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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.

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Letting Love Show

photo 2Using our bodies may be the most sacred of all things we do on earth. It’s the one thing we are given that is meant to be used wholly for our time here on our earth – our LIFE-time.

The greatest testimony of all, beyond the life of our Lord, is our own life as we live it.

  • We can castigate bullies, but if we are one, that means nothing.
  • We can warn against the dangers of texting and driving, but if we do it, it means nothing.
  • We can champion self-respect, but if we have none, it means nothing.
  • We can caution against failing to set healthy boundaries, but it we fail to, it means nothing.

We, the wise, older set, who have lived life and have something to say, are resounding gongs and clanging symbols in the lives of those we love if we say one thing and do another. We become noise-makers, adding additional volume but no more meaning.

This, I believe, is why the biblical Paul so passionately begins his plea to the people of Corinth this way:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

This precedes the beautiful “love chapter” of the Bible often read at weddings. Of the love that is patient and kind and doesn’t envy or boast. The love that’s not self-seeking, isn’t prideful or easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. That perfect love which never fails.

That’s the love we can never quite live up to but which sets an example to reach for in our lives with another, and with all others, including ourselves.

First, we have to let that love come alive and be real in us, before we try to pawn it off on someone else. Otherwise, our hypocrisy is telling, and they will probably waste no time telling us! When we say one thing, but do another, it’s our unloving that’s showing.

We have to start with love, both for ourselves and the other – not an easy task. It requires perspective beyond ourselves to set a right course for our intentions and priorities. When we invite an honest look at the lives we are leading, we can align our thoughts, words and actions with the love God intends.

When we start with love, what we say and do makes a whole lot more sense.

On the Way

When Paul was flattened by a light and a voice on the road to Damascus, he listened. And in that moment, the world changed.

Do we have a moment to stop, look and listen?

This is the question I hear people around me chastising themselves with regularly. I really “should” find time to …. exercise, eat right, play with the kids, finish that manuscript (ahem), call my parents, volunteer, visit relatives, pray … And then there is Nike, so very helpfully, telling us “Just Do It.”  But we don’t and we don’t like this about ourselves, which spins us down into the ‘don’t like’ cycle.

This is why I love the Kinesthetic approach. (I think Paul was a Kinesthetic Jew.) He was, in fact, on the way to just doing it when that voice got his attention. He wasn’t knelt in prayer or fasting or attending a service, he was on the move.

And that’s how I see us even now. Moving, albeit at warp speed. Frankly, if I stop, I get dizzy watching everyone else whiz by. Then I’m tempted to run and catch up. But that’s where I go wrong. Acceleration sets me spinning. What I need is to keep the same speed. To coast, as it were. To do and be about my doing at God’s pace, but keeping an eye and an ear out for God-speak. For that light and that voice.

Stopping gets me all unraveled. Then I have to build up momentum again. Moving, especially moving along a familiar road – driving my kid to school, running the neighborhood, sketching in my journal, walking the dog, shooting hoops, hitting putts or range balls, even eating lunch all by myself at the table – all these things engage the rest of me so my eyes and ears and those wonderful inner circuits can have a conversation.

I never know what I’ll discover there, but it’s always enlightening. It changes me.

Coincidentally, I am just completing my listening to an online course on marketing. I have never been trained in these principles. It’s no wonder that Fit2Finish (my small business) has remained small and unknown, given my ignorance. The final lecture discusses ways to appeal to your market. One way is the personal appeal called the testimonial. It is used in cases when “consumption is uncertain,” it says, when you can’t know whether the product works until you try it. The “Try this because look what it’s done for me!” appeal.

Funny, I guess I have been a marketing major all along. Thanks for joining me along the way.

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