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Imagine yourself strolling down a sunny avenue to your favorite coffee shop when you notice a crowd gathered in the park across the street. You pause a moment to listen to the speaker coming over the microphone to an energetic audience.  The speaker is talking about a lack of equality for all people, a need for change, and then she says, “We can be the voice of change!” Her words are met with applause and shouts of agreement, and you are impressed by her powerful delivery and attractive charisma.

Your coffee shop is just a few doors down, so you duck in and a few minutes later you are walking out with your favorite latte and biscotti. But something has changed. The peaceful gathering has turned into an angry mob.

Police officers in riot gear are marching up the street to take control. Bottles and trash fly through the air, and chaos ensues. What happened in those few minutes? It might have been one person bumping into another and starting a chain reaction of physical violence in a charged situation. The rhetoric of the speaker might have changed from a positive tone to one inciting violence or “shocking” action to get the attention of “the others.”

Groupthink and the Mob Mentality

In a situation like this, the individuals begin to form a cohesive unit or system. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “mob mentality” applied to a group of people acting in a way the individuals in the group would not normally act? Psychologists sometimes call this groupthink.

According to Rebecca Lee, “Groupthink occurs when a crowd of people (usually with good intentions) conform in such a way that leads to dysfunctional or irrational behavior. Their viewpoints may be so strong that critical thinking becomes impaired and ration takes a back seat to the intensity of emotion rising from the group.”1

We see this happen over and over in Scripture. Lot stood between the mob and the angels (Gen. 9). Moses faced a mob that doubted his leadership, and their deaths at the hands of God almost led to the destruction of the people of Israel (Num. 16). Jesus stood against the group of men who would stone the adulteress (John 8). He also stood before the mob that made the decision to crucify Him (Matt. 27). Paul faced multiple mobs during his ministry (Acts 19 and 21). In each of these cases, the person facing the mob tries to bring reason back to the situation. When that fails, they call for God’s intervention and mercy.

Chaos

The negative reactions and actions that come from mob mentality, groupthink, happen because the leader(s) of the group know how to use chaos. Chaos is always present, and it can erupt at any moment in every part of our universe. It is a part of everyday life. In fact, it’s always been a part of creation.

God uses chaos to manage our Earth’s climate. Hurricanes can bring nutrient-rich sands to wetlands. Those chaotic destructive storms also bring rainfall to areas in drought. The tropical cyclones move across the ocean, causing massive waves which then break up bacteria red tide.  Winds clean and oxygenate the surface waters. One of the main purposes for the hurricane is to keep global temperatures in balance between the two poles and the equator.

Another example of chaos in creation is volcanos.  Although we usually think of their destructive impact of explosive eruptions and fiery lava, they have also done wonderful things for the Earth. First, volcanos help cool the earth off by removing heat from its interior. Volcanos release pressure from beneath the earth’s surface and erupt ash that provides important nutrients to the surrounding soil. Scientists report volcanic emissions actually produced the atmosphere and the water of the oceans. Volcanoes have made islands and added to the continents.

Forest fires, floods, rain, wind storms, tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and volcanos are all examples destructive forces of chaos in nature. Although they take an enormous toll, we discover when we dig deeper that without the violence of chaos our earth could not sustain itself.  In nature, the forces of chaos are an important part of earth’s healthy environment.

Chaos is an essential part of the functioning design.

Chaos itself is not a good or bad thing. It is simply the catalyst that brings change.

Merriam-Webster defines chaos as “a state of utter confusion” and “the inherent unpredictability in the behavior of a complex natural system.” Groupthink often results in confusion. After the mob disperses, the individuals involved often can’t remember what happened to cause the riot. They seldom remember making a conscious decision to follow along with the group. They just remember the emotions (of the group) and how they suddenly became a part of it. Daniel Little explains, “Much social behavior is chaotic, in that it simply emerges from the independent choices of numerous agents during a period of time.”2

While mob mentality and groupthink may seem random to us, it really isn’t. According to Ashley Crossman, “Chaotic systems are not random systems. Chaotic systems have some kind of order, with an equation that determines overall behavior.”3 The equation that determines the overall behavior in the case of a mob is usually two-fold.

The first part of the equation is the group itself and the effectiveness of its leadership. The leaders, in some way, set the stage for groupthink to take over. Effective leaders use rhetoric or emotions to stir up the crowd. Some leaders manipulate facts to suit their needs. Some outright lie.

The other half of the equation is the response to the event. Speaking of riots in his book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb says, “The crowds, at some point, mutate, blinded by anger and a sense of outrage, fueled by the heroism of a few willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause (although they don’t quite see it as a sacrifice) and hungry for the privilege to become martyrs. It is that political movements and rebellions can become highly antifragile, and the sucker game is to try to repress them using brute force rather than manipulate them, give in, or find more astute ruses.”4

Here is the key. Chaos, even is social unrest situations, serves only as a change agent. By disrupting the social status quo, the instigators of the process have unleashed chaos.

NOTHING thrives in chaos.

EVERYTHING will be changed by chaos.

Sometimes even the group itself is damaged. The group that learns to roll with the change it set in motion is the one most likely to survive. Taleb’s concept of Antifragility is that those natural and complex systems that survive have become antifragile. They are strong enough to withstand the manipulations and outside forces they face.

As Taleb states, “Crucially, if antifragility is the property of those natural (and complex) systems that have survived, depriving these systems of volatility, randomness, and stressors will harm them. They will weaken, die, or blow up. We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything … by suppressing randomness and volatility.”5 A system that begins in and thrives on change with fall apart if it is deprived of that chaos!

When people create chaos, they are rolling the dice in hope of a new/better social order. Their gamble is to take the risk. And it is a gamble. History is full of “good intentions” and “lofty high expectations” that led to violence, oppression, and worse leadership than had existed before. And in many cases, history shows that the regimes and changes formed in chaos fell when structure once again became the norm.

Chaos has become an accepted and even encouraged part of our society. The ability to respond to chaos and change, and even to instigate it, is a common part of the business world. If you look up chaos in the business world you will find article after article about how future business leaders will be those individuals who thrive on chaos. In the art world, you often hear about creative chaos. Chaos is seen as necessary if we want to “shake it up” so everything is new.

The “Haves” and the “Have Nots”

One problem in society today is a growing us vs. them mentality. Think about the us/them situations you see around you. It doesn’t matter what the setting is, they exist. Sports has long had an us/them mentality amongst the fans. It’s good business for them as it promotes the wearing of team gear and team pride. Business often has an us/them mentality. If one airline is unable to respond to the changes chaos brings the airlines that did respond gain those customers. Us/them is all about competition, conflict, and entertainment. It is also about the distribution of wealth and resources.

Every social system also has us/them areas. Chaos steps in and becomes the catalyst change when one group grows tired of their “lack” and decides it wants what the other group has. F. T. Haner, in his book The Technology of Chaos: Structural Change in Global Job Markets & Managing Sociopolitical Instability, talks about how society is comprised of two groups of people, the “haves” and the “have nots.” The “haves” are those people who chose a successful career path, stay employed, and often become wealthy. The “have nots” lost pace with rapidly changing technology, compete for jobs, often have limited capabilities, and many are unemployed.

These “have nots” are, according to Haner, “vulnerable and desperate and can be mobilized into cells, gangs, jihadis, movements, etc., which give them a reason for their existence. The explosion of technology facilitates merging these groups into mobs and creating chaos. Power is the motivation for some of these mob leaders. A few seek greater distribution of wealth. Most just want what the ‘haves’ have. The result is going to be increasingly intense conflict.”6

While chaos is a catalyst leading simply to change, the conflict caused by chaos can lead to destruction. Free will is God’s gift to us, but too often we use it to put up barriers between ourselves and God. Instead of seeing the blessings we have, we feel like we are one of the have nots. That opens us up to negative influences and emotions and makes us vulnerable.

If we want to allow God to work freely in our lives, we must ask if we looking at our lives and the chaos affecting us through society’s lens, or are we looking at through the lens Jesus provides to us in the presence of the Holy Spirit?

Look at the chaos we see in Scripture. The human-caused chaos was often a case of us/them or a conflict between the “haves” and the “have nots.” In each case, God’s intervention was necessary to redeem the situation.

Biblical Chaos

I want to tell you about an image that always sticks with me. Jesus is approaching Jerusalem, being hailed a king by His followers, and as He approaches the mighty city, the heart of the Israeli people, Jesus looked at Jerusalem and wept.

He WEPT.

His followers saw this as His triumphant entrance into the capital. He, however, knew it was the beginning of the end. He knew chaos was about to sweep through the city, and that it would never be the same. In Luke 19:41-44 we read:

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Social chaos is human-made. In this case, the chaos created by the decisions made in Jerusalem in the days following Jesus’ arrival led to the downfall of a nation. When we create chaos with our actions, when the “have nots” decide they want what the “have” possess, they institute change but often conflict and negative forces are invited in as well.

Natural chaos is God’s cleansing agent. Look at hurricane, wildfires, volcanos. Each is devastating and terminal to the current status of the surrounding environment. But the change that occurs because of that devastation PREPARES the environment for new growth.

Chaos = Growth

Chaos in our lives can act as a cleaning agent too. I’m not talking about us getting involved in the human-created “haves” “have nots” chaos. I’m talking about the chaos that exists in the world around us that impacts us in some way.

Think about the most chaotic times in your life. Maybe a series of small interruptions, one after another, slipped into your life and scattered your well-meaning plans to the wind. Maybe tragedy struck, and events seemed to snowball beyond your control faster than you could think. Or maybe you were stuck in societal chaos, placed in danger by the actions of others, losing everything you’d worked for.

It’s in those times more than any other that God is free to step in and work in our lives. Why? Because that is when we are more likely to call out to Him, asking for His help. As Jan Winebrenner states in The Grace of Catastrophe, “Nothing so challenges us to examine what we believe about God like catastrophe.”7

Lorraine Kingsley views chaos as part of God’s plan to redeem and bring blessing to us. According to Kingsley, “Very often God calls us to wait on him, and to trust. Often we have to experience the chaos without any knowledge of whether the blessing will come, or when. And very often we are also part of the redemptive purposes of God. God uses us to help bring restoration to the lives of those around us.”8

Let’s go back to the results of Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem. Look at the chaos that occurred when He died. Darkness fell over the land for three hours in the middle of the day (Matt. 27:45). The curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51). A great earthquake rocked the land and split the rocks (Matt. 27:51). And “The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matt. 27:52).

Just one of these events would have shaken the lives of those involved, but the culmination of the events, the chaos, left the people confused and their lives in disarray. Even the disciples were adrift, and Jesus had taken time to prepare them for what would happen. Humans are not equipped to deal with chaos on our own. We need God in our lives to help us.

Relationship with God is the Answer

Our salvation came in what happened next. The chaos prepared the way for new growth, allowing for the birth and establishment of Jesus’ Church. Jesus returned and reassured His disciples. He also sent the Holy Spirit to act as a guide for each of us, to serve as our anchor in times of chaos.

Jesus showed us that our faith in Him is what cuts through the chaos and roots us strongly in His grace. We may try to understand God’s motivations, in fact I think theological study is a vital part of being a believer, but we must never assume we fully understand everything that is happening in our lives, especially when we are facing hardships.

According to Eugene Peterson, “It can be a means of grace—an instrument used by God by which we can cease floating passively on all manner of external attractions. It is by the grace of catastrophe that people sometimes come to themselves and see what is before them as if for the first time. Catastrophe can, like a mighty wind, blow away the abstracting veils of theory and ideology and enable our own sovereign seeing.”9

Thinking we fully understand God’s motivation is an arrogance we must not allow to creep into our lives. Calvin Miller asks, “What do unwounded servants do? They become arrogant, join country clubs, sell out to middle-class mediocrity … Only the protected have the privilege of making theology a discussion; the endangered cling to it and weep.”10

Theology, even the theology surrounding chaos, is not something we can arrogantly stand up and shout, “Hey! I GOT that! I know what God was doing there.” Science has formed all kinds of theories about chaos and its role in the universe. We don’t need to fully understand chaos to understand that God uses it for His own good. Just as we will never fully understand God. A. W. Tozer says, “God is what He is in Himself. He does not become what we believe. ‘I Am that I AM.’ We are on safe ground only when we know what kind of God He is and adjust our entire being to that holy concept.”11

Our understanding of God is solid only when we look at “what kind of God He is.” How great is that?! We know He is a God of relationship. He freely gives us, His creation, love, grace, and forgiveness. He blesses us and wants us to thrive. When I think about “what kind of God He is” all I can do is thank Him that He loves me! And He loves you too!

Society has embraced chaos as a catalyst for social change. The art and business worlds embrace chaos as vital to their success. But chaos is a different kind of growth opportunity for us as believers. It gives us the opportunity to open our lives to the redemptive, changing love of God.

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people” (1 Cor. 14:33).

 

 

 

 

  1. Lee, Rebecca. “The Acceptance of Group Mentality.” PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-acceptance-of-group-mentality/
  2. Little, Daniel. “Chaos and Coordination in Social Life.” Understanding Society, https://understandingsociety.blogspot.com/2008/03/chaos-and-coordination-in-social-life.html
  3. Crossman, Ashley. “Chaos Theory.” ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/chaos-theory-3026621 (accessed January 8, 2019).
  4. Taleb, Nicholas Nassim. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. New York: Random House, 2014, 48.
  5. Taleb, 5.
  6. Haner, F. T. The Technology of Chaos: Structural Change in Global Job Markets & Managing Sociopolitical Instability. N.P. CreateSpace, 2013, 3-4.
  7. Jan Winebrenner, The Grace of Catastrophe: When What You Know About God is All You Have. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2005.
  8. Kingsley, Lorraine. “Building a Bridge of Faith over Troubled Water.” Anglican Theological Review 100, no. 1 (Winter 2018): 17–2.
  9. Eugene Peterson, Living The Message(New York: HarperCollins, 1996), 181.
  10. Calvin Miller, Into The Depths Of God(Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2000), 144.
  11. A.W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest(Wheaton: Living Books, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1950), 4.

 

 

 

 

 

When young Gabriel Hurles turned six, he threw himself into enjoying the celebration, especially the cake.  Gabriel was focused on that cake the way only a little boy enjoys food. He was so focused that he hadn’t really noticed the giant gift in the corner of the room. Another of the children finally pointed out the gift, and Gabriel started unwrapping it with a vengeance.

I have to imagine all of the wonderful things Gabriel thought might have been in that box. Was it a bike, a big dog, a television? Was it a bunch of the smaller things he had asked for? Maybe it was a spaceship! He had to know it was going to be exciting!

But Gabriel never would have guessed what was hidden behind that shiny paper. It was the best gift any little boy could have wished for. Gabriel’s dad, Army Specialist Casey Hurles, had earned a leave from the war in Iraq and he came up with the plan to surprise his son on his birthday. When little Gabriel finally got the package open, he was greeted with his father’s open arms.(1)

That is a GIFT.

Gabriel’s father gave him the gift of his presence, his love, and his time.

God did that for each of us. He came to this earth as a tiny baby, wrapped up in swaddling clothes. He gave us His presence. He lived, loved, hurt, and experienced life as a human. He took the time to teach us how to live the way He wants all of his people to live, with great faith and generous love. He loved us so much He walked this earth and faced horrible trials for us.

That is the GREATEST GIFT.

I want to talk a little bit today about gifts. Specifically about three gifts that are mentioned in Luke 2:13-14: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (KJV).

Gift #1: Peace on Earth – Restoration for your Mind

Peace on earth is something most of us just dream about. I’ve met so many people who have dealt with oppression, war, gang violence, and domestic violence, and the trauma that comes from each of them. Many of them were the most positive, uplifting people I’ve ever met. If we let it, the negative in the world can creep into our lives and affect every part of our being: mentally, emotionally, and physically. But if we choose JOY and healing, that opens the door for the Holy Spirit to step into our lives and give us strength that we could never have imagined.

There are two ways to face stress and tragedy: with hope or with resignation. Those who have hope are more resilient. They find small things to be joyful and thankful about each day. They reframe the situation to try and find the good. I’ve seen the results of positive thinking in tragedy! Some may call this looking for the silver lining. And you might be thinking, “Not every cloud has a silver lining, Robyn. You just don’t know!”

My friend, I’m here to tell you that I’ve seen pain firsthand. I’ve felt it too. I sat in an ER, sobbing, when the doctor came out to tell me my infant son had died on the table, but they brought him back. My day had started with what other doctors told me was a simple ear infection. As Graham deteriorated, my mother urged me to take him to the ER right away. He coded as I walked through the door calling for help.

The doctors didn’t seem to think bringing Graham back was good news. They said he would be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, and if he coded again it would be better to just let him go. My husband and I stood on faith that day. We thanked God for the time He’d already given us with Graham, and we prayed for a lifetime with him, no matter how he recovered. If you’ve read Graham’s story, you can see that story not only has a silver lining, the whole cloud turned silver!

It took a while, and there were struggles along the way, but I have experienced Gift #1: Peace on Earth – Restoration for MY Mind. I never planned to face the trails of raising a child with disabilities. On my most difficult days I cried out to God, asking Him why this had happened to my little boy. Today I know that God has had a purpose for Graham all along. His story has brought hope to families across the country, and Graham himself has touched more lives than I can count!

Finding your RESTORATION

Do you need restoration for your mind today? Are you facing an illness, or have stress and tragedy left you struggling to find those joyful moments each day? They are there, you just have to make them happen! Your thoughts are powerful, my friend. Your thoughts can create actual physical change in your life.

Research shows that up to 87% of illness can be attributed to our thought life and approximately 13% to diet, genetics, and the environment. The mind and the body are integrally connected. The good news is, we can limit negative effects through the power of our own thinking! God has given us the gift of peace in our personal lives through His careful creation of how our minds work!

Powerful thoughts aren’t just an idea I’ve come up with, it has been proven scientifically over and over. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking can:

  • Increase life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress (2)

 

Johns Hopkins experts researched the impact of positive thinking on heart health. They found that positive thinking reduced heart related illness “even in people with family history who had the most risk factors for coronary artery disease, and positive people from the general population were 13 percent less likely than their negative counterparts to have a heart attack or other coronary event.” (3) They recommend three ways to bring more positivity into your life: smile more, practice reframing, and build resiliency in your life through good relationships, accepting change is just a part of life, and dealing with problems head on.

The Power of Thought in Scripture

While science is now proving the power our thoughts hold, the idea is not new.  Look at these verses:

  • Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom. 12:2)
  • Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil. 4:8)
  • Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Col. 3:2)

 

God fully understands the power of our thoughts, and He has been teaching us to pay attention to them throughout Scripture! The Apostle Paul said, “But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.” (1 Cor 2:16, AMP). So how can we harness our MIND to become more positive so we can experience ABUNDANT LIFE?

YOU TRAIN your THOUGHTS to stop the DESTRUCTIVE and move forward to health and LONGEVITY!

GIFT #2: Good Will Towards Men – Restoration for Your Relationships

We are created to be in relationship with God and with our fellow humans. As we see in many places in Scripture, sometimes those relationships suffer and break down. In reality, we don’t even have to look to Scripture. We can look in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.

We are not perfect. We make mistakes. We say the wrong thing, argue when we shouldn’t. We get stubborn and refuse to budge or admit we made a mistake. Before we know it, a little SITUATION can turn into a relationship ending snowball.

To find restoration, we need to be proactive in our relationships. When one of those “little” situations comes up, speak to IT, the situation itself, instead of lashing out at the other person. Here are the steps you might take:

(1) SAY how you feel

(2) SAY what you usually do

(3) SAY the truth instead

(4) SAY what you will do differently

This is another aspect of reframing. Instead of reacting in the same negative ways, you are building new neuropathways in your brain. You are TRAINING your brain to approach a negative situation in a positive and productive way. This changes your thought process from those that focus on the pain to those that look for JOY!

Once you have that new pathway created, your first thought will be to assess the situation, not to lash out at your mother, friend, husband, sister, or coworker.

How it Works

Let’s look at an example. Sarah’s mother arrives for Christmas dinner, and Sarah immediately tenses up because she knows what is coming. Her mom gives her a hug and then smooths down Sarah’s hair. “I had hoped that new haircut would give you more control, sweetie.” Then she walks into the house and starts straightening the already clean living room. “You go finish up in the kitchen sweetie, I’ll take care of this out here. I know you have a lot to do with everyone coming to your house for dinner for the first time!”

Sarah, could take immediate offense. And many of us might do the same in her shoes. She might tell her mom to stop, everything is already taken care of. If she did, you can be sure her mom would be hurt and would likely react with the same harsh tone and attitude.

Sarah, however, has learned that she alone controls her thoughts.

  • Instead of reacting, she is proactive.
  • She thinks about how she feels: once again mom is trying to control her life and she feels small and insignificant, like she can never please her mother.
  • She thinks about what she would usually do: lash out and get defensive.
  • She takes a BIG step back and looks at the truth: her mother is genuinely pleased to be there. She hasn’t criticized anything, she just wants everything to be perfect FOR Sarah.
  • And then Sarah decides what she will do differently: “Mom, I’m so glad you’re here. I always look forward to being with you. Would you like to come into the kitchen and keep me company while I finish up? I’d really like to hear about that thing you were telling me about the other day.”

 

Your feelings don’t always reflect the TRUTH of the situation. Those closest to us often just want what they think is best for us. Is that always the right thing? No. But instead of pushing them away and getting hurt or angry, we need to look for the motivation behind the actions and words. We need to be proactive in contributing to our relationships in a positive way instead of reacting with the same, ingrained feelings and words.

Gift #3: Glory to God in the HIGHEST – Restoration for your SOUL

“We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” (2 Cor. 10:5-6 MSG)

Perhaps the greatest gift promised in this verse is the one that affects each of us at the very core of our being. Glory to God in the HIGHEST will bring you restoration at the deepest level. It will heal your SOUL.

The word Immanuel means God with us (Matt. 1:2:3). Our God, Immanuel, is always with us. Watching over us and protecting us. He has provided us with the GIFT of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us. When God is with us, what can’t we do!

I want to tell you something very REAL right now. I have had moments when in my soul I felt so alone and abandoned. I felt God had put me in situations that were beyond my capabilities, and that I just wasn’t strong enough to deal with them. I felt, honestly, betrayed by God.

In those moments I’ve raged at Him. I’ve screamed, cried, begged, and pleaded for relief. And you know what, it worked. The problem wasn’t God abandoning me. It was me closing myself off from Him. I had let my hurt feelings, my wrong thinking, lead me down a reactive pathway. I closed the door of my soul to Him, just a little, and dwelled instead on the difficulties, the pain, and the hopelessness I felt. My anger and hurt finally broke through that door, opening me up once again to hear His voice. And each time it broke me a little, then mended me and made me stronger.

Open yourself up today, friend. God hasn’t left you. He hasn’t abandoned you. He is RIGHT THERE, RIGHT NOW! All you have to do is reach out. You might reach out in pain, in anger, you might rage at Him as I have. That’s okay! He KNOWS what you are going through. He’s just waiting on you to come back to Him so He can show you the truth, bring you the healing, and so He can fill your life with Joy once again.

Restoration at Christmas will lead to a lifetime of hope!

I want to take just a minute to talk about another GIFT you can give yourself this holiday season.

G – Get into the Right Attitude

Make the decision to create new pathways and thought patterns in your mind. Control your thoughts. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may prove what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I – Invest Yourself in Something

You can’t receive unless you are willing to give and do! It’s the truth! Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Open yourself up to receiving today by doing something for someone else!

F – Focus on Your 4 Way Win

Change is good, but long-term change is better. You want a 4 Way Win! A 4 Way Win is Sustainable Long Term Personal Change in Body, Mind, Soul, and Spirit. Make it your goal and start right now! You can be the change agent in your life!

T – Treasure Today!

Don’t dwell on the hurts of yesterday, and don’t worry about what is coming tomorrow. Treasure Today! Matthew 6:20-21 tells us, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.”

God has given us the gift of RESTORATION in our lives. Now it’s up to each of us to give ourselves the GIFT we need to truly live in the moment. We Don’t Get What We Want, We Get What We Are!

 

 

 

  1. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/4405509/US-soldier-in-Iraq-surprises-son-by-jumping-out-of-present.html
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950
  3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_mind/the-power-of-positive-thinking

 

J.P. Morgan was one of the most powerful and respected bankers of his time. He financed railroads and helped organize U.S. Steel, General Electric, and other major industries that helped the United States become a world power in industry. Morgan was a man who knew about success!

One day a man walked up to him and held up an envelope. The man said, “Sir, in my hand I hold a guaranteed formula for success, which I will gladly sell to you for $25,000.” This was not chump change, even to a man as successful as Morgan. $25,000 in the early 1900s would be approximately $750,000 today.

I want you to put yourself in Morgan’s place for a minute. You have provided the funding for dozens of businesses, you’ve started your own bank, and life is looking pretty good. Do you take the time to talk to this man, or do you decide he’s delusional and wasting your time? I have to admit, if you walked up to me on a street today and offered me the contents of an envelope for that kind of money I would say, “Thanks but no thanks,” and walk away.

Morgan didn’t do that. He had learned that value can show up in unexpected ways. Be he was also smart enough not to just shell out $25,000, Morgan replied, “I do not know what is in the envelope. However, if you show me and I like it, I give you my word as a gentleman that I will pay you what you ask.”

I’m sure the man with the envelope was doing a little dance in his head at this point. One of the most powerful men in the country was willing to look at what he had in that envelope, information that he considered to be worth a small fortune. He quickly agreed and handed over the envelope. Morgan took out the contents, a single sheet of paper, read it, and immediately wrote a check.

That piece of paper said two things:

Every morning write a list of the things that need to be done that day.

Do them.

DO THEM

How simple is that? Yet I would be willing to bet most of us don’t. I know my to-do list is LONG. It’s so overwhelming at times that I would love to just hide and pretend that list doesn’t exist. But I don’t. I chose to engage and get that list done. Delivering results to achieve your goal and expand your success is the very core of engaging in your life.

Engagement, or engaging, is a process that should be transformational for you. In this process you move from being a person whom things happen to, to an individual who makes things happen. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to just deal with things as they come. I want to be the driving force. I want to make things happen. I want to create Forward Momentum in my life.

When you are engaged, you cope with challenges and work to achieve goals. By recognizing the importance of engaging, you foster connectivity and create a community that supports and encourages you. You can be the motivation in your life, you don’t have to just live what you’ve been handed!

SELF-CLARITY

If you want to truly engage, you need to understand yourself: your motivations, strengths, vulnerabilities, thought processes, behavior, personality, and how you are perceived by others. Achieving self-clarity is a deeply personal journey but taking time to know and understand yourself brings authenticity and genuineness to your behavior and actions.

Be yourself. Don’t worry about proving your specific attributes to others. If you take nothing else away from this blog post, remember this: God created you to be you! He made each person unique. So stop trying to be like everyone else and develop your own identity! They only way to do that is to achieve self-clarity and acquire a unique identity you can personally own.

Your first step is to focus on your strengths and vulnerabilities and recognize them as important elements of who you are. Don’t be afraid of conflict as you work to come to terms with your weaknesses. We all have personal issues, and it can be difficult to deal with them, but if you want to live your best life then dealing with your weaknesses is essential!

Evangelist D. L. Moody was once asked which people gave him the most trouble. His response was, “I’ve had more trouble with Dwight L. Moody than any other man alive.” As Jan Smuts states, “A man is not defeated by his opponents but by himself.”

The pathway to self-clarity and true engagement requires the development of your unique identity. This identity must be expressed through your ability to find your own voice. Finding your voice is an important component of living a life dedicated to Christ. And friend, I know that your authentic voice is powerful!

You must know who you are and what you stand for. It’s as simple as that. Self-knowledge creates self-confidence that is both formidable and engaging. So are you ready to seek self-clarity so you can experience true engagement in your life?

Here are some coaching questions you can ask yourself to help you on your journey:

  1. What is the purpose of what you do?
  2. What type of impact do you want your life to have?
  3. How do you contribute to others and the world?
  4. How are you going to contribute to the betterment of others?
  5. What percentage of the authentic you shows through in your life?
  6. If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you try right now?
  7. On a scale of 1 to 10, how motivated are you in your life? What motivates you?
  8. Describe a moment when you felt the most alive.
  9. What motivates you? How do you motivate yourself?
  10. What is the one thing that never fails to move you to action?

I want to leave you with an affirmation you can use as you seek self-clarity and incorporate engaging into your life. Just insert your name in the blank!

Christ gives me _________ the strength to face anything! (Phil. 4:13, CEV)

 

On Nov. 5, 1872 a woman cast her first ballot in a US Presidential election — and she was put in jail!

You can help BREAK the “GLASS ceiling” in your life by owning the “space” that has already been given to you! When opportunities are in front of you, step into the space and occupy. Don’t lean back and make excuses, instead break through and just do it.

There are many ways to ACTIVATE positive change but today one of the biggest impacts we can each make is by VOTING!

No one can take your place to cast YOUR vote.

Each of us must own our space and cast our ballot based on our own prayerful deliberation. We have already been given enormous POWER to break the glass ceiling for every woman in America by casting our votes for candidates and policies which will impact lives. No one is going to change anything until there’s action … and today the biggest action I could do to shatter the glass ceiling in America was to VOTE.  

It is lazy and self-damaging to complain about women’s issues if we DO NOT TAKE ACTION when we have already been blessed with the gift of voting. It was not always this way for the women in this country. Women must accept the responsibilities for which much sacrifice has already been invested.

The 19th amendment, passed by Congress on June 4, 1919 and ratified on August 18, 1920, granted women in the United States the right to vote. That seems like such a clear-cut statement, but it took a lot of sacrifice to get to that point.

Women had few rights in the early years of our country. In fact, when the country was first founded rights were even taken away from women! According to Susan Milligan, a senior writer for US News, “Historians describe two waves of feminism in history: the first in the 19th century, growing out of the anti-slavery movement, and the second, in the 1960s and 1970s. Women have made great strides – and suffered some setbacks – throughout history, but many of their gains were made during the two eras of activism in favor of women’s rights.” (1) Here are a few of the dates Susan gives in her timeline of women’s rights:

In 1769 the colonies followed the English system and women could not own property or keep any money they earned.

In 1777, after the Declaration of Independence was signed declaring all men are created equal, each state passed laws taking away a woman’s right to vote.

In 1839 Mississippi became the first state to allow women to own property in their own name, but only with permission from their husbands.

In 1848 300 women and men signed the Declaration of Sentiments asking for the end of discrimination against women.

In 1866 Congress passed the 14th Amendment, defining citizens and voters as male.

1872 was a year of progress! Victoria Claflin Woodhull was nominated by the National Radical Reformers as the first female presidential candidate, women who were federal employees were guaranteed equal pay for equal work, and Susan B. Anthony voted to test the interpretation of the 14th amendment and was convicted of “unlawful voting.”

In 1890 Wyoming gave women the right to vote in all elections!

By 1900 all states passed legislation allowing married women to own property and keep their wages.

In 1916 Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 1920 women were granted the right to vote by the 19th Amendment!

All too often we take for granted the rights we have today. Rights your great grandmother and her mother didn’t have. The generations of women who came before us fought for equality and the right to vote so you and I would be able to live the lives we are living right now!

The first major gathering for women’s rights took place in July 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York.  Elizabeth Cody Stanton, one of the organizers of the event, “drafted a ‘Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances, and Resolutions’ that echoed the preamble of the Declaration of Independence: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.’”(2) This event inspired women all over the county to stand up and step out on the path to equal rights.

They marched and practiced civil disobedience, often ending up facing prosecution. They wrote and lectured on the importance of equal rights for women and that women deserve equal representation. The lobbied to lawmakers and picketed, held hunger strikes, parades, and silent vigils. These women faced retribution at home and on the streets. They were ridiculed, jailed, and even physically abused for seeking equality.

This foundation of hard work and sacrifice is what our rights are built on. This is the legacy we carry on when we exercise our rights, and it is the legacy we ignore when we choose not to exercise them.

On November 2, 1920, more than 8 million women voted for the first time. Many of those women still faced opposition at home and in their communities, but 43% of women went to the polls and cast their vote. (3) That number grows every year, and every woman who votes owes that right to the women who marched, protested, and lobbied for that right.

This year, 28,500,000 women are eligible to vote. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, female voters have outnumbered male voters in every Presidential election since 1980 and in every midterm election since 1986.(4) And every one of those votes has value. When we vote, we are saying that the course of this country matters to us. We are saying that we care about the rights of the citizens of this country and we want our faith reflected in our vote.

We have each been given much. We have the right to own property and cars and jewelry. We have the right to speak out against what we don’t believe in. We have the right to have a job and keep what we earn. We have these rights because others fought for them. We have been given much, and we must give in return!

Luke 12:48 says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Have you ever taken time to reflect on what that means in your life?

Jesus came to earth to repair our relationship with God. That is good news in the best sense of the word. He has become our conduit to God, interceding on our behalf and providing us with the Holy Spirit’s presence to guide us through our days. What He does grants us an eternal life at His side when we accept Him as savior. What He doesn’t do is live our lives for us. We still have to do the work, make the decisions, and express the power of God in our lives through every choice we make.

This is not easy. In fact, I know I couldn’t do it without Him! But the fact remains that I have to make choices every day that reflect on who I am as a child of God. And so do you!

Each of us has been given much, and each of us has been entrusted with even more. That means we are required to give much in return. Some of what we have been given comes from the sacrifices of those who came before us.

So tomorrow morning, get to your voting station and exercise your rights. You can make a difference!

 

 

 

(1) “Stepping Through History: A Timeline of Women’s Rights from 1769 to the 2017 Women’s March on Washington” by Susan Milligan. https://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2017-01-20/timeline-the-womens-rights-movement-in-the-us

I encourage you to take time to read the complete timeline!

(2) https://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/WIC/Historical-Essays/No-Lady/Womens-Rights/

(3) “The Women’s Vote in National Elections.” https://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre1927053100

(4) http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/resources/genderdiff.pdf

 

Over decades of Ministry I’ve counseled women who have dealt with various forms of sexual harassment. With the recent #MeToo movement, the topic has become big news, and it is starting to get the attention it deserves.

Let’s lay all of the cards out on the table. Sexual harassment is one of those insidious evils that surround us. It lurks in the background and we don’t really pay much attention to it until it directly affects us in some way.

As women, we are often told we need to “move past” any “uncomfortable” situations we’ve experienced. As in the situation made us uncomfortable, but that’s the extent of it, giving the impression the woman is overreacting. All too often, sexual harassment is swept under the rug, or dealt with quietly so the situation just goes away.

I want to do two things in this post. First, I want to look a little closer at sexual harassment: what it is, who it affects, and what kind of damage it causes. Then I want to look at the steps someone who is sexually harassed can take to find healing and how we can help.

What It Is

Sexual harassment is legally defined as something that happens in the workplace, or in a structured learning environment. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment.

Stop Street Harassment defines sexual harassment as including: “ verbal sexual harassment (e.g., sexually explicit talk, homophobic slurs, repeated requests for a date after a person has said no), cyber sexual harassment (the use of text/phone and Internet to sexually harass), and physically aggressive sexual harassment (flashing or indecent exposure, being physically followed and being touched or brushed up against in a sexual way without consent).”

The Equality Act of 2010 in the UK defines it as: “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.”

Who It Affects

Everyone.

Sexual harassment affects each and every one of us in one way or another. Statistics show that at least 1 in 4 women experience sexual harassment in the workplace. A new national online survey from Stop Street Harassment (SSH) reported that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men said they had experienced sexual harassment or assault over their lifetimes. Think about that.

According to SSH:

  • More than 3 in 4 women (77%) and 1 in 3 men (34%) experienced verbal sexual harassment;
  • 1 in 2 women (51%) and 1 in 6 men (17%) were sexually touched in an unwelcome way;
  • Around 4 in 10 women (41%) and 1 in 4 men (22%) experienced cyber sexual harassment;
  • More than 1 in 3 women (34%) and 1 in 10 men (12%) were physically followed;
  • Close to 1 in 3 women (30%) and 1 in 10 men (12%) faced unwanted genital flashing;
  • More than 1 in 4 women (27%) and 1 in 14 men (7%) survived sexual assault.
  • Among those who reported experiencing sexual harassment and assault, 57% of women and 42% of men said it had happened by age 17. High school-age, 14-to-17-years-old, was the most frequently selected age people reported being for their first experience (27% women, 20% men).

The Damage It Causes

Harassment must be taken seriously. It is emotionally and physically damaging, and in severe cases the effects can last a lifetime. Of those who reported experiencing sexual harassment in the SSH survey, 31% of women and 20% of men said they felt anxiety or depression and many changed their route or regular routine to avoid their harassers.

Women especially are conditioned to smooth over difficult situations. Many women are taught from a young age that if something makes them uncomfortable they need to remove themselves from the situation if possible, but whatever they do, do it quietly. That kind of thinking becomes hard-wired in the brain and it is difficult to change when in a crisis situation. The #MeToo movement has pointed out the dangers of that kind of thinking.

Victims of sexual harassment react in many different ways. There is no one response. They can appear calm, they can dampen their emotions, they might be distraught, or they might be visibly angry. If the abuse is serious enough, victims may self-medicate, engage in high-risk sexual behavior, withdraw from those around them, or attempt to regain control in some way.

The victim’s claim in sexual harassment is often questioned more than that of victims of other crimes. Especially if they don’t fight back in some way. This questioning can lead to doubt and confusion for the victim, and it is the reason many never report it or seek help. Neurobiological research has shown that the fight-or-flight response in harassment or assault situations might be more accurately called “fight, flight or freeze.” Victims may be rendered involuntarily immobile, becoming either paralyzed or limp as a result of the brain and body’s protective response.

The emotional damage victims of sexual harassment face must not be downplayed or disregarded. They have faced real trauma, and it not something that was imagined or a joke that was “taken too seriously.”

In cases of severe harassment, the harasser often incites feelings of confusion and shame and they manipulate the reluctance to identify as a victim. According to Valliere, those harassers she treats give two tactics they use to obscure their actions: they will camouflage the act as horseplay or humor, or they act as though nothing happened. She states, “If they do this enough, the victim can get really confused, like they’re really the bad one for thinking badly about the offender.”

Finding Healing

Sexual harassment takes an enormous toll on the victim, and it can have long-lasting effects if the individual is not proactive about seeking healing. Reactions to trauma are different for each person, but it often starts as shock. The person then moves into a state of denial: “this can’t really be happening to me.” Following that are feelings of victimization, which can impact self-esteem and the ability to function.

Steps to Healing

Healing is a process. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, my heart is with you and you are in my prayers. I hope the steps I’ve listed will guide you as you start your healing process. If you know someone who is struggling with the aftereffects of harassment, I hope these steps will guide you as you offer them your support and love.

Step 1: Acknowledge what happened. Someone violated your dignity. They put you in a situation that was not only uncomfortable, it was damaging to you emotionally, and possibly physically.

Step 2: Don’t blame yourself. Someone else did this to you. You are not to blame. You did not “tempt” them with your actions, your clothing, your makeup, the way you walk, or by being friendly. Their actions are to blame. It was their decision, not yours.

Step 3: Find someone to talk to right away. This is not something you can make go away on your own. You need to process what happened to you and talking to someone else will give you the support you need to face your pain. I would encourage you to consider a neutral party for this step. A trusted family member or friend can be invaluable to the healing process, but they often have trouble separating their own emotions from the situation. Instead, consider a counselor or your pastor or the equivalent. That person is there to listen to you, to be your advocate, and to offer you the support you need to find your own insights. If they don’t do those things, then find someone who will.

Step 4: Take back control of your life. Set goals, make plans, take a class, start a new hobby, do whatever it takes for you to feel in control and comfortable with your immediate future.

Step 5: Take care of yourself. You, my friend, are a blessed creation of God. He loves every molecule of your being, and He created you with great care and thought. You are valuable, and you must take care of yourself just like you would take care of anything of great value. I’ve talked about self-care and would encourage you to make this a priority in your life as you work through the healing process.

Step 6: Surround yourself with people who support you. Don’t underestimate the value of positivity in your life. Especially right now. Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself. People who will understand and not judge you if you have a bad day. Your connections are always important, but right now they are vital. The flip side of this coin is temporarily removing the negative from your life. If you love someone (friend, relative, mentor) but they are feeding negativity and bad feelings into your life, then you need to remove them from your circle for a while.

This is the time to focus on you. Focus on healing so you can live the life you God intends for you. God is good and His plan for your life is to prosper and thrive. Trauma is not the end, instead it’s the beginning of a pathway to healing through God. Although you may always remember the victimization, God’s Grace has the divine energy to flatten the pain and reframe the loss into your weapon for personal growth. In our weakness, the Bible promises that Jesus will be strong!

Resources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/30/us/sexual-harassment-weinstein-women.html

http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/2018-National-Sexual-Harassment-and-Assault-Report.pdf

Recommend resources for healing:

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body by Peter A. Levine, Ph.D.

Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship by Laurence Heller Ph.D. and Aline LaPierre Psy.D.

Walking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine and Ann Frederick

Healing from Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide to Understanding Your Symptoms and Reclaiming Your Life by Jasmine Lee Cori

Did you know that your thoughts TODAY are able to rewire your brain for higher levels of confidence, certainty, composure, and concentration? You can HEAL trauma and find wholeness no matter what has happened in your past!

God gifted each of us with a wonderfully complex brain, with the ability to change our thought patterns. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).

This is possible because of a concept called neuroplasticity, the ability of our brains neural pathways to actually reshape and reform. Through intentional thought, we can actually rewire our brains to minimize negative thinking, reshape limiting beliefs about ourselves, and move toward a more positive, healthy life.

One response I received to my last post on changing your thoughts was, “But HOW do I do it? How do I use neuroplasticity to my advantage and rewire my brain?” So today I want to introduce you to a resource I think will change your life!

Neurosculpting®

The process is called Neurosculpting®, and it was developed by Lisa Wimberger. Neurosculpting utilizes the changing neurons in the brain by focusing directly on the type of reinforcement our neural pathways receive. The key is that our neural pathways grow stronger or weaker over time, depending on the type of reinforcement received.

Our brain cells, our neurons, are unique. Each one has structures called dendrites extending from them toward the neurons around it. They look like roads on a map connecting different towns! Those dendrites carry messages from one neuron to the next, like roads carry cars from one town to the next. When a neuron receives a message, it moves through the dendrites to the next neuron. If the message/information is powerful or strong enough, the next neuron in line passes it on.

This process forms a thought network, building roads so the signal—the message—can travel more easily in the future. Everything you learn, every thought, every bit of sensory input, builds new roads and forms new pathways. The more often the same input is received, the stronger and more traveled the pathway. Neuroplasticity allows the formation of new roads.

Sculpting Your Brain by Choosing Your Thoughts

 

A Map Of Our Brains

Have you ever been stuck on a major highway in a traffic jam? Likely there were other roads you could have taken, but they weren’t as fast, as well-built, or they didn’t go exactly where you needed to go. The pathways in our brain are kind of like those major highways. The ones we use the most are busiest. The messages travel faster and easier. They go right were we send them. But sometimes they get jammed up. There is too much input, or we are inputting the wrong message. When that happens, we need to reroute our thoughts and build up new pathways.

Our goal is a brain map that is strong and is full of pathways and alternate routes. One thing you need to understand is that our neural pathways are use it or lose it. The less we use connections, the more they deactivate. This process is known as the “Hebbian Rule.” Donald Hebb summitted the hypothesis that when two neurons are active at the same time, the synapses (pathways) between them are strengthened. This creates networks from the pre-existing “wiring” in our brains. Hebb’s hypothesis proved correct, and researchers used that idea to discover neuroplasticity!

Any knowledge you rarely access or behaviors you seldom use result in neural pathways that are weaker. Some connections may even be lost completely!

Careful and Intentional Progress

Neuroplasticity is a powerful tool. But it can hurt your brain and your mental health as easily as help it. Dr. Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life talks about what he calls “negative learning.” He writes, “It is almost just as easy to drive changes that can impair one’s memory or slow down one’s mental or physical control as it is to improve one’s memory or speed up the brain’s actions.” You must take great care when you work to rewire your thinking. Neurosculpting uses deliberate, careful steps to institute change.

In her book, Neurosculpting, Wimberger says, “Neurosculpting is a mental training process that quiets our fight or flight center and activates our prefrontal cortex, which is the mind’s seat of compassion and empathy. It also engages left- and right-brain stimulation and incorporates somatic awareness for a whole-brain and whole-body approach to meditation and rewiring. It’s a lifestyle of day-to-day exercises, nutritional tenets, and meditations designed to allow dialogue between compartmentalized and silenced parts of ourselves.  It involves learning about a brain supportive diet, exercising, and identifying and enhancing opportunities for neuroplasticity throughout your day …”

That may sound complex, and in some ways it is, but it can also be approached on a smaller scale. On her Neurosculpting Institute website, she tells us, “The practice can be as simple as some daily meditations and mental exercises, and as comprehensive as a full life-plan to include nutrition, exercise, sleep hygiene, and one-on-one support.”

Wimberger’s Neurosculpting® practice follows five steps:

Step 1

The first step is regulating your stress level and learning about your body’s natural responses to stressful situations. You do this by intentionally pausing when you encounter a stress response. We all encounter stressful situations each day. Yours might be when you are stuck in traffic, when your child throws a tantrum, when your boss hands you a big project and wants it done yesterday, or maybe it’s when you and your spouse disagree with each other. Your reaction might vary: increased pulse, higher blood pressure, a flash of anger, or the desire to run away. The intentional pause helps you catalogue your reaction. You start to learn how your body reacts to negative situations so you can institute thought process changes.

Step 2

The second step is an enhanced, focused attention. This will help you start the process of emotional regulation. Stress has a way of scattering our thoughts. Those well-worn neural pathways light up and we react instinctively. This second step is only possible after you intentionally pause and assess the situation. In that moment, you then focus your attention on your emotions and evaluate what you need to change. If your child is throwing the twelfth tantrum of the day you might feel despair, frustration, anger. When your boss is unreasonable you might shut down or feel overwhelmed. When you argue with your spouse you might feel hurt, frustrated, angry, or even resigned. You can’t make a change until you know what you need to change.

Step 3

In the third step, you increase the interaction between your “analytical self and your intuitive feeling self.” We are reactionary creatures. Very few people react to stress and trauma with analysis of the situation. Instead we enter a highly emotional “fight or flight” state. By pausing and focusing our attention on our reaction, we are then able to take a mental step back and look at the situation more logically. We need to form neural connections between these two parts of our brain.

Step 4

The fourth step creates a link between sensation-based engagement to perceptual shifts in patterns. Once you have formed those new connections, you have to intentionally use them. If your pulse starts to race and your blood pressure goes up, you want your brain to instinctively pause, focus your attention, and recognize why you are reacting that way. When you do this, you shift the pattern. You will develop the ability to react intentionally instead of instinctively. This gives you the ability to stop your boss and say, “This is a great project, and it deserves my full attention. Can I pass some of my other work off to other employees while I focus on this, or is there someone else who will be assisting with the project?” Your analytical side allows you to show you recognize the importance, but you are not able to do it alone with what you already have on your plate. You have shifted the pattern from reactionary to deliberate action.

Step 5

The fifth step allows you to identify and replicate the process in day-to-day activities. When you reach this fifth step, you have rewired your brain! You have created new, healthier pathways in your brain. The more you use them, the stronger they become. The less you use the old, unhealthy thought patterns, the weaker they will become.

Every day I encounter people who are stuck in negative thought processes. I counsel women who have suffered trauma and are struggling to move on. I work with young leaders who are letting stress and uncertainty rule their lives. Each of these individuals  has the power to rewire their brain. By doing so, they move from a place of struggle to a thriving, active, forward-moving life!

Start right now by ASKING GOD to help you. PRAY out loud: “God, I believe your Word, and it says that I can bring every thought under control. Today, I am asking you to help me practice these steps and to change my thinking so my brain rewires to elevated thinking! I am starting NOW! Amen!”

Have you ever taken out a necklace only to find it is tangled into knots? That usually happens because you just chuck the jewelry into the box at the end of the night and them quickly rummage through to find what you want the next morning.

What do you do when you have to deal with tangles? I know you don’t expect the tangle to just miraculously vanish. If you are like me you start at one end and unravel one knot at a time (a little baby powder helps!). Eventually the necklace is a smooth chain again, and it’s ready to do its job and shine.

The brain is the same way. We tend to chuck­­ thoughts into our brains and expect new thoughts to come out untangled and pure when we need them. In reality, it takes a little work to make sure the brain is ready to shine.

Repeated behaviors and thoughts become hardwired into our brains, allowing us to coast through some tasks while hardly thinking about them at all. The downside is that negative thought patterns can become hardwired too. But don’t worry – you can change the wiring in your brain!

Scientists have come to realize that each of us is the architect of our brains. God created us as incredibly complex beings, but He didn’t set our plans in stone. So with a little work, you can actually begin to change thoughts and behaviors that are holding you back, causing you stress, or hurting your relationships.

Neuroplasticity

Let’s take a quick look at the science behind re-wiring our brains. Neuroplasticity is the formal name. This refers your brain’s ability to reorganize itself throughout your life. This happens due to environmental stimuli, your behavior and that of others around you, your thoughts, and your emotions. What’s really amazing is that the brain can rewire itself both physically and functionally!

Our son, Graham, suffered severe brain damage due to spinal meningitis. We were told he would exist in an almost vegetative state without the ability to speak, see, hear, or walk. But through God’s grace and His amazing design, that was not the case. Graham’s brain was able to rewire around those damaged areas and today he is able to not only speak, he raps! He actually serves on the security team at our church!

If his brain can rewire to give him back basic functions lost to illness, imagine what your brain can do if you work to change your thoughts!

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Your brain is capable of more than you can imagine, all you have to do is visualize it. Because when you visualize a new process, you materialize that process in your life.

Dr. Michael Merzenich, explains in his book, Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life, “Whatever the circumstances of a child’s early life, and whatever the history and current state of that child, every human has the built-in power to improve, to change for the better, to significantly restore and often to recover. Tomorrow, that person you see in the mirror can be a stronger, more capable, livelier, more powerfully centered, and still-growing person.”

So how do you make these changes? Well the first thing is to actually get up and move. It may seem counterproductive, when your thought process is what you want to change, but movement actually helps. According to Christopher Bergman, moderate to vigorous physical activity is one of the most effective ways to stimulate neurogenesis.

Changing Your Thoughts

One way you can rewire your brain is to use motivation. In other words, you are moving toward a specific goal. First you need to define your goal in positive terms. Make sure every step is moving toward something, not away from it.

So if your goal is to change your thoughts about your body while losing weight, your goals would be to eat healthy, become more physically active, and to actively think positive thoughts about yourself. Compliment yourself in some way. Once you’ve come up with your plan, write it down, and remember that everything should be positive. The language you use can absolutely affect your results.

You are changing your thoughts by saying what you do want, instead of what you don’t want. The goal is to edit negative words out of your vocabulary and your thoughts. Focus on what you want to happen not what you want to avoid. Be POSITIVE. Never focus on what you don’t want, because if you do then that is what you will create instead!

Remember that your energy flows where your attention goes. 

Marisa Peer, a psychologist and bestselling author, says, “If you haven’t got what you want, it is because you are not communicating correctly with your mind … the brain does what it thinks you want so you have to be very careful when telling your brain what you want.” Don’t be afraid to empower yourself! Think and use phrases such as: “I want to do it,”  “I’m choose this,”  “I’m going to succeed at this,” and “I love doing this.” Put yourself in a position of positive control.

If you believe that you can do something, you will!

Let me repeat that. If you believe that you can do something, you will! There have been times in my life when I didn’t do something I really wanted to just because I thought I couldn’t. Not believing can lead to regret! Just embracing this one attribute can change your life in unimaginable ways. You need to visualize the change you want, and make sure you use your senses as our senses trigger activity within the brain. Remember – only dwell upon the END result.

You might:

  • See your hands wrapping around the steering wheel of your new car while you smell that new car smell.
  • Picture how your new dress will look, and how great you will feel after you’ve lost the weight you want to lose.
  • Imagine what it will feel like to walk down the aisle holding your groom’s hand as everyone applauds your happy day.
  • Visualize what work will be like after you get that big promotion and imagine the satisfaction you will feel.

Make sure you’re detailed and precise in what you visualize. When you talk about what you want, make sure you use descriptive and powerful words. Engage your senses with sensory words, which are more powerful because they engage more areas of your brain.

If you use words describing taste or texture, the parts of your brain that would process those senses actually become active. This idea is often used by athletes because it is so effective. Imagining your positive outcome will help guarantee your success!

I want to stress again that whatever you put in your mind is what it believes and reproduces. So be positive, be powerful, and be an instrument of your own change. So what changes are you going to make to the wiring in your brain? I know you can do this! All you have to do is want it.

It’s the positive FEELING that helps create the change. So how bad do you WANT change? 

 

 

Christopher Bergland, “How Do Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis Rewire Your Brain?” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201702/how-do-neuroplasticity-and-neurogenesis-rewire-your-brain

Dr. Michael Merzenich, Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life

I want to tell you something today. Something I think you need to hear. You need to rest. You need to take time to renew yourself. Yes, I know you are busy and have a lot of stuff to do. You have people depending on you and people to lead, but you can’t do any of that if you burn out.

The concept of renewing is not something I’ve made up, it is a mandate from God, and it appears as an important aspect of life and leadership throughout Scripture. Jesus consistently modeled the need for rest and renewal to His disciples. We MUST make renewal a cornerstone of our lives if we want to thrive!

Busy Gets In The Way

Women today (and men too) carry enormous loads at home and in the workplace. You have deadlines, dinners, activities to get the kids to, church commitments, hobbies, and family obligations. Your skills toolbox is full. You are equipped to move forward. But without renewing your energy you will be too limited to accomplish everything you need to do.

Endless obligations take a toll on every woman in every walk of life. According to Kelley Holland, women now make up half of the workforce in the United States, but those working moms still take on the bulk of household chores. The Institute for Employment Studies shares that a growing modern workplace trend in our culture is “engendering a long hours culture where ‘being present’ is valued as a sign of commitment to work.”

This is a dangerous trend! Other countries recognize the importance of rest, especially when it comes to productivity and efficiency, and they build the concept into their workplace cultures. We seem to have gone the opposite direction, demanding that each of us are always “on,” always connected to work, and always splitting our focus between our work life and our home life.

Looking At The Whole

If you are anything like me, stressed, tired, and rushed have become daily parts of your life. When we add their extra load of family and household responsibilities to our professional work-week, it’s easy to understand why so many experience debilitating burnout. Although we, as women, have tremendous new opportunities, many of the same old challenges remain. We are totally exhausted, have too much to do, and have too little time.

Here is what you need to understand: you are Body, Mind, and Spirit. All of the different areas of your life and your work will come to a grinding halt if you don’t discover your key to sustainable renewable energy. It’s no wonder you fall into bed totally spent every night. I’ve been there, friend. In fact, I still struggle with renewing.

The Missing Ingredient

So here is the question you need to ask yourself today: What is my missing ingredient?

In order to figure out your key to renewal, you need to start by rethinking the concept of balance between your personal/home schedules and your professional work. You might assume that you are out of balance and that is the cause of your energy issues. Conventional wisdom may say home time is restorative and work time is draining, but things aren’t black and white. The wrong kind of home time can be a total energy siphon. Think of endless diapers, screaming teenagers, empty refrigerators, piles of laundry, or a needy husband. Every day you experience a teeter-totter of energy ups and downs in every part of your life. Balance is tough to define.

There Is No Secret Formula!

As busy women, we all share a notion in the back of our minds that some woman, somewhere, has the secret formula to handling everything in her world efficiently and effortlessly. We look around and think we’ve failed to crack the code to a perfect, balanced, stress-free life. Relax—there is no secret formula! There is no perfect balance in human planning. But we do all know other women who take vacations, have a happy family, and are glowing with health—so how do they do it?

Steps To Finding Your Missing Ingredient

Step 1. Let go of the idea that you can reach a constant state of total control. Only God can initiate perfect balance. Start your journey to renewal by giving Him your schedule. Commit your home time and your work time to Him. He can expand and balance what you will never be able to stabilize.

Step 2. Replace your current vision with a new plan of managing your own energy flow inside the framework of what is important to you—at that moment. You need to reframe your challenge to replace an unsolvable problem (sustaining a work/life balance) with a big payoff—never running your energy batteries on empty. If you let yourself hit rock bottom, that’s when you’re most vulnerable, most likely to make mistakes, and you lose your joy. Energy plays a huge role in your success!

Step 3. Focus on your relationship with God. It may seem counterintuitive to take time you don’t have and spend it on spiritual formation, but I’ve seen it work over and over again. When you put God first, you suddenly have more clarity, more energy, more focus, and more peace. Stress decreases, you want to focus on staying healthy, your mind clears, and your spirit is filled with joy.

Boundless energy and true RENEWING is available to you as you allow your body, mind, and spirit to be transformed!

 


Love is a fruit in season at all times,
and within reach of every hand. 

~ Mother Teresa

 

Connecting is about garnering the “support and gifting” of the humans around you. We need to connect, because no one does anything alone! Just think about it for a moment. As each of us move forward in our lives, as we work to achieve our goals, there a always others who contribute in some way. It’s like when you see a turtle on a fence post, you just know it didn’t get that high by itself. It needed help!

We Are Created For Relationship

We are created by God to live in relationship, both with Him and with others. Your relationships are formed and maintained when you make and maintain loving connections with others.

Connectivity itself is a range of activities that focus on creating and sustaining connections with others. That sounds really technical, but it can be boiled down to focusing on others as you communicate with them. This might happen through active listing, empathy, compassion, shared activities, through your leadership, or through reaching out to the other person.

None Of Us Operates Alone!

Sound familiar? None of us operates alone. You need that connection with others if you want to live your life to the fullest. The act of connecting links you to others. What you need are specific actions you can take to ensure connectivity happens. An attitude of servant leadership is the first thing you need to enhance and improve your ability to connect with others in a constructive, purposeful, and meaningful way.

Authentically connecting with others has numerous benefits. Technology has led to a new problem in connecting with others in an authentic way. Self-focus, a pattern of behavior encouraged by excessive time on social media, is associated with anxiety and depression. Instead of deriving pleasure from your experience—say, your trip to Paris—your device becomes your main source of pleasure. Unwittingly, it makes you less connected and more narcissistic, and with that comes a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows caused by obsessive attention-seeking.

The Benefits Of Community

God created us to be in community with others. We are a community of believers. Part of the family of God. We are created as His children to be in relationship with Him and with those around us. You hear that a lot here because it is vital for each of us to be in relationship with others. It’s actually more important than you might realize. Studies show that loneliness increases an individual’s risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, cognitive problems, and other health issues.

Humans were created to need intimate bonds, someone to confide in, and we need to feel like we belong. God created us to need the support of others, and He created us to be able to support others. Strong relationships not only make us happier, they make us mentally stronger.

Forming Connections

One way to form strong connections is through servant leadership. When you purposefully become a servant leader, the focus of your life shifts to the development of altruism, emotional healing, wisdom, support, and stewardship. This foundation facilitates empowerment and capability development, leading to a sense of community and an alignment of goals within your family, your close friend circles, in your workplace, and even in your new relationships.

Life isn’t an individualistic pursuit! You are participating in an interactive process involving hands-on action, and you must make an effort to include all participants. Communicating, listening, integrating viewpoints, taking action, and building trust are all critical to your success and your personal growth.

Be A Good Listener

If you don’t already possess it, or even if you think you do, I want to challenge you to actively work on your ability to be a good listener. Be sensitive toward others and give and take criticism graciously. Solid people-skills will take you farther toward growth and success than any other leadership trait! Or as President Theodore Roosevelt put it, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

Become A Servant Leader!

Jesus recognized the need to view personal development in a different light when He chose the role of a servant. He also demonstrated a foundation for equality in His actions, choosing to wash the feet of His followers. He demonstrated the importance of serving others and the equality in the roles they shared (John 13:12-15).

When you live as Jesus did, you can’t expect that you’ll receive reward or recognition. If you want to influence the behavior of others, and create a network of positive connectivity, you have to abandon that mindset! This is the lesson Jesus taught through His actions and through His relationships.

So are you ready to accept your role as a servant leader to meet the needs of those around you? If you are, you will connect with others more deeply that you could have imagined! Start with this personal affirmation: What I make happen for others, God will make happen for me!

I want to tell you something I think you need to hear today: You have unlimited potential! God wants to do amazing things in your life! You have a mission, set by Him, that will help you grow in ways you never thought possible. YOUR LIFE MATTERS.

God has a purpose for everyone. “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Ex. 9:16).

You are gifted and called. “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Prov. 20:5).

You are needed. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12–3).

Sometimes the idea that we have a mission, a specific calling from God, can be overwhelming. Sometimes it is the fuel that fires the imagination and gives us the willpower we need to keep moving forward. The difference between the two is understanding and embracing your mission.

Your mission, your calling, is bigger than you. I get it. That can be scary. But this is what I know about you if you are a Christian who wants to activate God’s call in your life: You are ready to work hard to see your calling from God become reality. You aren’t alone!

Staying on Mission is your pathway to find meaning in all of your experiences.

Staying on mission keeps us energized so we can reach our destination. However, unless we have taken the initiative to stop and clarify what our mission is for ourselves, we can miss out on our greatest source of power. If you aren’t clear about your mission, I would encourage you to start the journey of discovery today. Spend time in prayer, ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, look at the skills, talents, and passions God has instilled in you. Once you understand your mission, it’s time to move forward!

To accomplish your mission, you must take hold of the responsibilities of personal development and the disciplines of spiritual formation. Spiritual formation, developing and growing your relationship with God is vital to succeeding in your mission. That relationship will give you the faith, strength, and determination you need to succeed!

Faith is central to everything you do in life. When you take on challenges, you wrestle with a degree of uncertainty, and you risk failure. You risk losing. You risk getting hurt. However, fail or succeed, by doing risky things you expand your vision of what is possible, and your faith grows as you lean on God during each challenge. Every effort builds your character and equips you with the skills, the confidence, and the essential attributes needed to navigate the obstacles you face.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like failure. I know I learn from it. I know it helps me grow and stretch and learn new things. But I still don’t like it. That dislike drives me to work harder, be stronger, and it pushes me to lean on God because I know I can’t do it alone.

When you think of strength, do you catalog your weaknesses and the areas you excel? Want to know a secret? None of us is strong on our own. Thankfully, God created us that way, and He also gives us what we need to make us strong. He places people in our lives to help us when we are in need. He gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to fuel our forward movement. And He himself promises to always be there when we are in need. That, my friend, is true strength, and that is what you need as you complete your mission!

Your determination helps you press forward in spite of resistance or obstacles. That determination helps you develop confidence in your mission. A lack of confidence often stems from the overwhelming anxiety that your voice isn’t adequate or acceptable for others. When that happens, remember to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter5:7).

Our brains are miraculous, wonderful constructions. They are intricate and complex, and if we are not careful they can steer us off course. I talked last week about self-fulfilling prophecy. What you think can become your reality. This means you can become so focused on yourself and your anxiety over how others will perceive you that you fail to move forward with your own mission.

Dr. William James wrote, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes. The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” To realize that the only things we know will last forever are the eternal human beings we interact with every day gives us the perspective to remember our mission to serve others is the greatest purpose we can accept.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote: “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Rom. 1:11–12). You, my friend, are the inheritor of Paul’s message to the Romans. Just as you have inherited the command of Christ: to spread the gospel and lead others into the kingdom of heaven.

Today I want to reaffirm Paul’s message. I want to encourage you with my faith. I know you have a mission. I know it is important and that you alone can complete it! I want to encourage you to have the faith, strength, and determination to press on. So do it right now, friend. Commit to your dream, your mission, today!