“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:2
Do you remember that little kids game, “one of these things is not like the other…”?
Lately, I feel like that is my life.
Because the truth of the matter is, the closer that you draw to God, the less like the “world” you become. You begin to think differently, act differently and talk differently. Your view of the world changes and you make different decisions based on different criteria than those of the “masses.”
If you’re not careful, it can be enough to make you question your sanity or at least, question the path you’re on. But the good news is, it’s not only okay to be different… it’s a blessing!
I am not someone special. I am not Mother Teresa or a saint or a pastor. I am just a regular person who has been drawn into a close and amazing relationship with God because I earnestly sought Him. And the cool thing is, when you seek Him… He answers! And you can literally feel Him transforming you from the inside out.
And it’s not all gumdrops and rainbows… a lot of it is difficult. He’ll make you give forgiveness to people you’ve been avoiding, give up addictions or overcome temptations, shed bad habits or defeating beliefs and eventually… see yourself the way He sees you. It’s a pretty amazing process to be a part of.
But it’s not an easy one either. Because the more we think like God, the less we think like the world. That means things that seem important to the world (or at least the modern world) like money, possessions, status or achievement suddenly become very unimportant. While other things like serving others, spending time in prayer and tithing a portion of our income become important.
Decisions are now made based on God’s will for your life, not your own desires or others’ expectations. And sometimes they make you look totally crazy to the world around you – like Noah did with the ark or Abraham did when he had no idea where God was leading him.
But even though you may appear crazy to some, do not worry about conforming to the world. If God is telling you to go to the mission field, go! If He tells you to plant a church, do it! Even if it’s something as simple as starting a food drive for your neighborhood in your garage, do it. Take the step. Have faith and follow God.
For that is when His glory shines the brightest… so be the light!
It looked like a totally different house.
What once was a pretty unassuming, rather run-down brick rancher with a rickety side porch and grass-covered front drive, was now a thing of beauty. The house had been completely painted white, the side porch closed-in and adorned with french doors. The driveway had been expanded into a large semi-circle and even the mailbox had received a fresh coat of white paint.
The new front door bathed in bright blue even matched the accent color on the small business sign that now dangles from the mailbox post. I couldn’t read what the business was, but I imagine it’s something artistic like a photographer or a graphic designer.
If you hadn’t known the house prior to its makeover, you probably wouldn’t think anything of it. Just another quaint little home on the main street of town. But if you had known it before, you couldn’t help but marvel at the transformation.
Especially if you had known it like I did.
This wasn’t just any house. This was the house where my ex had lived briefly with his family. It was a place that had held a few good memories for me, but mostly bad ones. Memories of yelling, fighting, anger and family drama. I had seen things there that broke my heart and heard hateful words thrown my way on many an occasion.
Even after I had moved on in my life, the house was still an unwelcome reminder of sadder days. Catching my attention as I drove past it every other day, until it finally began to fade into the background, along with the relationship it witnessed.
Until one day… it reappeared.
Not because it wanted to remind me of any trauma or painful memory. But because it… like me… had been completely renovated.
Where there once was dark, there was now light. What was once sad and worn down, was now alive and new! The irony was not lost on me.
Because just like the house… I had been “made over” too. Windows fogged with grief and pain had been wiped clean. Shutters that felt the need to “protect” had been thrown open to receive and give love again. And the old door to the past had been replaced with a new one to the future.
It was no coincidence that as I became newer and lighter, the house… that house did too.
Now, instead of a painful memory of the past, it stands as a testament to how far we both have come. And a promise of a brighter future ahead.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. -Ecclesiastes 3:11
What about you? Is God healing your heart and renovating your soul? If you can’t see the finished product yet, don’t give up. One day, you will suddenly realize the dark has turned to light. Stay strong.
“Rest in peace“… it’s a phrase that we all associate with death, burial, the end of life.
But when you actually stop to think about that phrase… why must we wait until the end of our life to rest and be peaceful? Doesn’t that infer that the opposite is true then too? That while we are alive… we are stressed, tired and very much non-peaceful?
Except that is not at all how we were meant to live. Over and over again, God tells us to be peaceful and rest:
–Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
–And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)
–Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)
So, why do so many of us think it’s not okay for us to rest? To take a break, rest our bodies and our souls, particularly on Sunday, the way God intended – “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.” (Exodus 34:21)
Instead, we all hustle and bustle 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Stores and businesses now have Sunday hours and everyone is always go-go-go. I’ve even observed multiple friends “pushing” their way through illnesses or injuries because they learned somewhere along the way that they “shouldn’t” rest.
And they aren’t the only ones. The prevailing notion seems to be that if we DO slow down and rest, that somehow makes us “lazy,” “irresponsible” and “weak.”
But to that my response is… “WHO SAYS?”
Who says that makes you weak or lazy? Maybe it’s your parents’ voices echoing in your head, or a sibling’s. Maybe you grew up in a family where the motto was – you better be doing something or I will GIVE you something to do!
But the reality is, taking time to rest does NOT make you a bad person.
Our bodies and minds were not meant to be run ragged. And rest is essential to our overall health. Whether you do something relaxing like meditation, yoga or stretching, or you simply take time to sit or lie down for 30 minutes. It IS okay to take some time each day to rest.
In fact, it’s better than okay. It’s what we were created to do.
This morning while making my bed, I noticed a phenomenon.
I was having the exact same thought that I had yesterday when I was tucking in my flat sheet.
Literally, at the same moment… as I was straightening the covers in the same place on the same side of the bed, I had the same thought. It wasn’t an important thought, by far. In fact, I already don’t even remember what it was. But it wasn’t what I was thinking that struck me as important anyway. It was the fact that my body was subconsciously repeating a thought just because I was repeating an action.
This is not the only time this has happened either.
I have noticed my mind turning to the same thoughts when I am putting on my make-up or driving down the same road every day to work. Over and over again, my mind will automatically go to the same trains of thought… like a dutiful soldier, repeating the same thoughts (which in turn initiate the same feelings) in order, just like the day before.
I imagine our brains think, “Oh! We’re driving down this road? We’re passing through this neighborhood? Let me consult my records and see what we’re supposed to think about!”
For the most part, this is a harmless phenomenon that most of us probably don’t even realize is taking place.
But the trouble comes in when those thoughts are negative.
If one day, you think “Ugh, I look so old and tired” as you’re brushing your teeth in the bathroom mirror, your brain may automatically try to bring up that file again the next day, whether you actually feel that way or not.
You may realize it (and just mindlessly “agree”) or it may not even consciously register, but suddenly you start feeling sluggish and depressed.
Now, imagine your brain does this two days, three days, five days, one week, three weeks or months in a row.
Pretty soon, those repetitive thoughts are going to turn into a belief. And what was once a “harmless” thought is now one of your foundational truths.
This is why it’s so important for us to pay attention to our thoughts.
Ok, maybe not all 60,000 of them (that we average each day). But as many of them as possible.
It’s said that up to 80% of our thoughts each day are negative. Whether it’s a simple thought like “It’s too hot out here” or a more detrimental thought like “I always screw everything up”… those negative thoughts compound on top of one another all day long, until we’re left feeling stressed, depressed and exhausted.
I don’t know about you… but that is not how I want to spend my days.
I understand that my brain is trying to do its job and run the right “programs,” the only problem is a lot of those programs are faulty.
And the more those programs run, the more messed up my beliefs will get… causing me to have negative emotions like guilt, shame, anger, sadness, fear, worry and depression.
Which in turn, will cause me to behave and live my life differently.
I know we are all busy (which is a whole other topic for another day), but we can’t just mindlessly “tune out” our thoughts, because whether we acknowledge them or not… they are having an effect on us.
We need to be mindful of what thoughts we are letting take hold and when the negative ones pop in, whether for the first time or the hundredth time, we need to actively tell them to get lost.
Whether you replace them with a positive thought/affirmation, imagine them vaporizing into thin air or simply acknowledge them but then politely change the subject, the important thing is that you don’t give them any weight.
Stay aware, stay positive and when your brain tries to slip into auto-pilot mode… tell it, “Thank you very much, but I got it from here.”