No Matter What

artworks-000047241810-pwfc5v-t500x500But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts? (Matthew 9:4)

This might seem like an unsettling Scripture, but to me, it’s comforting. It reminds me that God knows my thoughts. And it challenges me, too, that He knows my thoughts!

No matter what you’re going through, no matter what you’re thinking about, God is well aware, and He’s interested. He always wants more and better for you. You can trust Him to guide. Let Him filter everything in your life, including your thoughts. You might be challenged, but you won’t be disappointed.

When No One Tells Us What To Think

imagesWhat we sometimes want the most is for no one to tell us what to think. Of course, we think this at times as children. We just want to be on our own, to be able to do our own thing, and to explore the world and think for ourselves. But there are times we experience the same thing as adults. We get tired of the media, friends, bosses, and others telling us what to think. “We can think for ourselves!,” we declare.

When we get what we want–the opportunity to think for ourselves–we have to actually think for ourselves. We have to do the tough work of wrestling and determining what we think. It’s easier said than done. We’re not going to come up with unique thoughts, something no one else on earth has ever thought before us. We’re not going to be able to set aside everything we have heard and seen throughout our lives. Some we will forgot. Some we would like to forget. Some we would be better off if we would remember better.

At some point, we’re going to have to think for ourselves, whether it’s been a goal for a long time or we are reluctantly nudged into adulting. With that thinking comes responsibility. God didn’t create us to grow and mature without purpose. He didn’t give us rational minds to underuse or misuse them. He didn’t give us choice, intending for us to choose pride, but it is always an option. We can go our own way, but it certainly won’t be new. We can go His way, and it won’t be new either. New and different may make us feel better or more accomplished as if following a path someone before us has taken would be lazy or weak of us. But setting the familiar aside doesn’t assume we are thinking more or better. It might mean we are not exploring a road as thoroughly as intended.

Where are you journeying? What are you thinking?

The Cost of Peace

indexYou cannot buy peace just by saying “yes” to something.

Moms know a lot about this. We think it would just be easier to say yes even though we know we’re setting a precedent we really don’t want to deal with in the future, but that short term peace is so appealing. We give in.

It’s not just about the yeses we say to others. It’s also about the yeses we say to ourselves. But finding peace isn’t about the path of least resistance. It’s not about avoidance.

Finding peace often requires wrestling through conflict in order to reach a yes, a contentment with the decision. As we struggle to sort out what we should say yes to and what we should say no to, we grab hold of what’s most important and release the unnecessary. We pursue clarity of purpose.

So, pay attention to how you’re responding today, not just with your words but also with your attitudes, responses, thought trails, and more. Pause to wrestle with something as it rises to the surface, but refuse to wrestle with anything that spins your wheels and gets you more deeply stuck in a rut. Wrestle in order to grow. Take a step. Be bold. Persevere toward peace: God’s peace. Because His peace is worth the cost of the struggle.

Think It Over

imagesHis brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. (Genesis 37:11)

Jacob “kept the matter in mind.” The matter at hand concerned Jacob’s sons. His favored son, Joseph, just shared dreams with his brothers. The dreams seemed to indicate Joseph’s authority over his brothers, who weren’t happy about it. Jacob chastised Joseph but then “kept the matter in mind.” The New Century Version says Jacob “thought about what all these things could mean.” He verbally dismissed what Joseph said but continued to think about it.

What matters do you keep in mind? It’s often important for us to respond to a situation immediately. We do our best to respond in truthfulness and faithfulness. The more intimate we are with God, the more readily we hear and respond to His voice, keeping us in His will when we’re obedient. However, we’re human. We err. Sometimes we respond but then question the accuracy of our response. We re-evaluate our decisions and responses at a deeper level.

Keeping a matter in mind isn’t about being consumed with a situation to the point of being paralyzed. When God highlights something for our attention, He has no intention on us becoming stuck in a situation. God is always for growth, and growth requires motion. Keeping a matter in mind involves moving forward, continuing to respond in the best way possible given the facts we have. We continue to look at the facts we’ve already gathered as well as those we’re in the process of gathering. When God compels us to keep the matter in mind, we can be assured He has something to reveal to us along the way, and it will likely change the way we respond in the future.

What are the top three things consuming your mind today? Are they the top things God wants to be consuming your mind?

Ask God to replace your thoughts with His. As you yield to Him, expect Him to renew your heart and mind.

What’s Your Filter?

Cupofdirtywater_zps02c58d15We all use filters. Yes, even those people who we’d say don’t have filters…the people who seem to have a direct link from their minds to their mouths. Others, who rarely share their opinions, might say they have the “proper” filter, only speaking when it’s absolutely essential. Perhaps you filter things through your experiences, counseling perspective, education, culture, and the list goes on. It’s important to know your filters, because if your filters are faulty, or even if the priorities of your filters are out of order, what you end up with at the end of the trail of filters won’t be as pure as you trust it to be.

For example, perhaps you’ve learned some great tools through counseling. When a problem arises, you return to those tools and the things you’ve learned and filter the problem through them. If the straining process resolves the issue, that’s all you need. You consider the solution a success.

Or, perhaps an issue comes up, and you can tie it to your education. You can chart the flow of information or organization because of what you’ve been taught, so as you strain the issue through your education, it all pretty much falls into place and makes sense. You can explain it, so from your perspective, the issue is resolved.

Maybe you find yourself in a situation that reminds you of a past experience. You remember what worked and what didn’t, so you determine how to respond based on what makes sense from past experiences, good and bad.

Learning from counseling, education, and experiences is important, even essential, to moving forward in life at times. Yet if they’re your primary filters, you’re missing out on something. Until our primary filters are God’s Word, we’re going to let some things through that aren’t His truth, and we might filter some things out that are. God’s Word has to be the first filter, not the last resort. We can’t run to it as a self-help book when we’ve exhausted all our other resources. It’s the top filter, where we initially pour our problems, issues, relationships, and questions. All other filters are secondary.

Know your filters. Don’t just assume because you are a Christian, you stand firmly on God’s Word in all situations and relationships. You might say you fully trust God, but do you, really? Are you letting Him consume every single moment of your life, every decision you make? Do you run to Him before anything and everyone else, then trust Him to guide you to the right resources and people He’s placed in your life? If you trust Him, really trust Him. And if you don’t, you can start right now, today, by asking Him to begin filtering every aspect of your life. You can depend on Him.

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. (Psalm 66:10)

Think About It!

Go to your room and think about what you’ve done!

Can someone actually make you think? I remember when I’d instruct one daughter to apologize to the other, knowing her heart might not be in it but hoping a seed of forgiveness would be planted and later grow. It’s really a heart versus head issue. We can’t make someone feel a certain way or think about something, but we can set up circumstances that foster the likelihood of thoughts and feelings. We can help people pause.

My husband and I tried this after we’d been married several years. We realized we’d begin discussing something and stop listening well, making assumptions and judgments, and before we knew it, our “discussion” wasn’t productive at all! We needed a pause button. I ran across a small ceramic token at a gift shop. It said “Good for 10 minutes of quiet.” Just what we needed! Our rule was that each of us could use the token one time per week, and we would both walk away from the conversation for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, we had to reconnect and either continue or agree that we’d set the issue aside.

We soon learned we didn’t need the token. All we needed was the opportunity to pause. When we knew we could take a 10 minute timeout at any time, we seemed to work harder at not letting discussions escalate. We worked through the issues as they arose instead of lashing out at each other.

Where do you most need a pause button in your life?

Create your own token! It can be a small stone or a decorated piece of paper. Keep it in the same location, so you know where it is. Determine a few guidelines for using it. If you’re using it within a relationship, be sure to consider everyone involved. The token isn’t intended to help you manipulate a situation. It’s all about developing healthy habits, so you – and others – can grow in your responses.

I think about your orders and study your ways. I enjoy obeying your demands, and I will not forget your word. Psalm 119:15-16