bright thinking!

Have you been through difficult seasons when your thoughts turn dark?  Lately, it seems like this has been my lot.  It’s certainly not as bad as Job in the Bible, but it’s not a smoothy groovy season for me at this time.  A few of the challenges that have popped up lately include:  a car meltdown, lost my credit card, my husband had a stroke, one of my kids had a crisis at school, some friend challenges and discouraging news from work.

As I’ve been navigating these difficulties, the Holy Spirit spoke to me this morning about how my thoughts were getting dark.  It’s like I’ve started to see things in a warped way and I find myself thinking negatively and with grim expectations.  This is one of the reasons I so deeply love the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus also calls the Spirit of Truth.  In my prayer time today, the Holy Spirit reminded me about Phil 4:8 where Paul tells us to dwell on / think about what is:  true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and good repute, excellent and worthy of praise.

So with the help of the Holy Spirit, I’m re-directing my thoughts away from the dark stuff & onto things that are THRPLGR:  true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and good repute!  Anyone care to join me???

Say Yes!!

“I need to think about that.” This is my classic answer to the majority of the things my kids ask from me. If I impulsively say yes or no, I’m likely going to get into some hot water rather quickly.

But with Jesus, I always want to say “yes!” When we say yes to Jesus, it can be saying yes to

  • being kind to a stranger,
  • loving our kids when they get under our skin,
  • being generous with our finances,
  • helping a prostitute look after her baby or toddler,
  • praying for someone who’s sick
  • and lots of other things!

Let’s decide before Jesus asks that we’ll say “Yes!”

What Are You Saying??

Yesterday, I listened to one of my kids rant about their school, the wicked teachers, awful students & deplorable work. I don’t mind listening and sometimes I’m good at listening, which is good because my kid needed a listening ear. After about 30-45min of this content, I felt it was time for some objectivity so we had an interesting chat. I applauded their willingness to acknowledge a few of their shortfalls, but I also pointed out that from this child’s perspective, the lion’s share of the problems belonged to everyone else. This kind of thinking was allowing my kid to frame themselves as the victim & that’s no bueno. Being a victim often leaves us powerless & inert, wallowing in self pity. Seems to me that this kind of thinking runs contrary to how God has designed us, back in the Garden of Eden with power & dominion.

At the minimum, we have authority & power over our attitude & the choices we make about our perspective. Let’s be careful about how we think because our thoughts affect our words, attitudes & actions!

Insulated or Isolated?


Sometimes I think these terms get mixed up in our lives & we don’t realize it. Insulation is to keep out unwanted things, like cold weather or extreme heat. We can also insulate ourselves from painful experiences or uncomfortable feelings. But without being careful, insulation can become isolation when we chose to withdraw & not engage.
I could easily justify insulating myself from seeing & hearing someone’s pain or struggles that I find repugnant. But when I do this, I isolate myself & restrict the Holy Spirit from moving through me, to touch & heal the world around me. Let’s be careful not to insulate ourselves with our wealth & ability to chose our focus from the suffering around us. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t insulate Himself when He lives among us.

Pass on the Poison

Sometimes my thoughts are poisonous. For example, I’m currently writing a book & from time to time I think that what I’m writing is a garbled mess & worthless. There are times when I get in a group of people & I get frozen with insecurity. Occasionally, fear creeps around my thoughts leaving little whispers of doubt. 
All of these things are poison. If I let these thoughts run lose in my mind, I turn into a shriveled little person, ineffective & irrelevant. 

I would speculate that you might have your own versions of poisonous thoughts so let’s help each other out & agree to pass on the poison. How can we do this? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Take captive every thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of God – refuse to let these poisonous thoughts run amuck in your mind
  • Replace the poison with probiotic verses – Gods word is alive & effective so let’s allow it to firmly root & flourish in our thoughts!
  • Take a walk – sometimes it helps to clear the cobwebs when we get some physical exercise. 

No matter what, let’s actively choose to pass on the poison!

Raise the Tide

Last night my daughter was clocking in some driving time so she can have enough hours to get her drivers license. I was flabbergasted by the quantity of rude drivers even at 8:30pm, unbelievable. I jokingly said to her, “Let that guy who honked at you for driving the speed limit, let him pull up beside us & I’ll do something rude back to him.” Of course I understand that I need to model for my daughter good behavior, so I wasn’t very serious about my comment. 
Nonetheless, I started thinking about my frustrations with other drivers & here’s where it gets dicey: if I mirror back another person’s rude behavior, then I’m making decisions at the lowest common denominator. Living at the lowest common denominator isn’t the life that Jesus describes to His followers in the Beatitudes – specifically as it relates to being merciful & receiving mercy. 

Let’s raise the tide more than we lower our behaviors 🙂

Raise the Tide

Last night my daughter was clocking in some driving time so she can have enough hours to get her drivers license. I was flabbergasted by the quantity of rude drivers even at 8:30pm, unbelievable. I jokingly said to her, “Let that guy who honked at you for driving the speed limit, let him pull up beside us & I’ll do something rude back to him.” Of course I understand that I need to model for my daughter good behavior, so I wasn’t very serious about my comment. 
Nonetheless, I started thinking about my frustrations with other drivers & here’s where it gets dicey: if I mirror back another person’s rude behavior, then I’m making decisions at the lowest common denominator. Living at the lowest common denominator isn’t the life that Jesus describes to His followers in the Beatitudes – specifically as it relates to being merciful & receiving mercy. 

Let’s raise the tide more than we lower our behaviors 🙂

Being Offended

There’s enough content to talk about offenses for endless years and I’m sure I couldeasily describe various situations & people who have offended us. Seems to me that being offended isn’t as much an issue as getting over an offense. Here are some ideas that might help:

  • Quit thinking about ways to get even or pay them back – the revenge thing lays squarely in God’s portfolio
  • Stop talking about it – prayer groups, venting & rehearsing merely fester the wound rather closing it to infection & poison
  • Pray for the person who offended you – private prayers that God would help you to forgive & that God would bless the offending person seem to be healing balm
  • Decide to be a proficient forgiver more than a bitter hater

Like Elsa says in Frozen, “Let it go!”  

Win the Race!!!

I’m a very competitive person and that can be really bad.  For example, I used to play in our church’s an annual flag football tournament.  After a few years, I decided to remove myself from playing because I couldn’t find a way to compete with a friendly demeanor.  So when Paul says in 1 Cor 9:24, “. . . , run in such as way as to win the prize, ” I would use this phrase to justify my poor behavior.  Of course I took the verse out of context and this verse can often be misappropriated & rationalized to accommodate personal success rather than transformed redemption.  But as followers of Jesus, winning the prize doesn’t align with the world’s definition of victory & success.  Indeed, consider the recent Olympic illustration of “winning the prize”:  running to win

Let’s enedeavor to be successful by the definition of following Jesus rather than letting our flesh or the world define success for us!

Deeper Than the Surface

I’m noticing today that my intimacy with God hasn’t been as deep in the last few weeks & of course I want this to change. So I’m thinking back about what’s been going on in my life that could be contributing to this malaise. I certainly acknowledge that there’s the normal ebb & flow that happens in any relationship. In my walk with God, however, I want to pay attention really well so I don’t settle for shallow when I can have deep, intimate & flourishing. The recent things in my life that I’m observing include some of the ongoing challenges with the concussion recovery – sleep challenges, energy & focus struggles. I’ve also noticed that there have been some insecurity flare ups that have definitely sidetracked me some. There’s also the challenges of schedule changes with my kids being out of school. 
None of these things can break my relationship with God, but they can certainly distract my focus & reliance so that I don’t live in the deeps with God. So I’m leaning into God & asking for more Heavenly Help. I’m also endeavoring to listen & pay attention better. I’m also keen to be less independent & more reliant on the Holy Spirit. Anyone want to join me? 

dysfunctional thinking

There was a chick in the Bible who I really admire & her name is Abigail.  I like her because she stood as a beacon of functional thinking contrary to lots of dysfunction swirling around her.  Nabal, her husband, was a foolish man & was treating David with dishonor & dysfunction.  David, for his part, was really amped up about how Nabal was treating him, so he decided to get revenge on Nabal.  Everyone around Abigail had dysfunctional thinking that was creating dysfunctional behavior that could ultimately lead to destructive outcomes.

But Abigail saves the day with her functional thinking and behavior:  She interrupts David’s plans & dissuades his anger.  She then returns to Nabal and waits until he gets un-drunk to honestly tell him what she’d done.  The outcome from all of these events is that Nabal died & Abigail married David, an upgrade from her former foolish husband.

Let’s be mindful that we don’t let dysfunctional thinking seep into our thoughts.  Let’s take captive every thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ!  If we’ve made these bad choices (dysfunctional thinking & behavior), then let’s repent and ask the Holy Spirit to help us in our thoughts & actions to be more healthy & constructive!

follow the leader

At some point, all of us have played Follow the Leader or Simon Says, most likely when we were kids.  The first few times, it took me some practice to get the hang of it, but rather quickly, I wanted to be the leader so I could make others do what I said.  That felt really powerful ,)

I remember one of my teachers telling me, “Sarah, if you’re going to be a good leader, you have to learn to follow well.”  Of course, this wasn’t the advice I was eager to hear, even though it felt right in my heart and I still hear these words bounce around in my heart & thoughts to this day.

I’ve been thinking of these words about following as they relate to Jesus following the Holy Spirit in Luke 4:1-2.  These verses describe how Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and led by the Spirit around in the wilderness for 40 days as He fasted & He was tempted by the devil.  When I’ve thought of these verses, they don’t feel particularly alluring nor enticing.  I’d prefer to not wander around in a desolate wilderness and fast for 40 days, nor be tested by the devil.  Yet that’s exactly what happened as Jesus followed the Holy Spirit.  Later in Luke 4, we read about Jesus being anointed by the Holy Spirit, speaking gracious & powerful words and we see Jesus start to walk in the fullness of His earthly ministry.  But all of that came after His committment to follow the Holy Spirit.

When we follow our flesh, it can briefly make us feel good.  But following the Holy Spirit has far better & longer lasting results than any flesh adventure we could choose.  Let’s be committed every day to following the Holy Spirit.

A Snake Bite

I grew up on a canal & we had various wildlife including snakes, which are no bueno for me. So this morning when I read in Acts 27 about Paul getting bit by a snake, I recoiled. The people who saw the snake fasten onto Paul decided that he was just getting justice for some evil he did & he merely shook off the snake & went about his business. He didn’t swell up & die, as the observers had expected but rather he went into the town & prayed for someone’s dad who was healed. 
Despite being misunderstood & wrongly judged, going through a cataclysmic storm, surviving shipwreck & being bit by a snake, Paul just kept going. 

There are always plenty of reasons to curl up in a corner & quit, but let’s be more like Paul, shake the snake & go pray for someone to get healed 🙂

Old and Mature

Does age equal maturity?

I was talking with a friend this weekend about being mature.  He made a comment that settled into my mind for lots of thinking.  He made the statement that being an “older Christian” was the same as being a “mature Christian”.  This is where I paused to think.  I started to think about what it means to be a mature Christian and I thought about this in light of knowing lots of folk who have been Christians for multiple decades.  Does time equal maturity?

If time and age don’t equal mature, what does it mean to be a mature follower of Jesus?  Here’s a short answer: a person who is more & more Christlike is an increasingly mature follower of Jesus.  If you’d like to ruminate on some sturdy ruffage on this topic, consider taking some time to read & digest Hebrew 5:11-6:8 🙂

Let’s endeavor to be not only aged followers of Jesus, but more importantly mature believers, full of Christlike fruit in our daily living 🙂

Doing Right

This morning I read how Joseph resisted the invitations of Potipher’s wife. Potipher was Joseph’s employer & Joseph didn’t want to dishonor his employer nor sin against God by giving into the wife’s seductions. In some respects, it might have been easy for Joseph to cave: Joseph was away from his family, he was a slave, maybe they could’ve kept their trist a secret & maybe there was some appeal to his flesh, on the most basic level. Nonetheless, Joseph kept his integrity & consistently rejected the wife’s efforts. 
In my thinking, Joseph should have been rewarded for holding the high ground but instead, he was lied about & then thrown into prison. So now he’s not a slave but maybe worse, he’s a “convict”.  God rewarded Joseph in prison & previously under Potipher by giving Joseph favor & leadership positions. 

But the immediate imprisonment result wasn’t the optimum outcome for maintaining a high level of integrity. 

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Do the right thing even if the immediate results seem to backfire 
  • Keep pure motives to serve & be a blessing
  • Make sure your forgiveness stays fresh 

I think all of this was practice for the real work of keeping a nation from being eradicated from a severe 7 years famine along with rescuing his entire family from starving to death 🙂

Do the right thing 🙂

The Good Side of Fear

“Do it scared!!” I’ve used this mantra on more than one occasion: snowboarding, my first triathlon, meeting important people, various travel experiences, etc. In my early 20s, my dad was massively helpful to me in dealing with fear – coaching me about not letting fear control me or make my decisions.   

I most certainly don’t want to be controlled by fear, but here’s the good part of fear: fear can be helpful to inform us, but debilitating if we let it control us.

In Prov 9:10, it says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom & my friend, we need as much wisdom in our lives as we can possibly hold! Let’s allow the fear of the Lord guide our decisions & organize our priorities!

Don’t forget to buy your copy of Heavenly Help!

Clutter & Chaos

I’m a taxi service for three wonderful children & I’ve had this honor for more than 10 years. So I’m kind of immune to my car being messy, full stop. I’ll not paint any sordid pictures for your imagination, but let it be enough to know that I’m endeavoring to train both my kids & me to be more orderly. Seems to me that we live in a world filled with clutter & chaos such that it could quietly seep into our thoughts & feelings to contaminate & confuse, leaving us unraveled & ineffective. 

Let’s keep the Prince of Peace front & center in our hearts & thoughts. Just because there’s chaos in the world doesn’t mean that it gets to dislodge Jesus’ preeminence in my living 🙂

Waiting in the Flood

Noah waited in the ark 150 days during the flood cataclysm. When I read that recently, it caught my attention & I began to imagine what that was like for him, surrounded with his family & the animal hordes traveling with him in the ark. I would suspect there was heaps of panic initially, probably fear, anxiety, uncertainty & likely some worry to boot. Being “trapped” in the ark while the earth was deluged from above & below, water thundering on the ark with animals & humans pitching back & forth – this doesn’t sound very appealing. But the other option, drowning in the deluge, wasn’t such a whippy alternative. So the people in the ark could chose, initially between living or dying. Clearly, they chose to stay alive. From that decision, then they needed to manage their fear, uncertainty & anxiety, pausing 150 days in the ark. 
Sometimes we find ourselves in “pause” mode & maybe see / hear disasters happening all around us. In these situations, I find my salvation alone in keeping my focus on Jesus & my mind set on the Holy Spirit – Rom 8:5. Listening to & watching the circumstances around us can be debilitating. Make the long term decision to keep your thoughts & focus on Jesus, no matter what 🙂

Teetering

 When I was learning to snowboard, I would ride in the middle, flat space of my board. This seemed easier & took less work than riding on one of the edges. But whenever I did that, I would inevitably catch an edge & get smashed into the mountain – lots of pain, weeping & gnashing of teeth. I quickly learned that riding the flat part of my board required less balance but was more risky. After some troublesome injuries I decided to quit riding the middle of my board & just stick the edges even though it was more work to stay balanced. 

This lesson rings true for me in my daily living as well. When I get lazy & try to do life in ways that are comfy & convenient, I often run into some challenges that could be avoided if I had done the work to live balanced. It helps me to keep keep my edge in life when I do the extra work, intentionally lean into Jesus & trust walk with the Holy Spirit – Gal 5:16 🙂

Have a happy & balanced day!

Being Scared

I pride myself in not being scared. I’m not scared to: 

  • try new things, 
  • go new places, 
  • try different foods, 
  • fail during a learning experience 
  • stand alongside someone when they go through difficult seasons. 

As I think about being scared, generally I think of myself as fearless, until I consider various situations that I avoid because I’m intimidated or afraid. I think that all of us wrestle with fear but in different ways. So let’s be honest about the unique fears that are difficult for us. If we aren’t honest about our fears, such fears will often control our decisions because we refuse to be honest & face them. 

In general, I want to live a fearless life, but the one fear that I want to nurture & protect is the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 9:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom & I need all the wisdom I can get! So having a healthy respect for God is an essential ingredient for letting wisdom flourish in my life. 

Furthermore, remember that perfect love casts out fear 🙂

Pay attention to your fears & keep the ones that cultivate wisdom but challenge / toss the ones which try to control & shrink you!