If thoughts are good, it’s wonderful. Thoughts about the effervescent giggle of a child who found a lost lovey or the way the sunlight made you glow as you basked in it’s warmth bring comfort and encouragement.
But when those thoughts damage trust and hope, they’re like knives filleting hearts.
We cannot comprehend the power behind our thoughts until we put them into words, and we see the effect they have on us and those around us.
The smile that radiates from someone when they receive affirming words, fills our hearts as well.
And the ache that leaks out of the eyes of someone who has had words stabbed into their heart feels like shards of glass to our hearts as well.
To control our speech, we become stingy with our words, doling them out here and there, raising the bar of exception higher and higher until we’re impossible to please.
Or we become self-protectant, doubting the goodness of someone’s words or validating our self-protection when hurtful words come our way.
Not giving life to the ugly by being quiet is one step towards using our words for good. But even if we are still thinking them, there will come a time when the pressure of life causes those words to spillover. And what a mess.
In the first week of college, I made a mess with my fellow college students. Let’s just say first impressions are vital and recovering from a bad first impression is nearly impossible. It takes heroic effort and deliberate repeated actions to prove that the bad first impression was the wrong first impression.
I made a terrible first impression. Embarrassingly so. A young man threw his fork, which had just been in his mouth, across the table and into my cottage cheese and yogurt. I delivered a sharp and stinging lecture on germs and cleanliness. In the process, I indicated that the person who threw the fork was just as disgusting as the germs in their mouth and I shamed them.
I shamed myself by my words.
Those words welled up like a volcano and I couldn’t stop them like I had in the past. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” was my mantra growing up. But it failed me in this instance.
The combination of moving to a new town, adjusting to a new school, and dealing with shattering the illegal haircutting business of the Dorm Mother created pressure that built into the “Don’t Throw the Fork That’s Just Been in Your Mouth into My Food” scathing speech. I cringe at the memory.
I learn from it too. I understand that preventing thoughts from turning into words isn’t effective. It’s pretty much exhausting and induces a “try, fail, beat oneself up” cycle. That cycle does not lead to lasting, heartfelt, transformation that believers in Christ exhibit as a new creation.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
One of the steps of breaking negative cycles is capturing our thoughts. The next step is making our thoughts obedient to Christ.
Awareness of our thoughts leads to capturing our thoughts.
Then we bring them into obedience to Christ.
How? By flipping the script.
Flipping the script involves taking the negative thoughts and looking at it upside down.
God’s wisdom is not the world’s wisdom. God’s wisdom doesn’t turn to the latest “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” philosophy or turn to blaming other’s for your problems. God’s wisdom is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)
I rail against the injustice about the lack of healing in my friend’s body and I shake my clenched fist at the heavens. I tell God exactly what I feel, all the hurt and the anger, and then I declare to myself that God has been my hope and my confidence since my youth (Psalm 71:5).
At times I struggle in relationships and find my mind filled with imaginary conversations putting so-and-so in their place, I am completely honest with God with my frustrations and disappointments. But then I flip the script and remind myself that God is sovereign, and his ways are higher than mine.
When I feel surrounded by darkness and cannot find my way, I hurl my confusion at God and he hears me because he doesn’t turn me away. But then I turn that thought around by reminding myself that God’s light and truth will guide me. (Psalm 43:3)
Flipping the script takes guarding our mouth to a whole new level because we’re renewing our thoughts by making them obedient to Christ. Rather than being held hostage to a cycle of “try, fail, beat oneself up,” we’re set free because our thoughts are filled with the truths found in God’s word.
Know his word. Capture thoughts and flip the script.
I have a problem. Maybe you can relate? It’s this: I don’t do what I want to do and I do what I don’t want to do. I’m quick to speak and slow to listen. Quick to judge and slow to show mercy. I make up excuses. I put requirements on the “thing” that needs doing and if the requirements aren’t meant, then I don’t have to do said “thing.”
Right now, that “thing” is getting up early.
Yes, getting up early. A seemingly minor thing that has become quite major in my life especially this time of year when school claims my days.
This is my routine: I go to bed at 10pm and set an alarm for 6am (rather, my husband sets his alarm for 6). I “command” myself to get up when the alarm goes off No. Matter. What.
But this is what happens: I can’t find the sweet spot in my pillow so I toss and turn till 11:30. Then the cat wakes me up at 1:27 so I get up to put him in the bathroom. Then I fall back asleep but wake up because I’m too hot or too chilled or my hips ache. Sometimes God wakes me up to pray. And when the alarm goes off, I lay there, pretending to be sleeping, but asking God to help me get going. And justifying the many reasons why I can’t get up: the pillow, the cat, the heat, the cold, the hips, blah, blah, blah. I glare at the digital clock, wishing my eyes had laser beams so I could burn it to smithereens.
But today was different. I laid there staring out the window asking God, again, to help me get going, and I hear him whisper. “I will be your strength, but you gotta get yourself outta this bed. You take a step and I’ll do the rest.”
So I thought of Paul and him not doing what he wants to do and me not doing what I want to do. And then I thought of James and the verse that says faith without works is dead. It arrested me so much that I got up. I hauled my sorry self up into a sitting position, groaning and grimacing the whole way, and trusted God to take care of the rest. I’m not a stick puppet with strings attached to a puppet master. I needed to take the step. So I did.
And in the doing, it made me think of cycles and breaking them. All broken cycles start with a step towards something different. In this case, I needed to sit up, cease from whining, complaining, and negotiating. I took a step and he helped, just as he said he would.
So here’s the deal: we all have cycles to break.
It could be internal cycles of worry, fear, indulgence, comparison, judgement, doubt, unbelief. Or it could be external cycles of divorce, addiction, entertainment choices, gossip, slander, driving over the speed limit, or not using your blinker. Either way: cycles trap us, but God’s grace sets us free.
The following are snippets of the steps I’ve taken to break cycles in my life. Cycles like divorce, abandonment, and unrighteous living versus righteous living. I’m not perfect, but I love and serve the One who is, and it’s by His power and might that cycles are broken.
Be aware of your thoughts.
(Listen to what you’re thinking)
Capture your thoughts.
(Grab the ones that tear down others or yourself)
Make them obedient to Christ.
(Flip the script)
Change your thinking.
(Be deliberate about your thoughts–on purpose)
Don’t think about what you don’t want to be, think about what you do want to be.
(Be still, oh my soul)
Use those weapons.
(Tear down strongholds and anything that’s set up against God’s thoughts and opinions)
(Grace abounds to you when you need it)
We’re called to transformation by the renewing of our mind. God makes us new, writes his heart on ours, and then calls us to a life surrendered and lived for him.
What cycle do you want to break? I’ll be diving deeper into these steps over the next several weeks. But it starts with a step. It starts with you putting action to what you say you believe. It’s starts with you sitting up, swinging your legs over the side of the bed and declaring, with your actions, that you believe God’s going to help you.
He’s your rock, your strength, your refuge, and your hope. And your grace for living today.
The New Year is like a blanket of freshly fallen snow. The snow covers everything brown, at least in my neck of the woods. It sparkles in the sunlight. The coyotes have left their mark. The little sparrows leave charming tracks. And then there’s me–frozen in indecision–do I really want to mar the beauty? What if I take a wrong step? What if my snow angel ends up unrecognizable because I’m a klutz hauling myself to an upright position?
That fresh new year use to find me creating a long list of resolution. But I stopped making resolutions years ago. I couldn’t take the discouragement January 15 brought when I looked back and saw the mess I’d made out of the New Year. There were no cute paths or snow angels, but a chaotic effort at creating change.
I appreciate all the tools out there to help set goals rather than resolutions, but I still struggle. I adore planners–to look at–not implement. I’m still looking for the perfect system that will help me corral all my thoughts and hopes and dreams and what I actually need to do in my actual life.
Psalm 33:17-18: “The war horse is false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.”
A fully trained warhorse in medieval times was able to carry a fully armored knight, respond to the legs of a rider rather than relying on the reigns, and bite and kick on command. In our times of modern weaponry, the idea of using a horse for war is incomprehensible, but they were part of the valuable team of horse and rider. A knight could not have accomplished what he did without his partner, the war horse.
You can imagine with me the deep reliance a knight or solder had on his horse. And how easy it would be to place their hope in this well-trained animal. One would feel invincible.
Sometimes, our systems and goals become our war horse. We begin to rely on the plans we have in place to carry us through. And plans, goals, and systems are good things, and we should discover what works for us so that we can fully step into God’s purpose for us. But those systems won’t save us. They cannot rescue us.
God can. Our hope needs to be placed in his steadfast love rather than our resolutions. Only his love can keep us secure when our plans fall down or a storm erupts in our life. Build your systems, but place your hope in God.
It is good and right to make plans. But when we turn to our goals to control our life, we have placed hope in the very thing that will disappoint us. Our goals then become a source of discouragement because goals cannot rescue us. Goals guide us because they become a tool that God uses to bring about his plans for our life.
Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
1. Consider what’s going on in your life: are you caring for aging parents? raising a young family? juggling ministry and vocation? Your real life affects your goals.
2. Pray and seek God for his direction.
3. Choose 1 or 2 goals to work towards rather than half a dozen. It’s so tempting to wake up January 1 and decide that your life needs a revolution. And for some, this might be the year for that, but for other’s the revolution comes about in one small step at at time.
4. Make your plans, but let go. Let God establish you. Place your hope in him and not your effort.
Kicking Perfect, a journey through the best break up of your life.
Do you get tired of the pressure to be perfect? I did. So I decided to kick perfect to the curb and I want to help you find freedom from it in, Kicking Perfect, a journey through the best break up of your life.
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