Today is a contemplation day. Just a few thoughts to ponder…
May the Lord bless you with a special touch of His presence this week!
New Year’s thoughts popped into my head, but you’ll never guess where they came from! Here’s what happened…
The Empty Cup and Coffee Part
I stare down at the coffee cup. As I lean over it, I can smell the aroma of coffee…it’s coming from the coffee pot just inches away. I can even taste it before it touches my tongue. My palate knows that familiar hazelnut flavor.
I pour some half and half in the empty cup and fill it with coffee to the brim. I add a little sugar to sweeten it. My thoughts spill over into the cup as well…
Lord, may I be an empty cup this year. Emptied of selfishness, bitterness, unforgiveness, pride, whatever sin crowds my heart, leaving no room for You. May I be ready to receive the infilling of Your presence, Your love, joy, peace, and all the rest, for without it, I cannot overflow.
The Thumbprint Cookie Part
As I stand and stare at the filled cup, I hear a faint sound. Something is calling my name.
It’s coming from the end of the kitchen counter. I move down.
There it is again! It’s coming from…sure enough…the cookie tin!
I open the tin and, lo and behold, a thumbprint cookie is calling me. Well, you just can’t let a thumbprint cookie call your name and not respond. So I did…respond. He and one of his friends no longer live in the cookie tin. They went so well with the coffee!
As I was making the cookies this year, the dough didn’t turn out right. It was all crumbly. It wouldn’t even squeeze together to roll into balls. So, I stuck it in the refrigerator while I made macaroons with almonds and dried cranberries. Yum!
Afterward, I got the dough out of the refrigerator and tried again. Worse. So, I decided to add a little bit of half and half. Ahhh! Now, I could make them into what they were meant to be.
I finished rolling them into balls, dipping them in the egg white and pecans, and pressed in the obligatory indentation, the necessary well for filling with red currant jelly.
My thoughts overflowed again…
The Lord calls us, but if we do not respond, He sometimes sticks us in a situation for a while to transform us. And if that doesn’t work, He adds a little more cream of life, a little more love, to make us malleable and respond to His touch.
Lord, add to my life all that is necessary to make me malleable, that I may be transformed into what You desire me to be and filled with Your presence.
And the Movie Part
I so love Christmas movies, don’t you? I know one of most everyone’s favorites is It’s a Wonderful Life. I always love the part where the Martinis move into their new home and all their friends and family gather outside the front door.
George and Mary Bailey stand on the front porch to welcome the Martinis. Mary holds out a loaf of bread to Mrs. Martini and says, “Bread: that this house may never know hunger.” Next, she holds out a box of salt and says, “Salt: that life may always have flavor.”
George then hands a bottle of wine to Mr. Martini and says, “And wine: that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”
My thoughts go at it again…
Lord, as the salt of life, I will weaken and not be the flavoring I am supposed to be if I do not partake of You as the Bread of Life and the Wine of the Spirit. Be my joy and prosperity forever.
So there you have it. My thoughts and prayers for the New Year…from the strangest places!
My prayer for each of you: I pray each one of you will be an emptied cup, ready to be filled to overflowing with the love and peace of the Lord’s presence. And if you find yourself stuck in some situation, may your heart be malleable and respond to His call, and may your life be made into all it was meant to be.
I pray your home be blessed with the Bread, that you may be fed and Life may go on; with salt, that you may be the flavoring in the lives of others; and with the Wine of the Spirit, that your life may be filled with joy and prosperity throughout the New Year.
A grouse house is constructed of every complaint, whine, murmur, fuss, fume, mumble, moan, grumble, gripe, and negative thought we have or utter. Each one is a building block for the next one. Then, the more we grumble, the more we gripe, the bigger the grouse house grows.
Our world gets grows dimmer with each block or brick of negativity. We start layering one on top of the other and, pretty soon, we have built ourselves a lovely grouse house, boxing ourselves in. No windows. No doors. Just a fortress of darkness.
No joy-light, no peace exists. Unhappiness and unrest are, then, our constant companions.
How much of that do we do? What is our mindset?
Anything contrary to a positive attitude darkens the soul, the heart, the spirit, and the emotions. It forms a structure of murkiness and gloom.
However, we can stop the building process at any time. We can choose life or death. We can speak a mouthful of negativity or A Mouthful of Thanksgiving…
Words kill, and we can even destroy ourselves with our own death-filled words. If you’ve never heard of or read the books written by Dr. Caroline Leaf (who is “a cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in Communication Pathology specializing in Neuropsychology,” or a brain specialist for short), you have missed some fascinating studies and facts. She has shown how words and thoughts negatively affect not only our minds but also our bodies.
When negativity fills our hearts and minds, we spew it out. Our negative thoughts and words can actually make us sick. Dr. Leaf says toxic thoughts “are real physical things that parasitically invade our minds, destroying everything in their path – spirit, soul and body – if they are not stopped.”
She says a “Change in your thinking is essential to detox the brain.” But the only way to do that is to replace the negative with the positive.
Replacing a negative attitude of thoughts and words with a positive one opens the grouse house windows and doors to allow God’s Light to shine in.
Therefore, thanksgiving and praise will tear down the walls of that grouse house! And rely on the Lord. “If you are enveloped in darkness, with no light to see, take confidence in the name of the Eternal One; rely on your God.” (Is. 50:10b Voice)
Though your day may present you with the gloom and strain of life and weigh heavy on your soul, joy is still available. And you will always find that peace and joy in God’s presence, for His presence within you is still your joy. It may not be the bubbling-over-kick-up-your-heels kind of joy, but you can find something in which to rejoice. Paul said, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4 NLT)
So, to knock down those walls of negativity, build on what is good, true, unshakable, harmonious, and enduring. As Paul says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.” (Phil. 4:8 TLB)
To think, by the Greek definition, is to take an inventory, estimate, consider, decide, conclude, suppose, reckon a thing as or to be something.
The word evil used in the above verse means worthless, injurious, depraved, of a bad nature, wrong, troublesome, destructive, or morally rotten or poisoned character.
One day, Jesus railed on the hypocritical Pharisees and religious leaders that their lips honored Him but their hearts did not. He turned to all in the crowd around Him and said, “It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” (Mark 7:15 NLT)
Then, Jesus went into a house to avoid the crowd. The disciples followed and asked Jesus to explain. He said, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” (Mark 7:20-23 NLT)
Do any of those things fill your mind? Or maybe you think about the should-haves or if-onlys, or getting even with your spouse or a friend, or that you’re a failure or not good enough?
I’ve mentioned on a couple of occasions the work of Dr. Caroline Leaf. If you’ve never heard of her or read her books, you have missed some fascinating facts. Dr. Leaf is “a cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in Communication Pathology specializing in Neuropsychology” (or a brain specialist for short).
Dr. Leaf discusses toxic thoughts on her site and says…
“75% to 95% of the illnesses that plague us today are a direct result of our thought life. What we think about affects us physically and emotionally. It’s an epidemic of toxic emotions.
The average person has over 30,000 thoughts a day. Through an uncontrolled thought life, we create the conditions for illness; we make ourselves sick! Research shows that fear, all on its own, triggers more than 1,400 known physical and chemical responses and activates more than 30 different hormones. There are INTELLECTUAL and MEDICAL reasons to FORGIVE! Toxic waste generated by toxic thoughts causes the following illnesses: diabetes, cancer, asthma, skin problems and allergies to name just a few. Consciously control your thought life and start to detox your brain!”
We poison our own selves with our negative thinking and become what we think, as Solomon tells us, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7 NKJV)
We are what we think we are! What do you think about yourself?
Paul tells us how to positively fill our mind, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8 KJV)
May love and purity continually fill our hearts and minds!
Hooking up with…
I fell asleep quickly; I was so tired. I don’t remember dreams very often, but this one was significant. Or rather…these two were significant.
As I dreamed…
I walked through a lifeless forest, devoid of all its beauty. No verdant leaves or blooms. It was naked and dead. The ground seemed hard and bare without the beauty of flowers or the cushion of grass, only the crunch of dead leaves beneath my feet. All was dark and dreary. I shivered in the gloomy surroundings.
Mushrooms began popping up everywhere. Instantly, I knew they were poisonous. Walking without stepping on them was next to impossible. I felt frightened.
I awakened and bolted upright. “Lord, what does this mean?” I received no answer and fell immediately back to sleep.
I began to dream again.
I walked through another forest, though nothing like the first one. This forest burst forth with lush, green underbrush. Trees displayed golden-bronze, bittersweet, tangerine, bright red, and burgundy highlights. Grass and flowers were profuse.
I rubbed my eyes. There seemed to be a slight fog over it all, yet it did not alter the beauty of the forest. No, it was not a fog; it was something else.
Remember the stare game? I’m sure you’ve played it. You stare at an object for about one minute, then look away and stare at something else. The impression of the object first focused on is then superimposed upon any other object looked at.
What did I see? Impressed over all the forest was the image of Jesus.
Movement of some sort caught my attention. I glanced over to see a mushroom pop up and immediately disappear. Then, just as suddenly, a flower replaced it. I was surrounded by mushrooms popping up and disappearing and flowers appearing. I felt a deep, full joy.
The dream was over and I awoke again.
Puzzled, I asked, “Lord, please, what does all this mean?”
The Lord answered…
“In your first dream, all seemed dark, lost, and devoid of life and beauty. Why? Because the mushrooms symbolize your thoughts of worries, doubts, and anxieties that pop up concerning your circumstances, even over your future. They are truly poisonous. They darken your whole outlook on life and your surroundings. They expand in your mind and can even bring disease and toxic emotions.*
Clinging to these troubling thoughts is harmful. Bring them into the captivity of Christ.
“And what about the second dream?” I asked.
In your second dream, you walked through the beauty of a life focused on Me. Life, with its blazing colors of joy and comfort I create for everyday living. The mushrooms disappeared because you did not allow them to become poisonous matter. Every time a negative thought of worry or doubt arose, you immediately replaced it with praise and it filled you with joy.
I am your focus. Look away from your sordid circumstances and behold Me with such intensity that My image is impressed upon everything else in your life.
Love, joy, peace, comfort, hope, strength, power, healing, patience, humility, wisdom, forgiveness, provision, and victory…all can be yours. Just remember Paul’s words to the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
Live by faith, not by sight. Your faith-vision is to see Me. Concentrate on Me and your thoughts will be more positive, your praise more abundant, and your joy more full.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.” (Phil. 4:8 Voice)
My sweet readers, may all your dreams be filled with solutions.
~Lord, help me to turn all my toxic mushroom-thoughts into beautiful flowers of praise.
* “Change in your thinking is essential to detox the brain.” Dr. Caroline Leaf
They do not come easy for me.
Penning several monthly columns, devotionals for other sites, and my own blog posts is definitely very frustrating. With a couple of learning disabilities, I struggle to craft the right words, but I do it in obedience for, to this, the Lord has called me.
Besides writing, talking is made more difficult because the greedy fingers of fibromyalgia grab at my brain, snatching out words, even the simplest ones, and leaving behind gaps in my memory. Completing a sentence is sometimes impossible.
But do I wrestle to craft those words that will jump off the end of my tongue as much as I wrestle over my writing? Do I think before those words leap out? Usually…but sometimes, I don’t and I get into trouble.
Should I be concerned about finding the right words to say? Jesus says I should, “On the day of judgment men will have to give account for every idle (inoperative, nonworking) word they speak…Your words now reflect your fate then: either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36 Amp, Matt. 12:37 TLB)
Wow! That is truly hard to comprehend, isn’t it? If we are required to answer for our speech, then we need to be cautious of what exits our mouths, for, as Jesus said, “Whatever is in the heart overflows into speech.” (Luke 6:45b TLB)
The English biblical commentator and Presbyterian minister Matthew Henry wrote, “The heart is the root, the language is the fruit.” We cannot have the sweet nectar of a fruitful, positive confession if the root system of our hearts maintains sour or rotten thoughts. A change in the root system will produce a change in the fruit of speech.
Consequently, “A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth…and with the consequence of his words he must be satisfied [whether good or evil].” (Prov. 18:20a NKJV, Prov. 18:20b Amp)
Solomon warns us, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23 Masoretic Text) Another version says, “Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” (Prov. 4:23 NCV) And will jump off the end of your tongue!
Some say, “I don’t see that my words matter that much.” Well, our words do matter. If our tongues speak from the abundance of our hearts, and if Jesus and Scripture say our words are critical, then, our words really have extraordinary power and effect, embodying life and death, just as Solomon said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. 18:21a NKJV)
The Message version puts it this way, “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” So, who in their right mind would choose death over life, poison over fruit? We do!
The words we speak can set our lives on fire for harm or for good. Our words can bring others to tears or lift their spirits. Our words can even change the atmosphere around us.
Therefore, Paul urges us, “Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” (Phil. 1:27a KJV) This means we are to behave and speak as a citizen of the Kingdom and worthily reflect on the Gospel.
Knowing the consequences of his thoughts and words, David prayed, “Take control of what I say, O LORD, and guard my lips.” (Ps. 141:3 NLT) Therefore, “we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5b GNT)
My prayer is this: Lord, in my word struggle, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Ps. 19:14 NLT)
What about you? Do you struggle to carefully craft those words, taking captive those thoughts, before they roll off the end of your tongue?
***A portion of the above is taken from my upcoming book Ready or Not…Here I Come!
Today’s post is part of…
Linking up with others at Finding Heaven.
When the venom of hate is slung at us…
When a myriad of voices clamor for our attention…
When self is elevated above the concern for others…
When doubt and worry replace our trust in the Lord…
When heartaches pile up against the door of our hearts…
When daily circumstances whir around us and cause confusion…
When activities and chores on our schedules become overwhelming…
When the pain of gossip behind our backs comes from a so-called friend…
When greed for a bulging bank account pushes its way to be #1 on our list…
When our spouse breaks his/her commitment to a monogamous relationship…
When we pay more attention to how we feel rather than on the truths of God’s Word…
When accumulating possessions to keep up with everyone else becomes our main goal…
…what do we do? We usually go into a tailspin and lose our focus.
When God seems not to be in a hurry to remedy any of the above trials for which we have prayed until we are exhausted, instead of praying as our first priority that God will be glorified in it, we boo-hoo His tardiness for not taking us out of the problem, or we question His faithfulness. We lose our focus.
If we focus more on the stress and limitation of our situations rather than on the peace, power, and comfort of God to rectify them, we will certainly lose our focus and we will give up.
I have no magic bullet list of how to stay focused. All I can tell you is that, in my experience, it is in those times we tell the Lord we trust Him for the outcome and continue to thank Him in the meantime.
Isaiah gives us the solution, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!” (Is. 26:3 NLT)
It takes practice, practice, practice to keep our thoughts focused. In regard to those stray and harried thoughts, Paul tells us what to “refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5 Amp)
Solomon warns us in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” (Masoretic Text) Another version says, “Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” (NCV)
What siphons your focus away from the Lord?
May you recognize those things and practice, practice, practice to keep your focus on the Lord.
Come on in. It’s cold out there. Make Yourself at home. Please come in and help me renovate my home for You.
Help me clean out the closet of my hidden thoughts and throw away the trash of wrong attitudes. Dust behind the doors where preconceived ideas accumulate like cobwebs.
Sweep out the corners of my heart where the soil of unwillingness has piled up. Dig into those deep crevices of my soul where stubbornness plants its roots. Shine Your light into the dark recesses of my emotions so nothing can remain hidden from Your forgiveness.
Remove from the shelves of my mind all the negative thoughts that I cling to and replace them all with Your promises that they may be readily available whenever I need them.
Scrub down the walls that have been littered with the graffiti of my words that are dirty blemishes on Your Spirit and Your Word. Repair the cracks in the walls so that the enemy cannot ooze in with his unwanted ideas.
When spiritual unrest jams up my usefulness as a channel, rout out all the garbage of self that Your living waters may run freely, cleansing…
Fix the holes in the roof where the rains of difficulties leak in and threaten to dampen my soul-rest. Seal up the broken windows where the winds of discontent blow in so easily. Let Your joy clean the windows and give them the sparkle that the world needs to see.
Clean out the soot of wrong burning desires that have blackened my chimney. Cleanse it that it may allow the vapors of praise to rise heavenward. Rekindle the embers of my heart’s passion that have grown cold. Ignite a blazing desire to know You more, to serve You more, and to love You more.
Use my tears to mop the floor of my soul where it has been trampled upon with the muddy feet of those who would rather walk over me than to see the hurt and pain within me.
Dismantle the fences that I have unwittingly built which have kept me from reaching out to help someone or kept some hurt soul from reaching in.
Help me build on that one sure Foundation that is unshakable and can withstand all storms and disasters. Help me erect that exterior that holds all else together, using my obedience as the cement to hold Your bricks of truth in place. Make sure I pick up and use each brick so that the edifice does not become faulty, because each truth left lying on the ground is useless.
There is but one chair within these walls, and it is the throne upon which I give You the honor of sitting. When I try to sit upon it myself, shove me off! Make me land with a jolt hard enough to bring me to my senses, because it is Your throne, meant only for You.
Lord, this is Your home. Let us build it together and keep it clean together. May it always be a temple in which You may reside and can always feel proud enough to bring others to visit. May it be a monument to Your grace, Your forgiveness, and Your love.