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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.


Morning Has Broken ~ welcome Spring!

In 1931, celebrated English children’s author Eleanor Farjeon wrote a poem for children to celebrate the first day of Spring. Set to a Gaelic melody, it climbed the pop charts as a Cat Stevens recording in 1971, and it remains one of Christendom’s favorite hymns. What a power lyrics have when we read and speak them!

Morning has broken
like the first morning;
Blackbird has spoken
like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word!
Sweet the rain’s new fall sunlit from heaven,
like the first dewfall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
sprung in completeness where his feet pass.
Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning born of the one light
Eden saw play!
Praise with elation, praise every morning,
God’s recreation of the new day!
—Eleanor Farjeon

I’m told that Eleanor Farjeon’s inspiration was

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

What words speak especially to you in this poem/hymn? Me? I love…

Mine is the morning born of the one light Eden saw play!

Happy Spring! And thank you to The Church of the Good Shepherd UMC for their devotional post today.

Holy Willpower

With thanks to my friends at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Vienna, VA, I share this article written for their Lenten booklet on this day, my Dad’s 78th birthday.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

I always have more willpower during Lent. I used to look forward to its coming and think, okay what am I doing that I really should get under control? Then I’d “give it up for Lent.” One year it was dessert. Another year, peanut m&m’s. Then it was Starbucks coffee. And I could do it! Somehow, during Lent, I could wield God’s willpower when mine was insufficient – but only for 40 days. Almost as if Lent was a trial period. ‘Try God’s willpower for 40 days. If not completely satisfied return it on Easter for a full refund.’

So, why can’t I sustain this willpower the rest of the year? Because it is Holy; it belongs to God. During Lent I don’t just give it up, but I give it up to God, and He shows me what His power can do. By His Spirit He demonstrates what a little bit of Holy feels like in my body and my soul. At my invitation, God is not just in my general vicinity, or in my community, or hanging around in case I should need Him, but He is in me. I am a walking, breathing Temple of the living God.

And then scripture says, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person.” Whoa, that’s protection. It feels good until I think what if I am the one tearing down the temple? How do I treat the temple for the rest of my 325 days?

Here’s what I know: God doesn’t leave me on day 41. He just leaves me to consider that, if I have let Christ in, then whatever I do to me, I do to God. Whatever I do for me, I do for God. As Oswald Chambers puts it, “I must decide whether or not I will agree with my Lord and Master that my body will indeed be His Temple.” Every day, all year long.

It is here that scripture makes its appeal, “…brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

In this is the wisdom of Lent. It may feel like God’s trial period with a money back guarantee. But I see it more as a chance to participate in the building of an indestructible Temple, the Holiest of all places, a life centered in Christ. Not by the power of my will but according to the will of the Father. It comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Today: Have you “given something up” for Lent? Ask God to show you what Holy willpower can do with your offering.

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