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Church Army - Inspire May 08 - Secrets of Hope

Christian faith and positive psychology make for a winning combination when we face a challenge, says Bruce Stanley, life coach and author of the Secrets of Hope Test at 

Have you ever been inspired by feats of great courage, sporting achievement or adventure? Stories of people walking solo to the North Pole to raise money for a charity, overcoming illness and winning Olympic medals, or surviving disasters with heroic credentials?

Perhaps there are some people who have done all three. These individuals seem to have special abilities – physical and mental – that enable them to act and behave extraordinarily.

All of us are faced with challenges that test our physical and mental limits. Perhaps not Polar bears and plane crashes, but from time to time we have challenges that show us what our limits are. “That’s impossible,” we say, “I could never do that.”

But news from the world of positive psychology is encouraging. Aside from physical limitations, a lot of the things we thought were impossible might not be.

The psychological determination, the strength of will, the optimism to keep going that these extraordinary people have are all learnable or discoverable. And what’s more, positive psychological hope with the spiritual hope Christians hold is an extraordinary combination capable of charting an exciting course into the future.

As ever, this world needs some extraordinary people to bring light into the darkness.

The new booklet, Heavenly Recipes for Hope, introduces this subject in very practical ways.  Throughout, it links examples of hope with Jesus’ teaching and the challenges of the Early Church. It could be given to anyone who has their future on their mind.

It explores and develops the idea that the best combination is a healthy psychological hope with a strong and developing spiritual hope, both inspired by following the example of Jesus.

Why is hope important? As a life coach I work primarily with the subject of change in people’s lives. Those may be changes people are choosing or changes that have chosen them.

Through any process of change there are going to be difficult challenges to overcome and it is our mental or psychological strength, ideally empowered through God’s Spirit, that get us through these times.

Hope and optimism help us interpret the challenges in our lives as either insurmountable obstacles or as problems to be solved or even as opportunities to grow.

Do you know someone who only sees a bleak future? Or someone who has some great ideas but is apprehensive about taking a risk? This booklet is a way of opening up the subject with them and introducing the idea that faith is an important and even useful ingredient in the recipe.

Heavenly Recipes for Hope looks and feels like one of the supplements you find in the weekend newspapers. You might pick it up and flick through it to read a page or two, or you may read one of the six sections you feel are more directly relevant.

It fits in well with the website (developed by Church Army and the Christian Enquiry Agency) which has just had a facelift in time for the launch of Big Hope – the second in a series of five films on the theme of hope.

Big Hope explores the theme of hope in suffering and even in death. It includes observations from Church Army’s Michael Reeder on his role as a hospice chaplain as well as a twist on a familiar Woody Allen quote. Also new to the site are four films from iMatter exploring the hope that everyone matters.

It has been written with the understanding that the reader is an individual with a particular relationship to the concept of hope. Their particular challenges won’t be answered with a one-size- fits-all solution.

It uses a technique from parable/storytelling where the reader selects their level of involvement and is pointed in the right direction. The booklet is filled with the sorts of exercises you might expect from a life coach.

More on Bruce Stanley at
The new film Big Hope is now available to see on the Inspire site here or from, where you will also find Heavenly Recipes for Hope

On the menu in Heavenly Recipes for Hope

Psychological Hope
Are you an optimist or pessimist? What is hope and how can you get it if you haven’t got it already? This section introduces some simple thinking tools that can make a huge difference.

You don’t need a degree to know that hope and joy go together. We can explore this in the context of parties and introduce some famous partygoers to learn some lessons.


Hope blossoms into its most fruitful metaphor as we get our hands dirty down at the allotment, planting seeds of hope and sorting out that overgrown patch by the shed.


Hope looks to the future. Wishing is fun and revealing but it is also exposing and demanding. We explore how to wish and its spiritual partner – prayer.

What’s the right order: hope, motivation then action or action, motivation then hope? Which way round do you work? Right about here we start to put the pieces together …

Soul Hope
How far into the future does your hope stretch? Where do you hope to be in five years? Ten years? Our journey investigates this life and the life after.

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To find back issues of the INSPIRE mini-mag - seasonal and themed issues - go to