When Our Thoughts are a Train Wreck

Have you given any thought to your thoughts this past week? In last week’s introductory post, New Year, New Mind, I asked you to spend this past week thinking about what you think about. Most often it is our thoughts that sabotage our efforts to make our lives better, whether it be eating better, exercising more, getting rid of clutter, making new habits or just being more thankful or joyful.

I don’t know about you, but my thoughts often look just like this train wreck.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Just how that train got where it got, from where it was coming from, is a mystery, but something definitely went wrong! That is just how our thoughts work. One minute we are fine. We are motivated, energized and raring to go conquer the world. The next moment we are a sobbing, angry, anxious train wreck. This week I would like to look at several areas of train wreck mentality.

Train Wreck #1 - Being Self Absorbed

We are all guilty of being self absorbed. Who hasn’t felt selfish, possessive, jealous or needy? Unfortunately, the train wreck of self absorption is reaching epidemic proportions. Let me break it down:

I’m too - These two little words lead to all sorts of inner focused thinking. I’m too fat. I’m too thin. i’m too tall. I’m too short. I’m too ugly. I’m too young. I’m too old. I’m too dumb. I’m too tired.

In addition to the I’m too problem, there is the parallel Not Enough dilemma.

Not Enough - Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Not loving enough. Not slim enough. Not organized enough. Not talkative enough. Not brave enough. Not motivated enough….you get the picture. I’m sure, if you are reading this post, you have heard these words in your own head. I certainly have. I have gone over and over the same tracks as the train of self absorption chugs along.

Not a good enough wife.

Not a good enough mother.

Not a good enough grandma.

Not a good enough daughter.

Not a good enough Christian.

Not a good enough employee.

Not a good enough friend.

On and on it chugs along until suddenly it derails and there I am a self absorbed mess.

Have you really thought about how being self absorbed affects you? Not only does it cause physical issues, such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure and auto immune problems, it also causes a plethora of psychological and emotional problems, from anxiety disorder to narcissistic tendencies. Take a look at this interesting article from Psychology Today. While not the definitive authority on psychological disorders and treatments, I think the article makes a pertinent point.

But what’s most fascinating to me here is that I haven’t seen discussed by writers on the subject just how many psychological dysfunctions can be accurately understood as “maladies” of self-absorption. From a variety of phobic, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive impairments, to many depressive disturbances (including bipolar disorder), to various addictions, to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and to most of the personality disorders, self-absorption can be seen as playing a major (if not dominant) role. So any effective treatment of these dysfunctions needs to include significantly reducing these obsessively self-centered—and self-defeating—tendencies.
— Leon Seltzer, PhD., Psychology Today (online) - Posted August 24, 2016

You can see the whole article here.

Our self absorption tendencies may just lead us to a bitter end.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Train Wreck #2 - Demanding Our Rights

This one is a direct outcome of the first train wreck of being self absorbed. Let me say that people should have rights. Our country came into being and was founded on the idea that people should have a right to worship as they want. The men who authored The Declaration of Independence, felt that certain rights were so important, they were willing to go to war to ensure their solidity.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
— Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

However, the rights that Jefferson, Adams and others were referring too had to do with basic tenants of self-government, including freedom of religion, and the freedom to govern ourselves. When they were talking about government over themselves they weren’t talking about the rights that so many today are yelling about. They were talking about the right to work a job, own a home and yes, to even own a gun. The governing process had to do with community and country as a whole.

Today the rights battle continues as women seek equal pay for equal work, as well as equality on pricing of necessary products such as deodorant and razors. Did you realize that women usually pay more for these products? These desires are good. What becomes a problem is when the demand for rights is born out of a self absorbed mentality.

I want it and I want it now!! Watch this short video.

Isn’t this a perfect analogy of how thoroughly self indulgent we can be. Truly, aren’t we just a bunch of spoiled, rotten, children at times? Demanding our rights, and not taking into consideration the desires, needs and feelings of other people, is not what our forefathers meant when they brought the Declaration of Independence into fruition. A rights based mentality, must be balanced by an equally serious mentality of individual responsibility. An attitude of responsibility means that we cannot be self-absorbed.

Train Wreck #3 - Not Caring

This is probably the mentality that causes the most problems. When we are self absorbed at least we care enough about ourselves that we might still be willing to try to take care of ourselves. We might even be caring enough to care for other people. Demanding our rights means we still want something. We want something that is important enough to us to be willing to yell and fight for it. Unfortunately, when we get to the point where we no longer care, that is when trains derail and we crash.

Think about a time when you gave up, or you wanted to. How did you feel? How did that feeling change the way you were doing things? I have done the, counting calorie thing, many times over the course of my adult life. I have kept track, written things down, measured and tallied. No matter how many times I restarted, I always got to a certain point where I just didn’t care any more. I would lose a few pounds, feel better, fit into my clothes better and so on, but still, somehow or other, I would end back up at the same place.

I don’t care.

I can’t tell you for certain, why we often get to a point of not caring any more, but it does happen. I believe there are many reasons we get to this point in our lives. Fatigue, illness, relationship struggles, work problems, family crisis, national unrest, the list goes on. With our computers, televisions, smart phones and other instantaneous technology, we are constantly plugged in and on the spot. We see what is going on with everyone else and everyone else knows all our struggles as well.

We are finite, limited human beings and eventually all the input does its job of desensitizing us and bring us to that creaky bridge where our train begins to clackety clack across. Finally, the bridge drops out from beneath us and we plunge into the canyon of hopelessness and despair.

Who cares!

Why bother!

I give up!

When we get to this point, it is time to reevaluate how we got here.

Next week I’ll be sharing a video that I hope will make you laugh, but that makes a pertinent point that we can’t ignore and will hopefully give us hope to care again and start living a mentally healthy life.

Until then, have a great week and be careful, not to have a train wreck!

Beauty from Ash

There it was. A single, dark green leaf, beginning to unfurl. It had been conceived in darkness. A tiny seed that lay dormant, not dead, merely asleep in the cozy warmth of the dark earth. While it was sleeping the dragon had done his damage. He had ravaged the landscape, burning every tree and every living thing until all was nothing but ash. He thought he had destroyed life, but what he had meant for death, the One had meant for life. 

The ash lay heavy on the earth. It became, not a grave blanket of death, but a rich, comforting layer of warmth and nutrients. Gradually, over time, the rains came and the ash cooled and lingering life seeped into the black earth below. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

The seed drank the death life and began to swell. Swollen and full, it opened, releasing a shoot into the fertile soil above. Pushing, struggling, reaching, it climbed upward. It knew, above the darkness there was light and the light was what it wanted. The light was what it needed. The shoot didn't know how it knew, but it knew it had to reach for the light. It knew the light would help it grow. It knew the light would give it life.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Soon the pushing, struggling and reaching paid off. At the very tip of it's furthest point the shoot felt an odd sensation, warmth. It had only ever known the coolness of the earth in which it lay. It had only ever known the darkness, but now...now it reached. With one last ambitious push it poked through the earth and ash and found the light.  

*          *          *          *           *

Are we not like the seed? Were we not conceived in darkness? Did we not, when we were full with the nutrients of our mother's womb, the womb that would die after our life, death life, did we not move toward the light? We knew when it was time, as our mother's womb knew when it was time to help us, push, and reach and struggle, that we must find the light. We needed the light. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Why then, when we know the light is good, do we stop seeking it? Why, when we know the light gives us life and helps us grow, do we we hide from it? Why do we prefer to cover ourselves back up with the dragon's ash, trying to hide rather than growing to the potential that the One had meant for us? 

It is because we are afraid. 

Do not fear the light, or the One from which the light has its source. Rather, push, struggle, reach for Him. He will tend you like a tender shoot and raise you up into a mighty tree.

He alone can bring beauty from ash. 

(Written by Amy D. Christensen)

 

Three Little Commands

As a Christian I am often about, what to do. How do I serve? How do I minister? I often become fixated on one or two commands in the Bible and forget about all of the other ones. In recent years my life has gone down a path I never thought it would take and suddenly everything looks so different. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

You know how it is. You decide to take a drive in the country. It's a beautiful fall day, the colors are at peak and you are enjoying the scenery. After a while you decide you need to head home. You have things to do. Instead of turning around and going back exactly the same way you came, you decide to take a different route. All of a sudden, you have no idea where you are. Everything looks the same, and nothing looks familiar. 

That is how life can be. You are traveling along and all of a sudden you don't know where you are, nor how you got there. At those times the things we know can be helpful, but they can also be to our detriment. Knowing directions such as North, South, East and West are helpful, but if you insist you are going North, when you are actually going South, well that could be a problem.

For many years as a college student at a Bible school and into adult life, my focus was on how do I spread the Good News; how do I tell others about Jesus? When I became a wife and mother my focus became how do I serve God in my family and train up girls who would want to follow Him? I have never lost my direction as far as wanting to do what God would want me to do. I have however, gone down a path of suffering that I was unprepared for and would often find myself looking up at Heaven and asking, "Are you sure I can do this?" 

His answer was always the same, "With me, you can!"

While my direction was still the same, the tasks that I once thought were all important took second place to the all encompassing work of knowing Him better. Believe me, when you walk a trail that goes through some deep valley's the only way to get through them is to keep coming back to the purpose of life: to glorify Him. It was along this path that He lead me to these three little commands.

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:16 - 18 (NASB)

I often find myself back at God's feet asking Him, "What do you want me to do?" 

In recent years His answer is always the same, "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all things."

"But Lord, is that really enough? Shouldn't I be doing more? Leading a Bible study? Helping at the soup kitchen? Going back to school?"

I always picture HIm smiling at me and saying, "Are you doing those three things yet?"

If you are like me, you know that rejoicing always is like backing your car all the way from Cleveland to Buffalo. It isn't something that comes naturally for most of us. Remember my post from a few weeks ago, Giving Up Grumbling? Yeah, well rejoicing always is a similar dilemma.

Let's talk about praying without ceasing? Does that just happen? Probably not. Prayer is work, just like exercise. It really must be intentional. There is a time and place for going into our prayer closets and having earnest prayer before the Lord, but how does that fit into our busy, chaotic lives? How do we actually pray without stopping?

Finally, in everything give thanks. It's easy to be thankful when things are going well, but when the poop hits the fan, being thankful sometimes goes right out the same window. 

We are all at different points in life. You may be a young Christian who is very zealous about telling others about Jesus. You might be a new wife, determined to love your spouse with the earnestness of the Song of Solomon lover. You might be a mother trying to fulfill the reality of a Proverbs 31 woman. There are so many ideals in the Bible, many of which we cannot fulfill, at least not without Him. None of these are bad. And God has each of us right where He wants us. 

path in the woods

So, for a little while this is the path I am walking. A path of rejoicing, praying and giving thanks, even when life is difficult. Maybe you are on this same path. Maybe life doesn't look exactly like you thought it would at this point and you are feeling a little lost. Don't worry. You are in good company. 

Over the next three weeks I want to look at each of those little commands in a much bigger way. I hope you'll walk with me.

The Imperishable Prize

There may be no other simple six letter word that invokes so much stress and fear as change. Have you ever considered how much change you go through in a day, a week, a month or a year, let alone your life time? I was thinking about the changes that I have encountered in the last month. My daughter found a new job which changed her schedule, so that changed my grandson's schedule, which in turn, changed my schedule. Certain procedures at my place of employment changed, which changed how I did the schedule and changed the amount of time I had to spend working on the schedule. Changes are not always good. Sometimes, they are just excruciatingly frustrating. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

In the last few months my daughter and son-in-law have had both cars in the shop, my nephew who was supposed to get married, didn't, another nephew had a daughter which no one was aware of until the mother went into labor and my hairdresser decided to give up being a hairdresser for a different full time job. All of these changes in some way affected my world. Wouldn't it be nice to just go a few hours, days, weeks or even months without changes?

And let's not forget the change, that wonderful time period that all women get to look forward to. Weight gain, hot flashes, abnormal periods, oh the joy! 

Don't get me wrong, many changes are good. Giving up smoking or excessive sugar is good for your health. Ending a toxic relationship is good for your well being. Starting to exercise can, not only help your heart, but improve your mood. Reading can open your mind and imagination to new worlds and learning something new can help delay memory loss. Much of change is good and necessary. 

God does not want us to be static. Webster defines static as showing little or no change, action or progress. Our lives are supposed to change and grow as we come to know Jesus more and as we learn to trust and obey Him.

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
— I Corinthians 9:19-27 (NASB)

The Apostle Paul was not only uniquely aware of change, he was an agent of change. Once a top shelf Pharisee, persecutor of Christ followers, he met the Lord Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus. You can see his conversion in Acts 9:1-19. This intellectual Jew, raised in the strict order of the Pharisees, became a Christian. He changed. He went from killing Christians to believing in Christ and becoming one of the greatest leaders in the early Christian church. 

Paul knew that change did not end the moment he became born again. He was aware that his faith was going to be an ever evolving and changing thing. His desire became, to become all things to all men, so that Christ might be preached. He wanted to do his best and he knew that meant working at his faith and his relationship with Jesus.

I am thoroughly convicted by the above passage.

1. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run - Really? Do I remember I am even in the race, let alone that I am supposed to be running. I am not a runner, but I am smart enough to understand that being in a marathon takes hard work, discipline and practice. What do marathon runners practice? Piano? Chess? Painting? No! They practice running. They run to build their endurance and then they run to increase their speed. So the first question I need to ask myself is, 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Am I running in the race or am I sitting on the sidelines being a spectator? I believe there are times we are on the sidelines. Runners get injuries, after which they have to take time to heal. As Christ followers and as human beings we get injured. We feel pain. And often that means we have to sit out for a spell. However, the analogy goes deeper. Let's say I am one of those marathon runners. My goal may be to win or just to make it to the finish line. If I fall and get injured do I stop or do I keep going? That all depends on the extent of the injury. We live in a world of hurt and pain. Our churches are filled with hurting people. Once in a while we get hurt by one of those hurting people. Does that mean I'm out of the race? Not if God is on your side.

2. Run in such a way that you may win - Winning? Hmmm. I don't feel like I am winning when I keep getting knocked down over and over. But think about it. A soldier who goes into combat keeps getting up and firing back until he can't get up any more. He knows the prize - to win the war, to keep people safe and protect human dignity and freedom. He fights for that to his very death because he is focused on the prize. So my second question is,

Am I running to win? - I have been. I am answering that question honestly. There are times in the last few years where I feel like I have hunkered down in a trench to hide and hope I don't have to ever show my head in the race again. But, my heart says, I want to run and run to win. Jesus' Spirit in me, is not going to let me give up, not if I really believe in the prize.

Pixabay

Pixabay

3. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things - Excuse me? What did you say? Self-control? What is that? You mean you want me to not eat that other donut? You mean you want me to take a walk when I would rather sit in front of the TV? You mean you want me to hold my tongue when that customer was extremely rude to me? You mean you want me to love, give and care even when there is nothing in return? So my third question (no, I don't know how to count) is, 

Do all things, really mean all things? - Uh, yeah! So true, but so hard to do! But what is the motivation? For the Olympians past and present it is to receive a perishable wreath, or gold medal. For a Christ follower it is to receive an imperishable wreath. To hear Jesus say, "Well, done." To me, that seems worth the effort. 

4. Therefore I run in such a way as not without aim. I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. - It seems to me we need to have a purpose for what we do...not without aim, not beating the air. Disciplining ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. My fourth question then is,

Pixabay

Pixabay

For what purpose? - Paul says it is so that he might not be disqualified. Paul didn't want to mess up, not for his own pride and reputation, but for his Lord. Our goal as a follower of Christ should be to lift Him up; to glorify Him; to turn people toward Him. 

What does that all have to do with change? Everything. Every day we experience change we can either take it in stride and glorify Jesus, or we can whine and complain. I know I am not always going to run with the aim in mind and at times I may even be beating the air, but I want to keep running. I want to remember why I run...for the imperishable prize.