31 Dyas to #ASimplerJoy: Take Every Thought Captive

feelings

Here is a place where I stumble: my thoughts can lead me to anxious, sad, angry, lonesome, bitter, discouraged places.  Sometimes my feelings are like a runaway train.  It feels like I can’t help it.  But I can.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, (1) whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (2) What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:4-9, number added by me).

What a simple recipe for peace of mind: (1) Turn your thoughts to Truth and (2)  live your life like you believe it.  This is Hearing and Doing the Word.  This is not our choice for us to make, it is our responsibility.

We are responsible for the content of our thoughts
and for the actions that follow.  

Wow, that is a powerful fact.  So often we are told that we can’t help it.  Our language reinforces this in the way we talk about our anger: He makes me so made.  I am so angry.  We can find people to blame or situations that trip us up…but what has happened to us, has not made us; God made us.

Distracted ways of thinking are more common now than ever.  We are busy.  Our minds are frantic.  We have lost the sense of control over our thoughts and we are told so often that we are not responsible, that we can’t help it.  There are medicines to help us to control our thoughts, there are doctors…but the problems will go unresolved if we do not also choose the better way, God’s way.

Each moment we are bombarded with thoughts.  We can entertain them, or reject them and replace them with another thought.  I find that when I begin exercising discipline over my thoughts it is very hard at first, but then it gets easier.  It is a matter of seeing those thoughts and feelings as powerful, but within my control:

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).

For me, choosing peace, choosing God’s way is dependent upon the Spirit (as we discussed yesterday) and the Word.  God’s Word is powerful and we are ill-equipped to master our thoughts and our feelings without it:

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

I guess this last part is what catches my eye: we will give an account for the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.  That is an awesome consideration.

But there is that simple truth: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).

Here is the way out that God has provided for us: prayer and thanksgiving.  When I start to thank the Lord for all I see in His Word, what He has done, Who He is in my life…I do find peace.

Replacing bad thoughts and feelings with the Truth of God’s Word, is just a habit, but it means freedom:

“We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:3-5).

Taking control of my thoughts instead of being distracted, discouraged or destroyed by them…that is #ASimplerJoy that I need to pursue daily.  How about you?

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31 Days to #ASimplerJoy: Act the Miracle

full_1408571287How to we get motivated to make the changes necessary to live healthier, more peaceful lives? We should be good stewards of all the blessings that we have been given…including health, time, family and material blessings. But sometimes, we just get stuck!

The truth is that “procrastination” is what the Bible calls slothfulness.  “Overindulging” is what the Bible calls gluttony.  “Venting” is what the Bible calls complaining, gossip, or malice.  If something is consuming the majority of your time, your heart, and your thought-life, it probably isn’t a “hobby”…it could be idolatry.

We have conveniently repackaged sin into any number of sanitized synonyms.  We might feel like this allows us to keep them as options in our life, if we call them by harmless names.  We like to think these things to be harmless, or even for our good, but we need might be fooling ourselves.

If real change is needed in our lives, we should look deeper to see…is there sin?  For my part, I am way too comfortable with sloth and gluttony.  Those dudes are always trying to hang out with me, but they are bad news!  I should cross the street and go the other way when I see them coming, but often I allow them to accompany me throughout my day!

Still, there are some hard question about holy living that can stump many of us:

  • How much of my struggle is my responsibility?
  • If I need to change, what is God’s role in all of this?
  • Can I make change happen?

This summer I taught a class called Acceptable Offering that led to my new ebook, Prodigal Confessions: 10 Principles that Lead Us Back to the Father (shameless plug!).  In preparing for the class, I ran across a book that I really loved, Acting the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification (John Piper and David Mathis); it neatly explains how God’s will for us and our free will can work together, for our good.

I bought it on Amazon (of course!), but John Piper offers it as a FREE download on his website.  At 176 pages, that is a probably pretty big download if you print it, but you know…FREE!  There is an very helpful video clip to explain the premise of the book on the same webpage – and what an affirmation it was to watch that, as I typed this post.

We often find ourselves here: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18).

And we know this to be necessary: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NLT).

Jesus said: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63).

Again and again we see that change in us is wrought by the Holy Spirit: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17-18).

But how does this work?

How does it play out?

Where does the change come from?

In Acting the Miracle, John Piper explains this so simply (on pages 129-130):

God is wholly engaged in bringing your life and this world to its appointed destiny of holiness.  And this full engagement of God in the process of your sanctification is no limitation on your engagement, but is, in fact, the creation of your engagement.  He works the miracle of sanctification; you act the miracle. He produces it; you perform it. If you don’t use your will to act the miracle, there is no miracle.  God’s sovereign enablement of holiness does not contradict the act of duty; it creates it.

  • When God opens the eyes of the blind, it is the blind who see.
  • When God gives strength to shriveled legs, it is the lame who do the walking…
  • When God changes Zacchaeus’ heart, it is Zacchaeus who gives back  four fold what he has stolen…
  • When God gives you merciful humility, it is you who turn the other cheek.
  • When God inclines your heart to his Word, it is you who gets out of bed early in the morning to read your Bible…

He gives many, many more examples.  I love how this brings together the two extremes of grace and works and explains that God makes both of them fully necessary AND fully possible.

The knowledge that God requires me to Act the Miracle reminds me of my accountability and His help.  When I need change, I see it is already fulfilled by God and that I just need to walk in it–now that is #ASimplerJoy!

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31 Days to #ASimplerJoy: Do the Next Thing

Do the next thing

This week I am looking at how working toward Godly goals can bring #ASimplerJoy

Yesterday, I shared about how tiny habits can help you make real change.  Please join me Oct 27-31.  I am working to build healthy habits and a morning routine that is in harmony with my family’s schedule.

Another big helper for me when I need to bring order into my life is to simply do the next thing.  This is especially helpful when order and routine seem to have flown the coup.

A poem once quoted by Elisabeth Elliot has inspired a lot of people, here is the text of the poem:

Do The Next Thing

From an old English parsonage,
Down by the sea,
There came in the twilight,
A message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend,
Deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me,
Teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours
The quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration-
DO THE NEXT THING

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment,
Let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity,
Guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows,
Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus,
DO THE NEXT THING

Do it immediately;
Do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence,
Tracing His Hand,
Who placed it before thee with
Earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence,
Safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings,
DO THE NEXT THING

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
(Working or suffering)
Be thy demeanor,
In His dear presence,
The rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance
Be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness,
Praise and sing,
Then, as He beckons thee,
DO THE NEXT THING

-Author unknown

When I find myself emotionally overwhelmed or starting the day with a daunting set of tasks, I find that if I just start something, that helps.  Doing the next thing means making progress.  Doing the next thing means listening for God’s direction.  Doing the next thing isn’t complicated; it is surely #ASimplerJoy!

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31 Days to #ASimplerJoy: Tiny Habits

Tiny Habits

I am going to a really exciting conference this week: Allume.  It will be a great spiritual refreshing.  It will be a time of amazing fellowship.  It might even inspire my writing (that might be good, huh?).

But leaving my family is hard.  Traveling alone is exciting, and a little nerve-racking.  But the hardest part about going to a conference is whenever one comes around, I tend to fall off the exercise and diet roller-coaster wagon .

Conferences.  Family vacations. Holidays…Big events knock me off balance.  So when I get back–starting Monday–I will be rebooting (again).  This year I have had more than a little trouble being consistent in the diet and exercise department.  This has me thinking about my goals.

And yesterday I talked about Goals.  The point is we should allow our goals to be informed by God’s ways, rather than our own.  So, what if you need to make a healthy change and you feel like it aligns with God’s goals, but you are not sure how to start?  Well, that is what I want to look at this whole week.

For sure, the Holy Spirit is the change agent:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:17-18).

But there is also something to knowing about what makes people tick.  A few years ago, I was do research on the idea that it takes 21 days to form habit.  You’ve heard that, right? I heard that waayyyy back in college, and have many times since then.  Turns out, that isn’t true!  Click here to read about that myth being busted.

Whether you want to quit or start something,
what you need is a new habit.

So anyway, a few years ago, when I looked into how to people can change habits, I ran across this research by UCLA professor B.J. Fogg; it’s called Tiny Habits.  He says:

Only three things will change behavior in the long term.

Option A. Have an epiphany
Option B. Change your environment (what surrounds you)
Option C. Take baby steps

Dr. Fogg also says the two factors you can control are (1) changing your environment and (2) taking baby steps.  He has a support program to help you implement change, by way of adopting 3 tiny habits for a 5 day period.  He provides email support and shares tips to encourage success.  He also collects data about your progress toward developing the tiny habits.  He opens a new challenge every week.

You can sign up for the next challenge, or read more about it, here.  I am signing up for next week’s challenge (October 27-31).  Once I am back from my trip, I will out of excuses for a few weeks.  And that means I should jump right into some healthy (tiny) habits!

You must choose THREE very tiny changes.  Dr. Fogg says :

A “Tiny Habit” is a behavior –

      • you do at least once a day
      • that takes you less than 30 seconds
      • that requires little effort

You are supposed to start by connecting the habit to one that you already do.  I am choosing the same ones I chose the first time I did this program, two years ago.  They were very easy and my *tiny* successes really encouraged me:

  • After I get up I will dress in workout clothes
  • After I get downstairs I will turn on the exercise DVD (on pause)
  • After I start Scott’s breakfast, I will open my prayer book to today’s reading

One of the things I enjoyed the most were the daily emails.  They made me feel like I wasn’t making these changes all alone.  There is even an app for that.  If you sign up, please let me know in the comments and share your (tiny) goals there too.  That is even less alone-ness!

Tiny habits are do-able.  Tiny habits are #ASimplerJoy!

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31 Days to #ASimplerJoy: Goals

1 Peter 124-25

You see it everyday.  We are a goal-oriented culture.  Our kids have goals for school.  We have career goals, travel goals, weight loss goals, relationship goals, life-long goals.  Goals enable us to live life intentionally; they help us to determine priorities like how we should spend our time, our energy and our money.

I find myself getting restless without a goal but, being a homeschooling mom, often my goals must take a backseat to the goals of my family.  And sometimes this has felt like sitting on the sidelines, while life is passing me by.

I left behind my education and my career to change diapers, wash dishes, and do countless loads of laundry. There are still days when I feel that loss, but I know I have taken the right road for me; it is the the humble path for sure, and I am in good company:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Phil 2:3-7).

This week I got to thinking about our goals vs. God’s goals. I think sometimes they line up and sometimes they don’t.  Here are just a few examples:

  • God doesn’t care about the 7 pounds I would love to lose, but He does want me to live a life of moderation, rather than gluttony, and to be a good steward of my health.
  • I used to keep my home “realtor ready”, as perfectly tidy as you can imagine, but it was a great stressor to me and my family.  I had been affected by a nasty remark someone made to me, when my husband was deployed, because I had crumbs on my kitchen counter. I have learned, instead, that while God does want me to be diligent with my time and serve my family by keeping my home comfortable and clean, my priority must be relationship with Him and others.
  • I want my children to do well in school, especially since I am their teacher.  We want our kids to find “success” in their chosen field as adults.  But God showed me early in the process that my biggest goal for them should be that they know Him, love Him, and follow Him.

When I have found myself feeling like life and career have passed me by, I remember that my goals are sometimes just too small.  God’s way for me does look unimpressive from the outside, but He is intentional and His goals are eternal.  My life is part of something so much bigger than me.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.” (1 Peter 1:22-25).

Remembering that God sets my pace and my course brings me peace.  Feeling that I am in the center of His will is #ASimplerJoy.

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