The Thinker

Monday, October 25, 2010

A few years ago I was able to see the bronze and marble sculpture The Thinker by Auguste Rodin in Paris. I remember puzzling over the replica of this sculpture in our home as a child. What was The Thinker thinking? I had also seen the 1960s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which began or ended with Dobie sitting on a park bench posing like the sculpture with a reproduction in the background. The statue depicts a man in sober meditation battling with a powerful internal struggle. I wonder if the thinker is weighed down by heavy thoughts. Has he let negativity creep in? Are his thoughts cluttered? Is he unable to get up and get moving? Has he let little negatives grow into big negatives? What would it take for him to move from a state of thinking to a state of action?

Have you ever stopped to consider the little negative expressions that might clutter your mind or your conversations? We hear hundreds of them throughout the day.

“I’m afraid I’m going to be late.”
“What if I fail?”
“I could never do that.”
“This day will never end.”
“Bad luck always finds its way to me.”
“There’s too much to get done.”
“I’ll never make it.”
“This is too hard.”
“It’s not worth it.”
“I’m a loser.”

To a degree we all struggle with leaping from trivial problems to unrealistic conclusions. If we’re not careful though, those little negatives will take over our thought process and prevent us from moving forward in a positive way. Thoughts can multiply and so can the damage of a negative thought. Some of these notions are called “automatic thoughts” that reflect core beliefs and are habitual responses to situations. Automatic thoughts often help us make good decisions in a hurry, but sometimes these thoughts aren’t accurate. Chronic negativity about self or others is an indication that our thoughts are inaccurate. Negative thoughts will clutter our mind and then one negative thought leads to another and another and another. This thought clutter leads to persistent brooding or rumination. From the Latin for “chewing cud,” the word rumination describes cattle that grind up, swallow, regurgitate and rechew their feed. Similarly, we grind up our disappointments, weaknesses, and issues and mull them over at length – ad nauseum!

We can overcome these little negative and ruminations.
1. Become conscious of them.
2. Remember: “What I think on expands!”
3. Replace a negative thought with a positive one.
4. Ask God to take every thought captive. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
5. Dwell on good things. Make a blessings list and post it!

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

Emergency Powers

Monday, October 18, 2010

A few nights ago I had fallen into a deep sleep when suddenly the phone rang. I sat straight up in bed and my heart began to pound the way it does when my mind tells my body, “An alarm has sounded, get moving…now!” It turned out to be a wrong number but at that point my body was in overdrive and it took a couple of hours for the adrenaline flow to get back to normal.

The “emergency powers” of my brain had activated my body. We all have these emergency powers that lie dormant as we go through the routine of daily living. However, in extra ordinary circumstances, we are able to call up extra powers. The brain has powerful hormones that are intended for short-term duty in emergency situations. The emotional and physical responses we have to stress are set in motion by a series of chemical releases and reactions. When we deal with emotional stress, our bodies react in order to help us cope. The term stress is short for distress, a word evolved from Latin that means "to draw or pull apart." When we’re “stressed out”, most of us probably think we’re being pulled apart. In fact, our typical response to stress is “fight or flight.” When we’re under stress our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) turns on a fight or flight response. The SNS rapidly prepares us to deal with a perceived threat. Once this stress response has been activated, the system keeps us in a state of readiness so that we can deal with the problem at hand. Hormones are released that allow us to cope with a stressful situation. Our adrenal glands release adrenaline that increases our breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. We then have more energy and our senses become keener and we are less sensitive to pain. This system is put in place to help us in an emergency situation only.

Unfortunately, some of us stay in this emergency state day after day, “living on the edge” or “wired.” If we continue to live in a high level of stress, our bodily functions will suffer. Our growth, reproduction, and immune systems go on hold, and we increase our chances of getting sick. When we have a continuous stress hormone release and daily compromised immunity system, we end up with what is sometimes called, “adrenal fatigue.”

It’s important to calm down this emergency system and let our body return to normal. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) promotes the relaxation response and is responsible for helping us to regain our metabolic balance. If our minds and bodies have been called on to deal with stress for a long period of time, we will need to make a conscious effort to relax. Our systems are typically slow to calm down. The job of the PNS is to help us “rest and digest.” The PNS works to save energy so that our blood pressure decreases, our heart beats slower, and digestion can start.

I’m thankful God designed our bodies so that we can cope with emergencies that come our way. The greatest source of emergency power though is found in a deep abiding faith in Jesus Christ. In his words,

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Popular 19th Century minister Charles Spurgeon put it this way -
“Come to Jesus by quitting every other hope, by thinking of Him, believing God’s testimony about Him, and trusting everything with Him. If you come to Him, the rest He gives you will be deep, safe, holy, and everlasting. He gives a rest which develops into heaven, and He gives it this day to all who come to Him.”

Real rest is in Him!

This One Thing

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Information Kiosk in the center of Grand Central Station in New York City must be one of the busiest, most tension-filled ten-square feet of real estate in the world. In line at the kiosk to ask a question Norman Vincent Peale observed the bespectacled clerk with fascination. There was a constant barrage of passengers in need of immediate answers to their burning questions. The clerk showed no signs of tension. Even though he was subjected to heavy pressures, he was one of the calmest people Peale had ever seen.

Peale recalls seeing in the front of the line a short, plumb woman with a shawl tied around her head and little whiskers growing from her chin. The clerk leaned toward her and politely asked, “Yes, madam?” He then focused clearly on her and asked, “Where was it you were going.”
A well-dressed man with a briefcase and expensive hat tried to interrupt, but the clerk kept focused on the woman. “Where was it you were going?”
“And that was Springfield, Ohio?”
With the timetable clearly memorized, the clerk responded, “That train leaves on Track 25 in just ten minutes. You don’t need to run; you have plenty of time.”
“Did you say Track 25?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
The woman turned to leave and the nicely dressed gentleman stepped to the front of the line as she asked once again, “Did you say it was Track 25?”
But this time the clerk was giving his full attention to his new passenger.
When there was a lull in the conversation, Peale took the opportunity to ask the information man a question. “I’ve been admiring the way you handle the public. Tell me, how can you do it and keep so calm?”
The man raised his head and looked at Peale through his bifocals. “I don’t deal with the public. I deal with one passenger. And then with another passenger. It’s just one person at a time right on through the day. Now where was it your were going?”

Isn’t that a good lesson for dealing with stress! When customer after customer, issue after issue, problem after problem creeps in their “petty pace from day to day,” we can remember, “One thing at a time.”

St. Paul said, “This one thing I do.” (Philippians 3:13) All we have is one minute at a time. When life rushes in and begins to crowd us, let’s remember, “This one thing I do.” When others interrupt, let’s remember to politely say, “Just one minute, please.” Instead of fretting and fuming, let’s practice doing one thing at a time and doing it well. This habit will ease stress and give us calmness and peace of mind.

God's CPS

Sunday, October 3, 2010

When I was a high school English teacher, one of the classroom objectives was to teach Creative Problem Solving (CPS). This strategy is a mental process of solving a problem independently by using novel and innovative solutions. We all deal with challenges at home, at work, in school, and in community that require creative problem solving. Have you ever considered that one of the most important aspects of prayers is as stimulus to creative ideas? We have within us the ability to live creatively and constructively through the power of prayer. What better way to stimulate creativity than to go to the greatest creator of all! God IS creativity!

The Bible says we are made in his “image and likeness” so we have his creative attributes within us.

The New Testament tells us, “The Kingdom of God is within you,” (Luke 17:21) God’s creativity is within us.

Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we are his workmanship – his craft, his handiwork, his creation. God prepared us with his creativity to do good works.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Norman Vincent Peale told of a businessman who met periodically with other executives in “idea sessions” in order to tap into their creative ideas. The group spent 10 minutes in quiet prayer and meditation asking God to release proper ideas for the business. The next step was to pour out ideas, write them down on cards, and spread them on the table. No one criticized the others’ ideas, for the purpose of this initial session was to tap into creative ideas. The follow-up meeting provided an opportunity for them to develop their ideas. The men expressed that this process allowed them insight into challenges, gave them a feeling of confidence, and provided them fellowship.

Like these businessmen, we too can spend time in prayer and meditation asking God to release his creativity in us. Just think about the positive effect of God’s Creative Problem Solving – God’s CPS! We can have his creativity to solve our problems, to deal with our relationships, to share the Good News, to show love to the unlovely, and to repay evil with good. The possibilities are endless!

As we draw closer to Christ, we grow more Christ like. Let’s connect to Christ through prayer and meditation and draw from his Divine Creativity.

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