What Are You Thinking?

“A penny for your thoughts?”

This is a question people often ask when someone seems deep in thought or reflective.  It’s a good question to ask when you’re getting to know someone or when a person seems unusually quiet.  But it’s also a good question to ask ourselves from time to time, forcing us to take a thought inventory.

Taking an inventory of our thoughts is important because it lets us see places in our thinking where we can make some helpful adjustments.   Indeed, consider some of the things Paul says about our thoughts:

  • 2 Cor 10:5, “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”
  • Phil 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think on these things.”
  • Rom 8:6, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace”

Let’s be attentive to our thoughts because they influence our lives in very powerful but subtle ways!

Are You Gluten Intolerant?

Many people are removing gluten from their eating for allergy & health reasons so it’s increasingly common to hear from people that they’ve eliminated bread from their diet.
There’s one bread, however, that we would be wise to increase for our daily consumption – the Bread of Life, who is Jesus!


Lately, I’ve been trying my hand at baking bread with mixed results. But there are four basic steps to letting Jesus, the Bread of life, participate in our daily living:

  1. Assemble ingredients – be sure to always have time in the Bible & prayer everyday
  2. Mix ingredients – keeping prayer & the Bible in isolated compartments will never be as effective as letting them mix throughout our days, activities, relationships, conversations & responsibilities
  3. Proof – time for the rise is essential for bread to have a palatable texture & taste; let’s be careful not to get impatient during the process or proofing
  4. Bake – heat is necessary for the bread to be portable, practical & edible; Jesus helps us through all of life’s hotspots!

Eat good bread, the Bread of Life!

periscope vision

I’ve been enjoying the Spring weather & trying to take a daily walk to improve my physical & mental health.  It’s nice to enjoy some sunshine, fresh air and feet on the ground.  While my body is definitely grounded during these daily walks, my mind tends to wander to various topics:  kids, work, schedules, prayers, writing, etc.  Some of my thoughts can be healthy & constructive, but some of my thoughts not so much.

I was reminded today about setting my mind above and not below from Colossians 3:2 & Philippians 4:7-8.  I think our thoughts can be kind of like fish:

  • bottom feeders who scavenge off the dirt and refuse at the lowest levels
  • horizontal eaters who forage through their daily living, focus set throughout this horizontal world
  • flying fish who sail above the average existence and get to see things from a vertical rather than horizontal perspective

Let’s keep our minds fixed above & not dwelling on the average or below average existence!

Oblivious

It’s probably not good to be oblivious, but it happens. For example, last year I had a snowboarding accident & sustained a concussion. This was no bueno & for a season, I was clueless to lots of stuff around me & also in my own emotions & thinking processes. This was a really difficult experience for me & id prefer not to repeat it, ever.

But here are some ways that we might be oblivious that need consideration.  We can be oblivious to:

  • what’s happening around us (with people, situations, events, etc),
  • what’s happening inside of ourselves (thoughts, emotions, mind sets, etc)
  • the Holy Spirit

Being oblivious in these areas can create some extremely difficult problems, conversations, hardships & experiences.
We would be wise to ask the Holy Spirit to teach us to pay attention, increase our awareness & give us wisdom so we don’t go through life in mindless oblivion 🙂

Help All the Time

Recently, a friend was telling me about a new project assigned to her & she was not just a little intimidated! She kept telling me that she didn’t feel adequate nor capable to do this project. As I listened, I felt really bad for my friend because she didn’t seem to think that she could ask God to help her.

While I’m concerned for my friend, I’m also encouraged with myself for this default reaction to ask for Help. The fact that I would instinctively ask the Holy Spirit to help me is really positive progress for me, a former independence junkie, hopefully.
As I write this, I’m asking for the Holy Spirit to help me almost minute by minute today, as this particular day is unusually jammed with responsibilities, important events & a plethora of diverse needs. Feel free to ask for divine Help throughout your day as well, no matter what’s happening or not!

Change the Harvest

Last week I had a blinding flash of the obvious: we reap what we sow.

The brilliant part of this wisdom is that we often reap in fields that are different from where we sow. But no matter where we reap, the principle remains the same – we reap what we sow.
So what do you want? If you want something different than your current results perhaps it’s time to consider the seeds that you’re sowing. If you’re planting gossip, strife, belittling, condescension & insecurity, don’t be surprised when those show up in your life.
On the other hand, planting encouragement, stability, patience & other good seeds produce a harvest after its kind, across a wide array of fields!
Let’s be sure we are planting the seeds that we want to harvest!

Crazy Ideas

I have heaps of crazy ideas & what’s really interesting is that I’m not afraid to try out lots of these ideas. Sometimes it works out well & sometimes it’s a disaster. Over the course of time, I’ve grown accustomed to the raised eyebrows & quizzical looks that people give me, but there are few friends who give me the thumbs up & seem to enjoy these grand adventures.

Sometimes, I think the Holy Spirit has some crazy ideas as well. I’ve had the Holy Spirit direct my steps to do some really incredible things, like starting nightcare with Saving Moses, teaching German in China & learning some fun languages! Let’s be careful that we don’t automatically dismiss something crazy & miss an opportunity to follow the Holy Spirit on a fun adventure!!

New Beginnings

We sold our church building & we’re moving to a new building nearby. We’ve been in our old building for almost 30 years, so there are plenty of memories from those years. I’m excited for our new building & starting a new chapter!

Thinking about this new chapter, I’m reminded of Joshua leading the Israelites to possess the Promised Land. When God leads us to start a new chapter, let’s be like Joshua:

  • We can do it!! In Numbers 13-14, Joshua & Caleb were the can-do spies but the other 10 spies were despondent & faith-less
  • Keep going!! Joshua had some setbacks before conquering the Promised Land. There was disobedience & duplicity among he Israelites, but Joshua didn’t quit
  • Look to God!! In Joshua 10, God made time stop so that Joshua could finish a battle & defeat his enemy. God helps us possess His promises to us!

Unexpected

“Please keep talking.” I popped into Walmart last week for a quick errand after dropping off my son for school & the register chick said this to me. I sheepishly looked at her because I was wearing my hoodie & sweats, not the hair & makeup routine for tv. I could tell she recognized my voice & was trying to match the visual image to my voice. With chagrin I said, “You probably know me from tv with my mom, Marilyn Hickey.”

I love what she said, “I knew your voice immediately but I didn’t expect to see you in my register lane.”
I’ve thought about this for several days because I think this lesson applies to us recognizing Jesus’ voice regardless of our location or expectations. We expect to hear Jesus when we read our Bible or go to church. But let’s also listen for Jesus throughout this day 🙂

In The Moment

I’m not a planner. Indeed, spontaneity is fun for me & I enjoy being agile for various adventures, mostly. But I’ve come to appreciate that planning can often make things better & so I’ve learned to value the process.
With that said, I’m learning that God is both the Perfect Planner & Playful Partner. I can see the strategic hand of God when I look back at various seasons & experiences. But let’s also be willing to follow God moment by moment in nimble obedience & undisputed trust!

Broken Again

This is a picture of our jerry-rigged dishwasher this morning. I have to prop the door closed so it will keep running & I still have to check it occasionally to make sure it’s still working.
Sometimes life is like my dishwasher. I like it when everything works smoothly, but we know that this isn’t always the case. Joseph working in pharaoh’ house seemed to be in a good place, but I’m sure that when his brothers showed up, things felt broken again. Just when we think things are moving along smoothly, something can break or even seemingly regress. This can be discouraging so let me hopefully give some help here:
1 – keep going: setbacks happen, but keep going, even if it’s a slower pace
2 – fix it: sometimes a solution is permanent but don’t be surprised if you have to circle back & work on the problem again
3 – celebrate: even with what seems small, celebrate! Any progress is helpful!
Feel free to pass this on to your friends who are struggling w broken stuff 🙂

Make Mistakes

Perfect is for heaven & practice is for earth. I’m the poster child for making mistakes, stubbing my toe & failing. I’m ok with that because I can hopefully encourage others to try, learn, grow & improve.

We get ourselves in a dangerous place when we quit or stop trying. Here are some things that could help you to keep trying:

  • Learn – what’s the last thing you learned, besides various facts? What skill are you learning?
  • Grow – sometimes it hurts to grow & this can be associated with growing pains. But growing means something is alive!
  • Step – a step is progress, even if it’s small 🙂

Reinforce the Good

“I killed a lion & a bear, so this uncircumcised Philistine will be like them!” These were the words David to answer Saul’s uncertainty about David killing Goliath. While I appreciate that it’s very dangerous to live in a state of denial, it’s also essential to keep our focus on faith & not fear or doubt. We absolutely have challenges & struggles that have varying degrees of intensity & stress.

Let’s be careful, however, that we continue to reinforce the good things so we don’t get overwhelmed by giants, problems & pressure.
Here are some ideas that could help to reinforce the good:

  • Keep some encouraging Bible verses handy to review
  • Pay attention to negative stuff that could be tainting your thoughts (tv, social media, music, etc)
  • Encourage your friends & let them encourage you
  • Pray instead of complain

Feel free to share this with your friends / family!

Love on Valentines Day

This picture is the word “love” in 9 different languages. It took me awhile to practice the one in Mandarin & I think I kind of botched the Arabic one. But the idea remains the same regardless of the script or language.
Valentines Day is often attributed to expressing romantic love, but genuine love is WAY MORE than romance. Genuine love is grounded in the reality that God is love & nothing we do or don’t do will change Who God is, full stop. God will never stop loving you because God will never stop existing.
So let’s not only celebrate that God loves us, but let’s allow that opulent & lavish love God gives us to overflow through us today!

Strength or Weakness?

In the past, I’ve taken lots of pride in being a highly independent person.  As any wise person knows, pride goes before a fall, both literally & metaphorically.  So when I’ve thought that being independent was a strength, I’m growing to appreciate that it can also be a weakness.  I’m learning that independence becomes a weakness when I separate myself from people, when I don’t ask for help, when I don’t allow others to contribute in teamwork and improvements.  Unfortunately, I’ve had to fall down, fail and face inadequacy to accept the reality that my independence isn’t a strength as much as it can be a weakness for me.

I’m being vulnerable with this lesson because there’s a good chance that you might have a few things that you consider to be strengths.  It’s possible that these perceived strengths could be weaknesses for you, maybe.  Consider some examples:

  • Is external beauty a strength at the expense of cultivating interior beauty?  Of course these don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but it’s a good question to consider in both ways of interior & exterior beauty.
  • Is dependence a strength when cultivating one’s internal fortitude is dismissed?
  • Is discipline a strength when it accentuates achievement at the expense of intimacy or people connection?
  • Is Bible knowledge or proper theology a strength without God’s love to soften our words, actions and attitudes?

Sometimes we can lean on our strengths so much that they can become weaknesses without realizing it!  Let’s keep Paul’s words about boasting in weakness from 2 Corinthians 11:30 as a central theme in our daily living!  “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.”

Stay Focused

What you focus on is where you go. I learned this with great intensity when I took a lesson for downhill mountain bike riding. In a particularly harrowing part of the trail, our instructor kept yelling, “LOOK PAST THE CURVE!!!” A few of my classmates didn’t listen to the instructor & they hardcore crashed, flipping over the handlebars. What the instructor was yelling didn’t make sense to me, but I decided to do what he said, nonetheless. When I followed the instructions, my bike followed my focus.
Lots of times, it’s easy to focus on emergencies, crises, worries, etc. When we obsess with struggles & uncertainties, it’s easy to crash in the curve because our focus gets off of Jesus. Let’s be sure that we keep our focus & thoughts on Jesus, the author & perfectos of our faith – Hebrews 12:2!

Eating an Elephant

Do you ever struggle with big projects? Sometimes things can seem overwhelming when they’re massive in size & scope. It’s easy for me to get under the water when I have big projects that I have to complete, but it helps me to think about big projects in small bites. So I always say, “start with the toenails when you have to eat an elephant.”

David did this when he was facing Goliath. When Saul asked David about killing the giant, David replied, “I’ve killed a lion & a bear, so God will help me with this giant!”
Here are a few helpful thoughts to eat an elephant / accomplish big projects:

  1. Look at a small & do-able part of the big project & start there
  2. Pay attention to your thoughts so they don’t get overwhelmed with the size of what needs to be accomplished
  3. When you get into the project, come up to periscope depth from time to time to celebrate progress
  4. Remind yourself of your precious accomplishments to be encouraged!

Can Gory Be Glory?

In many ways, gory seems to be the antonym of glory and I don’t commonly associate these words together besides the rhyming sound they make.  But there’s a stark and startling place where these words converge into one place and that would be Jesus when He was crucified.

If you saw the movie by Mel Gibson, “The Passion of the Christ”, it showed with disturbing clarity the gory nature of Jesus’ death on the cross.  I’ll never forget how deeply moved I was to the core of my soul when I saw this movie the first time.  As I watched, I found myself repeatedly thinking, “please stop, that’s enough!”  And at the end of the movie, I was entirely unraveled because I couldn’t escape the reality that Jesus endured this excrutiating experience entirely on the pure motivation of genuine love, full stop.

Jesus was glorified in the gory mess of human suffering, sin and sacrifice.  And this continues to give me the assurance that Jesus can redeem human gore and transform it into divine glory, a truth that we would be wise to ponder throughout this weekend 🙂

Hot Topic: Successful Outcomes!!

” . . . . and the Lord brought about a great victory.” 2Samuel 23:12
I read this morning about some dude, Shammah, defending a field of lentils. Initially, a lentil field doesn’t sound like something to get really upset about, let alone turn into a major military engagement. But alas, Shammah picked the lentil field & that was his “line in the sand.” This verse also says that Shammah took his stand in the field, defended it & struck down the Philistines. After Shammah’s three actions, taking his stand, defending the field & striking the Philistines, God gave him a great victory.
It seems like we often want to know that God will give us a great victory before we make the commitment to a lentil field or put out the effort to fight for something.
Sometimes I think that God waits for us to be fully engaged & committed before giving us a great victory.
Might there be a few areas in your life to which you could increase your commitment so that God would provide a great victory? This is something worth considering today!

Same But Different

“You’re not going to North Korea are you?” I was driving my kids to school this morning & made a phone call to another ministry about some cool opportunities in North Korea. My kids immediately asked this question when I hung up & I assured them that I’m not going there this year. But it still sounds like an incredible opportunity to me!

Alas, not everyone thinks like I do & that’s altogether fantastic! Seems to me that God has uniquely created us for distinct purposes & designs. Some people are attracted to stable, predictable & familiar. Some folk have a little wanderlust in their souls. Some of us are pioneers & more than a little maverick-y. But each follower of Jesus has valid contributions to make to His kingdom!
Just because I’m different than you doesn’t make me superior or inferior any more than you are superior or inferior to me! Let’s remember that we are essential parts of one Body & we desperately need each other to fulfill our unique & divine purposes! I’m celebrating you today!!