those critical life areas.
  5. Fifth, who are the specialists who will help you in your work? Every construction project has engineers, specialists, and consultants who will need to work with you to create and accomplish your end goal. When constructing a home, you’ll involve geological, electrical and mechanical engineers, along with bankers, designers and other specialists who have a role to fill in your building process. When it comes to your Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual growth, who are the necessary people that you’ll work with to ensure you’re meeting your targets and reaching your objectives, during the multiple stages of your personal development over your lifetime? What instruction have you heard from them that you’ll need to integrate now and in the future for the success of your building process and building project?
  6. Finally, know that you’ll need to do some form of diligent work on a daily basis until the job is done. Once you’ve started your building process, you’ll want to continue your activity until the house is built and the job is complete. I mean, who starts building a house from the blueprint stage and then abandons the process midstream?  Equally, it’s incongruent to want to build a dream home but contribute energy or effort that ensures a shoddy or second-rate outcome. My step-father told me as a child “boy, don’t ever half-do a job.” As I’ve approached activities in my life, that sentiment regarding my applied effort has stayed with me my whole life. My recovery brothers and sisters remind us that “half-measures avail us nothing,” so doing some form of rich study, application, and practice that amounts to sweat equity is a necessary part of our daily routine as we work to achieve measurable and concrete outcomes.

Having said this, let’s roll up our sleeves, get to work and design the foundation that we’ll eventually create. Guess what items and materials work best in any foundation? Of course! You guessed it: LOVE.

Love: The spiritual foundation to permeate and support your home

Love is the Foundation

I offer to you that there is no greater foundation upon which to build, nor cornerstone to align your thoughts and actions other than Love! As we’ll see with the descriptors, fruit, disciplines, and guidance that flow from Love, we’ll see that Love provides the clearest, wisest and strongest of all foundations upon which to build. It’s my hope that you’ll include these suggestions into your architectural blueprints to ensure that your life is seasoned, empowered, supported and guided by these very important virtues and values. Here are a few thoughts regarding the greatest of all virtues, Love:

  1. Love provides the strongest of all foundations. It’s interesting that the strongest of all “materials” upon which to build is a spiritual and immaterial one. Love flows from One’s connection with his or her Higher Power, provides faith, hope and strength when we’re weak, power to conquer and overcome all challenges and is a curative agent to facilitate resilience. Love does much more, but these staples are vital to the support of any home you’re building.
  2. Love is a powerful motivator of our behavior. There certainly are other virtues, values, and characteristics that are important, however, Love is probably the greatest motivator of human behavior. What motivates a man to sacrifice his life for his family, or a woman to endure and overcome maladies in life for her family, when it’s “easier” to leave, give up or die? It’s difficult to see and measure what prompts a person to act, but when altruism, benevolence, and sacrifice for the sake of humanity is displayed, more than likely it’s fueled by Love.
  3. Love grows with the practice of Spiritual Disciplines. I’ve realized that my ability to demonstrate thoughtfulness and understanding, patience and gentleness, commitment and devotion have flowed from my continual practice of spiritual disciplines like reflection, study, prayer, and service. Like a fruit, love grows and matures when we’re engaged in behaviors that help us to receive enlightenment and endurance from our God.
  4. Love provides sustenance for our needs. I’ve realized that Love, from which the other eight Fruit of the Spirit emanate from, has provided the daily nutrition and edification that I’ve needed to experience and effectively demonstrate Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, FaithfulnessGentleness and Self-Control with my neighbors, who are the people in closest proximity to me at any given time. I shudder to think what my life would be like without this daily consumption of Love, as evidenced in the Fruit of the Spirit!
  5. Love provides vision, direction, and purpose in life. Many of you know that I’ve encouraged you to consider and embrace the “Two Greatest Commandments” (Luke 10:25-37). Within these 2 commandments, we find the “7 Core Areas” of our life (Spiritual, Cognitive, Emotional, Physical/Biological, Sexual, Social/Relational and Environmental). As I’ve attended to these “rows in the garden of my life,” I’ve experienced and received the gifts of balance, fruitfulness, purpose, and contentment, along with other valuable gifts. I’ve also realized that these two are “the greatest commandments” because of their simplicity; when practiced, they have brought clarity to my thoughts, intentionality to my actions and as a characteristic, Love is the virtue that I’d like to permeate the totality of my being to positively impact those around me!
  6. Love sets boundaries and boundaries protects us and others. As with any foundation, Love has its limits. Think about it. I’ve included an image below (the table with rows and columns of words) where Love and the components of Love exist in my foundation. I’ve found that when I’ve “stayed between the lines” and put these descriptors and disciplines into action, that my behaviors, for the most part, have been healthy and functional, within my head, my heart and as demonstrated in my actions. This is how I wish to live. I’ve also realized that when I’ve traveled beyond these boundaries that I’ve made very poor decisions that I’ve regretted immensely. Thankfully, today I see that my life works much better when I live within (versus beyond) the limits of my foundation!
  7. Love produces lovely outcomes. There’s no argument with this. If I say I love someone, then it will be reflected in my thoughts, attitude, and actions toward them, and my actions typically produce behavior that’s congruent and consistent with Love, period. Love, as a character value and virtue is incompatible with character defects and/or characterological behavior connected to pathology. If Love is an orange, then oranges will never be apples. I suppose one could make a representation of an orange out of wax, but then that would be a counterfeit representation of Love wouldn’t it? Again, like the fruit, Love tastes best when it’s mature versus premature or immature. I encourage you to create, identify or remain in life experiences that help you to grow, then deliver something that is appealing to the eyes, edifying when consumed and nutritious to your relationships: Loving outcomes!

These are just a few of the many reasons that I think Love needs to be included in the blueprints of the foundation that you’re drawing up for yourself. I’m sure you could identify other reasons for the presence and necessity of Love in your own foundation and I encourage you to be mindful and very deliberate as you make decisions regarding where and how you’ll want to see this virtue present and at work in your life.

As I close out this post, allow me to share what my foundation looks like and how it supports actions in my life:

Love as the Foundation

As mentioned, LOVE, as provided from my God, is the cornerstone that guides the “left to right” descriptors of “Agape” Love, listed on the bottom row, and the “top to bottom” Fruit of the Spirit” qualities of Love, listed in the far left column.

I’ve written about the ten descriptors of Agape Love (Love, Esteem, Cherish, Respect, Favor, Honor, Accept, Prize, Relish and Devotion) and the nine Fruit of the Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control) in previous posts and as time permits, I strongly encourage you to read how they encourage, empower, impact, guide and provide motivation to me (and could do the same for you too!). You could access all 11 posts that contain this information by clicking here (The Fruit of the Spirit #1: An Introduction).

You’ll also notice in my foundation words that describe “Spiritual Disciplines” (Service, Fasting, Prayer, Silence, Study, Simplicity, Solitude, Chastity, Fellowship, Reflection, Submission, Guidance, Worship, Meditation, Celebration and Confession) and abbreviations to various scriptures in the Bible that are important to me.

Even though the picture (or table) that you see contains a grid of words, it’s really a foundation to be laid flat on the ground, upon which “my home life” is built and is supported. 

Before looking at a brief explanation of how each of these components of Love support my life, allow me to share why a Spiritual foundation is necessary for my growth, and as a change agent is vital as I endeavor to contribute to the life and growth of others in my life (my “neighbors”).

Life-enhancing qualities of the Spirit

It’s important to me that I build my life on a spiritual foundation because “Pneuma,” the Greek word for “Spirit,” provides insightful and practical functions within my home.

Pneuma means wind, air, and breeze, but it also speaks to the very “Breath of Life” that I wish to permeate and envelop within my being, and throughout the whole structure that I’m building, and to whoever lives within my home. A practical way to think about the function of the Spirit is to think about your “HVAC” system (your Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system). Air, breath, and oxygen is the vital life-giving element to anyone who enters my home because if there is no air, breath or oxygen, then there is no life.

I see it as my responsibility to ensure that the inhabitants in my home receive this essential element in order to live. The practice and provision of Love permeating my being and circulating throughout my home means that I and others will benefit from virtues, qualities, and behaviors that provide for and will sustain life.

Obviously, I’m not God, nor are you, however, in concert with my Higher Power, I cooperate with Him to do my best to help others close to me to live, thrive and have the basic necessities to develop biologically, psychologically, socially and spiritually while they are in my presence. My spirituality illuminates what my role is and it empowers me as I aim for and hit the targets that are determined by my spiritual values.

Conversely, I know I’m to avoid behaviors that jeopardize and “suck the life right out of someone’s being.” I know what those damaging behaviors are (and perhaps you do too) because my spirituality and common sense illuminates and informs my motives and actions.

I know full well where and when my actions are loving and will enhance life and relationships, and I know exactly what, where and when my actions are self-serving or are detrimental to the life of others. Thankfully, in the “rebuilt life” that I live today, my spirituality informs, empowers, supports and motivates me to engage in and deliver life-giving behaviors based in Love that feed (versus mortify) the spirit of others.

So practically, here’s how the presence and practice of these descriptors of Agape, Fruit of the Spirit, Spiritual Disciplines and selected scripture that’s included in my foundation are useful to me and provide an introductory response to the question “How shall I Live?”

The Descriptors of Agape:

  1. Love drives out hatred, discord, and intolerance but makes room for inclusion, dignity and the appropriate treatment with others.
  2. Esteem replaces any neglect of duty as it motivates me to protect my family and to make good decisions that don’t jeopardize their well-being and development.
  3. Cherish replaces idleness as it compels me to mindfully, carefully and skillfully work in the garden of my life and that of my family to produce outcomes that sometimes resemble miracles.
  4. Respect replaces dullness because it requires me to use my intellect to grow in all forms of knowledge then share this information with others to establish intimate connections.
  5. Favor replaces contempt for self but especially with others as their well-being and the giving of good and generous gifts are “paid forward” with no expectation of recompense.
  6. Honor replaces dishonor as I’m led to see and treat others with great worth; this guides my words that I use with them and my actions which may impact them.
  7. Acceptance replaces rejection, especially with another person, as they are drawn close for scrutiny, with the intent to assist in the development of credible and mutually beneficial behavior.
  8. Prize replaces devaluation as very important people, especially the one with whom I’m “one flesh” with, gets the blue ribbon or the gold medal from me, which is an ornament and honor bestowed only to one.
  9. Relish replaces misplaced passion, as my soul and energy “pants” for one. In marriage, my desire and passion are accurately placed toward the one who gets the prize.
  10. Devotion replaces irresponsibility as my energy and effort are expended to result in activity that causes others to think and say “wow” upon viewing the completion of my work.

The Fruit of the Spirit:

  1. Love guides me to select and develop the “seeds” (character value) in my garden (my head and heart) which simultaneously eliminates the “weeds” (character defects) in my life.
  2. Joy replaces suffering and grief as God is invited to inhabit my life and provide insight and meaning to my life experiences, which helps to transform my suffering experiences into acceptance, then empowers me to live and act with purpose.
  3. Peace replaces anxiety and uncertainty when the practice of spiritual disciplines calms my mind and body and provides discernment, guidance, and direction to my thoughts, feelings and actions.
  4. Patience replaces impatience as I realize “everybody hurts,” is suffering in some way, and sympathy, empathy or compassion are appropriate responses from me that could facilitate and help in their healing.
  5. Kindness replaces harshness and cruelty because it’s a better way to use my life energy. Kindness produces behaviors and outcomes that I can live with versus the predictable vexation that I’d just as soon avoid and would regret if I choose otherwise.
  6. Goodness replaces corruption and meanness, because when I attempt to view people and actions from God’s point of view, then it produces and reinforces intentional decisions and living that yields effective outcomes for all involved.
  7. Faithfulness produces fidelity, as evidenced by living that respects boundaries, contains energy and passion and knows exactly where the living water is located.
  8. Gentleness replaces recklessness because the mindful exploration and management of my emotions (especially anger) guide me to display and work for compassionate outcomes with others. The significance and timeliness of skillfully demonstrating Gentleness is akin to performing then helping someone survive open heart surgery.
  9. Self-Control replaces permissiveness because I don’t have permission (nor the opportunity) to carry resentments nor contempt for others. Self-Control reminds (and limits) me to deliver behaviors that are Loving, and to eliminate behaviors that are incompatible with and beyond the definition and demonstration of Love.

The Spiritual Disciplines:

  1. Study: Studying God’s word and other books for self-growth is probably the best way that I hear from God. It’s pretty clear what He’s saying to me and thankfully, I hear love, mercy, grace along with other counsel regarding how I’m to live.
  2. Worship: Worshipping in a church or when I listen to inspirational music is another important way that I hear from God, often feeling as if I’m very close to God in those moments.
  3. Silence: Silence helps me to calm down and when I’m calm, the logical left hemisphere of my brain helps me to clearly determine what steps I’m to take, what words will be beneficial and what actions will be useful.
  4. Prayer: Prayer not only connects me to a loving and kind God but is a humble reminder that I need instruction, wisdom, and guidance from a Power Greater than myself!
  5. Confession: Confession helps me to be true to God, to myself and to others, and reminds me that I’m not alone when I make mistakes and that I have a loving God who is ready and available to help me correct my missteps.
  6. Reflection: Reflection, typically coupled with the discipline of Silence, helps me to determine what is important, what is a priority, what is the goal I’m aiming for and how do I best reach or accomplish this goal. Reflection also informs and guides my motives.
  7. Meditation: Meditation, usually paired with the discipline of Study, informs and empowers me to accomplish my spiritual overall objectives as summed up in one of my favorite scriptures in Micah 6:8 – “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
  8. Fasting: Here’s one that I haven’t practiced as often as I’d like by abstaining from food in order to sharpen my ability to hear from God, however, I do fast in other ways, from the media and the use of other forms of technology in order to experience the discipline of Silence, and therefore to keenly hear from God.
  9. Chastity: Chastity, or the purposeful focus, demonstration and control of my sexual passion, has gotten me into trouble in the yesterday of my life but brings peace and contentment today in my life. Chastity helps me to give the “gold medal” and honor that is to be bestowed only to one (1 Corinthians 9:24-27), to one, and to no others.
  10. Solitude: Solitude is the intentional withdrawal from others or the public in order to “recharge my batteries.” Usually paired with the discipline of Silence, Solitude helps me to practice talking boundaries when I don’t need to talk, listening boundaries when I need to be discerning, and self-care behaviors when I need rest.
  11. Simplicity: Simplicity simply helps me to “keep it simple,” as things, purposes, motives, and people all find their right and proper place in my choices and decision making. I wish I practiced this discipline earlier in the first half of my life, as I have no doubt my life experiences would have been less complicated or confusing to others!
  12. Fellowship: Fellowship is one of the golden disciplines that has helped me to grow into the man I like, have accepted and still endeavor to become. I’ve grown so much as Proverbs 27:17 has been true in my life, as I’ve been spiritually and psychologically sharpened by other men (and loving and wise women too)!
  13. Service: Service has been another golden discipline in my life as I’ve also grown and received so much personal and professional satisfaction when I’ve found ways to give to others. Service has helped me to realize that God gives “Love to a thousand generations” (Exodus 20:6) when we love Him and keep His commandments, and service brings me satisfaction when I know I’m doing my part for His purposes.
  14. Submission: Submission is the intentional yielding or deferring of my will to another (to my God then most likely, in demonstration with another person) to accomplish His purposes for some form of good in the life of the other. I’ve found that when this discipline is practiced, there tends to be a “win-win” outcome involved with the other person. Developing then skillfully and wisely applying this discipline is challenging but provides beneficial outcomes when the “win-win” philosophy guides your interpersonal process.
  15. Celebration: I’ve found that celebrating accomplishments, achievements and each other is necessary and fun because we all need “attaboys,” “good going” or what Psychologist Eric Berne called “strokes” to motivate our behavior. Yes, we feel good internally when we’ve done the right thing when doing the right thing was called for, however I’ve found that recognition, affirmation, validation, and approval, along with the demonstration of other intimacy needs are powerful motivators of our behavior that we typically wish to receive and experience with others “stakeholders” in our lives.

Selected passages of scripture from the Bible:

  1. Gospel of John, Chapters 13 – 17: I love these chapters as they command me to love (13:34), speak about the nurturance, power, and counsel of the Spirit (14:26-27), encouragement to be fruitful in life, as empowered by God (15:1-5) and that my God has my back (17:6-26). These are core components of my spiritual values and really help me to “stay between the lines” (versus driving off into the ditch) in life.
  2. Galatians, Chapters 5 and 6: This passage not only includes the Fruit of the Spirit (5:22-23), but also a list of the deadly behaviors I need to be on guard against (5:19-21). It also instructs me to restore others gently (6:1), and to remember that “I’ll reap what I sow,” (6:7) which reminds me to be mindful and intentional regarding how I use my energy.
  3. 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy: As with all of these scriptures, 1 Timothy provides practical information regarding how to live (“above reproach, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach and not violent…” – 3:2-3) as well as the importance of scripture in the formation of healthy character, rituals and behaviors in my life (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
  4. Proverbs 31: This passage describes the favor that I receive from God through my wife, and it challenges me to become a “Proverbs 31 Husband” to reciprocate the generous, thoughtful, devoted and practical behaviors that she freely gives to me.
  5. Matthew 25: Among other things, this passage reminds me that I’ve been given “talents” (skills, abilities, resources, etc. – 25:14-25) that I’m to effectively, practically and purposefully use to assist others around me. “Well done” is a fulfilling motivator that I experience when I intentionally and wisely operationalize these gifts.
  6. Ephesians 4 – 6: In these 3 chapters of scripture I’m encouraged to “be humble, gentle and patient with others, bearing with one another in love,” (4:2) which are helpful building materials for me to integrate into my life as I endeavor to be a safe person.
  7. 1 Peter: I’m reminded of my purpose to be a “living Cornerstone” (2:4-10) who is precious and necessary not only in the support my home but also as one who is to live out my enlightened values sacrificially.
  8. James: James is often called the “Proverbs of the New Testament,” in that it provides so much practical wisdom regarding living that it was used as one of the foundational texts within the James Club, where principles were eventually incorporated into the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
  9. Romans 12: Here I’m encouraged to “renew my mind” (v.3) in order to demonstrate Godly, spiritual and practical behaviors that are sincere (v.9) and create harmony in my interactions with others (v.16).
  10. Colossians 3: This passage reminds me of behaviors that impede my growth and the structure I’m desiring to build (v. 5-9), but also of characteristics like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and love (v. 12) of which I’m to clothe myself with and allow to “rule within my heart” (v. 15).
  11. Luke 10: The Two Greatest Commandments are found here (v.25-28), as well as the practical and insightful information regarding how I’m to love my neighbor as well (v.29-37).
  12. 1 Corinthians 13: This foundational passage of scripture describes “Love in Action” (v. 4-8), which when practiced provides empowered and “uncommon” experiences and behaviors that most of us will need to support us at some point in our lives when untimely wind, rain, and rising waters traumatically impact us.
  13. Matthew, Chapters 5 – 7: There’s so much to like about this scripture (where our beginning scripture is from, 7:24-25), in that it speaks to so many life issues with which we struggle. When taken into my life, it provides guidance regarding the necessity of keeping my word (5:33-37), overcoming resentments with others by practicing Love (5:43-48) and how focused prayer (6:5-14) leads to empowerment and clarity in life.

So let me close this post with a few questions:

  1. In light of what you’ve read, what do you think is a necessity for your own blueprints, because the inclusion of that value could be vital to the home that you’re building? 
  2. If you’re laying a spiritual foundation, which descriptors of Agape, Fruit of the Spirit, Spiritual Disciplines or Biblical guidelines or other practices will you include because they’ll provide life-giving breath to you and to others important to you?
  3. Which of these virtues, values and practices would or will you seek to build into and incorporate into your own home?
  4. What led you to choose that particular virtue, value or practice and what do you expect to receive or achieve from its inclusion in your blueprints?
  5. How will your life and the lives of others be different, for the better, because of your chosen values? 
  6. Since the pouring of a foundation is primary to building a home, which of these virtues, values and practices are a priority and need to occur in your life immediately because they are needed immediately to strengthen your foundation?

Thank you for allowing me to introduce these virtues, values, and thoughts about blueprints, building materials and what you may wish to consider including in the foundation of the home you wish to build (or are rebuilding).

In our next 3 posts, Choosing Change #11 – 13: Building Character and Building People (1 of 3; 2 of 3, and 3 of 3) we’ll explore what scholars from the fields of Theology, Psychology, Addiction and Recovery Sports, Sociology and other salient fields state could be helpful in our process of (re)building ourselves and others in our lives.

Also, as time permits, please visit the other blogs written by Dr. Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful. I welcome your comments below or via email and your favorites, your retweets and your “+1’s” if you have a brief moment and find the information helpful. Again, it is my desire to provide the very best info for your consideration.

Dr. Ken McGill

 


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