Category Archives: Mind

Every Mind Matters: What are you feeding yours?

Bet you can’t eat just one! Remember that slogan from the Lays Potato Chips advertising campaign? They knew that if they could just get us to try one, we’d find the rest of the bag hard to resist. These days, satisfying our cravings has gotten more complicated; we feed not only on a steady diet of processed foods but also consume a constant stream of print and online media. Those producing it know that once we click, we’ll find the rest of what they have to offer hard to resist.

While most of us know that too many chips are bad for our waistline, most of us don’t know the risk to our minds when subjected to so much media. That’s because brain science is a newly emerging field. Just twenty years ago our text books taught that the structure of the brain never changed. “Alcohol kills brain cells,” I used to admonish the college students I taught, “and you won’t get them back.”

IMG_0479Now, thanks to new techniques available to study the brain, we know the textbooks and I had it wrong. The brain is actually a highly ‘plastic’ structure; it is changing all the time in response to the stimuli in its environment. Our brains actually create new pathways when we explore new things and establish preferred routes for things we think about the most. As remarkable as it sounds, our brains are constantly being sculpted by how we use them.

No wonder scripture advises us: 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. (Philippians 4:8) Perhaps Descartes in proclaiming, “I think, therefore I am,” was more right than he knew. Of course, the God who designed us knew it all along.

So, as the apostle Paul writes to the believers in Rome,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 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. ~ Romans 12:1-2

encouraging us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, we don’t just set our minds aside. That’s where the renewal happens! Especially during this season of Lent, as we draw closer to our God by His invitation, we ask, how can I offer my body and mind in ways that are holy and pleasing to You? In doing this, we make ourselves fully available to His sculpting hands and shaping will.

What a joy to discover that we are designed with renewal in mind. Setting our minds on the things of Christ will help us test and approve what God’s will is for us. That doesn’t mean that the world isn’t going on out there. It simply means that what’s going on in us and in front of us – where we can have the most impact — will get accomplished by our efforts, in accordance with the will of God. Thy Kingdom Come.

What if, instead of consuming the news, we set our sights on making it? Surely, that would be a sacrifice both holy and pleasing to God.

Consider fasting from all online and print media today and, instead, make your own news. Then share it with your friends, family, neighbors or community.

Author’s note: This writing appears in the 2018 version of the Lenten Devotional booklet published and distributed by the Church of the Good Shepherd, United Methodist, in Vienna, Virginia.

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Poetic Justice … you can take it with you

Journalism reports yesterday’s news.
Like the weather,
it needs no re-cap.
No sense keeping that around.

Fiction tells a good story.
Entertaining, but unless
those characters make a home with us,
one and done.

yet…

Poetry bears telling and re-telling,
reading and re-reading.
Poems speak newness,
reading into us, as we are new.
The one we are (the me who reads)
is new, with each reading.

peotry words

Yesterday’s poem
holds no sway over today’s me.
Perhaps, a look and see
at how it affected me.
How I landed there. then.

But today lifts off into a new wind,
under new weather conditions.
Today the poem is a completely new flight.
New flight plan, same pilot.

There is no quenching living words,
they continue to speak:
to draw the heart out
to fill the soul up
to still, no activate, no ignite, no…
distill … can’t make up my own mind,
must let it make itself.

These are powerful words that propel me:
to places I’d never go otherwise,
with people I’d never meet otherwise,
except
that I came to the poem,
and it met me there
but didn’t leave me there,
didn’t leave me at all.
It stayed.

What is a poet
but one who lives a life that speaks?
Your life speaks.
It’s poetry
as you write it —
see how it changes you,
as you write
and they,
as they read.

Write that.

What do I do with my “me too”? One Woman’s Manifesto

Me too projectMe too…I am seeing it on Facebook posts, in comments and in conversation far and wide.

I am not sure where it came from, but it’s picking up steam. Why? Because it’s the skeleton in every woman’s closet, the elephant in every room. We’ve carried it cautiously, buried it fastidiously, and borne it boldly until someone tugged it out. Now we’re shocked at the commonness of our experience.

Me too. ME TOO. Me too, we type. We read and think, oh my, you too? And in confessing, we join hands. Fervently, supportively, collegially, then boldly and angrily, but to what effect? We’re angry with no place to put our anger.

Here’s the thing. Everyone who acknowledges and shares a “me too” takes themselves back to that moment in time and place and sensation. We re-live that abuse, that violation, that pain. That’s the way the mind works: our past, when recalled, becomes our present, even if it was a long, long time ago.

This is the invisible danger of the injury perpetrated by sexual harassment and abuse. Borne quietly, culturally dismissed, left unaddressed or without proper resolution, this wounding leaves scars. We are the nesting dolls of ourselves. Everything we have ever lived is re-shaped and covered over by layer upon layer of our next set of selves. Our minds hold the experience of our bodies, even when no scars are apparent. A “me too” campaign activates those all over again.

The pain out there is a real and present danger to full mind and body health. Seeing the magnitude of this effect leaves me both bereft and emboldened. It has me asking, How did what happened to me effect me? How has this behavior been perpetuated?  

First, I thank God for the safe haven He provides me to return in my mind to the scene of this crime. A minor incident, I would call it, though my recollection after nearly thirty years would disavow that.

I didn’t say anything. What would I say? No harm done, no physical evidence, no witnesses. Confrontation would have risked elevation, exposure or worse, but I had no conscious thought of these things at the time. There was disgust, acknowledgement of my powerlessness and, yes, even consideration that somehow what I wore that day — skirt and top befitting a college professor in modern fashion — might have made me a target. Should I have been more observant? Was I too trusting of strangers? too naive? (How do we manage to re-work things to find ourselves at fault?)

Just imagine, all that percolation from a moment three decades old, which the “me too” project has bubbling to the surface. I don’t appreciate that, but here we are and I am very not alone. My question for me is, What do I do with my Me Too? Because victim is a role I have never played very well.

Here is my manifesto:

  1. As a woman, I have heard men say that their private misbehavior is no one else’s business. It is. It leaves lasting scars on the people they have wronged, both the victim of their sexual affront and the family which suffers under the weight of it.  My to do: I will speak the truth to any individual who hides behind this lie.
  2. As a voter, I have heard our President confess that he has participated in sexual assault and then dismiss it as “locker room talk.” My to do: I will continue to cast my vote only for individuals who demonstrate good character and responsible behavior and NEVER for a professed and unrepentant assaulter.
  3. As a colleague and friend, I now realize that there are many women living with these secret wounds. My to do: I will offer a listening heart to those who want and need to share their story, hoping that some healing will come of this. 
  4. As the mother of three daughters, I now realize how pervasive is the brokenness and sexual sin-sickness in the world they are entering as young adult women. My to do: I will boldly work for a safe and healthy world for them, demonstrating by my words and actions that gender fear has no place here. 
  5. As a writer, I cannot leave these things unwritten or unsaid.

The “Me too” barrage has me marveling at the design of the human mind, equipped as it is, with memory prone to be prodded by emotionally charged things–good, bad or indifferent. We must tread here with caution because these bits do linger and have the power to change us. There in the shadows they may influence us, even without our permission or intention.

While God has the power to forget and forgive, we fragile humans tend to recall things. We can call on God to help us heal those memories, allowing Him to fill in and smooth out the rough places to make a way toward a firmer future.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11 

God has got plans for you and me, too.

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