Part 3: You Are What You Think

Fog

I think that we can all agree that we have those “days.”  Those “foggy” days.  The days that feel like somehow we’re sleep walking through our day.  We feel disconnected and a little out of touch with, well with ourselves really.  We are not mentally processing the activities in our lives in ways that allow us to feel connected with ourselves, God, or others.  At least I hope that you know what I mean when I describe these “days.”   I have tried for the longest time to get to the bottom of why these days happen and how to prevent them.  Or at least prevent their week long continuations.  What I have discovered is that these days are not something that “just happen.”  They are the product of my previous choices.  The choice on my part to not deal with underlying issues, a choice to put off my time in solitude and silence, a choice to neglect my prayer life,  a choice to not input healthy, life giving material into my mind, a choice to not receive what the Lord is trying to give me, a choice to not let my emotions rule me, but instead to suppress them.  In essence it is a choice to not process life in a healthy way, therefore ending in a flat line state that feels like I am a zombie walking empty streets.

So what can we do to ensure that we are “processing” in healthy ways?   Are there even things that we can do to circumvent the “fog?”  I would say yes, but it takes another choice.  The choice to make prayer, receptivity, awareness, what we are mentally consuming, and our emotional health priorities.  It is also a choice to make praise a regular part of our daily lives.  There is something about worship that causes the world to fade, and realigns our hearts with the Creator of the Universe.  And in realigning our hearts we are reminded of who we are in Him and to Him.  Ultimately finding joy. Life giving, fog dispersing joy.

Here are several ways that we can practically put P.R.A.I.S.E. into motion in our lives.

First there are a couple of things that you need to remember.  It is more crucial that you be regular in your time spent in renewing your mind.  It is easier to stay on offense than have to constantly be switching to defense, losing ground, and then having to make a come back.  It’s EXHAUSTING.  Gathering your “manna” everyday is key.  What you gathered yesterday is no longer good enough to sustain you today.  Secondly, one of my favorite quotes is, “If satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”  Don’t let guilt of wasting time keep you from the most important part of your day, time alone with the Lord.  This time with Him is charging your batteries, and keeping you drifting in an out of the fog of life.

With that said, here are some practical ways that you can stay alert, and fog free:

  • Fill your day with worship music.  I know the world is FULL of amazing artists and music genres.  I am a passionate music lover.  But there is something about worship music, or music that points our hearts and minds to the Lord that keeps us praising Him, focusing on Him, and focusing on the right things.  It’s like a bath for our minds. AND satan hates praises to the King, so if your filling your mind and space with that, he can’t be as effective. Worship is a shield.
  • Read Truth. ie: The Bible, or other truth filled books.  Got a specific area that you are struggling with?  Find a trusted author who has written on the subject and input truth! Blogs are a great source as well.  I particularly like Relevant Magazine’s online site.
  • Unplug.  We could all use a little more space and time to think.  Unplugging from the distractions of life, like your laptop, ipad, phone, radio, ipod, TV, internet, etc. Allows our brains to breathe.  Allow yourself to process what you find in your mind.  The different emotions.  Don’t be afraid.  If you don’t confront things now the same issues will keep surfacing.  The way through is forward not through retreat.
  • Community.  Get plugged into a healthy, vibrant, like minded community.  People who encourage you, uplift you, challenge you, pray for and with you.  You are the medium of the strongest and weakest people in your community.  So as you look at who you have in your community make sure they are positive people who are moving forward in life as well in their faith and other aspects of their life. People who are going to give you wise counsel and accountability.   I always tell people, “Your friends determine your future.”  So choose wisely.
  • Journal.  Keeping a record of your life is the way to learn from your past, and encourage yourself in the future.  It is also leaving a legacy, and helps you to process through the 1,000’s of thoughts you have everyday.  Seeing it on paper is always helpful to me. Today and in the future.  Like Mark Batterson says, “The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.”  Make it a priority to help yourself remember through journaling.
  • Gratitude: It is not joy that makes us grateful, but gratitude that makes us joyful.  If you want to have joy, than lead a life that is marked my gratitude.  Giving thanks is the quickest way to peace of mind.
  • Listen to truth.  Not just on Sundays but everyday.  Find a favorite speaker or pastor and listen to a few podcasts throughout the week.  What goes in comes out.

I will close with this: DO NOT EXPECT IMMEDIATE CHANGE.  And don’t stop pressing in just because you stumble here and there.  Get up quickly and keep fighting.  For we are in a war that is not fought with weapons of this world, but Spiritual weapons. ( II Cor. 10:4-5 and Eph 6) Don’t strive to accomplish something, but just focus on BEING.  Just BEING with the One who loves you.  Cease striving and KNOW that HE is God, and that He has everything under control.  I believe this is the most important part of spending time with God and allowing Him to renew our minds.  For when we are focused on Him we are not focused on ourselves, our circumstances, or what is stressing us.  We are reminded that we are but dust, and that our loving Creator knows this and is fighting on our behalf.  So we can RELAX.  We can REST.  We can be STILL.

You’re thoughts determine your destiny.  It up to you what that destiny will look like.

May we be different with each passing tomorrow, than we are today, because of the truth we have allowed into our hearts and minds. Be teachable. Be hopeful.

WV

Part 2: You Are What You Think.

(Caveat: Sorry for the length, I hope you will feel like it was worth it in the end.  –WV)

We all act and react to how loved we FEEL.   When we’re feeling loved we feel happy, more patient, more generous.  Test me and see if this isn’t true.  When we do not feel loved we feel sad, our impatience is at an all time high, we are prone to feel alone, and we want to keep everything for ourselves because who knows when we’ll get more…  There are many side effects to not receiving love, but the main one is how we end up thinking about ourselves.  And when we don’t view ourselves correctly, our view of God and others is also greatly hindered.

However, the more sure we are of being loved, the closer we are to the freedom and abundant life that Jesus died to give us.  I begin this post with this idea of receiving love because I have lived and witnessed the truth of it’s importance in my life.  We all act as either orphans or children of God.  When we can accept that we are indeed chosen, adopted, and loved, we are able to love ourselves, others, and God at a whole new level.  The level at which Christ invites us.  The kind of love that echoes Christ’s death on the cross and embodies his example of feet washing.  All of His acts of love came from being rooted in the knowledge that He was indeed the Son of God in whom His Father was well pleased.  And living His life out of the knowledge of Who He was and where He was going changed the world.

Jesus knew His identity.  Do we know ours? Many of us wonder and struggle with that timeless question, “What was I created for?”  In a simple response I will tell you what I have discovered.  We were created to be loved by God, to be enjoyed by God.  When we believe this truth then we can fulfill the other half of our purpose: loving God and His people.  Now that can take on many forms in this life according to talent, geography, gifts, callings, passions, and so on, but the purpose is the same.  We only complicate it.  So this entry is focused on getting you to a place where you can begin, perhaps for the first time, to see how your thinking affects your capacity to be loved and to love in return.  Because as you renew your mind you become more and more aware of true and false.  Light and dark.  And where you fall between the two.  So I pray that you will be honest with yourself, and allow yourself to see the areas that need light and a good dose of truth.

First, let’s start with the distractions that we allow into our lives. These distractions can keep us from acknowledging important truths about ourselves and about our views of God.   We all know we get distracted, but choose to overlook these distractions because we WANT to be distracted.  Let me say that again.  If you are unable to admit that something is a distraction it is because you WANT to be distracted.  It’s like St. Augustine said, “Oh, Lord make me chaste, but just not yet.”  We want to get to a good mental state, but then we are unwilling to make the breaks from the things that are keeping us from healthy thinking.  So we pray, like St. Augustine, for help with what we struggle with, but knowing that part of us doesn’t mean it.  We have to CHOOSE to think differently as I wrote about in Part 1.

So here is where I want to challenge you to ask yourself if you really mean it.  Do you know you want to think differently? Do you want to make a break with old habits of thinking that are leading you in the wrong direction?  Or do you like me find a million excuses, all the while claiming that God is number one.  I had to admit to myself that I often say, “God you are everything to me.”  While acting in a dozen ways that contradict that claim.  I want to mean it, but I have to make the choice to live like He IS everything to me.  For some of us it’s unhealthy thinking about ourselves: body image, negative self talk, lack of confidence in our abilities, an old tape of someone in our life speaking negativity over our life, or a thousand other things.  I can’t pinpoint every person’s struggles, but I can tell you that whatever your mental struggle it is holding you back.  So it comes to making a choice.  A choice that can lead to drastic change and the freedom you want.

Choosing differently is all well and good, but what does it look like? Practically speaking how do we get our minds to think in new patterns?  How do we break from old ways of thinking?  I’ll give you the short version and in my next blog I will elaborate on the following acronym and then give some helpful, practical ways that we can “take every thought captive.”  Starting with before those thoughts even have a chance to enter our minds.

PRAISE:

P- Prayer:  Prayer is the way that we communicate with God, but it is also a means in which God can communicate with us.  Prayer allows us to open our hearts and minds to the divine work of the Holy Spirit.  Giving Him the chance to guide and direct our thoughts.  He wants to help us.  This is a way we can invite Him to do so.  Prayer opens the door for God to tell us who we really are, and the areas that He wants to help us with.  Through prayer we become more aware of who we are and who God is.

R-Receive:  Prayer puts our hearts in the posture to receive.  Because we are in communication with the creator we can be aware of how He truly sees us.  And when we are able to receive we enable truth to change our hearts and minds.

A- Awareness: Receiving truth from the Lord also allows us to walk through life with a higher level of awareness.  Awareness of who we are, but also of the things that could be hindering us from communion and life with Christ.  One of the major pluses to awareness is that as we grow in our awareness of ourselves we also grow in awareness of how the enemy lies and deceives us.  Once we identify our strengths and weaknesses we are far less likely to fall for his schemes and we are far more likely to have victory utilizing our strengths.

I-Input:  When we are aware of the enemies schemes we can then acknowledge that one of the main areas that we are attacked is through our senses.  And the main influence on our senses are the things that we allow into our brains.  We input in a lot of different ways: Seeing, smelling, hearing, touching, tasting.  So we have to be careful that we are controlling our senses, and our senses are not controlling us.  The biggest struggles come from what we hear and see.  So we have to be careful to follow that old childhood adage: Garbage in, garbage out.  If all you consume is junk, then that will be what outpours into your life. Our lives are a product of our consumption.

S-Solitude and Silence:  These two things, combined can be powerful tools to help us renew our minds.  When we come into these times prepared to “listen” we can walk away without the baggage that we all seem to carry in this life.  We  see ourselves correctly and are less likely to be hindered by satan’s lies.  Instead laying these things at the cross and walking away in freedom.  Identifying and leaving behind the lies that can build imaginary barriers between us and God.  We are never truly separated, but the enemy is clever at erecting imaginary strongholds.  Temporarily shutting out the world allows us to see ourselves, others, our situations with clarity.  Then we do not end up allowing our minds to keep us from God’s throne.

E- Emotions:  And when we have control over our imaginations we have better control over our emotions.  Our emotions have the power to quickly override our thoughts so it is important to keep our minds healthy so that we don’t allow our emotions to rule over us.  Our emotions have a funny way of making a lie seem like truth and vice versa.  If we can successfully control our actions and reactions due to our emotions we will soon notice a huge difference in the topography of our lives.

Next blog I will have more on the practical side of this PRAISE acronym, and the part that gratitude plays in our journey towards renewed thinking.  Until then…

May we allow truth to change us.

WV

Part 1: You are What You Think.

I would like to start this blog off with a few questions.

  • Can you confidently name the gifts and talents that God has given you?
  • What are the things that consume your thinking day in and day out? 
  • After you identify what’s taking up your think time, can you honestly acknowledge whether or not these thoughts are positive or negative? 
  • And lastly: if you had trouble naming your gifts and talents, do you think it’s honestly because you don’t have any?

Did you have trouble identifying these things because of a false sense of humility?  I think we all know the awkward feeling that seems to hide in the shadows of admitting our strengths.  That little voice that says, “You can’t admit that you’re actually good at something! Are you crazy! People are going to think that you are SO prideful.”  I would like to interject this definition of humility here.  A definition that has served me well for years. “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”  Playing it small and downplaying what God has gifted you with is in no way serving yourself or others well.  Satan comes to steal and destroy.  Jesus came to give life in abundance, in full measure. (John 10:10)

Satan continually tries to affect our confidence in where we stand with God.  Trying to create a larger and larger gap between the Father and His beloved children.  When we allow our minds to come in between us and the Father we soon find ourselves imagining that we are 1,000’s of miles apart from Him, with no way home.  This then leads us to those pesky thoughts that occur when in isolation from His truth and love.  The ones that beat us down, and hold us in bondage.  We all have different lies we believe about ourselves.  Some believe they are unlovable, others unworthy, others that they have to make themselves right first.  Still others believe they aren’t smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, funny enough, rich enough, you fill in the blank.  I don’t feel __________ enough.  We all have false realities that we have to travel through to get to His divine truth. To the divine freedom we all seek.

One thing that I feel impressed to remind you is that you do not have to change, grow, or be good in order for God to love you.  Instead you are loved so that you can change, grow, and be good. (Brennan Manning)  Doing these things out of a distinct impression, and knowing, that you are loved and wanted.  Acting out of a knowledge that you are now a child of the King, not an orphan. You belong, and nothing can change that.  Not even your own thinking.  However you can create imaginary boundaries between yourself and God.  It isn’t that He goes anywhere or distances Himself, it is only that you FEEL like He has.  I will talk more about feelings later, but it is important for you to know that your mind is the only thing that can keep you from God.  And then only with vain imaginations that are no more valid than the boogie man.

Everything we think and then do, I believe stems from one thing, believing in God’s love for you.  If you mentally cannot accept God’s love for you, you have the potential of painting a different future for yourself.  A future much different than the one that Jesus died to give you.   We have to “repent” of our old ways of thinking and “think differently.”  Repent, in the Greek form, actually means “to think differently.”  Therefore when we acknowledge unhealthy thought patterns it’s not just enough to identify them, we have to be willing to turn from them and go the other way.

This can be difficult as we all act and react according to how loved we feel.  The more sure we are of being loved, the closer we are to freedom and living the abundant life God wants to give us.  In Romans we are commanded to, “take every thought captive.”  Then Philippians tells us to think on things that are lovely, noble, right, and pure.  To some extent we all struggle with thinking correctly about ourselves.  And when we do not think correctly about ourselves, our future, our present, our past, etc. Then those thoughts start creating our destiny.  Self fulfilling prophecies if you will.  And these prophecies can be negative or positive.  You choose.

Tomorrow I want to talk about a few helpful ways that we can “take every thought captive” and practical ways to implement those methods.  But for now I would really like for you to take some time to perhaps identify some areas that you need to “renew your thinking.”  Be honest with yourself.  Start with those areas of your life that perhaps seem frustrating.  Those are usually the areas that some amount of renewal needs to take place.  Admitting that our minds affect our physical realities and the outcomes of life’s circumstances can be the first step to breakthrough.  So take some time.  It could be the beginning to a whole new way of life for you.  The start of a life lived to the fullest.  And be encouraged with this.  Sometimes the way ahead is cloaked in fog, but keep pressing in, the fog will lift.

May the truth our honesty leads us to, change us.

WV

Blogtober: What Inspires You to Count Your Blessings?

What Inspires You?
What Inspires You?

It’s been a few days since I blogged.  I got behind on the last couple “Blogtember” posts and then I hit a wall.  But as is true of most things that we love, we can’t stay away for long.  As I was thinking about what I wanted to write about today, I couldn’t stop thinking about the many blessings in my life.  Lately it seems I have been completely overwhelmed by God’s goodness to me.  It has shown up in the smallest, yet most intricate ways.  Ways so minute that they can only be a testament of God’s faithfulness and love for me.

However, as I thought of my blessings I also thought of the many people in my life, and those living lives around me that are not in seasons of such obvious blessing.  Like the story I read about the two young woman who recently lost their father to cancer.  Who caught national media’s attention because of the precious gift of love that their father gave them before he passed away in July of this year.  He knew he probably wouldn’t live to see them both get married.  So he organized a day to walk each of them down the aisle as a blessing for their future marriages.  Even more than that he exchanged vows with his wife again.

If I wasn’t already balling at this point, (I could barely finish looking through the pictures because of my tear interference), I noticed another painful part of their story.  One of the daughters was missing a leg.  She was walking down the aisle leaning on her father, and crutches.  When I saw this I had to look away.  As I bore witness to this family’s pain, I thought again about the blessings in my own life.  A wave of guilt washed over me.  It made me frustrated.

My frustration stemmed from a genuine, passionate questioning of God’s sovereignty.  “WHY!?” I thought.  “Why, am I so blessed.  Even the deepest pains, disappointments, and frustrations, I have experienced in my life, pale in comparison to the pain I see around me everyday. The trials that others endure on a daily basis.  This beautiful family is only one, of the millions, who experience loss, disease, and heart wrenching trials everyday.  So why am I do blessed? And what do I do with my blessings?”

It’s not that I am not thankful.  Far from it.  I relish even more, with every passing picture of suffering the simple blessings of my life.  And I cannot answer my own question.  But I did come to a couple of realizations.

One was that I have a daily obligation to see my blessings and thank God appropriately.  To breathe in the air that He graciously provides for my healthy lungs.  To let my breath out be a sigh of praise.  To use my legs and walk towards the hurting. I have a responsibility to live a life of gratitude.  To use my blessing to bind up the wounds of those around me.  And if in this life, suffering finds me, to remember that I am not alone.  That in that moment I am joining the ranks of all those who are and have suffered before me.  That in that moment I am taking my share of the suffering and hopefully from someone else who has had their fair share already.  To remember that God is big enough. He sees everything, and that no matter the suffering it is never pointless.  It is all working into us a strength and endurance that can only come through pain.

So I hope that you will join me today in praying for the Evans family.  Who have lost a father, and more.  And after petitioning, praise Him for the blessings that you are enjoying right now.  Like breath, and legs, and those that we love.

May we let truth change us.

WV