Shaped By Thoughts

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Proverbs 23:7

Gem Gilbert was a British tennis star who died a most unusual death. But that’s getting ahead of the story.

As a young girl, Gem watched her mother die of shock in a dentist’s chair after having a tooth pulled-a tragic but unlikely accident. And Gem became convinced that she would die the same way. For thirty years Gem carried this image in her mind. Understandably, she avoided dentists!  But finally Gem developed a toothache so painful that she had to visit a dentist. Terrified, she took along her pastor, her medical doctor, and her best friend. But their support was not enough. Gem died before she could even get into the chair.

The British press worded the obituary this way. “Gem Gilbert had been killed by thirty years of thought.”

Certainly this is an extreme example. But  many women do the same thing that Gem did. Perhaps their mother was an alcoholic, and they are terrified of being like her. Or, like a friend of mine, they had an abusive mother and fear that is their destiny too. It doesn’t have to be. Self-defeating cycles can be broken, but only the heart is touched at an emotional and thinking level. And that happens if, every day, we dedicate our minds and our thoughts to Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I dedicate my mind and my thoughts to you today.


The Lie of Worthlessness

Let no one despise you.

Titus 2:15

Everybody hates me, nobody likes me, I’m going out to eat worms. This little chant was one we children used to say when we felt sorry for ourselves. As adults we’re a little less dramatic; we just say,”I’m worthless.” But both the childhood and adult sayings are lies we must confront.

I often ask my clients to provide support for their self-accusations. For instance, I asked Kay to prove her contention that she was worthless. It was as if she had rehearsed her speech for years. She proceeded to tell me about being molested from childhood through adolescence, about being addicted  to sex, drugs, and alcohol. I then said to Kay, “I’m not convinced. Does doing worthless things make a person worthless?” She answered, “No.” Then she began to understand what I was getting at. She said, “Maybe, I’m not worthless.”

Correcting the lie of worthlessness was important because as long as Kay believed she was worthless, she would continue to do things that made her feel worthless. When she learned to repent  and to forgive herself and others and to replace her lies about herself with truth, her actions began to change.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see the lies I’m telling myself. Thank you for being a dependable source of truth.

Daily Confrontations

The Lord will strengthen her on her bed of illness; You will sustain her.

Psalms 41:3

Marilyn came for counseling with physical, emotional, and relational problems. Her doctors had diagnosed her as having multiple sclerosis, a progressive neurological disorder that leads to blindness or paralysis. The disease can progress for a time and then go into remission for two or three years before recurring. There is no known cure.

Counseling helped Marilyn see that she did have choices. She could try to ignore her pain by continuing life as usual or run from it by becoming busier than ever. [The stress of this choice would probably make the disease progress more quickly.] She could make excuses about her illness or just worry about what would happen next. Resentment toward God was a possibility. So was just giving up and going to bed.

Marilyn looked at all these possible responses, and she tried many of them before and during counseling. Finally, however, she made the difficult decision to face her problems every day. This meant acknowledging her illness and its consequences and determining, with God’s help, to live with the truth. Marilyn decided to live one day at a time, make the best choices she could, and share her honest feelings with her loved ones.

Thought:  When pain comes my way, I will acknowledge it, verbalize my honest feelings about it, and discover how facing my pain helps decrease its intensity and duration.

Saints and Sinners

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.

I John 1:8

We call them Zebras at our clinic. They’re black and white thinkers-people who believe that everyone in their lives-themselves included-is either a complete saint or a complete sinner. The trouble with this mentality is that it keeps people from looking at their lives realistically. If they see themselves as saints, they just can’t accept the fact that they really did something wrong. Or they may flip to the stance of “Well if  I did that, then I must be a sinner, so I might as well give in to it.” These people often hide their pain with addiction, which drives them further down the “all good” or “all bad” road. When they’re yielding to sin, they’re bad but when they’re not they’re good.

Our job with the “saint-sinner” client is to gently help them see themselves as whole people, capable of doing almost anything. We point out that it takes arrogance for a person to believe she is either the worst sinner or the best saint in the world. Humility is the key for the black-white thinker. We must help them realize that we are all sinners saved by grace.

Thought:  I am neither all good nor all bad, but a sinner saved by grace and a saint through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

He Loves Me!

Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.

Jeremiah 31:3

A young girl was wandering through a beautiful garden when she came upon a clump of daisies. She picked one and started pulling off the petals, saying, “He loves me, he loves me not…” As I watched her from my quiet corner in the garden, I became overwhelmed with thoughts of gratitude to God for His gift of unconditional love.

The people in our lives say “I love you” so easily, but so often there are major strings attached. These messages come through: “I’ll love you if…,” “I’ll love you when…,” “I’ll love you but…”  There are so many conditions, and as a result we go around insecure, trying to please other people, looking for approval. Our emotions stay on a constant roller coaster; we fluctuate from happiness to despair  and back again.

God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as a living demonstration that His love is radically different from conditional human love. If God had that daisy in His hand, as He pulled off the petals His message would be,”I love you, I love you!” That’s inner security!

Prayer:  Thank you God, for your love. Truly it is good news.

Speaking Our Language

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a a servant, and coming in the likeness of men.

Phil. 2:5-7

It had been snowing for twenty-four hours. Knowing that it had been a hard winter, I filled the bird feeder with an extra supply of birdseed. A short while later, a small  bird appeared in the yard. Obviously weak, hungry, and cold, he pecked at the snow, searching for food. How helpless I felt watching this. I wanted to go out and point to the feeder. But, if I opened the door the bird would be frightened off. Then I realized that only if I were another bird could I fly with him, identify with his hunger and cold, and let him know that I understood and cared.

Our God, looking at us, knew that He must become one of us in order that we might know His love. Jesus disclosed God’s character through a willingness to be transparent and vulnerable. How grateful I am that God reached out to me in a language I could understand. Because He reached out and loved me first, I am capable of truly loving others.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that you have allowed me to know you. Thank you that you know and understand all of me, and yet you continue to approach me. Thank you that as I have the courage to share myself with others, I know myself, them, and you better.

When To Let Go

An eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings.

Deut. 32:11

I was sitting in church one evening, shortly after I had my second child. We were in a prayer group, sharing our requests. And one of the older women said something I’ll never forget: “Your children are only yours for a little while. God has loaned them to you, to prepare them for serving Him.” That really bothered me. I thought of letting my babies go to be missionaries in a faraway land. I didn’t think I could do it. Now, seventeen years later, I realize how wise that woman was. The oft repeated statement in sentimental cards says we must give our children “roots and wings.” Real roots come from a strong faith in Christ-a faith we model and teach every day. Our children will have roots if they grow up in a home where the stability of the parent’s is found in God and God’s Word.

Wings are more difficult to give. We can’t just hand over a complete set of brand-new wings and expect our children to “fly.” Instead, think of adding one feather at a time. We must daily give our children added responsibilities, so they will be equipped to go out on their own when the time comes.

Prayer:  Teach me, Lord, when it is appropriate to carry those who are dependant on me and when it is more loving to nudge them out of the nest.

Building With God

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.

Psalms 127:1

Look around you right now. What do you see? If you’re like most of us, you see a home with lots of “stuff.” The furniture and appliances may be sleek and modern, or they may be old and rather worn. Possessions may be scattered as comfortable clutter or be neatly stowed and carefully ordered. A home is also a  place where our loved ones live.

Today’s verse does not give us permission to wait for God to give us a perfect home and a perfect family. Instead, we have the responsibility of working and doing our part in the daily provisions. But we also must realize daily that without God’s grace and blessing, all of our labor labor is in vain. As we build our homes physically, emotionally, and spiritually, let us look to God and be continually dependent on Him as we strive for a home filled with God’s love.

Prayer:  With your help, Lord, I will work to build a loving home.

Balance In Life

You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.

Daniel 5:27

One of our daughters was a gymnast. Watching her routines, I learned a little about the sport. And one thing I learned was that balance is a key to success in gymnastics, especially on the balance beam. The first few years of lessons on the beam were little more than carefully walking across it without falling off. As lessons progressed, the girls learned to do jumps, and flips. By high school, the challenge was to do an intricate routine without falling off.

Balance is a key ingredient in life as well as on the balance beam. Early in life we are taught the basic principles of balance. We learned that walking outside was fine, but walking in the middle of the street wasn’t. That was balance. We learned that we coul,d play after school, but we also had to do our homework. Our parents, knowingly and unknowingly, by action and by word, taught us how to balance our lives. Some lessons we learned well; others we still struggle with.

As we walk the balance beam of life, we make adjustments in time management, in relationships, in our careers, and in the “re-creation” of our  own bodies, souls and  spirits. And in life as well as in gymnastics, wisdom, flexibility, and experience all help bring success.

Prayer:  Dear God, please weigh my priorities in your balances today. Showing me if I am “wanting” in any area of my life.

Choosing Relationship

And Jesus answered and said to Her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.

Luke 10:41-42

Martha and Mary were so excited. Jesus was going to visit their family. What an honor! No doubt they busied themselves making preparation for their dear friend’s visit. Then came the sound of voices and footsteps. Jesus was finally coming. They flew out to meet Him. Welcoming sounds and laughs of delight filled the air. Then they brought Jesus into the house and made Him comfortable. Martha started to bustle about making certain that everything was just so. She wanted everything to be perfect so that Jesus would  feel welcome there-and , no doubt, so that she would look good. Mary, on the other hand, couldn’t take her eyes off Jesus. In fact, she was so mesmerized that she sat down at His feet with all the men.

Martha was furious with her “lazy” sister, who had left her with all the work. She stormed into Jesus’ presence and demanded thar He tell Mary to help her. Instead, Jesus honored Mary for choosing relationship.

I have often  wondered how Martha responded to Jesus’ criticism. I have wanted to believe that Martha  heard the love and the truth in those words and joined Mary on the floor at Jesus’ feet.

Prayer:  Lord, help me remember that relationship is more important than reputation.