Every year for the past 4 years, our community at The River has engaged in a personal and communal challenge for 30 days or a whole month. Broadly speaking, the goal of our annual fall challenge is to refresh our souls and connect to the life of God in us. This is something we so desperately need all year round in Silicon Valley; thankfully, our fall challenge gives us a guaranteed space to do that for one month.
This October at The River, we are engaging in a Vision Challenge.
Why Vision? Because it's the starting point of VIM. Dallas Willard, noted author in the realm of Christian spiritual formation and respected philosophy professor at USC, coined the acronym VIM. It was his way of capturing what he called a reliable pattern for all human transformation. It applies just as much to starting a new diet and exercise plan as it does to undertaking a journey toward deep character change.
Vision: We need a compelling Vision of a preferred way of being.
Intention: We need a clear Intention to actually make change in our lives.
Means: We need proven and effective Means, concrete steps that help change thought and behavior in the desired direction.
The 3 are interconnected and equally essential. The lack of any one of these parts will derail a change process. VIM helps to direct our work. VIM is a practical road map to pursuing change.
In the VIM model for personal transformation, lasting change begins with a clear and compelling vision of life lived differently. We need to know what change we want and why it matters, what tangible difference we will experience once that change is made. To make a significant change of habit requires considerable effort. Anyone who’s ever tried to lose weight or to learn to play a musical instrument or to curb their free spending in order to be more generous with others knows this to be true. We won’t do the work required without the internalized awareness of the value of the outcome. This is the power of a clear and strong vision. Where do we get such a vision?
To begin with, we are going to turn off media devices (e.g. computer, tablet, cell phone, television, video games, etc). In our context, media is typically the #1 culprit of distraction from life’s deeper work, things like vision for change. Together we are aiming to fast from media for the 2 hours before we sleep each night. Some will prefer a different time of day. The time of day is not as important as the purpose - to create space for vision to emerge.
With the space created in the absence of media, we will be making use of these two pathways to vision:
One source of vision is the deep well of desire that lives in each of us. The challenge is hearing that desire. Deep desire needs space to surface and be heard, the kind of space created by our media fast. In your VIM journal, you’ll find numerous prompts for reflection on desire, different ways of opening a conversation with yourself (and with God) about what you’re wanting and needing more of in order to be who you want and need to be in the world. You can get a VIM journal at The River Ministry Center or download the prompts here.
Take 1 question a day until you’ve taken a pass at each. Journal your response and/or talk with a family member or friend about a question, jotting down what you want to remember after the conversation. The questions don’t need to be considered in order. Start where you feel most readily able to start. Sit for awhile with the harder questions for you. And, listen for a possible invitation from God for a change in your life that is compelling to you, something that would really make a difference for you.
Another core source of vision is inspiration from outside of us. That inspiration can come from a variety of sources. For this month of the Vision Challenge, we invite you to be (re)inspired by the person of Jesus, Jesus’ character and pattern of life. Our media fast each day also allows time for this exploration.
Together we’ll be looking at Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew has 28 chapters. You could take one chapter a day for the Challenge month of October, reading it slowly and perhaps multiple times, watching for what you see about Jesus’ character and pattern of life. How does Jesus spend his time? What character traits does Jesus exhibit? What are Jesus’ relationships like?
You’ll find journal pages in your VIM journal to record what you’re noticing in the chapters of Matthew and how it impacts you. Here, too, pay attention for what compels you. Is there something you see in Jesus that you desire more of for yourself these days? It’s important to acknowledge that there are bound to be days of reading that inspire more than others. That’s okay. There’s no pressure to make yourself inspired.
It’s also important to acknowledge that whenever we read scripture, we are bound to come upon sections that we don’t understand clearly or that trouble us. That’s okay, too. You may find that one of the questions that gets raised leads you to further study or conversation with others.
Just remember that our core purpose in this read-through is what clearly inspires us in the life and character of Jesus.
The online resource The Bible Project has a very helpful, 2-part video overview of the Gospel of Matthew for those who like to see the big picture in order to better understand its parts. (And, yes, we do feel the irony of directing you online during our media fast! A reminder that media used appropriately can be a great gift!)
Does that feel like a lot of instruction? Back to the big picture... In this month of Challenge, we are turning off media to tune into deeper connection with God, with others, and with ourselves. This is a season of discipline and focus...and we can have fun as we go, knowing God delights to meet us.